Before I had the courage to do so, a friend and I were hovering outside Hervia Bazaar, Manchester’s latest designer clothing boutique.
The doorman said to us, “Come in and have a look.” We said no thanks, because as saw a couple of Oriental-looking females already inside.
To avoid the daughter-of-a-Chinese-tycoon stereotype, we quickly hurried along King’s Street, never daring to go near enough to Vivienne Westwood than a peer at the window display, followed by a quick shuffle away when a sales assistant spots us from inside the shop.
In Selfridges, I hurry along before the sales girl offers me a sprig of designer perfume. I walk Selfridges merely to get from the Arndale to Deansgate and to avoid the cold outside.
“Let’s go into Emporio Armani,” I urge my friend as we approach Spinningfields to check out the ice-skating rink and the newly-opened Avenue. “I’ve never been inside and I just want to see what it’s like.”
“Ok,” she says. “Besides, our fellow Chinese have upped out street cred. We just need to stride in with confidence.”
Inside, the clothes are sparsely hung amidst shiny black marble walls and neon lights, reminiscent of Harry Potter’s Ministry of Magic. My fingers are fleetingly feeling the fabrics, not really looking but just glancing.
Then I saw it. I saw the dress. The grey boiled wool dress, with its intricate ribbons and button-flared skirt. I touched it and it was pure solid wool, like I’ve never touched wool before! I felt the coarse, thick fabric in my hands and dreamt of the warmth it would provide…
“Let’s go,” my friend says. “There’s nothing we can afford here.” I quickly flipped the price tag. £519. Unless I’d manage to smack my little head on the pavement, I didn’t buy Emporio Armani’s boiled wool dress of course.
But that encounter did change my perception of couture. It made me feel as though couture was worth paying for, purely for the quality of material used and the intricacy of design. The weeks that followed were spent oggling Miu Miu’s applique lace dress (£3,210) and Valentino’s pailette tulle dress (£3,934).
But my morals were dropped as soon as I saw H&M’s Holiday collection, modelled by one of my favourite Chinese models, Du Juan and Sun Fei Fei.
The red dress that costs only £9.99 swarmed my head with thoughts on the appeal and ethics of cheap fashion. Needless to say, I bought the dress as soon as I had time to try it on after work and decided I could pull it off despite not being stick thin. ‘Made in Cambodia’ it says.
To be honest, if these dresses weren’t modelled by Du Juan and Sun Fei Fei I wouldn’t have bothered. Oh the power of advertising.