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Marks & Spencer’s 2014 ‘Leading Ladies’

Having featured women as disparate and fascinating as Tracy Emin and Helen Mirren last season, Marks Spencer’s spring/summer “Leading Ladies” lineup was bound to be a talking point – and here it is, in all its Annie Leibovitz-shot glory.

The lineup? From left to right, we have Lulu Kennedy MBE, one of the champions of emerging British fashion designers through her non-profit body Fashion East, who was pregnant at the time of the shoot. To her left, wearing dark-red lippy, is chef Rachel Khoo.

Next, it’s Alek Wek, a supermodel with substance, while Rita Ora stands in the middle, popping her collar. At 23, Ora is the whippersnapper of the group, a No 1-selling musician with serious fashion clout, having walked the runway for Moschino at Milan fashion week in February.

Emma Thompson, of course, comes next, and she deserves her place. Following her tipsy barefoot speech at the Golden Globes, during which she held her red-soled Louboutin shoes in her hand and joked: “I just want you to know, this red – it’s my blood,” she is the thesp we would all most like to have dinner with.

Having a shimmy beside her is living legend Annie Lennox, and finally it’s Doreen Lawrence – Stephen Lawrence’s campaigning mother, and a baroness to boot. Structural Engineer Roma Agrawal will appear in further campaign images released later this week.

This picture represents one of four main trends from MS this season, titled 90s luxe. Aside from Wek, whose dress is a homage to Celine’s painterly spring/summer collection, all of the looks feature clean lines and simple colours: white and navy. Overall, the impression is of a more streamlined approach than the last Marks Spencer campaign, which showcased a variety of trends in every picture. The image seems to say that, while MS can do trend-lend pieces (see: Wek’s dress), its focus is on offering minimalist clothing to a variety of women, regardless of age or attitude.

Or, as MS executive director marketing and business development, Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne, puts it, it is a vision of “the unique and diverse women of a modern Britain … Marks Spencer is a democratic brand which is relevant to women of all ages and strands of life.” With MS losing share in womenswear, and Next poised to overtake MS for the first time, the question remains: will the democratic approach have the desired effect on the bottom line?

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