Tagged Shopping

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Undercover at Lou-Lou’s Vintage Fair

Having fallen in love with LouLou’s Vintage Fair last term, the fact I eagerly awaited the January return of the ‘Best Vintage Fair in the UK comes as no surprise.

So after a week of cramming for collections and a heavy night at Wahoo, I awoke on Saturday 18th January with muted excitement. Today was the day I discovered my favourite hangover remedy: shopping for clothes. And shop we did in the showy main hall.

You could tell there was a big show in town by the fashionable shoppers snaking along St. Aldate’s. The friendly people helping keep the crowd flowing, the charming traders selling their high-quality wares, and the pleasant ambience of retro tunes all helped to create a great vibe. And, from a purely fashion perspective? Their stuff just rocked.  The racks of clothing from the 1920s right up to the 1990s in the opulent setting were just beautiful. Alongside quantity, which was noticeably slightly less than last time, quality was the order of the day. All of the traders I spoke to had high praise for Louise, the organiser of the affectionately named fair, and her personal efforts at vetting her traders. As Lynda Brown of Tattybojangles said, “she wants the absolute best for the customer basis”, and Rob from Ring O’ Roses noted, “Louise knows what people want, combining high quality vintage with recent fashion.”

So what did we see? My inherent preference for menswear made me realise that this fair was a lot better than the last one in terms of men’s items. The recent explosion of men’s fashion following the purported ‘Menaissance’ has established two major milestones for men’s clothing: formal is the new casual, and it’s all in the fit. The former proved itself with the vast array of blazers, men’s smart accessories and evening dress; the latter was evident in the sheepskin coats in actually decent sizes.

There was also an abundance of glistening jewellery, some pretty cool Vogue vintage prints, and cakes in the grand assembly room, courtesy of ‘Mabel’s Vintage Tea’.

Women’s clothing also seemed a big hit, even from the most unlikely of customers, as friends shopping for Magdalen’s Dragons and Drag-Queens bop seemed to prove.  There were a few unexpected gems including two royal red Coldstream Guards ceremonial uniforms, made famous by The Libertines, which when worn un-slashed by non-servicemen is worthy of arrest. After much deliberation by two Somervillians, it seemed they were willing to attain criminal records for the sake of fashion. Their commitment to the cause is absolutely lauded here in the OxStu.

If you are reading this then there is a pretty high chance you were also there. If you weren’t, my advice to you is to ensure you save the date of the next one. Better yet, as LouLou’s Vintage Fair operates in 38 UK cities, you are never too far from the popular travelling show. Hit up LouLou’s website, check out their local fairs and grab yourself a saving.

Photos by Liberty King

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High Street versus Online

I can still remember the first time I made an online puchase. A few years back, I was sitting tentatively in front of the computer, with my debit card in one hand and the mouse in the other. On the screen was the online shopping page of NEXT, and selected was a pair of khaki shorts. The novelty and the thrill of the whole process was almost as exciting as the product itself, and I eagerly clicked through the security checks without giving it much of a second thought. Needless to say, when the shorts arrived, they neither fit me nor looked like what I had envisaged.

This did not, however, dampen my infatuation with internet shopping, and today I buy most of my clothes from online. Nowadays almost every chain clothing shop has developed an online store; companies such as Mr Porter and ASOS in fact operate exclusively online. Why has online shopping seen such a surge in popularity? Simplicity, accessibility and focus on the individual are the answers. Technological advances in the 21st century allows one to simply turn on one’s tablet/phone/laptop/console and, with a few clicks, make an order. All of this done without having to move an inch from the sofa. Item collection is hardly more difficult, since nearly all online stores offer delivery services and one-day-delivery. Most importantly, the online experience is tailored in such a way as if you, the customer, are the king of the world. It is not surprising then that online retail is growing at such a fast pace. All fabulous and fantastic for everyone, right? But is it really?

