Jack Wills and Wonsuponatime Parties

(Or, don’t drink and blog)

As you all know, I’ve been having a massive Jack Wills love-in lately, as evidenced here. I was delighted to be invited along to one of their ‘Unmissable Parties’, in the Covent Garden store. If you haven’t been in, it’s a gorgeous space set over three floors packed full of precisely folded clothes and charming staff. Obviously the first stop, though, was to the drinks table for elderflower presse and bubbly. Mostly bubbly.

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As with all Jack Wills stores, this one feels sort of homely and sort of like school, which I very much enjoy.

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DJing among the jumpers…

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The place was buzzing with activity – including face and nail painting, a lot of balloon-popping, and…more drinking. I’m not going to lie to you, readers. We went for cocktails at Cellar Door beforehand, and by this point in the evening I was somewhat spiffed at this point, and very much on the train to Drunkville.

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When did candy floss get so difficult to eat? My companion and I attempted it, got candy floss beards, and discarded it in fury.

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Ultimately, in the rather tricky area of ‘in store parties’, Jack Wills manage to pull it off. The staff were charming as always, and there was a fun, laid back vibe. A bit like a house party but where you could buy things. Heaps of discounts and freebies if you wanted to shop, but equally accommodating if you were there for the candy floss and the atmosphere. We headed on (me in a slight haze) towards The Penthouse, Leicester Square, for my friend Sarah Betty’s party for her jewellery brand Wonsuponatime. The Penthouse isn’t the most prepossessing building from the outside, but LOOK AT THE VIEWS.

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Here’s the awesome Zoe Hellewell, aka The London Lipgloss, doing an absolutely smashing DJ set.

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SBA is one of the very coolest people I know. She’s down to earth and yet whimsical, and she’s created a jewellery company with such cohesive vision. A very hard-working young lady, and always a source of inspiration to me.

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Honestly, readers. I realise this is a very scant blog post but by this stage in the evening I was completely lamped on gin & tonics. I didn’t manage to get a single decent photo of the jewellery, but I’ll write another post to amend that. Urgh. Maybe they should rename it ‘blogger’s ruin’ instead.

Awful behaviour. But look at these pretty flower arrangements!

Blog fail.

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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)

My week in pictures

I don’t usually do these kind of posts as I think they’re a bit of a cop out, but things have been absolutely crazy the past week and a half. After coming back from holiday, things went into hyperdrive and I went from being a freelancer to working full time in a London entertainment PR agency. I’m enjoying every minute of it. It’s one of those jobs where you can’t wait to get started in the mornings, and I couldn’t be happier about working there.

But awesome job aside, I’ve barely had a minute to sit down and blog. So to fill the gap, here’s a selection of pictures of what I’ve been up to (spoiler alert: mostly eating). To sum up, I did the following: went to an open air screening at London Zoo (more on that soon), ate, went to a hen do, rehearsed for a musical in a gun room, accidentally attended an ‘Ibiza Pizza Party’ in a tiny village pub in Surrey, drank cocktails with pipettes in, wore an oversized cricket jumper, and ate some more. Not pictures are the pheasant impressions I did with friends at the end of the night. Don’t ask.

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Do or DIY

A PUN! Hooray. And also, sorry.

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In my last post, I talked about a general restlessness that had descended on me, and how taking a break had been what I needed to refocus a bit. While away, I decided to have a bit of a life clear-out, so this week I’ve been cleaning out my outrageously messy room. I’m generally pretty houseproud, but a lack of storage space and abundance of freebies from my fashion/beauty editing work (I’m not complaining!) left me Confucius-like, yelling at a tide of clothes to stay back.

Clothes to the left of me, clothes to the right of me, and hours later I found myself standing shell-shocked with a variety of huge bags around me. Some were destined for the charity shop, others for the textiles bin, others were tucked away until next Winter, which is probably a good two weeks away, based on my reckoning. I was left with one pile. I called it the ‘adapt or die’ pile. So, look here. I’m bored of most of my clothes, but I’m also poor. The solution? To get sewing, painting, and gluing.

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I started with two small projects last weekend, just to ease myself back into it. There’s a danger with DIY that you’ll go too far, customise a bit too enthusiastically, and end up looking like you covered yourself in E6000 glue and rolled around in a habadashery, then Claire’s Accessories, THEN ransacked the wardrobe of that ghastly Kirstie Allsopp. Tread carefully, is what I’m trying to say.

My two projects, then. I picked up a lovely cornflower blue man’s shirt from a charity shop for £3.30, and some non-roll elastic (AMAZING STUFF), and was inspired by Geneva Vanderzeil’s book to create a mini skirt from it. Seriously easy stuff, and perfect for first time sewers. I don’t want to write up the full instructions here, as I don’t think it’s fair to Geneva and her hard work, but I’d encourage you to grab her gorgeous book..Initially I tried the shirt as a dress, as you can see below – something I might explore another time, but it was VERY short. Sorry about the rubbish quality of pics in the post, was without my usual camera.

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The second project I can tell you exactly how to do, and it’s the easiest update for jewellery ever. I dug deep into my jewellery box and found a pair of very boring rhinestone earrings. Beyond boring, they looked cheap. A clear crystal rhinestone tends to look dull at night and strange during the day, so here’s what I did: I grabbed some nail varnish. And I painted over the crystals. I used jade and lavender for a colour blocked effect. I did three coats to get a decent coverage, and left them to dry overnight. Easiest thing ever. Bonus tip: my favourite leather jacket had zips that were starting to discolour, so I painted them over with a metallic nail varnish, and it looked brand new. SIMPLE.

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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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