Work At Home Agents



Being a work at home agent allows you stabilize your career as well as finances. You can work independently and at your convenient time. You can earn a decent income without compromising the time you would spend for your family. Work at home agent jobs do not require to make any investment or initial charges. All you need is a computer with internet connection and a phone.

Being one of the good work at home agents, you would need to provide information, process orders, resolving issues or to handle incoming calls of the company hiring you. The company in turn pays for your services. You can select either part time or full time.

Similarly you can also select day shift or night shift. If you have small children, then you can select late evening or early morning to work so that you would not get any disturbances while working. However, you need to have the ability to manage time promptly to accomplish both job and family life.

You should first understand the nature of work as a agent. A home based agent is not an independent contractor but an employee of a company. Therefore, the company needs to provide training. If you want to select this type of job, then you would get either face to face or online training.

Handling customer service enquiries is becoming a troublesome process for many companies. Since customers are vitally important for any business, their satisfaction is a must. Therefore the companies are willing to pay home based agents who can handle customer service well. The companies may not require any special qualification or experience for this job. However, you need to have excellent communication skills and basic computer knowledge.

Work at home call center agents earn a decent income rather than traditional call center agents. Since they are loyal to the company hiring them, the company pays them well. The company can also save money on equipment etc. Therefore work at home agent jobs benefit not only the employees but also the companies.

Since there are numerous home based agent job opportunities available on the internet, it is essential to sort out the legitimate opportunities. It may be time consuming and may require lot of effort. However once you get a legitimate job, you can get high rewards for your effort. You should remember that most of the legitimate companies are ready to pay you in the form of check or cash only.

You can do your research to find out work at home scams. This can help you avoid wasting time on applying to unscrupulous companies. You can enter the name of the company into the site, Better Business Bureau search box to find out whether there are any complaints about that company.

Once you have decided to work as home based agent for any company, and then try to organize any room in home to work peacefully. Also ensure that you have a professional phone presence which is very important for this type of work.

A reliable computer and a high speed internet connection are also essential to start work at home as an agent.




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New York City Police Department officer warns people they will be arrested for blocking a sidewalk during the Occupy Wall Street protest September 17, 2012 on the one year anniversary of the movement in New York. Police in New York on Monday arrested at least a dozen demonstrators marking the one-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement, witnesses said.AFP PHOTO/Stan HONDA?Harry Styles has a new drinking buddy - new Radio 1 Breakfast Show host Nick Grimshaw.The hell raising pair are new neighbours after One Direction heartthrob Harry moved into London's Primrose Hill.And one of the locals, flamboyant celeb Grimshaw, was quick to introduce himself to the pop star and show him some of the celebrity haunts.A source told The Sun, "Grimmy promised Harry hed give him his very own guided tour of Primrose Hill. He showed him where his famous friends live and all their favourite boozers. They ended up in The Lansdowne until kicking-out time. 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This move is simply another in the department store's ongoing digital brand growth strategy. Harrods is already ahead of its competitors "socially" from a raw numbers perspective, over the last two years, it has amassed in excess of 165,000 Facebook fans, and over 85,000 Twitter followers - more than any of its competitors, even with regional stores combined. This digital community growth is a result of sheer investment and strategic interaction from the brand. For example, the Twitter feed is live 24/7, managed by an industry leading professional (not an intern), the tone of voice is completely in line with the overarching ethos and personality of the brand and every question and enquiry is dealt with and responded to within minutes, even on a weekend. Managing the digital community for a retailer of this size isn't the easiest feat. 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Since "giant falling out" in 2010 between Dolce and one of Harrods' biggest competitors which resulted in said luxury department store no longer stocking the brand, Harrods has maximised its digital relationship with Dolce via its digital hub, and relationships with the brand's strong digital team, which has resulted in Harrods being treated as a key media platform with access behind the scenes to Dolce shows in Milan, exclusive Twitter interviews with the brand's models including David Gandy and even meet and greets with Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana. The symbiotic relationship between the editorial platforms of two non-traditional media outlets has set an bar for how digital engagement between brand and retailer can be leveraged for mutually beneficial goals. Next week's Burberry show live stream partnership will simply be another string to the digital bow that Harrods has every right to wear with pride, and by the sounds of things, there is a lot more in the pipeline for the brand's digital growth in 2012. 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It has also appeared in word processors, e-readers and been installed on school computers.Gonzalez, who released his designs in 2011, said he started to project in order to give people with developmental reading disorder a free alternative. There are other, similar fonts being sold that are geared towards people with dyslexia. In 2010 "Dyslexie," a font developed by , was (though not speed) in people with dyslexia in a master's thesis , according to the Boston Globe.OpenDyslexic works on the same principle as Dyslexie, except that it is free and open-source. Personal use copies of the latter reportedly cost around $90, while copies for school use may cost significantly more. Approximately , according to the Dyslexia Research Institute. Check out the new font (below).LOOK:Also on HuffPost:?We've teamed up with Greta Larkins, the genius behind the brilliant Tumblr in a weekly series of animated fashion shots.This week, FashGif takes on this beaded jacket from 's spring 2013 show from . Can we expect to see wearing this on the campaign trail? We doubt it, but it sure would make things even more exciting.Want more? Be sure to check out Stylelist on , and .For previous Fashion Gifs, take a peek in our gallery below: ?'The Dictator' has caused chaos on the Oscars red carpet, followingIt all seemed to be going so well. General Admiral Aladeen aka Sacha Baron Cohen was happily giving red carpet host Ryan Seacrest details about his red carpet outfit: "Hello Death to the West, I'm wearing John Galliano, with socks by K-Mart. As my friend Saddam Hussein once said to me, socks are socks. Don't waste money."But there was an ominous urn in his hands, with the face of North Korean late dictator Kim Jong-il on the front. 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Outerwear and leather goods accounted for about half of all sales, the company said.Burberry shares were down 3.1 percent at 1,343 pence in early trading in London."A combination of profit taking after the recent rally, a weak broader market and results which were slightly shy of expectations has driven the price sharply lower in early trade," said Richard Hunter, head of equities at Hargreaves Lansdown Stockbrokers."Yet the numbers themselves are robust."Burberry said it plans to invest at least 180 million pounds this year in new or remodeled stores, including Regent Street in London, Pacific Place in Hong Kong and a rebuilt store in Chicago.During the past year, the company opened its first larger format stores in Hong Kong, Paris and Taipei.?I never gave clothes much thought, but I knew the moment my daughter refused to wear jeans at the age of two because they were "ugly," I was outclassed. And that precious toddler grew up to be my stylish Sarah who now works for Stylelist and lives and breathes fashion.?Fragrance is an important accessory which serves to amplify and sometimes influence your mood and therefore it needs as much thought as the colour of the bride's dress or the groom's buttonhole. ?Peter Boucher is commercial marketing director at Vodafone UK, where he works closely with businesses of all sizes and from all sectors to help them to find new and better ways of working. He originally joined Vodafone in 2002, and has since served in global brand marketing, as head of marketing for Vodafone live! and as marketing director and chief commercial officer at Vodafone Hungary. Prior to this, he worked in the food production and pharmaceuticals sectors, for companies including Unilever, Kraft Foods and GSK.?eGHZmFyID44mYu00M5dZQhYaAu%2FAmgJCGfYy66NCsZ3y2%2BCd8epkdQj2UKN14xi7V2f6zvgZ4FLzuHlXFqCtvHEMfu8cnurHGtdTrlO6FQ53rI4f%2FNo7oyXAvVcpcAPr4kIuB5Ua5hfpX3jCUjpesONZAp5v%2FZYto0CpL2BNQDbLKBQntDL%2BG2ZKPlg9r%2BFV?WWD:"I fear I've caused complete and utter confusion," Prince Charles told Burberry's 800-plus staffers who gathered to greet him when he inaugurated the company's new Horseferry House headquarters Thursday morning. ?When you're a hot 27-year-old prince, wooing the ladies doesn't stop at dinner and a movie. How about a movie premiere, a VIP after party and an even more chi-chi after party later? That was apparently 's M.O. this week in London, where he in a shiny blue suit (that we've ). Who was the lucky lady? Reportedly it's Cressida Bonas, a model who was also in attendance at the premiere -- as Harry's date.The pair avoided being photographed together (sneaky!), but later they at the Freemasons Hall in Covent Garden and then moved on to Le Salon nightclub in Mayfair. The Sun -- and Harry left just two minutes after her.Bonas, 23, and seems to be something of a British socialite; she's the daughter of another model: Lady Mary-Gaye Georgiana Lorna Curzon. Another fun fact: she studied at Leeds University, where Harry's ex Chelsy Davy also studied.We know Harry likes his blondes -- , and of course, -- so we won't be surprised if the Prince and the Model become the next .Check out pics of Harry and Cressida below!While we're at it, here are Prince Harry's cutest moments:Want more? Be sure to check out HuffPost Style on , , and .?eGHZmFyID44mYu00M5dZQhYaAu%2FAmgJCGfYy66NCsZ3y2%2BCd8epkdQj2UKN14xi7V2f6zvgZ4FLzuHlXFqCtvHEMfu8cnurHGtdTrlO6FQ53rI4f%2FNo7oyXAvVcpcAPr4kIuB5Ua5hfpX3jCUjpesONZAp5v%2FZYto0CpL2BNQDbLKBQntDL%2BG2ZKPlg9r%2BFV?As the UK economic outlook remains gloomy, retailers are venturing further afield to develop international markets. But what is the impact of going global on the UK high street? Miya Knights finds out. Where domestic retail sales are stagnating, it is easy to see why UK retailers are looking to foreign shores to boost growth. But what does this trend mean for the future of our local high streets? Technology is playing a central role in driving development forward on both fronts.Luxury firms are perhaps the UK's most successful retail export, capitalising on the value of their brands to supplement slow domestic sales with growth abroad. In itself, this is nothing new. The cross-fertilisation of retail brands across regional markets has also brought us many now-familiar UK high street names, such as Gap from the United States, H&M from Sweden and Zara from Spain.The difference today is that, while analysts predict virtually flat UK retail sales growth in spite of the usual Christmas boost, many more UK retailers are seeing markedly increased demand in overseas markets which they cannot afford to ignore. Burberry's latest sales figures, for example, grew by 21 per cent in the last quarter of 2011, largely driven by a 210-million (36 per cent) sales boost in the Asia-Pacific region. In contrast, its sales in Europe were up by 20 per cent to 160 million.Daniel Lucht, research director for retail analyst ResearchFarm, said the lure of internationalisation was due to the impact of "a very austere economic outlook for 2012". This, in turn, has had the effect of generating a huge move away from debt-financed business growth. "Cash flow is going to be a big issue," says Mr Lucht. "For both retailers and consumers, it will be about not what they want, but what they can afford." He adds that the presence of essential infrastructure components, like communication networks and roads, is often a prerequisite for successful expansion, making countries like India challenging for overseas entrants, despite its rapidly expanding middle class."Most UK fashion and clothing retailers have piled into the Middle East," says Richard Fitzpatrick, director of Retailmap, a specialist retail analysis and competitor monitoring company. "But that is because of a number of large entrepreneurial firms who build and own their own retail properties." The presence of two or three very strong joint venture or franchise trading partners, such as Alshaya, Al Futtaim and Al Tayer, who provide the UK retailers with a complete turn-key solution - logistics, warehousing and access to the biggest shopping malls - have helped add the region to the UK's list of international destinations, alongside Asia.Mr Fitzpatrick adds that high-end luxury brands have done well in the Middle East, Asia and also Russia because a growing proportion of their middle classes and super-rich are conspicuous in their consumption. But he says: "The value and budget segment is also probably one of the best UK exports, with the likes of Primark already starting to take Europe by storm. This is where we also see Tesco, George @ Asda, Sainsbury's TUI, Matalan and even New Look expanding."Across 50 UK clothing and footwear retailers, surveyed by Retailmap in 2011, each traded in an average of 11 separate countries and had an average of six outlets per country. Some retailers had a much wider global exposure. Topshop, for example, is in 29 countries, yet even this UK high street fashion stalwart only averages five outlets per country. By comparison, Tesco operates in nine countries but it has an average of 250 stores per country in each of the grocery and own-brand clothing brand markets it operates in. "It is little surprise that in central Europe, Tesco's F+F clothing brand is one of the market-share leaders," says Mr Fitzpatrick."A UK high street chain with 200 or 300 stores is looking for greater economies of scale and efficiencies than any small joint venture or franchise investment can deliver," he says. "H&M, forexample, does 25% of its business in Germany alone." To put Topshop's global presence into perspective against the weak domestic market, its owner Sir Philip Green revealed recently that it was looking to close 250 to 260 stores from its 2,500-strong UK estate over the next three years. This will pave the way for ambitions to expand the Topshop brand further overseas.The consequences of such strategies do not bode well for the UK high street. The government's recent retail review by TV retail guru, Mary Portas, found less than half the UK's retail spending is now on the high street and that this figure is falling.But the lure of overseas profits need not necessarily sound its death knell. Technology can help span the miles between head office and the flagship store on the other side of the world, or automate finance reporting and administration with country-specific software rules. But it is the explosion in internet shopping, and its relatively lower operating costs and higher margins that have really been fuelling not only international UK retail ambitions, but also domestic ones too.But, in some cases, UK retailers like Next are switching their international expansion plans away from opening lots of new overseas stores to setting up foreign language and international currency online shops. Perhaps, if eCommerce was as mature a decade ago, the cautionary tale of Marks & Spencer's experience would not have seen it unceremoniously pull out of its first foray into France, where it had operated 18 stores. Undeterred, it re-launched there last October, but with its first international transactional website, which the retailer said was part of its bricks-and-clicks global approach, preceding the opening of a flagship Paris store a few weeks later. Success is, in fact, by no means assured abroad or even at home, in stores or online. Just think of the ill-fated Carphone Warehouse and Best Buy joint venture. The US electronics retailer last year ceased trading through 11 Best Buy UK stores, at the cost of some 1,100 jobs. Significantly, services spanning multiple channels, such as click and collect or reserve in-store and deliver to home, are becoming more popular in the UK where internet trade body, Interactive Media Retail Group (IMRG) recorded a significant rise in the percentage of click-and-collect online sales in the third retail quarter of 2011. Accounting for 10.4 per cent of all UK eCommerce sales in the period, this merging of retail sales channels becomes all the more important in prospective foreign markets that also have a higher proportion of digital natives with multichannel expectations.Adam Stewart, marketing director of Rakuten's Play.com, predicts: "In the year ahead, cutting-edge mobile devices, worldwide mobile and broadband penetration, and innovative social shopping services will open up global markets, providing huge growth opportunities for merchants large and small, and unparalleled consumer choice." Play.com, one of the UK's largest internet retailers, was recently acquired by Rakuten - the "Amazon of Japan" - for 25 million.The question is though, will UK retailers be able to keep up? Take Japan, the world's most digitally advanced nation, for example. According to IDTechEx research, 47 million Japanese adopted smartphones with tap-and-go payments functionality in three years, making its adoption of mobile payments technology one of the fastest roll outs of electronic products in history. Super-fast broadband speeds and 4G enable in-store ordering direct from a customer's smartphone, along with localised, targeted promotional offers and the widespread use of Quick Response (QR) codes.The influence of the tech-savvy multichannel consumer and UK retail experience in more advanced multichannel markets is already making its presence felt on our local high streets. Women's fashion company Oasis is equipping staff with iPads to boost service levels and assisted sales, as well as reduce lost sales from out-of-stocks, for example. Ish Patel, strategic development director at Oasis' parent Aurora Fashions Group, points out that fast smartphone adoption is paving the way for mobile or mCommerce to help blend traditional physical and emerging online channels.In this way, lessons learnt from going global may also help UK retailers better mind what is at home, despite the fact they may be strategically focused on distant shores.This article orginally appeared in a special report on The Future of Retail, produced by Raconteur Media and published with The Times (UK). Please see www.raconteuronthetimes.co.uk for further articles from this report.Follow Raconteur Media on Twitter:?LONDON - They say weather is a national obsession in Britain but perhaps more for Burberry Prorsum's Christopher Bailey than for most.With a clap of thunder and a torrent of realistic rain running down the sides of a glass tent, the luxury brand's creative chief sent his umbrella-toting models down the catwalk in a finale that brought a smile to everyone's face.Burberry, which stages its twice yearly runway shows in its own temporary Hyde Park tent, is the biggest and glitziest production during London Fashion Week. On Monday, the autumn and winter 2012 display drew a huge crowd of buyers and spectators, including a host of international stars such as Hollywood actress Kate Bosworth, celebrity photographer Mario Testino, and even Korean pop group Girls' Generation."I quite like celebrating rain," said Bailey, who has been credited with revitalizing the once-fusty fashion house and boosting its international style credentials. He's also known to create a spectacle using weather elements: Last year, he filled his catwalk with fake snow."I like the romance. I quite like the melancholy," he said of the rain.It wasn't just the rain that was British much of the detailing on the clothes was, too. There was velvet quilting, corduroy, herringbone wool and tweed caps, riding jackets and skirts, and of course various incarnations of the brand's most famous garment, the trench coat.Bailey said the collection was a study in merging city style and country living. Bridle leather straps, shearling parkas and the use of quilting were evocative of the horse-riding country lifestyle of the English upper class, while the appearance of cute owl drawings and appliques on some of the collection's T-shirts and sweaters, as well as gold metal fox belt buckles, were a fun and quirky take on the "country" theme."I like the idea of celebrating the country, celebrating the town," Bailey said after the show.A huge range of coats and jackets made up much of the collection. Some were cinched in with candy-coloured belts with bows, while others had masculine tailored shoulders and large pouches. Cropped, down-filled puffer jackets were paired with tweed ruffled pencil skirts, giving the ladylike look a sporty twist.The most striking coat was the one Bailey chose for his finale a quilted, belted creation in deep royal purple, cinched in at the waist but flaring out in a full skirt.Colours were rich and autumnal, with mustard, burgundy, black currant and forest greens, while wide horizontal stripes in grey, navy and honey kept the look young and vibrant."I like it because it's British and I'm British," joked Leah Weller, a 20-year-old singer and model, who added that she was particularly fond of the gold-studded black gloves and clutch bags on show.Associated Press writer Raphael Satter contributed to this report. ?He may be the world's one and only male supermodel, but David Gandy is also the most humble, sweetest most down to earth guy you could ever hope to meet. Despite being in an ego driven industry, this boy has his feet firmly on the ground.I met him last year at the annual Scottish Fashion Awards and we hit it off. He was in town again for the 2012 Awards and very kindly invited me to afternoon tea. It wasn't all smooth sailing I nearly had to cancel because of my school run, but thanks to my dear, sweet friend Morna Rose we made it happen. And thanks to my wonderful hairdresser and make up artist Zak Coldicutt who moved appointments around to accommodate me.Despite the fact that I was twenty minutes late and that the tea had gone cold, David was still as hot as ever, and shrugged off my tardiness in a gentlemanly manner. I blame the fabulous Celebrity Stylist Derek Warburton who had whisked me off to the Diamond Studio to style me for the Fashion Awards. En route back to the Blythswood Hotel we ran into Fashion Editor Janis Sue Smith and the lovely Patricia Fraser. When Derek's around there's no such thing as stopping to say a quick hello, five minutes quickly turned into fifteen.But like I said to David the best things in life are worth waiting for.We chatted all things Scottish Fashion Awards and about his fabulous new fitness app. This is his second year in town to support the Awards."I am a huge believer in supporting British fashion. Scotland has a huge amount of fashion talent. You just don't realise it until you are working in this industry and you end up meeting so many Scots. So it's fabulous that Tessa has set up this Awards ceremony in order to give them recognition and also to celebrate their great talent.""We have got such great heritage, such great fashion, Westwood, Savile Row, Burberry, Pringle it's such a shame everyone is so keen to hotfoot it to Milan, Paris etc when we have so much going on here. I don't think of it as Scotland and England I think of it as Britain as a whole. If we didn't think of it as separate we could be a fashion giant. People just don't realise how much money fashion brings in. If we concentrated our efforts we could truly be a great Britain.""I try to promote Britain as much as possible; I try to wear British made clothes. For the Awards I will be wearing a Marks and Spencer's jacket that cost 99, it's a great cut, and lovely fabric. I wear a lot of Reiss and Topshop as well. It should be about the high street and not high end.""I love coming to Glasgow, there's a much more relaxed atmosphere here, compared to London where there's a great deal of snobbery. People always ask me where I get my dark looks, I once said I have some Scottish heritage and it's totally stuck."David is constantly asked where he gets his clothes and how he maintains such a fabulous physique. And trust me, this example of human perfection does not require photoshop. But thank god he's not like every other model you meet that say they can eat anything and still look great. David is very honest and admits he works hard to maintain this special level of perfection."I have to work at my body; I have to work a lot. Over the years I have worked with some of the best personal trainers in the business, and I have discovered there is no magic pill, no cheat's way. It's not about dieting; it's about changing your lifestyle. I am not suggesting cutting out all fats. I am suggesting that you look into nutritional guides etc, you have to research and change your lifestyle, learn what your body type can and cannot handle.""I know what works, I am the evidence of what works. And I have put together all my knowledge into this new app. It's all the knowledge I have gained over the years through trial and error of what works for my body. It's very user friendly, it's not complicated, there are no silly diagrams. We have videoed all the moves, you can also Facebook it. I've also added a nutritional guide, because it's very important to cover that as well."Three unknown facts about David:He's very articulate, not just a pretty faceHe's an absolute gentHis favourite tipple is English Breakfast teawww.davidgandyfitness.comdavidjamesgandy.blogspot.com?Exposure to back-lit electronic devices, such as tablets, before bedtime could lead to sleeplessness, suggests a new study.A two-hour exposure to self-luminous displays may cause melatonin suppression strong enough to affect sleep by disturbing the body's natural circadian rhythm, a small new study in the suggests.Our study shows that a two-hour exposure to light from self-luminous electronic displays can suppress melatonin by about 22%. Stimulating the human circadian system to this level may affect sleep in those using the devices prior to bedtime, said study author Mariana Figueiro, in a statement.Melatonin is a hormone produced by the body when its dark to encourage sleepiness. Suppression of melatonin by light has been implicated in sleep disturbances, increased risk for diabetes and obesity, as well as increased risk for more serious diseases, such as breast cancer.Participants in the study used self-luminous tablets to read, play games, and watch movies. While one-hour exposure to tablets caused little affect, after two hours, melatonin levels dropped significantly. Figueiro said in a statement: We recommended dimming these devices at night as much as possible in order to minimize melatonin suppression, and limiting the amount of time spent using these devices prior to bedtime.?WASHINGTON -- A slew of new polls shows Newt Gingrich leading the race for the Republican nomination, both nationally in three of the first four primary and caucus states. However, a close reading of both the recent polls and a recent focus group of Republicans shows that rank-and-file Republicans are far from a final decision. Gingrich has certainly experienced a surge in support. Two new national surveys from and Fox News now show Gingrich with support in the mid-30-percent range and a wide lead over Mitt Romney and the rest of the Republican primary field. The current estimate produced by the , which is based on all available public polls, gives Gingrich a lead of 37 to 20 percent over Romney, with the rest of the Republican field in single digits. The rise in support for Gingrich has also been evident in the early primary and caucus states. Gingrich now leads on a half dozen new polls in , and three recent surveys in . The former speaker is leading by even wider margins on recent polls in Florida conducted by , and . Romney continues to lead in , but the most recent shows his support falling from 40 percent in late October to 35 percent last week. Meanwhile, support for Gingrich in New Hampshire has jumped to the mid-20-percent range on four recent surveys. Although a plurality of Republicans now prefers Gingrich nationwide, it is also evident that most Republicans remain uncertain about how they will vote in their primaries or caucuses next year. The CNN/ORC poll conducted in late November, for example, found just over a quarter of Republicans (27 percent) said they would definitely support their first choice, with the rest either willing to change their minds (67 percent) or still completely undecided (6 percent). Decision-making is farther along in the early primary and caucus states, but not by much. The Time/CNN surveys found just over a third of Republicans (between 34 and 39 percent) willing to say they are certain to support their first choices in Iowa, South Carolina and Florida, and only slightly more (44 percent ) in New Hampshire.A of Republican primary voters, conducted last week by veteran Democratic pollster Peter Hart as part of a sponsored by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, helps put these results in context. While a focus group is not a survey -- its non-random recruitment and small sample size cannot provide a statistically representative view of any larger population -- the 12 voters from suburban Fairfax County, Va., who participated provide a richer view that helps flesh out the survey findings. The Republicans in Hart's focus group found much to like about Gingrich. Virtually all rated him as highly competent, someone who they described variously as "experienced," a "great debater," the "smartest one running," someone who "stands firm in his beliefs," "get things done" and can "completely turn the ship around." They were less enthusiastic about Romney, but still had praise. They lauded his "family values," said he "did a nice job at the Olympics" and as governor of Massachusetts, and called him a "politician" who is "good at it." But the participants could also list many thing that troubled them about both Romney and Gingrich. Regarding Gingrich, some expressed concern about his personality, that he's "careless and combustible" or that "he's behaving himself in this campaign right now and saying what he's supposed to." Some participants worried that "his hands are already too dirty...with his experience and how he got there" or that "he has been in side the Beltway for a long time." Still others feared he might "give up some of his beliefs to get things done," that "something will come up in his marriage," or that "issues with his affairs will blow up like Clinton."Misgivings about Romney began with the perception that he "goes with whatever people want to hear," and is "wishy-washy," "vanilla" or "manufactured." They complained that "he doesn't have the conviction, too phony," that he will "flip-flop," is a "R.I.N.O. -- Republican in name only" and that "repealing Obamacare will not be a priority."In short, while these voters were more enthusiastic about Gingrich, it was also clear that they remain in the process of making a decision and are far from decided. When Hart asked whose vote was still "up for grabs," half raised their hands. At the same time, many indicated they had already narrowed their choices to some degree. Most, for example, said they had already ruled out supporting Herman Cain -- who dropped out of the race two days later -- and others had ruled out Paul or Perry, or even Gingrich or Romney. The narrowing of choices among Republicans is also evident in a completed a week ago. They found that majorities of Republicans consider only Gingrich (62 percent) and Romney (54 percent) to be "acceptable" nominees for president. Even though Rick Perry, Ron Paul and Michele Bachmann well enough to rate them, between 52 and 58 percent of respondents now regard these candidates as "unacceptable" presidential nominees. So for many Republicans, the race is narrowing to a choice between Gingrich and Romney, but it's a choice that often remains tenuous. According to Gallup Editor in Chief Frank Newport, 35 percent of Republicans on the same survey consider both Gingrich and Romney to be acceptable nominees, while 81 percent consider either candidate acceptable.Last week, Peter Hart reflected on the fact that, while only two focus group participants walked in as Gingrich supporters, 7 were ready to vote for him on the way out. "Here we are a month away," Hart said. "Boy there's gonna be a lot of volatility." The survey data says he could be right. Subscribe to the ! ?In Your Fifties : Hair and Skin CareOut of curiosity, I added up the price of the recommended skin care and hair products. The total was $211.00. As a woman in her early fifties, I would like to recommend the following products.No way would I pay $100.00 for a skin correcter, even if it is Lancome. Clinique has a skin corrrecterfor less than half the price of the Lancome product. I've used it with good results, before my moisturizer.LiftActiv Derm Source by Vichy is $45.00. A company called Yves Rocher makes a similiar productfor less money, I believe. Yves Rocher can be ordered through the mail and on line at their website.I don't wear eye shadow anymore, however, when I did there's no way I would ever pay $48.00 foreyeshadow. Lastly L'Oreal Color Shampoo for $18.00. Patene makes a Color Protecting Shampoofor about $8.00 plus tax and the whole Patene Color Line is very good and a lot less expensive.I'm not saying that Lancome, Vichy, Estee Lauder and L'Oreal are not good products. I'm surethey have good products, but not every woman can afford their products and stay within herbudget for skin care, make up and hair care. I'm retired now, so I have the luxury of doing comparisonshopping of various skin care, make up and hair care. I hope this post has been helpful in some way.?Almost every retailer now has the expertise to use Facebook to grow consumer awareness of their brand, however, there are only a handful of retailers that have truly monetised Facebook and extended its reach from a sharing space to a retail platform. A number of retail commentators have argued that whilst connecting with the consumer through social media is key, the monetisation of Facebook as a standalone platform has not happened, and will possibly never be a success. This argument originated in the US after online retailers posted poor sales forecasts after Christmas from F-commerce sales. The argument focuses on the fact that Facebook is where people come to connect with their friends - and sometimes brands - but they do not go on to buy from Facebook pages and never will. I disagree with this sentiment entirely. I do agree that F-commerce is in its early stages, however it should not be dismissed; I would go as far to say that ignoring it could have a detrimental effect on a company's bottom line in the near future. To understand my argument, you only have to look at how technology has transformed the way people shop over the last 15 years, and subsequently how the evolution of technology will continue to change consumer habits. If you combine this with the need for Facebook to continue to diversify its revenue streams, I believe Facebook itself will push for F-commerce to be a success, as it's a natural progression/transition.I also have reason to believe that Facebook will become an influential sales platform. As CEO of BrandAlley, an online retailer that specialises in designer 'flash sales', I have seen first-hand how F-commerce works; it has both driven sales and further engaged our Facebook followers. Since launching our F-commerce platform late last year, it already generates five per cent of sales and this is set to rise over the coming year.It was 10 years ago that people questioned whether online shopping would become a viable platform for retailers, but with online sales generating 68.2bn last year and counting for 17% of retail sales in the UK, it is clear that the consumer will continue to look online to make purchases. However, I believe that with the increase in people using social media platforms and accessing the internet on their mobile phone or tablet device, customers will begin to move away from the traditional homepage and seek sales in other locations. Other retailers are with me on this argument. For example, Burberry has committed 60 per cent of its marketing budget on online and social media channels and companies as diverse as Procter & Gamble, Levi's and Delta AirLines have committed to selling their product or services on Facebook. The evolution of how the consumer shops will undoubtedly have a positive effect on F-commerce but how Facebook pushes the concept itself will also heighten the success of the platform. With Facebook's recent floatation, there is now a push from its shareholders to grow and further monetise Facebook and I believe F-commerce will form part of its growth plans. It is likely that Facebook will encourage brands to have fully functioning online stores. At first this will be free but eventually they will ask for a small percentage of the sales once they have consumer buy-in. So, how do you convert a growing fan base to buying your product? I think the answer is relatively straighforward in that you simply need to give them a reason to make that first jump into spending on the site. Exclusive previews or sales plus competitions are the easiest ways to quickly engage the consumer. Admittedly BrandAlley's flash sale format has helped us convert our customers into buying through Facebook. For example, we held an exclusive preview sale recently with 7FAM (Seven for all mankind) onFacebook which accounted for 50% of revenue for that particular sale. A few years ago it was only a select few retailers who saw the importance of engaging with their customers via social media platforms. Now social media is very much part of the marketing mix but retailers need to start being commercially aware and monetising Facebook. I do not believe that F-commerce will overtake any other e-commerce platform right now, but when you have a captive audience of people who you know are interested in your brand, then the next logical step is to directly sell to them. Web users spend one in every eight minutes on Facebook which only goes to show the future and need for retailers to capitalise on this.Facebook users may be in 'share mode' with their friends at the moment but I believe it is only a short time before they are in 'spend mode', buying their favourite brands through F-commerce.?For nearly 50 years, sat as an arbiter of fashion by publishing a yearly list of the 10 Best and Worst Dressed People in the Demi-monde. Although best known for his "Worst Dressed"list, he maintained a successful career as a fashion journalist. Richard Blackwell was a powerful syndicated columnist who wrote features in newspapers and lifestyle magazines. Matrons and starlets, stockbrokers and models, politicians and prize-fighters all jockeyed to be included. Blackwell's critiques could be cutting. Being included in Mr. Blackwell's Best Dressed list could quickly improve one's social standing in New York, Miami or Hollywood while being included in his worst dressed list could doom one to social Siberia.Although Mr. Blackwell has gone on to his maker, we here at the STONEzone revived this hallowed tradition four years ago. We have vigilantly watched the world of entertainment, sports, politics, academia, art and fashion to determine who has style....and who truly doesn't.Therefore, we proudly present our FIFTH ANNUAL 10 BEST AND WORST DRESSED PEOPLE IN AMERICA list for your consideration.Compiling such a list is a far greater challenge than one might think. The advent of "casual fridays" is symptomatic of an overall decline in our standards regtarding what is right and wrong about the way Americans dress. Sadly, fashion today is more motivated by economics than aesthetics. Men are seen in both business and social settings in running shoes, tracksuits, sweats, T-shirts, and caps, which advertise either a sports teams or a brand of farm tractor. Women are seen outside the gym in spandex workout ensembles and hoodies. Women actually leave their homes with a Victoria Secret slogans on their ass.Americans cared deeply about proper dressing in the 1930s, 40s and even the 50s. The 60's, a decade fashion forgot, also began a trend of informality that devolved over time from slovenliness in the 90's to dishevelment in the 2000's. The sheer number of men who will go out in public in a wife-beater is staggering. Very few can look like a young Marlon Brando but men still crowd casinos, bars, malls and sports events in this "outfit."Our goal is to sort out those who are merely fashionable from those who possess real style, for fashion is fleeting and style endures. We also try to eschew "costume." That's why you won't find Lady Gaga or Tom Wolfe on our list. While both are distinctive in their dress, both are affecting a costume more appropriate for the stage. While fashion is about fads and what is "in" now, style is a personal factor that cannot be learned or taught - either you have it or you don't.Style is, in fact, the direct opposite of fashion. Fashion is a look that is temporarily "in". Fashion is people imitating each other. It's about fitting in and looking like everyone else's Style. Fashion, on the other hand, is about individuality; what sets one apart from the crowd. Real style comes from within; it is the sign of your character and personality that you display to those who see you. Style never indulges fads or gimmicks.Style is timeless. Style looked good thirty years ago and will be in good taste thirty years from now.True style is never studied. It manages to make it's own statement heard above the temporary fads of fashion. Style requires good taste, individuality and a certain nonchalance, what the Italians call "Spezzatura." It is the art of dressing distinctively without looking like any thought or planning has been put into the final look. Being "thrown together," but perfect. It is said hoofer Fred Astaire threw his new custom made fine cut English suits against the wall repeatedly to "knock the newness out of them".Finding our 10 Best and Worst Dressers requires careful study. The dressing of our citizens hasn't improved much in 2011. There are among us no Jack Kennedys or Gary Coopers, no Katharine Hepburns or Marlene Dietrichs, Instead we have Cee Lo Green, Jack Black, Snooki, or anyone of the Kardasians.10 BEST DRESSED MEN OF 2011Joseph Gordon Levitt - The hot young actor is new to the Best Dressed list. He's developing a personal style that evokes a cool updated 50's Rat Pack look. White short point collared shirts, skinny black ties, narrow lapels with dark fitted suits teamed with a pork-pie hat mark Gordon Levitt as a hipster but a perfectly turned out hipster at that. He pulls of the monochromed shirt-tie-suit look without looking like Joe Pesce in the movie "Las Vegas".Charlie Watts - When band-member Mick Jagger was wearing sequin tights and oversized Uncle Sam hats, the Rolling Stone's drummer was quietly going to Poole and Dege, two of Savile Row's oldest tailors. The result is somber, perfectly-fitting and low key suits that are as solid as his back-beat. Watts is as fastidious as Keith Richards is disheveled.Larry Kudlow - The CNBC Talk Show host and ardent supply-sider makes our list for the fourth year in a row. Kudlow's sense of dress shirt, suit and tie combination is always right, and interesting. Kudlow show some whimsy with pink and patterned neckwear. New York Tailor Leonard Logsdail makes Kudlow's impeccable fit. The knot of his necktie is always so. The economic analyst and pro-growth advocate sets a standard other men can aspire to.Gordon Woodrow - The long time top level Republican U.S. Senate staffer, Presidential appointee and businessman dresses like a country squire. He teams hefty tweeds with tattersall, checks and plaids and brown suede shoes, sometimes with a bright sweater-vest. Large knots the size of your fist in heavy wool ties. Woodrow always looks like he just came from shooting grouse or skeet on the Moor.Prince Philip - Husband of the Queen Elizabeth II. Prince Phillip, born Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark, The Duke of Edinburgh, is long-time a client of Gieves & Hawkes Ltd, the venerable London tailor who's house style has military lineage. Phillip, father of Prince Charles, who prefers a double-breasted look made for him by Anderson and Sheppard, was rushed to the hospital with chest pains only weeks ago. The Duke has his dashing military dress uniforms made by Johns & Pegg Ltd, his kilts by Kinloch Anderson Ltd, and shoes and boots by John Lobb. Affectionately called "Charlie the Greek" by his country-men, no one can compare with Prince Phillip at Ascot. We wish him a speedy recovery from heart surgery.Alan Flusser - The men's wear designer Alan Flusser knows more about men's clothing than perhaps anyone in the world and his taste level and flair make him the authority. Author and arbiter Flusser is an advocate for all that is correct and refined. Flusser is the designer other designers secretly emulate. The late saloon singer Bobby Short, a debonair dresser himself, consulted Flusser. Whether in a double breasted beaded stripe suit or with a scarf knotted ascot-style around his neck, Flusser is sartorial perfection.Johnny Depp - Second year on the list. Last year we said "Now, rockers and actors, and those in the creative field can get away with things the rest of us cant, but Depp's dark look, his affection for hats and a minimal but tasteful jewelry land him on the list. Scruffy but never too scruffy, it's a look Depp has perfected. "No one has looked this good in a short brimmed straw fedora since Sinatra.Jacob Stein - Few men can pull-off the bow-tie without looking like Pee Wee Herman or Malcolm X. Fox Talking head Bob Beckel from "The Five" was recently on-air with what appeared to be too perfect clip-on. Only clip ons that squirt or spin should been worn and then only if you are a comedian. Bow ties should never be perfect or prissy. They should be slightly askew, tousled and imperfect. Washington power lawyer Jacob Stein, lawyer for Monica Lewinsky, pulls this off like nobody else. Seen on K street, the dapper Stein always looks great. The DC barrister's wife owns a consignment shop and Stein clearly choses quality vintage pieces to mix into his traditional wardrobe.Dave Beckham - Great tailoring is meant to hide imperfections, making the fat look thinner, the short look taller, hiding a paunch etc. In Dave Beckham's case none of that is necessary. His body and level of fitness are incredible. Not every man can wear a vest (what the Brits call a waistcoat) without looking like a riverboat gambler or John Foster Dulles. Beckham pulls them off along with smartly cut suits, newsboy caps, classic aviator sunglasses and perfectly tied scarfs which make him stand-out when he's he not semi-nude or in a soccer uniform.Josh Mankiewicz - Hitting our list for the second year, this NBC Dateline reporter tops Brokaw, Lauer and Williams. His two-button natural shoulder suits are always fastidious, his shirts and ties chosen with care. His look is quiet, understated and always low-key. The length of his collar points chosen to compliment his face, are always accented with the perfect pocket-square in a puff that looks like he stuffed it in his breast pocket without a thought.Bill Clinton - The ex-President wasn't much of a dresser when in the White House, buying off-the-rack and wearing the clothes of Donna Karan, who designed what a woman thought a man's clothes should look like. Since his heart surgery and becoming a vegan Clinton's inner pea-cock has revealed itself. Clinton has largely dumped the big shouldered double breasted suits than made him look blocky for three piece-models that accentuate his weight loss. His new look is dignified yet natty--what we want an ex-president to look like. Check out Clinton's photo on the cover of which outlines a path ahead for America and is designed to submarine Obama, who Clinton neither likes or respects - deep blue suit, silver tie and perfect fitting vest. Hail to the Ex-Chief!LIFETIME AWARD: Willie Brown - From his hand-crafted Brioni suits to his extensive collection of hats, the former California Assembly Speaker could be the best dressed man in America. While most men should avoid brown as a suiting color (Philadelphia Brahmin Biddle was once asked why he had over 200 identical bespoke blue suits. "Because brown looks like shit," he replied) Willie brown pulls it off in both double-breasted and three piece vested models. As Mayor Brown sometimes changed clothes as many as four times a day for his various public ceremonies. A master of color-coordination, Brown's shoes, suit, shirt, necktie, hose and chapeau always complement each other.The Worst Dressed Men of 2011Michael Moore - Looks like he slept in the Occupy Wall Street tents even though he didn't. Looks like he slept in his clothes and might have. The man gives the word "slob" new meaning. Oversized sweatshirts just make a fat guy look fatter. Slovenly. While we're at it, how about a shave?Larry King - Thank God, this man is done in primetime. What is with the black shirt, black ties, black suspenders look? Who does Larry think he is - Johnny Cash? Even worse - the black shirt and white tie. Even Lucky Luciano wouldn't wear that. Larry actually wears clip-on suspenders. Clip-ons. Wise up Larry.Simon Cowell - Fourth year on the WORST list. Man-boobs should be hidden not accentuated . This guy still looks like a wax pear that sat on a radiator too long. I swear he is buying out of the International Male catalog. A pinstriped suit with a shawl lapel? He's from the U.K and can afford the best. Rush this man to a proper tailor.Jesse Ventura - Since leaving the governor's chair he looks like a homeless Hulk Hogan. The bald with a ponytail look is so...still bald. Jesse wants to be the Libertarian Party nominees for Vice President but there is no real support for him. Hint: If you are going to go on TV with outlandish conspiracy theories don't wear outlandish clothes and try washing your hair occasionally.Chuck Schumer -This guy is a schlub. Schumer has been seen in the Senate wearing the same baggy-kneed, wrinkled suit and dress shirt and pilling sweater vest three days in a row. New York has some of the greatest tailors in the world. The senior senator needs to call one. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who once held a US Senate seat from New York, was a dandy who fancied bold striped suits, polka-dotted bow ties and jaunty Irish walking hats. Schumer dresses out of the Salvation Army.10 BEST DRESSED WOMEN OF 2011Natalie Portman could wear a garbage bag with an old rope around the waist for a belt and still look stylish. Portman is just one of a growing number of celebrities whose basic budget-friendly choices make them seem more relatable and down-to-earth than stars who drop thousands for a single, wear-it-once dress so fashion consultant picked out. For last year's Golden Globes she chose a simple pale pink dress decorated with a large red rose which flattered her body shape perfectly, a red Dior clutch and a pair of red platforms. Always well put together and elegant.Pippa Middleton - Philippa Charlotte "Pippa" Middleton, the English socialite and younger sister of Catherine "Kate" Middleton embodies the best in English style and has elbowed her sister off our list this year. Since she was the maid of honor at her sister's wedding to Prince William she's surpassed her sister as a style-setter in the U.K. Some say she has a perfect derriere and in jeans, a mini-skirt or a party dress it seems so. Take that Kim Kardashian!Blake Lively - The Gossip Girl star has legs that go on forever. If she's sporting a short skirt she hides the cleavage. If showing the decolletage she sheaths her legs in a long dress - in other words, Lively knows when too much is too much. Liveley knows purple just "works" for her as a color and she wears it a lot-meaning she knows what she looks good in.Carly Foulkes - You know her as The T-Mobile Girl. The Canadian-born model and actress wears a summer dress like no one else. Foulkes is the "picture-perfect" brunette. Saucy, stylish and comfortable, she could get us to buy a phone or just about anything else. Always looks like she's ready for a picnic on a beautiful day.Carla Bruni - The wife of the French President has a style that is continental, chic, and understated. Although Italian she may be the single best ambassador for French couture. Her look is spare and simple and accentuates clean lines. No flashy or bright colors works for her. Blues, grey, charcoal. Cutting edge chic.Sophia Loren - Although she is seldom seen in public these days, when she is seen she wears high end Italian couture like no one else. This raven haired beauty is somehow sexier in her clothes than she would be au natural. If you have seen photos of her in a garter belt and silk seamed stockings, you have seen feminine perfection.Eva Mendez - Two Latin spitfires make our list this year. For Sofia Vergara look below. Let's face it. Mendes could wear a shower curtain and she would still look good. The woman oozes sex yet never makes it tawdry. Ms. Mendes has a skin tone that allows her to choose any color, but which works particularly well with pastel colors. Mendes knows her body and selects outfits to accentuate it. Mendes is sultry and stunning, always.Emma Watson - A stylish little hottie, the English actress who broke through in the Harry Potter films has graced the covers of Teen Vogue, the UK's Tatler and Italian Vogue. Watson cares about clothes and supports the British Fashion Industry in high style. Her choices are sure-footed. She has twice been chosen as the face of Burberry. Twiggy and Mia Farrow never looked this good in closely cropped hair.Jennifer Aniston - This woman knows what she looks good in. She sticks to a short skirt and strappy heals because she knows it looks best on her. She rarely changes her hairstyle because she has a looks that works for her and sticks to it. Aniston has always been an example of impeccable style and hardly ever gets it wrong with her looks, both on and off screen.Sofia Vergara - Usually seen on the arm of boyfriend, banking heir and someday politician Nick Loeb, Vergara has a strongly Latin influenced style that always has her looking chic on the red carpet or on the streets of Manhattan. The star doesn't shy away from her signature curve-hugging clothing. Equally stunning in jeans, dresses and colorful tops, Vergara wouldn't be caught dead in cut-off jean shorts proving you can be sexy without being vulgar.The Worst Dressed Women of 2011Snooki - Last year when we said his girl has "a big all natural Italian rack" we were inundated with complaints. Seems the Jersey Shore gal isn't Italian.Julianne Moore - Sadly this actress has no sense of coordination and can't piece together an outfit to save her life.Christina Aguilera. - When one gains weight one must adjust the size and color of one's clothes to accommodate. This singer doesn't seem to understand that. Tight fitting clothing accentuates fat, doesn't minimize it. A female sausage about to pop.?MyDaily:Rosie Huntington-Whiteley - the official Burberry Body - attended the Burberry Paris Boutique opening at the British Embassy in Paris today. And she was wearing Burberry, natch. ?eGHZmFyID44mYu00M5dZQhYaAu%2FAmgJCGfYy66NCsZ3y2%2BCd8epkdQj2UKN14xi7V2f6zvgZ4FLzuHlXFqCtvHEMfu8cnurHGtdTrlO6FQ53rI4f%2FNo7oyXAvVcpcAPr4kIuB5Ua5hfpX3jCUjpesONZAp5v%2FZYto0CpL2BNQDbLKBQntDL%2BG2ZKPlg9r%2BFV?eGHZmFyID44mYu00M5dZQhYaAu%2FAmgJCGfYy66NCsZ3y2%2BCd8epkdQj2UKN14xi7V2f6zvgZ4FLzuHlXFqCtvHEMfu8cnurHGtdTrlO6FQ53rI4f%2FNo7oyXAvVcpcAPr4kIuB5Ua5hfpX3jCUjpesONZAp5v%2FZYto0CpL2BNQDbLKBQntDL%2BG2ZKPlg9r%2BFV?From interactive ad campaigns to the world's debut 'Twit-walk' (catwalk via Twitter) Burberry has always been something of a trail blazer when it come...?We got a quick preview of the campaign from a a print photo. But now Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Ryan Reynolds' ad for Marks & Spencer is here -- and the two gorgeous stars look, well, gorgeous.The hazy video is simple but effective -- the director of the video didn't need to do much beyond instructing the actor and Burberry model to each give their best smoldering stares.And how they smolder. , Ryan makes us believe he's only got eyes for Rosie as they walk the London streets. And who wouldn't?Check out the ultra-romantic ad for Mars & Spencer's Fall/Winter 2011 collection below. WATCH: ?www.mydaily.co.uk:Looks like Marks & Spencer have added a touch of Hollywood sparkle to their Autumn/Winter 2011 campaign, which reveals Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Ryan Reynolds as the impossibly attractive new faces of the British brand.Following in the footsteps of other celebrity M&S spokesmodels, which include Twiggy, Dannii Minogue and Lisa Snowdon, Rosie and Ryan front the new Autograph campaign - the high street store's luxury in-house label. ?Missing from the article are photos of models at the launch of the lingerie today, so I went to RHW (Rosie's twitter) and took a look. In amongst the comments of praise for the line, were also ...."nice to see curvy models for a change, not stick think ones". Curvy? So I looked again, and wondered if the so called curvy ones are representing the 'plus' demographic. Certainly representing women that have a teeny bit of shape anyway, as her bra line goes to a "G" size. Another comment on RHW was... "why do none of the models look happy?" A mystery to me, as the fashion world trains their models to look bored, and barely conscious. There's a smile in there somewhere, but for some unknown reason, it might detract the buyer from purchasing if they were to see a truly happy person. Onto the headline for this article "Rosie covers up..." Odd choice for her to wear a very severe black dress better suited for going to a funeral than a lingerie launch.Her lingerie line overall looks elegant and tasteful.?www.mydaily.co.uk:Rosie Huntington-Whiteley seems to be having a nude moment. First she had pulses racing in her plunging Burberry suit earlier this week, and now she's been perched front row at New York Fashion Week, in another flesh-hued ensemble.The model-actress was snapped hanging out backstage at the Michael Kors show, in this perfectly coordinating, Sixties-inspired outfit of shift dress, knee-high boots and matching clutch... ?Louis Vuitton Outlet is famous for the unique articules ,login Louis Vuitton Online Store and Louis Vuitton Handbag On Sale to buy your articles.Louis Vuitton Handbags have become the best seller in international market.such as Monogram Multicolore,Monogram Canvas Handbags.We also offer you other platforms.Owing to the various styles and models, up-to-date styling,elegant appearance,full range of colors and designs,quality and quantity assured,The bags in Louis Vuitton Outletand Louis Vuitton Online Store sell very well both at home and abroad. Now, Login Louis Vuitton Handbag On Sale to choose your favorites. What's more,the latest commodities are renowned all over the world for exquisite workmanship, skillful knitting and elegant design,famous for selected materials, novel designs, delightful colors and exquisite workmanship. For more relevant information, please login Louis Vuitton Outlet!?When we think of American flag shirts, we usually think of or those Fourth of July tees churned by Old Navy instead of chic style.But British model Rosie and her boyfriend Jason Statham hit Miami Beach yesterday to catch some rays American style, and we have to say... the look becomes a whole lot sexier on a supermodel.Rosie slipped into a pair of dark shades to go with her blue bikini bottoms and a cut-off flag tee and she and Jason wove through a crowd on onlookers in Florida. Hmm... maybe it's a tee?Check out photos of Rosie's look below and tell us: are you feeling her patriotic outfit? ?www.mydaily.co.uk:Burberry have just announced their new scent 'Burberry Body'. It's billed as the brand's most sensual fragrance to date and will be fronted by model du jour, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. ?www.mydaily.co.uk:Rosie Huntington-Whiteley had temperatures soaring when she hit Macy's in New York last night, to celebrate the launch of the new Burberry fragrance.The model-actress slipped into a sleek nude Burberry suit for the occasion, which featured a daring plunge neckline. And of course, Rosie being Rosie, opted to go sans shirt. (Or bra, by the looks of things.) ?Rosie Huntington-Whiteley loves wearing a trench coat.So it's the ultimate irony that her new fragrance ad, which will continue to catapult her already-rising star, finds her removing a trench coat till she's wearing almost nothing at all. "This particular trench was amazing because it was silk and just felt amazing on the skin," the British model tells us. "I think that one had a sort of mink lining... which was really sexy," she adds, laughing. Alas, for the sexy commercial, Huntington-Whiteley had to take it off -- almost entirely. "There are certain tricks," she laughs, explaining how she manages to undo the coat, roll around and somehow never reveal more than a generous hint of skin. The ability to pose nearly naked with confidence is something Huntington-Whiteley learned from years modeling, including her turn as a Victoria's Secret Angel. She was less familiar, however, with acting, something she needed to learn quick as the female lead of this summer's "Transformers 3." "Well I didn't have much time [to prepare]," she tells us about making the action flick. "It was like, from the moment I was asked to be in the film to my first day on set was about two weeks. So I didn't really have much preparation time, and there wasn't a finished script for me." She added, "Physically it's very demanding -- you know you're running for like days and days on end, and you get bruises and cuts and scrapes and you fall and you get up." (When asked whether she would do it all again for a possible "Transformers 4," Rosie replies, "Absolutely.")[Read more below]Her new gig, thankfully, requires no falling, no running and certainly no bruising. As the face for Burberry's Body perfume, Huntington-Whiteley rolls around seductively in the aforementioned silk-and-mink trench coat, selling the shiny new fragrance for the British fashion house. She also sold it last night at Macy's in Herald Square, where (wearing more than she wears in the commercial, but not by much). Last night's posing was easy, as it barely compared to the giant press tour she and Shia Labeouf endured for "Transformers 3." It was on that long tour around the world, at photo calls and red carpets, that we saw Rosie wear an array of stunning dresses. Her favorite? Her gown for the movie's UK premiere in London, for which Burberry's creative director Christopher Bailey custom-designed her dress. "I said I want a Michelle Pfeiffer, 'Scar Face' dress," Rosie laughed. , she said, "I felt like a million dollars."The only thing that could have possibly made it better, perhaps, would have been a guest-appearance by a royal -- one in particular. "I'm waiting for my proposal [from Prince Harry]," , admitting to a giant crush.? How could she be attracted to those lame moves?"I love a bad dancer!" laughs Rosie. "Most British men are bad dancers."WATCH: ?She's baaaack!After spending her year doing seemingly anything but runway modeling -- , and, oh yeah, -- Rosie Huntington-Whiteley has returned to the runway. Walking in Sao Paulo Fashion Week (which, , is happening right now -- it can be hard to keep track!), Rosie took two turns for Animale, a line designed by Priscilla Darolt. Although Rosie looked as natural as ever out on the catwalk in Brazil, it had been a while. The British model this past year with the explanation "I'm working that day" (on what we don't know) but her angel wings were missed.It was refreshing seeing Rosie in something other than lingerie, however. Could this be the year she conquers not only the tabloids and the red carpet but high-fashion's runways as well? We think she's up to the challenge. Plus she's gotta find some way . Check out Rosie's runway return below. ?MyDaily:The supermodel and face of Burberry Body was snapped in Miami Beach with her long term BF Jason Statham yesterday. While clearly we are well jels of Rosie's amazing abs, we have to admit her beach style is trs chic. ?Model and actress Rosie Huntington-Whiteley has been chosen as the body -- er, face of Burberry's newest fragrance, Body. , which features Huntington-Whiteley showing off her famous figure wearing nothing but a satin trench by the iconic British brand. The "Transformers 3" bombshell , "To be asked to be the first 'Burberry Body' is an amazing compliment." A compliment you probably don't even need, of course, Burberry Body will debut on September 1. . ?The unveiling of , normally released in December, is a ways away. But dedicated to , which celebrates its 40th birthday this year. And why not? The models are all featured stark naked in warm-weather locales... seems more appropriate for August, anyway.Unfortunately for those hoping for a sneak peek of 2013's big shoot, GQ Germany's spread is devoted to vintage pics from past calendars. The winning shot? A , posing with her back to Terry Richardson's camera in nothing but lil' shorts. Mysteriously, her nipple seems to have pulled a disappearing act...WARNING: The photos below contain full-frontal nudity and may not be safe for viewing at work.Other models to earn spots in the retrospective include Naomi Campbell, Natasha Poly and Ana Beatriz Barros, who does the sexy-messy-eating thing with a hunk of watermelon dribbling down her chest. [Ed. note: do men even find this sort of sloppiness attractive?] And a Pirelli retrospective wouldn't be complete without a vintage Kate Moss photo -- although there are plenty to choose from, GQ Germany's fave was from 1994, shot by Herb Ritts.While on first glance (and second and third and fourth glance...) the photos simply show beautiful naked women naked, GQ Germany's roundup nicely juxtaposes the unique shoots, from to Mario Testino's souped-up glam in 2001, allowing the differences between the models, photographers and even historical eras to shine through.See? Looking at topless models in GQ is so totally educational.Check out plus some of GQ Germany's favorite vintage shots below.NSFW PHOTOS:Want more? Be sure to check out HuffPost Style on , , and .?Rosie Huntington-Whiteley has tweeted the first photos of her with her Mad Max 4 co-stars Zoe Kravitz, Riley Keough and Adelaide Clemens.The quartet recently arrived in Namibia to start filming their roles as wives in Mad Max: Fury Road.Rosie Huntington-Whiteley posted a picture on her Instagram account of herself and new Mad Max co-stars Zoe Kravitz, Riley Keough and Adelaide ClemensThe model-turned-actress - who got her start in Hollywood when she appeared in the third Transformers movie last year - will also be sharing the screen with Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy in the action flick, with Hardy taking over from Mel Gibson in the role of Max. for her role as Furiosa in the film. She and Tom Hardy were first attached to Mad Max 4 in 2009, but it was postponed after a number of production setbacks.She toldThe fourth Mad Max film comes 27 years after the last instalment, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.?Residence: New York, NY, US Hometown: Devon, England Height: 5'9" Eye Color: Blue Date of Birth: April 18, 1987 Agency: Women Model Management Campaigns: Abercrombie & Fitch, BCBG Max Azria, Burberry, Clinique, DKNY, Levi's, Topshop, Victoria's SecretRosie Huntington-Whiteley is often compared to other models, from Kate to Gisele to Natalia, but we think she's making quite a name for herself and needs no comparison.Born in Devon, England, on April 18, 1987, Rosie is the oldest of three children and a distant relative of Queen Victoria. She was discovered in 2003 while attending Tavistock College. Always interested in fashion, she had her sights set on a career behind the camera until she walked into London's Profile Model Management looking for a little work experience. Instead of giving her an internship, the agency quickly signed her. Rosie modeled locally for about a year before signing with Women Management in 2004; she landed on the covers of ELLEgirl and Teen Vogue that same year. Since her bright beginning, Rosie has appeared in many monthlies, including Elle and Japanese, Spanish, Chinese, Italian, and British Vogue, in whose November 2008 issue she was featured alongside Eden Clark and Jourdan Dunn in a feature celebrating the newest crop of British models. As for campaigns, Rosie has worked with Tommy Hilfiger, Abercrombie & Fitch, Paul Smith, DKNY, BCBG Max Azria, Clinique Happy, Burberry, and Victoria's Secret. Not a girl to be confined to glossy pages, Rosie is at home on the runways as well, having made her debut in September 2004 in the Nicole Miller and Vivienne Tam shows in New York. She continued her tour of the runways for Dsquared2, Just Cavalli, Moschino, Valentino, Betsey Johnson, Oscar de la Renta, Paul Smith, and Elie Saab in 2005. And 2006 and 2007 saw Rosie walking for Heatherette, Max Azria, Vera Wang, Marchesa, and Rock & Republic.Fashion is not just Rosie's day job: She is a trendsetter on and off the runway, rocking such signature looks as short hemlines and of-the-moment clutches. She made waves at the 2008 Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Gala, to which she wore Burberry. Actually, she manages to make style waves no matter where she goes, most often at the hottest London parties and fashion events worldwide. This English girl lives in London and loves surfing as well as the green movement, having joined up with Green Thing, a new online community, to make the world a better place. Other Rosie favorites: steak, chips, and Diet Coke.?Rosie Huntington-Whitely struck a seductive pose in for fall's Mario Testino-shot Burberry Body campaign.But the British beauty has taken a more demure turn in ads for Marks & Spencer's latest Autograph collection, which hits stores today. The images see Rosie, 24, getting cozy with Ryan Reynolds, a decade her senior. The model radiates classic elegance in a ladylike rose-hued blouse, seasonal staples like a chunky knit sweater and versatile blazer.Rosie that the British high street store gives her pangs of nostalgia for her English upbringing.What do you think of the images? We like that they have a hazy, cinematic look, which is fitting given Rosie's .We also can't argue with the selection of easy-on-the-eyes Reynolds as Rosie's on-camera partner.Check out the photo below -- what do you think of the pair? ?Burberry, the luxury British outerwear maker, will reveal all its looks via Twitter today, prior to the designs featuring on the runway. The luxury brand is set to show at Kensington Gardens at 4pm, but in the brand's signature democratised fashion, fans from around the world will see the designs before key editors and guests at the runway show. In an interview prior to London Fashion Week, that digital media is just as important to the brand as fashion design. He said: "Burberry is now as much a media-content company as we are a design company, because it's all part of the overall experience. It's very important to consider new technologies with a light approach. Facebook, for example, is not just a mailbox. You need to keep it going, add content, create a genuine, non-deceptive relationship."The runway show will also be l. London Fashion Week has an extensive digital schedule, . Fans of fashion, and observers of digital media application, can follow . London Fashion Week runs until Wednesday, when male fashion will take over from five days of womenswear. ?, who is best known for playing Ron Weasley in the , has always been overshadowed by his co-stars. not only rid the wizarding world of He Who Must Not Be Named, but he has also had a successful theater career, and even took it all off for the lead role in "Equus." , on the other hand, has been embraced by the fashion world. In addition to landing the cover of Vogue, Teen Vogue, Marie Claire, Elle and now T Magazine's September issue, the has and .So, back to Grint. Although he may not have quite the fashion cred of , the British-born actor has solidified his off-screen look. Whether walking the red carpet or doing errands, you can expect to see the child star wearing his uniform: a graphic t-shirt, blazer and dark slacks.To celebrate Grint's 24th birthday on August 24th, we're taking a look back at how his style has changed (or hasn't changed) over the years. Which one of his blazer/tee combos is your favorite?Want more? Flip through our many other and be sure to check out Stylelist on , , and .?Academy Awards producers are certainly regretting their decision to allow Sacha Baron Cohen to attend the award show in full "Dictator" regalia, after he ."Ryan was visibly upset about the stunt but managed to keep his composure," an E! insider told me. "It's not only that Sacha used Ryan in a desperate attempt to get publicity for his film; it's the fact that the joke was just not funny."But Seacrest didn't seem too torn up over the fumbled urn. "My mom always told me to pack two jackets for red carpets, always wondered why. Now I know," . But behind the scenes, no one at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was laughing."It's the Oscars, for God's sake," an A-list TV presenter told me. "It's just not the time nor the place. We were all amazed that the academy allowed him to walk the carpet dressed like that in the first place. But after the incident they were livid. Unless he ever gets nominated for something, you can expect to never see him invited back again."Jennifer Lopez was one of the first celebrities to talk with Seacrest after the incident, checking that her "American Idol" friend was okay. It turns out that it takes a lot more than Bisquick mix to stop Seacrest from asking that all-important question, "Who are you wearing?" ?On the opening night to the fashion world's biggest week, Fashion Night Out turns the streets of New York City into runways, the neighborhoods into the most trendy block parties and the stores into music venues. With celebs like Helen Mirren, Dwayne Wade, Justin Bieber, the Kardashians, Beth Ditto, Anna Wintour and even the enigmatic Banksy running around, you never know who you will be rubbing shoulders with. With everything open to the public, it's a free-for-all adventure through fashion and what the latest trends will be with the attention on every store trying to outdo their competition as to who will deliver the best party and attract the most faces. With name DJs supplying the soundtrack to each venue and free alcohol flowing like water, the choices as to what to do can be intense and overwhelming. My night was made simple as the British buzz band, (and a band I have tipped to be one of the "") were flown in from Burberry to play at their SoHo flagship store and coincidentally would be the bands first American gig. I caught up with the lads from the tiny town of Morcombe who were wide-eyed about their maiden voyage to the city. "I am just thrilled to be in the city that gave us The Shang-Ri-La's and The Ronnetts!" bassist Deaks told me as I met with the band before their big gig. The band played two sets at the Burberry store to a packed audience who were curious to see a live band rather than someone spinning records. "Just last week were all crammed in a small room sleeping and recording together, now we have been put up at Tribeca Grand, I just can't believe this!" singer Matthew Whitehouse told me. Funny enough, Whitehouse is also a Burberry model, so the pairing of such a great brand and band was just inevitable. The excitement the boys of The Heartbreaks had was displayed in the two 20-minute sets they played at Burberry. Set number one was as if they were their own opening act, showing off their sound and style to the audience who were fascinated with this new band. "This song went to number 482 on the Billboard 500 here, we are very excited to play it," Whitehouse told the audience before they broke into the catchy "Jealous, Don't You Know." The sound of The Heartbreaks is very British, so it was only fitting that Burberry was their debut performance. They are four very dapper gentlemen who make fantastic Britpop meets surf rock chic of music. While set one saw them introduce themselves, it was their second set that really had them cooking. With champagne flowing in the crowd and the band really breaking out of their shells, it was then that they had arrived in perfect fashion. "It is not really a proper gig, but it's cool," drummer Joseph Kondras told me after the gig. "We are really excited to hopefully come back now after we put our record out, we can't wait to get the record out," he continued. The Heartbreaks trip to New York City was short-lived but the excited and wide-eyed band will return home with their heads held up high. They are currently in the studio recording their debut with Frank Turner's producer Tristan Ivemy. The record is expected to be released in March and from the sound of it already, they should get used to being spoiled and having big things come their way. Follow Salvatore Bono on Twitter:?The UK's first lady, Samantha Cameron, never attempts to hide her interest in A-list fashion shows. In fact, style is part of her job: she's the ambassador for the British Fashion Council, after all.Last year, SamCam and other shows, and she also that was graced by the likes of Anna Wintour and Tom Ford. And this year, she continues her sartorial streak, popping up at A-list shows and hanging with fashion's biggest names.In a Jonathan Saunders green top paired with a black suit, she perched front row at both Burberry and Christopher Kane shows on Sunday. Later, she in a gorgeous pink frock and camped out next to Anna Wintour and Salma Hayek -- the latter of who was attending her first ever London Fashion Week show.We can't wait to see where SamCam will show up next!PHOTOS:Related on HuffPost: ?The designer dress worn by Prime Minister David Cameron's wife to last year's royal wedding is being auctioned for charity.Samantha Cameron was described as one of the best dressed guests when she wore the green, silk teal Burberry dress to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's nuptials, accessorising it with a dazzling orange scarf, statement necklace and nude shoes.The garment will be sold to raise money for Save the Children.The Burberry dress is being auctioned on eBayMrs Cameron said: "Save the Children do amazing work here in the UK and internationally."By taking part in the Born to Shop auction, the public can do their bit to help Save the Children make a difference to the lives of children all over the world."I love the Burberry dress I wore to the royal wedding, and am thrilled that I have been able to donate it to the Save the Children Born to Shop auction."Fashionistas have eight days left to bid on the eBay auction to secure their piece of fashion history.Launched on September 13, #bidboutique, Save the Children's first online auction in conjunction with both eBay and The British Fashion Council is supported by a host of celebrities and designers, including Preen, Erdem, House of Holland, Alexander McQueen and Piers Atkinson.The Born to Shop #bidboutique online auction is part of the No Child Born to Die campaign which aims to stop the needless deaths of more than 7.6 million children every year.With the money raised from the auction, Save the Children will be able to deliver life-saving aid to children in some of the world's poorest countries.?The Brits are here!Britain's prime minister David Cameron and his wife, Samantha Cameron, finally touched down on this side of the pond on Tuesday to mark their long-awaited visit to the United States.And of course, we were anxious to see what Mrs. Cameron, who's somewhat of a style icon, would be wearing, and we got our answer: a Burberry trench coat, Joseph trousers and L.K. Bennett shoes -- a favorite of -- Despite her all-black ensemble, SamCam looked cool in the sun as she alighted from the plane with her husband, British prime minister David Cameron.The Camerons spent the day with the Obamas in Washington before the president and the prime minister jetted off to Ohio for a basketball game.While the boys , FLOTUS and Mrs. Cameron attended a mini-Olympics event with local school children at American University's Bender Arena. SamCam looked pretty in the she wore in February for her Fashion Week party at 10 Downing Street. Mrs. Obama opted for a frilly chartreuse cardigan by L'Wren Scott with very chic wide-legged trousers.This wasn't the pair's first rendezvous; they at 10 Downing Street together (we know, SO cute!) and apparently swapped fashion tips, as Check out all the pics below! ?With the polka dot trend in full swing and as today happens to be the anniversary of the last Mickey and Minnie Mouse cartoon strip Walt Disney ever scripted, it gives me a tenuous enough reason to celebrate some animated fashion via Lazy Oaf's revisiting of Minerva's iconic look.?I agree with you. I don't know what the hype is. I find her incredibly unattractive in fact, borderline ugly. If you take her features apart, the only thing that is pretty on her face are her eyes, their color, her mouth is okay. But the entire package is lame. I used to work in the city, where they'd occasionally film an episode by my work place, where I'd see her on occasion, she was skin and bones! too thin, even for my taste.They do dress her beautifully though, and that's the only thing that she has going for her in terms of beauty.?Art director Christopher Lee Sauv's impeccable style radar and youthful vision have won him a diverse and enviable client list of New York's finest, boasting names from Alexander Wang to DVF via W Hotels and the New York City Opera. However, it's the collection of 'scandalous' T shirts for his eponymous line that is making waves right now.CLS has taken the rebellious cheeky controversy-courting spirit seen in his infamous 'Save Anna' shirts (in support of US Vogue's legendary Editor-In-Chief, Anna Wintour, when it was rumoured she was to be ousted from her Cond Nast throne) to a new level with this unisex range inspired by various designer and celebrity gaffes, making something so right from some things that are generally a bit wrong.Featuring hand drawn illustrations of their subjects with details of the scandal scrawled and cut'n'pasted alongside in a truly punk fashion, CLS brings us some fun, tongue in cheek Ts that include Lady Gaga and the Meat Dress vs Peta, Karl Lagerfeld and Tom Ford's anti-fatty rants, and Madonna's controversial gun-heeled shoes. Check out the whole range, which is available to buy at 60 per shirt, on 's site - an amazing little site that brings the best in cutting edge and emerging New York and Los Angeles design talent to the UK - Follow Sarah McGiven on Twitter:?Clumsies beware! White is going head to head with red in the colour battle to be this year's Christmas No. 1. The Autumn / Winter 2011/12 catwalks were awash with snowy looks from top designers including , 665), Alexander McQueen, Yves Saint Laurent and Hermes.As prepares to open its White Wonders concept store, I had a sneak peek at some of the pieces designed exclusively for this Wonder Room pop up which, if - like me - you're an accident magnet and a slave to the dinner medal, you'll be pleased to hear includes a host of amazing alabaster accessories.Burberry Pattison jacket, 995From a milky (895) and Givenchy tote (1,165) to a fitting Tom Ford White Musk candle and glitteringly sleek make up set from MAC, switching its signature black packaging to fit with the achromatic theme, the White Wonders collection is filled with gorgeous gifts and some seriously covetable clothing (the and Burberry trenches in white for men and women - HELLO). Brit Artist Marc Quinn, whose 2008 golden Microcosmos Siren sculpture of Kate Moss in a complicated looking yoga pose recently made headlines after reportedly fetching over $900,000 at auction, has also put together a capsule range of products for the store as well as a new installation which will be on display - hopefully no frozen blood heads this time.I'm not sure whether I should have included this before I've got my own hot little hands on them as they're guaranteed sell outs (again), but in the spirit of seasonal sharing check out these festive L'Oreal sets which are also Selfridges exclusives. If you're a product junkie, you're going to want to be all over the - a fantastic diet alternative to the usual chocolate variety - which contains 24 mini treats from the likes of Lancome, Kiehls, Shu Uemura and YSL. There's also a genius version (38) - mini screwdrivers and fortune telling fish be gone! If you're brave enough to try to pull off the winter white trend on a clothing level it might be wise to make like Victoria Beckham (who also has a specially designed bag in the White Wonders collection) and match your beverage colour to your outfit to minimise staining dramas - mmmm Starbucks steamed milk with an almond shot... My favourite footwear pieces - all white Dr Martens & some classic retro Moonboots (135)Some White Wonders items are available to purchase now from but if you want to see the full range, the White Wonders Concept Store opens on 28th October and will be located within the Wonder Room on the ground floor of Selfridges' Oxford Street flagship. Follow Sarah McGiven on Twitter:?Coachella officially kicks Music Festival season off in the US this weekend and, as the UK's Summer Festivals loom large, there's one thing you can guarantee - rain. Luckily, designers and retailers, ever quick to herald their Festival Fashion trends, have finally caught on to the fact that floral dresses, a plaid shirt and some cut off denims aren't really where it's at. What modern festival goers really need are cool, lightweight, at least shower-proof jackets and ideally ones that can be screwed up at the bottom of your backpack or tied round your waist when that sun decides to show itself. Pac-a-macs have enjoyed a huge resurgence recently but can get a bit 'boil in the bag' so thankfully now there are some serious yet practical fashion options available that are perfect for everyday too and come in this season's cheeriest shade - bright, citrus-y, sunshine yellow. Here's my pick of some of the best rainwear out now, and a selection of cute wellies - including the inspired Moschino Cheap And Chic 'Wet-A-Porter' boots for Net-A-Porter.com - to go with them.Top Row: , 1,400, , 395, , 550, , 300, , 95,.Bottom Row: , 125 from , Ilse Jacobsen soft shell water repellent coat, 110 from , Paddington Bear shower proof parka, and if you don't fancy going all out yellow, you can rock a hint of primary with this unisex - I have this, it's awesome - for half price! Now 55 from .Top Row: , 235 from, in White, 110 from , , 125, exclusively from .Second Row: Left and right - 95 from Coggles.com now plus Poste Mistress Covent Garden and Harvey Nichols from May, and centre - Aigle Yellow Chantebelle boots, 80 from .Third Row: , 85 (Top Tip - try Marc by Marc Jacobs stores 'Special Items' section for cheaper versions of these in a variety of colourways without the fitted style), , 125, , 250, all from.Bottom Row: Aigle lightweight foldable wellingtons - roll them down to stash them in their own little carrier, 75 from .Follow Sarah McGiven on Twitter:?She's borderline Tranny. The dress is too tight and looks exaggerated , especially with her breasts looking like they're about to explode.The hair is too sleek for the size of her head. She's got a large head and large features squeezing that type of statuesque body into a gress that's so detailed exaggerates what's already exaggerated by nature. The fingernails and the toe nails should match. Is that a daytime dress? She definitely looks like a transvestite.?LONDON — It looks like for some designers, next spring is fashion's moment to shine – literally.Metallic leather, shiny satin and foil-like fabrics in rainbow colors dazzled on the catwalk at Burberry Prorsum Monday, reinforcing a trend that already saw lashings of sequins and space-age style designs earlier in London Fashion Week.Burberry, which typically puts on the most extravagant and celebrity-studded display during the week-long style extravaganza, went for flamboyant luxury for its latest spring collection. The catwalk was packed with iridescent swimsuits, metallic leather trench coats and satin corsets, and the palette was that of precious metals and gemstones: Gold, silver, emerald, turquoise and ruby."I wanted to do a collection that makes people smile," creative director Christopher Bailey said after the show. "I want it to be joyous, a bit sassier and sexier."The show's front row guests included boy band One Direction's Harry Styles, burlesque actress Dita von Teese, "Slumdog Millionaire" star Dev Patel and tennis player Andy Murray.Bailey opened with a structured white silk cape draped over a rose gold bodysuit with fine ruching.Coats – especially Burberry's signature trench coats – featured prominently, but there was also a notable move toward capes and a puffy, button-less cocoon jacket shape.Standout variations on the cape included one in silver leather, draped over an emerald shift dress, and another in clear orange plastic trimmed with python leather.The repeated pairings of capes with corsets was inspired by early 1900s photos from the Burberry archive, Bailey said.Meanwhile, trench coats were reimagined in a luxurious gold lace, a hot pink-to-red ombre, and in the finale, a rainbow of metallic textured leather in shiny fuchsia, purple, cobalt and bronze.That same shiny colored leather was seen on the bags, too, paired with matching shades of clear plastic.Burberry's Bailey wasn't the only one bit by the shiny, metallic bug. Holographic material and full-on sequined party dresses appeared at Jonathan Saunders, Topshop Unique had silver paired with white organza, and Preen's show featured metallic lace.Scottish heritage brand Pringle also featured plastic details, though it was only a nod. The brand, best known for its fine argyle knits, updated frumpy `50s crew neck twinsets with vibrant colors like jade and canary yellow, and embellished them with geometric plastic beading.Pringle, which presented its collection in a hotel room instead of on a catwalk, also featured a host of pretty sorbet shades, the other trend for next season. Knits and jackets were made in soothing hues of dove grey, lilac, pale lemon and powder pink.Also showing on Day Four were Christopher Kane, Erdem and Peter Pilotto. The action will be winding down on Tuesday, the last day of womens' wear previews at the fashion week.?THE CANADIAN PRESS -- VANCOUVER - Three Canadian companies have been ordered to pay roughly $2.5 million for selling knock-off Louis Vuitton and Burberry handbags in what a Federal Court judge describes as an "egregious" case of trademark infringement.Vancouver-based companies Singga Enterprises Inc. and Carnation Fashion Company, along with Altec Productions of Toronto, were accused of importing, manufacturing and selling handbags bearing Louis Vuitton and Burberry logos.Louis Vuitton and Burberry filed their lawsuit after using private investigators for two years to visit warehouses and purchase fake handbags in person and online.Judge James Russell said all three companies were involved in large-scale importing, manufacturing and selling of fake handbags and took steps to cover up their actions."All of the defendants' previous and ongoing actions are clearly knowing, planned and deliberate," Russell said in a written judgment posted to the court's website this week."The defendants have also attempted to deliberately conceal or cover up their wrongdoings, avoiding dealing with unknown individuals, obscuring domain name ownership and switching websites, and/or hiding such goods from view of the public or anyone entering their premises."Neither Singga nor Altec appeared at hearings in the Federal Court last year, and neither provided any evidence to dispute the allegations.Both companies were accused of running the counterfeit operations out of storefront warehouses and online. They also worked together, with Singga sending customers to Altec and receiving commissions in return.Altec has continued to sell counterfeit bags online despite the ongoing court case, Russell said."Given the egregious nature of their activities, the normal trademark and copyright profit or damages assessments would not be sufficient, and punitive and exemplary damages should be awarded," Russell wrote."This is particularly true with the Altec defendants, who have blatantly continued their activities notwithstanding commencement of this proceeding, and have ignored the process of this court."Singga was ordered to pay a total of nearly $850,000 to Louis Vuitton and Burberry, including $200,000 in punitive damages. Altec was ordered to pay about $1.2 million, including $250,000 in punitive damages.Carnation owner Jessie Guo did appear at the hearings and admitted she was selling fake bags, though she insisted she wasn't familiar with Canadian trademark law. She also denied having any connection to Singga.Lawyers for the fashion houses said Guo had been co-operative during the legal process and described her operation as significantly smaller in scale than Singga and Altec. Her company was ordered to pay $390,000."Guo gave me the impression that she may have learned her lesson and she expressed contrition for her past conduct," Russell wrote."Guo obviously knew, however, that what she was doing was wrong, and yet she kept on doing it for several years and simply hoped that she would not be found out. The clandestine nature of her activities confirms this. There is no real excuse. She was perfectly happy to go on doing what she knew was wrong in order to make money at the expense of the plaintiffs' rights."Louis Vuitton adopted of a "zero-tolerance" policy for counterfeit goods in 2004, which has led to over 13,000 legal actions, 6,000 raids and about 950 arrests, according to the company's website.A crackdown against stores in Vancouver-area shopping malls led to a successful 2008 lawsuit in which Louis Vuitton claimed $980,000 in damages and about $50,000 for court costs. ?Saturday rolls around and I'm annoyingly aware it's the first weekend in ages that no plans have been made with the beau - I worry that he has tired of my affections, (incredible as this may seem) ...My best friend Zoe saves the day with a text.?eGHZmFyID44mYu00M5dZQhYaAu%2FAmgJCGfYy66NCsZ3y2%2BCd8epkdQj2UKN14xi7V2f6zvgZ4FLzuHlXFqCtvHEMfu8cnurHGtdTrlO6FQ53rI4f%2FNo7oyXAvVcpcAPr4kIuB5Ua5hfpX3jCUjpesONZAp5v%2FZYto0CpL2BNQDbLKBQntDL%2BG2ZKPlg9r%2BFV?