Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Why Baukjen is a girl crush

It has taken me an age to get around to reviewing the re branding of what was the Isabella Oliver 365 collection. Now clearly and rightly under the name of Baukjen ( see pic above) the wonderful designer and brains behind the collection, the brand has moved on.The most important element of Baukjen is the continuation of the gorgeous use of jersey and simplicity of design that befits a modern woman. But who is this modern woman?

After all not only do I (as a modern woman) have an eclectic taste when it comes to fashion.music, films and men but it seems that extends to women too. Why in the last few days I have admired Rihanna, Gwen Stefani and then last night  it was right back into that long standing girl crush - Nigella. Having met Nigella in real life I can only say tv doesn't do her justice. A scripted, nicely produced half hour programme on BBC2 gives only a glimmer of her beauty and does nothing to deliver her intellect. Nigella has it all brains and beauty and sadly a dose of poignancy with the the lose of her mother, sister and husband. If you ask me Charles Saatchi is a very lucky man. It seems I am not alone in my Nigella crush she seems to transcend notions of everything and is much admired by all.

That point brings me back nicely to Baukjen. For Baukjen is an offering that equally transcends notions of 'trends' and delivers fashion of taste and style that merely nods to the directions. I have lost count of how many times at the school gate I get asked for an emergency dress solution by a mum. Yes it is the peril of being a stylist and fashion writer but nine times out of ten I offer up a Baukjen dress. The caveat is that it is understated and can be worn and worn again. Baukjen is not selling obvious glamour or screaming from the roof tops 'look at me'. There is something relaxed and even coy about the collection. In addition it does basics and keeps a core offering which is a joy in this day. It's modernity is perfect and deservign of a girl crush.

However, I am not so smitten with Nigella that I cannot fault her. There are probably some matters I could take issue with her on but I am sure she would charm me so it is pointless to begin. Baukjen has a few faults but they are only a few. Firstly it is a joy that this season's sequin collection is called 'Kate'. For one moment my ego hoped it was after me, after all my sequin love and wearing is well known by Baukjen but then I crashed back down to earth when I realised I wasn't even invited to the launch party! Luckily I love the clothes too much to engage in a Boden style strop of old. Although for those of you who have asked lately, no I have never forgiven Burberry for their manufacturing closures in the UK and particularly in Wales.

You can reject my first misgiving, which leaves but two issues to address. Sometimes the lengths are wrong. Often I think the dresses and skirts are too short. So the discrepancy here is who is the short skirt length Baukjen modern woman? Does the collection span all ages and taste and therefore does it work in respect of sales. I would just like to see some of the more casual dresses particularly in the summer being that bit longer as I worry about flashing my knickers when I bend over. The winter is not an issue with tights and wanting to show bare legs of an evening in high heels Maybe my concern is just an age thing but I think two length options is worth considering to facilitate more sales.

My final gripe is purely a stylist's view - what is it with the grey marl tights! The fashion editing and styling is very good and it is not often I thing 'nah' to the lovely Baukjen catalogues. But boy have the pairing of those tights with knee high black boots and short skirts been annoying me. It blights what is otherwise an effortless style romp - #justsaying. Really my concerns are minor when compared to the long lists I usually devise for a brand when I'm on one. And sometimes as a stylist you forget to translate what your eye is seeing to print. I have delivered many a 'look' that with hindsight didn't really translate in the way I envisaged.

Given I could buy most of the collection I am hard pressed to give you a top 5 but here goes.  And if you haven't got a girl crush on Baukjen yet then these will make sure you do!

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Style Crush

It isn't very often I have a style crush and in fact this one dates back to 1996 and me doing sit ups in the gym. The No Doubt 'Don't Speak' video used to play so often I felt bereft when it wasn't playing. I just wanted to look like Gwen Stefani in this dress. My hair (then) was pretty similar but I could never find the dress to recreate my style crush! Also my eyes weren't brown so I knew I wouldn't look as good....

Oh and I went down this route of Gwen and listening to 'Don't Speak' due to reading a blog post by Wendy Brandes. I lost an hour of my life staring at Rihanna's chest and then moving on to Gwen!

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Wednesday, 19 September 2012


When I teach personal stylist students at the NHJ Style Academy my main drive is to inspire them to be creative and not be constrained by rules. Particularly rules about colour. There are good reason for rules, like not speeding in busy urban areas, but there are no good rules when it comes to colour.

