How to shop the sales…

lucy and bagsThere’s no getting round it. The sales have started – two weeks before Christmas.  Karen Millen, DvF, All Saints, Whistles and Kurt Geiger are all underway, not to mention my favourite independent boutiques such as Question Air.  So how do you ensure that you get the key pieces you’ve been waiting for, without being distracted by the dross or deals that are ‘too good to be true’ ?

Here are my five top tips for savvy sales shopping:

  • Do your research online and make a list of the items you’re after.  Stick to it!  If you know your size in a particular brand, go ahead and order it.  But remember, sizing varies widely across (and within) designers and brands, so it’s always best to try before you buy
  • Go early.  After the couple of weeks, all the good pieces are gone.  By the time January arrives, there will be nothing left but ‘bargains’ that no one wanted in the first place
  • Don’t get distracted by a ‘fantastic’ item at an amazing price that goes with absolutely nothing else you own – you’ll never wear it (see rule 5 below)
  • Think ‘investment’: the sales are a great time to snap up that fab winter coat, bag or leather skirt that you’ve had your eye on for weeks
  • Avoid costly mistakes by following the 3-7-14 rule.  American Glamour Magazine recently shared this.  Basically, if you buy something and you don’t wear it within 3 days (evening wear excepted) you clearly wearen’t that excited about it in the first place.  If you haven’t worn it in 7 days, you probably won’t.  Return it within 14 days or you will be throwing money away.  How’s that for focusing the mind ?

So elbows at the ready…  And remember, I’m always happy to advise you on building a wardrobe that works for you and your lifestyle, so do get in touch.

birthday shoes

 

The way Daphne wears it…

Please note that the images shown are scanned in from ‘The Way We Wore’.

DaphneLast weekend I had the privilege of hearing Daphne Selfe speak about her recent book, The Way We Wore, at the Lewes Speakers Festival.  According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Daphne is the oldest working model in the world, at the age of 87.  You’ve probably seen her in the Sunday Times and in campaigns for Dolce and Gabbana and & Other Stories. You can also see her in ‘Fabulous Fashionistas’ on Channel 4.

She trained as a dancer, as it was one of the only ways in the ‘40s and ‘50s to go abroad regularly. Daphne was also very good at making dance costumes, having learnt sewing from her mother and at school; her sewing skills have kept her in good stead for years. She explains, ‘If you wanted something during the War, you jolly well had to make it.’

The really interesting thing about Daphne is that this is actually the second phase of her modelling career.  She did what she calls ‘bread and butter’ modelling in her 20s (in the 1950s) – lots of promotional and commercial work – and then, age 70, was asked by Red or Dead to do a catwalk show.  This led to a Vogue shoot on ageing, and she has worked solidly ever since.

Like the irrepressible Iris Apfel, Daphne isn’t afraid to wear what she wants to wear. She scours charity and second hand shops for interesting pieces and knits her own jumpers, as she can’t find new ones she likes.  As her feet aren’t as good as they once were, she favours long skirts and wide legged trousers – fabulous on her tall frame.

Daphne 4 1Her advice for a long and happy life?  Eat properly (nothing out of a packet).  Exercise (she does yoga and ballet stretches every day).  Drink water.  Keep going and enjoy every minute.

Daphne’s book chronicles her life in clothes; it’s full of fashion anecdotes and is a lovely read.  Her next project? Launching an online academy to share her modelling expertise.

 

Guys: focus on festive elegance

The festive season has arrived, arguably the most social time of the year.  Sparkling occasions abound – Christmas drinks, office parties, New Year’s Eve – it’s enough to make anyone have a wardrobe crisis!  Whether planning a special date, heading out for cocktails or hosting a soiree at home, everyone wants to make an impression.  Dressing up is becoming increasingly rare in our casual 21st century world, but nothing beats it for injecting some glamour into a gathering.

Gentlemen, even if it’s a casual occasion, you still want to look like you made an effort, don’t you?  A pair of dark wash jeans and a simple shirt worn with a v-neck jumper is a good starting point.  Add some ‘oomph’ by topping it off with a black leather jacket or contrasting blazer (in wool or tweed).  For evening, keep the colour palette neutral – think black, grey and navy – it will be more than appropriate and inject a bit of elegance.

pocket square. copyIf you’re heading straight out to a more formal festive do, by all means wear your office suit, but don’t make it look like one.  What do I mean by that?  Well, lose the tie, for starters, and unbutton your top button.  You will still look sharp (assuming your shirt and suit fit well) but less like you’ve just left work.  A suit with some pattern or texture (grey check or tweed, for example) will also be more interesting, especially if you add a pocket square.