%2BmT0BiOAFtrtokNKpUskOJ8H48FfJw8w2fwJRIZ%2FmkxHhB9wN3OKyzyLcj7%2BIaIUlBrT8Mnfgr0u5YNGmCouCEzr13WH06%2FKw9sAFVgPVn1yfM9c4bEk3KHP%2B65GOlBt?Last night Burberry celebrated the launch of Body, the British fashion house's new fragrance, in Beverly Hills.Serena Williams, Rachel Zoe, Kate Bosworth, and Solange Knowles are just a handful for the stars that attended the event. Knowles, one of , served as the party's DJ and wore a bold printed blouse with a high-waisted blue skirt. "I definitely gravitate toward prints and color," in an interview earlier this month. We love her use of color and proportions. HIgh-waited pants and skirts are on the rise (pun intended)--and a great staples in your Fall wardrobe. Here's a look at the event's stylish scene. ?Whether it's a Louis Vuitton, Proenza Schouler or Chanel that your heart desires, it's likely, if you're spending upwards of $1,000 on a purse, you want it to be real. But there are plenty of people out there -- online and on street corners -- who are looking for people super keen on buying a Birkin to scam. (Can you imagine what it would feel like to think you've bought "the real deal" when all you've snagged is a knock-off? Blah.)Avoid the feeling of "it" bag buying defeat, by checking out these tips from . Their five tidbits will help you spot a fake online, and will save you from serious sartorial heartbreak. Easy TellsSpotting replica handbags used to be simple; check the hardware, logos and material. Lightweight metal accents, slightly skewed logos and cheap materials are still the first lines of defence for warding off fakes, but with todays higher-quality knock-offs, its a case of needing steps two through five as well.Online IndicatorsWhen buying a handbag online, make sure its from a reputable source. If sites are based in China or Hong Kong, proceed with caution, as the two countries make up 88.8 per cent of the goods seized. Also, check the descriptions and reviews for signs of inauthenticity. If customer reviews say the bags arent the real thing, then they likely arent.Respectable ResellersJust because a bag is sold online, it doesnt mean its fake. Authentic and vintage handbags are often sold on eBay; buyers just need to be smart in researching the seller. If the deal looks too good to be true, it usually is. A Chanel bag will never be $50, so use common sense. Certified resale sites like Portero also offer discounts on authentic bags.Craftsmanship FlawsA Burberry or Prada handbag will not have crooked stitching or unfinished edges. High-end brands take ultimate pride in craftsmanship, so no imperfect bag would leave their factory for a legitimate retailer like Nordstrom. The leathers and fabrics of authentic bags will always be perfectly stitched and lined up, never crooked or gapped stitched.Brand-Specific GiveawaysKnow the signs to look for in the specific bag. For instance, Marc Jacobs zippers are embossed with either RiRi or Lampo and all Louis Vuitton bags made since the early 80s have a date stamped somewhere on the interior. Brand fanatics spend time spotting knock-off bags to protect their favourite designers integrity, so a quick search before you buy will reveal specific tells for each high-end brand.Armed with these five tips, spotting imitation designer handbags should be simple. Dont fall into the impostor trap -- if the real thing is too expensive, buy an authentic, quality handbag of a lesser-known brand. Here are real Hermes bags on the arms of celebs:Also on HuffPost:?A graduate of London College of Fashion (LCF), Matteo Mollinari showed his Spring/Summer 2013 menswear and accessories range as part of LCFM, an initiative that brought together LCF menswear alumni Molinari, Domingo Rodriguez and Asger Juel Larsen to show their collections to an attentive audience that gathered on a runway at the Royal Society of Arts on 15 June 2012.?In the early 1990's, the red carpet was far from the international fashion frenzy it has become today. No one ever heard of paying a stylist to "place" a piece of jewelry on a celebrity client, and loaning jewelry to the stars, so common today, was nearly unheard of -- or at least not widely discussed.?JACKSON, Miss. — A Georgia woman had little chance of surviving an illegal cosmetic procedure in Mississippi because the silicone-like substance that was injected in...?Yesterday, on a long-awaited balmy Los Angeles day, Burberry chief creative officer Christopher Bailey hosted a classic English Tea at an Ivy-covered estate in Beverly Hills. The cute-as-a-button Brit had flown into town on a one day jaunt to celebrate the brand's very first beauty line, which launched at Nordstrom earlier this month.Though the weather was schvitz-worthy, the intimate crowd -- which included Kate Bosworth, Lake Bell, Rachel Zoe and Jayma Mays -- managed to stay cool as the cucumber and chive tea sandwiches being served.And Bosworth particularly stood out in a nude lace creation from the Burberry Porsum pre-fall '10 collection."We're twins!" the actress laughed as a fellow guest strolled by wearing the dress' black-hued counterpart. Only Bosworth added her own spin to the outfit with a tanned leather belt, lending a young, laid-back quality to the look.GARDEN PARTY: Model May Anderson and Kate Bosworth.She wasn't the only bold faced name to wear slick accessories. Nylon Fashion Director Dani Stahl, who was hosting a Lia Sophia jewelry event at the Sunset Tower Hotel later that evening, sported a cool copper headband; While Zoe effortlessly strutted the lush green lawn in a pair of stilt-like platform sandals that became a topic of guest conversation.But the accessories with the most buzz were the lipsticks, eyeshadows and blushes in Burberry's brand new line of cosmetics. The collection, simply called Burberry Beauty, consists of twenty extremely wearable, classic shades including Brick Red No. 19, a deep, blood-hued lip color, and Russet Blush No. 01, a natural, peachy cheek powder.Bosworth is a fan."I'm in love with the collection," she gushed to Bailey before inviting him to later meet her at Chateau Marmont for a drink.But Bailey, who was only in town for twelve hours, had to decline."Next time," he said, looking genuinely bummed. As the air finally started to cool, it was anyone's guess what the designer would miss more: the company of a movie star or the first genuinely perfect night of summer.Click here to read more at Follow Style Section L.A. on Twitter:?This week, with runway newcomer Tali Lennox, daughter of rocker Annie Lennox. The 17-year-old is signed with Next Models and has already graced the catwalk for Prada, Roberto Cavalli, Burberry and Missoni. , "My family is very supportive; they have a lot of faith and trust in me. I talk through every aspect of my job with my mum, and she's given me a lot of self-belief and wisdom. I don't talk about it that much with most of my friends. It's nice to be with people who are detached from the industry."She also shared her most memorable experience from the last season of shows: Speeding through Milan on a motorcycle in heels and a minidress, trying to get from the Missoni show to the Versus show, being over four hours late. I rushed in and had four people doing my hair, two people doing my makeup, and another two on nails and toes all at the same time. I heard an Italian woman repeatedly calling "Tali, Tali! Where is Tali?" I finally make it to the backstage line where all the other girls are already lined up and see that the woman calling for me is Donatella Versace! The show set was like a playground, and I felt like the naughty girl at fashion school! Check out some images of Tali on and off the runway. ?Meet the new faces of Burberry -- although they should look familiar to you. That little lady on the right is Tali Lennox, daughter of songstress Annie, who is kind of a big deal. And on the right? Tara Ferry, son of rocker Bryan Ferry. We would have loved to be a fly on the wall (on the beach?) at this photoshoot. We've already married them off to each other in our minds.Take a look:WATCH: ?Tali is one of the most successful young models in the UK. Having shot the Topshop Christmas campaign in 2010 Tali has gone on to shoot for Burberry, and is the current face of Karen Millen. She has modelled for the likes of Burberry, Marc Jacobs, Julien Macdonald, House of Holland, Prada, Missoni, John Rocha, Topshop, Issa and Betty Jackson. Julein Macdonald personally asked herto be a guest judge on Britain and Irelands Next Top Model alongside Elle Macpherson. She has also customised and decorated a watering can that will be on show on a one-off pop-up shop on 63 Broadwick Street, London W1F. It is part of a series of exhibits designed by other celebrities, including Katharine Hamnett, David Shrigley and Bill Nighy, all to be auctioned on ebay C .Auction closes on Sunday May 20th.?Apple has become one of the world's most valued brands, following stellar sales in both developed and emerging markets last year. It was only beaten into second place by beverages giant Coca Cola in Interbrand's 13th annual global brand survey.Technology giants dominated the listings in 2012, with social media giant Facebook entering the report at number 69 after making headlines as the third largest IPO in US historySearch engine Google experienced a 26% increase in brand value over the last year which helped to place it an impressive fourth, ahead of its rival Microsoft for the first time. Microsoft placed 5th.But there was a distinct lack of British companies - just four in the list's 100 companies. This is partly explained by a number of fallers from last year's report, including Barclays which suffered from its rate-rigging scandal.Barclays wasn't the only financial services company to suffer; Zurich and UBS also failed to make the grade in 2012. Luxury brands also performed wellLuxury goods performed well, thanks mainly to their retained brand value - with Burberry placing at 82, Prada at 84, Tiffany and Co at 70 and Hermes at 63. Louis Vuitton secured 17th place, with Gucci coming in close behind on 38th.Automotive brands performed well too as companies become more attuned to the emotional connection consumers have with their cars.This has caused many automakers to develop more effective, technologically savvy ways to reach target markets and help prospective buyers better relate to car brands. Audis digital showroom, Audi City, combes digital product presentations and personal contact with dealers. It placed at 55.Similarly, Ford (placed at 45) is working hard to improve MyTouch, its in-car communications and entertainment system. Brands like BMW (placed 12th) and Hyundai (placed 53th) are investing in global brand campaigns and are becoming more digitally connected and tailored to narrower target groups. The whole industry is hoping to engage customers and prospects in a relevant and personalised manner throughout the entire purchase cycle, said.Another interesting brand to note was Smirnoff, which increased its brand value by 5%, but still only managed to place 90th, one place down on 2011.Interbrand examines the three key aspects that contribute to a brands value:Elsewhere, Amazon UK, Marks & Spencer and House of Fraser have topped the UK Ecommerce Performance Index study.However, the report, which scored 25 of the UKs top retailers websites against a detailed best practice benchmark, presented a disappointing average score of 58%, well short of 2011s score of 63%, which indicates retailers are struggling to keep up with maturing consumer expectations.David Bowen, product manager at EPiServer which produced , commented: The overall score of 58% demonstrates there is plenty of room for improvement and a real opportunity for savvy retailers to give themselves a significant competitive edge with just a few simple measures.The biggest bones of contention for consumer expectations were the speed of checkout process and the cost of delivery."Weve seen some great examples of websites delivering excellent service in particular areas, but very few are scoring well at all stages of the online shopping journey," said Bowen."Many retailers have fallen down at different points too, so theres no single point of concern across the board. Amazon is a great example of how taking care of every stage can deliver a superior customer experience and this will ultimately support increased conversions and sale values.Our findings highlight areas where even the UKs top retailers are risking customer loyalty, extra revenue and market share by underestimating consumer expectation.?After 5 years pursuing their own successful careers C Alana as a professional dancer and Lisa as a theatre producer, identical Scottish twins Alana and Lisa Macfarlane decided to join forces and are one of the hottest new presenters in the UK.They started their presenting career with Verge Magazine, the UKs largest student magazine thats distributed to all UK universities and colleges, it's here they crafted their quirky yet personable presenting style.The Mac Twins have covered some of the biggest music events including The Brits, Wireless Festival and Radio 1's Big Weekend. Away from music the girls have covered a range of events from London Fashion Week through to the 2012 Olympic Torch Relay. It seems like everyone wants to be interviewed by The Mac Twins and they have interviewed a host of stars including Ed Sheeran, Wretch 32, Keith Lemon, Katherine Jenkins, Plan B, Stooshe, Vic Reeves, Brooke Kinsella and Rizzle Kicks.The girls have made a splash in the world of radio and feature on BBC Radio 1Xtras breakfast show with Twin B each week. As broadcasters their talents have been used for BBC Scotland TV and Sky's Digital's Community Channel, as well as hosting events at the o2.The Mac Twins also model and act. Lisa appeared in the latest Harry Potter film (Deathly Hallows) and Alana is a fittings model for Burberry, Karen Millen, ASOS, Miss Selfridge and Ted Baker. They also have partnerships with Primark, Hobs Salons and Liza Smith celebrity Nails.Alana currently runs her own performance school in Scotland called Gie It Laldy (www.gieitlaldy.com)As DJs The Mac Twins were the official DJs for the World Series Squash Championships (live on Sky Sports), Tinchy Stryders Goji Headphones Launch, National Womens Day at Aura night club, The Olympic Torch Relay in front of 30,000 people and are now the new resident DJs at top exclusive London club Whisky Mist every Friday night. For bookings or more information on the girls please contact info@thehubentertainment.comAs if this wasnt enough the girls are training for a half marathon on October for MIND charity (alongside being official ambassadors for the charity) and Lisa has just returned from being the main reporter on the 5 day Tall Ship Voyage that will bought the Olympic Torch into Dover in front of 30,000 people.?It was another week of eye-catching fashion moments. Gabrielle Union tops our list in a black-and-silver printed Bill Blass dress she wore to a screening of Being Mary Jane in New York City Thursday night. Not only do we love the abstract print, but the neck-to-navel keyhole detail is super sassy. The 2012 New Yorkers For Children Fall Gala took place Tuesday night, with model Selita Ebanks, Jessica White and "American Boy" singer Estelle in attendance--just to name a few. Ebanks wore a showstopping Jovani gown with a plunging neckline and chic cutout detailing along the shoulders. Oh, and we can't forget the design feature du jour---.Across the pond, Corinne Bailey Rae was spotted sitting front row at the Spring 2013 Osman show at London Fashion Week. The songstress wore an adorable head-to-toe pea green-hued ensemble. Monochromatic looks aren't the easiest to pull off, but Corrine passed with flying colors. Here's a look at those stunning gals and more of the week's style standouts in the slideshow below. ?As thrifty fashion lovers, we're big fans of jumping in the car and hightailing it to outlet malls, which are usually tucked in faraway suburban highway exits and tantalize us with hours of budget name-brand shopping.And we'll soon have another: Tom Ford Outlet, the first EVER in the world, is , that enclave of designer outlets located about an hour north of New York City.Tom Ford has a reputation for being elusive with his designs, as in, holding and . Maybe his new store will require you to check bags before you scoop up a $20 $200 tee?And it gets better, New Yorkers: Reed Krakoff is this summer.Ford's outlet, which is set to open on July 15, will join the other posh designer outlet stores at Woodbury, which Roberto Cavalli, Bottega Veneta, Burberry, D&G, Oscar de la Renta, Valentino, Prada, YSL and others.We're excited! Check out the video of Ford's fall 2012 collection below to get a sneak peek of what you might be able to score at his outlet shop.WATCH: ?Shia LaBeouf will not be returning for according to his co-star Josh Duhamel.The actor played Sam Witwicky in the first three movies and there has already been speculation about whether he would reprise the role for a fourth time, after he suggested he was "done" with the action-packed franchise.And now Josh has told E! News that Shia would not be in the flick, and it doesn't look like he will be reprising his own role of Captain William Lennox either.He said: "I don't think anybody's doing it. I know Shia's not doing it. I don't think Tyrese or Rosie [Huntington-Whiteley] or anybody else is doing it."He continued: "Whenever these movies make that much money they're going to make as many as they can. [But] I haven't heard anything about it. They haven't called me."Earlier this month it was revealed that "Steven Spielberg and I are working on a whole new re-imagining of Transformers, the fourth instalment. We have been working on the idea for a few months. I'm excited about where it's headed," he said on his official website.Producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura had already hinted that the franchise may be starting afresh."I think we really are going to do a reboot there. What that's going to be, we don't even know yet. We've got to get a story first," he told MTV.Also on HuffPost: ?I'm not a cat calendar kind of girl (yet) so thankfully there's a whole ton of really cool, quirky or downright kitsch cat-related stuff around right now from high end designers to the High Street in fashion, footwear and all manner of other home and lifestyle accessories too.?A primary school worker in his 30s and a student are amongst those who have already pleaded guilty to looting and rioting in courts on Wednesday.31-year-old Alexis Bailey from Battersea in South London pleaded guilty to burglary after being arrested in Croydon. He will be sentenced at a later date and was granted bail, but with a curfew.Defendants scheduled to appear today are from a number of backgrounds and up to 40 years old.David Cameron said earlier 160 people had been charged with rioting related offences and courts were working through the night to process them.The prime minister said: As I speak, sentences are already being passed, courts sat through the night last night, and will do again tonight. It is for the courts to sentence, but I would expect anyone convicted of violent disorder to be sent to prison.Despite the promise, some pleading guilty to rioting are already being let off with fines. David Attoh was told by chief of magistrates Melvyn Marks not to get into trouble again and fined 150: You have a bright future ahead of you, if you get into trouble again you are going to jeopardise that future.The 18 year old student pleaded guilty to stealing two Burberry shirts in Hackney on Sunday evening. ?Rosie Huntington-Whiteley had temperatures soaring when she hit Macy's in New York last night, to celebrate the launch of the new Burberry fragrance. The model-actress...?Extremist Symbolism in Fashion - a Cultural Statement or Unacceptable? You Decide...Again, Nazi associated imagery is permeating into mainstream fashion, only this time it is not the swastika which has somehow made its way into the popular fashion world (a symbol with many different cultural and religious meanings), it is a symbol more specifically associated with the Nazi Party than the swastika, the Parteiadler - The Nazi Party eagle.?UPDATE 9/6 @2:00pm: Jill Scott has taken to Twitter to refute the reporting conducted by TheYBF.com. The singer tweeted three messages last night stating that she in fact worked closely with Essence on the October cover shoot and that the only "coup" was having natural hair on the cover--not any discourse while producing it.In addition, a PR rep for Essence issued the following statement to The Huffington Post:Essence invited Jill to showcase her natural hair on the cover of the October issue and Jill was excited to do so. Here's a look at Jill's tweet about the situation (note: It appears the tweets have since been deleted from Jill's timeline). @ @ ok. U kinda got that right. I didn't stage a coup. It was a coup for Essence to have natural hair on the cover. Jill Scott (@missjillscott) @ @ Essence Magazine and I completely worked together on this shoot. Yes it was important 4 me 2 b natural. Jill Scott (@missjillscott) @ @ I needed my son to see mommy like he does at home. I wanted 2 show him that Mommy likes herself. Bravo Essence! Jill Scott (@missjillscott) PREVIOUSLY: and Viola Davis aren't the only stars ready, willing and able to show off their natural hair to the world. Grammy award-winning singer Jill Scott is proudly rocking her TWA (teeny weeny afro) on the cover of the . In fact, for the feature. She told TheYBF.com that she "staged sort of a coup" by giving the glossy an ultimatum: either she shoots the cover with her natural hair or she doesn't shoot it at all. Way to pull the diva card for a fabulous cause, Jill! The result, a perfectly polished and gorgeous cover to add to her collection. In the October issue, the "Golden" songstress opens up about her hair and how much fun she has expressing herself through different styles. This is the simplest form of myself. I look in the mirror and its like, Hey, there you go. Whats up, girl? For me, hair is an accoutrement. Hair is jewelry. Its an accessory. Tomorrow I may want a wig down to my butt and Im gonna rock it, and the next day I may want a big Afro and Im gonna rock that tooWe love her confidence and we totally adore this cover look. What do you think? ?NEW YORK — Investors spent Tuesday preparing for two events sure to move markets this week: a Federal Reserve meeting and a court decision on whether Germany can help support its struggling neighbors. And if the stock market's gains Tuesday are any sign, they expect both events to turn out well.The Dow Jones industrial average rose 69.07 points to close at 13,323.36. The average of 30 large company stocks has already gained 1.8 percent to start September, a month which is usually dismal for stocks.Bank of America led the 30 stocks in the Dow, rising 5 percent, or 45 cents, to $9.03.Federal Reserve officials will gather for a two-day meeting on Wednesday. Many expect the Fed will announce a new effort to revive the sluggish economy Thursday afternoon.On the same day the Fed starts its meeting, Germany's high court is expected to rule on whether the country can participate in a European bailout fund. The court rejected a last-minute appeal to delay the decision on Tuesday."It's going to get interesting this week," said Randy Frederick, managing director of active trading and derivatives at the brokerage Charles Schwab.Frederick expects the Fed will make some sort of move, especially after the government reported last Friday that employers added fewer than 100,000 jobs in August."Prior to the employment report people weren't as sure," Frederick said. "I am definitely on the majority side here. There's some sort of easing coming."In other trading, the Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 4.48 points to 1,433.56. The Nasdaq composite increased 0.51 of a point to 3,104.53.The assumption that the Fed will announce new stimulus measures is so widespread that some worry the market could take a plunge if the Fed fails to deliver.Ron Florance, managing director of investment strategy at Wells Fargo Private Bank in Scottsdale, Ariz., said he's always wary when stocks rise on nothing more than expectations."These are the things that make you nervous, when markets are going strong in anticipation of news," Florance said.On Tuesday, the Commerce Department reported that exports to Europe dropped 11.7 percent in July, stoking concerns that Europe's troubles could smother the U.S. recovery. Overall U.S. exports fell 1 percent to $183.3 billion, lowered by weaker sales of autos, telecom equipment and heavy machinery.Morgan Stanley and Citigroup rose after the two banks settled a dispute over how much to value their jointly owned brokerage firm, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney. The deal cleared the way for Morgan Stanley to buy Citigroup's stake. Citi gained 83 cents to $32.66. Morgan Stanley rose 64 cents to $17.25.A profit warning from luxury clothing chain Burberry helped tug down other high-end retailers in early trading. Burberry said slowing sales to China will likely weaken earnings. Ralph Lauren lost $4.09 to $156.22. Tiffany & Co. sank 78 cents to $62.26.Among other stocks making moves:_ Legg Mason jumped 5 percent following reports that its CEO will step down Oct. 1. Clients have been pulling money out of the money manager's funds, weakening revenue. Legg Mason's stock surged $1.38 to $26.85._ Hewlett-Packard gained 52 cents to $17.95, a 3 percent gain. The computer and printer maker said late Monday that it will cut 29,000 jobs by October 2014, or 2,000 more than it had previously planned. Sales of personal computers have slumped as people favor smartphones and lightweight tablet computers.___AP Business Writer Christina Rexrode contributed to this story.?Usually this time of year I'm running around London Fashion Week rushing from show to show and no matter what shoes I wear I end up with my feet punishing me in some way. So this season I decided on something slightly different. I decided to stay at home and see what brands were doing to promote their new collections via the internet and digital media.?British actor Jeremy Irvine refuses to sign up for social networking sites because he is convinced connecting with fans on the Internet would shatter his acting "credibility".The War Horse star has no plans to start airing his thoughts on the web, and is baffled by actors who regularly update their online pages.He tells Marie Claire magazine, "If you know too much about an actor's personal life, they lose all credibility when they try to portray a role."Irvine also avoids looking up articles about himself on the Internet after his mother discovered a gay discussion page dedicated to the star.He explains, "She emailed over a link to some gay forum about me. I was like, 'Mum, don't send me this stuff'. I've never Googled myself. I'd be terrified."Also on HuffPost:?'s resident womaniser is doing little to dispel rumours he is dating model .Not only did Harry turn up to support her as she took to the catwalk at the Burberry show during London Fashion Week yesterday, he was full on gushing to reporters about how "amazing" she looked. He was even caught locking lips with the model on camera!Harry had taken up a plum seat on the f-row alongside Dita Von Teese, Dev Patel and Victoria Pendleton and when quizzed by ITN about Cara's catwalk appearance after the show, Harry smirked: "She was great, she did a great job. She looked amazing."And then, if that wasn't enough to convince us he is totally rubbing belly buttons with her, he was caught congratulating Cara on camera, which involved a cheeky kiss. It comes just days after Cara refused to comment on Harry when pressed by reporters. Asked what was going on between her and the One Directioner, she said: "I've heard this thing. I don't know, I'm not going to answer that question. I like to keep my private life private and that's all I'm going to say."Guess the cat's out of the bag now, Cara. > IN PICS: ONE DIRECTION'S ROAD TO WORLD DOMINATION? Burberry Prorsum sent killer coats down the runway for Fall 2011 RTW with heavy duty repetitive buckles. Try mixing the buckle trend into something other than a coat with a DIY kilt made from a wool scarf and three buckles. I love the drapey but structured look of the wrapped scarf with the hardware. Its pretty easy to complete and the finished product is chic and looks anything but homemade. I cant wait to wear this with some nubby tights, black combat boots and a fishermans sweater!Follow the easy steps in the photos below to create a fun piece you'll wear all winter long! : ?Forget Fashion Week -- it's Wool Week in London, , with sheep even taking to the streets to celebrate the natural fiber. The event is part of the Campaign for Wool, spearheaded by Prince Charles and engaging more than 80 labels like Burberry, Pringle and Paul Smith.So what does Wool Week entail? Via WWD:On Monday, Savile Row was transformed into a meadow where sheep -- their wool dyed in brightly colored plaid patterns -- grazed, while many of the tailors opened their doors and archives to the public. The previous day, 15 yellow-dyed sheep gathered outside Selfridges to make their point about the importance of giving fleece a chance. Selfridges department store is hosting a series of in-store events including, "its first graffiti knitting event alongside its very own knitted house. Pedlars will also showcase its scarf on a roll -- designed using 100% Scottish wool -- on the lower ground floor of the store in support of Wool Week," . The store also held a Wool Week party with Prince Charles addressing the crowd via video. He remarked, "A couple of years ago I was shocked to discover that it often costs more the shear a sheep than a farmer would be paid for its wool," .Check out pictures of the sheep on Monday and scroll down to keep reading. (We don't see any plaid sheep...but there were some really cute dogs in clothes watching.) from its website:The Campaign for Wool is a cross-industry initiative convened by HRH The Prince of Wales in January 2010. As a serious environmentalist, the Prince believes the natural, sustainable origin and highly technical structure of wool can offer fashion, interiors and the built environment many superior benefits. Choosing real wool - as the Prince understands - will also help to care for our planet. ?We've all seen singers catapulted into the spotlight once they've been discovered on YouTube. Who could forget Stratford, Ont. native Justin Bieber? In 2007, the then 12-year-old posted videos of himself -- to name a few. A year later, Bieber was signed by Usher and the rest is, well, history.But what about all the other YouTube personalities? Don't they get recognition, too? We're going to take a look specifically at makeup and style gurus. Whether you want to try a pull off a smoky cat-eye look for your birthday or learn how to -- yes, it's possible and apparently super easy -- there are a few people on the Internet we keep turning to for beauty answers.Here are some of our favs. ?So usually this time of year I'm running around London Fashion Week rushing from show to show and no matter what shoes I wear I end up with my feet punishing me in some way. So this season I decided on something slightly different. As much as it pained me, I decided to stay at home and see what brands were doing to promote their new collections via the internet and digital media.The British Fashion Council went into partnership with streaming media provider Rightster a number of years back. The partnership provides live streaming from London Fashion Week and this year was no different, with a large number of leading brands including Burberry, Mulberry and Vivienne Westwood all streaming their catwalk shows via the London Fashion Week website. I've used the LFW streaming service in the past but this year I noticed for the first time the LFW official streams were supported by mobile devices and in particular Apple mobile devices. This meant I was able to view the catwalk shows whilst on the move. I even managed to use the Airplay feature on my iPad to stream the shows directly to my TV. I thought this was brilliant! I was able to watch the shows, eat Maltesers and tweet my thoughts easily at the same time. I even watched a few of the early morning shows from comfort of my bed.The official streams covered a large number of shows but some brands decided to stream their shows via their own websites. This is where a site by the name of was extremely useful. CatwalkLive.tv provides a complete list of live streams for the key fashion shows across the world. The website is incredibly simple to use and even provides direct links to the live streams. It really couldn't be any easier! The site allowed me to plan my days based on the collections I wanted to see, and as I follow CatwalkLive.tv on twitter they also tweeted reminders of shows that were about to start.A number of the larger brands added some really unique twists to their streaming media experience. For example Burberry, who I've always considered a leader when it comes to using digital and social media, provided the ability to create a custom invites and had a personal message from Christopher Bailey about the upcoming show.Henry Holland showed his latest House of Holland collection live via his website and also teamed up with ebay allowing customers to easily order using their ebay accounts.The shining star for me though had to be Topshop Unique, their live streaming provided the ability for viewers to take snapshots of the live show and post them directly to their Facebook page or Twitter feed, furthermore it was possible to purchase items directly from the collection on the same page as the live stream. A superb customer experience that left me feeling truly connected with the Topshop brand.There were unfortunately a few leading brands that decided not to provide live streams including one of my favorite brands, Matthew Williamson. I hope that next year they will invite more of us into their shows by providing live streams. Overall I did miss the live experience of actually being at London Fashion Week and will be heading up for the next season for sure. That said, for those not fortunate enough to attend the shows in person, the streaming media alternative is certainly a good alternative.I'm really interested to hear what your experiences of watching any streams was and whether there was a brand that you thought provided an excellent experience or perhaps even one that didn't? Please feel free to share by commenting below.Zoe. x Follow Zoe Yates on Twitter:?Featured in titles such as Marie Claire and listed in the top 10 to follow for London Fashion Week by Fashion Telegraph; Zoe shares her passion for fashion via Twitter, Facebook and . When she's not writing, Zoe can often be found running on the streets of her home town, researching the latest trends or on the hunt for chocolate (her other love). Zoe also assists a number of emerging fashion designers to help them create and maintain digital marketing activities through websites and other online media.?Her marriage is wonderful, she's given up alcohol and from tomorrow she's hosting the nightly 'Strictly' spin-off show 'It Takes Two'?It's worth doing, this brain reboot, because otherwise you might think you'd gone to bed in the Noughties and woken up in the Seventies C the 1870s, even. A cabinet full of Old Etonians; a Royal Wedding that people seemed to care about; a TV series about the noble bond between Edwardian servants and their masters; Barbours everywhere, aristo models, elbow patches, cords. Margaret Thatcher as style icon, Kate Middleton as role model, Samantha Cameron wearing Christopher Kane; in short, Tories that people actually want to be like."It speaks volumes about our profoundly unequal society," says Owen Jones, author of Chavs: the Demonisation of the Working Class, "and of the worshipping of wealth that has developed over the past 30 years. The lifestyles of the rich and privileged are celebrated by the media, and there's no pressure to downplay your roots. People aren't embarrassed about wealth any more, they're openly proud of it."So much is obvious in the conspicuous consumption inherent in latterday label culture and the status of the It bag. But what is surprising is the rise in popularity of a very specific sort of aesthetic: not the Eurotrash bling of the late Nineties, which unashamedly proclaimed the wearer's affluence in a rather more democratic way, nor the hyper-luxurious but consciously minimal 'stealth wealth' that we saw in the seasons immediately following the credit crunch. No, it's unalloyed, wellies and waistcoat, jolly hockey sticks posh, stalking high streets and catwalks alike as if it were beating for grouse. Posh posh posh. There's simply no other word for it.Not since Footlights College beat Scumbag College in The Young Ones has it been socially acceptable to out yourself as one of the upper classes, nor to speak or dress like one of them either. Of course, these people have always existed, but for the past decade, they have flattened their vowels and understood they'd never exactly be at the cutting edge of cool.But these days we queue in our droves to pick up whatever Kate Middleton has last been seen in; we crash websites in our desperation to emulate her high-street take on patrician chic. We were once a nation of enfants terribles, with the Gallaghers at Downing Street and Alexander McQueen staging unsettling shows in dingy warehouses. Nowadays, Noel is telling the Daily Mail that we had it good under Thatcher, and McQueen's successor has designed the princess's wedding dress. And the Conservative PM's wife, an aristocrat in her own right, is an ambassador for the British Fashion Council."It's a fabulous time to be posh," admits Kate Reardon, editor of Tatler. "We've got an Old Etonian Prime Minister, Kate and William are dignified and discreet, in tune with the times, and the most successful companies are those that deal in luxury goods. Burberry's sales are up and their ads are full of posh people."Indeed, Burberry's line-ups of the likes of Otis Ferry, Eddie Redmayne, Emma Watson and Cara Delevigne C public school totty each one C have had the desired effect of hyping the posh look overseas, too. The label announced a 21 per cent growth in final quarter sales last month, thanks to Asian tourists buying into this most traditional of heritage labels. Meanwhile, the scramble to track down and own pieces worn by the Duchess of Cambridge has generated an estimated 1 billion for the economy, in what is being called 'the Kate effect', and Downton Abbey has gone down a storm with American audiences, further propagating posh as our most resonant national characteristic. It recalls the original brand of posh cool, personified by the louche stylings of the Duke of Windsor and the debutante glamour of Princess Margaret."British elegance is effortless and traditional," says Emma Hill, creative director of Mulberry, whose autumn 2011 collection played out on a catwalk surrounded by foliage, and was inspired by some of the more socially rarefied pursuits of the Great British Outdoors."Le Style Anglais became popular during the 1970s; it was en vogue to imitate the 'hunting, shooting, fishing' vibe of classic English fashion. It was the uniform of the country brought to town. English women are defined by these heritage influences and classics, and nowadays mix them with amazing street style."There's a certain tribe C one that includes the likes of Alexa Chung, as well as models Alice Dellal and Daisy Lowe C whose indie influences have exerted pressure on the posh trope and turned it into streetwear. Floral tea dresses and sailor shifts worn with brogues and loafers, Barbours and tweed worn with denim, and battered leather satchels and briefcases that look like they may have accompanied their owners to prep school: all have helped re-appropriate and re-circulate the sartorial ticks of the upper echelons, thereby rehabilitating them for the rest of us plebs.And this has kicked off something of a wider trend C one need only look at the international catwalks. For autumn 2008, D&G dressed models in knitwear, tartan and headscarves tied under the chin in imitation of our own Queen Elizabeth II. This season, meanwhile, saddle bags come courtesy of Gucci, Jerome Dreyfuss and Proenza Schouler, while Pierre Hardy's riding-whip necklaces for Herms have a waiting list, even though they cost upwards of 570,000. Labels such as Issa, Temperley and Jenny Packham have all boomed under the patronage of the Middleton sisters. The motifs of the upper-class lifestyle have become fashion staples in themselves, but not until recently have we seen such a wholesale C and, more importantly, entirely unironic C return to them."When times are tough, you turn to what you know," says Peter York, author of The Sloane Ranger Handbook, which is being re-released digitally this year, 30 years after its publication. "You look for things that are secure and unrisky. You rediscover the joy of a Barbour."There's certainly something to be said for picking up design classics that are durable and timeless during a moment of financial misery, but you need only look at the many proliferating street-style blogs to see that it goes beyond this, that the uniform of the hipster nowadays was once that of the upper classes. Quilted jackets in country estate green; coloured cords worn with deck shoes; chambray shirts given a modern makeover with yoke patches and elbow pads.Several revivals in recent years C the Eighties, minimalism, grunge C have been linked to the current socio-economic outlook ("We're so wealthy we've lost all sense of what is tasteful"; "Uh oh, we're now a bit embarrassed about our wealth"; "We'd better dress the way we did the last time things got rocky" respectively), and the posh trend is a continuation of this. We've moved from an era when the haves and have-nots had blended, thanks to credit cards and sub-prime mortgages. Nowadays, we have debt, unemployment and corduroy trousers to tell them apart."It's stupid to say that there's any comfort to be had in 'knowing your place'," adds Kate Reardon, "but there is a sense of reassuring escapism to something like Downton Abbey. There's a perceived romance and elegance that is wonderful to lose yourself in.""Pop culture has conquered all before it," says Owen Jones, "and it has become more democratic. An aristocrat and someone on a council estate might both watch The X Factor, and you wouldn't have heard regional accents on the BBC 30 years ago. So while leisure interests have embraced all classes, there has been a comeback of the trappings of privilege, of being posh and proud."But before you go round shouting about it, be warned: the look also rests on a certain modesty and sense of "Who, me?". It's the sort of self-effacingly confident humility that can only be learnt at the feet of Tiggy Legge-Bourke, or in the country's most exclusive schools. You can buy the Barbour and encourage the luxuriant growth of thick, shiny hair, but you can't imitate the breeding. And that is precisely the point."It's not about being posh," says Sophia Beddow, social editor at Hello!. "It's about having class. Before, what defined being 'posh' was pedigree C it was all about where you came from. But the boundaries have changed: you only have to look at Kate Middleton and the way her family carried themselves throughout the Royal Wedding to see that."In this way, the toff trend can be seen as a reaction against the ubiquity of the perma-tanned, partially-clothed, bandage-dress sort of celeb C you might not like Kate Middleton's style (as indeed designer Vivienne Westwood does not, calling her "ordinary" in an interview last year) but at least she's always tastefully covered up."After a succession of trashy It girls who we derided for being posh, at the moment we have good posh role models," says Kate Reardon. "If Kate and William were morons, falling out of nightclubs, perhaps we'd feel differently. Flashy bankers are the most unpopular people on the planet right now; a bit of modest 'noblesse oblige' is more acceptable."Perhaps we do have a grudging admiration for a lost race of people who dispense with their wealth in understated ways. In 1981, Margaret Thatcher paid for her own 19 ironing board at Downing Street, we are told, while latterday MPs learnt how to 'flip' their houses to wring as much from their expenses as possible. There's certainly a zeitgeist for that sort of austerity, but the spectre of Margaret Thatcher abides right now, not least because of public sector strikes and government cuts so deep that Whitehall will run with blood, but because The Iron Lady seems to have rebirthed her as a fashion icon. Anya Hindmarch, handbag-maker to most of west London, even arrayed her Bond Street store with effigies of the former leader when the film was released, in celebration of her boxy suits and redoubtable handbags."The cleverest thing about Thatcher's image was that her clothes never detracted from her character," Hindmarch explained when the display was unveiled. "That was quite a feat, I suspect, to look good and still not be talked about for your clothes."What was perhaps more of a feat was that these Maggie mannequins remained undisturbed and Hindmarch's gleaming vitrines survived unegged, but that's the difference in attitudes towards 'posh' these days. It is no longer something to resent or be embarrassed by, so much as something we all aspire to and C thanks to a schismatic sense of social mobility C believe is within our grasp. Being posh has become a way of demonstrating our tenacity and mettle during these difficult times. And that is why we stomach upper-class spokespeople in positions of power claiming that we're 'all in it together', and why it is no longer red rag to a bull to suggest that Thatcher did some good.There is a difference, too, in the attitudes of the next generation, who remain less inflamed than their forebears when it comes to political protest. There have been murmurings of classism during the recent student protests, but the summer riots were proof enough that aspiration is rife C and of the crushing scorn of the wealthy in their wake: credentials nowadays are not so much about acquisition as they are about etiquette."There are plenty of girls out there who are well-bred, but do they have class," asks Sophia Beddow. "You only have to watch an episode of Made in Chelsea to know the answer to that. Victoria Beckham is another case in point C 'Posh' may have been her moniker in her early days as a Spice Girl, but today no one can dispute the fact she is one classy lady.""There's a difference between being posh and being rich," agrees Tatler's Kate Reardon. "Posh is a way of living that can often be quite miserly and not about money. It was excruciating being posh under Tony Blair; posh people were fantastically unpopular. But these things are a reaction against what has come before. And, as with all trends, it's always darkest before the dawn."Status update: How we woreTHENPosh SpiceBursting into the 'spice-o-sphere' in 1997 with their single "Wannabe", the Spice Girls were as brassy as they were brash... and everyone loved them for it.Kate MossThe uber-model of the Nineties was Croydon born and bred, but that didn't stop her penetrating Paris's most exclusive ateliers.Cherie BoothThe First Lady of New Labour was raised in Lancashire by her mother after her father, the actor Tony Booth, left his family. She became a QC in 1995 and once stood for election as a Labour MP.Denim jacketsWorn by all self-respecting followers of fashion, whether a faded punk version, a citified indigo number or sheepskin-lined la Liam Gallagher.D:ReamOne-hit wonders D:Ream found their career invigorated once more when Tony Blair's campaign managers chose "Things Can Only Get Better" as the soundtrack to the landslide election win in 1997.LabourThe only party to see and be seen voting for: New Labour commandeered the affections of rock stars and pensioners alike C this was 'Cool Britannia'.NOWVictoria BeckhamShaking off the 'posh' nickname, ditching the hair extensions, fake tans and breast implants, the ex-Spice Girl has recreated herself as a fashion designer.Kate MiddletonMiddleton is the middle-class girl made good, snaring Prince William after chasing him up to university in St Andrews.Samantha CameronDaughter of Sir Reginald Adrian Berkeley Sheffield, 8th Baronet, 'Sam Cam' grew up in a stately home in Yorkshire. The PM's wife is also creative director of luxury stationers Smythson and an ambassador of the British Fashion Council.Shooting jacketsQuilted for warmth and patched for pressure on elbows for grouse season, the archetypal country-set style is being worn beyond the Glorious 12th.Brian CoxD:Ream's keyboard player Brian Cox became the cool face of particle physics, with a series on the BBC explaining natural phenomena.ConservativeWe now have a Tory government that is doing quite well in the polls. Cameron's aristo background C and those of most of his cabinet C are seemingly no turn-off.?But while the adopted Englishman may be right that the tea table remains a place of decorum, we Brits are once again going crazy for afternoon tea. Bettys Tea Rooms are a Yorkshire institution. Over the years, the venues have become almost as famous for their long queues as for their fancies. So much so that recently in its Harrogate and York branches, it has introduced a reservation system for teas to cope with booming demand."We have definitely experienced a significant growth in people coming to take afternoon tea over the last five years," says Paula Kaye, a manager at Bettys. "The customers are really diverse, not just older generations, also younger generations or groups of friends choosing it over, say, a day at the spa, and [they] see the venues as a nice place to meet socially."At York and Harrogate, where guests sit in the Imperial Room and enjoy striking views, guests can now book for afternoon tea. It has also followed the trend in moving beyond the simple formula of scone, sandwich and a slurp of tea."Over the last couple of years, there has been a growth in popularity from people wanting the experience," Kaye adds. "We have worked on that in the last year to develop the total experience for the visitor."Bettys isn't alone in enhancing the tea experience, with an increasing number of venues offering eye-catching teatime menus. Later this month, Japanese restaurant Nobu Berkeley in London's Mayfair is launching its own version of the British staple, serving up such delights as savoury beef and shrimp takoyaki, dorayaki (Japanese pancakes) and doughnuts filled with yuzu curd. The Langham Hotel in Westminster has a tea sommelier, while at the constantly evolving Parlour at Sketch restaurant on Conduit Street guests eat with mismatching crockery and from unusual three-tiered cake stands.For the fashion-conscious, the Berkeley hotel, also in London, serves a Prt--Portea, where the cakes and treats are shaped like catwalk creations from designers such as Burberry, Bottega Veneta and Dolce & Gabbana.The Connaught Hotel's menu from two-Michelin-starred chef Hlne Darroze features 30 different types of jam. The Sanderson has the Mad Hatter's Afternoon Tea, which tempts guests with playful dishes such as strawberry-and-cream mousse and a portion of passion fruit jelly, coconut panna cotta and exotic foam.While hotels and restaurants are having more fun in their creative approaches to the afternoon meal, it is an important source of revenue for the venues too. Prices are sometimes high, and in many places you are compelled to order the set menu.To enjoy the award-winning Claridge's tea, it costs 38 per person; at the Ritz (which has seven sittings per day), afternoon tea is 42 per person, rising to 53 for the "celebration tea". Of course, these prices all go up if you add champagne. Last year, the Cliveden hotel in Berkshire was offering what it said was the world's most expensive afternoon tea, at 550 a person. For that you got white truffles, caviar and Chinese tea that costs 2,000 a kilo. Celebrated venues such as Peacocks in Ely are more reasonable, with "the full monty tea" setting you back 16. Tea and cake at London's trendy Riding House Caf is from 5.Irene Gorman, the head of the Tea Guild, says the quality and demands have changed. It is no longer just friends meeting for tea, it has also become a time for business meetings. She also points out that it often offers a cheaper alternative to a night out, besides the fact that you might not fancy dinner after several sandwiches, scones and cakes in the middle of the afternoon."You know what it's going to cost you beforehand, so the choice is yours before you go," she says. "Unlike dinner, you don't have to wonder how much you're going to spend on wine. You want to be out, in nice surroundings. And it's still a great way of enjoying yourself."The Tea Guild (tea.co.uk) offers membership to venues offering tea across the country. The criteria and examination process to join are strict and each year it inspects its members and gives a detailed report back to help to maintain quality. It also presents awards each year, those for excellence being like a Michelin star, while the top prizes, it says, are " the Oscars" of tea. Last year, Claridge's hotel won its top London award, while the Rocke Cottage Tea Rooms in Shropshire was "Top Tea Place".Its drive for quality is mirrored by campaigners from Devon, who are appealing to the EU to bestow the Devon cream tea with Protected Designation of Origin status. One of its stated aims is to stop inferior-quality copies."Afternoon tea never went away," Gorman says. "What is going away, however, is people not doing it very well. Certainly over the last 10 years it has got better. It's no longer seen as something you take your old auntie to."People have very high expectations of it. It's the one meal you'll not forget if it's not good. We've become more sophisticated in our palates."?I have nothing against Wags per se. I rather admire them, with their glorious gusto for celebrity and conspicuous consumption and living the dream and over-sized sunglasses, but it is also a deadening prospect. What do I know about over-sized sunglasses? Or St Tropez tans or hair extensions or fake nails or, of course, posing for OK! with a certain vacant perfection? (I did once try a certain vacant perfection, it's true, but it made me dizzy and gave me dry elbows so, alas, I had to cancel the OK! photo-shoot.)This Wag is Abbey Clancy, TV presenter, model, spokesperson for Lynx Attract For Her, the first Lynx fragrance for women C "it's young and flowery and really, really nice," she says, with a straight face C and wife of England and Stoke footballer Peter Crouch, described by my son as "the very, very tall spindly one who did that robot dance," as if this is going to help me place him. Still, I do ask Abbey if the very, very tall spindly one ever does a robot dance for her own private enjoyment, when she's been good, say, and made the beds and taken the rubbish out? "No!" she exclaims with horror. You're not a fan of the robot dance? "It's bizarre!"She is very warm and rather fun, actually, and although we have a few sticky moments C she doesn't much enjoy talking about tabloid newspaper revelations, predictably C I have some fun myself. We have a splendid lunch. We go mad on credit cards in a designer childrenswear shop. I invite myself to her daughter, Sophia's, upcoming first birthday party, once I learn a mini-farm will be coming to their house. "With piglets you can pet and everything?" I query excitedly. "And a little horse," she says. I'm on it, I tell her, and feel significantly cheered.Anyway, she meets me as I come out of Macclesfield station, drawing up in one of those tank-sized Range Rovers. She is 25, and disappointingly non-blingy, dressed simply in black T-shirt, black skinny jeans and mid-heeled Kurt Geiger courts. She is 5ft 9ins, with legs going up to her armpits C although not literally, as that would be freakishly hideous C and is certainly gorgeous, with huge, amazingly green eyes and a distinctly non-orange complexion. It is creamy, if anything.And your beauty regime, madam? "Just baby wipes and Nivea." Are you sure, I ask, you don't want to name-drop Crme de la Mer, so they'll send us a big box of free stuff? "Nivea," she repeats. Drat. Still, I climb into the car. She is, I quickly discover, a considerate road user if you don't count the instances when she harasses slower drivers with "Come on, you soft shite", which are many.I'd wanted to visit her at home C she lives in nearby Alderley Edge, naturally C for a good snoop, but she wouldn't have it. Her house is rented and doesn't have a good vibe or feel like home, she says. But does it have a swimming pool, I enquire. It does, she says. "I don't use it but Pete takes the baby in every day and she absolutely loves it and me mum's dogs go in, too." What sort of dogs does your mum have? Morkies, she says. Morkie? A cross between Maltese and Yorkie, she explains. I say I'm planning to buy a Shiatsu crossed with a Poodle if only so I can tell everybody: "I'm having a Shit-Poo". We laugh until the next slow driver comes along, who is also a "soft shite".She is originally from Liverpool, and is still very Liverpool, saying "me" for "my" C "I love to read and I love Martina Cole. She's me favourite" C and "cewk" for "cook" and "bewk"' for "book". It can lead to some confusion. Last night, she says, she got a terrible fright when a mouse got into the house and crawled all over "me Burberry tewks". Your Burberry tewks, I query? "Me Burberry tewks," she confirms. And what is this Burberry tewks you speak of, Abigail? "What's a tewks?" Yes, what is this "tewks"? "A jacket, like." A tux! A tux! "I got Pete to catch it." The tewks? "The mouse."She then hoots the horn. Another soft shite? No, Pete driving his Range Rover in the opposite direction. He'd taken their daughter to her mother's for the day, and now he should be off to training, but is going the wrong way. She calls him and puts him on speaker phone. He forgot his wash-bag, apparently, so has to speed home for it. She finishes the call with: "Love you!", to which he replies, "Love you!". Nobody, it appears, loves me, but it may just be my dry elbows. I should cream them more. (E45? Is that the best? I would use Crme de la Mer, if I had any.)She takes me to The Cheshire Smokehouse, a deli-cum-cafe where she appears to be well-known. "I haven't got the baby with me today to trash the place," she tells the waitress. "She's never any trouble," says the waitress, who is kindly as well as, possibly, long-suffering.I would say that Abbey is one of those figure-conscious women who simply push food around a plate, if it were true, but it isn't. She can well pack it in. It is a joy to behold. She has scrambled eggs with smoked salmon, two rounds of toast with cream cheese, two cappuccinos, an orange juice, and then a scone piled with jam and cream. Yet you stay skinny? "It's me genes," she says. I say a friend of mine had a baby at around the same time she did, and when she saw photos of Abbey taken a few weeks after Sophia's birth and noted her flat stomach, she burst into tears. A tummy tuck? "Absolutely not!" she says. "When I had the baby me mum said I'd go back to normal and although I didn't believe her, I just did." Did you breastfeed? She didn't, she says, "because I was in that much pain". When you tried? "No, underneath". Down below? "Yeah, and exhausted. And me mum didn't breastfeed and you do what your mum did, don't you?"I say if you were worried about your boobs, you were right to be so. I breastfed and now my boobs are like pitta breads before you've even put them under the grill and they've puffed out a bit. She says she saw a woman breastfeeding on a train the other day, and shudders. Hey, it's natural, I counter. She shudders again. This is not, I'm guessing, a world where 'natural' is rated that highly. That said, I tell her, I can't understand why men find breast implants attractive. Who wants to fondle a bag of silicone? She says, yeah, "but all they see is: boob!". She can be sharp and funny. When we later discuss wine, and I say expensive ones are wasted on me, although I like to think I can tell the difference between a 3.99 one and a 9.99 one she says, "not after two bottles you can't" which, aside from anything else, is very true.Born in Liverpool, the oldest of four, Abbey's father ran a tarmac business. I wonder if she grew up craving riches, so ask if she remembers yearning for things beyond the family's income. "Yeah," she says, "but I always got them." Like what? "It was less high-end when I was younger, more high street, more like: can I have this pair of shoes from Topshop? I'd always had quite a privileged lifestyle, to be honest. I've never wanted for anything, but I do know the value of things. I'm not, like, a brat. And I've worked since I was 15, and always got me own stuff."And what were you like at school? "Always on report, always being told off for messing about, but always top of the class." Really, I enquire, patronisingly. "I got all A-stars and one B for me GCSEs." Gosh, I exclaim, just as patronisingly. Did you work hard for them? Not really, she says.So you were a smarty-pants? Probably, she says, but she was also absolutely determined to not stay on at school. "I was already in a band and the teachers called my mum in and said: 'Abbey's so clever, it's a total waste if she follows her dream'. But I never wanted to do a job I didn't love, and I'd always wanted to be a model or an actress or a singer."If you had gone ahead to study, what might you have studied? Something well rewarded, she says. "If I had to study and work hard it would have to have the reward of a lot of cash. I'd want a nice house and a nice car and go to nice places on holiday." Is this the ultimate appeal of Wag-dom? Riches without endeavour?The band was Genie Queen, which supported Blue on tour before splitting. Next, she appeared on Britain's Next Top Model, making it through to the last few, and met Pete. How? When? "It was me friend Tommy's birthday and I was out with him and his wife, Karen, and I did fancy Pete before then." From seeing him on TV and in newspapers and the like? "Yes. And we were in this restaurant and I saw him and I was like: 'Oh my God!' and I went to the toilet and walked past him and he just started talking to me and then begged me for me number... Only joking! We swapped numbers." How long till he called? "An hour." Did you have any sense of where it would go? "Oh, yeah. I knew he'd be me boyfriend." How? "Just a feeling. I knew he was The One."And what was your first experience of being a premiership footballer's girlfriend? "When I finished Britain's Next Top Model, the day I got back, he said the England team were going to Portugal, did I want to come? I'd been away from me mum for eight weeks and I'd never left me mum's side in me life and I was like: 'Should I go or shouldn't I?'." You did go, and? "It was really strange because I was really young, 19, and at the meal in the evening Victoria Beckham was sitting there, and David Beckham, and all these players you only see on TV, and their wives, and I felt quite intimidated and that my clothes were crap." Was Posh friendly? "I didn't speak to her." Too frightened? "Yeah."She also went to Baden Baden for the 2006 World Cup but came home early when pictures of her sniffing cocaine were printed in a tabloid. This is another of our sticky moments. If you are living the dream you do not want it defiled, I suppose. How did you feel about it, I ask.A sharp intake of breath and then: "It makes it hard to trust people you thought you could trust. It's just embarrassing because it just lets people down, like me family, and then people have a certain image of you. When I'm a good person. I'm not an angel, but it was just a silly teenage thing that most teenagers in the world do. It wasn't nice."Did someone you know sell that picture? "Yes, but I don't want to go into it, because it scares me still." It is a massive betrayal, isn't it? "Definitely. I wouldn't do that to anyone. I just don't understand people's mentality. If I saw Tom Cruise sitting here, I wouldn't go over and take a picture of him then sell it to a newspaper. People seem to do that nowadays. It's just bizarre."She and Pete are among those suing News International for phone hacking. And what's the most ridiculous thing you've ever read about yourself in a tabloid, I ask. "There have been millions of things." The latest, then. "The latest is that I'm getting 750 cellulite treatments and I don't even have cellulite!" Absurd! "I know."We pay up and climb back into her car, where there is a bag of treacle toffees. "Want one?" Abbey, I'm stuffed! She pops one in her pretty mouth. It's my idea to stop at the childrenswear shop in chi-chi Wilmslow on the way back, as I need a baby gift. I ask Abbey if she likes shopping, shopping, shopping."Not as much as I used to," she says. Still, although the price of the one little outfit I buy makes my eyes water, she proceeds to buy up half the shop for Sophia. I'm guessing not having to think about money simply becomes normal after a while.Did Pete, I ask, cry when Sophia was born? "He cried, and me mum cried, and me sister cried." Is she fat? I love a fat baby. "She is very fat." Cellulite treatments? You're never too young. "Ha, ha!" Who gave Sophia her first-ever bath, always a nerve-wracking event? "Pete did and he held on to her arm that tight her hand went blue!"She has never allowed Sophia to appear in the press, which is wise, and she has never done any 'at home' spreads. "That way you open the door, don't you?" And your wedding wasn't Hello!-ed? "No, although it would have been very nice to have had it paid for!" And you don't use Crme de la Mer? "Nivea." Drat.Finally, she drops me back at the station C "Come on, you soft shite!" C which is kind, and we part amicably although, I now realise, I've yet to receive an invite proper to the mini-farm party. It's my dry elbows, I bet. They've always held me back.?Whereas Miuccia Prada's recent seasons have seen her blokes kitted out in technicolor floral bri-nylon, lurex cardigans and stack-soled wedges, this time we saw suits... and suits... and suits. Grey, black, single and double-breasted, some with natty astrakhan collars, some seemingly sans trousers (but with flapping boxers and over-the-calf City Boy socks). It was all about the suit C but they were suits that could be worn anywhere and by just about anybody. Prada wasn't the only one proposing that men be permanently suited and booted for winter: the power of this label is in epitomising what's making fashion tick at any one moment. Hence Italian cohorts Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana proffered a parade of braid-embroidered gabardines, Tomas Maier's Bottega Veneta showed sleek, single-breasted styles and Christopher Bailey at Burberry Prorsum put a new twist on the Sloane Ranger with jewel-toned corduroy and whipcord two-pieces (Mellors flat-cap optional). Even Roberto Cavalli's usually navel-gazing, flesh-flashing catwalk was buttressed with Savile Row quality tailoring, give or take the odd odd chartreuse tux.Is this really so surprising? The suit, after all, has been the linchpin of the male wardrobe for about two hundred years. What's rare is to see fashion designers embracing that conservatism with quite so much gusto.The Italians, of course, have a tailoring tradition to rival Savile Row's C although their craftsmen dotted about Rome, Milan and Florence cannot compare with the world's only true "disguisery" (the wonderful plural noun for a group of tailors) on "The Row". But the suit reigned supreme during Paris fashion week too, Lanvin's muscular and full-shouldered, Louis Vuitton's sleek in camel and grey, and leather-bound at Stefano Pilati's final menswear show for Yves Saint Laurent (Raf Simons showed that over in Milan for his penultimate Jil Sander collection, too).So what does the suit represent in the menswear landscape of today?Power on the one hand and conservatism on the other. Mere months before The Iron Lady nabbed Meryl Streep an Oscar for her depiction of Margaret Thatcher, it feels as if this could be fashion's return to Wall Street's "Greed is good" Eighties ethos. These suits may be relatively sombre, even staid at times, but they scream "money" in a way a sweatshirt never could. A suit today can be the perfect sartorial palimpsest for rebellion; a language of dress every man understands but which can be utilised to say something revolutionary.That's the way the American designer Thom Browne has always looked at the suit, using its "rules" to fight against the conventions still evident in male fashion. Browne's suit, less skinny than shrunken, single-breasted with trousers cropped high on the ankle, has dominated male style for the past half-decade. "My goal for my collection is to be provocative and to make people think," says Browne. That's the purported aim of much flamboyant modern menswear, the difference with Browne's work being that the basis for these experiments are classic grey wool suits that could have been worn by bankers in the fifties. Turn a blind eye to the attention-grabbing "skorts", beaded kaftans and tulle puffs Browne often favours: it's the proportions of the suit that are the most controversial and interesting thing.Browne's combination of an ultra-trad base with subtly radical details finds echoes throughout menswear today. It's there in a poplin men's shirt by young London label Palmer//Harding, tucks and spiral pleats giving it a third dimension; and equally in Lucas Ossendrijver and Alber Elbaz's cross-breeding of a down jacket and officer's greatcoat at Lanvin."The mix between tradition and newness is the story of this collection," said Elbaz backstage. And, for many men, raised on Casual Fridays and sportswear as everyday wear, there is a newness in the tradition of the suit, full stop.The omnipotence of the suit for autumn/winter 2012 is part of fashion's standard flash-in-the-pan seasonal volte-face, but men are universally reclaiming the classic suit as a means of dressing up for the everyday. "What we're seeing more and more of is younger customers buying into suiting," says Adam Kelly, buying manager of men's formalwear at London's Selfridges. "The look is in no way just about workwear or occasionwear any more C I think British guys in particular just have an increasingly vested interest in looking sharp." The cold hard facts back that assertion: at Selfridges, suiting sales to date have increased 28 per cent on last year. "I look for something classic and timeless in dress," says Constantin Bjerke, the dapper founder and CEO of media website Crane.tv, who buys his suits from London's Turnbull & Asser. "A well-cut, beautifully-detailed and constructed suit will last a lifetime and always look stylish."Nick Lazarus, a treaty underwriter with Hiscox in the City, concurs that in his clothes he seeks "an emphasis on quality and not visual impact. Save the odd unfortunate incident, I have never really been one to stick my head above the parapet on account of an outlandish wardrobe".Those characteristics C stylish, timeless, quality C are endlessly assigned to suits, especially in the bespoke bracket. The latter is suiting at its most traditional, time-consuming and expensive C ready-to-wear (or, as tailors often disparagingly term it, "off the rack") cannot compare to bespoke, where a pattern is drafted to a customer's individual measurements. Savile Row tailor Richard James describes the bespoke process as "indulgence... time spent considering fabric,working on style, discussing small but important details to devise a unique suit that not only fits you perfectly and makes you feel great, but is also something you helped create". Even made-to-measure is a poor substitute in the eyes of the tailoring trade. "It's not quite the same as having someone actually take a set of measurements and alterations for your figure. You can't improve on the fittings... distilling the pattern down till it actually fits," says Ritchie Charlton, managing director of Hayward of Mount Street. Charlton has been in the tailoring trade for three decades, working at high-profile establishments including Kilgour French Stanbury and the tailoring workrooms of Her Majesty's choice dressmaker, Hartnell, under former Christian Dior designer Marc Bohan in the early 1990s. In short, he knows his stuff C today, his custom-made, four-figure suits clothe dedicated followers of style, rather than fashion, including Primal Scream's Bobby Gillespie and perennially pin-neat photographer Nick Knight. When asked about seasonal changes in bespoke, Charlton shrugs his shoulders and responds "there are seasons as far as the weather goes". But he does concede that "bespoke tailoring moves with men's fashion... a young guy who comes into the shop, generally he's going to want a neater, shorter-fitting jacket at the moment than perhaps he would have wanted in 2002."That's possibly one of the most seductive things about suiting: the subtlety."Every collection, I address different ideas of proportion," says Thom Browne, attesting that the elements that make his suits stand out are "attention to detail, the quality of the make, but most importantly the proportion". That's what proves seductive for many men and indeed for designers: using the convention of the suit to say something new; a quiet radicalism.That could be the strap-line for Savile Row's latest leap into the 21st century: a made-to-measure collaboration between H Huntsman & Sons C a bespoke bastion of tailoring tradition C and Alexander McQueen, another bastion, albeit of iconoclastic rebellion. Both are quintessentially British: Huntsman has been tailoring to royalty for more than 160 years and McQueen, of course, created that dress. Lee McQueen himself was also responsible for outfitting royals in rather more anti-establishment styles, legend being that he scrawled a variety of four-letter pejoratives across the canvas interlining of suits destined for the Prince of Wales whilst apprenticing at Anderson & Sheppard in the late 1980s.Sarah Burton's offerings, available from June, veer towards the traditional, with cashmere frock-coats, dinner-jackets and, fittingly enough, Prince of Wales check suiting. Albeit with breeches and embroidered lapels, the jackets cut slimmer and tighter against the body. A tongue-in-cheek twist on three all-important classics of men's suiting, they seem tailor-made for the archetypal English dandy C probably the most compelling argument for any style-conscious gentleman when buying another perfectly-proportioned suit.?The catalogue business is setting up a 45 million joint venture with Chinese manufacturing giant Haier in a bid to tap into the country's buoyant economy and current spending boom.Previous openings overseas have proved unsuccessful, including pilot stores in the Netherlands opened in 1998, while five stores in India were closed in 2009.However, Argos will return to overseas expansion next year when it opens a trial store and internet delivery service in Shanghai, and ultimately aims to expand throughout the country.It will follow in the footsteps of other UK retailers who have already got a foothold in the powerhouse Asian economy, such as Tesco, Burberry, Mothercare and Marks & Spencer.In the UK, Argos's customers are being badly hit by the squeeze in living standards because they tend to have lower disposable income and, with many renting, they have not benefited from the record low interest rates.But in China, Argos hopes to tap into the booming middle classes who are spending freely as they reap the rewards of the country's rapid industrialisation.The Chinese economy is expected to carry on growing faster than the West - it recently overtook Japan as the world's second biggest economy and is set to supplant the US as the number one economy in coming decades.The new venture will draw on Argos's expertise in online retailing and Haier's distribution network in the country.Haier, which makes TVs, fridges, freezers and washing machines, is one of the world's largest white goods manufacturers. It will own 51% of the joint venture.PA?The retailer has also extended a contract with the same partner to sell its products in South-east Asia for a further six years until 2021, including in the new countries of Australia and Vietnam.However, shares in Mulberry fell by 95p, or nearly 7 per cent, to 13 yesterday, although they are still up by more than 44 per cent over the past year. Other luxury goods companies, such as Burberry, have seen their share prices hit in recently weeks over fears of slower spending among China's luxury consumers.Mulberry said it had agreed "heads of terms" for a new distribution agreement for Japan via a joint venture vehicle owned by Club 21 and Mammina, a subsidiary of the department store group Isetan Mitsukoshi.Under its contract extension with Club 21, the partner will open Mulberry flagship stores in Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing.?Available in four shades, this light reflecting liquid can be used on bare skin or mixed with foundation which will give you an all-over luminous glow.22, Nars, 2. Colour Skin EnhancerUse as a primer, and while the soy proteins will moisturise, a light-trapping formula will leave your skin looking refreshed. Available in five shades.64.50, by Terry, 3. Lustre Drops in Pink RebelAdd a 'pearlised' sheen to your face and body by dabbing on a few drops of this water-based liquid.17.50 MAC, 4. Watt's Up! Soft Focus Highlighter For FaceA good place to start if you're not confident about illuminating just yet. Glide this cream-to-powder product over your cheeks and blend.24.50, Benefit, 5. Uplifting Liquid Illuminator, 04 BronzeWant glow, not glitter? You can achieve a sun-kissed look with only a hint of shimmer with this pump-action product. 20, Clinique, 6. Fresh glowUse as an all-over moisturiser for your face and dcolletage, or just apply only to the areas you would like to highlight.34, Burberry, ?This autumn, the company that manufactured the world's first waxed cotton motorcycle jackets will open a five-storey flagship store on Bond Street. What started as motorcyclist utility garb has become the clothing must-have for A-list celebrities. The firm's new collection, to be launched next month, is inspired by its British roots C less tailored, more baggy C under the creative direction of Martin Cooper, who was the head of outerwear at Burberry for 16 years.Harry Slatkin, Belstaff's chief executive, told The Independent on Sunday: "The brand started in England. When it was bought by Italians [in the 1990s], it started to lose its way and lose its language. We wanted to make a firm commitment that it is back in England and that we're proud to be an English brand."Last year, Belstaff was bought by Labelux, based in Vienna. Months earlier, Labelux had bought Jimmy Choo for 500m. Four days later, Tommy Hilfiger became an investor and consultant. Both Slatkin, the founder of the fragrance company Slatkin & Co, and Cooper joined the company and started the move back to Britain.The firm was founded by Eli Belovitch and his son-in-law Harry Grosberg, in Longton, near Stoke, in 1924. At one time it produced more than 80,000 Trialmaster jackets a year. They were worn by bikers the world over, including the late Steve McQueen, star of The Great Escape. He started the move that helped such clothing cross the divide from niche market to mainstream appeal.The firm once provided clothing for Lawrence of Arabia C Peter O'Toole as Lawrence died on his motorbike wearing Belstaff. Today, its clothing is a movie staple. The Malenotti family, who ran the company until last year, had as rich a history in film as in the ragtrade. Franco Malenotti, motorbike designer and champion rider with an obsession for the coats, started with Belstaff in 1986 and bought the firm when it ran into financial difficulties. His father, Maleno Malenotti, was a film producer, a contemporary of Federico Fellini who worked with Sophia Loren.Since then, Belstaff clothing has been worn in blockbusters including The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt), Sweeney Todd (Johnny Depp) and Mission: Impossible III (Tom Cruise). Malenotti himself appeared in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, while George Clooney and Angelina Jolie regularly wear the jackets off-set. Daniel Radcliffe had a specially made "Harry Blouson", while Sherlock's tweed coat, as worn by Benedict Cumberbatch, is Belstaffian.It is not only on the big screen that the name is revered. Pope Benedict XVI wears bespoke Belstaff made from soft cotton C with white corduroy collar and cuffs C when walking in the Vatican gardens.Great outdoors meets the in-crowd: The utility brands that conquered the catwalkOakley: Many people adopting the Oakley swagger are unaware the brand started in the 1980s, making bikers' goggles. Jim Jinnard produced the first pairs from his garage, with 150 in start-up capital. He named the firm after his dog.Barbour: Founded in South Shields by John Barbour in 1894, the brand C which was also worn by Steve McQueen and holds a royal warrant C is now synonymous with country sports and wholesome walks.Burberry: The 19th-century brand has consistently defied gloom-mongers during the recession and has survived being adopted as a fashion accessory by football hooligans in the 1980s.Hunter: Who would have thought that 150 years after the North British Rubber Company started manufacturing, it would evolve into a wellie brand that united Kate Moss and Middle England? When David Cameron visited Washington in 2010, he took two pairs to give to the Obama children.?***Thanks to Hansard for confirming what Between the Covers thought we heard when we listened to Education Questions on Monday. (We don't just read books, you know.) Not only is the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, making primary school children learn and recite poetry C he's also got Tory MPs doing it, too. Kevin Brennan (Labour, Cardiff West) asked: "Why is the Secretary of State having such a chilling effect on teacher morale?" Gove, inset bottom, replied: "As Robert Burns, that great poet, once said, 'facts are chiels that winna ding' ...". Next, John Haynes spoke up: "When I think of the Opposition, I am reminded of Eliot's words: 'Shape without form, shade without colour,/Paralysed force, gesture without motion.'" Finally, Gove wrapped up the debate, saying: "I must be brief because, as Shakespeare [left] said, 'Let me not to the marriage of true minds/Admit impediments'." Impressive C let's see more poetry in Parliament, please.***Fans of Irvine Welsh should look out for the new single "Another Screen" by Kormac, on which Welsh appears on vocals. Kormac wrote the song C a lament about our screen-focused lives C especially for Welsh, and turned up on his doorstep to ask him to take part. "Rather than take out a restraining order," we're told, "[Welsh] took him in, fed and watered him and sent him home with the track complete." The single is available on iTunes for 99p.***Do the results of a new poll by dottybingo.com help to explain the stratospheric success of E L James's 50 Shades of Grey, or just make it even more baffling? Forty-four per cent of the 400 members surveyed said they would rather read about sex than have it, and 43 per cent said that erotic literature made their own sex lives feel boring and routine. Readers, 50 Shades is not a fly-on-the-wall documentary, you know.Finally, a special request for the publishers of Clive James's enemies. James, best known as a broadcaster, critic, commentator and novelist, is also a brilliant poet who has published nine collections. One of his more famous poems is "The Book of My Enemy Has Been Remaindered", in which he takes satisfaction in imagining monumental piles of his rival's failed book. James has told Radio 4's Meeting Myself Coming Back that he's been very ill for two years, and is "getting near the end ... I'm a man approaching his terminus". He is not there yet, but please, publishers, remainder the books of his enemies, just to give him some cheer.?According to the latest league table from BrandFinance Global 500, the value of luxury goods brands has rocketed this year with the likes of Louis Vuitton, Hermes and Ralph Lauren increasing their brand values by up to 24 per cent, while supermarket brands such as Sainsburys and Asda have seen their brand value fall.The supermarkets woes are in stark contrast to the growth in upmarket brands C luxury jeweller Tiffany & Co made the Global 500 for the first time with a brand value of $2.9bn while purveyor of luxury cars - Rolls-Royce C saw a 17 per cent increase in the value of the brand. Luxury goods houses Prada and Coach re-entered the top 500 this year and Christian Dior and Burberry join Tiffany as newcomers.David Haigh, the chief executive of Brand Finance, said: The rise to prominence of luxury and lifestyle brands in this years report is impressive. Whilst the world remains shrouded in economic misery, people are investing their hard earned cash in brands they rely on to produce quality and long lasting products.As well as luxury goods, the techonology sector is the strongest contender in the brand stakes with 49 technology companies making the top 500 and Apple crowned king C it is ranked as the worlds most valuable brand at $70.6bn.?Aside from enraging more pedantic viewers by using the wrong name for the Union Flag, Martin's moment of doubt over his team's decision to decorate pieces of furniture by painting on the national flag was symptomatic of a wider crisis in confidence in the most iconic British design feature of all.In a summer that includes the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations and the London Olympics, we are bound to see more than ever of the Union Flag, which had its birthday yesterday on the 406th anniversary of it being introduced by James I to represent the unification of the crowns of England and Scotland.Research produced this week by the brand consultancy Coley Porter Bell found that the rash of Union Flag imagery appearing on packaging was starting to irritate many consumers.More than 56 per cent of respondents to the survey said that brands that wished to highlight the "Britishness" of their product should only do so subtly. More than 25 per cent went as far as to warn that they found such patriotism distasteful.Some brands were regarded as having a right to boast of their Britishness, a list topped by British Airways and ranging from Burberry to Marmite (rebranded Ma'amite for the Jubilee, groan). Marks & Spencer appears to have assumed it scores highly with consumers in this regard, judging by its latest advertising campaign, "A Summer to Remember", showing Twiggy, Jamie Redknapp and friends cutting a cake with Union Flag icing and enjoying a jubilee garden party beneath the bunting. John Lewis has launched a "Union Jack" range of mugs, keyrings, umbrellas and tea caddies, though the kaleidoscopic colours would not be recognised by James I or any monarch since."There has been a growing groundswell of British iconography," says John Clark, planning director at Coley Porter Bell. The public might be less sympathetic towards the SEBO vacuum cleaner brand, which has launched a "Felix Royale" model in Union Flag livery for those that feel that dusting is a matter of national pride. The Government has dived in with its "Great" campaign, with more red, white and blue than John Bull's waistcoat.Since the Second World War, the British people have had a complex relationship with the Union Flag. To one generation it was a symbol of a nation's fight for survival. Their children wanted to turn it into something less serious. Pete Townshend of The Who's Union Flag blazer typified this new attitude. "He went to Savile Row to get it done, but all the tailors said it would be sacrilege so he had to go to the East End instead," says Paolo Hewitt, co-author of The A to Z of Mod, published later this month. "It wasn't being disrespectful, but saying that a new era was upon us and it was time to lighten the load of symbols like the target and the Union Jack."When Morrissey wrapped himself in a Union Flag in 1992, many of those for whom the far-right's misappropriation of the banner was too raw recoiled at the sight. And yet soon afterwards Oasis embraced the same flag with the enthusiasm The Who had shown 30 years earlier.That Britpop confidence has faded and Stella McCartney seems to have appreciated the current desire for subtlety in her designs for the Team GB kit in various shades of blue without any red. Patriots should make the most of it. With Scottish independence creeping closer, that Union Flag blue might not be about much longer.?The third day of London Fashion Week may have showcased some of the strongest home-grown players in the industry, but Dame Vivienne thinks we have much to learn. Showcasing the autumn 2012 collection of her Red Label line at London Fashion Week, the designer said the rise of disposable fashion had made people look too similar."In history people dressed much better than we do... If you saw Queen Elizabeth it would be amazing, she came from another planet. She was so attractive in what she was wearing," she said.Hardly surprising then that her collection took inspiration from more nostalgic forms of dress, from Jermyn Street stripes, Savile Row tailoring, tartan and duchesse satin to headscarves.But the designer said people were too conformist."People have never looked so ugly... We are so conformist, nobody is thinking. I'm a fashion designer and people think 'what do I know?' but I'm talking about all this disposable crap. So I'm saying buy less, choose well, make it last."London Fashion Week has a reputation for launching the careers of young stars and JW Anderson's show proved this. Only his third standalone womenswear show, this marked his arrival on the international circuit.At the other end of the scale, the Topshop Unique show offered a selection of utilitarian pieces in bonded tweed and Prince of Wales check. Boiler suits and workwear-esque dungarees were reinvented in velvet with silk sleeves, pockets and panels at the cuffs. Party dresses got the hardware treatment, with zips functioning as straps.Fedora-cum-baseball caps, as well as modish spike-heeled boots with brothel-creeper soles, were evidence of the sort of typically British eclecticism and streetwear aesthetic that has built this brand's successful reputation at home and overseas.If the shows spoke of Britain's international credentials, the front row at Mulberry was a microcosm of that. Singer Lana Del Rey was there, in honour of the fact the luxury luggage label has named a bag from their autumn collection after her. Actor Michelle Williams was there too, as well as Elizabeth Olsen, evidence of the lure of one of the UK's most lucrative names.Fashion Week continues today with shows from Burberry and Christopher Kane and a presentation from McQ, the subsidiary line from Alexander McQueen, which marks its first London presence in more than a decade.?Burberry Prorsum has been showcased in the British capital since 2008 (prior to that the show was in Milan alongside that city's big guns) and it gives London Fashion Week an ultra-glossy and unusually corporate international lift.Still, the label is quintessentially British at heart as could be seen in yesterday's procession of outerwear all of which appeared, as if by magic, beneath a shower of (man-made) rain. Blanket coats, bombers, waxed jackets and of course the label's famous trench coat, this time cut in a gabardine and tweed mix, remain the core of its business to this day.Christopher Bailey, Burberry's creative director, understands this sensibility well. More typically English references came in the form of flared riding skirts, overblown dress shirts borrowed from men, animal print T-shirts, and for the country-house soiree, fringed dresses and quilted velvet in the colour of the forthcoming autumn season: ox-blood.As well as respecting Burberry's British heritage, the powers that be at the label consistently have an eye on the future where digital innovation is concerned. The show was live-streamed on its website and looks can be ordered online for seven days meaning any customers may find themselves in possession of their autumn 2012 wardrobe almost half a year before they reach stores.Christopher Kane is a man who is known for taking the potentially stuffy cliches of the bourgeois wardrobe and twisting them slightly C or indeed quite a lot. His collection was inspired, he said, by art photographer Joseph Szabo's portraits of American teenagers and the ambivalence of adolescence. With that in mind, here was a woman C or in fact a girl C who strode down the runway in leather and pinstripe, velvet and moire, all in hard as nails colours C royal blue, true red, purple and predominantly black C and emphatically heavy square-toed ankle boots and Mary-Jane shoes.If last season Kane invested the ubiquitous reference to mid-20th haute couture with a homespun feel, this time he darkened it to the point where it was almost gothic, and certainly mournful, in flavour. Black roses on narrow knee-length dresses were more nasty than nice; the ribbons threaded through neck-and waist-lines, similarly, came not in fluttering silks but padded black leather tied into stiff bows.The over-riding toughness in mood belied the fine quality of workmanship and loving attention to detail throughout. Fabric treatments and embellishment were both extraordinary in their complexity and innovation. This could be seen in floral jewel-encrusted embroideries and garments covered entirely in what looked like pulled threads.Chunky knit jumpers, cigarette pants and skinny leather coats only added to the impression of ferocity more than overt femininity in the stereotypical sense of the word.The day kicked off with a confident showing courtesy of the designer pairing, Peter Pilotto and Christopher de Vos. Famed for their prints, the principal reference on this occasion was Japanese "light trucks" (literally, according to the show notes, cars covered in thousands of lights), Chinese mask make-up and overblown garden flowers C specifically lilac, carnation and iris.This came stamped or embroidered on to everything from jeans and Puffa jackets with exaggerated collars to signature, body-conscious jersey dresses that kicked at the hem. While the hyper-technical quality of the whole might not be to everyone's taste, there was no disputing the talent on display here.?Burberry is ramping up its expansion plans after earmarking 200m for new stores this year as global demand for its luxury goods defies the downturn in the UK. The luxury brand, which will open in London, Brazil and Shanghai, unveiled a 26 per cent rise in pre-tax profits to 376m for the year to March, on sales up 24 per cent to 1.86bn. ?Ahrendts gave them to the Ahrendts-Couch Family Foundation, which sold them at 1148p a share, totalling 574,000.The couple set up the private charity in the past few weeks in Delaware to give to good causes.Ahrendts came under attack earlier this year when it emerged she received a one-off 5.8m share payment last year.?Burberry will pay Paris-based InterParfums about 181m (142m) to terminate the deal from December. But it is continuing discussions with the company about how to structure a new deal. It said the outcome of discussions is "uncertain". Termination of the agreement leaves Burberry open to pursue other options if a deal cannot be struck with InterParfums. Burberry said it had taken the decision to end the contract "to maintain flexibility in pursuing its objective to develop fully this business in the future".The British brand has been renegotiating a number of contracts and licensees in a wholesale shake-up of its global business in order to give Burberry more control of how its products are sold to customers.?Tailoring and enhanced ranges drove a 26% rise in menswear sales,while non-clothing such as bags, small leather goods and accessories lifted 50%.Burberry's total revenues were up 24% to 1.9 billion in the yearto March 31 and pre-tax profits lifted to 366 million as key Asian markets showed more strong growth and flagship stores in London and Paris performed well.It is planning 15 new outlets in the current financial year, withthe focus on larger format stores such as its relocated site in London's Regent Street.There are 63 stores in mainland China, accounting for 12% of revenues, and Burberry said it would continue to invest in the under-penetrated market.As well as doubling its number of Facebook fans to 12 million at the year end, Burberry has extended its presence on Chinese social mediaplatforms and launched other initiatives such as Tweetwalk during London Fashion Week.Richard Hunter, head of equities at Hargreaves Lansdown stockbrokers, described the annual results performance as robust.He added: "A 24% rise in pre-tax profits defies some of the economic gloom, whilst the company's exposure to some strong local markets continues to propel prospects."PA?The luxury-goods retailer said the rise in sales to 830m in the six months to the end of September from 673m a year ago, was driven by strong sales of "outerwear" C coats C especially its range of trench coats. Sales of leather goods were also particularly strong.The Duchess of Cambridge sparked a scramble for Burberry trench coats in March after wearing one on a trip to Belfast, with the make selling out online the next day. The brand is also favoured by the Queen and Kate Moss and advertised by Harry Potter star Emma Watson.Burberry reported a 45 per cent sales bump to 528m in its first half, as it sold more in existing stores, expanded to new ones and saw some strong returns from China.Last month its shares had tumbled over concerns for the company's growth in the country after economists at Citi downgraded its economic outlook. Beyond the coats and leather bags, initiatives including men's tailoring and accessories, children's clothing and shoes continued to drive growth.Angela Ahrends, Burberry's chief executive, said that the performance "clearly demonstrates the continuing global momentum of the Burberry brand".There was also a solid performance in its flagship markets, including New York, London, Paris and Hong Kong. The wholesale operation rose by one-fifth following sales to the Americas, emerging markets and of travel goods.The company forecasts that average retail selling space will grow 15 per cent during the second half of its financial year. It hopes to open 25 new stores this year and double space in London.?Total sales came in at 408m for the three months to the end of June, showing an underlying increase of 11 per cent. That is down from 15 per cent in the previous quarter and below analysts' forecasts of 13 per cent.The shares fell 7 per cent to 1,189p and its chief executive Angela Ahrendts admitted the company was facing a "more challenging external environment".The sales slowdown came as Burberry confirmed its new flagship store on Regent Street will miss the Olympics. It will not open until September, having been earmarked to open during the summer.The luxury sector is beginning to show signs of the impact of Europe's debt crisis and slower growth in emerging markets, including China.Stacey Cartwright, chief financial officer at Burberry, said: "This is a robust performance. We were up against tough comparisons. But we have a huge amount of brand momentum and we are in line, or better than peers."Bethany Hocking, an analyst at Investec, said: "We expect Burberry's shares to suffer today. We note, however, that full-year guidance appears unchanged and the first quarter is Burberry's smallest quarter. It is also against the toughest comparisons."Burberry has been putting its house in order, tidying up messy licence agreements in Japan and focusing on a "legacy clean-up", getting rid of cheaper product lines and selling less through discount outlets.This has had an impact on sales, Ms Cartwright said, but would mean its margins had improved.She added that Burberry had been "eliminating the non-British-made outerwear at the lower price points" and focusing on "weaved, British-made fabrics".Despite being hit by a 5 per cent drop in licensing revenue, shop sales rose 14 per cent to 280m and comparable store sales were up 6 per cent.Ms Cartwright said the focus remains on "global flagship markets" and the company will continue to open giant stores in key markets, where "luxury travelling consumers" continue to visit and spend.Growth came from the UK, France, Germany and China, and several new stores are due to open this year, include in London, Chicago, Hong Kong and Shanghai.In the capital, Burberry said London Fashion Week in September is a more desirable time to open a new store. Ms Cartwright said: "London will be interesting during the Olympics. There will be traffic chaos. "We are focused on the luxury travelling consumer, not those who are visiting for the Olympics. In Beijing, we didn't see an uplift at our store during the Olympics, so opening in September is better for us."