Category Archives: Shops/Boutiques/Malls

An Interview With Concrete & Wax

Suffolk duo, Mr Concrete & Mrs Wax (aka Alex and Laura) are gracing my blog this week – Mr Concrete makes modular, stackable candle holders from hand poured concrete; and Mrs Wax makes the most delightful scented soy wax candles …or non scented beeswax candles (with a slight natural aroma of honey) to match. Coming actually from a fashion background, they decided to launch Concrete & Wax In November 2018. I caught up with them recently to find out more about their delightful products ….

Hi! We are married design duo Alex Sommer and Laura Keller. We live in a sixteenth century cottage with our 6 year old Marley and slobber-dog Boadiin the Suffolk countryside. We worked for over two decades in the fashion industry, the last 15 of which through our creative consultancy 2Som Studio, designing and providing trend forecasts to many casual and sportswear brands. In 2018 we decided to combine our creativity with a new focus and, after many months of development, launched CONCRETE & WAX, a collection of concrete holders and natural wax pillar candles, all hand poured in our Suffolk workshop.

After a background in fashion including the running of a trend and forecast magazine – what inspired you to start your company, CONCRETE & WAX?

After Marley was born we knew that we needed a shift in career so that we travelled less. We batted around a few ideas over the years but never both felt equally passionate about one in particular. A close family illness at the start of 2018 meant Laura was away for long periods of time and in the evenings Alex distracted himself by tinkering with concrete. This inspired Laura, when at home, to experiment with wax, believing that the two contrasting materials would work beautifully together. It was like a ‘POW’ moment for us – we knew this was what we wanted to do. Alex suddenly became Mr Concrete and Laura became Mrs Wax! Alex’s love for modular, intelligent design in clothing transferred easily into the stackable, interchangeable collection of holders and candles that we have today. We love to think that our customers can put together their candle arrangement depending on their mood, in the same way they might pull together an outfit from their wardrobe.

I am amazed at the colour versatility of the modular, stackable concrete candle holders – and the Wax candle essence range, especially the unusual “tobacco & oak”. To date, what has been the most popular colour candle holder & popular wax candle fragrance?

Our customers seem to love the monochrome colours the best: Grey, white, black and, for the more adventurous, a little snocam camouflage paired with our white soy wax candles. Lime, Basil and Mandarin is the number one fragrance for women and Tobacco and Oak for men. It always amazes us to see how our customers style the products they’ve chosen to light there space.

What’s your most favourite item(s) in your collection?

It’s hard to pick favourites really, because they all have such unique personalities even though they really are very simple in design. But, our favourite thing by far is the fact they are modular and so can be stacked in many different ways. During the design process it was critical that we created product that would stand the test of time. Knowing the concrete would outlast the candles, and not wanting our customers eternally restricted to buying candles from us, the fact each holder has been designed to fit any standard tealight is a design element we are very proud of. 

Mrs Wax, when deciding fragrances to add to your soy wax candle collections, do you select by what has proved popular with other candle makers, current trends, customer requests, personal preferences or all of those things?

It’s absolutely been about personal preferences. I’ve worn Lime, Basil and Mandarin perfume for most of my adult life so naturally this was my first development. The other fragrances I’ve added for the simple reason that I like them. There is nothing too sweet or overpowering because I don’t like to walk into a room and feel overwhelmed by a fragrance. 

We’re not quite at the personal request stage just yet in terms of our customers contacting me to ask, but I am completely open to that idea, so if anyone has a favourite they’d like me to look into then please get in touch.

I love that you are bringing to life candle holders using hand poured concrete – I love the smooth texture, the colours, the sheen & the fact that no two holders will ever look the same!  – they all look fantastic! Mr Concrete, how long does it take on average to make a concrete candle holder? Which part of the process gives you the most satisfaction?

Thank you. After pouring the concrete, it sits in its mould for 2-3 days, before I remove it – which is the best moment because it’s only at this point that I can see the unique characteristics of each piece, due to tiny air bubbles forming during the initial drying process. The concrete is then left to cure for two weeks before I add our branded cork foot to the base and apply a natural waxed oil protective coating. It goes back on the shelf for another week. Then it’s good to go. The camouflage concrete is always the most fun to pour because Mrs Wax helps me with this, as it is a two-person job. As there is no exact science to our pouring technique, no two pieces are ever the same and we love that fact.

Mrs Wax, can you tell us more about the different types of wax candles you make? What are the properties of the different type of waxes used?

I use only natural wax for our candles. The fragranced white candles are a blend I developed combining soy wax with a sprinkling of beeswax. The beeswax is important to add strength to the pillar candles because soy wax is a much softer wax, hence the reason it is usually used for container candles. And the yellow candles are natural beeswax. I just love the subtle honey aroma they throw out.

As CONCRETE & WAX is based in the UK, are your products on the website available to purchase worldwide? 

Yes – we ship internationally, but as we make concrete, it is a heavy product to ship and some countries are absolutely weight dependent in terms of shipping costs. This has an impact on the price we have to charge for shipping and we fully appreciate that many customers are not prepared to pay for that. All we can say is, as we get bigger and ship bigger quantities we’ll have more negotiating power with the shipping companies and then the costs will come down.

Are there any new products or candle fragrances in the pipeline for 2019/2020?

Yes, we have three new colours in concrete in a tranquil, calming palette. They are lovely. And we’re also working on a couple of new candle fragrances. It’s a little early to specify exactly what yet because many are still in early testing phase, but Mediterranean fragrances are the inspiration, such as fig, orange, rosemary and basil.

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

L: Jeans, a casual top and easy footwear. As I’m a working Mum to a 6 year old it’s mostly about throwing it on in the morning to get breakfast, hair style and tooth brushing sorted in time for the school run (all of those things for her by the way, not me). Once that’s done I’d love to say I come home and glam up, but I usually jump straight on to the computer or into candle making.

