The grandaddy of them all, however, is in the physical world – the outlet village. And no outlet is more “in” than Bicester Village in Oxfordshire, boasting 130 boutiques offering 60 per cent or more off the original retail price on previous seasons’ designer collections.
The latest boutique to open is devoted to the British Designers Collective – a collaboration between Bicester Village and the British Fashion Council showcasing the wares of a new generation, or three, of London-based brands. Now in its fifth year, it’s an annual pop-up that this year is open from 22 May to 17 August. Fashion consultant Yasmin Sewell – a former buying director for Browns and Liberty – is on board, as well as artists from the Royal Academy to celebrate in style.
“The British Designers Collective came about in 2008, when the world came to a full stop,” states Desirée Bollier, the chief executive of Value Retail Management, a company that operates a clutch of outlet villages worldwide, including Bicester. She’s alluding to the financial crash that put paid to many a fashion brand young and old; the couturier Christian Lacroix was a high-profile casualty. “It was clear we needed to support young designers and find a way, if they didn’t have a place, that they could showcase their designs.”
Hence the collective was born, featuring the established and up-and-coming brands that are highlights of London Fashion Week. The current incarnation includes pieces from Mary Katrantzou, Peter Pilotto and Jonathan Saunders, alongside newer names such as Michael van der Ham and Ryan Lo. “It’s the best of British fashion,” Sewell says, the eye called on to select the pieces from the designers’ past seasons. “They don’t have their own retail spaces yet. There isn’t one place in the world they are all together in one location; this is the only space.”
For the fifth instalment, there’s an extra twist: a number of limited-edition prints by current members of the Royal Academy and artists including Grayson Perry and Richard Wilson, exhibited alongside the work of young fashion designers in the boutique. “I really wanted to push the boundaries of a timeless place at Bicester and mix the world of art and fashion,” Bollier says. “The whole thought of hanging art with these pieces, mixing art with fashion, makes it very timeless.”
Although the past-season pieces are undoubtedly bargains (prices start from as low as £38 for a sweatshirt from Lulu Kennedy’s label, Lulu & Co), they nevertheless chime with current fashion. “You realise it’s not about seasons, it’s more, ‘This is a great dress and will I wear this for the next 10 years?’” Sewell says. “Everything is like a collector’s item for me.” We suggest you snap up a piece of future vintage while you can.