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  • Writer's pictureBen Thomas

Bicester Village - Part One

Updated: Nov 3, 2020

When I first moved to Bicester last year, I was tasked by my PhD supervisor - Professor Will Self - to write a couple of creative pieces about the town. The subsequent pieces were designed as an assignment to practice psychogeographic writing and to see if my standard had improved since my Masters degree. We also wanted to see how much of an impact and influence my early PhD reading had on my writing style, especially when comparing my prose to those such as Iain Sinclair and Nick Papadimitriou. This is Part One of my piece - which I believe to be stronger than the Sheep Street work - examining Bicester Village. Part Two will be released next week.

You can view Part One of "Sheep Street" here.

Part Two of Bicester Village is now available here.


“We are tempted to conclude that what is 'uncanny' is frightening precisely because it is not known and familiar.” - Sigmund Freud

Bicester in Oxfordshire used to be a quaint town. Characteristic of rural settlements across the country. The quintessential stone walls, the old church, the market square – these features remain. But of course, Bicester - like most towns around the United Kingdom - has had an array of changes occur to it over the last century. Brand name and designer label outlets, fast food franchises, vape shops and nail bars are now a normal sight along a British high street - Sheep Street here in Bicester. But it is Sheep Street’s noisy neighbour where the brand names and designer labels have had a bizarre impact upon a sleepy town.

Bicester Village Shopping Outlet is that noisy neighbour. Guccio Gucci, Mario Prada, Hugo Boss, Ralph Lauren, Cath Kidston, Jack Wills, Levi Strauss - these are a handful of the residents making the noise. My friend Robert - who studied at nearby Oxford University for four years – described the shopping outlet as “that creepy village” when I mentioned I was going there. The place baffles Robert – whom I’ve known since our days together at Sixth Form College in our hometown of Colchester. I’ve met up with him occasionally since he’s lived in Oxford and Bicester Village often comes up in conversation. Robert has been one of the smartest individuals I’ve known – he has a Masters in something computer related – so his opinions have been interesting to hear. He’s an old-fashioned guy – compared to many of my friends he doesn’t use social media, he still owns a very derivative touch screen phone and collects busts of Patrick Stewart – so I anticipated his opinion on the ongoing merchandising saturnalia at Bicester Village to be negative. The Village – to give it a more suitable name - is full of modern-day atrocities. The Villagers feast off the unicorn blood spilt from social media sites such as Instagram and Twitter. Despite this imagery, “creepy” was a different way of describing it to what I expected from Robert. I anticipated it to be “it’s really horrible” or “annoyingly busy” – but instead “creepy”. When I pressed him to explain why it, he put it down to it being “all fake and like a toy-town”. “I just find it to be a really weird and confusing place. I'm sure the rest of Bicester is nice and not weird though”: is one analysis I particularly remember. It shows how Bicester is now viewed. It’s known as the town with the big shopping village, not the quaint town. Even my barber back in Essex knew of it as that.

Today I’ll be scrutinising this weird and confusing place, watching the place, roaming the place and will attempt to convey through a dérive how this is no ordinary shopping outlet. Calling this a dérive feels appropriate. Situationist International icon Guy Debord brought forward the idea of the dérive in his early work in Paris. He defined the dérive as “a mode of experimental technique of rapid passage through varied ambiances” as a revolutionary tool to break from The Spectacle that Debord critiqued during the 1960s. He viewed The Spectacle as the “autocratic reign of the market economy”. His Marxism influenced critiques of mass media, consumption, commodities and social control in The Society of the Spectacle – his legendary text - cast a shadow over my walk today. An unplanned journey through an urban environment – as Debord described the dérive - is exactly what I’m about to partake in. Breaking from the social norm is exactly what I’m about to do. I decided to investigate The Village on a weekday – to show the vast business that occurs here isn’t purely a weekend event. I want to see the villagers performing their everyday tasks. I want to catch them out. I’m hoping it will also reveal how much of a phenomenon this stage show is on any day. All shopping centres will have customers every day of the week - a trip to the popular Westfield in Stratford will show you that - but it’s the vast numbers of international tourists I can see today that convey how the consumerism carnival in The Village is distinct. I don’t plan on being a performer within this celebration today, I have nothing on my mind that I need to buy aside from lunch. Boycotting the not-so-funfair feels rebellious. I am a rule-breaker, an intruder – I’m not giving in to the unspoken visitor rules of this place. I am a warrior on an undercover mission. It is a peculiar thrill. I could argue it’s a revolutionary act in the style of Debord. I’m breaking from The Spectacle that he abhorred. Of course, I’m not going to sprint around The Village spray painting on the advertising hoardings – changing their titles into funny puns such as “Hugo Tosser” – akin to some of Debord and his associates’ détournements back in Paris, but I’ll be doing my best to honour the same beliefs in my own way. This motivates me. I am an investigative journalist finding what the villagers are burying at the bottom of this noisy neighbourhood’s garden. I’m a sleuth watching through the twitching curtains of Mr Gucci and Mr Strauss. I’m not here to advertise the shopping centre or write a piece of tourism information about it – I’m here to break into this stronghold of commodities and discover what is hiding in the basements of these capitalist landowners.

