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How do people shop at Selfridges/Harvey Nichols?

(19 Posts)
MassiveStrumpet Wed 20-Jul-16 05:35:43

Inspired by the "effortlessly groomed" and "look expensive" threads I have been trying to adjust my perception of quality. That is, I wanted to try and aquire the ability to discern good quality from the cheap crap I usually buy. So I went into Harvey Nichols and Selfridges yesterday to walk around and look at/touch things. It was an interesting experience. But....

How does anyone actually manage to shop at these places? I could have gone in with a bucket of money and come out empty-handed. They hardly have any clothes! Plenty of handbags and a fair number of shoes but the clothing was very sparse. Each designer had a tiny area with a couple of racks, on which hung a handful of items. Each item was only in one or two sizes, all tastefully spread across the half-empty rail. I know they're not going to be jammed in like vests at Primark but it was ridiculous.

If I were spending that kind of money, I would want to try it on, but how can you if there's hardly any sizes? A dress would be there in a size four and an eight. Or maybe just in a size 6. Obviously, there was very little in the way of larger sizes (I am a 12/14) so there wasn't much chance of my finding anything that fit me, but I think even a size 6 would stand a high chance of disappointment for any given item.

And, unlike House of Fraser (my usual department store) they had very few departments outside of clothes, handbags, shoes and cosmetics. There was no lingerie and other than the odd scarf in a particular designer's collection, no accessories.

These are clearly not stores to go to when you think "I need a white silk blouse and a skinny belt." So who shops there?

Only the beauty halls had any customers. The rest of the floors were deserted.

SquirmOfEels Wed 20-Jul-16 05:40:34

You have to ask for other sizes - they keep them in the back and usually have them. Disclaimer, haven't been there for a while but I know other Knightsbridge/Sloane area shops do this.

QueenoftheAndals Wed 20-Jul-16 05:59:18

I can't speak for Harvey Nicks but Selfridges is great! It's just a bit spread out all over the place. There are three levels of women's fashion, which range from high street to designer, and a massive lingerie department. Not sure where you were looking OP!

MassiveStrumpet Wed 20-Jul-16 06:08:10

I'm not in London, but it's a large city centre. I suspected that the London flagship store would have more.

I didn't realise that about asking for your size. I was only there to paw things and look at stitching and fabric. But I think it would be intimidating to have to ask. I am used to shopping with very little assistance (Primark!) and the sales ladies standing around with nothing to do can be a bit over eager.

TheGreatDessert Wed 20-Jul-16 06:21:36

I don't shop there but:

As already said, in those stores you have to ask for your size. Sceptical me reckons this is to put off anyone over the size 4 or 6 they have dangling there from trying things on, but it's probably more about preserving expensive merchandise from being pawed by hundereds of time-wasting hands. If i was spending upwards of £1000 on a dress I'd rather it didn't have someone elses grub on it. Having worked in high street retail in the past, stock gets wrecked by make up etc plus if there's only two item on the rail, someone will notice if you nick one.

Sales assistants will scurry around after you in these stores and they'll bring you whatever you need/want. No need for you to stack things over your arm à la high street.

High end shopping makes me anxious so on the rare occassion I splurge it's usually at the airport where I can in-and-out while looking like a baggage grin

MassiveStrumpet Wed 20-Jul-16 06:32:38

I'm comfortable with the beauty halls in these stores but I have never stopped for clothes in them. I can't afford it and that's OK.

I think it's OK to feel the fabric and look at the seams but I would you try on something that I would never buy.

That said, I do plan to do some research in trying on a few things at other stores simply to get a better idea of what suits me. Someplace with less attentive sales staff would be better for that.

BikeRunSki Wed 20-Jul-16 06:38:54

I bought the dress I got married in at HN in Leeds. We went to refe personal shopping service and they brought everything.

BikeRunSki Wed 20-Jul-16 06:55:41

And I'm a 14. There was plenty of choice! Not so much size 9 shoes, but that's pretty normal.

botemp Wed 20-Jul-16 08:00:39

High end dep. stores often rent out their floor space at premium prices to brands so they tend to have a small selection of what's there. High end brands may have higher margins on the actual clothes as they can't rely on volume sales so the stock is in a sense a bit more precious. Also, since higher end clothing tends to follow European sizing and not vanity sizing they can be quite insistent on getting you the right size in that brand (uncomfortable as that may get sometimes).

I haven't read the two referred threats but please don't assume a high price tag automatically equals quality. I've seen some awful polyester tat at ridiculous prices and there's great quality to be found at various budgets. Equally those very popular American designer handbags are a complete rip off for the price.

Learn to understand care labels, it's the first thing I look at. Country of manufacture is usually indicative of general quality (in vague order best to worst: EU-China(varies)-Turkey/US(varies)-SEA). Dry clean only instructions for a non-tailored or unusually constructed piece usually means it's very delicate and while you should be able to wash it by hand or machine wouldn't last very long. Knowledge of materials is helpful too, natural fibres are often preferred but not in all cases. For example, in knitwear a 100% cashmere sounds great but the likelihood that it will pill and require a lot of high maintenance to keep it looking semi-decent is high. A bit of harder wearing (synthetic) fibres in among the mix fastly improves this, so a majority % of natural fibres with some synthetic mixed in will be the better choice, same with wool while a 100% cotton knitwear is brilliant on its own.

If you wish to browse with less attentive staff and a fuller range of sizes to try on, etc. I'd recommend seeking out one of those designer outlet villages although in all fairness, part of the premium you are paying for is the staff to help you out so don't let them scare you off with their painted on scowls and ridiculous as it is, carrying an expensive bag gets you much more accommodating staff. Engage over eager staff like you would a friend, they're usually bored out of their mind standing there all day and are happy to just chat away with you while you browse, just simply indicate that you are browsing and not looking for anything in particular.

