An Interview With Isolana London

This season I’ve noticed a return of the “dapper” gentleman – check tweed jackets, trimmed beards, waistcoats, smart leather shoes – and it’s doubly pleasing to welcome to the blog a new accessory brand that celebrates this  “dapper” look that is appealing to men of all ages.  Isolana London handcrafts genuine Italian leather from their London based workshop on an island in the Thames. I spoke to the young “dapper” gentleman founder, Forrest, about his wonderful new company …

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Hi, my name is Forrest, I’m the founder of Isolana London. I studied product design at university and have always had a passion for design and a keen interest in fashion. Growing up in London, arguably the centre of these fields, I’ve been very aware of the constant changes and the effects these have had on the world around me. Seeing the impact fashion can have has inspired me to pursue this area and create Isolana London, a bold brand which doesn’t just follow the norm.

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What inspired the launch of your company?

Growing up in an arty household has undoubtedly had a strong influence on myself as a person and this has led me to be involved in a variety of creative things, one of those was leading a group of fellow students in the young enterprise scheme, in which our group similarly crafted and sold leather phone cases. Looking back at this, it was a great experience of both business and design and was something I was very interested in following.

What is the meaning of your brand name?

Isolana is Italian for islander/island, our workshop is located on an island in the river Thames (London) and we source all our leather from family run Italian tanneries. Combining these two cultures we are able to handmake our products using the finest materials to the highest quality.

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You are able to offer an unique bespoke service where the customer can choose image/leather/initials. What does this process entail?

My family has developed a unique printing process which allows us to print into the leather grain, we have printed for the likes of Paul Smith, Chanel and Aston Martin, but feel it’s time to offer this customisation directly to the consumer. We are giving the user the ability to design their own wallet, whether that be with their own graphic or artwork or simply just an awesome holiday photo. We have carefully selected a range of natural toned veg tanned leathers in which the user can choose from. We then add that extra personal touch with hand embossed initials.

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You launched your kickstarter campaign in April 2015 offering a choice of cardholder, slim wallet, & bill-fold. Before launching, which products seemed to be creating the most interest when you visited fashion houses and participated in photoshoots?

Personally I use the slim wallet as I feel people are slimming and simplifying their lifestyle, and with this, minimising the amount they carry on them and I personally find the classic bifold slightly too large. Following this we’ve had a lot of interest in the simple card holder as it’s got a very low price point and I’ve found many people using it as their main wallet, as the leather can stretch to accommodate up to 15 cards. However amongst the slightly older users they opt for the timeless classic bill fold as it truly is a luxury fashion piece.

You are based in London – do you cater for overseas customers at all?

We will be shipping our products around the world as we don’t want to restrict this creative opportunity and we feel everyone should be able to express their personality and individuality through our range.

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If you had the chance, who would you pick (dead or alive) to be the “Face” of Isolana London and why?

Will i am would be awesome to work with, he stands out from the crowd with his unique style putting a twist on modern classic looks which is similar to our products. We managed to give him one of our products recently which he loved!

Looking ahead to 2016, are there any future plans to expand your range of products at all?

Yes we have ambitions for far more consumer products but we need to keep these a secret for now! Stay tuned :)

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

I like to keep a minimalist look with old classic styles such a tweed jackets and oxford shirts. I love an oxford brogue shoe!

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

I want to add a new tailored suit to my collection. Maybe if Kickstarter goes well then I can afford one!

Boots or Shoes?

Shoes. I always want to be ready to be able to get into a nice bar in London. Boots won’t cut it.

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

https://instagram.com/isolanalondon/
https://www.facebook.com/isolanalondon
www.isolanalondon.co.uk

Thank you Forrest and I wish Isolana London much success in the future! What do you think of the “dapper” look ladies and gents? Do share your thoughts – I’d love to know!

Linda x

I have recently started a new Facebook page to run alongside this blog with additional updates and fashion articles. Find me on http://facebook.com/bootsshoesandfashion or for shoes/accessories info there’s the Facebook group Boots Shoes et Al to join (press the Facebook icon)

Photo Credits: Photos published with kind permission of Isolana London

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Orange Dreams

Orange has made a big impact this season – it’s a colour that looks good on everyone from the palest skin to the burnished ebony.  It is a colour that looks good day or night; and age is no barrier either.  This week I’ve picked out my top 10 favourite orange tops available from the UK High Street (and available on their websites too or via Lyst) and they are all under £70 too!

What to wear with your orange tops?  You could wear them with denim or summer whites or go metallic with gold.  You could be daring and opt for black – floaty black linen trousers, sexy black wiggle pencil skirt or a black tight mini – all options are fantastic for summer. However, I quite favour baggy cotton trousers in a black/white print – a look at home during the day paired with flat strappy sandals or at night with heels or wedges.

In no particular order:

GAP Modern Stripe Tank

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Violeta by Mango beaded T-Shirt

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Guess Top

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French Connection Leo Leopard Jersey Vest Top

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H & M Orange Embellished Necklace Top

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Glamorous Oversized Embroidered Kaftan

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Topshop Crochet Lace Tunic

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Jane Norman Orange Crochet Butterfly Back Shrug

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ASOS Halter Bralet in Hand Crochet

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Biba Orange Frill Front Blouse

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So, what top is your orange dream? I’d love to know!

Linda x

Photo Credits: Lyst 

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An Interview With Impala Clothing

Capturing the vibrancy of Africa, Impala Clothing oozes bright colours and bold patterns of African textiles combined with western tastes and trends. Physiotherapist turned fashion designer Yaw Acquah has launched a fabulous brand which also oozes his passion for fashion as well as being an inspiration to others.  I found out more about this bright, vivacious brand  … hi and welcome to the blog Yaw…image

Hello, I’m Yaw.  I’m the founder/creative director/general dogsbody at IMPALA.

What inspired you to launch your own fashion label, IMPALA clothing?

It’s a long winded story which involves a few different influences!
Well, I guess the idea first came to me when I started wearing a traditional African shirt out and about and got a really positive response. So that started the cogs churning.  The first idea was entirely based on producing one off shirts and skirts made from traditional wax print material, which is where a number of our vintage pieces such as the Wax Print Drum Skirt came from. But looking around the market, I could see a few companies already doing a similar thing. So I went back to the drawing board. I started to notice brands like HYPE!, Rachet Clothing and Jaded London, who made use of sublimation and digital prints. So I started to wonder if I could blend the African aesthetic with that streetwear look, in order to produce something more fresh and contemporary. That’s where I came to the current incarnation of IMPALA.

You were previously a physiotherapist – so when did you start to get a passion for fashion?

Actually I have always had an interest in fashion in someway. Admittedly, that has involved a few fashion faux pas over the years, such as my ‘nu-rave’ phase. When I was 14, I actually made a load of t shirt designs under the name Jungle Clothing. So, in someways, this is more of a rekindling of a passion, rather than completely coming to it afresh.

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You’re a new fashion brand with a fresh & fun approach to fashion – infusing vibrant colours and bold patterns typical of African textiles with contemporary Western fashion themes. So, when choosing outfits to represent your brand, do you go by popular styles, customer requests, your own preferences or bits of all those?

