Thursday, 28 March 2013

Pick of the Week

Where to begin? I'm actually meant to be writing about bikinis today for a magazine and I don't have the strength to contemplate setting about this task based on the continuing cold. I mean come on is it worth banging on about S/S13 clothes on any level given the weather. In my wardrobe there hangs taunting me the brightest yellow trousers from Topshop Unique.  It feels like I purchased them to hang as a wardrobe installation.

When it comes to picking something to purchase or wear I'm  considering forgetting the idea of seasons and thinking  purely in terms of something all year round. Which actually isn't that exciting although it is extremely practical given my best buys have been my thermals. Of which I am now considerably accomplished in how to create a look wearing them. However there is a longing, a longing to skip bare legged so this weeks pick is a skirt.

Toast's Tippi skirt says sunny days and skipping. It is a glorious mix of colour and whilst my other half might cough 'tablecloth' I think it says Provence, lavender fields, walking in Richmond Park, picnics, individuality all whilst skipping. All I need now is the film set.

Tippi skirt from Toast £135

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Gotcha Gucci!

In my world the moment a shop assistant tells me the piece I am buying is a best seller, it becomes the moment I walk away from the purchase. When I was still a full time jobbing stylist I used to want to scream, especially when they said that in front of a client. Those days it was worse because I might have put five client in the same piece especially if it was a great item for them to have, so I would hear the same thing said again and again. In my head I would be thinking 'yes because I've been putting everyone in this piece,' and incredulous at the stupidity of saying it. When actually 'nice choice' or 'great selection' would do and flatter all.  

Of course my clients were getting the item because it was a fabulous piece and suited them, their lifestyle, added an injection of style and was on budget. My job as their personal stylist was to create a great look and a useful working wardrobe. That certainly meant a good mix of high street brands with maybe a few carefully selected designer pieces if their budget ran to it. My most enviable item I selected for a client was a Miu Miu coat. There was no doubt it was the business and the client still has it all these years later. But actually that year Toast had something very similar which was great for clients without the Miu Miu budget. 

However if like me you have the desire for individual pieces and maybe the cache of a designer piece but not at exuberant prices then Barnebys is a fantastic auction site that is coming to the UK soon. When they approached me to write a piece I was reluctant but got drawn in by the fact it was currently a Swedish online auction house. Then I looked at the Fashion and Vintage selection in all countries and boy was I hooked.

My first love was a Gucci bag which some lucky person has managed to snag for £240, yes sorry this is a case of going going gone! How cool is this bag, probably not as cool as me dancing to a live band playing Abba’s Waterloo on Saturday night (but that is another story).

Then I spied a fabulous retro late 70s/early 80s suitcase. If you have seen Argo then this suitcase would fit right into the film as Ben Affleck portrayed Tony Mendez carrying one very similar.

The choice on online auctioneers Barnebys is rather delectable. Lucky you if you have size 3 feet as these beautiful Christian Dior pumps could be yours. 

In all there is a great deal of wonderful stuff to bid on across the auction houses of Europe and as more auctioneers come online in the UK then Barnebys is going to be another option in the style arsenal of 'finds'.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Old School Glamour

If I had money to splurge (and unfortunately I don't) then top of my list would be this dress from Caost born of a collaboration with the V&A museum.

The Lottie Maxi dress is a beauty of a ball gown and honestly I would wear it round the house for any occasion as well as any balls I might perchance be invited to. It is the complete antithesis to the modern day dress code. Yet the gown has a modern look despite its fifties inspiration.

Yours for the sum of £695 from Coast

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Splurge or Squirrel

Hold that hope...spring is nearly upon us and that means sprucing up oneself. The easiest way to inject a bit of what is to come now is with nail varnish.

It seems the colour of the season is upon us and it is a splurge-tastic Chanel number called Fracas.

At £18 it is a total splurge. But if you'd rather save the pennies then coming in at a marvellous £3.50 is M&S's Limited Collection Polish in Carnation. Three coats of this polish will give you the same deep coral pink glow of Fracas at a fraction of the price. Carnation seems only to be in store at the moment and not online and it may well be that the colour is not part of the new season ones so hurry and get it now before it goes.

UPDATE: I made a mistake the Limited Collection Polish colour is PLASTIC PINK 

Friday, 8 March 2013

Why good news for John Lewis is good news all round for retailers especially Marks and Spencer

Yesterday I made an exception to attending press days. In the main I don't have time what with promoting Girlynomics and writing my novel as well as delivering copy to earn my crust. But I really couldn't resist going to the M&S high summer one. I am a big fan of M&S but equally a harsh critic.  My criticism stems from love, truly it does. And boy did I feel the love yesterday.

