Thursday, 26 June 2014

Wearing someone's misery

I first saw the link to the shopper finds 'cry for help' label sewn into £10 Primark dress article on Facebook last night. Have you seen it? It's really disturbing. Rebecca Gallagher found this hand-stitched label in her Primark dress:

Hand-stitched label in Primark dress

She phoned Primark for an explanation, was on hold for 15 minutes then cut off. A PR disaster all round then for the high street giant. Articles have popped up like this one on the Huffington Post website (click here for the article) advising people how to shop ethically from eBay, charity shops and vintage boutiques. Harriet Bignall, a writer for the Independent, has said she will continue to shop from bargain retailers because she can't afford to shop ethically (click here for the article).

And this is where we need to have wider demystifying conversation. People need to know that 'ethical' 'sustainable' 'recycling' and 'upcycling' aren't dirty words co-opted by hippies wearing tie-dye. That when you chop up a pair of jeans into shorts for your holiday you just upcycled - it's that easy. That vintage stuff might smell a wee bit but it's a way to really stand out from the crowd and it isn't that expensive to buy. And thanks to Channel 4 and Dawn O' Porter for demonstrating this on prime time TV last night with This Old Thing. 

I haven't shopped from Primark for years. I never take clients there on a personal shopping trip or recommend a client buy anything from there either. The brand just doesn't sit right with me. Why? Because when you buy something from there you are literally wearing someone's misery: long hours, low pay, bad conditions. And how can you feel good about what you are wearing when you know that? 

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Baukjen, you beauty

My phone pinged with a message yesterday morning. As I looked at the screen I smiled an ear to ear grin. This was the kind of message that makes my job as The Wardrobe Angel feel AWESOME. It was a photo message from a client of her wearing one of the dresses I had recommended to her on her follow up Shopping List. It was early and she was dressed to give a presentation that day.  She felt “AMAZING.”

This is what makes me different from other image consultants and stylists, one of my USP’s if you will (the other is eBay but we’ll cover that in another post). It’s all very well saying to clients “this style of dress will really suit you” or “you need some find some trousers in this style” when odds are the client has neither time nor shopping fervour to go out and find them. A lot of my clients are pushed for time and/or have never had much success with shopping and that’s why they have called me in the first place.  They want answers:  how to organise their wardrobe and style themselves, how to save time getting dressed and make money from the items they no longer wear. What they don’t want are more futile shopping trips and wasted money on ‘meh’ purchases. 

After I have sorted a wardrobe and ascertained the ‘gaps’, I put my knowledge and expertise to work to fill them for the client. That’s why I included the Shopping List as part of the Sort, Style and Sell service (click here for more information). I do all the leg work – checking sizing, availability, seeing if I can get them a discount. Then I send them the Shopping List via email. This is done in tandem alongside a Pinterest board so they can see how their new wardrobe will fit together.

So back to the dress which made my client feel “AMAZING.” Which one was it? The Baukjen Jersey Drape dress. It is double layered so it “holds and contours the figure” which translates as YOU DON’T NEED SHAPEWEAR. My client vouched for this, the rest of her message said 

“The material is thick and wraps around, sucking me in. I have a presentation this morning and it feels great!”

Job well done, Baukjen!

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

What to wear when you meet a new baby

Over the past few years family (sister and cousins) and various friend have given birth to babies. I'm never hugely comfortable holding a new born but give it a few weeks and I'll happily pop round for a cuddle. After looking a bunch of babies nestling (not so comfortably) in the crook of my arm I thought I would write about what to actually wear when you meet a new baby and what to take:

1. AVOID WEARING JEWELLERY. You'll end up taking it off in preparation for the cuddle with the baby and then forget about it giving the new parents the job of posting it back to you which, let's face it, they could do without. 

2. WEAR SOMETHING SOFT. I know this might sound obvious but hear me out. Babies have only been here a short while and they deserve the softest landing space we can provide. Choose natural, breathable and soft fabrics which brings you comfortably to cotton and that's always a winner. Plus it's easy to wash should the new baby mark out their territory on you, if you know what I mean. I would avoid anything that sheds, mohair in particular. This can easily shed on a baby's face and be really irritating for them. 

3. GIVE EMBELLISHMENTS A WIDE BERTH. Babies..move. They snuggle and wiggle and catch you unaware. Bearing this is mind go for a plain fronted top, jumper or shirt; all together safer given babies propensity for trying to seek out a boob for some milk. 

4. TAKE A BIG BAG. Babies seem to need a lot of 'stuff' and if you rock up with two or three bags it will only add to the mess. Take a big enough bag for the present for the baby, your stuff (obviously) and food for the parents. Then keep all your items in one place - you can see in the photos my leather jacket draped on top of my bag - and just makes for a smoother visit (read: handy if you need to leave in a hurry when the baby turns the colour of beetroot and screams.)

5. BRING FOOD. I'll never forget Bryony Gordon's Telegraph column after the birth of her daughter shaming the people who, when dropping in for a visit/baby cuddle, ate her food, rather than bring her food. See item number 1 on the list in terms of jobs new parents don't need and add 'buy your lunch'. 

I met this strapping little lad, Charlie, this week. I wore my H&M midi skirt, Gap soft denim shirt and Topshop skater shoes. 

