When Mary Portas launched her range at House of Fraser back in 2011. Her manifesto read as a battle cry for fashion conscious women who felt unrepresented. ‘For the woman who is clever, smart, inspired and adventurous – I know what you want! I am carving out a fashion sensibility that exists in women today, yet not in the shops. Our clothes are not for girls. They are for women. This is not an age thing. It’s a grown-up thing.’ Her range of clothes and accessories were a mix of exclusive designs and specially selected pieces from some of her favourite brands.
Four years on and her concept is going from strength by strength. Getting rave reviews from satisfied customers.
Portas talked of her surprise that no one else had thought of this before ‘Over 50% of women in this country are over 40, so why hadn’t anyone gone, ‘I’m going to dress and style you, and create the shop for you.’ That’s what I’m doing’
‘The fashion industry was putting out collections that were getting more and more youthful,’ she says. ‘Everything was based on trend and youth and “buy now, buy now”. I just thought, “My God, if you don’t have a designer income – and let’s face it that’s most people – where do you go?” It seemed that the middle ground was disappearing.’
Portas, 53, continued ‘Women of this age are genuinely invisible on the high street. Most shops when they are targeting women use 18-year-old models.’
‘What are we doing here? There must be something unattractive about being old – that’s the message, and I think that’s a really ugly message.’
‘I wanted to create a collection that had women of that age in the campaign and which thought about their bodies and the things that are important to them – what we can highlight and what we don’t want to highlight!’
Talking about having the confidence to look good once you’re over a certain age, she said: ‘I’m my 50’s! You have permission to push boundaries. I call it the mutton moment.’
‘It’s when women look in the mirror and think ‘Can I, can’t I?’ We need more women to stand up and say it’s okay! Confidence comes from you having a sense of yourself.’
‘It’s about really understanding your body, your shape and what makes you feel confident when you put it on. Try to look at the clothes in different colours, but know your basic shape.’
Mary’s tips are as follows: Avoid dressing like a teenager, edit your trends, work with your proportions, keep it low-matintence and don’t buy rubbish!
She goes on to say: ‘I’m not imposing these as rules because rules are for children.’
‘However, with such guidelines in mind, no woman should ever find herself staring blankly at her clothing rail, or suffer a ‘mutton moment’ looking in the mirror.’
‘Dressing isn’t rocket science, but getting it right will fuel your daily lift off: ready in ten minutes and primed to take on the world,’
‘The range is full of incredible problem-solving wardrobe staples which are all a modern nod to fashion. Our buzz word is modular; that means each piece is a multi-tasking building block for putting together great looks.’
She also says: ‘The really important thing is to be always moving and to always push boundaries. So many women will fall into a comfort zone, a safety place.’
‘I have been lucky enough to be in a world where there’s always something new that happens. But I think it only happens because I embrace the new as well. I embrace fear, too.’