Online shopping is killing the independent shops on the High Street. Operating online, they pay no rent and could easily decrease the price of items to push out local competitors. The result is obvious. Channel 4 News states bleakly that 25,000 town centre shops have closed down since 2000 and 9,000 more will be shut by 2014. Not only is this disastrous to the shop owners, it is also problematic to the consumer. The closure of local shops takes away an experience which online retail cannot provide. Walking up the High Street window shopping, trying new clothes on with friends and flipping through racks of hangers full of different, distinctive clothes cease to be possible. The experience is instead replaced by lines on a computer screen which, however artfully designed, lack the basic warmth of human contact. Moreover, as local shops gradually disappear, they are replaced by chain stores like Topshop or, god forbid, Primark. This gradually reduces your choices until the point when everyone is wearing the same mass produced, copied-from-the-catwalk jacket, for example. No longer will you find that vintage shirt from ‘this really indie store off the high street’ because that store will have disappeared, having been taken over by yet another River Island. For a society and a fashion industry which prizes individuality, the closure of independent shops providing such unique clothing is detrimental.

Is there anything that we, as customers, can do? Of course. I am not asking you to stop shopping online and to scavenge everything from stores nearby. I wouldn’t be able to live without online shopping. Instead, endeavour to have a look round the shops and see if you can find anything interesting. The fresh air and human contact is much needed after slaving away in the library. You might even be able to find something special and at the same time proudly say that you contributed to the local economy. Wouldn’t that be smashing.

 

No PMT for Cowley music shop

It was announced this week that Cowley Road music store Professional Music Technology (PMT) will be allowed to remain in business.

The shop was facing the axe after hotel chain Travelodge were given planning permission to open up a branch on the floor above.

In accordance with the company’s business model, Travelodge would only open in this location if it was allowed a restaurant on the ground floor, which would have meant the closure of PMT.

However, after a sustained online campaign and a unanimous vote by the City Council, the planning application has now been refused.

The shop boasts a distinguished history – since they opened, Radiohead, Foals and Supergrass have all bought instruments from the establishment.

Mr Fellerdale, the manager of PMT, commented before the verdict of the Council was announced: “With so many music venues in Cowley, we are bang in the middle of the Oxford music scene.

“This shop was opened 14 years ago. Since then it has become a great contributor to the cultural and musical character of Cowley Road[…]If we were forced to move off the Cowley road, it would be greatly upsetting not just for musicians, but for everyone in the area.”

He that staff had “been touched by the overwhelming support from locals saddened by the prospect of losing the shop.”

Gaz Coombes, the lead singer of Supergrass, said, “There is nothing else like it in Oxford and it’s vital for the continual nurturing of Oxford music.”

PMT only found out last Thursday that this application had been put through and so hadn’t had time to put together a petition. Instead, they set up a Facebook event inviting people to voice their concerns to members of the Oxford City Council.

The event gathered over 2,000 members, becoming a platform for an overwhelming number of people voicing their complaints.

On Facebook, Jim Woods commented: “Please, City Council, spare a thought for something beyond the fiscal bottom line for a change.”

Quoting Joni Mitchell, Camino del Flamenco wrote: “Does this council want to be the one that ‘paves paradise and put up a parking lot?’”

Nischala Jacobs said on the page: “[M]usic is what we need, a community facility – not another restaurant!”

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FRESHERS’ WEEK: Beat the Suitcase Squeeze

As you pack for your first (or third!) year of university and prepare for Freshers’ Week, it can be hard to know what should go and what should stay. Space is short, and your dad’s eyes are worryingly jumping between your five suitcases and the car boot … It’s impossible to tell what you really need. I mean, who knows whether your giant penguin outfit is a waste of space or not? There are a few things, however, that logic would tell you are essential, but would be much better left at home. So, now that you’ve kitted yourself out with our ultimate university shopping list (see here for Part 1 and Part 2), here are our top swaps to help you to pack a little lighter.

1. Swap your high heels for trendy wellies

shoes for freshers' week 

Until now, going out = wearing heels. However, if you want to stay out and stay upright in freshers’ week, ditch the stilettos. Oxford is notorious for its cobbled lanes and, as you will discover or already have, its flights and flights of stairs at every single club … Wearing heels will end in one of two ways: hurt toes, or a hurt bum after you plummet down the stairs at Wahoo.  What you will need, however, are a good pair of wellies. It rains, it poors and it even snows!

 

2. Ditch the coat hangers for a coat stand

 student room decorations

Admittedly, this one won’t give you any more space in the car, but a coat stand is one of the best additions you can make to your new student room as you settle into freshers’ week. You won’t have much space in your wardrobe to hand your big coats and jumpers, and it’s nice to have something a little bit different to make your room your own. Plus, a coat stand is an attractive way to store that to die for coat that you just spent all your holiday job money on! What more could you want?

