Jack Wills Store Launch

I had an invitation to pop up to the new Jack Wills store in Bluewater for a store tour and to find out about the collections, so on a rainy Friday morning I headed out into the depths of Kent.

I hadn’t been to Bluewater for years, and I have to say, it’s not my dream shopping destination. Much as I enjoy clothes, I sort of hate the act of finding them. I’ve moved on from the Primark sieges of my callow youth, sitting on a bed piled high with cheap tat, feeling jittery and that I’d just wasted my money. These days, I employ military precision to minimise my time in, you know, actual shops, preferring a computer screen to shield me.

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But I digress, and while Bluewater is never going to be to my taste, I appreciated two things: the abundance of my favourite eateries (Leon, Pinkberry, Cote and Lola’s Cupcakes) and the Jack Wills store itself. The store follows the Jack Wills aesthetic – cosy and quirky, with Persian rugs, striped lampshades and overstuffed armchairs tucked into corners, and shelves crammed full of dusty travel books and shining trophies. JW pulls off the ‘lifestyle brand’ concept extremely well, creating a series of rather charming, comfortable spaces with lovely staff (more on that later) and extremely wearable collections. The Bluewater store is a perfect addition – I was greeted by two delightful chaps, and staff around the store were all chatty and helpful. Each one I spoke to was beaming from ear to ear, talking about how excited they were to be working there, and how they ‘already felt like a family’.

Say the name ‘Jack Wills’ and you’ll often be faced with tuts and furrowed brows. The brand has long been associated with a very specific English stereotype, largely due to the proliferation of branded hoodies and sweatpants they (quite literally) made their name with. This is unfair and no longer apt for the company – look around any store and you’ll be greeted with the sight of cable knit lambswool jumpers, tweedy jackets, excellent quality shirts, and a soothing colour palette of damson, mustard and navy.  Without a doubt, the brand has grown up significantly in the past few years, absorbing a lot of the aesthetic from sadly defunct sister brand Aubin and Wills. As various staff told me, a lot of the clothing doesn’t carry a huge amount of branding anymore, and is much more subtle.

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Which brings me neatly to the Autumn/Winter collection. Again, JW never used to create very…inspiring collections. What wasn’t a branded hoodie or trackpant tended to fall into the ‘tasteful and inoffensive’ category. Bland, if you were being a little more cutting. Now, though, pieces are well-conceived, beautifully made, and hugely wearable. As ever, the collections aren’t trend based, meaning you’ll be able to wear them for years. It’s a tactile collection, everything feels fantastic and looks expensive. Which of course brings us onto the question of price points. Another criticism of JW has been the cry of ‘but it’s SO over-priced!’ and sure, items may be a little more expensive than a standard high street store, but that’s purely reflective of the quality of the garment. We’re talking £70ish for a 100% lambswool sweater, £50 for a 100% cotton dress, £140 for a proper waxed jacket with ludicrously warm lining. While not all of JW is produced within the UK at the moment, they collaborate with classic Brit brands such as Christy’s and Fox Brothers where possible. They aim to move production within the UK and currently sponsor their own flock of sheep.

I was very kindly given a gift card on Friday, and actually ended up spending it Saturday on a Winter coat after wandering into the JW in Tunbridge Wells. I don’t know whether it’s a result of great staff training or them only hiring a certain type of person, but every single member of staff I’ve spoken to has been absolutely delightful. They’re helpful but not pushy, ready to leave you to it if you want, or willing to engage in chat if you are. For a shop-hater, it made a very compelling argument for why internet shopping just doesn’t quite cut it. All in all, I’ve been bowled over by the brand. The clothes look great: fantastic quality, classic pieces. But most of all, the staff make it a truly wonderful brand. They’re the lifeblood of Jack Wills, and they’re what will keep me loyal to the store, shunning my computer in favour of buying lovely clothes from truly lovely people.

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If you’ve been one of those vocal anti-JW types, I’d say forget what you thought you knew and give them a chance. You’ll probably be surprised.

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Met Gala 2013: Best Dressed

Again, another departure from my usual posting style, but having spent the early hours of this morning eagerly devouring the Met Gala dresses, I felt compelled to choose my favourites. The theme this year was punk, and dresses varied from the sublime to the…well, quite frankly, boring. Usually a showcase for the most thrillingly outre garments design houses have to offer, some stylists obviously misread the dress code and opted for simple black instead.

