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Friday, 28 September, 2001, 10:15 GMT 11:15 UK
Can 'one woman' save M&S?
part of the Per Una range
Per Una aims to win customers with contemporary styles
By Nicola Carslaw, the BBC's consumer affairs correspondent

Marks & Spencer desperately needs pizzazz - but is Per Una the collection to provide it?

It means: "For one woman".

Its aim is to banish the mass-market image in favour of the individual - to win back the loyalty of lapsed customers with contemporary, younger styles.

The man who created George at Asda and launched Next is behind the designs.


There is trouble if you see two other people round the same dinner table wearing the same blouse

George Davies

George Davies has also sharpened up the production process - so customers will constantly see updated fashions on show.

He says: "There is trouble if you see two other people round the same dinner table wearing the same blouse.

"You never want to think in a mass way - you want to think in an individual way.

"What we intend to do is keep refreshing our designs on a weekly or fortnightly basis.

Themes

"Women today are very on the ball in knowing what they want and what is the right fashion.

"The job is, in fact, keeping up with them.

part of the Per Una range
Black leather trousers are part of the range

Mr Davies adds: "It is a range that is appealing to a slightly younger customer.

"The collection is built up out of a series of collections.

"I take a theme, a fashion story.

"A fashion story this year could be military - so you decide your colours will be military and you build a range that is military so you can buy the boot that goes with it or the skirt or the trousers. "

I must admit that looking round the Per Una range there are plenty of items you would never expect to see.

Bondage-style

There is the bondage-style black, studded stiletto-heeled shoes and leather skirts.

There is the sparkly evening wear.

And the prices seem keen.

M&S clothing sales figures have been dismal for too long.

Restructuring, refurbishments and new store layouts have yet to yield results.


It was a constant surprise that it was so reasonably priced

The Daily Telegraph's Fashion Editor, Hilary Alexander

So this is make or break.

But there has been positive feedback already from those in the know.

The Daily Telegraph's Fashion Editor, Hilary Alexander, says the Per Una range is "incredibly good quality and value for money."

"It is surprisingly good, I was really thrilled."

She continued: "What appealed to me was there was a mixture of everything.

"There were a lot of things I would personally like to buy and wear.

"There were some great sweaters, some amazing boots, some fantastic bondage stilettos for 35 and there was a wonderful long black wool-mix overcoat for 99.

"It was a constant surprise that it was so reasonably priced."

But, M&S, it seems, will forever have to look over its shoulder - even on Friday enduring the launch of a Japanese rival.

Uniqlo is Japan's number one casual clothing company, with more than 500 stores there.

Its prices are keenly competitive - and, of course, it has novelty value.

See also:

28 Sep 01 | Business
The rise and fall of M&S
28 Sep 01 | Business
Struggling M&S launches new range
26 Aug 01 | Business
M&S renews foreign expansion drive
13 Aug 01 | Business
M&S France seeks sole buyer
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