The samples on view were simply terrific. Totally terrific in terms of design and price point. This is good news for the consumer. I admit I loitered over the Limited Collection and Autograph samples more than any other but that was for a good reason - it is because I think these collections are coming back to a point of veritable consumer excitement! I can also highly commend the M&S Woman stuff in parts. Per Una remains an anathema to me and I suspect, although horrified to admit it, I'm in their target market or slowly moving that way!

Not only was there a nice cup of tea if one wanted on arrival but a gorgeous little nail bar where the lovely Lizzie Court of Lizzie Court Makeup made my nails rather perfect with Limited Collections Polish in Ultra Violet which is really a delightful forget me not type of colour.

I've picked out  a selection of items that start hitting the stores from late March, early April. Starting with childrenswear my eyes spotted a gorgeous little scarf with flamingos on it - so cute I might get it for me.

Look at these lovely retro romper suit set for girls. I know someone who will be a recipient of these!

Not forgetting the boys, some nice alternative print shorts for the little man in your life, tres chic.

And these beach cover ups for girls need to be sized up for us big girls as well.

Back to womenswear the accessorises continue to go from strength to strength...

And these were some of the garments I snapped and believe me there could easily have been more.

Limited Collection shirt - two trends ticks for this one graphic stripes and yellow.

A great splash of neon with these M&S Women tees.

A simple shift dress from the Autograph range.

 I love this purple metallic shirt from Limited 

And actually this image doesn't do this gorgeous Limited skirt justice 

I really had to tear myself away from the press room as it was a haven of loveliness and I so easily relax in these circumstances. I was so relaxed that when taking the lift down I nearly followed someone out to the first floor. Realising my mistake I immediately said to another person in the lift 'Opps need to concentrate more' and then went on to say that actually was what my school reports used to say. Luckily the fellow person in lift was kindly disposed to enter into school report banter of 'should try harder', 'if made more effort would do well' and obviously 'needs to talk less in class.'

Which brings me neatly to M&S going forward and of course the current A* pupil John Lewis. John Lewis, whatever anyone might think currently, was the worst store in the world about 8 years ago. You couldn't fault it for white goods and kitchen stuff but everywhere else was a bit dull. In fact it was all round dull and the sight of managers with clip boards (which occasionally still happens) was too frequent and very depressing. What did they do? Their move much earlier into a new purpose built John Lewis store at Cribbs Causeway from their old Bristol city centre store afforded them a view of what they could be like. It was probably true for M&S. Both were poised to draw lessons of how to remodel and refit their existing stores. It gave these businesses with flagship stores to examine in this environment what new buying patterns might yield and then... the internet hit. Suddenly areas like womenswear were hit very badly, access to beguiling garments away from the high street offerings really hit a cord. John Lewis stepped up to the mark and improved their buying. It still isn't right but along the way they improved every other bit of the store and started to join the dots with Waitrose and their online business. Now you can look online, check out in store walk away and order at your convenience to your local Waitrose. Where once I had to schlep up to Oxford St to get what I wanted (mainly Eve Lom cleanser) I now order online and pick up with my copy of Grazia and some bread. 

John Lewis build up a brand mix of accessibility, mixed in clever things like Little Home and made the internet work for them which conveniently is the way the consumer wants it to work as well. M&S has yet to get that exactly right. The shops are still over stocked, not enough clarity of merchandising or rather where there is, it is stuffed to the rafters. They still need their stock system to understand supply and demand to make the necessary adjustments for the future not necessarily just to restock best selling  items (which they seem to fail to do to). M&S still seems hell bent on pushing items in womenswear and woefully getting it wrong (a lot). In fairness this is true of John Lewis womenswear, there is a lot of irrelevance there too. However John Lewis happily reported great trading and great trading in these difficult times must give hope to everyone. I am particularly happy for the partnership staff who can enjoy the fruits of their labour as 9 weeks of wages, although taxation will dent that a bit. The only downside in this news is the tragic fact that the cleaning staff are woefully underpaid and are not partners and the possibility that a layer of management amounting to 300 redundancies is imminent . Maybe Mr Selfridge would have something to say about that - the tv version of course.

