Bring on the BRIGHTS!

Honestly, I have to stop going to the shops at the moment, which is quite difficult considering I shop for a living – but there are so many fabulous things to buy I could spend a fortune! Every time I’m in a store and “clock” something that I just “have to have” I think, “now Fiona, you’ve bought enough this season, you can make do with what you’ve got” – but no, I spot another hot pink or neon number and think, “ok I’ll just get this and then that’s it”!!

There’s lots of white, denim, stripes and florals out there but my favourite trend to embrace for the season has to be “brights”! Actually bright stripes would probably be my ideal!! Keep me away from Prada’s stripey bags “du jour” – they’re stunning!!

Honestly…. I’m in LOVE with this stripey bag!!

Thankfully, I’m happy to get my “fixes” from the High Street as it has embraced the “brights” trend full on. I seem to be especially taken with Zara this season. In the past it’s often been a store I venture into but come out empty handed because of the fit. However, for S/S11 the majority of their sizing is spot on and as the prices are very reasonable there’s no reason to say no! The most important thing I need to stress here is that bright colours may appear to be scary at first glance, but actually they are hugely flattering against the skin. Whilst baby pinks and blues may be very “pretty” against most English complexions, they are also hugely draining and must be worn with caution.

Brights on the other hand have a way of reflecting their colour onto skin and thus giving it a glow. Most people are terrified of orange and yellow (on the questionnaire I send to my clients before we go shopping about 95% say they can’t wear either of these colours) but it’s down to the exact shade and tone of colour as to whether you can wear it or not. I look fairly ghoul-like in certain yellows and one of my worst fashion disasters was for a photo taken after I’d had my wisdom teeth removed aged 13…

I was hideously bruised and swollen around the face anyway, but to add insult to injury I happened to be sporting the worst yellow over-sized Mickey-Mouse t-shirt you’ve ever seen! When I showed someone the picture a couple of years ago, they genuinely looked shocked and said “Wowzers – you really can’t wear yellow can you!” It wasn’t because I can’t wear yellow as a rule, it was because the specific shade (and lack of facial definition due to swelling!) was completely wrong for me. One of my favourite colours is actually bright neon-ish lemon/yellow! Bright orange, hot pinks, lime greens… I love them all! They look especially great with a tan – but don’t shy away from them if you’re on the paler side as I am… Just add a bit more eye-liner and bronzer and away you go!

Here are some of my favourite “brights” this season:

A Zara butterfly print scarf that I’ve worn to death over the last couple of weeks (£25)!

An amazing printed dress and bag from Mulberry (www.mulberry.com)

Me sporting a rather bright Minkie dress (www.minkie.info) from Topshop Oxford Street and bejewelled Zara necklace (and my Prada handbag that I can’t put down! www.prada.com) with my good friend Sally Heath, Head Buyer for brands at New Look…

This top from River lsland (£21.99) is an easy way to introduce brights into your wardrobe without going too full on! The scarf is from Accessorize and the leather bag is from Zara (www.zara.com) – great with a black blazer and jeans/skirt/trousers for work

This dress is from River Island (£29.99 from www.riverisland.com) and the scarf is again from Accessorize (www.accessorize.com) – orange looks especially good with indigo blue denim, think a denim jacket and tan accessories

 In summary to wear this trend: think BRIGHT and BOLD…. so be brave and give brights a try!

Iconic Alexander McQueen at Harvey Nichols

I was at an event on Thursday night hosted by the Harvey Nichols Personal Shopping team – I met some very interesting people and saw some lovely clothes on my journey through the store, however I was most impressed by the fabulous homage to my favourite designer, the late Alexander McQeen in the window displays… The windows are to celebrate the exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, organized by The Costume Institute, which is paying tribute the late Alexander McQueen’s extraordinary contributions to fashion. For further information visit the Met’s website: http://blog.metmuseum.org/alexandermcqueen/about/

A unique show piece from the A/W 2009 “The Horn of Plenty” collection

Wooden fan dress from the S/S 1999 “No. 13 collection”

A unique show piece from the S/S 2005 “It’s Only A Game” collection

Another unique show piece from the S/S 2005 “It’s only a game” collection

This was also a unique show piece from the A/W 2009 “The Horn of Plenty” collection

And last but by no means least, my favourite unique show piece from the A/W 2008 “The Girl Who Lived In A Tree” collection – I can definitely see SJP or Carrie Bradshaw in this one!

