Bosses of Marks & Spencer today unveiled the long-awaited new fashion range that they hope will trigger a much-needed upturn in sales and help revive their troubled company's flagging fortunes.

Featuring silky print dresses, narrowly cut skirts and styles designed to cater to a hipper crowd, the per una range is aimed at a younger, slimmer consumer - not to mention one that can appreciate such styles described as military or bondage.

Initially available in 30 stores, the new range will be rolled out to another 60 outlets over the next couple of weeks.

Unlike traditional M&S ranges, Per Una will be merchandised in fashion capsules, with trousers displayed alongside matching jumpers, handbags and shoes.

The range has been designed by 60-year-old British retail legend George Davies who masterminded the concept behind the UK's successful Next Plc clothing retail stores during the 1980s and who recently designed an inexpensive but fashionable range of clothing for the Wal-Mart's Asda stores.

Mr Davies yesterday admitted he had personally ploughed £21m into the setting up of Per Una, which M & S hopes will attract customers used to shopping at more chic retailers such as Hennes & Mauritz AB, Gap Inc and Inditex SA's Zara.

The launch is crucial for M&S, which has been badly under-performing its high-street rivals over the past three years, and is a major change for a retailer that gained its reputation for reliability, quality and value by selling dependable cotton underwear and thick wool tights.

"Well, we're not going heavily into bondage," concedes Roger Holmes, managing director for UK retailing at Marks & Spencer Plc, but the new range is "a key point for us in the turnaround in clothing."

Mr Davies added: "Per una It has certainly been a challenge for me, but one that I'm confident that I've risen to with a range of clothes that will appeal to all women.

"This is a collection with no compromises - down to the last detail."


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