Category Archives: Fashion

An Interview With Ann-Celeste London

For a special night out when you need to be the belle of the ball you can’t go much wrong with a dress.  Not just any dress.  You need a dress that has that “wow” factor.  I’ve come across a fashion line that has certainly made me go “wow” :  Ann-Celeste London.  This London-based fashion line is for that confident lady and the range of edgy cocktail dresses, regal full length gowns and trendy 2 piece ensembles are to die for!  Using the opulent, patterned traditional fabrics of Africa the dresses are crafted into contemporary, European silhouettes.  Every single piece has the wow factor!  I recently caught up with the lovely Celeste, Founder & Creative Director to find out more behind the designs…. hi Celeste!

Hi, My name is Celeste. I am the Founder and Creative director of Ann-Celeste London fashion brand.

What inspired you to set up your fashion brand, Ann-Celeste London?

I have always loved and enjoyed fashion. In 2012, I was able to pick it up properly when I found myself in between jobs. I started doing research and learning the ropes of starting a fashion brand. Heritage is important to me. It is what distinguishes me and informs my identity.  Through my designs, I can share my story and inspiration

Have you always had a background in, and a passion for, fashion?

My background hasn’t always been about fashion design although as a young girl, I always wanted to sew my own dresses! Later in life, I worked in the retail fashion industry for over 3 years and eventually decided to guide my passion and focus towards developing a brand.

I love the Abby Dress, Lulu Dress, Oyin Dress & the Lade Cape – I couldn’t pick just one favourite, they are all so gorgeous & glamorous. What styles are proving popular already amongst your customers so far this season?

Thank you! We have 13 different styles and 5 of the styles are in demand. Which are Lulu dress, Calabric Dress, Oge Jumpsuit, Abby Dress and Oyin Dress.

Out of all the outfits in your collection, do you have a favourite?

I love the Lulu dress. It’s very versatile you can wear flat shoes or heels depending on the occasion or mood.

Your brand is influenced by the African love of colour/patterns mixed with European silhouettes, giving a fresh approach to fusion fashion. If you could go anywhere in the world to photoshoot for a new collection, where would you go?

Tanzania would be ideal having Mount Kilimanjaro
(highest mountain in Africa) in the backdrop, riding on a horse would be epic.

Hypothetically speaking, which famous lady (dead or alive) would you love to see as the “face” of Ann-Celeste London?

I would like Michelle Obama to wear our brand as she very elegant and gracious. Her strength and presence would be perfect fits for some of our designs and looks..

In September 2016, your “Mope” collection was showcased during London Fashion Week under the renowned House of iKons catwalk. How did you feel seeing your outfits on the catwalk? Was it a good yet nerve racking experience?

The House of iKons boasts of showcasing some of the world’s most creative designers and with all the hard work and pressure that was building up to my first catwalk, I told myself to stay calm and enjoy the moment!

As you are based in London, are your outfits available to purchase overseas?

Yes! Our outfits can be purchased on our website: ann-celeste.com. We are looking towards having stockists in different locations around the world.

When designing outfits to add to your collection,do you take into account your own tastes, your customer base, current fashion trends, requests, traditional styles or bits of all those?

I would probably say a bit of everything.

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

Mid-length dresses, warm jacket, tights and a pair of heels

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites? (Apart from your own!)

I have lots of favorites shops. I currently like Whistle, Reiss, Hobbs and Cos for everyday wear. However, it changes from time to time depending on what the brand has to offer for the season.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

Double breasted navy blazer and chelsea boots.

Boots or Shoes?

I love shoes but have to go with boots! Boots keep my feet warm and comfortable during the winter months.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can find out more about Ann-Celeste London.

Please check out our website and social medial platforms.
www.ann-celeste.com
https://www.facebook.com/AnnCelesteLondon/
https://www.instagram.com/anncelestelondon/‎

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An Interview With My Dress List

Imagine scenario A:  You are invited to a wedding reception, you buy a new outfit only to find another guest has the same dress sense as you.  Imagine scenario B:  You have been invited to a prestigious social gathering and you don’t want to look overdressed or underdressed or drop a social faux pas.  Imagine scenario C:  You want to host a party, you have an idea for a theme but unsure how to get your ideas on dress over to your guests.  Well, my guest on the blog tonight has launched an app that can address all three scenarios.  I recently caught up with Leila, founder of My Dress List, to find out more…. Hi Leila!

Hi! My name is Leila,  I have  just turned 30 and I’m the founder and CEO of My Dress List app. Originally from France,  I actually live in London . What an amazing city! I love fashion and technology.

What was the inspiration behind developing your app, My Dress List?

My dress list was created to solve a problem . Most women love dressing up  & looking their best whilst attending events, unfortunately there is always a little chance  that you turn up at events not feeling your best. How many people attend events feeling underdressed, overdressed or wearing the same as someone else? How many people spend hours trying different outfits without being satisfied? How many people decide to skip events because they don’t know what to wear? Our answer is too much. Women work so hard, so when it comes to having fun with friends and family they should have a tool to guide them. My Dress List was born with an attention to details – guiding users by creating a platform that helps people feel good whilst enjoying events.  You can create events, personalise your page and invite your friends. Once invited every person will be able to see what the others will wear without knowing who is who. You will just know, for example, that there are already 2 people wearing red dresses or blue jumpsuits, etc. It’s visual so it’s easy and you can be sure to feel unique. Going to events feeling and looking your best is the main objective for My Dress List.

 

As a party-planning tool, what makes My Dress List so appealing to customers?

