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It's a jungle out there: Primark

I thought upon approaching Primark’s Oxford St store, that the fashion scrum I found myself in* when the Stella McCartney range for Target was released, might just prepare me for the jungle that is Primark.
I chose a Monday morning as I figured the weekend would have been shopping chaos. Teens would be at school, the great unwashed in line for the dole and Harry and Wills out and about stealing helicopters.
Wrong again.
There were people (mainly women) but people none the less, of every age and class distinction, EVERYWHERE. If you ever wondered on a dreary winter’s day in London how people keep warm, clearly they are all in Primark, fighting each other for a bargain.
Not to be deterred, I cautiously stepped over piles of clothing just dropped on the floor- Don't want it? Doesn't suit you? IT'S ONLY THREE POUNDS SO LEAVE IT ON THE FLOOR- into a kind of bargain wonderland. It is hard not to be taken in by the sheer size, variety and discount price of the apparel on offer at Primark. The Oxford St location looks more like a department store than a bargain basement.
I soon found myself falling into line with the shopping etiquette that is unique to the store:
1. Grab a Primark carry all.
2. If you like it, find your size and deposit into bag.
3. If you like it but are unsure, find your size and deposit into bag.
4. If you don't like it, but want to make sure that woman standing next to you doesn't swindle you out of a four pound bargain, find your size and deposit into bag.
5. Take place in line for changing room 30 people deep.
6. Sweat due to extreme heat that is turned up, most likely to deter people from staying too long in the store.
7. Decide you simply don't have time to wait or sweat any longer. Find a free wall mirror to try on what ever you can by not actually taking off any of your clothes.
8. Discard what you don't want on the floor in a pile.

So now I'm conflicted, I have never behaved like this in a shop before. I'm standing there, delirious from the heat, heady with the bargains I have found, not entirely sure whether they fit me and missing one of my shoes. I am out I decide. I take with me the four things I could find that I thought suited me and hoped to God they fitted and it wasn't just my imagination.
Shoe/boots, fourteen pounds.

Large pearl necklaces, two pound each.

Bow print, cotton skirt, eight pounds.

Day coat, eighteen pounds.
Primark on Oxford St, London.

I didn't enjoy my experience at that particular Primark, but I did go back twice more just to see if I'd picked a bad day to visit. Sadly, it was exactly the same.
Now I am in the comfort of a home away from home and can try these clothes on, I like what I have purchased, but at what price I asked myself?
There has been much made of Primark being named the least ethical clothing manufacturer in Britain, whilst continuing to defy the looming retail gloom, and global economic slump.Most of my clothes are second hand or vintage, but I'm not about to get on my moral high horse and tell you I've never bought clothes made in a sweat shop. I have no doubt I probably have. I wear leather, I wear fur and I eat meat.

When something is so cheap and within reach, ideas such as child labour, working conditions and the actual price of producing a garment, all go out the window; along with shopping etiquette and self respect. You know who you are, girl in your bra in front of the wall mirror!!
Will I go back to Primark? That remains to be seen. The lure of super cheap, on trend and relatively well produced clothes is like the waft of a martini on a Friday afternoon. Knowing I could have a little piece of luxury, rather than armfuls of bargains, will probably deter me.

* Lady Melbourne did not purchase a single thing from the Stella Mc Cartney range however she was elbowed in the back whilst making an earnest attempt to find a skirt in her size.



heartofpearl♥ said...

aw gosh elbowed in the back, seems like a tough shopping experience. I can't see the images due to photobcket bandwith or something but hopefully i can see it soon!

Too Many Shoes said...

I too cannot see the photos :(

Pretty Pirate said...

me neither on the pic's, and now I'm so intrigued that I have to see what you have found.

esme and the lane way said...

A lot of the pics aren't loading at the moment but I loved reading about your Primark shopping experience. The try-everything-just-in-case certainly rings true. :) I know what you man about the ethics of it all, and I too would be tempted – and buy things – in a place like this! I'm looking forward to seeing the pics...