Established in 1995 by American Scott Malkin, The Village is one cog in the American's machine. Malkin is the founder of Value Retail and co-owner of the New York Islanders NHL team. A Harvard alumnus, he established his company in 1992 with the idea of merging the American outlet mall concept with the traditional European shopping centre and create unique merchandising tactics. Creating what lies at The Village. Compared to other successful, giant shopping centres in the UK such as Lakeside, Bluewater and Westfield, there is a different vision with The Village. Value Retail focused on establishing outlet centres on the outskirts of large cities – usually shopping complexes are built centrally in one or at least near to a major motorway - and The Village is one of nine in Europe, with two more in China. Fashion brands wishing to open outlets in any of the eleven villages must pay 12.5% of annual turnover for the privilege of selling their excess stock. Although there is one more condition: the stores must only sell brand named goods that are at least one year in age. Now I must question whether this is good for retail. These deals that outlets must cut to be a part of a Malkin master plan sound advantageous, but to who? Excess stock does not create any production costs, so selling products such as these is beneficial to companies but something feels off about it, you would think a place that is so concerned with tourists buying big brands would want the recent releases in their stores – instead of last year’s trends.




A quick look at the Value Retail website presents you with these three bold, capitalised statements on its front page.

Value Retail claims to be the only company that “specialise exclusively in the creation and operation of luxury outlet destinations.”. They also specialise in capitalising wily statements that fit their agenda. The caps lock is wearing out on Malkin’s keyboard. The company gives the name “The Bicester Village Shopping Collection in Europe and China” as the full title for their villages. There’s a real big – to steal an American motto - emphasis on these villages not being shopping destinations, but consumer concentration camps.

This causes a juxtaposition. Before I ever came across Bicester, I thought the name of the station that serves the outlet – “Bicester Village Station” was for a rural Oxfordshire village rather than a shopping centre posing as a rural Oxfordshire village. The station was before franchised by London and North Western Railway and was a part of the now-defunct Varsity Line between Cambridge and Oxford. It was before known as “Bicester London Road” to distinguish it from the other station in the town served by a different train route - “Bicester North”. My born and bred Bicester girlfriend tells me that The Village station was before called “Bicester Town” before changing to prevent confusion to international tourists. Even at North Station, there’s a shuttle bus that runs daily – open until close – back and forth to its sister station at The Village. North Station also runs regular trains to the nation’s capital, but it is the connections to Birmingham that make the station more popular with commuters than the hordes of tourists that populate nearer The Village. Under an hour to both London and Birmingham from Bicester North make the town an appealing area to settle in. Trains full of commuters from Birmingham Snow Hill pass through Bicester every morning on their quickfire journeys to London. It is the same in the other direction. I’ve found from experience when visiting my girlfriend that this station is favourable for those wishing to avoid the rush of shoppers at opening and closing times at The Village. There’s a clash of cultures, as the shoppers rush onto the trains as soon as the doors open, not allowing Clive and Barry from Bicester to get off after their long shift in Oxford.

Doors open. Rush, crush and designer bags fill the carriage. There’s no chance of getting off here at The Village. Trapped on the train, I’ll end up in High Wycombe now. That’s the next stop. I couldn’t get off. A wall of commodities stopped me.