For this first collection, it has definitely been a case of trying to gauge what would be popular in the coming season. So I spent a lot of time looking at other brands, fashion shows and bloggers to try and plan ahead. But being the only member of the team at the moment there is definitely a lot of ‘me’ in the collection. It certainly feels like a very personal project.

My favourite item from your collection is the vibrant wax print pencil skirt with drum print. What outfits are proving popular amongst your customers so far this season?

A definite favourite is the Tribal chevrons pullover. We’ve nearly sold out of that item in some sizes. That may have something to do with the arctic weather we had around our launch date. But to be honest most of our range has had a really great response. So I’m very grateful for that.

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

I’m a sucker for the Ankara T shirt, although it’s a toss up between that and the Uganda t-shirt. The brighter the better for me.

Battling with both dyslexia and ADHD, you have managed to follow your dream nevertheless. What do you feel was the hardest part of getting your label launched? What advice would you give to others who aspire to see their passions materialise into reality?

I certainly feel that the hardest part of launching the label is getting the name of IMPALA  out there. I have eschewed using the traditional marketplaces, such as ebay and etsy; the site is essentially an island on the internet. Which means I have to work extra hard to drive traffic to the site. I’m concentrating on engaging the media and bloggers, as well as looking to build on my social media and blog presence.

Which famous lady or man would you love to see as the “face” of IMPALA clothing?

Simply because I have a massive crush on her, I’m going to go with Rashida Jones. Although honourable mentions go to Solange Knowles and Lupita Nyogo.

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Your collection is full of striking bold and vibrant colours – which I am a big fan of! Looking ahead to Autumn/Winter 2015 – what styles/ colours / new products do you hope to introduce to your collection?

Looking towards the A/W collection, there will be a definite move towards the more muted and earthy tones seen in African textiles – for instance, from Ghana some of the reds and blacks of the traditonal funeral cloths. As well as that I have a few half formed ideas, such as doing a football themed range or something using some tribal symbols. I’m definitely still in the creative stage so watch this space.

As you are based in the UK, is your clothing range available overseas too?

Yes, we are selling our items throughout the EU at the moment and we will be shipping worldwide in the near future.

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

Haha, I’m having a bit of an “interesting” phase at the moment. I’ve been pairing a black roll neck with a thin neck chain, dark skinny jeans, and brogues.

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

I’m going stick up for my fellow Brummies and say We Are Cow. They have a really cool vintage shop in Digbeth, I love their stuff.

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

I would absolutely love a pair Nike ‘run roches’ with a palm tree feed. So if there are any kindly Nike execs reading this, gifts are greatly appreciated.

Boots or Shoes?

Definitely shoes. Aged 17, I had a “Russell Brand” phase and wore pointy boots everywhere, suffice to say it didn’t workout well. Now I’m more careful in footwear choices.

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

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/impalaclothing/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/impala_clothing
Instagram: http://instagram.com/impalaclothing/
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCl6EgVlqH_XrPTb5EfQCuQA

Thank you very much for being a fab guest!  The bright colours and patterns of West Africa always makes me feel cheerful and I look forward to seeing the earthy red tones too this Autumn.  I wish you well with your plans for the future and I’m sure IMPALA will be a big success.  So dear reader, are you a fan of bright colours? Do they cheer you up too? I’m a big fan of greens, yellows, oranges, reds and turquoise/aqua blues. I’d love to know your favourites, drop me a line and share your views!

Linda x

All photos have been published with kind permission from Yaw Acquah (IMPALA clothing)

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Talking About Viva Voluptuous

Lately there has been an awful lot in the press and media about “plus sized” women and their fashion dilemmas as well as a look at the other end of the spectrum, the size zero model.  Whilst the debate continues, it’s refreshing to find  a fab novel about some plus sized women who are basically having a good time. The message it brings is about self –  acceptance for your body size (fat or thin) and not being afraid to show the world who you are.  It is definitely a book to put on your summer reading list! Without further ado, come and meet lovely author Sarah..image

Hi! I’m Sarah Clark, and I’m a freelance beauty, health and lifestyle writer with a penchant for writing books. I’m also plus sized – or in other words, fat. I live in Suffolk with my husband, Andy, and when I’m not writing, I’m quite often to be found passing the time of day on Twitter or Facebook. Oops.

Your 2nd book, “Viva Voluptuous”, is a novel about plus sized women who are basically having a good time – there’s a bit of rejection & heartache, a bit of sex, a lot of wine, a few flash mobs, the odd night out dressed up in burlesque gear at a gay bar in Brighton! The characters are real and engaging, the storyline is lighthearted whilst still covering some contemporary issues. Where did you get inspiration from to write this novel?

The inspiration came from my life, the lives of my friends and from a conversation I had with a friend online a few years ago about the way fat women were represented in the media as miserable slobs who rarely did anything else other than eat, were a bit thick, couldn’t get boyfriends and led really quite sad and pathetic lives. That didn’t sound like me! I said that I wished there was a fat super heroine who could sweep in and change the world. There wasn’t one – so I invented Ellie.

This story must have been a rollercoaster to write with its fun parts and its emotionally draining parts – one reviewer has said that “this book will resonate with those who ever felt the need to diet in order to date, to get that job, or to fit in in general”.Which parts of the book did you find most challenging to write and which parts have you enjoyed writing about the most?

I found some of the more emotional parts draining as I drew on experiences of myself and other women I knew who had been struggling with body image and eating disorders for years. I was very clear that I didn’t want the book to be a pity party for obesity, but at the same time I felt it would have been unrealistic to portray the life of a fat woman as being free from any kind of issues; that’s just not the case in the world we live in. There’s so much pressure on women to look and be perfect that if you’ve made a decision not to follow the rules, you’re going to get slated (look at Tess Holliday for example). It was great fun writing flash mob scenes, and parts of the book where Ellie and the girls were really having a good time. I loved imagining the festivals and celeb interviews, and the sex scenes were fun to write too! I actually wrote the book in 2012 when all the 50 shades of Grey hype was going a bit mad, and I wanted to make my sexy scenes more realistic, so I tried to write them as it is sometimes. You know how it is – you do things that don’t really work and just make you giggle, you feel a bit daft, you forget where you put the condoms in the heat of the moment, that sort of thing. They were fun to do, though.

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You are a freelance writer, editor and blogger too – in fact your first book, “Gorgeously Full Fat” was based on autobiographical blog posts and anecdotes. Did you enjoy writing stories as a child?

I really did, yes, and I was always doing it until I got to my teens when it wasn’t really cool to sit in your bedroom with a second hand typewriter making up stories.

Have you always wanted to pursue a career in writing or did you have other ambitions as a child?

I had a few ambitions job wise when I was younger; I wanted to be a surgeon because I was obsessed with the body and how it worked, then by secondary school I wanted to be either a fashion designer, writer or a lawyer. I actually used to produce a class magazine called ‘Girl’s Own’ when I was in junior school. I gave up wanting to be a surgeon when I realised that I didn’t like the sight of blood. I spent a while thinking maybe law would work for me, working in the court service and Trading Standards, and even went as far as to do an ILEX Paralegal Qualification. But in 2000 I started working as a writer for a beauty magazine, after spending time writing endless articles for start up websites when everyone thought having a website made you rich – and I was hooked. Now I write about health and beauty, feeding my obsession with the body and all its functions, and about law on the odd occasion, which covers the legal aspect. I also write about granite, driveways and paving, sometimes, which never really fitted into my plan! Never quite got to grips with fashion writing though.