The British Designers Collective at Bicester Village

Some days, because of what I do for a living I can easily forget that I’m working… and Wednesday was one of those days. I was at Bicester Village for the press launch of their 2nd pop-up boutique called the British Designers Collective, in association with the British Fashion Council (the doors opened to the general public yesterday)… I was there to chat to the designers, magazine editors, fashion bloggers… et al and it was fabulous! The store was officially opened by British actress Thandie Newton, who is a key supporter of UK designers and a known ambassador of British fashion – she looked so fab in her Marios Schwab dress and was incredibly down to earth and lovely.

So what is the British Designers Collective (BDC)? Well, it’s a unique collaboration between Value Retail (who own Bicester Village) and the British Fashion Council (www.britishfashioncouncil.com) – the idea is to showcase emerging designers all under one roof, introducing them to a wider audience in a fabulous environment, with fantastic reductions (up to 60% off!). What more could you want??

This year the BDC is boasting some of the most exciting names in British fashion, including Jonathan Saunders, Holly Fulton, Felder Felder, Preen and Marios Schwab. There is something for everyone… from everyday knitwear by Goat to show-stopping dresses from Felicity Brown. For a full list of brands see below… or have a look at Bicester Village’s website www.bicestervillage.com.

Now this is the important bit… in order to see this wonderful store for yourselves you need to get down to the village quickly, as the British Designers Collective only runs for six weeks until mid-May. Clothing aside, you’re in for a visual spectacular as the store has been specifically designed for the occasion and this year, colour is key! There’s a neon-pink telephone box outside and the interior decor has to be seen to be believed… it just adds to the whole shopping experience – with neon of course being hugely on trend for S/S 11!

Here are some of my favourite items in-store and photos from the event… maybe some of these hugely sought-after names/pieces will end up in your own wardrobe??

Thandie Newton outside the neon telephone box and BDC
Identical twin sisters Annette and Daniela Felder
Holly Fulton outside the BDC
Everyone listening to Thandie Newton speak at the launch
Inside the store
Amazing dress from Preen, was £715 now £429
Killer heels from Lara Bohinc
Can I have all 4?? Holly Fulton clutch bags from £225. I love them!
Holly Fulton printed dress was £595 now £397 (Holly is clearly a new fave of mine…)
The piece that stole the show – every blogger and editor tried it on or photographed it – A bright orange sheep-skin by Osman, was £1900 now £1095

 

The brand list: Georgina Goodman, Preen Line by Thornton Bregazzi, Goat, Felder Felder, Emma Cook, Felicity Brown, Holly Fulton, Fiona Paxton, Marios Schwab, Lara Bohinc, Mawi, Osman, Jean-Pierre Braganza, Lilly and Lionel, Jane Carr, Jonathan Saunders, Markus Lupfer, From Somewhere, Todd Lynn, Richard Nicholl and Elvis & Kresse!

Visit www.bicestervillage.com for more info on all the designers.

Clutch bags and Bottletops

I was at a fabulous event recently, hosted by my wonderful friend Frances Card on behalf of “The Sorority”, which was founded by the incredible Lisa Tse (have a look at their website www.thesorority.org). The evening was a huge success and I met some fascinating people… including Caroline Hopkins who told me about an amazing charity she supports called Bottletop (see her in the below photo modelling her wonderful “Ring Pull” clutch bag!).