?The luxury goods company could buy back the current licence which runs to 2017, extend it or even bid to take over Inter Parfums.Sales of Burberry fragrances were 210m (176m) last year and are growing with the recent launch of Burberry Body. In recent years, Burberry has bought out many licences taking direct control of its interests.Inter Parfums also makes and distributes perfumes for Van Cleef & Arpels, Jimmy Choo, Paul Smith and Montblanc.?Analysts have predicted total sales growth up 18-20 per cent with sales for the quarter forecast to be close to 569m.But like-for-like retail sales growth could be slightly down on last year at around 15 per cent.The company's 10 million Facebook friends are testament to its growing social media presence C it released images from the catwalk yesterday on a Twitter "tweetwalk".?The company's shares have been buffeted by concerns over China in recent months but Burberry stressed the country accounts for only 10 per cent of its global revenues and that Shanghai and Beijing represent just two of its 25 flagship markets globally. Angela Ahrendts, the chief executive of Burberry, said: "It [China] is a nice and strong market. But it is not a market that Burberry is overly dependent on. There are 25 Londons around the world and that is where Burberry is focused." Indeed, China, where Burberry acquired its 50 franchise stores in September 2010, delivered a 30 per cent jump in like-for-like sales.Shares in Burberry fell 74p, or 5 per cent, to 1,347p yesterday, although they are up nearly 20 per cent this year. For the six months to 30 September, Burberry posted a 26 per cent rise in underlying profits to 162m, on total revenues up 29 per cent to 830m. The profit rise was driven by an increase in margins and double-digit revenue growth across all its regions, divisions and product categories. Its retail gross margin rose by 2.4 per cent to 66.7 per cent. Ms Ahrendts also cited strong performances in London, Paris, New York, Dubai and Hong Kong. But Asia-Pacific was the star, growing retail and wholesale revenues by 51 per cent to 265.3m. Since 2010, Burberry has doubled its workforce at its factory in Castleford, Yorkshire, which makes most of the gaberdine trenchcoats for its new Burberry Bespoke website. The site provides 12 million options, including different studs, cuffs and collars.?Like-for-like sales ground to a halt in the 10 weeks to 8 September, meaning its pre-tax profits for the year will come at the lower end of expectations. Analysts had predicted a total of between 407m and 455m. Following the announcement, shares slumped by almost 19 per cent, wiping 1bn from its market value in what one analyst described as "shooting the messenger" over a crisis across luxury brands.Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts said the company's second quarter growth had slowed against "historically high comparatives" in a "challenging market". "Given this background, we are tightly managing discretionary costs and taking appropriate actions to protect short- term profitability," she added.In the short term, the company's headcount has been frozen, travel expenditure will be cut and new IT projects have been deferred. The long-term strategies, including expansion into emerging markets and a diversification into non-clothing products, are still in place.As luxury giants LVMH (behind Louis Vuitton) and PPR (Gucci, Alexander McQueen) took single digit hits, analysts pondered whether there could be a problem with growth across high-end manufacturers. Ahrendts didn't specify whether results were hit in Western markets or emerging markets C leading to speculation it could be both.The announcement was in stark contrast to an optimistic forecast at the opposite end of the retail sector. Primark said like-for-like sales had increased by 3 per cent in the year to 15 September, with 19 new branch launches increasing overall sales by 15 per cent.Neil Saunders, managing director of retail analysts Conlumino, said the current economic climate protected super-cheap brands such as Primark, as well as those who sell to the "ber wealthy", but Burberry is a different beast. "In Western markets, a lot of Burberry's success is predicated on the fact they sell to a wide market. It may be a luxury brand, but middle-market consumers will stretch their budget upwards to purchase Burberry items," he said. Brands that sell to the middle market, such as Marks & Spencer, have had a difficult year.Growth in China has slowed, Mr Saunders said, because "luxury businesses have piled into those markets so now it's much more competitive". In an environment where companies can no longer rely on Asian and Latin American markets for growth, Burberry needed to address customers' needs, he said.Jaana Jatyri, CEO of Trendstop.com, said Burberry had fallen foul of the fickle fashion world: "In this climate, people are watching what they spend."The first store opened in Dublin in 1969, but aggressive expansion in the UK and Europe in recent years has seen that number soar to 242 today, with 19 stores opened in the last year alone. Unashamedly cheap, Primark apes trends and appeals to a young but trend-savvy clientele. Skinny jeans sell for 11, and analysts are forecasting group profits (it's owned by Associated British Foods) for this year of 970m.Founded in Basingstoke in 1856 by a draper's apprentice and later renowned for its distinct tartan pattern, Burberry saw its yearly sales boom to 3.5bn last year with the help of CEO Angela Ahrendts's commercial wiles and chief designer Christopher Bailey's fashion nous. Burberry has more than 500 outlets, and women's trench coats from the top Prorsum line start at 1,095.?Instead, guests were greeted at the vast marquee in Kensington Gardens by a projected London skyline, in which Burberry's newly opened 44,000 sq ft flagship store on Regent Street featured prominently.And chief creative officer Christopher Bailey's collection was no less bombastic, a celebration of the Prorsum line's high-end credentials with sumptuous fabrics and couture detailing, and a reassertion of its hip-heritage status among some of the world's wealthiest private clients.The label's signature trench was reworked in a spectrum of holographic shades, from hot pink via aubergine to cobalt and apple green, and reimagined as cropped mini-capes, bolero bomber jackets and cocoon coats with the voluminous sack-back and drop-shouldered silhouette so redolent of the 1950s golden age of atelier craftsmanship.Artisanal touches came on plisse silk corsets, laser-cut lace outerwear and separates, and a bustier dress covered in royal blue feathers, a bold statement of the brand's unshakable luxe identity and faith in its chosen commercial route.Young designer Christopher Kane meanwhile, dealt with the nuts and bolts in his offering yesterday. Sharply cut and classically feminine crpe de Chine dresses in white, lemon yellow and bubblegum pink were ingeniously held together at the shoulder with moulded plastic fastenings shaped like wingnuts; they came as buttons on boxy jackets and skirts, too.Restrained decoration came by way of fluid planes of fabric that cascaded down the front of minimal Sixties-style shift dresses. But Kane's vision of femininity was toughened up with padded leather motorcross jackets featuring an embossed pattern of roses, and haphazard strips of packing tape used as rough embellishment. His great strength as a designer is creating glamorously modern clothes that are conceptual, cool and comfortable.Stiffly frilled organdie skirts and dresses were printed with nostalgically twee bows, which were later realised in 3D in the same rubberised plastic and worked into latticed skirts and jackets. "That was a bit of a cash-and carry-moment," the designer said. "The bows were meant to be sickly sweet, the colours were serene so you didn't know what was coming next."London Fashion Week draws to a close today with shows from Mulberry and Meadham Kirchhoff.Transport kindly provided by Mercedes Benz?Burberry Prorsum has been showcased in the British capital since 2009 (prior to that the show was in Milan alongside that city's big guns) and it gives London Fashion Week an ultra-glossy and unusually corporate international lift.Still, the label is quintessentially British at heart as could be seen in yesterday's glamorous procession of outerwear all of which appeared, as if by magic, beneath a shower of (man-made) rain. Blanket coats, bombers, waxed jackets and of course the label's famous trench coat, which was this time cut in a gabardine and tweed mix, remain the core of its business to this day.Christopher Bailey, Burberry's chief creative officer, understands this sensibility well. More typically English references came in the form of flared riding skirts, overblown dress shirts borrowed from men, animal print T-shirts, and for the country-house soiree, fringed dresses and quilted velvet in the colour of the forthcoming autumn season: ox-blood.As well as respecting Burberry's British heritage, which remains the principal source of inspiration for the Prorsum collection and the brand as a whole, the powers that be at the label consistently have an eye on the future where digital innovation is concerned. The show was live-streamed on its website and looks can be ordered online for seven days meaning any customers may find themselves in possession of their autumn 2012 wardrobe and, of course, accessories finished with shiny brass duck and fox heads to go with it, almost half a year before they reach the store.Christopher Kane is among London's most feted designers and a man who is known for taking the potentially stuffy cliches of the bourgeois wardrobe and twisting them slightly - or indeed quite a lot. His collection, shown earlier in the day, was inspired, he said, by art photographer Joseph Szabo's portraits of American teenagers and the ambivalence of adolescence. With that in mind, here was a woman - or in fact a girl - who strode down the runway in leather and pinstripe, velvet and moire, all in hard as nails colours - royal blue, true red, purple and predominantly black - and emphatically heavy square-toed ankle boots and Mary-Jane shoes.If last season Kane invested the ubiquitous reference to mid-Twentieth haute couture that continues to sweep the ready-to-wear circuit with a homespun feel, this time he darkened it to the point where it was almost gothic, and certainly mournful, in flavour. Black roses appeared on narrow knee-length dresses that were more nasty than nice; the ribbons threaded through neck- and waist-lines, similarly, came not in fluttering silks but padded black leather tied into stiff bows.The over-riding toughness in mood belied the fine quality of workmanship and loving? attention to detail throughout. Fabric treatments and embellishment were both extraordinary in their complexity and innovative. This could be seen in floral jewel-encrusted embroideries and garments covered entirely in what looked like pulled threads.Chunky knit jumpers, cigarette pants and skinny leather coats only added to the impression of ferocity mor than overt femininity in the stereotypical sense of the word. It was all the more refreshing for that.The day kicked off with a confident showing courtesy of the designer pairing, Peter Pilotto and Christopher de Vos. Famed for their prints, the principal reference on this occasion was Japanese 'light trucks' - literally, according to the show notes, cars covered in thousands of lights - Chinese mask make-up and overblown garden flowers - specifically lilac, carnation and iris.This came stamped or embroidered onto everything from jeans and Puffa jackets with exaggerated collars to signature, body-conscious jersey dresses that kicked at the hem. While the hyper-technical quality of the whole might not be to everyone's taste, there was no disputing the talent on display here.?The Debrett's People of Today entry for ex-Formula 1 racing team owner Eddie Jordan needs to be updated as it emerged last week that Jordan and LDC private equity boss Darryl Eales snapped up the venerable guide to etiquette and genealogy, earlier this year. There's been plenty of scepticism over oil explorers looking for black gold in the Falklands, so Rockhopper chief executive Sam Moody must feel vindicated after a $1bn deal on Thursday.Premier Oil splashed out that amount to take a 60 per cent stake in the group.Also on Thursday, Aegis boss Jerry Buhlmann announced the advertising group's 3.2bn sale to Japan's Dentsu. He stands to make 10m from the deal.... at a lossBarclays bosses and Bank of England deputy governors have had an awfully bad week but so have others.On Tuesday, Kate Bostock, the one-time darling of the retail sector, quit as executive director for general merchandise at Marks 'n' Sparks, following the chain's worst UK sales performance in three-and-a-half years.The myth that British luxury goods are immune to the financial crisis might not last for much longer after Burberry revealed a slowdown in sales growth on Wednesday with boss Angela Ahrendts admitting to a "more challenging external environment". On Thursday, Peugeot Citroen boss Philippe Varin admitted the French carmaker is losing 100m a month.?It shows the potential for "cross-pollination" between directors of the UK's top companies, a relationship usually between the non-executive directors of companies who sit on the all-important remuneration committees which set board pay.Looking at the extent to which cross-pollination may be a factor in high-pay culture in boardrooms is one of the key issues being scrutinised by Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, who is due to report on new proposals on corporate pay early in the new year.It is no surprise that FTSE 100 business leaders fear proposals that could put ordinary employees on the key committees that set the pay of their firms' bosses. But a recent Department for Business, Innovation and Skills discussion paper has raised the issue of whether the practice of senior executives of one company sitting on the remuneration committees of other firms has contributed to the culture that caused directors' pay to rise by 41 per cent last year.The department paper referring to pollination between boards says: "There may be a risk of this where a non-executive is involved in setting the pay of someone who, in another company, may have a role in setting theirs."To look into the basis of "cross-pollination" concerns, The IoS examined the most recent published company annual reports and information on corporate websites.At Bovis, the housebuilders, Colin Holmes chairs the remuneration committee with a former banker, Alastair Lyons, as one of the other two members. But at Admiral Group, the Confused.com insurance group, Holmes sits on its remuneration committee setting the pay of its chairman C Lyons.The Department for Business says it is extremely common for individual directors to have a role in several companies, either as executives or part-time non-executives. So stakeholders had argued that "there is a strong case for preventing these situations from arising", it states.But Damien Knight, a director at the executive pay consultancy MM&K, has submitted figures to the department claiming such practises are not common. "It's just not true," he says. "There is not one pair of FTSE 100 executives with membership of each other's boards."However, there still may be cases where one party is a non-executive chairperson whose pay is set by these committees. Sir John Peace and David Tyler are both on the remuneration committee at the Burberry fashion group. But at the Experian credit agency C another FTSE 100 company C Tyler sits on its committee which decides the pay of the chairman, who is Peace.The High Pay Commission last month produced a report calling for greater diversity on remuneration committees to curb the inflation in directors' rewards. Deborah Hargreaves, who chairs the commission, says: "Our work has shown we must now break open the closed shop that sets pay for our top directors and get back to basics on executive pay."She adds: "The make-up of the non-executive directors, who determine executive pay deals, could be having an inflationary effect on pay. Even looked at in the most positive light, non-executive directors often come from a relatively small pool of individuals."Remuneration committees comprise non-executive directors, some of whom can earn directorship fees of 125,000 a year. But the department's paper refers to concerns that they are drawn from too narrow a group C including executives of other companies.Sarah Wilson, chief executive of the shareholder advisory firm Manifest monitors board structures, says "We've moved on considerably from the days of cosy remuneration committees. I do not think one person can have that much influence."But the TUC has told the Government it welcomes the proposal for employee representation on remuneration committees and is ready to organise training for workers. However, Janet Williamson, a senior policy officer, says: "We are expecting fierce opposition from the corporate sector and the City. Those groups have a lot invested in the status quo."The Association of British Insurers, which represents shareholders, will oppose the proposal. Its investor affairs spokesman, Marc Jobling, says: "We agree that diversity of perspective is extremely important, not just on remuneration committees, but across the board as a whole. That addresses the 'cosy club' issue. There's a danger of group-think."However, he claims directors' pay in European countries with worker-representatives can be equally high.Even if straight swaps between boards are relatively rare, critics say the whole ethos of executives from one company setting the pay for top directors at another has the potential for a conflict of interest. While not directly boosting their own rewards, they are keeping corporate pay packages high, setting an environment for their own remuneration to rise when it is reviewed.Hargreaves' reports states: "The current market in executive pay relies on non-executive directors, acting in the interests of shareholders to bargain with the executive, who is acting in his own personal interest."Most boards are made up predominantly of men from a financial or managerial background. Many of these non-executives are either current executive directors at other companies or recently retired executives. While they have no direct interest in the company, they may have an indirect financial interest in the level of remuneration given. Individuals taken from the same background are more prone to 'group think'."Large numbers of executives on committees which set the pay for their peers can be detected in British boardrooms. For example, the Admiral's remuneration committee, which sets Lyons's pay, is chaired by John Sussens, who also chairs the committee at Cookson that assesses the pay of its chairman, Jeff Harris. But Harris sits on WH Smith's pay committee, which determines the pay package for its chief executive, Kate Swann C and she is on the pay committee at Babcock International whose chief executive is Peter Rogers. Rogers sits on the pay committee at Galliford Try, the house-building firm, alongside Andrew Jenner who is finance director at the Serco services group C whose chairman is also Alastair Lyons.The remuneration committee at Experian, on which David Tyler also sits, sets the pay of the chief executive, Don Robert. He, in turn, sits on the remuneration committee of the catering group Compass which decides on the pay of the chief executive, Richard Cousins. Cousins is himself on the remuneration committee of Reckitt Benckiser, the household products business which was run by Bart Brecht. Tyler was himself a Reckitt director until 2009.It's only recently that trade bodies such as the Institute of Directors have become more closely involved in the debate, as they fear that the reputation of business generally is being damaged. Indeed, it was the IoD's director general, Simon Walker, who attacked "unsustainable" rises in boardroom pay. And it is the IoD which suggests there should be voluntary discussions between employee representatives and remuneration committees and more information about the consultants used to help.?Croda was chosen by Deutsche Bank's Tim Jones as his top UK stock in the sector for 2012, citing a number of reasons, including his belief that demand for consumer products using its chemicals will continue to grow.The analyst said that with more men wanting to take care of their appearance while an ageing population attempts to keep looking young, there has been a trend for "increased grooming" that has "supported growth through the downturn".The analyst, who kept his "buy" recommendation", also revived talk that Croda could become a bid target.It is a familiar idea, with US company Dow Chemical one of the names frequently linked in takeover speculation.Mr Jones said: "External interest is possible given [Croda's] strong market positions, consumer focus and relatively small size of the company."However, he conceded that "valuation may prove an obstacle" and predicted that in the sector "management teams will remain cautious".Despite the praise C which included his speculating that the company's strong balance sheet could see it returning more cash to punters C Croda eased up only 6p to 1,850p on the mid-tier index.At the start of what was again described as a vital week for the eurozone, German leader Angela Merkel and and her French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy's joint proposals for a new EU treaty were greeted with cautious optimism.Yet while the FTSE 100 moved above the 5,600 level during trading for the first time since October, by the bell it was just 15.67 points stronger at 5,567.96, although this was still a five-week high.The two state-backed blue-chip banks stormed ahead, with Lloyds grabbing the top spot after surging up 1.61p to 27p.The sector was helped by Deutsche Bank's announcing that it remained "positive on the UK domestic banks long-term" and recommending punters buy into Lloyds as well as Royal Bank of Scotland (up 1.14p to 22.77p) and Barclays (up 1p to 191.65p).Among the commodity stocks, Glencore International rose 14p to 424.95p after its boss Ivan Glasenberg claimed in an interview with the Swiss newspaper 20 Minuten that he would not get rid of any of his 15.8 per cent stake while working at the company.Burberry was out of fashion with invesors, slipping 44p to 1,272p and propping up the foot of the top-tier index.Unsurprisingly, it was gloomy news from China, one of the luxury brand's major growth markets, that did the damage after services sector data from the country showed further signs of a slowdown.Good news may be rare in retail at the moment but as Peel Hunt pointed out, at least it's not snowing.Twelve months ago, icy conditions forced shoppers to stay at home, whereas Christmas looks set to be milder this year.The broker noted that online retailers, unable to offer their usual delivery guarantees, were particularly hit by last year's weather, citing Asos as one example.Peel Hunt said that this year the AIM-listed clothing company's figures would impress in comparison.Its analysts also upgraded its rating to "buy" in the wake of the group's share price losing more than 40 per cent since June. It rose 47p to 1,407p in response.However, despite strong sales figures from sector bellwether John Lewis over the weekend, not every retailer was on the rise. Next declined 57p to 2,660p while Marks & Spencer was 1.1p lower at 329p amid fears over sales discounts already being offered on the high street.There was yet more woe for recruiters after Michael Page warned its profits for the year would be towards the lower end of City forecasts. It retreated 4.8p to 87.65p as a result. And coming after SThree's admission last week that it has seen a slowdown in trading , traders were looking nervously at sector peer Hays, which eased back 0.55p to 70.65p.Evolution's Nigel Pearson clearly fancies himself as a film critic, arguing that while 3D technology "cannot make a bad film good ... it can make a good film better". He went on to note that the increase this year in the number of 3D titles could only be good news for Cineworld, although the cinema company still failed to move from 204p.Also on the small-cap index, its announcement that it had struck a 222 m (191m) deal to sell its Norwegian business saw newspaper publisher Mecom climb 12p to 197p.FTSE 100 Risersl International Airlines Group 157.9p (up 4.4p, 2.87 per cent) British Airways owner climbs as its latest traffic figures show a 2.1 per cent increase in the number of passengers over November.l Lonmin 1,076p (up 13p, 1.22 per cent) Platinum producer manages to strike deal with South Africa's National Union of Mineworkers to raise the pay of its employees by as much as 10 per cent.FTSE 100 Fallersl Centrica 293.1p (down 3.2p, 1.08 per cent) Owner of British Gas falls despite announcing it is looking for joint-investment opportunities in upstream oil and gas with Qatar Petroleum.l British American Tobacco 2,933p (down 23.5p, 0.79 per cent) Cigarette manufacturer drops for the first time in six trading sessions, as punters decide to move away from defensive stocks.FTSE 250 Risersl Pace 67.9p (up 10.65p, 18.6 per cent) Set-top box maker helped by Numis upgrading its rating to "hold" in the wake of last week's news that major supplier Western Digital has restarted production in Thailand.l SDL 663p (up 32.5p, 5.15 per cent) Translation software company still climbing after announcing on Friday it has managed to agree 68.4m takeover of small-cap marketing group Alterian.FTSE 250 Fallersl Bellway 732p (down 44.5p, 5.73 per cent) Housebuilder knocked back by Panmure Gordon's decision to downgrade its recommendation to "hold" from "buy", citing the recent strong rise in the group's share price.l Berkeley 1,316p (down 44p, 3.24 per cent) Builder slips despite a number of brokers C including Credit Suisse and UBS C all raising their target prices on the company following Friday's interim results.?I am struck by the ham analogy during a recent interview with Redmayne. Exactly 10 years since he was plucked from Cambridge University to play Viola opposite Mark Rylance's Olivia in a 400th-anniversary production of Twelfth Night, he has just learned that his current performance as Richard II at the Donmar Warehouse has been crowned Best Shakespearean Performance at the Critics' Circle Awards C no mean feat, given that the season has also seen heavyweight Shakespeare contributions from the likes of Spacey, Tennant, Sheen and Fiennes.In the intervening decade between Viola and Richard, Redmayne has worked fastidiously and uncompromisingly. Allergic to anything resembling complacency, he rarely takes a day off. Now he is talking to me over a cup of tea before heading back to the theatre for that night's performance, and he is radiant with excitement at the Critics' Circle news."It's just the loveliest, loveliest thing that could have happened," he admits. But where most actors would take such a prize as cue to relax and enjoy the last weeks of the run, Redmayne shakes his head. He's going back to work."Because you never get it right," he insists. "You never get it close to getting it right, you never get one line exactly how your notion of it should be. That's what's so exciting about theatre. Most actors hate watching their own films because all you can see is the glaring mistakes, your own tricks and ticks. But people often ask, how can you do the same play night after night for months on end and not get bored? And that's the reason. In theatre you always have the chance to try and fix what you did the night before."It seems remarkable that the London-born Redmayne, who has just turned 30 and is having, by any definition, a golden moment, should remain so self-critical. As well as giving his Richard every night, making lines like "I live by bread like you, feel want/ Taste grief, need friends" seem revelatory, he is also gracing Sunday night television screens as Stephen Wraysford in a landmark BBC1 adaptation of Sebastian Faulks's Birdsong, and charming cinema audiences in My Week With Marilyn. As soon as Richard II closes, the former Eton and Cambridge choral scholar is off to play (and sing) Marius in Tom Hooper's big-screen musical adaptation of Les Misrables, with Russell Crowe, Hugh Jackman, Helena Bonham Carter and Anne Hathaway. And with major theatre awards from the Olivier to the Tony already to his name, he is now up for a Bafta C this year's Rising Star Award, which is voted for by the public C and looking, increasingly, like the one to beat.But this is also the young man who was so unconvinced he would make it as an actor that he seriously considered other career options after graduating, including art history and banking (his father and one of his three brothers are in finance; nobody else in his family is in the arts)."I didn't go to drama school, so there was no official transformation stage, no moment where I got a certificate, even a bit of paper, saying 'right, you're allowed to do this now,'" he points out."After university, I gave myself a year. I was working in a pub and doing excruciating auditions and wondering if my new agent who'd taken this huge punt on me would sack me, and I remember getting a part in an episode of Doctors and it was probably the most exciting thing that had ever happened in my life. Then I went to Liverpool to do a play called Master Harold... and the Boys and I was living in a hostel on my own for three months and it was the most wonderful experience. I started to think, secretly, 'well, maybe I can do this'. But I came back to London and nobody took any notice and I went back to work at the pub. I always felt a bit fraudulent, like I was waiting to be exposed." Munching a biscuit, he contemplates this. "In a way, I still do. I still feel this incredible sense of gratitude that anybody actually lets me do this professionally."In any other actor, this might come across as galling false modesty. Given his current ubiquity, it's easy to imagine that Redmayne's success has arrived largely overnight; but that "star" to which the Bafta nomination alludes has been gradually rising for 10 years. It may also be tempting, considering the green eyes, 6ft 1in frame, and ridiculous cheekbones that have won him Burberry modelling contracts and a multitude of devoted fans both male and female C though he is currently single C to assume that this is just another talented pretty boy who happened to get very lucky. But ever since Rylance gave him that first big break, Redmayne has personified the old adage that luck is merely what happens when hard work meets opportunity. As his CV has swelled, so too has his dedication; the more professional triumphs that have come his way, the more he has put his head down and worked harder. He certainly takes nothing for granted."Listen, acting is not surgery," he remarks, "it's entertainment. You're doing something to hopefully move people, to make them laugh, to transport them. But actors are vulnerable, and the reason we're vulnerable is that we're always trying to recreate human behaviour. And any human being has the right to look at that behaviour and decide if it looks real to them or not. Everyone has that capacity for judgment, everyone can turn around and say, 'sorry, but I just don't believe that'. So if you have thin skin C and I don't have particularly thick skin C then your need to constantly please people, well... it's completely impossible. That's why I still feel I've got so much work to do, to really try and nail this thing.'If the drama-school credentials are lacking, Redmayne is, by his own admission, a "sponge", and right from the outset he found himself in a formidable real-life classroom. "My first film, Like Minds, was with Toni Colette, who was extraordinary," he remembers. "I mean it was basically a mini-masterclass for acting on film at a time when all you could probably see were my eyebrows bouncing up and down on screen." We work out that, over 10 films, he has worked with at least 10 Oscar-winning actors, from each of whom he has learned valuable lessons."It's just the greatest luck," he maintains, sounding mildly incredulous, "to have been able to work with such brilliant people." But while these other actors may arrive in a rehearsal room or on set with their ideas fixed C indeed William Hurt, whom Redmayne worked with on The Yellow Handkerchief, has his preferred rehearsal method guaranteed by a clause in his contract C Redmayne subscribes to no fixed approach. He loves, he says, "to be part of a director's vision", and to mix the process up; whether it be Tim Carroll and Dominic Cooke's work with "intentions" or Michael Grandage's desire to get a play up on its feet almost immediately "so that he captures those instinctive things; whatever you do when you don't know the play well enough to be thinking about it."Is there a quality that unites the directors Redmayne admires, I wonder? He considers this. "Taste?" he ventures. "Generosity of spirit? Certainly, they create an atmosphere of kindness and freedom, an environment in which an actor can really take risks, and they have the silent confidence of being sensationally bright." He clarifies. "I mean, the intelligence is never demonstrated or bragged about but it's just there C so you feel confident in their confidence."I ask which of his directors most exemplifies these traits and he eagerly cites early experiences with Tim Carroll (Twelfth Night), Phil Willmott (Master Harold... and the Boys), Dominic Cooke (Now or Later) and Tom Kalin (Savage Grace), as well as more recent ones with Michael Grandage (Red and Richard II), Derick Martini (Hick) and Philip Martin (Birdsong).So, pretty much everybody then. Is this just the Redmayne people-pleasing imperative in action, I wonder? Has he ever had a rubbish experience? He blushes, lowers his eyes behind a gulp of tea. "Well, there was one film I did C obviously I can't name names C but I was on set with a group of phenomenal actors doing a scene and struggling to make a particular line come alive and I had this great director standing over me going, 'come on, Eddie! I've seen you act on stage, I know you can do it, JUST MAKE IT LIVE!' It makes you... want to jump on the first plane to America."Redmayne is a born-and-bred London boy, and seems almost as excited by the fact he has just had an offer accepted on his first flat, in Borough, as he is by his latest acting prize. But America has embraced him since day one; we have often joked how bizarre it is that he seems more at home playing dysfunctional, often gay Statesiders with distinctly warped backgrounds (most recently, a Texan serial-killing cowboy with a limp in Hick, for example) than well-balanced, well-educated, straight Englishmen from solid, happy families like his own."Oh, this is an argument I often have with my mum," he chuckles. "She always complains, "but so-and-so's just playing himself," and I have to remind her that it's actually incredibly difficult to play yourself! But the further a character is from what you are, well..." He thinks about this for a moment. "It's like jumping off a cliff or something, and there's a high chance you're going to end up with egg on your face. So if you're going to end up with egg on your face anyway then it doesn't really matter how much; so you leap at it and go all guns blazing. When you're playing someone closer to you, you're much more constrained. All you can hear is how wrong you're getting it.'There's that self-deprecating reflex again, but the metaphors he chooses, mixed though they may be, are revealing. I remember being struck, as we rehearsed a university production of David Hare's two-hander The Blue Room in 2001, that this was not your average college thesp. He pushed me C pushed us both C to go places with our characters that were dark, risky and dangerous. This capacity for plumbing depths is beautifully served in Birdsong. His wartime Stephen Wraysford is damaged and raw, while the flashbacks to 1910 reveal a young man in all his idealistic, romantic passion. That fissure within Wraysford is what most appealed to Redmayne, who had devoured the book as a teenager but had read a number of previous adaptation attempts that didn't seem to, in his terms, "nail" that conflict. "The difficulty is that it's an extraordinary love story and then a World War One epic," he suggests. "And the way the love story works, it's clandestine; it's one of deep eroticism that needs to be built through the unsaid, and delivered slowly. How do you do that and then the wartime plot, especially in a single film?" Abi Morgan's version, though, did immediately impress him."It didn't compromise or feel like it was cramming story into time but it had a length and a breadth that allowed the characters to breathe. And she had this conceit where Stephen's idyllic interlude in Amiens as a young man falling in love is juxtaposed with him during the war as this masochistic, cold human being. Actually, I think maybe it's similar to what I've been trying to do with Richard II. The audience see these two fundamentally different people, really taken to the extremes, and there's this vexed question that has to play out through the piece of how they might ever be reconciled."On the mention of Richard, Redmayne checks the time, then jumps up. He's due back at the Donmar to revisit his flawed, vulnerable, painfully human king; and somehow C who knows how C try to improve upon whatever it was he did last night.'Birdsong' ends Sunday, 9pm on BBC1. 'Richard II' is at the Donmar Warehouse, London () until 4 February. 'My Week with Marilyn' is in cinemas now?I realise that admitting you're a secret fan of Songs of Praise is like saying you believe in God or think that marriage is a good idea C something not mentioned in public. In the media world, you're a laughing stock if you admit to any of the above. Morality in modern society is a pick 'n'mix affair C feel free to do what you like and we won't judge you.What fab roles models we've got in public life; the Milibands got married long after their kids were born, and Labour refuses to dignify marriage as a desirable state of affairs. God forbid Nick Clegg would raise his head above the parapet on this issue either. David Cameron approves of marriage C but hesitates to make it financially rewarding.Our leaders are so feeble about morality and belief it makes me feel slightly nauseous. When it comes to discussion about religion in modern Britain, every minority has got to have equal airtime, equal prominence, even though new statistics show we're overwhelmingly a Christian society, 70 per cent claiming it as their faith. Muslims constitute only 4.4 per cent of the population.In this climate of embarrassment about spirituality and personal values, I wasn't surprised to read that the BBC was thinking of phasing out AD and BC, and replacing it with the anodyne expression Common Era C although the director of editorial policy was on Radio 4's Feedback on Friday, backtracking like mad and claiming it was only an idea floated on a website. The BBC's head of religious broadcasting is Muslim, and the producer of Songs of Praise is a Sikh, neither of which bothers me. What I find more unsettling is the feeling that coverage of our mainstream religion is not regarded as a cornerstone of the output. Aaqil Ahmed, the BBC's head of religion and ethics (notice how religion gets only part-billing in his job description, ethics being now as important as belief), thinks that the Church of England is living in the past and shouldn't be given any preferential treatment. I agree about the former but not the latter.The problem facing the Church of England can be summed up in two words C Rowan Williams. This uncharismatic academic wrote a disastrous editorial for the New Statesman earlier this year, moaning about the coalition and claiming politicians didn't understand the climate of "fear" in the country. The same unelected, unaccountable chap was due yesterday at the 60th birthday of another bloke, Bob Geldof, who is always telling democratically elected leaders what they're doing wrong. At least Saint Bob has raised millions for the world's poor and needy, whereas the Archbishop of Canterbury has failed to offer any kind of leadership to his flock and is now rumoured to be ready to resign before the end of his tenure.The church sits on a property portfolio worth 5.3bn. It owns prime real estate, offices, shops, housing and 105,000 acres of farmland. Its bishops live in palaces, and the Church commissioners use their holdings to generate wealth to repair churches and fund their clergy. Over the years they have made some spectacular losses C 800m in the 1990s and 40m in 2010, when they invested in property in New York just before the crash. Shouldn't they use more of their huge wealth to reach out to the needy in modern Britain, demonstrating their faith through direct action?In spite of 70 per cent of us saying we believe in God, the number attending church is plummeting. It's an unappealing use of our time. We're turned off by ineffectual leaders and the endless wavering over gay priests and female bishops. There's so much the Church of England could be doing C taking belief out of outdated buildings and into the lives of ordinary people in offices, canteens and schools. Rowan Williams has presided over a PR disaster for his church; at this rate, it will cease to exist except as somewhere we go to get married or be buried.No wonder the BBC's head of religion thinks it's a turn-off. He's right, but please spare Songs of Praise.Down and out in Paris C fashion hits rock bottomThe most unpleasant hours of my early career were spent at couture shows in Paris, when I wrote about fashion. Nothing seems to have changed. Designers employ hatchet- faced PRs who take malicious pleasure in inspecting your invitation as if it's forged and cramming you into cramped rows of tiny seats in airless spaces you would not put a hamster in, let alone several hundred overdressed sweaty adults.Once in your unforgiving chair, you can expect to wait at least an hour for the "show" C usually a parade of unsmiling stick insects. Generally you can't see much, as photographers and favoured celebs fill the front row, with buyers next, and journalists further back. As the fashion press gives designers free publicity, without which their brands would be worthless, it's amazing more don't walk out.At the Balenciaga show in Paris last week, the front benches collapsed, depositing everyone on the floor, and the entire audience, including VIPs such as actress Salma Hayek and Vogue's Anna Wintour, had to watch the show (and make notes) standing up. Burberry shows its range online and via Twitter C surely a better option than risking spinal injury from a faulty seat.Wesker's fare has gone staleKitchen by Arnold Wesker, revived at the National Theatre, has stunning staging and choreography, and excellent, energetic performances. It's set in the kitchen of a busy West End restaurant in the late 1950s, and its cast of 31 makes the piece expensive to stage. But there could be another reason it is rarely performed: Wesker's play has absolutely nothing to say but the blindingly obvious. Yes, loads of nationalities work in catering.Yes, their ups and downs could be a simile for a larger world. But this piece has a great big hollow at its heart. Why didn't Wesker let someone else update his work?The bestseller race starts hereOn Thursday, 225 hardback books, three times the number usually published in a week, hit the shops as publishers fight for our cash in the run-up to Christmas. In spite of talk of the demise of books, the 10 bestsellers in 2010 racked up sales worth more than 1m each.Who will be the big winners this year? James Corden's autobiography, for sure. Jamie's Great Britain, half price in some shops, is already a runaway succes. But I'm not so sure about Heston Blumenthal at Home C this man left his home for a hot new mistress. Maybe some fans won't buy into his latest version of domestic bliss. ?Today, the biggest movie franchise of all time is Harry Potter, with eight films and box office of $7,706,147,978 (4,755,340,955) under its belt. Just as its creator J?K Rowling is striking out with her first adult novel, The Casual Vacancy, so the films' three lead actors are beginning their post-Potter careers. At the ages of 24 (Rupert Grint), 23 (Daniel Radcliffe) and 22 (Emma Watson), they might well look at their predecessors' experience and wonder whether their best years are already behind them. Will they be Harrison Fords, or Mark Hamills?Radcliffe has moved on with The Woman in Black, the most successful British horror film in 20 years. Grint was in the little-seen Second World War drama Into the White. And next week, Watson faces her first big box-office test since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two eased past the $1.3bn mark to become the highest-grossing film of 2011, and the biggest earner of the whole series.The Perks of Being a Wallflower is based on a beloved young adult novel by Stephen Chbosky, who is also its director. It is set in 1990s Pittsburgh, and once again Watson plays the girl in a boy-girl-boy trio of high-school outsiders navigating the perils of adolescence. In this case, of course, those perils are more proms than potions. The young actress is required to portray a regular, troubled teen; unlike most of her peers, however, she has limited personal experience from which to draw inspiration.A wealthy celebrity throughout her own teens, Watson was cast as Hermione Granger, in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone C the highest-grossing film of 2001 C when she was only nine. There is plenty of evidence, too, to suggest a precocious shrewdness about her career. After fulfilling her contract on the first four Potter films, Watson was the last of the three leads to commit to completing the franchise, and her salary per sequel was doubled to 2m. "The pluses outweighed the minuses," the then-16-year-old said of her decision. "Let's be honest," she told one US magazine, aged 17, "I have enough money never to have to work again." She is now reported to be worth about 26m. These are not the life circumstances of a regular, troubled teen.Watson was born in Paris in April 1990, the daughter of two British lawyers who divorced when she was a child. Aged five, she moved to Oxfordshire with her mother, Jacqueline, and younger brother, Alex. Her father, Chris, now lives in London, and her parents have two more children each from their second marriages. Back in England, Watson attended the prestigious, private Dragon School. At nearby Headington, she would later go on to achieve 10 As at GCSE. Meanwhile, she trained and performed part-time with the Oxford branch of Britain's biggest youth theatre school, Stagecoach, whose alumni also include Jamie Bell, Myleene Klass and Cher Lloyd. It was from Stagecoach that she was plucked to play Hermione in 1999.As the Potter franchise grew in quality and popularity, Watson was consistently awarded more favourable reviews than her two co-stars, though all three of their performances went almost unnoticed, smothered by all the veteran British talent surrounding them: Gambon, Smith, Rickman, Fiennes et al. Watson, Radcliffe and Grint never put in a dud turn, but neither did any of them display the sort of promise that points to awards-laden adult careers C such as, say, Bell did in Billy Elliot.In 2005, the young actress began a second career as a model, becoming the youngest ever cover star of Teen Vogue. Fashion endorsements and further magazine shoots followed. In 2009, she was named "The Face of Burberry", and nowadays is known as "The Face of Lanc?me". That sideways move into modelling, she claims, was a deliberate attempt to create a public profile discernible from bossy, geeky Hermione Granger.She remains highly visible on news-stands and billboards, and yet her effect on style is negligible compared with contemporaries such as Alexa Chung, Blake Lively or Kristen Stewart C also the star of a box-office-busting fantasy franchise, and whose surly, grunge-lite look is currently so in vogue. Last year, Watson was awarded Elle magazine's Style Icon Award by Vivienne Westwood, but not before the fashion designer could be heard wondering aloud at an awards ceremony: "Who is Emma Watson?"Watson's personal life has always been the subject of speculation, as is predictable with any young star C especially an attractive female one. Yet she has so far proven level-headed. She declared her intention to attend university following the completion of her Harry Potter duties, and, sure enough, enrolled at the Ivy League Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, in 2009. Last year, she transferred to Worcester College, Oxford, to study English for a year before returning to Brown. She is known to have dated actor Johnny Simmons, and indie rocker/model George Craig. Her present boyfriend, however, is fellow Oxford student Will Adamowicz, who also transferred to the UK from Brown for the year.In 2007, Watson took on her first non-Potter role, as an aspiring actress in a BBC Boxing Day drama, Ballet Shoes. She has voiced a character in an animated feature, The Tale of Despereaux (2008), played a small part in the Monroe biopic My Week with Marilyn (2011), and even starred in a student production of Chekhov's Three Sisters at Brown C for which, of course, she received no fee. The Perks of Being a Wallflower will be her first lead role that involves no waving of wands.Her future projects sound more ambitious. Watson has completed production on Sofia Coppola's The Bling Ring, a based-on-truth tale of teenagers who burgled the homes of Hollywood celebrities and "fashion icons", including Paris Hilton. She's set to start filming on Darren Aronofsky's biblical epic Noah, alongside Russell Crowe and Anthony Hopkins, and is working with Guillermo del Toro on a new version of Beauty and the Beast C all of which suggests that she has not only fine taste in directors, but also an excellent agent.In an interview with this week's New Yorker, J?K Rowling discussed her career post-Potter. Her new novel is a dark and sometimes dirty satire on rural life, set around a parish council by-election. Teenagers and adults clash or coalesce in the village of Pagford, a microclimate not entirely unfamiliar to fans of Hogwarts. So fearful was the author of the pressure and scrutiny that would be heaped on her forthcoming work that she briefly planned to publish The Casual Vacancy under an assumed name.The actors who have put faces to her wizarding characters can't even consider such a strategy. Hogwarts provided its protagonists with shelter from the harsher elements of the publishing and film industries, a protective insulation that will be harder to maintain the further they move from Harry, Ron and Hermione. Like Star Wars, Harry Potter created a world of its own, both onscreen and off: separate, somehow, from the day-to-day hits and flops of Hollywood. Now its stars, reduced to mere Muggles, will have to survive in a world without that magic. Watson, for one, looks well prepared.A life in briefBorn: Emma Charlotte Duerre Watson, 15 April 1990, Paris.Family: Parents divorced when she was five. Grew up in Oxfordshire with her mother and brother, Alex.Education: Headington School and Dragon School, Oxford. Then Brown University in the US and Oxford University.Career: Played Hermione in the Harry Potter films. Her first post-Potter lead role is in the just-opened The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Has been the "face" of both Burberry and Lancome.She says: "It's only recently that I've felt much better in my own skin and known my own worth a lot more."They say: "From the first moment, I thought you are going to be able to play a bright articulate girl with conviction, because that's who you are." J K Rowling?Reclining on a plush cream sofa with short, slicked hair and red lips, wearing a fitted black cocktail dress, she is every inch the sophisticated socialite. Poor Emma Watson, I then counter immediately, having constantly to prove to people like me that she isn't 11-years-old any more.Her new role as the face of Lanc?me's "Rouge in Love" lipstick range will go some way towards changing that view C shot by Mario Testino, the campaign captures her youthful vitality in a new and chic, gamine expression. It's rather more urbane and quite apart from the reputation for precociousness that the Harry Potter franchise C fairly or not C has foisted upon her."As I've got older, and since I cut all my hair off, I've felt a bit more liberated about trying different things out," she smiles, when I suggest she has successfully shaken off the fetters of having played a gawky teenage witch for a decade. "I think there's this idea that lipstick is something quite old or something you'd only wear at night. The nice thing about these is that they're really translucent, like a tinted lip balm, so you can wear them in a more casual way."If she sounds like a professional, that's because she has been one for the majority of her 21 years. Picked from thousands to play Hermione Granger at the age of nine, after eight auditions for producer David Heyman, Watson is now C eight films later C rumoured to be worth 43m. She signed a contract with Lanc?me in April to feature in the commercial for its Trsor Midnight Rose fragrance, and has been at Selfridges all day to promote the brand's latest launch of lipstick and nail varnish."Make-up is actually something I've always really loved," she continues. "The hair and make-up department on the Potter films were the people who saw me first thing in the morning and last thing at night, so that space was somewhere I felt at home. When we had spare time on set, I'd do their make-up and get them to teach me how to do stuff." Make-up artist on the films Amanda Knight remembers Watson making up extras for crowd scenes, too, but Watson has today left it to the professionals. "I haven't had my make-up done for two or three months," she says, as if expecting me to say, "No way!" I raise my eyebrows and she laughs. "I know! But it's really weird for me because I used to have it done every day. So it felt like a treat today."She refers regularly to privileges and treats, to feeling lucky and counting her blessings, and she doesn't seem troubled or distracted by the host of opportunities available to her. She is studying English at Oxford, on a secondment from the American Ivy League campus Brown."It's just given me time, really," she says. "People use their time at university and at school, which I didn't have, to really think about and figure out what they want to do, and who they want to be. And it's been so nice not to be pushed around or pushed into doing things."In fact, Watson has carefully peppered her career with choices that pertain very closely to her own interests, putting her name to a collection for eco-fashion range People Tree as well as partnering with designer Alberta Ferretti to work on a "Pure Threads" ethical line too. Her next film, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, will be released later this year. She paints and reads books. She has, she tells me guiltily, a university essay to hand in the next day, not yet finished."Doing the Potters was such a bubble," she says, "and then having to figure out how to function in the real world has been a challenge. But it's been the small successes for me: I know how to use a washing machine, I can cook. It's worth it to me not to feel disconnected from everything, feeling like I'm in touch with people who do other things than acting or being in the entertainment industry."In a few hours, she will host the Lanc?me pre-Baftas party, posing in a crimson lace Valentino dress for the world's cameras. But for the moment, she has her bare feet hooked up underneath her and is fiddling with her BlackBerry; she looks at the basil plant poking out of my shopping bag and wonders what I'm having for dinner. She is terribly normal C if elfishly beautiful C in her rendition of a well-brought-up young woman."I think humour has been a help," she says. "I have schoolfriends, a group of people around me, who have carried me through this whole experience and aren't fazed if they ask, 'Oh what are you doing tomorrow?' and I say, 'I'm going up to see Mario [Testino] in Notting Hill, he's shooting me for the new Lanc?me campaign.' I don't know C it is mad, and some days I feel a bit mad, but it's the balance that keeps me sane. I don't fully live it, this side of my life."Watson is sanguine about the attention she receives and is logical about it; she plans to travel more now that she has a more lax schedule, and talks about going to the post office, buying milk, getting the Tube, though I can't believe for a minute that she is actually able to do these things fuss-free. "Some days, for some reason, I can't go anywhere and I'm like, 'That was a mistake,' and other days no one will even notice me."There was a time, though, towards the end of the Potter franchise, when Watson came of age and began appearing on front rows at shows such as Chanel and Burberry, in whose billboard campaigns she featured along with her younger brother in 2009. "I was fully game for 'Throw me in this, throw me in that,'" she admits, "but I'd like to develop my own sense of style, and dress for myself. The press destroyed me over this Rodarte dress I once wore C it was bright blue with chains on it." She laughs and shivers slightly. "I loved it. And I wore a leather Christopher Kane dress with embroidered flowers all over it. It wasn't that crazy, but at the time..."She seems to have ridden out the post-Potter publicity admirably, though. "Fashion gave me a chance to feel like I was something outside of Potter," she explains, of her appearances front row at shows such as Chanel and Burberry. "I'm a multidimensional person and that's the freedom of fashion: that you're able to reinvent yourself through how you dress and how you cut your hair or whatever."Her haircut was, of course, an international sensation, and turned into a global debate. Was it a good idea, did she regret it, why did she do it? Watson faced compliments and criticism in equal measure, staggeringly so. This was more than the average celeb 'do and more like a cultural event: Potter fans were horrified, while the fashion industry discreetly applauded the severing of Hermione's bookish locks."I had journalists asking me if this meant I was coming out, if I was a lesbian now." She rolls her eyes. "That haircut did make me realise how subjective everyone's opinion is. Some people were crazy for it and some people just thought I'd lost my shit. All I can do is follow my instincts, because I'll never please everyone."?1. Wooden shoe lasts, 49.95, Selfridges; purple patterned socks, 17, Paul Smith; Duchamp multi-striped socks, 16.95, Harrods; oval frame, 11, and square frame, 9, John Lewis2. Hugo Guinness for Coach billfolds, 130 each, Coach3. Burberry Prorsum duffel coat with detachable hood, 1,895, Selfridges4. Mr Chocolate moustaches, 4.99, Selfridges5. Anatomica 8-inch plate, 50, National Gallery shop6. Marni polka-dot cashmere scarf, 395, Mr Porter7. 'Crazy Clown Time', David Lynch, 8.99, Amazon8. Loewe Airplay speakers, 649 each, Selfridges9. Jansen mug, 10.50, Liberty10. Ties, 60 each, Brian Clarke11. Green Cycloc bicycle storage, 61, Bodie & Fou12. Etre Fivepoint texting gloves, 40, Selfridges13. Cuben cushion by Simon C Page, 39, This is a Limited Edition14. House of Holland pants, 21 each, Selfridges15. Folk ruck bobble hat, 65, Liberty16. Chuck Taylor All Star Hi, 81, Converse17. '@earth' by Peter Kennard and Tarek Salhany, 9.99, Tate shop18. Washed holdall, 38, NextClick the links below to view the gift guides?The two women preside over modern textiles and fashion, and 20th century fashion there respectively. This is indeed an exhibition that lifts the spirits and that is ultimately as light-hearted as many of the designs included display lightness of touch. It is also the place to go to see some of the biggest, boldest, most beautiful and, at times, most crazed party dresses imaginable.Take as prime example of the latter Cindy Beadman's late 1970s gown and accompanying coat, a fondant-hued extravaganza that comes complete with tiny quilted princess in her tower on its bodice, many, many sugar-pink roses here, there and everywhere, and even a hand-embroidered silver fairytale at the hem. "They lived happily ever after in the land of eternal youth" reads its hemline in suitably curvaceous C and just marginally sinister C script. American-born Beadman lived the dream in rural Oxfordshire apparently, Cullen explains, and the dress in question was worn by Anita Harris way back when. Worthy of Grayson Perry at his most hyper-feminine, it is perhaps the greatest example of designer folly in evidence. And given the premise, that is quite something. No less attention-seeking C though fierce over and above purely frivolous C is Zandra Rhodes' enormous gold lam design with pleated panniers and ruffles the size of elephant ears. Dated 1981, it is the sartorial embodiment of a Ferrero Rocher chocolate, if you will, courtesy of one of Britain's most flamboyant talents.Ossie Clarke's gold leather jacket and corset, paired with an ultraviolet lace skirt, is another example of this country's affinity with peacock dressing and with rule breaking, too. Whatever, these are not clothes that are aimed at the shy.The show is the first to be located in the museum's newly redesigned fashion gallery. Around 100 outfits from the museum's permanent collection are presented chronologically around its circumference and they are testimony, if ever any were needed, that there's nothing like a short, sharp edit to make fashion history sing. Around 50 per cent of the ballgowns in the show are owned by the V&A also and the rest have been lent or donated by hardened ballgown lovers from Joan Collins (a pastel-pink, flower-strewn meringue designed by David and Elizabeth Emanuel) to Rosie Huntington-Whiteley (more narrow and contemporary: Burberry, Antonio Berardi).The first floor is dedicated to the history of this work-intensive garment from the 1950s through to the mid-Noughties, taking in names including Worth London, Hardy Amies, Victor Stiebel, Yuki, Bill Gibb, John Cavanagh and Catherine Walker. The latter designer's high-collared white satin "Elvis" jacket and gown, hand-embroidered with tens of thousands of oyster pearls and made for the Princess of Wales, is all present and correct, for example. These are shown in a collection of vitrines that evoke the relatively demure and quaint environment of the dressing room of a young woman of means.As well as the aforementioned outr looks, there's a comparatively quiet loveliness to a bell-shaped gown designed by Norman Hartnell for the Queen Mother in 1953. (Hartnell famously designed the Queen's Coronation gown.) This one's embroidered with jewelled, cornflower blue blossom and has panels of pleated tulle at the shoulder to ensure ma'am's upper arms are presented in the most pleasing way possible. It demonstrates the ability of a truly great dressmaker to both show consideration to the wearer and to crowd-please on a grand scale in one fell swoop.According to Cullen, the overblown skirt that for the most part dominates, and that was upheld by this Royal Family member from the 1930s onwards in particular, was achieved post-crinoline by sewing as many layers of net into a waistline as it could accommodate. It is favoured both for its princessy connotations and because "it is a chance for a designer to make a statement C it's a blank canvas [a very large blank canvas] upon which they can showcase their expertise," she says.There is an unashamed nostalgia to the look. "That romantic tendency is very British," Cullen argues, "and it's somehow different to the sophistication of Paris designs." It's true that there is an innocence to more traditional pieces such as these that harks back to a time when young debutantes came out for "the season" in the hope of meeting suitable husbands and were presented at court in strapless white puffs of dresses and the requisite long evening gloves (also white) should anyone think too much flesh was exposed.Dame Vivienne Westwood's riposte to such a studiously virginal wardrobe is more wanton and no less wonderful for that. Her "debutante" dress dated 1994 has a signature corset proudly on display and a shredded hem as if our heroine has struggled over hill and dale battling against the elements to meet her beau.In fact, Westwood's sensibility and wit clearly paves the way for many of the designs on the mezzanine floor C or for the duration of this show, "the ballroom" C that date from 2005 to the present and showcase the modern ballgown which, following in the footsteps of the grande dame of British fashion, upholds many of the requirements of formal dress all while subverting them.Giles Deacon's pleated silk "carwash" dress (2007) rubs shoulders with a body-conscious floor-length gown constructed out of loops of silver leather by Gareth Pugh especially for the show. Then there's Atsuko Kudo's fetishistic latex snakeskin-print dress to consider; a feathered design made by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen and worn by Daphne Guinness to the 2011 Costume Institute Ball; a Stella McCartney gown with a bifurcated skirt sported by Annette Bening to the Golden Globes and the Jacques Azagury ensemble chosen by Helen Mirren when she picked up the Oscar for Best Actress for her performance in The Queen.Despite including the odd red-carpet moment, this is less amplified exhibition than many of the recent international fashion blockbusters. That is not least because the latter are largely paid for by the fashion behemoths whose work they celebrate, somewhat lessening their impact in terms of academic value. Ballgowns is sponsored by Coutts and it is positively frugal by comparison. The effect is refreshing in its lack of bombast, whether that is intentional or not, and also apposite. Because if there is a single unifying factor to the show it may be found in a sense that the majority of the gowns on display here have their own stories and were worn and loved by the people for whom they were made. And that, it almost goes without saying, is a million miles away from the here today/gone tomorrow spirit that contemporary fashion all too often represents even at it is and all the more charming for that."That's another facet of the British ballgown," Cullen agrees. "These things were worn and worn."Ballgowns: British Glamour Since 1950, Victoria & Albert Museum, May 19 to January 2013; vam.ac.uk'Ballgowns: British Glamour Since 1950', edited by Oriole Cullen and Sonnet Stanfill, 20 V&A Publishing, is out now?Ms Hill, who joined Mulberry in March 2008 after stints with Marks & Spencer and Burberry, was appointed CBE.Her efforts had previously earned her Best Accessories Designer at the 2011 Elle Style Awards and Best Designer Brand at the 2010 British Fashion Awards.Burton, who designed the gown of Prince William's bride, was appointed OBE. After much speculation, she was chosen to take over from her mentor Alexander McQueen, who died in 2010.She promised to stay true to his legacy, crediting him with teaching her everything she knew."Everything I know I learned here. If you didn't know how to do something, Lee made you take on the challenge and would teach you how, or leave you to figure out how to do it yourself."He once handed over a bias-cut houndstooth dress and said, 'Now, put a zip in it', then left for the weekend," she once said of McQueen.?It is, but not in the way you might assume. A spate of recent openings in the capital is proof of how fashion brands are adapting to compete with the rise of online convenience by fitting their premises out with technological gadgetry that promises to make shopping there an experience well worth the effort."Many luxury brands have been reluctant to embrace new technologies as their values rest on craftsmanship and tradition," explains Olivia Solon, associate editor of Wired magazine. "But a new breed of creative technologists and interaction designers are showing that circuit boards and pixels can be beautiful and aspirational as well as functional and ubiquitous." It depends to which theory you subscribe: that being in a shop makes you more likely to spend, or that the ease of one-click purchasing is more liable to make you profligate.Either way, businesses must come up with increasingly complex C not to mention entertaining C ways of parting us from our cash. The new Burberry store on London's Regent Street is a monument to the brand's 156-year history as a heritage supplier of traditional outerwear. But alongside the pomp and circumstance sits some of the high-spec tech that the brand has become famous for recently. The 44,000 sq ft space houses 500 speakers and 100 screens, which feature brand imagery and catwalk videos, but will come into their own at in-store gigs and live-streamed fashion shows."Regent Street is one of the most architecturally and culturally significant projects we have undertaken," says Christopher Bailey, the label's chief creative officer, "bringing our physical and digital worlds together to create amazing experiences that encompass everything from fashion, to heritage, to music."The aim is make customers feel like they are physically within the brand's website. If that sounds slightly oppressive, think of it this way: shopping in this store feels like the future as you imagined it as a child.The old-school luxury is there (but of course) with added extras. Mirrors morph into video screens as you approach and at certain times of day, they screen rain showers within the store as part of an exciting immersion exercise; one that will, Burberry hopes, subliminally encourage you to buy one of their famous trenches.Bring an item close to one of the mirrors and the screen shifts automatically to give you a 360-degree view of it. Sure, you could just turn it over in your hands C but who wants that when you can have it projected 15-feet high? Take a jacket into one of the changing rooms and an auto-sensory tag inside directs the mirror to show you it with zoom-able details, or as it was worn in the catwalk show. That might mean seeing how a 7ft-tall 19-year-old looked in it, but what's self-esteem compared to feeling a bit like Tom Cruise in Minority Report?"It can be a bit gimmicky and tacky," says Olivia Solon, "but luxury brands seem to be extremely conscious of this C it very much depends on the execution." In Mayfair, a three-storey Georgian townhouse has recently been refurbished as the flagship store of McQ, Alexander McQueen's sister label. In the window, painstakingly embroidered, full-skirted tulle and appliqu dresses stand as testament to the house's commitment to atelier-level workmanship, while inside a raft of whizzy electronic devices are just as indicative of its progressive mindset.Placing magnetic frames onto a touch-screen table allows you to explore the label's lookbooks and catwalk imagery; with one drag and flick, you can "throw" pictures onto a floor-to-ceiling screen on the wall opposite to either watch the show or see outfits in glorious technicolor. If there's something you particularly like, you can email it to yourself or your friends, or share it on Facebook or Twitter, with another few swipes. And all the while, you can pretend you're manning the Starship Enterprise.We wanted to create a story and a home for McQ," explains McQueen's creative director Sarah Burton. "The store offers special catwalk pieces alongside ready-to-wear collections in a rich, immersive environment."The mens- and womenswear floors boast interactive mirrors, which switch from slideshows to giant cameras when you step in front of them. Try on some of this season's Blackwatch tartan, snap yourself and email it to your friends to get their opinion on whether to buy it or not. It builds on the fact most people are taking these kinds of shots on their phones behind the curtains anyway C only this time, you do it on the shop floor. But if you're posting the picture on Facebook, chances are you're no shrinking violet.While these installations are undeniably fun, it remains to be seen how efficacious they might be at pulling us out of our spending slump. But they make being inside a store more exciting and will go some way towards making customers feel valued as visitors rather than mere cash-cows. The digital aspects of these new stores are as much part of a branding exercise as they are about gathering data from social media, widening appeal or luring you in.That's the logic behind the interactive screen at Bond Street's newly revamped DKNY store. In keeping with the youthful spirit of Donna Karan's diffusion line, the brand already has quite an online presence and focus. Its Twitter feed, DKNY PR Girl, was the first of many to make use of a more personal, witty and insider approach that genuinely interests followers much more than the hard sell ever could.In the store, you can use a large touchscreen wall to access the PR Girl blog and Twitter and find out more about what she has been up to, and you can watch back the runway footage from the label's biannual shows in Manhattan. For a brand that is rooted so firmly in Big Apple culture, seeing the clothes in their original habitat gives a new context to the versions hanging up around you.These high-end brands are at the forefront of shopping in a digital world, but it won't be long until the technology makes its way to a high street near you. Several stores already provide iPads so you can check their stock more easily; in 2010, Topshop, working with Nick Knight's visionary SHOWstudio site, held a series of sessions where customers looked in a webcam mirror and received live-chat feedback on their look from a selection of fashion experts.Whatever comes next (dressing a hologram of yourself from the comfort of the caf, perhaps?), our love of shopping and passion for gadgets is bound to result in an ever more personalised shopping experience, which suit even the pickiest of fashion palettes.?In a surprise update, the group revealed it had been hit by a slowdown in spending across the world. The darling of the fashion scene had once enjoyed sales growth in double digits, but yesterday it reported that like-for-like sales ground to a halt in the 10 weeks to 8 September, and its full year profits would be at the bottom end of expectations at about 407m.Retail sales, including from new stores, were up 6 per cent. The slowdown compares with a strong first quarter, when retail sales grew by 14 per cent. The chief financial officer Stacey Cartwright said: "In the last two weeks there has been a global slowdown. We have seen this across the board in Asia, the US, Europe and the UK."Luca Solca, a luxury brands expert at CA Chevreux, blamed Burberry's reliance on very high-end clothing rather than accessories such as handbags. He said: "Apparel C on which Burberry is more dependent than other mega-brands C is softer. In difficult times consumers prefer leather goods and hard luxury accessories as they are more visible and work better as status symbols."Ms Cartwright said: "The level of growth has slowed but for most people 6 per cent growth would be very good."Despite its issues, the brand is gearing up for London Fashion Week, where it will present its Burberry Prorsum womenswear spring/summer show on Monday.Burberry's shares crashed 287p to 1,088p.?He also lost his own label, only days before shows for both were staged. Everyone from Karl Lagerfeld to Natalie Portman (among the faces of Dior) was quick to condemn the designer, who, in September, was found guilty on both charges. Those who witnessed the extraordinary workings of his mind couldn't help but mourn his departure from a position that he lit up with his wild imaginings.2. Art attackThe gap between high and low culture continued to narrow as Yves Saint Laurent's Stefano Pilati dressed the cast of Harold Pinter's Betrayal for Ian Rickson's production at London's Comedy Theatre in June. Kristin Scott Thomas, Douglas Henshall and Ben Miles all wore his designs. In November, Louis Vuitton unveiled a trunk created in collaboration with Grayson Perry, with his bear Alan Measles C or at least a stunt double C in pride of place. LV is the title sponsor of Perry's ongoing British Museum show.3. Harsh wordsIn March Herms CEO Patrick Thomas accused LVMH (Louis Vuitton Mo?t Hennessy) president Bernard Arnault of "rape", when it was revealed that the latter had acquired a 20 per cent stake of his label. In an uncharacteristically exasperated moment in the history of a venerable status name, Thomas said: "If you want to seduce a beautiful woman, you don't start by raping her from behind." That same month, Christophe Lemaire took over from Jean-Paul Gaultier as creative director of Herms womenswear and showed his first collection there.4. Happy birthdayOn 8 April, Vivienne Westwood turned 70. Gucci celebrated its 90th birthday with the opening of a Gucci museum in its hometown of Florence in September. The Marc by Marc Jacobs collection was born a decade ago this year as was designer Peter Jensen's eponymous label C a book was published to commemorate the event in the autumn, and last month Jensen staged a retrospective fashion show at the Victoria & Albert Museum. Dazed & Confused is now 20, meanwhile. Another book (Making It Up As We Go Along, published by Rizzoli) and an exhibition of pioneering photographic work (at Somerset House, central London) marked this anniversary.5. There went the bridesWhile Alexander McQueen's Sarah Burton denied claims that she would be dressing Catherine Middleton for her marriage to Prince William, on 27 April she was spotted entering the Gore Hotel in Kensington where the Middletons spent the night before the wedding and the truth was out. The gown was received as a thing of great and suitably modest beauty the world over. No one could ever accuse Kim Kardashian of modesty. Kardashian commissioned no less than three wedding dresses for her marriage to Kris Humphreys on 20 August, all by Vera Wang. Wang has since designed affordable copies for lesser mortals and due to go on sale in February, some time after Ms Kardashian filed for divorce, then, which is romantic. Her marriage lasted just 72 days. Another Kate C Ms Moss C got married too, to long-time partner, Jamie Hince, on 2 July and wearing an ivory bias-cut slip made for her by John Galliano.6. The rumour millEven before Galliano had officially parted company with Dior, the rumour mill began turning regarding his successor. Until recently, Marc Jacobs, creative director of Louis Vuitton, was considered to be frontrunner, but it is now believed that Raf Simons is the main contender. Givenchy's Riccardo Tisci, Alexander McQueen's Sarah Burton and Balenciaga's Nicolas Ghesquire have also been cited as in the frame. While LVMH continues its search, Galliano's long-time first assistant designer, Bill Gaytten has taken over his signature line and is also caretaker at Dior.7. Ruby slippersOn 8 April, it emerged that shoemaker to the stars, Christian Louboutin, was suing Yves Saint Laurent for using a red sole to match the upper of a new-season suede pump. Louboutin trademarked his signature sole in 2008 and asked YSL to withdraw the offending item. "M Louboutin is the first designer to develop the idea of having red soles on women's shoes," his lawsuit stated. Attorneys acting on behalf of Yves Saint Laurent responded: "Red outsoles are a commonly used ornamental design feature in footwear, dating as far back as the red shoes worn by King Louis XIV in the 1600s and the ruby red shoes that carried Dorothy home in The Wizard of Oz." On 10 August, at the preliminary hearing in New York, Judge Victor Marrero took such flamboyancy one step further, denying the injunction and comparing the case to a hypothetical one in which Picasso sued Monet for using the colour blue. Louboutin's lawyers have said that they will keep fighting.8. Going GagaLady Gaga took to the Paris catwalk for her friend and collaborator Nicola Formichetti's debut show for Thierry Mugler on 3 March and the media went into overdrive. It's been a busy year for Formichetti elsewhere too. Since Jil Sander's departure from Uniqlo (her final collection is in store now), he has been appointed fashion director of the Japanese high-street giant's Innovation Project while Naoki Takisawa, formerly of Issey Miyake, is its new design director. Formichetti also curated a series of T-shirts for Uniqlo C designed by Gaga again, Alber Elbaz, Karl Lagerfeld and more C to raise money for those affected by the earthquake in Japan.9. High fliersOn 17 June, Prada floated on the Hong Kong stock exchange. Any interest was generated not least because it demanded full disclosure from the business, which hitherto had the luxury of keeping any figures to itself. And so it emerged that Miuccia Prada and her husband and Prada Group CEO Patrizio Bertelli earned 10m and 9.7m the previous year respectively, making them among the most highly paid figures in fashion.10. Alexander the greatSavage Beauty C an Alexander McQueen retrospective C opened at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York on 4 May and broke all attendance levels. The show was extended for a week in August to accommodate as many visitors as possible. McQueen's contemporary, Hussein Chalayan, was also honoured with an exhibition, this time at Paris's Les Arts Decoratifs C Mode et Textile that opened at the beginning of July.11. Back to schoolIn September, the 200m Central Saint Martins redevelopment opened its doors at Granary Square, King's Cross. For the first time in the college's history, students from the fine art, graphics, fashion, drama and performance departments gathered under one enormous roof C there's a massive 10 acres of floor space. The most famous fashion college in the world now has a working environment to match.12. Cool BritanniaTom Ford now thinks London Fashion Week is high-profile enough to be home to his twice-yearly women's ready-to-wear show C he unveiled his summer collection in the British fashion capital in September. If ever there was a year when this all-too-often beleaguered event exceeded all expectations then 2011 was surely it. Unprecedented attendance levels, not to mention talent that, like Meadham Kirchhoff's, more than lives up to the hype that surrounds it notwithstanding , Italy's Camera Nazionale della Moda has fixed its autumn 2012 collection dates in direct conflict with those of the British collections. The Huffington Post described this turn of events as "The Battle of the Catwalks" as, despite increased pressure from all sides, Milan's designer superpowers have refused so far to budge.13. Viva VersaceThere's nothing like a well-judged collaboration and 2011 has seen its fair share. Top of the list must be Versace for H&M, a baroque extravaganza that went on sale on 18 November C La Versace went so far as to make a personal appearance at the chain's Regent Street store. The collection sold out in a matter of days and was so successful there's more to come next year. Christopher Kane's line for J Brand, which launched in November, was an equally impressive coup, featuring candy coloured denim with fashionably frayed edges, courtesy of British fashion's designer du jour. Also of note this year has been Opening Ceremony's link-ups with MM6, Rodarte, Chloe Sevigny, Pendleton and more, and M.A.C's with Cindy Sherman, Gareth Pugh and Miss Piggy. Soon to come is the make-up brand's Daphne Guinness collection. Ms Guinness also launched a fragrance C named Daphne C with Comme des Gar?ons in September.14. Bear necessitiesWhoever said the fashion industry has no heart? In November, some of this world's main protagonists gave Pudsey Bear a makeover. Erdem, Louis Vuitton, Topshop, Giles Deacon, Pringle, Mulberry and Liberty were just some of the names who took part and bears were auctioned online to raise money for Children in Need. Vuitton's Pudsey (designed by Kim Jones, named Louis Vuitton's menswear director in March) went for a massive 35,600, putting any competition, however well-intentioned, into the shade.15. Great British brandNever a brand to miss a trick as far as digital innovation is concerned, at London Fashion Week in September Burberry gave the world its first ever "tweetwalk" C every exit appeared on Twitter moments before it made it on to the catwalk proper. Also of note, several key looks in the collection went on sale online immediately after they were shown C normally even the most fashion obsessed consumer would have to wait a good six months to buy them. More generally, and despite global recession, this much-loved British label continued to post figures that are surely the envy of its esteemed competitors the world over.Fashion AwardsThe 2011 British Fashion Awards took place on 28 November at the Savoy Hotel. And the winners were...Designer of the Year: Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueenIsabella Blow Award for Fashion Creator: Sam GainsburyNew Establishment Award: Christopher KaneRed Carpet Award: Stella McCartneyDesigner Brand: Victoria BeckhamMenswear Designer: Kim JonesAccessory Designer: Charlotte OlympiaOutstanding Achievement Award: Paul SmithModel of the Year: Stella TennantBritish Style Award (voted for by the British public): Alexa ChungThe contribution to fashion of stylist and editor-in-chief of LOVE magazine, Katie Grand, was acknowledged when, on 27 October, she received the Wall Street Journal Fashion Innovator Award. Grand was in elevated company. Ai Weiwei (art), Bjarke Ingels (architecture), Steve Ells (food), Elon Musk (technology), Joris Laarman (design) and The Giving Pledge (philanthropy) were among those also awarded gongs by the paper.The Way We WoreLooks we loved...Block colour (best at Jil Sander). Neon (Miu Miu and Christopher Kane). Pleats (that Whistles skirt). Androgyny (everywhere from Stella McCartney to Chanel and all over the high street too). Fetish (leather leggings and Louis Vuitton latex and handcuffs). Theyskens Theory (what's not to want?). Baseball jackets (Isabel Marant's spawned a million imitations). Polka dots (so Rive Gauche). Duffel coats (think Paddington Bear). Flats (finally running is fashionable). Glitter shoes (Dorothy lives and breathes). Knee boots (in leather, rubber, wedge, spike or flat-heeled). Practical bags (from the Cline cabas to the Cambridge Company's satchels).And weren't so sure about...Victoriana (a nice idea but so last century). Gap flares (we tried C and failed). Fruit prints (Prada's bananas were a timely ruse but grapefruits took things a step too far). Designer star prints (over before they had even started so easy were they for the high street to emulate). Navajo (the meaningless appropriation of faraway styles is less than desirable).Launches to remember...Prada costume jewellery (so true to the first lady of fashion's personal style). Make-up ranges from Tom Ford and Dolce & Gabbana (what could be more glamorous?). No. 19 Poudre (a lovely new interpretation) of the original scent. Chanel Peridot (the green/gold nail colour of the year). Jonathan Saunders menswear (chic but not cheap). Current Elliott menswear (now boys can wear the most beautifully worn denim too). Eres London (the finest swimwear in the world now has its own London home).And forget...Lanvin childrenswear (although we hate to say it, cuteness can go too far). Lip transfers (the last word in over-embellishment). Fe jeans (sitting on silicone implants seemed like a good idea at the time but then it didn't).And so farewell...Elizabeth Taylor, Loulou de la Falaise, Fran?ois Lesage and Evelyn Lauder.?Now this visionary is being touted as the new chairman of the British Fashion Council. If confirmed, Massenet, 47, will take over from businessman Harold Tillman, formerly of Jaeger and Aquascutum, who has raised the profile of the body C and of its biannual shows in the capital C to an international level.Massenet's portfolio boasts not only the site that made her rich and famous, but two other websites, The Outnet, where customers can buy past-season designer clothing at a discount, and Mr Porter, an upmarket menswear e-boutique, as well as a print and online magazine. Massenet C who remains Net-a-Porter's executive chairman C sold her founding stake in the company in 2010 to the Swiss luxury goods group Richemont for a reported 50m. Did we mention that she's terribly glamorous, too?Born in 1965 to a Californian journalist and a British model, she moved between Paris, LA and Madrid as a child, before settling in the US with her father. "I was surrounded by some very wealthy people," she told Vogue in 2010. "I realised at a certain point that if I was going to have the sort of life I fantasised about, I needed to get my act together. No one was going to do it for me." Before establishing Net-a-Porter, she worked as a fashion journalist for W, Women's Wear Daily and Tatler, and as an assistant to the late Isabella Blow at The Sunday Times.Her rumoured arrival as head of the BFC is telling. Massenet is forward-thinking and professionally astute. She is also an international figure, whose nous and experience mean she is taken seriously for all she has achieved and pioneered in the past 12 years.Gone are the days when London Fashion Week was a commercial backwater, more full of enfants terribles than entrepreneurs. These days, designers such as Christopher Kane, Jonathan Saunders and JW Anderson head up young talents who deliver both the goods and the city's signature dash of cool, while international powerhouse Burberry moved its show back to London from Milan as part of Fashion Week's 25th anniversary celebrations in 2009.So, if Massenet takes the helm at the BFC, the industry can expect London, and British fashion, to be even more loud and proud. Even if we are really rather jealous of her.?Norsa has a duty to his employer, and its famous clients, to make sure its shops look as beautiful as the well-crafted clothes, shoes and leather goods that they sell. Ferragamo, shoemaker to the stars, counted Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn and Greta Garbo among its fans and has just hired British supermodel Kate Moss as its "face" for this autumn.Norsa is visiting the Old Bond Street store C which has been home to Salvatore Ferragamo for 74 years after paying what is thought to be the UK's top rent, estimated to be 1000 per square foot for the most important part of the shop, to renegotiate a bigger store and longer lease. No wonder he wants it to look its best."London is very important to us. It is growing very fast and we have shoppers from all over the world who come here."Tanned, smiling and impeccably dressed in Ferragamo, Norsa is clearly at home on the shop floor in spite of years in the board room of companies including Sergio Tacchini and Valentino. As he justifies the top rent Ferragamo is paying, he is surveying his emporium of Italian style C from the new lights to the menswear floor."We have made the store 60 per cent bigger. London's rent is going up, of course, but it is fair. We were able to take a long view and invest in the store. Bond Street will be here forever and we want to make sure we keep this beautiful store," he says.But it isn't just Bond Street that has had a makeover. Its other London spot Sloane Street will double its floor space this year over three floors to give more space for the 350 Vara bow heels or the 2300 python skin handbag.London is just one of Ferragamo's important global "flagship" cities. Three new stores are planned for China this year to add to its 320-plus outlets. The luxury goods obsession with giant, shiny new stores to showcase growing collections is now a global phenomenon with identikit Prada or Louis Vuitton stores from Sloane Street to Sao Paulo. And now Ferragamo's expansion is being closely watched by investors after its listing in Milan just over a year ago.Norsa, having spent most of his career at family-owned companies in Italy, joined Ferragamo in 2006 the first non-family chief executive. He took over from Ferruccio Ferragamo, the eldest son of Salvatore, who is now chairman. It was the first step in modernising the group. The family shareholding is complex. Salvatore Ferragamo had six children and Ferruccio also has six; there are a total of twenty-three grandchildren.The family decided to sell a 25 per cent stake to raise money for expansion and free up capital for some of the family. And for Norsa "working for a listed company is a nice challenge."At the time of deciding to go public, the markets ran wild with rumours that the family were looking at following fellow Italian fashion brand Prada to Hong Kong. But Norsa says: "Italy is part of our DNA. You can get all the advantages that you can get anywhere. And being listed in Italy doesn't mean we do not have investors from elsewhere. We have many overseas investors." Indeed Peter Woo, a Honk Kong-based businessman who owns a stake in Ferragamo, became a board member.Making sure the company is synonymous with Italy means every single item bar the Swiss-made watch parts is made in that country.When in the Nineties, clothing manufacturers started moving east for cheaper labour, luxury brands including Prada and Burberry followed the trend with swathes of the business being farmed off to factories in Turkey, Thailand and China. But unlike most of its peers Ferragamo stayed put. "It is a commitment but it is something we truly believe in."The decision by some brands to move production from their home countries is still having repercussions today with a renewed consumer backlash at some brands.Norsa has seen first-hand the factories that England used to be proud of. "I have visited these factories in Scotland and in England. Now people recognise the value of knowing where something is made. It is now very important for the shopper to know where and how it is made." The growth of luxury brands in the Chinese market has been fuelled by a desire to buy something which is "made in Europe".Ferragamo is not quite as old as French brands Louis Vuitton or the Herms but it certainly has a vivid archive. Having started life as a shoemaker in a small room in Florence in 1927, it now has a market capitalisation of 2.6bn, selling everything from leather goods and watches to perfumes and ready-to-wear for men and women. It is one of the best known classic luxury brands known for comfort and style.The history is important but it is Norsa's job to make sure his creative director Massimiliano Giornetti keeps the brand relevant."We have been very good at keeping the heritage through to the present. But through events, marketing, social media and digital we have to make sure we stay in touch with our customers. People want to be in touch with the brand."The strategy has paid off so far. Last year revenues were up 26 per cent to 986.5m (629m) and will update the market with its first half results for 2012, this month.Ferragamo's rich Italian history might be in vogue with consumers in Asia, but the region's growth spurt could be losing steam. Fears of a Chinese economic slowdown are causing shares in luxury goods brands to fall and the likes of Hugo Boss and Burberry have reported slower growth in the region.But Norsa is sure growth will continue. "We are still seeing significant growth. Of course there are concerns on the future but reassuringly we have seen Chinese consumer confidence is still strong," says Norsa. "And there are still so many Chinese consumers who are only just making their very first step into luxury."China's luxury shoppers join Brazilians, Arabs and Russians in Bond Street and Norsa is reeling off the nationalities which visit his London stores. "Here in London we have something very unusual. Nigerians are in our top three."We have to make sure we have every size available for the different types of people who shop with us. And now we know exactly when Ramadan, Chinese New Year and Russia's Orthodox celebrations are."With Bond Street a hot spot for the travelling global wealthy, Norsa's shopkeeping nous is paying off.?According to website MyVoucherCodes.co.uk, a quarter of those with a secret stash were keeping the money aside because they were worried their partner would try to spend it.Having an emergency cash reserve may seem like a good idea, but hiding it from your partner is not the recipe for a loving relationship. Andrew Swallow, an adviser with Swallow Financial Planning in Kensington, London, believes that if you are keeping money secret from a partner you need to assess what kind of relationship you are in. "A couple who are in it for the long-term will have shared goals, such as buying a home together, which require honesty," he said."You need to be honest with yourself and your partner. If you are in a couple but you know your relationship is not going to last the distance, then keep your finances separate. But if you are with someone, and know the relationship is going somewhere, then you are best off having a talk sooner rather than later."Shared financial goals can only benefit a relationship, he believes. Once you've established you are in a committed relationship, then the most romantic thing you can do is pay a trip to the solicitor C particularly if you don't intend to get married."If you are buying any substantial asset together such as a house, and you are not married, then the brutal truth is that you both need to make a will," says Swallow. "If your partner dies and you are not married, and you have no will, then you could find yourself in a financial mess, your partner's family could have a claim on the property and you could be forced to sell to pay inheritance tax."If you are not married and your partner dies, then you may have to pay inheritance tax, a tax of 40 per cent on a property worth 325,000 or more. Significantly, you don't benefit from the couple's IHT allowance, which allows you to own a property worth up to 650,000.Of course, it's not about simply being married. You may have substantial assets and/or you've been in a previous relationship in which you had children. In this case a will is necessary as well as a pre-nuptial agreement C a legal document which sets out who gets what if you split up. "Pre-nups are not yet recognised in law but courts will take them into account. Of course they are not cheap to draw up, so you need to see a specialist family solicitor," adds Swallow.Kate Marsden, an adviser with Very Nice Advice in Cookham, Berkshire, points out that there are other advantages to being married or in a civil partnership. Couples who are married, or civil partners, can usually transfer assets to each other without having to pay any capital gains tax. This is set at 28 per cent of any asset worth over 10,600."For example, Peter, who is a higher rate taxpayer, could transfer a whole bunch of dividend-paying shares to Paul, who is a basic-rate taxpayer. That will minimise the tax payable on the dividends. Those in marital difficulties should also be aware that if they separate from their spouse, they can still transfer assets between themselves and their partner in that same tax year, without a capital gains tax liability.""That means if you stop living together early in the tax year, you have a good few months to transfer assets such as second homes, or shares, between yourselves as you work out a financial settlement."And on that topic, she says: "Remember that wills are not rendered null and void on divorce because your ex will be, so to speak, deleted from it. The rest will remain valid. It's worth reviewing."What if you don't want to get married, but still want the financial benefits of being in a couple? Andrew Swallow says an unmarried couple can maximise their finances by setting up a company and paying themselves a salary from it but they would only really benefit if one of them was self employed. "If you are both self-employed and one of you earns more than the other, you can set up a company, in which you are both partners, and can combine your tax allowances. You need to get expert advice but setting up the company is relatively easy."Combining finances on a big scale, such as buying a property or setting up a company together is all very well, but many couples find the financial nitty-gritty of life, such as paying bills, or even deciding who should pay them, may turn out to be a financial flashpoint.Kim Stephenson, a psychologist and author of Taming the Pound, says all couples are unique and need to find a financial framework that works for them.He explains: "If you are both independent, you may need to have separate finances, but for the relationship to work, and to make sure the gas bill gets paid, then you need to either split things down the middle or divvy up who pays what between you and stick to it."For most people, he says, having a joint account for the major bills into which they both pay most of their money, with individual accounts that allow individual "pocket money", works the best. "You need to sit down and decide are toys for the baby, dry cleaning bills, gadgets for the car, basic clothing, joint expenses or individual ones. Are all clothes individual expenses, or only really impractical ones."You can buy presents for one another out of 'your own' money, but what about treats for both of you? Is a luxury evening out a treat from one of you to the other, or a joint expense? If it is a joint expense, who is responsible for making up the shortfall if you can't pay the mortgage or the joint credit card for essential shopping this month?"So, is that XBox Kinnect (or Burberry handbag) a luxury C or a household expense you just can't do without?Amanda Whyte is a businesswoman and journalist from London and married to Ian, a management consultant. They have two children. She and her husband like to keep things separate. "We don't have a joint account and we keep our finances as separate as possible. We have talked about [a joint account] but never got round to it."Amanda believes that as long as enough money is coming in to cover the bills, their system works perfectly. "Ian pays the mortgage and the bills. I work three days a week for IPC Media and the childcare comes out of my salary. I also buy most of the stuff for the kids, pay into my pension, buy my own clothes and I finance my own business. We aren't too badly off, but we don't have savings C apart from our pensions. We both agree that any extra money should be spent on fun things. In fact we've just bought a camper van."