Ever wondered where you can get your hands on amazing designer buys without breaking the bank? Hannah Banks-Walker explains how you can do just that at Cheshire Oaks...
I remember the heart-pounding excitement as I dug deeper into the mismatched jewellery bucket. The rush of competition as I manouvered past other pairs of hands, desperate to unearth the best that this ‘Bring and Buy’ bucket had to offer. The year was 1997, and those jewels were by far the most exciting trinkets on display in that cavernous school assembly hall.
I remember the exaltation as I carried my clip-on earrings home. And I can still recall the sheer sense of pride on first wearing them. I realise now that this is probably a prime example of how consumerism infiltrated my own age of innocence, but I was happy nonetheless.
Now, I consider myself to be a well-rounded adult. Whatever that means. Yes, I work in fashion. But I am also capable of engaging with topics beyond, say, the merits of a well-fitting white shirt. (Shocking, I know. And also, for the record, the merits are infinite.) Without sounding overly defensive, I believe that my tiny lady brain is, in fact, capable of swooning over the ruffle detail of a blouse while also discussing current pressing issues such as the Brexit, Donald Trump and- crucially- the overriding political message of Beyoncé’s Lemonade. Sometimes, I do all of these things at once.
That being said, I am still not exempt from the same, coursing shot of adrenaline that propelled my chubby, seven year old hands as I grappled to reach those sticky plastic trinkets. (Sticky because lots of hands had got there before my own, obviously.) And the reason I know this is threefold: the feeling I get in Boots when there’s a BOGOF offer on FoamBurst, the palpitations I experience when I see that Topshop has a sale on, and now, because I have been to a designer outlet.
Off I went to McArthurGlen’s Cheshire Oaks, or as I shall henceforth be calling it, Disneyland For Adults. I would like to reiterate that I am aware Cheshire Oaks has long been a shopping stalwart of the North, but I have never experienced its delights. In fact, I had never been to any sort of outlet before. I know, I’d never lived.
While I obviously understood the concept of an outlet, I’m not sure I was prepared for the colossal discounts awaiting me. On arrival, I obviously made a beeline for the likes of Gucci, Burberry, Coach, Sonia Rykiel, Mulberry and Polo Ralph Lauren. This is a world in which a pair of Gucci court shoes are reduced from £430 to £195, Burberry polo shirts are almost half price at £79, Coach bags were on offer for £89 and Polo Ralph Lauren had pieces from around £14. (Specifically, a silk blouse in the sale- yes! A sale on top of a sale!- that made me feel like J.Lo and that I will forever regret not buying.)
There are also some of the high street’s hot spots, too. GAP, Reiss, Kurt Geiger, M&S, All Saints, Ted Baker, Radley… all have pieces for a mere sniff of their original prices. Beauty brand Rituals is a genius addition to the Cheshire Oaks village, while Le Creuset offers dream crockery at realistic prices. You can see that I’m not just employing a cliché for cliché’s sake when I say that there really is something for everyone.
Wrestling with my apparent preoccupation with the Brexit and Donald Trump, then, it’s a wonder I managed to actually buy anything. It’s true that at first, I did feel rather overhwelmed (see: above reference to the silk blouse). There are so many shops, many of which I wouldn’t normally consider due to my humble fashion writer’s wage. But then I walked into Sonia Rykiel and lost my mind.
Thanks to Melissa and Victoria, who worked there, I not only bought three items from Sonia Rykiel, I also discovered the sale rail. As previously mentioned, a lot of the brands at Cheshire Oaks run their own offers. Coach had an extra 20% off on the day I was there, for example, Burberry was running a promotion on several of its handbags and French Connection had a further 20% off all dresses.
So anyway, there I was in Sonia Rykiel, slowly forgetting my own name let alone my opinion on anything beyond the merits of a well-fitting white shirt. That’s when I saw it. Hanging at the end of the sale rail (that’s quite catchy, no?) and seemingly calling out to me. I recognised it; I’d seen it on the catwalk. It was a beautifully oversized leather jacket, complete with gold zips and just the right amount of pockets (yes, there is such a thing, for those of you wondering).
As my hands reached out to it, I had already decided that it would be too expensive. Everyone knows that outerwear doesn’t come cheap. Everyone does know that, right? Well, it wasn’t exactly cheap. But it wasn’t exactly expensive, either. In fact, this leather jacket was reduced from- wait for it- £1,386 to £143.
When telling this story to colleagues and friends with any sort of sartorial inclination, I like to pause at this point for the inevitable gasps. That is a saving of £1,243. I didn’t ever imagine such a saving was even possible. But it is. At Cheshire Oaks.
Naturally, the designer prices are still more expensive than the average high street price tag. But for special occasions like, you know, payday, there are bargains to be had of which I’d never dared to dream.
Speaking of dreams, McArthurGlen is offering an extra 10% discount to all LOOK readers. All you have to do is sign up to the Cheshire Oaks Priviledge Card, details of which can be found here.
As for me, I’m off to revel in the glory of my purchases. If only I knew where I’d put those clip-on earrings…