And in conclusion methinks M&S are watching and learning because it really feels as if they have turned a corner. My advice would be to get the good womenswear stuff, pieces that are modern, current and edgy out to the suburbs and towns. Why on earth hasn't the M&S at Epsom got Limited - H&M are cleaning up in that town with every age, having invested in a bigger better womenswear store. Get faster at collections in store from the website. Stop playing music in the stores, this is trashy and John Lewis is testament to how peace from unnecessary noise aids buying. Really look at how you stores are laid out and the fitting rooms need sorting - no music, more homely less harsh and no asking 'was it any good' or 'how did you get on', forgive me but it obvious when you are being handed everything back, it is a no!

Because M&S, John Lewis has proved that everything needs to be just so and seemingly effortless for customers. Having seen your High Summer collection you should be very proud of what you can do and further my recent experiences in your lovely food halls and the helpful staff there at Marble Arch and Tolworth are proof that you can do it - everywhere. Just turn off the music, step up the fashion and I'll be at the front of the queue every time as I know you can be the best.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

The Vagrancy of Brand Snobbery

Things often come in threes and my recent experience of brand snobbery was no exception. I have long argued that people can only buy what they can afford and if clothes are cheap and people buy them that is their choice. The issue of how they are produced and the cost in terms of pay and the environment are difficult concepts for many people to understand.

The recent horse meat scandal in the UK focused people on the matter of cheap meat and the consequences of it. I have long held the view that I would rather go without something than buy it cheaply. I do have the advantage of a family who had a small holding and also I have a good grasp of what foods to eat. I am good at running the household budget and cooking. Every week I produce a meal planner and build what I buy around it. My book Girlynomics is a testament to living within your means based on your personal income. However I am not a proponent of austerity measures currently the vogue of Government spending, it is a fundamental flaw in how economics is talked about to think the GDP of an economy is something akin to a household budget.

Personal debt is an issue to be concerned with if you are the person in debt or wish to reduce it. Then my book is extremely useful. Being concerned with health and wealth is a preoccupation of many of us but of late I have noticed that being concerned with or conducting ones life in a particular way seems to give many the licence to be judgmental and snobby.

I really hope that Girlynomics can educate many people on the matter of budgeting and learning to live within their means. Part of the success of this is not looking at what others have or envying others for having more than oneself. This is a horrendous consequence of current day neo liberalism and capitalism. More is more in terms of status and standing.

My point is if you can only afford to buy clothing from Primark or H&M at low end price points then that is what you have to do. You may question quantity over quality you may want to think about second hand clothes in charity shops - there are lots of options to consider but ultimately it is your choice to do as you want. Don't be influenced by the worship of certain brands or designers to make you feel inferior. You can only afford what you can afford. Your worth is not apportioned to what you have in material terms. On this matter I am not a label snob.

Imagine my surprise when in my day job as a writer delivering fashion copy for a national magazine I encountered brand snobbery. I had selected a dress for readers as an option to dress up or down. The point was to buy one dress for the spring summer season and work it. I have selected items from this brand before for my blog and other magazines plus online sites I write for. I have access to a wide bank of retail images but for this brand it is a a direct request. I duly requested the image and after a right old few emails of explaining why I wanted this image and who for I was refused on the grounds 'this is not a publication we have worked with before.' Oh lordy! I swiftly sent an email asking was this brand snobbery and why this publication posed an issue so I could explain to the deputy editor. Guess what no response has been forthcoming.

People this is not a brand who can afford to take this route. It sells its clothes via ASOS as well as in stores and its own stores. Actually lets get real here anyone can buy their clothes! If you have money you can purchase an item from them. The magazine in question sells well and you can buy it anywhere. The people who read it are from varying backgrounds and disposable income and guess what they buy things.

I cannot begin to tell you how much I had to rein myself in from all out twitter abuse of this brand. The CEO is a person from an ordinary background who worked her way up from the shop floor so to speak. All I can say is they can whistle because I will never use them again in publications they don't have an issue with, will not use them for all the other outlets they have enjoyed publicity from and most certainly won't be buying off them again. The refusal of an image saved me £250 that I was about to spend on 2 dresses.

And if that wasn't enough twitter was rife with FROW dissing - when will people get the FROW these days is part of the show. The pantomime of the catwalks weeks. Once the showing of collections moved from being an industry based information point for buyers and customers to a media circus then quite frankly anything goes. Criticising a design house because Kim Kardashian was a FROW person for their collection is utterly pointless. Who cares who is seated in the FROW. It is a matter of personal taste who one likes or doesn't. It reminds me of Tom Ford getting hot under the collar because Victoria Beckham was wearing Gucci. 'Stop giving her clothes' he shouted at the PR. Who nicely retorted 'I don't, she buys them.'

