Lisa Armstrong: 'Marks & Spencer's clothes don't need to get more fashionable - or less fashionable. They just need to be more stylish.'
Poor Marks & Spencer. As if a seven per cent slump in womenswear sales weren't bad enough, it has to endure endless journalists telling it where it went wrong. Too much fashion, not enough editing, is one theory I've read this week. Not enough fashion, is another.
M&S clothes don't need to get more fashionable - or less fashionable. They just need to be more stylish. That starts with the cut. Because it comes to something when your 71-year-old mother says she finds M&S frumpy. And she's not looking for a pair of this summer's hot-pants or crop-tops. At least my 71-year-old mother isn't. She wants well-cut trousers and tops that flatter and fit, in good-quality fabrics. She's a trim size 12 - she's not asking for radical surgical enhancement. And she's not so naïve she expects M&S to compete on price with Primark. If she wants Primark, she'll go to Primark. But she doesn't want Primark.
Can it really be that hard? Remember when M&S's underwear was truly grizzly: cheap-looking lace and satins and ludicrously over-embellished pointy cup-shapes? After years of criticism and slipping sales, the lingerie team finally got its act together and combined its undeniably innovative fabric technology and scale of economy to deliver some excellent bra shapes.