Once in a while, a stroll down the high street supplemented with some casual window shopping can unravel a world of sartorial surprises. On recent visits to the London stores of the brand River Island, The Style Examiner could not help but being seduced by the menswear collections of garments, footwear, and accessories. Although, and as expected of most high street retailers, the choice of materials for the garments (with an overemphasis on manmade fibres) may not be to our taste, this is a brand that has garnered undeniably strong credentials when it comes to design.
The current Autumn/Winter 2011 menswear collection offers strong outerwear and knitwear pieces, with a focus on fairisle and cable knit jumpers, cardigans, and overall thick textures following the current popular trend of fashion for the great outdoors. But what has made River Island a focus of our interest has been the exciting designs of casual footwear, such as espadrilles, high tops, plimsolls, desert boots, and lace-up boots with white soles. We think that it is fair to say that, at the time we write this article, River Island may be the most interesting footwear retailer for men on the British high street. And with the announcement that they now ship their designs to over 100 countries, we felt that it was time to pay attention to the brand’s development.
With over 60 years of fashion retailing experience, River Island has been one of the most successful companies on the UK high street. Since it was set up in 1948 by brothers Bernard and David Lewis, the brand has had several names, until it settled for River Island in 1998. Over the years, its market has grown to now include nearly 300 stores across the UK, Ireland, the Middle East, the Netherlands, Poland, Singapore, and Turkey.
The decision to introduce a maternity wear line in 2009, and childrenswear in 2010, has consolidated River Island’s position as one of the most important fashion retailers around. We look forward to seeing progress in the choice of materials and following the design success of this reinvigorated and promising label.