Friday, 16 November 2007

Hate Primark? Love tights.

The other day I went into Primark, completely of my own choosing and in search of specific items: tights. I'd been to a couple of other stores, but something had stopped me approaching the till with the 2 packets of black, opaque tights that I'd picked up; the fact that it was going to cost me over £10. There are many things that I own which I know didn't cost anywhere near the price to make, however I'm ok with that. Overpriced jeans, expensive shoes, lovely handbags I can deal with. Tights, which in my experience usually have a drawer-life of about a day (clumsy fingers, usually in a rush getting ready, nails that catch in the material, etc) , I'm not so keen to splash out on. So there was only one thing to do: Brave Primark.

For non-UKers, Primark can most easily be described as an absolute dump. It sells extremely cheap clothes, bags, accessories, shoes, underwear, you name it, but the only problem is you have to find them under the heaps and piles of clothes on the floor, then join a 50 person long queue, then be prepared to only wear said item once before it falls apart / shrinks in the wash. In short: I hate it.

My local branch is always, without fail, packed to the rafters with bargain hunters; women and men, young and old all clambering around the racks, searching for the must have item in their size, throwing what they don't want back onto the floor and chucking what they do into a basket. I have to psych myself up before going in there, prepare myself for the vision of a hundred or so people with nothing on their mind except 'Ooh, that's cheap' and a picture cut out from Heat magazine. It stands out from every other place on the high street into because it's such an absolute tip. In Topshop you see people neatly refolding the clothes they've picked up, maybe replacing them on the hanger and putting them back on the rack; in Primark the clothes just drop to their feet. There's a quote which pops into my head every time I walk past. It's from a culture critic who once said he saw George Romero's film Dawn of the Dead as a metaphor for the "will-less, soul-less masses as zombie like beings possessed by the alienating imperative to consume". If he gets that from a gore-fest film, god knows what he'd make of Primark.

If the ethics of the place don't spring to mind at first, the experience of going in there certainly brings them to light. I'm no tree hugger, environmentalist (the clue's in the name) or third world campaigner, but after 5 minutes of wading through the discarded clothes you realise that the state of the place and the ethics behind the making of the clothes are actually inseparable from one another. This mess just simply wouldn't happen if the clothes had any real value to people; instead, they're disposable. A lot like the 10p-a-day labour involved in making them.

So it is with this in mind that I went into Primark last Sunday for my pair of tights. It actually took me two attempts. The first, I walked in, took one look at the queue which had at least 60 people in it and walked straight back out again. After unsuccessful attempts to get what I wanted elsewhere, I returned. This time I went to the wrong bit of the shop, then finally located the tights. Here's where it gets conplicated: they didn't have my size (small), the colour I wanted (black, opaque), or the right style I was after (not footless, not patterned, not fishnets). Yet I walked out with a pair of grey tights (£1), black footless tights (£1), luxury glossy black hold-ups (£2), a pair of small grey denier tights (£1.50) and some slipper socks (£1). I'd walked out of every other shop I'd been into on the basis that they didn't have what I wanted. Here, I'd spent £6.50 on five things that were even less suitable, purely on the basis of that old chestnut: 'Ooh, that's cheap'. It's like a novelty thing, "I can buy all this I will".

Aside from giving you a glance into my underwear drawer, there is another point to this post. I'm the first person to wrinkle my nose up and go 'Urgh, Primark - can't stand it'. And I really can't. I'll avoid it at all costs, I don't enjoy shopping in there so I'm reluctant to give the company profits for what is a crap, messy, time consuming and often frustrating experience. But the truth is even when you impose restrictions on yourself and consider the ethics of such a place, you have to acknowledge what the Managing Director Arthur Ryan has done. Once upon a time, no one, not even soul-less, vest-top consuming zombies would be seen dead in Primark and now, not only is it full of the little buggers, but they're all buying something, whether it fits or matches or not. Like it or not, the ability to buy something fashionable for £3 is changing our whole perception of what's right.

I tell you what though...for zombies, they surrrrrre move fast. This video of the Oxford Street store opening in London says it all.

Have a good weekend.


pink jellybaby said...

I go in occasionally, but i can't never ever bring myself to like it..... eurgh

James said...

Apparently their suits aren't bad either.

Ella said...

The store in Oxford is the only lovely primark I know. It's nearly always empty, spacious and doesn't have loud music. You walk in there for a break from the bustle of the high street.

I went to the opening of the Oxford Street store in London. People were queuing from 6am (it opened at 9am) and there had to have police for crowd control. I turned away when the crowd cracked the glass in the windows with the pushing and shoving.

Ella said...
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Perpetual said...

Oh. My. God.

Most of the people in that video need to be shot.

Miss Understood said...