You won’t find any of the boring black numbers on here – instead, I’ve chosen my top 10 favourite looks from the night:

1. Sarah Jessica Parker: just the right amount of fruit loop required for the Met Gala. Usually a great time to wear the bizarre couture creations that would get slated on any normal red carpet, SJP is embracing the spirit of the night. I’m just waiting for the horse jokes to roll in again, thanks to the headpiece…

2. Katy Perry: Usually not a fan of Ms Perry’s contrived and cutesy style, I actually appreciate her adoption of the D&G regal, Italian aesthetic. Especially digging that grey blusher. She looks like a Borgia.

3. Alison Williams: A toss up for me here between Williams and Blake Lively for the obligatory dress with train look. I like the dichotomy of this dress: she’s at once ridiculously covered up AND almost obscenely exposed.

4. Carey Mulligan: Part of me wants to resign this to the ‘boring’ pile, but there’s something about ol’ Mulligan that just means I can’t stop looking at her. It’s so utterly simple, but rather that than Kim Kardashian’s curtain dress. (Not pictured. I wouldn’t do that to you).

5. Sienna Miller: sometimes I get really nostalgic for when Sienna used to be on every ‘best dressed’ list. I miss her SO GODDAMN MUCH. This is too perfect. That’s Cara D to the right of the pic – what do you reckon would happen if they hugged? Ouch.

6. Florence Welch: I debated putting this in. You want to know why? Because it’s my firmly held belief that this is exactly what Florence Welch wears every. single. day. No, really. If you close your eyes and imagine her, this is pretty much the outfit you’ll think of. But why not? She looks ace.

7. Kirsten Dunst: Where have you BEEN Kirsten? I’ve missed you. This dress rivals Anne Hathaway’s in the sideboob stakes but I love it. Sidebooob.

8. Rooney Mara: Rooney Mara is TINY. Tiny tiny tiny. It’s difficult to wear a big dress when you’re small, but she’s got it. I love white lace with a plum lip.

9. Mary Kate Olsen: Might have air punched when I saw this. Absolute vintage MKA. Mental proportions? Check. Fur? Check. Beachy boho hobo hair? Check. Looks a bit like what an old lady would wear to remind herself of glory days, a la Grey Gardens? Check. I would wear the heck out of this thing. uhh that’s the outfit, not MK. Mkay?

10. Kate Bosworth: Oh Bosworth, you absolute smash. Her legs are 900ft long, her forehead is anointed with sweat from a priceless diamond, and her hair is made of the sun. Ok, small chance that I’ve been looking at Met dresses for too long and have lost my mind, but doesn’t she look amazing?

(All images courtesy of Getty)

I have measured out my life with coffee spoons

I am SO SORRY for being atrocious at posting lately. I got tangled up around Fashion Week and haven’t quite regained my footing until now. Someone even contacted me the other day to check if I was dead, so I knew it was probably time to post. Also, this weather is making me feel totally miz. I’m looking outside and can see a fat grumpy pigeon perched on the bare branches of the tree at the end of the garden while it rains on him, and that sort of sums everything up. I’m desperately in need of sun.

So what have I been doing with my life, I hear you demand? (Correction: I like to think I hear you demand. You’re probably just thinking about pigeons right now. You philistine.) I’d say in the month since I last posted, I’ve mostly been eating. I went up to St Andrews in February to judge the Alfa Romeo Young Designer Award for Lady M Presents, write up coming shortly. That was an awful lot of aceness. Also, I love Scotland, and I managed to resist doing my famously awful Scottish accent for the entire weekend, AND I didn’t even refer to anyone as the ‘Scotch’, as Stewart Lee is always getting people to do. Or quote any of this video.

The weekend after that, I went to the London outpost of the St Andrews Fashion Show, including dinner at Circus with the winners of the award. Circus is a unique concept: Pan-Asian cuisine served alongside…well, circus acts. And of course, we saw the St Andrews show again. Eating sushi while watching fire-eaters was a pretty fascinating way to spend an evening… On the whole, the food was delicious, the entertainment very absorbing, and we were shown into the venue by a man in a top hat and much more eye makeup than me, which is the way any good night should start.

