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Off the Record

Rumours, gossip, parties

OUR FRIENDS IN THE NORTH

The Retail Trust continues to celebrate its 175th anniversary - its latest bash, the Great Northern Party, took place at the Hilton Hotel in Manchester on March 29. Retail top guns at the shindig included, from left, Matalan chief executive Alistair McGeorge, N Brown chief executive Alan White, Retail Trust chairman Barry Gibson, Littlewoods group chief executive Mark Newton-Jones and Retail Trust chief executive Nigel Rothband.

JOHN LEWIS IS TOP OF THE PIPES

A Scottish piper led a hard-hat-clad procession to celebrate the recent topping out of the Highcross Quarter in Leicester (1). Project manager Samantha Rowntree (left), John Lewis managing director Andy Street and director of retail development Ann Humphries (2) relaxed in a specially designed Living Room area built for the ceremony, which marked the finishing of the structure. John Lewis will open a glass-fronted anchor store at the scheme, which opens next year as part of an extension of the city's Shires shopping centre. The ceremony, arranged by developer Hammerson, is said to placate evil spirits.

PARTY ICONS' FESTIVE FRENZY

Icon Eyewear's Christmas parties are legendary. So much so that after seeing the state of its buyers after last year's bash, management from one leading high street player insisted on an invite to the next. And once again, Icon underlined its reputation as the fashion party fire-starter this week, hosting a Christmas-style bash at private members' club Hedges & Butler in London's Soho. Buyers from Topshop, Asos.com, River Island and Burton joined the fray as the party rocked on till 6am. Working up an unseasonal festive fever were River Island women's accessories buyer Anouska Hoffman and Asos.com men's accessories buyer Oliver Tezcan (1), Icon sales manager Philly Blackett (left) and managing director Phil Blackett (2), and (from left) Burton accessories buyers Nicola Smith, Zoe Virgo and Amy Rycroft (3).

SEXED-UP SCENES WITH MADAME V

Lingerie brand Madame V knows how to throw a good party - in a sexy style. Crowds were drawn to a recent bash to showcase the brand's autumn 07 collections. Michael Dye, stylist for US actress Mischa Barton, and Alexia Somerville, stylist for pop star Pink, were among the guests who found themselves surrounded by a bevy of lingerie-clad models.

PRIM BUT VERY IMPROPER

A screaming crowd more akin to a pop concert than a store opening gathered on Oxford Street in London last week when Primark opened the doors to its new flagship. Hundreds of teenagers - and lots of older folk too - descended on the value fashion retailer well before Thursday's 10am launch, causing the police to bring in the cavalry to hold back the scrum. Those lucky enough to fight their way through the masses were treated to shelves stacked high with plenty of the on-trend wares you'd expect from Primark, and luckily there were plenty of unflappable staff on hand to help control the bedlam.

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