Have you got plans to write other novels or books?

Yes, I’d love to do a sequel to Viva Voluptuous if I can find a publisher, and I have countless other book ideas but I never seem to get around to them!

What sort of book genre do you like reading? Favourite books or authors?

I love a bit of women’s fiction, and especially enjoy anything by Rowan Coleman, Lindsey Kelk and JoJo Moyes. My favourite book of all time is probably Rebecca by Daphne De Maurier. I wish I’d written that book! I’ve also started getting more into thrillers; I like the supernatural ones and have recently read Biblical by Christopher Galt, and The Three by Sarah Lotz. I also have a personal development book obsession. I bought e-Cubed by Pam Grout and I now have to work out how to make the universe bend in my favour…

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I love your cheeky book cover! Who came up with the idea?

Me! I chose the cover from a stock photo website and the publisher liked it so we went with it. I wanted something that not only reflected the books and the story, but would also attract attention…

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

I live in leggings because I work from home and I’m just way too lazy to dress up. I like wearing unusual tops and last year it was all about finding loud, bright skater dresses to wear over the top. I wear boots in winter, and in summer I’d love to say I wear something designer and elegant but I generally wear flats unless I’m at a posh do. I have one very old pair of Jimmy Choo sandals but they only get taken out of their box for weddings and parties…

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

I love the Joe Brown’s range from Simply Be, and I’m also buying more from places like ASOS Curve and Pink Clove these days. I buy most of my clothes online as I’m a size 22 and apparently don’t exist on the high street!

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

Oooh tricky one. I want to find a perfect pair of jeans; but don’t we all? I’ve got a posh wedding to go to in May so I’ll soon be scouring online to see if I can find something that looks elegant and not frumpy in my size. I actually got my own wedding outfit from Simply Be in 2013, because unless I wanted to pay the price of a deposit on a small house to have a dress made, or take a chance on a Chinese sweatshop, there really were very few options for me. I’d LOVE to design a plus size fashion range but I wouldn’t know where to start.

Boots or Shoes?

Boots in winter as they look good with leggings. Shoes in the the summer…depends on my mood really,

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

Gorgeously Full Fat: http://www.gorgeouslyfullfat.com/ https://www.facebook.com/GorgeouslyFullFat https://twitter.com/GorgeousFullFat
The Word Boutique (copywriting) http://www.thewordboutique.org
My books: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sarah-Clark/e/B00EQ1JBLI

Thanks for speaking to us today Sarah – I really enjoyed reading about Ellie – it was a refreshing and fun read.  Viva Voluptuous – got your copy yet readers?

Linda x

All photos have been published with kind permission from Sarah Clark.

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Talking About Recipes For Recovery

For those with eating disorders things like grocery shopping, planning meals, cooking and eating with others, all present huge challenges; and yet,  healthy and balanced meals are an important and enjoyable part of a happy life.  An important part of the recovery process is learning how to cook and “Recipes For Recovery” was created to do just that as well as raising money for BEAT, the UK’s national eating disorder charity.  I spoke to Francesca Baker, the creator of the book, to find out more…

Hi Francesca and welcome – please introduce yourself :)image

Ah the question who am I? Without getting into an existential crisis of identity, I’m Francesca, and I work in advertising and journalism, and my passions are words, music, creativity and wellness. I always have a project on the go related to one of these areas – and Recipes For Recovery is one of those.

Recipes For Recovery is a book to help support people in recovery from eating disorders as well as hoping to get the message across that everything in moderation is OK and necessary in a healthy and balanced diet, and that meals are an important and enjoyable part of a happy life. What gave you the inspiration to start the project?

I have suffered from an eating disorder from a number of years, and I think that a huge part of recovery is learning how to love food again, and cook yourself nutritious meals. It’s important also to realise that food can be fun and meals can be social events – the focus does not always have to be on fuel, although of course that is an important lesson to accept. Often what is needed is guidance and permission, and I hope that this book helps offer that support. Conversations and experiences with therapists, professionals and those suffering and recovering from the illnesses, have taught me that having a connection with food again is a step on the path to a normal relationship with food.

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People with eating disorders don’t necessarily like or dislike food per se – they can often be food obsessed, might fear it, might want to avoid it because of weight issues etc. For some grocery shopping, planning meals, cooking and eating with other people are difficult challenges. Learning to cook is an important part of recovery as those obstacles slowly get conquered. Bearing those issues in mind, what sort of recipes are most suitable for this sort of recovery?

Many people with eating disorders might have a limited repertoire of meals or food that they feel ‘safe’ eating, and the aim of the book is to widen the options available, giving suggestions in a simple and safe format. The book provides recipe ideas that are balanced and include all the food groups – carbohydrates, proteins, fats and vegetables – to ensure that the nutritional and physical aspects of recovery are addressed. It’s not rocket science, and so things like chilli, paella, salmon pasta, and fish pie are all included. Many of the recipes can be cooked for one, which is important as often people with eating disorders fear that it is not ‘worth’ cooking for only themselves. But they are worth it, health is worth it, and these recipes can help with that. I hope that it helps provide the stimulus to start new, healthy habits.

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I have recently renewed an interest in cooking from scratch and exploring herbs, vegetables, fish, cheese and cuts of meat that I previously avoided because I didn’t know how to cook or use them – I haven’t got much of a sweet tooth so savoury main meal recipes appeal to me now and I’m finding it fun. Do you enjoy cooking? Have you got a favourite recipe that has been submitted to the book?

I love cooking, and I agree that the process of learning how to use food and basic ingredients can be a fun one. A few months ago I was travelling around Australia, and carrying around tins of tuna and noodles in my bag – typical backpacker food. I stayed in a lovely eco-friendly place where visitors were allowed to pick from the garden. The lemongrass, chilli and basil I picked from the trees transformed my bland dinner to an exciting stir fry. I also love the recipe for paella that a friend donated, telling me that he picked this one as it was ‘what I saw my dad do every Sunday from June to September. Always in the same place, slow, focussed, constantly assessing the water, the salt, the rice, cooking for the family that he built and loved. Paella is a social event, a family event, an excuse to be together….and my dad made a cracking succulent excuse!’ The importance of the emotional and social aspect of a good meal resonated with me.

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The money raised from sales of the recipe book are going towards BEAT, the UK’s national eating disorder charity. What are the aims of the charity?

BEAT provides helplines, online support and a network of UK-wide self-help groups to help adults and young people in the UK beat their eating disorders. They campaign, raise awareness, organise events and offer support to change the way everyone thinks and talks about eating disorders, improve the way services and treatment are provided, and to help anyone believe that their eating disorder can be beaten. 40-50% of people make a full recovery, and BEAT are one of many resources that can help recovery be a reality.

You have gathered recipes from a variety of people and sources. What has been the most unusual dish submitted?What type of recipe was the most popular submitted?

