Last week, after a one-month delay, was the official opening of the brick-and-mortar version of Simply Be in Leicester. Although the store had already opened on 28 March, the VIP event was moved to Thursday 26 April. The delay was a bit of a shame, since I wanted to take mum there for her birthday; and she’s not in England now. Anyhow, I still went, and had a wonderful time with the people who did manage to go.
One of them was Rosie, from A rose like this. Although we live in the same city, this was the first time we actually met in person! We didn’t really know anyone else, and I think we were the only fatshion/etc. bloggers besides Lucie from Lucie Loves Highcross, who obviously had to be there because the store is in The Shires shopping centre. Yup, I still call it The Shires. Highcross is a Wetherspoon nearby, and Leicester people find it very confusing if you tell them ‘see you at Highcross’. ‘The pub or the shopping centre?’, they ask. So yeah. The Shires. Besides, I like that name more. Gives a tad of a Lord-of-the-Rings vibe to it.
This time I also met Charlotte, the lady behind Simply Be’s twitter account. She’s very kind and adorable, and as a first-timer in a Simply Be opening party, she made me feel very welcome and helped me to sort of get an idea of what was going on. Something that Rosie did as well concerning the celebrity guest.
I don’t watch much TV, and I’m not really a fan of realitv – I think the only reality I’ve followed this year has been MasterChef, and can’t wait for The Professionals!. To my keeping-up-with-the-times disgrace, Shelina Permalloo – this year’s winner – was not invited. Instead, the special guest was a certain Gemma Collins, from The Only Way is Essex, of which I have never seen an episode, nor intend to. While her heels made her almost touch the sky, Gemma was very down to Earth. No bodyguards nor a ridiculous entourage, just a loyal personal assistant following her every move.
She had her picture taken with anyone who asked, and Charlotte encouraged me to get one right after Rosie did.
Another special visitor was Abi, winner of the Simply Be model contest. She was such a stunner. She’d drink orange juice with a straw to keep her lipstick intact. On flats she was still VERY tall.
The store? Well, it is HUGE and bright. It is well loaded with clothes and accessories up to the roof. There are flat screens strategically placed inside and outside, showing their adverts in a loop. The staff is caring and prepared, and they are ready to answer any queries or help you finding the right size. Not only that, but they offer free style consultation and free lingerie fitting services.
The dressing rooms make you feel extra special. They are even more luxurious than at straight size boutiques! (mwahahaha) The attendants write your name on a little blackboard on your door. Each dressing room is spacey and practical, not only with a full frontal body mirror, but a narrower, easy-to-move mirror so you can easily check your behind. There are comfy sofas in the waiting area, so your companion can sit down, relax, and then look at you as you catwalk all over the wide hallway in front of the magic mirror. Magic? Yes, magic. It can take full body pictures of you trying on clothes, and send them to your e-mail address, Facebook, twitter, et al.
On that topic: it would be fantastic if you could choose to have the pictures taken without flash, for the sake of accessibility. More than 15% of the UK population are prone to migraines, and more than half a million people in the country have epilepsy. And those are just two conditions that might get aggravated by strobe lights. That’s a considerable chunk of your customers that could be affected. Flash can be really dangerous, and with technology as advanced as it is nowadays, it could be deemed obsolete. You don’t need flash to take good pictures. Just have a well-lit area, adapt the exposure of the camera, and Bob’s your uncle. It is a shame, because the rest of the store gets a golden medal for mobile accessibility. It’s in a ground floor, on a flat surface, and the hallways are wide enough for people of any size on vehicles of almost any size (of course not a car, Jeremy Clarkson!). I recall seeing a lady on a mobility scooter moving around with no problems whatsoever.
After a while, only the VIP were allowed, and the ‘common people’ had to leave. Waiters would come and go with flutes brimful of bubbly, plates with canapés, and choco-licious brownies. The host was walking around, talking to people, and giving away vouchers to those who could answer easy questions. I won a £20 voucher, and used it wisely on that smart red jersey dress you see me wearing on the magic mirror shot.
Well, technically. The one in the picture is a size 24, since they only had 18, 20 and 24 on the racks, something that wasn’t uncommon on the other clothes. 22 seems to be extremely popular! The 24 was OK, but really roomy on the bosom area. It’s Very Voluptuous, meant for those above H cup. I asked an attendant if they had Voluptuous or Standard in that size, but they only had Very Voluptuous. Then I asked for a 22, she went back to check, and they did! I tried it on and it was perfect. It was £58 at first, but on sale for £29, minus the £20 voucher: 9 quid in total. Cheaper than Primark! The quality, however, was higher than Primark’s. Way, way higher. Smooth, breathable fabric, vivid colours. Ace.
The rest of the shop wasn’t exactly my style. But if you like, say, the collections of Zandra Rhodes, Anna Scholz and Joe Brand, you will find them here in the flesh. I mean, in the fabric. You can try them on, have your pictures taken, and have all the fun you couldn’t have shopping online. Also, bras in an extensive range of cups and bands. It’s perfect for those who like to try before they buy, and it is such a relief to be able to go to the mall and see clothes that fit you. Not only clothes, but accessories built for fat body parts: necklaces, rings, belts… as well as one-size-fits-all products like these sunglasses we’re coquettishly sporting.
(I didn’t take any pictures because I’m a div, but Lucie, Rosie and Charlotte have been kind enough to let me use theirs. Credits as captioned. Click on the pics to go to their websites.)