?Her marriage is wonderful, she's given up alcohol and from tomorrow she's hosting the nightly 'Strictly' spin-off show 'It Takes Two'?"Discontinuing the association with her is also good PR for Nivea because it allows them to reiterate the values that they don't feel she aspires to," says Claire Beale, editor of Campaign. "Celebrity endorsements give brands an instant value to tap into and if you associate yourself with a big personality you'll instantly gain credibility with all the people that love that celebrity. The problem is celebrities often don't behave themselves."While Rihanna's firing might seem somewhat unwarranted, there are plenty of other celebrities who have given good reason to be dismissed. Both Wrigley and the Milk Processor Education Program (that's the "Got Milk?" campaign to you) quite rightly terminated contracts with R&B performer Chris Brown after he pleaded guilty to assaulting his ex-girlfriend (yep, Rihanna).Fashion labels such as Chanel and Burberry quickly deserted Kate Moss after she was caught on camera allegedly snorting cocaine (although the entire industry has since done a U-turn after realising the supermodel is far too valuable to blacklist). Another star who must regret allegedly dabbling in drugs is Michael Phelps, who had a lucrative deal as the face of Kellogg's (despite everyone knowing that the swimmer chows down fried egg sandwiches, omelettes, French toast and pancakes for breakfast, not a sad little bowl of Corn Flakes). After pictures surfaced of the Olympian apparently puffing on a bong, the two soon parted ways.Infidelity doesn't go down well with big business either. Wayne Rooney was dumped by Coca-Cola and Tiger beer after being caught cheating on a pregnant Coleen, while Tiger Woods' extra-marital escapades cost him not only his wife but deals with Gatorade, AT&T, Accenture and Gillette worth millions (although probably not quite as much as the divorce settlement).And while cheating on partners is not appreciated by sponsors, celebrities should remember not to cheat on the product either. Just last month Brazilian footballer Ronaldinho had his sponsorship deal with Coca-Cola revoked after he turned up at a press conference sipping on a Pepsi. A can of fizzy drink is usually about 60 pence; this one cost 500,000.?However, never to the extent of this year.As things stand the Indy's 10 is showing a positive return of 33 per cent. Nine out of 10 of our picks are in the black, with one (Providence Resources) having more than doubled in value.By contrast, the FTSE 100 has basically been treading water. Having finished 2011 at 5,572.28, the index got off to a flyer, but has recently eased back and stood at 5,723.67 at the close of trading on Thursday, producing a positive return of 2.7 per cent.How did we do it? Well, there was more than a bit of gambler's luck in there. When compiling the 10 I always like to include at least one (and sometimes more) really risky tips which have the potential for a big pay-off. Otherwise why bother?This year's was Providence. The Aim-listed oil and gas explorer is focused on offshore Ireland, and began drilling the first of a series of test wells in November to determine whether its Barryroe field, situated in the North Celtic Sea Basin, had commercial quantities of oil.The share price at the time suggested it didn't. That all changed last month when the company revealed it had discovered the first commercially viable well. A placing of new stock did little to dispel the froth making it the biggest winner in the 10 by some way.Providence was a blatant gamble C there are a myriad of oil explorers listed in London and picking a winner is very much a question of luck. If one of them fails to strike black gold they can easily collapse in value.However, there were other shares which we selected on the basis of sound financial logic, including two picked from a sector that on the face of it shouldn't make a happy hunting ground: retailers.Burberry has gone global and the market has woken up to the potential of its overseas outlets. Meanwhile JD Sports Fashion just looked absurdly cheap based on its earnings multiple. Other investors have taken note and the shares have surged.The same is true of William Hill, even after the hit the bookie took from the Chancellor's imposition of a new gaming machine duty at a swingeing 20 per cent. Hills remains a solid earner with a good yield.Oil services group Amec has been riding the wave of the oil industry's capital expenditure cycle (very much on the upswing) while Rolls-Royce is a hardy perennial which should hold a place in almost any sensible portfolio.Meanwhile Intermediate Capital, a provider of mezzanine finance, a type of debt that sits between bank lending and equity, was selected because we felt it would profit from the withdrawal of banks from this sector of the market. It has done and should continue to do so.Moneysupermarket's obnoxious new ads look to be spurring a fightback against Comparethemarket.com's even more obnoxious meerkats (whose latest outing suggests the hairs are starting to fall out), which brings us to Lloyds Banking Group.This was perhaps the most hotly debated of the selections, not least because of its uncertainties at the top (the chief executive took an unscheduled break because of a mystery illness that stopped him from sleeping) and its government bailout. But like JD the shares just looked to have fallen to a ridiculously low level, although they remain a risky proposition.Our only loser was African Barrick Gold, deliberately chosen as a hedge against the roof falling in (exposure to gold can be a good idea if markets take a turn for the worse). There's still room for a recovery, however.In the meantime our guest tipster, in the form of my four-year-old son, also turned a profit of 17 per cent with his five (Ladbrokes, Unilever, Aga Rangemaster, International Power and ITV) which he found with the aid of a pin and the Indy's share listings. So perhaps we shouldn't get too above ourselves.Putting together the selections of our eight professionals (they each picked one share each to follow) also produced a positive return of 13 per cent. Their shares were Telecity, Salamander Energy, GlaxoSmithKline, Imperial Tobacco, Shell, Corero Network Security and Burberry (twice).How was it that the FTSE 100 proved so easy to beat? The problem with the blue chip index is that it is dominated by a handful of truly enormous companies. They include oil giants (BP and Shell) the drugs company GlaxoSmithKline, several huge mining companies with rather low name recognition, and HSBC, the bank. You only need for a couple of those to perform poorly (and these mega-caps have performed like big lumbering beasts of late) for the index to get dragged down.?It will have been almost five years and has been anunbelievable experience.? I have seen the industry grow and develop. Mydream has always been to help new talent, and enable them to succeed."Massenet, whose ventures have changed the internet andluxury retail landscape globally, is an interesting choice to inherit the titlein a time when fashion is becoming more global day by day. "I know that Iam inheriting this position with the British Fashion Industry in the best shapeof its life," she said. "Maintaining and growing that reputation inGreat Britain and around the world is a responsibility that I take veryseriously."Someone who will surely appreciate these efforts isHaizhen Wang, who last night was awarded this year's Fashion Fringe award.Chosen by the initiative's founder Colin McDowell and guest chair Burberry headChristopher Bailey, Wang showed a collection inspired by historical Japanesearmour and the work of Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. This manifested insculptural, voluminous designs of draped and pleated leather and wool.Accessorized with untreated wooden and leather block heeled sandals and blackwooden bird like armour headpieces. Bailey said his choice was influenced by Wang's"work and approach, and well-rounded nature. He had a sense of vision ofhow he might build a brand. It was a tough decision, the three finalists allhad strong points of view and huge potential. Now I want Wang to find his voiceand slowly grow a business." While Bailey said that the experience was aprivilege, McDowell acknowledged how lucky the finalists were too."Christopher devoted more time to the three finalists than any otherchair. I always felt he was just a phone call away if we needed him and thatgave us confidence."For his part Wang felt that Bailey was aninspirational mentor. "He's the best example of how to support creativitywith commercial success," said the winner who believes his experience as adesigner for Max Mara and All Saints stood him in good stead. "My nextstep is to find more stockists and start work on the next collection, addedWang, who as winner will receive support worth 100,000 and show at LondonFashion Week in February.?The Paris-based family-controlled brand saw double-digit increases in sales and profits across most markets in the first six months of the year. First-half sales hit 1.6bn (1.3bn), up 22 per cent.Despite some brands, including Burberry and Hugo Boss, succumbing to a slowdown in sales growth in Asia, Herms reported a 25 per cent rise in sales in China, Singapore and Hong Kong. But Europe was still strong for the group, with France up 10 per cent and the rest of Europe up 21 per cent. Japan was its weakest market, with sales growth of 3 per cent.Herms, famed for its handbags and scarves, predicted annual sales growth of "around 12 per cent" for the year, a revision up from the 10 per cent it predicted last month. It beat analyst's forecasts for the half-year and said operating profit climbed 22.2 per cent to 510.9m, up from 418.1m a year ago. Net profit rose 15 per cent to 335.1m.?Celebrating its 10th anniversary on the LSE, Burberry's shares have eased following a slowdown in sales growth after several years of outperformance that has turned it into a leading fashion house. But the stock was back on the up, gaining 57p to 1,289p. Herms, famed for its silk scarves, said sales growth, although slowing, had been propped up by better-than-expected revenues in Asia. Year-on-year sales growth was 13.4 per cent in its second financial quarter, down from 17.6 per cent in the first quarter. Revenues in Asia, its biggest market, rose 16.2 per cent.?Maybelline's lipsticks have a creamy consistency, thanks to the honey nectar. If you're not really a red-hot kinda girl, there are 23 other shades to choose from.7.19, Maybelline, available nationwide2. Pocket PenThis little wand gives you the option of a matte finish with the much-loved 'benetint' colour, or a shiny pout with the clear gloss.15.50, Benefit, 3. Super-saturated high gloss lip colourApply this chubby pencil all over the lips to leave a lustrous red hue. Blot with tissue for a more subtle, day-time shade.14, Urban Decay, 4. Lip cover in No 19 Brick RedIf a pillar-box shade scares, take baby steps towards a rouge pout with this lightweight but intensely pigmented lipstick.22.50, Burberry, 5. Pretty Amazing lip colour in Upper Class RedVirgin Atlantic's signature colour has been immortalised in make-up. The long-lasting lacquer is currently only available at the airline's Clubhouse Spas, but will be stocked by Bare Minerals later in the year.15, Bare Minerals, 6. Lipstick in TulipContaining lauroyl lysine which is impervious to water and oil, you're guaranteed a long-lasting colour.25, Chantecaille, ?Like a duck floating serenely but paddling frantically beneath the surface, so the shows starting today in London are slick operations for the audience front-of-house but all frenetic activity behind the scenes.London Fashion Week, which was launched last night by Livia Firth in conjunction with the British Film Institute, will host 62 catwalk shows over the next five days, including ones from the likes of Burberry, Vivienne Westwood and milliner Philip Treacy who makes a return to the schedule this season. More than 5,000 visitors are expected to pass through the Somerset House venue.Fashion shows are extremely costly endeavours, often running up bills in the hundreds of thousands, thanks to high-spec lighting rigs, offbeat and exclusive venues, and of course, the famous faces not only on the runway but also in the front row."It can cost from about 5,000 for a 'showentation'," says Clarke, director of Inca productions who is working alongside the Fashion Fringe mentoring programme this season to help three fledgling designers stage their own collections. "Some of the big Paris shows cost literally millions."For a young name showing for the first time, London Fashion Week is a daunting prospect. Fashion Fringe, established in 2003 by fashion journalist Colin McDowell, aims to set nascent talents on the road to superstardom, offering mentoring and advice, and a slot on the official London Fashion Week schedule for the winner.That winner will be selected on Tuesday night at a show featuring collections from this year's three finalists, Chinese-born Haizhen Wang, Teija Eilola from Finland and Londoner Vita Gottlieb. Previous winners include Erdem Moraglioglu, nominated for British Designer of the Year in 2009, whose designs have been worn by the likes of Samantha Cameron and Corrie Nielsen, whose dramatic and gothic pieces have won critical acclaim.With only weeks before the shows kick off, the three finalists attend a meeting with Charlotte Clarke to learn how best they might realise their visions for the catwalk. Daunted but eager, they listen and take notes, to learn how to put together the biggest moment of their lives so far."I've never even been to a fashion show before so it's a scary and awe-inspiring concept that the first will be my own," says Gottlieb, 36, a textile designer who set up her own label earlier this year. "To get a full collection and on-schedule catwalk show together is a monumental challenge," adds Wang, 37, previously a pattern cutter for high street chain All Saints and Italian luxury label MaxMara, and now setting up on his own.Clarke talks them through the parameters of the space: the main Fashion Week marquee at Somerset House. The capacity is 500; the catwalk is 30 metres long and three metres wide."We've got four hours on-site," Clarke says, as the designers scribble down the details. "The models will turn up three hours before the show. We'll send them down the runway every 11 or 12 seconds, and it takes 24 seconds to get to the end of it with a basic walk. If you want an intro for your music, don't make it longer than 20 seconds. Journalists see a lot of shows and they're here to look at your clothes, so don't go too far down the theatrical route."With the London shows known increasingly for their entrepreneurial spirit, as opposed to their former reputation for producing enfant terribles with great creative talent but little commercial clout, schemes like Fashion Fringe are important for young designers who wish to go it alone. The traditional industry route of working as part of the design team for a larger house is now only one option among many. With graduate collections increasingly picked up by buyers, featured on blogs and Twitter, and shot by magazines, you can be a professional by the age of 23.Christopher Kane, nominated in the Designer of the Year category for the 2012 British Fashion Awards and showing on Monday, is still only 30."There has to be a concerted investment of expertise," says Colin McDowell, "because we are dealing with young creative people who are, by the very nature of what they do, vulnerable to all kinds of forces."From the practicalities C casting models, hair and make-up tests C to the professional touches, such as providing a drinks reception and being available for interviews after the show, the candidates must learn not only how to become a fashion designer and but also how to embody their brand.For now though, their efforts will be concentrated on the minutiae of their shows in three days' time, when the lights go up not only on their clothes but also on their futures.?Like a duck floating serenely but paddling frantically beneath the surface, so the shows starting today in London are slick operations for the audience front-of-house but all frenetic activity behind the scenes.London Fashion Week, which was launched last night by Livia Firth in conjunction with the British Film Institute, will host 62 catwalk shows over the next five days, including ones from the likes of Burberry, Vivienne Westwood and milliner Philip Treacy who makes a return to the schedule this season. More than 5,000 visitors are expected to pass through the Somerset House venue.Fashion shows are extravagant endeavours, often running up bills in the hundreds of thousands, thanks to high-spec lighting rigs, offbeat and exclusive venues, and of course, the famous faces not only on the runway but also in the front row."It can cost from about 5,000 for a 'showentation'," says Clarke, director of Inca productions who is working alongside the Fashion Fringe mentoring programme this season to help three fledgling designers stage their own collections. "Some of the big Paris shows cost literally millions."For a young name showing for the first time, London Fashion Week is a daunting prospect. Fashion Fringe, established in 2003 by the fashion journalist Colin McDowell, aims to set nascent talents on the road to superstardom, offering mentoring and advice, and a slot on the official London Fashion Week schedule for the winner.That winner will be selected on Tuesday night at a show featuring collections from this year's three finalists: Chinese-born Haizhen Wang, Teija Eilola from Finland and Londoner Vita Gottlieb. Previous winners include Erdem Moralioglu, nominated for British Designer of the Year in 2009, whose designs have been worn by the likes of Samantha Cameron and Corrie Nielsen, and whose dramatic and gothic pieces have won critical acclaim.With only weeks before the shows kick off, the three finalists attend a meeting with Charlotte Clarke to learn how best they might realise their visions for the catwalk. Daunted but eager, they listen and take notes, to learn how to put together the biggest moment of their lives so far."I've never even been to a fashion show before so it's a scary and awe-inspiring concept that the first will be my own," says Gottlieb, 36, a textile designer who set up her own label earlier this year. "To get a full collection and on-schedule catwalk show together is a monumental challenge," adds Wang, 37, previously a pattern-cutter for the high street chain All Saints and Italian luxury label MaxMara, and now setting up on his own.Clarke talks them through the parameters of the space: the main Fashion Week marquee at Somerset House. The capacity is 500; the catwalk is 30 metres long and three metres wide."We've got four hours on-site," Clarke says, as the designers scribble down the details. "The models will turn up three hours before the show. We'll send them down the runway every 11 or 12 seconds, and it takes 24 seconds to get to the end of it with a basic walk. If you want an intro for your music, don't make it longer than 20 seconds. Journalists see a lot of shows and they're here to look at your clothes, so don't go too far down the theatrical route."With the London shows known increasingly for entrepreneurial spirit, as opposed to their former reputation for producing enfant terribles with great creative talent but little commercial clout, schemes such as Fashion Fringe are important for young designers who wish to go it alone."There has to be a concerted investment of expertise," says Colin McDowell, "because we are dealing with young creative people who are, by the very nature of what they do, vulnerable to all kinds of forces."From the practicalities C casting models, hair and make-up tests C to the professional touches, such as providing a drinks reception and being available for interviews after the show, the candidates must learn not only how to become a fashion designer and but also how to embody their brand.For now though, their efforts will be concentrated on the minutiae of their shows in three days' time, when the lights go up not only on their clothes but also on their futures.?So when faithful clients and label loyalists attend the international collections, it's a chance for them to plump for pieces straight from the catwalk and pre-order their favourites, which often won't arrive in stores for another six months. A handy way to stay on top of the trends and ensure you're snapping up the season's must-haves before they sell out C and undoubtedly an insider perk of the job.But it's also the shopping model behind a new capsule collection of clothing launching on the e-boutique Net-a-Porter. From Wednesday, McQ, the second line from Alexander McQueen, will offer its autumn 2012 collection on the site for exclusive pre-ordering for a week only. Pieces will then arrive in as soon as two months after the order has been placed, right at the very beginning of the new-season drops."Pre-order is a service that we have offered our customers in the past for truly exceptional collections," explains Net-a-Porter's buying director, Holli Rogers. "The first time was in 2007, when we collaborated with Roland Mouret on the relaunch of his brand. This was the first time customers could pre-order directly from the catwalk, anywhere."The McQ collection in question was a highlight of London Fashion Week last February, as models in strictly tailored but rustic wool coats and delicate but structured A-line dresses trod a catwalk strewn with crisp autumnal leaves. And the reinvigoration of the brand, as well as its return to the capital's schedule, has been met with enthusiasm and excitement among the industry's cognoscenti."As soon as we saw the McQ runway show, we knew our customers would love the collection as much as we did," Holli Rogers continues. "McQ wasn't originally planning to sell the collection, so it's wonderful to be able to offer our customers the chance to pre-order a piece of fashion history."Make no mistake, pre-ordering is for people who love their clothes, who eat, breathe and sleep fashion, and for whom only the most exclusive of pieces will do. But it's also a sales technique that is being adopted by more and more labels and shops, as customers become more confident about buying online and as the internet continues to speed up the traditional cycles of trends and tastes. High-street giant Topshop has started offering its autumn 2012 Unique collection to editors for pre-orders C and where that commercial force leads, others are sure to follow.Burberry, too, has become known for its engagement with online audiences, having last year launched a "Tweetwalk" (in which every catwalk look is tweeted during the show in real time) and, before that, a "Runway to Reality" service which means customers can buy pieces straight from the show via the company's website. "Customers can buy immediately from the show and receive in six to eight weeks," explains chief creative officer Christopher Bailey. "It has changed the whole system of buying, as well as the cycle of production. Basically you can buy every bag that goes down the runway, every coat, and the make-up as well." Needless to say, it's months before the same items are scheduled to arrive in the shops."During the international fashion weeks, we see immediate responses from clients about the collections," says Selfridges' client-services manager, James Servini. "We can receive enquiries as soon as a day after a show. It's mostly a very fashion-savvy customer who will be interested C somebody who has an intuitive sense of which looks define the coming season. They're extremely sure of how they want to dress, and particularly passionate about 'newness'."With the refurbishment of the store's Designer Galleries this year, Selfridges has also launched a lookbook of imagery that has further increased the potential for pre-orders. Working with the buying team to gauge shipments and arrivals, these customers, their tastes and inputs are also helping to shape the selection that will finally arrive on the shop floor C James Servini points particularly to high-end and directional labels such as Haider Ackermann, Ann Demeulemeester and Rick Owens, which are consistently popular orders. The practice may be for a minority, but it's an excellent way for both designers and buyers to canvass opinion, of getting an instant reaction and a sense of which might be the strongest looks in the range."Pre-ordering gives more choice to the customer," agrees designer Jonathan Saunders. "Often people look for more special pieces C which are sometimes not picked up by the stores. It's really interesting to see what people select."In this way, shops are slowly returning to the old system of trunk shows and private views. Some designers still do these in person C Michael Kors runs a circuit of chi-chi boutiques across the US for his diehard fans, while Nina Ricci's Peter Copping and Alber Elbaz at Lanvin have also resurrected the practice C but Net-a-Porter's idea is that the trunk show can be run digitally, and orders taken there. It's a modern approach with roots in a much more personalised couture tradition. Moda Operandi (which stocks Jonathan Saunders, Alexander Wang and Marc Jacobs, among many others) also offers online trunk shows, as well as from-the-catwalk ordering."Everyone is planning the next season in advance," says Kay Barron, fashion-features editor at Harper's Bazaar, "and we're not as spontaneous as we once were. You have to put quite a lot of thought into it and really understand your personal style. But it's always worth it, so long as you actually like what you've ordered when it arrives three months later."?They are not easy to find. The fact of the consumer squeeze is well known and almost every trading statement you'd care to mention in recent weeks talks about how "challenging" conditions are. The much-feared "double-dip" recession looks like it has arrived with most forecasters saying that this country is now "technically" in one with the economy expected to show a second-consecutive quarter of shrinkage when the Office for National Statistics unveils the numbers for the first three months of 2012 in April. Unemployment is still rising, confidence is falling, from pretty low levels too. Margins are going to be under pressure because if stores don't keep their prices low, they won't see any of their customers' money. Is there any light at the end of the tunnel? Well perhaps. One plus point in retailers' favour is that it finally looks as if inflation is falling. It might be a year later than the Bank of England originally thought, but the downhill slopes have been reached. And there are forecasters who think it will come down faster than the official predictions would have you believe. Shops' input costs are falling. The price of their raw materials, and the products they sell, appear to be easing. Which should make it easier for them to keep prices low while at least maintaining some sort of margin. The Independent featured two retailers in our 10 to follow at the beginning of the year C JD Sports Fashion and Burberry. We said buy the former at 624p, attracted by its ridiculously low valuation and the boost it might enjoy from a year with two major sporting events C the Olympics and the European Football Championships. It seems someone was listening. The shares subsequently smashed through the 700p barrier and carried on gaining. They are now up nearly 20 per cent. But even at that price, they remain a bargain trading on just 6.7 times forecast earnings, with a respectable prospective yield of 3.5 per cent. At that price JD is still a buy. Burberry's shares have broken through 1400p and also carried on. They are showing a similar percentage gain from when they were tipped at 1185p. They now enjoy a barnstorming rating of 22.7 times forecast earnings, yielding just 1.8 per cent. That is largely because Burberry is now an international luxury brand with exposure to places that, unlike Britain, are growing, such as China. I'd be a shade reluctant to buy more at that price, but they are still off their highs last year and should be held for the long term. Elsewhere, though, the picture gets harder. This column has already looked at M&S (too expensive) and Next (ditto). Home Retail Group's problems have been well documented. We'll see if the new boss of Argos it has hired from America's Best Buy Group can turn things around. As for the shares, well, it might be best to keep a watching brief unless you're very brave. The same goes for HMV. It is hard to see how chief executive Simon Fox can pull it out of its frightening slump. Selling the live music HMV Live to raise cash is depressing because it is a very good business. Again, this is one to avoid. One which I quite like is N Brown. It is true that this clothes retailer's demographic is very similar to that of Argos. Companies serving "ordinary people", if you like, are not finding it easy, even where they discount aggressively. The failure of Peacocks is a good example. Debt was the killer, there, but it only became the killer because of poor trading. All the same, N Brown is a risk, but it's one I might be inclined to hold. Sports Direct is one to watch rather than buy right now. It is expensive, at nearly 14 times earnings for the year to 12 April and the yield is pitiful. The company is also, to put it mildly, run rather eccentrically. But it will benefit from this year's sporting events even more than JD, and the company does have a habit of getting it done. Perhaps it helps that shop floor staff can earn bumper bonuses along with the executives if targets are met. It might be expensive right now, but could be one to buy on weakness.I'd advise caution on SuperGroup, even though it has bounced back a bit after falling to earth last year. ?"But I didn't let them dress me up, or anything," he adds, lest anyone consider him a mannequin. "No, no. I just wore what I bought yesterday: Burberry, a bit of Adidas, Lacoste, Ralph Lauren." He has, it transpires, an appealingly common-sense approach to fashion."If it looks good, I like it. I was always into fashion, but I never had the money to buy stuff before. I'm trying to get all the best bits I can now, while I'm still able to, you know?"Bugg is from Nottingham. A good-looking boy with a hairstyle that looks as if it requires product to maintain, he resembles the fifth member of Arctic Monkeys, weaned on a musical diet of Liam Gallagher and Pete Doherty. The fact that, respectively, he isn't and wasn't is what makes him such a beguiling anomaly. His debut single, "Lightning Bolt", which came out a few months ago, sounded like vintage rock'*'roll, and was likened to Buddy Holly, Johnny Cash and early Dylan. All too often when people attempt to evoke such a distant period, they come across as cloying pastiche; Bugg somehow managed to sound entirely authentic.But how is it done, that seeming authenticity? Is it down to the manner in which he sings C reedy, thrilling, Dylan-ish? The self-conscious brevity of his mostly two-minute songs? It there a special yesteryear switch on his microphone? "I'm not really sure, to be honest. It just sort of comes out that way."His new single, "Taste It", has come out that way as well C two minutes and 24 seconds of twanging guitar and a highwire keening vocal C as does everything on his forthcoming, eponymously titled debut album.He shrugs. "I suppose I just like that Sixties retro feel, old rock'*'roll, the blues, Robert Johnson. I love all that stuff, man. It's the best."Bugg was brought up on what was once Europe's largest housing estate. His father was a nurse, his mother in sales, and as a teenager he had no interest in music at all."I was into football C had trials and stuff," he says. But then one day he was watching The Simpsons, the episode in which "Vincent", Don McLean's limpid lament to Van Gogh, popped up. Bugg cannot explain what it was about the song that appealed to him, but something clearly did. He googled McLean, which led him in turn to Donovan, and then to George Harrison. He still hasn't got round to listening to very much of Bob Dylan, but promises to do so soon.At 14, with his passion for football cooling, he was bought a guitar by his uncle, who showed him the basic chords. Within a year, he was gigging around Nottingham, and people told him that he was good, that he should do what every young hopeful does these days, and get himself on to X?Factor, Britain's Got Talent. Amanda Holden would love him."I was never interested in that," he says. "I didn't like anybody that went on that show. They didn't write their own songs, so there was nothing in it for me. What was the point? I believed there was another way to go."Quite what, though, he wasn't sure. Nobody from his housing estate had ever landed a record deal before. "But I got lucky. I met a guy in Nottingham who knew a guy in Newcastle who knew a guy down in London who works for a record label. Six months later, I was signed."That was last year. He has spent the past 12 months carefully crafting the album, staying true to the?sound he loves so much. He tells me about one song, "Kentucky", that goes: "I'll be a man from Kentucky/Have a guitar but I've no money/That don't mean I'm blue....""I've never been to Kentucky," he says, "but it's a story, a bit of imagination, like reading a book. Does that make sense? I'd love to go one day. Me on a road trip across America That's the dream."For the time being, Bugg is immersing himself in every artist critics tell him he reminds them of, most of them long dead. He admits to having little time for, as he puts it, "dance tunes" because they lack melody, and he plans to read Mojo magazine more. He also seems to be enjoying the fact that much of his audience is significantly older than your average 18-year-old draws."But I do get a lot of young girls down the front as well," he is quick to point out. And what do they get from such a Sixties throwback? Bugg isn't sure. "I'll have to ask them," he grins.He yawns; he's tired. It was an early start this morning, yet another one. The promotional treadmill, he says, is exhausting."It's a lot of hard work but I'm enjoying it, and I'm doing my best to take care of myself."And how does he do that? "Sleep well," he says. "And eat lots of fruit."Jake Bugg's EP 'Taste It' is out now. His debut album follows in the autumn. For more information: www.jakebugg.com?The bank was caught short by New York's Department of Financial Services (DFS), bit back publicly and then quickly negotiated a $340m (216.5m) fine to settle allegations that it had breached US regulations on banking transactions with Iran.Yet suggesting that the lightest of boardroom reshuffles is enough of a lesson for Standard Chartered to learn from this episode is dangerous. Not only has the bank to settle with four further US regulators who have been probing its affairs, but activities in Myanmar, Libya and Sudan are also under scrutiny.It is not that the bank's board has been found to have done anything glaringly wrong. But this episode is a good opportunity to spotlight the role of Sir John Peace, Standard Chartered's chairman. Sir John is a busy man. He chairs three FTSE 100 companies: Standard Chartered, fashion house Burberry and credit-checking firm Experian. Some chairman struggle to cope with one role of such distinction. Sir John has amply coped with a trio of them. The latter two are siblings from his successful stewardship of Great Universal Stores which was split into three parts (the third being Argos owner Home Retail Group), creating great value for shareholders.You can forgive Sir John for being emotionally attached to Experian. He effectively founded the business within GUS which he joined as a youngster in 1970. Efforts to find his replacement there came to nothing, even though he reluctantly vowed to step down when he was appointed to chair Standard Chartered in 2009.I'm not suggesting that he isn't one of Britain's leading businessmen. It would also be unwise to fall into the same trap as Barclays, where a string of can-carrying resignations left a hole at the top of the bank. But after this incident at Standard Chartered, it feels right that something's got to give.?This shone in the Georgian sunshine with the promise of the deliverance he has been pursuing with growing confidence in the last few weeks and there was a huge temptation to believe that it had all been true, that the Tiger was back.Unfortunately, it passed soon enough. In all, the swing that was supposed to have given him the impetus to resume his chase of Jack Nicklaus' record mark of 18 major titles failed five times, resulting in grotesque snap hooks which cost him three shots, two, dispiritingly, on the 17th and 18th holes.That left him on even par C hardly disastrous at a stage of the tournament where even in the best of his days he tended to lurk rather than browbeat C but the true cost was in the palpable sense of a missed opportunity.Not to lead in early running for a title he has already won four times C but in creating the sense that once more he might just be the man setting the agenda for an entire game."I'm ready," Woods tweeted to the world on the eve of the 76th Masters without quite specifying in what area he was most prepared.We didn't have to speculate too long. If the spirit was strong enough, there were the most serious problems of technique. Over the first nine, which he finished at an encouraging one under, he landed on just two fairways. This was not the serene return to the centre of the golfing universe so many had anticipated.It was the game's version of street fighting and these days it is a desperate business with which the Tiger is required to busy himself in a way that could never have been imagined before his game and his life began to unravel two and a half years ago. If he was to inflict himself on this tournament which he last won seven years ago, it would only be by the equivalent of house-to-house fighting and on the first holes there had to be shock at the shortfall between good, aggressive intentions and workable technique.Yet there was clear evidence of a willingness to fight at the treacherously sloping third green. There, the Tiger went one under when he might easily have already been two shots adrift. This was a case of superior damage control through a start which even by his own haphazard standards on a first day here was reckless, to say the least.Certainly, it revealed a disturbing gap between the rhapsodies of praise for his new swing coach, Sean Foley, and a performance on the first and second tees which seemed programmed more than anything else to bring on a nervous breakdown.The Tiger's driver looked about as refined as a blunderbuss as he hooked hugely left on both occasions.On the first tee the Tiger provided an instant bromide for those most filled with passion by his arrival in mid-morning.It was even worse at the par-five second, when another hook landed in a creek and required a penalty drop. On both occasions the Tiger's body language was less than triumphant.But, no, he wouldn't let go. Par was retrieved on both occasions and when he went one under at the third a roar of encouragement raced across the course.There was another sickening mishap on the seventh when he hooked again and narrowly missed a bunker. His expression was filled with self-disgust and this deepened when his chip from the fringe could not prevent his first bogey.This was not where he believed he was heading after surviving the threat of an outward half, which might easily have rivalled the one which came on the opening day of his first success here 15 years ago. Then he rocketed to 40, a potential disaster that required an astonishing touch which retrieved six shots on the back nine.That is the kind of surge which, until not so long ago, was the trademark of the most overwhelming golfer the game had ever known and yesterday it was, when you considered all that had gone before, perhaps a little much to ask, especially, when you recalled his career tendency to labour on the first day, then work seriously to separate the rest of the field from any serious self-belief.Between 1997 and 2002 it was a formula guaranteed to tear the heart out of all opposition. Yesterday he could only lament the loss of such a devastating touch and say: "I fought my way through the day even though I shot a few wild ones. I was pleased that I stayed committed and I'll take that attitude into tomorrow."He birdied the eighth to return to the red and then, on the 10th which did so much to undermine his young rival Rory McIlroy last year, he at last produced shots of genuine authority. He played his approach shot quite beautifully, then drilled home the birdie putt with his old master's touch.The crowd sent a message to Amen Corner that the Tiger was coming. It was maybe a little early to say precisely quite what shape he was in, but there had to be more than a touch of optimism.He had, after all, avoided the threat of a most serious accident and there were indeed moments when he seemed willing to stand and fight with the kind of resilience that was last seen at its best when he won the 2008 US Open. He did that virtually, as an admiring McIlroy put it, on one leg.Yesterday, there was no sign of physical discomfort. What you had to worry about was that latest crack in a once shining mirror.Shot, shank, strides: Three of the bestShot of the DayIt looked like it was going to be a catastrophic second hole for Tiger Woods, after he was forced to take a penalty shot after hooking the ball into the trees. But he recovered well after a long iron brought him close to the green, followed by a beautiful chip which allowed him to save par.Shank of The DayThe veteran Sandy Lyle, Masters champion in 1988, made an awful start at Augusta yesterday. The 54-year-old Scot was three over after two holes following a woeful bogey and a double bogey. He was then nine over-par by the seventh hole following a triple bogey.Outfit of the DayWhat did you expect? He was never going to dress sombrely for the occasion. Ian Poulter, who also moonlights as a fashion designer, turned up for his first hole at Augusta yesterday sporting what can only be described as outrageous pink trousers bearing the Burberry check.Facts in figures69 Paul Lawrie's score, breaking 70 for the first time at the event.1996 The year when a Briton last won the Masters C Nick Faldo for his third time.290 Odds to one against Stenson available at the start of play.2 Number of birdies by Tiger Woods in his first nine holes yesterday.21 Tiger Woods' age when he first won the Masters in 1997.?But when it emerged that the 80m price tag could be met by the private sector, including a 5m donation from Lord Ashcroft C who knows a bit about spending money offshore C the royal flagship became a more difficult target. How do you oppose something which we taxpayers aren't paying for, and will bring a smile to the face of an 85-year-old great-grandmother?Next came the announcement that there would be a river pageant, including a flotilla of 1,000 boats sailing down the Thames for the jubilee celebrations in June, at a cost of 10m C yet all funded by sponsorship (though the cost of security will come from the taxpayer). Jibs flapping all round. How do we negotiate such constitutional choppiness? Yes, we appreciate the Queen for her 60 years on the throne, and we want her to enjoy her weekend in June. We'll probably join in in some way, perhaps even go to the Thames to watch the spectacle. Even if we don't want to take part, we must acknowledge that the weekend will boost tourism, and therefore the economy (although maybe the people painting the Queen's personal Gloriana barge in 17th century gold could use a cheaper, less ostentatious commodity instead). All of this leaves us in difficult and, dare I say, ideologically uncharted waters. Can you celebrate the privately funded yacht and jubilee if you resent paying for the Royal Family for the rest of the time?I have a modest proposal that I hope will help. Why don't we turn the monarchy, and the Queen herself, into a PFI C a private finance initiative? Funding for the royal yacht is a good model for this C something owned and run by the state, but funded by the private sector. There is an inherent difficulty I recognise which is, of course, that the Queen is the state, but am sure we could get round that. You could raise some of the money through sponsorship: for the yacht, as an example, HMS Burberry perhaps? Jack Wills jerseys for the cabin stewards?Better still, why not take a tip from Nick Clegg, who on Monday called for more John Lewis-style companies that are owned by their staff, and mutualise Her Majesty? Turn the Royal Family into the Queen's Co-op. The Duchess of Cambridge could literally be the People's Princess. There would be a bit of private funding to help to meet the annual costs of the Royal Family C which are about 40m (although that figure does not take into account the 50m cost of last year's royal wedding, and the anti-monarchy group Republic says the real annual figure is actually 100m). But members of the public could opt to buy shares in the mutual monarchy, which would be the main source of funding. Anyone who didn't want to buy shares wouldn't have to. The public cost of the monarchy could be spent elsewhere. That 40m is not going to do much to dent the deficit, but it will help a bit, and pay for a few nurses' salaries or some new school classrooms.And if, as I may have run out of sailing metaphors, I could switch to hunting to conclude: a mutualised monarchy would shoot the left's fox, because it would take the cost out of the republican argument; and it would shoot the right's fox, because they want a smaller state. In the middle, the Queen never knowingly undersold. Isn't that something to celebrate? ?AllSaints, the fashion chain, has poached a director from Burberry to be its new chief executive. William Kim, who was the senior vice-president of retail and digital commerce at Burberry, will join the private equity-owned AllSaints on 15 October. Founded in 1994, the clothing retailer has 65 stores and 35 concessions in the UK, Europe and US. ?"Personally, I have long been a pelt-wearing vegetarian. By the laws of reflex liberalism, those of my ilk are not supposed to 'do skin'. And yet, like the non-paint-hurling majority, I am wary of an animal rights lobby that refers to medical testing as a "holocaust", terrorises scientists and their families, and would prohibit pets. To compare their activism to that of suffragettes or anti-Nazi protesters is reverse anthropomorphism at its most obscene."Moreover, there's an argument to say that the fur industry helps, not harms, animal populations. "It is in no way perverse to suggest that the industry is also beneficial for animals, in the sense that culling can regulate and thus secure populations C as deer culling does in Britain." ?Her marriage is wonderful, she's given up alcohol and from tomorrow she's hosting the nightly 'Strictly' spin-off show 'It Takes Two'?Princess Diana changed all that. Or the clever people who drew up the guest-list for the Serpentine Gallery summer party in 1994. She arrived in a killer black dress, on the same day that Prince Charles discussed the collapse of their marriage in a Jonathan Dimbleby interview.Perhaps not a great day for the Royals, but one that transformed the face of the arts party. Suddenly, every A-, B- and C-lister was lining up to get into the party in Hyde Park. Last week's annual shindig drew Mischa Barton and a glittering shoal of models.The event inspired other galleries to do the same C to reach out beyond their own industry's stars. As summer parties begin to kick off across the arts sector, we can perhaps expect the same extravagance.And yet, the blingy "big event" arts party is beginning to feel inappropriately flashy in our current climate. Call my complaint sour grapes C I didn't get my Serpentine Gallery invite this year C but then, I remember feeling uncomfortable there last year, and the year before that.Of course, the gallery should be congratulated for bringing bling to the arts, on one level. It is a very networky and American way of doing business, by drawing rich potential philanthropists, sponsors, donors, to their doors.Yet now, in this climate of double-dip recessions and Government cuts to arts funding (with the prospect of more forever looming), this kind of hot ticket seems like a celebration of money, power, and fame, while the "arts" bit of the "arts party" is drowned out.Three years ago, when the recession first hit the arts, I was at the Cannes Film Festival and noticed that the film industry toned down its parties, which had always been the blingest of the bling. The paring down was a gesture that acknowledged the larger economic environment, and hailed a new, non-conspicuous consumption era.The Serpentine manages to do better than most to pull in major private sponsorship, and Julia Peyton-Jones, its director, clearly knows how to tub-thump for money, but two years ago, even she warned that private philanthropy cannot fill the gap that any reduction in Government arts funding leaves behind.And does a high-voltage party send an unsavoury message out to the arts world? To have an arts event morph into a starry fashion and showbiz event too means it has, in some ways, become a prisoner of its success. Burberry had its umbrellas everywhere last summer. This year, the fashion designer Leon Max sponsored the party.The books industry has kept it far more purist. You get the occasional celebrity at a books party but they have a reason to be there C they've just written a memoir, or brought out a cookbook C but even so, they are like lesser-spotted Welsh snow leopards when we compare their numbers to those in the visual arts.Over the past 10 years, there has been a significant diminution of publishing parties. When they're grand, they're really very grand: Bloomsbury pulls out all the stops in its annual Bloomsbury Square party. But what's different about it is that the stars of the party, and other parties like it, are the authors, whereas the star of this year's Serpentine Gallery party was, arguably, Mischa Barton.?Eurazeo, the French private-equity firm, Zegna, an Italian luxury brand, and PPR, one of France's biggest luxury houses, are all known to have had recent talks with the Bond suit-maker about a potential offer. If the company is sold, it could fetch up to 350m (300m).Brioni declined to comment.The Rome-based family-owned group still manufactures its entire range in Italy. Its suits start at $4,000 (2,570) and can cost $47,000.The business was founded in 1945 and now has boutiques in major cities across the world. It reported an operating profit of 32m for 2010 and is expanding into casualwear.Eurazeo recently bought a stake in Italian ski-wear label Moncler, while PPR has been trying to offload its catalogue business Redcats in a move to focus on luxury goods.Luxury goods groups, which have until recently remained resilient to the downturn, have started to see their share prices fall due to doubts over potential growth in emerging markets such as China. The UK label Burberry saw a 12.5 per cent fall on its share price this week.?The group, which has 196 retail stores, 207 concessions, 48 outlet shops and 58 franchise stores worldwide, said like-for-like sales ground to a halt in the 10 weeks to September 8 and have started to fall over recent weeks. Total sales including new space were up 6%.The luxury goods firm, famous for its red, black and camel check, warned adjusted pre-tax profits for the year to March 31 will be around the lower end of market expectations.Burberry, which was founded in 1856, spent much of the year bucking the gloomy trend in the wider retail sector due to its exposure to robust emerging markets, especially China.Burberry?chief executive Angela Ahrendts warned the external environment was "becoming more challenging".She added: "Given this background, we are tightly managing discretionary costs and taking appropriate actions to protect short term profitability."The flat like-for-like sales in the second quarter so far are a sharp slowdown from the 6% hike reported for the first quarter to June 30.Burberry?reported a 24% surge in annual profits to 366 million in its last financial year, while total revenues were also up 24% to 1.9 billion as key Asian markets showed more strong growth and flagship stores in London and Paris performed well.Burberry?previously announced plans to add a further 12% to 14% of selling space in this financial year but did not give details of store openings in today's update.The group has been focusing on larger format stores, such as its relocated site in London's Regent Street.It is due to issue another trading update on October 11 before its interim results for the six months to September 30 on November 7.Burberry?shares slumped 17% in the wake of the warning, wiping 1 billion from its market value and leaving the stock at its lowest point this year.The previous range of market forecasts for the financial year had been for?Burberry?to achieve profits of between 407 million and 455 million.Investec Securities analyst Bathany Hocking said: "We have been fans of?Burberry, and remain of the view that the strategy, luxury positioning and management team should lead to long-term sector outperformance."Today's statement does, however, imply a significant slowdown and?Burberry?is not immune from wider macro-economic turbulence."PA?The cashmere company has been keeping people warm for 215 years, but recently efforts to combine its long heritage with more modern glamour has given the Scottish firm's chances of cracking the global market a rosy glow.Johnstons is in its fifth year of a collaboration with Christopher Kane, the multi-award winning designer who has dreamt up outfits for Kylie Minogue videos. Never mind that it is the only remaining vertical mill in the UK C meaning it does everything from taking the raw fibre to producing the finished garment for its own label. Supplying luxury brands including Chanel and Hermes has helped to lend it a new-found cachet with fashionistas.Linny Oliphant, brand manager at Johnstons says: "We have recently re-branded and spent 1m on our Eastfield Mills site in Hawick. We remain true to our roots and customers love our heritage and the fact we are made in Britain."With London Fashion Week in full flow, it is reassuringly familiar story. Add in hopes that the Olympics and Queen's Diamond Jubilee will lure the rich and famous to Britain from around the world, and 2012 is shaping up to be a big year for the British luxury goods.Capitalising on this unique opportunity was top of the agenda last month at a breakfast organised by Walpole, the British luxury body, and hosted by jeweller Boodles on Bond Street.There is a chance for some of Walpole's members to move up C from being part of a cottage industry to genuine challengers to those few UK fashion powerhouses, such as Mulberry and Burberry.London Fashion Week is important to the capital: it pumps 30m into the economy and brings in 100m of orders for the designer brands that grace the catwalks. However, the show is still in the shadow similar events in the major fashion centres like Milan or Paris. As the chairman of a major Italian luxury goods house says: "London is known for watching the young and the up-and-coming designers but not for the large, established luxury houses."Many of the designers whose garments make it on to the catwalk have wafer-thin profits; the most successful designers globally are supported by wealthy conglomerates that make the real money on perfume sales.The figures also show the UK hasn't completely cracked the fashion market. The UK exports an impressive 3.9bn of clothing and footwear a year, but this is dwarfed by the 14.6bn of imported garments.A handful of British luxury brands have made it big. Burberry has a market cap of 6.3bn and Mulberry is worth more than 1.1bn. Other successful labels have been snapped up by overseas buyers, with Jimmy Choo and leather goods firm Belstaff owned by Swiss company Labelux and McQueen and Stella McCartney part of French group PPR.Like Johnstons, they are making the most of the British credentials as a way of wooing spenders. Burberry has been big on promoting its 'Made in Britain' roots. It is sponsoring a scholarship at the Royal College of Art and Design and last year expanded its factory in Castleford, West Yorkshire. The group even shows videos of its factory in overseas stores.Harold Tillman, chairman of the British Fashion Council and owner of Jaeger and Aquascutum, says: "We are having our time. British fashion is back and we have the opportunity to grow globally. People want to buy British C made in Britain reeks of quality. Our customers are international C not just Chinese but from across the globe."Upmarket jewellery brand and host of the luxury breakfast get-together, Boodles, also boasts a long history. Michael Wainwright, sitting in the plush surroundings of his lavish white leather and silk upholstered boutique in the heart of London's luxury sector, is the fifth generation of his family to run the 214-year-old business. Wainwright is trying to ensure the business keeps up with the 21st century despite its age, and is launching a website in Arabic and Mandarin in May. There are also shops planned for Hong Kong to add to the five Boodles has in the UK.However, Wainwright argues that UK luxury groups cannot rely on using their long lives as unique selling points. For example, handbag and accessories brand Mulberry has been a dazzling performer and is a relative newcomer [created in 1971]. Wainwright says: "It isn't just about the heritage, it's making the people behind the brand accessible."Wainwright is doing just this by cancelling his summer holiday, so that he is in town to welcome shoppers to his London stores during the Olympics and Diamond Jubilee. Similarly, Burberry will open its huge Regent Street flagship store before the Olympic flame is lit in late July The influx of summer visitors mean sales are expected to rocket. A 3.5 per cent increase forecast for the London's West End alone. The New West End Company predicts an additional 16.6m in revenue as a direct consequence of the Games. There will be impossibly wealthy tourists spending implausibly vast sums from the US, China, Russia, Middle East, Nigeria and Brazil.The Jubilee celebration has a ready made face of luxury: the Queen and the Royal family. Julia Carrick, chief executive at Walpole, says: "For the luxury sector, the Queen and her family are the best ambassadors of all. The Queen has helped British brands expand to become global players." Verdict Research forecasts the global luxury goods industry will increase by 37bn to 107bn by 2015. This market is not just important to the brands themselves. The manufacture of luxury goods does its bit for the UK's economy, while there is a wealth of other jobs the sector supports.Luca Solca, Crdit Agricole Cheuvreux global head of European research with a focus on luxury, says: "The most important British brands seem less dependent on domestic manufacturing than what one typically finds in Switzerland or France. Hence, most of the benefits to the British economy come in the shape of high level job creation C creation, marketing, commercial and general management are typically in London C retail investments and operations, and all of the indirect effects a heightened level of economic activity typically brings."The UK doesn't have luxury conglomerates on the scale of LVMH, Richemont or PPR but brands are C after two centuries in some cases C investing in global expansion for a brighter, luxurious future.Johnstons of ElginSales: 50mJohnstons has been dyeing, spinning, weaving and knitting cashmere since 1797.BurberrySales: 1.5bnThomas Burberry, a 21-year-old drapers apprentice, opened his first shop in Basingstoke, Hampshire in 1856Paul SmithSales: 196mSir Paul Smith opened his first shop in 1970 in his home town of Nottingham and by 1976 he had shown his first collection in Paris. He now has 12 different Paul Smith collections.MulberrySales: 122mFounder Roger Saul was ousted from the Mulberry board in 2002 after a spat with then chief executive Godfrey Davis. The Somerset based company will soon be headed by a Frenchman when Bruno Guillon joins from French rival Hermes next month.?The anecdote C related by the economist Dambisa Moyo in her recent study of nascent Chinese supremacy, How the West Was Lost C underlines the uphill struggle faced by British manufacturers fighting unsuccessfully to stem the tide against their low-cost rivals.More recently, the Chancellor, George Osborne, pinned hopes on manufacturers to drag the UK out of its present malaise with a call for a Britain "borne aloft by the march of the makers". Unfortunately, no sooner was the soundbite out of his mouth than the debt crisis in the eurozone C still our biggest export market, accounting for some 40 per cent of sales C began biting hard. In the first three months of this year, when the country's double-dip recession was confirmed, our manufacturers were stagnant rather than propelling us towards the promised land of recovery.From world-leading companies such as GlaxoSmithKline in pharmaceuticals, BAE Systems in defence technology and Burberry in fashion, "Made in Britain" is still a label to be proud of, but there is less of it around than there used to be. It looks strange that the Chancellor should even have bothered putting his eggs in the manufacturing basket when the figures paint a stark picture of its declining significance to Britain.In 1980, manufacturing employed 6.3 million people, accounting for 23 per cent of the workforce. By the end of last year this had shrank by around two-thirds to 2.3 million, representing 7.5 per cent of British employees. The nation's manufacturing base was hollowed out first under Margaret Thatcher and then under Tony Blair as New Labour was bewitched by the financial sector and the pursuit of a service-led economy. Manufacturing's share of the UK economy overall, 23 per cent in 1980, has dwindled to just 10 per cent.But it's not all bad news, as industry cheerleaders are keen to highlight. The UK's industrial base may be little more than a 10th of the size of China's, but we are still the world's ninth-largest manufacturer, according to the EEF manufacturers' trade body. And there's still plenty of stuff we do well. Go back to China, for example, and a grand old British name like Rolls-Royce. We might not be able to compete any more in low-cost manufacturing, but our new global economic overlords still wants to buy our cars.Demand for Rolls-Royces in China, which had more than a million millionaires in 2011, is such that it overtook the US as the firm's biggest market in 2011. Last year the firm could barely keep up with demand for its Phantom Dragon, costing $1.2m (770,000). Rolls-Royce sold out of the model in two months.In May, Britain made 141,146 cars, the highest number in eight years, with vast numbers finding their way to the world's second-largest economy. The story of the last decade may be the quadrupling of Chinese imports to the UK C 31.5bn last year C but less remarked upon is that our exports to China jumped more than six times to 9.3bn during the same period. There is some ground for optimism.Tim Bradshaw, the CBI's head of industrial policy and innovation, reckons cars could take a big chunk out of Britain's trade deficit, which stood at more than 10bn in April: "At the moment sales of higher-end cars to China are worth about 2bn a year, but at the current rate of growth that could be up to 8-9bn by 2020. So just on cars to China alone we could eliminate a quarter of our trade deficit."There are other things we do well, Mr Bradshaw adds. "It's not just the likes of Jaguar, Land Rover and Bentley. We are also pretty good at some of the more basic manufacturing, including chemical production. They may not be complex products but there are complex processes involved in making them. The UK accounts for around 5 per cent of the global market share in pharmaceuticals, chemicals and plastics manufacturing."China is also losing its in-built advantage on labour costs which tempted so many firms to shift production there. China's rate of wage inflation is such that, five or 10 years down the line, they will be be less competitive on wages. Aeronautics is another UK strength. The Airbus A380 C at 254m a pop C is 54 per cent UK-made by value, if Rolls-Royce's Trent 900 engines are included.The Chancellor has set a target of doubling the UK's total exports C 487bn last year C to 1trn by 2020. Peter Russell, Royal Bank of Scotland's head of manufacturing who works with a host of British firms, calls this target "wildly ambitious" because sluggish Europe remains by far our biggest export market, "and that is not likely to change in the near term".Mr Russell also warns of a "real demographic challenge" with 30 per cent of the UK's stronger manufacturing workforce set to retire over the next 10 years. But British firms are pursuing more opportunities in the Bric economies as well as the Middle East.Britain may not a have a future as the workshop of the world C but we can be a hi-tech brains trust leading the way on innovation, Mr Russell says. So maybe Mr Osborne's "march of the makers" could bear fruit if we can make the things that China and other emergent economies want over the next decade.He concludes: "I don't think we're ever returning to the status of being a top five manufacturer in the world: our role is being more technical and smart. It is about value-creation and making sure that our manufacturers get more than their fair share."?Her marriage is wonderful, she's given up alcohol and from tomorrow she's hosting the nightly 'Strictly' spin-off show 'It Takes Two'?City grandees want to do the same. Instead of raincoats, the City is exporting its financial and regulatory expertise to places such as Moscow, Dubai and Toronto. The busiest catwalk is Moscow, where The CityUK, the Square Mile's promotional trade body, is the lead partner working with the Kremlin on developing the country's new International Finance Centre. Dubai signed up with The CityUK last week to work on its financial centre, and Toronto is said to be not far off.Danny Corrigan, the deputy chairman of CityUK's Russian liaison group, coined the Burberry phrase for how the City is "copying and pasting" its regulatory, legal and accountancy standards on to Moscow. The Russian capital is already the third-biggest revenue earner for the City's magic circle of lawyers and accountants after London and New York. Corrigan, who runs the roubles desk at Icap, says financial experts are tripping over themselves to do business in Moscow C BA has just upgraded its route into the city, one of its most profitable and busiest.Another Russian delegation was in London last week for talks on public-private partnership projects, while the Lord Mayor, David Wootton, is due to visit Moscow again in July. With Wootton will be representatives from hundreds of financial firms, including the London Stock Exchange.Behind the scenes, the LSE is already working with the Moscow exchange on expanding its derivatives and securities market as it diversifies away from natural resources, but more concrete arrangements are likely. Nearly 20 per cent of London's market volume is now trading in Russian shares, so closer ties make sense.The CityUK's Richard Normington says London was chosen C ahead of Frankfurt C because it sets the gold standard for regulatory work. You can be forgiven for being cynical about the City's high standards after the banking crash, but, apparently, London still leads the way on regulatory issues such as alternative resolution disputes, as well as branding. There may be construction work in the pipeline too C a decision on whether Moscow will build its own new Canary Wharf will be taken after its presidential elections next Sunday.It's not just finance that's growing C trade is on the up, with Russia the UK's 12th-biggest export market. The Government sees long-term potential for the world's biggest country and eighth-largest retail marketC there's a Burberry in Moscow's best shopping street.Lord Green, the trade minister and former chairman of HSBC, has made Russia a priority. But he's also been criticised by MPs for allowing UK Trade & Investment to push Russia as a trading partner, because of worries over the regime. Indeed, Labour MP Denis MacShane lambasted Lord Green two weeks ago for hosting a London conference to sell Russia's new Skolkovo Innovation Park, because, he alleged, it legitimised a regime " plagued by criminality and corruption". One of Russia's richest oligarchs, Viktor Vekselberg, who is in charge of the project billed as Russia's Silicon Valley, was the main speaker at the event, which drew more than 100 British investors and scientists.Vekselberg is one of the three oligarchs who own half of TNK-BP, the joint venture with BP. The UK oil giant is one of the first to work with Skolkovo, agreeing a 9m grant to back Imperial College and its Russian university partner for research into oil refining.Ironically, one of the stated aims of Skolkovo is to stop the brain-drain C and money drain C to cities such as London; Russia wants the Brits to go there instead. But should UK companies be expanding into Russia? Or will new players get burnt, as MacShane suggests, like the hedge fund Hermitage or BP?Who better to ask than David Peattie, BP's head of Russia? BP is the biggest foreign investor in the country. Peattie says the TNK partnership has been a huge success, despite its ups and downs. Since TNK-BP was launched in 2003, Russia has earned $150bn (95bn) in taxes and duties, while BP has made $19bn in dividends C and the dividend to BP's shareholders last year was largely covered by the $3.7bn TNK cash dividend. While the spat with TNK over the failed Rosneft deal is still going through the courts, Peattie says personal relations with the three oligarchs are good: "There's never a dull moment."But is it worth the gamble? BP certainly thinks so, as does The CityUK, which points out that it's because the Russians want to improve their reputation that the City has been invited in.Who knows? But maybe the City can do some good by helping to check the wilder side of the Russian bear.Darrington takes a bite out of businesses which refuse to accept pay criticismHooray for Sir Michael Darrington, the former chief executive of the cheerful Greggs pie-to-pastry shops. Darrington brought some much-needed sense into the great pay debate last week when he said business was wrong to view the recent criticism of boardroom pay as anti-business.Quite the reverse, he says. It is business that is being anti-business by attacking the criticism, and by defending its own pay levels. Or, as Darrington put it with the bluntness of a Greggs butty: "It is a smokescreen and a lot of bollocks C it is the greed of the people [at the top] that is anti-business."What friends he may have in the business world will have been tearing their hair out when he added: "If the current packages were halved, senior executives and bankers would still be overpaid."If business does want society to be pro-business C which largely it is C then more notice should be taken of Darrington's comments. While he's the latest to break ranks with his peers, and now plans his own campaign against excessive boardroom pay deals, he's not the first. That accolade goes to Sir Owen Green, the ex-boss of BTR that became Invensys, who was the first UK businessmen to warn on excessive pay awards in the early 1990s. Owen predicted then that the sky-high packages being paid to businessmen would lead to social problems, even civil unrest. Public shame was his answer to the problem.Antonio Horta-Osorio, the thoughtful Lloyds Banking Group chief executive, seems to have taken this on board. His decision to claw back bonuses from executives at the time of the PPI mis-selling scandal is the right one, and he should be praised for taking such a bold move. As Lloyds' results showed, the bank has also slashed bonuses to executives by 50 per cent C and to staff by 30 per cent C following its 3.5bn loss. Taxpayers are now sitting on a 10bn loss.RBS also cut back its bonus pool. If your company is loss-making, you could argue that executives shouldn't be taking any bonus at all. Being pro-business means you share in failure as well as success.?The Baroness, a non-executive director of Royal Bank of Scotland, took part in the most extraordinary interview on the Today radio programme last week, on the Davies report, in which she said the fixation on quotas was silly, and that even a board of 20 men could be considered a balanced one, provided that the men think differently.Then she showed her prejudice even more by asking why people say having more women on boards would bring a different perspective. Hello? Well, even the great John Humphrys choked at this, calling on Sarah Montague to help persuade Noakes that surely having a gender mix, as well as different personalities, would be healthy?Noakes wasn't having it; nor did she think the Norwegian experience, where the government introduced quotas making it compulsory for companies to have 40 per cent of women on their boards, was a good one.In fact, she was contemptuous, arguing that quotas have led to Norwegian women holding seven or eight NED jobs each. So? What's wrong with that? The former Conservative House of Lords Treasury spokesman omitted to say that she also sits on the boards of Carpetright and Severn Trent, is on the audit committee of both RBS and Severn, and is a co-director of the Thomson-Reuters Share Foundation. Not much free time, then.As any thoughtful person will understand, taking the sort of brave leap which the Norwegians did requires time to work through, with constant updating and refining. All the people I've spoken to in Norway are pleased with the progress so far, but they know, too, that it's only by increasing the pipeline at the executive level, that they will get a supply of more women available in the pool for the NED roles. And it's only by having more women on the boards that you encourage more women to come up the executive level; so, a virtuous circle.Quotas are imperfect; tackling sensitive issues always will be. But, as Norway has shown, taking bold decisions by introducing fixed quotas, and, in France, by threatening them, is having a dynamic impact on board composition and bringing about swift change. The French have set a quota that 40 per cent of the boards of leading firms should be female within five years, and since it was announced the number has shot up from 13 per cent to 20 per cent. French luxury-goods maker LVMH has gone even further, and has pledged to promote women so that they take up 30 per cent of its executive positions.But the UK experience, since Davies suggested that a quarter of all NEDs be women by 2015, hasn't been great; in fact, it's lamentable. Only 33 companies from the FTSE 100 have bothered to inform him of their plans. And, of the 93 new board seats up for grabs since February, only 21 have gone to women. The number of women on FTSE 100 boards has only risen from 12.5 per cent to 14.2 per cent, and from 7.8 per cent to 9.9 per cent at the FTSE 250 firms, although half of these have no women at all on their boards. The really bad boys are those in the FTSE 300, but David Cameron hopes to shame them into action by writing them a letter; good luck to him.If the increase continues at this rate it will take at least another 20 years to achieve the levels which everyone from top businessmen such as CBI president Sir Roger Carr to the Prime Minister agrees is not just fair, but also good for business. There's masses of research which shows that having more women on boards improves productivity and overall performance of companies, a point made again by Cameron last week.You only have to look at Burberry, where two top women C Angela Ahrendts is chief executive and Stacey Cartwright is finance director C are enjoying spectacular success, demonstrating that big change only happens when diversity gets to a certain scale. This is a numbers game.That's why listening to Noakes is so dispiriting. She speaks to the "only woman in the room syndrome" which dominates so many of our boardrooms, where the female directors seem to quite like being the queen bees and don't want other women around.Oddly enough, men don't seem to mind having these personalities around them either, perhaps because they act like men. This is partly what's wrong with the present culture; all too often, the male relationships on the board have a touch of the homoerotic about them. And there's a tribal element to it all, too C a deep need in the male psyche to train younger colleagues in their own image.One wonders if one of the reasons that Davies and Cameron are so resistant to fixed quotas is that they are listening to too many "only woman in the room" types. There are also a lot of senior women who secretly believe in fixed quotas, but who fear that if they say so publicly, they risk being seen as overly radical.If Mr Cameron is so persuaded that having more women on boards is for the economic good, then he should waste no time C just take the plunge and set a date for fixed quotas. If he doesn't, the EU will do it for him, next March. Moving now could also help Cameron out on the women's vote he's so worried about losing, as I can't think of another single action which could be introduced C cost free C that would show the female population that he is serious about fairness. Nearly half the workforce is female, and half of all graduates are women; yet they are shut out from reaching their potential. (We need to make childcare tax-deductible, but that's for another day).Those who argue against quotas claim that they create tokenism C that the women are there for show alone. But surely if all the compelling arguments dictate that company performance does increase with more women on boards, then that can't be true.The other big obstacle often raised is the one of supply; that the gene pool of women is too small. This is rubbish C search firms will just have to look harder. The women are there, it's just that they are invisible, tucked away in marketing, or human resources C corners ignored by headhunters. In France, Christine Lagarde, now head of the IMF, was so fed up with businessmen bleating about how they couldn't find enough women that she sent them all a list of 50, just off the top of her head.By all accounts, boards would be all the stronger for more diversity; you need at least three women to make a difference. Research also shows that women tend to be more challenging to "groupthink", more able to think "blue sky". It sounds as though the accountancy-trained Noakes needs more of them with her on the RBS board. On an earlier radio programme on the same day last week, the Radio Five presenter asked if she would ever tell a banker that his bonus was too big. Her reply? "I'm not sure I would be brave enough." Says it all.?As caution gripped the City floors, the betting stocks were given a kicking, with Sportingbet a particular target.The shares dropped 1.75p to 46.5p as Investec analyst Paul Leyland cut the stock to "sell" over fears Ladbrokes' takeover approach was set to fall apart. The broker raised concerns that Sportingbet had not offloaded its Turkish arm. "We believe it will be very difficult to disentangle Turkey 'cleanly', which we believe is critical to the deal consummating," he said.The miners were under pressure as copper came under pressure. Simon Denham, head of spread-bettor Capital Spreads, said the metal "has seen a real slowdown in demand and the metal is taking its biggest beating since the start of the global recession".Kazakhmys was the worst performer, giving up 41p to close at 793p. Yet two miners unexpectedly shrugged off the torpor, with Fresnillo top of the blue chips at the close. After losses the previous day, it was up 72p to 1,586p.China's purchasing managers' index figures cast a shadow over the session, as traders feared growth in the country could stall. Citi also released a note that said: "China's vulnerability to global slowdown shouldn't be underestimated: total exports account for more than a quarter of GDP and the export sector employs a big army of labour."This contributed to the continued decline of the FTSE 100. It had fallen 20 points the previous day, and gave up a further 68.36 points to finish the quarter at 5128.48. The Hong Kong index had suffered overnight, led lower by its banks, which was also reflected in UK trading. Worst on the day was Standard Chartered, which is also heavily exposed to Asia. UBS also yesterday shaved its 2011 forecasts by 4 per cent as it predicted trading revenues would fall, and reduced forecasts of balance-sheet growth from 15 per cent to 12 per cent and lifted impairment growth to 20 per cent. The shares closed down 71p to 1,287p.Also down in the banking sector was Barclays. The group fell 7.8p to 161.35p on sector pressure, as well as news that it had been slapped with a lawsuit from HSH Nordbank over losses related to residential-backed security losses. The claim said Barclays misrepresented the quality of the underlying loans and seeks at least $40m.UBS was instrumental in pushing testing group Intertek right to the bottom of the blue chips as it downgraded the stock from "neutral" to a "sell" after pointing out the sector was "not immune to slowdown". UBS's analysts went on to say that margins were likely to be flat for the next 12 months. It also downgraded French peer Bureau Veritas. Shares in Intertek plunged close to 10 per cent, down 195p to 1,855p.On the second line there were several more stocks in the blue. Among the top risers was RPC Group. The plastic-packaging company put out a bullish trading statement predicting a higher first half as its takeover of Superfos in December continues to pep up the results. Panmure Gordon said the medium-term outlook was "better than most", helping the shares up 10p to 337p. Worst on the day was Afren, which gave up 9.75p to 81.25p.In the wider market Alterian shares took a tumble after the group said its company review would not consider a sale of the business. New chief executive Heath Davies kicked off the review when he arrived earlier this month and the company said it should be wrapped up in time for its interim results in November. Yet the shares retreated 11.75p to close at 63p, a drop of almost 16 per cent, after the statement added: "For the avoidance of doubt, the review is not investigating an option to sell the business."Just Car Clinic decided it was time to hit the road, with the announcement it was to cancel its listing on the Alternative Investment Market. Shareholders in the repair group, whose website says it is "smiles better", were not grinning as the shares plummeted 45 per cent following the news. The group said the "perceived" benefits of an AIM listing included the ability to tap the equity markets, a higher profile, and incentivisation of staff. "After almost nine years as an AIM-quoted company, the company is not receiving these benefits to any extent that would justify