I’ve had a great number of people submit recipes, and vegetable chilli has been a repeat submission. Which is good, because it’s tasty, and can be made in lots of different ways. A breakfast salad that includes avocado, alfafa, coconut and carob was a surprise entry, and I’m looking forward to people trying the Maltese recipe for hobz biz-zejt, as that is filled with wonderful memories for me.

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Have you plans to do more projects/ books in the future?

I’d like to develop this one to include an app – so if any developers out there fancy getting in touch that would be great?!

What sort of book genre do you like reading? Favourite books or authors?

I’m a total words girl, and always seek out a library when I arrive in a new place. This has been the case since I was a child, and would visit the library on a Saturday and have devoured all the books I borrowed by Monday. I love Virginia Woolf and DH Lawrence, and grew up absorbed in Enid Blyton. Zadie Smith, Ian McEwan and Joe Dunthorne are contemporary writers I adore. And of course, Shakespeare.

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

I like all sorts of styles and trends, but I tend to feel the cold, so my outfits are made up of layers, cardigans and scarves. I love a bright and beautiful pattern, and pick up scarves from charity shops that catch my eye. Every year I make the New Year’s Resolution to wear more heels, but it rarely transpires. I have a fantastic pair of very high purple suede stilettos that live on my mantel piece – they are too hard to walk in but too beautiful to be hidden away in the wardrobe!

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

I spend too much time on Bookish and The Literary Gift Company.

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

I saw this gorgeous skirt by Dawn O’Porter in one of the Sunday newspaper magazines a few months ago and fell in love with it. Pretty skirts and powerful quotes! 

Boots or Shoes? 

Perhaps boots – for their practicality. It’s definitely boots I wear the most often. I can walk, dance, skip and kick in them!

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

www.andsoshethinks.co.uk
http://recipesforrecovery.flavors.me/
https://twitter.com/hashtag/recipesforrecovery
https://twitter.com/andsoshethinks

Thanks for talking to us Francesca and I hope the book encourages us all to enjoy cooking, eating food and discovering new flavours.  Have you got a favourite recipe? I’d love to hear what you like cooking.

Linda x

Photo Credits:  The photo of Francesca was published with kind permission from Francesca Baker.  The food photographs were taken by Linda Hobden.

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An Interview With Richard Betts

When the sun is shining what could be better than sitting outside lapping up the glorious rays, with a glass of wine by your side (pinot grigio preferably but I wouldn’t turn my nose up at whatever flavour is offered!) and a good book.  Yes –  wine, sunshine and books come up very high on my list of passions.  Imagine my excitement at discovering a book – not just any book – “The Essential Scratch and Sniff Guide To Becoming A Wine Expert”.  Scratch’n’sniff books … I can remember having a couple as a child where you could scratch the picture of a strawberry or an orange and a most delicious scent was emitted. Probably showing my age! I had a chat with the enterprising American author and winemaker Richard Betts to find out more…hi Richard, please introduce yourself :)image

No way. Okay, my name is Richard. My most lofty ambition is to smile and to make other people smile. I endeavor to do that by making wine and spirits easy and part of your every day life. See, I’ve got this ‘-ism’ that “Wine is a grocery, not a luxury” and if I have my way you will live by it too.

Believe me… I agree with that “ism” too! I’m going to jump in straight away & talk about your book – “The Essential Scratch and Sniff Guide To Becoming A Wine Expert”. I used to love the scratch & sniff books as a child ..and I’ve approached this book with as much glee! What was the inspiration behind the writing of this book?

Whelp, there is for sure no shortage of lengthy wine tomes on all subjects and I have nothing to add to that. BUT! Wine can sometimes be too stuffy and exclusive which stinks. I think the best way to engage and welcome is to knock wine off the pedestal, make it easy and make it fun and what better way to do that than with a Scratch and Sniff wine book?!

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When did you first discover the delights of wine and the realisation that you wanted to become a wine expert?

Living in Italy in the 90’s. I was totally blowing off my academic life and instead just living life – learning to speak Italian, to cook, to eat – and wine was an inseparable part of this. The table is not set until there is wine upon it and this matters.

In 2003 you passed the Court of Master Sommeliers’ Masters Exam on the first attempt, being the ninth person ever to do so – congratulations! So you do know your wine! What was the hardest thing about the exam did you feel and what do you think is the stumbling block that makes it very hard to pass the exam at first attempt?

The hardest part is for sure the tasting. Service and theory are more in your control because they are studied and you either know it or don’t. Tasting is different as we are different people every day. You know, we all have good and bad days and when you get one chance at taking the test you’re not really allowed to have a bad day, right? So the key is figuring out what are the ingredients that best set you up to have a great day and then making sure you heap them on when it’s time to perform. (For me that includes exercise, loud music and a beer.)

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Tell us a bit about My Essential Wine and your “as a grocery & not a luxury” ethos.

My ethos of “Wine is a grocery, not a luxury” was born out of that time when I was living in Italy and there was always wine on the table, at lunch, at dinner, without fail. It’s just a part of the whole. (Smart.) After selling my first wine project, Betts and Scholl, I wanted to start another project that really made good on my -ism/ethos and, thus, My Essential Wines. The idea is you’ve got twelve bucks in your pocket on a Tuesday and I’m your date! It’s that easy. The wines themselves (we make rosé and red) are also wines I love to drink because, after all, if you don’t drink them I have to and I’m prepared to do that so I might as well make what I like.

You are a fan of Bordeaux wine and having holidayed in that region of France for many years I, too, share your enthusiasm. What’s the origin behind the name of your Bordeaux wine, Saint Glinglin?

It too is an -ism, a French -ism for “When Pigs Fly” and it became the name of the wine when I told good friend Erin Chave that I was going to make great Bordeaux and make it cheap to which she replied…. :)

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You are currently touring the USA promoting your book, drinking and sharing wine. I am sure you are having a whale of a time! What do you enjoy most about being on tour? Any funny tales you can relate to us about life on tour?

Well, my girlfriend and I gave up our homes, flew to Miami, bought a car and called it home for 4 months. It was amazing – we drove all over this beautiful country and met the most amazing people. As a guy that flies so much, it was wonderful to slow down and actually take in what you’ve been flying over – I treasure the experience and hope to repeat it when we release The Essential Scratch and Sniff Guide to Becoming a Whiskey Know-It-All this coming fall.

What is (are) your absolute favourite wine(s)?

Any wine that tastes like a place. This is key, it’s the intellectual value of wine that can transport you around the world. It’s sometimes called terroir – a French term meant to describe everything that goes into the wine, that informs it and is specific to only that place in the world from whence it has come.

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Travelling to visit different countries and their vineyards – which place surprised you the most with its wine? which place have you got a soft spot for? which place would you love to visit and sample its wares?

Surprised, always, by Australia – there simultaneously exists a ton of tradition and a ton of innovation. It’s always better and always interesting. This, of course, makes it a favorite of mine too. I’ve also got a soft spot for the whole of France as well as Piedmont, Tuscany and Friuli in Italy. Oh wait, I have to also add Sherry in southern Spain – I have never been more amazed at a wine region and it’s wines. Very little has changed in forever and the wines are magic – for sure the best food wines on earth.

