Category Archives: Fashion

An Interview With Mandala Dream Co

I’m talking HEMP this week with Jul from Mandala Dream Co.  Jul lives, breathes and talks hemp.  From bed linen and fashions to beauty and skincare…. in fact, over 30,000 products can be made from industrial crop.  Hemp is eco friendly, ethical, sustainable and kinder to both people and the planet.  I caught up with Jul to find out more about this versatile crop and why she is so passionate about hemp…

Hi! I’m Jul from Mandala Dream Co, living & working in Kobble Creek, Queensland, Australia. A beautiful little pocket of the planet, living & loving life, my family & my role as the one man band for Mandala Dream Co. (In truth I do now have the luxury of having a seamstress & pattern maker who work with me & make my life soooooo much more manageable). Nonetheless I’m the blessed being who sows & cultivates our plants for our eco dyeing, harvests & ferments the hand eco dyes, dyes, designs our range, formulates our skincare, along with chief of photography, marketing, blogging, newsletters, website upkeep & all the fun things that make my life full, joyous & satisfying.

What was behind your choice to concentrate on hemp?

Bring on the Green Revolution including all things Hemp I say 😊
My first love was textile art, specifically hand eco dyeing utilising natures botanicals (plants, barks, roots, leaves, kino etc) specifically using organic & sustainable fabrics. After using all manner of fabrics including peace silk, organic cotton, bamboo & hemp I simply could not bring myself to advocate for anything other than humble hemp. It’s impossible once learning about the growing, the water wastage & the manufacturing of other fibres to use anything else in all good conscience. 

The natural beauty we can create with this textile is inspiring, as a little cottage organic hemp creator of bedlinen, eco fashion & skincare I’m proud of our pioneering movement even on this small scale, the fabrics are so very beautiful, becoming softer with each use, heirloom fabrics that last a lifetime and are also resistant to stains, odours, mildew & mould, highest UV factor of all natural fibres, naturally antibacterial.

No pesticides or synthetic fertilisers are needed to successfully grow hemp (unlike the chemically laden crops we currently grow in Australia & on our beloved planet) you could grow it yourself easily. The plants dense roots stave off weeds, and the growing process improves the soil’s nitrogen, making the soil even better for other crops in the future, a perfect rotational crop for farmers and the health of our soils, which are incredibly sour here in Australia. The growth cycle of hemp is generally only four months, so the option to harvest two times in one year would create a huge relief for struggling farmers. Research states that just one acre of hemp produces more oxygen from CO2 and methane than 25 acres of forest, not to mention the water savings (we save 9000 litres of water (compared to traditional cotton bedlinen) with just one sheet 😊

More about my favoured Hemp:

Hemp Biodiesel can replace our need for fossil fuels.
Hemp seeds & cold pressed oils are superfoods containing essential amino acids & easily digested protein. High in the omegas with a naturally perfect ratio. It’s so nutritionally superior you can survive on hemp seeds alone for a long period, can you imagine what this could do to those in famine around the world?

Its oils are used in our Skincare –  it plumps up dry skin & even helps your skin to retain more moisture over time with its use.

Nil petrochemicals from plastics are produced with hemp plastics, from plastic wraps for food, bottles and everyday items all the way through to auto parts, with no harmful BPA. Hemp plastics are not only heat resistant and durable they are 100% biodegradable.
Housing construction materials (such as hempcrete) made from hemp fibres have been found to be far superior to most materials used in housing construction in our era. Inexpensive hemp can be made into a huge variety of building materials, hempcrete, insulation, blocks, plastics, board, even carpets, whilst being so much stronger and will last soooo much longer than what’s being utilised now. Did I mention they are also fire resistant? mould & mildew resistant? rot free? totally non toxic? & good for us and our planet-and totally natural! Have you any idea how many toxic chemicals and compounds are in our newly built housing? So much of the materials used are processed with toxic chemicals that are released into our living areas (with our loved ones) for years and years. In essence anything wood pulp can do, hemp fibres do far better. 70% of our worlds forests have already been eliminated…and yet we pretend we don’t know why our existence is threatened. Hemp paper can be recycled 8 times, whilst from our beautiful century old trees it’s only 3 to 4 times.

 I love the gold coloured hemp cushion covers/bed linen. To date, what has been your most popular hemp item?

The gold colours are infused on the fabrics utilising onion skins, chamomile, turmeric, calendula petals & marigolds (or whatever I have available in our storage & ferments at the time) – I generally harvest our plant dyes all year round. Our most popular items currently are our Natural indigo dyed hemp wrap pants & our Meraki skincare & beauty range.


What’s your most favourite item in your collection?

For me it’s the bedlinen, we are so in love with ours (one set for life) we take them to hotels when we travel. They start off their life a little stiff (like a good old fashioned linen in your grandmother’s  cupboard), but over time they soften up  & ‘wear in’ becoming at one with your bed & its occupants. They stay fresher for longer (meaning we only wash them every 2nd week) and as they are stain & odour resistant they just make everyday life that little bit more comfortable. They have a far superior wicking factor meaning they are highly absorbent & climate reactive keeping us warm in the cooler months here in Kobble Creek; dry, cool & fresh in our hot summer months. We guarantee our bedlinen for a lifetime, it will last that long, & market them as one set for life.

I’m impressed with the gorgeous colours – and the fact that each colour is organic, free from pesticides, treatments or chemicals. Where do you source the ingredients and what ingredients make up the rich colour tones?

Generally if it grows & is non toxic. I have at least attempted to eco dye with it 😊 Most of our ingredients are grown right here on our 5 acres, though I do have a regular supply of onion skins from our 2 local organic fruit & vegetable producers…which is just as well as we use a lot of those. We collect bloodwood kino (sap) on our family walks from our local trees when they naturally produce; grow our own indigofera, turmeric, berries, cherries, moringa & neem.