the costs and management time associated with maintaining its status as an AIM company," it said. It is worrying news for the growth market, which saw 70 companies de-list in the first half. Just Car closed down 13p at 15.5p.Also down on the AIM was San Leon Energy, though it actually had some good news to announce. The oil and gas group, which goes digging around in Poland and Morocco, was back in profit after a one-off payment from selling off an interest in the Rockall licence. Pre-tax profits for the first six months of the year hit 1.4m, up from a loss of 1.7m. Shares closed down 0.75p at 14.5p.FTSE 100 RisersRandgold Resources 6290p (up 160p, 2.6 per cent)Along with Fresnillo, precious metals group manages to avoid sector rout.United Utilities Group 624p (up 4p, 0.65 per cent)Investors rush towards defensive embrace of the utility companies.Autonomy Corporation 2550p (up 6p, 0.24 per cent)Software company sneaks into positive territory as merger approaches.FTSE 100 FallersLloyds Banking Group 34.8p (down 1.6p, 4.4 per cent)Financial services sector remains under pressure, while Evos cuts Lloyds to "neutral"Man Group 168.5p (down 7.5p, 4.2 per cent)Hedge fund to double job cuts to 400 just days after the group reveals significant customer outflows.Burberry Group 1174p (down 27p, 2.2 per cent)Designer clothes group feels more pain as investors fear for China growth .FTSE 250 RisersDomino's Pizza 445.5p (up 18.1p, 4.2 per cent)Fast food group rebounds after two-day declines on some disappointing sales.QinetiQ Group 116.7p (up 3p, 2.6 per cent)Investors respond well to trading update as defence group says the first half was better than expected.Electra Private Equity 1360p (up 6p, 0.4 per cent)Buyout group announces sale of heating business Thermea Group.FTSE 250 FallersAquarius Platinum 177.3p (down 12.7p, 6.7 per cent)US broker Citi cuts mining group's price target to 200p from 261p.Millennium & Copthoren Hotels 401.7p (down 13.3p, 3.2 per cent)Company declines as sector comes under pressure.Aegis Group 124.5p (down 2.7p, 2.12 per cent)Shares slide after Natexis cuts company price target from 175p to 170p?The stock plummeted by 10.7p to 168.3p after Goldman Sachs downgraded its rating to "sell". Mothercare has lost nearly 75 per cent of its value since December.Criticising the company for its "mid-market position" compared with the supermarkets' offerings, the broker's analysts refused to paint a pretty picture of the future, warning that Mothercare's losses in the UK would only get worse, with like-for-like sales falling until 2014. Goldman was similarly bearish about other high-street chains, saying it was increasingly cautious about the outlook for household and discretionary spending next year. As a result, it told punters in Halfords (whose stock fell by 12.7p to 327.1p) and Home Retail (down 5.8p to 100.1p) to get rid of their shares. Goldman also cut its advice on SuperGroup, owner of the Superdry and Cult clothing brands, to "neutral" and its shares fell by 10p to 624p.Instead, Goldman recommended retailers exposed to emerging economies rather than just Europe. It kept luxury goods retailer Burberry on its conviction buy list, although the shares were still knocked back 66p to 1,341p.Growing unease about last week's eurozone agreement, not helped by China appearing to play down the level of support it will provide to the region, pushed the FTSE 100 back 158.02 points to 5,544.22. However, overall the blue-chip index jumped more than 8 per cent in October C its best month since July 2009.The banks were mired deep in the red, as Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds dipped 2.06p to 24.23p and 2.66p to 32.5p, respectively. Barclays fared slightly better after its third-quarter results, although it was still pegged back 5.9p to 195.3p.The miners were hit by a double blow from the Far East. As well as Japan's attempt to rein back the strength of the yen prompting the dollar to rise and, therefore, commodity prices to drop, the sector was also left behind by pessimistic comments by the China Iron and Steel Association about demand in that country. Vedanta Resources ended up with the wooden spoon, falling 126p to 1,278p, and Kazakhmys moved 89.5p lower to 927.5p.There was little bid chatter to get excited about. Dealers desperate for a gossip turned to the US, where vague speculation suggested that the retailer Bed Bath & Beyond might become a takeover target.In fact, the main topic of conversation was MF Global (spun out of Man Group in 2007) as the futures broker filed for bankruptcy in New York. Despite Man clarifying that it now has no links with MF Global, the world's largest hedge fund still retreated by 3.5p to 149.9p as market voices noted increasing nervousness ahead of next Thursday's interim results.Homeserve was in a severe state of disrepair on the FTSE 250, slumping 27.88 per cent to 350p. The insurer, which describes itself as the "fifth emergency service", had suspended sales at the weekend amid mis-selling concerns, following an internal review and one conducted by Deloitte.An expansion to a project in Equatorial Guinea helped Ophir Energy, with the oil and gas explorer rising by 3p to 267.4p. At the other end, New World Resources continued its recent volatile run. After seeing its share price rise by a fifth last week, the miner fell back 77p, or 12.88 per cent, to 521p.William Hill dropped 6.3p to 216p after the Numis Securities analyst Ivor Jones scorned the bookie's claims that problems at its online operations in Israel had been successfully resolved. Mr Jones warned: "The consequences will not be clear for some months."The news that Visa Europe had taken a 8.8 per cent stake in Monitise pushed the mobile payments provider up 2.75p to 38p on the Alternative Investment Market. The gossips were claiming that a similar situation could happen with its peers Earthport (which rose 0.5p to 18.5p) and Western Union, with the two having announced last month that they were working together.The small-cap insurance consultancy Charles Taylor slipped 12p to 132p after admitting it would just fail to meet its full-year expectations. On the fledgling index, the office supplies group office2office blamed government cuts for the fact that it was also on course to miss its targets. Its shares duly fell 10.5p to 148.5p. There was better news from the drug-maker Skyepharma, which rose 12p, or 24.49 per cent, to 61p after getting approval for its anaesthetic product Exparel from the US Food and Drug Administration.?The latest revival of the rumours claimed a private equity consortium could be considering making an offer worth between 160p and 180p a share with the aim of installing a new management team potentially led by Sir Stuart.As well as previously heading up both the Top Shop-owner Arcadia and Marks & Spencer, Sir Stuart is already familiar with Argos, having been chief executive of the catalogue chain in the late 1990s for a short period. One of his current roles is sitting on the advisory board of private equity firm Bridgepoint, whose retail investments include clothing group Fat Face and sandwich chain Pret a Manger.Analysts were treating the vague gossip C which also suggested, once again, that Asda-owner Walmart may be interested C with a heavy pinch of salt. One questioned whether Sir Stuart would be attracted to the job, while another said any potential private equity bidder would want to wait and see how the company performs over the key Christmas period.Home Retail touched a high during trading of 91.75p, before closing 0.8p ahead at 90.4p. It means the retailer has now added nearly 25 per cent in the last six sessions after having fallen to an all-time low of 72.45p.Despite spending a lot of the day ahead, the FTSE 100 finished 16.08 points in the red at 5,489.34, failing to capitalise on Wednesday's rally of more than 3 per cent which was prompted by the central banks' attempts to boost liquidity.Many of the heavyweight miners were struggling to keep hold of their recent gains following poor manufacturing figures emerging from China overnight. Vedanta Resources eased back 8p to 1,054p after Credit Suisse downgraded its rating to "neutral", as the broker's analysts said they saw "better risk reward elsewhere". Lowering their earnings estimates across the sector, they instead named Xstrata (down 9p to 1,008p), Glencore (down 6.25p to 392.25p) and Rio Tinto (down 35p to 3,304p) as their favourites.Burberry continued to rise as Seymour Pierce's Kate Calvert kept her "buy" recommendation. The upmarket brand climbed 38p to 1,308p despite its peer Coach C the luxury handbag maker favoured by Gwyneth Paltrow C sliding on its first day of trading in Hong Kong.The Bank of England's insistence that the banks increase their capital buffer left many in the sector weaker, with Lloyds slipping back 39p to 759p. Royal Bank of Scotland retreated 0.44p to 20.55p even though Evolution Securities' Ian Gordon reiterated his "buy" advice, claiming there was "overwhelming, absolute and relative evidence" that it would not need to raise capital. BP was pegged back 6.4p to 454.35p after announcing the sale of its Canadian natural gas liquids operations in a $1.67bn deal, the latest in a run of disposals to cover the costs of the Gulf of Mexico tragedy. The oil giant fell despite the revival of break-up talk, as Investec speculated its refining and marketing division could become a "disposal or demerger candidate".Rumours of a potential bid in the pipeline pushed Diploma towards the top of the FTSE 250, and although the vague whispers failed to mention a name, the services provider still advanced 12p to 345.4p.There have been a number of takeovers among the capital goods companies recently, which prompted the scribblers at Credit Suisse to try to work out who could be next to receive an approach. Estimating the sector's big names could have roughly $130bn with which to play with, the analysts chose six names as possible targets, including Spectris and Rotork, although they were pegged 11p to 1,241p and 12p to 1,796p respectively.A warning that it was on track to miss expectations thanks in part to car crash numbers falling left Ai Claims in the red, as the accident management firm dropped 2.25p to 21.25p on the Alternative Investment Market.Meanwhile, drinks group Global Brands' announcement that it hopes to delist its shares in an attempt to save cash prompted punters to jump ship, leaving it 64.44 per cent weaker at 0.4p.There was some rare good news for tiddler Hot Tuna as the beleaguered surf wear company revealed a distribution deal for Australia and New Zealand, soaring 40 per cent to 0.05p as a result.?With United Rentals paying a premium of almost 60 per cent to RSC's share price, many in the City were scrambling for their calculators to reassess Ashtead's value. Numis Securities worked out that if the same asset valuation was applied, the US operations of Ashtead alone could be worth as much as 313p a share.The tie-up was being seen as a vote of confidence for the US equipment rental market, which provides over 80 per cent of Ashtead's revenues. Numis reassured fears the move may end up harming the company, saying that it did not pose "a significant competitive threat ... and may actually offer an opportunity to gain a small amount of market share".There was also speculation further consolidation in the sector may see the group attract an admirer itself, with Numis' Mike Murphy saying that at some point "you might think Ashtead could be on United Rental's list of companies it may try to buy".Overall, it looked as if the FTSE 100 was going to finish the week on a high, but a late slump on C what else? C eurozone fears left it 13.51 points weaker at 5,387.34 by the bell. Despite rumours during the session that Standard & Poor's could be about to downgrade a number of European countries, Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds charged ahead 0.36p to 20p and 0.43p to 24.5p respectively. Barclays actually had its credit rating cut, by Fitch, but it also moved higher, shifting up 0.95p to 171.45p.The miners were still on the rebound, cheered by whispers continuing to swirl that China may be preparing to cut its reserve ratio for banks once again. With encouraging economic data coming out of the US as well, bouncing metal prices saw Antofagasta tick up 42p to 1,172p while Kazakhmys put on 27p to 874p.At the foot of the top-tier index, Essar Energy slumped to yet another record low, with the Indian giant's slide of 8.8p to 184.9p meaning it has shed over 25 per cent in less than a fortnight.Investors in the blue-chip index were clearly not in a charitable mood. Drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline was 15p lower at 1,443p despite announcing it was increasing the number of pneumonia vaccine doses it is selling at a discount for use in developing countries.Meanwhile, Burberry dipped 10p to 1,138p as the luxury brand's chief executive Angela Ahrendts gave more than 500,000 in shares to her charity the Ahrendts-Couch Family Foundation, which it then sold.A week in which it released its third profits warning of the year got worse for Logica yesterday. The IT services firm dropped 2.25p to 59.7p on the FTSE 250 amid claims its specialist staff means it has less chance of becoming a bid target.Takeover chatter has been circling the group recently thanks to its share price shedding nearly 60 per cent in under 10 months, yet Panmure Gordon's George O'Connor queried why a bidder would be interested in its "expensive experts" when recent deals in the sector show "they want generic skills".While his football club Newcastle United may have slipped down the Premier League recently, Mike Ashley's Sports Direct was top of the mid-tier index last night. The retailer was pushed up 20p to 210p on relief that it has decided not to make a bid for Blacks Leisure, with the news leaving the struggling tents seller 0.25p worse off at 2p.Hovis-owner Premier Foods ticked up 0.23p to 5.95p in the wake of its announcement late on Thursday that it had agreed a 41.4m disposal of a number of its brands.It was a case of too little, too late, however, with it being one of the companies C which also includes Thomas Cook (down 0.26p to 15.49p) and Mothercare (down 4.4p to 158.4p) C who are starting life as a small-cap stock on Mondayafter being relegated in the latestindices reshuffle.A U-turn from Global Brands meant that the Domino's Pizza-franchisee's share price rose by two-thirds on AIM. The group, which runs the takeaway business in Switzerland, Luxembourg and Liechtenstein, had wanted to delist, but has now changed its mind.While its pizza operations will be demerged as an private company, it plans to stay listed as an investment vehicle C news which prompted the tiddler to jump 0.38p to 0.6p.Yell Group was fired up 9.18 per cent to 5.71p on the small-cap index amid vague optimism surrounding the struggling Yellow Pages-publisher's attempts to restructure its debt.FTSE 100 RisersOld Mutual 126p (up 2.3p, 1.86 per cent)After climbing over 11 per cent on Thursday as it revealed it has agreed to sell its Nordic operations for $3.2bn, insurance group continues to rise.Whitbread 1,538p (up 10p, 0.65 per cent)Costa Coffee and Premier Inn-owner still advancing despite Fitch Ratings announcing that it expects the European hotels market to weaken next year.FTSE 100 FallersMan Group 127.6p (down 5.9p, 4.42 per cent)World's largest listed hedge fund finishes close to the foot of the blue-chip index after Deutsche Bank downgrades its recommendation to "sell".Imperial Tobacco 2,325p (down 72p, 3 per cent)With its share price having added close to 8 per cent over the past three weeks, owner of Lambert & Butler and Davidoff suffers a heavy loss.FTSE 250 RisersCarpetright 516.5p (up 39p, 8.17 per cent)Floor coverings retailer still getting a boost from its interim results earlier in the week, as it rises for the fourth straight day, during which time it has added more than 30 per cent.Imagination Technologies 543p (up 18.5p, 3.53 per cent)Chip designer given a push by Barclays initiating coverage with an "overweight" rating while Canaccord upgrades to "hold" from "sell".FTSE 250 FallersShanks 95.1p (down 6.4p, 6.31 per cent)Waste management company is knocked back by Goldman Sachs' decision to take it off the broker's "buy list" and reduce its target price to 138p.Drax 527p (down 18.5p, 3.39 per cent)Power station operator sees its share price fall back to a six-week low after the analysts at Credit Suisse raise their price target from 350p to 440p.?The group closed last night as one of the worst fallers on the Footsie after announcing it had stopped drilling its Jaguar-1 well off the shore of Guyana thanks to safety concerns. Although Tullow did uncover some oil, the news it was plugging and abandoning the well prompted it to dive 47p to 1,386p.While there were claims the move was overdone, the description of the well as "high pressure [and] high temperature" did prompt some to point out it was the same type as BP's well at the centre of the Gulf of Mexico tragedy in 2010.Tullow's decline was nothing compared to that suffered by Borders & Southern, however. Punters in the Falkland Islands-explorer were left squealing with pain after it admitted its Stebbing well had only found gas, and even then not enough for it to be commercial. The disappointing update, in which the company also revealed technical problems had stopped it drilling as deep as hoped, saw it slump a huge 44.25p to 18p. Its fellow Falkland drillers were also weaker, with Falkland Oil & Gas and Rockhopper retreating 6.75p to 79.5p and 32p to 222.75p.Borders' fall left it even further away from April's all-time high of 131p, which it reached on rumours of impending bullish drilling results before losing a third of its value the next day after revealing it had found gas condensate instead of oil. The pain didn't stop there for the explorers C Kazakhstan-focused Max Petroleum moved down 0.21p to 2.94p after admitting it needed further cash to complete the drilling of its NUR-1 well and Cove Energy was driven back 37.5p to 238p by Royal Dutch Shell (7.5p higher at 2,300p) pulling out of the bid battle for the Mozambique-focused group, with the 240p-a-share offer from Thailand's PTT the only one left standing.A sedate session for the FTSE 100 saw it finish a mere 3.7 points weaker at 5,662.43, with many waiting to see if US Fed boss Ben Bernanke's testimony to Congress later this week will contain any clues on the likelihood of further quantitative easing.In its worst fall since it came to light last week that the security services company would not be able to fulfil its Olympics contract, G4S was smacked back 24.1p to 254.6p after scribb lers from Panmure Gordon, Numis Securities, Seymour Pierce and UBS all decided they should remove their "buy" recommenda tions.Resolution's climb of 5.9p to 218.3p was accompanied by market gossips reviving vague speculation that Clive Cowdery's insurance conglomerate could be interested in another move for Phoenix. The life insurer advanced 17.4p to 510p on the FTSE 250, although traders were playing down the reheated rumours. Still, there has been support towards the idea recently C earlier in the month Berenberg's Matthew Preston argued the "tie-up makes the most strategic sense".Barclays C which last week extended its sponsorship of the Premier League until 2016 C fell 4.45p to 157.37p to set a new post-Libor scandal low. This was despite the efforts of Investec's Ian Gordon, who said it was "fighting a war against prejudice and ignorance" and advised investors to keep "the faith, buy the shares".Vodafone ticked up 1.95p to 184.83p following reports claiming a 2.9bn dividend payout from the mobile phone giant's US joint venture Verizon Wireless could be green-lit this week.Activist investor Bill Ackman's recent decision to buy a stake in US consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble (P&G) was highlighted as bullish for Marmite-owner Unilever by Liberum Capital's Pablo Zuanic. He claimed a "pruned P&G... should increase the pressure on Unilever to divest a large chunk of its food business" as the group crept up 2p to 2,144p.After watching the miner's shares jump 75 per cent to rise above 3p during trading, bosses at Noventa were forced to put out a statement claiming ignorance regarding the move, although by the bell it was still 0.18p better off at 1.92p on Aim.FTSE 100 Risers International Airlines Group 160p (up 4.2p, 2.7 per cent) British Airways owner finishes high up the blue-chip leaderboard on what was expected to be a record day for traffic at Heathrow. Smiths Group 1,052p (up 15p, 1.45 per cent) Engineer is one of the top risers after announcing it has managed to get rid of its minority stake in Cross Match Technologies for up to $77m (49.29m).FTSE 100 Fallers Sage 276p (down 9p, 3.16 per cent) Accountancy software group retreats as Numis Securities' analysts downgrade their advice to "hold" in reaction to the release of its third-quarter update. Burberry 1,207p (down 22p, 1.79 per cent) Luxury brand knocked back after the scribes from UBS reveal they have cut their target price on the stock to 1,290p from 1,450p and kept their "neutral" rating.FTSE 250 Risers FirstGroup 200p (up 10.3p, 5.43 per cent) Public transport company drives higher up the mid-tier index as the Government reveals a 9.4bn investment programme for the UK's rail network. Britvic 280.6p (up 7.5p, 2.75 per cent) Despite advancing for a third straight day, soft drinks maker has still lost more than 16 per cent since announcing earlier in the month a recall of its Fruit Shoots drinks.FTSE 250 Fallers Petropavlovsk 439.9p (down 21.7p, 4.7 per cent) Gold digger retreats after analysts from Goldman Sachs slash their target price on the stock by 460p to 520p while reiterating their "neutral" recommendation. Kenmare Resources 32.47p (down 1.24p, 3.68 per cent) Irish miner continues its recent decline, with the group's share price now having lost nearly 18 per cent since the start of the month.?Saying the licence for sports betting C with those for casino-style games such as poker set to be awarded soon C was a "a significant positive", analysts from BarCap added that it was "further evidence that Betfair can become the market leader in European sports betting".Traders also claimed it was a bullish sign for the group's great American hopes, arguing that it could help support Betfair's case if and when online gambling is regulated in the US. There were some in the City hedging their bets. Elections in the German state of Schleswig Holstein C which awarded the licences C take place this weekend and the fear is that a change in government could result in a change in policy.However, Morgan Stanley's Vaughan Lewis was doing his best to calm nerves, arguing that "the award of these licences would make changing the regime after the elections much more complicated".Meanwhile, although it was not one of the lucky companies to get a licence, Bwin.Party advanced 5.7p to 156.1p on hopes the Real Madrid-sponsor is among those next in line.The FTSE 100 was strong for much of the day, but poor retail sales figures from the US pushed it into a late slide, although the benchmark index still managed to close 8.44 points stronger at 5,766.55. Events from across the Atlantic are likely to dominate today's session as well thanks to the release of the closely watched, non-farm payroll figures.A busy week for results continued as Smith & Nephew was given a leg-up by forecast-beating, first-quarter figures, with the prosthetics manufacturer finishing 24p higher at 629.5p. Elsewhere, luxury brand Burberry was pushed up 21p to 1,536p by better-than-expected results from French rival Hermes.The takeover spotlight was back on Sage as the business software firm announced it was working with US giant Microsoft. Merchant Securities' Roger Phillips said the deal could "ultimately reawaken the long-dormant Sage-Microsoft bid rumours", although he did concede there were "significant barriers to such a deal". "Nevertheless, we continue to see Sage as a potential... M&A target, either for a trade vendor or for private equity," Mr Phillips added, as the group crept up 1.5p to 289.6p.Sentiment around Weir was showing little sign of improving ahead of the engineer's first-quarter results next week. The group has plenty of fans among analysts C RBC Capital's scribes said it was "pricing-in downgrades that we consider unlikely" C but its shares were still knocked back by 64p to 1,616p, its lowest for nearly seven months.Three months after completing the sale of its struggling Comet chain, Kesa Electricals was continuing to slim down as the retailer struck a deal to dispose of virtually all of its Darty Telecom unit. With Bank of America Merrill Lynch's Aurelie Caspar suggesting a run of further disposals could follow, the group initially spurted up as much as 10 per cent, although by the bell it was just 0.95p better off at 56.95p.Talvivaara was left 9.6p weaker at 168.2p, a three-year low, after getting a ticking off from the Finnish government. Environment minister Ville Niinisto reportedly warned the nickel miner that unless pollution was reduced at its Sotkamo site by the end of year it could face a fine or even a possible shutdown of the mine.Premier Oil fell 6p to 374.4p on the news the explorer is plugging and abandoning its Stingray exploration well in the North Sea. Broker FoxDavies was supportive, however, saying the "medium-term outlook remains intact" while suggesting that Premier "is also a potential target, especially as it bulks up its North Sea position".Drax edged down 3.5p to 570.5p after having risen nearly 6 per cent over the past two sessions in response to revived takeover speculation. This was despite Liberum Capital's scribblers talking up its takeover bid potential, saying that once the power station operator was able to finalise its plans for biomass there was a "strong strategic rationale for Centrica making an approach".Down on Aim, Empyrean climbed by 0.5p to 9p following the latest from the bid saga between two of its fellow stakeholders in the Sugarloaf shale project in Texas, with Eureka Energy rejecting Aurora Oil & Gas' offer as too low. The tiddler C which also released its final results yesterday C has now added more than a fifth over the past four sessions.?Among them was the idea that CSR could be snapped up, with frequent speculation in the past mentioning Intel as one potential aggressor for the mid-tier microchip maker. Last night, however, it closed 5.53 per cent behind at 188p after UBS said the group's recent completion of its merger with US peer Zoran had severely diminished its takeover potential."We have argued previously that CSR's technology in Bluetooth and GPS made it a good candidate as an acquisition," said the broker's analysts, who went on to add that they believed this was less likely now it was more diverse. They also cut their advice on the Cambridge-based company to "neutral", saying that the acquisition meant that the business had become "exposed to less attractive markets and a higher fixed-cost base."Elsewhere, Nomura was downplaying hopes of an imminent break-up for Smiths Group, prompting the engineer 11.5p lower to 938.5p. Persistent chatter has suggested the company could soon dispose of one or more of its five divisions, but Nomura's Juho Lahdenpera argued such a move would not happen within the next 12 months.Downgrading its rating to "neutral", Mr Lahdenpera warned that corporate suitors could be dissuaded from making a move because of Smith's rejection earlier in the year of a 2.45bn approach for its medical unit and added that private equity would find it difficult to get the necessary funding for a deal.Investors who had piled in to SABMiller on Thursday due to vague talk of a merger with Budweiser's owner, Anheuser-Busch InBev, were also having their bid dreams dashed. Citigroup's Adam Spielman was not impressed with the story, saying that it was "simply the wrong time for a deal", and the Grolsch brewer dipped 25p to 2,222.5p.Although strong employment figures from the US prompted a brief surge in the middle of the session, it was generally a quiet end to a volatile week for the FTSE 100. Nonetheless, it still managed to ease ahead 12.14 points to 5,303.4, stretching a three-day run that has seen it add nearly 360 points since reaching a 15-month-low on Tuesday. One trader called the rally "amazing", before adding, with his tongue firmly in his cheek, that "clearly the problems have all gone away."The data from the United States gave a boost to Wolseley, with the building supplies group C which gets 40 per cent of its revenues from the country C driven up 67p to 1,721p.The gossips were also focused on goings-on across the Atlantic, where vague rumours were doing the rounds that Wells Fargo could make a move for Morgan Stanley. However, the bid speculation failed to make a splash as the investment bank slipped back in early trading on Wall Street.Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds took the bottom two spots on the benchmark index, declining 0.74p to 23.62p and 1.21p to 34.66p respectively, after Moody's decided to cut its ratings for the semi-nationalised banks.Meanwhile, Evolution Securities' Ian Gordon turned his attention to Standard Chartered, as the influential analyst upgraded his rating on the bank to "buy". He said that despite the recent issues in the sector, "little has changed to dampen our view of Standard Chartered's bright long-term outlook". It climbed 2p to 1,327p.Alarming whispers that the IT outsourcer could be about to issue a profits warning knocked Logica to a low of 78.75p. The group C which lost nearly 14 per cent of its share price when it last updated the market in August C managed a slight recovery, but still ended 1.75p worse off at 79.75p.There was an actual profits warning from Premier Foods, and the UK's largest food manufacturer plummeted 42 per cent to 5.8p after admitting it was in talks with its banks over refinancing plans.It certainly did not help its blue-chip rivals Associated British Foods and Unilever, which slid back 8p to 1,091p and 30p to 2,020p respectively. They were further damaged by mutterings claiming the Swiss giant Nestle has been lowering expectations ahead of its upcoming figures.Back on the mid-tier index, Talvivaara lost over a fifth of its value after a flood of bad news from the Finnish miner, with the nickel and zinc producer cutting its production target and announcing the upcoming retirement of its chief executive Pekka Per.Down on the Alternative Investment Market, Solo Oil spurted up 0.06p to 0.77p, thanks to a ramp-up in the production at its Canadian operations because of the installation of a new pump.However, that was only a minor move compared to the rise of its fellow minnow, PipeHawk. The land mine detection company shifted a huge 117 per cent to 3.25p after revealing it had won two major new contracts.FTSE 100 RisersVedanta Resources 1,160p (up 47p, 4.22 per cent)Miner takes the top spot despite revealing a sharp fall in its iron ore output.Man Group 167.2p (up 4.6p, 2.83 per cent)Hedge fund manager has its Baa2 credit rating affirmed by Moody's.Burberry 1,240p (up 34p, 2.82 per cent)Upmarket brand ends the week on a high ahead of the release of its trading update next Wednesday.FTSE 100 FallersB Sky B 675p (down 14.5p, 2.1 per cent)Broadcaster knocked back on profit-taking following strong rises over previous two sessions.Admiral 1,238p (down 21p, 1.67 per cent)Car insurer continues to fall after being given an "underperform" rating by Exane BNP Paribas on Thursday.Inmarsat 461.6p (down 7.5p, 1.6 per cent)Mobile satellites group has retreated more than 6 per cent in the last week.FTSE 250 RisersThomas Cook 44p (up 3.35p, 8.24 per cent)Tour operator rises despite Espirito Santo starting coverage with a "sell" recommendation.Booker 75.7p (up 3.1p, 4.27 per cent)Cash and carry wholesaler has its price target raised by JP Morgan Cazenove to 79.4p from 73p.Supergroup 727p (up 18p, 2.54 per cent)Retailer still struggling to mount a major rebound following Wednesday's profit warning.FTSE 250 FallersGrainger 87p (down 2.65p, 2.96 per cent)Investors choose to take profits after property developer's 16 per cent gains over previous two days.Michael Page 363.7p (down 7.6p, 2.05 per cent)Recruitment company slides ahead of its third-quarter results on Monday.Domino Printing 439.5p (down 5.2p, 1.17 per cent)Reveals 1.4m acquisition of Norwegian software group Kameleon Source Codes.?Last month, it published another confident update and beat quarterly sales forecasts, though there were concerns among some about the impact of the grim state of the global economy. Ahead of the update, signs of weakness in the Chinese economy were partly responsible for declines in shares of luxury goods retailers such as Burberry at the end of September.But the worries took a back seat yesterday, as investors bought in the read-across from the German fashion house Hugo Boss, which upped its earnings outlook yesterday. Boss said it expected Asian sales to almost triple by 2015, with China playing a starring role. This refocused minds on the opportunities for London-listed Burberry, which enjoyed strong gains throughout the session before closing at fourth place on the FTSE 100, up nearly 4 per cent or 49p at 1,402p. Overall, the market was strong, with the blue chips gaining 56.52 points to 5,567.34 last night, although traders highlighted the fact that, with the European debt crisis still unresolved, volumes remained low. Italy was under the spotlight, as Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who has been at the focus of market concerns about Rome's ability to implement structural reforms, faced a key parliamentary poll on budget policy. In the end, he won the vote but lost his parliamentary majority. The result led to some losses on the benchmark index, but not enough to take into negative territory as traders awaited clarity on the political situation. The mid-cap FTSE 250 index also closed higher yesterday, gaining more than 1 per cent or 117.1 points to 10,419.34.Lloyds was the strongest of the blue chips, rallying by more than 4 per cent or 1.21p to 28.9p despite posting a third-quarter loss. The jump was put down to the positive outlook on margins, which analysts said was supporting investor sentiment around the stock. The remainder of the sector was also firm, with Royal Bank of Scotland gaining 0.08p to 22.33p and Barclays adding 2.65p to 182p. Weir, the pumps and valves business that fell back despite posting a confident update on Monday, regained its composure, rising by 51p to 1,911p, after Credit Suisse reiterated its positive stance. The broker also raised its target for the stock to 2,050p as it blamed profit-taking for the weakness on Monday. "A strong share price performance over the last month and management maintaining rather than upgrading... profit guidance contributed to [the fall]," its analysts said. On the downside, AstraZeneca took the FTSE 100 wooden spoon last night, with disappointing news on an experimental antidepressant drug from the pharma group and partner Targacept dampening the mood around its shares. The treatment failed to meet its goal in a clinical trial, helping to send Astra down by more than 3 per cent or 93.5p to 2,873p.But the trial result wasn't the only factor weighing on the stock. Also muddying the waters was some negative comment from Morgan Stanley, whose analysts lowered their recommendation on Astra to "underweight" from "overweight", with a revised 3,200 target price, against 3,570p previously. They were more positive on blue-chip rival GlaxoSmithKline, which was 18p better off at 1,390p after Morgan Stanley upgraded its stance to "equal weight" from "underweight". Further afield, the chip designer Imagination Technologies shrugged off some questions about its valuation, with the stock rising by a healthy 10p to 470p despite UBS analysts initiating coverage with a "sell" recommendation.The broker said it considered Imagination as "a high-quality company", similar to FTSE 100 listed ARM, "but in graphics". However, the shares did not reflect the competitive risks in its markets, it warned. "With its price to earnings multiple in the top half of its historical range... and limited estimates upside, we believe outcomes are biased to the downside," the broker explained, setting a 400p target price on the stock. ARM was 3.5p higher at 600p. The Superdry retailer Supergroup continued to rally ahead of this morning's second-quarter trading update, gaining another 11.2 per cent or 73p to 725p last night, while Premier Foods, which jumped on Monday after announcing an agreement with lenders to defer an upcoming covenant test, added a further 3.1 per cent or 0.114p to 3.812p.?China's luxury market is believed to be worth roughly $30bn and growing rapidly all the time. Nonetheless, reports emerging from the country claimed a cut in import duties on upmarket goods could be on the horizon as its leaders attempt to boost domestic consumption. Given the rapid growth it has enjoyed from China, Burberry is always sensitive to developments there and the latest news saw it race up 44p to 1,437p.The fashion retailer (whose latest campaign stars Birdsong actor Eddie Redmayne) was also given a helping hand by Goldman Sachs' scribblers raising their target price to a huge 2,604p C not far off double where it currently trades. If that wasn't enough, the analysts also reiterated their belief that Burberry could become a takeover target, although this idea is hardly a new one.Having slumped more than 100 points on Tuesday, the FTSE 100 managed to make a slight recovery, bouncing up 25.61 points to 5,791.41. It would have been higher if a number of stocks were not trading ex-dividend, with Lucky Strike maker British American Tobacco (down 65.5p to 3,126p) and Irish building materials firm CRH (down 22p to 1,263p) among those losing their payout attractions.Ahead of Carnival's first-quarter results tomorrow, UBS's analysts claimed the fact the announcement was earlier than usual showed the group was "ready to talk" about the impact from the Costa Concordia tragedy. Keeping their "buy" recommendation, they said there could be "some relief now that management will quantify the impact and put a floor on concerns", as the cruise giant powered up 32p to 1,876p.Sainsbury's jumped 3.9p higher to 292.9p following the news that the investment vehicle of the Lebanese prime minister Najib Mikati and his brother Taha has raised its stake to over 3 per cent, with talk claiming they were attracted by its property portfolio.After shocking investors with a profits warning last November, Admiral's final results managed to provide a positive surprise. The insurer shot up 104p to 1,144p C a move of 10 per cent C after revealing a forecast-beating 13 per cent rise in its full-year pre-tax profits.The results of the latest indices reshuffle were announced after the bell, and as expected the recent rally by Hargreaves Lansdown C which put on another 2.7p to 461.8p C saved it from relegation to the mid-tier index. However, Cairn Energy (down1.3p to 319.7p) and Essar Energy (up 5.4p to 107p) will be moving down when the changes are implemented at the end of next week, with Croda International and Aberdeen Asset Management C who rose 42p to 2,149p and 6.8p to 246.6p respectively C taking their place.Cable & Wireless Worldwide set a new six-month high by charging up 7.5 per cent to 33.55p off the back of reports claiming Vodafone (which stayed steady at 170p) is getting nearer to submitting an approach. The move came after the telecoms firm was hit by fears earlier in the week that the mobile phones giant could choose to not make an offer ahead of Monday's "put up or shut up" deadline.Perform shifted 2.1p higher to 272.1p as Credit Suisse revived bid talk around the digital media group.The Swiss broker reiterated its belief that, thanks in part to the company's large portfolio of sports rights, Perform is "likely [to] attract potential acquisition interest".Positive tests meant Afren was confident enough to announce that production at its Okoro East oil field in Nigeria should start in the "near-term", and in response, the explorer was lifted 3p to 174p.It was a definite contrast to Faroe Petroleum, however, which slumped 5.01 per cent to 156.5p on AIM after failing to find commercial oil in its T-Rex and Bolan prospects in the Norwegian Sea.Elsewhere among the oil groups, Red Emperor and Range Resources surged up 31.66 per cent to 32.75p and 8.33 per cent to 13p respectively following a positive drilling update from their joint well in Somalia. Meanwhile, tiddler Matra Petroleum crept up 0.01p to 0.86p despite vague speculation a discounted fundraising could be on its way.On the small-cap index, vague rumours were suggesting Punch Taverns C which closed 0.5p better off at 11.25p C might become a bid target, with the pubs group's mid-tier rival Mitchells & Butlers (up 3.3p to 256.6p) put forward as one possible aggressor. However, the tale was being greeted with much scepticism in the Square Mile.?The optimism was the result of some bullish commentary from Jefferies, whose analysts argued that the combination of weak valuation metrics, lower capital expenditure requirements, proven cost control and continued demand from consumers will keep Carnival on a firm footing."Vacations remain high on consumers' agendas, and the all-inclusive value-for -money cruise proposition is becoming increasingly popular," they said, noting that cruises were 20 to 30 per cent cheaper than "the equivalent land-based vacation".Jefferies also highlighted what it viewed as the cruise industry's "unique business model", with the top two operators - Carnival and Royal Caribbean - boasting a combined market share of around 75 per cent. "Barriers to entry are high, in terms of capital investment and time to market. Cruises are priced so ships always sail 100 per cent full, [therefore] maximising onboard spend and economies of scale. The companies pay little or no corporation tax, resulting in attractive cashflows... [and] ageing demographics are driving demand in a lowly penetrated industry," the broker explained, helping Carnival outperform the wider market, rallying by around 1.7 per cent or 34p to 2,086pOverall, equities slipped deeper into the red, with the benchmark FTSE 100 index shedding another 1.1 per cent or 60.2 points to 5,362.94 and the mid-cap FTSE 250 index losing 105.92 points to 10,044.36.Yet again, it was Europe that did it. A whole host of issues kept traders occupied, including volatile sovereign bond yields, speculation that the European Central Bank may lend money to the International Monetary Fund to give it extra firepower, and signs of disagreement between the British and German governments over how to solve the debt crisis."It's the same old story with worries over the eurozone, meaning that the odd brief rally ends up being unsupported and shares turn lower once again," Ben Critchley, a sales trader at the City spread betting firm IG Index, said.Mining shares remained on the back foot as the European debt crisis continued to cloud the demand outlook for key industrial metals. This was despite some mid-afternoon firmness in the copper price, something that was the result of weakness in the US dollar. But equities were pressured, with the FTSE 350 mining index falling by a further 1.6 per cent.Antofagasta was among the losers, retreating by 27p to 1,076p, while BHP Billiton fell by 36.5p to 1,870p and Anglo American closed at 2,359p, down 35p. Vedanta Resources, which took the FTSE 100 wooden spoon on Thursday, was only slightly lower, down 4p to 1,010p. The platinum miner Lonmin was unchanged at 1,021p last night.The luxury goods group Burberry continued to ease, down 25p at 1,244p, with the recent profiting taking trend persisting despite some words of support from Goldman Sachs. "We believe that Burberry's brand positioning, pricing power and margin accretion opportunity from a changing geographical, channel and product mix is not fully reflected in the current valuation," the broker said, repeating its "conviction buy" recommendation, albeit with a lower 2,137p target price, compared to 2,203.6p previously.Further afield, the banknote printer De La Rue, which has had a testing year, was slightly behind at 880.5p, down 4p, despite speculation that France's Oberthur could return with another bid for the business. UBS analysts said Oberthur, which abandoned plans to take over De La Rue earlier this year, is free to renew its interest from 1 December C and they reckon it "will still be interested", although it will "have to pay up" to succeed."Whilst Oberthur has not completed the divestment of its card systems business, a sale has been agreed subject to competition reviews," UBS said, raising its target price for De La Rue to 950p from 840p. "With around 1bn from the sale, Oberthur looks a much more serious bidder this time around than it did at the end of last year [the time of its initial bid] when leverage on the deal would have been way too high."Elsewhere, the military equipment manufacturer Chemring was under fire yesterday, slumping by nearly 13 per cent or 62.4 p to 421.6p and taking the mid-cap wooden spoon after spooking investors with its pre-close update.The weakness came after Chemring said full year revenues would fall short of its expectations, as it was hit by contract delays. In response, Finncap analysts switched their stance to "hold" from "buy", noting that while the stock was trading on very low multiples, "with sentiment shaken further we feel the shares will struggle to perform for a while".FTSE 100 RisersBritish Sky Broadcasting 725p (up 4p, 0.6 per cent)Pay TV group says it intends to appoint Aberdeen Asset Management's Martin Gilbert and Lazard's Matthieu Pigasse to its board as independent non-executives.National Grid 642p (up 0.5p, 0.1 per cent)Power distributor stands firm as its defensive characteristics offset the impact of S&P Equity Research's decision to lower its target price for the stock to 630p from 647p.FTSE 100 FallersCapita 640p (down 27.5p, 4.1 per cent)Outsourcing firm tumbles after disappointing investors with its interim management statement; Investec lowers its target price for the stock to 630p from 725p.Centrica 288.9p (down 5.7p, 1.9 per cent)British Gas owner pressured as Goldman Sachs lowers its target price for the stock to 458p from 462p; HSBC cuts its target price to 340p from 370p.FTSE 250 RisersPremier Foods 5.2p (up 0.691p, 15.3 per cent)Food producer bounces back from recent weakness to claim the FTSE 250 crown; group sales director Ian Deste buys 186,746 shares at 5.2p apiece.Pace 46.7p (up 1.15p, 2.5 per cent)TV decoder manufacturer firms up as bargain hunters move in to capitalise on Thursday's sharp gains; JP Morgan Cazenove cuts its target price to 110p from 131p.FTSE 250 FallersCable & Wireless Worldwide 19.86p (down 0.64p, 3.1 per cent)Telecoms group loses ground as the analysts at JP Morgan Cazenove revise their target price for its shares to 24p, down from 48p.Micro Focus International 360p (down 9.3p, 2.5 per cent)IT group retreats despite support from Goldman Sachs, which sticks with its "neutral" stance, but ups its target price to 440p from 400p.?Telling investors to pile into the group, Exane BNP Paribas' Nicolas Didio claimed the "full impact of the BBC's downsizing on ITV's cost structure is yet to come". As well as the Beeb being less competitive in the battle for sports rights, the analyst added that ITV will be able to get better value for money when making deals with studios and recruiting talent such as news anchors and pundits."We estimate that 85 per cent of its broadcasting and online division's costs are sensitive to the BBC's measures," noted Mr Didio, who also said he was more positive on the effect of current advertising trends on ITV than a number of its European peers.As a result, he bumped up his earnings forecasts and raised his price target by more than a quarter to 108p, as ITV finished the session 3.3p stronger at 88.1p.The FTSE 100's rally this week gathered pace, with the top-tier index surging up 100.67 points to 5,766.95. Decent demand for Spain's debt auction helped, as did encouraging German economic sentiment data and forecast-beating results from a number of US giants including Coca-Cola and Goldman Sachs.Barclays raced up 9.75p to 220.55p after Bank of America Merrill Lynch tempted investors in by saying there could be earnings upgrades ahead. At the same time, Lloyds and Royal Bank of Scotland C both of whom had also dropped over the last couple of sessions C were lifted 1.24p to 30.95p and 0.93p to 25.2p respectively.Meanwhile, Standard Chartered bumped up 54p to 1,553p amid speculation over the possibility of Singapore state investor Temasek selling its 18 per cent stake in the emerging markets bank.After GDF Suez was forced earlier in the week to up its offer in order to win full control of International Power (0.1p ahead at 416.9p), thoughts were turning towards who else in the sector could attract takeover activity. Saying a lot of M&A among the utilities has focused on the UK, Canaccord Genuity's Harold Hutchinson said this theme was "unlikely to go away".He picked out Centrica, saying it "may be of interest... to the more 'electricity heavy' EU utility groups in future". However, with a number of defensive stocks left towards the bottom of the Footsie as investors went for riskier choices, the British Gas-owner edged back 0.93p to 25.2p.Burberry (down 94p to 1,492p) and Marks & Spencer (down 9p to 358.7p) were the worst two performers after updates from the retailers were greeted negatively, with the former admitting sales growth had slowed over the fourth-quarter.On the FTSE 250, Afren shot up nearly as high as 153p in early trading after saying a major oil discovery in Kurdistan could be "transformational". Although the explorer eased back, by the bell it was still 8.5p stronger at 143p. Fellow Kurdistan drillers Heritage Oil (up 10.3p to 146.5p) and Aim-listed Gulf Keystone Petroleum (up 2.5p to 241.5p) were also ahead.Afren has often been the subject of bid speculation, and traders claimed the latest announcement could only help its appeal. At the same time, Credit Suisse analysts said that C thanks partly to current high oil prices C they were expecting "an increase in M&A activity" in the sector. Ophir Energy shifted up 27p to 532.5p after they highlighted it as one of the companies which are looking particularly attractive, while Falkland Islands driller Rockhopper (4p higher at 354p) was another, as was Soco International (10.1p higher at 296p), although it was also downgraded to "underperform" by the Swiss broker.Logica was helped up 3.45p to 82.0p by Investec removing the IT outsourcer's "sell" rating. However, the broker's analysts were hardly gushing, saying that although another profit warning "cannot be ruled out... [it] seems unlikely to happen so soon in the financial year".Futura Medical was 3.5p better off at 101p on Aim as speculation was revived claiming the condom-maker could be in line for an approach from Reckitt Benckiser (up 52p to 3,612p). Traders, however, were not particularly impressed by the chatter.There was more solid bid news around penny stock Plus Markets. The junior exchange, which put itself up for sale in February, rose 0.05 per cent to 1.02p after announcing it was considering a number of possible approaches.Following Argentina's move to renationalise oil firm YPF, Andes Energia C which operates in the country C was knocked back a huge 24 per cent to 34p.?Investors have been wary of stocks exposed to the region following the recent unrest, but Mr Latif played down these concerns, saying it was "a significant area for future growth that may not as yet be appreciated by the market".He was by no means Aggreko's only fan. The analysts at Citigroup continued to tell punters to pile into the stock and claimed it would keep benefiting from the gap between demand and supply for power in emerging markets. Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs reiterated Aggreko's place on the broker's "conviction buy" list, highlighting the fact that it is five times larger than its nearest rival.For the few traders left at their desks, there was finally some economic news from the eurozone they could cheer. A successful Spanish bond auction, which saw greater demand than predicted, was accompanied by expectation-beating business confidence figures form Germany.It helped the FTSE 100 to find some positive momentum after two consecutive sessions of falls. The benchmark index was lifted 54.61 points to 5,419.6, mirroring rises on Wall Street, which was buoyant following housing starts in the US rising to an 18-month high.It did no good for the drugs makers, however. AstraZeneca declined 44p to 2,905p after admitting not only had two of its products not performed in trials as hoped but that the failures would cost it 242.3m.Coincidentally, its European peers Novartis and Sanofi also announced they had both been hit by setbacks to drugs, and this did not help GlaxoSmithKline as it retreated 5p to 1,445p. Burberry was attracting admiring glances, ticking up 17p to 1,168 as it entered into talks with perfume maker Inter Parfums over their licensing deal that could see the luxury brand buy back the license.Elsewhere on the Footsie, Carnival spent the morning ahead in anticipation of its fourth-quarter figures. However, when the numbers were released mid-afternoon the cruise company sank on signs that booking prices are falling, and eventually closed 6p lower at 2,130p.Down on the FTSE 250, Moneysupermarket.com was driven up 4.55p to 101.8p amid the revival of vague speculation that private equity could be interested in a potential move for the price comparison website. It's an idea that has been suggested before C and in 2008 the group rebuffed an approach from Canada's Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan C but dealers dismissed the latest return.Elsewhere, there was no let-up for Ocado, as the online grocer's sell-off continued. The group had already lost nearly 17 per cent on Monday following a profits warning, and yesterday it slipped a further 1.8p to 57.4p after Barclays analysts downgraded their advice to "equalweight".SVG Capital was racing ahead at the opposite end of the mid-tier index, with investors shocked to receive an early Christmas present in the form of a promised cash return worth up to 170m. Pushed up 21.14 per cent to 200p, it also said it planned to diversify away from Permira, the private equity firm which currently accounts for more than four-fifths of its investments.It was a good day for takeover fans on AIM. Patsystems jumped up 11.22 per cent to 13.62p after the trading technology group announced it had agreed to be taken over by its largest shareholder, ION Group, in a deal worth 14p a share.Meanwhile, Dhir saw its share price more than double, advancing 21.75p to 37p. The Indian investment group announced its director Alok Dhir had offered 42p a pop for the group, although it said it was considering longer-term strategies as well after its interim results showed a net asset value per share of 74p.On the fledgling index, the mail order gardening group Flying Brands soared 35.48 per cent to 10.5p. The troubled firm announced it had received numerous approaches for various parts of its operations, although it warned that no concrete offer has as yet been submitted.After reports last weekend that Exxon has been mulling over a possible bid, Gulf Keystone Petroleum continued to rise. The explorer climbed a further 9.4 per cent to 195p after revealing it had spudded a new well in the region and amid talk it may have won approval to exit its BG Group-led gas project in Algeria.?Saying there are only "a handful" of potential acquirers for the units, Nomura's David Radclyffe argued a better option could be a merger of the operations before listing the subsequent company. The scribbler C who gave his creation the not very thrilling moniker "Diamond Newco" C said that with a "a solid asset base and lower overall sovereign risk", it would create "an attractive alternative to the listed diamond producers". He claimed that only De Beers and Russian state-owned miner Alrosa would be larger diamond businesses, and estimated the group's market value could reach as high as $3.5bn (2.19bn).BHP was hardly in glittering form following the proposal, with the digger dropping 30.5p to 1,934.5p, although this was its first fall in three sessions. Meanwhile, Rio Tinto C which Mr Radclyffe kept as his favourite of the diversified miners C was somewhat better off, although it still crept down 25.5p to 3,530.5p.The FTSE 100 was unable to push on after a hard rally on Monday sparked by strong manufacturing data from the US. Disappointing factory orders figures meant economic signals from across the Atlantic were less promising yesterday as the benchmark index was pegged back 36.55 points to 5,838.34.Morgan Stanley's decision to call Aberdeen Asset Management a "core pick" in its sector saw the fund manager move up 10p to 269.1p, continuing its strong performance since winning promotion to the top-tier index last month. "Normally you go into the Footsie and it's like the kiss of death," noted one trader. "You're out the next time, in and out like the Hokey Cokey, but not this one".Burberry was another rising on analyst admiration, with the fashion brand strutting up 32p to 1,560p after Investec upgraded its forecasts, saying it was now a "sharper, slicker and more-balanced business".At the other end, fears over the economic situation in both Spain and Italy meant the banks were following their European peers down, with Royal Bank of Scotland knocked back 0.86p to 26.89p while Lloyds and Barclays slipped 0.91p to 32.68p and 6.1p to 230.35p respectively.Whitbread's announcement that its finance chief Chris Rogers is taking control of Costa Coffee gave an extra impetus to recent speculation that a spin-off of the coffee chain could be imminent. Although its boss Andy Harrison moved to play down the talk by denying that there was a "hidden agenda" behind the appointment, the leisure giant still managed to set a new, 15-month high after climbing 4p to 1,870p.Meanwhile, BSkyB finished in the red following the resignation of its chairman James Murdoch, although the move was not too dramatic as the satellite broadcaster crept back 5.5p to 675.5p.While Ian Hannam may be wishing he had never heard of Heritage Oil, punters in the explorer finally had some good news to celebrate. The explorer has suffered a torrid 2012, with its share price losing more than a quarter since the start of the year, yet yesterday it jumped 14.3p C or 10.36 per cent C to 152.3p after announcing a new gas find in the semi-autonomous Iraqi region of Kurdistan.But traders noting some grumblings over the find being gas and not oil. In January 2011, Heritage plummeted nearly 30 per cent in just one session following the unveiling of one of Iraq's largest ever gas discoveries, with the City instead hoping for black gold.Cable & Wireless Worldwide pushed up 0.61p to 34.4p after Espirito Santo chose the telecoms group as one of its "silver bullet" stock choices. The broker said that C after Vodafone (down 0.1p to 175.55p) and Tata recently had their "put up or shut up" deadline pushed back C it was "increasingly likely" a bid will be made by either, or both, "at a level significantly above the current share price".Down on AIM, JJB Sports raced up 56.1 per cent to 16p after the sports chain responded to rumours by announcing it was talking to both its bank and a "potential strategic" partner over raising funds. The news that Indonesia's Supreme Court appears to have rejected its appeal against the revoking of four mining licenses left Churchill Mining 2.12p C or 17.35 per cent C worse off at 10.12p.Vague takeover speculation continued to circle Futura Medical (2.5p stronger at 101p), although traders were not impressed by the talk which suggested Reckitt Benckiser (42p lower at 3,544p) as a potential bidder for the condom-maker.?Aviva Investors, the fund manager, summed up the more cautious opinion. It rates the likelihood of what it calls a "muddling through" with Greece retaining the euro at 40 per cent, an orderly exit from the euro at 40 per cent and the worst case disorderly exit at 20 per cent. For the former they reckon European equities could gain 5 per cent to 10 per cent for the latter another 30 per cent drop is in store. The FTSE 100 fell 16.76 points to 5,467.05 with mutterings of further quantitative easing in the United States doing little to raise sentiment. Man Group topped the losers with a 4 per cent fall to hit a new 12-year low of 69.15p. Bad for investors means even worse for fund managers.Some 15 years of corporate unrest at London brewer Young & Co came to an end as former active investor Guinness Peat placed its 15.5 per cent stake. GP had campaigned for years to end the Young family's domination through the use of split voting shares. To no avail. So GP, which is winding down all its investments sold 4.47 million A shares at 550p and 6.54 million non-voters at 450p. The A shares dipped 10p to 605p.Could the shareholder spring/summer really derail the biggest mining merger in living memory? There is still a month to go until shareholders in Glencore and Xstrata get to vote on the two firms 50bn plus merger. But already the rumbles of discontent are louder than a conveyor belt of metal ore loading a massive truck. Xstrata shares were on the slide for the second day running. Among the top losers on the FTSE 100, they were down another 2.2 per cent or 20.4p at 899.6p. That followed the previous day's 5.2 per cent fall. The immediate trigger was the 60 per cent-plus vote against Sir Martin Sorrell's 13m pay package at WPP's annual meeting in Dublin on Tuesday. If shareholders are prepared to give Sir Martin a bloody nose, why should they hold back against either Xstrata's Mick Davis or Glencore's Ivan Glasenberg? The major bone of contention is that 217m of "retention payments" will be handed to several Xstrata executives if the deal goes through. Major investors are becoming increasingly vocal about the fact that they cannot see how these payments are justified. Since there is no separate vote on this issue at the shareholders' meeting, they may have to register their disapproval by voting the merger down lock, stock and smoking barrel. Glencore was also on the slide, down 13.3p at 341.7p. Fears over a slowing in the rate of growth in sales at fancy handbags maker Mulberry (down 22 per cent) had a knock-on effect at its FTSE 100 rival Burberry whose shares shed 43p to 1,298p. In a football City, last night's scores in the Euros were overshadowed by the price BT and Sky have forked out for the Premier League. They came fourth and fifth on the loser board with BSkyB off 24.5p at 671p and BT down 7.4p at 201.7p.A far from thinly disguised profits warning from IT services group Computacenter received the full drubbing it deserved. A statement, clearly penned by the Obfuscation School of Public Relations, highlighted a 15 per cent-plus increase in its services revenues and significant growth prospects ahead. It was not until the penultimate paragraph that it was revealed gearing up for all this growth will hit profits by 7m this year. Traders hit the red button and the shares tanked 43.7p to 313p C a 21-month low. How appropriate that, on the 30th anniversary of the end of the Falklands War, the company that runs much of the islands' services should come to the stock market for more cash. Falkland Islands Holdings is raising 10m through a placing with Savile Row-based Blackfish Capital (8m) and an open offer (2m) at 320p a share. The extra cash is going to be spent on expanding FIH's facilitie s on the islands including warehousing offices and accommodation to cater for the hundreds of Rockhopper Oil's roughnecks it expects to descend on the Falklands to exploit its recently discovered oil reserves. The shares slipped 10.16p to 345p but remained comfortably above the subscription price. ?Even though just Royal Dutch Shell and Thailand's PTT remain in the fight, the Aim-listed oil explorer moved close to a record high by rising 2p to 266p.Punters are banking on the highest bid currently on the table C worth 240p-a-share from PTT C being dwarfed by a counter offer from Shell (up 4.5p to 2,193p), which last week gave itself more time in which to consider its options by extending the deadline for its 220p-a-pop approach.Although Shell at the time chose not to increase its offer, hopes in the Square Mile are certainly high that it will and there are no shortage of numbers being thrown around.Dealers highlighted talk that the energy giant may offer up to 300p, while there was some hopeful speculation it could go even higher.Reports over the weekend were more tempered, however, claiming the most Shell may be considering paying is 275p. Of course, it could also decide not to raise its offer at all C if so, there will be no shortage of burnt fingers.An early gain was swiftly erased as the FTSE 100 closed just 12.28 points higher at 5,491.09, with any joy following the Greek elections disappearing amid continuing fears over Spain.There was no bounce for the banks C Royal Bank of Scotland retreated 12.3p to 2353p while Lloyds dipped 1.14p to 30.16p despite being chosen by UBS as one of the broker's favourite European stocks.It was a mixed day for the commodity stocks as Xstrata and Glencore were pegged back 31.8p to 859.2p and 12.05p to 328.4p respectively, with many still fearful investors will reject the proposed merger between the two.Elsewhere, Evraz C part-owned by Roman Abramovich, pictured C advanced 4.2p to 275p as it held its annual general meeting. Traders noted the steel maker has shed more than a quarter of its share price since early May.Despite being in the midst of Euro 2012 C a perfect excuse for football fans to raise their booze intake C there were some worries around the brewers.Given the poor weather across Europe over the past few months, analysts at Exane BNP Paribas warned that any boost from events in Poland and Ukraine were likely to be offset by the rain."Simply put, we believe that the match pitting Euro 2012 v dreadful weather will be won by the latter," they argued.However, they did point out that Grolsch-owner SABMiller may not be so badly hit because its exposure is wider than some of its rivals, and with perfect timing there came the news that full-year profits at its subsidiary Tanzania Breweries had gained more than a third, helping SAB up 24.5p to 2,478.5p.Upmarket retailer Burberry strutted up 38p to 1,346p after Deutsche Bank's scribblers said that the "luxury sector has never had it so good".Meanwhile, Wolseley fans were out in force. Sam Cullen from Jefferies claimed that the builders' merchant could end up returning as much as 1.5bn to shareholders, while Citigroup's Clyde Lewis said he believed the group C which powered up 57p to 2,233p C had the potential to be worth a massive 5,000p by 2015.It was a tough first day for Footsie newboy Babcock International, with the defence services group retreating 7p to 865p. Meanwhile, Man Group C which made way for it by dropping into the FTSE 250 C eased up 1.6p to 74.4p following the surprise departure of its finance director, Kevin Hayes.Elsewhere on the mid-tier index, Ferrexpo climbed 7.6p to 209.9p as long-standing takeover speculation made yet another reappearance.Gem Diamonds was driven back 7.8p to 201.2p after announcing that, following a tragic accident at its Ghangoo mine in Botswana which killed two workers, production at the site would now be delayed until the first six months of 2014.Down on Aim, Invista was lifted 2.25p to 14.62p by the news that the property company had received and agreed to a 40m offer from investment manager Palmer Capital which gazumped an earlier approach from Internos Real Investments.FTSE 100 RisersAshmore 340.9p (up 9.9p, 2.99 per cent) Having dropped sharply at the end of last week, fund manager manages a decent rebound despite JP Morgan Cazenove cutting its target price to 335p from 385p.Rolls-Royce 839.5p (up 17.5p, 2.13 per cent) Engineering giant climbs as it announces that it has signed a nuclear submarines contract worth more than 1bn with the Ministry of Defence.FTSE 100 FallersICAP 362.2p (down 3.3p, 0.9 per cent) Interdealer broker finishes the session in the red after shareholders at PLUS Markets approve the sale of the stock market to ICAP for 500,000.Anglo American 2,128.5p (down 1.5p, 0.07 per cent) Miner edges back despite analysts at UBS deciding to keep their "buy" recommendation, although they do cut their target price to 3,100p from 3,260p.FTSE 250 RisersCable & Wireless Worldwide 37.77p (up 2.74p, 7.82 per cent) Telecoms company tops the mid-tier index after announcing that shareholders have decide to approve Vodafone's takeover approach.Home Retail 74.35p (up 4.5p, 6.44 per cent) The Argos-owner shoots up ahead of today's interim management statement following yet more takeover speculation over the weekend.FTSE 250 FallersPetropavlovsk 472.2p (down 22.3p, 4.51 per cent) Having gained more than a fifth during the last two sessions, investors take profits in the gold miner as the price of yellow metal moves back.Grainger 83.1p (down 3.6p, 4.15 per cent) Property investor's torrid run continues, with the latest fall meaning the stock has lost nearly eight per cent during six consecutive sessions in the red.?Charging down 63p to 1,682p, the group was left near the foot of the top-tier index after its biggest rival APR Energy signed a five-year collaboration deal with the US giant Caterpillar and its dealer Ring Power.The agreement focuses on developing generators for emerging markets, a particular area of growth for Aggreko. Calling the announcement "noteworthy" for the company, Peel Hunt's Andrew Nussey added that previously "Aggreko has benefited from the more 'fragmented' nature of its competitors and Caterpillar in particular".Numis Securities' Mike Murphy, meanwhile, said the news gave APR "added credibility in the market place", while Caterpillar "gets access to a growth segment which had been out of its reach".APR C which began trading earlier in the month after being reversed into the investment vehicle of Pizza Express co-founder Hugh Osmond C pushed up 50p to 1,125p, with Mr Murphy praising the deal as a "major development which should help support its high growth ambitions".The approval by the German parliament of a larger eurozone bailout fund, plus US GDP for the second-quarter being revised upwards to 1.3 per cent, failed to stop the FTSE 100 closing 20.79 points behind at 5,196.84 in a volatile session.Nonetheless, the banks managed to avoid heavy losses, with Lloyds Banking Group creeping down just 0.36p to 36.49p. Meanwhile, Barclays and Royal Bank of Scotland edged forwards 2.75p to 169.15p and 0.4p to 24.5p respectively, while Standard Chartered charged up 36p to 1,358p despite UBS cutting its forecasts for the year by 4 per cent.Rumours that manufacturing data from China for September, set to be released tomorrow, were likely to disappoint swept trading desks in the City, hurting the miners as a result. Kazakhmys retreated 6.5p to 834p even as Citigroup raised its advice to "buy", with the broker saying it was still "bullish on copper prices".Elsewhere in the sector, the end of its governance review C announced late on Wednesday C could not prevent ENRC creeping down 3p to 576.5p after the Kazakh company revealed its chairman and chief executive were keeping their jobs.Even bid talk did not revive the miner, despite Liberum Capital saying it remained "a likely merger and acquisition candidate" and that "a possible business combination [with Glencore, down 13.75p to 409.25p] remains compelling".Fears over the growth prospects for China also meant Burberry was out of fashion. Falling in tandem with its global peers, the upmarket brand was left with the wooden spoon after jumping down 8.25 per cent, or 108p, to 1,201p.With Wolseley getting over a third of its turnover from the United States, the positive GDP figures from the country C as well as better-than-expected home sales data C resulted in the plumbing and heating group taking the gold medal position. The Build Center owner powered up 99p to 1,601p ahead of the release of its final results next week.Despite shedding nearly 25 per cent on Wednesday after revealing clients had withdrawn $2.6bn over the past three months, Man Group was still being knocked, dropping 4p to 176p. A number of analysts were choosing to stick the boot in, with Royal Bank of Scotland's scribblers downgrading their advice for the world's largest listed hedge fund to "hold", saying the update revealed "how volatile the operating environment is for asset managers".EasyJet was pegged back 1.6p to 353.4p on the FTSE 250 after JP Morgan gave the budget airline an "underweight" rating and warned investors the sector was facing "unprecedented times".The broker claimed the current combination of high fuel prices plus economic gloom for consumers had not been seen by the airlines since the 1970s, although it did say first and business class traffic would outperform. As a result, it started its coverage on British Airways-owner International Airlines Group with an "overweight" recommendation, prompting the blue-chip company to fly up 5.9p to 159.7p.Back on the mid-tier index, Thomas Cook was the top performer after announcing its full-year profit would meet expectations. Investors helped it shift up 2.09p to 39p despite the embattled tour operator scrapping its dividend, with Numis raising its rating to "hold" from "reduce".Down on the Alternative Investment Market, San Leon dipped 1.75p to 15.25p following the energy explorer's announcement it had plugged a wellin Poland, although Fox Davies said the retreat had resulted in a buying opportunity.?IPF C which focuses on emerging markets, especially in eastern Europe C was knocked back after Erste admitted it was on course to post a huge loss of 800m for the year, thanks mainly to being forced to take a major hit by the Hungarian government on foreign currency loans in the country.However, scribblers quickly rushed to the defence of IPF, with Numis Securities' James Hamilton pointing out that it was not exposed to the loans in Hungary. He added that therefore there was "no good reason" for the read-across, but although the support helped to lift the group off its session lows, IPF still closed 22.4p, or 8.82 per cent, worse off at 231.5p.France and Germany's promise over the weekend to unveil a recapitalisation plan for the banks within weeks, plus rising hopes over the discussions regarding the next set of bailout funds for Greece, kept the FTSE 100 bouncing. Climbing 95.6 points to 5,399, the benchmark index has added more than 9 per cent in the four trading days since it reached a 15-month low last week.Arm Holdings grabbed the top spot after the Cambridge-based group was boosted by yet more success from Apple. The US giant, which uses Arm's technology in its products, said it had received more than a million pre-orders for the new iPhone in just one day, helping the chipmaker to shoot up 36.5p to 591p.Bid mutterings saw Petrofac push up 55p to 1,298p, although the vague chatter did not mention the identity of the supposed suitor. Takeover talk was also circling around the miners, with Xstrata being suggested as both predator and prey. The Anglo-Swiss digger advanced 27.1p to 937.1p after Credit Suisse gave its approval to the oft-floated idea of a merger between the company and the commodities giant Glencore International, which was 2.65p higher at 424.65p.Analysts from the broker said the recent divergence of the companies' share prices meant that Glencore "could use its premium-rated equity and pay a significant premium without a deal being dilutive", as they reiterated their "outperform" advice on both.The City gossips, meanwhile, were suggesting that Xstrata could be in the market to make its own acquisition. Vague chatter speculated that both it and ArcelorMittal could be interested in making an offer for AIM-listed Coal of Africa, although the South Africa-focused group C a frequent subject of bid rumours C eased ahead just 1.25p to 47.5p despite the talk mentioning a potential price of 120p a pop.Rumours that one of its peers could be setting a trap helped Rentokil Initial to clean up on the FTSE 250. The multi-tasking group, which does everything from pest control to hazardous waste disposal, was lifted 2.95p to 69.2p off the back of whispers it may be about to receive an approach.The whispers suggested its Danish rival ISS may be considering a move worth 110p a share, while possible private equity interest was also mentioned. Analysts weren't keen, however, noting that Rentokil has been the subject of similar mutterings before, although they pointed out its share price has more than halved since last year.It was yet another miserable session for Premier Foods, as the owner of Mr Kipling cakes dropped again in the wake of Friday's profit warning. After losing over 40 per cent then, the food producer dropped a further 12.2 per cent to 5.09p, with both Royal Bank of Scotland and JP Morgan Cazenove slashing their target prices.The latter cut its to a mere 1p, with the broker's analysts reducing their earnings forecasts by 40 per cent. "In our view, Premier Foods needs to make disposals to pay down its debt," they said, adding that a sale of Hartley's jam or Branston pickle could fetch 58m or 38m respectively.Like the wider market, the oil explorers were being given a helping hand by the price of the black stuff rising, while positive comments from HSBC also helped. The broker's analysts said the recent sell-off in the sector had left it "looking attractive", and upgraded its advice on both Enquest C up 8.05p to 101.6p C and Premier Oil C up 11.9p to 372.4p C to "overweight". The former, meanwhile, got a further helping hand by yet more bid chat.Petroceltic spurted up 10.56 per cent to 5.97p after the explorer's chief executive said it was in discussions over a possible sale of a stake in its Algerian operations, while the AIM-listed group also revealed promising flow test results from its field in the country.FTSE 100 risersOld Mutual 113.3p (up 5.5p, 5.1 per cent) Insurer's latest climb means it has now managed to add nearly 16 per cent in just four days.Weir Group 1,650p (up 73p, 4.63 per cent) Engineer rises as Credit Suisse reiterates its "outperform" recommendation.Burberry 1,261p (up 21p, 1.69 per cent) Upmarket fashion brand finishes in the blue ahead of its first-half update tomorrow.FTSE 100 fallersCompass 528.5p (down 6.5p, 1.21 per cent) Catering company retreats despite Royal Bank of Scotland keeping its "buy" rating.Imperial Tobacco 2,153p (down 24p, 1.1 per cent) Cigarette manufacturer hit by investors moving away from defensive stocks.National Grid 646p (down 3.5p, 0.54 per cent) Utility cut down by profit-taking after gaining 4 per cent over last three sessions.FTSE 250 risersHowden Joinery 113.4p (up 8.2p, 7.79 per cent) Kitchen supplier's share price has advanced 11 per cent in four days.Barratt Developments 90.8p (up 4.2p, 4.85 per cent) Housebuilder manages to extend its winning run to a fourth straight session.London Stock Exchange 851.5p (up 24p, 2.9 per cent) Climbs even as Goldman Sachs cuts its target price to 930p from 980p.FTSE 250 fallersSupergroup 713.5p (down 13.5p, 1.86 per cent) High street fashion retailer has its price target slashed by Espirito Santo to 635p from 925p.JD Sports 835.5p (down 12.5p, 1.47 per cent) Clothing chain pegged back after a large rise on Friday.SDL 645.5p (down 3.5p, 0.55 per cent) Investors choose to bank profits as software group falls for first time in four days.?After watching the mid-tier miner's shares drop nearly 15 per cent in early trading, bosses rushed out a statement saying reports from Egypt claiming the group had breached its concession agreement were wrong. They also attempted to pacify the market by announcing that its Sukari mine in the country was operating as normal.However the damage was done, and despite Centamin's efforts it closed 6.95p worse off at 66.5p. The group has suffered a string of problems in the country recently, including labour disputes, issues with fuel subsidies and a shortage of explosives. Egypt's political turmoil has, of course, not helped, and yesterday's fall was also being linked to the growing tensions between its military and the new president, Mohammed Mursi.Having finished last week on a downer, the FTSE 100 continued to move lower, sliding 35.3 points to 5,627.33. The latest gathering of eurozone finance bigwigs failed to calm fears as Spanish and Italian bond yields shot up.After reports over the weekend claimed big-wigs at Barclays were considering a break-up of the bank as the Libor scandal rumbles on, Shore Capital's Gary Greenwood warned the "costs of splitting the business in two would be significant and the process would be complicated". He also added that the chances of its investment bank getting snapped up by a US rival were "unlikely" because of regulation changes, as Barclays dipped 1.35p to 163.4p. BAE Systems was among the blue-chip stocks on the leaderboard C the arms dealer was fired up 4p to 296.9p in the wake of reports it is likely to win a 7.1bn jet contract with the US government. Xstrata was pushed back 18.4p to 815.6p following talk it could give shareholder Qatar until September to sort out its issues with Glencore (1.6p lower at 308.75p) over the commodity trader's proposed merger with the digger.The miners were generally weaker thanks to figures showing inflation in China dropping to a 29-month low amid falling demand. Of course, this also hit Burberry, which was pegged back 34p to 1,255p ahead of tomorrow's trading update from the luxury retailer.First up, however, will be Marks & Spencer's first-quarter statement today. The department store is expected to announce its worst three months of trading for three years, but despite this it bounced up 3p to 321p yesterday. Still, according to figures from Markit Securities Finance, M&S remains one of the most popular stocks for short sellers.Down on the FTSE 250, Avocet Mining was finally celebrating an up day. Having shed nearly 60 per cent of its share price since slashing its production target at the end of June, the gold producer powered ahead 9.75p to 72.75p, although this barely managed to make a dent in its recent losses. There are some people who believe that the company's fall could leave it vulnerable to an approach C Nomura's Tyler Broda last week claimed Avocet's appeal as a potential bid target would help the stock.Strewth. News from Down Under knocked Kenmare Resources 3.95p lower to 34.24p after its Australian rival Iluka issued a profits warning which the mineral sands producer blamed on a sharp drop in demand.Meanwhile, market gossips once again suggested Afren could be a possible target for US giant Exxon. However, dealers were unimpressed by the familiar speculation as the oil explorer finished 1.8p worse off at 104.8p.After talk earlier in the session that Mount Street Capital was working on a possible move for Invista, the private-equity firm confirmed it was mulling over making an approach for the real estate fund management group, majority owned by Lloyds (down 0.11p to 30.19p). Invista C which was lifted 0.25p to 15p on Aim C last month agreed to a bid worth 14.75p-a-share from Palmer Capital. This beat an earlier approach from Internos Real Estate priced at 12.5p a pop, and City sources claimed that one option for Mount Street Capital could be to team up with Internos.FTSE 100 Risers Meggitt 403.9p (up 10.4p, 2.64 per cent) Aircraft parts-maker C which analysts from UBS last week said could become a potential bid target C continues its recent strong run by topping the Footsie. Royal Bank of Scotland 205.7p (up 4.2p, 2.08 per cent) Bank helped to rise by analysts from Barclays keeping their "overweight" advice, although they do cut their target price to 270p from 340p.FTSE 100 Fallers ITV 72.85p (down 1.95p, 2.61 per cent) Broadcaster is among the day's worst fallers despite Citigroup's scribblers keeping the stock as one of their top stocks in the European media sector. Tullow Oil 1,437p (down 28p, 1.91 per cent) Energy explorer has now finished in the red for four consecutive trading sessions and lost 6 per cent of its share price since last week's trading statement.FTSE 250 Risers Balfour Beatty 311p (up 10.3p, 3.43 per cent) Construction company is one of the biggest risers on the mid-tier index as it prepares for the release today of its half-year trading update. Debenhams 87.75p (up 1.25p, 1.45 per cent) Department store manages to climb to a new, two-and-a-half-year high, having added more than 5 per cent since its interim management statement last month.FTSE 250 Fallers New World Resources 317.1p (down 40.9p, 11.42 per cent) Czech miner knocked back by Bank of America Merrill Lynch deciding to downgrade the company's rating to "underperform". Aquarius Platinum 41.59p (down 4.52p, 9.8 per cent) Platinum producer retreats as South African union says it is ready to go to court to force the group to reopen its Everest mine.?London's main index finished up 10 points at 5483.81 on some seriously dreary volumes."A waiting game until the Greek elections are over", said one trader. "We're in limbo, no one wants to be the wrong side of this once we have a result," said another. "The market is dead.""There simply is no secondary market," said a City old timer eyeing his revenue stream. That's an exaggeration, but not much of one.The move by CVC to delay its flotation of Formula One suggests there isn't much of a primary market either. Hand-sitting, with the odd dabble out of boredom, is still the favoured strategy until there's some clarity out there.Markus Huber at ETX Capital offers this as context. "Worries about the outcome of Greek elections on Sunday are being counterbalanced by optimism that several major central banks around the world will soon intervene into the markets, either by lowering rates or buying bonds," he said.The pointy heads at Barclays were a bit more downbeat, noting: "We believe the risks from Europe will remain a key market driver for the foreseeable future.Greek elections over the weekend are too close to call, and the potential for a negative risk event remains considerable. A weaker economic picture, limited policy intervention and elevated uncertainty mean that the pressure on risky assets remains."Even some companies that appear to be doing well are seeing their stock shunned. Sainsbury's yesterday reported sales up 3.6% in the 12 weeks to 9 June, but the shares were still hammered nearly 3 per cent, down 7.6p at 282p.Clive Black at Shore Capital said: "The UK food retailing sector is understandably out of favour at present, reflecting the tough, consumer economy manifested in falling volumes and compressed margins. Sainsbury is girding its loins for whatever a self-improving Tesco UK can throw at it by way of competitive pressure."The eurozone markets were also drifting. Michael Hewson at CMC Markets said: "Fragmented is an apt description of what European markets have been today, as equities chopped between positive and negative territory throughout the day. US economic data didn't provide much of a catalyst either way. Among sthe bright spots has been the Spanish IBEX, largely because its largest company by market cap, Inditex, owner of the Zara clothes chain, posted much better than expected profits for Q1.A UBS upgrade for insurer Resolution helped financial stocks in general. Jupiter ticked up 5.8p to 206.7p, while Royal Bank of Scotland moved smartly up 3.9p to 225.9p before profit takers took advantage, forcing it down 0.4p at 221.6p on the day.Resolution was the best riser early doors, dragging the Prudential and Legal & General with it, but later had to be content with a still decent rise of 2.3p to 197.6p. Engineer IMI had a rough day after Swedish manufacturing group SKF warned of a second-quarter slowdown which hit shares in companies throughout the industrials sector. It fell 25p to 844.5p. Also heading down were WPP and Burberry, two companies that have recently awarded their chief executives with fabulous pay packages on the basis of how much they have done for shareholders. Those shareholders were a bit worse off yesterday, with WPP down 8.62p at 759.38 and Burberry out of fashion down 29p to 1341p.Over in America, JP Morgan boss Jamie Dimon was insisting that there was good intent in the "London Whale" trades that lost the bank $2bn (1.28bn) and counting. At least half of the City knows exactly what he means.?Collins Stewart said the main European power generators were facing threats from political interference and from the fact that "EU power plants are nearing the end of their natural life cycles, given that the last major investment boom in much of the EU" was in the 1970s and 1980s.These challenges are leading to uncertainty and higher investment needs "just as the investment climate is deteriorating". International Power, however, has "limited exposure to the EU woes", it said."It has exposure to fast growing energy markets in North America, Latin America and META [Middle East, Turkey and Africa], where it enjoys a significant market presence," Collins Stewart analyst Harold Hutchinson explained, helping the stock firm up by 6.4p to 338.5p.He also pointed out that the company's relationship with GDF Suez, which is the biggest shareholder following a deal earlier this year, meant that it was backed by a strong balance sheet. "The influence of GDF Suez helps support an investment grade rating for International Power," Mr Hutchinson added.The power group's rise came against the backdrop of a general shift in sentiment across the market. Progress in Europe, with Greece officially welcoming a new Prime Minister and political moves in Italy to push through much-needed economic reforms, helped bring the bulls out of hiding and the FTSE 100 rallied by 1.85 per cent or 100.56 points to 5,545.38p. The FTSE 250 added 291.86 points to end the week at 10,389.3.Nervousness was still evident, though, with volumes remaining low. "Traders remain cautious and are holding back [from] committing funds until further confirmation of sovereign debt problems being resolved," Manoj Ladwa, senior trader at ETX Capital, said.The higher appetite for risk, however fragile, underpinned strength around financial sector stocks. The fund manager Schroders fared the best, taking the FTSE 100 crown with a rise of 6.8 per cent or 89p to 1,393p after Deutsche Bank abandoned its "sell" recommendation. The broker said the "tougher environment for fund flows and revenues has now been priced in" and upgraded the stock to "hold".In the banking sector, Royal Bank of Scotland stood out, gaining 6.4 per cent or 1.35p to 22.46p, while Barclays rose by nearly 8.9p to 178.9p after announcing that its private equity business was being bought out by the division's management. Lloyds was around 6.1 per cent or 1.665p better off at 28.835p and Standard Chartered gained 12p to 1,402p.HSBC, which has been lower in recent days after publishing its third quarter results, also managed to rise by 6.35p to 503.3p despite some bearish comment from Evolution Securities, whose banks analyst, Ian Gordon, told clients that "there is absolutely no excuse for owning the shares". "[HSBC] enjoys a premium rating, yet its outlook for return on equity is not materially superior to a UK domestic bank," he said, repeating his "sell" recommendation.In the mining sector, steady commodity markets helped the copper producers Antofagasta, which was up 39p at 1,198p, and Kazakhmys, which was up 24p at 931.5p. The rise came as copper prices stabilised after falling on concerns about the debt crisis earlier in the week. "Over the past few weeks, industrial metals have been receiving conflicting signals. On the one hand, industrial metals' specific fundamentals such as inventory dynamics have been positive," Credit Suisse said."On the other hand, the macroeconomic environment has been challenging, with metals falling victim to the fallout of the Europe sovereign debt crisis and the general economic slowdown."Further afield, Premier Foods continued the rally that started after it announced that its lenders had agreed to defer an upcoming covenant test as the food producer continued refinancing discussions.Yesterday, it rose by another 40.3 per cent or 1.85p to 6.44p, with traders pointing to short sellers rushing to cover downside bets in light of the positive news. Premier was also aided by announcements of share buying by management. The performance took the total gains since the deferral announcement on Monday to around 90 per cent.Fenner, the industrial conveyor belt manufacturer, was in demand, adding 5.1 per cent or 17.8p to 367.9p after Credit Suisse provided its shares with a shot in the arm. Responding to the company's recent full-year results, which showed rising profits, the broker reiterated its "outperform" stance and raised its target price for the stock to 415p from 395p.FTSE 100 RisersInternational Airlines 148.7p (up 7p, 4.9 per cent)British Airways-owner rises after setting a new long-term operating profit target; savings from BA-Iberia merger expected to be higher than previously thought.Anglo American 2,467p (up 83.5p, 3.5 per cent)Rises with the wider mining sector; Deutsche Bank analysts revise their target price for its shares to 3,890p, up from 3,790p previously.FTSE 100 FallersBurberry 1,377p (down 14p, 1 per cent)Luxury goods group retreats on a bout of profit-taking following recent gains; even after last night's pullback, its share price records a positive week.BG 1,366p (down 13.5p, 0.98 per cent)Oil and gas group, which has interests in Brazil, eases on the read-across from Galp Energia's sale of a stake in its Brazil business to Sinopec for less than expected.FTSE 250 RisersAfren 85.8p (up 10.95p, 14.6 per cent)Oil and gas companies with links to Kurdistan gain ground on reports that the US oil giant Exxon Mobil is set to enter the semi-autonomous region.Spectris 1,336p (up 107p, 8.7 per cent)Engineering group rallies after publishing a positive interim management statement; Altium Securities analysts reiterate their "buy" recommendation.FTSE 250 FallersBetfair 758p (down 5.5p, 0.7 per cent)Numis Securities switches its recommendation on the betting group's stock to "add" from "buy"; Davy lowers its view to "neutral" from "outperform".Halfords 341.1p (down 0.5p, 0.2 per cent)Credit Suisse reduces its target price for the retailer's shares to 400p from 465; HSBC, on the other hand, raises its target price to 365p from 350p.?In a newspaper interview, Mr Cheshire said Kingfisher was benefiting from a growing DIY trend in France, which is now its biggest operation both in terms of profits and sales. Despite the tough consumer spending environment in the UK, the group grew half-year profits by 24 per cent to 439m over the six months to 30 July.Indeed, Kingfisher was one of small number of risers on the blue-chip FTSE 100 index yesterday, which fell by 29.9p to 5,436.7, as fears about the eurozone debt crisis resurfaced. Its fellow retailers Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury's also scraped into positive territory. M&S was up by 2.5p to 334.9p ahead of its unveiling half-year results on 8 November. Sainsbury's, the UK's third-biggest grocer, also continued to make up ground, rising by 1.6p to 300.3p, although it has lost more than 20 per cent of its value in the year to date.Like its big rivals Tesco and Wm Morrison, Sainsbury's is battling its toughest trading environment for a generation. Investors have been piling back into Sainsbury's since its shares sank