A: A rather more masculine version of what Laura wears! Or camouflage overalls when I’m in the workshop.


Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

L: When I have an hour or two to spare I love a good hunt through the rails at TK Maxx as invariably you can find something special at a great price. 

A: Goodhood or End Clothing are my go-to sites.


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

L: Something glamorous for the Christmas season.  

A: I’m on the hunt for a vintage quilted leather jacket. 

Boots or Shoes?

We hate to admit it, but usually trainers. After working for so many years in the sportswear industry, it’s a tough style choice to shift because there are just so many great ones out there – and you just can’t beat the comfort. 

L: Although saying that I have been wearing a cute pair of pale grey suede Chelsea boots quite a lot recently.

For Pinning Later


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

www.concreteandwax.com

Facebook & Instagram: @concreteandwax

I hope your business continues to burn brightly – I really am amazed at the colour variations available for concrete!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of CONCRETE & WAX

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An Interview With Village Leathers

Established in 1974 by Tony & Angie, Village Leathers is a small family-based business based in London that specialises in a wide range of belts, bags and accessories for both men and women. They began as street traders, growing to stores in Covent Garden, now online too. Although a lot of their styles are classics, their latest accessory ranges are very colourful and very much on trend. I caught up with Verity, part of “Team Village Leathers” to find out more about the very swish bags that she and the team make! Hi Verity!

Hi! I’m Verity from Village Leathers, I’ve been working here for years and I’m part of the team who hand make our leather goods. Village Leathers is a family owned business which started out by selling handmade leather belts from a suitcase on the streets of London in 1974. Since then we’ve grown to have two small shops in Covent Garden’s Jubilee Market and more recently set up a website too. We’re still a small team with just 10 of us in total split between the shops and the studio where we produce leathers belts and accessories in small batches by hand.

Starting life as street traders, progressing to shops in London’s Covent Garden (one of my favourite London spots) and now online – what challenges have you had to face (business or personal) in each selling arena, eg adapting to selling from a market stall to a shop environment or adapting to online technology etc?

When we started selling online it was a big learning curve for us. We do all the photography and website maintenance in house so we had to learn a whole new skillset as well as keep up with the production of goods. It was challenging but such a brilliant experience. The other issue we face, which I know many small independent business’ struggle with, is online exposure. We’re a small fish in a big pond so competing with bigger brands was a little tricky at first, luckily our customers soon found us and valued our ethos. They recognise the craftsmanship and quality of materials we’ve sourced for our range of handmade goods. This means our customers can buy better products, fewer times, supporting the growing number of people trying to reign in overconsuming tendencies.

As for our shops we’re having lots of fun at the moment redesigning the layout ready for a refit next year. As we are based in small shops offering a wide range of products and colourways showcasing all our designs is really important for us but can look a bit overwhelming to shop visitors. To make it a pleasure to shop with us we’ll be implementing sections and adding much more signage throughout the shop that communicates everything you’ll need to know about our leathers, sizing and collections. It’s quite an undertaking but it will make such a difference as I think it’s been about 15 years since the last one!

I love the brightly coloured Leather Belt Bag – a sophisticated version of the bumbag/fanny pack! Your latest ranges, Chroma and Roam collections, are available in a stunning range of bright colours- Yellow, Red, Green, Sky Blue, Tangerine Orange – they are all simply gorgeous! However, what bags are proving popular amongst your customers so far this season? Is there a difference between the popularity stakes of items purchased from your shop and those purchased online?

I’m so glad you like the Belt Bag, it’s new territory for us as we haven’t entered that market before but it was so nice to design such a contemporary product and the response so far has been really positive. Over this season we’ve definitely seen customers both instore and online being drawn to the more fruity and vibrant colours like the sunny yellow of the Chroma Shoulder Bag, zesty Orange Roam Clutch Bag and now that we’re entering Autumn we’re seeing the Tan, Olive and Grey colourways come into their own. In terms of bag design I think the Chroma Shoulder Bag has pipped it this season, it’s such a nifty little bag, ideal for days out and it looks stunning. With a simple silhouette and secure turnlock it means you can pair it with every outfit effortlessly. 

In the shops we have a lot of people come in looking for a special gift to take back from London for their friends and family at home, that usually takes the form of something like a Roam Clutch Bag and matching zip purse. It’s so nice to see people really thinking about which colour or design their loved one will treasure the most. It’s only right they treat themselves to something as well for being so considerate! 

Have you got any personal favourites?

So, one of my favourite products we make sounds so basic but I get really excited telling people about it so here goes. It’s our Classic Black 1 1/4 Belt, the reason I love it is because it is the epitome of a wardrobe staple. I think everyone should own one. It’s made from delicious, thick Italian vegetable tanned leather. This kind of leather is made in the most eco friendly and natural ways by using tannins found in some plants and bark. It’s a very old artisanal process and only a small percentage of leather goods produced worldwide use veg tanned leather because it is slow to produce, therefore more expensive per foot. But, the quality of the leather is so high, rich in colour, supple and ages beautifully. We actually guarantee our Classic belts for 25 years, that’s how good it is, and what’s more is that at the end of it’s like the leather is biodegradable! The other great thing about this belt is that you can swap the buckles really easily to suit your outfit. And yes I have a favourite buckle – Westend Silver, its solid brass!

Your company also offers a bespoke service. Have you had any bizarre bespoke requests?

That’s such a great question! We’re often asked to tweak designs or emboss a meaningful date or name onto pieces to make them extra special. We once individually monogrammed some belts for a group of Groomsmen and one of their nicknames was ‘Snake’, I didn’t ask how he got that!

We work closely with the theatre a lot too and we once had a project that required us to make a bumbag which could hold a cabbage…

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

Yes! Absolutely, we send our goods worldwide. It’s amazing to think there are people all over the world enjoying our products that were made in our little workshop. Recently we had a customer send us a picture of a Bag she’d picked up from us in Covent Garden in 1988, she’s been using it daily in Australia since then!