I use hemp hand cream daily as it is the only product that keeps my hands soft and crack free. What other hemp based beauty products do you sell? What are the advantages of using hemp beauty products?

Our Meraki range (which is a Greek word meaning created with love & devotion…a little piece of our souls in every formulation) currently includes Hempseed Oil based- Face Serum, Body/Hair Butter, Bath Salts/Soak, Pit Potion Deodorant, Toothypaste, Fragrance, Hair Serum & Dream Mist. We are currently working & trialling a new range which includes Hemp CBD oil, which will be a specific anti ageing range. Hemp seed oil is a little miracle (both topically & nutritionally) with the perfect ratio of Omega 3 & 6 fatty acids it’s vital for skin health. The high presence of Vitamin A, D & E ensures repair & rejuvenation of cells, whilst the gamma linolenic acid is a powerful anti inflammatory reducing redness & soreness. Hemp seed oil increases elasticity, is ideal for eczema, psoriasis, rosacea & acne breakouts by naturally balancing the skins oil production, the natural wonder of hemp seed oil teaches our skin how to stay hydrated for longer with every use. Top all that off with how good Hemp is for our planet & you start to feel why I’m such an advocate 😊

Are you introducing any new hemp items to add to your collection into for 2018?

Yes as above (re the new Meraki range). We are also hard at work designing an ethical wardrobe capsule starter kit which will be created using a lightweight Hemp knit blend which will be a lovely easy option for travellers also: 7  initial pieces which can all be worn in different ways (a jacket that doubles as a wrap shirt, a pencil skirt that can be worn comfortably at different lengths etc). We’ve always been a ‘low waste’ business very aware of our environmental footprint (which is why we hold little stock & create to order), using our fabric remnants for a long time in our labelling, hand stamped business cards etc, & are now starting to produce eco wraps (similar to the beeswax eco wraps used in place of single use plastics, sandwich bags etc) but with a twist. The average eco wrap is non organic cotton, dyed with synthetic dyes & uses bees wax & jojoba oil in the coating. Ours will be 100% vegan using our remnants, organic hemp, botanical eco dyes (leftovers, which are also thickened with soy powder to use as block print inks) & candelilla wax (a plant wax) & hemp seed oil creating a far superior wrap which is vegan for the conscious mums packing their beloveds lunches & snacks. (p.s. our youngest attends a Steiner school so I certainly have a ready made market right there) 😊… This photo is of a hemp canvas backpack we recently made for our youngest Kingston, along with hemp drawstring pants for our little people.

As Mandala Dream Co is based in Australia, are your products available to purchase worldwide?

Yes absolutely my biggest market at the moment is Canada (which are hemp early adopters…and just ‘get it’) I’ve also created for clients in the UK, Italy, Greece, New Zealand, Mexico, Cuba, Alaska & even a marines barracks in Fort Benning USA. Delighted to offer to anyone it really speaks to.

Choosing brand names can be a hard task at times, especially when you are trying to pick a name to encapsulate the essence of the brand. What made you decide to pick the name “Mandala Dream Co”?

It was a very personal choice for me & though it doesn’t shout out ‘hemp’, it represents what this little cottage industry meant for me. Mandala Dream Co was born out of me finally finding the calm amidst the chaos., though it took more than a few knocks on my skull before I woke to it. A separation of old wants & new needs really. The Mandala represents the oneness of the psyche with the cosmos, & for me that’s exactly where I found myself in ‘oneness’.
The Mandala is a sacred symbol laying down a map for finding our own way to our self, it represents our connection with our earth. My dream was to renew eco sustainable practices & ancient eco dye practices, whilst delivering humble hemp into every household…..& of course The Co. is you, the company we keep…our clients who we wish to heal body, mind & spirit. With eco, sustainable, organic hemp bed linens & bed sheets, slow fashion, skincare & beauty creations, made by hand with love & devotion to enhance your health, wellbeing, sleep & beauty.  So…for me it’s the essence of the brand, the ethos, the ethics we follow in our business & our every day life, leaving things better than we found them & attracting what’s needed & letting go of things that no longer serve.

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

I’m sure you’ve guessed by now I’m a bit of a ‘hippie’, a tree hugger, a greenie? Generally you’ll find me wearing something casual & comfortable & usually one of our creations, certainly a lot of hemp clothing, samples we’ve made for photography, marketing etc, failed attempts at eco dyeing that had to be reworked etc. Many days it’s just torn jeans & a blouse or a hemp tshirt.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

Oh yes indeed, during the week I wear lots of hemp tshirts from : wonderful quality & cool (perfect for when I’m working with the dye vat at 60 degrees). My favourite is in one of the photo below worn by our eldest (Sahara) which has the caption ‘Cut From a Different Cloth’ #cfadc, which of course is the different cloth …Hemp. I adore this brand it’s very ‘urban’ with lots of street cred & will one day be collaborating with Tommie T Lark founder of this wonderful brand. Of course I occasionally get dressed up for a ‘date night’ with my gorgeous Jamaican husband Kaleel & then I’ll go all out & wear something I treasure from either an upcycled vintage op shop buy, usually inspired by the wonder Fashion Hound that is Faye Delanty, or a piece that I simply couldn’t live without buying.

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

Honestly I have no wish list, I’m one of those people who don’t usually purchase for ‘occasions’ as have collected & curated so much over the years I generally have all that I’ll ever need. In fact I’m whittling my wardrobe down to a ethical capsule wardrobe with just a few extra special pieces that I must keep for my sanity.

Boots or Shoes?

Oh if I could every single day it would be boots as I think they just give an entire outfit a better line & are so comfortable, but alas it’s often so hot here flat sandals are usually my go to.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc so that readers can find out more about Mandala Dream Co.