Stepping up the formality a bit, a dark grey or navy suit will take you almost anywhere, particularly when worn with a classic French cuff shirt fastened with cufflinks (every man should have at least one in their repertoire).  Oh, and worn with a tie, of course.  For sharp tailoring options on the high street, try Jigsaw menswear, Reiss, J Crew or even M&S.  Better yet, seek inspiration from men’s online clothing and lifestyle destination Mr Porter.

business-suit-690048 copy 2

For black tie events, choose a dinner suit in black or midnight blue (the Duke of Windsor’s favourite) in wool.  A velvet jacket in navy or bottle green is also very contemporary, and can be worn with (or without) a richly coloured patterned tie (not a bowtie), pocket square and plain trousers.  If you’re going to buy a full dinner suit, look to Austin Reed or Reiss.  For velvet jackets, take a look at John Lewis.

Here’s to festive elegance. Enjoy !

Clothes coupons and ‘making do’

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Saturday 28th November would be my beloved grandmother Mary’s 104th birthday. She came from a solidly middle class background; her father worked in insurance, and she grew up in a modest house in Darlington, County Durham.  She was not underprivileged in any way, but neither was she spoilt or over-indulged.  Looking at what she and her generation owned and the clothes they wore, we would think they were completely deprived.

People didn’t have a lot of clothes back then, and World War II obviously had a major impact. When I was a child in the 1970s, I remember Mary having about 10 day dresses, 5 pairs of shoes, some knitwear (Marks & Spencer’s St Michael label, of course), blouses and two coats. That was it.  Clothes were mended and recycled, darned and remade, and worn and worn again.

My grandfather Egan’s wartime letters to Mary reveal a bit about how people really did ‘make do and mend’ and how precious and exciting it was when they acquired something new.

In April 1945 he writes: ‘I read with great interest of all your activities: sun-bathing in an easy chair, dashing about the house, going out in a scarlet frock and black coat – edge to edge style – and looking a perfect picture. Do I get browned off out here, so far away from my pin-up girl, oh boy, do I get browned off!’  (Don’t you just love the language?)

In September 1945 Egan was about to be demobbed, and was facing a bit of a clothes crisis himself:  ‘The position regarding clothes-coupons is rather precarious now, isn’t it? I shall have to try and get a suit made for myself as soon as possible, for even with the outfit I’ll get on demobbing I shan’t be too well off with suits:  the one I used to wear when on leave is threadbare by now.’

What would they make of our bulging wardrobes, filled with things we hardly ever wear?  Is your wardrobe in need of a ‘detox’?

Meet Beryl: great style at eighty

Beryl 6Last week I had the privilege of meeting Beryl, a stylish, confident and outgoing woman.  Beryl has short blonde hair, wears funky round glasses, and accessorises like a pro.  Best of all, Beryl is eighty.

She loves life, and dressing well helps her retain her joie de vivre. She adores people, and will talk to anyone (hence our meeting, as I’m very much the same).  I loved her positivity, her loquaciousness, and most of all I loved her sense of style.

Beryl travels, and shops, widely – anything from H&M to high end.  She knows how to tie a scarf to best effect, how to wear black (or grey), how to keep it chic and simple.  She understands fabric and texture, and how to add interest to any look.  Beryl despairs of ‘granny perms’ and implores her older friends and neighbours not to fall into that trap.  She told me, ‘I ask them (usually over a glass or two) why they don’t wear their hair differently, why don’t they care about what they wear, why don’t they smile?’

When I met Beryl she was wearing her grey round glasses, a black textured scarf Beryl 3wound tightly around her throat, a black coat and black patent ankle boots. She was carrying a Sonia Rykiel bag, and was searching for the perfect black v-neck for layering, which I helped her find.  In turn, she helped me find the perfect grey beret.

Beryl intuitively understands that style is about much more than what you wear – it’s how you present yourself to the world and it reflects how you approach life – and it has absolutely nothing to do with age.

 

Lagerfeld: age, experience, excellence

Age and experience are often overlooked in our youth-obsessed world.  This month, legendary fashion titan Karl Lagerfeld will be presented, at the age of 82, with the Outstanding Achievement Award at the British Fashion Awards in recognition of his ‘unrivalled contribution to the fashion industry’.  And it truly is unrivalled.