When designing/producing products to add to your collections, do you take into account your own tastes, your customer base, current fashion trends, requests, vintage quality or bits of all those?

All our designs must first meet our values; affordability and handcrafted quality married with classic and practical design. We have a core range of products which have remained practically unchanged for years and years. The idea is they are classic wardrobe staples that can be paired with lots of outfits, the perfect balance between form and function. We make them using highly efficient, time-tested leather crafting techniques so they can last and build patina as they are worn and used, this means the designs are  timeless, reasonably priced and of unparalleled quality. 

Having this core range of classic products allows us to flex our creativity by designing small batches of seasonal products that consider customer needs and micro trends. A good example of this would be our Belt Bag or Hair on Hide Leopard Bag strap, as we manufacture the products ourselves we can make near instant tweaks based on customer feedback such as swapping a popper closure for a push lock on the Belt Bag. This means the customer gets exactly what they need and the design process is more collaborative. 

When you are not making & selling bags and belts, what do you enjoy doing in your leisure time?

Well, as you can imagine we love to make stuff in our spare time but not always from leather. At the moment two of us are making patterns for some dungarees we’re hoping to have done by next summer if we can find the time. If we’re not working on craft projects we like to ride our bikes or enjoy some of the amazing exhibitions that are always going on in London. We love organising staff outings too as an excuse to enjoy some of the great restaurants around Covent Garden, most recently we went to Padella in London Bridge where we ordered two rounds of food.

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

I opt for practical shoes that will protect my toes from any dropped tools or hammers in the workshop, that being said I want to feel chic and stylish at the same time so I’m usually rocking a pair of 1461 Doc Martens. We’re all big fans of Luck and Yak trousers and dungarees which are so comfy to wear at home or work and made in an ethical way. Outside the workshop, when we’re not going to get filthy and covered in thread or leather we really like to dress up and wear our own creations. I go for minimal, comfortable silhouettes made from organic cotton and linen. At the moment my favourite colours are rust and cobalt blue, I’m lusting after a lot of L.F Markey designs at the moment. Obviously all our outfits are accessorised with Village Leathers bags and belts.

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

As a fan of timeless designs I really love having a look around Labour and Wait in London. They offer amazingly curated homewares, I don’t know how they’ve found them but they stock loads of independent makers from all over who make beautiful and functional items that bring me joy. When I’m thinking of adventuring I like to browse Patagonia, I really relate to their brand values and the latest “Black Hole’ collection of bags is amazing as its made from recycled bottles. Online I love looking at Cool Machine Shop for their brilliantly fun, contemporary  and colourful offerings. Locally to me in Crystal Palace you’ll always find me in Lowie or Elkins for their gorgeous womenswear, books and homeware. 

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

I’m saving up for a Rust corduroy Boilersuit I’ve got my eye on. Effortless, chic and functional, what more do you need? 

Boots or Shoes?

Shoes – simply because I’m too impatient to bother undoing the laces on boots and nearly cause myself an injury pulling them on and off.

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

https://www.villageleathers.com

@villageleathers on Instagram 

http://instagram.com/villageleathers

https://facebook.com/villageleathers

For Pinning Later

Thank you Verity for your fabulous insight into the company you work for. I love the quality of your products and your small Aladdin’s Cave of a shop in Covent Garden is certainly worth checking out!

Linda x

All photographs are published with kind permission of Village Leathers.

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An Interview With Wilde Ones

This week I’m featuring on my blog one of the oldest independent stores in the heart of Chelsea, London – Wilde Ones. This store houses the largest collection of Native American jewellery and interiors in the UK – sourcing directly from Zuni, Navajo, Hopi, Yaquima, Apache and Sioux artists. A store that is unique indeed and I caught up recently with founder Greg to find out more… Hi Greg and welcome 😊

Hello! I’m Greg Ohanian, founder and owner of Wilde Ones, Chelsea, London, UK.

What inspired the setting up of Wilde Ones?

Having just come out of fashion college, I had an idea which took off. The idea was to create a range of hats with feather trim and without. In the late 80’s and early 90’s, the world music and ethnic fashion scenes were just emerging, yet there were no such accessories to fit the look. We introduced a silk embroidered skullcap which we sold from Browns, Liberties and Harrods, to shops in Europe and department stores in the USA. That’s how Wilde Ones started in 1987. Eventually we sold all the way to Top Shop. We also did trade shows like The London based British Designer Show. Originally we started off at the famous Blue Bird Fashion Market on The Kings Road, then we moved to our present premises and expanded into crystals, gemstone jewellery and Native American artefacts and jewellery.

I’m always interested in the origins of brand names, so why did you settle for “Wilde Ones” and were there other name considerations?

The name started off simply because one of the owners’ surname was Wilde but we also liked the fact that we were in Chelsea, the home of Oscar Wilde. It was really a combination of things which brought about the name.

Your company has the largest UK collection of Native American jewellery and interiors. Are there differences in style, subtle or otherwise, between the artists of different Native American groups? 

Indeed, each tribe and region distinguishes itself with its own style and design. We’re lucky to have established strong relationships with amazing artists from the Zuni, Navajo, Hopi, Sioux, Apache, Acoma, Santo Domingo, Taos Pueblo, Yaquima and Huichol People. For example, Zuni artists specialise in inlay work, Santa Domingo in graded bead necklaces, Yaquima in feather earrings, etc.

I love the range of jewellery, obviously, but my personal favourites are the Native American Acoma Pottery. What items are proving popular amongst your customers so far this season?

Those Acoma pots are truly stunning. Interiors have their ebbs and flows like all the other myriad items in the shop. This season it’s the handmade tie-dye clothing which we has been selling from day one. All the major designers are onto it but they have a hard time copying our designs because we have an artist designer friend in San Francisco, CA, who has been supplying us exclusively for the past 28 years and his skill is second to none. He produces a wide range of t-shirts, shirts, dresses, camisoles, trousers, sarongs, socks, in silk and cotton. This year the tie-dye hats are proving especially popular as they’re a new item as well as the silk velvet capes. We are also introducing a new line of hemp t-shirts because we feel hemp is a much more sustainable fabric and want to promote its use. 