The Village is notorious for its large number of Chinese visitors. They’ve moved in and become landowners here. Hugo Boss’s neighbours are now a small family from Shanghai. They’re a pleasant bunch, but they seem to spend most of their time shopping. Considering the town is close to tourist destinations such as Oxford, with major cities London and Birmingham both not far away, it’s a fascinating phenomenon. The Village’s website states these nearby destinations on their website; “Bicester Village is located near the Cotswolds at the heart of rural Oxfordshire and enjoys a prime central location in England with exceptional transport links. Also, within striking distance are tourist destinations, among them the UNESCO World Heritage Site Blenheim Palace, the National Trust 19th-century Renaissance-style château Waddesdon Manor, and Oxford with its world-famous university and celebrated Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology.” It's claimed by the BBC – who ran a 2018 article titled “Why do the Chinese love Bicester Village?” that only Buckingham Palace receives more yearly visits from Chinese globetrotters, whose pilgrimage requires announcements in Mandarin at the local railway station. Even sixty miles away at London Marylebone you can hear the same messages. In 2018, The Village welcomed seven million guests according to their official figures. In The Village itself, there are signs in three languages – English, Mandarin and Arabic, a currency exchange point and a couple of Asian restaurants. I would love to know when this started in the outlet’s history - from the beginning or later? Did the Chinese come to The Village first and it adapted or was this Malkin’s masterplan all? Did he set up his empire to target customers who have no public access to many of these brands in their home nations.

It is the only outlet in the UK visited in large numbers by the Chinese and it scores highly in almost all the country's online tourism forums, where it's described as a "must-go place for visitors to London". Because of this, The Village employs hundreds of Mandarin speakers on site, and when walking around the original Bicester town centre, you can see the impact The Village has had. Arriving in Bicester over the last decade; a new cinema, car parks, a park and ride, various budget hotel chains and extra bus routes. More are being built as I write this. Locals outside of The Village aren’t big fans. I was recently added to the community Bicester chat on Facebook by my girlfriend so I could nose at goings on. There are frequent threads by senior residents complaining about what has happened to their town. I see pictures of older Bicester – pre-The Village – showing off what the town used to look like and the authors mentioning how they miss it. Complaints are about how Bicester is now too busy and that it used to be quiet. Although others argue that Bicester is still superior to nearby Banbury or High Wycombe. I spoke to my girlfriend’s pro-Village landlord who has lived in the town for around twenty years – “brings me more income, it’s why I now own two houses here and rent all the rooms out”. He told me how one house he owns has five Chinese women living together – all here for six months.

Chinese citizens have recently become regular travellers to the UK due to communist China becoming increasingly open to the West since the mid-2000s. The Village has taken advantage - working with Chinese tour operators that shepherd their tourists around Oxford or London, before diverting to the brand names all in one trip. The Village also features on Chinese social media channels - such as Weibo and WeChat - where posts of shoppers sharing pictures of their purchases are common.

The influx of Chinese citizens visiting the town of Bicester to buy Western designer labels is a strange conundrum. China remains communist – no matter how much they claim to be open to the West these days. It is a country where citizens must conform to rules and regulations about many aspects of life. Are their residents coming over to buy American or British or European clothing as a revolt against the communist state – but then aren’t they then conforming to Western trends, dress and capitalism? Is it any better for them? Control by Xi Jinping or control by Burberry? What would they prefer? The ideological deal the Chinese Communist Party have cut with its citizenry is that they retain political control in an undemocratic state, but that capitalism is not only allowed – but enjoined. Is that why one of the many Chinese tourists took a shit outside Burberry? Was that an act of capitalist rebellion against communism? More on that later.

The Chinese aren’t the only foreigners fond of The Village. There is a high level of Arabic visitors. The interplay between Arabic and Chinese tourists is captivating. Arabs who come to The Village to buy designer clothes have the stereotype of being rich and wealthy – unlike the Chinese. When they move into The Village, there’s less of an uproar. The villagers like having Arabic neighbours more than Chinese. Speaking of stereotypes, the common one for The Village is that it is “full of Chinese”, but announcements and signs are in Arabic as well. People describe The Chinese as “hordes”, but no villager speaks of the Arabic contingent in the same way. Is this down to Arab culture becoming common throughout the country? Does the general British person see them as “less foreign” than their East Asia counterparts. Or is it down to wealth instead? Because they have more, they’re treated on a higher level. I'm not surprised – as everything in The Village concerns itself with wealth.

