An Interview With gtGDollwear

As a young girl I loved playing with my Barbies and Sindy Dolls – my father made suitcases for a living and had made me a vanity case which I filled with dolls clothes. I was never interested in the bigger baby dolls. Maybe it was the fashions that attracted me, I don’t know. My love of dolls hasn’t faded – and it was with great excitement that I was able to interview the delightful Dasha who, in my eyes has a dream job, as a fashion designer designing luxury doll clothing. Hi Dasha!

Hi, I am Dasha. And I think I have a dream job – I am a fashion designer and a founder of luxury doll clothing brand gtGdollwear – so effectively I spend all my time living my childhood dream – playing with the dolls 😊

What inspired the setting up of your luxury brand “gtGdollwear”?

I have been working in the City for a number of years, but I always felt I was missing something. At some point I started to feel that I needed to find my true calling. It was a long journey….

Through hours of Bible reading, repentance and spending time with God, I knew I would be able to discover my true calling, my talents – my “wells” in the desert of life, which would give me freedom, wealth and independence. 

I was particularly touched by the story of Abraham in Genesis: the wells he dug in the desert were a real blessing for him, but they were filled with earth by Philistines and his son Isaac had to work hard to clear them. This is a perfect analogy with our human life: we are born with talents, but sin made us bury our talents. We are afraid to acknowledge that there is a perfect plan for our life in Jesus. Instead we are giving the devil the ground that belongs to us.

One day I took my seven-year-old son to a birthday party for one of my friend’s daughters. There were Barbie dolls everywhere! The minute I saw a big box of barbies, I realised my prayers were answered as I remembered how much I enjoyed making dresses for dolls.

I’m interested in the origins of brand names – so what does GTG stand for?

Can you guess now? It means Glory to God. I am ever so grateful to Him for saving me!

As a young girl I had many Barbie/Sindy dolls and cases full of dolls clothes and accessories – my love of dolls hasn’t wained , I realised that fact whilst looking at the range of doll clothing on your website.  I love every set in your collection and the miniature bags are just adorable. What sets are most popular amongst your customers?

Thank you! You might be surprised to know that my customers are adult doll collectors. And they love everything! They love to see new things coming in my online store. I recently launched a sleepwear – tiny cute satin and lace pyjamas and nighties, with eye masks and gowns and those were sold out so quickly. I have none left in pink! I guess in lockdown loads of doll collectors are living their life through dolls and pyjamas are a big hit!

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

My favourite is Chanel inspired suit made of boucle fabric which is very challenging to work with as it frays into ribbons when cut. But the finished outfit was fabulous. As a general rule of thumb – the harder it is – the more satisfaction I get from the final result. The details that go into creating my outfits are insane, everything is so miniature!


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

Yes, I am based in South London, but gtGdollwear is an online destination that serves clients worldwide. I love to look at the map to track the geography of my clients – Hawaii, Australia, Japan, Europe. It’s mind blowing to realise that there are so many places I have never visited but my designs made their way to those destinations.

When designing dolls wear  to add to your collections, do you take into account your own tastes, your customer base, requests, traditional styles, current trends, runway items or bits of all those?

It’s a bit of all those but most of all is what I would wear myself. So, I am not surprise when 90% of my clients keep saying to me: “I’d wear that!”. And of course I am very tuned into my customers feedback, I just want to solve their doll wardrobe dilemmas!

How long on average does it take to make a set from scratch?

It depends on a number of items in the set, but on average about a week as I do like to take my time. In my previous job in the City I used to work to very tight deadlines, so I just feel so blessed being able to set my pace now. My moto is “luxury in every stitch” and I take time to deliver that to my customers.

Do you take on bespoke requests?  If so, what was the most unusual or extravagant request? 

No, you see I am not a seamstress, so I would be unable to work on a request basis. When I design I rarely know what would be the final result, I make decisions along the way – my friends call me “a raw talent” 😀 So my customers are only those who love my creations!

If you could go anywhere in the world for inspiration to create a new collection, where would you go and why?

I’d go back to Paris to see my family but this time I would just sit in the café in the street and watch Parisians walking by (preferably without their face masks).

