14 December 2011 by

Would You Take Shopping Advice From This Woman? (Hell, Yeah!)

Prime Minister David Cameron, is of course, well-used to having a fashion-forward woman at his side. Samantha Cameron, First Lady, Christopher Kane fanatic and British Fashion Council ambassador, never fails to steal the spotlight from the PM when she steps out in her signature prim-but-cool wardrobe.

SamCam wasn't present this morning, but DC was still totally upstaged by his new retail tsar Mary Portas, who was presenting her much-anticipated report, The Portas Review, a 28 point plan to save the British high street.

Okay, so we're a little biased, as Mary is a long-term Grazia girl, but how kick-ass is that outfit?

Let's start with that edgy cape-coat. Was there ever a more divine piece of winter outerwear? Sculptural but sleekly tailored, sharp-shouldered and business-like but undeniably feminine with those kimono-style open sleeves, we totally fell in love with this coat, even before we realised it was by the hottest fashion house of the moment, Riccardo Tisci's Givenchy.

Oh yes, Mary knows her fashion labels; those sleek sleeves peeking out from under the cape ? A Viktor & Rolf jacket (above). Finished off with strings of black pearls, statement Swarovski rings and that distinctive tangerine bob, Portas is a one-woman advert for the joys of shopping.

And lest we forget that even though Mary may be a high end fashionista - she made her name by putting designer emporium Harvey Nichols on the map - she also has insider knowledge of the British high street too; Ms Portas' dress is from her own label for department store House of Fraser.

As you would expect, Mary's report was equally well-presented. The Queen of Shops was originally commissioned by David Cameron to produce the audit of the British high street back in May this year.

The key recommendations from The Portas Review include:

* The government to make town centres a priority in future planning guidelines, to encourage large supermarkets to return to town centre locations, and restrict the building of more out of town developments and retail parks, that will continue to kill off local businesses.

* Freeing up current retail usage categories to allow gyms, schools and nurseries to open on high streets, to act as "magnets" for consumers

* Free parking in town centres to encourage consumers to return to the high street.

* Business rates to better favour small retailers and independent businesses.

* Freeing up the (now one in seven) vacant high street stores to use as "Swapshops" where consumers can meet to exchange or sell goods for money or services

* Encouraging the return of bingo halls to the high street

* An annual National Market Day to give entrepreneurs an low-cost and easy environment in which test out potential retail businesses.

As Portas observed this morning 'I don't want to live in a Britain that doesn't care about community. And I believe that our high streets are a really important part of pulling people together in a way that a supermarket or shopping mall, however convenient, however entertaining and however slick, just never can.'

Talking of slick, credit where it's due: further enquiries about Mary's outfit (with her partner, and Grazia's own Fashion Editor at Large) Melanie Rickey, elicit this understandably indignant response; 'it's actually MY cape, she nicked it off me!'.

Sharing clothes? So very 2011. Seems the government's own retail guru is already testing out the Swapshops concept herself.

What do you think of Mary's recommendations? We'd love to hear your views, below...


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