My Dress List is popular for a few reasons: people love planning big events with their friends; they love sharing pictures;they love to give fashion advice to their friends. My Dress List helps girls feel better together. The app also acts as a guide, when the host creates an event, she can add information such as select color swatches and add location time, etc. Once done, every guest will receive information and see what others plan to wear. Sometimes on party invites, the dress code – whether casual or formal – is not clear, therefore, with the chance to visualise what people are going to wear beforehand, you can be sure to understand the dress code and see it. It’s so easy you will love it.

 

I love the idea that someone can download the photos onto the app of the outfits they plan to wear to a party, for example. It does cut down the odds of turning up in the same outfit as somebody else – which has happened to me before at a wedding. What kind of reasons did you decide to create My Dress List as a photo-sharing app too?

The app was created to guide people as a group. Women are so supportive of each other, but having your own style is also very important. In a group of friends everybody has got their own identity but sometimes it happens that you do buy the same clothes and I think it’s really nice but,  going to a special event, wearing exactly the same dress as your friend can be a little bit uncomfortable. For example: you plan to go the Races on Ascot Ladies Day. You are a group of 12 girlfriends  so using My Dress List you can all see what everyone will  be wearing as soon as they get their outfit. Being sure that everyone is not wearing the same style or the same colour or simply the same dress can ensure that everyone can spend the day feeling their best.That’s why My Dress List is an asset for every woman because it gives her assurance that  when you attend events you are satisfied with your outfit.

Can the app be downloaded globally?

The app is available worldwide, in IOS and IPAD. My Dress List can be used for every type of event: girls night outs, proms, weddings, birthdays, Halloween, galas, fashion events, corporate and much more. 

Prior to the app launch in September 2016, what was your career background? Have you got any other app ideas up your sleeve?

Before My Dress List I worked in advertising and sales for years, but I had always wanted to do something related to fashion . Technology just happens to be the answer. The fusion between both made me decide to launch My Dress List in September 2016. I’m focusing on My Dress List at the moment but  I would love to launch two more apps with a fun theme. Look out 2017!

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

Depending on  the situation, I can be find wearing trousers and  a shirt or a pencil dress at work; a midi dress when I socialise and just jeans and a lace top at the weekend.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

When it come to fashion, it’s such a privilege to live in London. With retailers  like Selfridges, Harrods and much more, the list is endless. However, I have to say  that I love shopping online – finding the perfect dress whilst sitting confortably is definitely my favourite.

What’s next on your fashion wishlist?

With the sales on, I’m looking for the perfect coat that will help me get though this cold winter.

Boots or Shoes?

I love sandals and heels in Summer but, at the moment, my heeled boots are the perfect companion.

Links you would like to share.

Check our website: www.mydresslist.com
Download our free app : https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/my-dress-list-share-your-fashion/id1130319985?mt=8
Twitter: https://twitter.com/dresslist
Youtube: https://youtu.be/adKYqEr9Quw

Thank you Leila for introducing the app on my blog.  So, dear readers, have you ever encountered  an embarrassing moment where you’ve been to a formal function dressed in the same outfit as somebody else? Or have you attended an event where you’ve turned up overdressed or underdressed?  Come on, spill the beans – I’d love to know, so please do comment!

Linda x

Photos have been published with the kind permission of My Dress List. 

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An Interview With Oriental African

Fashion blending both African and Far East Asian cultures with a pinch of Western mainstream influences is today’s topic on my blog. Snubbing mass-produced disposable fashion, Oriental African, online fashion retailers,  instead offer to both men and women of all sizes, responsibly sourced and ethically produced fashion from independent grassroots designers.  I recently caught up with Mary Akpeki, creative director & co-founder, to find out more ….hi Mary!

Hi, my name is Mary.I’m a co founder at Oriental African and a student at Kent University.

What inspired you to set up your brand, Oriental African?

My niece because she represents a mixed heritage of Korean, Nigerian, and British cultures. This made me realise there is a gap within the fashion industry, these three distinct cultures are already powerful on their own and have vibrant styles, prints and patterns. So my sister and I began to imagine how we could infuse these influential prints together and that’s how Oriental African was born. We were also really passionate about helping African and Asian designers who wanted to reach a wider audience in the West.

Have you always had a passion for fashion, or did you have other career aspirations when you were younger?

Yes I’ve always loved fashion and love dressing up, styling pieces together. I was lucky enough to have African print clothing growing up, that my mum would bring back from Nigeria and I was able to style these with western clothes from shops like H&M etc so that’s where my interest in fashion really started to grow.

Your online shop retails a fashion blend incorporating both African and Far East Asian cultures. What items are proving popular amongst your customers?

We have a shirt that blends Chinese frog buttons and African print, a ripped dashiki hoodie that channels the Yeezy collection, and Dashiki longline shirts which are really popular in the entertainment industry right now.

Out of all the outfits that you sell, do you have any favourites?

I really like the co-ord sets that I have, the OA crop top and trousers or bra-let and skirt they can be styled for both work and leisure and I think that represents my style.

Snubbing mass-produced disposable fashion, you consciously only showcase independent grassroots designers. How do you make sure everything you offer is responsibly sourced and ethically produced?

Quality checks, we insure we buy all the fabrics, that we give them the fair price for it and they are all ethically sourced and all the money we make from the clothes a percentage is given back to the designer.

As your clothes are from two distinct parts of the world, I am going to put you on the spot and ask whether you have a favourite country? What place is number one on your travel bucket list?
What place is number one on your travel bucket list?

Thailand – because the beaches look so beautiful and I love Thai food. I’ve always wanted to go to Bangkok.

Your company is based in England – are your designs available to purchase worldwide?

For now they’re not but within the next few months we should be able to ship worldwide,so watch this space.