Your book is the perfect gift for a wine enthusiast! Is it available to purchase outside the USA?

Yes and I have no real idea how. I was recently passing through Vienna airport and there was a huge stack of them for sale. Which was cool :)

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

Nice Jeans like Simon Miller or Raleigh Denim. Vans, flip flops (favorite) or boots. I have a really beautiful pair I bought 10 years ago in France that are still the most perfect pair ever. And t-shirts. Easy.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

Raleigh Denim Workshop and Simon Miller are both really special. In Rome, I love Strategic Business Unit and in Paris, it’s always Merci.

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

Just ordered some stuff from Entree LS in Brooklyn, we’ll see how it is. Thinking Spring so always fresh sneaks too. Lots of them.

Boots or Shoes?

Boots or hi-tops – they’re just comfy like a warm hug.

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

www.myessentialwine.com is where we do wine things, I also make mezcal in Oaxaca,Mexico and you can check that here: www.sombraoaxaca.com AND we have something super duper top secret and very small happening in the way of a single new wine I’ve been working on for more than 10 years. Best to follow along via @yobetts on twitter/instagram/fb to catch the announcement very soon.

As the sun beams down on my part of the UK this Friday evening, I raise a glass to you Richard for chatting to us! I wish you continued success & look forward to sampling your new wines… Readers, have you got a fave wine? What “scratch & sniff” book would appeal to you? I’d love to know what you think!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission from Richard Betts.

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An Interview With English Rose Cosmetics

I love to wax lyrical about a product or company that I’ve discovered that has made a big and lasting impression on me – it’s even better when the company agrees to an interview! I first came across the English Rose Cosmetics last year – my skin is extremely dry and prone to itchy eczema occasionally around my eyes during my hay fever season ( Feb – June  – tree pollen) – and I spotted a post on Facebook about English Rose Cosmetics night cream.   Luckily enough Karin was looking for people to review the product, I applied and got my chance to try this cream. Thus started my love affair. So here’s a quick review on the Night Cream along with two other products I’ve used over the last few months:

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Nighty Night Cream –  on the tin it says it plumps out wrinkles, reduces age spots, controls oiliness & improves skin texture.  I am used to putting on thick cream in an effort to combat the dryness/eczema.  In contrast, this cream is light and very lightly fragranced – it soaks into the skin well, without leaving a sticky residue nor does it tighten the skin.  It feels refreshing and soothing on the face.  It has hydrated my skin and has improved my skin texture – as for the wrinkles, well, they do seem to have been smoothed away.  9/10

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Bright Eyed & Bushy Tailed Eye Cream –  I had noticed dark bags appearing under my eyes over the last 6 months or so, despite wearing make up to try and camouflage the effects.  Combine that with my itchy eczema, I was at the end of my tether as to what to do.  However, once I tried the night cream I decided to purchase the eye cream (it says it reduces dark circles, bags  & puffy eyes whilst plumping out fine wrinkles). Dabbing the light cream around my eyes twice a day for the last 2 months I have found that my dark bags under my eyes are not as pronounced – in fact they’re barely noticeable; the skin around my eye area is smooth and virtually line free, no hint of dryness; and best of all, no sore eczema patches on my eyelids! Very pleased! 10/10

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Fair of Face Facial Cleanser –  I’ve only recently tried this cleanser.  It is said to combat oiliness, soothe acne and inflammation without drying the skin.  As my skin is dry, oiliness and acne has never been an  issue.  The cleanser is a light foam, which exudes a pleasant ginger  aroma which is very refreshing and uplifting. A little goes a long way, and leaving it on your face for a few minutes before rinsing off, really wakens up your skin. It certainly made my face feel clean, no itching and no dryness. A fab base before applying moisturiser, foundation and make up.  My face felt so clean that I bypassed the toner stage altogether. 8/10

Without further ado let’s meet Karin, the lovely lady behind English Rose Cosmetics… hi Karin, welcome…image

Hi! I am Karin Mckay, and have worked 17 years in the cosmetic industry. I’m based in Reading and I do pretty much components, packaging, designing the packaging, the social media, sales and marketing.

What was the inspiration behind setting up English Rose Cosmetics?

It literally started out of nothing. My sales & marketing career had ended as due to neck and back injuries in 2009, I’ve had 2 back operations and several neck injections. So I really could only work 3 days a week, without commuting and needed adjustments made in the work place, so that basically made me unemployable. I had been out of work during 2012 and was getting more and more despondent as to what I could do with my life. So when I had the inspiration for the English Rose character, I drew on all my knowledge on ingredients, formulating, manufacturing of cosmetics and contacts in the industry and started working on my own products.

Have you always wanted to be in the makeup /skincare/ beauty industry?

The trends and innovation start with the cosmetic manufacturers, they train their agents around the world and then people like me would present the new ingredients/trends to cosmetic scientists and marketing personnel at the brands. We would make really fabulous example formulations to demonstrate new ingredients. Sometimes the marketing department didn’t “get” the science and sometimes the Cosmetic Scientist were on a tight budget or were under pressure to use existing approved ingredients. Really amazing ingredients never made it through, as brands continued on with the same old formulations and boring ingredients because they didn’t want to be innovators. So all this time I was thinking about the “perfect” skincare and what it should contain.

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What products seem to be most popular with your customers?

Bright Eyed & Bushy Tailed eye cream is the biggest seller, as there are not many eye creams that tick all the boxes with under eye problems and customers are really seeing results, some instantly but the majority after a couple of weeks. Customers with more prominent eye bags really notice it’s working when they run and their problems become more noticeable. A lot of people try the concealer route with under eye problems, and this is fine up until the point when eye bags develop. I cannot stress the importance enough of using this eye cream to clear up dark circles and puffy eyes quickly, as in addition, you are putting back elasticity into the under eye area, which will help prevent bags in the future. For customers aged 38+ ideally you should be using this eye cream daily, as our skin loses elasticity and this can lead to under eye bags. The second best seller is Nighty Night Cream – I probably have more customers for Daily Defence Cream, but the ladies that use Nighty Night Cream usually buy 3 at a time online. This can be used day or night and I highly recommend starting at the décolletage and sweeping up the neck to the face. Mature skin needs more moisture and it needs actives that stimulate the cells in the dermis to improved firmness and elasticity and this cream really delivers in that area. I usually recommend to customers to try it on their neck and then feel that area where they applied an hour later. What they notice instantly is how quickly it sinks into their neck; any cream that sinks in quickly is a good indication at how compatible with your skins own oils it is, and how desperately your skin needed a ”drink”. Feeling the area where the cream was applied an hour later, gives a good indication on the ongoing benefits which high quality ingredients deliver.

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I love the Nighty Night Cream – it smells fresh and makes my skin feel delightfully soft. What’s your personal favourite skincare item from your range?

