A number of years ago during a trip to the UK when I was still relatively unfamiliar with a number of the British high street stores (having not visited the country for several years), my then boyfriend (now hubby) excitedly told me he had found a spot that stocked items resembling what Keanu Reeves could be seen wearing in ‘The Matrix’. For a minute I used to be slightly concerned, visions of latex suits and clip-on sunglasses swirling through my brain. He then clarified that he was referring to the more distressed loose-fitted sweaters the ‘Neo’ character was sporting when he wasn’t out and about fighting evil villains. I used to be intrigued, but figured the shop would probably only feature one or two such items. I used to be very very wrong and have been a fan ever since.
Current All Saints campaign (images: All Saints)
All Saints might be high street, but if you happen to did not know better – and during my first visit I actually thought it was an independent boutique – you’d think you just discovered another avant-garde label. The brand was founded by its original designer Stuart Trevor in 1994 initially only catering to menswear. Four years later the primary women’s collection followed and immediately garnered a robust fan base among style leaders who loved the draped jerseys, sexy structured tailoring and muted dark colors. In line with Trevor “We were designing clothes that we wanted to wear and that we couldn’t buy anywhere else. We became designersdesigners, all of the youngsters who dreamt of being cool fashion designers decided they were going to wear something that stood out from the crowd. People wanted something different./p>
Regardless that Trevor ended up selling the corporate to retail entrepreneur Kevin Stanford in 2005, the clothing and accessories still remain unique and really cool. One could describe the range as grunge gone glam. Most items are either distressed, torn/ripped, asymmetrical or tailored in such a unique way, they’re bound to face out. If you’re a fan of color, this is not the brand for you. All clothes are either black or are available dark colors and neutrals. The fantastic thing about the pieces lie in the details though: if it is not the fine draping or sheer chiffon fabrics, it is usually the intricate beading, fine embroidery or bold studding that may make each item not only wearable but in some cases even suitable for the red carpet.
The store design itself is what makes All Saints a true experience though. I decided to head to the main store in the East End, but rest assured that every one boutiques have the identical feel. ‘Spitalfields’ tends to be added to the All Saints brand name to remind people of it is roots – even though All Saints was derived from a street name in Notting Hill. The interior is every bit as alternative because the clothes: exposed brick walls, carefully aged wooden floorboards and furniture combined with a number of dark steel and iron give the store a very industrial feel. Headless mannequins hang from solid metal chains within the shop window and throughout the store, while select items are draped from hooks instead of clothes hangers. All Saints used to feature a number of religious iconography (probably the most famous one being the Jesus statues) but have toned it down a bit of, I am assuming as a result of outcry that resulted the previous times.
For those who do find something you like, my advice is to purchase it right then and there. Although I like to wait for sales and nothing is admittedly that cheap (but therefore well-made), All Saints is one of those places people do not mind paying the full price for and regular sizes (anything that isn’t the smallest or largest size) of more popular items are inclined to sell out fast. I spotted the softest studded leather jacket, which I might have loved to try on, but was no longer available in my size. I also remember that last year’s parachute dress sold out instantly and to today, my hubby still regrets not having bought that ‘Neo’ sweater.
If you want something on-trend, no worries – you may find everything from the jumpsuit to harem trousers in the present collection. The good thing about this brand is that it will not seem like another carbon copy of a high-end designer’s runway collection. Even the printed tank tops are unique, so nothing you discover here will resemble a knock-off which is something too many other retail giants seem to be doing as of late.
By the best way, do not be intimidated by the changing rooms even in the event that they seem like prison cells. They are literally quite roomy and SA’s are happy to help you with the styling. You might want to free at the least an hour for browsing or trying on clothes as well. Because some pieces are uniquely constructed, they aren’t always the simplest to try on. I found a cool silk dress with a slightly goth vibe I spent 10 minutes trying to get on, then realized it was the wrong way round. For the next 10 minutes, I then attempted to fasten all of the hooks and zippers until I finally had it on. It looked great, but was a bit too short, which was a shame because I might have preferred to leave it on instead of trying to maneuver out of it again. Thankfully an SA was there to help.
One thing I did notice was that all Saints has branched out into homeware. I only saw a few cushions and candles, but I was told additionally they stocked wallpaper and blankets, which is probably enough to offer your house an All Saints feel if the clothes aren’t enough. I might also wish to point out that the accessories are well worth taking a look at. The majority of the shoes include slouchy boots and gladiator sandals, while the handbags are fabricated from the softest leather and have studs, fringes or buckles.
This brand might be a bit too rock ‘n’ roll for some, but I for one am glad that there’s a high street retailer out there who’s still producing unique, innovative pieces you won’t find elsewhere. Unfortunately most stores are located within the UK, with just a few select outlets in other European cities. The good news is that many items may be purchased directly from their website and shall be delivered worldwide, so definitely have a look if you get the possibility.