I always read a festive story as the countdown to Christmas begins. And just sometimes I read a story that I get so involved in that I just can’t put it down. That’s how I feel about the wonderful, heartwarming story that is ‘Miracle on Regent Street’. The story of a fallen on hard times department store, and the stockroom girl determined to transform its fortunes, and, just maybe, her own, this is a story that only a real life Scrooge could fail to love. I adored the tails of the long forgotten vintage stock, the hand-made soaps that take on iconic status, and most of all I loved each and every one of the characters, and especially Christmas Evie…or is it Sarah…I can’t really tell you any more because that would be giving the story away.On Monday, at The Clothes Show live, I was lucky enough to meet Ali Harris, the author of Miracle on Regent Street, and I asked her a few questions about my latest favourite story, and the influences behind it.
Fashion-Mommy: What a fabulous story..what was the inspiration behind it?
Ali Harris: My first job was working in Selfridges. There was a stockroom girl for the particular concession I worked on and I was fascinated by how different her working day was to mine. She’d worked half a day by the time I started, could wear her own clothes- jeans etc, she could be herself. I was struck that this girl truly knew the stock inside out, and knew most people’s names, even if they didn’t know her name. I wanted to write about someone who really important to the store, but hidden out of sight.
FM: What was the inspiration behind Hardy’s?
AH: Hardy’s was inspired by stores like Dickens and Jones, Liberty, Fenwicks and also stores like Hatchards book store in Piccadilly. It was definitely my dream shop. But there are also elements of small town department stores that seem stranded in the 1980s with terrible decor and products, the sort of stores that only attract old ladies who just don’t shop anywhere else.
FM: Tell me about your ideal Christmas
AH: I have a love of vintage and also quite old-fashioned values. I really love Disney films and old movies that show an old-fashioned style Christmas where people bring out those forgotten treasures year after year. Think A Miracle of 34th street etc.
FM: The descriptions of vintage fashion as worn by Evie are inspired. What is your favourite fashion era?
AH: I really want to say the 1950s with prom dresses and nipped in waists, and I recently attended a Blitz party wearing some fabulous 40s fashion, but I also love some 70s fashion, particularly long floaty maxi dresses. I think the image of 40s fashion is a lot prettier than the reality of living during that decade.
FM: The characters are all so vivid, are they based on real people?
AH: Well Evie’s mom is sort of based on my own mother. She really was a hairdresser in the 1960s and was really asked to style Princess Anne’s hair. When I was growing up my mom was always pointing out people on TV and films whose hair she’d styled, like the mother in Mary Poppins (Glynis Johns)/ These were the stories I just loved to hear.
Felix was also based on the security guards I remembered from working on magazines. They always seemed to be elderly gentlemen.
FM: Do you think you will write about Evie again after the success of this story?
AH: Some people have said they would love Evie to go to New York, but I feel Evie’s story has been told, and I have no plans to revisit Evie.
FM: So what’s up next?
AH:Next is my new book ‘The first,last kiss’. This is a sweeping love story, very romantic, about how a kiss can trigger a memory. It is quite different to Miracle.
Ali Harris has kindly signed a copy of Miracle on Regent Street for one lucky Fashion-Mommy reader. To win, simply leave a comment below and like Fashion-Mommy on Facebook, or follow on Twitter.
The competition ends on 15th December 2011. Winner will be drawn at random. Good Luck.