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

That would be like picking your favourite child! We love them all equally. Personally, I’m a Navajo rug addict and they’re one of my favourite things. We currently have around 200 unique antique pieces, carded, spun, woven and dyed by hand between 1880 and 1950. They’re very special.

As you are based in the heart of Chelsea in London, are your products available to purchase overseas? 

Yes, our products are available on our website www.wildeones.com and we ship worldwide.

When choosing jewellery/pottery/clothing to add to your collection, do you take into account your own tastes, your customer base, requests, traditional charm or bits of all those?

It’s definitely a combination of those. When I’m buying I choose for our long time loyal customers to add to their extensive collections. People often come in and say over time they’ve filled their homes with our products. Or that they have most of our jewellery and that I need to go get some more.

Looking ahead, are you looking at adding any new designs or products to your current collections?

I’m always looking to add to our collections and so I keep having to travel further and deeper into uncharted territories. You never know what you’ll find next. Lately I’ve been going to the Huichol tribe in Mexico. They create the most beautiful animal sculptures with incredibly intricate beadwork.

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

Aside from our own tie-dye clothing I’m very happy wearing Element clothing from California and Clarke’s Originals shoes. I also love to wear and collect vintage clothing.

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

The Cloth Shop in Soho and The Vintage Shop in Covent Garden.

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

I want hemp clothes and hemp shoes and all items made of hemp. Hemp products are the future so we should encourage the use of this wonder plant.

Boots or Shoes?

Clarkes Originals. In between boots and shoes and just very comfortable.

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

Official website: www.wildeones.com
Facebook page: Wilde Ones Shop  
https://www.facebook.com/wildeonesshop/ Instagram: @wildeoneslondon https://www.instagram.com/ Twitter: @wildeoneslondon = https://twitter.com/wildeoneslondon

For Pinning Later

Thank you Greg for giving us a virtual tour of the “Wilde Ones”. I must say that the Mexican animal sculptures sound like an interesting addition to your already impressive range. Are you ready to delve into the wild side and check out this store, dear reader?

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Wilde Ones.

Photos and Article copyright © LindaHobden.


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Hunkemoller Review

On trend this season – the rise of “loungewear/ leisurewear/ nightwear” – no longer are pyjamas taboo outside of the bedroom. Although I am still not a fan of the onesie – the other combinations of long pants/leggings/shorts with the combination of camisoles/sweatshirts/T-shirts have definitely grown on me. Comfortable to lounge around in whilst watching television in the evenings, as a warmer alternative to skimpier nightwear in bed, to wear before getting fully dressed in the day, respectable enough not to bat an eyelid on the school run, for those sick days…. the uses are numerous to say the least. One of Europe’s largest lingerie specialists, Hunkemoller, have one of the best ranges of loungewear I’ve seen in a long time …. here’s my review…. 

DISCLAIMER ALERT: The loungewear/nightwear has been supplied by Hunkemoller for the purpose of this review however all opinions expressed are 100% mine.

First of all, the website – www. hunkemoller.co.uk. It came across to me as an easy to navigate website, clear descriptions  and placing an order is simple.  We are talking luxury lingerie and nightwear of the highest quality – and I found that the prices were very reasonable indeed.

Delivery:  After you’ve placed your order, despatch is pretty quick, arriving within 2 – 3 days.  When I received my package, I was impressed.  Inside the large logo clad box, was enclosed my sumptious green velvet camisole and green loose fitting pyjama pants.

Velvet Lace Cami:

The company claims that this camisole:

  1. Feels super sexy and feminine.
  2. Has adjustable shoulder straps
  3. Velvet Fabric Finished With Sexy Lace Details
  4. Material: 95% polyester/ 5% elastane.

Well, on all 4 points the company are spot on! The velvet camisole certainly looks luxurious, it is soft to touch, has a slight stretch, feels comfortable to wear and is prettily edged in lace. The lace trim and the camisole itself is in a gorgeous dark green shade – I picked the colour as it is my favourite – but there were other colours available on the website including a pretty pink and a rich burgundy red.

Lace Edging On The Bottom Of The Camisole

Loose-Fitting Pyjama Pants:

The company blurb:

  1. Super comfortable
  2. Elasticated Waist
  3. 95% viscose/5%elastane
  4. Tie Closure
Tie Waistband

The pants I picked to match with the camisole were also dark green with black leopard print like spots. They had cuffed ankles and a comfortable elasticated tie waistband. The trousers were a lovely fit – not too baggy and not too tight. I’m a size UK10/12 and the “medium” was spot on. Lengthwise, I’m 5ft3” and as you can see from my picture below, the trousers sit comfortably on my ankle. The cuffed ankle was a feature I had not really considered before but apart from looking stylish, it helped to keep the trousers in place but to be honest, there wasn’t a lot of excess material gathering at the ankle, so the trousers may be a bit short if you are over 5’6”.

Cuffed Ankle

Laundry Advice:

There is a recommendation to wash on a gentle 40º wash cycle – no ironing, tumble drying, dry cleaning or hand washing. The material is virtually crease proof.

My Verdict:

I loved them more than I expected to! The colour is gorgeous, the quality is superb and they are really, really comfortable. I would have no hesitation buying other products from this company – the designs are fabulous and the workmanship is first rate. 10/10

For pinning later

My thanks goes to Hunkemoller for allowing me to sample their products – you’ve got yourself a fan!

Happy Shopping!

Linda x

All photographs are by Linda Hobden.

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7 Vegan Valentines Gifts

Valentines Day is almost upon us and shelves in the supermarkets and shops are full of red heart shaped delights from chocolates to prosecco to perfumes. If you or your partner are vegan, there are a range of products that might just tickle your fancy as well as your tastebuds!