I hate hate HATE Primark. But yes, I bought about 4 or 5 new outfits (including shoes, bags and jewelery) last summer, for the grand price of about £30. I'm a bad girl.

Clarissa said...

I can't even admit to how much I spent on tights this year.

Hose are the devil's spawn.

Tights generally last. Faulkes is the most incredible brand ever. A pair last me 3-5 years! (Not in the best shape, but good enough) ... so the cost is worth it.

kit lizette said...

I did exactly the same the other weekend, went to Primark in Mare street to buy tights, didn't find the ones I wanted but since I had spent 20 minutes , and told a woman to stop following me,(she continued, kind of crazy in disguise) I picked up two pair of leggings, waited for another 12/ hour to pay, got home - and one of the pair was size 6. bah. So now have one pair I an use, we'll see how long they will last..

I think I'm going to check out that Faulkes Clarissa mentioned.


Steph said...

We have "GoLo" down here and it's the same. I go in there to buy sticky tape and socks and end up buying tonnes of shite I don't need.

one girl said...

holy bejesus- that store is out of control!! who are those wild, blood-thirsty shoppers?! Sounds a bit like the US Forever 21 except I kind of like it there :)

Reluctant Blogger said...

haha well I agree with what you say and I do HATE Primark but I did buy one of my favourite items from there - a black and white polka dot skirt for £8. Everyone loves it. Everytime I wear it people come up and say how good I look. All that for £8!!!!
Woollies is pretty good for cheap tights too and it isn't QUITE such a horrible shopping experience.

Bec said...

I go into Primark just to remind myself why I hate it. The so very bright colours everywhere make me feel ill... and the fact that the clothes are just so identikit-chav, Ugh!
When they opened the store in Preston it was lauded like the second coming!

Jo said...

Pjb - Does your Primark have a kind of funny smell to it as well?

James - good spot, must have been National Primark Appreciation / Depreciation Day (depending on where you live)

Ella - You're lucky, maybe it says more about the people of Oxford than the shop :-D You're a brave person for attempting the opening. It's Primark...anyone would think it was the opening of a half price Dior sale.

Perpetual - Doesn't it just make you cringe for them? Especially the 2 girls who are first in, and just run and scream around the place. Eeuurrgh.

Miss Understood - That's the thing, even hating the place doesn't keep people out. So strange.

Clarissa - Thanks for the tip, and if you wear them a lot then it's probably worth spending a bit more money on them. Mine however are used once a year and even then they get ladders in them.

kit - At least you're not one of those people who queues to return stuff they've bought from Primark. I mean come on cost a POUND!

Steph - I bet you'll have Primark soon as well. When I was in Oz I went into a shop callllled... Supre or something I think. That was quite cheap.

One girl - that video shows some truly shocking scenes...I'd heard about the crazy rush, but seeing the video I was like OH MY GOD. It's just awful.

Reluctant - Hallo, welcome. Don't get me wrong, you can pick up the very occassional good buy...but in my experience, those are few and far between. And often picked up off the floor between rails!

Bec - "I go into Primark just to remind myself why I hate it" That line's a classic if ever I heard one :-D

Drama Queen said...

Jeees. I love primark. . .I miss it so much.

Nikki said...

I am a size 8. I once bought a size 16 top in Primark because I liked it and it was cheap. I still have no idea how I managed to justify this purchase. Especially as I queued 45 minutes to pay for it (damn you, Oxford Street).

IT Barman said...

Madness just for Primark

Keira said...

I hate Primark with a passion.

Where I come from (Gibraltar) everyone absolutely LOVES it because it is cheap, and there isn't one in Gibraltar. Hordes of crazed women will actually pay the price of a return PLANE TICKET to visit England and go to Primark. (Or Preeeemark as they mispronounce it.) My mum is number one culprit, along with my best friend Lizanne as number 2 culprit.

I once had the misfortune of accompanying my friend to Primark simply because she was visiting in London and I wanted to spend time with her. We were stuck in there for FOUR hours I will never get back.

I believe Primark should stage a fake opening of a "Primark Superstore" somewhere like Westfield, allow thousand of crazed screaming chavs to rush in, then lock them in and leave them there till they starve.


Please Don't Eat With Your Mouth Open said...

Keira, that's insane. I can't believe people actually fly to england to go there. Surely that defeats the object of buying cheap clothes? Ebay might even be a better option than that! Love the idea of locking them all in there though. I'm game if you are.

Anonymous said...

I don't go there too much but when your on a low income it suits the pocket and I find the best time to go there is when they open up as at that time of day most people are either at work or getting on with other shopping before descending on Primark. Also their sale is usually quite good with good quality stuff that last a bit longer. what I bought there in the past and recently have lasted a good few years and probably will in the future all depending what I buy.


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