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If you enjoy shopping on the high street for fashion, you may well have heard of George Davies.
He's a bit of a legend in British retailing, having been the mastermind behind Next, George at Asda and Per Una for Marks and Spencer.
He has always seemed to have a knack for how to get people, and women in particular, to part with their cash for clothes on the high street, and GIVe is his latest venture, which launched in October 2009.
The concept behind GIVe, which I have to say I find a rather unwieldly name, is to offer quality fashion on the high street to women over the age of 30. The name apparently comes from George IV - meaning it's George's fourth venture on the UK high street, however Davies opted for the abbreviated name as it is his intention to donate a percentage of profits to charitable causes. The small "e" stands for the e-commerce side of the business - and it's that part of the company that I am reviewing.
It was my sister who first mentioned GIVe to me - there are a few stand alone stores which opened last year, and one of them is on Glasgow's Buchanan Street. She is far more of a fashionista than I am so she was aware from reading her "Grazia" magazine (which is a publication I consider to be as uncharitable to women as the "Daily Mail" and refuse to read) that they were backing the launch of Davies' new clothing venture.
She mentioned the concept and the Glasgow store to me in conversation and I was curious enough to look on the GIVe website to get an idea about what they sold and what prices were like.
As a middle aged woman, I was generally impressed. Since the demise of Principles on the high street, there's been a bit of a glaring hole in the market for quality clothing with a subtle fashion twist for women over 35 that doesn't break the bank. Despite the fact I am predominantly a housewife, I like to look smart on occasion and a store such as GIVe which features smarter clothing suitable for both the workplace and socialising is right up my street.
GIVe isn't particularly cheap, but Davies has opted for an overall Italian feel (no doubt the success of Per Una bearing on his mind when he made this decision) and uses quality fabrics and designers who realise they are creating clothing for women who have curves, as opposed to those who think all girls should look like boys.
The URL for the GIVe website is www.give.co.uk. It's a reasonably easy site to navigate, and the predominant colour seems to be black.
To find garments, you can search by product type, although there are some different ways to browse, allowing you to shop by collection or to head directly to the sale section and browse there.
The categories on offer include knitwear, tops, footwear, nightwear, accessories, coats and trousers. The range is currently quite small with only a handful of items in each category but one hopes that as the company grows and word gets about this will improve.
Pictures are good - and most items have a catwalk video clip, an idea I suspect Davies has filched from Marks and Spencer's website. I have to say I do like this touch as it enables you to get a far better look at the product before committing to buying. You can roll over pictures to get a better view and zoom in and each product listing gives several different views of each item.
Details are also very good. I really dislike it when I shop online and fabric information and washing instructions are hard to find - or simply do not feature. The GIVe website clearly lists the fabric compositions and will tell you how to clean the garment. This is very important to me as an item which has to be dry cleaned is a serious turn off for me and I want to know before I buy if I can machine wash or not. Each garment also has a good description of the fit, so you will know if the item has ¾ length sleeves and is fitted or not for instance.
Sizing is a little pretentious, as GIVe play on the roman numerals that feature in their name and use I to VI for size. If you are a size 8, you will need a size I. If you are an 18, you need a size VI. To be fair it is clearly shown what size matches the traditional UK dress size so it would be quite difficult to make a mistake.
Trousers are available in three different lengths - regular, long and extra long. This isn't of much help to me as at 5 foot 2, I tend to need short length trousers. Luckily however GIVe offer a free tailoring service to online shoppers so if you see a pair of trousers you must have online then you can have them taken up at no extra charge. The downside to this is your item is then non-returnable so you will have to be absolutely certain you want to keep them and that they will fit when you order.
Delivery costs £5 and next day delivery by DHL is standard. Beware ordering on a Friday however, as you will be waiting until Monday for delivery. Order on a Saturday and it may not arrive until Tuesday, but in fairness to GIVe, they do e-mail you when your item has been dispatched so you know it will be with you the next day.
~~Thoughts and Experience~~
I have a pretty limited budget these days so when I clothes shop it tends to be sales, and shopping on GIVe was no exception.
Full price, the items are quite pricey - you can pay £65 for a wool cardigan and £125 for a pair of boots. Even jersey tops tend to cost around £40, and I currently cannot justify spending money like that on my clothes.