Growing up, did you always want to be a fashion designer or did your career aspirations lie elsewhere?

When I was a little girl, my friends played with their dolls – but I much preferred making clothes for my dolls. However, for some reason I thought that you need to be an artist to be able to draw your designs on paper – a huge misconception! My parents encouraged me to find a career that was more practical. I have two degrees, one Master of Arts but I somehow managed to work in finance for the majority of my career, which was a great experience that helps me with my business now.

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

Ha ha – now when we are restricted by lockdown it is mostly UGG slippers 😊I am a jeans and trainers girl – a comfy pair of skinny GAP jeans and my favourite Armani trainers is all I need to get me out of the house!

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

Yeah, I wish someone could make a human size of gtGdollwear

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

Oh, I have accumulated so much that my next thing on the to do list is actually to get rid of some stuff!

Boots or Shoes? 

 Trainers!

For Pinning Later



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

Instagram and facebook @gtGdollwear

Website: http://www.gtGdollwear.com

Are not the mini fashions simply gorgeous? Thank you Dasha for letting me see a glimpse of your dream job !

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of gtGdollwear.

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Spotlight On GoBo

Lamonts & Co is a brand that specialises in bringing new products to the UK market first – from zero noodles (calorie free noodles) to the recently developed GoBo – the UK’s first AHA based natural deodorant which uses glycolic acid to neutralise odour whilst allowing the body to perspire naturally. Voted #1 Natural Deodorant by Good Housekeeping Magazine 2021 , this deodorant is ideal for vegans and is cruelty free too. I caught up with Laura Lamont to find out more about her latest creation. Hi Laura and welcome….

Hi, my name is Laura, founder and director of Lamonts and Co.


What inspired the development of your recently launched AHA based natural deodorant, GoBo?

I’m a qualified Nutritional Therapist and so have always beenbig on health and healing through nutrition and plants but it wasn’t until I was pregnant with my first child (now 6) that I really started to look at chemicals in cosmetic products and lotions and was horrified at what I learnt.  The first thing I tried to change was my deodorant but was constantly disappointed by the results and never managed to find one that actually worked for me until the end of the day.  I actually created GoBo by accident as it was never something that I set out to do. One day I decided to try my AHA toner on my underarm to see if it could help with the hyperpigmentation I had and then just happened to notice that after 2 days without showering (I probably shouldn’t admit that) there was no smell what so ever!  I was so excited that I spent the start of the first lockdown developing my deodorant recipe so I could share it with the world.

What are the benefits of using GoBo?

Well, the number one benefit is that it’s natural but actually keeps you smelling fresh until the next day.  On top of that,the AHAs help to exfoliate the dead skin cells which leave your skin unusually smooth and soft, and it slowly fades pigmentation caused from shaving.  It also prevents in-growing hairs.  I like to think of it as the first multifunctional deodorant.

Out of the 4 types of GoBo available (Rose, Orange Blossom, Jasmin, Orginal ), which one is proving to be the most popular at the moment?

 Surprisingly the Unscented seems to be the winner, I think a lot of people have irritation from deodorant which they tend to put down to the heavy perfumes or essential oils used.  But even with our scented varieties we only use pure flower waters which won’t cause any irritation and they are so delicate that they won’t interfere with your perfume.

What are the ingredients in GoBo? 

Glycolic acid, Water, vegetable Glycerin, Sodium Bicarbonate, Guar Gum and Arrowroot flour, Floral water.

GoBo was voted #1 Natural Deodorant by Good Housekeeping in 2021.  Congratulations!  Lamonts & Co have also introduced Zero Noodles (calorie free noodles) to UK. Have you any other new products to add to your range in the pipeline for 2021?

I sure do!  I am always working on new products and business ideas but with two young children I can’t always find the time to launch them.   Eventually I shall expand the GoBo line and create more natural and functional skin care products as well as extending the Zero Noodles line with more varieties and flavours.

Have you always been interested in developing products or did your career aspirations lie elsewhere? 

Yes, I have always been more creative than academic as well as a bit of a dreamer and always wanted to be my own boss.  I remember as a teenager having a note pad where I started writing down my business ideas but it wasn’t until I met my husband, who already had his own business, that I had the confidence and support to actually go for it.  My first business was as a weight loss clinic, offering diet coaching for weight loss… this led onto Zero Noodles which quickly took over.