Lagerfeld was born in Hamburg in 1933 and educated privately and in Paris.  His career began when he was hired to assist Pierre Balmain, after winning a design competition in 1955.  In 1958, he moved to Jean Patou, designing two collections a year for the next five years, and began freelancing at Chloe in 1964.  Since 1983 he has, of course, been creative director at Chanel, although his career has been multifacted.  Lagerfeld has worked as a photographer (V, German Vogue, Harpers Bazaar), theatrical costume designer, publisher and art director.  At the age of 82, he shows no sign of slowing down (why should he) and he still designs for Chanel, Fendi and his eponymous label.  He is a living example of how age and experience can amount to great things.

Natalie Massenet MBE, Chairman of the British Fashion Council, commented on the award by saying, ‘Karl Lagerfeld defines outstanding.  He is the champion of excellence, the master of the exceptional and one of the most iconic figures globally from our industry.’

Previous winners of the Outstanding Achievement Award include: Anna Wintour OBE (2014), Terry and Tricia Jones (2013) and Manolo Blahnik CBE (2012).

 

Time to buy a coat…

One of my new year fashion resolutions for 2015 was this: I will buy a new winter coat before the end of November when all the best ones are gone. Well here we are in November….

It’s tricky, because last year I barely wore a winter coat. Our recent series of mild wet winters have meant that I’ve relied on judicious layering rather than any serious coat investment.

But recent press reports have predicted that we’re due for 100 days of snow this winter – reminiscent of the brutal winters of 1963 and 1947 (not that I was there, you understand).  So it might finally be time to take the plunge.

Thankfully there is a wide variety of interesting options available this autumn/winter, including the cocoon, wool wrap and my personal favourite, the cape.  Here’s the lowdown:

  • The cocoon – with or without a collar, great for striking an androgynous pose with a white shirt, black skinnies and brogues.  Take inspiration from Jigsaw with their beautiful textured boucle coat, or Ted Baker’s ombre version in two colourways
  • The trench – a timeless classic, great for warding off the autumn chill before winter really sets in. Go classic – double breasted in taupe or beige, (or perhaps dark green at Ted Baker) or think soft suede a la Zara.  A Burberry trench is, of course, a failsafe English-made classic and a real investment piece
  • The wool wrap – this year the classic wool coated is belted with no buttons, in soft taupe or caramel tones.  Max Mara’s Goloso is the ultimate version in gorgeous camel hair if your budget allows….  The Fold also do a lovely belted claret version
  • The cape – capes are a great way to play with shape and proportion, and are particularly dramatic worn over evening wear or layered over fine knits and skinny jeans.  This season they are striped or checked, textured or embellished, fur trimmed or jewelled, but I love the simplicity of the ‘Vickiye’ taupe wool cape by Ted Baker and Reiss’ wool blend ‘Cavalier’ in navy.  The length varies too – short and boxy (above the hip) or longer line (similar to a coat or long jacket length)

Make sure you consider your lifestyle, existing wardrobe and your commute before you make a final decision on a coat.  It is, after all, a fairly significant wardrobe investment that you will want to wear for several years to come.

Grooming and gadgets for guys

Grooming is no longer just for women. Savvy guys already know this, and in fact, men’s grooming is now big business. Mintel reports that the men’s personal care market in the UK was worth £574 million in 2012 and is expected to rise by 6% by 2017. Why? Well, you may be dressing well, but you certainly don’t want your hair, skin or eyebrows to let you down. American entrepreneur Daymond John says it best: ‘Good grooming is integral and impeccable style is a must. If you don’t look the part, no-one will want to give you time or money.’ Furthermore, being well-groomed demonstrates attention to detail and enhances your professional image.

Given the myriad of products, gadgets and even apps on the market today to help you look your best, there’s no longer an excuse for not looking tip-top. Read on to find out more…

Go online…

If you are in need of some help but prefer to remain anonymous, there are a number of online resources that can help you look your best (not that I’m trying to do myself out of a job, you understand).   In recent years, the number of websites and apps geared towards men’s style and grooming has exploded. They can help you put outfits together, advise on how to tie a tie (or shoelaces), and keep you up to date with the latest grooming gadgets, techniques and outlets. Here are a few particularly useful resources:

Apps:

  • Mr Porter: a shopping app (and website) allowing you to browse and buy clothing from international designers. The website also contains The Journal, with articles on a variety of lifestyle issues and styling subjects (free on iTunes)
  • Philips Grooming App: to help you find everything you ever wanted to know about shaving and beard styling, including ‘how to’ and personalised advice (available at Philips)
  • How to Tie a Tie: one of a number of apps available, covering a variety of knots (free on iTunes)

Websites:

  • Fashion Beans: a fantastic source of advice on men’s fashion, lifestyle and tips on grooming. They also regularly rate their ‘top 10’ products (fragrance, skin care, etc)
  • Niven & Joshua: a very grown-up men’s skincare website, featuring exclusive and high-end brands, along with advice for the modern gentleman on specific issues such as acne, hair loss and rosacea
  • Mankind: site selling products for skin, hair, shaving and body. They also have ‘masterclasses’, giving step-by-step advice on dealing with ingrown hairs, combating oily skin and a range of other skin, haircare and grooming issues

Great gadgets

A quick caveat before I begin: I haven’t tried any of these !  But they’ve all had great reviews…

  • The Luna Cleansing System by Foreo: this non-abrasive silicone FOREO_LUNA_trade__Anti_Ageing_and_Facial_Cleansing_System_for_Men_1385466553device uses T-Sonic™ pulsations to remove dirt and prep skin for shaving. It also claims to lessen the appearance of fine lines, and is great for travel. Available on Mr Porter
  • Braun Series 7 799 electric rechargeable wet and dry foil shaver: This was recently reviewed by the Telegraph as one of the five best men’s grooming gadgets. Evidently it can ‘read your face’ and adjusts its micro vibrations according to your hair density. It also has three shaving modes and only needs a five-minute charge for one cordless shave.  Available at Tesco
  • Panasonic ER-GN30 Nose & Facial Hair trimmer: I know, not a ER-GN30-K_1particularly pleasant item, but unfortunately, one that becomes a necessity as the years pass. This one uses a rotary cutting mechanism (so no chance of cutting yourself). Available on Amazon
  • Philips BG2036 Bodygroom – for hair below the neck. Self-explanatory really. I’ll leave you to check this one out. Just let me add that men’s body hair removal has now become mainstream, with a wide range of products available and many salons offering specific waxing services for gents. Available at Boots

Kitty on the catwalk

Photos courtesy of Malcolm Tam

http://malcolmtam.com

http://malcolmtam.com

Last week was Brighton Fashion Week, which is becoming quite a significant annual event in our fair city.  At the industry networking evening, I had the amazing good fortune of bumping into Valerie Goode, Creative CEO of Kitty Ferreira.  Valerie founded the label in 2013, after working in China and witnessing horrific pollution and environmental degradation there.  She says, ‘I returned to the UK vowing not to contribute to that by sourcing upcycled materials in the UK and, where possible, British-made materials to keep my carbon footprint as low as possible.’

Valerie is a trained commercial designer who produces eminently wearable clothes. She designs timeless and elegant ethical pieces that dispel the ‘hippy’ connotations of sustainable fashion. Her clothes have featured at London Fashion Week and have won several awards.

http://malcolmtam.com

I saw her simple and chic spring/summer 2016 collection at the Sustain Fashion Show on the final evening, held in the imposing All Saint’s Church in Hove. The clothes were definitely elegant and wearable, had sex appeal (without being clingy), and featured some of my favourite elements: long fluid silhouettes, a mainly monochrome/neutral palette and gorgeous silky fabrics. I particularly loved the semi-sheer silk transparent jacket and black trousers.

http://malcolmtam.com

Catwalk shows are usually about art rather than wearability, but I could picture myself meeting a client or attending an event in one of her dresses (or the jacket/trouser outfit). Moving away from the neutral palette, Valerie also showed a vibrant African-inspired print top with peg-shaped trousers.

And the name? Valerie named the label after her grandmother, who lived in the Caribbean and was upcycling long before it became a fashionable term.

Valerie told me, ‘Brighton Fashion Week was excellent and I’m so excited for ethical and sustainable fashion right now.  Being the only UK platform for ethical and sustainable fashion is a huge step towards cleaning up the industry and creating awareness for the end customer.’  Her long-term vision is to rival non-ethical brands on the high street, and I have no doubt she will succeed.

Find out more and follow Kitty Ferreira on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

http://malcolmtam.com

http://malcolmtam.com

 

 

Clothes give you confidence

Getting dressed is the most powerful thing you do in the morning’ – Lorraine Candy, editor-in-chief, ELLE Magazine

ten2Two bannerYes, clothes are powerful. They give you presence and confidence. And ‘confidence’ was the theme of a recent workshop I participated in, run by Emma Cleary and Laurie Smith, directors of Ten2Two here in Sussex.

the roomThe workshop, aimed at women looking to return to work, focused on building confidence for job interviews and meetings from a number of angles.

