Female Flight Of Fancy Coming Home To Roost
I was having trouble parking the other day. Before you start, it had nothing to do with my ability to reverse, as a woman. I was queuing to get into Daylesford Organic Farmhouses overflow car park when some guy in a BMW 5-series cut in front of me (perhaps he was embarrassed at having the cheapest car there?) Enough! I thought and jumped my ride over the kerb, sailed across the fresh green apron and parked up under the shade of a handy walnut tree.
Here’s one lady that knows how to get the best out of her 4 x 4, I thought, while observing how nicely the trees autumnal colours toned with the tan leather of my seats. As I trundled inside to buy the half-dozen eggs I’d come for (£19.99 – I had to buy Daylesfords hand-crafted, glazed, bright-white ceramic egg tray, as well), I bumped into Mr Cotswolds Super Prime Estate Agent. He had just sold a newly restored farmhouse for a touch over £5m and was blowing his commission on a whole Daylesford Organic Pork Pie. Recession? I’ve said it before but its done wonders for the predictions of Trend Watchers, the global firm that tracks consumer trends. They’ve been talking about a flight to quality for decades. Just when it’s getting a whole lot tougher for a lot of people, it now seems to be getting a whole lot better for a few.
A case in point is New York’s bespoke jeweller Harry Winston. The creative team there is so confident of their resistance to the recession, they’ve created a womens watch with the kind of attention to extravagance normally seen on mens wrists. The case of the Diane is hand carved from a single block of gold. It is a musical piece, not just in its looks but literally, with a mechanical repeater movement that sounds hours, quarters and minutes on demand. It’s just about the loudest way you can shout, I have money AND I have taste without actually standing up and shouting I have money AND I have taste.
Don’t even ask what this work of art is going to cost the lucky lady horology-lover, but were talking house-ish, rather than car-ish. The great jeweller is also finding that clients are increasingly coming to them for bespoke, one-off engagement rings. The folks in the know are eschewing off-the-peg, traditional exclusivity in favour of the personal and quirky. There’s a mood of, I want it to be mine, not just in the sense of, I can afford to buy it, but also in the sense of, I can afford to have it my way. In my own modest company, were noticing an increasing demand for cashmere. Silk, the mass luxury fabric of five years ago, is now regarded as being as commonplace as cotton and we are selling it in the kind of volumes associated with basics. Meanwhile, my friends in the global leather goods industry (for the record, that’s eye-wateringly expensive bags and purses, not anything more exciting or kinky) report selling a rising number of what were previously regarded as pure press pieces, ie high design, python skin bags, in outrageous colours with five-figure price tags. They were designed to grab coverage in the glossy mags; it was always a bit of a shock if someone came into the store and actually asked about buying one.
This season people are turning their noses up at the mass market (think maybe 50 units a season from a Bond Street store) and demanding the unusual and the one-off. In fashion, this flight to quality has become a glittering flutter in the general direction of wow-inducing new design which is both innovative and exclusive. British fashion, in particular, always considered edgy and interesting but also always rather niche, is coming centre stage with new, genuinely exciting designers emerging and becoming established on the London scene; check out Holly Fulton, Mark Fast and Mary Katrantzou. The more switched-on of the old-school London designers, like Temperley and Burberry, aren’t being left behind either, swapping out of establishment NY fashion week for the more vibrant (but until recently, second-rate) London Fashion Week. Necessity is the mother of invention and a recession hurts most of those on a budget. The irony is that if you visited the graduation shows of London’s fashion and design colleges this summer, you’d have seen work that was edgier and more innovative than it has been for years. Those young designers will be rising to the elevated heights of Creative Directorships in about six or seven years. Just in time for another you know what.