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Quality Street By Kristina Bugeja Winter is the time when quality counts. Were your feet honestly clad in shoes able to cope with the ice rink that was Sidgwick Avenue? When the elements can be this cruel, we need quality jeans, quality shoes and most vitally, a quality coat. When you think of poor quality fashion, it probably ranges from Primark to H+M or New Look. Other chains, the so-called mid-range high-street such as Topshop, River Island and Urban Outfitters, are ostensibly a cut above the rest. Yet in times when consumers are looking for better value for money, retailers seem to be going in the other direction, notably reducing the quality of some lines. A stalk through Topshop’s online reviewing system will reveal the exact point (circa June 2011) at which a new batch of Baxter jeans was shipped, this time with a clearly inferior cut and thinner fabric. In other instances it is simply a case of poor value for money; when American Apparel’s clothing can be as cheap as their adverts, is a £50 sweater worth it? Similarly ASOS, as an online retailer, get away with murder because photographing an item on a lean model in good lighting means you know nothing about the quality until it arrives at the plodge.

Which cost less? The sweater or the ad?

With that in mind, here is my selection of high-street shops which can always be relied upon for sartorial essentials: Shoes - Office A firm student favourite (hello 10% discount), Office have got every aspect of footwear covered. Branded classics like Converse and Nike hi-tops contend with Office’s own range of always current and sometimes quirky designs, which are certain to cope when pounding the pavements all around town.

Louie Louie Black Leather Brogue Was £65, now £25.60

Jeans - Gap It may sound obvious, but when my faithful black skinny jeans had turned into a murky grey and were giving me knobbly knees which I didn’t have, there was only one place to turn to for a replacement. They may not have the LSD inspired array of colours that you find elsewhere, but at 98% cotton and 2% elastane, Gap’s Always Skinny jeans compare favourably to the 63% cotton, 32% polyamide and 5% elastane of Topshop’s Supersoft style (with these the clue is in the title, kids: they will stretch, they will sag, they will bag. Steer clear). The first few wears of the Gap pair may be uncomfortable, but they will repay you with years’ worth of loyal service. Always Skinny jeans, indigo wash, £39.95

Coats - Zara A well cut coat can change an outfit

dramatically: adding character, changing proportions and tying a look together. It should also make you less scared to leave your room on mornings like this. To achieve all of the above, you need Zara. The best high-street take on a Chanel bouclé jacket, classic black blazers and on trend winter coats await your visit. Plus there’s a sale on.

Lantern Coat, was £119, now £39.99 Composition: 80% wool 20% polyamide

Everything else – Marks and Spencer Forget bulk buying from Primark, get socks, tights and underwear which will last for more than a term from M&S. Doesn’t it just exude comfort and quality? For basic wardrobe staples like T-shirts and jumpers it is also more than resonable. After all, if it’s good enough for your Grandparents…

Cable knit men’s jumper, pure cotton, £28

Quality Street  

An examination of the British High Street and how to get the most for your money.

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