When adding outfits to your collection, do you take into account your own tastes, your customer base, current fashion trends, requests, traditional styles or bits of all those?

All of the above factors contribute and inspire us for each piece of clothing we put on the platform.

 Hypothetically speaking, who would you pick, dead or alive, to be the “face” of Oriental African?

Beyoncé is really an amazing personality and we also love Keyonce who impersonates her really well.

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

Ankle length boots, choker, high waist jeans, Bardot tops and our OA Lere bomber jacket.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites? (Apart from your own!)

ASOS and New Look

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

Well I’m creating a range of African print swim suits and I would to steal one and take it with me on holiday. Timberlands.

Boots or Shoes?

Boots because they go with anything and I love versatility when it comes to fashion.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can find out more about Oriental African.

www.orientalafrican.co.uk
@orientalafrican

Fabulous speaking to you Mary and I wish Oriental African every success in the future.  So, dear readers, what do you think of “blended” fashion?  Do you like the ideas that Oriental African are promoting?  Have you ever mixed an expensive designer dress with cheap shoes bought at a garage sale for pennies?  Teamed a tankini top with jeans for a night out? Worn your partner’s shirt as a dress? Do share your stories – I’d love to know!

Linda x

Photos have been published with kind permission of Mary Akpeki/Oriental African

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An Interview With Nubian Skin

Frustrated by the lack of skin tone choices, Ade Hassan, my guest today on the blog, launched in 2014 her own range of skintone lingerie & hosiery for women of colour.  Inspired by women such as supermodel Iman  who created Iman Cosmetics, Ade has created a rather gorgeous collection of lingerie and hosiery  – with a handy foundation guide to match pretty much your shade of skintone.  I caught up with Ade recently to find out more…. Hi Ade!

Hi, I’m Ade Hassan, the founder of Nubian Skin. Nubian Skin is a nude lingerie and hosiery brand for women of colour.

What inspired the launch of Nubian Skin?

Nubian Skin was essentially born out of frustration. I wanted a product that I couldn’t find in shops, so I decided to create it. I knew I couldn’t be the only one who felt the same way.

Have you always had an interest in hosiery or fashion?

My background isn’t particularly fashion-y, but I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur, and I’ve always wanted my business to be fashion related. When I took a 15 month break from work several years ago before starting Nubian Skin, I took some sewing and pattern cutting classes in Paris.

How many different shades of skin tone do you offer? How would a customer know what skin colour tone to go for?

We have four tones with Berry being our darkest, followed by Cinnamon, Caramel and Café au Lait. We have a handy skin-tone matching guide that matches our tones to popular foundation brands. For example, if you wear MAC NW47, then you’ll be Cinnamon! You can check it out here: https://www.nubianskin.com/global/skin-tone

Your range of skin tone hosiery is superb from tights to hold ups. Do you cater for the curvier lady?

Thank you! Yes, we do have a Curve hosiery range that goes up to 3XL, and are currently working on our fuller bust range which should be out early 2017!

I love the classic lace push-up bra from your collection. What lingerie styles are most popular at the moment?

Thank you – we love that bra too! All of the styles are really popular, but the T-Shirt bra is probably the most popular as it is the kind of bra you can wear every day!

When designing/choosing skin tone items to go into your collection, do you go for popular trendy styles, customer requests, personal favourites or do you take all 3 into account?

When I initially designed the products, I went for the ‘essentials’ like the T-shirt, Strapless and then added something pretty like the lace. Since, we’ve been developing the collection according to customer feedback, which is incredibly valuable to us.

As you are based in the UK, are your items available to purchase overseas?

We are based in the UK, but our products are available in 9 countries including the US, Portugal, Nigeria & The Middle East.

Are you planning to extend your range in 2017?

Yes, we are currently working on a fuller bust range and a few other exciting ideas, so watch this space!

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

Now that I work for myself, I dress significantly more casual than when I was in finance. Now it’s winter, I can be found wearing a cashmere jumper and some tapered trousers with some loafers, or thick tights with a knee-length dress.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites? (Apart from your own)

I shop a lot less now to be honest! But I do check out the outnet.com every now and then, and hipandhealthy.com to mentally build an amazing work out wardrobe instead of actually doing exercise >_<

 What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

I’ve got a Nico Giani handbag on my wishlist.

Boots or Shoes? 

I love shoes – boots make me think of cold weather, and I spend all of winter waiting for spring and summer!

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can find out more about Nubian Skin.

Website: www.nubianskin.com

Instagram: @nubianskin

Facebook: /Nubianskin

Twitter: @nubianskin

Thank you for visiting us on the blog, Ade.  I think your bras are very pretty – I do like a lacy style to wear every day although the basic t-shirt bra is my go to for workdays!  What about you dear lady readers, do you have a favourite bra style? 

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Nubian Skin.

 

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6 Discoveries I Made In 2016

As 2016 comes to a close, I’ve decided to make the last post of 2016 one which I share with you some discoveries that I have made across  the board – fashion, footwear, beauty, food, etc.  These discoveries might not actually be “new” but they are new experiences for me 🙂 So, in no particular order, here are 6 things I discovered this year….

1. The Jack-it Bag   –  I love it as a jacket but it can easily convert into a bag.  Catch my interview with the brand HERE.  The jacket I’m wearing is made of velour and has a strong satin lining.  I’m looking forward to wearing it more in 2017.

2. Salted Caramel.  Since the end of 2015 when I discovered Tesco Salted Caramel Cream Liqueur and Wilkins Salted Caramel Spread, I have had an indulgent love affair with salted caramel throughout 2016 – cheesecakes, ice creams, chocolate – and then, at the beginning of December, I found this ultimate shower cream from Avon ….. Yes, it’s “salted caramel & almond” …..