It was great to see the designs on the catwalk again, and I’m still bowled over at the huge amount of hard work that must have gone into the organising of the show. I skipped out earlyish to get some much needed sleep, and also to eat plum jelly in my hotel room. Yep. That’s how I roll on a Friday night. Jelly roll. The next day, nursing a jelly hangover, I got taken to one of the most delightful restaurants I’ve been to in a very long time, which was The Delaunay, a charming place tucked away just off the strand. Beware the photo of the waffles I had, which can be seen in the pictures below. It has been known to induce fits of jealousy.

Then I went to Sketch, and back to Canteen, and to the wonderful Brasserie Zedel, and I made brunch, and sausage and mash…In fact, I really have been more or less eating non-stop for the last month, and having a rather wonderful time, all sorts of adventures and smiling non-stop, but I’m going to catch up with posts a bit at a time to avoid any essay length blogs. In the meantime, take a look at some pictures, why don’t you? And if you’re wondering where the title of this post comes from, I say firstly to you: get sum edukashun, yeh? And secondly, this.

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The Apartment @ LFW

London Fashion Week is a bit of an assault on the senses. It’s a survival course, and only the best prepared thrive. You start the days feeling smugly perky, and then as time goes on, you find your laptop and DSLR getting heavier and heavier, your feet starting to hurt, your head pounding from the music and camera flashes in the show space, your hands starting to shake from the revolting amount of Vitamin Water and coffee you’ve consumed. Normal eating habits go out of the window. It isn’t that no one eats – more that when food does appear, it’s pounced on by a pack of ravenous press.

I love it, but it exhausts me. I often find myself wanting a haven where I can unwind a bit, have a nice chat with other bloggers, and…regroup a bit, really, to use a horrible American phrase. Enter the Apartment, stage left. Created by blogger Abi Marvel (and she really is a marvel), the Apartment rolls into town during LFW to provide a space for bloggers to learn more about a variety of brands, to network with each other, to sit on a sofa and watch Friends, and most importantly to EAT FOOD.

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The Apartment is a fantastic, creative concept that just happens to be a heaven for bloggers. I enjoyed getting an insight into different brands that I wouldn’t have otherwise had – for example, I got to grill a lovely chap called Ian about the exciting new Windows products on the market. I’m a bit fed up with Apple so it was great to actually get hands-on with the products in a completely unpressurised environment.

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Other things: I got to try on a beautiful Baume & Mercier watch, see Rimmel’s new product range, have my hair jooshed by the boys from John Frieda (we deliberated over how to spell joosh for hashtagging purposes). I munched on striped meringues and a deconstructed bannoffee pie from Leon, lusted after shoes from Russell & Bromley, learned about a great blogging service called Reward Style, and met some absolutely charming people, including Abi herself. I’m in awe of the girl – just 20, balancing studies with work with being a crazily busy entrepreneur, AND a lovely person to boot.

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Something that really captured the attention of guests was, perhaps surprisingly, the stack of jewellery from Claire’s. I haven’t stepped foot in Claire’s since I was about 15 and nursing a horrible little penchant for neo-gothic jewellery. Needless to say, it wasn’t my most sartorially brilliant hour. But seeing a collection of the jewels at The Apartment was brilliant – Claire’s have some great stuff! We were encouraged to pile on a stack of the jewellery, and the most overused phrase of the day was ‘I can’t BELIEVE this is from Claire’s’. I loaded up on spiked bracelets and statement chain necklaces, and I’ll definitely be heading in to a branch next time I pass one.

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Abi has created something fun, vibrant and welcoming to bloggers, and something especially perfect for newbies to fashion week, as it provides a cosy home for the week. It felt like popping around to a friend’s house and lazing about eating yummy pizza and while lolling on comfy sofas, a very welcome relief from the high pressure environment of the week. My congratulations go to Abi for a successful project and a great fun adventure for weary bloggers. Thanks Abi for letting me come along and get stuck in! It was my highlight of the week.

