Poised between Britain’s star designer names and its high-street heroes are mid-market brands that offer quality and style at purse-friendly prices. We take a look at the leading brands and the hero pieces to pick up this season
‘The Great British High Street’ is a phrase that has come into use in recent years to represent the UK’s booming fast-fashion industry. Jumpers for £19.99, £59 coats and a fabulous pair of on-trend shoes that will set you back only £35 are par for the course when exploring London’s Oxford Street. However, what happens when the thrills of fast shopping don’t last? Where do you head for pieces that stand the test of time but don’t cost a fortune?
Not quite the high street, not too far from designer, the British mid-market is making a case for conscious, fashionable dressing at a reasonable price point
Nestled amid the global high-street names in the capital are a number of British mid-market retailers who are doing things a little differently. Offering quality fabrics, thoughtful design and a reasonable price point, these brands are making a stand for cost-per-wear pieces that will revolutionise your wardrobe as well as your pocket.
Founded in 1990 by Linda Kristin Bennett as ‘something in-between the designer footwear you find on Bond Street and those on the high street’, LK Bennett has come a long way from its first store in Wimbledon Village.
As well as its original footwear offering, the brand now produces a full ready-to-wear line, handbags and other accessories and has more than 80 UK stores and stockists in 10 countries. Its British heritage is at the heart of the brand, with design inspiration often coming from the British social season and traditional fabrics. No wonder it’s one of the Duchess of Cambridge’s go-to brands for everything from bias-cut shifts to nude courts.
However, it’s not just celebrity fans that give the brand gravitas. A combination of wearable day dresses with just a hint of trend-led accents and high-quality footwear that doesn’t look a million miles away from the Bond Street heavy hitters makes it a name to rely upon. Keep an eye out this season for LK Bennett’s lightweight spring coats, wide-leg trousers and elegant cross-body bags, perfect for the everyday and beyond.
Another brand giving everyday basics a mid-market makeover is Reiss. What began as a suit shop for men in the early 70s became the businesswoman’s clothes shop of choice in the early 2000s. Since the appointment of Ermenegildo Zegna alumnus James Spreckley as creative director in 2013, the brand now offers so much more than boardroom chic. A renewed focus on what it refers to as ‘modern femininity’ for women, alongside an increased use of premium fabrics such as leather and suede, has given Reiss some serious style credentials.
Spring/summer 2018’s womenswear is a sumptuous offering of easy-to-wear dresses, relaxed suiting and oversized knitwear in beautiful earthy shades. And while the menswear keeps tailoring at its core, the days of the pure business suit are long gone, replaced this season by pastel colours and soft linens. Modern minimalism lies at the heart of both the men’s and women’s collections. A soft palette of muted tones makes for wardrobe staples that don’t scream ‘look at me’ but whisper ‘style’ with a gentle elegance. Highlights come in the form of evening dresses that fit just so and understated leather handbags with characteristically fair price tags.
Premium fabrics are what have drawn Reiss to the attention of the fashion crowd over the past 10 years, and the same can most certainly be said of Whistles. Taken over by Jane Shepherdson, Topshop’s former brand director, in 2008, Whistles went from small-time label to household name in her eight years as CEO. Since Shepherdson’s departure in 2016, the brand shows no sign of slowing down, offering a broader and more fashion-conscious collection than ever.
The spring/summer 2018 collection is crowned by the Limited Edition range, a selection of premium pieces that could have been plucked from the catwalks of Milan, yet were actually designed in a studio in north-west London.
The buttery soft suede trench and standout blue silk wrap dress would be a welcome addition to any wardrobe, along with the on-trend woven accessories. The excellent fabrics and meticulous design of these items show the wisdom of parting with that bit more than for a high-street version but rather less than for something by a leading designer.
Not quite the high street, not too far from designer, the British mid-market is making a case for conscious, fashionable dressing at a reasonable price point. With a plethora of options to suit tastes from conservative to daring, from wedding outfits to businesswear and plenty of day-to-day hero pieces, these are certainly brands worth taking notice of.