to 258p last month, partly in the belief that the company can continue to fight its rivals on price and grow its profits. However, Ocado, the FTSE 250 online grocer, had another day to forget as its shares fell by 2.4p to 87.6p, a wafer above an all-time low.Across the FTSE 100, the biggest winner yesterday was the oil giant BP, which surged 9.15p to 425.55p after a $4bn settlement with Anadarko Petroleum, the part-owner of the oil well involved in the Gulf of Mexico disaster last year. Anadarko has agreed to pay BP to settle all claims relating to the spill at the Macondo well.The second-biggest riser on the blue-chip index was Man Group, the hedge fund manager, as investors returned to the stock following a dreadful run. Man Group C whose shares have tumbled more than 30 per cent in the past month C rose by 3.2p to 160.8p. While Man Group would certainly benefit from more stability in Europe, hopes for a far-reaching rescue package for the region's sovereign debt crisis faded yesterday after comments from the German Finane Minister Wolfgang Sch?uble.The leading European indexes C the FTSE 100, France's Cac 40 and Germany's Dax C started buoyantly in positive territory but fell after Mr Sch?uble warned that this weekend's euro summit would not deliver a definitive solution.His comments appeared to knock sentiment surrounding Royal Bank of Scotland, which is 83 per cent-owned by British taxpayers. RBS, which has exposure to debt-crippled countries such as Greece through Greek bonds, fell by 2p to 24.1p. While it has less exposure to Europe than RBS, Lloyds Banking Group also had a day to forget and fell by 8p to 32.4p.Given that Lloyds is the most exposed of the big banks to the ailing British economy, dire forecasts on domestic economic output by the Ernst & Young Item Club are likely to have weighed on Lloyds far more. The well-respected forecaster said yesterday that the eurozone debt crisis had in effect brought the UK's economic activity to a standstill and predicted growth of just 0.9 per cent for 2011.Despite these headwinds, however, Barclays managed to edge up by 3p to 176.4p yesterday, reflecting the bank's broader international reach.Topping the leaderboard for the biggest losers yesterday was G4S, the British security company, which said it had agreed to acquire Denmark's ISS in a 5.2bn deal. G4S's shares fell by 62.4p to 219.9p, reflecting the dilutive impact of it partly funding the deal though a fully underwritten 2bn rights issue.On the FTSE 250, the biggest loser was the travel company Thomas Cook, which has been hit by the parlous state of consumer spending. On another day to forget, the tour operator tumbled by 2.7p to 46.6p, although the exact reasons for its being the biggest faller on the FTSE 250 were unclear.One company not reliant on the vagaries of the British consumers Amec, the international engineering business, whose shares rose by 15p to 875p last night after it announced that it had won a major new deal.BP and its partners, Shell, ConocoPhilips and Chevron, have awarded Amec a contract for the main platform design at an oilfield west of the Shetland Islands.FTSE 100 risersWhitbread 1627p 728p (up 12p, 0.7 per cent) The owner of the Costa Coffee and Premier Inn chains was in vogue ahead of its interim results today, which are expected to show strong growth.Compass Group 554p (up 1p, 0.8 per cent) Catering services giant has been one of the best-performing shares over the last year and continues to benefit from investors seeking safety in its global reach.FTSE 100 fallersSerco Group 499.5p (down 16.5p, 3.2 per cent) International services company was knocked by rival G4S's 5.2bn acquisition of ISS, as investors fretted over the growth prospects for the security sector.l Burberry 1262p (down 32p, 2.5 per cent) Despite growing revenues and profits, the luxury brand gave up recent gains as investors appeared to continue to worry about growth in China.FTSE 250 risersSports Direct 231.9p (up 1.9p, 0.8per cent) Investors pile into sportswear retailer ahead of its pre-close statement tomorrow. Its shares have soared in the past year, as it has grown profits and benefited from problems at rival JJB.Premier Foods 4.8p (up 0.3p, 6.3 per cent) Supermarket food supplier receives a boost from opportunistic purchasing, despite its poor trading and debt mountain.FTSE 250 fallersCarpetright 495.2p (down 19.8p, 3.8 per cent) Floor covering retailer was hit by further gloomy economic forecasts. The UK market leader has issued a string of profits warnings in the past year as households cut back on big-ticket spending.Rightmove 1248p (down 33p, 2.6 per cent) Property website pointed to growing north-south divide in the housing market as it faces increased competition from rivals.?The sale means French banking giant BNP Paribas will receive 1.52bn, or 28-a-share, for the stake C a 20 per cent premium to Kleppiere's share price. The move gave a serious boost to sentiment around the sector, especially with regards to property in Continental Europe. Hammerson C which recently announced it was focusing on its retail sites in France and the UK C shot up 21.3p to 411.3p. Some in the Square Mile were also claiming the deal highlighted the wide discount between the group's share price and the value of its assets.Hammerson's blue-chip rival Capital Shopping Centres, meanwhile, advanced 9p to 338.4p. The operator of the Trafford Centre in Manchester last year managed to fend off a takeover approach from Simon Property, which still holds a 4 per cent stake.Overall, rising optimism ahead of last night's deadline for the Greek bond swap deal meant that by the bell the FTSE 100 had jumped 68.32 points to 5,859.73, almost regaining the level it was before the sell-off on Tuesday that saw it lose over 100 points. The rally was also fuelled by the return of talk suggesting China could be about to cut its reserve ratio again, which gave the heavyweight diggers a major push as Vedanta Resources shifted up 49p to 1,393p while Antofagasta closed 38p higher at 1,268p.With such a move likely to boost the country's economy, Burberry rose 71p to 1,508p after the upmarket retailer was helped earlier in the week by reports claiming the Chinese government may slash import duty on luxury goods.As well as Apple revealing its newest iPad late on Wednesday, Arm Holdings C which pushed up 19.5p to 569p C was also attracting buyers thanks to a positive note from Morgan Stanley. Analysts from the broker raised their rating to "overweight", noting that although historically the chip designer's forecasts have been considered too optimistic, they have actually turned out to be overly pessimistic.At the same time, fellow Apple supplier Imagination Technologies climbed 50.5p to 652p on the mid-tier index, an all-time high, after announcing that the strong momentum it enjoyed during the first-half had continued.Back on the Footsie, the bid spotlight returned to Shire as revived takeover speculation saw the drugs maker tick up 30p to 2,205. Pfizer was yet again suggested as a possible bidder following reports that Germany's Bayer may try and buy the US pharma giant's veterinary unit, leading to theories over what it could do with the cash from a disposal.Bid talk was also returning around Enquest, which spurted up 5p to 125.8p on the FTSE 250 as vague speculation claimed the North Sea explorer could become a takeover target. Shell (29p better off at 2,306.5p) was one of the names put forward as a potential bidder, although the idea was being widely played down.Elsewhere among the oil groups, Heritage Oil closed 9.2p stronger at 168.8p after the oil group started drilling at its Miran East prospect in the semi-autonomous Iraqi region of Kurdistan.It may not be everyone's cup of tea, but SuperGroup found itself in vogue yesterday. The fashion retailer powered up 46.5p to 568.5p after Oriel Securities' analysts claimed its share price did "not reflect the potential for the brand to grow rapidly over the next five years".Takeover hopes around Inmarsat took a knock after the chief financial officer of Eads said it was not interested in an approach. The European aerospace giant has been highlighted recently as a possible suitor for the satellite telecoms firm, which still managed to fly up 28.4p to 489.7p in the wake of a bullish "buy" note from Bank of America Merrill Lynch on Wednesday.Soft drinks maker Nichols was left rather flat on AIM despite beating analysts' forecasts by posting a full-year pre-tax profit of 18.1m. The group, whose fizzy pop products include Vimto and Sunkist, could only edge up 3.75p to 629.75p even though Shore Capital's Phil Carroll said he did "not discount the possibility of Nichols being an acquisition target in the medium-term".Bowleven, a favourite of the retail investors, soared up 12p C or 14.12 per cent C to 97p following the return of vague speculation it could in line for an approach. Tullow Oil (15p higher at 1,460p) was once more suggested by some as a possible suitor, although informed City voices were pouring cold water on the idea.?Among the familiar tales doing the rounds were whispers that Home Retail could be in line for a rush of takeover activity. The reheated mutterings included suggestions once again that the Asda owner and US supermarket behemoth Walmart may be mulling over making an approach C possibly in the region of 180p a share C for the retailer.At the same time, there were also claims that Home Retail's struggling Argos business may be attracting the attentions of private equity. The company has been under pressure over the performance of the chain, which saw an 8.5 per cent drop in sales for the second quarter, and its chief executive, Terry Duddy, was forced last week to rule out the closure of any stores.The group ended up finishing top of the mid-tier index by advancing 6.2p to 118.6p, although traders C who were proposing its Homebase chain may have been boosted by the recent unseasonably hot weather C were decidedly unimpressed by the rumours.Regurgitated bid chatter was also doing the rounds among the blue-chip oil companies, where once again the Chinese state-owned group Cnooc was being linked with a possible approach for Tullow Oil, although the explorer still eased back 9p to 1,300p.Similarly, BG Group crept down 7.5p to 1,234p despite persistent takeover rumours; the energy company was said last week to be a possible target for a Chinese aggressor.Overall, the FTSE 100 shrugged off the news that the UK's manufacturing sector managed to grow in September for the first time in three months by retreating 52.98 points to 5,075.5, continuing a four-day slide in which it has shed over 4 per cent."The Greece story is boring the hell out of me," moaned one trader, but unluckily for him the country's woes were still dominating. Figures showing it is on track to miss its deficit targets are knocking indices across Europe, and the banks certainly took it badly as Royal Bank of Scotland slid 1.03p to 22.46p while Lloyds Banking Group moved back 1.41p to 33.46p.Elsewhere in the sector, Standard Chartered shifted down 57.5p to 1,229.5p after the Asia-focused group continued to be hit by fears over China. Concerns over the country's growth prospects were heightened by yet more disappointing economic data.This data also hurt Burberry, which has enjoyed a massive boost from an increase in demand for luxury goods from the country. The upmarket brand moved down 82p to 1,092p, continuing a slide that has seen it lose over a quarter of its share price in less than a fortnight.Some in the market expressed surprise at the extent to which investors were ignoring bullish comments from Goldman Sachs on the retailer after the heavyweight US broker argued that "luxury brands are scarce assets" and that Burberry was the most likely to become a bid target.While a number of their peers in the wider mining sector were also being driven back by concerns about China, the precious metal diggers were ahead. With gold getting a boost from its defensive appeal and from Morgan Stanley's Alain Gabriel increasing his forecast, Randgold Resources ticked up 230p to 6,520p to finish in pole position. Mr Gabriel was proving rather less helpful for the rest of the miners, however, reducing his expectations for the base metals as Kazakhmys jumped down 30p to 763p.Meanwhile, Vedanta Resources closed 8.27 per cent behind at 1,010p despite the explorer Cairn India C part of which the miner is buying from Cairn Energy (15.7p worse off at 265p) C striking gas off Sri Lanka.The mobile telecoms giant Vodafone climbed 2.3p to 168.55p after being picked by ING's Jeffery Vonk as the scribbler's top choice among its global rivals. The analyst said the company had "a unique combination of defensiveness and a well-balanced growth portfolio of assets", and started coverage with a "buy" rating.There was plenty of bid talk around the small-cap pub companies, although it was hardly prompting much celebration. Despite mutterings claiming private equity could be interested in an approach worth 20p a pop, mixed with optimism that the sun may have tempted drinkers out, Punch Taverns still lost more than 11 per cent, plummeting 1.25p to 10p.Meanwhile, Spirit failed to move from 35.5p after RBS said it did not expect the pubs company, which demerged from Punch earlier in the year, to receive an approach "in the shorter term", although the broker kept its "buy" advice.Elsewhere, the software group Patsystems lost nearly 38 per cent of its share price, plummeting 7.5p to 12.25p, in the wake of its admission that a number of deals had been delayed and that its performance for the year would therefore fail to match that of the previous 12 months.?Since reaching an all-time high last July of 1,600p, the group has failed to move above that. Last night, however, it closed close to the top of the Footsie after Credit Suisse upgraded its advice to "outperform" following a survey of 20 of the world's most upmarket department stores.Scribblers from the broker noted that, compared to last year's results, an increasing number of respondents believed the image of Burberry C at one time more linked to football hooligans than fashionistas C was now at least at the same level as brands such as Louis Vuitton or Chanel.At the same time, nearly half of those surveyed said they expected Burberry to perform better than its luxury rivals while all planned to either increase or keep steady the amount of space in their stores dedicated to its products. These findings, said the analysts, suggested "sustained, top-line outperformance" for the group, adding that it looked "healthier than ever". Burberry's response was to shoot up 68p to 1,392p, with the move coming amid the revival of speculation it could become a bid target. Credit Suisse's scribes believe its 100 per cent free float meant there was a "potential takeover risk", although traders, who have heard the idea many times, were unimpressed.Considering the boom in growth it is enjoying from China, Burberry will not have been harmed by the shock decision of the country's central bank to cut interest rates in an attempt to prop up growth.It meant the lack of activity from the Bank of England was forgotten as the heavyweight miners charged up on the news. Rio Tinto and Xstrata raced up 115.5p to 3,015p and 28.2p to 966.8p, helping the FTSE 100 rise 63.68 points to 5,447.79, although US Fed boss Ben Bernanke, playing down hopes of stimulus measures, dampened the mood late in the day.Having watched Glencore reach an all-time low of 334.35p last week, the trading giant's boss, Ivan Glasenberg, has decided to give it a push. The group revealed he has spent nearly 10m on almost 3 million shares, raising his stake to 15.8 per cent. Given a lock-up expired last month on employees' shares C including some of Mr Glasenberg's C traders were encouraged by the fact he was buying instead of selling. The chief executive had promised to spend a "substantial" proportion of the recent 70m dividend he received on shares.The vote of confidence helped lift Glencore 13.45p to 361.2p, while it was also helped by the news that Australian regulators have approved its takeover of Canadian grain giant Viterra.Tullow Oil spurted up 30p to 1,468p after revealing it had struck oil off the Ivory Coast, giving a boost to the explorer's hopes of finding black gold in other nearby prospects.Diageo slipped 4p to 1,577p as Liberum Capital's Pablo Zuanic suggested it may need a name change in order to achieve its goal of taking control of the world's biggest tequila brand, Jose Cuervo. "Sealing the deal may be as simple as buying shares back to pay [Cuervo owners the Beckmann family] and rechristening Diageo," said the analyst, who suggested "The Johnnie Cuervo Walker Co". On the FTSE 250, Kesa Electricals powered up 4.24p to 54.1p following promising sales data from the high street. Fund manager Schroders has raised its stake in the retailer, which will be relegated to the small-cap index at the end of next week, to more than 11 per cent.A rather busy session left Synergy Health 40.5p better off at 864.5p. As well as publishing its full-year results, the sterilising equipment supplier also announced a share placing and revealed it had struck a $25.1m (16.3m) deal to buy US rival SRI/Surgical Express.The widespread rally was accompanied by gossips reheating a number of familiar bid tales. Chip designer CSR (6.4p better off at 208p) and iron ore producer Ferrexpo (7.8p better off at 207p) were among those once again finding themselves the subject of takeover speculation, although dealers were playing it down.Down on Aim, Ithaca Energy shifted up 5.75p to 115p on the start of oil exports from its Athena field in the North Sea. The explorer remains more than a third lower than before its admission last week that takeover talks had ended without a deal being struck C some, however, still hope it could receive a hostile approach.?Hopes that Inmarsat C which was demoted from the Footsie last year C might be snapped up have been around for a while now, and its boss, Andrew Sukawaty, helped stoke the rumour mill last September by admitting it was "natural" that private equity firm could be interested in investing.However, its share price has been on the slide in recent months, with the group hit last month by its partner LightSquared's plans to build a high-speed wireless network across the United States facing difficulties with regulators amid claims it interferes with GPS systems.Yesterday's reheated rumours C which suggested a potential price for Inmarsat of 700p a share C once again claimed a possible approach could come from private equity. US giant General Electric was another name in the frame, although City voices were rather sceptical over the idea while traders were treating the familiar talk with a large dose of salt.It is not the first company that has been boosted by the return of bid rumours this week. Takeover speculation was revived around Shire on Monday, and the blue-chip drugs maker was still advancing yesterday. It gained another 50p to 2,179p, with Goldman Sachs' analysts helping by keeping the drugs maker on their "conviction buy" list.The FTSE 100 edged down for the second straight day, finishing just 1.94 points lower at 5,890.26. Still, there was plenty of optimism doing the rounds that, despite the benchmark index having already added over 300 points this year alone, there was more upside ahead.Pointing out that last month was the strongest January for more than a decade, Citigroup said "recent improvements to the macro backdrop" meant it is "more confident the current rally can be sustained".Meanwhile, Morgan Stanley's Bruce Hamilton predicted "a further leg-up" for the markets and upgraded his recommendation on interdealer broker Tullet Prebon (up 7.9p to 322p) and fund manager Henderson (up 1.5p to 121p) to "overweight" as a result.Not everyone was so optimistic, however. Northland Capital's Zeg Choudhry said he feels that "even if we assume economic conditions improve, we are very close to a correction of between five and 10 per cent before we resume a rally as markets are pricing a lot of good news".The top-tier index was being weighed down by a warning from China that its industrial growth this quarter looks set to slow. With Burberry particularly susceptible to any bearish noises from one of its key markets, the luxury brand retreated 26p to 1,420p, while the heavyweight miners were also badly hit.Xstrata and Glencore dipped 61.5p to 1,200p and 17.5p to 443.25p as leading shareholders voiced their opposition to the merger after an all-share agreement was announced. Talk was also doing the rounds in the Square Mile that, because of the valuation difference between the two in the deal, a number of investors were trying to short the latter but were unable to thanks to a lack of available stock.Fears Capita may be about to lose out on yet another contract helped the outsourcer to finish in the red. The group has had a number of disappointments this year already, and Espirito Santo's David Brockton claimed that C despite being the favourite C the likelihood of being chosen by the army to take control of its recruitment activities is not as clear-cut as the market believes.The analyst also reduced his rating on the group to "sell", warning that it "will continue to attract greater competition, with the business insufficiently diversified by geography to offset this pressure", and Capita promptly responded by slipping 1.5p to 633p.Having climbed 50 per cent since December, Misys took a breather after Berenberg's Daud Khan said that it was now "richly valued" and downgraded his advice to "hold". The software firm was left 8.9p worse off at 326.1p on the FTSE 250 as the analyst added that merger talks with rival Temenos should be concluded "within a short timeframe", although there has been persistent chatter suggesting a rival bid could soon emerge.Down on AIM, Solo Oil was smacked back 23.33 per cent to 0.58p after the first drilling of the explorer's joint Tanzanian well with Aminex failed to strike oil or gas.Going in the opposite direction was Totally. The media group was in rude health following confirmation that it had won a NHS contract worth nearly 1.6m, jumping up 172 per cent to 1.7p.?But the popularity of precious-metal-seeking stocks isn't just a flash in the pan. Randgold emerged as the biggest riser on the benchmark index for the entire quarter, with Fresnillo the third-biggest gainer in the period.The biggest losers in the quarter were Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation (ENRC), yesterday down, 3.5p to 308.7p, and luxury goods group Burberry, off 6p at 1,001p.Traders in the City started the day feeling positive on hopes that eurozone debt problems could improve, with riskier stocks still on their shopping list. But by the finish, the index had fallen to its lowest closing level in more than three weeks as fears over the true extent of the eurozone debt crisis would not go away.But the mining sector helped keep the index from falling further as rumours that China, the world's biggest metals consumer, could issue further stimulus measures. Over the entire third quarter, the FTSE 100 was up 3.1 per cent but yesterday, despite the strong rise for miners, it lost 37.35 points to 5742.07 C not clearing the key 5,800 mark at the end of the quarter. Investors are still waiting for Glenstrata, the $80bn (50bn) mining and commodity-trading mega-merger. Monday's deadline looms for the overdue Xstrata and Glencore merger, with reports that the pair remain at odds over key issues. Xstrata lost 2.1p to 957.5p and Glencore headed down 0.1p to 343.1p.The Office of Fair Trading has ordered a Competition Commission probe into the car insurance market as it thinks competition isn't working and customers' wallets are being hit. Among the watchdog's concerns are that if you are involved in a smash, your replacement car or the repairs could be costing more than the market rate. The planned float of car insurance site Direct Line by taxpayer-owned Royal Bank of Scotland had been valued at between 2.5bn and 3.5bn, but yesterday it announced a float at between 2.4bn and 2.9bn. The bank has had to sell the insurance business, which also includes the Churchill and Privilege brands, to meet European regulators' conditions after it was bailed out. RBS shares edged up 0.4p to 257p but news of the probe hit motor insurers Admiral, down 32p to 1,053p and morethan brand owner RSA Insurance, off 1.5p at 110.5p.Over on the midcaps, electrical retailer Dixons had a strong run. Dealers attributed its rise to approval of chief executive Sebastian James, who joined in the summer and hopes it will have a strong Christmas. Dixons, which sells everything from iPads to kettles, gained 0.38p to 19.78p.Massive tuition fees may put off some prospective university students but the student accommodation sector is still growing as an influx of overseas students builds. Traders reckon news that Chinese state-owned fund Gingko Tree Investment's proposed purchase of Barclay's 40 per cent stake in the University Partnership Programme (Britain's largest developer of student housing) will also be good news for rival Unite Group. Traders speculated that if overseas investor interest continues, Unite could even become a bid target. Its shares booked in a 6.9p rise to 263.6p.Shares in logistics business Wincanton continued their good run, driving up 3.25p to 56p after contract wins from B&Q and Sainsbury's. Traders speculated that there could soon be more good news.Mischievous traders speculated that another bidder could emerge for Sportingbet. The online gambling group, which is already in talks with bookmaker William Hill, rose 0.25p to 51.50p.AIM-listed Aortech International hasn't found a buyer and is no longer for sale. It is still trying to flog its polymer business but also needs to raise more money. Punters were not impressed and the shares plummeted 65p to 60p. G4S 265.7p (up 2p, 0.76 per cent) Security company boss Nick Buckles has survived the fallout from its Olympic fiasco but the scalps of its chief operating officer and managing director were claimed. Babcock International 927p (up 9p, 0.98 per cent) The engineering company will release a trading update to the market next week and analysts expect its core businesses of marine and defence to remain solid. Compass Group 683.5p (down 21p, 2.98 per cent) Compass Group continued its fall from the previous day after it admitted it will have to reduce its operations in southern Europe. Analysts at Natixis cut its rating to neutral from buy. Anglo American 1,817p (down 30.5p, 1.65 per cent) The mining giant continued to suffer at the hands of illegal strikers at its South African platinum mines. Ophir Energy 608p (up 17.5p, 2.96 per cent) The oil group said it will restart its Tanzanian drilling programme with its joint-venture partner BG Group. Centamin 92.5p (up 2.85p, 3.18 per cent) The mid-cap Egyptian gold miner joined its peers on the FTSE 100 as a top riser as investors piled into precious-metal mining stocks on hopes of further Chinese stimulus. London Stock Exchange 943p (down 82p, 8 per cent) Strict new rules from European regulators sent its shares tumbling. Electrocomponents 200.3p (down 19.4p, 8.83 per cent) The specialist electronic components and maintenance firm warned that half-year profits will slump by a third. The forecast was worse than expected, and sent it to the bottom of the mid-cap index yesterday.?Scribes at Barclays warn that Permira-owned Hugo Boss could be high-risk, while brands with lots of shops that sell leather goods and have a limited exposure to European shoppers will fare better. Barclays downgraded handbag brand Mulberry's price target from 1930p to 1600p and British success story Burberry from over to equal weight, reducing the target from 1950p to 1600p.Mulberry edged up 15p to 1345p while Burberry retreated 40p to 1315p.HSBC experts think that now Chinese consumers do more of their luxury shopping overseas, pressure will pile up on those with too many shops in the country. Some established brands in Asia may lose market share C what HSBC scribblers call "first-mover disadvantage."Swiss-based Cartier-to-Mont Blanc owner Richemont will today update the market with its August trading figures. The pressure is on for the boss of Land Securities, the UK's largest property company. Rob Noel, chief executive for six months, has seen the stock downgraded by four analysts in two weeks. The retail-to-office property group lost 16p to 777.5p yesterday as scribes from UBS, JPMorgan Chase and Exane BNP Paribas downgraded the Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) stock to neutral. Property doyen Mike Prew at analyst Jefferies last month cut his recommendation on the stock to hold from buy.British Land, the UK's second-largest property company, was also downgraded and its shares shed 14.5p to 527p.Unlike rival Hammerson, Land Securities and British Land have not narrowed their focus to one property sector, and remain property "generalists". Analysts reckon the real-estate sector is looking less attractive after its recent strong performance, and Mr Noel will have to pull something out of the bag to get them to change their view.A profitable exit for the UK taxpayer from Royal Bank of Scotland is an ever-more distant dream. Investec analyst and banking guru Ian Gordon has taken his scissors to the majority state-owned bank, downgrading the stock to hold from buy, and trimmed the share price target to 245p from 300p.Mr Gordon, who is largely bullish on banks, thinks RBS's recent 20 per cent four-week rally is a cause for concern. Its shares slid 5.8p to 220.7p.On a bad day for the FTSE 100, investors were jittery after Moody's cut its outlook on the European Union's credit rating to negative. The index slumped 86.4 points to 5672, losing the previous day's gains.With the deadline for the merger between commodities giant Glencore (down 3.05p to 385.1p) and Xstrata (off 29.7p at 917.5p) on Friday, the deal looked ever more unlikely.Software group Sage, a riser for the past two sessions following rumours of bidder interest re-emerging, fell back after a downgrade from Exane BNP Paribas. The shares edged back 3.2p to 300.3p.Midcap equipment-rental group Ashtead raised its profits guidance, and its shares jumped 33.4p to 315.9p. Seymour Pierce raised its price target for the stock to 350p from 320p, rating it a buy. The shares have already moved up more than 40 per cent in the past year. It was another bad day for financier Nat Rothschild's and Samin Tan's Bumi. The Indonesian coal miner has been hit by falling coal prices, a board bust-up and debt worries, and things appear to be getting worse as it fell another 15.2p to 288p.As actress Bette Davis' character said in All About Eve, "Fasten your seat belts. It's going to be a bumpy night." Well, it was for shareholders in Aim-listed Africa-focused Chariot Oil & Gas yesterday. When the shares plummeted yesterday, the company had to admit results from drilling the Kabeljou exploration well on the Nimrod prospect "are not yet known". It will update the market when it can. The shares closed down 21p at 100.25p.?With the latest reshuffle of the indexes to be based on last night's closing prices, it is on course to move down to the FTSE 250. The changes will be confirmed next week, although this is likely to be justa formality.It is the latest milestone in a dramatic fall from grace for Man, whose share price has plummeted more than 75 per cent since February 2011. Yesterday's climb of 2.6p to 75.5p was accompanied by the reheating of vague takeover speculation, prompting cynics to wonder whether it could be a final attempt to give it a boost ahead of the reshuffle. Bank of New York Mellon was once again being suggested as a possible bidder, with the familiar rumours mentioning a potential price of 100p a pop.There has been talk recently it could be vulnerable, with the UBS analyst Arnaud Giblat claiming earlier in the year that investors would be happy to accept an approach worth 150p a share.Dealers were not too impressed with the latest whispers, however, and some linked the move to optimism over its cost-cutting programme as well as the performance of its flagship AHL fund, whose woes have been blamed for Man's slump.Its place on the benchmark index should be taken by Babcock International. The defence services group, which slipped 9.5p to 840.5p, has seen its share price add not far off 50 per cent since August with government penny-pinching giving it a boost.Those set to drop out of the mid-tier index include SuperGroup (3.2p lower at 301p). A profits warning in April, partly blamed on getting its sums wrong, saw the retailer C which has been nicknamed SuperDroop by City wags C lose nearly 40 per cent in just one trading session.Also among those moving lower should be the electronics chain Kesa (0.24p worse off at 48.76p) and oil rig manufacturer Lamprell (1.3p worse off at 99.5p), while Bank of Georgia is one of the companies becoming a mid-cap stock. The country's largest bank, which was steady at 1,025p, gained a premium listing in February.May might have been the FTSE 100's worst month since February 2009, but June started with the top-tier index reaching a new six-month low by crashing down 60.67 points to 5,260.19. While manufacturing data was poor, the real sell-off came after US non-farm employment figures showed that just 69,000 jobs were added last month C well short of the 150,000 expected. Meanwhile, traders C who noted vague rumours claiming that co-ordinated monetary easing by the G20 may be imminent C were in a hurry to cut risk ahead of the extra long weekend.If any more bad news was needed then there was also weak PMI data from China. With the country's appetite for upmarket goods a major driver behind the luxury sector, the upmarket brand Burberry C which recently announced Gabriella Wilde and Roo Panes as the faces of its new campaign C dipped 59p to 1,308p.Fears over the television advertising market continued to hit ITV. The broadcaster was driven back 3.45p to 69.45p after Investec's Steve Liechti recommended selling, saying the uncertain macro environment was offsetting any boost from Euro 2012 and the Olympics.With the price of gold jumping as investors searched for some security, the yellow metal digger Randgold Resources charged up 360p to 5,555p. Mid-tier peers Petropavlovsk and African Barrick Gold were lifted 21.1p to 388.1p and 19.9p to 349.4p.Meanwhile the surprise announcement of plans to sell its stake in Anglo-Russian group TNK-BP saw BP advance 7.1p to 402p.On the FTSE 250, Aquarius Platinum was knocked back 8.55p to 64.8p C a seven- year low C following suggestions earlier in the week from Goldman Sachs that the miner could call a halt to its dividend.Bwin.Party ticked up 1.1p to 121.1p after revealing it had been granted an online gaming licence by Spain. William Hill (4.9p lower at 265.6p) and 888 (1.25p lower at 67.75p) were also among those getting the green light.WANDisco was flying the flag for Yorkshire as it became the county's first London IPO since 2010. The software firm received a good reaction, moving up 19p to 199p on AIM from a float price of 180p.?Morrisons had hoped its march on the South and new stores with "fresh formats" could help it to compete with rivals. But Barclays scribes are less than impressed, and cut their target price on the stock to 295p, from 320p, ahead of its half-year results on Thursday. Other analysts chatter that there could be further downgrades after the interims next week. Morrisons, down 1p at 280p, has been losing market share. Nielsen data on British food retailers for the month to 18 August revealed it has underperformed the sector with 1.5 per cent sales growth, behind rivals. Heavy discounting in the shape of vouchers at other chains has hit the Yorkshire company hard.The chief executive, Dalton Philips, has been trying to work his magic, with new formats and ideas, and even bought a children's website, Kiddicare. But Barclays' James Anstead said: "Recently unveiled initiatives have not had the effect one might have hoped for, and the turning point is not immediately obvious. But we think that management will emphasise the many ongoing initiatives C and we expect consensus estimates to be trimmed rather than slashed."The FTSE 100, which has been down for most of the week, picked up 8 points and closed at 5711.5. The small gains made on the index during the morning were mostly lost during afternoon trade, when the speech from the US Fed chairman, Ben Bernanke, delivered what analysts had expected. Mr Bernanke admitted he is open to the possibility of further stimulus to promote growth, but he would not commit to action. News from France helped the luxury Brit brand Burberry to sashay up 25p to 1353p on the back of a stonking performance from its more upmarket rival Herms in Asia. After heavy falls in mining stocks earlier in the week, the sector began a recovery of sorts and the Glenstrata saga rolled on. The proposed merger of the commodities trader Glencore and miner Xstrata, which looks all but dead, won new opposition when the activist investor Knight Vinke became the first to call for a shake-up of the Xstrata board if a deal did not proceed. The fund, which owns 0.5 per cent of Xstrata (up 51.2p to 952.2p), reiterated its opposition to the current deal on the table. The statement came after 12 per cent shareholder Qatar Holdings confirmed it will vote against the merger next week. Glencore topped the leaderboard and advanced 27.6p to 385.1p, with some analysts still keen on the stocks even if the inevitable happens and the deal gets buried.Moving to the mid caps, the miner New World Resources perked up after reaching a new year low the previous day. The stock edged up 2p to 270.9p, accompanied by a rumour that it was in talks to buy a coal-burning plant called Detmarovice from the Czech electricity company CEZ. CEZ is selling assets to appease regulators. Meanwhile Aim-listed Beowulf Mining (not to be confused with California's thrash metal band Beowlf) revealed that its losses widened in the six months to July to 386,955. But good news of discoveries of some high-grade iron at Kallak North in Sweden sent its shares up 0.25p to 9.75p.Cape's chairman, Tim Eggar, a former Energy minister, piled into his own company and snapped up another 12,000 shares at 229p. The energy services company was up for the second day running, following its half-year results on Thursday. The shares spurted up another 12.4p to 242.4p. The former Yell Group, now strangely called Hibu, got a waiver on debt conditions from its lenders as part of its ongoing restructuring and its shares moved up just 0.2p to 1.2p.The serviced office group Regus has been on a good run since it posted a 133 per cent pre-tax profits rise on Wednesday. Its shares charged up 6.6p to 104.1p yesterday.The small-cap back-office outsourcing firm XChanging was also in favour. It has risen steadily since the beginning of the month, when it posted impressive first half results, and it gained another 5p to 115p yesterday.?The mid-tier lender, which specialises in mortgages for residential landlords, put a halt to new loans in February 2008 as the securitisation market ground to a halt. It restarted last year, and since then the market has been waiting for it to once again launch mortgage-backed securities for funding. Although the amount is not large compared with previous deals Paragon has done, City scribblers still welcomed the news, which saw the stock go up by 23.7p to 179.9p. "This is the catalyst we had identified for the stock to start re-rating," said analysts at JPMorgan Cazenove, while Stuart Duncan at Peel Hunt claimed that it meant Paragon's "business model is complete again".Overall, a choppy session ended with the FTSE 100 62.53 points higher at 5,484.1, following a terrible three-day run in which it dropped nearly 300 points. Despite the top-tier index moving into the red early on, support came from Wall Street where stocks were rallying after strong jobs data.Although, not surprisingly, the Fed failed to announce a new round of quantitative easing, hopes that it could be getting nearer helped commodity prices. As a result, Eurasian Natural Resources and Antofagasta bounced up 35p to 657p and by 60p to 1,174p respectively, while the gold-miner Fresnillo took pole position as it advanced 127p to 1,783p.After reviving bid rumours on Tuesday surrounding the Nurofen-maker Reckitt Benckiser, which eased back 15p to 3,240p yesterday, the gossips turned their attentions once again to Burberry. Often the subject of speculation, the latest vague whispers suggested that the luxury brand could be about to receive an approach from an unnamed Chinese company.The mutterings were played down by traders, however, who instead were welcoming forecast-beating figures from the German fashion house Hugo Boss. With comments from Citigroup that consumer spending would either focus on bargain or luxury products also helping, Burberry ended up climbing 72p to 1,345p.Rumours of a more continental flavour were also doing the rounds, as mutterings claimed Volkswagen may be interested in increasing its 56 per cent stake in fellow German automotive giant Man. Meanwhile, back in the UK, the truck-maker's namesake Man Group managed to rise before its interim results today, despite recent concerns about what they will show. The world's largest listed hedge fund climbed 5.3p to 141.3p as it moved off its lowest level for more than eight years.Lloyds was left clutching the blue-chip index's wooden spoon. Its shares fell back by 1.36p to 29.21p after it announced that its Portuguese chief executive Antonio Horta Osorio, was taking sick leave. Also in the red were a number of stocks losing their payout attraction, with GlaxoSmithKline (down 23p to 1,355.5p) and Ashmore (down 5.5p to 325.9p) among those trading ex-dividend.There is rarely much of a read-across between G4S and Prudential, but that did not stop Citi making the connection yesterday. After G4S, the security services giant, scrapped its 5.2bn acquisition of Denmark's ISS, Citi tried to reassure investors by highlighting the recovery of Prudential's share price following its failed takeover of AIA last year."We continue to view G4S as a defensive structural growth asset," said Citi analysts. With both Exane BNP Paribas and Credit Suisse upgrading their ratings, shares in G4S were driven up by 8p to 253.2p.Down on the FTSE 250, the recent bearish rumours of a profits warning from Logica proved to be well-founded as the IT outsourcer cut full-year expectations for both operating margins and growth. It blamed poor trading in the Benelux region, where its revenues have fallen 3 per cent in the the part three quarters. Its shares duly slumped by 6.5p to 83p.As the two-day London Conference on Cyberspace, which saw such luminaries as William Hague and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales meet to discuss cyber-crime, came to an end, Ultra Electronics was lifted 16p to 1,608p. Goldman Sachs used the opportunity to highlight the defence company's position on its "conviction buy" list, saying cyber-security was a "major market opportunity" and would contribute about a fifth of Ultra's sales by next year.Shares in the oil and gas explorer Serica Energy powered up by 1.75p, or 9.72 per cent, to 19.75p on the Alternative Investment Market after the company said it was in "advanced discussions" about a new licence in Namibia.?But not everyone ended in the black; Glencore, for instance, was 15.85p worse off at 412.65p, while Xstrata, which is part-owned by Glencore, lost 13.7p to 998.3p. The mixed fortunes came despite some positive commentary from one of Wall Street's best-known commodity bulls, with Goldman Sachs saying that it still expected prices to rise over the next year. "Notwithstanding the continuing European crisis, we maintain our view that global growth will provide enough support to demand to drive key commodity prices higher over the next 12 months," Goldman analysts said. "Confidence in this view has been reinforced by the recent shift in policy in China towards a looser stance, which will likely help support economic growth and, in turn, commodity demand." Overall, investors endured a volatile session. The morning saw further falls on the FTSE 100, with the European crisis keeping the bulls at bay. But markets cheered up after the release of better-than-expected US data, with reassurance on the world's largest economy helping the benchmark to close broadly flat at 5,517.44, down 1.6 points. The data, which showed that retail sales had climbed in October, did little for the FTSE 250, however, with the mid-caps falling back by 87.65 points to 10,260.11.Burberry took the FTSE 100 wooden spoon, shedding 74p to 1,347p amid profit-taking in the wake of the luxury retailer's half-yearly results; although the figures were positive, the stock has climbed strongly in recent days. "Having been hit in mid-September by market concerns over global growth, the shares have rallied from 1,092p since the end of September after repeated luxury companies reassured on the underlying market strength," Seymour Pierce analyst Kate Calvert pointed out. Elsewhere, Imperial Tobacco was 34p better off at 2,331p C but with gains of 1.5 per cent, it failed to overtake rival British American Tobacco, up 49.5p at 2,943p, after Goldman turned its attention to the sector. The broker said Imperial was likely to lag behind BAT in terms of growth, as it was "structurally less well-positioned", with 67 per cent of its earnings before interest and tax generated in the EU. "It will be difficult... for the group to deliver comparable earnings growth to BAT," Goldman analysts warned. The broker also struck a cautious note on the Imperial valuation, lowering the stock to "sell" while pushing BAT as a "buy". "While we remain positive on tobacco owing to its cash-generative and stable growth profile, Imperial Tobacco's valuation appears stretched following below-average earnings growth in 2011," Goldman explained.Further afield, the London Stock Exchange was out of favour after analysts expressed worries about its Italian clearing-house business. The stock was nearly 4 per cent or 33.5p behind at 830p after Goldman warned on the risks facing the division, which makes up for around 15 per cent of the LSE's revenues, according to the broker. Although the income generated by the business has "grown fourfold in only 15 months", Goldman said the recent rise in spreads on Italian credit default swaps had "led to the imposition of collateral haircuts" at the clearing house. This, it explained, has pushed up the cost of Italian repos, or repurchase agreements, and made the ECB's facility comparatively more competitive. Eyeing this, the broker lowered its estimates for the group and, as a result, switched its stance on LSE's shares to "sell". Premier Foods remained volatile. First, there was last week's rally, with short covering driving strong gains after the company announced an agreement to defer a forthcoming covenant test. Then, on Monday, there was the intra-day slump as the impact of short covering wore off (and UBS turned bearish). And yesterday, the food producer's share price retreated by another 15 per cent or 0.86p to 4.88p, with part of the reversal being attributed to news that Premier had had to recall a batch of its Loyd Grossman korma curry sauce after one jar was found to be contaminated with bacteria that can cause botulism poisoning.Shore Capital said it hoped the problem, which first emerged at the weekend, could be contained. "Our caution on Premier Foods' stock reflects concerns about the group's balance sheet going back many years, concerns that predominate to this day," the broker said, repeating its "sell" view. "We hope that this outbreak is contained and nothing more than a short storm in a teacup; however, we do need to make sure that it remains no more."?Some of those chosen were hardly a surprise, with Argos-ownerHome Retail and online grocer Ocado C both of whom have few friendsin the Square Mile C making the cut. They were pegged back 5.55p to86.65p and 2.05p to 56p, while plumbing giant Wolseley was 39plower at 2,080p after also being picked out.Perhaps more surprising was Shire's presence. The pharma groupwas the top-performing blue-chip stock in 2011, but Panmure'sanalyst Savvas Neophytou claimed it was now overvalued, although itstill firmed up 20p to 2,170p.Ironically, one stock investors would have benefited from givinga miss recently is Panmure itself. With the broking sector havingbeen hit by the volatility of the markets, the firm has lost overtwo-thirds of its share price during the past 12 months. Yesterday,however, it was on the up, shifting 0.38p higher to 0.62p in thewake of reports over the weekend claiming it could be a target forrival Cenkos Securities.Despite a bright start, the FTSE 100 ended at its lowest levelfor the year so far, retreating 37.42 points to 5,612.26.With talk Greek debt holders may have to take a bigger haircutthan previously thought, traders were unimpressed by yet anothermeeting between Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy on the eurozonecrisis, instead preferring to focus on German bonds being sold at anegative yield."Merkozy" did continue to talk up the so-called "Tobin" tax onfinancial transactions, and despite David Cameron's reiterating hisopposition over the weekend, the banks were among the main losers.Lloyds slipped back 0.92p to 26.19p on boss Antonio Horta-Osorio'sfirst day back from sick leave, while Royal Bank of Scotlandslumped 0.44p to 20.07p.Power firm Essar Energy (down 8.7p to 162p C a new all-time low)and hedge fund Man Group (down 5.4p to 107.35p) took the bottom twopositions, as both extended their recent terrible runs.Elsewhere, GlaxoSmithKline declined 62p to 1,435p afterdisappointing data from its lung drug Relovair, although it willstill attempt to get approval later in the year.Rival AstraZeneca was feeling a little foolish after admittingit had accidentally sent out confidential data to analysts lastweek in an email.The drugs giant quickly moved to limit the damage, claiming thatthe numbers were "out-of-date planning information" and reiteratingboth its guidance for 2011 and outlook, although it still tumbled33.5p to 3,009p.At the other end, Burberry was in fashion again, bumping up 28pto 1,278p as market gossips returned once more to the well-wornidea it could attract a suitor, although dealers were unimpressedby the vague speculation.The Kurdistan oil explorers were still in focus, with HeritageOil falling 11.1p to 182.4p on the FTSE 250. RBC analyst Al Stantondowngraded his rating to "underperform", blaming his caution overthe semi-autonomous region of Iraq on the worsening unrest in thecountry.Gulf Keystone Petroleum, however, ticked up 8.6 per cent to 221pon AIM following an update on its search for oil as vague takeoverrumours around the retail punters' favourite refused to die.Back on the main market, Tesco was 0.45p weaker at 390.43p aheadof its trading statement on Thursday as Morrisons (up 0.2p to311.5p) failed to get the supermarkets' reporting season off to agood start. Sainsbury's is set to update the market on itsperformance over Christmas tomorrow, and it advanced 1.2p to300p.JD Sports was in pole position on the mid-tier index afterrising 40p to 700p. The sportwear chain announced it was in"advanced discussions" over buying a number of assets from troubledBlacks, although Seymour Pierce was not keen, warning itsmanagement "may be... overstretching themselves".AGI Therapeutics was looking rather healthy down on AIM, rising60 per cent to 7.2p after the pharma firm announced it had agreedto be bought by Aravis for 6.6m (5.4m). Still, long-time punterswill hardly be ecstatic considering AGI was worth 85m when itfloated in 2006.Espirito Santo was urging caution over reports suggesting Sonyand Microsoft could soon reveal their next game consoles, sayingthat although such news would give a boost to retailer Game C whichwas 0.15p worse off at 6.75p C it was "too early to get excitedyet".FTSE 100 Risers* National Grid 624p (up 14.5p, 2.38 per cent) After threestraight sessions on the slide, power supplier ends up in poleposition on the blue-chip index as its employees buy nearly 46,000shares.* InterContinental Hotels 1,195p (up 21p, 1.79 per cent)Deutsche Bank helps hotel operator by raising its recommendation to"buy" from "hold" on hopes a special dividend could be announcednext month.FTSE 100 Fallers* Schroders 1,256p (down 39p, 3.04 per cent) Asset managerretreats in the wake of Singer Capital Markets cutting its pricetarget to 1,450p from 1,550p, although broker keeps its "buy"advice.* Antofagasta 1,234p (down 36p, 2.83 per cent) Chilean minerfinishes as one of the Footsie's worst performers after Citigroupcuts its recommendation to "sell" and predicts copper volume growthwill slow.FTSE 250 Risers* Persimmon 506.5p (up 25.5p, 5.3 per cent) Housebuilder jumpsin the wake of a bullish statement in which it predicts underlyingfull-year pretax profit will have increased by 50 per cent.* EnQuest 106.8p (up 2.8p, 2.69 per cent) North Sea oil explorerrises on news that it has bought 20 per cent stake in Krakendiscovery off the Shetland Islands for a sum that could rise to$90m (58.3m).FTSE 250 Fallers* Jupiter Fund Management 188.5p (down 7.5p, 3.83 per cent)Asset manager finishes in the red for the fourth consecutivesession, over which time its share price has shed more than 14 percent.* Mitchells & Butlers 245p (down 4.8p, 1.92 per cent)Investors choose to bank profits in pubs company in the wake of itbeing helped last week by analysts returning to the idea of apotential new bid from Joe Lewis.?Morgan Stanley was certainly not in a charitable mood, as analysts from the broker downgraded Icap's rating to "equal weight". Predicting that its volumes next year would continue to be under pressure as "subdued investor risk appetite persists", they claimed consensus earnings forecasts in the Square Mile for 2013 faced "negative revision risk" while also highlighting "significant uncertainties" around upcoming regulatory announcements.The group was pegged back 16.1p to 350.4p in response, with the move coming a day after it revealed a sharp drop in its volumes. Icap announced that its electronic volumes over November had suffered a 7 per cent year-on-year fall to $770.7bn, which led Numis Securities' James Hamilton to say the chances of its second-half profits beating the first six months of the year was "very unlikely" and that the group's share price looked "far from compellingly cheap".Although the FTSE 100 moved above 5,600 points during the first hour of trading following reports claiming that eurozone leaders could introduce two separate bailout funds, it ended up closing 21.81 points behind at 5,546.91.Signs of discord ahead of today's eurozone summit did the damage, prompting IG Index's Yusuf Heusen to say that "trying to get eurozone politicians to agree is like herding cats C tricky, frustrating and a very lengthy process". However, it was only the benchmark index's second losing day in nine sessions, over which time it has managed to jump up 8 per cent.The clear winner was Randgold Resources, which C appropriately enough C closed in the gold medal position after climbing 235p to 6,945p. One fan was Guardian Stockbrokers' Atif Latif, who said the digger represented "good value long term" partly because of his belief that the price of gold could reach $1,900 an ounce during 2012 thanks to demand from China.Burberry was also on the rise, lifted 10p to 1,277p following supportive comments from Liberum Capital. In their first look at the luxury brand, the broker's analysts gave it a "buy" recommendation and predicted it would enjoy an acceleration in both sales and margins.Meanwhile, Inmarsat (down 4p to 423.1p), Investec (down 4.8p to 358.5p) and Lonmin (up 3p to 1,053p) were confirmed after the end of trading as the three stocks being relegated from theblue-chip index in the latest indices reshuffle. Russia's Evraz and Polymetal, along with Irish building materials group CRH, will take their places when the substitutions are made at the end ofnext week.A vote of confidence from its new chief executive pushed Cable & Wireless Worldwide up 0.97p to 17.82p on the FTSE 250. Gavin Darby, the former Vodafone executive who started his new role little more than a week ago, has spent nearly 340,000 on the troubled telecoms company's shares.It was the opposite for AZ Electronics Materials, which slipped back 16.3p to 236p after the chemical group's former private equity owners, Vestar Capital Partners and Carlyle Group, both reduced their stake by selling 20m shares each.Meanwhile, Kesa Electricals slumped 9.24 per cent to 74.15p in the wake of the retailer revealing yet more bad news for the high street. It admitted it had seen no improvement in trading trends yet in the run-up to Christmas, while sales at its Comet chain C which is being sold to the private investment firm OpCapita C had plummeted more than 15 per cent over the second quarter.The recent flurry of takeover activity among the miners, including the news from European Goldfields (up 12p to 775p) earlier in the week that it had received a number of approaches, prompted analysts to cast their eye over who could be next in line for a takeover.Liberum's Ash Lazenby said the sector was "warming up to M&A" and pickedout a number of smaller diggers whohe claimed may be boosted by bidspeculation.Among them was the potash diggerSirius Minerals, which ticked up 2pto 28.75p on the Alternative Investment Market, while he also suggested that the South American assets of Metminco C 0.08p stronger at 9.38p C could attracta predator.Hightex was celebrating a hat-trick after announcing it had won the contract to work on Brazil's Maracana Stadium, where the 2014 World Cup Final is to be held. It means the engineer, which shot up 23.08 per cent to 2p, will have been involved in three World Cup Final venues in a row.?Partly to blame for the sharp fall was a disappointing set of results last month, when bosses revealed the start of the new financial year had seen sales growth fall dramatically. Its blue-chip rival Burberry's admission on Wednesday that it has also seen a slowdown hasn't helped, while nor have growing fears over the economy in China, a major market for the luxury sector.Yesterday, however, Mulberry's fall was being attacked as overdone after Panmure Gordon's Philip Dorgan urged punters to snap up the shares. Reiterating his target price of 2,000p, the analyst highlighted the fact that the company's last update actually showed a significant acceleration in sales growth over the preceding six weeks, adding that he believed "this improved trend has continued".In addition, he argued that concerns over China should not be taken so seriously given Mulberry currently only has one shop in Beijing and that "this continues to trade well".With Mr Dorgan also repeating his belief that the company "has the product craftsmanship, design, innovation and quality to become a major global brand", it managed to climb 37p to 1,287p on Aim, although it still has a long way to go before getting near May's all-time high of 2,472p.At the same time Burberry advanced 71p to 1,229p. It was one of the stocks to benefit from the latest Chinese GDP data which showed the country's slowdown was not worse than expected while still being bad enough to stoke hopes of further stimulus measures ahead.The figures also boosted the miners, including Kazakhmys,42.5p stronger at 744p, and Eurasian Natural Resources, 15.2p stronger at 408.8p. The broker ING was arguing the former would rather swap its stake in the latter for other assetsC such as Kazzinc, the zinc subsidiary of Glencore, 7p higher at 316.65p, instead of selling it for cash.Meanwhile, Polymetal International ended up as the top blue-chip performer, jumping 56p to 877p after the Russian billionaire Alexander Mamut, who owns 10 per cent of the gold digger, called for its dividend to be increased. The FTSE 100 was lifted 57.88 points to 5,666.13, with just nine stocks ending the session in the red. G4S was one of them C the security services giant slipped back 4.3p to 278.7p as it continued to be hit by the fall-out from its Olympics failure.After the media stocks benefited on Thursday from the news that ad agency Aegis, up 0.2p to 235.5p, is being snapped up by Japan's Dentsu, ITV C a constant subject of takeover rumours itself C was still going strong. The broadcaster powered up 2.7p to 74.95p as Berenberg's analysts kept their "overweight" rating on the stock.Booker's share price has added almost 25 per cent this year, but yesterday the cash-and-carry wholesaler was heading south. While Shore Capital praised it as both an "excellent company" and "a market leader in its field", analysts from the broker calculated that following its rise only a handful of consumer companies in the world, including Coca-Cola and Guinness-brewer Diageo, up 14p to 1,679p, now had a higher earnings rating.As a result, they decided to switch their recommendation to "sell", which saw Booker dip 2.35p to 88.95p. However, they did have plenty of praise for its boss Charles Wilson, who they said "may in time enter a hall of fame that contains the likes of Sir Kenneth Morrison, Sir Terry Leahy, Lord Sainsbury and Archie Norman".At the other end of the mid-tier index, Petropavlovsk raced up 36.6p to 461.6p, although traders weren't getting too excited C despite the huge jump, the Russian miner's share price has finished the week almost exactly where it started it.Down on Aim, oil explorer Bayfield Energy spurted up 5.5p to 18.5p after announcing a well in its Trintes field off the shore of Trinidad had been brought on production.?Bid talk surrounding Sage has come and gone for years. Earlier this year gossip surfaced in both March and May. Traders are throwing up the usual suspects, including Microsoft and Germany's SAP, as well as talk of private equity interest.But while some City insiders have played down the hearsay claiming M&A interest is old hat C Microsoft was first linked to Sage back in 2003 C others suggested the deal would make strategic sense. Sage announced in May that it had teamed up with Microsoft to put its accounting software for small businesses into the cloud via Microsoft's Azure system. Analysts at Merchant Securities said at the time that the deal could reawaken bid rumours.Some investors were convinced and Sage booked a 7.3p gain to 303.5p.As the last few traders arrived back at their desks from August holidays, bid rumours resurfaced.Interest in FTSE 250 Senior Engineering pushed it up 6.4p to 203.8p, a rumour first touted last month. Speculation about bidders eyeing soft drinks group Britvic also bubbled to the surface again and shares fizzed up 2.7p to 322.3p.Normal service was beginning to resume for the FTSE 100 and after four days of losses it edged up 46.93 points to 5758.4. But volumes globally were lower as US markets are closed for Labor Day.Miners led the charge on the FTSE 100 with Fresnillo, up 66p to 1627p, Kazakhmys, 17p to 610p, and Vedanta Resources, 24.5p to 892p, topping the board. However, insurance group Admiral was sent tumbling to the bottom of the index, down 36p to 1,150p, as analysts at Credit Suisse cut their rating of the stock to neutral and fellow scribes at Canaccord Genuity reduced it to sell after last week's half year results.HSBC Global Research turned its attention to the world of expensive handbags and designer clothes and issued a sequel to its luxury report.Scribes cut British brand Burberry's share price target to 1,500p from 1,550p, while Nomura's analysts issued a buy rating and a price target of 1,450p for the stock. Burberry shares strutted up 2p to 1355p. On the mid-caps, housebuilders were boosted by positive comments on planning by Chancellor George Osborne, and Barratt Developments moved up 8.6p to 158.6p and Persimmon jumped 36p to 734p.Over on Aim, organic waste specialist TEG Environmental announced a waste contract in Dagenham and its shares ticked up 2.3p to 6.5pA strange new name for the owner of the Yellow Pages has not allowed it to turn the page on crippling debts and its creditors are hiring advisors to restructure its 2.2bn liabilities.Shares in the company, now named Hibu, crumpled 59 per cent, falling 0.7p to 0.49p, on the news that its long list of creditors C including Royal Bank of Scotland, Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank C are bringing in US restructuring firm Houlihan Lokey and law firm Linklaters to advise on a debt-for-equity swap. The restructuring talks are the second in a year and are likely to see the creditors seize control. The group, whose shares traded at around 600p five years ago, has been attempting to turn itself around, but the growth of online search engines like Google has sealed its fate.Reports about miner Talvivaara were apparently exaggerated. The Finnish company's statement today had a slight touch of the Mark Twain about it. Talvivaara insisted that "recent publicly reported claims" on its cash position and planned job cuts are "incorrect". The mid-cap miner's shares were driven up 14.6p to 140p following the clarification. Last month Talvivaara reported a big rise in second-quarter losses, having been hit by production problems and depressed nickel prices. However, the company claims it can achieve "substantial cost savings without any personnel impact" and said its liquidity position is stable.It said it expects cash reserves to "remain sufficient" regardless of the low nickel price.FTSE 100 Risers Rolls-Royce 835.5p (up 14.5p, 1.8 per cent) Planning green light for engine make's second, hi-tech factory in Rotherham to produce single-crystal turbine blades. Rio Tinto 2795.5p (up 60p, 2.2 per cent) The miner joined peers in a rally yesterday amid speculation China will move to boost its slowing economy. The UK mining sector has fallen 20 per cent since early August on fears of an Asian slowdown.FTSE 100 Fallers Morrisons 278.2p (down 1.8p, 0.6 per cent) The UK's fourth-largest supermarket continued its fall from Friday ahead of its results this week. Analysts at Nomura yesterday joined Barclays in cutting their rating for the shares from buy to neutral. Arm Holdings 559.5p (down 14.5p, 2.5 per cent) The chip maker fell back as analysts at Deutsche Bank cut their rating on the stock from hold to sell.FTSE 250 Risers Home Retail Group 97p (up 3.2p, 3.4 per cent) The Argos to Homebase owner edged up as analysts at Investec raised their rating of the shares from sell to buy. Ophir Energy 586p (up 21.5p, 3.8 per cent) Oil and gas explorer Ophir Energy spurted up following an update from offshore Tanzania. It is also searching for a strategic partner for a well-drilling programme in Tanzania and Kenya. FTSE 250 Fallers Bumi 303.2p (down 14.8p, 4.7 per cent) The debt-laden Indonesian coal miner fell again amid weak coal prices and rumours it will sell a 50 per cent stake in Fajar Bumi. The company, established by the financier Nat Rothschild and Indonesian investor Samin Tan, has already been hit by boardroom disagreements. CSR 310p (down 15.6p, 4.8 per cent) Deutsche Bank scribes downgraded shares to sell, from hold.?In May Tullow was left red faced when it was forced to issue a statement on progress at its Ngamia-1 well, onshore in Kenya, after it accidentally let slip confidential information to investors.The Mbawa-1 well was the first offshore Kenyan gas discovery, and at least it was described as "encouraging". Tullow said that although it was unsuccessful the results would be "vital in evaluating the still significant prospectivity of this block".Tullow is working on the well with the US-based operator Apache and its Australian partners, Origin Energy and Pancontinental.After losing 18p on Monday, Tullow fell another 29p yesterday to 1,357p.Punters donned their tin hats and turned defensive yesterday, leaving the blue chip FTSE 100 down 1.01 points at 5792.19. Safe-haven stocks were in favour, with British American Tobacco up 57.5p to 3,182p, as a cautious feeling swept the City ahead of a German court's ruling on its participation in the planned European bailout today. Meanwhile, riskier stocks C including most of the mining sector C dived towards the bottom of the benchmark FTSE 100 index with Fresnillo down 49p to 1,707p and Vedanta Resources and Anglo American also tumbling.Vedanta was also hit by revelations of a scam in India which pushed Goa to impose a temporary ban on mining. The southern state is the country's second-biggest iron ore producer and both Vedanta and its Indian arm, Sesa Goa C which is merging with Sterlite Industries Chave been affected by the ban. Vedanta lost 24.5p to 978.5p but experts do not expect Goa's move to have a long-term impact on the miner.Anglo American, down 46.5p at 1,955p, meanwhile received a downgrade. Analysts at JPMorgan said Anglo's valuation still did not "adequately reflect the various risks the company faces" and they cut their price target to 1,750p from 1,900p. Over on the FTSE 250 the South African platinum miner Lonmin lost 8p to 611p as its workers strike continued to rumble on. Fears are mounting that unrest will continue to spread across South Africa's mining sector. Royal Bank of Scotland topped the leaderboard, up 11.7p to 264.7p. Scribes at JP Morgan said they would retain their neutral stance on the shares but added that at current levels there was "better value in RBS than Lloyds".The software giant Sage edged up 1.4p to 305.8p. On Monday analysts at Galvan Research issued a buy rating following renewed M&A rumours. Andrew Gibson at Galvan said there was "the distinct possibility that Sage could be a target of German sector peer SAP". Some traders speculated that private equity players might also take a look. The handbags and gladrags at Burberry haven't tempted enough shoppers to part with their cash. The luxury fashion group found itself at the bottom of the FTSE 100, down more than 20 per cent, losing 287p to 1,088p, after a profits warning. The fall prompted some traders to start bottom-fishing and buy the shares. The revelation of slowing sales growth also tarnished luxury peers in Europe. French giant LVMH, the parent of Louis Vuitton, lost 3.36 per cent and the Gucci owner PPR Group was down more than 2 per cent.Today's FTSE 100 quarterly reshuffle is likely to see the broker Icap leaving and the energy services company John Wood Group will rejoin after a year's break. The final sign-off of who joins and who leaves will be confirmed at the end of trading today.Among the small caps Anglesey Mining shot up 1p to 9p. It was revealed that its chief executive, Bill Hooley, demonstrated his confidence by buying 100,000 shares in the company. He now holds 200,000 shares.?With Verizon Communications C Vodafone's partner in the business and the one in charge of the purse strings C announcing its results yesterday, hopes were high that this would be an opportunity for a new payout to be announced. What the City got instead was an admission from the US giant's finance chief, Fran Shammo, that the subject of a dividend was not even expected to be discussed at next week's board meeting.That knocked Vodafone back as low as 181.35p during trading, and although the mobile phones giant did manage a partial recovery, by the time the bell rang its share price was still 2.15p lower at 183.05p.Dealers weren't getting too worried, however, saying they were still confident over the chances of a new payout being approved. They also highlighted that Vodafone's share price has been on the rise recently, with the company C which today unveils its first-quarter results C having jumped more than 11 per cent in two months.It was another strong day for the FTSE 100, which closed 28.42 points better off at 5,714.19 to set a new two-and-a-half month high. The US reporting season was helping the top-tier index advance, while poor economic data from the States and a tough Spanish bond auction were shrugged off.Irish building materials group CRH was in the red following reports from India claiming it is interested in the cement business of Jaiprakash Associates, the construction company which developed the country's Formula One track. The talk was that a deal could end up being worth up to $1.6bn (1bn), although Goodbody's Robert Eason pointed out the group's recent sale of its stake in Portugal's Secil meant CRH "has plenty of financial headroom". Nonetheless, the stock was pushed back 9p to 1,204p, with CRH also hurt by Exane BNP Paribas cutting its rating to "neutral".Elsewhere among the energy groups, Royal Dutch Shell crept down 2.5p to 2,298p. Dealers highlighted the continuing presence of vague speculation it may be interested in a move for Maurel et Prom, although the boss of the French oil company dismissed such rumours last month. Shell was also the subject of a Bloomberg report claiming it is in talks with Anadarko over potentially buying the US group's Mozambique gas assets.On the 10th anniversary of its listing, luxury brand Burberry rose 57p to 1,289p, pushed up by French peer Hermes' results coming in ahead of expectations.The London Stock Exchange enjoyed a late move as bid speculation made a return around the bourse, which closed 21p better off at 1,023p on the FTSE 250. Frequently the subject of takeover whispers, the latest rumours put forward the Singapore Stock Exchange as a possible suitor, with a potential price being suggested of 1,350p a pop, although traders treated the tale with a heavy dose of salt.Having recommended the stock as a buy for nearly two years, Bank of America Merrill Lynch's analysts announced they were downgrading TalkTalk's rating to "neutral". They were quick to point out this "does not mean that we have 'lost faith' in the company", although this didn't stop the broadband provider retreating 7.1p to 182.7p.Kurdistan oil explorers were in focus, with Afren spurting up 9.1p to 128p after a promising update from its Simrit well. Not that the pessimists at Liberum Capital were happy C citing the current complications involved with operating in the autonomous region of Iraq, they warned that "in the absence of exports options and with a limited domestic market, the value is unclear".Meanwhile, on Aim, fellow Kurdistan-driller Gulf Keystone Petroleum climbed 8.75p to 221p as it announced a further resources upgrade to its Shaikan field.After the bell, small-cap digital radio group Sepura (down 0.5p to 70.5p) announced that C citing "substantial institutional demand" C four major shareholders had decided to sell a total of nearly 11 million shares.?Amid the constant torrent of doom and gloom surrounding consumers, Whitbread has been held up for a while as one of the few names seemingly able to avoid the woes being suffered by its neighbours on the high street. However, earlier in the week cracks finally started to appear, with the leisure giant admitting its sales growth had slowed.Since then, it has been rather unloved in the Square Mile. Yet last night it turned a corner, rising for the first time since the update as it pushed up 20p to 1,528p. The gains came after HSBC put itself firmly in the group's corner, not only telling investors to stop being hasty but also claiming that if history repeats itself C this could provide a perfect buying opportunity.To support her stance, the broker's analyst Lena Thakkar pointed to when it last flagged up a slowdown in growth back in 2009, saying that it actually turned out to be a "buy signal". She highlighted that, despite Whitbread's like-for-like sales staying negative for a number of months, at the same time its share price steadily rose after the initial fall. As a result, Ms Thakker kept her "buy" rating and predicted that C despite the update C it would "continue to outperform its industry peers", although she did cut her target price from 1,900p to 1,800p.The FTSE 100 was still yo-yoing, moving in the opposite direction to the day before for the sixth successive session. It jumped up 34.05 points to 5,400.85, shifting off a two-week low, although a decent Spanish bond auction was countered by mixed economic data from the US and signs of further discord over the eurozone deal reached in Brussels last week.Old Mutual led the way, jumping up 12.7p C or 11.44 per cent C to 123.7p on news it had managed to sell its Norwegian operations for $3.2bn. With the move raising the possibility of further deals in the insurance sector, peers Admiral and Aviva were also better off, shifting up 13.5p to 800.5p and 0.5p to 288.3p respectively.X Factor broadcaster ITV, meanwhile, was bumped up 1.35p to 62.35p after Ofcom revealed it was not going to recommend a full inquiry into the television advertising market. Panmure Gordon's Alex DeGroote said the news "may remove some of the regulatory discount" around the group, although traders were more interested because of their belief it looks cheap.At first it seemed as if Hargreaves Lansdown was heading for a day in the red, with the investment fund giant slipping back to 414p. Yet despite having its rating downgraded by Citigroup's Haley Tam to "neutral", with the analyst saying it would be hit next year by a low appetite for risk among investors, the group finished 13.5p better off at 434.9p.Another stock behind in early trading was Burberry, which slipped as dealers awoke to data from China C a key region for the upmarket brand C showing further signs it is being affected by the West's troubles. However, by the bell it had shrugged off the numbers to edge up 9p to 1,148p, even as JPMorgan Cazenove berated the market for being too optimistic over the luxury goods market's outlook for 2012.At the less high-end side of the retail sector, there was yet more bad news on the high street from the latest ONS sales figures for November showing a 0.4 per cent drop. Still, while JD Sports Fashion was knocked back 7.39 per cent to 570p, meaning its share price has retreated almost 19 per cent over the last week, at the other end of the FTSE 250 Carpetright managed to shoot up 40.1p to 477.5p.The unwanted title of being the mid-tier index's biggest loser went to International Personal Finance. The emerging markets lender confirmed analysts' worst fears by saying its profits would be significantly hit by recent foreign exchange changes, prompting it to slump 9.24 per cent to 165p.They say bad news comes in threes, and so it proved for Pursuit Dynamics yesterday. The AIM-listed technology developer left more than a few investors rather ashen-faced and nursing burnt fingers after it revealed not only had its full-year losses increased to 15.3m but that it was also launching a rights issue.On top of that, it announced its chief executive Roel Pieper had decided to resign, all of which resulted in its share price losing a whopping 54.24 per cent, as it dropped 110.25p to 93p.Elsewhere, Zoltav was still catching the attention of traders as they continued to speculate over the possibility of stakebuilders in the resources company, which moved 0.25p to 4.45p.?On a catwalk strewn with fallen leaves, models, male and female,came out in military great coats, Black Watch tartans, quiltedvelvet and tulle scattered with brightly coloured blooms. McQ wasin launched in 2006 but this was its runway debut. The AlexanderMcQueen main line will be shown in Paris in two weeks.McQueen being McQueen, however, while the collection was notsuch a grand affair as its rarefied big sister, its presentationwas never going to be anything less than spectacular.With that in mind, the show closed with American supermodelKristen McMenamy entering an absinthe hut in a never-ending forestthat appeared as if by magic and dressed, conversely, fromhead-to-toe in white, her wasp-waisted overblown ballerina gownscattered with velvet foliage.If London remains predominantly famous for its fledgling names,the exception that proves the rule is Burberry, a globallyrecognised international brand with the money and power behind itto match.Burberry Prorsum has been showcased in the British capital since2008 (prior to that the show was in Milan) and it gives LondonFashion Week an ultra-glossy and unusually corporate internationallift.Still, the label is quintessentially British at heart as couldbe seen in yesterday's procession of outerwear. Blanket coats,bombers, waxed jackets and of course the label's famous trenchcoat, this time cut in a gabardine and tweed mix, remain the coreof its business.Christopher Bailey, Burberry's creative director, understandsthis sensibility well. More typically English references came inthe form of flared riding skirts, voluminous dress shirts borrowedfrom men, animal print T-shirts, and for the country-house soiree,fringed dresses and quilted velvet in the colour of the forthcomingautumn season: ox-blood.Christopher Kane is a man who is known for taking thepotentially stuffy clichs of the bourgeois wardrobe and twistingthem slightly C or indeed quite a lot. His collection was inspired,he said, by art photographer Joseph Szabo's portraits of Americanteenagers and the ambivalence of adolescence. Here was a woman C orin fact a girl C who strode down the runway in leather andpinstripe, velvet and moire, all in hard as nails colours C royalblue, true red, purple and predominantly black C and emphaticallyheavy square-toed ankle boots and Mary-Jane shoes.If last season Kane invested the ubiquitous reference tomid-20th haute couture with a homespun feel, this time he darkenedit to the point where it was almost gothic, and certainly mournful,in flavour. Black roses on narrow knee-length dresses were morenasty than nice; the ribbons threaded through neck-and waist-lines,similarly, came not in fluttering silks but padded black leathertied into stiff bows.Chunky knit jumpers, cigarette pants and skinny leather coatsonly added to the impression of ferocity more than overt femininityin the stereotypical sense of the word.Giles Deacon's woman was a more grown-up creature although onewho clearly also has a far from conventional heart. "The furtheradventures of the disco Jacobean fairytale," was how the designersummed up his show.?I am struck by the ham analogy during a recent interview with Redmayne. Exactly 10 years since he was plucked from Cambridge University to play Viola opposite Mark Rylance's Olivia in a 400th-anniversary production of Twelfth Night, he has just learned that his current role as Richard II at the Donmar Warehouse has been crowned Best Shakespearean Performance at the Critics' Circle Awards C no mean feat, given the season has also seen heavyweight Shakespeare contributions from the likes of Spacey, Tennant, Sheen and Fiennes.In the decade between Viola and Richard, Redmayne has worked fastidiously and uncompromisingly. Allergic to anything resembling complacency, he rarely takes a day off. Now he is talking to me over a cup of tea before heading back to the theatre for that night's performance, and he is radiant with excitement at the Critics' Circle news. "It's just the loveliest, loveliest thing that could have happened," he admits. But where most actors would take such a prize as cue to relax and enjoy the last weeks of the run, Redmayne shakes his head. He's going back to work."Because you never get it right," he insists. "You never get it close to getting it right, you never get one line exactly how your notion of it should be. That's what's so exciting about theatre. Most actors hate watching their own films because all you can see is the glaring mistakes, your own tricks and ticks. But people often ask, how can you do the same play night after night for months on end and not get bored? And that's the reason. In theatre you always have the chance to try and fix what you did the night before."It seems remarkable that London-born Redmayne, who has just turned 30 and is having, by any definition, a golden moment, should remain so self-critical. As well as giving his Richard every night, making lines like "I live by bread like you, feel want/ Taste grief, need friends" seem revelatory, he is also gracing Sunday night TV screens as Stephen Wraysford in a landmark BBC1 adaptation of Sebastian Faulks's Birdsong, and charming cinema audiences in My Week With Marilyn. As soon as Richard II closes, the former Eton and Cambridge choral scholar is off to play (and sing) Marius in Tom Hooper's big-screen musical adaptation of Les Misrables, with Russell Crowe, Hugh Jackman, Helena Bonham Carter and Anne Hathaway. And with major theatre awards from the Olivier to the Tony already to his name, he is now up for a Bafta C this year's Rising Star Award, which is voted for by the public C and looking, increasingly, like the one to beat.But this is also the young man who was so unconvinced he would make it as an actor that he seriously considered other career options after graduating, including art history and banking (his father and one of his three brothers are in finance; nobody else in his family is in the arts). "I didn't go to drama school, so there was no official transformation stage, no moment where I got a certificate, even a bit of paper, saying 'right, you're allowed to do this now.'"."After university, I gave myself a year. I was working in a pub and doing excruciating auditions and wondering if my new agent who'd taken this huge punt on me would sack me, and I remember getting a part in an episode of Doctors and it was probably the most exciting thing that had ever happened in my life. Then I went to Liverpool to do a play called Master Harold... and the Boys and I was living in a hostel on my own for three months and it was the most wonderful experience. I started to think, secretly, 'Well, maybe I can do this.' But I came back to London and nobody took any notice and I went back to work at the pub. I always felt a bit fraudulent, like I was waiting to be exposed."Munching a biscuit, he contemplates this. "In a way, I still do. I still feel this incredible sense of gratitude that anybody actually lets me do this professionally."In any other actor, this might come across as galling false modesty. Given his current ubiquity it's easy to imagine Redmayne's success has arrived largely overnight; but that "star" to which the Bafta nomination alludes has been gradually rising for 10 years. It may also be tempting, considering the green eyes, 6ft 1in frame, and ridiculous cheekbones that have won him Burberry modelling contracts, to assume that this is just another talented pretty boy who happened to get lucky. But ever since Rylance gave him that first big break, Redmayne has personified the old adage that luck is merely what happens when hard work meets opportunity. As his CV has swelled, so too has his dedication; the more professional triumphs that have come his way, the more he has put his head down and worked harder."Listen, acting is not surgery," he remarks. "It's entertainment. You're doing something to hopefully move people, to make them laugh, to transport them. But actors are vulnerable, and the reason we're vulnerable is that we're always trying to recreate human behaviour. And any human being has the right to look at that behaviour and decide if it looks real to them or not."Everyone has that capacity for judgment, everyone can turn around and say, 'Sorry, but I just don't believe that.' So if you have thin skin C and I don't have particularly thick skin C then your need to constantly please people, well... it's completely impossible. That's why I still feel I've got so much work to do, to really try and nail this thing."?Birdsong ends Sunday, 9pm on BBC1. Richard II is at the Donmar Warehouse, London (www.donmarwarehouse.com) until 4 February. My Week with Marilyn is in cinemas now?Who is your style inspiration?It varies, but at the moment its the actor Edward Fox. Hes always been impeccably turned out, but his tweed suits, handmade shoes, perfectly placed tie knots and penchant for a double-breasted cardigan jacket seem so right.Whats your must-have this season?I dont think there is one. The idea of a must-have for men is an uncomfortable one. However, there are some great pieces this autumn that I certainly covet: a double-breasted, fitted tweed jacket by the French brand Ami; the Charlie Brown sweater by US designer Michael Bastian and a pair of washed leather Cormac boots by OKeeffe.Which trends are you focusing on for autumn?Two trends to enjoy this autumn are the country look, and the dandy one: the first is all about tweeds, corduroys, boots, waxed jackets and chunky sweaters; the second is the dashing return of the velvet jacket. These look great dressed up for evening, or down with jeans for daywear.Whats the best investment buy of the season?If you can only buy one thing, invest in a coat. Its the quickest way to update your wardrobe and the first item anyone sees when you walk into a room. If on a budget, I would recommend the navy wool coat by Ami, or the black peacoat by NN07.Give us your best shopping tip for men?I have to say this C shop online, spend time researching, get your clothes delivered to you, try them on in the comfort of your home and with your entire wardrobe to mix and match with, and if it doesnt fit, MrPorter.com will collect from you for free. Easy.All clothing available from mrporter.com?Stacey Smith, Menswear buyer at MatchesWhats your mens must-have this season?A good jacket will see you through autumn and beyond, and will form the centrepiece of your wardrobe. A biker C like this one by A Sauvage C is always a sound choice: you can wear it over a graphic tee, and layer it over knitwear as the temperature drops. Were also championing this wool and leather version by Acne; the mix of textures makes it a great update of a classic style.Whats your most important trend for autumn?We loved the deep, boozy reds we saw on the catwalks. A great shade to lift your wardrobe but not garish; see Amis heavy-duty burgundy roll neck.What are the best affordable and investment buys of the season?Any well-dressed man knows the devil is in the detail C tatty accessories can ruin even the best of looks. Andersons belts are colourful and make an affordable way to lift an off-duty look; or you could invest in Lanvins tartan trainers.Whos your style inspiration?For me, no one comes close to Marcello Mastroianni in La Dolce Vita. Its the way he wears impeccably pristine tailoring with such a sense of ease.Whats your best shopping tip?We offer a private shopping service C our team assess what you need for the season ahead and offer suggestions.All clothes available from matches.com?Lee Douros, Menswear buyer at My-wardrobe.comWhats your must-have this season?One of the most important purchases is a winter coat, with temperatures dropping so quickly now. Ive got my eye on a Burberry Brit coat this season. It has subtle military details, like epaulettes and double-breasted buttoning, which work well as part of the military trend that we saw on the catwalks. The ceylon brown colour [thats tea to us civilians C Ed] is a fresh take on standard camel coats.Whats your most important trend for autumn?Theres a feeling of a smartening up within menswear this season. Field jackets make way for blazers, polo tops for smarter shirts.Whats the best investment buy for the season?This striking Fair Isle knit by Barbour is a great investment piece and an on-trend pattern for the season. It also has great longevity as you will be able to wear it throughout the autumn; layer it under coats for winter C and its the perfect Christmas jumper to boot!Whos your style inspiration?I cant say one person gives me all the inspiration I need; I get it from friends and people around me, from the catwalks of my favourite designers, from well-styled editorial shoots, and from street-style blogs.Whats your best shopping tip?I think men let themselves down so often by not investing in good-quality shoes. Scuffed, old shoes really pull down a good outfit. Investing in three or four good pairs will see you through a few years of wear, as long as you take care of the leather.All clothing available from mywardrobe.com?Jake Bancroft Menswear buyer, Coggles.comWhat's your must-have this season?I think a new piece of outerwear is always a good choice. A deconstructed blazer with a slight point of difference is a great seasonal piece. The Our Legacy three-button blazer looks great with an oversized 'T' and the cuff turned back.What's your most important trend for autumn?Always keep an eye on tailoring. Look for the introduction of technical fabrics to add a touch of sportswear to a contemporary outfit. Brooklyn We Go Hard (BWGH) are having a great season with their sweats, and working on collaborations with Opening Ceremony and Maison Kitsun.What's the best investment buy of the season?A good pair of shoes is worth every penny and can transform an outfit. Anything from the Common Projects range is key to my wardrobe.Best shopping tip?Take a little time on the extras. There's increasing awareness of the importance of fragrance and grooming. Comme des Gar?ons has recently released its new 'Amazing Green' fragrance, very subtle but fresh and energising with notes of dew mist, gunpowder and jungle leaves.Who's your style inspiration?I'm not a huge fan of looking for complete inspiration from someone, but for effortless style, Jean-Paul Belmondo (Breathless): trim trouser with a cuff and crease, deconstructed blazers and oversized shirting barely buttoned up.All clothing available from coggles.com?Adam Kelly, Menswear buying manager, SelfridgesWhat's your must-have for this season?Oxblood red is a great alternative to black; look out for gorgeous autumnal shades from Marni and Margiela.What are the most important trends?Sportswear has been re-imagined in some really fresh, high-end ways. Bomber jackets are going nowhere C we saw many interpretations at the shows. McQ and Margiela in particular have beautiful ones.Give us your best investment for the coming monthsIf you're looking to branch out into a new designer, Marni is my number-one tip right now. Caps are absolutely huge and a satchel makes a great option for everyday use. This Cambridge Satchel Company version is really current. Dior are one of the brands owning the high-end hi-top this season C I like the understated-ness of their take. And finally, a one-button suit can create a really sharp shape C this is my ultimate investment piece for the season. It lasts forever.Who's your style inspiration?Cary Grant and Steve McQueen are icons in their fashion fields.What's your best shopping tip?Don't be afraid of accessories.All clothing available from selfridges.com?The figures show the struggle to smash the "glass ceiling" in boardrooms is accelerating. Recent months have seen 44 per cent of all new board-level appointments going to women, including Genevive Berger (pictured) at the pharma giant AstraZeneca, Miranda Curtis at the retailer Marks & Spencer and Diana Layfield at the temporary power group Aggreko.Only eight all-male boards remain, mainly made up of miners and including Glencore, Xstrata, Vedanta and Antofagasta. That's a sharp decline from the 21 exclusively male boardrooms noted by Lord Davies, the former trade minister, when he produced his Government-commissioned report in February 2011.Overall 16.7 per cent of FTSE 100 board seats are held by women, the Professional Boards Forum reported. To reach the 25 per cent target for 2015, another 91 seats must go to women.Elin Hurvenes, founder of The Professional Boards Forum, said: "The figures contradict recent reports that chairmen only recruit mirror images of themselves. It also puts to rest the argument that board-ready women don't exist. UK chairmen are doing a good job."The drinks giant Diageo has the most women in the boardroom, with 44 per cent of directors being female. Burberry and Pearson, both led by women, are next best, with 38 per cent and 33 per cent female representation.?The figures show the struggle to smash the "glass ceiling" in boardrooms is intensifying. In recent months, 44 per cent of all board-level appointments have gone to women, including Genevive Berger at the pharmaceuticals giant AstraZeneca, Miranda Curtis at the retailer Marks & Spencer and Diana Layfield at the temporary power supplier Aggreko.Only eight all-male boards remain, mainly at mining companies such as Glencore, Xstrata, Vedanta and Antofagasta. That's a sharp decline from the 21 exclusively male boardrooms noted by Lord Davies, the former trade minister, when he produced his Government-commissioned report in February 2011.Overall 16.7 per cent of FTSE 100 board seats are held by women, the Professional Boards Forum reported. To reach the 25 per cent target for 2015, another 91 seats must go to women.Elin Hurvenes, the forum's founder, said: "The figures contradict recent reports that chairmen only recruit mirror images of themselves. It also puts to rest the argument that board-ready women don't exist. UK chairmen are doing a good job."The drinks giant Diageo has the most women in the boardroom? 