Polly Vernon is an award winning journalist and author. For over 20 years, she’s written features, celebrity interviews and columns for every newspaper and magazine from the Evening Standard to Vogue. For the last decade, she’s written predominantly for Grazia and The Times. She’s never really considered herself a ‘fashion journalist’, so much as just a journalist who really, really loves clothes.
There truly isn’t much in this world I like to do, more than I like to shop. Does that make me superficial? Shallow? A little dead on the inside? All surface, no substance, all things, no soul? It shouldn’t. I’m not talking about the mindless acquisition of stuff. I’m not talking about buying and buying, filling my small London flat with superfluous goodies in the hope some of them will take the edge of my existential ennui… No. I’m talking about a passion for the physical act of shopping. I’m talking about giddy little trips into town – sometimes accompanied, though generally not; I shop best alone – to sort of… commune with those places. I’m talking about warm pavements and cold air, and the potent promise of a new look. I’m talking about being enveloped in the grandness of the established shopping districts, the flash and wit of the new ones, and the off-kilter mega-creative slightly-smelly semi-sanity of the up-and-coming ones. I’m talking: seeing freshly reconfigured shop windows for the first time, and marvelling at their artistry. I’m talking: wandering around Victorian department stores, enjoying how their history and architecture clashes against, melds with, the newness of their myriad fashion statements. I’m talking about holding new pieces up against myself, ‘just to see’, flirting with my own reflection in an obligingly available full length mirror (all the while ignoring that other woman, loitering not-entirely-patiently in my peripheral vision, her own just-to-see piece clutched to her chest, as she waits for me to bugger off, so she can do exactly what it is that I’m doing now); realising I’ve somehow clocked up four and a half miles browsing- walking distance (according to my FitBit) and have therefore more than earned the right to hit up some artisanal coffee shop or other for a sit-down and a Flat White. I’m talking about pop-ups and outlets, markets and my on-going, ever-evolving quest for the perfect reusable canvas tote! I’m talking about that.
How I’ve missed physical shopping in lockdown! If the restrictions of 2020 have shown us anything, it’s the exact nature of the handful of activities each of us really, desperately needs, if we are to feel alive, invigorated, like ourselves. The experiences that inform and inspire us, make us feel complete – so many of which, we’ve been denied this year. Losing access to them – even temporarily – has amounted to a grief.
Turns out, physical shopping is right up there for me, alongside: gyms, waking up to a sense something totally unexpected might happen today (and hey! It might even be good!), and finding myself accidentally and enjoyably sloshed in a bustling pub after a colleague persuaded me to swing my ‘just for one’ (although you could probably chalk that up to ‘something unexpected’)… Shops matter that much to me. They are where I go, to get involved. In my own aesthetic, of course – I am eternally in search of my next great fashion reinvention, have been, since I was 10 – but also: involved with everything and everyone else. The shop assistants. The people who devised the playlists. The architects who made the spaces, the technicians who lit them, the visual merchandisers who dressed the mannequins, the security guards who, on more than one occasion, in more than one shop, have pointed me in the direction of an accessory they think I’ll like – oh, and also! The other shoppers! Who are they, what do they want, what do they like, what are they about to buy, even though they keep saying they really really don’t need it? What are they hoping for, preparing for, scared of, excited for? It’s all there, in the way they move, and pause, and compare and exclaim. It is never not revealing, intriguing, mesmirising. This, then, is why I love to shop, more than I love to do anything else.
Officially my favourite underwear brand. They fit perfectly, they traverse the line between comfortable and sexy effortlessly; their bikinis deserve a mention, too. Beija offer a brilliant online fitting service – I’ve tried it – but nothing beats getting fitted for bras in real life; and nothing beats a perfectly fitting bra, either.
WOLF & BADGER
I became utterly obsessed by this when I swung by Wolf & Badger in the summer. There’s something so unusual about it, so authentic; it’s vintage-y, but not in a cliched way; super cool in its femininity. I have a real thing about lockets anyway. They’re like the public display of a secret.
Is it weird to buy a gift for your tech? Probably. But I feel I owe my laptop so much! My entire livelihood, for starters. A new coat for it, is the least I could do. I love that this Rains case is a) waterproof (keep my Precious safe!), b) fluffy on the inside (keep my Precious cosy!), and c) bright yellow, thus a big scene stealer.
I had never worn a track suit of any description before this year. No idea why, they just hadn’t figured on my fashion radar. What a fool I was! Track suits are cosy, warm, aesthetically effective because they match, and very easily joodged up with a pile of gold jewellery. Added points in this instance, for the colour, and the knitted quality.
Puffer jackets are not merely the only way to navigate a winter when virus restrictions oblige us to spend great swathes of our time outdoors, they’re potentially extremely glamorous. I really appreciate the vintage seventies undertones on this one. It’s very Ski Sunday, which is about the highest compliment I can bestow.
I love the succulents in their own right, but also chose them in a somewhat pass agg gesture directed against my partner, who accidentally frost burned half my existing succulent collection early on in lockdown one, having decided they ‘needed some fresh air’ (which might have been true. They did not, however, need to be left out overnight in still-brisk spring). I can’t stop gazing at the cushion cover, it’s the single most exciting thing ever to happen to my sofa, and the leaf perks up my coffee table no end.
I first discovered my eyesight was going around four years ago, when it turned out I could no longer discern the names on the base of lipstick tubes (true story). Happily, I simultaneously discovered this excellent London specs brand, and so it was that, all my failing eyesight represented to me, was a brave new opportunity to accessorise! I’ve since found myself incapable of walking past the store without ambling in, and trying on another frame style, or pair of shades. Big fan of the chunky yellow acetate on these frames. It makes them what I think of as ‘winter sunglasses’, they’re big enough and bold enough to hold their own in the melle of hats, scarves, and face masks.
United We Shop is a King’s Cross-wide initiative calling Londoners to shop out to help out. Promotions and offers across select stores run from Wednesday to Saturday, all the way up to Christmas Eve. For more inspiration, click here to see our Christmas Gift Guide. So what are you waiting for? Get out and shop out!