The Vegan Society is the world’s oldest vegan society and registered educational charity. In fact, in 1944, co-founder Donald Watson actually came up with the term “vegan”. There are now over 30,000 goods and services that bear the famous Vegan Trademark symbol.

There are many ways to embrace vegan living, but one thing all vegans have in common is a plant-based diet avoiding all animal foods such as meat, fish, shellfish, insects, dairy, eggs, honey – as well as products leather and anything tested on animals. So, when it comes to choosing a Valentines gift – or a gift or treat for anytime – here are 7 ideas that might just fit the bill….

  1. Chocolate & Love’s Dark Chocolate Tin

A beautiful, colourful tin full of vegan dark chocolate Neapolitans. The vegan chocolate is a mix of Panama 80% single origin, Rich Dark 71% and 70% Madagascan single. A must for fans of dark chocolate! www.chocolateandlove.com

2. Broadland Wineries’ Proudly Vegan Wines

Before my friend became a vegan, her main worry was not being able to enjoy a glass of wine. That isn’t an issue nowadays as Proudly Vegan wines have a selection of palatable rose, merlot and Sauvignon Blanc to choose from. Even the ink and glue on the labels are 100% vegan! The wines are available from Ocado.

3. Eden Perfumes’ Gift Set

Eden Perfumes match your favourite designer or popular fragrances, perfume and aftershave, using vegan ingredients such as jasmine (my favourite), vanilla, passionfruit, musk, saffron, sandalwood amongst others. www.edenperfumes.co.uk

4. Honest Brew’s 12 Beer Mixed Case

Prefer beer to wine? This mixed case of vegan-friendly beers might be more up your street. www.honestbrew.co.uk

5. The Gin Guild’s Organic London Dry Gin

Gin is all the rage at the moment and this London Dry Gin is 100% organic and GM-free. All their grain is grown organically without the use of toxic pesticides, insecticides and industrial fertilisers. They also hand harvest and dry their botanicals on site. They have a FairWild Certificate which means that those harvesting are properly paid for their junipers. Introduced in 1999, The Juniper Green gin has so far won 25 international medals against all the world’s gins, including golds in both the UK and USA. Available from Ocado, Amazon and online www.theginguild.com

6. Booja Booja’s ChocolateTruffles

Handmade luxurious Chocolate truffles inebriated with organic fine de champagne. Just stylish & sophisticated. Find these in Waitrose.

7. LUSH’s All Yours Gift Set

Available at all LUSH stores, the All Yours Gift Set was designed by artist Kim Sielbeck. She was inspired by the colours of the sunset and verdant mountains that fill her with magical energy. Certainly vibrant – inside this box you’ll find a Peachy bath bomb, Avocado wash shower gel, American Pie body conditioner and a Bubblegum lip scrub. Just the job for a pampering session…..

With Love, Linda x

For pinning later. Photo by Linda Hobden

Apart from the last photo, all other photos have been published with kind permission from The Vegan Society (and the featured brands)

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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 www.dresscodenine.co.uk 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.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dresscodenine/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/dresscodenine/

Google+: https://goo.gl/maps/Athj5F5Uoqy

website: http://dresscodenine.co.uk

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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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:

http://fairtrade.org.uk

http://www.traidcraftshop.co.uk

Happy Shopping!

Linda x

All photos are by Linda Hobden

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Shopping Westfield Stratford City Style

I was born in Stratford, East London in 1965 and lived in the area until 1987.  Although I moved out of London, in the early 2000s I commuted to London via Stratford. In the 1970s/1980s, Stratford had a small shopping centre – there was a small Mary Quant store, a Sainsbury’s food store and a large Co-Op store which had a small Top Shop area  amongst other small shops.  It wasn’t the nicest of shopping centres to visit – it had a small seating area in the middle of the centre which usually had a few “skinheads” sprawled menacingly  over the seats – the best part was actually the small theatre to the side, Theatre Royal Stratford E15, where many West End shows started life.  Attached to the centre was the railway station – central line underground and British Rail to Liverpool Street – plus a large bus station.  Later the Docklands Light Railway was born – I can remember travelling on the line for the first time – the monorail was brilliant and “so modern”.

When London won its bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games, a transformation took place in Stratford.  A new station was built – Stratford International, parkland created, Olympic stadiums built, hotels, new roads, new train lines … and a new shopping centre. I watched the progress of the building of the new shopping centre as I commuted via Stratford. Westfield Stratford City was finally opened on 13 September 2011.  Although I have visited the Olympic Stadium, and skirted the outside of the shopping area – it was only last Sunday that I actually visited the shopping city properly!

“Shopping city” is the ideal word for this centre – it is massive – covering a total floor area of 1,905,542 square feet – making it the 3rd largest shopping centre in the UK in terms of retail space, although if you take into account the surrounding shopping area as well as the indoor centre, it is the largest shopping urban area centre  in Europe.  The centre has approximately 280 stores, 70 restaurants,   2 hotels (Premier Inn & Holiday Inn), 24 – hour casino, 17 screen all digital Vue cinema, 10 pin bowling alley, pubs, champagne bar…

Its 3 anchor stores are John Lewis, Marks & Spencer and Waitrose.  Fashion stores – spoilt for choice – include Jaeger, Mulberry, All Saints, Hugo Boss, Victoria’s Secret, Missguided, Ann Summers, Armani Jeans, Diesel, Calvin Klein Underwear, Charles Tyrwhitt, DKNY Men, FatFace, Fred Perry, Gant, Gap, Hollister, Topshop, Topman

Shoe shops…. Dr Martens, Dune, Kurt Geiger, Linzi, Russell & Bromley, Skechers, Vans ….

Other stores include the Disney Store, Apple, Foyles, Guess Accessories, Hawkins Bazaar, HMV, Hotel Chocolat, IKEA, Kiko MakeUp Milano, Krispy Kreme, Lego, Lush, MAC cosmetics, Neal’s Yard Remedies, Nespresso, Swarovski, The Body Shop ….