Oh Jul, it’s great to hear you are a boots girl – even if it is in spirit only! :). Kobble Creek sounds idyllic, your farm sounds lovely, your children are adorable and your passion for hemp is uplifting – thank you so much for sharing your knowledge 🙂

Linda x

All photos were taken by Julie Grant and published with kind permission.

Models: Sahara & Kingston

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An Interview With Dress Code Nine

Whether you are going on a special night out, going to the Races or it’s your Prom night, nothing beats wearing a glamorous dress.  What could be better than going to an Aladdin’s Cave full of dresses, a specialist boutique, whose mission is to dress you up to the nines for your special event, regardless of your budget?  Dress Code Nine based in Kelvedon, Essex is the Aladdin’s Cave owned by Carla – she has over 200 stunning dresses, stylish heels, fascinators & jewellery  – plus a dedicated Prom dress department too! I caught up with Carla recently to chat about dresses….

Hi! My Name is Carla Lynch and I am the proprietor of Dress Code Nine which opened on October 7th 2017, offering evening and occasional wear for ladies all ages and sizes.

What inspired you to set up “Dress Code Nine”?

I love a dress and always have, I think most ladies do, but you can not always find the dress you need for the budget you have at the time. I wanted to address this with my boutique.

Although you do have dresses available to purchase, you have over 200 dresses available for hire from sizes 4 -24. What are the advantages of hiring a dress for that special event?

Not everyone has the funds or feels comfortable to spend so much money to buy a ball dress which you only wear once. This gives my clients both options: a hire collection and a purchase collection to choose from.

Your range of dresses include high-end designers such as Gino Cerruti, Jora Collections, Kiss Me Kate Designs, Eliza and Ethan – all are totally gorgeous! What dresses are proving popular amongst your customers so far this season?

It is the Jora Collection. They are gorgeous dresses at a very reasonable price. I love them, the quality and designs are stunning.

Out of all the dresses, do you have any favourites?

Oh yes the one which springs to mind at the moment is one of the Jora collections. It is a gorgeous wine/burgundy colour with a diamante back with a train coming down the middle. If you have a look on our website under the Jora collection you will see this, it has proved to be a Prom favourite this season.

When going out for a special event, I tend to choose a red dress – occasionally I pick blue or green. My daughter, for her prom, picked a stunning black lace dress. Do you think age plays a part in picking a colour of a dress? Which age group do you find most adventurous when it comes to picking colours for dresses?

I do not think age plays a part, It is more what matches your skin tone, hair, eye colour. Ladies of all ages can be adventurous when you least expect it.

Not only do you have a stunning range of delectable dresses but you also have accessories too. What accessories do you offer to match the dresses?

We offer bags, Fascinators, Hats, Jewellery, Shoes, Wraps.

You have a dedicated department just for prom dresses – what do you feel makes a good “prom” dress?

A style which suits your body shape is a must, as well as colour. A good quality dress also is a big thing for the ladies that come and see us.

If a lady is going to a special event, for example, a Valentines Ball and is interested in hiring/buying a dress – how do they go about visiting “Dress Code Nine”? Can they purchase online, is it appointment only or can they drop by and visit your boutique?

We are appointment only so we can give that one to one service for each lady that comes to our boutique to find their perfect dress so they are dressed to the nines.

When choosing dresses to add to your hire collection, do you take into account your own tastes, your customer base, current fashion trends, requests, traditional charm or bits of all those?

Everything you have said is important but the most critical purchasing decision for me when buying from designers is catering for my client base.

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

A dress with 3 inch heels

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

The high street has its place and for me, it is great for mass produced but good value outfits. I do love a Karen Millen dress and heels.

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

More dresses, sparkle diamante flip flops and shoes and another bag or two.

Boots or Shoes?

Has to be shoes. You can wear shoes throughout the whole year for different occasions where boots are more just for winter.

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





Thank you Carla for giving us a glimpse into the world of dresses and I am so pleased to have your shop close to where I live! 🙂 

Linda x

All photos have been published with kind permission from Dress Code Nine.


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Back To The 80s

During the summer I received an invite from my friend Tracy inviting my husband and I to her 50th birthday party.  It was to be a “Back to the 80s” fancy dress party, to boot.  Normally, I’m not a big fan of dressing up but it sounded really fun to relive memories of being a teenager in the 1980s.  In 1981, I was 16 and pretty shy but by 1984 I had embraced the 1980s with fervour – I loved the big hair, the bright colours and the sexiness of the decade – and then by 1988, I swapped my blonde spiky big hair for a brunette perm and shiny tracksuits … (that part was a blip!) Make up was just as bright – and plenty of black eyeliner!  I needed to get some ideas on what to wear for the party. First of all I looked at Amazon – the fancy dress outfits were mainly leg warmers, leotards and from the Flashdance film era; with a splattering of early Madonna outfits. They were very nice but wasn’t what I had once worn, so I decided to look back at some old photos to see if I could recreate my old looks.

1981 – My old bus pass aged 16!  I was wearing a long black leather coat (my first purchase with my first wage packet!) and a black & gold glitter jumper.

1982 –  I used to wear a lot of red and matched my outfits with red lipstick, red earrings, red handbag & red shoes! My hair was in the style of Lady Diana.

1984 –  This was me aged 19 on a night out.  The shirt was one of my favourites.  I was wearing a faux black leather pencil knee length  skirt.

1989 – perm!  I kept this style until 1997 when I then had my hair cut short.

I remembered I used to love the strapless peplum dresses on a night out; my denim jacket used to take pride of place alongside my leather jacket; and if I was going to the local disco – my shiny black satin tight trousers with a yellow lace body and a yellow & black kimono style shirt; a winter’s date in the pub – fuchsia pink knitted dress with fishnets and high leg boots; or a rib knit purple maxi skirt with matching cardigan teamed with a fuchsia pink satin blouse…. 

In my wardrobe, I found my original denim jacket and a black string vest …. 