However my sister informed me there was a rather good sale on when she was last in the store, so I headed to the Sale section of the website to have a look.
She definitely wasn't wrong in her statement it was a rather good sale - some items were reduced by 70%, meaning they were well within my price range.
I spent some time browsing and was delighted to see stock availability was clearly marked. I really hate shopping online only to discover the item I want shows up as in stock until I try to place it in my basket - I think this is a poor way to do e-commerce and shows an inability to efficiently monitor stock control.
No such worries on GIVe however - if an item is out of stock the size box goes red to let you know. Size boxes are green if the item remains in stock.
I chose two items - a purple merino wool cardigan which was reduced from £59 to £20, and a jersey top with chiffon and sequin detail which was down from £45 to just £10. I could easily have spent more if I had had the cash to splash, but I had to be sensible. I was also a little concerned about how the items would look on me and what the general fit would be like.
As any woman will tell you, just because you always take the same size in one store doesn't mean you will take that same size in another. Sizes can and do vary wildly, and as someone who likes to try clothes on before I buy, I worry about not being able to do this when shopping online.
Once you have placed your items in your basket you head to checkout. You need to set up an account with your e-mail address, home address and contact details but once that's done it's very straightforward - you just enter your debit or credit card details and hit submit. You will get a confirmation e-mail fairly quickly and then you have to wait for delivery.
I placed my order late on a Friday night, meaning it didn't get fully processed until the Monday, but I got an e-mail later on the Monday to tell me the order had been sent and I should expect it the following day.
Sure enough it turned up as promised and I was surprised to be presented with a huge box by the DHL courier. You do have to sign for all items, so if you are out at work all day it might be better to have your order sent to your place of work if that's possible. DHL do deliver up until 9.00 pm however, which is really useful, so redelivery can be arranged out of office hours if required.
I don't normally mention packaging in my reviews but I really was struck at how beautifully my order was packed that I couldn't let it pass without describing it briefly.
Inside the white cardboard box that had my address details on it was another box, this one having a far more luxurious feel than the outer one. It was black and had the GIVe logo printed on it in silver. The box opened up to reveal two garments wrapped in silver bags (no cheap polythene here thank you very much) and covered in tissue paper. I felt as if it were my birthday and this was my present and really liked the thought that had gone in to the packaging, giving my items a real touch of class.
GIVe send all orders gift wrapped like this as standard so if you want to send a gift this might be the place to visit as you won't have to pay extra for the service.
I approached the silver bags with caution, fearing they would be tricky to open, but there were no such problems thankfully.
Both items fitted very well - the sleeves on the cardigan were a little long but as a quite short person I have grown used to this and they looked fine rolled up. The fine merino wool was lovely and as soon as I put the cardigan on I felt instantly warmer - which is what I hope for in a wool product.
The top fitted very well too and I was pleased to see the sleeves fitted perfectly on this one as I had been a little concerned they might be too long and having chiffon and sequin detail on the cuff meant I couldn't roll them up.
Quality wise I was impressed - although I must admit I don't think the jersey top was ever worth the full price of £45. The cardigan however was well priced even at £59 but getting it for £20 represented an absolute steal.
Returns are free and permitted within 14 days of receipt. The returns form is on the reverse side of your delivery note and the process seems quite straightforward. I am delighted with my purchases and haven't tried it.
You can opt for an exchange as opposed to a refund and I was pleased to see that GIVe do not charge additional postage to have the exchange item sent to you.
I have now added the GIVe website to my bookmarks and will be checking the site in future for clothing.
If you are in need of office wear, party wear or something for a special occasion and want to wear fashion that won't date after a couple of months, the GIVe site is well worth a visit and I hope as time progresses this concept is rolled out more in the high street - at present there are only stand alone stores in London, Liverpool, Harrogate, Bluewater, Meadowhall, Bristol and Glasgow. Davies is apparently in talks to bring concessions to House of Fraser stores and there are some concessions currently operating in Beales stores.
For now however the website is definitely worth a visit if you want smart clothing that is both well designed and brought to you by a man who is quite simply, a high street legend.