I had to make a dash to the Royal Academy to catch the 'From Paris: A Taste for Impressionists' exhibition which ends next week on the 23rd of September. I forced my father who can get me in for free to meet up and he was quite obliging despite the fact he'd seen it three times already. Even better he bought me the catalogue of the exhibition so I have a reference to it.

It is the use of colour, how light is captured and represented that is so inspiring. And it is always around the time of the big fashion weeks that I find myself more drawn to looking at everything around me than the catwalk outputs.

It is easy to be beguiled by collections and so much harder to develop your personal style in relation to inspiration and whim because collections are so definite. The looks, the trends are presented and then edited and bought and available.

As I'm not about to only make my own garments as I once used to do, I am equally dependant on availability in stores and online. But it is important to once in a while reflect and draw upon other sources rather than fashion magazines or blogs to stake stock of what inspires you.

Monday, 17 September 2012

In the mood ...for Hong Kong

Judging a design competition and giving a presentation in Hong Kong called for a lot of thought regarding looks, clothes to take and budget of course. I was very lucky to be loaned a dress by Boden, it is a dress I wanted to buy to wear specifically in Hong Kong but they were out of stock. Hence Boden PR team to the rescue.

My desire for the dress was based on one of my favourite films In the Mood for Love (2000) by Wong Kar Wai. In it, a love story of two people who restrain from an affair with decency, the actress Maggie Cheung is costumed in amazing dresses. Not being blessed with her figure nor the dresses I wanted to create a similar look. A look and style that suited me but gave me that feeling of the film.

The Natalie dress fitted the bill. It had a similar shape although more loosely constructed. I liked the grey option and needed it to go from day to night.

I had already bought the black crossover wedges, and I can say I wore them for 8 hours without a twinge, and needed the dress to complete the look. I had a bit of drama with the wedges too as the person misheard me and thought size 4 was 36. Again Boden's customer services were amazing they turned it all around in 24 hours. All in all a complete fashion crisis was avoided.

The first attempt at a photo was hopeless due to the light. I wanted to ensure it was very clear I was in Hong Kong!

Instead we managed to take one in the lobby and get a Hong Kong taxi in the background. I wore this outfit first to judge a design competition. I will reveal more of the design competition later when the Hong Kong government reveal the winners in late October or early November.

Then the outfit took me from day to night at a banquet at the Jockey Club. The outfit was a great success based on me feeling good in it and loving it as well!

Monday, 10 September 2012

I'm leaving on a jet plane

and I'll be back again at the weekend. But I am going to HONG KONG! I am super excited and will be speaking at the 14th International Eyewear Fashion Symposium. It is a wonderful opportunity and in lieu of attending my talk there is always the new Framed! Contemporary Eyewear in Fashion taking place at the London College of Fashion.

Meanwhile I'm either packing, en route or in Honkers.... tweet me at @MakeDoStyle for any Hong Kong must dos you can think of. I'm prepared to burn the candle at both ends.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

High St Pick of the Week

The joke is, it is a jumper a good old winter knit and the reason it is a joke (for non UK residents) is that it is utterly SWELTERING. We've been enjoying a late summer. The last time I was this hot after the summer was when we honeymooned in Rome. Then it was totally roasting too and it was at the end of October.

Yesterday I packed away my summer clothes and re hung any winter items I had folded up and put away. I did so in anticipation of this not lasting and I can make do with a few items and also I was packing for Hong Kong too. My trip to Hong Kong is business but I'm up for burning the candle at both ends to make the most of it. I'm a judge and speaker at the 14th Fashion Eyewear Symposium and it is all very exciting. Of course I got this gig because of my work in fashion not because I blog. Sometimes being a jobbing person does pay off! I'm away for 5 days from Tuesday.

Back to the high street pick. Despite the heat the jumpers are in store so get to it and get a knit. This season a knit is for everyday and going out  - just wear it with a pencil skirt, maxi skirt (or layer over a maxi dress) or jacquard trousers and add some heels or ankle boots. Top style tip don't wear heels with the maxi skirt or dress. Choose wisely and it will be the best buy of the season. It was hard to make the right selection and my choice is based on colour, knit and multi ways to wear. Go up on size if you worry about a knit being too fitted as oversized is completely back in favour. If you are frightened by such a bold colour then go for a grey knit as grey is a good neutral. My top budget tip is just buy one knit, wear it to death and get a collar, a scarf and a good necklace to dress it up and create different looks from day to day.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012


It is a fact that I am a faux Italian. I love Italy, its food, fashion, architecture... well everything. Thankfully my friends are Italians and they bear gifts upon return from their summer vacation in the family village.