Looking in my Bon Prix catalogue, I realised that a lot of the 1980s style were making a comeback – I found white slouchy boots, sling back shoes…

I found stirrup pants (used to be known then as ski pants); jeans with piping down the sides (I used to have a khaki pair with red piping); fishnets (haven’t really faded from the fashion scene); tight satin disco trousers and black faux leather skirts. 

It was harder to recreate the make up but, not impossible.  Having a pale matt foundation was no problem but I had to forego the subtle contouring or hint of blush that I favour today – in the 1980s blush was loud and proud!  In 2017 I like a pale or nude lip gloss; me in 1984 favoured red or burgundy – it was really strange to wear such a bright colour.  Even more embarrassing was that I found at the bottom of my make up drawer my original Charlie red lipstick….

When it came to my husband – he said he used to wear a rock band t shirt and jeans… not much different to today’s attire.  He decided to join in the fun and become an iconic favourite of his in the 1980s – Axl Rose of Guns n Roses.  He managed to get hold of a kilt, wig and bandana from Amazon.

In the end I got my outfit: blonde rockers wig (from Amazon); denim jacket; 80s red/black/white strapless satin dress from Envy Boutique; black fishnet faux stockings; black slingback shoes from Bon Prix.

The party was a big success… there were Baywatch star lookalikes, early Madonnas, Flashdancers, and even Slash from Guns n Roses too. We drank pimped up prosecco but I somehow thought babycham would have been great if it was still around…. then guess what I found on my supermarket shelf the other day….

What would you wear to an 80s party?  Can you remember any favourite outfits from that era? Do share your stories … 

Linda x

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All photographs are by Linda Hobden 

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An Interview With Akosee

Whilst the  days in the northern hemisphere in November are getting colder, those countries that straddle the tropics and those countries south of the Equator are welcoming the sun – so now seems to be a perfect time to introduce onto my blog the Singapore based resortwear brand, Akosee. Ana, the founder, hails from Australia  and she has designed a range of resortwear that draws inspiration from the beaches of Australia, Maldives, St Tropez & Goa.   Launching her latest collection this week, “The Elements”, Ana has once again produced a stunning collection that can be worn all year round, both on holiday and in everyday life. I managed to catch up with the busy lady to find out more about her latest collection… hi Ana!

Hi! I’m Ana, the head designer and founder of luxury resort wear brand Akosée.

What inspired you to set up Akosée?

My travels have been a huge inspiration in the creation of the brand, but starting a new life chapter has been my main inspiration. Enrolling in a Diploma of Fashion Design and Technology was the start of a dream becoming a reality. The thrill of learning something new was a huge motivation and from there, the first Akosée collection was born.

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

When I was younger I wanted to work in travel mainly because of a desire to travel, so I’ve been lucky enough to travel for pleasure as much as I have. But yes, I’ve always had a love and appreciation of beautiful, effortless clothes and that’s exactly why I created Akosée.

I love the Kaftanna green Paisley dress & the leather tie belt! What items are proving popular amongst your customers?

Our dresses and kaftans are always really popular as they are versatile, throw-on pieces that can easily be worn by the pool, beach or bar so there’s endless styling options. The most popular items from our first collection have been the Blue Mosaic Kaftanna and the Pink Mosaic BeachLyd.

Tell me about your new collection 🙂

Our new collection, The Elements, has been designed with comfort and style in mind and to be more versatile so we aren’t just limited to beachwear but rather offering a summer style element so that the garments can also be used for every day wear. The Elements should be seen as a capsule collection of everything you would need on a holiday, relaxed beach cover ups, casual shorts and top sets, no-iron travelling clothes and smarter dresses for evening and lunches. There’s plenty of mix and match separates that are great for different occasions, from a weekend brunch to easy everyday wear.

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

I can’t possibly say a favourite! We’ve got some amazing new styles coming soon in our latest collection so there’s always lots of new styles to get excited about.

Your travels around the world have left you with plenty of inspiration for your collections – Australia, Maldives, St Tropez & Goa – as well as pop up shops in glam spots such as Monaco and Singapore. So, what place is on the top of your travel bucket list?

I’d love to go to Machu Picchu in Peru and see something totally different. I haven’t been that far afield yet.

Which famous lady would you love to see as the “face” of Akosee?

I have always loved Nicole Richie’s style, elegant with a touch of cool. She’s probably busy being the face of her own label though!

What new items are in the pipeline?

We have recently produced some luxury hand printed beach bags, made exclusively for Akosée in Bali, a beautiful matching tweed shorts and jacket set as well as dresses for day and evening, shorts, skirts, tops and more!

Your company is registered in Singapore, are your products available to purchase worldwide?

Yes, all styles on can be shipped worldwide within 2 days of receiving the order. The delivery time depends on the courier company though! We offer free shipping in Singapore too.

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?

Our collections are constantly being developed to cater to our audience around the world and the luxurious fabrics we source mean that our customers can enjoy wearing something that is unique, relaxed and comfortable whilst looking stylish too! We always welcome feedback from our customers so this information often gives us some direction when creating new collections.

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

Silk shorts, I love tailored silk shorts.

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

I enjoy shopping on Net-a-Porter and FarFetch for designer pieces and I also like looking for bespoke vintage pieces such as accessories to mix my outfits up a little.

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

Red Velvet Yves St Laurent boots for winter!

Boots or Shoes?

Living in Singapore, the only way to go is sandals! That said, for evening I’ll wear heeled espadrilles, wedges or high heels from Jimmy Choo. I’m a fan of white trainers for day time too.

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

To shop the Akosée collection you can visit or follow us on our social media channels here:

Facebook @akoseethreads –

Instagram @akoseethreads –

Twitter @akoseethreads –

I hope your new collection is a success, Ana! I love the idea of a capsule holiday wardrobe – however I do tend to overpack still.  I found on holiday this year my most useful and worn item were my pink sparkly espadrilles – for beach through to bar at night! I nearly left them at home but decided to pack them at the last minute! Dear readers, what item of footwear or clothing did you find most versatile on holiday?  Did you pack anything that you didn’t wear or use? Do share your stories, I’d love to know.