 

3. Swap cute PJs for a onesie

student pyjamas

I had the image in my head of elegant breakfasts in college in a pretty pair of PJs, nibbling on a croissant and sipping fresh coffee. This, sadly, never happened. If you ever show your face in hall in your PJs after staying up until 3AM (not clubbing, but doing an essay), you will probably be trying to avoid all human contact rather than making polite conversation over a continental breakfast. A onesie will make you feel like your still in bed, which is what you’ll really want.

 

4. Bye-bye instant tan, hello woolly tights

 fake tan or tights

When your legs are on show, you want to keep them bronze rather than beige. But, as the weather has insisted on proving to us, summer is over – it’s time to ditch the tan, and embrace the tights for freshers’ week 2013. Our top tip for all you practical would-be fashionistas out there? By the end of a night out, the walk back to college will give you goose bumps, so pop a pair of tights in your clutch for a snuggly stroll home.

 

5. Swap pretty earrings for oversized gold hoops

 earrings for students

Earrings. You buy a pretty pair of studs, wear them once, and poof! They’re gone! Off to the magical place where all the odd earrings that have lost their better halves vanish to. Save yourself the disappointment – opt for an oversized pair of hoops that not only will serve you well at bops, but are also creeping back into fashion …

 

6. Trade your umbrellas for raincoats

 umbrella rain mac

Ok, it’s time to get practical. Umbrellas get forgotten. Umbrellas get borrowed and never returned. Umbrellas get broken, lost and stolen. And, you can’t very well hold an umbrella when you’re cycling to a lecture. A chic raincoat will keep you dry, stylish and keep your hands free to carry that big smoking cup of coffee into your first 9am after a wild freshers’ week.

Happy packing!

 

If you’re coming to Oxford University this October, make sure you ‘like’ our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter to keep up to date with our Freshers’ Week countdown. If you’re interested in joining The Oxford Student’s fashion team either as a writer, a model, a stylist or a photographer, we would love to hear from you! Just drop us a quick email at oxstu.fashion@googlemail.com.

 

IMAGES:

www.redhotmarketingblender.com

www.labeaushoponline.com

www.starstyle.com

www.asos.com

www.blog.sockdreams.com

www.kaboodle.com

www.treehugger.com

www.rimmel.com

www.apc.org

www.notonthehighstreet.com

www.attavanti.com

www.ollieandnic.com

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Lovehoney: A hole new ball game

Richard Longhurst has been making a buzz in the world of online shopping for over a decade. In 2002 he co-founded Lovehoney with friend and business partner Neal Slateford, and has since seen the company become the biggest online retailer of sex toys in the UK, and a major player in the online market worldwide. Its annual turnover has risen from just over £10 million in 2010 to £16 million in 2012, and its campaign to boost British sex lives shows no signs of slowing down. In an age where commercial businesses everywhere are folding prematurely, how has Lovehoney kept it up for such a long time?

The path to running a successful online sex toy retailer was uncharted when he and Slateford set up shop. These were times when it was still seen as an embarrassing, deviant habit to use a dildo, a vibrator or, much worse, a sex toy designed for the male market. This is something Longhurst strongly believes has changed. With the pervading emphasis on customer service and creating an online community of buyers, he sees Lovehoney as catering to a market of people who are now much more comfortable with the idea of spicing up their sex lives.

So what exactly has changed? The ‘Sex in the City factor’ is frequently cited as a catalyst in the relaxation of women’s attitudes to sex toys in particular, but there must be other forces involved in the boom that the industry has seen since 2000. Asked if Lovehoney has mainly contributed to or benefited from the change in attitudes, Richard is equivocal:

“I think we’d be flattering ourselves if we thought that Lovehoney had been a big factor in changing people’s attitudes to sex over the last ten or so years. I mean, Fifty  Shades definitely did change that last year; it showed that – well it’s kind of stating the obvious – but it showed that there’s an enormous appetite for sex.”

His reference to E. L. James’ omnipresent work of kinky erotic fiction is more than a passing comment. Last year, amidst a storm of competition for the rights to market a range of official Fifty Shades sex toys, Lovehoney secured the deal and have lucratively transferred the work’s medium from paper to plastic. What made them stand out from the rest?