Bottletop (www.bottletop.org) supports young people trying to obtain a better future for themselves, facilitating education projects and funding healthcare initiatives. Their company Bottletop Trading Ltd “is dedicated to designing and producing ethically sourced and environmentally friendly products, especially from countries where they support education programmes.” By using local craftsmanship, Bottletop generate employment in very poor parts of the world.

The Bottletop story dates back to 2001 when Cameron Saul (his father founded Mulberry) worked as a teacher for 9 months in Uganda. Whilst learning about the difficulties the children faced, he came across a wire-frame handbag made from local bottletops! With the help of his father, Roger and the “It” handbag designers at Mulberry back in the UK, the “Mulberry Bottletop Campaign” was born. The bag was of course a huge success which in turn helped the people back in Uganda, as it generated local employment and hugely needed funds for education projects. And the Bottletop charity was born.

2007 was the turn of the “Ring Pull” project – a collaboration between Bottletop’s, Oliver Wayman and Luciano Dos Santos from Brazil. A training programme was devised to help people living in a very deprived area on the outskirts of Salvador to use materials available to them to make products which the Bottletop charity would buy from them to sell to people like you and me… The programme currently supports 46 people within the community and, to date, has produced over 5000 products which have been sold internationally… Including the amazing handbag that Caroline is clutching in the photograph below.

Visit www.bottletop.org to find out more about this hugely worthwhile charity and to learn more about the tremendously inspirational people they support…

Caroline looking fab with her ring-pull clutch at The Sorority event

Ideal Home Show S/S 11 Q&A Session

I had a really great afternoon yesterday (and last Tuesday) at the Ideal Home Show. I was speaking on a panel of “experts” about fashion and style – what we should be wearing for the new season and essential items for every woman’s wardrobe etc (http://www.idealhomeshow.co.uk/cws-fashion-style/). I had some initial pre-session nerves but as soon as I got the microphone in my hand you couldn’t shut me up and I thoroughly enjoyed it! Also on the panel with me yesterday were Clare Watson from “Miss-Dress” and her colleague Bianca Smit from “Who is the Fairest” – I hope we gave some good advice!

After the show… Bianca from Who is the Fairest, myself and Clare from Miss-Dress!

Here are some of my answers to the questions we were asked…

Q: What should we be wearing for S/S 11?

A: Bright colours are key! The easiest way to introduce them is by adding a really colourful scarf or handbag to your outfit. Bright shoes are another easy way to bring some life to an otherwise simple look. But you must wear them with confidence! (Something to note – people often think they can’t wear brights and suit paler, softer colours instead… Now obviously it depends on the shade, but as an example I look far better in hot pink than I do in baby pink, which seriously washes me out! Before perchasing just try a colour against your skin, hold it by your face and see if you look healthy or drained!)

Me sporting my new bright pink patent Ted Baker shoes from Bicester Village (£40) and River Island Scarf (£14.99)

Q: What items should every woman have in her wardrobe?

A: A great fitting pair of jeans (easier said than done I hear you say! On a budget try TopShop, French Connection or GAP; for the new “It” jeans buy Adriano Goldschmied and for a more classic/higher-rise pair invest in some “Not Your Daughters Jeans”), a decent leather handbag (that doesn’t look like you’ve had it for 10 years and isn’t too small, like something a child could use! The likes of Oasis, Warehouse and Topshop have great leather handbags these days, for the next level up try Russel&Bromley or go for broke and head to Mulberry, Miu Miu or Prada!! Why not – it’s an investment piece!!), a simply cut day dress that can be dressed up for evening (try COS, Zara, Reiss or DVF) and a tailored jacket to sharpen up dresses, jeans etc (my favourite at the moment is from Topshop for £55).

Q: What are some of the easiest trends to wear this season?

A: Apart from Brights, I would say that florals are an easy way to update for S/S. There are floral print tops, dresses and skirts everywhere but if you’re feeling cautious start out with a floral bag like the one below. Again, a quick word of warning about florals: unless you’re über trendy and an Alexa Chung look-a-like don’t think you can raid the loft and pull out a Laura Ashley “special” that you’ve been saving for the past 20years. The floral look this time around is quite, quite different!).