3.  Chocolate Red Wine.  This year, courtesy of my darling husband, I discovered chocolate red wine.  It is a combination of 2 of my favourite things – chocolate & wine!  It is pretty sweet, smells divine and tastes heavenly – it is akin to port rather than your standard glass of red.  My new favourite “liqueur” to date.

4.  Contouring.  I was a little late in embracing this make up look and couldn’t quite “get it” until I came across this delightful contouring stick by W7.  It is a 2-ended stick with a highlighter at one end and a bronzer at the other – plus clear and handy instructions on how to apply on the box. 

5.  Slippers.  OK – not quite a “discovery” BUT I used to hate wearing slippers as I always received furry ones or memory foam style slippers which I felt were uncomfortable, made my feet sweat and I couldn’t walk in them! I needed to find a pair that I could wear indoors – and I found these leather Moroccan style ballerina style slippers from NEXT.  They not only look stylish but they fit well, are comfortable and I now wear slippers indoors! No more stubbed toes that used to occur when I walked about barefoot.

6.  Fitbit.  Coming home on a flight from Madeira in August I was listening to a podcast on my phone that was talking about the health benefits of walking 10,000 steps. It motivated me to move more.  A Fitbit was on my Xmas list but my lovely husband treated me to a Fitbit beforehand.  I love it.  I have gone from being a slob to being on the move and although I don’t always hit 10,000 steps every day I am pleased with the 8000 steps + a day I  do currently hit and my twice weekly 10,000 steps +. Love the turquoise colour strap too.

What did you discover in 2016?  Do tell, I’d love to know!

Linda x

All photos by Linda Hobden

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An Interview With Jack-It Bag London

Sometimes I come across an item that is so totally different and useful that it is fantastic when I do get to interview the founder/designer concerned.  Today’s blogpost features such an item. Is it a bird or a plane? Is it a jacket or is it a bag? Crazy as it may seem, this item is both a jacket and a fully functional bag.  I caught up with mumpreneur Jo Tribley recently to find out more … Hi Jo and welcome…

Hi, I am Jo, a married mum of two daughters; modern foreign language teacher and now founder and creative director of Jack-it-bag, London. Jack-it-bag , London is a newly launched company, selling unique, stylish jackets that magically convert into neat, compact bags, perfect for busy, style conscious people, who like to live life to the full. The dual-functioning jackets/bags provide a burden free experience, whether at a festival, on a day out, out shopping, at parties, globebetrotting or just out walking the dog!

Your mission is to create stylish outerwear with dual functionality, but what inspired you to create the Jack-It Bag in the first place?

The inspiration for the ‘jack-it-bag’ came from my daughters’ reluctance to wear a jacket or coat when going out to clubs and gigs. They didn’t want to queue for the cloakroom and didn’t want to be burdened with a coat once inside the club, preferring to freeze instead, as winter hit and the temperatures plummeted. After numerous debates/disagreements, I decided I would try and invent a jacket that could be slipped off once inside the club and be quickly converted into a bag. My daughters gave me plenty of criteria that the “jack-it-bag” would have to conform to. It would have to be stylish, so as not to ruin the all important party outfit. It would have to have room to contain all the essentials for a night out, such as their money, phone, keys, lipstick etc; it would have to be easy to convert into a bag, without the need to remove any items; and finally it had to be a neat compact bag, so that they could enjoy a burden free party experience. After much thought and experimentation, I finally designed a prototype, which ticked all these boxes and more besides. The design ensures that possessions are zipped away in secure pockets, some of which are concealed within the bag, thereby ensuring that valuable items are safely tucked away. Some of the fabrics are also wipe clean ,so that if a drink is spilled, your jacket isn’t ruined.

Have you always had a passion for textiles/fashion, or did you have other career aspirations when you were younger?

My background isn’t in fashion or textiles and nor did I have a particular passion for it. As a young child, I always liked making things and liked sewing, but then I really wanted to be a ballerina!

I love both the Velvet Crush and the Rock Chic Jack-It Bags. What items are proving popular amongst your customers?

The Rock Chic has been very popular as has the Olive Longline bomber jacket and the Relaxed fit bomber jacket.

Out of all your Jack-It Bags, do you have any favourites?

The Rock Chic and Olive longline bomber are also my two personal favourites, although I do like the Party Shimmer. It looks great on and is really eye-catching. The Rock Chic is great because it can be wiped clean and the Olive longline bomber is a fantastic fabric and great when I am walking the dog in our very changeable weather.

I read one review on your website that said: ” (The Jack-It Bag is) one of those things you don’t realise how useful it is until you’ve got one”.  As a fellow mum, I can see it’s usefulness – what did you feel the Jack-it Bag’s main attraction?

The Jack-it-bag is so versatile and I am forever discovering situations when it has really proved so useful. Most recently, whilst Christmas shopping at a very packed Christmas gift fair, it was great to be able to slip off my jacket but not be burdened with having to carry a coat and bag around in addition to all that Christmas shopping. Yet that same jacket also was a great addition to my suitcase for a recent trip to Singapore. Its versatility and dual functionality is definitely the main attraction.

Looking towards Spring/Summer 2017, are you planning to add any new ranges or new colours?

I already have my eye on some great fabrics that pick up on the key colour trends for Spring/summer 2017. I also hope to add some additional ranges including a festival jacket and a gym buddy jacket.

Your company is based in London – is the Jack-it Bag available to purchase worldwide?

The Jack-it-bag is manufactured in London but it can be purchased on the world-wide web at www.jack-it-bag.co.uk. I am happy to ship overseas.