[caption id="attachment_39903" align="aligncenter" width="300"] PHOTO / Love Honey[/caption]

 

“Our boyish charm and winning smiles,” Longhurst jokes, but he’s clear about what actually secured the deal: “We understood what Fifty Shades of Grey was really about: you know, the romance and the excitement, not just straight bondage. Plus, we involved E. L. James in the product development, which is important; we made it clear that the range would reflect the books; we wouldn’t just be sticking labels on things.”

In the short amount of time since then, The deal has had a predictably massive impact on the company’s fortunes. He has nothing but praise for the effect that James’ book has had on public attitudes to sex: “It showed that people aren’t really that bothered about it, you know, aren’t embarrassed about it. You could see that by the way women were just reading it on the train and weren’t self-conscious about it or anything.”

Another signal of the increasing acceptability of sex and sex toys in public discussion, and of the continuing success of Lovehoney, is the documentary on the company that aired on Channel 4 last year, More Sex Please, We’re British. The show documented the running of the business from its warehouse in Bath, and followed employees as they packaged toys, chatted to customers over the phone, and dealt with a returns system that made for television gold. Longhurst was pleased with the result: “The best thing for me, apart from the massive interest and sales, was what people who watched it said about Lovehoney employees, which was that they seemed happy and to be really enjoying their jobs, which I think is really important.”

This emphasis on happiness, in both employees and customers, is a recurring theme in the conversation, and at first the idea of a sex toy company having such a virtuous social mission seems slightly comical. But if the sales figures aren’t sufficient evidence, customer feedback on the Lovehoney website truly does belie cynicism, and Longhurst is confident in his claims: “To me the best thing is genuinely making a difference to people’s lives. We get emails from people every day about how Lovehoney and the products they have bought from us has rekindled their sex lives or even helped them discover sexual happiness for the first time.”

What’s the future for the company? “We would like Lovehoney to be the best regarded sexual well-being company in the world. There’s a lot to do still, but that’s the joy of it, because every day there’s something new, a new challenge. We’ve been doing it for 11 years now and it’s never stopped being great fun.”

 

The Malcontent on: January Sales

All undergraduates will inevitably have recourse to Primark. For those of us who find our loans so decimated that the £1.50 vest top is all we can afford, it’s a necessary evil – we pay for prior self-indulgence in subjection to bad lighting, dusty changing rooms and hangers bearing no relation to the product they display. Understandable, then, that after Christmas, armed with gift vouchers, we joyously await reintegration into more civilised retail society. Except that the universe clearly has other ideas because, every January, the British high street essentially becomes just one big Primark.

Sale shopping is less retail therapy, more consumer warfare. The foolhardy conscript enters a detritus strewn battlefield, where she finds herself surrounded by violent explosions of colour, sorrowful corpses of fallen products, and a ruthless band of hostile adversaries, gripped by monomaniacal self-interest. If someone asks you where you found that nice dress at any other time of the year, you cheerfully point them in the right direction. Come ‘the sales’, you protect your sources with grim fortitude – resources are limited, everything must go, and that includes altruistic tendencies, and any grip on one’s critical faculties. All that remains is an apocalyptic zeal and a grim determination that you will secure the last size 10.

A sociologist might attribute it all to that deeply primeval hunter-gatherer drive hardwired into every human. Personally, though, I flatly refuse to put down to evolutionary instinct any urge which convinces someone they need to buy a dayglo jumpsuit because it’s a third of the price it was two weeks ago. Unless, of course, this is social Darwinism of the more insulting sort – the sales shopper’s willingness to part with their money is intended to leave them too poor to feed themselves, and so to cause them to perish in a garret before they have time to spawn another generation of gullible consumers. It’s survival of the fittest, and those leopard print leggings aren’t making anyone any fitter, evolutionarily or aesthetically.

The ultimate act of evolutionary self-condemnation, though? Queuing up before the shop even opens. Nothing stinks of the general bathos of modern capitalism quite like seeing people wait, in the cold, to be allowed to hand over their money to companies who value them so little that they give them a jumble sale in lieu of customer service. Nature, red in tooth and claw, has some comfort – social Darwinism means they’re all meant to get pneumonia. Happy New Year.

-Louisa Thompson

-PHOTO/Stephen Sweeney

The Oxford Student

Oxford's Newspaper since 1991