Today’s Primark (Penneys, hun) A/W 2018 press day was the first fashion PR event I’ve been to in a while. It’s funny; I’d almost forgotten what it was like.
I was struck, today, by the clichés you see again and again at each and every press event – both of the event itself, and those crimes of cliché committed by the attendees. I’ve written about what a press day is really like before, but each and every one has its own specifics. “As in humanity, so, too, in press days.” – Anna Wintour
Anatomy of Primark
In case you didn’t know, Primark’s Dublin offices – behind, and kind of above, Penneys’ Mary St shop – are the headquarters of the brand, and as far as I know they’re responsible for the European and American operations. The UK operation has its own team, which they’re probably especially glad of now that Brexit is an imminent reality.
As part of the UK cohort, they even have their own buying team – which explains why Primark in London occasionally has different stock to Penneys in Dublin. They can choose from the same stock, but they often select different things for their different markets, whereas the buyers in Dublin are responsible for Dublin and the rest of Europe, bar the UK.
I went for a trainee manager job in Penneys once, years ago – before we even knew of the existence of Primark – and did not get it. At the time, it was a really conservative, corporate environment; one of the comments was that my dangly earrings were not Penneys-appropriate. (Their loss, obvs.)
The press-day photo ops
I met Emma before the event; I like to go to press events with at least one person I know and believe likes me. It can be an intimidating environment, especially if you arrive at the same time as a large gang who know and adore one another.
As we signed in – I swear, Primark didn’t used to be this security-conscious – we spotted several bloggers taking photographs against that graffiti wall (and scoffed, natch). The event itself was held in two adjoining…. I mean, I can only describe them as cubes, within Penneys HQ.
There was a DJ “spinning tunes” (as the young people say), with clothing and accessories hung, laid out and stacked along and beneath rails, on very low tables and hung on walls (you’re following the wrong people if you haven’t already seen 300 Instagram posts of that red leopard print jacket).
What do you eat at a press day?
I’m sure I’ve said this before, too, but people rarely eat at a press day. I’m always slightly perturbed by the sheer quantity of food (cupcakes, danishes etc) left behind after any PR event. Today, even I didn’t indulge – the food was chocolate and the drinks were black (charcoal, I heard; it’s very on-trend and good for you) and I was far too warm for chocolate or black drinks. Plus, I wanted to keep my hands free to photograph the wares.
The chocolate looked insanely delicious, though – and it came with a little hammer for cracking it up yourself, which seemed like an incredibly therapeutic way to get your chocolate fix.
What about the A/W 2018 trends, though?
Oh yes, those. After a certain number of press days, one does start to grow weary of the inevitable cycle of trends. Meryl had a point when she said, sarcastically, that florals for spring were “groundbreaking”; they do come around time and time again. Autumn/winter is usually the perfect time for military garb to make a resurgence; there’s always an upswing in animal prints; of course we’ll see knits and layering and shades one could describe as “autumnal”.
As far as ticking the A/W boxes, Primark does a good job of it this year – although there was a notable lack of military-themed fashion. (I can’t help but wonder if that is because the world is going to shit and we’re not exactly idolising the military, although honestly fashion has never been all that politically conscious so perhaps not.)
The one thing I really noticed – and liked, although it did feel a little young for me – was that the A/W 2018 selection is heavily 1980s disco inspired. Think metallic puffa jackets, knits run through with metallic threads, houndstooth and check layered over leopard print in bright, primary colours.
There was more than a nod to Charlize Theron’s character in Atomic Blonde (which is a great thing; she has some of the best costumes we’ve seen in film in a long time), with a kind of juxtaposition of power dressing and 1980s pop punk.
The problem with Primark (not exclusive to A/W 2018)
My one issue with Penneys / Primark and its seasonal collection is that, when viewed through the lens of privilege that comes with a press event, it’s easy to see how all of the items would work together to complement one another and, essentially, make you look great.
But once those items are placed on the shop floor, merchandised in and among the millions of multicoloured vests, slogan muscle tees and ditsy print tea dresses, the clear trend has lost its punch somewhat. Today, the trends were pretty clear – it was a coherent, cohesive collection that was a credit to a design team that we should be proud to call our own.
I mean, I guess that’s both Primark’s superpower and its kryptonite; they can afford to design and create really great, fun, trend-led pieces that are super covetable because they sell so many muscle vests and slogan teas and ditsy print dresses. It’s just that the design side of things gets masked somewhat by the sheer mass of items.
And what will I be buying?
I have a terrible confession to make. On the odd occasion that I have seen something I love from Penneys – something I know will sell out, like that star-print dress that Pippa made look amazing (but on my 36Ds was positively pornographic), I have been known to contact the press team and ask them to put one aside in my size. Ain’t too proud to beg, you know.
So that’s exactly what I’ll be doing when it comes to these cobalt blue check trousers. They remind me of school uniforms, in the best way possible, and I think they’d look great with a white T-shirt (if I could ever keep one clean) and a pair of Converse. (And I can’t promise not to end up bulking up my wardrobe with a plethora of leopard-print knits, but those will be more a casual “look what I picked up!” vibe.)
This post does not contain affiliate links – because, duh, you can’t buy Primark online. However, should you feel like supporting me, I do have a Patreon. It’s essentially a site where you can choose to support with a monthly donation, of as much or as little as you’d like, and receive rewards for your troubles. You can cancel any time (I’ll be really upset, but I’ll get over it); it’s just your way of saying, “I value what you’re making and I’d pay the price of a cappuccino for it”.