When choosing the Jack-It Bag outer look to add to your collection, do you take into account your own tastes, your customer base, current fashion trends, requests, traditional styles or bits of all those?

The Jack-it-bag is designed to be a classic jacket, either collarless, bomber style or parka style with added hints of the seasons key trends. The classic style is updated to reflect current trends, be that in the choice of fabric, e.g velvet/ checks ( a key trend for autumn/winter 16/17), colour ( Olive green), style ( fitted, longline, relaxed) or with features such as eyelets, pom poms , tassels. The current fashion trends are definitely taken note of but they are quite subtly introduced to what is otherwise a classic style, which will not necessarily date. The customer base is really very varied; in fact there is a jack-it-bag for everyone and I try to choose outers that will suit a multitude of different users, be that a school child with no room in their locker for a school coat to a gap year student to a retired globetrotter.

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

I am a natural classic. I suit structured, tailored, fitted clothing, which is nevertheless comfortable. That doesn’t mean I go around in tailored suits. I love a classic pair of jeans, ankle grazing trousers, cosy knitwear, stripy t-shirts and tailored dresses. You will never find me in anything floaty or frilly. Regarding shoes, I love boots, classic pumps and kitten heels, which are comfortable to wear but still make your legs look amazing.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

My favourite shops are The White Company, Hobbs, Zara and Pure. For shoes I like the Dutch company, Panara.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wishlist?

I would love a shearling gilet.

Boots or Shoes?

I love my flip-flop sandals. They look good with trousers or dresses and I just love the summer and having the chance to wear them. Maybe it’s because the summer in Britain is so short-lived.

Links you would like to share:

Jack-it-bag, London has its own e-commerce site at www.jack-it-bag.co.uk. You can also follow us on www.instagram.com/jackitbag or on Facebook : Jack-It Bag, London

It has been great talking to you Jo and thank you for introducing us to your fabulous Jack-It Bag.  I think it’s a brilliant idea.  Dear readers, what is on your clothes/shoe/bag wishlist?  Is it a Jack-it Bag?  Do share – as always I love reading your views!

Linda x

All photos have been published with kind permission of Jo Tribley.  The photography was by Tess Salmon Photography; the model is Olivia.

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An Interview With Afrika Presents

On the blog today is Mara Menzies, Kenyan-Scottish storyteller and founder of Afrika Presents.  Afrika Presents draws inspiration from Africa’s rich stories and vibrant cultures when designing its products.  I was particularly drawn to their “The African Fashion Design Sketchbook”, a book that combines the history and beauty of African fashion textiles to children, with the aim of inspiring children to want to learn more about the amazing continent. I caught up with Mara recently to find out more…. Hi Mara and welcome….

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Hi, I’m Mara, a storyteller, founder of Afrika Presents, mother of 2 incredible children, dreamer, dancer, reader and traveller.

“The African Fashion Design Sketchbook” is a book that brings together the incredible history & beauty of fashion textiles from Africa to children. So what was the inspiration behind writing & compiling this book?

I returned home from Kenya and wanted a gift for my daughter and bought a fashion book where she could design a model and I found myself wishing that there was an African version of that so she could create, imagine and explore the things she loved but learn about her African heritage at the same time. Then I thought I’m going to do that and I did! African fashions and textiles are so beautiful and their histories are so intertwined with other cultures around the world but we never hear about that so I took the approach to make sure it was fun but informative too.

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You are a Kenyan Scottish storyteller – so how come you decided to start up your company, Afrika Presents?

Once the idea of the fashion book was born, there was so much else to explore that it made sense to form the company and think of what direction it could go. Being a storyteller is a real privilege as you share some very personal moments with small groups of people. I felt that there were so many stories to be told, so many other ways to explore such a vast and vibrant continent that it was impossible to do it just by myself. Through Afrika Presents, I have been able to work with a wider range of people – artists, designers, people experienced with the business side of things, and so many more.

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Africa has many rich stories – do you have a particular favourite tale?

There are so many to choose from but I do love an Ethiopian story about a woman who innocently throws a bone out of the window which is fought over by 2 dogs, which results in 2 boys fighting, then 2 women fighting, then 2 men fighting, then 2 villages fighting until suddenly the whole thing has spiralled out of control. Finally they realise that everyone involved could have stopped it before it reached that terrible point. Sacrifices are made and peace does return but the moral is that we must always think before throwing our bones out of the window. Of course the bone is symbolic of so many things in our lives but I love sharing this story because everyone gets caught up in the ruckus without realising where the story is heading and then suddenly BAM, they get it, and it is a wonderful feeling to take people on that rollercoaster.

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You are currently developing an app that will bring the pages of the book alive. That project sounds totally awesome, I must say. What parts of the app do you think will particularly grab a child’s attention in more ways than the book?

Yes, we’re really excited about it. There are videos, games and quizzes and we plan to continually upgrade the content too. I think the children (and adults) will really like the interactive elements as they can then test themselves and we live in a digital age so it is amazing to able to fuse pen, paper and the digital world.

What books did you enjoy reading as a child? What genre of books do you enjoy reading now?

I grew up in Kenya and my diet consisted of Roald Dahl, Enid Blyton, The Famous Five, The Nancy Drew mysteries, a series of books about twins from various cultures, and we always had National Geographic magazines around the house. I also loved the books where you had to choose which page to go to to change the path of the story. Nowadays, we are lucky to have access to authors from all over the world. I love Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Muthoni Garland as well as random books that I stumble upon, often with a traditional folktale structure. I’m currently reading The Book of Lost Things which turns folktales on their heads and is hugely enjoyable and thought provoking and I love books about Scottish mythology and mystical creatures. Scotland tells a great story.