Linda x

All photographs published with kind permission from Akosee.

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Shopping Fairtrade Style

It’s September already and here in the UK, harvesting is in full flow.  It’s time to think about farmers around the world who toil endlessly – growing cocoa beans, coffee, cotton, tea, bananas, flowers.  I found out the other day that September is the time to celebrate all things organic.  When I think of “organic”, I automatically think of Fairtrade – The Fairtrade Foundation is the UK based organisation behind the Fairtrade trademark – although, to be fair, not all Fairtrade items are organic.

So, what is Fairtrade? Fairtrade is a global movement with a strong and active presence in the UK. There are over 4,500 Fairtrade products from coffee and tea to flowers and gold. According to Fairtrade’s website, their mission is “to connect disadvantaged producers and consumers, promote fairer trading conditions and empower producers to combat poverty, strengthen their position and take more control over their lives”.  Fairtrade’s vision: ” a world in which all producers and consumers can enjoy secure and sustainable livelihoods, fulfil their potential and decide on their future”.  Fairtrade has strict standards for companies, farmers & workers  as well as ensuring that worker’s rights are maintained, that payment is made of at least the Fairtrade minimum price and that extra money is given to reinvest in business/community projects of the community’s choice. By choosing to buy Fairtrade goods, you can positively help farmers, workers & their communities.

Buying Fairtrade products is easier than you think – products are on sale in supermarkets, independent shops, cafes, restaurants, catering suppliers & wholesalers, as well as online.  I’m lucky, my local village coffee shop/book shop is also the local mecca for Fairtrade goods from companies such as Divine and Traidcraft.  It’s great to see the crafts, products, jewellery and clothes – they make fantastic gifts and it is great to have a browse.

Divine chocolate – I love the plain dark chocolate but I am tempted to try the Dark Chocolate with Himalayan Salt! Divine is the only mainstream chocolate company 44% owned by the farmers who supply the cocoa!  Other Fairtrade chocolates include Cadbury’s Dairy Milk, Green & Black’s Organic, M & S, Rawr Foods, Sainsbury’s “Taste The Difference” White, Dark & Milk chocolate bars, The Co-Op; Meaningful Chocolate Company, Raw Chocolate Company, Traidcraft, Waitrose “Seriously” & Belgian range, and Zotter Chocolate.

Traidcraft do some fantastic stem ginger cookies – I devoured packets whilst I was pregnant with my children ( ginger cookies and lemons/limes were my pregnancy cravings!)  Traidcraft itself has been at the fore front of Fairtrade since 1979. The company offers the widest range of fair trade products in the UK.  They even do Fairtrade wine – but I haven’t tasted it yet so I can’t comment.  I can recommend their range of spices, dried fruits and rices; their craft boxes, jewellery, socks, scarves are all pretty and make good gifts. Their clothing range is pricy but having said that the Fairtrade ethos is fair price to the workers and to be honest I rather pay a bit more knowing that the workers are not young children toiling under horrendous conditions to produce a t shirt. I know that they are getting a decent wage for their labours.

I have included some pictures of the Fairtrade items sold in my local shop … if you wish to find out more about Fairtrade or wish to shop/browse Traidcraft’s goods online, here are some websites you might find useful:

Happy Shopping!

Linda x

All photos are by Linda Hobden

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Crazy About Shirts

Do you like shirts?  My husband is a fan. I have 4 sons – my eldest lives in football (soccer) shirts; my 2nd son likes his Jack & Jones t shirts; my 3rd son worships his baggy trousers, t shirts and hoodies ….. and my youngest son, well, he is just plain crazy about shirts! So he has agreed to talk about his love of shirts and give us some insight into what is “cool” in the world of shirts today!

Hi! I’m Ethan.  I’m 10 years old and I really love shirts!

What is it about shirts that you really love?

They are airy and cool you down in summer.

Do you prefer long sleeves or short sleeves?

It depends on the time of year – I like long sleeves in winter and short sleeves in summer. I don’t like my sleeves rolled up.

Do you have a favourite shirt?

Yes, my flamingo one. It is summery and cool.  ( I bought this shirt for Ethan from Next )

From Next

Do you have a favourite colour? 

Blue is my favourite colour.  I like wearing all colours apart from black. I do like bright colours.  

From Next

Who is your style icon?

Ricky Wilson (lead singer of the Kaiser Chiefs). He wears cool shirts and waistcoats. I would like to wear a shirt and waistcoat for Sian’s wedding next year.  (Sian is my daughter, Ethan’s sister).

Out of your dad’s shirts, do you have a favourite that he wears?

My dad has a really cool butterfly shirt.

Dad’s butterfly shirt

What outfit do you like to wear when going out somewhere special?

Short sleeve white shirt, skinny blue jeans, and my leather jacket.

Do you like wearing your school uniform?

Yes, because I can wear a white shirt and it makes me look smart.

I notice that you and your friends wear your shirts buttoned right up to the top. Why?

(Shrugs)… I like to look smart and it’s how everybody wears a shirt at school. 

For pinning later

What’s next on your clothes wishlist?

A shirt, of course …. or jeans, skinny not baggy.  

What would you like to do when you are older?

I would like to be an airline pilot.

So, dear readers…. out of the mouth of babes, my youngest child has carved out a fashion style of his own – in stark contrast to his older brothers!  Do you have children who follow different styles?  Do share your observations!