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TOMS x Movember Launch Party

Movember is about to begin: the month when chaps grow moustaches to promote awareness and raise funds for men’s health, in particular testicular cancer and prostate cancer. For a moustache-fancier like me, it’s a bit like Christmas. TOMS, the shoes and glasses brand, have partnered with Movember, and I attended the official launch party at The Hospital Club last night with Christie of From The Heart 90

The concept of M0vember started in Melbourne, and has grown into a global campaign, raising money and awareness for men’s health. The charity encourages men to begin November clean-shaven, and then to grow a moustache for the entire month, providing a constant visual cue to promote awareness of the cause. Since 2003, Movember has raised £184 million. In 2011 alone, £79.3 million was raised, with 1.9 million entrants. We can all work together to make 2012 the most successful Movember so far, and you can do that by donating, holding an awareness party, attending Mo events, or by getting the conversation started with some moustache covered clothing.

I didn’t know much about TOMS until yesterday, when I started reading up a little on them ahead of the launch. I knew they produced adorable shoes and had just introduced a range of glasses and sunglasses, but I didn’t realise the brand had such an altruistic philosophy. TOMS have devised a concept called ‘One for One‘, whereby for every pair of shoes you buy, TOMS will give a new pair of shoes to a child in need. Since the concept was devised, over a million pairs of shoes have already been given away. Likewise, for every pair of glasses bought, TOMS donate a pair to someone in need. To further support Movember, TOMS have produced some limited edition styles of shoe, with a portion of profits going to the charity. It’s exactly the kind of approach that more brands need to start adopting – using their klout to benefit those in need, and I think TOMS are hugely admirable. You can find out more about them on their site.

We trotted along to The Hospital Club to get into the swing of things – quite literally in the case of our dancing. The night was 1920s themed, and as we stepped in we spotted men in waistcoats, bow ties, and hats, and women in flapper dresses and headbands. We also spied a wooden record player, crates of TOMS shoes, and some rather magnificent moustachioed barrels. After swiping some champagne cocktails from the bar, we were whisked aside by a photographer, which entailed dressing up like loons and posing. We then explored the venue a little and listened to the amazing Franky and the Jacks – a very talented AND handsome band. We also caught up with the gorgeous, charming and statuesque Sammy Aki, aka The Groom Style Consultant, who runs an innovative service that aims to raise the style stakes for grooms on their big day. As the band played on, we decided to shake a tail feather on the dancefloor, busting out some prime 1920s moves including a sneaky Charleston, before screen-printing moustaches on t-shirts and finally heading home.

So, what can you do? To get involved with Movember, visit their website, make a donation, grow a moustache if you’re a chap, or get your boyfriend to grow one. If you’re of the female persuasion, how about buying some merch? Or hosting a mo party?  TOMS will continue their charity projects through Movember and beyond, so purchase any item to participate in their ‘One for One’ programme. Above all, be inspired, get involved.

Sussex Style Beauty Editorial

I’ve been terribly quiet lately, and I thought it was finally time to explain why. A couple of weeks ago, I was appointed Beauty Editor for a new glossy magazine called Sussex Style. I won’t bombard you with info on it as most of you will have already heard about it, and I don’t want to be a walking, talking ad, so I’ll just say that it’s going to be high end, aesthetically driven, stocked all around the South East, and ultimately something that this county needs!

Anyway, with my deadline looming large like a…large loomy thing, I had to set to work quickly. I’d decided that I wanted to aim high with my beauty pages. Instead of featuring products alone, I chose to create an actual beauty editorial. Now, this was one of those cases where I’d blindly opted to do something without actually knowing whether or not it was feasible, but I’d set my bar and I was determined to reach it.

I soon realised just what I’d let myself in for. First, there were the creative decisions to be made: what kind of looks was I going to go for? I began to compile moodboards, both in real life and on the dreaded Pinterest (I continue to be the only girl in the world who despises the wretched thing). That was the easy bit. Next, I had to assemble a team to help me get my ideas from the ol’ noggin to the page. I have to thank the Twitter community here, because it just wouldn’t have been possible without them. Within a few hours of tweeting I was overwhelmed with talented photographers, makeup artists and hairstylists.

Next, I talked to the people who’d been suggested, and we started to work out teams, and dates. I was extremely lucky to snag a makeup artist called Marie-Isabel Kennedy, aka Maz. Not only a ridiculously talented young lady, but she also pulled a team together as she recommended a wonderful photographer called Parisa Walklett, and also an absolutely fantastic hairstylist called Stephanie Hayes. From there, it was all systems go – I put together a brief, we started to arrange dates, and then it was time to cast a model.

