Look on the bright side

PUBLISHED: 16:04 13 July 2009 | UPDATED: 15:01 20 February 2013

Forget the credit crunch blues and dress brilliantly says Virginia Heath

Look on the bright side

Forget the credit crunch blues and dress brilliantly says Virginia Heath

The future of fashion looks bright (for this season at least) and it isn't only orange that's fanning the flames of interest.
New collections offer a myriad of hues from vibrant 'in your face' shades like lipstick pink and vampire red through to citrus tones and more circumspect sorbet pastels.
So the story for spring and summer is one of colour, colour and more colour as designers go flat out to banish the blues of the economic depression.
It's all there for the taking in an assorted dressing-up box packed with, among others, block colour panels, florals (both ditsy and bold), mega-size prints, rich metallics, monochrome, soft pastels and so the list goes on.
On the whole, collections seem to offer very little by way of fresh trends, but even so, there is plenty to whet our appetites and not only colour.
Taking themes in general, embellished necklines with lots of beading, crystals and bling are among the most notable features. In fact, the luxury trait continues via swathes of metallic and glossy fabrics in gold, silver and so on.
Expect to feel a touch of déjà vu for several reasons as the collections hit the stores. Jump suits (remember them?) feature in many ranges with designs spanning from the boiler suit variety to more chic styles.
Power dressing in the form of shoulder pads - think Joan Collins and the Dynasty era is back too in jackets, blazers and dresses.
Separates will be among the key trends for the warmer weeks ahead with new trouser designs such as balloon and harem shapes taking the lead.
Last season's fringe and tassel trims which decorated footwear and other accessories, have shifted over to clothing this time, most notably on dresses.
Draped and layered silhouettes with something of a Grecian look, mainly for evening, take the spotlight in liquid satins, chiffons and silks.

The latest collection from Chianti, the label launched by Emreco International in 1998, is among those reflecting the upbeat mood of spring and summer with colours ranging from baby blues and pinks to vibrant prints.
Among the eye-catching designs is a stunning retro indigo and white tie dye print with silver accents, while a riot of floral blooms in lipstick pink on white in soft cotton has been carried through on to mesh for easy care dresses, skirts and tops for holiday wear.
Amanda Norburn, from Chianti's design team, says occasionwear pieces are the key to the season's collection.
"Fabrics have been selected worldwide for colour, texture and touch," she explains. "The first occasion story is a sumptuous textured jacquard fabric with matching plains in linen or with a satin look finish.
"Soft baby blues and pinks have been tailored to create clean lines and easy silhouettes for both modern and classic styling. The collection includes both structured and unstructured jackets, dresses, camis, skirts and trousers with co-ordinated plain separates."
A gold linen blend fabric with a blush of silver frosting has been designed in tailored jackets with tonal embroidery and silver sequin trims, together with embellished dresses, camis, plain trousers and skirts.
"Our statement prints are in a stunning variety of designs," says Amanda. "A striking jungle print on soft jersey is in a choice of colourways with matching plain pieces. Shapes are elegantly simple, fluid and flattering which, with a simple change of accessories, will transport from day into night."
But whatever the choice of colours, prints and trends you make in the coming weeks, bear in mind it's all about being noticed. So enjoy wearing the new collections. Who knows, given the current financial gloom, what dull shades the autumn ranges may bring.

*Prices are approximate and the clothes featured are subject to availability. For more details contact virginia.heath@ntlworld.com or stockists.


PIC 1 (Shropshire only)
Black and white floral print shift dress, £350, Jaeger.

PIC 2 (Staffs only)
Candy pink and caramel semi-transparent silk blouse, £119.95, white cropped cotton trousers, £89.95, pink leather belt, £79.95, all by Gil Bret.

PIC 3 (Staffs & Shropshire)
Lotus abstract print silk chiffon strapless dress £560, John Charles.

PIC 4 (Staffs only)
Multi-coloured print silk chiffon dress with a softly fitted bodice and a matching shrug, £265, After Six.

PIC 5 (Staffs & Shropshire)
Red cotton stretch swing jacket, £187, red and white lotus print cotton stretch dress, £ 246, red suede handbag with leather flower trim, £145, red suede sling-back shoes with jewel flower trim, £137, red floral cluster fascinator with feather and crystal detail, £65, Michel Ambers.