Linda x

All photographs are by Linda Hobden

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An Interview With

Are you a lady who is 40,50,60,70, 80… and beyond? Are you frustrated trying to find an outfit that wasn’t dowdy/frumpy/boring/unflattering?  Jacynth Bassett’s mother was frustrated and Jacynth became saddened at her mum’s frustration.  So Jacynth launched her own online boutique and blog,, for women who know that age shouldn’t limit style.  I caught up with Jacynth recently to find out more. Hi Jacynth and welcome…..

Hi! I’m Jacynth. I’m 24 and the founder of – Shopping With Attitude. It’s the first multi-label online premium fashion boutique that truly celebrates style at every age. I founded it straight out of graduating from studying law at Cambridge – where I was also president of the law society – using my minimal savings and some insurance money after my suitcase got stolen off a train with all my belongings in it (including some amazing Emporio Armani sandals that had been recent birthday presents from my mum!!). I developed, built and created the business entirely on my own, and now I’m one year in I can’t believe how much it’s already taken off!

What inspired you to set up “”?

Since I was 14, my intention was to become a lawyer but, by my second year at uni, I realised it wasn’t for me. Instead my mind started to drift to business, and I knew if I were to start up my own one, it would need to be in an area I really loved. So fashion was the obvious answer. I then started thinking about how frustrated and saddened I’d become at seeing women, like my mum, being treated as invisible and irrelevant in the eyes of the fashion industry – largely because of their age and changing shape. My mum and I are very close and for years we would go shopping together, but she’d often end up fed up by a demoralising shopping experience. I began speaking to lots of other similar women, and realised there was a real problem. So that’s when I became determined to create a boutique that actually empowered and celebrated women like my mum as much as everyone else.

Your brand name certainly stands out from the crowd. – but I was wondering, is there a meaning to why you chose “”as your brand name?

I wanted the name to have a direct link to fashion, and to ‘cut on the bias’ is the fashion technique where someone cuts diagonal across the grain of fabric rather than along its lines. But equally we’re about cutting through bias and ending prejudice, largely based around age, in the fashion industry. So the name is a double entendre.

I am totally in love with the “Gigi Nude Brogues” – totally gorgeous! What items are proving popular amongst your customers so far this season?

They’re a lot of people’s favourites, and one of our best sellers! This season our new label POM Amsterdam is doing really well – from their fabulous fun scarves, to their jackets lined with the scarf prints. They are cut really well, and they just bring a smile to your face. But also our cashmere and our 100% cotton poplin printed shirts are always a big hit throughout the year.

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

Personally I’m a little bit obsessed with the sashenka moon midi skirt by Baum Und Pferdgarten. It is such and elegant shape, and it has pockets! And I love a cool print that also incorporates texture. Baum always cuts everything so well, from their trousers to their tops.

Your boutique is for those who like to shop with attitude – where ageism is never in style. On your website your designs are all modelled by normal women – different heights, shapes and sizes. I’m also impressed that you can search on your website for items by your body shape as well as size. Hypothetically speaking though, which famous lady would you love to see as the “face” of “Bias-Cut.Com”?

Thank you! They’re certainly feature that have gone down very well. If I’m honest I don’t see any particular famous lady being ‘the face’ of, just because we’re about encouraging our customers to aspire to be the best versions of themselves, rather than someone else. But, with regards to celebrities, it would be an honour to have women such as Emma Thompson, Julie Walters, Kristin Scott Thomas, Viola Davis and Christine Baranski as brand ambassadors. They all have great individual style and fabulous attitude, which is exactly what we’re all about celebrating.

You feature in your online boutique an impressive number of designers, the latest being Cove Cashmere. Are there any other new designers you are hoping to feature this year?

Yes! We have a fabulous Dutch label called Fabienne Capot coming in September with a range of lovely embroidered cotton tees, blouses and an emerald velvet blazer I keep dreaming about. We also have a few other surprises but I don’t want to spoil them all for you!

Looking ahead, what colours/patterns/styles do you predict will be popular next season (Summer or Autumn)?

Constellation map prints are going to be big in Autumn – stars are always popular, and it’s a cool progression from the classic pattern. In fact, space all round is going to be big; there’s going to be quite an intergalactic feel! Plus the other big pattern is going to be lightening bolts. Velvet is still going to be very popular, as are bell sleeves and ruffles. And forest and emerald green is going to be seen a lot, as is red. If you look at the trend reports, there are lots of other looks that are forecast to be popular, as well as lots of contradictions. But, in my opinion and from the research I’ve done, these will be the big ones.

As you are based in London, do you offer worldwide shipping?

Yes we ship to 33 countries, and have lots of happy customers overseas! And at the moment it’s free worldwide shipping on all orders over £50 to celebrate the opening of our first public pop-up shop in Greenwich, London later this month (25th-31st)!

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

I have a set of rules I go by:

  • Everything I select has to be of a flattering cut. In other words, you shouldn’t have to be 6ft or size UK 6 to look good in it. In fact I often use my mum as the fit model as she has a very common apple shape.
  • Everything I select has to be of excellent quality for the price. I’ve spent a lot of time researching fabrics, so I know when it’s good or bad, or when the wrong fabric has been used. Sometimes I come across an awesome piece, but a very impractical fabric has been used, so then I won’t select it. Equally, I make sure to study the technological developments of fabrics, such as polyester, so that I don’t discard it straight away, and can spot the good quality from the poor.
  • Everything has a modern twist combined with a timeless appeal. Our clothes are premium, so they are more of an investment than highstreet. So the last thing I want is for a customer to feel it’s outdated within 6 months. With that in mind, I do consider the trends, but only pick pieces that subtly reference them.
  • I don’t want to wear the clothes, why should my customer? We’re all about celebrating style at every age, so we refuse to sell brands that patronise the older customer, or offer frumpy clothing. So I have to like everything that we sell. But equally, I make sure to keep my customers, their comments and their feedback at the forefront of my mind, so that I never end up choosing something that’s just for me.

