& Other Stories is the new high street Destination of Choice
This article is taken from the February 2022 issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering five issue for just £10.
I always wonder about people who complain so vociferously about January. It’s as if they’re blind to the inevitability of February. In shitty nappy terms, January is akin to the newborn’s first few deposits: weird, but not too apocalyptic, equipped with a horror-alleviating novelty. February, however, is the real deal: an incessant, truly retch-inducing affair that gets everywhere and stinks.
One way I like to push myself over the brink this time of year is to take a look at the inventory I made of last year’s sartorial purchases. I don’t add up the monthly outlay — that way madness lies. Nevertheless, I do cast an eye over the thing, and endeavour to learn from the carnage.
For me, 2021 was the year of the brooch, the tank top (as was 2020), and vintage Chanel, the latter to do with a turning-fifty take on L’Oreal’s “Because I’m worth it.” (I’m not.)
As-yet unworn acquisitions include: every pair of Dents’s jewel-hued opera gloves acquired to accompany the emerald Astrakhan coat I failed to purchase; and the colossal, electric blue, Charles Jeffrey Loverboy scarf that proved too weighty to wrap about my not un-sturdy shoulders.
I bought more second-hand wares than new. Of these non-new purchases, I made the transition from Vestiaire Collective (huge, no returns, great highs/not-so great lows) to HEWI (small, top quality, returns accepted). This was a 1066 and All That Good Thing, given that the unique treasures one amasses vintage shopping are equalled by the ungodly.
Of the new stuff, there were the basic elements: a spot of Zara and Mango, M&S cashmere, Me&Em staples, a soupcon of cod Gatsby LK Bennett.
And then there were the fabulous flourishes: Essentiel Antwerp (colour), Alexa Chung (the world’s greatest Edwardian-style tweed jacket) and Hayley Menzies (cracking silk shirt dresses; one new, one eBay).
In other breaking news, I also acquired a high street Destination of Choice: a venue where I can always find something I desire, in-store or online; long to take a swing around; and emerge feeling restored. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you: & Other Stories.
Stories boasts a northern European grit that spells sensible sizes and winter warmth
Stories, as it likes to abbreviate itself, launched in 2013, and now boasts 72 shops, in 22 locations, across Europe, Asia and the States. Like Cos, it is owned by the Swedish H&M group, items priced between H&M and Cos, at, say, £65 for a shirt.
Stories started as a beauty concept, thus scent, soap, slap, unguents, hair slides and accessories remain pleasingly strong among the frocks, tops, bottoms, jackets and coats, the aim being that a shopper can create her own top-to-toe “fashion story”.
The notion of a personal edit is more than just a platitude as — where Cos specialises in structural stuff beloved of design-types and chic lesbians — Stories’s USP is more expansive, built on collections from three ateliers: Stockholm (its HQ), Paris and LA.
Parisian wares tend to be froggily frilly, classic and/or striped; Stockers’ stuff is more utilitarian, architectural, and hot on colour; while LA is more party gal one minute, easy, breezy, athleezury the next.
Accordingly, in a spirit of narrativity, one can ask: who do I want to be today? Some Swedish stalwart, striding through Stockholm in my turquoise puffer (£175) and stompy boots (£135)? Or a pretentious Parisian pretending not to parade my tits in a semi-sheer shirt (£65)?
Or an LA loafer who … I was about to claim that I never buy from the LA range, yet — behold — my sole Yuletide concession was its stupendous purple Sequin Fringe Midi Skirt (£95, stories.com, now £42), sported with a cashmere roll-neck.
Where Zara and Mango can feel prohibitively Southern European in terms of sizing (bird-boned, non-breasted) and climate (resolutely warm), Stories boasts a northern European grit that spells sensible sizes and winter warmth.
The feel is grown-up yet playful, acknowledging of trends without being obsessed by them, with artsy hook-ups care of its “Co-Lab” department. The clothes are feel-good while also being good-good; both short-term dopamine dressing (colour! whimsy! ornament!) and a long-term joy.
I stanned its black and white Braided Leather Crossbody Bag (£125) so ardently, I invested in two: one for now, another for twenty years’ time. Its organic Flared Cotton Trousers (£65) are so utterly fucking perfect I stockpiled eight because I have never — ever — before discovered a flattering pair of trousers. All this plus lipstick! nail varnish! rings! and the stylish rainhats I’ve waited a demi-century for. See you in there, sisters.
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