44 per cent of its directors are female.Burberry and Pearson, both led by women, are next best, with 38 and 33 per cent female representation respectively.?However, the group C which is best-known for its handbags that are endorsed by celebrities C saw a sharp slowdown in its underlying sales growth to 18 per cent over the last 10 weeks, which it blamed on being up against soaring revenues in the same period in 2010. Still, Godfrey Davis, the chief executive of Mulberry, struck a bullish tone on its growth prospects, as it plots nine new stores globally in the second half. He said: "We expect to continue showing a healthy rate of growth C that is the underlying story." Fashion groups, such as Mulberry and Burberry, have continued to power ahead, as well-heeled shoppers globally show few, if any, signs of cutting back on buying luxury products. Mulberry grew its pre-tax profits by 231 per cent to 15.6m over the six months to 30 September. This uplift was helped by a 2.3 per cent rise in the group's gross margins to 66.2 per cent. Soaring retail sales up by 47 per cent C higher by 44 per cent on a like-for-like basis C also galvanised its profits. Matching this underlying sales figure, Mr Davis said it has enjoyed "good growth" around the UK at its shops in cities, such as in Birmingham, Glasgow and Cardiff. But he particularly highlighted the uplift in London driven by overseas tourists. "We are seeing more of the travelling consumers visiting London and seeking out our stores. The tax-free shoppers have increased in our Bond Street, Harrods and Selfridges [shops]."He added: "We are seeing significant numbers of Chinese in London and also Koreans, as well as Brazilians in London and New York. It is almost the march of the new order." South Korea was Mulberry's fastest-growing country over the half year, although Mr Davis also cited a strong performance in Hong Kong. Boosted by a 93 per cent rise in wholesale orders, Mulberry's total revenues jumped by 62 per cent to 72.3m. The scale of its growth C helped by international expansion C is illustrated by the fact that its sales over the half year exceeded those in the 12 months to March 2010. Mr Davis said: "This rate of growth is above our planned rate." He attributed the slowdown in sales over the 10 weeks to 3 December to Mulberry delivering sales up by 66 per cent over the same period in 2010. Its trading last year was boosted by the introduction of new ranges of its popular Bayswater and Alexa handbags around that time. The price range of these bags typically starts at 575 but goes up to 3,500. Shares in Mulberry, which are up nearly 70 per cent this year, rose by 6p to 1,500p.?Lifted by strong trading in Asian markets and a 30% rise in sales from 45 stores and department store concessions in the UK, Mulberry reported a 54% jump in profits to 36 million for the year to March 31.While sales growth has slowed in the weeks since then, Mulberry will press ahead with recently announced plans to open a second factory in Somerset in a move creating 300 jobs and doubling its UK capacity.The 7.5 million project in Bridgwater, which is being supported by the Regional Growth Fund, comes less than a year after it completed the extension of its existing factory at Chilcompton, Somerset, creating 60 new jobs.Revenues rose 38% to 168.5 million over the last financial year, helped by new stores in New York and at Westfield Stratford near the Olympic site.The company's best known product of recent times has been the Alexa bag - inspired by style icon Alexa Chung - while in recent weeks it has launched the Del Rey bag, which is inspired by American artist Lana Del Rey.Mulberry said store sales were up 12% for the 10 weeks to last Saturday as it comes up against tougher comparatives with a year earlier and as trading conditions become more difficult.Chairman Godfrey Davis said: "While the current economic conditions make the short term trading outlook more challenging in some markets, we remain confident about Mulberry's long-term future."Shares fell 20% today, undoing some of their 50% hike in the past year, as profits were 2 million less than the City forecast.Matthew McEachran, an analyst at Singer Capital Markets, said the 25%increase in the dividend was also below expectations but he believes growth prospects remain "exciting".The group plans to open between 15 and 20 international stores this year, including in South Korea, San Francisco, Singapore, Japan andShanghai.Jaana Jatyri, chief executive of fashion forecaster Trendstop.com, said: "More than even Burberry, perhaps, Mulberry is a brand that has benefited from the growing demand in Asia."Some are even buying Mulberry hand-crafted handbags as an investment, seeing them as a safe haven similar to gold."The group, which was founded in 1971 by Roger Saul and his motherJoan, recently appointed Frenchman Bruno Guillon, former managing director of luxury brand Hermes, as chief executive.PA?The group, whose best selling products include its Alexa handbag named after television presenter Alexa Chung, enjoyed a 41% sales boom in the six weeks to January 14 as the high end of the fashion market proved resilient to the economic gloom.Somerset-based Mulberry is likely to have benefited from strong demand from its stores in Asia and from affluent Asian tourists visiting stores in the West.It has opened 11 new outlets overseas since March, including a flagship store in New York and sites in Singapore, Bangkok, Taipei and five in South Korea, bringing its total to 92, with more than half overseas.Shares rose 6% after the group said profits for the year to March 31 are likely to be higher than the 29% rise to 30.1 million it had previously expected.Chairman and chief executive Godfrey Davis said he was delighted with the latest sales performance, which represented a marked acceleration on the 14% rise in the previous 10 weeks.Mulberry has upgraded its profit forecasts three times in a year and last month announced half-year profits more than trebled to 15.6 million.The company, which was founded in 1971 by Roger Saul and his mother Joan in Somerset, has ambitions to transform itself into a major global brand, following in the footsteps of UK label Burberry.It plans to open more stores in South Korea early this year and it recently poached French chief executive Bruno Guillon from luxury brand Hermes to spearhead its growth. He will take over from Mr Davis from March 1.Mulberry has also invested 2 million expanding its factory, The Rookery, in Chilcompton, Somerset, increasing the brand's manufacturing capacity by 30% and creating 50 jobs.Philip Dorgan, an analyst at Panmure Gordon, said: "This is yet another extraordinarily strong update from Mulberry."It has barely scratched the surface of its global potential, with only a handful of stores in many key luxury goods markets."He upgraded his full-year profits forecast by 2 million to 37 million, while the following year's figure was also pushed up by 1 million to 45 million.PA?When I was a child I wanted to be... a bed tester. I loved sleeping and I said to my mum, is there a job where someone can test beds and tell people which are the comfiest?If I could change one thing about myself... To think a bit more before I do things; I tend to be quite fearless in jumping into things.You wouldn't know it but I am very good at... boxing. I started a few years ago in New York.You may not know it but I'm no good at... dancing. I always feel like I'm an awkward teenager at a school disco.At night I dream of... I used to have a recurring dream when I was a child C you know that scene in Star Wars where Chewbacca's in the garbage disposal?I wish I had never worn... Nothing C I feel like whatever I wear is cool. You make that decision, you've got to roll with it.What I see when I look in the mirror... Myself. I really do.My favourite item of clothing... At the moment, I have this new floral Joseph dress which I can't take off C it reminds me of grunge.It's not fashionable but I like... going to see classical music live.I drive... my bicycle.My house is... At the moment, it's a hotel.My favourite work of art... I love Damien's 'spot paintings', they're so cool. He's the nicest guy I ever met. He's such a northern monkey.My favourite building... Whenever I'm in London, I always love running past Buckingham Palace.A book that changed me... The Little Prince. I read it as a child and it's one I always have a look at.Movie heaven... I like a drama, something really gritty C I love English, independent films, like Dead Man's Shoes, London to Brighton.My greatest regret... No regrets.The last time I cried... My friend had a baby and I went to see her in the hospital just after she'd had it C I was like, "Oh my God, someone just came on to the planet! You made her!".My five-year plan... I suppose I'll be 34... I hope I'll have a few kids, have progressed in my acting career, and have a lot of love in my life.What's the point? To find meaning.My life in six words... Who knows what's gonna happen next?A LIFE IN BRIEFAgyness Deyn was born Laura Hollins, in 1983. She grew up in Rawtenstall, Lancashire, and famously worked in her local fish and chip shop. Deyn was spotted by a talent scout at 19; she made her catwalk debut for Marc Jacobs in New York in 2006. Deyn went on to grace the covers of Vogue, i-D and Love, and has fronted campaigns for Mulberry, Burberry and Armani. She appears in the film Pusher, and will be starring in The Leisure Society, at Trafalagr Studios, Tuesday to 31 March. Deyn is based in LA?The group, which started as a shirt store in Glasgow in 1988, is following in the footsteps of UK brands Burberry and Mulberry by building a global footprint and last year opened stores in Hong Kong, Paris, San Diego and Manchester.It plans more openings in Fifth Avenue in New York, Brompton Road in London, Toronto and China and last week opened in Tokyo - its first outlet in Japan.The new stores and strong wholesale trade helped sales rise 15% to 215.6 million in the year to January 28 and underlying profits increase 12% to 27.1 million in a performance founder Ray Kelvin described as "excellent".Unlike many of its rivals, it did not have to put on special offers over the Christmas period to drum up trade and sold all of its stock by the end of the season.The group also said its new spring ranges have been well received since their recent launch.Mr Kelvin said: "This has been a very exciting year for the Ted Baker brand."We have further developed our presence in established markets with new stores in Europe, the US and Hong Kong and laid strong foundations to support growth into new markets in 2012."PA?But, as the autumn 2012 collections are unveiled, more and more designers are questioning the format; seeking something new in an age where digital culture means every image is beamed straight to an audience at home and cloistered, exclusive runways are no longer the most practical way of promoting their labels."There has been a massive change," says photographer Nick Knight, founder of SHOWstudio.com, which live-streams shows as well as interviews and fashion shoots. "The public are seeing clothes as they are shown, rather than in magazines three months later. And they want them when they see them."The industry has been slow to react to the immediacy afforded by Twitter, where pictures from shows are uploaded in their thousands, but the revival of resort and pre-collections (which bridge the gap between summer and autumn, and are often cheaper) has proved a successful way of connecting with customers in real time. Burberry collections can now be pre-ordered online directly from the catwalk show, and pieces arrive up to six weeks later. But shows remain the primary way of communicating one's vision or message. When London Fashion Week opens next week, more than 100m-worth of orders will be placed. It will host 5,000-plus visitors at more than 70 shows and 40 presentations C all of those who enter the site must be accredited, with a professional reason to be there.But does that make sense in the age of the amateur, where any fashion-obsessed teenager can create their own blog and online following, and when some of them end up on the front row?Designer Richard Nicoll's shows have been a highlight of the capital's schedule for several years, but this season will show his collection as a live digital installation. "I started to feel limited by the traditional catwalk format," he explains. "The way we are presenting our autumn collection allows us to engage in a more intimate way. It's not about it being 'better' than a catwalk show C more about this new format feeling more relevant to my collections, now that they are so regular and are equally commercially important."Nicoll's view is becoming increasingly prevalent at a time when many labels are launching up to six collections a year, sometimes more. At Chanel, Karl Lagerfeld oversees the label's main collections, as well as resort, pre-fall, couture and an annual metiers d'art exposition to showcase the craftsmanship of the atelier. There are sumptuous events for each C an under-the-sea wonderland, flying guests to Cannes, a couture show presented on a catwalk made to look like the innards of a private jet C but many labels do not have the capacity for such largesse, so the shift away from catwalks could have a happy side-effect for bank accounts."Catwalk shows cost a lot," says Rosie Vogel, Vogue's fashion bookings editor, who produces London shows, including Meadham Kirchhoff (whose presentation last season opened with can-canning Courtney Love lookalikes and closed with pirouetting pre-teen ballerinas) and Topshop Unique, one of the biggest events on the schedule. "A venue might cost 30,000 or 40,000; production costs will be tens of thousands. Then there's the set, 400 to 500 hundred pounds per model and they'll need fifteen of them. You might be able to get hair and make-up sponsored by someone like MAC, but you need to pay assistants. So you need sponsors C but then there's the question of how much integrity you lose." It's no wonder some designers are outfaced by the scale of things. But there are reasons other than cost that might mean they opt out of the traditional format. Tom Ford's shows are held for small audiences, very few members of the press, with a strict "no photographs, no reviews" policy. His designs are bought by a small but reliable coterie of private customers, many of whom attend the show and he is vocal about the fact that designers' wares are shown six months ahead of hitting the shops, giving the high street ample time to copy pieces and release them before the originals. Catwalks in an internet age are almost an invitation for copycatting.Before the web took hold, high-street designers used to cadge and bargain for showreels. Now they can just look online.To this end, Cline's creative director, Phoebe Philo, has banned photography and tweeting backstage at her shows and from showroom appointments. The designer surprised press last month with the announcement that she would not being holding a catwalk show in Paris this season because she is pregnant, opting instead for a smaller presentation format. "Phoebe is in a position to do whatever she wants," adds Rosie Vogel. "It's very admirable to scale things down so she doesn't feel pressured. After all, John Galliano was sacked immediately and the show still went ahead. It reflects her and is testament to how involved she is."Likewise, other names have shunned the catwalk for a medium more suited to their own vision. Helmut Lang was the first to live-stream his collection without putting on a show in 1998, inviting editors and buyers to see the pieces first-hand at appointments. And Gareth Pugh creates video installations with film-maker Ruth Hogben each season.They're certainly a change from his formative London shows: characterised by a scrum of (usually uninvited) fans and peppered with whoops and screams at his more outlandish pieces, they felt like moments, embodiments of a zeitgeist.In cyberspace, of course, no-one can hear you cheer. In that way, fashion has become more democratic C that everyone might experience the thrill and innovation of designers such as Pugh and Alexander McQueen (whose final show before his death was one of the first to be live-streamed on SHOWstudio) C but it makes it much less easy to keep tabs on who's viewing it and what nascent tastes approve of. And, whatever the current feeling, these are not reins that the industry really wants to let go of.?During the boom it was possible to at least pretend class was no more C that "we're all middle class now". As the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown had pronounced the end of "boom and bust", and it seemed as though a future of rising living standards beckoned for all. At a time of economic chaos, this period looks like a golden age C even if we now know our sense of prosperity was built on sand.Chavs was my contribution to ending the conspiracy of silence over class. But, unexpectedly, it pushed at an open door. Economic crisis helped to refocus attention on the unjust distribution of wealth and power in society. Throughout 2011, living standards for the average Briton were declining at the fastest rate since the 1920s. The Child Poverty Action Group warned that poor families faced a "triple whammy" of benefit, support and service cuts. But the wealth of the richest 1,000 Britons, meanwhile, increased by a fifth, after leaping by 30 per cent C the biggest increase ever recorded C in 2010.For some critics, the book failed to acknowledge that the object of demonization was an identifiable subgroup of undesirables C a workless Burberry-wearing underclass C rather than the working class as a whole. It aimed to challenge the myth that "we're all middle class now": that most of the old working class had been 'aspirational' and joined Middle Britain (whatever that was), leaving behind a feckless, problematic rump. This was often racialized and described as the "white working class". "Chavs" was the term C encompassing a whole range of pejorative connotations C that best summed up this caricature.The term "chav" is used by different groups of people throughout British society. Practically nobody, except in jest, self-identifies as a chav. The term is almost always an insult imposed on individuals against their consent.In large part, the demonization of the working class is the legacy of a concerted effort to shift public attitudes, which began under Thatcher, continued with New Labour and has gained further momentum under the Coalition. Poverty and unemployment were no longer to be seen as social problems, but more to do with individual moral failings. Anyone could make it if they tried hard enough, or so the myth went. Of course, few would have known from reading newspapers or watching TV that the Jobseekers' Allowance was worth just 67.50 C and even less for those under the age of 26. And of course, such attitudes have political consequences. It was also suggested that I had a very one-dimensional view of the working class: that what I was actually talking about was a male, white working class. But in fact many of the key examples of demonised figures portrayed as representative of larger groups of people were women C Karen Matthews, Jade Goody and Vicky Pollard, for example. Though chavs are often regarded as "white working-class" figures, it should be noted that the book was intentionally titled "the demonization of the working class" rather than "the white working class". After long arguing "we're all middle class", the media and politicians started talking about the working class again, but in a racialised form.Where race does come into it is the fact that working-class people from ethnic minority backgrounds suffer from other forms of oppression and exploitation. The majority of British Bangladeshis and Pakistanis, for example, live in poverty, while black people are far more likely to be stopped by the police. One of the main reasons politicians and media commentators started talking about the "white working class" was the emergence of far-right populism, as most prominently expressed by the British National Party. But Chavs argued that such movements were, above all, driven by social and economic insecurities. ?The burgers were good, as burgers go, and a couple of decent cocktails dealt with the inner curmudgeon. But as I turned in my 30 share of the bill, I experienced that same feeling of vague resignation that closes many of my meals out in the British capital. It took another six months before I hit on exactly what was disappointing me about London's dining scene, and it was in the last place you might have expected: Paris.Long considered to have fallen behind London as a culinary trendsetter, the French capital is viewed condescendingly by all but the most informed of foodies and Francophiles on this side of the Channel as a teacher we've outgrown. They will point to crummy tourist-trap brasseries, overblown haute cuisine and McDonald's at the Louvre as evidence of its dramatic fall from grace. And where it does succeed, it is still playing catch-up, poor thing, they will simper. The truth is, here in London, we have nothing to learn from Paris any more.On an early autumn night a few weeks ago, however, I found myself in east Paris, in the rough and ready 20th arrondissement, receiving what felt like a re-education in dining out. A French friend had recommended Roseval, a new restaurant run by talented young chefs Michael Greenwold, a 28-year-old Brit, and Simone Tondo, a 24-year-old Sardinian, that has become an instant hit since its July opening.An unassuming little corner plot, Roseval seats around 20 in its pocket-square-sized dining-room. Roughly plastered white walls and simple wooden furniture allow the space to breathe but retain a homely feel. Unlike London, where the fashion for "no-bookings" means a meal now routinely begins with a two-hour wait, there's no queuing or names on clipboards, just plain old reservations. And no choosing what to eat, either C like many Paris restaurants now, Roseval offers a set menu only, although you can ring ahead for special requirements. I was more than happy to cede control C a welcome pause in the endless flow of decision-making, there's also something companionable about eating the same thing as everyone else at the table.That we were in playful but skilled hands was made clear by the starter: a salted ricotta soup with mackerel and heirloom tomatoes, prettily sprinkled with chive flowers and lemon breadcrumbs, took the bright flavours of a salad into unexpected forms. A dish of cod, tempered bone marrow, tangy wild sorrel, and pil-pil emulsion sitting atop soft, buttery potato was a featherweight delight, while 12-hour-cooked pork belly, finished on the grill, deglazed with Muscat grape juice and served with endive and gambas fair cured me of my indifference to that meat.After a perfect panna cotta topped with sweet, earthy fig, the final course of almond ice-cream, cloaked in crumbs of olive-oil cake and 28-month-aged pecorino and spiked with wild blackberries was a fitting summation of the chefs' facility with vivid combinations and lightness of touch. With each course, Greenwold and Tondo zipped back and forth from their basement kitchen to present the dish to diners.It was a great meal by any measure, but at a prix fixe of 35 (just shy of 28), it was jaw-dropping. With a rather indulgent wine choice, we knocked the price up to nearer 40 a head, but it still felt like a steal for something genuinely special. Shuffling into the night, buoyed by a glass of dessert wine on the house as we waited at the bar for a cloudburst to ease, I reflected on what the same sum might have bought me in London. My burger and kitchen roll with a few more cocktails on the side? A couple of decent courses, provided you opt for the house wine, in Soho?Before the Olympics, in a last-minute sales pitch for the city, Boris Johnson boasted that London had more Michelin-starred restaurants than Paris C though it's odd that, when those stars were more plentiful on the Continent, they connoted fussy soft furnishings and overwrought food, whereas now they are used as hard evidence that Brits do it better. No matter C for the vast majority of people, comparisons at that high-falutin level are about as relevant as whether you should buy Chanel or Burberry.You can, of course, eat fantastically well for rather a lot of money in London C and for very little, if you go frill-free. It's finding something in the middle that's not mediocre which is the problem. If you're neither a restaurant critic nor exceptionally wealthy, just someone in gainful employment who'd like to go out for a properly good, interesting meal without breaking the 50 ceiling, London is a tricky prospect. If you're not crazy about inane gimmicks or gentrified fast food, it can be quite depressing.Paris, meanwhile, is full of possibilities. Happily for its denizens, Roseval is not a bargainous aberration, but typical of a local, independent restaurant scene founded on the talents of a fresh generation of young chefs, many of whom are not French, but have cut their teeth in some of the city's most creative kitchens and are now boldly striking out alone with their first ventures. Yes, there is also a clutch of trendy burger and steak joints, but they aren't setting the tone. Meg Zimbeck, editor of the Paris by Mouth restaurant blog, cites the recently opened Abri and the reopened Vivant Table, both of which have Japanese chefs, alongside Roseval as her top picks of the new season.Common features include addresses in scruffier parts of town (but we're talking mainly the 10th and 20th arrondissements here, not the back end of the banlieues), low-key dcor and a deliberately relaxed environment C all of which mean they can offer inventive dishes and pristine produce at a ridiculously fair price."I still think that one can eat better in Paris than almost anywhere else in the world, but the action is no longer happening at the haute-cuisine level," explains Zimbeck. "Chefs who have interned at Michelin-starred restaurants are now performing on smaller, more personal stages where they can innovate and use ingredients that go beyond foie gras, truffle and turbot. The calibre of lunch that you can have in Paris for 25 is unmatched anywhere in the world."Youthful, dynamic and international in outlook, the scene is miles away from the aforementioned caricature of Parisian cooking over here. When I call Greenwold, to ask if he and Tondo will share their insider perspective on the contemporary Paris scene with a Londoner, he seems surprised: "I just didn't think anyone knew much about what's going on over here," says the Oxfordshire-raised chef. "I see articles about Paris in the food and travel sections of British papers, but I don't feel there's been that acknowledgement of what's been happening here."I mention that the most recent face of Parisian dining is expat Brit Rachel Khoo, who had TV audiences drooling over her mismatched crockery, vintage dresses and her own, not especially exciting, "takes" on French cooking. "Is she a chef?" asks Tondo. "Well, she describes herself as a food 'creative' I think she opened a pop-up restaurant in her flat," I offer. Tondo rolls his eyes.So though we clearly love a bit of Amlie-esque Paris, when it comes to bistronomie C the move away from classic haute cuisine towards a more experimental style of cooking, offered in casual "neo-bistro" surroundings and at more affordable prices C we have been pretty slow on the uptake.The seeds were sown by chefs such as Pascal Barbot as far back as 2000, but it found its full definition in the mid-noughties. In 2006, French-born Basque chef Inaki Aizpitarte brought daring reinventions of bistro fare and a slug of rock'n'roll glamour with his highly acclaimed Chateaubriand (Greenwold's training ground and currently 15th in the World's 50 Best Restaurants list). Gregory Marchand, returning from stints in New York and London, where he worked closely with Jamie Oliver C whose influence may be detected as much in his fashion sense as his approach to food C opened the insanely popular Frenchie in 2009.Beyond a commitment to quality, simplicity and accessibility, the rules of bistronomie are pretty much that there ain't no rules C creativity and individuality are its watchwords. It's this ethos that has encouraged the Roseval generation to forge ahead with their personal visions, diversifying the scene and maintaining its dynamism.All this flies in the face of accounts of the demise of Parisian gastronomy C as recently as 2009, US journalist Michael Steinberger's award-winning Au Revoir to All That presented a seemingly persuasive argument that the decline of the country's food, yoked to the offering in Paris, mirrored France's dwindling political and economic status. Although purporting to be as much eulogy as elegy, Steinberger's tome drove another nail into the metaphorical coffin in which international media seemed happy to inter Paris's culinary prowess.Yet Steinberger's argument has not dated especially well in these recessionary times. Mocking the French distrust of free-market economics and globalisation, he also drew a direct link between the "vast amounts of wealth created in London", Spain's "flourishing" economy and their rise as gastronomic powerhouses, fuelled by diners with deep pockets. But if (temporarily) booming economies spurred a certain kind of innovation, the new genre of dining that was being created in Paris was better placed to weather a downturn. Increasingly, it looks as though the French were wise to have scaled things down in the dining-room while others were ramping them up.Paris's latest clutch of restaurant openings also shows up the fallacy of another broader claim often made about France, that the country's labour laws and bureaucracy strangle entrepreneurial spirit. I ask Greenwold whether it would have been any easier to open a restaurant in London. Though he admits the bureaucracy was maddening, it seems to galvanise the city's cheffing community (friends in the business obligingly lent Greenwold and Tondo their business plan to copy). And the bottom line is money: "We could do what we wanted here for a lot less. Even in east London I can't imagine we could have opened this for less than half a million; here we did it for 150k. Our rent is expensive by Parisian standards, but cheap for London. We'd love to do something in London, but we'd need serious investment." The figures go a long way to explaining differences in the capitals' dining options. In Paris, you can go small-scale and do OK. In London, mere survival requires something very commercial. Something like a burger on a piece of kitchen roll, perhaps.Not long after my Paris trip, I speak to Luc Dubanchet, the food critic and former Gault-Millau guide editor who 10 years ago, bored with the capital's staid restaurant scene, founded Omnivore, a food publication set up in explicit opposition to the Michelin Guide and the stuffy approach to eating he felt it encouraged. Since then, the magazine has fought passionately to define and promote the new wave of jeune cuisine simmering away in Paris.I ask Dubanchet if he is pleased with how far the city has come. "Well, I was right that we could do better C so that's good," he laughs. "Paris is great now; you can feel something there which is about excitement rather than history and Michelin stars. But it's fragile. Everywhere, not only in France, you have to fight for something new all the time."It is in a spirit of enquiry and exchange that Dubanchet launched the Omnivore "World Tour", a series of events across the globe connecting local chefs with their counterparts from Paris and around Europe for a programme of dinners and masterclasses. The Roseval boys are among those now involved: Tondo showed me a large Babushka tattoo on his arm that commemorated their stint at a recent Moscow event, confirming the youthful, irreverent nature of the gatherings.I ask whether either of them might be acquiring some London-themed body art any time soon. "I think so," says Greenwold. "I don't know how the kind of thing we're doing over here will go down to be honest. The [east London-based chefs] Young Turks are part of Omnivore and I know that they've got quite a lot of attention in London with some of their combinations. James [Lowe] does a dish that's aged steak cut into a tartare with an oyster emulsion. It's really good, I'm not knocking it as a dish, but if you look at what's been going on there, it's not that out there. If people think that's crazy in London, they're going to think that the kind of stuff Inaki does, and maybe we do sometimes well, they're going to think it's fucking weird." Perhaps we're not quite the cutting-edge sophisticates we think we are.Dubanchet is a big fan of a good hamburger, so he has no sympathy for my kitchen-roll-related woes in London. But he is unimpressed when I tell him of a recent meal in Piccadilly's new Brasserie Zedel, the vast, Disney-esque repro French bistro that has been serving up competent oeuf mayonnaises and choucroute at chain-restaurant prices to the general approval of the city's critics. "There are so many French copies. Even here in France there are French copies. Why another one?" he sighs. "You have to be careful you don't get too complacent. Otherwise, you will wake up and find that you're, well, French."Ooh la la! The brightest young stars of Parisian cuisineAbriAlready a foodie favourite since opening last month. Japanese chef Katsuaki Okiyama turns out exquisite plates, such as potato soup with coffee and cardamom foam, in a low-fi setting. A prix fixe four-course lunch is 22; six-course dinner 38.50. Abri's excellent sandwiches, served all day, are fast becoming legendary too. 92 Rue du Faubourg-Poissonnire, 75010, tel: (00 33) 1 83 97 00 00ChatomatThe international pedigree of the young couple behind this diminutive restaurant (Victor is French, Alice Italo-Brasilo-French) makes for bright, thoroughly modern cooking in an unpretentious atmosphere befitting its Mnilmontant location. Described as adorable by Le Figaro's redoubtable critic Fran?ois Simon, dinner la carte averages 40. Closed lunch. 6 Rue Victor Letalle, 75020, tel: (00 33) 1 47 97 25 77Chez AlineAlthough strictly speaking not a restaurant, this is unlike any snack bar you'll have known. Housed in a former horsemeat butchers, Delphine Zampetti (aka Mrs Inaki Aizpitarte) turns out superlative sandwiches (from 4.50) and a couple of plats du jour (10). Try the rabbit baguette with sundried tomatoes or go old-school Parisian with a simple jambon-beurre. 85 Rue de la Roquette 75011, tel: (00 33) 1 43 71 90 75Restaurant Pierre Sang BoyerA finalist in the French equivalent of Masterchef, Korean-born Boyer opened a spot in trendy Oberkampf this summer, where imaginative but polished cooking rules: veal tartare with figs; gambas with aubergine caviar and frozen banana slices. Trust us, it's good. The four-course prix fixe is 35. Sadly, no reservations are taken. 55 Rue Oberkampf, 75011, no phoneVivant TableThe bistro formerly known as Vivant has reopened with an upgrade on the menu as well as the name, thanks to two skilled Japanese chefs, Atsumi Sota and Masaki Yamamoto. Early whispers describe the food as "mind-blowing", but there have been quibbles over the prices C 45 for the fixe C which shows the value Parisians expect. A bar vins opens next door soon. 43 Rue des Petites Ecuries, 75011, tel: (00 33) 1 42 46 43 55?A brief glimpse of the former Libertines frontman's tattooed torso and scarred belly reveal the ravages of his 32 years. He quickly replaces his T-shirt, which had been inside-out, and begins posing moodily for photographs, in a room littered with strange objects: taxidermy, antique furniture and canvases. Is this for a music video? Has he got an album coming out? No. It may look pretty rock'n'roll, but it is, in fact, the start of Doherty's bid to be taken seriously as a fine artist.Jumpy like a cat, Doherty shows me around London's Cob Gallery, where his first UK solo art exhibition (he showed work at the Chappe gallery in Paris in 2008) will open next week. Most of the artwork is yet to arrive, but nine canvases are scattered around the black-walled, underground space in Camden. The paintings are spare, with lots of white space showing through linear outlines, glued-on paper and Doherty's spidery scrawl. Their unifying feature, apart from the artist's signature, is that they have been painted in blood. Doherty's blood. It is a technique he refers to as "arterial splatter": an ex-girlfriend's father coined the phrase. The streaky, brown-ish marks, by turns thick (as if he's just swished a bloodied thumb across the surface) and bespattered (he squirts his blood from a syringe) are unmistakably human.A further 20 new blood-paintings will be shipped in from Paris, where the singer now lives, to form the top half of a collaboration between the curators of Cob and another gallery, Guts for Garters. The show is called On Blood: A Portrait of the Artist. The first part of the title refers to his blood paintings, and the latter half to a decision by curator Cassie Beadle to exhibit a selection of strange curiosities, trinkets and detritus hoarded by Doherty over the years.Painting is something of a collective process for Doherty. A "fucking accurate" portrait of his friend Peter Wolfe, from the band Wolfman and the Side-Effects, was drawn by his friend Aliz Meurisse, and Doherty has added a splatter or two and some song lyrics into the mix. An early portrait of The Libertines, which the artist modestly disparages, has been added to, not only by his eight-year-old son Astile, but also by his good friend, the late Amy Winehouse, who drew a small self-portrait in her own blood."She was on the phone to her dad when she did that. She said, 'Dad, I'm with Pete and he's making me draw with my blood!' He didn't like me much, her dad."The actress Charlotte Gainsbourg added a sketch of a house to a painting called Leet Strife C a less pretentious title than "Street Life", he says.Doherty explains that for his newest works he has been using watercolours. He says it is the only way he can begin to replicate the "emulsive, wishy-washy residue on the neck of a crack-cocaine bottle". Alarmingly, he then reaches into his pocket and pulls out a broken crack-pipe ("It's an old one, I promise") and holds the glass up to the light so I can see the silvery remains of the drugs."Look at the colours, the oranges. You see that there? You can only get that with watercolours."Marc Quinn made wonderful sculptures from his own frozen blood, but is there something a bit faddy and pretentious about painting with it? I suggest that the self-harm element might be rather gruesome, but Cob curator Victoria Williams has an intriguing take on it. "It's about breaking down the boundaries between yourself and your art. I don't think it's destructive, it's quite giving actually," she says. "It's certainly not about gore."Later in the day, the curators, Doherty and his manager are getting ready to drive a van to Wiltshire, to the mansion the artist used to rent from Lord Cardigan but vacated after the roof fell in. There is some anxiety, Doherty having arrived over an hour late, that they will not get to rifle through the storage container there until after dark. Doherty is rather apprehensive about what they will find."Everything flooded when the roof fell in," Doherty says. "Then it froze, then it flooded again when it melted. We stuck everything into storage but lots of it was ruined. Have you ever seen mould that looks all fluffy and white like snow?"I haven't. Nor have I met Doherty before, although he insists that I have: that famous face, his dishevelled hair now touched with grey, eyes outlined by lack of sleep and a smirking, disarming smile.The curators have quite a task ahead, sifting through the piles of "silks, bones, leathers, skulls, palettes C what's that thing you put canvases on? C oh yeah, easels, frames, boots, laces, wigs, mannequins..." that are, apparently, Doherty's passion.His proclivity for hoarding leads him to talk about his infamous on-again, off-again relationship with the supermodel Kate Moss, from whom he finally separated in 2007."Kate used to collect elephants, so I'd buy them for her wherever I went," he says. "When we split up she destroyed all my stuff, but she didn't destroy my elephants. Because I couldn't get over her for a while I just kept buying elephants and now I've got a huge elephant collection for sale. I might post them anonymously to her as a wedding present."Despite Moss having married her long-term boyfriend, Jamie Hince, last July, her name is rarely printed without mention of her tempestuous relationship with Doherty. The singer's penchant for heroin and crack-cocaine led to the end of their relationship and the model's association with him dented her reputation and helped to earn her the epithet "Cocaine Kate". Moss publicly split from Doherty after footage of her allegedly taking cocaine at a studio where he was recording with Babyshambles was sold to the press. Prosecutors decided not to charge the supermodel, in the absence of forensic or direct eyewitness evidence, but Moss lost contracts with H&M, Burberry and Chanel before admitting herself to rehab.I ask Doherty if he has any regrets about the demise of their relationship. He is silent for a long time: "I suppose I must have, but I was a bit unhinged at that time," he shrugs. "The drugs. The thing is, she knew from day one when we began our relationship that I was using very heavily. She knew that. So, you can't suddenly turn around and say, 'you've got to stop all that'. I do have regrets about Kate, but I wouldn't want to talk to you about them. I'd only talk to a highly skilled doctor with large amounts of morphine and a hypnotherapist. And a small monkey."He laughs and then lets out a scream before putting his finger in his mouth. He has cut it on the broken crack-pipe in his pocket. He bleeds only slightly, but it's a sign that we need to talk about something else. I joke that I've got some paper in case he wants to make a drawing. He declines, the mood having dropped, and for a moment the connection between his art and his well-documented self-harming hangs in the air.The show is a chance for Doherty to revitalise his image in the wake of his many falls from grace. In 2003 the singer was ejected from The Libertines, at the height of their success, by his one-time best friend Carl Barat, thanks to his increasing dependence on Class-A drugs. Doherty went on to front Babyshambles, with whom he released two albums, and also produced a solo record called Grace/Wastelands in 2009, but his celebrity reputation has always rather eclipsed his music. In 2010 The Libertines reformed for appearances at the Reading and Leeds Festivals C but, as the release of Roger Sargent's film about the band's revival, The Libertines: There Are No Innocent Bystanders, released next month, reveals, with Doherty the appeal of the story is usually greater than the sound.Doherty has been in prison three times, had at least 15 court appearances, a conviction for burglary, more than 26 drugs charges and is currently on bail for cocaine possession. I ask how he is managing his addictions."I've stopped injecting," he says, giving credit for this improvement to a new girlfriend, whose name he decides not to disclose, but whose parents he is meeting at their Oxford home this evening."The only way I see myself in a serious relationship is if I am toning it down a bit. When you're banging up all day you can't really have someone else in your life, especially if she's an English rose. I wouldn't let her touch anything, I just wouldn't." Doherty tells me he is being treated at a walk-in clinic for users and is currently on a pharmaceutical opiate called Subutex ("Posh and Becks, as they call it"), which "doesn't get you high" but suppresses withdrawal symptoms.Gone is the implant which he had in his stomach to block the effects of heroin. "Jesus Christ, thank God them days are over. That was when I was up in front of a judge every five minutes and he was saying, 'get clean or go to jail'". Doherty had quite a hard time in prison."I got on OK in Pentonville [in 2006] because it was kind of my local, if you like. A lot of people wanted to get me, but more wanted to do me a favour. In Wayland last year it was lads from east rather than north London, and loads of other places. People I didn't know." As soon as he arrived, he says, people started getting at him, requesting money and drugs for protection. "I didn't have any money, I didn't have any drugs. One guy said he was going to stick a fork up my arse. I threw my telly at him because I thought that would get me put in isolation."Instead, they moved Doherty to another wing where he found an ally in his cellmate who "didn't like bullies, basically". Between them they managed to fend off the attention. "A lot of those guys are just scared little boys inside. If you stand your ground they back down."When Doherty speaks it comes across that the constant danger, the addictions, and the hell-raising parties all stem from his wish to emulate the bohemian ideal. This was clear in his Libertines days, when the band's red jackets and the presentation of Doherty as a kind of Nick Drake of our times C a new romantic, a poet and a rebel C were still doing their work.A decade on, the figure who describes quite eloquently and earnestly his passion for a time when men wore smoking jackets and when drugs and art were synonymous, seems deflated. I hope that the art will be a positive step for Doherty; his enthusiasm for it recalls the old Pete C the showman and the optimist."I have a distinct memory of friends I had at school whose parents were, for want of a better word, bohemian. That was the kind of England that I thought I should have belonged to," he says. Instead Doherty grew up in a series of barracks, the son of a Catholic Army Major, and received little encouragement for his creative pursuits."My family used to say, point-blank, 'We'd support you if we thought you could sing, or we thought you could write songs, but you can't'."Last year his widely publicised estrangement from his father ended after a good meeting at his little sister's wedding. "The family was all there together and I think my father was a little bit surprised at how compos mentis I was. He turned around and said that I was welcome to come home for Christmas. That was the first time in six years he's said that."Repeated flayings in the tabloid press from 2005 onwards C his fans loving his Keith Richards-esque behaviour, his detractors revelling in his destruction C took its toll on Doherty. Never mind the fact that he courted it to start with. Three years ago he upped sticks to Paris to avoid the relentless attention. He loves it there, his own modern-day bohemia."The media circus got a bit twisted when I was in London. It became a bit of a joke, really. In Paris, they're so serious I can take myself really seriously too. I can get really morbid without people telling me to cheer up." He still has a loyal fanbase and he hasn't abandoned his music. He has already played a couple of secret gigs in London this year.Despite this retreat from public life, Doherty hit the headlines earlier this week when the South African supermodel Lindi Hingston told the South African Sunday Times that she had given birth to his baby six weeks ago. Pictures of the little girl, who has been named Aisling, appeared in the paper. There is a distinct Doherty pout to the baby's features. When I ask the man himself about the pictures, he claims not to know anything about the press coverage."I'm really surprised she's done that [talked to a newspaper]," he says rather sadly, looking to his manager for confirmation and support. "The little girl was two months premature. I said I'd try to be there for the birth. You know what, I don't want to talk about that." So she is your daughter?"Yeah, she's mine," he says, adding: "We're using the baby's blood in one of the pictures". I'm almost certain he's joking. Almost.On Blood: A Portrait of the Artist, Cob Gallery, London NW1 (cobgallery.com/ gutsforgarters.com) 26 February to 4 March?A callow English textile manufacturer, Stephen Wraysford, played by Eddie Redmayne (My Week with Marilyn), distractedly whittles wood as the river gurgles by. A Frenchwoman, Isabelle Azaire (Clmence Posy, aka Fleur Delacour in the Harry Potter films), sits poised and erect in the shade. She is the young French wife of Wraysford's host, a local merchant. The honk of geese can be heard through the reeds, although the soundtrack promised by the script ("the hum of bees... wasps feeding hungrily on a tree weighted with overripe pears") is nowhere to be heard. Also not pictured: an "interminable heat". It's a cloudy, overcast day."The thing to remember is that in never rains in Hungary in July," a jacketed cameraman wryly notes as crew members scurry around uncoiling cables and replanting foliage. Presently, the rain begins to patter again, pooling mud in walkways. The squelch of boots can be heard all around. Given the story presently being assembled on this film set C one of love, but also the glutinous gore of trench warfare C these conditions are, in a way, crudely apt.It is summer 2011, and in a wood on the edge of Budapest, it is day 33 of the 43-day shoot for Birdsong. The crew on this BBC/Working Title adaptation of Sebastian Faulks' bestseller set in and around the First World War are working hard to recreate the France of both the narrative strands on which screenwriter Abi Morgan (The Hour, The Iron Lady) has focused: drowsy Amiens in 1910, and the horror of the Western Front in 1916. Morgan opted early on to leave out the novel's third element, a near-contemporary depiction of Wraysford's granddaughter. k"The modern-day stuff was a brilliant framing device," acknowledges the writer, who is currently attracting fresh acclaim for her script for artist-turned-director Steve McQueen's Oscar-tipped film Shame (reviewed in main paper). "But we decided that for the economy of a TV script, and because we were working within two 90-minute episodes, we wanted to focus on the intensity of before and after the love affair between Stephen and Isabelle."Hence, "before", we have the elegance of today's picnic scene, all fine food and even finer wardrobes. In her jam-packed trailer, a couple of hundred yards from the Danube, costume designer Charlotte Walter rifles through rail after rail of Edwardian-era clothing, painstakingly sourced in Paris and London, and some recreated from photographs in her own family's albums. "Stephen arrives from England dressed in greys. But soon he's wearing cream suits C a young woman in France can have that effect," she smiles.Similarly, for "after", when Wraysford is a battle-scarred captain in the infantry, staring down the barrel of the battle that will produce the worst single-day casualties in British military history, the producers worked hard on ensuring the soldiers' uniforms looked the part. Hobnail boots came from Poland, leather-capped officers' wristwatches were fashioned by the props department, and woollen shirts by the dozen were "pre-distressed". Walter applied such volumes of fake gore to the outfits that, "I had so much blood under my fingernails I looked like a mass murderer." Over the course of filming the battle scenes, Redmayne wore through eight uniforms.Walter also located an original, officer-style greatcoat from Burberry, and was granted access to its archives C a process eased by the fact that Redmayne has modelled for the brand. Advised by military experts, Walter and her small team also created their own regimental insignia, to avoid any criticism from First World War experts and to be sensitive to veterans' groups. Advisers from the Imperial War Museum have offered pointers on soldiers' movements and drill, and medical experts have been on hand "to tell us what 90 per cent burns would look like", says the venture's producer, Lynn Horsford.With equal attention to detail, trenches were excavated by the production team in a sunflower field a few miles away. The deep spying and attack tunnels dug under the battlefields C in which Faulks sets much of his wartime action C have been ingeniously replicated in a nearby studio.All of which, it seems, was easier to do in Hungary than France. Yes, concedes Horsford, "It's sad that we're not in France," but as ITV found when they shot Julian Fellowes' upcoming Titanic here the month before the BBC production, "you get a tax break" by filming in the former eastern bloc state. Plus, Horsford adds, some streets in Hungary are time capsules. "It's doubled for [old world] France many times," she says C most recently for the Guy de Maupassant adaptation Bel Ami, starring Robert Pattinson, out in March. Furthermore, director Philip Martin (Wallander and the Bafta-winning Mo, about Mo Mowlam) is on familiar territory: he shot 2008's Einstein and Eddington here with David Tennant.The scene being filmed today is the moment where Faulks' hero and heroine make their first fleeting, physical contact. In the formal, stuffy, stuffed-shirt atmosphere of the Azaire household, Stephen and Isabelle's growing feelings for each other have hitherto been played out in stolen glances and tremulous gulps. But as they boat along the river in that "interminable heat", their ankles graze together. It's an electrifying and ominous moment, and not just because of the sign we see on the edge of the river: we are in the dpartement de la Somme."These scenes between Clmence and Eddie are all about the danger their characters are walking into," offers cinematographer Julian Court. "And by putting them under the trees and using the shadows and having them almost silhouetted, we're trying to visually suggest that jeopardy.""I want to recalibrate what is sexual," Martin adds. "We want to take the audience back to a time when a touch was an extremely dangerous and provocative and erotic thing."For Isabelle and Stephen, that touch of skin on skin lets the genie out of the bottle. Their affair is incendiary, entirely based around explosive passion. In one memorable passage in the book, Faulks writes in graphic detail of the "sex act" (to use the normal newspaper euphemism) the Englishman performs on the Frenchwoman."As a young man reading the book, for me that was an incredibly erotic scene," chuckles Redmayne between takes. The actor, now 30, was an adolescent at the time he read the 1993 novel, "and a lot of my friends were blown away by it. We have a responsibility to this book, but in some ways doing that scene [properly] is also a massive responsibility."Posy had no time to duck that responsibility C she and Redmayne filmed the scene on her first day on set. Was that a deliberate choice on her part? "No, no, no, no," the Parisian actress, 29, says emphatically. "I looked at the schedule and I was, like, 'Really, are we going there already?' But then there was that thought of, OK, well at least it's out of the way. And of course it wasn't C we had to go back to it every single week because we never finished it that day!"But it needed to be done properly. And it's weird because I try to avoid those scenes. I had a policy against things like that as I had a bad experience." (Aged 18, Posy appeared in a French film in which, against her better judgement, she shot a topless scene.) "But I think every actress says that, then you grow old, then you really don't give a shit."'Birdsong' is the epic book that, for almost 20 years, was the failed film. As Geoffrey Macnab detailed in a March 2009 feature in The Independent, a screen adaptation of the novel by Faulks C deputy editor of this newspaper when it launched in 1990 C has been a slow train coming. "Over the past 16 years," Macnab wrote, "hundreds of thousands of pounds have been spent on commissioning scripts, optioning and re-optioning the source material, hiring lawyers and scouting locations. There are no particular heroes or villains from this epic process. This isn't a cautionary Hollywood parable about some faceless studio calling the shots. It's an everyday tale of the British film industry, where projects not infrequently spiral off into some development hinterland whence they struggle to emerge."Iain Softley, Sam Mendes, Rupert Wyatt, Joe Wright; Ewan McGregor, Ralph Fiennes, Damian Lewis, Paddy Considine, Eva Green C a host of directors and actors have been involved with various attempts to film the 500-page book. Abi Morgan reckons she's the 11th writer to attempt a screenplay (and she's had more than one crack at it). Posy says that even she had previously considered the project C when she was clearing out her email inbox last year she found an old version of the script that she'd been sent.In most key respects, Birdsong as a movie is a no-brainer C as Macnab put it, it could be "a film that, if it lives up to its potential, should carry us all away with its sweeping historical narrative and tragic romantic undertow". So what, I ask Horsford, was the problem? "It's a big question," she smiles. As she observes, "everybody adores this book", but no satisfactory script for a single film ever materialised. "It was either too expensive, or too unwieldy." (Spoiler alert: readers who have not had the pleasure of the book may wish to skip the rest of this paragraph.) "It has a very unconventional trajectory, and it doesn't have a conventional happy ending. So you can imagine the reaction in Hollywood: 'Hang on a second C he doesn't get the girl?'"The most recent attempt to realise a big-screen version was headed by director Rupert Wyatt (Rise of the Planet of the Apes). He got as far as scouting locations in France, and his producing partner Damian Lewis C too old to play Wraysford but with decent bankability C was in the frame to portray one of the other officers. But when that too collapsed, Morgan and Juliette Howell at Brit-film powerhouse Working Title had a rethink. Writer and producer reasoned that, rather than trying to shoehorn the big, tricksy novel into a single film, it might make more sense to do it, as Horsford puts it, "on a bigger canvas, over a longer period of time C two 90-minute [television episodes]. And the moment that decision was made, everything fell into place."Morgan found that the story was further unlocked for her by the 2009 passing of the 111-year-old veteran known as the "last fighting Tommy". "With the death of Harry Patch, I wanted to ensure that the passion and the poignancy and the historical significance of Birdsong was brought to the screen and to another audience," says the writer. "I felt very strongly that they're a generation that are no longer around to tell that story. Sebastian Faulks had done it so brilliantly and it was just a wonderful opportunity to ensure that that appalling war and the nature of the conditions they fought in was documented."Martin shares this desire to give the historical resonance of the century-old conflict a contemporary relevance: as well as making his cast watch documentary footage of the Somme in 1916, he screened for them Restrepo, the Afghanistan conflict documentary made by photographer Tim Hetherington, who was killed last year in Libya."You see dust being kicked up by horses' hooves [in the old footage]," says the director, "and I'd always had an image of the First World War that was very wet. But suddenly you were seeing that it was very hot and dusty and much more like Helmand province than just rain-drenched, muddy trenches. That really informed the way we wanted to do it. We wanted to go into the research C then emerge from that research with a new way of looking at the War."Regarding the casting, Redmayne was top of Horsford and Martin's list, having impressed them in the 2008 TV adaptation of Tess of the D'Urbervilles. Says the producer, "We were trying to find an actor who could convincingly go from a young, rather na?ve innocent 20-year old to someone completely different C over the span of the war it's as if he's aged another 20 years."For the French roles, Martin sought French actors, "so that Stephen's connection would be a real one, if you like", suggests the director. "Clmence is an incredible actress, and she has a haunting, mesmerising beauty that [as Isabelle] you feel she could capture Stephen's heart.""She's just luminous on screen," adds Horsford C with the added bonus that, via her appearances in the Harry Potter franchise and Gossip Girl, Posy "has quite a wide following. She appeals to perhaps a younger audience. I know we're going to get the literary intelligentsia watching because of the book. But on BBC1 you want a wider audience. And Clmence has that scope."Posy, long a part-time resident in London, says that even though Birdsong doesn't have the cultural presence in France that it does in the UK, she's well aware of its iconic importance to her British friends C which made her protective over Isabelle. "I'd never fought for a character like that before 'cos I knew how my friends, especially the girls, were looking at her C they were looking at her as very modern in her choices and who she is and the mystery that's left... That's what people love about Isabelle. So I really stood up for her quite a bit."For Redmayne, too, his character became precious. "Stephen is an isolated man, damaged as a kid, who is now being rewarded with love and passion for this woman. He's being opened. But Abi contrasts the two stories, the love and the war, so his stillness in the trenches isn't opaque. You see where it comes from. There's almost a mystery thriller quality to it C how has this man come to where he is?"On the evidence of episode one, in all the right ways Birdsong doesn't compete with the First World War as epically depicted in Steven Spielberg's new film War Horse. It couldn't C the latter is a big-budget Hollywood blockbuster C but neither should it. This is a story of love, and of friendship (between Wraysford and the men under his command, notably tunneller Jack Firebrace). Under Martin's acute direction, stillness and silence C of the courtship, of the tunnels C say more than whizz-bang action. For all the widescreen carnage of the Western Front, Birdsong is a story thick with claustrophobic emotion.Redmayne, for his part, went as far as he could into the research. He and Joseph Mawle (who plays Firebrace) made a recce to the Flanders battlefields. They were shown into First World War tunnels that had only recently been discovered. Since they were dug into chalk, as soon as a light was shone on them, "it was like being in an igloo". Deep underground, their guide showed them a patch of wall. There was a poem written in pencil, "as if it was yesterday. It said: 'If in this place you are detained/ don't look around you all in vain/ but cast your net and you will find/ that every cloud is silver lined... still.' It was extraordinary," the actor marvels. "We were the fifth people down there in 100 years. And there it was, hope in the most horrific of circumstances."For Redmayne C whose next project is another French-set drama of passion and conflict, Les Misrables C making Birdsong was a gruelling endeavour requiring deep-down commitment. "We were trying to make something on the scale that the story deserves. And doing it on a limited budget. So everything was pushed to the limit."Now," he smiles, "obviously that's a millionth of what anyone had to go through in the reality of the War. And it was useful to remember that on set," he concludes with a laugh, "when I was about to go, 'Hey, where's my chair?'"'Birdsong' airs on BBC1 in late January?His report, Women on Boards, certainly had an impact. The past 12 months have seen 37 women appointed to non-executive directorships (NEDs) of Britain's top 100 companies, including Sara Weller, the former Argos boss who joined Lloyds Banking Group's board, and Stacey Cartwright, Burberry's finance director who now sits on GlaxoSmithKline's board.In all, 15 companies have reached Lord Davies' target three years early, and a third of FTSE 100 firms already have 20 per cent or more women.However, the rate of change is too slow to see women occupying one in four seats on boards by 2015, according to research from recruiter Norman Broadbent. It expects Britain to hit that target in 2017, two years late.Mentoring schemes have sprung up in an attempt to redress the balance. The Glass Ladder programme, which is run by the headhunter Bird & Co, has so far linked 32 female prospective board members with current FTSE 100 non-execs, and six graduates have been appointed to their first NED position.Here, some of Britain's newest NEDs look back on their first few months in the boardroom.Margherita Della ValleGroup finance director, VodafoneMs Della Valle joined Centrica's board in January last year. "Centrica has a very high-profile board [including CBI president Sir Roger Carr] so I was a little anxious about my contribution at the start. But I found it very inclusive, which helped me overcome any shyness."I have really enjoyed my first year as a non-executive director; it's exceeded my expectations. There has been a lot of cross-fertilisation between what I do in my day job at Vodafone, where I often prepare material for the board and sometimes present to the audit committee, and at Centrica, when I'm on the other side of the fence."It's helped me to understand what board members want to see and why they ask certain questions."I think the pace of change isaccelerating in boardrooms Cmore gender equality is just aquestion of time. The women on boards issue is so high profile at the moment that it's giving the right amount of pressure to boards. But we shouldn't forget about it now or in two years' time C if people stop talking about it, the pressure will go away."My advice to other women who want a non-executive position is to put yourself forward and participate in the many initiatives that now exist around women and boards,involving mentoring and networking forums. In my own career I've been very lucky and never faceddiscrimination, but that's not everyone's experience."Take every opportunity and don't be concerned about the impact it has on the day job. It creates value on both sides and companies should encourage these types of experience."Liz HewittTrustee, Cancer Research UKMs Hewitt, 55, was director of corporate affairs at Smith & Nephew and is now a trustee of Cancer Research UK. She wasappointed as a non-executive director on theboard of FTSE 250-listed sterilemedical supplier Synergy Health last September."I don't think I've ever experienced discrimination in my career, but I've experienced selection C missing out on positions because I haven't had the appropriate experience, and that's something a lot of women have faced which is now changing."Back when I was a student atUniversity College London in 1974, the male-to-female ratio of newundergraduates was 10 to one."Then when I joined the London office of Arthur Andersen in 1977,the graduate intake was 106, of which only seven were women. Now many more women are coming through corporate life and have gained theappropriate experience for roles in the boardroom."There are lots of ways to gainexperience for board positions."For many years I took oncharitable board work alongsidemy main job, and was a NED for an NHS trust."It was ideal experience forworking at Synergy. Charity andNGO boards have many of the same issues as company boards, with the same corporate governance, remuneration and audit issues, and similar financial issues over cost control, cash flow and value for money."For both the company board and the new women involved, there's a genuine business benefit from diversity. The vast majority of purchasing decisions in consumer companies, for example, are made by women, so it therefore makes eminent sense for them to have women on the board."It's just as important as havingthe views of people from different nationalities. It helps to reflect the marketplace."Helen OwersChief development officer, Thomson Reuters ProfessionalMs Owers, 48, was appointed a non-executive director of PZ Cussons on 1 January. "The idea that I should take on a non-executive role came from Thomson Reuters as part of their senior executive development plan. They believe that working on other boards helps what you bring to the company you're working in. So I joined the Glass Ladder mentorship programme, and worked with Kathleen O'Donovon [a non-exec at Prudential, Trinity Mirror and ARM Holdings] for a year. We worked on everything from corporate governance to getting your CV in shape for NED roles, and networking with the right headhunters."I also worked with David Tyler, chairman of Sainsbury's and Logica, as part of The FTSE 100 Cross-Company Mentoring Programme, which puts women together with chairmen and women to help them prepare for non-exec roles."He taught me that you have to be very creative when applying for roles C my industry, for example, doesn't fit with the fast-moving consumer goods that PZ Cussons works on, but most of my work is with emerging markets and that's where a lot of their business is."Also, where applying for an executive job involves thinking about what you've done in the past, for an NED it's more about the skills you can deliver to the board and the company. I found it quite a different way of thinking."My boardroom preparation took up a lot of evenings and weekends, and obviously I had my job too as well as my family C I have one daughter. Luckily I have a natural ability to juggle multiple things. It is harder [as a woman] but I never waste time. I never watch movies whilst flying abroad for business, but work on my laptop and iPad."I found my first board meeting incredibly insightful. I realised the quality of direction a board can give a company C it was very collegiate, but also challenging C people really did speak up."The Davies report definitely had an impact on pushing more women on to the candidate roster for NED roles. I think that's hugely important. Companies want boards to challenge them, and having people with different backgrounds really helps with that."?Robert Burke, one time fashion director of Bergdorf Goodman, meanwhile, argued that until the Noughties, the looks of the forthcoming season were communicated via fashion editors and buyers who attended the international collections staged behind closed doors. He could have added that all of those present were required to sign forms promising that they would not pass on information or images from the shows in question that might in any way aid and abet any copycats. How times have changed.Brands from Prada to Topshop allow instant access to their shows (the latter recently announced it would live stream its spring/summer 2013 collection only days from now for the first time; Prada has done so for the past two seasons). And so, anyone can catch a glimpse of clothes that won't go on sale for months and at the same time as the privileged few. Burberry has taken this concept one step further. At London Fashion Week six months ago, it tweeted looks from its forthcoming collection even before they made the runway.Only a dinosaur would argue that mass exposure of the most innovative fashion is a bad thing. Far from it, it enriches and inspires. That said, and I declare a vested interest here, the raison d'tre of covering fashion in individual titles C newspapers, magazines and online publications included C lies in the way it is edited. The savvy consumer C and the number of these is ever increasing C doesn't need to be told what to wear or how to wear it. That's just patronising. But there will always be trends and she (and indeed he) knows who to trust to identify these whether she wants to buy, browse or even just balk at them.?In the red corner, we have Burberry. This is a brand that upholds democracy with pride. With this in mind, the company staged what it described as the world's first-ever "tweetwalk", meaning that each look was available to its followers on Twitter C they number more than half a million C before it had even made it on to the catwalk. The show itself, meanwhile, was live-streamed and the collection sold online immediately after, an unprecedented move given the norm is to wait a full six months before any clothing for the forthcoming season is available.It will also, inevitably, influence the mood of the clothes. It is not uncommon for designers to show looks that are inspiring and aspirational and then to put together a selling collection behind the scenes for buyers to choose from. In this case, however, what we, the fashion audience, saw was what the Burberry customer will get. It's a smart move, as befits this spectacularly successful Great British name, whose embrace of digital technology is working.In the blue corner: Tom Ford. Among the world's most famous designers, Ford staged what is known as a salon collection to no more than around 150 carefully selected buyers and press. Ford also decided that he doesn't want any pictures and/or reviews of his clothing to appear until it goes on sale at the beginning of next year.Ultimately, each approach is intelligent. The fashion industry is a very broad church. The Burberry trench coat C still the cash cow of the business C is something that many women, and indeed men, of style see as a wardrobe staple. The Tom Ford woman, conversely, would rather be naked than wear a dress any other woman at the party might own. Neither Christopher Bailey, Burberry's creative director, nor Ford are stupid, of course, which accounts for the continuing buoyancy of their respective businesses despite polar opposite viewpoints and the hardest of times.?Luxe sportswear. Best seen at JW Anderson, where what looked like neoprene zip-fronted jackets were in fact made out of cotton sponge; Jonathan Saunders, where the bomber was crafted in holographic leather and silk; and Richard Nicoll: more zip-fronted jackets, parkas and oversized T-shirts in fabrics and colours designed to make a woman feel happy and at ease. At Tom Ford, techno stretch cycling shorts (yes, cycling shorts) were worn with black patent leather. Fierce.Holes. Your clothes must be filled with them C fishnet, Airtex, crochet knit and more C but also seen in feminine lace at Erdem, Simone Rocha and more.White. It's everywhere, signifying a clean-minded if not entirely clean-living modernity at Topshop Unique, James Long (think Patti Smith on the cover of Horses), Simone Rocha, Giles, Sibling, Richard Nicoll, Antonio Berardi and Burberry, where the trench coat appeared in the non-colour at its most chic. At JW Anderson and Thomas Tait, meanwhile, a retro-futuristic love affair with white was expressed as flat, Space Age-style go-go boots.Florals. Roses were embossed on to white leather at Giles, stylised polished brass daisies appeared as buttons at Mulberry, more daisies (lacy ones) covered garments at Simone Rocha, and at Erdem lace veils of flowers decorated demure dresses.Menswear. Men's shirting at Vivienne Westwood Red Label, Simone Rocha and James Long; men's tailoring at Paul Smith; pinstripe at Maarten Van Der Horst and JW Anderson and deconstructed tweeds at Meadham Kirchhoff.Bows. In plastic at Christopher Kane, woven printed at Meadham Kirchhoff.Colour. Palest pink at Christopher Kane, cornflower blue at Richard Nicoll, neon green at Simone Rocha, sunshine yellow, flame and violet at Roksanda Ilincic and all the shades of the rainbow at Burberry.?"Write about what happens when you've packed all your winter clothes away and then it's freezing cold and raining," my other half says, rolling his eyes. Does he feel, not entirely unreasonably, that someone who makes a living out of writing about fashion should really have known better? Am I like one of those television weather forecasters blathering about high pressure, low pressure and so forth while viewers shout: "It's simple. It's snowing. Stop blathering about high pressure, low pressure and so forth and look out of the window."Fair enough. But that doesn't alter the fact that, rightly or wrongly, two weeks ago I put my warm wardrobe into storage, merrily hanging my black and navy cotton summer dresses, my lightweight denim and my Rick Owens fireman shorts C but of course! C in their place. And given the military precision with which, for fear of moth, I have done so, to exhume them for a week or two before the British weather turns positively tropical C as it surely soon must C seems nothing short of churlish. I'm nothing if not an optimist.And so, as winter gives way to spring, I find myself mostly wearing my Burberry trench coat. It seems like I've had it for ever but it is at this time of year that it truly comes into its own: it's light, waterproof and cool or warm depending on what's worn beneath it. It comes in very handy at any school parents' evening, too, incidentally, when I would rather no one knew just how slovenly I really am. My coat is a very smart and even conservative garment by my standards.Burberry's recent climb in revenues must be at least partly attributable to this classic garment. But knitwear, fragrance, watches and men's tailoring C more than a few extremely chic men wear Burberry tailoring C are also helping, clearly. As the Art of the Trench, photographed by Scott Schuman and published two years ago, went to prove, as far as this design is concerned it's how you wear it that is revealing. I like mine cut quite small C even tight, controversially C across the chest and shoulders, and close it by knotting the belt. I have never done more than one of the buttons up. There's a fine line between smart and uptight, after all.?But the weather was forecast to be more favourable for shopping this weekend, which is likely to result in many retailers posting healthy comparable sales C for these two days at least.Unfortunately, this is likely to be a rare ray of sunshine in what has been a gloomy "golden quarter" C when chains typically make about 40 per cent of their profits C for many retailers. In the face of a brutal consumer slowdown and unseasonably warm weather, many retailers have been forced to discount heavily at the expense of profit margins to entice customers through their doors.Andrew Murphy, the retail director at John Lewis, says: "For the wider high street, the gap between the winners and losers will be more pronounced than ever this year. The sales numbers will only tell part of the story and more interesting will be what people have had to sacrifice to get to that level of sales."John Lewis is likely to be among the winners this Christmas, but it is a rare beast. Christine Cross, the chief retail adviser to the accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, said she expects non-food sales, both in terms of value and volumes, to be lower this Christmas on last year. "Overall, I think retail sales will be down on last year overall, with the exception of flagship shops in London which are going gangbusters at the moment."A number of non-food retailers are already showing signs of distress. For instance, Barratts Priceless collapsed into administration this month, putting nearly 4,000 jobs at risk, and the lingerie chain La Senza has hired a restructuring team at KPMG in a desperate bid to survive. But troubled chains can be found across the sector from Blacks Leisure, the outdoor specialist that put itself up for sale on 7 December, to Peacocks, the discount fashion chain that has debts of 240m. Robert Clark, the senior partner at Retail Week Knowledge Bank, says: "I think there will be the usual four or five [administrations] by the end of January and then the next ones around the March rent day." A further headache this year is that Christmas Day falls on a Sunday. This has intensified the game of chicken retailers always play with consumers about when to go on sale, and means that many shoppers, particularly men, will leave their shopping to the last minute.Jim McCarthy, the chief executive of Poundland, the single-price retailer, says: "I think that people are not buying yet. It is a little bit slower than it was last year so far. People perhaps feel comforted that they have an extra [Saturday] to shop."He adds: "UK consumers are resilient, and they will be determined to have a good Christmas. But I think the purchases they make will reflect their needs. They will not be as free with their spending as they were previously." However, Mr McCarthy says Poundland has delivered like-for-like sales growth "throughout the year". Though the next week is important for most retailers and an 11th-hour stampede of shoppers is likely, the writing is already on the wall for both successful and ailing chains.Dave Forsey, the chief executive of Sports Direct, which has been doing sparklingly well, says: "You know halfway through December how Christmas is going to be." Despite being up against a tough comparable performance of a football World Cup in 2010, Sports Direct grew its pre-tax profits by 0.3 per cent to 100.3m over the 26 weeks to 23 October, on total sales up 8.4 per cent to 888.6m. Struggling chains, however, might not find buyers waiting in the wings C as they have in recent years C after calling in administrators. Ms Cross of PwC says: "I think it is going to get tougher for the weaker retailers. In 2008, 2009 and 2010 there were plenty of buyers who were willing and able to take a medium-term view on distressed assets. Today, few investors are willing to take such a risk."It also appears that the downturn is driving a further wedge between the performance of retailers in London and the South-East, and those in the provinces, particularly in areas hit by public-sector job losses. Ms Cross adds: "Not only does there appear to be a North/South divide but also an East/West divide, with Bristol and its surrounding areas, and Wales finding the going tough. In contrast, trading in the South-East is better."However, there are plenty of retailers, including the fashion group Next, Kingfisher C which owns the DIY chain B&Q C and luxury players such as Mulberry and Burberry, which continue to grow profits.Indeed, Mr Murphy at John Lewis says the downbeat view of high street trading has been overdone. He says: "Our sense is that as we have come into December, things have picked up. I think some of the predictions of the most extreme prophets of doom and gloom will be a bit wide of the mark."Furthermore, after at least three years of austerity Britain, many retailers have made huge strides in trimming their costs, paying down debt, improving products and whipping their online operation into shape.In fact, the burgeoning growth of online can be clearly seen in John Lewis' latest figures. The group's total sales rose by only 2 per cent to 123.4m in the week 10 December, boosted by three new shops. But this did not include its online sales, which rocketed 20 per cent over the period. Website sales now exceed those at its flagship shop in Oxford Street, London, by more than 80 per cent.As for next year, much will depend on whether the eurozone sovereign debt crisis deepens and how this affects the UK economy, as well as what happens to unemployment and inflation. Optimism is in short supply, but there are some who point to widespread forecasts that inflation is expected to come down next year, helped by lower cotton prices and the sector passing the anniversary of the rise in VAT to 20 per cent. Mr Clark says: "I think it has got as bad as it is going to get. January and February will be really tough but after Easter it might get a bit better and then the Diamond Jubilee and Olympics will engender a feelgood factor that should encourage people to spend a bit more."But Mr McCarthy says: "My own view is that it is probably more likely to be 2014 before people start to feel more confident."Taking The Long ViewUK's senior shopkeepers see cause for optimism"The next three weeks are important for lots of retailers. That week after Christmas is very important becausethats when retailers [start to] clear their stock. Money is tighter at the moment and consumers are being much more selective.Brian Brick, Chief executive, Moss BrosI think people will have a good Christmas but that will centre on food and drink rather than lots of very expensive presents. People have decided to cut back a bit. Next year is going to be tougher than 2011. Jim McCarthy, Chief executive, PoundlandStruggling storesShops that may have reason to fear the futureBlacks Leisure: Has debts of 36m and forced to seek buyer after shareholders balked at cash call. Mountain Warehouse and Go Outdoors, among others, could bid for part or all of the business at a knock-down price.Game: Warned on profits in November and has called in restructuring team at Deloitte. The City expects Game to post a loss of 12m for the year to 31 January.Peacocks: Plans debt-for-equity swap with Goldman Sachs and mulling closure of up to 200 shops. The group, which has 611 Peacocks and 394 Bon Marche shops, has debts of 240m.HMV: Shares at 3.9p, debts of 170.7m and latest sales down by 15.1 per cent. In its interim results tomorrow, HMV will say if its focus on selling technology products, such as headphones, has paid off.La Senza: The lingerie chain, which has 158 UK stores, has hired a restructuring team at KPMG. It employs 2,600 staff and delivered sales of 140m last year but its future could be in jeopardy.?The designer brands giant Richemont yesterday added the upmarket leisurewear brand Peter Millar to its wardrobe, which already holds Chloe clothes and Cartier jewellery. The Swiss firm's acquisition of Peter Millar, popular with US golfers, comes just weeks after Burberry's profits warning shocked the European luxury sector.?The luxury-goods retailer said the rise in sales to 830m in the six months to the end of September from 673m a year earlier, was driven by strong sales of "outerwear" C coats C especially its range of trench coats. Sales of leather goods were also particularly strong.The Duchess of Cambridge sparked a scramble for Burberry trench coats in March after wearing one on a trip to Belfast, with the make selling out online the next day. The brand is also favoured by the Queen and Kate Moss and advertised by Harry Potter star Emma Watson.Burberry reported a 45 per cent sales bump to 528m in its first half, as it sold more in existing stores, expanded to new ones and saw strong returns from China.Last month its shares had tumbled over concerns for the company's growth in the country after economists at Citi downgraded its economic outlook. Beyond the coats and leather bags, initiatives including men's tailoring and accessories, children's clothing and shoes continued to drive growth. Angela Ahrends, Burberry's chief executive, said the performance "clearly demonstrates the continuing global momentum of the Burberry brand".There was also a solid performance in its flagship markets, including New York, London, Paris and Hong Kong. The wholesale operation rose by one-fifth following sales to the Americas, emerging markets and of travel goods.The company forecasts that average retail selling space will grow 15 per cent during the second half of its financial year. It hopes to open 25 new stores this year and double its London store space after buying the shop adjoining its own on Regent Street.The results followed recent comments from its peers in the luxury sector. Rogerio Fujimori, an analyst at Credit Suisse, said last week that it suggested "no discernible impact on sales trends yet" from worsening economic conditions and concerns over sovereign debt in the European Union. Ms Ahrends said Burberry was "fully prepared to respond should it see any significant change in luxury demand".?Bargain-hunting Britons and the rise of the Asian consumer are changing the way people shop, according to investment experts.Rahul Sharma, managing director of Neev Capital, the investment manager with offices in London and New Delhi, told The Independent that retailers tapping into the trend for "two-speed shopping" C the wealthy versus the squeezed mainstream C would be the main beneficiaries."Things have never been better for the rich," he says. "Stock markets and prime property have rebounded, increasing the wealth of many significantly. In the 2008-9 crisis, confidence plunged the most among wealthy shoppers. Now that the world didn't end after all, they are back, consuming with gusto."Luxury goods companies are well positioned to capture this, but there are winners outside luxury."So what should you buy? We look at fund managers' and brokers' recommendations:Budget buyingThe Barclays research shows that almost half (47 per cent) of investors believe supermarket giant Tesco has the best prospects, despite it recently revealing its first set of negative results in 20 years.With inflation running at more than 5 per cent and negligible wage rises, British consumers' real income is dwindling at an "alarming rate", says Juliet Schooling Latter, head of research at broker Chelsea Financial Services."In the UK, we tend to see a greater increase in spending for Christmas, as it's an extended holiday, and the outlook for consumer spending is so dismal overall that it's quite possible that it will surprise on the upside, which should be reflected in a boost to share prices," she says."We may see some stocks benefit from shoppers economising: Tesco is hoping to take market share in toy sales and is being quite proactive with special Christmas offers. Other food retailers might also benefit, such as Sainsbury's, Morrisons and Booker."Tesco remains The Share Centre's preferred play in the retail sector, largely due to its international arm. "A large player during the Christmas period for food, clothing and gifts, we expect Tesco to benefit from a one-stop-shop style of consumer spending," says investment research analyst Nick Raynor.He also likes Associated British Foods, which owns Primark. "We expect it to benefit during the Christmas period as the weaker UK economy forces consumers to search for cheaper alternatives," adds Raynor.High-street picksOn the high street, retailers that stand to benefit from a sharp fall in key commodity inputs, such as cotton, could fare well. Schooling Latter likes Debenhams, Marks & Spencer and Next for their strong dividend yields of 5.5 per cent, 5 per cent and 3.9 per cent respectively.Ben Yearsley, an investment manager at Hargreaves Lansdown, the adviser, likes Richard Buxton's Schroder UK Alpha Plus fund, which holds Next, Debenhams and Home Retail."I can't get too excited by the prospects for UK retail, though many have been predicting doom and gloom for the sector for five years or so and specific retailers might prosper due to having the latest product or fashion," says Yearsley.Inditex, the fashion group which owns Zara, is one of them, according to Sharma. "When shoppers are feeling blue, it's paramount for retailers to offer something unique, be it service, product or experience. Zara creates tremendous excitement with frequent range changes at a much lower price point."Conversely, those that offer little by way of differentiation will suffer. "That's why we've seen brands like Habitat, Moben and Focus collapse recently," adds Sharma.Online beneficiariesShoppers are increasingly using the web to hunt for value. Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that the internet already accounts for 10 per cent of UK sales. In September alone, web sales were up 30 per cent compared with a 5 per cent rise overall.Sharma says: "It will be an online Christmas; Amazon is the most visible beneficiary."Meanwhile, Fidelity likes Ocado, the online supermarket, as a growing number of British consumers get their groceries online, while stockbrokers Killik & Co and The Share Centre favour ASOS, the online fashion retailer. It recently reported a 60 per cent jump in first-half sales, mainly driven by international operations. UK sales grew just 8 per cent, below broker expectations.Raynor says: "The economic pressures are causing a significant headwind, but we expect the increasing trend of shopping online will see ASOS benefit during the festive period."Tech spendingSales of technology products tend to spike over Christmas.The Share Centre's preferred telecoms play is Vodafone. "The increasing demand for smartphones has been reflected in a rise in data sales and we expect this trend to continue during the festive period," says Raynor."Vodafone continues to maintain its leadership in this area through investment in the quality of its network. This is one for investors to buy for long-term growth and a stable and increasingly attractive yield."Meanwhile, electronic components manufacturer Laird was the top contributor to the performance of Fidelity Special Value, managed by Sanjeev Shah, during the first half of 2011. Laird's shares jumped after it rejected a takeover proposal from US rival Cooper Industries and announced plans to exit its underperforming mobile handset antenna business.Shah also holds Ericsson, in his Fidelity Special Situations fund, in the belief that it has the strongest franchise and technology in telecoms equipment. "It stands to benefit strongly from the growth of smartphones and mobile data, but is unloved and under-owned, with low a valuation," says Shah.Dixons is also trading cheaply, at five times earnings, but could struggle amid a growth in internet purchasing of technology, says Schooling Latter.Sharma believes companies selling electrical goods easily bought at several retailers, such as Best Buy, Argos, Currys and HMV, will struggle the most this Christmas.Luxury goodsLuxury goods "stand out in a stock market grappling with concerns over future growth and margin pressure", according to Neev Capital's Sharma. "They are rare, have pricing power and enjoy strong entry barriers: therein lies their appeal," he says. "The star attraction is their exposure to the phenomenal wealth creation in the emerging world, where they are gaining hugely aspirational shoppers. Already, for many brands, nearly half of sales come from the new world."China, well on its way to becoming the largest luxury goods market in the world, has captured the imagination of most companies and investors. However, the industry is not even scratching the surface of India's potential, where conspicuous consumption rules."Sharma's favourite stocks are Richemont, which owns Cartier and Montblanc, US designer brand Ralph Lauren and cosmetics giant Este Lauder.Killik & Co also likes Richemont, while Fidelity tips LVMH, the world's largest luxury goods group, which owns Mo?t & Chandon, Hennessy and Louis Vuitton, as beneficiaries of rapid consumption growth in emerging markets.Meanwhile, Britain's Burberry C a top 10 holding in the Schroder UK Alpha Plus fund C should also benefit from Asian consumers adopting expensive Western tastes. Its revenues jumped 30 per cent to $1.3bn in the six months to 31 September, fuelled by increased demand from Asia. However, its shares have been dragged down by the wider market, dropping around 20 per cent since July.'There will be winners and losers'With rising unemployment and the eurozone debt crisis putting a recession back on the cards, the backdrop to Christmas is not exactly rosy C and there will inevitably be losers."In such a climate, there will be winners and losers; the risks of backing the loser could be more damaging than usual," says Adrian Lowcock, a senior investment adviser at Bestinvest, the broker. "A weak Christmas could push some retailers over the edge, while picking a winner might not be as rewarding if sales disappoint across the board."Juliet Schooling Latter, of Chelsea Financial Services, says cyclical retailers are out of favour for a reason. "Investing with a view to a spike in spending at Christmas is a little risky," she warns."A short-term boost to retailers from Christmas is unlikely to alter their prospects over the next few years. It's a highly competitive environment, with discounts very much in evidence and likely to remain in place for some time."Lowcock recommends buying into funds with exposure to consumer stocks that aren't pure retail plays. He tips First State Asia Pacific, Artemis Income and Threadneedle UK Equity Income, which holds Unilever. "Companies like these, which have strong brands and international focus, will also benefit from the growth of the Asian consumer," he says.JOHCM UK Opportunities, managed by John Wood, is another fund placed to take advantage of a re-rating of consumer stocks, adds Schooling Latter. The fund invests in consumer goods (17 per cent versus an 11.7 per cent FTSE All-Share weighting) and services (22 per cent versus 9.6 per cent).?i Editor, Stefano Hatfield, ( ) writes that merely teaching kids just to pass exams is self-destructive, .Commentator, Annalisa Barbieri ( ) , writes for our new section about and what it means for education as a whole: "Youll pass or youll fail. There will be no re-sitting of individual modules; the entire exam would have to be repeated. Children will be judged on nothing other than their exam paper."