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Shopping heaven

Oxford Street fans, from international buyers and fashion editors to designers, share what makes the area so special, while retailers explain its importance to business.

Marie-France Cohen

Owner of Paris boutique Merci

“London is a unique city for fashion in a world where so many cities are the same, and Oxford Street remains a pioneering location in terms of fashion. As a French au pair arriving on Oxford Street in the 1970s, I was amazed by the vast array of department stores, the incredible crowd of people squeezed onto the pavements, the huge choice of mini skirts, twin sets, coats, the influence of Mary Quant, all at affordable prices. How can you come to London without visiting this fashion temple?”

Simon Doonan

Creative director, Barneys, New York

“I’m a gigantic Topshop fan and often feel its influence reverberating across the Atlantic.”

Ed Burstell

Managing director, Liberty, and former senior vice president, Bergdorf Goodman

“Nowhere does high street fashion better than London. Oxford Street and Regent Street far outstrip anything in New York [where I’m from]. There is diversity and I don’t think anyone else goes after edginess the way London retailers do. They used to say London swings. Now it swings a shopping bag.”

Juliet Warkentin

Content director, WGSN

“My first memories of Oxford Street are shopping in Selfridges and John Lewis with my mum in 1969 when we were here for a year from Canada. Fast-forward to 1984, when I studied fashion journalism at the London College of Fashion, just off Oxford Street: Bhs at the time was unlike anything I’d seen in North America - fascinating. Anyone who works in fashion has to come to London at least twice a year to see what’s selling - both on the high street and in the indies.”

Harriet Quick

Fashion features director, Vogue

“Oxford Street continues to be the babylon of fashion with revolving mega stores and brands popping up on its length and breadth. It’s where we see fashion in action - clustering around flagships like Topshop, Uniqlo, Gap and Nike and spreading and immersing into Selfridges.”

Erin Mullaney

Buying director at London designer indie Browns

“It’s the quality of the education in London that makes the city stand out from others in terms of fashion. As

for Oxford Street, it’s an amazing feature of London as a city and I vividly remember going there as a teenager before going out in Covent Garden at night. Today, I always go to Topshop - as a buyer and as someone who loves fashion. I also love Uniqlo, and the windows at Selfridges are always a spectacle.”

Dolly Jones

Editor, Vogue.com

“London is defined by a combination of old and new, luxury and the high street. The London College of Fashion is just off Oxford Street, proving that new ideas are as close as they can be to real people shopping every day. I love Selfridges and the main flagship stores of New Look and Topshop create a hub of newness. Just watching the queues of people when they launch designer collaborations is like watching fashion history unveil.”

Katie Mackay

Co-founder of fashion blog What Katie Wore

“Having lived in Germany for a year, I know how lucky we are to have the depth and breadth of fashion retailers that we do on the high streets [in London]. No matter what your look or budget, there’s someone to cater for you, particularly when it comes to accessories and shoes, where we can get great quality and well-designed pieces that are very affordable.”

Stacey Duguid

Executive fashion editor, Elle

“I remember my first visit to Oxford Street as clearly as I remember buying my first pair of high heels; it was exciting, overwhelming and I wasn’t sure which way to walk first. In Milan, Paris and New York designers are grouped together by style and price. But at Elle, which celebrates its 25th birthday in October, we mix designer with high street, as that’s the way our readers want to shop and that’s what Oxford Street delivers. And Oxford Street also has a something-for-everyone approach; nowhere in the world has a shopping street like it.”

David Koma

Womenswear designer, born in Prague and based in London

“I love shopping in London and I love the London high street. It’s so amazing, especially Topshop and All Saints. [Catwalk] designers have to do something really tremendous to stand out. The way people work with new talent and new designers here is also really unique - it’s far better than Milan, New York or Paris. I couldn’t have [had the success I’ve had] anywhere else.”

Brix Smith-Start

Co-owner of London designer indie Start

“London is the capital of creativity and historically it has been purely that, but in the last few years it has found its way to linking creativity with being commercial. Oxford Street has always been epitomised by Topshop but other, innovative retailers have come along to give the high street staple a run for its money, like Zara and Cos. The West End is phenomenal for fashion, as you have everything in one place, from high street to designer. Where else in the world can you say you’ve got that?”

Holly Fulton

Womenswear designer

“My first trip to London which featured a heavy interest in fashion was when I was 16. We didn’t have H&M in Scotland then and I was crazed to get a quick cheap trend fix. I remember

going to Selfridges and buying some Shu Uemura make-up too - it was the mecca I expected it to be and I still love going there now. And you can’t have a high street without Marks & Spencer - it’s a staple for basic pieces, underwear and sandwiches. I think London stands out as a fashion capital due to its openness to new ideas and talents and its willingness to embrace creativity.”

Susie Lau

Founder of fashion blog Style Bubble

“Oxford Street is an exciting place to go to and I especially associate it with Christmas because my mother would take me to Santa’s Grotto at Selfridges. I always thought it was exciting to go to ‘town’ because we lived in the suburbs and hardly ever went into central London. This changed as I grew older, of course. As a teenager, I’d go to Oxford Street a lot, mainly for Topshop or Selfridges. I got my first designer bag from Selfridges. It was a Vivienne Westwood suede bag that I still use a lot - it was the first thing I saved up for with money I had made waitressing.”

Oxford Street: the retailers’ views

Will Kernan

Group managing director, New Look

“We open a lot of stores but opening on Oxford Street was an important step in the development of the business. We have two Oxford Street stores and both are in our top five - and we have more than 1,000 stores.”

Colin Temple

Chief executive, Schuh

“We opened on Oxford Street about four years ago and as a retailer it’s

a bit like a coming of age. We had a Vans promotion where we had a 4ft tall Vans shoe in the window - and someone stole it. The store was so busy no one seemed to notice. Top marks for ingenuity but I don’t know what they did with it.”

Mary Homer

Managing director, Topshop

“Our store is 70,000 sq ft - the next biggest one is 25,000 sq ft - and it’s crucial to the brand image and to maintaining our fashion authority. With the Kate Moss for Topshop launch Oxford Street practically came to a standstill. Standing there on a busy Saturday, it’s impossible for it not to bring a smile to my face.”

Nat Wakely

Director of selling operations, John Lewis

“I started at John Lewis 21 years ago and the difference between the store and Oxford Street then and now is huge. In 2006 we spent £61.5m on refurbishing the store - my biggest memory is of watching the new escalators being lowered in through the roof.”

Steve Rowe

Director of retail, Marks & Spencer

“When we opened our Marble Arch and Pantheon stores in the 1930s M&S was going through a period of massive change. Having stores on Oxford Street certainly helped to accelerate our expansion as a retailer. During our 125th anniversary celebrations last year, we had more than 1,000 people queuing up to be first through the door as chairman Sir Stuart Rose and Twiggy cut the ribbon at Marble Arch. The atmosphere was electric; an Oxford Street launch will always attract more attention.”

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