Designer Profile – The British Heritage Marks & Spencer

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The British Heritage Marks & Spencer

I am running a fashion and style blog with a dedicated page to the labels that are leading the fashion world. This story is not complete if I do not talk about British label – Marks & Spencer. M&S was most probably the first thing British in my wardrobe as it is a leading name even back in my home country. My recollection of English High street brand is as old as its birth country in my memories.

Michael Marks established the british label Marks & Spencer with his partner Tom Spencer
Marks in Time

The label’s history traces back to 1884 when a Russian-born Polish refugee Michael Marks set up a stall called ‘Marks’ Penny Bazaar’ at Leeds Kirkgate Market. Marks was born in 1852 and moved to England in 1882. He initially worked as a peddler in Leeds. The Marks’ Penny Bazaar was selling household goods, haberdashery, toy, and sheet-music with a signboard “Don’t ask the price—it’s a penny.”

Marks and Spencer Tagline Don’t ask the price—it’s a penny
Marks in Time

Marks’ story was financially supported by Isaac Dewhirst, owner of a successful wholesale company. Isaac loaned Michael £5 to start as a peddler. In 1894 when Michael was looking for a business partner he approached Isaac again. Isaac refused but introduced Marks to his future business partner Thomas Spencer who was working as a senior cashier for Isaac’s wholesale company IJ Dewhirst.

Tom Spencer joined Michael Marks as partner to establish british label Marks & Spencer
Marks in Time

Thomas Spencer joined Marks in September 1894 and the name ‘Marks & Spencer’ was born. Spencer who reportedly had a contrasting personality from Marks invested £300 into the business in exchange of half ownership.

Marks and Spencer Tagline Don’t ask the price—it’s a penny
Marks in Time

The Early Marks and Spencer stores often had signs saying “Admission Free” to encourage customers to come in and browse. I guess it was their version of ‘Window Shopping’. The duo opened first M&S warehouse and headquarter in Manchester in the year 1901.

Michael Marks married Hannah Cohen in 1886. Hannah, described as ‘immensely energetic, a dominating little lady who ruled her husband and family’ became a consistent hand in the running of the business. When Michael died in 1907 their son Simon took over the business. Tom retired from the business in 1903 to lead the life of a farmer. Tom’s wife Agnes and Hannah remained a great support system of Simon who took the business to another level of success. In 1930 the first flagship store was opened at Marble Arch, London and within a year M&S was selling fresh and canned food.

The British Heritage Marks & Spencer

Under the leadership of Simon Marks who remained the Chairman of the company between 1930 and 1960, the company touched new heights. During the war periods (1920 to 1940) when the Great Depression caused shortages of goods and unemployment rose to nearly 3 million as many companies closed their doors, it was M&S who took the centre stage.

Marks and Spencer Tagline Don’t ask the price—it’s a penny
Marks in Time

With the rising competitions, M&S made a focus on selling two elements – food and clothing.  The label dominated the niche market.  The company set up a research laboratory to pre-test the quality of goods and develop innovative new fabrics. The tactic of providing higher quality at lower prices proved very successful for the business.

During the second world ware approx. 16 stores of M&S were hit by bombs. M&S and its employees did their bit of participation during the war via fire watching, raising money for a Spitfire, setting up soup kitchens and helping to care for wounded soldiers. The war period saw the restrictions in food supply and clothing designs. M&S developed new clothing standards commonly known as utility clothing that had bright patterns but simple designs.

Marks in Time

During the ’60s, in the aftereffect of the wars, the world was changing so was the M&S. A new technique called ‘cold chain’ was invented by M&S to sell fresh food.  The label was a thoroughly British brand until 1970. The raw material used in the production was sourced from within the UK.  By the end of the ’90s the company was heading towards the sustainability and a 100-point eco-plan was envisioned. The plan showed how the business is going to be done at M&S. M&S encourages healthy eating, did their bit in creating fair partnerships and using sustainable raw materials and put efforts in waste management and recycling.

Marks in Time

From its glamorous designs from the pre-war era to Corolle Collection by Christian Dior, Marks & Spencer had been the pillar of the British Fashion Industry making sure the fashion is not only for rich people. Today after almost 135 years, M&S is a pretty common name in every household in the UK, Asia, Europe and North America with almost 1500 stores worldwide.

I and many readers here on Elbe Couture House are dedicated M&S customers who love the looks that I curate using their stunning yet budget-friendly outfits. Check out Marks & Spencer’s new collection of stunning dresses, elegant coats, tailored shirts & Blouses, sharp suits & Blazers, Cozy Cashmere, Active wears and of course their famous Lingerie.

The Beauty of Red in Chilly Weather

You will also find some interesting Gift & Hampers readily available for busy festival season. Looking for Kids stuff or gift for your Man M&S have all in one store.

Vintage Elegance to Work
Vintage Elegance to Work

Check out my recent outfit inspirations curated with Marks & Spencer outfits here and here.

The British Heritage Marks & Spencer

Few of my favourites (all shown here in this post in random order) from the British family label are Jersey Swing Dress, Floral Print Bib Detail Blouse, Jacquard Print Relaxed Midi Dress, Wool Blend Waisted Overcoat, Pure Cashmere Striped Jumper, Ribbed Fitted Jumper(that is available in 12 colours), Pure Cashmere Animal Print Jumper, Fitted Double Breasted Coat, Longline Quilted Coat, Single Breasted Blazer.

While at it do check out Velvet Pleated Midi Skirt, Skinny Leather Chevron Detail Waist Belt, Pearl Effect Diamanté Stud Earrings, Leaf BroochCashmere Checked Scarf, Leather Chain Strap Shoulder Bag, Lace-up Ankle Boots, Fair Isle Jumper.

You do not have to go anywhere looking for Christmas gift all are here, check Pembridge Indulgent Chilled Hamper (Delivery from 18th December 2019), The Party HamperContinental Indulgent Chilled Hamper (Delivery from 18th December 2019).

Would you like to read more about M&S and its history in detail, check the linkage below:

Official Archive

Marks in Time

Marks in Time History

Fashion Gear

The Guardian Story

s4rb

Wikipedia


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