Style. It’s a matter of personal opinion and a bone of contention amongst friends, strangers, cultures and generations. My brother considers his limited edition Star Wars Adidas hoody the epitome of chic. Whereas, the Queen parades her pins in a canary yellow dress, jacket and hat ensemble whenever she’s out on the town, downing her favourite tipple of gin. And I, well, I assign stylish to the likes of Olivia Palermo, with her sartorially elegant yet nonchalant get-ups.
I’m going to take a wild guess here and confidently speculate that you’re not feeling too stylish right now, perhaps reading this slumped over your desk. Your hair is, what you think, casually-coiffed; when in fact, every female looking for something to dissect other than their dissertation is nodding at you with a smile of camaraderie which says: “I haven’t washed mine for 6 days either.” Summer seems to have been and gone in the blink of an early Easter flutter of blossom. Now, you find yourself back where you feel safe, in your khaki parker and chunky knit, which does little to distinguish you from one hormonal, saturnine student to the next.
Let me help you. Here in Spain, there is a land of opportunity for lovers of neon brights, verdant oranges and luminous limes. If you were going to look anywhere to spice up your wardrobe reminiscent of a serial funeral crasher, then Spain would be your answer. Add to that the fact that you’re barking on relatively unmarked territory, you can be safe in the knowledge that your purchases aren’t going to be the buys of every one of your friends too.
Like many of Spain’s exports, Bimba & Lola has, just about, made it to the UK. You can shop online or find Britain’s sole store in Stratford, London’s Westfield Centre. The rest of its 111 establishments are sprinkled around the globe, with 75 of those in Spain alone. Bimba & Lola is an upmarket boutique, but whose price tags are friendlier than those of many British ‘designers’. Their bag collections, for me, provide perfect alternatives to the British fad for chic, leather trophy bags.
Above: bimba & lola S/S ad campaign.
Above: making headlines amongst the likes of Mulberry in Harper’s Bazaar.
One of Zara’s many younger siblings (part of the Inditex group, the world’s largest fashion group), Oysho is primarily a lingerie, swimwear and underwear store, but don’t be fooled by the window displays. Quirky, yet simple, you may think you’re entering a lingerie store; however, in the bosom of the odd bra and knicker sets you’ll find a plain, but effective, one-off garment. That, in fact, seems to be Oysho’s mantra: the least fuss for maximum effect. All collections are block coloured and comprise of straight lines and unassuming designs. According to their website: “As part of the Inditex group, Oysho shares the same fashion management strategy and philosophy and collections are renewed as fast as trends, thereby providing customers with a quality design product.” Sadly for you, the brand does not have branches in the U.K or Ireland, but luckily online shopping is available.
Trying to provide you with some variety proves difficult when reviewing the Spanish retail empire, as Zara and associated companies hold the majority of the market share. So, not to disappoint, following this pattern I present to you Massimo Dutti, also part of Inditex group. Originally a men’s clothing retailer right back in 1985, the company has expanded into fulfilling every target market, including women’s clothing, children’s clothing and perfumes. You’ll find 11 stores in the U.K but if there isn’t one near you then don’t fret as we are one of the chosen few who also have access to the online store. A slightly more mature and less daring sibling to Zara, the Spaniard’s love for shocking colour still screams out from Massimo Dutti’s collections, and I’ve picked a few of this season’s best for you below.
Yellow leather jacket £265.00
Striped dress with belt £54.90
Silk printed dress £79.90
Accordion pleat skirt with openings £64.90
Lastly, Stradivarius is recognised by its iconic treble clef logo, which draws inspiration from the violins built by members of the famous Stradivari family and serves as “a symbol that represents the rhythm, dynamism and difference of the brand”. A women’s clothing store, Stradivarius’ life began in 1994 as a small family business in Barcelona. Subsequently, the brand has gained an international following and consequently 600 stores, with a helping hand from an Inditex takeover. Strangely, Stradivarius has put up shop in Morocco, Oman and Serbia amongst 46 other countries, but not yet in the U.K. As a store I’d liken it most to our River Island, though minus the glitter and sequins, and plus a lot more animal print. Prices are reasonable, but finding a wow-inducer can be tricky. If you have the patience to get past the PVC (the Spanish can’t say no to a little leather) and the garish prints, you may just get a surprise. Designs aren’t ground breaking but they fulfil a functional purpose for lively every day summer wear. If you think Stradivarius is your kind of thing then it’s a great excuse for a holiday as the online shop is not offered to U.K customers at present. Weekend break in Barcelona anyone?
Heart print shorts €17.95
Flowing asymmetrical skirt €19.95