Sunday, August 14, 2011

21 again?

Ten years ago, when I was 21, I spent a year living in America. An academic year studying at UC Berkeley, followed by a summer working at a TV channel in New York.

The photos I have from this time, which are mostly prints rather than digital, showcase a number of ridiculous outfits. Living in our Berkeley co-op house, my fellow Brits and I were in fancy dress most weekends, with costumes ranging from 80s prom to Dallas Cowboys cheerleader.

We spent most of our spare cash on these outfits, but we often struggled to find good, fashionable clothes for every day. There was no Topshop in the US, no H&M until 2000, and then only in New York. No equivalents of Miss Selfridge, New Look, River Island or any other UK high street favourites.

What we had instead were shops like the slightly-pricey Banana Republic (now open in the UK). This was too old for us. Other younger stores such as Express and Bebe were also overpriced, despite the cheap look of their synthetic clothes.

Gap and Old Navy were less expensive, but a bit Soccer Mom for our tastes.

We mostly relied on Urban Outfitters for our jeans, T-shirts and accessories. It was affordable and cool.

Ironically, Forever 21 was not really on my radar when I was a 21-year-old in the States. It was less expensive than the likes of Express, but its collections were tacky, and lacked the edge of a Topshop or H&M.

But on my latest trip Stateside, to San Francisco, I developed a new appreciation for the store. It has picked up on an obvious gap in the market, and now seems to be offering fast fashion of the type we've had access to for years here in the UK. I picked up a cute printed dress, a pretty Prada-esque skirt and some sunglasses.

So I was excited to hear that Forever 21, which already had a shop in Birmingham, was opening in London. I visited the huge Oxford Street flagship last week, and while there weren't many pieces I loved (the average trip to Topshop usually delivers much more), I liked the overall concept. Shoes and accessories were particularly good, and while a lot of the clothes were a bit young for me (ten years too young?), I chose a fun telephone necklace and some tribal-chic bangles.

It's just the kind of place I could have done with when I was 21.

Here's the jewellery I bought, plus some other recent purchases.

 Bangles and necklace - Forever 21
 Telephone necklace - Forever 21
 Shoes - ASOS
 Jumper - Sonia by Sonia Rykiel
Peach Melba and Blue Moon nail polishes - Barry M