Book ending Oxford Street with two giant megastores, Primark is currently the gatekeeper of London's main shopping street. This flagship store is at the grimier end of Oxford Street, taking over the famous corner premises originally occupied by London’s largest Lyons’ Corner House, and latterly by a Virgin Megastore. With more than 80,000 square feet over four glossy floors, it’s even bigger than its fellow store at Marble Arch, the 2007 opening of which was marked by a mini-riot of young shoppers baying for knicker-shorts and floral-print leggings.
Five years later and the brand we love to hate – and hate to love – is thriving. It has also flipped a finger at tricky allegations – proven false – about its overseas production by signing up to the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), as well as starting the HERproject in Bangladesh to help promote the health of female factory workers.
In store you'll find customers – Londoners, out-of-towners, tourists of all ages - loading up with £6 Breton T-shirts, £15 faux-leather trousers and figure hugging nylon frocks for just £10. And while the crowd is predominantly teenaged, there are also balding middle-aged men and older ladies – age, and ethnic and class boundaries are apparently blurred in the flurry to bag a bargain.
Many would argue that the very concept of cheap, throwaway fashion is increasingly wrong and out-moded, but the value of Primark clothing isn’t in particularly well-made, hand-crafted, last-a-lifetime fashion – it trades in trend led pieces that’ll get you through a weekend, a party or a summer holiday – all for a few quid. In these cashstrapped times, it’s pretty hard to argue with that.