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

No – not yet, we hope to expand across Europe eventually but currently can only just keep up with the UK sales. 

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

Well, I now live in the New Forest which is very casual, which I find refreshing after living in London for so long and feeling like you have to make an effort just to nip to the shops. So I’m very much a jeans and tee kinda girl now, but I love chunky boots and fun colourful belts.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I’m loving Hush and Mint Velvet right now but for the summer I love Free People for a Bohemian look.

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

Probably some more bright coloured fun tee shirts for the Spring that I can throw on with my jeans and wellies to play in the forest with the kids.

Boots or Shoes?

Boots always.

For Pinning Later

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

https://www.lamontsandco.com

Fabulous chatting to you Laura and congratulations on what you have developed so far…. and I am looking forward to seeing your skincare range in the future too!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Laura Lamont.

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An Interview With Author Martin Venning

Described as a “Geopolitical Thriller”, author Martin Venning’s debut book “The Primary Objective” certainly ticked all my boxes when it comes to a good read – a thriller, based in a far flung place, strong believable characters, adventure and a touch of escapism. The thriller is based largely in the borderlands of Azerbaijan and Iran, an area not usually covered in adventure books and features quite a few feisty strong female characters too. The blurb says the book is a story about fate and how a disparate group of characters interact, often unwittingly, to make the best of the situation they find themselves in. I don’t know about fate, perhaps that does play a part, but reading the book I enjoyed the interactions between the characters and how their personal lives entwined with the task they were set and a few unexpected twists along the way. It was certainly a page turner!

THE STORY

Peace International is a New York based global reconciliation and mediation charity that seeks to prevent wars, regional disputes and rebuild civil societies. When a tip comes in that Iran is building a chemical and biological weapons research and production centre, it soon becomes clear that where they’re considering building – close to the border with Azerbaijan – could destabilise the Gulf region and beyond. 

Selecting a small team of volunteers, they form a task force to collect evidence, entering through a dangerous semi-lawless area in southern Azerbaijan. What they discover is a far more complicated web of challenges than a weapons facility. For PI Operations Director, Edwin Wilson, the mission is his most perilous yet, threatening the lives of his team and the international reputation of his organisation. But for two Iranian men, Fawaz and Jamshid, the stakes are even higher

Driven by contrasting personal circumstances and life chances, they face difficult choices as they seek different paths to prosperity in a controlling, repressive society that takes no prisoners…alive. 

I was lucky enough to get a chance to chat to Martin about his excellent debut…. Hi Martin!

Hi I’m Martin. Keen hiker in the Pennines. And Creative Writer.

“The Primary Objective” is your debut novel – and what a fantastic debut!  Who or what inspired you to put pen to paper? 

It’s weird I have always known I would end up as a writer. My business experience taught me to write phorensically – with clarity and conciseness. The discipline to develop an extended piece of work, I thought may be beyond me. For years I toyed with  but ultimately ducked the challenge. It took an unscheduled extended period in hospital following an accident to help me on my way. 

I know I have been fortunate and owe a debt of gratitude to so many NHS workers in Leeds & Huddersfield. For a period I was bedridden and ended up spending time with people with no prospect of recovery, some who were getting used their new prospects as amputees. Somehow they had come to terms with making the best of their situation. Nurtured by the attentive care of strangers, many seemed naturally to find chinks of light in their personal darkness. They were a great inspiration. It made me start to imagine what it must be like to become institutionalised- to live your life within the boundaries set arbitrarily by some anonymous organisation which seemed to dictate every aspect of daily life and behaviour.  Dangerous too – as though your mind has gone on to automatic pilot. When to eat, what to eat when to rest and when to take medication. Planning a trip to the loo took some forethought almost like a military operation.  

It was amazing how this regime challenged the ability to think rationally and independently. Whether you`re in hospital, prison or working in a corporate environment the pressure to conform is universal. 

I had trained as a journalist, so always thought I could write a book if I had to. If you are a journalist summing up a story in a few paragraphs is straightforward. Writing a sustained narrative is hard. When I focused on writing I was as involved as the reader. I had no idea how the story would work out; but it happened as a result of a period with no distractions!