And the Stella at Target was baaaad... there were so many crazy people there! Running and screaming! Nut bags!

a cat of impossible colour said...

It's so easy to get sucked into the bargain-hunting atmosphere! I get so easily tempted in that kind of place, and I always feel conflicted, too.

Elbowed in the back? Ouch!

Super Kawaii Mama said...

Even without the pictures, my verdict of the Primark shopping experience is leave it be. Part of the allure of a beautiful garment, designer or otherwise is the romance in buying it. Seeing it beautifully displayed, imagining some gorgeous celeb wearing it and treating it with respect. If it costs next to nothing and has been picked off the floor, I don't imagine it is soon to be treated with love and devotion as a part of the wardrobe in the same way as the silky number you paid $500 for.
The argument of slave labour and environmental impact is one that would sway me without all the rest though. (Okay, it probably would, and if it didn't I'd be suffering huge guilt every time I wore it).

Still in saying all that, I realize that much of my vintage shopping is none in some seriously dodgy conditions, but it seems to have a different fantasy life attached to it. I'm not sure if I explained that too well, but I think you know what I'm getting at.

WendyB said...

I don't think I could survive such a shopping experience!

Lux said...

That sounds Horrid....i don't know if i'd be that keen for the sake of a few dollar(or pounds)... but saying that i can't see your photos... i may change my mind.

Anonymous said...

AHAHAH! That sounds hilarious!
You are such a wonderful writer.

Too bad our bandwith exceeded. Get a new account or delete some photos.

Songy said...

ouch! that's a little tragic. I didn't even know about Primark. Hmm something to think about when I travel. Cheap -chic does sound very tempting, LM.

I was 'lucky' enough to just score a 'left over' McCartney at the end of the season at a bargain price I think. A pair of beige skinny jeans which I love. Yep, I wouldn't have even tried on the first day when they came out. Not worth the drama as you said.

Anonymous said...

Jeebus that sounds intense! I already feel very 'uncomfortable' (well, disgusted is a more apt word) in super crowded situations so kudos for braving the hoards of bewildered shoppers and surviving!

diamondsinchampagne said...

Omg those purchases are worth the blood sweat and tears, those shoes and that skirt are very impressive

Anonymous said...

I went to Primark on Oxford st on my holiday in July (I live in Perth) and it was INSANE. The midsummer heat was killing me and an hour in the shop still wasn't enough. I still bought 3 pairs of shoes and a dress though, and none of it has fallen apart yet which is good. And did you notice how irritable the SAs were?

Well, Primark's part of the London experience. Hope you have fun! Go on one of the red tour buses if you haven't already, they're awesome.

Anonymous said...

-pause for effect-
I knew visiting your blog again today was a good idea!

Addddddddddoooooooooooreeeeee That jacket! And the necklace is amazing!

A dreamer said...

i just can't imagine you being one of those pushy pushersons in the massive sales... but I spose thats what Primark can do to you? You sure nabbed some awesome bargains.

Anonymous said...

Oh well worth the tussle your buys are divine

Skye said...

I know I would have just walked out without buying anything at all - so congratulations on making some purchases under such difficult conditions!

Nicole Jenkins said...

Great post LM: you're highlighting some of the major issues that are facing fashion today.

We all know that many garments are made for pennies far away, and there is exploitation etc and that by and large fashion companies charge what the market will bear, but as a consumer, I'm glad that the customer can benefit from that cheap production rather than it all going to the fashion producer.

But hooley - those clothes in Primark are not being treated with respect, if customers dump them on the floor in the actual shop, I dread to think how they will be treated once home.

Cheap clothes are all to often treated as disposable clothes/landfill. Luckily, your four purchases will be treated better.

Miss_Red said...

It's seems to me that you made the most of the experience, a few beautiful purchases (bargains none the less!) that suit your style and look great.
I really love the skirt, the pattern is so sweet

Bottes said...

