FASHION AND BEAUTY COLUMNIST NANCY BUCKLAND KIRK LOOKS BACK ON ONE OF HER FIRST FASHION LOVES: HIGH-STREET FAVOURITE, NEXT.
I remember the first time I looked in a Next shop window. The year was 1986, I was with my friend Colin, and I was looking longingly at a Prince of Wales checked suit which was perfectly accessoried with a black trilby, and suede bag and shoes. Next were the first store to merchandise looks in this way, and I was entranced. I was planning to go to Uni, and Colin was off to seek his fortune in London. He promised, if he made it, he would come back and buy me something similar, from Next, when I graduated.*
In an ever changing style landscape, even now you cannot underestimate how Next changed the face of fashion retail in the U.K. The brainchild of the legendary George Davies, he wanted to bring upmarket looks, made from luxurious fabrics, and show them in a way they were meant to be worn. For a new generation of women, planning on careers and glittering futures, it was a heady mix. Next stores really shook up traditional retailers – suddenly department stores as they were then looked outdated. They had to up their game, because Next changed it completely.
In 1988, Next Directory was launched and I was a customer right from the off. Up until then, catalogue shopping was considered to be the height of naff. Next Directory altered all of that, with its glossy pages and luxury delivery services. If you want to look at how we shop online today, a lot of that model traces straight back to Next Directory. It was, and is, a huge lifestyle brand. Not only did you buy the whole outfit, but you wanted the homewares to match.
Thirty years on, and Next has changed a great deal, as it has had to with the times, but a recent profit statement that was really encouraging, when other big names are really struggling, shows that Team Next are getting it spot on. Now a hugely family friendly store, it has embraced the trend for faster fashion without sacrificing quality. It still holds dear what it has always been famous for: brilliant workwear and classic evening pieces. But now its casual looks are really budget friendly and Next have embraced other labels to add to their own style umbrella, and it just works. You can mix your Next jeans with your Superdry T, or put those occasion accessories with a Lipsy dress. Next have aligned themselves with some real superbrands, and their carefully edited collections means you get the best of every style world. I recently invested in a beautiful Next shirt and a pair of French Connection lace trousers and they look great together.
Last, but not least, you can’t really mention Next without mentioning Next sales. They are proper sales. Sales where you turn up armed and fabulous, elbows at the ready, to go into battle for genuine bargains. If you haven’t been to a Next sale, then you haven’t lived.
As I enter my fourth decade as a Next devotee I would like to say thank to all the team for giving us what we want. I am never without beautiful ballet flats, fluffy hand towels and gorgeous beachwear, to name but a few. We all need staples, and Next do them wonderfully, without a hint of boring. I even bought my bridesmaids dresses there, and their matching shoes. Everyone thought they were designer, and that’s what the brand has always prided itself on. Next, I would be lost without you.
*Colin not only made his way in London but is now an Emmy award-winning cinematographer in Hollywood. He still owes me an outfit.
About the author: Nancy Buckland Kirk is a writer with a keen interest in fashion and beauty and a career which has spanned modelling, teaching and spreading the word about leading beauty brands.
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