And the old shopping centre is still there, with its own array of shops, over the other side of the original Stratford station.

According to Westfield, there are 3 car parks supporting 4,500 car park spaces but 80% of shoppers arrive via public transport.  When central London (St Pancras) is only 7 minutes away by high speed train plus 2 bus stations, 2 railway stations – served by London Underground (central & jubilee lines), TFL Rail, Overground trains, Docklands Light Railway and the new Elizabeth line is due to be opened later this year – there is never a better case for letting the “train take the strain”.

So, what did I truly think?

– I’m not a fan of large indoor shopping malls  BUT this centre is large but very airy with wide walkways and has outdoor areas too – it avoids being  too claustrophobic!

– It gets very busy on Saturdays, especially on days when the stadium is in use ( football & music concerts). I preferred visiting on a Sunday – Sundays are busy but it was a better day to wander comfortably around the shops.

– The array of shops is mind boggling and makes a nice change to physically shop rather than being online. 

– The centre itself is very clean and impressive – and a far cry from the Stratford I knew in the 1980s!

Have you been to Westfield Stratford City? What do you think?  Do share your opinions, I’d love to know!

Linda x

All photographs are by Linda Hobden

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An Interview With Ruth Emily Davey (RED Shoes)

From Machynlleth in Wales, my guest this week is the lovely shoemaker Ruth Emily Davey who has been making handcrafted shoes designed to last for over 12 years. She began shoemaking when she was apprenticed to designer shoemaker Alan James Raddon – she still makes Alan’s designs under licence as well as having a range of her own designs too. In 2016 she travelled to Mexico and Japan to investigate the passing down of shoemaking techniques between master and apprentice; in 2013 she won a QEST scholarship to study more about tweed on the Isle of Lewis; plus she has trained to be a reflexologist so she really does know how to create shoes that benefit your feet.  I caught up with Ruth recently to find out more. Hi Ruth….

Hi! My name is Ruth Emily Davey. I am a Shoemaker, trading under my label Ruth Emily Davey or RED Shoes. I make footwear for people from all walks of life from my shop in Machynlleth, Wales which I opened in May 2016. My shoes are made to the unique shape of your feet, so they are broad in the toe box, narrow under the arch and flat, which is much better for your body. They are made from bespoke Italian leathers which last for years and years and are repairable too.

What was the inspiration behind your venture into shoemaking?

I am from an art based background, so I had just finished 3 years of Art college and was a bit unsure of what to do next, lots of my friends were going on to university and I felt like I wanted to do something much more creative and hands on instead of spending hours writing about conceptual art projects. It’s all about who you know in Wales and Alan was a friend of a friend and my mum had heard he was looking for an apprentice. I went to see him, we clicked and it began as an informal apprenticeship which developed into a 5 yeas of learning how to make shoes and also how to run a business (Alan left his successful career in advertising to begin life in Wales in the 1970s). This was 12 years ago so I have been making shoes independently of Alan for 7 years. I have won several awards for my work which has really helped boost my business. I am a Balvenie Young master of craft, a QEST Scholar and a WCMT fellow and I have been on judging panels with Kevin McCloud, all of which has helped me on my way.

You still produce shoemaker Alan James Raddon’s designs under licence as well as having your own range of designs. What styles are popular requests?

So I had the need to breathe individuality into my work as well as continue the legacy of Alan’s designs after I had finished my apprenticeship and so I made a range of boots which are really popular amongst my own age group. The Shandals®, which are Alan’s creation are timeless and people of all ages wear them all over the world as they are so unique looking and really good for the feet.

Have you got a favourite style from your collection?

I have been busy making a collection of footwear using handwoven cloth from my travels and I love the combinations of leather and fabrics together, I am greatly inspired by colour.

Early in 2016 you were awarded the Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship which enabled you to visit both Mexico & Japan to investigate the passing down of techniques between master & apprentice. What were the most interesting/ surprising things that you learnt whilst in Mexico & Japan? Do you use any techniques/ideas that you learnt whilst abroad in your shoemaking nowadays?

The trip was one of the best times of my life. I got to visit small indigenous weavers in Mexico and amazing craftspeople all over Japan that continue the work of their ancestors. I learned so much about what craftsmen and women put into their work and it reaffirmed the reason why I believe making things are such an important part of our skills as human beings. I also learned a lot about the passing on of skills and how important it is to bring forward the work of our past. Like here in the UK, for example, we have a kind of devotion to the handmade product but there is masses of infrastructure to encourage us to bring workmanship from abroad instead of employing the hands of people here. It means there are thousands of young people with no skill sets and as time goes on people are becoming emptyhanded and a bit depressed. Skills are becoming lost or forgotten and I think that is criminal. There needs to be way more support for individual apprenticeships to bring back the revival of cottage industry. Children need to be taught hands on skills and creative education needs to be brought back into education to bring forward a new generation of makers and creative thinkers.

Which famous person would you love to see as the “face” of RED?

That’s a good question! Hmm Natalie Portman because she has nice feet! And I always wanted to get a power woman like Alex Polizzi in my shoes, I always see so many celebrities teetering around in high heels and their feet are so squashed it must be excruciating! I always think they would look so much better in shoes that are the right shape for their feet and COMFORTABLE so they can feel grounded and powerful and their toes would look so much better!

Looking ahead to Spring/Summer 2017 – what new colours/styles do you hope to introduce?

I can make shoes in pretty much any colour and I love seeing outside inspirations coming through people’s choices, so someone can walk into the shop and choose combinations that I would never have expected to go together or they might have always dreamed about a pair of scarlet brogues or sapphire blue suedes and it’s an amazing feeling to be able to fulfil that inner desire. I recently made a pair of bright red/yellow/green brogues for a woman in her 60s who was determined to turn heads as she walks down the high-street. I love making shoes for men and and women of all ages, from all sorts of backgrounds.