Easy floral update… Bag from Accessorize £30

P.S. I came across a fantastic company at the Ideal Home Show called www.littlelou.com… they make the most incredible “Jewelabra’s”… when they send me some images I’ll put them up!

P.P.S. Website info for all of the above…  Accessorize (www.accessorize.com), Adriano Goldschmied (www.agjeans.com), Bicester Village (www.bicestervillage.com) COS (www.cosstores.com),  DVF (www.dvf.com), Miu Miu (www.miumiu.com), Mulberry (www.mulberry.com), Not Your Daughters Jeans (www.nydj.eu/en/home), Oasis (www.oasis-stores.com) Prada (www.prada.com), Reiss (www.reissonline.com), River Island (www.riverisland.com), Topshop (www.topshop.com), Warehouse (www.warehouse.co.uk) and ZARA (www.zara.com).  

The Ideal Home Show at Earls Court, London

Going for the chop!

OMG! I’ve had my hair cut… And it’s quite short… For those of you who know me you’ll know it’s quite a big deal because I’ve had long hair for about a gazillion years. And apart from having a fringe cut several years ago, in reaction to splitting up with my ex, I have had the same swinging locks for nearly two decades.

It almost happened 3 months ago when I last went to the hairdressers and I mentioned that I’d been thinking about going for the “chop”. I told him that I didn’t want it “lurking around no-mans-land” looking like I was growing out a bob or something – and basically I chickened out. I had my usual “take off as little as possible trim” and didn’t give it another thought. Until last Tuesday…

As usual my copy of Grazia was on the doormat and there on the front cover was the head-line “Jen’s crisis make-over… Sleepless night before that crop”!!! Slightly dramatic you might think but apparently not. Seemingly, Jen’s hair is not only a barometer to how she feels, but also it affects us too! We’ve been obsessing with her barnet ever since she became famous for the “Rachel” hair-do in Friends, back in 1994. Since, then apart from going up and down a couple of inches and various shades of blonde high-lights, it’s remained the same. Which has been rather comforting and familiar; she looks approachable and friendly with her “wash-and-go” glam but girl-next-door locks. This is probably why we all like her so much and can’t stand her “husband thief”, Angelina Jolie.

© Turkbug | Dreamstime.com

Now I don’t know why Jen decided to go for the plunge – to be honest I’m not even sure why I did. But after having a flick through Grazia and spotting not only Jen, but Olivia Palermo and Scarlet Johansson sporting substantially shorter locks – and after Ian my hairdresser and I having the same boring “Should I, shouldn’t I?”, conversation as 3 months ago… I simply said, “Just do it“.

So he did it. But he didn’t do it whole-heartedly at first, initially it was definitely lurking in “no-mans land” (my feared length) – so I told him to keep going as it was all or nothing and had to be done properly. Bless him he kept saying “I’m waiting for you to burst into tears!” But actually, it felt quite liberating – it was only when washing my hair for the first time the next day that I felt bizarre – there was just nothing there… And tying hair back? Well, I’ve never seen such a poor attempt at a pony tail in my life… And don’t believe anyone who says short hair is easy – it’s a lie. I spent longer straightening my hair this morning than yesterday when I had over double the amount. And now you have to have a good hair day every day as there’s sure as heck no option to simply “tie it back”!! OMG – what have I done?? 

On a plus point however, people keep telling me how much they like it (even though what else are they going to say!!) and how young I look… Which is quite worrying as how old did I look before?? But seriously, I do like it. I’m sure I’ll end up growing it again before long – but for now I’m happy with my “hairline bob“… Jen had better not turn up on this week’s cover sporting a full-head of hair extensions!!