There are 100 Chinese citizens flying over from Shanghai right now. They’re in the passenger section of a Boeing 747. It’s a long flight but they’re excited for their coach trip to Oxford - followed by visiting The Village. Entertainment is on the screens, filling time before they land at London Heathrow. Western films are being shown – nothing from Chinese cinema. It’s Disney’s Aladdin remake. Underneath the passengers in the luggage compartment, the plane is being duel-used for shipping products to the United Kingdom. Adidas, Nike, Timberland and Ralph Lauren goods made in Chinese sweat shops sit mere metres from the above clientele. The plane flies through a paradox cloud. These products are heading for The Village to be sold after being shipped into the country. Soon they’ll return home again to China, on the same plane, in the same luggage compartment. Each piece of material sitting below the tourists, will double in value as soon as it exits the plane. The tarmac of Heathrow’s runway will cast a magic spell upon these goods – a concrete genie. Also played by Will Smith.

Whilst those Chinese citizens are flying over, I’m currently sitting outside Hugo Boss’s place at the East end of The Village and I’m watching many shoppers rush around. I’m on a fancy green steel bench – it’s cold on my arse, but don’t worry it’s engraved with the emblem of a bear. The bitter, stinging autumnal air is hitting my skin. It tickles my lips, like a spider is dancing the tango upon them. The Village's design creates a wind tunnel, and this only adds to the cold atmosphere. A cold atmosphere in various senses of the phrase. Ever look at an old photograph and it feels haunting? That’s how I feel sitting here. Something immediately feels off and I am not comfortable. Robert said it was creepy, but I didn’t expect it to hit me in the face this quick like the wind. The Village is on former farmer’s fields and an aerial look on Google shows there’s not much else around, which is why it feels exposed to the elements. I’ve dressed up warm for this visit, but also smart casual. There’s something about The Village that makes you dress up. There’s no rules that tell you to - I don’t know if it’s the brands here or the staff dressed as quasi-bell boys and girls that cause this feeling of being within a giant luxury hotel, but it feels forbidden to turn up in walking gear. Instead I’m in a grey shirt, black jeans and trainers with a large winter overcoat. I admit this isn’t a Prada suit and tie combo, but it is not what I would usually wear for one of my investigative strolls. Although my usual walking clothing would be warmer. I can see the logos of many of the designer labels adorned on bags held in the hands of the shoppers. Timberland seems to be popular today, but also the predicted Gucci and Prada products. It makes me chuckle that Timberland is popular. It is easy to forget because of their expensive price and prominence in the fashion world that Timberland boots – at the sole of them – are a walking boot. Purchased from Nathan Swartz’s cottage here - they’re built sturdy, durable for all weathers, but how many people do you see wearing them out on a hike? How many of those holding the bags I see today are planning on taking their new expensive Timberlands out for a spin in the nearby Cotswolds hills tomorrow? Sure, there will be exceptions, but like many other shoe brands they’ve become a fashion call out rather than used for their original purpose. Chuck Taylor Converse were basketball shoes, Vans were for skateboarders. Now they’re purchased for conformity with everybody else wearing them. How very communist. Imagine the Chinese military marching along - all wearing last year’s Timberlands. If I had worn Timberland boots, I would have fit in with both the walkers and the fashionistas. Each bag rustling in the wind is designed to show off a company’s logo - walking advertisements for the vast number of stores in The Village. When I leave my bench, I have no doubt because of the large amount of them here that a few will pass by without notice. It will feel like a blur. I’m aiming to see how unusual this place is and why Robert called it “creepy”. It might be the weird “toy-town” feel the place has. That is my initial reaction. Ahead of me I can see down the staged village road. I can see the bogus rooftops dominating the skyline. I can see the colour scheme of the buildings already. Blue, white, black and grey wood panelling dictates the themes of the store fronts. Picked out by a child with a new arts and crafts set. Wood that appears old but is not – so fake it appears plastic. The design of every store is to look like old timber-clad English houses. Except these houses never existed in England, they’re too perfect. They appear to be illustrations straight out of a Beatrix Potter book rather than a history textbook. I’m expecting Peter Rabbit to walk out one of the doors holding a Gucci bag. They all have enormous windows above their entrances that feel like they should have bedrooms behind them, rather than the storerooms that they do contain. I can’t see what is in these storerooms – from below they look empty and dull. I can see tiled roofs; slate types and the bottoms of buildings that are brick-made – like they’re designed to avoid terrible flooding in the country vales. If you touched these exteriors, they’d feel smooth and perfect, rather than rough like a true old wooden building. Knock on the wood and it will sound hollow – much like the sentiment here. Canopies cover the doors and windows, the type that roll out. The surnames of the owners of these houses plastered on them and again in big metal or wooden made fonts above the windows. All designs point to an effort to look like an Old English Village to appeal to tourists with uchronic tendencies. Uchronia is the idealised or fictional conception of a period, especially in the past. This is not the typical modern shopping centre approach like the Westfields or Intu brands. There’s little metal, little iron or steel beams – it’s all wooden and stone. A trip in a time machine that has gone fictional – aiming to recreate a Britain that never was.

