Mulberry bags seem to be taking over the world. At the Van Gogh exhibition at the Royal Academy earlier this month, I couldn't get over the number of women carrying one: it was like being at a Mulberry bag convention. And they appeal to all ages: in Newcastle, a city notorious for its well-heeled students, it's extraordinary how many 20-year-olds carry their files into university in an oak Bayswater or a Mitzy Hobo, which rings in at a cool £450.
It's clear that Mulberry's designers have really sussed the market, particularly over the last eight years. The leather wears wonderfully well, and that's (partly) what you're paying for. If you're in the market for an investment, and would rather track down something other than the current season's rash of leopard-print Alexa bags in lurid colours – which, let's face it, aren't for everyone – it's worth hunting out one of York's best hidden treasures: the Mulberry factory shop (23/25 Swinegate, 01904 611055). It stocks a wide range of past-season stock, slight seconds and samples all at large discounts, as well as pieces from the current collection. Many of the styles are no longer available from the main Mulberry stores or website. On my last visit, I found some of the best buys in the men's section, including a huge messenger bag in black or Mulberry's distinctive brown oak down from £595 to £178, and a chocolate tote at £293 down from £595. A grey messenger bag was down from £595 to £178. Still not cheap, then, but they will last a lifetime; the luggage and holdalls are especially good investments. There are also wallets, clothes, personal organisers, scarves and more....
Just round the corner, treat yourself to one of the UK's finest vintage stores, Priestley's (11 Grape Lane, 01904 631565). I'm a bit biased, as I was at school in York and we all spent hours rummaging there on Saturdays, buying old men's coats, military badges (like the ones on Balmain's jackets this season) and pinstriped suits, hoping they would lend us a touch of individuality (rather than merely a whiff of mothballs). The look, in retrospect, was more scruffy old man than Balmain, but then, that's the beauty of being 17; it seemed to suit Saturday afternoons in the Wimpey, stubbing out Marlboros on polystyrene cups.... Priestley's is a bright and beautiful shop, with a birdcage, hats, vintage furs and vintage suitcases around the place (and certainly no mothballs). Owner Heidi is wonderfully enthusiastic and will help you pick out the best stuff, whether it's a Burberry mac or a dusty-blue prom dress. I loved this 1950s black silk opera coat (£150), with Marni-esque three-quarter-length sleeves and a great swing to the back (see photo, above right). Priestley's have also just put a load of their best clothes online at www.coggles.com, the website for Sarah Coggles, York's best designer boutique.
Sarah Coggles' website's excellent, with a dangerous number of appealing labels from Paul & Joe and PPQ to Acne. I hadn't seen this Scandanavian label before, Best Behavior, that does this whole 'laidback luxe' look perfectly, with jersey harem trousers, jumpsuits and T-shirt dresses. This linen dress by APC, below, also caught my eye for spring, and a winningly simple silk crepe de chine dress by Elizabeth Lau (£185).
A new vintage shop, The House of Avalon, is opening in York this weekend (High Petergate, near the Minster). I'm going to check it out next weekend with my mate Lucy so will write about it then... I love the idea of combining 1910-1960s clothes and accessories with a cafe and an instore hair stylist to recreate the looks – plus they screen old movies. One last good thing about York is Betty's. I know it's trad and touristy, but the coffee and cakes are great and it's so friendly. Plus how can you fail to like somewhere that sells cakes called Fat Rascals? Still the best place for a treat, I reckon.