Well, I do love them all and when I create them I think about how to make it the most perfect product in its category and use innovative ingredients with strong evidence behind them. My 48 year old face is a really good advert for my products. If I had to choose only one, I would have to say Fair of Face is very unique and I’m really impressed with every aspect of it. I rarely wear mascara, eye shadow, foundation or powder so I didn’t need an oil based cleanser, but I like to use a good product on my face in the shower as I’m a lazy cleanser. I used to get cyst like spots on my chin every couple of months that would last for about 7 days. Since using Fair of Face I have not had any spots, despite occasionally forgetting to remove make up. Also when I’ve washed with it in the morning and spritzed with Rose Kiss floral water, I have sometimes forgotten to put on moisturiser because my skin does not feel dry. Every other cleanser has left my skin feeling dry, but not this one. I have also put it to the test and used a makeup remover after Fair of Face to check that it’s removing grime thoroughly and it is. I have got into a routine of turning on the shower, applying Fair of Face and then rinsing it off in the shower, as that bit of contact time on the skin allows the plant actives to work.

In a nutshell, what ingredients have you used to make the Nighty Night Cream so effective at plumping out those wrinkles and softening my skin?

Bidens Pilosa (Revinage) is the hero ingredient in Nighty Night Cream. When I developed the night cream I knew I wanted to work in the dermis to boost collagen and elastin production (Extra cellular matrix), and that Retinol/Vitamin A was a good benchmark with proven deep wrinkle reduction. So when I came across a plant with retinoid properties that had strong evidence behind it, I was very interested. The problem with Retinol is it can cause irritancy, so it’s used at very low levels, or customers need to get a prescription to get a higher level and hope they don’t get a reaction. Bidens Pilosa doesn’t cause this type of reaction, which means it can be used at a higher level and therefore be more effective. In addition to plumping out wrinkles its’ been clinically proven to inhibit melanin cells that form age spots. Hyaluronic acid is also in Nighty Night Cream and this is something that’s present in our skin and its function is to hold water, which makes it good at plumping out wrinkels too. There are also a lot of plant oils; rosehip, shea, linseed, cottonseed, evening primrose oil, wheat germ oil etc. and they will provide essential fatty acids to the cellular wall in the epidermis, keeping that functioning optimally, healthy, moisturised and supple. The skin is the biggest organ in our bodies and its important to work with it and give it what it needs to keep it balanced and functioning optimally and this is t he theory which underpins English Rose Cosmetic products.

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What plans, if any, have you got to extend your range of products? Any new products in the pipeline?

If the funds were there I would bring out 7 new products a year, as I really love researching and developing the best possible product. But it takes investment and faster turnover of existing products.

There are three formulations that are ready and they are:
1. Mermaids Cleansing water – a micelle water to remove make up with a seaweed active that calms inflamed skin
2. Moisturising lip gloss in 3 amazing shades, this feels like a molten lipstick and the base makes the colours look vibrant
3. Facial oil with trio of Omega oils and some collagen firming properties – I’m undecided about whether to add a fragrance or not.

These are ideas as I haven’t got the formulation right yet:

1. Land Girls Face Mask with honey, oat and apple                          

 2. Powder Cleanser/Mask – that forms an interesting texture when mixed with water and has potent Vitamin C and fruit acids.

English Rose Cosmetics has been approved by PETA and is licensed to carry their logo. How important was it for the company to get this approval?

As animal testing on finished cosmetics was banned in the UK back in the 90’s, it was misleading to put on packaging “Not animal tested” as a UK or EU company would be breaking the law, and it inferred that other UK cosmetic companies were. The key thing is and always has been the ingredients selected, some products that have been in use for decades would have been tested decades ago, but the majority of EU and US suppliers do not test new ingredients on animals, which is why I prefer to source from them, so I can get declarations at the development stage. In recent years a lot of brands entered the Chinese market and the government there requires finished products to be tested on animals. I believe this will change as the Chinese industry catches up with EU testing techniques which have been adapted to deliver good results without using animals. However A LOT of brands have lost their PETA and BUAV status because of this. I like PETA as they don’t just focus on cosmetics, they focus on animal welfare in all areas, and it’s thanks to their newsletter that I made the decision to stop eating meat (I do have the occasional lapse) as I didn’t feel comfortable about the industrial farming of animals for human consumptions. I don’t judge meat eaters, as I acknowledge that some people love the taste of meat, I never really liked meat so it was easy for me to stop, but I do think it would be wonderful all round if everyone reduced their meat intake.

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I love the names you give to your products – e.g. the Fair of Face Gentle Foaming Cleanser. Where does the inspiration come from when naming your products?

I try and stay true to British phrases that we all know and have a nostalgic feeling towards and try to make it relevant to the product. Example:-
Bright Eyed and Bushy Tailed eye cream – gives us the impression of looking fresh and wide awake, exactly what one wants from an eye cream, but I make no guarantees on the Bushy Tail!
Lay Back and Think of England is a cheeky reference to the aphrodisiac properties of rose fragrance.
Rose Kiss Spritz – spraying pure Rosa damascene floral water on the face is like a kiss from a rose, with fresh rain drops on it.
Cocoa Ration Body butter references rationing during WW2 and contains cocoa butter as well as shea and avocado.
Daily Defence Moisturiser – I didn’t manage to come up with an old fashioned name, so I focused on the benefits of the day cream which are: protect against urban pollution and free radical damage.
Nighty Night Cream – most of us remember being told as children, Nighty Night sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite!
Fair of Face – this comes from the Monday’s Child Poem, and as the Soap tree bark is very effective in regulating oiliness and clearing up spots, without drying the skin, thus users will have a clear, unblemished face.

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

Pretty much all of my jumpers seems to have glitter going through them! Everything I wear is well fitted and has some interesting detail to it. I like tailored suits and feminine tops. Because of back problems I mainly wear flat shoes now, brogues, loafers and patent leather or animal print flats. I also quite like a bit of camo and military looking jackets and have the most amazing camo handbag in the shape of a dog, even the zips look like dogs bones. It’s very unique but doesn’t really go with anything.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Online I like Campbell Crafts, I really admire Lindsay’s style, and she has a really good collection of vintage reproduction that is very wearable. On the High Street I like TK Maxx as you can really pick up something a bit different but affordable. Unfortunately I don’t have the finances to spend much money on clothes, so I often check out charity shops and Vintage Events for something wearable and Made in UK.

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

The Edith dogtooth wiggle dress from Collectif! I ordered online before Christmas but it was too big, so I’m waiting for my size to come in! I’m always on the look-out for new outfits at Vintage Fairs, I have a love of Made in UK – good quality clothes in tartan, tweed, Prince of Wales, Herringbone, Dogtooth, and of course I would love to find a beautiful Dior Couture outfit from the 50’s, the epitome of feminine elegance.

Boots or Shoes?

Unfortunately I have large calves so battle to find knee high boots that fit, so for me it’s shoes. My favourite pair of shoes is a turquoise/gold Irregular Choice with swans and a Perspex heel. The first time I wore them was to a wedding and I was tasked with looking after the camera to take photos, but apparently when my friends looked at their photos they were mainly of my shoes!