Hilary Ellis of Talent for Change spoke about ‘what is confidence’ and gave us visioning exercises to work on together.  Jo Ellis of Pure Confidence gave a fascinating talk on coping with nerves and how to make body language work in your favour. There were also speakers on what you should think about in terms of finances, how to define and articulate your skills and attributes and the various childcare options available to women returning to work.

me and EmmaAnd me? I talked about how clothes can boost your confidence and how to approach dressing for interviews and meetings. It’s important to remember that people will measure your professionalism by your appearance – how you dress signifies your status, self-confidence and self-worth. You may be the most qualified person for the job, but if you look scruffy or unkempt that will undermine your skills. Your goals when dressing for an interview should be to look smart and professional and to feel comfortable – which, in turn, will boost your confidence.

Do you have an important meeting or interview coming up ? I can help you harness the power of your clothes…

Thanks to Claire Brewer Photography for the images.

 

How to layer

autumn_journal_leavesChilly mornings, warm afternoons, cool evenings. Blustery wind, sudden downpours, bright sunshine. Whatever autumn holds, you can be sure it often includes four seasons in one day.  Which makes it tricky to know what to wear.

Recent press reports have also confirmed what many of us already knew.  Women do feel colder in offices than men, preferring an average temperature of 25C (rather than 22C favoured by the guys).

So what’s the solution?  Layering.  When done well, effective layering can see you through even the most changeable autumn days and keep you warm in chilly offices.

IMG_1190Here’s how…

  • Invest in the basics. Fine jersey camisoles and vest tops in white or nude make great base layers.  Jigsaw and Intimissimi are my go-to brands
  • Layer hem lengths. Try a sleeveless longline jacket (Whistles has a lovely black crepe version) or cape over a midi skirt, for example.  This looks cool (while keeping you warm)
  • Go maxi. An ankle-grazing skirt worn with a buttoned shirt, neat jumper and heels looks chic – see Net A Porter for some gorgeous options
  • Layer knits too. Wear a chunky sleeveless longline knit over a crisp longline white shirt or tee to add texture and interest as per the White Company
  • Add accessories. A skinny silk scarf around your neck is very ‘now’, and adds a bit of extra warmth (keep jewellery to a minimum with this look). You won’t want to spend a lot on this – Topshop is a good bet

Just remember to keep the total number of layers to three – you don’t want to add bulk.  Most of all, experiment and have fun !

Celebrating Diana.

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The bikini is the most important thing since the atom bomb – Diana Vreeland, 1946

This week marks the late, great Diana Vreeland’s birthday.  Diana was a fashion columnist, editor-in-chief and all-round powerhouse.  Born in Paris to an American socialite mother and British father, Diana and her family moved to the US at the beginning of the First World War.

Her varied career spanned six decades and many social changes – World War II, the advent of the sixties, the space age and feminism.  After marrying banker Thomas Vreeland in 1924, the couple lived in London, where she ran a lingerie business in Mayfair, where her clients included Wallis Simpson.  The Vreelands returned to New York in the mid-30s, where Diana joined Harpers Bazaar, writing the ‘Why Don’t You…?’ column, offering extravagant fashion and lifestyle tips.  She later became fashion editor of the magazine, remaining there for 26 years.

Knowing she wasn’t a classic beauty, Diana emphasised her flaws instead of concealing them.  She cropped her black hair and wore it sharply pulled back to show her severe profile, and emphasised her pale complexion with rouge and scarlet red nails (her favourite shade).

Diana advised Jacqueline Kennedy on dress during the 1960 presidential campaign, and introduced her to Oleg Cassini, who became Jackie’s chief designer.

She became editor-in-chief at Vogue in 1963, and celebrated the decade’s uniqueness, saying ‘If you had a bump on your nose, it made no difference, as long as you had a marvellous body and good carriage.’  While at Vogue, she discovered and photographed ‘youthquaker’ Edie Sedgwick.  After leaving Vogue, she became special consultant to the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Diana was added to the International Best Dressed List (now run by Vanity Fair) in 1964.  She died in 1989 at the age of 85.

 

 

The small things matter

It’s the small things that enhance our everyday lives – Jessica Christie-Miller

As a stylist, I am always telling my clients to pay attention to the small things – their accessories – as they are the things that add individuality and personality to an overall look. Often, accessories, especially jewellery, are attached to particular memories and life events, which make them even more special.

Last week I had the pleasure of meeting Jessica Christie-Miller of IMG_3755Lassoo the Moon, who creates unique and striking ways to store and display accessories, particularly jewellery.   She adorns animal skulls with flowers, feathers and beads – a stylish, modern and completely individual way to hang necklaces, scarves or even hats.

