19 October, 2015

Designs on retail greatness

We’ve always kept our finger on the pulse of fashion at M&S. Our track record as a high-street trendsetter is unsurpassed in the world of retail. Contemporary, affordable clothing has long been one of the mainstays of our business, dressing generation after generation in style and quality without breaking the bank.

Our fashion back catalogue is like a rollcall of each season’s must-have items; iconic pieces that have been loved and worn, and now inspire today’s designers as they plunder this rich archive to reinvent style and inspire today’s customers. 

Parisian influence

We recognised the value of investing in high-quality design from an early stage. Parisian designers, such as Anny Blatt, were engaged as consultants. We established invaluable partnerships with suppliers and 1936 saw the creation of the first M&S central design department. With these solid keystones in place, we were all set to build collections that would rule the high street for years to come.
Styling, colour, materials and forecasting future trends were, as they are today, our guiding principles. In the 50s, this led our buyers to forge relationships with Paris couture houses. They would return with the very latest designs and use their ingenuity to help create our own ready-to-wear equivalents: catwalk-inspired collections at high-street prices.

Swinging sixties

In the swinging sixties, our Head of Design, Hans Schneider, drew inspiration from the hotspots of London’s Carnaby Street and King’s Road. Thanks to him, new design standards were developed and an even greater emphasis was placed on the finer details of our clothing. He also oversaw the team’s expansion from just 15 people to over 100.

The 1980s ushered in a whole new wave of innovations. These included the design department’s evolution into a consultancy service. Using their expertise to liaise with suppliers, they would provide a seasonal design brief that would form the basis for the next season’s collection.

One-off collections

When Autograph launched in 2000, it epitomised the changing relationships between designers and retailers. Edited, one-off collections were produced in collaboration with names such as Betty Jackson, Julien MacDonald and Katherine Hamnett.

Today, the design department is the creative driving force behind M&S brands. The team includes garment designers, knitwear designers, print designers, textile specialists and colourists, working across all ranges including womenswear, menswear, lingerie, and footwear and accessories.

Inside M&S