The party season starts here…

Top marks to Topshop for their latest innovation “Dress Me Up” dress hire. Kicking off in the Topshop flagship today, it’s a short n sweet retail concept that allows customers to hire – and possibly buy – a one-off dress for the party season. Between now and 6th December, you can browse the rails and drop the hangers all over the floor try stuff on before booking your chosen piece to hire between 7th and 23rd December. All dresses have been donated by designers and celebrities* and can be hired for two nights for a pretty reasonable £40 although a bigger deposit will have to be left in case you run off with them of damage. All dresses will be auctioned at the end of the event. (Can I just say before anyone gets any funny ideas that I have first dibs on the Richard Nicoll. Thank you.)

As much as I like the idea, I’m most impressed with Topshop’s choice of charities set to benefit from this initiative – proceeds from the hire fees and auction will go to Help The Aged and Age Concern. I love that Topshop, the brand that’s synonymous with youth, has decided to raise money for our elders. Nice one Toppers!

In a similar vein but without the fanfare and charity donations, is Dresseduptothe9s, a site where you can hire high-end dresses or rent out your own posh frocks to make some extra pocket money. It all makes perfect sense to me, why not give your dresses a second life if you’re not going to wear them but don’t want to throw them away?

*PS, word is that Lady Gaga has donated a dress to Topshop …. Let the bunfight commence.

If anything converts me to online shopping, this may be it

A few weeks ago I did some work with an online retailer. In the course of my work, the subject of online shopping came up and my colleague was aghast when I told her I don’t shop online. It’s true, I don’t. Apart from the odd book from Amazon – which by the time you’ve factored in delivery charges isn’t that much cheaper than the high street – I do all my shopping in bricks-and-mortar stores. I prefer the in-store experience and when it comes to clothes shopping I want to know I can return them with no hassle. It’s also why I feel happier buying from department stores rather than ‘no refunds’ boutiques. But news reaches me today of a new initiative from ASOS called ASOS Premier. For £24.95 a year you get free next day or ‘nominated day’ delivery and free returns which are collected from your house! Now, forgive me if this is common practice with online retailers but I’ve never heard of it and I think it’s bloody genius. I was so gobsmacked, I had to get someone to check that I’d read the blurb properly and got the right end of the stick. This is something that would seriously make me rethink my ‘no online shopping’ stance. It means you can order the item you want in a couple of different sizes, try them on at home playing dress-up with all your other things, then return the non-fitting item without hauling your ass down to the post office and paying for the privilege. Duh, they should have done this years ago!

At this week’s Fashion Summit, one of the main messages coming across was the importance of customer service. When business is tough, a good product, a good price and good customer service will see you through. If anyone knows how to succeed in online retail it’s ASOS and we all know that they are doing very well with product and price. It’s great to see customer service being addressed like this, let’s see if others follow suit.

Tatty Devine comes to Covent Garden

New shops are springing up everywhere and I was most excited to see the finishing touches being put to a Tatty Devine shop in Monmouth Street last week. According to Wee Birdy’s blog, it opened on Saturday and sells all sorts of wonderful non-Tatty Devine merch alongside their own label.

If you decide to go, make sure you pop into The Vintage Showroom, two minutes away in Earlham Street for a hefty dose of vintage utilitarian eye candy. Covent Garden just got exciting again…