Friday, October 23, 2009

The £65 dress that wasn’t or how M&S spun and came unstitched.

As those who have met me will fully understand, fashion isn’t something that normally grabs my attention, so the fact that Samantha Cameron ‘dressed down’ in a credit-crunch friendly £65 dress from Marks and Spencer, rather than her more accustomed designer wear, rather passed me by. It appears that this was something of a minor sensation, as it showed how down to earth and ordinary she was and how they could demonstrate that “we’re all in this together.”

The Mirror then revealed that Sam hadn’t exactly walked into her local branch and bought it off the peg, but as M&S had sold out of this particular dress – originally fetchingly modeled by Myleene Klass, Mrs Cameron had done what any other discerning shopper would do and placed a phone call to the manager. I say the manager, but I actually mean Sir Stuart Rose, the boss of M&S. Sir Stuart demonstrated the customer service skills for which M&S are supposedly famous and launched a search throughout the land for THAT dress. In a herculean effort, all 600 stores were combed, to no avail. Just as all seemed lost, one was found in a drawer, but it was a size 14 and Sam is a svelte size 10. Clearly this was unacceptable, so the in-house M&S tailor set to work modifying the dress to fit. My northern comrade, Chris Paul, claims that this could mean that the dress actually had a supplier cost of £40,000, but that seems a little steep to me.

Today, The Times uncovered the real story and it seems that somebody was spinning a line to cover the original spin. It appears that the romantic story above wasn’t quite the truth. The search did draw a blank, but M&S went back to the original supplier to have them hand-make a one-off copy. This was then supplied to Mrs Cameron at staff discount rates – 20% off – for just £57. M&S still made on the deal – quite apart from the free advertising – as they didn’t pay the supplier for this special order, even though it had cost this supplier £150 to produce it. They didn’t even offer an acknowledgement or thanks for the work involved. Such has been the demand for the dress, that M&S are considering making a very similar outfit in a slightly different colour – but to add insult to injury, the order won’t be placed with this helpful supplier, as the company was removed from the supplier list earlier this year. I’m sure that Dave and Sam will be glad to hear that the firm has survived losing the M&S deal and now has an exclusive deal with John Lewis to supply a range of clothing.

Such was the concern that the truth might leak out, one of M&S senior executives, Kate Bostock, called Amanda Marshall Ltd to try to arrange a cover-up
“I want to know, plainly — are you going to the press? Because Stuart and I are very concerned…. I’m sure there’s something we can do for you.”

In a further example of how heavily managed the Cameroon image is, Sam started out the week as a size 10, but the buyer searching for a dress was after a size 12. Was the original spinner just trying to sooth Mrs Cameron’s ego or is this an example of celebrity numerical adjustment? You know what I mean - in the same way that several (usually female) celebrities seem to get younger every year, or at least stay the same age.

Sam isn't the only one with an eye for a bargain - it seems that the £3500 Richard James suit that adorned David during his conference speech was his for the knockdown price of £1185. Should that difference be declared as a donation?

While there was no reward for the supply chain, executive bonuses remain top priority, as - in other news - Sir Stuart Rose is apparently being lined up as one of the next generation of Conservative peers to be ennobled as one of Cameron’s first prime ministerial acts (probably only just before they get around to scrapping the Human Rights Act and allowing hunting again). Him and the high priestess of bubbling house prices, Kirstie Allsopp.

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