Links you would like to share e.g. website/Facebook/twitter etc. so that readers of the blog can learn more about you and your products

www.english-rose-cosmetics.com
https://www.facebook.com/english.rose.cosmetics
https://twitter.com/karinmckay1
http://beautyinsiderreviews.blogspot.co.uk/

STOP PRESS…. English Rose Cosmetics will be at the RHS London Rose Show 2015 at the RHS Horticultural Halls 29 – 30 May 2015.  Do go & say “Hello” if you are there!  As usual, let me know if you’ve fallen in love too with English Rose Cosmetics – what products tickled your fancy?

Linda x

Photo Credits: Linda Hobden; English Rose Cosmetics

 

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An Interview With Mad4Tools & Scruffs Womenswear

imageLadies, if you work in an office or a similar environment where smart clothing is de rigeur, finding suitable work clothes is fairly easy.  If you work in an industry where your work clothes need to be tough, waterproof and safety orientated, your choice is limited – often resulting in wearing menswear or unisex that isn’t always flattering or comfortable.  Mad4Tools – a shop renowned for its quality tools and workwear, has just expanded into womenswear launching a new range of high quality workwear that is not only stylish and feminine, but has paid attention to the cut of the garment as well as featuring safety requirements of the highest standard.  I spoke to Mad4Tools director, Paul Swain, to find out more … welcome Paul…

Hi! I am Paul Swain, director of Mad4tools.com; passionate about providing an online one stop shop for quality tools, equipment and workwear for all.

Mad4Tools are an online tools and equipment store launched in 2012. What gave you the idea to expand into women’s workwear for 2015?

When we first launched our website we did offer some standard workwear and safety boots for women although it was largely just men’s clothing described as womens (not by us, I’d hasten to add). Though we did receive interest in the womenswear we felt that, after having had several conversations with regular customers and contacts in the industry, there is a gap in the market place for more stylish and fitting workwear much like what is available for men. After speaking with our suppliers about this last year, it was confirmed that for winter 2014/15, Scruffs would launch a brand new stylish and fitted range of safety boots and clothing as a starter into the womens market.

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Your womenswear collection is supplied & designed by Scruffs who are known for providing innovative safety footwear & clothing for tradesmen. What did you feel was so special about adding their ladieswear collection to your repertoire?

We already supply Scruffs safety boots and clothing and since 2003, it has become the largest workwear brand in this industry. This is because the clothes are generally of high quality, very well thought out from a functionality point of view and look great as well with some bold designs and styles. The range that has been released is the tip of the iceberg also as this is just an initial range to see what works and is popular. On top of this Scruffs are known for doing things properly by not cutting corners and providing good details on what makes each garment or boot better or different from the next.

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I must admit I do love the Goliath Cleo Pink Ladies Waterproof Safety Boots – very trendy & fine looking yet exude high safety requirements including being oil and slip resistant. What ladieswear or footwear seems to be going down well with your lady customers?

Yes, the Cleo safety boots have always been popular. They were with us from our initial range of womens workwear and safety boots. These have been supplied to customers all over the world.  Of the new Scruffs range, the Edens have been significantly more popular. Two of our most popular items of womens clothing currently are the Scruffs Women’s Executive Jacket and the Scruffs Women’s Worker Plus Black Trousers.

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When it comes to workwear – what item seems to be most popular bought by your male customers?

Safety boots always out sell work clothing. For us, the most popular currently being the Switch Back Safety Boots available in brown, tan and black finish and second to safety boots are our Trade Work Trousers. Currently the standard trade trousers are being phased out for a new breed of trousers regarded as a 3D Trade trousers as the trousers are cleverly made so that the trousers better fits the shape of your leg and that pockets and knee pads are off set so that when the user is wearing them, the pockets are angled in such a way that things do not fall out of them or dig into the side of your leg; also the knee pad area is at a slightly different angle also so that it stays in position when in the crouched/kneeling position. That on top of the standard high quality reinforced stitching in high pressure areas and other great rip resistant materials, it makes for a great new type of trouser.

Scruffs design their workwear to provide fashion inspired trousers, tops, base layers, shirts and rain suits made from active performance materials. Have you had any unusual stock requests from customers though?

We had a customer in Singapore that wanted the Cleo safety boots to confirm that the ones we were selling were legitimate Goliath safety boots as there were some counterfeit ones on the market in Singapore and they did not meet the high safety standards that are delivered in the Goliath safety boot range. Obviously we reassured her that we only deal with the manufacturers so all our products are legitimate.

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You offer worldwide delivery. What work safety clothing/footwear is most popular overseas?

We have a customer in the Philippines who buys a lot of Acid Safety wellington boots from us as well as chemical safety suits – these are arguably the most popular products for us internationally currently.

What work clothing/footwear can we look forward to seeing online for Summer 2015?

We have a range of professional trade work shorts coming out in the Summer and a new range of men’s Scruffs safety boots. We also have a new Active Wear T-Shirt with 50+ SPF protection as well as being light weight and moisture wicking.

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Hypothetically speaking, what famous person would you love to have as the “face” of Mad4Tools/Scruffs?

Lee Evans,  because he is the sort of guy you could imagine running on stage with a chainsaw in his hand much like our mascot Madly. However, we wouldn’t want Madly to feel second best, so we might have to have Lee Evans in a Madly suit. 😉

Being in the tools/equipment industry for over 30 years, what was the best piece of business advice you ever received? And dare I say it, the worst (in respect that you followed the advice but it didn’t work out as you hoped)?

This advice is not necessarily just business, but the best piece of advice I had was to not give up, you don’t get anything worth having without hard work. Worst advice, this is a hard one for me, even something that goes badly based on a suggestion I don’t necessarily believe it was bad as I always take something away from the situation, though one was that we should get a large stock of one particular heater into stock this winter as they sold out last winter and we still have a lot of them now!

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

It’s fair to say that I don’t go shopping enough or as much as I would like. I tend to wear Diesel brown leather shoes, jeans, a polo shirt and a thin but warm coloured jumper. I have been know to wear the odd floral shirt also.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

I don’t necessarily favour any particular sites, in fact I’d prefer to shop somewhere a bit off the beaten track so sometimes you can get some great different stuff through eBay and Amazon from international retailers. Delivery times are somewhat extended although you do end up with something you don’t see on the high street every day. I do, however, buy a few things from ASOS.

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

I could really do with some casual trainers and a gilet. 

Boots or Shoes? 

Boots. I’m not sure if it’s because I played a lot of basketball when I was younger or what, but I prefer the feel of a boot. Although saying that, for the office, where I spend most of my days, a shoe.

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Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog can learn more about Mad 4 Tools and Scruffs.

You can find us on Facebook by searching for Mad4Tools.com and you can follow us @mad4toolscom. Our website is mad4tools.com.

Thank you very much for speaking with us Paul.  It’s an area of womenswear I never really considered before but there was definitely a gap in the market for decent workwear for women in industries that are not office based and I’m so pleased that Scruffs have stepped up to the challenge.  What do you ladies think? Do let me know!

Linda x

Photo Credits : Published with kind permission of Mad4Tools.com/ Scruffs Womenswear

 

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An Interview With My Glasses Club

This week I’m looking at the world of glasses … not as in “wine” glasses but as in spectacles! Serial entrepreneur Scott Woodhead is co-founder of the company My Glasses Club, which claims to be the world’s first subscription based glasses club.  Intrigued? So was I …. so I chatted with him to find out more. Welcome Scott…image

Hi! I’m Scott Woodhead, one of the co-founders of My Glasses Club. I’m 31 and live in a lovely little Yorkshire town called Richmond with my wife Anneka and our 14 day old son Emerson.