Buy what you want, like who you want and wear what you want and say no to brand snobbery because it is as vagrant as a tramp.

This dress may not be for sale to you or me !
image: ASOS

Monday, 4 March 2013

Comfort & Joy

In reality sharing the following information in this post brings me little comfort or joy. I have agonised over baring all - not what was done but the photos I will be sharing!  If I take you back to last year I went to find out more about anti-ageing at The Cosmetic Skin Clinic. To follow my journey from slapping it on (creams) to getting it on (anti-ageing arsenal!) then read this post - Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda.  To pick up where we left off, I had numbing cream over my face. The fact is the moment I put that cream on my face or rather it was applied I felt that zsa zsa zsum of anticipation and dived in. I knew I was going to become a non surgical anti-ageing junkie.

To date I've shied away from even thinking about or discussing botox and fillers based purely on seeing really bad plastic surgery jobs in New York on people who were over the age of 60. This was back in 2007 which was my last visit. Equally I have witnessed some awful non surgical application of both filler and botox. Yet as I have got older and moved nearer to the M word certain things have come to pass.

Mainly I have noticed my face becoming more jowly and less plump. It is the plumpness that gives you that fresh faced look. In fact think of your face or skin in general as a tablecloth. What we need is a nice tight fitting cloth on the table but of course what we end up with is one that gets a big baggy and that room allows for sagging!

In noticing things, I've felt more curious about what one can do. Having saved a shed load of money to pay off my college debts by buying basic face and body creams and really not noticing a shred of difference I began to think the experts were right - it all boils down to your genes and the ageing process. Quite frankly no amount of cream is going to save you from the natural aging process.

The only barrier to my dipping the toe into the water, aside from the expenditure, was fear. Fear that I'd look weird or odd. Part of the reason for not saying whether or what I have had done was because I wanted to find out what people said.

Let's start with family mother, father and one of my sister's haven't even notices. MrB only had an inkling due to some slight bruising and even then I didn't tell him about everything. A few friends mention my cheeks, others didn't notice and one, only one friend commented about my forehead. Not one single person has noticed anything about my lips.

All of this is a testament to the experience and deft hands of the team at The Cosmetic Skin Clinic and the products they use. For me the anti-ageing treatment recommended was fillers and botox. The cheek, mouth and nose area were treated with Emervel rejuvenation filler to lift the face and thereby add volume to the area of most volume loss. The amount injected was a minimal as possible and it took place over two sessions which really gave the most natural enhancement. Additionally, Azzalure (botulinum toxin type A) was injected to the forehead to diminish the deeper lines and create a more even tone but not to eradicate natural movement. Nothing about me has essentially changed except everything is in the right place. Less eyelid dropping, less pronounced frown and worry lines and overall a fresh face in the morning, which after showering and application of facial moisturising no longer fills me with dread. Honestly if there was one thing that has really changed it is attitude. Because the Cosmetic Skin Clinic is committed to delivering natural enhancements and rejuvenation of the face it means anti-ageing is not about looking drastically younger but looking fresher, more at ease. My attitude has changed so much people notice my hair and what I am wearing, they think I 'look well'.
It is time to step away from the 'done' look and be satisfied to tackle just the effects of ageing. Top tip step away from pouty lips!

When does the ageing process kick in? The honest answer is it is different for everyone. Certainly in your 40s you will begin to notice your skin is less elastic and it starts to lose some plumpness and colour. The colour loss is the illuminating fresh look of youth. By the time you enter the fifth decade, your 50s, the aging process is well underway. I know hardly the most uplifting facts but there you have it. Think about adding a budget for anti-ageing, start in your 40s and select the right approach in respect of keeping it real. That means no trout pout or Kylie eyebrows! Less is always more in fashion and it seems the same is true in non surgical cosmetic approaches to keeping ones face 'lifted'.

And now for the bit where I share the pics.... Excuse my hair in the first photos - I had had it tied in a ponytail and didn't get a chance to brush it (opps) but in fairness I wasn't expecting to take the plunge. I did just turn up with my notebook and pen.



And there we have it! I am wearing more make up in the before set on my eyes and mouth. I don't think I am wearing any on the after ones except some mascara.

Treatment using Emervel and Azzulure was undertaken at The Cosmetic Skin Clinic 01753 646 660