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

That’s a very good question… I’m quite a style chameleon really and I have a rather excessively extensive wardrobe that reflects that. Every outfit is a reflection of who I am and what I’m feeling that day, but that might mean wearing a girly dress and brogues one day, and on another black jeans, ankle boots and a leather biker jacket. But if I had to define my style generally it’s feminine with a funky edge.

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

I adore Maje. Their aesthetic is very me – feminine yet cool – and their cuts work well on my figure. And I wear a lot of Whistles too. Designer wise, I love Brand for their quality jeans, and for shoes I wear a lot of Rupert Sanderson and Miu Miu. I also love traditional Moschino; I’m less of a fan of it now since Jeremy Scott has taken over as I find it a bit OTT, but I have a lot of the brand from before him, and still enjoy finding vintage pieces.

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

Idealistically, I would love a badass cape and a pair of Malone Souliers heeled sandals. Realistically, it’s a new crop top/sports bra and some Nike trainers for dance class!

Boots or Shoes?

That’s a tough one. It would have to be shoes because there are more varieties, so then I have more excuses to need a new pair. Plus, because I’m short, knee-high and thigh-high boots don’t work on me. But ankle boots trump all shoes for me, because they are so cute and sexy whatever the heel height!

For Pinning Later

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can find out more about the-Bias-Cut.Com.


facebook forum:

Instagram: @the_bias_cutcom

Twitter: @the_bias_cutcom


Thanks Jacynth … and your galactic prediction sounds mighty fine to me.  Just remember dear readers to look out for those stars and lightning strikes! I am so pleased that all sizes are considered at – I am a UK size 10/12 and I find that a lot of companies geared towards the older woman have a starting size of UK12/14. Same goes for shoes – my feet are narrow – and a lot of shoes offered are wide fit, or extra wide. What fashion frustrations do you have, dear readers?

Linda x

All photos have been published with kind permission of

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An Interview With Kites & Bites

Ladies – if you’re looking for something beyond the Little Black Dress for your nights out; if you’re a woman who is outspoken, who likes to be unique and willing to try new styles – then my guest tonight on the blog will be right up your street! I’m chatting to Alexandra Ursan, founder of London based but globally inspired fashion brand, Kites & Bites. Hi Alexandra and welcome….

Hi! My name is Alexandra Ursan and I’ve got a Romanian heart that fell in love with the vibrant London scene. Influenced by this multicultural city I founded KITES AND BITES womenswear.

What inspired you to set up “Kites And Bites”?

I’ve always been interested in discovering different cultures and fashion worldwide. This melting pot brings together people and styles from around the world and there’s no better place to set up a fashion brand that stands for diversity and multiculturalism than London. However, the initial idea came to my mind with a trip to Morocco where I bought some traditional fabrics, made some clothes and wore them at London Fashion Week. Then came the development, the sourcing, the sketching, the white nights and endless learning.

Your brand name certainly stands out from the crowd, as well as your outfits – but I was wondering, is there a meaning to why you chose “Kites And Bites” as your brand name?

I actually have a kite tattoo. It’s the only thing that can rise as high as it can without losing its ground sight, as it always has a string towards Earth. Plus, it’s bright, colourful and has great patterns and prints. As for the bites, they leave marks, just like a confident woman never afraid to try new things.

I love the “I’m In Heaven Dress” and the “Champagne For Breakfast Skirt” – both are totally gorgeous! What items are proving popular amongst your customers so far this season?

I feel like this spring we’re all living “La vie en rose”. Pink is getting a lot of attention, so I would say that “Be always blooming” trousers and “Save your goodbye” dress are definitely the favourites. Also, prints are winning again, with “Fight for this” skirt being a popular one.

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

Honestly, I don’t play favourites with my brand’s clothes nor any other piece in my closet. Today, I could love a huge tutu, tomorrow, I could be obsessed with metallic leather or fringes.

Your clothes are for the woman who is unique, outspoken and always willing to try new things – so which famous lady would you love to see as the “face” of “Kites And Bites”?

I love Anna Dello Russo’s kaleidoscopic style. She’s an inspiring woman that not only I would be honoured to dress, but also to meet. If Anna would wear something by KITES AND BITES, just to buy juice at the shop around the corner, I would probably do a flicflac in my heels.

Looking ahead to Autumn/Winter 2017, have you got plans to expand your range?

I will launch a capsule collection of accessories.

What colours do you predict will be popular next season?

Blue, all shades of it. From cobalt to lapis to berry. I personally can’t get enough. It’s my favourite colour and you can see this in the KITES AND BITES collections.

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

Yes, definitely. The brand is multicultural inspired and would be crazy not to be available worldwide.

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

A little bit of everything. I’m trying to follow trends my own way, as I’m not creating fast fashion. It’s time to be more independent, to build our own unique style, to dare more and step into new territories. It’s such a shame to see so many women dress alike.

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

Now that we’ve dumped the coats, I’m back in my blazers. They’re my first love. Currently obsessed with an Escada sequinned embellished one. Friends are calling me MJ, but sadly I can’t moon walk in my heels. So yes, for shoes I normally wear heels. Red soles for when I don’t need to walk at all.

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

Bookmarked on my browsers: & Other Stories and Asos. However, I honestly like the old fashion shopping. I know that time is limited, but browsing through brick & mortar vintage stores calms me better than yoga. Moreover, nothing compares with the thrill of finding an amazing piece. Viva London for a great variety!

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

Believe it or not, I’ve never made a wish list. If I see something I like, I buy it. If I don’t buy it straight away it means it wasn’t love at first sight and I’m going to forget about it. As for the expensive items I’ve learned not to obsess anymore. It’s not healthy to have crushes on material things. Love people. It lasts longer!

Boots or Shoes?

Both, preferably with heels. Also, boots during summer and sandals during winter. I hate “rules”.