Speaking of hats, Jessica also crafts stunning top hats in pastel or vivid jewel tones that would look great worn to Ascot, or for a party or wedding – each one is made to order, adorned with a variety of silk flowers, feathers and fabrics.

IMG_3745In addition, Jessica creates bespoke handmade fabric memo boards that can be used to display not only small accessories such as earrings and beads, but also photos, postcards, buttons, shells and leaves.   The result is an evocative visual ‘storyboard’ of a particular event or memory. Jessica uses plain and patterned linen and cotton fabrics from producers such as British fabric producers Osborne & Little and Sanderson. She also uses vintage and sequinned fabric.  Each memo board is different, and is beautifully decorated with silk and paper flowers, feathers and sequins.

Before creating Lassoo the Moon, Jessica studied Fine Art and went on to train in retail display. She spent many years as a window dresser in London, specialising in the jewellery trade, working with international luxury brands including Cartier, Links of London and Kiki McDonough.

Jessica can be contacted via Lassoo the Moon and she also sells her work through Etsy.

Many thanks to Jessica for giving me the beautiful animal skull below.

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The secret of French chic

IMG_1393Last week I spent a heavenly few days in south west France with my beloved.  We stayed in a small coastal town nowhere near the Cote D’Azure.  It was very low key and casual, with oyster huts, a jetty and beachside cafes that were just perfect for people-watching.

Sam on bike copyBritish women frequently hear about French chic and how we should aspire to it, and I’ve often wondered if there’s any particular secret to their style.  The women of this small town sported a simple yet elegant look: striped breton (mariniere) tops, light knits thrown over shoulders, straw beach hats and baskets, scarves looped around necks, simple shirt dresses worn with flats or sandals.  As we cycled through villages and lazed in cafes, it dawned on me just what their secret is.  It comes down to two words: ‘effort’ and ‘simplicity’.

Whether these women are meeting friends in a café, dining with their husbands, shopping in the market or just strolling along the jetty, they always make an effort.  Every day.  Their clothes are simple (no more than two or three colours) and coordinated.  There is very little bling, no huge logos (other than a few LVs), no sweatpants, leggings or oversized t-shirts. And in fact, as the age bracket went up (50, 60 and beyond) the more elegant the look became.

French chic equals effort and simplicity.  A divine, and achievable, combination.

One bag is never enough…

Now that designer handbag prices have really hit the stratosphere, it’s worth investigating mid-range options if you want to buy more than one or update each season. And let’s face it, one bag cannot possibly cover every aspect of your life: work, family, socialising, travel. Whatever you choose, make sure you always buy real leather or suede – it will look better, last much longer and keep its shape.

I’m a great believer in investing in classic pieces that stand the test of time. If you’re after an elegant and sleek look for the office, for example, choose a bag that reflects this; keep bling and logos to a minimum and choose a smart, structured shape.

Think carefully when choosing your ‘everyday’ bag, and take into account your working lifestyle, commute and the dominant palette in your wardrobe (including your coats). Make sure you also choose something that works with your proportions; huge bags can swamp petite women, for example. And if you commute by bus, train, bike or underground, you will want to consider the weight of your bag and how far you have to walk.

Building your bag wardrobe takes time (hence it’s better to invest in a classic first) but you should aim to include the following:

  • Tote: a roomy option for work, with space for your laptop and other paraphernalia. Choose one both top-handles and a longer shoulder strap, and make sure you check the weight when you buy. If it’s heavy when it’s empty, imagine what it will be like when full!
  • Bucket: fashionable for the past couple of seasons, the bucket shape is more casual (and more fun). This season, fringing adds interesting texture, tapping into the bohemian vibe that is so big at the moment
  • Clutch: if you’re a minimalist, this is the bag for you. The trick (as with the men’s folio) is not to overstuff it. They’re best carried on a night out, when all you need is your card, keys and lipstick
  • Crossbody: very fashionable this autumn/winter, and getting smaller in size. These are fine to carry for work if you’ve got your bulky essentials in another bag.  This year, a chain link strap is essential

IMG_1334It’s always fun to play with colour and texture when choosing your accessories, and handbags are no exception.  Claret, suede and fringing are all huge trends this autumn/winter, and will add a bit of interest to your look.  I am personally coveting this little number from Russell & Bromley (more affordable than its Stella McCartney counterpart…)  Whatever you choose, enjoy !

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guys, it’s in the bag

Black HoveWhere women’s fashion leads, men’s eventually follows. Did you know that the sale of men’s bags has increased by more than 25% in the past decade?  And that they are now a firm fixture in every designer’s menswear collection?  In fact, when Mark Carney gave his first speech as Governor of the Bank of England, he carried what most people would call a ‘man bag’.  Not a briefcase, but a soft grey, black-leather trimmed number with long handles.