My Glasses Club is the world’s first subscription based glasses club. What gave you the idea in the first place?

Well, I noticed lots of clubs cropping up selling everything from artisan coffee and organic foods, vegetables to healthy snacks and even gourmet sausages. But I questioned whether many were solving a real problem or just jumping on the subscription model bandwagon. I have observed for many years the frustrations of many glasses wearers who complained about the upfront cost of owning glasses and then servicing them when lenses got damaged or prescriptions changed. So I asked myself the question, could we use a subscription model to solve these real problems?

What is the aim of My Glasses Club?

Our aim as a team is to learn, grow, have some fun and make a difference. If we can do that over the coming years then by my definition we have been successful. If we can also make it easier and more affordable for consumers to own multiple use pairs, then we would have realised part of our vision.

What benefits do members enjoy that they wouldn’t necessarily enjoy at a traditional High Street opticians when it comes to buying spectacles?

I think the type of consumer that shops with us is not only price savvy but wants to do everything from the comfort of their own home in a few clicks and have it delivered to their door. So I would say price and convenience are the big advantages of shopping with us over a high street optician. Members also get our free reglazes guarantee which is very unique and covers their lenses against damage or prescription changes.

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Can you explain your “Buy A Pair, Give A Pair” promise?How important is the charity aspect to your company?

In all the businesses I have started having a deeper purpose is very important to me. A lot of entrepreneurs these days seem to get into business so they can personally profit. But in my view business is about giving. Giving back to your staff, customers, suppliers and wider communities. Our “Buy a Pair Give a Pair” is one aspect of how we are using of the business to help others. So whenever someone joins our club we give someone in Africa a pair of glasses.

Your range of prescription spectacles and sunglasses is vast and covers designers such as Hugo Boss, Vivienne Westwood and Jimmy Choo. What brand seems to be the most popular with members? Do you have a favourite brand?

Well, Vivienne Westwood and Jimmy Choo seem to be getting the most attention amongst our female audience. I particular love our Original Penguin frames which are really unusual and subtly branded.

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Can you tell us a bit more about the order process?

Customers visit our website with a budget in mind. So we have 4 membership plans to cater for everyone starting at £0.99. Each plan has a selection of frames, with the more expensive plan including the top brands. All they do is select a frame, upload a prescription and choose any additional lens extras on top of the ones which we include with each plan and then the customers glasses are delivered within 5 days. All members get our reglaze guarantee which covers their lenses against damage or prescription changes and then every six months they can choose another pair.They pay one off joining fee of £30 and each plans is billed monthly via Direct Debit with no contracts so they are free to cancel at anytime.

This is a UK based club at the moment – have you any plans to venture overseas with the idea?

Of course, our research has shown that there is a pent up demand for our business model worldwide, but we want to maximise the potential of our home market here in the UK first before we start tackling the wider opportunity. When we do internationalise, we may have to adapt the flavour, and I am excited by that challenge.

Hypothetically speaking, what famous person would you love to have as the “face” of My Glasses Club?

Chris Evans would have been great, but I think he had laser surgery!?

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Being a serial entrepreneur, what was the best piece of business advice you ever received? And dare I say it, the worst (in respect that you followed the advice but it didn’t work out as you hoped)?

The best advice I have been given is to have fun. Business will have its ups and downs but if you’re not enjoying yourself what’s the point. I think when you are having fun and enjoying yourself progress takes care of itself. I can’t really point my finger at anyone and blame them for giving me bad advice that failed, at the end of the day if I took the advice the responsibility lies with me.

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

Anything that is comfortable. This has got me into trouble though at times, when I refused to wear and shirt or tie for my wedding.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I don’t really enjoy shopping and prefer to use my time either with family and friends, working on making MGC better or being with nature.

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

Well as soon as I get a hole in something it is usually the moment when I look to Anneka and say “help”.

Boots or Shoes? 

Shoes that are comfortable, unless I am walking in the Dales then sturdy boots are a must.

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

http://www.myglassesclub.co.uk/
https://www.facebook.com/myglassesclub
https://twitter.com/myglassesclub

Thank you Scott for explaining the concept of My Glasses Club!  I’m sure you’ve given many readers food for thought.  What do you think?  Is this an idea that could work for you? 

Linda x

All photos have been published with kind permission of My Glasses Club

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Spotlight on East Shopping Centre

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Saturday 14th March 2015 sees the grand opening of not only London’s latest shopping centre but it is Europe’s first purpose-built boutique Asian shopping centre, East Shopping Centre, based in Green Street, London E7 – not far from West Ham’s football ground and Newham’s other recently built shopping centre, Westfield Stratford. Following its successful soft launch on January 24th 2015, East Shopping Centre has generated around 200 jobs for the local area as well as injecting much needed enthusiasm for shopping locally. Built on the one acre site of the former bus depot, the centre has retained its original facade but has incorporated the latest eco friendly touches such as solar panels, water flow restrictors, and carefully resourced building materials – protecting resources and saving money too. Green Street has always had an important trade and cultural heritage – my own mother bought her wedding dress from a Green Street dressmaker back in 1962 – and East Shopping Centre hope to build upon and become part of that heritage too.

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So, what’s inside the shopping centre? Major Asian fashion outlets are represented including Zarkan of London, Andaaz Fashion, Memsaab, Imaani London…plus other non fashion companies including Urban Chocolatier and Coffee Republic too. There is a “souk” comprising of smaller, local stores selling everything from costume jewellery to mobile phones – menswear, shoes, bags…

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Overlooking the shopping centre is a spectacular food court where you’ll find food delights such as Piri Piri Chicken from the Roosters chain, desserts and mocktails galore from Lost Asia, American-style burgers from Brioche Burgers… getting hungry?

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Being indoors, the centre is ideal as an all year round shopping venue and with its late night closing time, your shopping pleasure is not hurried.

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So, as I was saying, Saturday 14th March is the official opening day and from 12pm West Ham MP Lyn Brown will be cutting the ribbon. There will be lots going on – the centre will be creating a mela atmosphere with music, dhol players, face painting and much more. East Shopping Centre is also offering raffle tickets giving one lucky winner the chance to win a luxury weekend holiday for two in Dubai, £1000 gift voucher to spend at East Shopping Centre and two iPad Mini 3’s. The first 100 people to arrive on Saturday will receive vouchers to the food court worth £10. All proceeds raised from the raffle will be donated to Masoom, a locally based charity that supports vulnerable women and children around the world.

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East Shopping Centre can be found at 232-236 Green Street, London E7 8LE.

For more information, you can follow East Shopping Centre via their website – www.eastshoppingcentre.com – or via Twitter @EastShopping; Facebook: East Shopping Centre; Instagram: EastShopping

Hope to see you all there! Happy Shopping!

Linda x

All photos have been published with kind permission from Puja Vedi

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If you love boots, shoes and fashion, come on in..

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