Otherwise there's always online shopping, Net-a-porter is one of many luxury e-tailers and while the sale is on you can actually find some great things at low prices. Their outlet, theoutnet, is great for that year round as is yoox.

knowler Wed 20-Jul-16 09:55:02

Botemp, that's really helpful about country of manufacture and the use of synthetic fabrics. I've always been a bit hmm about the insistence of some on 100% natural (it usually happens on the M&S threads) as the simple fact is that it just doesn't wear as well as a lot of mixed or synthetic stuff. an unfashionable view I know.

I'd also second I'm a larger size (18), so it's a lot easier and avoids sniffiness wink if you can just filter everything by size.

botemp Wed 20-Jul-16 11:05:23

Knowler, I sensibly avoid all M&S threads grin.

I know what you mean though, insisting on a 100% natural is a little bit of an outdated notion unless you're really into sustainable clothing. A lot of synthetic fabrics have come along a lot. Their USP used to be imitating more expensive natural fabrics and of course they didn't measure up and you do still see this at the high street level so I do understand where the argument comes from.

The most innovation has been in hybrid materials where each fibre plays to their strength and it's nothing to be dismissive about, nor is it an indication that something is cheap. I still prefer a high % of natural fibres to use as an indication of material cost but it's also personal preference.

Women's jeans these days all have some stretch in them thanks to synthetics and it wasn't that long ago that people would sit in bathtubs with them to get the perfect fit as the material was so stiff and unforgiving never mind getting them on again after a standard wash. I don't hear anyone insisting we go back to that. Mind you I'm not a big fan of too much stretch in jeans either as they lose shape quickly, I usually look at 2-3% stretch max.

Btw I should have mentioned above that country of manufacture info is applicable to higher end brands, it's a whole different mine field for clothing at large.

ppeatfruit Wed 20-Jul-16 11:18:20

A good way of buying designer clothes is to go to a 'dress agency' There are a few in Knightsbridge across the road from Harrods grin.

They sell clothes that may have been worn once or twice and are usually very good quality and last seasons'. You can try on (all the sizes) . Some of the salesladies are very friendly others are not. The stuff is usually less than half what you'd pay for brand new. Worth it!

MassiveStrumpet Wed 20-Jul-16 11:25:16

I already knew that there's a lot of designer tat that is little better than the crap sold at Primark but if you have literally only ever shopped at Primark/H&M then you may be unable to understand why some things look cheap and what makes some things look somehow better.

I think the more obvious the label, the more likely the item is to be tat. So, things that are festooned with logos are more likely to be a bit lower quality.

The Selfridges here is right next to an M&S. When I crossed over there were a lot of obvious differences. Some of it was just down to display (lots of items crammed on racks will never look as naice as the sparse display of choice items.) But I definitely noticed differences in the weight of the fabrics, etc. I'm positive that there are handbags in the world that are exactly like Mulberry in terms of quality but don't have prestige markup but when you go down to the stuff sold at M&S you start to notice wonky stitching, etc that goes beyond the difference between leather and plastic.

I don't actually want to buy anything designer. I just wanted to have a personal look at clothing that wasn't H&M quality.

AmberNectarine Wed 20-Jul-16 11:29:21

I've never had any problem shopping at either - I shop at both a lot. I am a size 6, but often I have to ask for my size as there are 12 & 14s on display instead. It's not hard to flag down an assistant!

ppeatfruit Wed 20-Jul-16 11:33:38

I find that ironing the clothes makes a lot of difference to the hang and 'look' of the clothes however much or little they cost.

ZaraW Wed 20-Jul-16 13:20:24

OP is that the Selfridges in Manchester if so the floor that sells high street Whistles, Top Shop, Cos etc is usually busy when I've shopped there the designer floor is usually pretty quiet.

elfofftheshelf Wed 20-Jul-16 13:30:47

As others have said, a lot of stores (Selfridges and HN included) only put a small range of sizes out. Maybe it's because you were shopping during sale time, but in my experience the high end designer floor (3rd) in London Selfridges has a huge selection and the floor above has a great selection of the high end high street (Maje, Whistles, All Saints etc) and younger designers / diffusion labels. There is also a HUGE new lingerie section on the 4th floor. I have always found assistants to be helpful and easy to find.

Harvey Nicks on the other hand is more specialised and very focused on high end designer fashion. Even the shoe dept is pretty limited.

Gruach Wed 20-Jul-16 13:51:02

I also think I know exactly which branches you've visited.

It's probably the least populated and least inspiring Harvey Nicks on the planet. I've sometimes (say on a Monday afternoon) been the only customer in the whole shop. Reasons? Something about the particular demographic of the city means that people who have the money to spend are somewhat peripatetic and either buy everything at the start of the season (invitation only shows!) or shop online. So it doesn't have a solid, returning customer base. It's become merely a tourist curiosity.

The Selfridges opposite used to have a real buzz about it. But they recently completely re-modelled the designer floor and now all the atmosphere has been sucked out. It's hard to describe but definitely a mistake. And a shame because it used to attract a wonderfully wide cross section of residents and visitors, in contrast to HN.

Gruach Wed 20-Jul-16 13:58:30

So - it's not the intrinsic nature of the stores, just this particular town.

And of course you can go in and try on whatever you like - without any intention of buying. It's the best possible way to work out, consider and occasionally reassess exactly what fits and suits you. Then when you do actually want to buy you can go online and shop with a degree of confidence.

Don't be put off. The shop assistants must be so, so bored - and it's their job to encourage you to come back when you're feeling extravagant.

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