Now all I need is this Marni dress to sit in and sip it of an evening amongst friends.

Monday, 3 September 2012

The Boden conversion, it is true...

There was a time when the thud of the Boden catalogue from the letter box to the floor had me racing to the paper recycling box. After a few purchases in the early noughties, one of which I actually still have, it was a summer kaftan top if you must know, I never felt Boden ‘talked’ or was for me when it came to fashion  and style.

It struck me as a style hub for people with no taste, no ability to shop and quite frankly the most frustratingly frumpy cuts. For seven or eight years I have without fail empty many a wardrobe in Wales and England of a fair few Boden items and banned clients for buying from the catalogue except for their children (if they had any). Really what was the relevance of those garish printed tops and frocks. I had to concede that one very nice client in Maida Vale did have the best pair of jeans I’d seen in ages from Boden for her shape and typically they went and changed them.

Occasionally I would begrudgingly admit to a decent design and one very cold year I ordered a gorgeous green coloured hat from them, I snuck it into the petit garcon’s order of useful sturdy boys’ clothes. I still have the hat.

Slowly I felt more kindly disposed to Boden, my long held grudge over a PR rebuff  which briefly was along the line of me asking for some clothes for a TV show and a presentation to Telegraph and Times journalists which was met with a ‘no we only lend to magazines’, began to albeit. And then one evening visiting a dear friend in the wild west of Wales after a few glasses of wine and some very nice paprika crisps we poured over the Boden catalogue because I liked something she was wearing. People it was the end of an era. A couple of Boden tops and jumpers later I felt I had joined a club.

It seemed that in the midst of my mid life a brewing crisis akin to Madonna chasing 21 year old men was satisfied by turning to Johnnie Boden. The man whose name I had spelt out in Boden supplied magnetic alphabet letters on a magnetic fridge photo of George Bush. The George Bush magnetic fridge thing was bought in a fit of giggle in a tourist shop with an FBI agent in Washington DC. I live dangerously. 

Having successfully worn a lovely knitted Boden jumper with a Marni skirt and Prada shoes in the height of last season’s fashion jumper and skirt combo, I was gripped by a growing Boden glow. So much so that I began to recommend items on my blog and select for editorial pieces for the magazines I write for. The point being the quality is good. The customer reviews are a great read and style wise the offerings are hitting a spot, good design has crept in.

When this A/W12 catalogue came through the door I wasn’t surprised to see style collaboration with Grazia. Whilst I know, you know this is all about commercial gain for the parties concerned, Grazia have a brand image to protect and project. And although they mainly worship at the temple of avant garde designers it appears there is room in all our hearts for some solidity and sense when it comes to spending, style and quality. Boden equally has a middle England following who might be scared by Grazia and vintage knee high boots so the risk is both ways. In fact rumour has it middle-England ladies are in uproar of the inclusion of super model Helena Christensen, in contrast to my view of what a joy to see a fellow mid lifer in Boden who doesn’t make me feel a frump. 
The gorgeous Helena Christensen wearing Boden

It is often said you have to walk a mile in someone’s shoes to understand them or increase empathy and rapport. Well I have barely done a 100m sprint with Boden and in true Carrie Bradshaw fashion it got me thinking, could I do the unthinkable….spend a season in Boden, the season being the fashion equivalent to a mile. Firstly the catalogue sells a lifestyle, a head to toe lifestyle that many women embrace. Remember that rule about not dressing head to toe in a designer look, well rules are meant to be broken and if I were plain broke I’d have to dress head to toe in anything. Secondly how useful is the offering – does it really deliver on its review categories of comfort, classic dresser and style driven? Can Boden replace my current wardrobe and satisfy my eclectic style needs? Will I be able to walk the dog in Boden?

On my hols in West Wales I had a rendezvous with afore mentioned chum and we ignored the men as I had to discuss the Boden conversion. The fact is a few looks are just me, in fact it looks like me. Okay my friend kept putting her finger over the model’s face but essential it was me. My style, my taste and things I really really liked. Sadly my budget wouldn’t stretch to buying a whole wardrobe of Boden but I am going to get a few pieces for my forthcoming trip to Hong Kong and buy a few other bits and pieces when I can.

 Honestly this is me - if you stick your finger over the face!

Do you think Johnnie will be my friend now?