This actually turned out to be the most stressful part of the operation. Up until this point, things had gone alarmingly smoothly – the team had fallen into place, we had Parisa’s studio all sorted out, the looks were signed off on, and jewellery had been sorted (more on that shortly). As we were working on such a tight time scale, it was extremely difficult to sort out a model, so I spent a rather stressful day frantically emailing and phoning all the big agencies, throwing myself on their mercy. Tell you what, it’s no joke when they talk about how young models are; heaps of the girls I requested were at school on the day of the shoot!

On Friday afternoon at 5.25pm, with the shoot on Monday, Select Model Management came up trumps with a gorgeous girl called Hannah Murrell. Hannah had the most perfect face for the shoot, and we were delighted to book her. When the booking was confirmed, I’m not ashamed to say that I leapt out of my chair, punched the air a lot and ran backwards and forwards shouting ‘YES!!! YEEEEES!!!!’ like a fool. Because what good is a crack hair and makeup team, a brilliant photographer and gorgeous jewellery without a model?!

On Monday morning I headed up to London to pick up the jewellery. I was incredibly happy with how lucky we’d been on the jewellery front. I’d put out a twitter call for some high end, quirky pieces, and while I had a good response, nothing quite fitted the bill until I got a tweet from the lovely folks behind Jolita Jewellery. Founded by Algis Abromaitis (the designer) and his sister Jolita (the marketing/press/PR guru), their pieces fit my brief perfectly, and I spent a happy hour browsing their site and pulling options out. Jolita was delightful to deal with and made my job extremely easy, and was hugely accommodating; I’d recommend them strongly to any stylists or anyone putting shoots together.

I picked up my precious cargo from the lovely Jolita, and headed out to Finsbury Park to Paris’ studio, where I met Hannah, Maz, Steph, Paris, and the adorable Henry, a French Bulldog/shih tzu cross. I’ll leave you all to put those two breeds together…We listened to a lot of music, ate a LOT of biscuits, fawned over Henry, drooled over the jewellery, and I got to watch some extremely talented people in action. The whole thing was a dream come true, and I genuinely kept expecting to wake up at any point.

I’d like to take this chance to thank my MD at Sussex Style, Sean, for giving me free rein; my amazing team of Paris, Maz and Steph, the wonderful Jolita Jewellery, the awesome Hannah, and all the tweeters who helped me out on a VERY tight deadline. That photoshoot was one of the best things I’ve ever done, and I feel so proud of it. Not to get all soppy, but the whole thing meant so much to me, and I feel like I’m finally doing the things that I dreamed of doing as a teenager. I still can’t quite believe it’s all happened!

Sussex Style magazine will be coming out in November, and in the meantime hop over to the Facebook page or the Twitter account @SussexStyleMag to keep up to date with the latest news!

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner

I’ve entered a few blog competitions in my time, and I’ve never won. Not once. Well, maybe a few tickets or something, but nothing….tangible. Oh, I know! Break out those tiny violins. Well, don’t actually, because I’ve only gone and won TWO competitions in a week! I feel very lucky, and perhaps like I should go and buy a lottery ticket.

The first I won was a giveaway by the adorable Caitlin of From the Heart who reminds me of Leighton Meester, which is filling the Gossip Girl shaped hole in my life. Along with her gorgeous sister Christie, she’s created a very sweet new blog, so it would be lovely if you could go and check it out. They’re just getting started but it’s already shaping up to be a lovely blog; a great mix of beauty, fashion, OOTD posts, DIY tutorials – my kind of blog, really! So do go and check them out. I won a gorgeous bracelet which you can see below:

The second thing I won was actually something I’d had my eye on for ages. I’d clocked (aha! Puns a gogo!) Larsson & Jennings a little while ago on Twitter, and was very taken with them. I’d spied them on Helen Glover and Heather Stanning during the Olympics and thought they were adorable, so when I saw that L&J were holding a Twitter competition and giving away a watch every day for a week, I thought I’d enter.

And guess what?? I won! I won the beautiful Windsor watch with white & gold face, and I’ve been wearing it every day since. It’s fab quality, has garnered heaps of compliments, and is really sorting out my life (I seem to have recently developed a rotten habit of being late a lot). If you like them as much as I do, the lovely people at L&J have kindly given my friends 20% off the watches. All you have to do is enter ‘LONDON’ at the checkout. Happy clock-watching!