I enjoyed reading the book from start to finish. It was a great adventure story that kept me riveted. All the characters were very believable, but I really loved the strong female characters of Mahta and Amy Fong.   So, which character did you enjoy writing about the most?  Which character was the hardest? 

Glad you picked up the emphasis on female characters. The book features five women, different ages, each in different pressurised situations taking responsibility for shaping their futures in a male dominated society which doesn`t easily recognise women’s rights. Two stand out for me. One is Anya, a former Azeri soldier with a score to settle, making a life as a tourist guide having suffered the rigours of combat. I like her because of her detachment and mental discipline. She finds a way of containing and resolving her negative experiences, so she can move on to live a more positive life. The other is Shimina, a young girl in the provinces, who wants to break free from the social norms of her community to have a social life, an education and marry a man of her choosing. A normal aspiration in the West, but not so in that part of the world! Mahta is someone who has used her intellect to escape the pressures of day-to-day life but realises she has paid a heavy price for the privilege which cost her marriage and personal privacy. Amy Fong is an innocent, someone obliged to do her national service, but comes to realise how dangerous it can be. Another, Hanah is born into privilege and so has no need to conform to societal norms. The hardest character to write about was Hafiz al Fouadi. He was not a criminal but was corrupted by a society he was part of. He went through hard times and had to be entrepreneurial to get by and build his wealth, whilst trying to avoid the obvious trappings of success, that would raise suspicion. His approach to being an entrepreneur was amoral on occasions ie. if he could make money, he`d do it. His inability to differentiate between right and wrong ultimately costs him his life.The reason why Al-Fouadi was the hardest to write about was the fact was he was an ‘accidental’ bad guy. Because he had some good qualities it was difficult to find the balance in the description of his character…

Were there any aspects of writing the thriller that surprised you, pleasantly or otherwise?  

Yes, most characters caught up in thrillers are not exceptional people, just ordinary folk having to contend with extraordinary circumstances. Who’s to say any of us aren’t caught up in a real-life thriller at some stage of a story’s development? That’s why I love them. Good thrillers normally tell stories of how people react when they are put under some sort of pressure. Their reactions often define their characters and plots.

Growing up have you always wanted to be a writer or did your career plans lie elsewhere? 

I have always enjoyed writing, and have come to appreciate its value to me, acting as a distraction from the day-to-day humdrum of earning a living! Not sure yet whether I am good enough to earn a crust, but may revise this answer when my second book is published later this year.

‘The Primary Objective’ is based in Iran/Azerbaijan – what is it about Iran that attracts you and why did you decide to base your novel in that area?  

Firstly, it’s a corner of the world not many people know about or have visited so the reader gets a chance to go exploring with me! Given its remoteness it is also a place where tribal bonds are stronger than national boundaries and laws. Secondly, “The Primary Objective”demonstrates how laws are interpreted to suit local conditions and the interests of the ruling, usually corrupt minority. What is really engaging about Iran from a writer’s perspective is that it is a society that obliges people to live clandestine lives. For example, men who drink alcohol in secret. Women who dress in colourful clothing and wear make-up to stay in. Government agents checking up on people suspected of having illicit sex, people who earn money desperate to give it to charity to avoid being pilloried as “an exploiter of the oppressed”.  The country also has a fascinating and rich history which is not widely known in the west and all of this makes a topical backdrop for a novel.

Are you a bookworm? What is your favourite genre and/or authors? Kindle or actual book? 

I’m old school. I like a physical book you can get hold of, mark the pages or worse. For me a book is like a room you need to make it yours and live in it. I’m thinking about making The Primary Objective an audio book if there is the demand for it. I go through mad periods of voracious reading especially if I get into something which holds my attention. Writing is such a competitive business. There are so many excellent writers out there. My favourites are Gerald Seymour, Charles Cumming and Bernard Cornwell. Love their styles and the construction of their plots.

 Is “The Primary Objective” available to purchase worldwide? 

Yes, if all else fails Amazon will get it to you wherever you are or want a quick read via Apple Books…

If you could visit any place in the world to give you inspiration for your next book, where would you go and why? 

