Friday, 5 June 2009

All Hail Mary, Queen of the Shops! (Charity shops that is...)

Now, I’m a big shopper. I spend before I look at a price tag, and I leave checking my bank balance until just before the very point that my bank card is rejected. But when all is said and done, everyone loves a bargain.

Thanks to the credit crunch, rolling up your sleeves and having a good delve in the bargain baskets in true British spirit is back in fashion. And boy, does retail guru Mary Portas know it.
For those who don’t know, Portas made history yesterday when she threw open the doors to her Living & Giving charity shop – slap bang in the middle of the UK’s poshest new shopping centre, Westfield London. It’s all tied in with the new series of Mary Queen of Shops of course, which sees Mary strap on her Blahniks and tread a very different road (one seemingly more familiar with the silver haired generation) into the murky land of the charity shop. Take a left at the tea shop and keep walking...

Episode one kicked off on Tuesday. Swinging in the store with her auburn bob and sharp tongue, Mary was put through her paces and forced to face facts about the state of charity shops. Now, any keen shopper on a budget will appreciate it’s not all plain sailing – shoulder pads (80’s originals, not Balmain), lycra moments and misshapen t-shirts abound. But if you perservere, there are a few gems hidden amongst them, including a gorgeous vintage Ralph Lauren riding jacket I recently discovered in Greenwich for £30!

But super Mary quickly took the reins, organising the window displays she’s famous for and merchandising the store like a business: pretty things at the front, keeping the toy twins to just a couple of shelves...

But behind the philanthropic guise Mary is a clever, clever woman. Known for hoisting Harvey Nichols to the upper echelons of society, she is taking charity shops and making them cool, to the kid on Twitter no less. Just a quick search will achieve 100’s of responses, all watching, all debating – and she’s there striking up conversations, making them feel their opinions count.
Gok is the face of the average woman – the woman with flaws, lumps and bumps and every day hang-ups. Trinny and Susannah passed the fashion crown on to him and he will, soon enough, pass it on to Mary - ruler of the eco shop and queen of reclaimed fashion.

Meanwhile, coverage on the back of yesterday’s launch has been storming in. Blogs are rife with debate, nationals hot on her heels and her show is gathering an audience – most watched for the 9pm slot is no mean feat!

Behind it all is her Grazia pop up shop, tweeting live from the event: “OMG - Louboutin have just donated to our shop!!!!!!!!!!!!” Taking more than 10k on Day One, Mary is truly spreading the word and reaping the rewards.

But when it’s all over, after Grazia has been recycled and the nationals are stored away on the Internet archives, it will be Mary who remains the point of interest. Not charity shops and their mothball filled joy.

Leaving us with the real question – who will she pass the crown to?


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