Although you are based in Wales, are your shoes & boots available to purchase overseas?

I am based in Wales but have a postal order service so you can send your measurements and I post you a fitting. This means you can order my shoes from anywhere in the world. I have several customers in the USA and Australia and all over Europe. It’s always nice to meet the person you are making shoes for though and this week a lady from Sweden came all the way to my workshop to order her shoes in person.

You won a QEST scholarship in 2013 which helped you to study more about tweed on the Isle of Lewis and also enabled you to train as a reflexologist. How important was it to you that you trained in reflexology and how has it helped with your shoe designing?

I think Reflexology is such a fascinating and deeply ancient practise, I wanted to learn more about the feet from a holistic perspective and the course has been great at really understanding how important the feet are and how many ailments can be targeted through reflexes in the feet. We so often bundle the feet into shoes that are totally immovable; we have lost the connection we should have to the earth and as a result SO many problems begin with the feet. You only have to walk barefoot in grass for 10 minutes a day to feel the benefits and although I am a shoemaker I tend to be barefoot as much as possible!

With travel on my mind, if you could visit any other place to study footwear/shoemaking or just to gain inspiration – where would it be and why?

So many places… I would love to go back and spend 6 months solidly learning how to make traditional Huarches in Mexico (one day..) and in terms of fabrics there is some really interesting places all over the middle east, India and Africa. One day I will have made shoes from fabrics from every continent in celebration of the work of craftspeople all over the world.

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

I can normally be found wearing boring black suede ankle boots despite having access to literally any shade of any colour under the sun.. but I love unusual designers and cuts in clothing that are really original so you know you are the only one wearing it.

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

My friend Haley Trezise is a great designer with unique style, see www.raggedyrags.co.uk

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

I only wear my own shoes, I have tried other shoe designs that I like but it just feels wrong! I love quite understated but unusual clothes but often don’t have time to search for them. I am 8 months pregnant right now so all I am looking for are nice stretchy clothes at the second!

Boots or Shoes?

I find a short ankle boot goes with nearly everything. I also have a pair of gold brogues which I love wearing at the moment.

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

www.ruthemilydavey.co.uk

www.facebook.com/ruthemilydavey

www.instagram.com/ruthemilydavey

http://twitter.com/RuthEmilyDavey

PHOTO TO PIN LATER:

 

Thank you Ruth for joining me on the blog today and I hope all goes well with the birth.  I love the bright colours and I do so love the Shandal … in fact I would like all the shoes in your photos! 🙂 So, dear readers, what colour combinations would you go for? For me, a combination of turquoise, teal & cobalt blue would be my choice.  What about you? Do share your thoughts, I’d love to know!

Linda x

All photos published with kind permission of Ruth Emily Davey.

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Changing Face Of The UK High Street

Near enough every day on the news one hears about a chain of stores closing down, shops boarded up, flagship stores opening, restaurants changing ownership, pubs being converted into houses, pop up shops opening for a season… the High Street is constantly changing due to many factors from the introduction of online shopping through to  changing needs of the consumer.  It’s not all doom & gloom – however, when I was a teenager there were many fashion & shoe stores lining my local High Street – shops such as Freeman Hardy Willis, Chelsea Girl, BHS, Woolworths – now the High Street is more likely to house coffee shops, convenience stores and beauty salons. ParcelHero, e-commerce fulfilment specialists have launched findings of their major report: 2030 – The Death Of The High Street. I spoke to David Jinks MILT, Parcelhero’s Head of Consumer Research and the main author of the report, to find out more.  Hi David!

Hi! I’m David Jinks, Head of Consumer Research and Public Relations at ParcelHero. ParcelHero is an online parcel broker that gets lower prices with the likes of DHL, UPS and DPD than consumers can get if they book directly. We also ensure your parcels are picked up from your home or preferred location. E-commerce and home deliveries are transforming retail right now; so it’s a fascinating industry to be in. Before I joined ParcelHero I was publisher and PR Manager for The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport; and before that an Editor at Time Inc on magazines as diverse as model cars, coin collecting and sci-fi toys and merchandise. You get the picture… don’t come looking to me for fashion advice!

Seattle, Washington, USA – May 27, 2012: The Banana Republic downtown Seattle store location prominently features its store name on banners to increase visibility of its name.

You are the main author of the recent ParcelHero report: 2030 – The Death Of The High Street. What inspired you to put pen to paper?

Our retail-based customers are enjoying booming sales; which is great for us as well as them! But at the same time several rather niche but loved shops in my home town have closed. Looking at the rising online sales figures there was obviously a direct correlation between the two. As a part of the home delivery industry we wanted to draw attention to what could happen to our town centres if businesses and local councils, etc, don’t wake up and smell the coffee. The impact on our High Street could be profound if shops are just left to fall empty.

The report has revealed that by 2030, the impact of online shopping and home deliveries will mean that over half of today’s UK town centre stores, including the majority of today’s fashion outlets will have vanished. What do you think has contributed to the decline of the High Street & the rise in online shopping?

It’s all about price and convenience. You can order up-to-the-minute quality clothing online in the comfort of your own home for prices even Primark may find hard to beat. You are not at the mercy of what’s in stock right now in your local fashion stores. The tense and depressing trog around shopping centres, unable to find the item you really want, is behind us. And buying online gives you better rights. You can return most items within 14 days without giving any reason whatsoever. So it’s easy to order the same item in a couple of different sizes and simply return the one that doesn’t fit. Or simply send the lot back if you don’t like it. Online sellers don’t have the overheads involved with stores; and are not at the mercy of what their buyer thought would be in fashion when ordering many months before. It’s far easier for, say, ASOS to introduce new lines swiftly, than it is for M&S who have to stock all their stores; or your local indie fashion store that will have had to commit to a certain order weeks in advance. So there’s little wonder High Street fashion stores are suffering. They are the new fashion victims.