The Village is in a straight line, down one street. There are a few shops off the main route, but the majority accessible without breaking your stride too much. Perfect for a communist march or a well-choreographed stage show. The Villagers calculate everything to shepherd shoppers into as many stores as possible. It’s useful for those who don’t own one of the hundreds of maps around the place – although I doubt many visitors avoided receiving one by a member of staff when you walk in – much like myself. You can’t get lost here, walk back and forth and I’m sure you’d find what you’re looking for. It’s tactful of the designers. Want to get to Hugo Boss’ house? Well walk the length of the shopping complex past Ralph Lauren mowing his lawn, Mario Prada trimming his hedge and feel tempted in by the glittery lights as you head there. It’s useful for me - the invader – to see as much of this place as possible in one go. The Village has expanded in phases. Every time there’s a new phase, outlets pop up in the shopping village. The most notable and recent being Phase 4 where Malkin acquired and demolished the local Tesco superstore and occupied their land. The Tesco then moved across the road to a new area. One multimillion corporate identity bullying another across the road. There isn’t an underdog in this story. Scott Malkin throwing millions at John Allan to get his own way. Every little helps. Although Tesco wouldn’t have complained too much as their store is now bigger and sleeker than its predecessor was. I can’t help but ponder what would have happened to a smaller company if they were in Tesco’s place. Would they have been granted a replacement area to set up camp in? Or would Malkin have squashed them immediately? Slaying is common in this Village. Phase 5 is set to expand further, bringing stores such as Nike and Next.

Phase 3 brought about where I’m sat now. I’m a people watcher for a moment. I am one of the few here – if not the only – not in frenzied state trying to buy or sell. I feel foreign, despite being only twenty minutes away from my girlfriend’s house - because of the number of people speaking different languages as they pass. I’ve only been sat here for a short while and I’ve heard – what I believe to be as I’m no expert in Chinese linguistics – many conversations in either Mandarin or Cantonese. I’ve also overheard German, Arabic and Dutch. There is English mixed between, it’s not absent, but the foreign languages subjugate. Plucked from my home country and placed within another - this is the feeling I'm getting. The Village isn’t a part of The United Kingdom. Brexit doesn’t exist here; Boris Johnson doesn’t govern here. It has its own laws and regulations. Every year the villagers gather outside for a vote on whom the new sheriff of the place will be. Last year it was Guccio Gucci, but his faltering health led to Ralph Lauren taking over. Lots of people seem to be in a rush and are not in the best of moods. The faces of those passing appear glum and emotionless. Can there be an actual enjoyment to shopping in this style? The gratification of wanderlust that a tourist gains when visiting a foreign country can’t be here. Despite The Village’s attempts to make this an attraction – with all its photo opportunities – it isn't naturally one. There’s a distinct lack of history here. History makes places. You cannot replicate in The Village the smiles as one visits famous landmarks you’ve only seen in movies. Few people appear as though they want to be here – they’re acting like it’s a chore. Despite travelling thousands of miles to be here.

Everywhere is clean and organised. There’s vegetation and old Victorian style lampposts contributing to the staged mise-en-scene. Nothing is out of place. Nothing is broken. Nothing is defaced. There’s plenty of bins around and not one is overflowing. There are no empty showrooms. Every store has an occupant. I’m expecting a someone to reveal a Hollywood style clapperboard, controlling the film set in front of me. The villager’s secrets? Are they all part of a Truman Show-style production and they’re watching the Chinese tourists and me? Do they live here or is this all staged? Is The Village a real village? It is a contrast to the typical British high street where empty constructions are escalating in number due to the increase in internet shopping within the last two decades. Multi-million-dollar companies such as Amazon, eBay and ASOS are a few of the online businesses that people immediately go to for shopping these days.

“Where did you buy that from?”

“eBay, it was a really good deal.”

“Did you see Amazon has the latest Call of Duty?”

“Yeah I’m going to get it from there later.”

“I’m going on ASOS later to see if they have it.”

“I’m sure they’ll have it there.”