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I have been to Kenya myself and was captivated by the beauty of the country – Mt Kilimanjaro was a particular favourite spot of mine. Have you got a favourite part of Africa? Any part of Africa you haven’t yet visited but is on your bucket list?

One of my favourite memories was at our farm in Kenya which is on the side of a valley. there was a silver river snaking its way at the bottom and quartz in the ground always twinkled at sunset. On one evening, somebody somewhere was playing a reed flute and it was just so beautiful. That is now my favourite place. I’d love to visit Botswana and Namibia and I love Malian music so will hopefully get there too.

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

I am seasonal in the sense that winter I close shop and wear boots, jeans and thick chunky jumpers and go for comfort over fashion. But in the summer I adore bright colours and patterns. I like shoes with small  heels. I can’t wear very high heels but I’ve always loved the grandeur of Victorian fashion and so the shorter, curvier heels make me feel part of that!

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I love raiding the charity shops and then tweaking what I find at home. I also find treasures in vintage shops. I do visit Zanjoo.com every now and again as they have some fantastic skirts and often match colours successfully that really shouldn’t work but always do. As I go to Kenya every year, I always find stunning fabrics and I have a tailor who makes beautiful clothes so I go with a wishlist. Otherwise I buy basics on the high street.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

Now we’re heading for winter, it’s time for my annual boot splurge. I would love to own good quality boots in a vibrant red but they are hard to find! I sometimes find incredible boots for my 9 year old that I want in my size!

Boots or Shoes?

Flat boots for everyday comfort and lovely shoes or high heeled boots when I’m trying to impress:)

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog can learn more about Afrika Presents.

Visit the website at www.afrikapresents.com and we’re at https://www.facebook.com/Afrikapresents

Thank you Mara for introducing your fab company! I have always been fascinated with the continent of Africa and my youngest son has the continent in the number one slot of his bucket travel list – he loves animals and the vast outdoors.  Like you I grew up with the stories of Raold Dahl and Enid Blyton; I read the National Geographic Magazine from cover to cover – and my children have grown up surrounded by the same … along with modern technology.  One African story I liked was about the baobab tree that I heard whilst in Kenya – it is known as the upside down tree as its branches don’t have leaves and they look like tree roots!  Dear readers, are you fascinated by Africa? Would you like to visit? Or have you travelled there already? Do you have an African story to tell? As always, do share – I’d love to know!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Mara Menzies.

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An Interview With Bull & Dagger

Launched in September 2016, the London based genderqueer fashion  label Bull & Dagger offers an enticing cocktail of classic British styles with a twist of English eccentricity using the finest wools, silks and cottons. “Bulldagger” was once a derogatory term for women who chose to eschew the confines of socially accepted gender boundaries – now, the founder Meera Amin, hopes that the phrase will now mean the fashion label of choice for those women.  I caught up with Meera to find out more…. Hi Meera….

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Hi! I am Meera Amin, creator of Bull & Dagger – the UK’s first genderqueer fashion label. Bull & Dagger clothing is tailored for gender expression rather than restriction, we have a customer base which includes individuals who identify as queer, androgynous, non-binary, gender fluid, gender neutral, gender non-conforming and trans.

What inspired you to set up your label, Bull & Dagger?

As someone who identifies as a queer woman, not being able to find the masculine clothing that I like in sizes that fit has always been a cause of frustration. I have found that I am certainly not alone in having this frustration, and so I decided to do something about it. I started working on Bull & Dagger approximately a year and a half ago and launched the brand earlier this year.

Have you always had a background in, and a passion for, fashion?

I currently work as a Research Analyst for the legal services oversight regulator for England and Wales. I studied Biochemistry at university and have since worked as an analyst in several different sectors. Prior to creating Bull & Dagger, the closest I’ve come to the fashion industry was when I briefly worked as a fashion photographer after university. Despite my lack of fashion training, I have always had a passion for fashion – particularly formal menswear – and believe that fashion can be an incredibly powerful tool, used to display a personality and image of yourself to the outside world.

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I like the London Underground Shirt. Early days yet but what pieces are proving popular amongst your customers so far this season?

Thank you – I wanted to create a piece that was fun and reflected the fact the we are a brand that produces all of our clothing in London. The two most popular pieces in the current collection have been the ‘Pleated Floral Silk Panel Shirt’ and ‘Faux Leather Panel Kilt’. Both pieces are truly made for everyone regardless of gender presentation. We’ve take the idea of a classic tuxedo shirt and added in luxury fabrics, colour and bold patterns. The kilt is a fabulous piece which combines plain and tartan wools with an eco-friendly faux leather panel with pockets, and is available in two lengths.

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Out of all the outfits in your collection, what is your favourite?

My favourite outfit in the collection is the Blue and Yellow Double Breasted Blazed with Yellow Shorts – this outfit has classic masculine tailoring, a touch of flamboyance and is made from a beautiful Italian wool blended with 3% Lycra to allow the perfect fit for all body types.

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Your outfits are a cocktail of impeccable tailoring, bold colours, clever stitching, and flamboyant patterns. Where did you draw inspiration from for your collection?

For my first collection, I have very much created a range of clothing that I personally would love to wear. I am inspired by classic menswear but didn’t want to simply take current menswear trends and then produce them for a range of body types. I wanted the collection to offer something new and different – which is why we have chosen bold colours, flamboyant patterns and a carefully selected range of fabrics.

Which famous person would you love to see as the “face” of the Bull & Dagger collection?

I would love to see Ruby Rose in Bull & Dagger clothing (and not just because of I have a huge girl crush). I think she has a great look and would look incredible in our clothing – and is someone that many of our customers recognise and love.