PIC 6 (Staffs & Shropshire)
Black and white linear circle print polyester dress, £139, Jacques Vert.

PIC 7 (Staffs & Shropshire)
Buttercup, blue and white print dress with a V-neckline, rose-trim and fluted hemline, £175, co-ordinating buttercup linen pleated cardigan with frill detail, £75, Fenn Wright Manson.

PIC 8 (Staffs & Shropshire/ new label for us)
Dark chocolate tiered cotton dress with short sleeves, £81, Sandwich.

PIC 9 (Shropshire only)
Black, turquoise, grey, pink and lemon circle print dress in 100 per cent silk with a V-neckline and wide waistband, £378, Aideen Bodkin.

PIC 10 (Staffs & Shropshire)
Mango linen pleated dress, £129, leather belt, £39, chain handle straw clutch bag, £59, Precis Petite.

PIC 11 (Staffs & Shropshire/Chianti spotlighted in main copy)
Almond floral print jacket, £139.50, matching skirt, £66.50, Chianti.

PIC 12 (Staffs & Shropshire)
White jersey mini dress with cap sleeves and decorated with crystals, £249, (also in Black), Tivoli by Bernshaw.

Staffordshire stockists include:

Bernshaw: Togs, Newcastle - 01782 618358.

Gil Bret: Dorothy Helen, Uttoxeter - 01889 563345; Marjorie Reader, Lichfield - 01543 256379.

John Charles: Aisle of Brides, Stoke - 01782 415380; Anne Morris, Leek - 01538 373330.

After Six: She Devil, May Bank - 01782 710998; Bustle, Lichfield - 01543 251370.

Michel Ambers: Marjorie Reader, Lichfield - 01543 256379.

Jacques Vert: Debenhams, Hanley - 0844 561 6161; Beatties, Burton-on-Trent - 0870 607 2832.

Fenn Wright Manson: The Wardrobe, Tamworth - 01827 312076.

Sandwich: Bamboo, Leek - 01538 382838; Blue Water, Burton-on-Trent - 01283 511269; Fatale, Tutbury - 01283 520544; Wall Street, Alsager - 01270 883465.

Precis Petite: Debenhams, Hanley - 0844 561 6161; Gabi, Stafford - 01785 251640; Beatties, Burton-on-Trent - 0870 607 2832.

Chianti: Something Different, Stone - 01785 815507; Fatale, Tutbury - 01283 520544; Dorolyn, Newcastle - 01782 619178; She Devil, May Bank - 01782 710998; Rumours, Lichfield - 01543 254333.


Shropshire stockists include:

Bernshaw: Carol Grant, Shrewsbury - 01743 368182; Osborne Kellard, Newport - 01952 820205.

Jaeger: Jaeger: Shrewsbury - 01743 231635.

John Charles: The Changing Room, Much Wenlock - 01952 727252.

Michel Ambers: Out of Town, Oswestry - 01691 670288.

Jacques Vert: Debenhams, Telford - 01952 291943; Rackhams, Shrewsbury - 01743 235581.

Fenn Wright Manson: Out of Town, Oswestry - 01691 670288; Jane Dyas, Shrewsbury - 01743 362644.

Sandwich: Oberon, Shrewsbury - 01743 246534; Osborne Kellard. Ludlow - 01584 876242; Sissy Blu, Oswestry - 01691 672888; Osborne Kellard, Newport - 01952 820205.

Precis Petite: Rackhams, Shrewsbury - 0844 800 3756; Beatties, Telford - 0870 607 2838.

Aideen Bodkin: Quelque Chose, Shrewsbury - 01743 363501.

Chianti: Jane Dyas, Shrewsbury - 01743 362644; Eliza Scott, Bishops Castle - 01588 638147; Shropshire Bridal Centre, Oswestry - 01691 650474.

