April 20 2010
Bicester Outlet Village is a place that I check out regularly, as it always springs surprises. New stores pop up unannounced – a deliberate policy, as big brands understandably don’t want the spotlight turned on their discount stores. The three months since I last visited have produced a particularly rich crop of these under-the-radar sources, and taught me that the best way to shop there is with no preconceptions.
Yves Saint Laurent, Roberto Cavalli, Fendi and Gucci are the newest arrivals, with the latter especially good value – beautifully made, timeless, draped silky jersey dresses from £315. I thought I might find a version of this summer’s great white shirt at Saint Laurent, but no; the place that had them was Cavalli, which I only entered out of professional interest, thinking it too glitzy for my taste. But there were several gorgeous versions in the smoothest white cotton – the one I chose has, ironically, a Saint Laurent-like, dropped, pleated shoulderline and puffed sleeves. The only hint of glitz is a tiny diamanté logo which my first thought was to take off, but it’s fun, so it’s staying. And at £220 the shirt is a bargain compared with this season’s designer versions.
One thing that Bicester has publicised is a genuine pop-up shop – the British Designers Collective (pictured), where young designers are selling excess stock until May 7. Only 10 per cent of proceeds go to the organisers – the rest helps this often cash-strapped fraternity keep their businesses going, and I urge a visit. Newsworthy designer Erdem is perhaps the biggest draw, but Hannah Marshall, Todd Lynn and Jean-Pierre Braganza – names on the rise – are my hot tips.
The store looks good, and the service is excellent: having been unable to find an Erdem dress in the size that my daughter had requested for her birthday, I phoned on a busy Saturday and asked them to check out the size on the window display model. They not only called back but, as requested, scrutinised it to see how easy altering it down a size would be and gave me an honest answer: not easy. They might have lost a sale, but they’ve guaranteed that I'll go back before it closes on May 7.