Take a look at Jen for yourself….

http://www.graziadaily.co.uk/beauty/archive/2011/02/22/breaking-hair-news-jennifer-aniston-gets-a-bob.htm

P.S. My hairdresser Ian is based at Willie Smarts in Clapham Common – www.williesmarts.co.uk

Pure and Scoop International A/W11

This Friday may have been the first day of London Fashion Week but last weekend was the real start of London’s fashion whirl, beginning with PURE and a new exhibition Scoop International. PURE, located at Olympia, is a well-established trade fair for brands to show their collections to department store and independent fashion buyers, bloggers, stylists etc. For the first time the show was split between Olympia and Earls Court, the latter being where PURE Spirit was being held, which had younger brands and menswear. PURE is a very commercial show with brands such as Inwear, Jackpot and Sticky Fingers. I really loved the Darling stand and especially liked the below cream dress (www.darlingclothes.com).

I love the 3/4 sleeves and jewelled neckline
These fabulous plates were on the outside of the stand… so pretty!
Do I spy a fondant fancy??

Also, I was introduced to a feminine and very well priced brand called Valour & Valkyrie (www.valourandvalkyrie.com) by Gemma Wiseman, owner of this years Drapers Independent Store of the Year (they have 2 stunning stores, one in Stowe-on-the-Wold and the other in Cheltenham, www.shopfoundation.com). Described as “stylish, easy to wear pieces with distinct detailing and a dash of ready to wear glamour, the range is inspired by ethereal illustrations from the turn of the century, classic black and white films and the craft in creating a garment”. The collection isn’t very big but there were some very lovely pieces with equally lovely price points. And with blouses retailing at £55 and dresses from £60, what’s not to love?

My favourite pieces were the Marje Blouse (£54.99) and Valenti dress (£69.99)…

Marje Blouse from Valour & Valkyrie
Valenti dress by Valour & Valkyrie

After dashing around the rest of PURE and bumping into my friend Katie from Threadmaker (www.threadmaker.co.uk) and more buyers than usual (a sign that people are keeping their eyes open more than ever for “something new” even though times are tough in the retail trade) I had to rush off to a new exhibition for A/W 11 Scoop International which was being held at the fabulous Saatchi Gallery on The Kings Road in Chelsea. It was raining which meant that getting there was a nightmare as there wasn’t a taxi to be seen anywhere. I did manage to locate one after a mile walk in the drizzle which meant I arrived at Scoop looking somewhat less than polished, hair slightly frizzy and pretty much make-up-less!

Scoop is “where fashion meets art, showing fashion and lifestyle brands in a cutting edge and contemporary space…focusing on premium designer and contemporary collections, accessories, emerging designer brands.” There were well known collections such as Sara Berman, Ella Luna and Margit Brandt and many others I’d never heard of. I’m very interested to see what brands come on board for next season because there is definitely a gap in the market for a more contemporary and designer exhibition in the UK… so watch this space.

One brand that really caught my eye was a Paris-based jewellery collection called GiRandOleS (www.girandoles.com). Created by friends Isabelle and Louise, these hand-made pieces are works of art. The pair pick up bric-a-brac from local flea markets, mixing these items with real pearls and charms – the result being incredibly personalized and unusual pieces. The ladies were so nice and even though their English wasn’t great, you could tell that they loved what they did and that every bracelet and necklace told a story…

Probably one of my favourites… a plastic gnome, an Eiffel Tower, buttons and a brooch – what more could you want on a necklace??
P.S. I bought the new “It” nail varnish from Chanel called Black Pearl this week… if I’m being honest it’s not quite the colour I thought it was going to be (ok… so I didn’t try it before I bought it – but it’s Chanel, it has to be fabulous!!). But I assumed from the name it was going to be Blacky-grey ish, but it’s got a definte greeny almost mouldy hue to it (have I put you off yet – someone did compliment me on it yesterday so it can’t be that bad!). If you ask me if should be called gun metal or graphite or something… Anyway, I’m sure I’ll love it when I find out it’s sold out all over the country like the last must-have colour did!!