Shop Talk
Shop: Goody 2 Shoes, 31 High Street, Eccleshall. Tel: 01785 851697; email: nicole@shoesatgoody2shoes.fsnet.co.uk; www.shoesatgoody2shoes.co.uk

Owner: Nicole Heath

Who do you cater for?
I supply shoes for women whose ages range literally from nine to 90. Young girls come in with their mothers, and when they grow up, they keep coming back on their own, something that's happened over the 10 years I have been open. Older ladies no longer want to look old. They are very much more aware of trends now. They see a style they may remember wearing first time round and they'll give it another go. Once, 40 was the age when you went into tweed skirts and brogues. Now we have 70-plus ladies wearing the latest colours and styles. Our best-selling, on-trend brogue shoe boot with a very high heel, which I thought would sell to the 25ish age range, was sold to two 65-plus ladies and a 70-year-old. It shows these days that fashion is ageless.

What distinguishes your business and how do you care for customers?
Our stock distinguishes us from other shops. I buy everything from Milan. Even if we get someone 'pinching' our brands, I try to get exclusivity on the style. You have to listen to your customers, but you can't let them dictate to you because you would have a shop full of things no one wants. So I go with instinct. I do a lot of homework on up coming trends and colours, likely influences such as a film or a celebrity like Victoria Beckham, and use that as a starting point. When I see ranges, I use that knowledge to formulate a plan to give us the identity we will use for that particular season. It has to be different but commercial. Not too wacky because we're not in London or a large city, but on-trend enough to give our informed customers the choice they want. We also stock more classic designs because not everyone is ruled by fashion, but we are not and never will be a traditional shoe shop. When I buy, my rule is 'if in doubt, leave it out.' We work closely with local dress suppliers to make sure we have colours in footwear to match their fashions. Of more importance of late is value for money. We try to find good quality footwear, but at a good price for customers. We try to source all European footwear - Spanish and Italian - so we are confident of the fit, quality and delivery dates. We started the business 10 years ago and because we're an independent retailer, we pride ourselves on customer service. Staff are trained to help customers find an ideal pair of shoes for any event. Helping customers is very important because it sets us apart from the high street which tends to be more 'self service'. So from greeting the customer and helping them through to the nice carrier bag they get at the end is all about making the customer feel special. Before we moved to the new premises and after only two years in business, we won the runner-up prize in the Best Women's Shoe Retailer of the Year Awards. It was a shock to us, but a great accolade which gave us a lot of good publicity. Unfortunately, we have been unable to repeat the performance (there is a lot of competition from London). But the store that beat us in the last three years has gone into receivership, so who knows? We have certainly made the top 10 shops in the last three years.

What kind of compliments do customers pay you?
The main one is that customers return again and again. Many tell friends and family. We find our reputation spreading far and wide. We have a huge following from London because, unbelievably, we have more stock here than any one shop in London, save concessions in Harrods or Harvey Nicks. Our prices are very competitive. Our shoes can be half the price as the same design in London. We often get people popping in en route to somewhere. A customer from outside the area once came in dressed for a wedding she was attending that day. She bought some shoes to wear. Ten minutes later she was back. Her husband, waiting in the car, told her to get the matching handbag as well. One of the compliments we often hear is 'Oh what a wonderful Aladdin's Cave'.

How many footwear brands do you stock?
More than 20 footwear brands as well as six handbag brands, four jewellery designers, and three or four other accessory suppliers including scarves and hats. Ninety per cent of buying is done in Milan twice a year. I also visit numerous UK trade shows and agents' stockrooms to make sure I don't miss anything. Brands include Geox, Salvador Sapena, Pedro Miralles, Cheshire Style, Melissa jellies, FitFlops.Bourne, Ramon Tenza, Sachelle and Manas boots. The price range is wide. Ipanema flips start at £15, leather sandals from £30, and shoe and handbag sets from £130.

What kind of footwear designs look set to be popular in spring and summer?
All I can say is 'colour, colour' colour'. After a period of neutrals, it's great to see bright shades back. We have yellow, green, orange, red, blue, black and white, fuchsia, lime and purple, and neutrals as well. The platform won't go away and wedges are still around. The 'fetish' look is also prevalent.

Describe your favourite footwear design in the new collections.
It has to be brown leather gladiator-style sandals with a medium turquoise cone heel by Ramon Tenza. They cost £175 and look absolutely fabulous.

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