Mary Portas at House of Fraser

Over the past few years, flame-haired Mary Portas has graced our screens on a personal crusade to help independent retailers and brands in Mary, Queen of Shops, and now she’s turning the tables around and going into retail herself for the first time in a collaboration with House of Fraser. I was one of the lucky few to be given a tour of the shop by Mary herself the day before the opening, amidst the chaos of the staff unpacking the stock and frantically getting the shop ready – and the ever-present camera crew capturing it all, of course.

Her trusty business partner showed us around first and explained how this was the culmination of 2 years of hard work for him and Mary. The concept of the shop is “a shop for women, not for girls”, aimed at the largely untapped market of the over-30’s, with every piece carefully selected by Mary herself. With the high street often lacking the appropriate, affordable clothing for women over 30 who still want to be fashionable, Mary decided to design a small range herself (on which her close friend Antonio Berardi helped a little!) and work closely with other brands she loves to create a capsule wardrobe, which should allow you to always get ready in 10 minutes.

Alongside the Mary Portas own clothing range, there’s collaborations with British brands like Radley for bags, Clarks for shoes, Charnos for hosiery, and then a selection of her favourite brands, which include Max Mara coats, Whistles and Bastyan. Then, there’s also a lifestyle section, where you’ll find a selection of cosmetic products from Green & Spring, but also illustrated items by young British artists (some just recent graduates), there’s beautiful Italian foods, a range of True Grace candles created especially for Mary, and much, much more. It smells nice, looks nice, sounds nice: the whole shop is an experience, and for a brief moment you forget you’re inside a department store.

As would be expected with anything Mary Portas does, the emphasis of the shop is on customer service. There’s a complimentary personal styling service, called Pret a Portas, and the 15-strong team was handpicked by Mary. The Bell Boys, who are at your service for all your needs (coffee? champagne? different size?), were even trained by the Savoy! If you need anything from them, there’s a panic button in your dressing room, and they’ll come-a-calling… There’s also a Moan Phone, where you can leave messages for Mary, to which she will personally respond.

Personally, I think it’s a great concept – affordable, beautifully selected basic and interchangeable pieces, and you’ll find everything from accessories to bags to day and evening outfits in the one place. Basically, Mary has done all the hard work for you. But, having only just turned 26, I was a little put off by the blurb “for women, not for girls”. My age is in that awkward in-between stage, where I don’t quite fit in any category. So when I questioned Mary about it, whether or not she thought she was maybe putting off quite a big demographic by using this phrase, we had a bit of a debate about it… of course all captured on camera. Coming to a TV screen near you soon! For the record: I would absolutely shop there, having been there and seen the selection, I just don’t know if I like being called a woman, just yet.

Mary Portas at House of Fraser Oxford Street is open now on the third floor. There’s an express lift which will take you straight to the shop. Most items are also available online at www.houseoffraser.co.uk/maryportas

The Rules according to Mary Portas:


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