Are you constantly stuffing keys, wallet, various bits of paper and who knows what else into your pockets ?  Not only does it look messy, it also ruins the line of your clothes.  Or perhaps you are carrying a ‘one-bag-fits all occasions’ number that has seen better days.

Let’s say you are ready to choose the right bag for you. First of all, consider your lifestyle.  Where and how do you spend most of your time – in the office, out with clients, do you need to carry bulky documents, do you travel frequently – take all of these into account when choosing.

SC_Lookbook_AW14_0010Once you’ve considered how and where you’ll use it, invest in one or two that work for your lifestyle.  If you work in a sharp, corporate environment, I’m guessing that you already have an appropriate leather briefcase.  But there are other options too, particularly if your working life is less formal, or you are looking for something to use on casual days.  These include:

  • Folio / Pouch: the sleekest option out there. It can have a zipper or be a simple pouch. Do not overstuff it !
  • Crossbody / Messenger: small zippered styles or roomier messenger bags. Both, as you’d expect, can be worn across the body, but should be carried no lower than the hip
  • Tote: Mark Carney’s bag of choice. A roomier alternative to the briefcase, with space for your laptop, documents and whatever else you need that day. It encompasses a number of shapes, including shoulder, sports and bowling bags
  • Duffel / Holdall: the roomiest option of all. This looks great in leather, but can also be found in tweed and canvas. If it’s no more than 55 x 35 x 20cm it can also serve as carry-on luggage
  • Backpack: self-explanatory, and having a bit of a fashion moment. Best kept for casual wear.

Did you know there were so many options ?  I can help you find the one that works best for you – contact me today.

 

 

 

 

 

Are you ready for autumn?

September is looming. That ‘new school year feeling’ is in the air.  The weather is already cooler.  It’s time to start thinking seriously about your autumn/winter wardrobe.

Planning your key purchases now (new boots, a coat ?) will stand you in good stead, as will determining what gaps need filling in your existing wardrobe.  You don’t need to go mad – if you’ve got the basics right, a couple of carefully-chosen additional pieces will ensure you make a stylish transition into autumn.

I am particularly excited about:

  • the continuing dominance of the coat: there are some fantastic shapes out there. I am coveting a beautiful Joseph grey double cashmere belted coat at the moment…
  • burgundy/claret is the colour of the season: great for those of you who may be bored of wearing black, brown or navy. Burgundy is soft and forgiving for most skin tones and looks fantastic with grey, camel and black
  • cropped trousers and culottes: these may scare some of you, but I think they look sharp and very modern. The new cropped trousers with a turn up look great worn with a tucked-in blouse and heels for the office, or luxe jersey basics and trainers at the weekend.  (Atterley have a great claret pair – two trends ticked at once…).  Keep your top-half sleek when wearing culottes, and always wear heels if you’re petite. They look great with block heels and a slim biker jacket
  • wide-legged trousers: channel your inner Katharine Hepburn and wear with minimal trainers for a modern twist

I’d be delighted to help you prepare for the new season.  Drop me an email…

 

 

 

What is ‘normcore’?

One of the newest (and ugliest) words making the rounds in fashion circles over the past couple of years is ‘normcore’. What is it? Wikipedia defines it as: ‘a unisex fashion trend characterised by unpretentious, average-looking clothing. “Normcore” is a portmanteau of the words “normal” and “hardcore”.’

IMG_1189It’s come about for a number of reasons: a backlash against constantly changing trends, a rejection of blingy and ubiquitous logos and a desire to look chic and stylish without having to shout about it.

Some think the normcore ‘uniform’ of ‘plain’ (albeit high end) white shirts, cashmere jumpers in neutral tones, dark skinny jeans and leather trainers is boring and the opposite of individual and unique. I disagree – I prefer to see people (especially those of us of a certain age) with a more understated look. It’s then easy to add colour and personality through accessories (and it’s cheaper too). IMG_1182

Luxe-Layers founder Flavia says it best: ‘Most of us with jobs in fashion are indeed very much ‘normcorers’, because better than anyone, we understand the difference between fashion trends and true style.’ Precisely. Check out Flavia’s ‘normcore commandments’ here.

IMG_1209As I frequently say to clients, style is timeless, not trendy. It should be individual (think Iris Apfel), reflect your personality and be appropriate for your age and lifestyle.

 

Iris says ‘have fun when you dress!’

