As you know, when I was much younger I shopped at Peter Jones in Sloane Square. In fact one of my first serious girlfriends would take us there most weekends. I could have sworn Laura Ashley goods were on her shopping list, but I am told Peter Jones did not sell LA. Oh well, my memory must be shot. Later on I became a regular for shirts, ties, and suits. The 134-year old department store has now been refurbished. The Daily Telegraph recently covered the introduction of the 'new' Peter Jones:
Peter Jones straddles Britain's swankiest fault line, where Belgravia meets Chelsea. Diana, Princess of Wales shopped here, as does - claim the regulars I spoke to recently - Prince Harry and his newish sister-in-law. According to Tony Wheeler, the department store's managing director, 40 per cent of its clientele lives within walking distance. Which - given this neighbourhood's affluence - explains why it is the strongest financial performer of all John Lewis stores. As well as being local, Peter Jones customers are loyal: from their first pair of prep-school shoes onwards, they shop here for life.
Last night, many of those customers were invited to a party thrown to celebrate the end of a 10-year, £100 million refurbishment. David Cameron donated one of his Prime Ministerial fountain pens for a charity auction, and a choir - from a local, Peter Jones-shod prep school - was due to provide the music. The final flourish of this spruce-up took place in the menswear department, which now boasts trendy Danish furniture in the changing rooms and a strong, Sloane-friendly collection of Ralph Lauren, Gant, Hackett, Tommy Hilfiger, Thomas Pink and Mayfair Richard James suits. To mark the occasion, the store has produced a special collection dedicated to its core customers, those fountain-paddling Sloane Rangers. It includes a red-white-and-blue trimmed Barbour, a paisley lined wax Cro'Jack jacket, Eton shirts, a Chelsea boot by Grenson and even - rather suspiciously - a "heritage Sloane Ranger eye-mask".
When Peter York and Ann Barr wrote their Sloane Ranger handbook, these items and their contemporary equivalents comprised a highly evolved localised dress code that quickly set apart the U from the non-U. For men, the key Sloane Ranger kit included a tweed jacket, "worn in all situations, particularly with jeans"; the covert coat, "a vital garment because only Sloanes wear it"; and a green, oiled Barbour that "smells of dogs". By wearing these garments, Sloanes could recognise their own kind, and never fall into conversation with ideologically suspect Hampstead intellectuals.
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