In 1950 there were 600,000 stores in the UK, in 2012 there were 290,000 and just 220,000 will survive by 2020. It is not only fashion outlets that struggle but other outlets like bookstores too. What types of stores have lost their High Street allure?

There’s a list as long as your arm. Department stores suffer from the same issues as fashion retailers. They must commit to large stocks and are then unable to respond swiftly to the latest retail trends. BHS won’t be the only big name to disappear. There’s likely to be an unhappy ending to toy story either. Toy shops are disappearing faster than you can say Buzz Lightyear. Even supermarkets are not immune. As more and more of us do the big weekly food shop online they will be left as white elephants in our town centres.

It’s not all doom and gloom though – what types of outlets are more likely to prosper in the High Street in 2030? Why the growth of these particular outlets?

Nail bars! Seriously, any beauty place where physical contact is needed, such as hair dressers and beauty salons will always be needed. If things go on as they are then most of the rest of our streets will be full of chicken shacks and charity stores. However, if local authorities and retailers learn to live with e-commerce then there is indeed a bright future. People need to move back into our town centres; turning some sites that were once stores into homes. Around these houses will spring up convenience stores, restaurants etc; ensuring our city centres cease to be no go areas after 6pm. A 24-hour community will need local stores serving niche needs with expert service to compliment what’s available online. Local stores will also offer parcel pick up and drop off points and even 3D printing stores as technology moves on. The High Street could become vibrant even in the evenings again.

London, UK – October 27, 2013: American Apparel Store on Curtain Road, Shoreditch, London on a quiet

When you compiled the report, were you surprised by the end results? What was the most unexpected fact?

When I started, we still had American Apparel and Banana Republic, as well as stores such as Staples. The swift collapse of major brands in the UK had me rushing to keep the report up to date and get it out before any other big names vanish!

In 2006, just 2% of UK fashion spend was online, now it is almost 25%. The online fashion industry could reach £36.2bn by 2030. This figure doesn’t surprise me as I now do most of my fashion shopping online. I do miss the old shops, especially the shoe shops such as Freeman Hardy Willis ..However, in Colchester, a new Primark has just opened on the site of the old BHS; and in Chelmsford, a new shopping centre with John Lewis as the anchor has just opened. How are retailers fairing who have both a High Street & online presence?

Good point! Don’t forget it was our very own Tesco’s that sold the first ever item online – groceries to a Mrs Snowball way back in 1984. Tesco’s is now frequently our second biggest e-commerce site after Amazon. And John Lewis makes more money online than from its entire flagship Oxford Street store. So those retailers that embrace e-commerce do have a future. The problem is that sometimes online sales are cannibalizing a brand’s own High Street shop sales. If you bought a dress or a washing machine from John Lewis online; that’s a sale that could have gone to their local store. So their internet sales could end up propping up your local branch. It’s a tradeoff that all multi-platform retailers must keep in mind.

If town centres/High Streets are not rejuvenated they could potentially become “no go” areas after dark. What do you think could be possible solutions to prevent that happening?

As I’ve briefly mentioned, planning regulations need to be relaxed so town centre commercial properties can become homes for a community returning to our towns and cities to live. We need to go back to the future, returning to a Victorian style scenario where people live and work locally and there’s a thriving local retail scene that’s a sociable experience; to compliment the home deliveries that will form the bulk of retail in the future. More homes mean more convenience stores and restaurants open till later; and a vibrant place people want to go to – and we won’t need to build on Green Belt land!

Although the report is based on the scenario here in the UK, have you read or looked into similar reports in other countries, such as the USA? Is the outlook similar?

Your average Market Street or mall in the US is facing exactly the same problems. Macy’s and Sears for example are closing hundreds of stores nationwide. And once the main department store in a mall closes – they are known as anchor stores to US retailers – the whole future for all the stores is endangered as footfall decreases rapidly. So, the US retailer is facing the exact same issues; if not worse.

Are there any shops that you used to visit yourself that are no longer on the High Street?

I’m a bookshop addict! From Borders to Booksetc to Ottakers I miss all the old stores. And I still pine for our local Woolworths; and do you remember Times Past? I loved that shop!

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

You may already have guessed I’m not the best dressed man in London. Among the young and fashionable team here at ParcelHero my choice of ties – which no one else wears – is a constant cause of amusement. My 14-year old son, who spends hours agonizing over which jeans to wear, always walks several feet behind or in front of me so people don’t think we’re related.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

If ever I do have any money to spend on clothes I like Next; otherwise it’s Primark for me. Apart from clothes I love Waterstones, Argos, Ikea and, of course, Amazon!

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

This question has got the many more fashion conscious staff here chuckling. I can make a shirt and tie look messy. If I sit down on a bench at the weekend people give me money. But if I am dressing up for something I do like a nice shirt with cufflinks.

Boots or Shoes?

A pair of Oxford brogues thanks. Ideally with magical self-cleaning powers. Unless by boots you mean wellies? If so Hunters; and as this is a fashion site I’ll make them green, of course!

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

You can read the full report here: https://www.parcelhero.com/blog/news-updates/2030-dead-end-for-the-high-street There’s lots more on the plight of fashion stores and how the High Street might be saved.
And you can also take a drive down Memory Lane, seeing all the brands that have disappeared from our town centres since the 1980s, in our fun interactive graphic here: https://www.parcelhero.com/highstreet

Thank you very much David for joining us on the blog.  I really did enjoy strolling through the fun interactive graphic – shops such as Dixons (bought my first DVD player from there), Radio Rentals (I remember all the TVs that adorned their shop windows all showing a channel & you could catch a glimpse of the latest football match on a Saturday afternoon, and crowds used to gather around at full time when the tele printer issued the full time scores!) So dear readers, do you have fond memories of stores you shopped in that are no longer trading? Do share your memories!

Linda x

All photographs are published with kind permission of David Jinks/ParcelHero

 

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