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

Shop online at:

Thanks for the chat Alexandra and I look forward to seeing your accessory collection later in the year.  I love that you change the “rules” eg  wearing boots in summer & sandals in winter!  I like to wear white in winter and black/navy in summer.  Dear readers, which fashion/beauty “rules” do you like to flout? Do share!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Kites And Bites.

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Lilac Invasion

Spring is nearly here in the Northern Hemisphere!  This Spring THE pastel colour to be seen in is shades of lilac ( I do include hues of lavender, violet, mauve, iris blue, cyclamen, hyacinth and purple here). For UK at any rate, Mothering Sunday will be here on the 26 March, and as my own mum is rather partial to all things lilac, this post includes lilac gift ideas too.

Flowers  –  a traditional good gift.  Instead of a traditional bunch of multi coloured flowers why not look at pots of hyacinths or plants for the garden. Talking of gardens, do you colour co-ordinate your plants or do you mix colours? The photo below is taken from my mum’s garden – she has green fingers and finds gardening therapeutic.

Books – many garden centres, stately homes, and public gardens have gift sections/shops where other gifts can be purchased other than plants.  How about a book about flowers?  I bought this book from a National Trust property … 

Toiletries –  from body lotions to foam baths and shower gels to soaps; there is a vast range of lavender based colours and smells all set to entice you to relax and breathe in that lavender scent reminicescent to Southern France in summer.  I quite like the Tesco lavender bath foam – plenty of bubbles –  and the new shower gel scents from Avon. I just love jasmine perfume.

Make Up – lilac colours have been around since time began but I do so love the new eye colour and lip glosses from Body Shop…

Eye shadow can be so versatile – in this photo I’ve used the eye shadow as an eye liner too.  Avon do nice eyeliners in purple hued colours too. This particular eyeshadow is by Sarah G Cosmetics.

Sometimes I like to buy a perfume based on its bottle and this perfume by Vera Wang not only smells divine it looks good too.  So pretty to have on your dressing table!

When it comes to slippers, these lilac polka dot slippers by Avon caught my eye.

And there are some pretty canvas shoes and sandals about too!

Dear readers, are you ready to embrace the lilac invasion? Have you dyed your hair lilac?  Do you like the lilac pastel hues or have other pastel colours caught your eye? Do share your thoughts!

Linda x

Photo credits: Linda Hobden

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The Whimsical Fashion Colouring Book

I love colouring.  I love fashion. I love art. I love the latest fad for adult colouring books. And I love “The Whimsical Fashion Colouring Book” by fashion designer Natasha Itzcovitz.  “The Whimsical Fashion Colouring Book” features 100 hand drawn fashion illustrations, showcasing her own unique designs as well as her interpretation of fashion styles of previous decades.  I just had to interview the talented lady that has created through this book a chance for us all to be budding fashionistas, designers and artists in our own wacky colouring world. Please welcome onto the blog Natasha….

Hello! I’m Natasha Itzcovitz, a fashion stylist/ author/ illustrator from London 🙂

“The Whimsical Fashion Colouring Book” is a fabulous adult colouring book that showcases your designs. So what was the inspiration behind compiling this book?

I was working in a retail shop that was selling patterned colouring books and felt inspired to make one in my own fashion style. I had already been drawing colouring pages for my cousins for years but never thought to make it into a book until then!

There are 100 hand-drawn illustrations that follow fashion through the ages – from famous fashionistas including Marie Antoinette and Jane Austen, to more contemporary styles eg boho chic and hipster street styles. Where did the inspiration for each colouring page come from – your own fashion designs, historical designs, fashion magazines, your own wardrobe?

The colouring pages are a mix of clothes I’ve made, some I wish I could make, clothes I own and fun characters in my head! I looked to fashion photoshoots for poses as well as manga and vintage fashion for historical inspiration and my cat may feature in a few pages.

Do you have a particular favourite colouring page? What fashion style is easy to recreate? Which fashion style was hard to capture?

My favourite page in my book is the drawing of the girl made of wool that’s knitting herself – it’s just so mad! I’ve drawn a lot of street style and the men’s wear especially, can be recreated. Also, if you head to a costume shop, I’m sure you’d find Mary Antionette’s dress and wig! The historic fashion eras which I found hard to capture were not included in the book – only the best for my readers.

Although you are based in the UK, is your book available to purchase overseas?

Yes, my book is available on Amazon worldwide and if you search the title on google, you’ll find that it is on book related websites from many different countries!

Have you any plans to expand your range of colouring books in the future?

I’d love to illustrate more books and do more with my art in the future – look forward to it!

What do you do when you are not drawing?

I’m currently a freelance stylist so I assist on photoshoots and when I get down time, I like to watch anime, ballroom dance and play the guitar.

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

A typical Natasha look would be a fun printed dress, over-the-knee socks, grungy boots, a choker, chunky knit and maybe a cheeky bandanna – I’ve gotten into those recently (try and spot one in the book).

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

High-street shops are my favourites, I find different ones are good for different things. Topshop, New Look, Forever 21 and asos are pretty good to me and recently I’ve fallen in love with Zara’s Kidswear.

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

I went into Zara kids for a styling job and wanted to buy things for myself – think my next purchase will be a dress from there. I’m also planning on getting summer shoes as soon as it brightens up!

Boots or Shoes?

Both boots and shoes suit different occasions so it’s hard to pick one or another. I personally love boots and would wear them all year long since I love how they grunge up a feminine look and are comfy at the same time but you can wear shoes for all occasions and in any season so shoes win on practicality.

Links you would like to share:

Check out my Instagram @itzdrawings for regular artwork! My twitter is @natashaitz and my website is if you’d like to see some of the clothes and accessories I hand-sew.

Thank you very much Natasha!  I find colouring therapeutic – I loved art as a child and my children do too. Dear readers, do you find colouring therapeutic?  What sort of illustrations would appeal to you?  Do share your thoughts!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Natasha Itzcovitz

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