?Champions LeagueAs usual, some football is happening. More .?Jimi HendrixJames Marshall Hendrix died 42 years ago today (September 18 1970). He was originally named John Allen Hendrix , but when his father returned from World War II, he divorced Hendrix's alcoholic mother and renamed him James Marshall.? The " " says, "widely considered to be the greatest instrumentalist in rock music, Jimi Hendrix invented a completely new sound for the electric guitar over a period of just a few years."The ' says, " Help shape the future of? and the development of the? Sound Wave Wall " tweets: " We lost one of the worlds greatest axemen 42 years ago today. RIP Jimi Hendrix C hope youre rocking hard up there? "?RomneyMitt Romney's presidential campaign has faltered, as he told a room of wealthy donors yesterday, .Independent Voices editor, Amol Rajan ( ) gives .@ tweets: "We laugh at Mitt?Romney, but if he were British we'd probably elect him Mayor of London."?London Fashion Week, Mulberry, #lfwThe Mulberry Spring/Summer 2013 show is about to start. According to Twitter, scary fashion mag editor Anna Wintour,? songstress Lana del Rey, shiny-haired Olivia Palermo and the stars of Downton Abbey are all there, eagerly awaiting 's offerings. Read our report on yesterday's 50's-inspired Burberry show .? ? ?Her marriage is wonderful, she's given up alcohol and from tomorrow she's hosting the nightly 'Strictly' spin-off show 'It Takes Two'?But even with just 20 weeks to go, there are still some short-term opportunities for investors who are seeking a sprinkling of sporting gold dust on their returns."During the games, hundreds of thousands of visitors will arrive along with the substantial sponsorship and media attention which can attribute much of the immediate economic benefit," points out Jon Wingent at Close Brothers Asset Management."Hosting an Olympics enhances investment opportunities that might not otherwise be there such as travel, tourism, leisure and retail. But the selective investment opportunities are much like holiday lets in that they are seasonal and unlikely to be long-term holds given the real economy that prevails behind the pomp and ceremony of the games."Trevor Green, manager of UK equities at Aviva, is a bit more positive. He believes that the Olympics effect will outlast the games themselves for several months afterwards."The revenue potential for businesses associated with the event can last much longer than the 19 days it takes to stage the event," he says.Even so, investing in the 2012 Olympics is not for the faint-hearted. The opportunities are better-suited for proactive investors who are prepared to ride out any stock market bumps.Leisure and tourismLeisure and tourism are a couple of the more obvious beneficiaries of the Olympics, according to investment advisers Hargreaves Lansdown.The firm's Danny Cox says the brewery giant Greene King and airlines such as International Airline Group C which includes British Airways and Iberia C and easyJet could see their share prices rise as a result of increased tourism.He says investors looking to spread their risk with a collective investment should consider Marlborough Multi-cap income fund, which has Greene King as its largest holding.Travel company Thomas Cook may have been in the doldrums of late, but it could benefit from being both a direct sponsor and beneficiary of the Olympics, says Mr Cox.The world's oldest travel firm is an official sponsor of this year's Olympics and Paralympics. As such, Mr Cox believes it could benefit from a corporate hospitality programme that will see it as the only official Olympics UK travel provider.Meanwhile, Mr Green says the hotel sector will benefit from short-term gain."Already it appears some hotels intend to raise prices of up to five times their normal tariffs while the Olympics is on," he says. "Of course, if you are looking to book a hotel this is alarming, but it does suggest highly profitable times to come for some chains."Firms that could benefit include Millennium & Copthorne and Whitbread, operator of the Premier Inn chain.However, it's worth bearing in mind the example of thr 1996 Atlanta Games, says Mr Green, when the number of available hotel rooms ballooned by 15 per cent."The rooms may have been full for the duration of the Olympics, but all that extra supply destabilised the market after the visitors had gone."SportsListed companies which specialise in sports and leisure stand to benefit from an increased interest in all things fitness related. Companies that could feel the love from the Olympics include Sports Direct."Despite many of its rivals floundering, Sports Direct, the UK's leading sports retailer, has prospered and will hope to benefit further from any Olympics-led boost to demand," says Mr Cox.As the Olympics takes place outside the football season, Sports Direct could benefit from a fillip given that it would otherwise be in the middle of a summer lull, says Mr Green.Other less obvious Olympic beneficiaries could include Halfords. The success of the UK's cycling team could provide the retailer with a lift in sales of its bicycles after those watching the world's best in action on their doorstep are inspired to give two wheels a go.Energy and securityThe security company G4S, which secured a 100m deal last March to provide security for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, could make much of the opportunity."It was also recently chosen as a preferred bidder for Project Compass, which relates to the provision of asylum-seeker support services," Mr Cox reports.And of course athletes need hot (and cold) showers while they are training for the games."Energy company Aggreko is an exclusive supplier of temporary energy services for the London games. The company will provide about 220 megawatts of power, some 60 megawatts more than it supplied at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games," Mr Cox points out.Food and drinkLike them or loathe them McDonalds and Coca Cola are considered by analysts to be strong buys as their brands will be everywhere come the end of June.McDonalds will open its largest outlet close to the Olympic Park ,while Coca Cola is said to be the most recognised official partner of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games in terms of consumer brand awareness.Telecoms and other sponsors"You could consider telecom companies such as Vodafone, which will experience increased mobile phone traffic in London and is a sponsor of the games," says Mr Cox.Other sponsors worth considering include BP, Lloyds TSB and BT Group, while Neil Veitch of SVM Asset Management says Virgin Media is another stock to watch."It has pulled off a bit of a coup in recruiting the world's fastest man to front their latest advertising campaign. As Usain Bolt seeks to repeat his feats of Beijing 2008, expect the company to draw parallels between his performance and their broadband speeds."ShoppingNot everyone will want to watch the Olympics, and there may be those actively avoiding the games, particularly tourists who will consider the games as the perfect down time to explore what is considered one of the world's greatest shopping destinations."The West End of London has seen phenomenal growth recently on the back of a weak sterling as visitors have been attracted to London for shopping, as regularly highlighted by Shaftesbury, the West End real estate operator," says Mr Green.He believes the retail effect can only magnify during the games as visitors split their time between watching sport and spending money in the capital."Luxury, world-famous UK brands like the Burberry Group, which has announced plans to double its existing store space in time, stand to gain from the influx of extra visitors coming to London," he predicts.Couch potatoesThen there are those companies that stand to gain from those who failed to get a ticket in the public ballot or who cannot afford the hotel prices to see the games live in London.Mr Green says advertisers will be clamouring to get on TV."The Olympics are as big as it gets, and the London games are expected to surpass Beijing's 4.7 billion television viewers. Although the BBC will be the lead broadcaster, one of the biggest commercial beneficiaries will be rival ITV, as advertisers clamour to advertise during the games. This may just give a one-off benefit to the company, but it will be a very welcome boost nonetheless."And those who can afford to advertise will gain too. "One company who may well be advertising on television is Britvic. Events such as the Olympics are not only good for sales but also offer an unrivalled opportunity to launch a new product onto the global market."And ones to avoidOf course, for every winner there has to be a loser, and not everyone will benefit from the games coming to London."Potential losers include Tui Travel," says Mr Green. "They will have the headache of bookings coming in even later than usual as the public decides at the last minute to go abroad pre or post the games, thus making their scheduling very difficult."Leisure operators such as Cineworld and Goals Soccer Centres may have a quiet 19 days as their customers' attention is focused elsewhere."A run for their moneyEconomy boostThe Olympics (held from 27 July to 12 August) is expected to give a 5.1bn cash injection to the economy. The Paralympic Games follow from 29 August to 9 September.Encourage spendingDuring the Games, consumer spending is predicted to hit 750m. It will be the third time London has hosted the event. Previous times were in 1908 and 1948 (pictured: the wrestler Ray Myland).Global audienceA total of 204 nations are participating. There are 300 events to win medals in, made up of 26 sports, which break down into 39 disciplines.SponsorsThere will be branding all over the Games, with 53 different companies having paid out to be associated with the event, including 11 worldwide partners and seven London 2012 Official Olympic Partners.Cashing inLondoners with property near Olympic venues are hoping to make a mint. There has been a 444 per cent increase in average asking prices for short-term rentals in July 2012 compared to July 2011's figure, according to Gumtree.com. The average price is now 2,858.33 per week.?The designer outlet centre Bicester Village is home to 130 brands, including Burberry, Hugo Boss and Prada, and at the weekend its car parks are often so rammed it can take up to 20 minutes to find a space. The success of the site has not been lost on the property company Hammerson, which yesterday said it was investing a further 100m in Value Retail, the operator of Bicester Village. This takes Hammerson's investment in the company, which was founded by American Scott Malkin and has eight other centres in Europe, from a 12 per cent stake to 22 per cent. Designer outlets appear to have hit the sweet spot of enticing consumers cutting back and seeking value, as well as those trading up to buy quality designer brands in austerity Britain. Neil Saunders, the managing director at Conlumino, says: "Most designer outlets seem to be getting very good growth C certainly better than the high street." For consumers, part of the attraction is that retailers offer designer goods at a discount of up to 60 per cent off in these centres. CBRE, the property firm, says there are about 48 designer outlet centres in the UK, including Gunwharf Quays at Portsmouth Harbour and Cheshire Oaks in Chester. Most schemes were built in the 1980s and 1990s and were initially called factory outlets, as they were often sited on, or next to, a retailer's manufacturing site. The market is also highly heterogeneous, ranging from Bicester's luxury offer to centres, such as Braintree in Essex that sell high street brands, including Mountain Warehouse and Marks & Spencer, at lower prices. In terms of the luxury end, it is Bicester that arguably provides the blueprint, both in terms of its look and feel, but also in how it has gone after the overseas tourist market. Mr Malkin wanted to introduce the American concept of discount shopping, and this is reflected Bicester's New England-style clapboard houses, which are painted in subtle greys and whites. David Atkins, the chief executive of Hammerson, says: "Bicester trades off the London tourist market," attracting high-spending visitors from Russia, Brazil, the Middle East and China. The site is marketed globally with a number of tour operators, and information is available in London's upmarket hotels. This is particularly true for four-fifths of Chinese visitors to London, who also fit in a trip to Bicester. Jonathan De Mello, a senior director at CBRE, says: "What Bicester is tapping into is that inflow of Chinese tourists coming to the UK." For overseas tourists, the shopping outlet also offers peace of mind that the products are not counterfeit. Mr Atkins says: "If you come to Bicester, you are getting the real thing. That credibility and reliability of the offer is very important to overseas buyers." Food and leisure facilities are also key to successful centres. For instance, the property firm Land Securities' Gunwharf scheme has more than 90 designer outlets, 30 restaurants and bars, and a 14-screen Vue Cinema.Ashley Blake, the head of retail portfolio management at Land Securities, says: "I think this is the future of outlets. People come in, have a good time, go back with a bargain and feel they have been prudent." From a commercial perspective, designer outlets can offer both retailers and landlords a more flexible way to conduct business. Mr Atkins says: "It is a great way to deal with last season's stock, or discounts, and generate very strong retail volumes C and yet in a controlled manner that matches their own brand's aspirations." For landlords, designer outlets typically give them more leeway in how they run centres. As opposed to 10 to 15-year contracts under commercial lease law, retailers typically sign up to shorter leases and turnover-based rents. This gives landlords greater flexibility in moving out weaker retailers in favour of stronger ones. Mr Blake says: "We can take people out quite easily. If a retailer's sales fall below a certain level, the landlord can evict them. "At Gunwharf, we have seen a high level of lettings and relettings over the last three years C far more than a normal shopping centre." He adds: "In a way, you are running a designer outlet like a department store because you want to bring in new brands, which keeps the offer fresh and exciting for consumers." Retailers are also keen to join the designer outlet revolution. Graeme Ellisdon, the founder of Osprey London, the retailer of vintage leather handbags and purses, says: "As a retail tenant with eight Osprey London outlet stores, it is clear to me that the outlet sector continues to provide an attractive alternative to the high street C both for brands and customers." Despite their attraction, Mr De Mello says that the building of designer outlet centres has "tailed off" over recent years. This appears to be changing, however. For instance, Quintain last month signed up its first high-end fashion brand, Max Studio, at its London Designer Outlet at Wembley, which opens next year. And Henderson Global Investors last month submitted a planning application to extend its Swindon Designer Outlet Centre by 50,000 square feet of new retail and catering space. Indeed, Mr De Mello sees room for more designer outlets in the UK, particularly in areas such as East Anglia and London. He said: "They are definitely a hot commodity at the moment. The market has not reached saturation in the UK." The crowded car park at Bicester on a weekend certainly points to a big future for designer outlets in the UK.?"I need relief, desperately," he says. "Meet me in the Blue Posts son, half an hour. Bring that mate of yours. No, the good-looking one." What's up with Kamikaze Steve?He's done his beans on Man Group shares, chucked his chips on Burberry, lost his shirt on BP. "I've shorted Mothercare just to cheer meself up," he says. "I hate bleedin' Mothercare. Half an hour."The stock market ain't all strippers and balloons you know.?Flannels, which sells designer brands including Dolce & Gabbana, Paul Smith and Burberry, has nine shops in Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool and Birmingham. Last year it entered a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) and restructured the business, closing some of its shops.It is thought Sports Direct is paying a nominal sum as the company is still loss-making. Flannels, which was founded in 1976 by Neil Prosser in Knutsford, Cheshire, completed its CVA last month. Its most recent accounts show that the business made a 310,450 loss last year. Mr Prosser is thought to be staying with the chain.Sports Direct has been expanding into the world of men's fashion. Last year it bought Sir Tom Hunter's USC and Cruise clothing chains.Rival sports group JD Sports has also upped its fashion credentials. Last year it bought Cecil Gee from Moss Bros, and has teamed up with the fashion marketing agency Four Marketing Group.?McCartney, 40, is up against the acclaimed Christopher Kane, who designs for Versaces second line Versus as well as his own label, and young talent Mary Katrantzou, whose innovation in print and work with the Parisian couture workshop Lesage wowed audiences at London Fashion Week, for the British Fashion Councils Designer of the Year award.The nomination, announced last night at a reception at The Savoy, reflects the success not only of McCartneys Olympic offerings C which were loved by competitors and the crowd alike C but also of her own label, which posted a 34 per cent surge in profits last year alone. She has shown her wares in Paris since 2001, but her return to the capital last February to unveil a range of evening dresses was a highlight of the London shows.This year seemed like a great year to be a Londoner, she said at that event. Im a born and bred Londoner, and my brands based here. My first ever show was here, so its a celebration really.That show, upon McCartneys graduation from Central Saint Martins in 1995, featured appearances from her friends Yasmin le Bon, Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell and a soundtrack written by her proud father, Sir Paul.McCartney has also been nominated for the British Fashion Awards Red Carpet category, after her optical illusion dresses have been seen on a slew of stars, including Kate Winslet and Charlize Theron, and for the Best Designer Brand award, along with Burberry, Mulberry and Alexander McQueen, who have all flown the flag for British fashion overseas in the past year.Other nominees include the stylist Katie Grand and MA course director at Central Saint Martins Louise Wilson, who last year celebrated 20 years at the college, for the Isabella Blow Award for Fashion Creator. Meanwhile, up-and-coming names JW Anderson and Simone Rocha C daughter of the illustrious John C battle it out for the Emerging Talent Award. The ceremony will take place in November.?The Comme des Gar?ons dhoti pant is one such example; the Yohji Yamamoto black, asymmetric gown another. And then there's the Maison Martin Margiela tabi boot. The latter may be crafted in the softest calfskin, but any resemblance to the more mainstream 'must-have' fashion accessory stops there. With a split toe C not as difficult as it may sound from the point of view of comfort, at least C and a heel that varies but that is predominantly less-than-spiky, wooden and cylindrical, it is the perfect footwear for the woman who finds the cartoonish proportions of any number of so-called 'towering platforms', not to mention strappy, barely-there sandals, a fashion clich too far. And that, presumably, is why it has been successful for over 20 years.The tabi boot has always frightened me just a little. It's based on a Japanese slipper but a cloven hoof (yes, the devil) also springs to mind. And, in the end, that's why I knew I had to have a pair. My relationship with heels C or lack of it C is well-charted but, even I have to admit, a little lift would do my appearance no harm at times. And this is a lift with the mother of all differences: the footwear in question is about as far from the stiletto-wearing woman as eye-candy/trophy wife/girlfriend stereotype as it is possible to imagine a shoe being. And that is the point. More remarkable still, I can actually walk C and even, at a push, run C in my tabi boots. That might be a minor consideration to those in permanent possession of a chauffeur-driven Mercedes, but for the rest of us it is the best of all possible fashion news.Susannah Frankel is Fashion Editor of The Independent?2. Miu Miu225, net-a-porter.comIn one of the hottest shapes of the season, the pink-tinted lenses will add a romantic touch to your vision that will make everything seem to be coming up roses.3. Giles350, cutlerandgross.comAvailable in four colourways the "Sonic" design was a continuation of the designer's drawings of swans and mirrors the "elegant mystery" of that majestic fowl.4. Christian Dior210, 01423 520 303Candy colours are inescapable for summer and a bright pair of sunglasses is a fun way to wear the trend if classic neutrals are more your thing clothes-wise.5. Erdem350, cutlerandgross.comErdem Moralioglu's collection for spring/summer was a symphony of lace and florals. Here lace is encapsulated within acetate for a feminine, modern style.6. Marc Jacobs219, Marc Jacobs, 01423 520 303Aviators come in almost all shapes and sizes. This acrylic pair isn't flight regulation thanks to the oversize frame and fun and frivolous colours.7. Louis Vuitton291, louisvuitton.comContinuing the ice-cream shades throughout Marc Jacobs' spring/ summer collection, this pair has retro styling reminiscent of flight goggles with feminine curves.8. Burberry159, sunglasses-shop.co.ukClassic aviators are a perennially popular style. This luxurious pair comes replete with the house's signature check as a discreet detail on the arms.9. Prada196.20, sunglasses-shop.co.ukIf you're struggling to choose between this season's cat-eye or round shapes, this angled pair offers the best of both worlds and is flattering to boot.10. Celine220, brownsfashion.comThe keyhole detail on this pair of tortoiseshell shades references classic preppy styles. Honey and brown tones will flatter blondes who may find black too harsh.?2. Asos65, asos.comThis has contrasting red and camel panels, a funnel neck and drawstring tie. With a hood and a cinched waist, it's a very urbane take on nautical.3. Cos175, cosstores.comCos clothes are the essence of understatement, providing basic pieces cut in a very unfussy way. This aqua blue rain mac fulfils this ethos.4. Margaret Howell345, margarethowell.co.ukThis rain jacket is made from waxed cotton, and is as functional as it is stylish. Not only does it have concealed pockets, it also comes with a pack-away pouch.5. Original Penguin 185, originalpenguin.co.ukWearing anything in this eye-catching shade of cherry tomato takes confidence, but if you've got it, flaunt it. Under the toggles there's also a zip fastener.6. French Connection150, frenchconnection.comThe belted trench is the tried and tested classic choice for traditional rain wear. This affordable version ticks all the right boxes in what this style should offer.7. Oliver Spencer289, oliverspencer.co.ukThis jacket is made from Millerian waxed cotton, which helps give it a polished finish. It features a contrasting zipper fastening and four pockets.8. Gap39.95, gap.euFinding fashion forward rain wear on a budget can be tricky, but fortunately, Gap has this nifty little nylon jacket in red to help avoid any fashion no-nos.9. Burberry Brit595, mrporter.comBurberry Brit provides a relaxed but still sophisticated take on Burberry's heritage. This jacket is showerproof and has a clean, modern line.10. Levi's Made & Crafted250, levismadeandcrafted.comAdmittedly this is more of a showerproof jacket than anything else but the cut is of a classic work-wear style, so it's well worth a look.?2. Red Herring19, debenhams.comThe Red Herring brand has a pared-down approach to fashion, which extends to their watches C this one is made from hardwearing plastic with a basic, unfussy design.3. Armani Exchange65, armani.comThese Colour Pop watches from the Armani stable target a younger crowd and come in myriad colours, which can be matched to the colour of an outfit.4. Burberry395, burberry.comA Swiss-made watch from Burberry with a sunray dial, three-handed movement, day and date functions, gun-metal stainless steel face and sturdy rubber strap.5. Guess119, guess.comWearing a bright yellow watch is an antidote to the British weather. The sporty silicone strap fits on to a grey metal face, which is fitted with a textured yellow top ring.6. G Shock125, selfridges.comThis G Shock watch is a bold and vivid combination of colours. The red, white and blue are obviously in keeping with this years patriotic vibe.7. Adidas50, houseoffrazer.comThis aqua-blue polyurethane watch is given a final ostentatious flourish with the bright pink logo in the middle of the face C ideal for lounging around the pool.8. Casio Edifice225, edifice-watches.co.ukKnown as the Formula 1 of sporty watches, this Casio is coated in Neobrite, illuminating it after only minimal light exposure. It has five alarms and a world time function.9. Diesel125, diesel.comThe black face is set off by the bright purple of the resin bracelet strap, while the oversized numbering gives this water-resistant analog watch a flamboyant finish.10. Seiko201, yoox.comA steel face and black rubber strap give a hard-edged feel to this watch. Water-resistant to 100m with separate date window, this is perfect for the city dweller.?995, mrporter.comThis shawl collar knit from Burberry Prorsum exudes 1970s manly style. And the brown hexagonal print only adds to its cool retro credentials. Its a fine knit rather than chunky and the cut is on the slim side, keeping the overall feel very modern.2. River Island38, river-island.comHaving an animal motif on your knitwear doesnt have to be restricted to the over-exposed reindeer. This fantastic grey, tonal knit from River Island has a lions face down one side, if only to confirm your own suspicions that you are king of the urban jungle. Wear with sharp tailored trousers.3. Oliver Spencer129, oliverspencer.comThis is the ideal sweater for your downtime. Made from a lambswool blend, this three-panel knit of red, blue and grey is easy on the eye. Layer with a T-shirt and a raincoat. .4. Autograph35, marksandspencer.co.ukColour blocking on a sweater is an easy way to add some pizazz to your wardrobe. This burgundy and navy combo C both very wearable colours C from the Autograph range at Marks & Spencer comes in a cable knit for added texture.5. Michael Bastian565, mrporter.comMichael Bastian is a New York-based designer whose raison detre is American East Coast style. So its a little surprising that this yellow crewneck with a chevron stripe is inspired by the cartoon character Charlie Brown. However, as its made from the finest Italian cashmere, itll cost you more than peanuts.6. Boden44, boden.co.ukThis navy fishermens style knit makes a strong graphic statement without being over the top. Wear it with indigo denim jeans and desert boots for a paired down off-duty look.7. Marc Jacobs398, matchesfashion.comWith its Persian origins, the paisley pattern has been popular in Europe since the 17th century, especially during the psychedelic Sixties. Nowadays the print is more commonly seen on silk ties. Not so with Marc Jacobs, whose yellow and black angora knit is the perfect balance of urban and exotic.8. Lyle & Scott125, lyleandscott.co.ukFair isle knits are looking dated now after last years overkill, so try something a little different, such as this Aztec-inspired design from Lyle & Scott. Made from the softest cotton, its a sure-fire way to add a jolt of colour to your outfit.9. Folk155, mywardrobe.comIf youre looking for a statement knit with subtlety, this multi-stripe crewneck sweater from Folk is a key contender. The mix of coloured and grey stripes gives the garment a homespun feel. And its this laid back approach to fashion that has given the label such a global following.10. James Long for Topman100, topman.comDesigner James Long has always had a bold and directional take on menswear, which ensures he is a firm favourite when it comes to collaborations with Topman. Its easy to see why with this jazzy polka-dot knit. Not to be worn by shrinking violets, you should let the jumper speak for itself; layer over a navy T-shirt and wear with jeans.?2. Stripes15, Topshop, topshop.comThese zig-zagging vintage stripes will jolly up your rainy workwear of a damp and soggy morning and they're suitably sassy for summer C which promises to be a washout!3. Map lined120, London Undercover, mrporter.comSometimes an umbrella can be used to convey gravitas or, conversely, as a pointing device. This one has an aristocratic hauteur, thanks to its classic design.4. Miss Marc40, Marc by Marc Jacobs, harveynichols.comMarc Jacobs isn't one to hide his lights under a bushel C or an umbrella, for that matter. Make a statement with his "Miss Marc" design, featuring kooky cartoons.5. Ducks19.95, Joules, joules.comLet the raindrops be like water off a duck's back with this umbrella, which is wittily decorated with flocks of flying birds. It's light and compact, but sturdy enough to withstand a gale.6. Be a good sport22, Cath Kidston, cathkidston.co.ukGiven the British climate, it's best to pack a brolly if you're heading to the Olympic Park. What could be more patriotic than one with cartoons of the various activities?7. Check135, Burberry, net-a-porter.comBurberry's impressive catwalk shows often finish with a rumble of thunder and a sprinkling of indoor rain, so where better to look than this label for a chic piece of wet weather kit?8. Lightweight7.49, Uniqlo, uniqlo.comThe Japanese chain Uniqlo specialises in practicality and superb value for money. This functional and un-flimsy umbrella is the perfect example. It will stand up to Great British gusts.9. Stem Print30, Orla Kiely, orlakiely.comDesigner Orla Kiely is known for her signature stem prints, so proclaim your style credentials with this striking pattern, eye-catching enough to stop you leaving it on the bus or in a pub.10 Tiny17, Fulton, selfridges.comWhen it comes to umbrellas, Fulton knows best. Founded in 1956, the company has supplied brollies to the Queen and the Queen Mother C and you never see those ladies caught in the rain.?2. MangoGet on board with the tropical mood as seen on the runways. Add this colourful parrot brooch from high-street favourite Mango for an instant new season outfit update.Where: How much: 29.993. ASOSThis multi-disc design chain necklace from online behemoth ASOS is perfect for those who want statement jewellery. Wear it over a plain T-shirt for the greatest style impact.Where: How much: 404. WallisLayering isn't just a buzzword for your wardrobe this season, but can also work well for jewellery. This gold beaten stacked ring from Wallis gives a nifty three-rings-in-one look.Where: How much: 8.505. RadleyThis blue rectangular-faced watch by Radley is a great wear-every-day style, the soft leather strap in navy blue adding a touch of sophistication.Where: How much: 64.996. OasisThis chunky gold gem-embellished piece from high-street store Oasis is half chunky necklace, half neck collar. Wear it under a high-necked collared shirt or simple T-shirt.Where: How much: 257. TUA twisted metal chain bracelet is just the thing to toughen up any overly girly spring fashions, and it looks far more expensive than its supermarket price tag.Where: How much: 6.508. Zoe and MorganBrother-and-sister duo Zoe and Morgan's rock and roll take on jewellery design made their brand an instant success. Try these drop pendant, ethically processed silver earrings.Where: How much: 1109. Tatty DevineWear your heart on your sleeve, or your chest if you'd prefer. This bold glittery brooch will add a flash of colour and character to even the most ordinary of outfits.Where: How much: 1810. Kenneth Jay LaneKenneth Jay Lane has been designing costume jewellery for almost half a century. Invest in this oversized cocktail ring with amber stone at a price that won't break your bank balance.Where: How much: 7511. Michael KorsCan't decide between silver and gold for your new timepiece? There is an alternative. This chronograph watch from US designer Michael Kors is a rose gold shade and effortlessly chic.Where: How much: 19912. River IslandSpring blooms are always a big trend for the season, and your accessories can match with this oversized flower necklace. For a more fashion-forward look team with a flower print top.Where: How much: 2513. Maria BlackDanish designer Maria Black's jewellery is characterised by its sleek and sexy aesthetic. This bracelet has a rock and roll edge that will work well as a day to evening transitional piece.Where: How much: 14714. Diva at Miss SelfridgeTake inspiration from the 1920s; one of this season's biggest trends, with these gold- disc Art Deco-style earrings. Wear with a flapper girl-style dress for optimum period appeal.Where: How much: 6.5015. PradaIf you're after statement gems, look no further than this pink crystal and green patent rose brooch. It comes from Miuccia Prada's debut jewellery collection launched earlier this year.Where: How much: 26016. Erickson BeamonJewellery company Erickson Beamon was founded in Detroit in the 1980s. This gemstone ring is characteristic of its vintage inspired designs which all sport a modern twist.Where: How much: 19817. BurberryThis stainless steel quartz watch is a great back to basics option. The strap's metal links are subtley reminiscent of Burberry's check print, which gives a contemporary feel.Where: How much: 29518. CoastBetter known for eveningwear and wedding guest attire, this premium high-street brand's jewellery is worth a look. This agate and gemstone necklace will update a favourite dress.Where: How much: 5019. Dorothy PerkinsMake a statement with this black-and-gold cylinder arm cuff from high street stalwart Dorothy Perkins. Let the piece take centre stage by pairing it with a simple crisp white shirt.Where: How much: 1520. DannijoDannijo is the cult jewellery brand founded by sisters Danielle and Jodie Snyder. These handmade gold-plated earrings fuse a bit of rocker vibe with everyday elegance.Where: How much: 14021. NW3Even the most traditional of jewellery lovers will hanker after this cute cat brooch from Hobbs contemporary line NW3; ideal for adding a bit of fun to more serious ensembles.Where: How much: 2922. Alex MonroeAlex Monroe is based in Suffolk and her jewellery designs are inspired by nature. This 22ct gold-plated silver leaf ring with Tourmaline gemstone makes an elegant addition to any hand.Where: How much: 15023. DKNYDKNY's navy ceramic chronograph watch is not just a practical option with its multiple time and date dials, but has an on- trend borrowed-from-your boyfriend vibe.Where: How much: 22524. KG Kurt GeigerKurt Geiger's accessories collection is now a few seasons old and features jewellery such as this gold-plated knot bracelet, which would be an instant investment piece.Where: How much: 5025. Bling DeenieNot for the faint-hearted, this silver spike bracelet will provide a focal point for any look; style it right by keeping the rest of your outfit simple.Where: How much: 4526. Marc JacobsThese yellow stud earrings are from the Marc by Marc range, which provides the welcome opportunity to get a piece of New York's most famous designer brand for a lot less.Where: How much: 4027. H SamuelThis stone-set ladybird brooch is an ideal first purchase for those wary of such things. The tiny piece from this high-street jewellers is both subtle and stylish.Where: How much: 14.9928. Yves Saint LaurentYves Saint Laurent's iconic "Arty" ring. The popular design is available in a range of colours and finishes: this particular version is the eye-catching gold with blue stone.Where: How much: 16529. Emporio ArmaniIf your time-keeping tastes are traditional, then this super-slim amber and crystal watch with classic roman numerals and brown leather strap will be right up your street.Where: How much: 17930. Kara by Kara RossHorseshoes have long been worn as symbols of good luck and this oval pendant with black drusy gemstone is a stylish example.Where: Harvey Nichols (020 7235 5000)How much: 7531. WhistlesChain jewellery doesn't have to be of the scary industrial sort; try this delicate multi-strand bracelet complete with pretty W trinket from upmarket high-street store Whistles.Where: How much: 1832. New LookThe trend for feathery fashion has had a resurgence in recent months so these feather earrings from New Look are ideal for those wanting to sport a more bohemian look.Where: How much: 5.9933. Freedom at TopshopThere's something to satisfy every taste in the Freedom at Topshop collection. This oversized pink lip brooch can be worn on a top or attached to a handbag.Where: How much: 8.5034. Van Peterson 925American designer Eric Van Peterson has lent his skills to Debenhams for the affordable Van Peterson 925 collection that includes this classic silver leaf clasp ring.Where: How much: 6035. NextChoosing a watch for your fitness routine doesn't have to mean wearing something bulky and unfashionable. Try this sports watch in a rose gold shade.Where: How much: 2236. Weekend by MaxMaraThis dual-stranded necklace is a ready-made option that nails the layering look. The mixture of wooden beads and silver strands work as a wear-to-work or out-for-an-evening piece.Where: How much: 8537. George at AsdaNext time you're in the market for a food shop spare a thought for in-house clothing brand George, where stylish pieces like this leaf bangle come in at not much more than a quick shop.Where: How much: 538. Erickson Beamon for Maria GrachvogelMaria Grachvogel has teamed up with American jewellery designers Erickson Beamon for several seasons. Try these deco drops for double the clout.Where: 0207 2459 331How much: 23539. AWearThis traditional multi-coloured brooch from high street retailer AWear can be pinned to a scarf for a jazzier look, or styled with a number of others to avoid the out-of-date connotations.Where: How much: 1540. Isabel MarantIsabel Marant is the not-so-secret favourite brand of the fashion world. The burnished effect and turquoise stone of this brass ring give it a vintage bohemian vibe.Where: How much: 5041. FossilWhite and gold combine to make a modern classic with this bezel multi-dial watch with water resistance up to 50 metres, making it an ideal choice for summer wrist-wear.Where: How much: 10542. Philippe AudibertThe Parisian jewellery designer is a trained sculptor, hence the architectural nature of his designs. This long chain knotted silver necklace will swiftly become a wardrobe essential.Where: How much: 9043. Marks & SpencerEvery jewellery box needs a thick gold bangle. This Marks & Spencer option works well with any outfit but is particularly effective with eveningwear in providing a dose of glamour.Where: How much: 7.5044. MonsoonA statement pair of earrings is an easy way to transform a daytime look for the evening. Team these pretty, blue-gem drop earrings with pulled back hair for fail-safe eveningwear.Where: How much: 1645. MarniFans of Italian label Marni's trademark bold prints will love this set of three patterned resin brooches. Wear them all together or mix and match for a more eclectic yet ultra-stylish look.Where: How much: 9746. Aurelie BidermannAn intricate gold-plated arrow crafted into a ring by French jewellery designer Aurelie Bidermann, whose romantic designs are high on many a jewellery lover's wish-list.Where: How much: 11347. GuessThis colourful watch's double wrap strap gives it a part bracelet, part time-telling-device function and it's right on trend in this season's popular tangerine shade.Where: How much: 7948. Red HerringTribal-inspired fashion is a key look this spring/summer and this gold-beaded necklace from Red Herring at Debenhams will see you seamlessly into the new season.Where: How much: 1849. Lara BohincFrom luxury accessories label Lara Bohinc this delicate heart charm bracelet will make an easy addition to your everyday wardrobe: it's simple and pretty without being overwhelming.Where: How much: 15050. Monica VinaderThese sterling silver drop earrings are in the trademark colourful style of Spanish designer Monica Vinader. And carnelian orange is one of this season's strongest shades.Where: How much: 90?2. Jonathan SaundersLook the part this summer with this multicoloured patchwork-print T-shirt from Jonathan Saunders, ensuring you're making the right sartorial statement.Where: How much: 1883. PersolPersol sunglasses were first designed for pilots. During the 1950s they were adopted by stars like Greta Garbo. This pair, with retro tortoise shell frames, also fold away.Where: How much: 2054. Oliver SpencerThis ankle boot, called the Kyak, is a fantastic alternative to the over-exposed deck shoe. It has the same rubber sole and heavy stitching but the shape and style is entirely different.Where: How much: 1295. Banana RepublicIf you're bag shopping on a budget then splurge your well-earned cash on this bright orange canvas shopper. It would look great with a suit in say grey or navy blue.Where: How much: 756. AcneThis chambray shirt has a curved placket giving it an interesting edge in comparison to other denim shirts. The patch pockets and brown buttons are a nice touch too.Where: How much: 1607. Ralph LaurenA coloured pair of chinos should form the basis of your summer wardrobe. Invest in this pair from Ralph Lauren and match with a crisp white shirt for an all-American vibe.Where: How much: 1008. Marc by Marc JacobsMustard is a tricky colour. This chunky pull over, with matching-leather elbow patches, should only be worn when your skin has a bit of a tan. If you are pale yet interesting, steer clear.Where: How much: 2199. M&SThe tasselled loafer is always an urbane choice for this time of year. This pair from M&S is inspired by stylish Italian gents holidaying on the Amalfi coast.Where: How much: 7910. J CrewChambray shorts are the perfect choice for the summer heat. Lightweight and cooling, they can be worn with smart brown shoes for a laid back but smart vibe.Where: How much: 7511. FolkFolk ignores catwalk trends and concentrates on fine tuning what we already have in our wardrobes. This woollen knit is perfect for spring like weather as it will layer over a T-shirt.Where: How much: 11212. HoganHogan's take on the traditional brogue adds a subtle sporty element. The uppers are made from the softest calf leather, and the soles from a white wedge of rubber.Where: How much: 22013. Beams PlusBeams Plus is a Japanese brand that was launched in 1999. This jacket has an American preppy feel to it but is made from the latest crease-resistant fabric. How very modern.Where: How much: 29514. Rag & BoneThe Hawaiian-print shirt is making something of a return to our shores this summer. This particular model has a pattern reminiscent of steamy nights in Miami.Where: How much: 13015. APCAPC has been making effortlessly cool clothes since 1987. It manages to give the expected a little twist of the unexpected. This T-shirt's multi-coloured pattern gives it joie de vivre.Where: How much: 6016. Margaret HowellIf you have cash to burn then take a look at this rucksack. Made from cotton canvas exclusively for the label by Yoshida & Co of Tokyo. There's only 30 of them hence the priceWhere: How much: 47517. Lacoste LiveThese plain-blue gabardine chinos are given a splash of colour by the tiny embroidered deck shoe motif. Very lively, so it's advisable to stick to a more neutral top.Where: How much: 13018. ASOSThese shorts have an authentic vintage feel and are cut to sit on the middle of the thigh. A perfect example of that washed out-pastel colour running through the menswear collections.Where: How much: 2219. Burberry ProrsumIf you fancy something a little homespun then you'll love the crochet detailing on the front of this sweater. It adds a sophisticated element to what could be humdrum knitwear.Where: How much: 55020. Mason Martain MargielaWear these two-tone brown leather shoes and you're buying into a brand that is the epitome of elegance and at the cutting edge of Parisian cool.Where: How much: 44521. Jonathan SaundersScottish designer Jonathan Saunders is known for vibrant colour and this turquoise-blue jacket is a prime example. It has a detachable hood and button cuff epaulettes.Where: How much: 72822. French ConnectionIgnore patterned shirts at your peril this year. Perhaps the easiest way to wear them is by adopting the polka dot. This version is an easy way to inject fun into your wardrobe.Where: How much: 4023. GivenchyThis season's collection from Givenchy creative director Riccardo Tisci was dominated by the bird of paradise print. The sleeves on this T-shirt are a simple way to wear this look.Where: How much: 37524. Jack SpadeIf you're in the market for a new wallet I recommend this anchor embossed leather number. It comes with a zipper fastening, and when opened there's room for credit cards and cash.Where: How much: 15025. AcneGive your weekend wardrobe a hint of Scandinavian style with these burnt-orange chinos from Acne. Zesty and refreshing, these will look great with a slim fit double-breasted blazer.Where: How much: 17026. Jack SpadeJack Spade has its roots in classic American sportswear. Buy in to this American dream by wearing these red shorts with a pair of classic white plimsolls.Where: How much: 13027. MarniItalian label Marni is known for eccentricity, so this knit is relatively simple. The bold stripes and colour tones give it an arts student kind of vibe C albeit a very wealthy one.Where: How much: 34028. TopmanShorts that make a loud statement are always a welcome sight come summer. These thick blue stripe shorts from Topman will certainly get you noticed.Where: How much: 3029. PiomboThis Italian-based label does classic with a twist. This double-breasted jacket is smart and easy to wear. It's also made from 100 per cent linen, making it perfect for summer.Where: How much: 70530. Jack SpadeWith all the busy prints and patterns, this button down grey shirt will sooth the eyes. It has a worn in softness to the cotton, making it feel as if it has been part of your collection for years.Where: How much: 11731. Lacoste LiveThis imaginative print T-shirt is a jolly way to approach the coming summer. The cartoon street scene print even features the obligatory croc.Where: How much: 5932. H.E. by MangoThis striped belt with silver buckle from H.E. by Mango is perfect for casual shorts. An ideal accessory for the summer holidays.Where: How much: 19.9533. Farah VintageButtercup-yellow chinos might not be to everyone's taste but you'll be on to a winner by summer if you invest in a pair of these. They'll look perfect with a white T-shirt.Where: How much: 7034. River IslandIf vertical stripes just aren't your thing then head down to River Island. You'll then be able to get your hands on these horizontal-stripe shorts. The belt is also included. Bargain.Where: How much: 2535. JaegerIf you're looking for a fine gauge knit then here's one made from the softest cotton. This Breton sweat has a contemporary edge because of the colour of its contrasting stripes.Where: How much: 13036. J JeansJasper Conran's shoe collection for his Debenhams line goes from strength to strength. This brogue with a white-wedge sole is a popular trend. Wear these with a smart suit or jeans.Where: How much: 6437. ValentinoThis dark and moody take on the Hawaiian trend is not what you'd necessarily expect from Valentino, who is more noted for its tailoring. An impressive lightweight nylon jacket.Where: How much: 1,23838. Marc JacobsShort-sleeved shirts tend to get an unwarranted bad press. This floral print shirt with contrast collar is just what's needed if you're keen to adopt the 1950s trend this summer.Where: How much: 31439. WooyoungmiWooyoungmi clothes sculpt around the body almost like a second skin. This is expensive but from the contrasting neck line to the zip fastening, it is a detailed investment piece.Where: How much: 36940. CoachIf you're feeling very patriotic this year Coach has just the bag for you. This leather and canvas Bleeker bag comes in the colours of our national flag.Where: How much: 32041. FolkWe all need a classic pair of chinos for the summer. This beige pair might not seem much at first glance, but they'll carry you through from day to evening, from smart to casual.Where: from How much: 14042. Oliver SpencerI believe shorts are for weekends. If, however, you find yourself in an office where they are compulsory, this chambray pair hit the perfect balance between smart yet casual.Where: How much: 9943. AcneYou can rely on Acne for stylish basics. This red knit is made of lightweight cotton, the perfect type of yarn for warm weather. Wear by itself with a pair of flat-front khaki shorts and sandals.Where: How much: 19044. Penguin OriginalLaunched in Minneapolis in 1955, Penguin is known for its chinos and polo shirts. This orange lightweight duffle-inspired jacket is a prime example of their outerwear.Where: How much: 18545. ASOSIn collaboration with It's Nice That magazine, ASOS asked artists to design Hawaiian shirts. Michael Willis has used bold pastel coloured imagery with 1980s pop art influencesWhere: How much: 4046. FolkInspired by an Aboriginal piece of art, this dot T-shirt was made by the in-house team at Folk which means that you won't find anything else like it on the market.Where: How much: 6547. French ConnectionThis is a great trans-seasonal piece. Warm enough to keep spring chills at bay, but good for summer with just a T-shirt. It has an attractive check lining and hidden inside pocket.Where: How much: 10048. WooyoungmiLaunched in Paris in 2002, Wooyoungmi takes fashion very seriously but also has a sense of humour. These suede sandals are reminiscent of the Jelly Bean shoes of the 1980s.Where: How much: 15049. WolseyInspired by the traditional American college jacket with its shape and cut, but made from lightweight polyester for a sportier edge. Brass button fastenings are a highlight.Where: How much: 14950. Banana RepublicPea coats never seem to go out of style. This is a lightweight version from Banana Republic. Wear over a crisp white shirt and coloured chinos for a timeless look.Where: How much: 89?New City jobs total falls 17% in a yearThe number of new City jobs created in the third quarter of the year has dropped 17 per cent from the same period in 2010, says recruitment firm Astbury Marsden. Some 12,750 City jobs were created in the three months to the end of September, down from 14,900 a year ago.No September lift for high street gloomThe high street slump continued last month with retail sales falling 4 per cent, the steepest fall in demand since February 2009, according to BDOs High Street Sales Tracker. Fashion stores had the biggest hit, with sales down 5.1 per cent.Sala in 52m merger with EDM GroupSala International has merged with rival document management business EDM Group in a 52m deal. Sala was backed by private equity house LDC, while EDM was backed by ECI Partners.LadbrokesAnalysts are betting on an update from the bookie about its bid for Sportingbet in its trading update on Thursday. A sticking point is likely to be the online groups Turkish unit, which it wants to sell to Gaming VC.WH SmithThe stationery and books chain indicated in August that it was bucking the gloom seen elsewhere on the high street, leaving the City expecting its annual profits on Thursday will meet forecasts of about 93m.BurberryEven though fears over Chinas growth prospects have seen shares in the upmarket fashion group Burberry retreat from all-time highs, analysts still expect a strong first-half update on Wednesday.?TV ad boosts sales at John LewisSales at the retailer John Lewis climbed 6 per cent week-on-week to 76.3m as its Christmas television campaign launched last week. The advert, starring seven-year-old Lewis McGowan gained 400,000 views on YouTube in just two days after being launched on Friday. Its first broadcast was during The X Factor on Saturday night.Insolvencies rise with council cutsThe number of care home businesses going bust has more than doubled over the past year, as they are hit by local council cutbacks and risingdebt worries. The accountant Wilkins Kennedy said 73 care home companies went into administration in the 12 months to the end of September, up from 35 in the previous 12 months. Contractors see fall in demand Demand for contractors has fallen 13 per cent year-on-year across theUK as fears of a double-dip recession intensify, according to the Association of Professional Staffing Companies. Its research shows that 57,191 contractor vacancies were advertised on job boards in September, compared to 66,340 in the same month last year.Companies face corruption risksFollowing the introduction of the UK Bribery Act, businesses must do more to ensure they have adequate procedures to prevent corruption amongexternal business partners, Ernst & Young warned. Companies must now demonstrate they have "adequate procedures" in place to address third-party risks C including outsourced business.Business activity slows across UKGrowth in economic activity slowed across most regions in October, according to the Lloyds TSB regional Purchasing Managers' Index. The month-on-month slowdown was particularly marked in London and the South-East, with the latter recording the first fall in business activity since June 2009.Pressure grows on commercial rentsMore than half of commercial tenants have attempted to renegotiate the terms of their original leases in the last 12 months, according to Creditsafe. It said landlords are consequently being forced to downgradeforecasted revenues, with retail outlets most likely to ask to review their lease arrangements.Burberry Burberry is expected to report a leap in profits on Tuesday but analysts will be watching for signs that its stellar growth is starting to slow. The fashion house, famous for its red, black and camel check, is expected to post a 25 per cent rise in six-month profits to 161m, boosted by bumper sales in China and decent demand in the UK and US. Talk Talk TalkTalk is set to reveal on Tuesday that it lost more broadband users in recent months, despite efforts it has made to sort out customerservice problems since it bought Tiscali. City analysts predict that half-year profits will rise by 30 per cent to 91m, despite a 4 per centfall in revenues to 848m over the six months. easyJetBudget airline easyJet is seen cheering the market with a surge in profits on Tuesday as its strategy of boosting its appeal to business and short-break passengers starts to pay off. The airline expects full-year profits of up to 250m, versus 188m last year. The airline launched a new flexible fare in the period targeted at business travellers.Mothercare Mothercare's future in the UK will be at the heart of its half-year results on Thursday, when it is expected to unveil a slide in profits. The retailer, which has 353 UK stores and 969 overseas outlets, recentlywarned that underlying UK sales fell nearly 10 per cent. Its international arm, which is being expanded, has been keeping the firm afloat. ?Hunter wellies go to private equityHunter, the maker of upmarket wellies favoured by the likes ofKate Moss, has been bought by a private equity firm in a deal whichsees its current shareholders cash out part of? their? investments.Searchlight Capital Partners has taken a controlling stake inHunter from its existing four shareholders, including the fashiongroup Pentland.Partner to pay BP $250m over spillBP will receive $250m (161m) from Cameron International, acontractor on the Macondo well, in settlement of their dispute overliability for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Cameron made theblow-out preventer which proved ineffective on the DeepwaterHorizon rig. This is the fourth settlement BP has made with apartner in the project.National Grid loses US dealNational Grid has lost its $40m a year (26m) contract to runthe Long Island electricity system in New York state after 13years, amid an investigation into overcharging for its Americanservices. Britain's grid operator insisted there was no connectionbetween the inquiry and Long Island Power Authority's decision notto renew its contract.Burberry boss in shares giveawayBurberry boss Angela Ahrendts has sold 574,000 worth of sharesin the brand to give to the charity she set up along with herhusband, Gregg Couch. Ahrendts gave them to the Ahrendts-CouchFamily Foundation, which sold them at 1148p a share. The couple setup the private charity in the past few weeks to give to goodcauses.Playtech splashes cash on AshPlaytech is splashing out 23m to buy online games developer AshGaming, seriously enriching the London-based founder. Chris Ashfounded the business in 2002. The company's best-known titles areAmazon Wild and Madness House of Fun. In the year to April, it hadrevenues of 4.2m, with a profit of 2.6m.MF Global clients' positions in handAll but a tiny handful of MF Global UK's clients' positions havebeen closed or transferred since the London arm went under at theend of October, the administrators said last night. KPMG said ithad recovered 594m, or 82 per cent, of clients' money which hadbeen stuck when the firm collapsed.Tough market trips up ImacIngenious Media Active Capital, which is behind the Creamfieldsmusic festival and the BBC TV show Let's Dance, yesterday warned oftough market conditions as it lost more than 4m in six months.Imac, part of Patrick McKenna's media empire, said consumerconfidence had been hit by "austerity and tax rises".BlackBerry 10 launch delayBlackBerry maker Research in Motion has been forced to delay thelaunch of its BlackBerry 10. The phones were supposed to be on salein the first three months of 2012. It blamed the advanced chipsused. The company has had a difficult few months, with a serviceoutage knocking $40m (26m) off its net income.Laura Ashley sees sales grow 1.4%Laura Ashley said like-for-like sales increased 1.4 per cent inthe 19 weeks to December 10. Sales in the 45 weeks to the same datewere up 2.5 per cent, which suggests they have slowed since thefirst half, even though the fashion chain has closed fiveunprofitable stores in the year so far.PwC facing new investigationOne of the big four accountancy firms, PricewaterhouseCoopers,is under investigation by the profession's disciplinary board overits role as auditor to Barclays Capital. It is the second time thisyear that PwC has been referred to the Accountancy & ActuarialDiscipline Board following huge fines levied on its bankclients.?Adidas, supplier of Olympic kit for Team GB C including cyclist Victoria Pendleton C has slashed sales forecasts for its Reebok brand after it lost to Nike the rights to supply all NFL American football jerseys. The company also discovered fraud in its Indian business. Adidas chopped Reebok's targets by 1bn to just 2bnHMV woes mount in slow summer Loss-making retailer HMV blamed a "very quiet new release schedule" in music, DVD and games markets for poor summer sales. Like-for-like retail sales at HMV fell by 11.6 per cent over the 20 weeks to 15 September. The company, which has 243 shops in the UK and Ireland, suffered a loss of 16.2m for the year to April.Buyers circle Aer Lingus stake Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary said the low cost airline has received a number of approaches to buy its 30 per cent stake in Aer Lingus. Addressing shareholders at yesterday's annual meeting in Dublin, O'Leary said Ryanair had been approached by other airlines and financial institutions who wanted to break up Aer Lingus.G4S recovers in ScotlandBeleaguered security giant G4S has won its first British contract since failing to provide enough guards for the London Olympics. The 20m, five-year deal with the Scottish government to manage electronic tagging of offenders comes at a crucial time for G4S. It has already taken a 50m hit on the Games.BP eyes Rosneft share swoopOil giant BP yesterday said it was ready to invest in state-owned Russian rival Rosneft if the British firm sold its 50 per cent stake in troubled joint venture TNK-BP. BP said: "If we are successful in selling our stake in TNK-BP we would be interested in investing some of the proceeds in buying shares in Rosneft." Bloomsbury in Indian moveHarry Potter publisher Bloomsbury has launched its own imprint in India. Chief executive Nigel Newton has high hopes for Bloomsbury India, saying the country has "probably more of the book-buying demographic than that of the UK, US and Canada combined".British Land sells supermarketsBritish Land has sold seven supermarkets to a variety of investors for a total of 118m. The property group, which is the largest owner of supermarket buildings outside the retailers themselves, said all the sites had been sold at or above their March book value.Investec bankers sue for bonusesTwo former Investec bankers are suing the Anglo-South African financial services group for 6.3m in a claim for unpaid bonuses. Andrew Brogden, who ran the structured finance desk until 2011, and deputy Robert Reid have made the claim, which the bank said "had no merit". whatsoever." Achica breaks through 1m markAchica, the online homewares retailer set up by the co-founder of Asos, said its customer numbers have smashed through the 1 million barrier this month. The private members' site sells luxury brands at up to 70 per cent off via flash sales lasting 48 hours.Millar time as Richemont buysLuxury goods giant Richemont yesterday added upmarket leisure-wear brand Peter Millar to a wardrobe, which already holds Chloe clothes and Cartier jewellery. The deal for the brand comes weeks after a Burberry profit warning shook the sector. ?Britons switching from estimated bills to water meters havestopped United Utilities' profits rising as much as they could havefrom the new year's regulated price increases. United's chairman,John McAdam, said businesses are also using considerably lesswater.No child's play for toy makerDoctor Who toy firm Character warned yesterday that the retailsqueeze threatened to exterminate profits. Character, which designsand distributes toys from Scooby Doo to HM Armed Forces, blamedJubilee celebrations, Euro 2012 football, bad weather, the eurozonecrisis and the Olympics for consumers' unwillingness to spend ontoys.Russian court fines BP $3bnOil major BP's woes in Russia deepened yesterday after aSiberian court landed it with a $3bn (1.9bn) bill for damages overits failed tie-up with Rosneft in 2010. The claim C which BP dubbed an "attempted corporate attack" Cwas brought by Andrei Prokhorov, an investor in BP's Russian jointventure TNK-BP.Stiff sentences for insider tradersThe six men in the so-called "print room" insider trader ring,where a bank employee working in the print room of UBS stole secrettakeover documents so his friends could trade shares in thecompanies mentioned, were jailed for up to three-and-a-half years.The case cost the Financial Services Authority 5m.Samsung running rings round AppleSamsung's Galaxy smartphones are outselling rival Apple'siPhones by nearly two to one, leading to record second-quarterprofits for the Korean technology giant. Samsung said operatingprofits hit an all-time high of 6.7trn won (2.7bn) between Apriland June, 79 per cent above a year earlier.Carphone says phones too priceyCarphone Warehouse yesterday blamed the "lack of attractivelypriced smartphone products" at the cheap end of the mobile marketfor hurting sales. The retail group said the pre-pay marketcontinued to be "weak". Like-for-like sales at its subsidiary,Carphone Europe, fell 2 per cent to 776m in the quarter.Wing woe clips Airbus hopesAirbus yesterday admitted the launch of its new A350 passengerjet will be delayed by another three months because of wingproblems at the British factory making them. The new aircraft wasalready a year behind schedule and the latest delay will result ina charge of 124m (97m).Apple in 229m fingerprint buyExpect the next generation of Apple tablets and iPhones toinclude fingerprint recognition technology. The company last nightlanded a $356m (229m) takeover of US fingerprint security firmAuthenTec in a deal that will see it explore ways in which it canimprove security.William Hill on a phones winnerWilliam Hill yesterday reported half-year profits up 13 per centon a year ago at 143.3m, with revenues gaining 11 per cent to627.8m. The results were partly driven by surging phone betting.Mobile revenues on sports were up 390 per cent in June.Burberry to take control in FranceBurberry will have full control of its make-up and perfumeranges when a near-20-year agreement with its licensee expires atthe end of the year. The luxury brand has ended talks with itsFrench perfume licensee Inter parfums.?City Link drags down RentokilRentokil Initial's attempt to jump-start its City Link parcels arm took a further knock yesterday after it posted more big losses for the Christmas quarter. The problems offset better trading in areas such as pest control, textiles and facilities services, leaving Rentokil annual profits down 4 per cent at 184m.Morrisons addsto its familyMorrisons has moved four senior directors to work on expanding Kiddicare, the maternity website that thesupermarket wants to take on and beat a struggling Mothercare and Tesco. It has also hired executives from Mothercare, Moda in Pelle, Autotrader and Boots as it prepares to grow. Emerging markets give IMI a liftThe engineering giant IMI has reported a better-than-expected 19 per cent increase in 2011 profits to 363m, and said it was on track for further growth this year, as strength in emerging markets and the US offsets weakness in Europe. The company makes valves for drink dispensers and generating equipment.Pretty Paris profit for Hammerson Hammerson, which last week announced plans to sell its London office estate in order to focus on retail, has booked a substantial profit on the sale of buildings it acquired in Paris' luxury retail quarter in 2005. The site, occupied by designer brands such as Burberry and Moschino, fetched 138m.Apple/Samsung cases dismissedA German court has dismissed two cases brought by Apple and Samsung against each other as part of a global battle to dominate the smartphone market. The court decision covered claims over "slide-to-unlock" features and are among a flurry ofpatent disputes worldwide.Building activity points to growth The economy is on track to bounce back this quarter after the building industry's strongest growthfor almost a year in February. The Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply/Markit index, where a score over 50 signals growth, hit an 11-month high of 54.3 last month, led by a revival in commercial building. Glaxo plans Japan vaccines ventureGlaxoSmithKline, Britain's biggest drug maker, has set out plans for a joint venture with Tokyo-based Daiichi Sankyo that will make it the largest vaccines company in Japan. The 50-50 venture will see new vaccines entering the Japanese market, known for its slow acceptance of drugs. iPhone supplier Laird profits soar Laird, the former shipbuilder that reinvented itself as a maker of parts for tablets and smartphones such as Apple's iPhone, saw a 31 per cent jump in profits to53m last year as revenues rose 19 per cent to 491m. Laird is still looking for a chief executive to replace Peter Hill, who quit due to illhealth last year.Profits take off at flight firm BBA The flight refuelling and ground handling firm BBA Aviation increased profits by 15 per cent to $170m (107m), despite slower than expected growth in key markets. The London-based company employs 10,000 people and generates three-quarters of its profits in US dollars.Masters of Wall StreetBlythe Masters, the British woman who runs JP Morgan's commodities division, has steered the department to record revenues exceeding $2.8bn (1.8bn) in 2011, more than long-time industry leaders Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. ?The British former chief executive of Olympus, Michael Woodford, will receive 10m in a settlement over his dismissal for whistle-blowing at the giant Japanese cameras and medical equipment maker. Olympus disclosed the figure yesterday, following approval from its board of directors, after the settlement reached last week. Public expects inflation to riseThe Bank of England's dilemma over whether to stimulate the recession-hit UK economy has been sharpened further by a survey showing that the public expects inflation to hit 3.6 per cent in five years' time. Official figures, meanwhile, showed a fall in factory gate prices yesterday, which should feed through to lower consumer prices, as oil prices dropped. Ahrendts pockets 15.6m at BurberryThe Burberry, chief executive Angela Ahrendts pocketed 15.6m last year after she cashed in share awards and picked up a hefty bonus, following huge growth at the luxury fashion brand. Her pay totalled 3.69m, with 990,000 in salary and a bonus of 1.98m. She also sold 11.9m of shares, most of which were granted for free under incentive plans. Olympics boost for toy-maker HornbyAfter two profit warnings this year, the Airfix-to-Scalextric maker Hornby said yesterday that sales of its toys and badges for the Olympics were taking off. Analysts reckon Hornby could sell 7m of Olympics products ranging from Corgi models of London taxis and buses to pin badges of the mascots. Annual profits rose from 4.4m to 4.5m on sales of 64m.?Laura Ashley, the fashion-to-home furnishings chain, has shrugged off the consumer downturn and soggy April to deliver a strong rise in sales over the past 18 weeks. The High Street stalwart also made the bold forecast that it expects the recent growth in underlying sales to continue throughout the rest of this year.Mouchel's shares slumpMouchel, the infrastructure group that rejected a 170m takeover bid from Costain 16 months ago, yesterday said all the restructuring options it is looking at would result in "only limited value for existing shareholders". The shares fell 30 per cent to 4p, a far cry from the 153p a share Costain had offered.Goals bid gets extra timeThe potential takeover of Goals Soccer Centres moved into its third period of extra time yesterday. The Takeover Panel said at the request of the UK company it would give the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan another month to continue going over the books. Analysts expect a bid of around 130p a share, valuing Goals at 60m.Airlines facing record lossEuropean airlines could post a record loss of $1.1bn (711m) this year, nearly double the forecast three months ago. The International Air Transport Association's (Iata) forecast reflects dampened demand as recessions in the UK and Spain and turmoil in Greece and elsewhere in Europe have seen would-be travellers stay put.Goldman's Gupta won't testifyFormer Goldman Sachs director Rajat Gupta will not take the stand this week, as his trial on insider dealing charges heads towards a conclusion. His lawyers had previously said it was "highly likely" that Mr Gupta would testify. As well as Goldman, Mr Gupta was also a director of Procter & Gamble.'RBS pension is unaffordable'Royal Bank of Scotland has been accused of making its pension fund "unaffordable" after around 42,000 members of its final salary pension scheme were told if they want to receive the full entitlement when they retire at 60, contributions must increase from zero to 5 per cent or they must work to 65.BAA refinances airportsThe airports operator BAA has completed a 2.75bn refinancing of its loan facilities for Heathrow and Stansted airports in London. The Spanish-owned group, which sold Edinburgh for competition reasons this spring, is still appealing against regulator's ruling it should sell Stansted.Boeing to sell 1,000 airlinersBoeing has pledged to sell 1,000 airliners this year, putting it on course to recover leadership of the $100bn (65bn) global jet market amid growing tensions with Airbus. Its European rival is targeting 600 to 650 orders, down from 1,608 in 2011 due to a fuel-saving version of its A320.Serco stumps up 55m for rivalSerco is paying 55m for the public sector arm of Vertex Data Services C a rival outsourcing business. Vertex's customers include Westminster and Thurrock councils, and the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission and Job Centre Plus.Arcadia hires Burberry marketerSir Philip Green's Arcadia Group has appointed Burberry executive Justin Cooke as chief marketing officer of the fashion chain Topshop from September. He is expected to assist with the brand's global expansion plans, especially in digital marketing.?Tata Motors' global vehicle sales rose 13 per cent in August from a year earlier, the Indian company said yesterday, with sales at its Jaguar Land Rover subsidiary up 13 per cent, less than in recent months. Sales at the British brand, a key driver of its recent profit growth, rose 41 per cent in July, 39 per cent in June and 35 per cent in May.Russia to sell 5bn Sberbank stakeRussia launched the long-awaited sale of a $5bn (3bn) stake in Sberbank yesterday, reducing its controlling interest in Europe's third-largest bank. The sale of a near 8 per cent stake will boost the liquidity of Russia's most actively traded stock, widely viewed by investors as a proxy for economic growth running at 4 per cent.Greggs goes into military serviceGreggs has started a trial with the Naafi, the supplier of retail services to the armed services.The baker is supplying seven of its frozen savouries C including sausage rolls, steak bakes, chilli bakes and sausage and bean melts C initially to the British military base in Gutersloh, Germany, home to army helicopters and logistics. AllSaints raids Burberry for boss AllSaints, the fashion chain, has poached a director from Burberry to be its new chief executive. William Kim, who was the senior vice-president of retail and digital commerce at Burberry, will join private equity-owned AllSaints on 15 October. The clothing retailer has 65 stores and 35 concessions in the UK, Europe and US. HSBC signs deal with Post OfficeNine million current account customers of HSBC and First Direct will have access to their bank accounts at the Post Office from next spring. They will also be able to deposit cash and cheques in an agreement meaning 95 per cent of all UK debit cardholders will be able to access their cash at PO counters.Rip Curl to test water for buyoutThe Australian surfwear brand Rip Curl is the target of bids from private equity firms that could see it sold for up to 300m. This follows its rival Billabong receiving offers from two buyout houses. The company has appointed Bank of America Merrill Lynch to explore its options.Alvarez replaces Kelly at BT GlobalLuis Alvarez is to become the chief executive of BT Global Services, the business that forced the telecoms group to issue a huge profits warning four years ago. Mr Alvarez has been with BT for 12 years. He will take over from Jeff Kelly, who is returning to the US.FastJet ready to set up baseFastJet, a low-cost African airline backed by Lonrho, is to make its first base on the continent at Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania. It plans to offer flights priced from $20 (12) one-way in November.Its second base will be at Nairobi, Kenya, once its Airbus A319 has been licensed for use there. Lonmin reduces sales forecastLonmin has cut its sales forecast as it continues to be hurt by strikes at its mines in South Africa. The platinum miner now expects to sell between 685,000 ounces and 700,000 ounces of platinum for the year to 30 September, down from 750,000.Gas discovery by Falkland IslandsFalkland Oil and Gas has found gas off the coast of the Falkland Islands. FOGL, which is partnered by the US company Noble Energy and the Italian utility Edison, said more tests would need to be done to assess its commercial viability.?Machine-guns fell from favour in the City yesterday as manufacturer Manroy warned that a delayed 8m order would leave sales this year nearly 4m short of expectations. The firm hopes to have confirmation of the order by the end of September. Chief executive Glyn Bottomley said the delay was "obviously frustrating".UBS banker beats the FSA's rapThe Financial Services Authority suffered humiliation yesterday after a former UBS banker won an appeal against the watchdog which wanted to fine him 100,000 for failings at his division five years ago. John Pottage, who use to run UBS's wealth management operations in the UK, successfully argued he had behaved reasonably.Bowman new Miller chairConstruction company Miller Group has hired Philip Bowman, the veteran executive who heads Smiths Group, to be its new chairman. Bowman, who has previously been the chief executive of Scottish Power and is currently a senior independent director of Burberry, succeeds Sir Brian Stewart, who joined the company three years ago.HSBC's China view weighs on oilOil prices slipped after a report from analysts at HSBC showed manufacturing in China remains weak. Benchmark oil for June delivery was down 63 cents to $103.25 a barrel in electronic trading in Singapore yesterday. Meanwhile, Brent crude for June delivery was also in decline, down 56 cents at $118.20 per barrel in London.Jones lands a role on board of FlybeLord Digby Jones is joining the board of Flybe, Europe's largest regional airline, as a non-executive director. The former Trade Minister and director general of the CBI will pick up 46,000 a year, adding to his growing portfolio of boardroom and advisory roles. He said: "I am extremely excited."Rolls-Royce wins US military dealAircraft engine maker Rolls-Royce has won a $598m (371m) contract to supply the US military with 268 engines for its V-22 Osprey aircraft. Rolls-Royce will deliver 70 turboshaft engines, worth $151m, to the US Marine Corps and Air Force in the first year. The engines allow the tilt-rotor V-22 to take off and land.Greene King ready for summerThe Queen's Diamond Jubilee, Euro 2012 and the London Olympics will send both tourists and locals flocking to the nation's pubs. So said Rooney Anand, chief executive of pubco Greene King as the company unveiled a 4.6 per cent boost in sales in the 50 weeks to 15 April.Growth slows at StagecoachThe brakes were pulled on Stagecoach's bus and train growth in the UK between February and April. It saw ticket sales growth on its UK buses slow from 3 per cent in the 10 months to February to 2.7 per cent when the last two months' revenues were included.Falklands find is gas, not oilA potentially huge source of new hydrocarbons was opened up yesterday as explorer Borders & Southern struck "gas condensate" in the virgin territory to the south of the Falkland Islands with its first "wildcat" well. Shares fell 41.5p to 89.5p.New Zealand cash rate unchangedThe Reserve Bank of New Zealand should keep its official cash rate unchanged at 2.5 percent this week because of low inflation and a high currency, a newly formed group of economists, academics and business leaders said on Tuesday.?India unexpectedly cut its key interest rate by half a percentage point yesterday, in a bid to boost its sagging economy. Economists said its first rate cut in three years, however, may be its last for a while as inflation is likely to remain elevated near 7 per cent and growth C currently just under 7 per cent C is too low to create new jobs.Next boss's pay falls by 15%Lord Wolfson, the chief executive of Next, saw his pay fall 15 per cent last year, despite the retailer posting record profits and returns for shareholders. The Tory peer was, however, boosted by two long-term share awards worth 2.5m, although the Lord agreed with Next's remuneration committee to cap the total pay out at this amount.Diamond Jubilee boost for EurostarStrong bookings for the June bank holiday weekend around the Queen's Diamond Jubilee helped Eurostar sales rise by 7 per cent to 211m in the first quarter of this year. The Channel Tunnel rail link said most of its growth came from leisure travel, with business trips in the first quarter broadly flat compared with 2011.Vodafone ramps up appeal pressureVodafone has ramped up the pressure in its appeal against a $2.9bn (1.81bn) tax bill in India. Its Dutch subsidiary has issued a notice of dispute against the claim, saying the 2012 finance bill violated legal protections and harmed international investors. Vodafone's case dates back to its takeover of Hutchison Essar in 2007.Sales growth slows at BurberryBurberry reported a slowdown in quarterly sales growth in Europe, raising fears that global economic woes were catching up with the luxury goods maker. However, sales at the 156-year-old group still rose 18 per cent, passing 1bn in the past six months, and remained strong in the UK and China.Profits squeezed at Daily Mail groupShares in the Daily Mail's owner fell nearly 5 per cent yesterday after it warned that lower advertising revenues at its national newspapers business had squeezed its profits. Daily Mail and General Trust saw a 3 per cent decline in underlying ad revenues as well as higher print and promotion costs.German investor confidence risesGerman analyst and investor confidence rose unexpectedly in April to its highest level since June 2010, suggesting Europe's biggest economy may be recovering from a weak spell. The main reading from the ZEW monthly poll rose to 23.4 from 22.3 in March. William Morris sells well in JapanSales of William Morris designs in Japan jumped 46 per cent last year, helping the wallpaper and fabrics maker Walker Greenbank to post a 24 per cent rise in profits to 5.6m as sales rose 8 per cent to 74m. The current year has also started well with main brand sales up 7 per cent. Manroy wins US guns contractThe US arm of Sandhurst-based Manroy, which makes heavy machine guns, has secured a 6.6m contract with the US Department of Defense. The work stems from a larger order with Sabre Industries, whose assets Manroy bought in 2011.Rio Tinto hit by bad weatherRio Tinto reported worse falls than expected in iron ore and copper production in the first quarter after it was hit by bad weather. The miner, a key supplier to the Chinese steel industry, said production fell 11 per cent to 45.6 million tonnes in the period.?Burberry renews Inter Parfums linkBurberry is reviewing its 20-plus-year licence with France's Inter Parfums, which makes its fragrance and beauty products. The luxury goods company could buy back the current licence which runs to 2017, extend it or even bid for Inter Parfums. Sales of Burberry fragrances were 176m last year and are growing with the launch of Burberry Body. Rise in long-term joblessnessThe number of long-term dole claimants has risen by 35,000 since lastyear, according to an analysis of official statistics by the TUC. The steepest increases in long-term joblessness have been in Scotland and London. The number of people claiming jobseeker's allowance over Christmas will be 279,000, up from 243,000 last year. Banks climb down on travel chargesHigh street banks have agreed to scrap excessive plastic card chargeson travel money after a supercomplaint from Consumer Focus. The climbdown follows a three-month investigation by the Office of Fair Trading into the 1bn travel money industry. The move could save holidaymakers about 20m a year, according Consumer Focus. Politics beckons for MaslovskiyPavel Maslovskiy is to step down as chief executive of Petropavlovsk,the London-listed Russian gold miner formerly known as Peter Hambro Mining, after being elected as a senator in Russia's far east region of Amur. He will not completely sever ties with the company, which is stillchaired by Peter Hambro, his co-founder in the business.National Express on track for profitNational Express has grown revenue across all of its bus, train and coach businesses. Ticket sales rose 6 per cent at its rail unit, which includes the c2c franchise between London and Essex, while bus revenues grew 4 per cent. Analysts expect the transport operator to make a profitof 181m for the year. Olympus 800m plan 'desperate' The former chief executive of Olympus, Michael Woodford, has dismissed as "desperate" reports that the board which ousted him is now considering tapping rivals such as Sony and Fujifilm to raise 800m. TheNikkei said the plan was to attract new investors, possibly by issuing preference shares. SVG investors get 170m promiseSVG Capital has promised to return 170m cash to investors and loosenits ties with the private equity group Permira, which currently accounts for 80 per cent of its investment. The moves come in response to growing pressure to come up with ways to boost its share price. German business confidence boost Europe's economic engine Germany looks set to escape recession after asurprise rise in business confidence this month. The Ifo Institute said its business climate index saw the biggest rise in sentiment since February as firms reported improving prospects outside the eurozone. Simplyhealth pays 115m for DenplanSimplyhealth, the health payment plan provider, has agreed to buy Denplan from insurer AXA UK for 115m. Denplan serves more than 1.8 million patients in the UK. Simplyhealth recently bought Groupama's UK private medical insurance unit.BAE lands 40m drone contractBAE Systems has won a 40m four-year contract with the Ministry of Defence to ensure Britain retains a leading edge in the next generation of unmanned drone planes. It will work with the MoD to keep its unmannedair system strategy up to date.?Seasons have come and gone, and the clothes are as opulent as ever. A brief fling with minimalism and "stealth wealth" (the art of not looking like you've spent quite as much as you have) turned into a vogue for "investment pieces" (that is, lavishing cash on outr, statement clothing that would eventually become part of an archive).But what's the solution for the average fashion follower, whose income doesn't allow them to make expensive mistakes? Increasingly, shoppers are taking a turn toward that age-old solution, the capsule wardrobe.It's a vaguely threatening phrase often used to admonish the more haphazard among us, like photos of houses with no clutter or socks on the floor. But don't let that scare you off: a well-selected capsule of clothing can see you through all seasons and occasions without looking stale. In fact, you'll be more chic for not slavishly following the trends.Initially popularised by Donna Karan, who launched her "7 Easy Pieces" range in 1985, the concept was devised to make life as a busy, working woman and mother as easy as possible, segueing seamlessly from office scenarios to weekend wear and back again. While tastes may have moved on (the selection opposite contains a few more pieces for versatility), the formula and logic have not."Plan to buy several pieces on the same day so you can try them on together," says personal stylist Beth Dadswell. "And stick to a palette of neutrals, for endless outfit combinations."Clearly there are budget constraints C and the items here are perfect world picks C but these are universal and ubiquitous pieces available at all prices. Spend as much as your budget allows, as the logic of a capsule wardrobe is undercut by false economy. And don't forget to enjoy your new found fashionable freedom.The trenchA versatile classic for wet weather, warmer winters, cold springs and everything else in between. Burberry's version has becomethe benchmark, with its 156-year heritage and sturdy gabardine, cut to flatter any shape.The jeansWho has time for denim tribes? Don't be swayed by fads for skinnies or flares: choose a simple, slim-fitting straight-legged pair that will always look good. Remember, soft indigo denim is timeless, but sandblasted is not.The shirtA catwalk favourite almost as much as it is a wardrobe staple, a quality shirt works for every occasion. Silk softens things abit, and if you feel white is too starchy and severe, try a very pale pink or cream.The ankle bootIt's often the knee-highs that become classics, but there's nothing more useful than a great pair of ankle boots to wear with trousers, jeans, skirts and sundresses. Keep the heel low: this is about comfort, not cool.The ballet slipperThe shoe de nos jours thanks to Kate Moss and Sienna Miller, this cult Repetto model was favoured by Brigitte Bardot in the Fifties, and you can trust anything worn by a beautiful French woman to stay fashionable forever.The black jacketAs integral to your wardrobe as underwear, a tailored jacket can be worn with trousers, under a coat or as outerwear when the weather warms up. Opt for a slightly longer and more casual style so it doesn't look too much like half of a suit.The pencil skirtThe pencil skirt's has enjoyed some overdue time in the sun C but it's a shape that never goes out of style. Choose one with a bit of stretch so you can sit down in it, and pair with a shirt or jumper, depending on how buttoned-up you're feeling.The black trousersIf tailoring feels too much like office uniform, choose fitted trousers C you'll get plenty of wear out of them. Worn with more formal pieces, black trousers are a basic and, dressed down, are a chic alternative to denim.The T-shirtThe fast-fashion formula of simply buying the cheapest T-shirts doesn't work in the long run, as seams go wonky and hemlines shrink. Instead, pay for quality (grey will work with anything) and handwash to lengthen lifespans.The jumperCashmere may seem excessive but it lasts, as long as you take care of it. V-neck styles are classic, but plain crew necklines are easier to layer over other pieces; navy is the height of elegance, but black would work just as well.The sundressYou'll always need a sophisticated sundress in your arsenal, and this number from Margaret Howell is the just the right mix of utilitarian and feminine. Steer clear of too short or too tight; you'll go off them as you get older and wider.?We're not sure about: Post-poo dropsChoking on aerosol air freshener is never pleasant, so the idea behind these fragrant drops is to be commended. But the twee, blatant name is just a marketing step in the wrong direction for anyone out of short trousers.21, aesop.comWe're buying: YMCWith this weather it's mighty sensible to team a sundress with a pair of shades and a waterproof jacket C though fashion might not be what those boy scouts were referring to with their motto. YMNC's current collection has plenty to offer for whatever the summer springs on us.Dress 175, youmustcreate.comWe can't wait for: Jubilee-tionsJubilee fever is certainly building, in retail circles at least, and Harvey Nichols new window displays are a lovely dedication to 60 years of Her Maj and the way our high streets have changed under her rule.For more pictures and a behind the scenes video click on the gallery aboveWe can't wait for: Disturbing LondonOne of the more dapper dressers on the music scene, Mr Tempah C known as Tinie to his friends C has launched a collaboration with EMI to produce a capsule collection of urban essentials.Prices start at 25, selfridges.com?We head straight to Via Farini for a stroll under the frescoed porticos. After a few inauspicious shops, Via Farini broadens as in an ode to fashion: Herms, D&G, Louis Vuitton, Fendi, Gucci, Burberry, Bulgari, Prada.Punishing The Benefactor's plastic won't be a problem here. Indeed, as I unleash the pair of them, my friend makes straight for Bulgari declaring she "absolutely adores everything on display".It is now 5.30pm, not exactly aperitivo o'clock, but what the heck: I know the perfect spot. A stone's throw from the shops we've just been raiding, Caff Zanarini (00 39 051 27 50 041) is a Bologna institution, spreading out on Piazza Galvani with a dozen small tables covered by immaculate white table clothes. Within moments, a handsome young man in a navy blue waistcoat materialises at our table. I order three Spritz (Aperol liqueur, prosecco and soda).After the fourth round, it is decided by The Benefactor that I will spend the night at the hotel with my friend, as The Benefactor is leaving and the room is already paid for. For the same reason, it is also decided that I will go to Rome the next day with my friend for the weekend. I am sent home to change and pack, and then told to meet them at the restaurant for 7.30pm. I learn that a reservation had been made at Pappagallo (00 39 051 23 28 07; alpappagallo.it), right under the two towers.The high arched ceiling makes me dizzy, so I focus on the walls, covered in autographed pictures of the famous people who have dined here since the restaurant opened in 1919. We decide to order, amused to see that we have been given three ladies' menus (no prices).The Benefactor and her daughter opt for the inevitable tagliatelle al ragu bolognese (as all self-respecting hedonists will tell you, bolognese sauce is never served with spaghetti), while I try to impress everyone with goats' cheese ravioli with aubergines and thyme. After the second bottle of Merlot, The Benefactor abandons us, duly paying the bill on her way out. We force the last spoonful of white chocolate and liquorice mousse into our greedy mouths, then plan the next stage of our entertainment.Judging from the crowd gathering at La Capannina's bar counter (00 39 051 33 09 10; capannina.info), we're about 30 minutes from our mojito. Luckily, Italians have no concept of "queue", so I clasp my friend's arm and nonchalantly make my way through a sea of waxed chests and Gucci bags.The bartender winks and our drinks are soon safely in hand, so we walk away in search of a quiet spot. Easier said than done, as the music is a sad combination of Eurotrash and 1980s cheese (an unlikely soundtrack given the sleek dcor). W