Don't look entirely comfortable here, do I?!

Bag and coat ahoy! Tidy times!

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Ta-da! My Hay Wardrobe!

Over the years I have worked out 2 things:

1. My leather jacket is pretty warm
2. If I wear a chunky jumper my tits look hideous.

So with those facts in mind I set about packing for Hay. I decided on BLACK as my building block colour, added white, leopard print and sequins, using my leather jacket as a jumper AND a jacket. I really want to be able to wear a chunky knit but after seeing photographic evidence of point 2 (above) in action, safe to say it wasn't pretty.

The (long) drive down

Vintage kimono, IL2L leather jacket, Topshop t-shirt, necklace, Jamie Jeans and skater shoes

Day at the festival
I wanted the sun to shine, for me to prance around in sequins and loll in the grass reading Mary Berry's Recipe for life wearing this:

H&M Trend Midi Pencil Skirt, & Other Stories t-shirt, vintage sequin jacket, vintage tote bag, Topshop skater shoes

But I ended up throwing the leather jacket on to give me some extra coverage against the rain and cold. And then I donned my down feather Zara parka as well. Layers = the answer to the not so Great British Summer.

Ooh I love a bit of textural difference!

Client in Bristol
The Wardrobe Angel never rests and my festival holiday coincided perfectly with a client in Bristol. This Theyskens' Theory dress travels really well; it never needs ironing. I ended up popping the collar on the jacket and wearing the necklace on the outside of the jacket; just a spur of the moment decision when I got out of the car. My client commented on it as soon as walked in the house! She loved it!

Vintage tote, Nine West block heeled sandals, Theyskens' Theory dress, H&M Trend jacket, Topshop necklace

Travelling home

Topshop Jamie Jeans, Nine West heels, Alice + Olivia blouse, H&M necklace,  IL2L jacket

Dinner that night

There was a possibility that I was going to have to get off the train and head out to dinner so I planned another outfit accordingly....

The Alice + Olivia blouse has a cut away section across the back and with the weather being what it was I knew I'd be cold. I've been loving a preppy feel to my clothes of late so I decided to swing my cashmere jumper jauntily around my shoulders to keep warm.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Hay Festival

I am not one for a festival. I went to Glastonbury once for a day in my 20's and the experience was enough to confirm what I already knew: me, mud, music and camping don't mix. I have managed to avoid festivals ever since. Then I received an invite to The Hay Festival. Intrigued at a festival "of literature and arts" I started to book tickets and muster clothes related plans; if I was going to survive then my wardrobe had to be up to the task. Check out the STYLE blog page to see what I wore. But for now let me tell you about one event I booked a ticket for which blew my fashion socks off: Julien Macdonald.

Picture the scene - a rain soaked, mud sodden, albeit covered, festival. It's Sunday night and I am waiting patiently (and coldly) in line to listen to Dylan Jones of GQ in conversation with Mr Julien Macdonald. I wasn't sure what to expect - after seeing the fashion designer on Strictly Come Dancing last year I was curious - was his career on the skids? And what on earth was he doing at Hay? The first pleasant surprise was Julien Macdonald walking the length of the line saying "hello" to everyone waiting. Then surprise after surprise came towards me like models storming the catwalk, my ambivalence to the talk was quashed and I left the tent a bonafide Macdonald fan.

The stage is set for Julien Macdonald

Honest, funny, talented and hugely entertaining, Julien held the shivering masses in the palm of his hand for his entire talk. The expectation was that at the age of 16 he would go and work in the lightbulb factory where his mum worked but he knew he was destined for another life so did A-levels (the first person in his family to do so) and then went to university (also another family first). From then his career skyrocketed with the help of the infamous Isabella Blow. He used education as a way out of the small Welsh town in which he'd be born and he has never stopped learning. He talked so passionately about his positive experiences of education that I began to think he should be working for the Government.

Asked whether he was a fan of sustainable fashion and ethical clothing, - his answer was basically 'no'. He praised Stella McCartney for "doing her thing" (she's a bit of a champion when it comes to sustainability) but at the end of the day Julien Macdonald admitted he "just wants to make women look sexy." That honesty was refreshingly brilliant - even Dylan Jones was impressed. After years of politicians saying something without actually saying anything and people trying to make amends for what they did or didn't say in the press, he knocked it out of the park.

Julien Macdonald and Dylan Jones

He listed the famous stars he has dressed: Beyonce, Kylie, Jessie J, Shakira, Taylor Swift, Paloma Faith to name but a few but it was crystal clear he was never star struck, never overwhelmed by the fashion industry or the job he had created for himself. At the heart of his talk was a healthy appreciated for his talent and a closely knitted tie to his working class Welsh roots which kept his dancing feet firmly on the ground.

So why appear on Strictly Come Dancing? queried Dylan Jones. Again, the honesty was electrifying: to raise awareness of his clothes range at Debenhams. He realised that the women his diffusion line would sell to were the women watching Strictly: the masses. WOW. Savvy doesn't even begin to cover it.

He then proceeded to stay behind to sign autographs and let people have their picture taken with him.

Julien, it was a pleasure to hear you talk. Thank you for making my Hay Festival.