That’s the conversation that now dominates shopping-talk. The deaths of Woolworths, BHS, Toys-R-Us and Staples amongst many others are all a part of this changing culture. A stroll down Sheep Street shows a recently deceased Thomas Cook branch in the distance. Did the Malkin I’ve imagined living here murder Cook in this very street? I can’t daydream gossip too much; he might be listening. It’s depressing. I still relish shopping in person, it feels personal and opens the door for unexpected purchases. The shopping version of a dérive. Usually when you’re online shopping you have something in mind, and you click one button and it’s done with seconds. Shopping in a physical building gives you the chance to see something else, to see something you hadn’t even thought of purchasing before.

With all my reading of Debord recently, I find myself wondering what he would have made of internet shopping. Influenced by Marx’s concept of commodity fetishism, Debord’s characterisation of The Spectacle – the inception of which he dated to 1922 – seems uncannily prescient. He foresaw where humanity was heading. The inception of the internet and the worldwide web seem in one way to be the coming to fruition of Debord’s intuition. The expansion of virtual space over the last quarter century has brought The Spectacle right into our homes. Click on a computer keyboard and then the commodities are accessible within seconds. It would be interesting to find out if it’s possible to dérive in virtual space? What techniques would the Situationists have developed for doing this? One simple approach might be to sit at your computer clicking on any URL and seeing where you end up.

I’ve mentioned my Bicester-born-and-bred girlfriend Isabel a couple of times. Isabel – or Izzy as she prefers - used to work in The Village. She was there between February 2015 and July 2017. She left and moved on to working in offices, in administrative roles for various companies – which she continues doing today. She’s currently based down the road in Kidlington near the North of Oxford. She enjoys horse riding and romantic movies. Izzy was born in the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford and has lived in Bicester all her life. She’s told me that she knows Bicester well considering she’s been there since birth.

I asked her what she thought of Bicester when I told her I was writing about her town.

“I think that Bicester is a lovely place to live. It’s gotten busier over the last few years, but I still think it’s worth living in Bicester with all its transport connections if you’re willing to sacrifice normal aspects of life because of the busy tourism. Traffic for example.”

During her time at The Village, Izzy met Malkin on one of his regular patrols through The Village. She was less than favourable about him when I asked what he was like. She viewed his monthly tour of duty as an inconvenience as he checked up on how each store was doing. “Seeing if they were still making him money” is how Izzy put it. She’s told me stories of unusual things that have occurred at The Village. There’s one that all workers recall of a Chinese tourist allowing their son to shit on the pavement outside Burberry. Told you I’d get back to that. In Fact, it made the local papers speculate some rather terrible headlines. “Chinese tourist caught doing poo right outside British shop”. “Chinese tourist spotted taking a dump outside Burberry store in the UK”. “Grandmother Helps Chinese Baby Poop in Front of U.K. Burberry Store”. My favourite comment on one of the news articles was “I’m guessing she’s not a Burberry fan.” – although I wonder if she still purchased any of their products.

Izzy has told me horror tales of traumatic Black Friday sales where there’s extra security brought in. Each villager makes plans for coping with the lengthy queues. Secret meetings occur to prepare for the November event. Izzy claims it was like being in the centre of an armed forces operation. I’d love to be in The Village War Rooms during “Operation Black Friday”. The same occurs during the hectic Christmas period. Other bizarre incidents at The Village include foreign nationals buying countless pairs of shoes at once for selling back in China or a woman buying a thousand pounds worth of pillows. The plane and latter coach ride here couldn’t have been too comfortable.

I stand up and begin my walk down to the other end of the shopping village. I haven’t moved yet, and I’m already being consumed by the consumerism. I’m not going to note down every store I pass, because otherwise this piece of writing would become a census. There’s The Village website with a full list that does that job, so I’ll point out several of the inhabitants along the way. The individuals aren’t important, but it’s when they’ve all come together here that creates a phenomenon that thousands of people experience every day. On my left is The House of Coach, on my right is Breitling’s apartment. With the lit-up residence of Hugo Boss behind me I start to stroll and the smell of perfume and aftershave floating out from one of the stores vexes my nostrils. I carry on and I spot a woman pushing a small dog around in a pram. It’s one of those smaller - so-called stylish - teacup type dogs with a red bow on its head. Dogs aren't allowed in The Village, but it hasn’t stopped some. You can hire buggies for babies, but it appears they’re popular for creatures with four legs. A family are taking selfies with the dog outside several stores. It would not surprise me if in the future dogs are further commoditised - bred with trademarked designer labels within their fur with pet shops becoming expensive outlets for certain breeds.

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