Nice blog... Are you interesting in a link exchange with my blog ?
Bottes pas cher

Penny said...

oh no!! why whyyy on earth did you go to primark as your first port of call in london?!! you pretty much summed it up in those 8 points. i avoid primark like the plague!! its kill or be killed in that shop.
i've never understood why they turn the heat up so high, they do that in topshop too!
go to brick lane to the vintage stores, its so much nicer! x

Tea Lady said...

Wow. H&M opened in San Diego recently. I went there on the weekend - and popped in - and out. It was crowded. Huge lines. No thanks. Too stressful! Loving your pics from your holiday overseas. Especially your Paris pics. They make me want to go to Paris badly!

Siljesfashion said...

Sounds like a harsh experience. It reminds me a little of the H&M collaborations I have covered. Everybody running and pushing to get the best pieces! Thank you for helping me figure out the banner problem before, I really love my new look!

GirlonTour said...

OMG...I just need to think of Oxford Street and my hackles go up. What is up with the rugby scrum mentality of people not only in Primark but certainly in all of Oxford Street and most of Central London. Whenever I miss my days living in London I just need to remind myself of the peril I face just to get from Bond Street Tube down to Marble Arch....ew.

As for your purchases; CONGRATULATIONS! You really do deserve that after the effort you went to. Love the shoe boots!


Marina said...

Nice blog... Are you interesting in a link exchange with my blog :
Bottes pas cher
Marina (from France)

Taghrid said...

you look great! good finds

Mademoiselle Dauphine said...

I found most of my shopping experiences in London like that - commercial, mass produced and not very "special"
which is why I prefer Paris, Copenhagen and Hong Kong as shopping desinations.
That said, I like your bow skirt!

Ive also tagged u in my blog!

Anonymous said...

I adore your sense of humour! You write so well, this gave me a good giggle.

I must say, given the conditions, you picked out some great finds - you are a champion shopper! I love them all really, the silhouette of the coat, the shoe booties, the sweet bow print and one can never have too many pearls :)

So looking forward to catching up with you on your return and seeing some of your goodies in real life xxx

journo said...

You got some adorable purchases. When I was in London recently, I peeped in, saw the scrum and immediately took myself into Monsoon. I just couldn't do it.

enc said...

You did well despite your harrowing experience. I really love everything you got.

I'm sorry that you got elbowed in the back. Don't worry, the karma train will hit that girl someday.

Fashion Tidbits said...

oh my goodness. it sounds insane. shopping is supposed to therapeutic in my case but least you got some good bargains, i love those shoes (they look similiar to a pair that i have) :)

Too Many Shoes said...

OMG. I want one of those necklaces! And the shoes. And the bow print skirt. And the bangles (again)....

In my London days I used love shopping on Oxford Street. However, I understand that Oxford St is never for the faint hearted and I used to give myself at least half a day (non-sales seasons)to wander through its stores. And always wear comfy shoes!

daywalker said...

Yes, Primark is absolutely chaotic. When I was there, we used to refer to it as "Chav-Mark"

Anonymous said...

Very chic LM! Cute shoes!

Top Bird said...

Ah yes, you've summed up the Primark experience beautifully.

The first time I stepped foot inside Primark was two years ago in Hackney. I took one look at people dumping piles of clothes on the floor and got the hell out of there.

I've been back a couple of times (the quietest Primark is in Glasgow!) but I've kinda sworn off it now.

Hope you're enjoying old London town. xx

Patrizia simulacra said...

I love the shoes and funnily i picked up a similar pair oxfords (similar as mine are mid heels), in Footscray of all places!

Anonymous said...

I know it's crazy in there, every time I go to Primark it's just how you described it!

Rachael said...

Oh, I am excited - I can't wait to do Primark myself in 7 months. You have prepared me! Cute finds, hopefully worth the pain.

Nita said...

Wow, that would have been amazing! I bought a similar pair of shoes on EBay for $22, The same but with white seams, And a coat like yours but dark Grey when i was in Paris.