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Looking ahead to Spring/Summer – what styles/ colours do you hope will dominate your collection?

As a brand that exists outside of mainstream fashion, and as one of very few brands in the gender queer/ non-conforming space, we have decided not to follow traditional fashion cycles. We will  be adding items to our collection throughout the year and they will be based on a combination of personal inspiration and trends and ideas from the queer community.

As you are based in England, is your clothing range available to purchase overseas too?

Our clothing range is available to purchase online and can be delivered globally at no extra charge.

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Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

I tend to wear a smart shirt, waistcoat, bowtie, slim-fit trousers and brogues at all times (except when sleeping, of course). It seems to be the perfect combination for both my day job and my social life.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites? (Apart from your own!)

I’m a big fan of Topman (as are many of my queer friends). I would love for Bull & Dagger to do a collaborative genderqueer/gender neutral collection with them someday – making the type of clothes that we produce more accessible.

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What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

A new tailor made suit. We offer a bespoke design and tailor service to customers based in London – a perfectly fitted suit designed just for you feels amazing.

Boots or Shoes?

Brogues, brogues, brogues – all of the time (except when I pop to the coffee shop in my Superman high tops). Comfort and style – although not always suitable in the London rain.

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Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can find out more about Bull & Dagger

http://bullanddagger.com/
https://twitter.com/BullAndDagger
https://www.facebook.com/bullanddagger/
https://www.instagram.com/bullanddaggerofficial/

Great talking to you Meera and I hope you do get your dream collaboration with Top Man.  I love the fact that you love brogues, as they are one of my favourite style of shoes – although I am a major boots fan. This season I’ve seen some absolutely fab brogues about in all colours of the rainbow – and also loafers …..and they are so comfortable! So dear readers, do you like the recent trend of brogues and loafers? I think Meera’s fashion label is a breath of fresh air and definitely meets a demand – what’s your view? Do tell!

Linda x

Photo Credits:  All photos have been published with kind permission from Bull & Dagger.

The Photographers:  Images Photography by Thomas-James Fisher; Oli Ashrafi-Tari (last photograph)

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Spotlight On Maison Bernard Orcel Courchevel

Snow has already descended on parts of Canada, USA, Scotland and Northern England, heralding the start of the winter ski season in the Northern Hemisphere.  It seems most fitting, therefore, to introduce onto my blog one of the finest, if not the finest (in my opinion), alpine designer fashion  & ready-to-wear ski wear shop in the world – Maison Bernard Orchel Courchevel.  Founded in 1975 in Courchevel, Maison Bernard Orchel Courchevel  was named after the famous alpine skier.  Maison Bernard Orchel Courchevel is more than just a shop, as I found out…..

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Why did you pick Courchevel as the location for your shop?

Courchevel is a luxurious ski resort located in the French Alps, with one of the largest ski areas in the world: 3 Valleys.  The ski resort hosts the most prestigious international clientele.  This ski paradise is also one of the most luxurious places in the world with a high concentration of 5 star hotels, Michelin-starred restaurants and unique boutiques.

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What are your most popular products?

Just like every year since forever, Moon Boots are very popular.  The most popular shoe brand is Jimmy Choo, so it stands to reason that their moon boots are a great hit.

What’s new for the 2016 winter season?

Chiara Ferragni  Moonboots, some exclusive Fendi Sportswear, and the launch of Balmain Man at Bernard Orcel.

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What makes Maison Bernard Orcel Courchevel special?

Maison Bernard Orcel offers customers the chance to unwind and relax by being surrounded by beauty and quality.  Florence, the Head of House for 25 years, knows and recognises the very dear Bernard Orcel clientele. Like a real concierge, the whole Bernard Orcel team supports our customers during their stay in Courchevel for any of their requests. We offer our customers a shopping service at home. The collections (ready-to-wear or skiwear) are presented by a personal shopper from our team. Our seamstress is also at the disposal of our customers throughout the season to adjust and retouch their purchases.

Although you are in France, do you deliver worldwide?

According to the client’s wishes, we offer the possibility of a delivery service any time in Courchevel, and all over the world.

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What brands do you stock (ready-to-wear)?

Balmain, Brioni, Brunello Cucinelli, Chiara Ferragni, Dsquared, Fabiana Filippi, Faubourg 32, Jacob Cohen, Maison Ullens, Sartorial Tramarossa, Simonetta Ravizza, Stefano Ricci…..

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….And Skiwear?

AZ Atelier, Bogner, Dsquared Ski Capsule, Fendi Ski Collection, Jet Set, Kru, Toni Sailer, Zai, Zero Ski.   We also provide sales services and ski rental delivery directly into the hotel or chalet in Courchevel.    This service also includes the possibility to try and buy our skiwear collections. A full service from the ski outfit to the technical equipment!

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….And Shoes?

Buscemi, Emma Salimova & Ugg, Guiseppe Zanotti, Jimmy Choo, Ludwig Reiter, Santoni, Tod’s.

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Fashion & Art

Bernard Orcel has invited the famous artist Leo Caillard to exhibit his work as a tribute to the classic sculpture. The exhibition, entitled “Hipster In Store”, offers an unique alliance of fashion and art through sculptures of antiquity. Dressed in a contemporary way, the gods Zeus, Hercules and the goddess Diana enter our era wearing shirt, jeans and a little dress.

Shop Details

Bernard Orcel, Rue du Rocher Courchevel 1850, 73120 Saint Bon Tarentaise.

www.bernard-orcel.com 

Instagram:  Bernard Orcel

FB: Bernard Orcel Courchevel

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So, when you next go skiing in the French Alps check out Maison Bernard Orcel Courchevel  and have a browse amongst the rails and enjoy the unique art exhibitions too! What a shopping experience!  Dear readers, do you enjoy partaking in winter sports? Do you have a favourite skiing location?  

