Retail concepts

Cassie Mercantile



Cassie Mercantile vintage showroom

While some vintage stores are bailing out, others are doing perfectly fine, thank you very much.

The sublime but secretive Cassie Mercantile is a vintage clothing dealership with a showroom in genteel Holland Park. Owner Graham Cassie is a shy Scot who spends his days sourcing post-war Americana, love-worn army surplus and the odd spool of vintage haberdashery trim on his travels around the globe. He sells to upper-end designers on the lookout for inspiration as well as scooping up the perfect beat-up suitcases and just-threadbare-enough old flags to fashion into Japanese shop window displays.

On my recent visit he wouldn’t let me get too snap-happy (frankly, he doesn’t need the publicity) but allowed these gems. Clearly, there’s some mileage in vintage threads yet.






How to be a sensible sale shopper




In only seven days time I will be hauling my ass to Heathrow along with my paltry baggage allowance to head off to Mumbai for eight weeks. I am working on a new magazine launch and need to pack enough clothes to make a professional impression (not easy for a jeans-and-Converse girl) as well as my files, notebooks, laptop and the obligatory bits and pieces that my mum has requested I take over for her (er, six Mum roll-on deodorants??!!!). This is what brought me to the Oxford Street sales. In the last year or so I have overcome my urge to consume, consume, consume. I think it’s because I buy so many magazines. Looking at merchandise in magazines gives me the same buzz as buying the stuff itself, so even though I spend a bundle on glossies, it actually works out as a saving. For this reason I haven’t had the urge to hit the sales although I will of-course browse a sale rail if I’m passing one, I’m not a total freak.

I must be one of the lucky few who has a boyfriend who actually likes shopping. And D knows what he’s doing as it was he who told me that Fenwick has an extra 10% off on the first day of the sale*. So after I gave him a head start at Skandium in the hope that its Florence Knoll sofa would be heavily reduced (it wasn’t even in the sale), we met for a quick butchers in Selfridges before snaffling some half-price Charbonnel & Walker champagne truffles in Fenwick. Up to Kurt Geiger on the first floor where I fell upon some Repetto ankle-tie ballet pumps. This was a true bargain as I had already seen and rejected them a couple of weeks ago at Kurt Geiger in South Molton Street (£130! For ballet pumps!). I’m hoping these will work to zhuzh up jeans for day as I can’t see myself wearing Converse to appointments with the Gucci PR. I’m slightly concerned that the dusty pot-holed streets might eat them alive but I’ve been promised a car and driver so hopefully that will take care of that. After a cursory look at the lingerie (no decent Fifi Chachnil and the Hanro basics were not on sale) we were outta there.

On the way to lunch at DKNY – now wouldn’t it be nice if restaurants had sales? – we passed huge queues at Miu Miu and Prada. I mean, really, who queues for a sale? Don’t even get me started on the ladies who were treated for hypothermia after queuing at 4am for the Next sale. Next?! I just don’t get it. These people clearly have more time than money but even so, don’t they know they can shop online? Post-lunch we took ourselves home with our modest sale buys – chocolates and Repettos for me, shoe trees and a new pair of gloves for him.

Disneyrollergirl’s Dos and Don’t for sensible sale shopping

1. DO make a plan. Don’t aimlessly wander from one end of the high street to another, you’ll give up at the first hurdle. Pinpoint five destination shops then factor in a coffee break to recharge.

2. DO go with the flow. There’s no point being in a hurry if you decide to hit the busiest shopping street in town. Slow down to the same pace as the dawdlers and bring a copy of Grazia to read while you queue for changing rooms and tills.

3. DON’T shop with friends, they’ll give you sale fatigue. If you shop alone you can get more done.

4. DON’T pay and queue in the obvious places. Go to the mens department where it’s less busy or somewhere off-radar like the flower department which is usually quiet.

5. DON’T go to the nearest loos. The ones further away will have shorter queues. Try Mamas & Papas in Regent Street, Selfridges 3rd floor in Oxford Street and Fenwick in New Bond street for the nicest, cleanest and quietest toilets in the West End. Fortnum & Mason has luxurious toilets with an attendant who wipes the seat before you use it and you get fancy soap and your own towel but it’s a tourist attraction in itself so be prepared for a queue. Harrods charges £1 to use its loos unless you go to the one in the basement accessed via the bread department. Avoid TopShop, Oxford Circus and Borders, Oxford Street toilets – nasty, nasty, nasty.

6. DO shop for gaps. It’s more satisfying to come home with something you actually needed than yet another stripy T-shirt.

7. DO be decisive. If you’re not sure, leave it. Don’t get caught up in the sales hype, once you’ve typed in your PIN you know you’ll never take it back.

8. DO go for quality over quantity. Aim for two or three quality bargains instead of ten bags of tat. Believe me, the buzz will be the same.

*until 1pm only!



Coffee and cones



fortnum & Mason coffee and mini ice cream cone

When I first happened upon the revamped Fortnum & Mason store in Piccadilly, I practically recoiled in shock. What had they done? In their effort to modernise, all the character had been sapped out of the poor shop. A few months on and I decided to give it a second chance. To my surprise I discovered a gem. Parlour Restaurant on the first floor is a darling little ice-cream parlour, designed by David Collins (Madonna’s decorator no less) and decked out American diner style with a 50s Italian twist.

The pistachio-green chairs work beautifully with the fondant-coloured china and floor-tiles, while neopolitan-hued lampshades coordinate very nicely indeed. But it’s not just about the decor. There’s a choice of fabulous ice-cream sundaes including a few alcoholic ones and great attention is paid to presentation. My favourite touch? The mini-sized ice-cream cones served with the capuccinos in their own little holder! Absolutely adorable.