Life is grey and dull. You may as well have fun when you dress – Iris Apfel

Back in May, I wrote about age being no barrier to style. I can think of no better example of this than fabulous nonagenarian style icon Iris Apfel.

Iris will turn 94 on the 29th of August. From the beginning, Iris was a trailblazer. She chose a career over children, for example, and that career has been long and varied, encompassing fashion, design and the arts. She worked at Women’s Wear Daily before becoming an interior designer (clients included the White House) and running textile company Old World Weavers with her beloved husband Carl. She now consults and lectures about style and fashion.

She is also the subject of a documentary by filmmaker Albert Maysles. The film gives us a fascinating insight into Iris’ world – her 66 year marriage to Carl, the inspiration for her distinctive style and her thoughts on the fashion industry today.

Iris has become something of a ‘geriatric starlet’ (her words) due to her distinctive style and irrepressible energy. Iris has one of the best collections of couture costume jewellery in the world, along with an extensive wardrobe – several rooms in her Park Avenue and Palm Beach apartments are devoted to her clothes. Her look is immediately recognisable: cropped white hair, huge round Cutler and Gross glasses and layers of bangles, bracelets and necklaces, all in vivid colours but somehow creating a startling and coherent ‘look’. Her extensive collection of accessories was brought to the MoMA’s attention and they devoted a show to her, which led to further exhibitions in Florida and Massachusetts.

Along with being incredibly stylish, Iris is also wise and witty. Here are a few of my favourite Iris-isms:

  • On her mother’s influence: ‘my mother worshipped at the altar of the accessory’
  • On building her accessories collection: ‘it’s hard work to collect – it takes effort – everything I have I go out and find’
  • On getting dressed: ‘it has to feel right…I mix and match and do it differently each time. I don’t have rules as I would break them…I love the process’
  • On designers today: ‘they don’t sew, don’t drape – they’re media freaks, with no sense of history’
  • On herself: ‘I have two great gifts: curiosity and a sense of humour’
  • On today’s fashion: ‘individuality is lost these days – everything is homogenised’
  • On continuing to work: ‘I like being in the world and of the world’

#irisapfel

 

 

Guys – beat the heat

Over the last couple of weeks, the weather has been decidedly Men-Casual-Office-Dresses-2015undecided here in the UK. Can you believe it reached 37 degrees in the south of England on 1st July, yet the morning of 31st July dawned at just above freezing ? Things seem to be on the up, however, and temperatures are rising again.   So what’s the best way to remain looking polished and professional in the heat, while keeping your cool ?

The shirt should be your starting point. I’m hoping you packed away your heavy winter suits, jackets and trousers weeks ago, but it’s surprising how many men wear the same shirts all year round. Branch out a bit. First, consider the fabric – opt for natural fibres such as cotton, linen or a blend of both. Or even seersucker. More commonly worn across the Atlantic, it can look very smart – think Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird.

Although linen is wonderfully light and breathable, it does crease like mad, and a blend keeps those creases at bay. Lighten your colours too – and think beyond white. I freely admit to secretly admiring Michael Portillo in his ice-cream coloured shirt and jacket combinations. His choices of pale yellow, mint green, pink and sky blue exude summer and have a certain Continental je ne sais quoi. If pastel or bright colours aren’t your thing, the same summery effect can be achieved with a gingham check. Gingham looks crisp and is much more interesting than the usual stripe; you’ll find it adds a bit of personality to your look without sacrificing formality.

Turning to jackets, cotton, linen (or best yet, a blend) should be chosen in favour of hot, stuffy wool. Choose neutral shades (navy or beige for example) that will go with a number of your shirts, to give you maximum wearability. Mr Portillo wears his rainbow assortment of shirts with navy, red and even yellow blazers – but I don’t expect you to go crazy…

Smart_Casual_Dress_ExampleFor more informal office days, pair your shirt with chinos and a lightweight blazer and you’re ready to go. Keep short sleeved shirts for casual or smart-casual occasions – they can be a bit too informal for daily business attire. If you’d like to forego a tie, you can button your shirt fully (very modern) or leave the top button undone (depending on the cut of the shirt). You could also opt for a cotton pique polo shirt; just make sure you choose a tailored version with no logos. White, navy and other neutrals are your go-to colours here. A crisp white polo can look really smart under a lightweight suit – try it.

SC_Shoes_0002I’m a huge fan of the suede loafer worn without socks. There’s nothing quite like it for evoking a bit of ‘summer on the Riviera’ attitude. And please – always wear closed toe shoes in hot weather (think suede brogues or chukka boots as alternative options).

Enjoy the summer !