Linda x

All photos published with kind permission from Maison Bernard Orcel Courchevel.

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An Interview With Sabine Timmer

It is a truth universally acknowledged that French women are the epitome of elegance and flair when it comes to their wardrobes.  So it gives me great pleasure to welcome onto the blog, Sabine Timmer, a young designer based in Lyon, who is passionate about materials, colour and patterns.  Her first collection was launched Autumn/Winter 2015 and I caught up with Sabine to find out how she has enjoyed her first year as designer and what her future plans are…. Hi Sabine!

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Hi! My name is Sabine Timmer, I’m 25 and I’m a young fashion designer currently living in France. I studied fashion industry at school and it has definitely helped me to find my professional path. My brand was launched in September 2015, same time as my first collection.

What or who inspired you to become a fashion designer?

My whole environment has been an inspiration: my life, travels, and all the trials of life. I also admire Paco Rabanne, especially for his ability to shape rigid materials.

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Have you always had a passion for fashion, or did you have other career aspirations when you were younger?

Yes, at first, I also had another career path in mind – I wanted to study interior decoration. However, I believe I’ve always been much more passionate about fashion, but never quite admitted to myself for a long time. I guess I’ve suppressed this desire for so long because I thought it was a world that was too complicated and hostile.

Your first collection was launched in Autumn/Winter 2015; yourSpring/Summer 2016 collection was entitled Black & White. What items are proving popular amongst your customers?

The black silk skirt, with “signé Rétro” cashmere patterns, is the one item that everyone loves. The white skirt with box pleats is also a real success.

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Out of all the outfits in your collection, do you have any favourites?

Of course I have a favourite one… It’s actually the white skirt with box pleats ! I love how it looks in terms of volume and the fabric’s relief.

What was the inspiration behind your “Black & White” collection? If you could travel to any place in the world for inspiration for a new collection, where would you go & why?

I wanted to create a chic and timeless collection, with a bit of the nonchalance typical to Londoners’ style. There isn’t really a top destination for me. I think every country has its culture, traditions and customs of which we can draw inspiration from. The world is so rich, I don’t want to be limited to one place. That being said, I find indigenous tribes absolutely fascinating. I also might be going to New York next winter. I’ll be there to meet new work partners, so it will be very rewarding. I’m sure the city will be very inspiring too. Talking about new collections, a new collection was launched in September, called “Renaissance”. The main theme is the 80’s style. I really love this fashion era, it brings vivid memories from my childhood. It was therefore an obvious source of inspiration for my second collection.

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You are a young designer based in Lyon so, what famous lady or ladies would you love to see rocking your designs?

I literally love the French actress Eva Green. Seeing her on red carpets, wearing my outfits would be such a recognition ! It would also be a springboard to really develop my career and make my brand known.

Looking ahead to Spring 2017, what colours will be dominating your collections?

The Spring/Summer 2017 collection called “Renaissance” is already well under way. Dominant colours will be silver, black, and golden chocolate brown.

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You are based in France but are your designs available to purchase worldwide?

So far, my clothing lines are only available in France. I would love to extend my business and make my outfits available worldwide. Nevertheless, private orders can still be shipped around the world.

When designing outfits to add to your collection, do you take into account your own tastes, your customer base, current fashion trends, requests, traditional styles or bits of all those?

I always create new designs on the spur of the moment, free from any outside influence. It is a bit different when I receive an order, I can stick to the set “guidelines” while keeping a great amount of freedom regarding the item’s “soul”. Every designer has their own style, personality and character when it comes to design. It’s what defines them and makes them stand out from the crowd. I could not accept an order which is too restrictive.

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Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

If our paths had crossed today, I’d probably be wearing my white pencil skirt, with a black crop top and a pair of stilettos.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites? (Apart from your own!)

I’m gonna keep my fabric suppliers confidential of course ! 😉 All I can say is that most of them have the “Haute Couture” stamp. I always use high quality raw products. Regarding my own wardrobe, I mainly wear clothes from second-hand clothes shop. I love everything that is vintage! My favourite shop in Paris is own by one of my friends, it’s called Free’P’Star, Rue Rivoli.

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What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

Here is a short list of what I would really like :

– a Hipanema bracelet

– if I get to go to New York this winte, I would love to buy a genuine sheepskin vest from the South-West of France

– Black leather over the knee boots

On a more pricey side

– I would love to own a Paco Rabanne outfit, made of metallic material

– A pair of Louboutin shoes

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Boots or Shoes?

I’m not sure about what I prefer… I really like both, I guess it depends on what you’re wearing. In the winter, I definitely like wearing high or low boots. But what I love above all, in the spring/summer is wearing high heels, like reeeally high heels ! It’s really feminine and I love how it makes the woman’s silhouette look.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can find out more about you & your designs:

www.sabinetimmer.com

instagram : @sabine_timmer

facebook : https://www.facebook.com/sabinetimm3r/

http://www.gopalwagner.com/fr/portfolio-46908-0-40-sabine-timmer.html

Merci Linda pour cette interview.

 

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You’re more than welcome Sabine – it has been a pleasure talking to you.  I do love the look of high heels as well but as I live in a rural area   I don’t get the chance to indulge anymore – when I lived in London it was easy to walk in high heels … and I was younger then too! So, dear readers, what is your opinion on the high heel? How high heelwise do you go?  Do tell, I’d love to know…

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission from  Sabine Timmer.

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