I have produced manuscripts for two other books so far, so I won’t comment on their settings. I tend to write about places I have travelled to at some time in the past, so the next one might be set a little closer to home!

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

Like to be smart but low-key;  jacket and polo neck maybe dark chinos.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites? 

Nervous about buying clothes online but quite like NewChic

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

Probably a new leather tan jacket if I sell a few books.

Boots or Shoes?

Shoes definitely. Love good quality brown brogues. Since my accident boots aren’t comfy on my ankles these days. 

For Pinning Later


Links you would like to share e.g. website/Facebook etc

www.mvenning.net

Thank you Martin for chatting to me about your book “The Primary Objective” and for the copy of your book too.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Martin Venning.

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An Interview With Bambini And Bo

This week I’m showcasing nursery furniture for the little ones in our lives. “ Bambini And Bo” are a nursery retailer based in the UK who specialise in picking brands and products that have an unique and inspiring contemporary feel. I caught up with Theo, co founder and director of this lovely family store to find out more… Hi Theo and welcome!

Hi, my name’s Theo Clarke, I am the co-founder and director of Bambini and Bo. We are a UK based family-run baby store selling nursery furniture, decor and transport (pushchairs, prams and travel systems).

What inspired the founding of your nursery retail shop, Bambini and Bo?

My mum started a home décor business in 2018 called “Over The Moon Creations”, specialising in personalised home-made décor. This was a field she had no experience in, just passion, passion to express herself artistically and just the thought alone of people wanting to purchase her creations made her feel Over The Moon.

At this time, I was working full-time as a Building Services Engineer whilst also studying part-time at University to achieve my degree in Building Services Engineering. As you can imagine, my free-time was sparse.

In June 2020 we were amidst a global pandemic. I was out of work and for the first time in my life I had time to reflect, time to think and time to decide on where my true passion lied. It was at this time I decided to put all my time and efforts into creating a family-run business alongside my Mum.

It was a steep learning curve (and still is), which began with months of market research prior to designing and building our website: bambiniandbo.co.uk


I love the name “Bambini and Bo” – what is the story behind the name?

Thank you! Well, all credit goes to Mum on this one. By this time Over The Moon Creations had been up and running for a couple of years, Mum had created hundreds of personalised products, many of which had consisted of baby names. 

Our ‘future competitors’ names were all very similar. We wanted a name that stood out; something that we hoped people would remember. 

We brainstormed for a few days before finally deciding on Bambini and Bo. 

Bambini meaning ‘baby’ in Italian and Bo (or sometimes spelt Beau) being a popular baby name that my Mum had produced a number of personalised products for.

Your shop specialises in nursery furniture, decor and transport with an inspiring contemporary feel.  I am particularly fond of the Maya Range Bedroom Furniture – such a pity my children are not youngsters any more! To date, what has been the most popular product from your range?

Funny that you mention the Maya range. This is a brand-new range by Obaby that launched in January 2021. Almost instantly this turned into one of our best sellers. Selling out just a week or two after launching. We then took a number of pre-orders for stock due in February, which was all pre-sold before the stock even arrived!

So well done to the Obaby on that one, they created a beautiful set, loved by us and parents alike!

What’s your most favourite item in your collection?

Tough question, as there’s so many, but the product that comes to mind above all else is the Tidy Books Children’s Bookcase, created by Geraldine Grenadier. We’ve been working with her since the launch of our website back in August 2020 and have developed a great working relationship.

I like these bookcases so much that recently I wrote a blog post on them myself, titled: 10 Reasons Why Parents Are Buying This Children’s Bookcase [Award-Winning]: https://bambiniandbo.co.uk/blogs/news/childrens-bookcase

When picking items to add to your collections, do you select by what has proved popular in the past, current trends, customer requests, personal preferences or all of those things?

I would say the selection process actually starts with the Brand.

We only work with brands that we believe in. We trust these brands and their products; they work hard to keep up and adapt to current trends and regularly bring out new products. A perfect example of this is the Maya range by Obaby as mentioned previously.

As Bambini and Bo is based in the UK, are your products available to purchase and order worldwide?

Currently, we only ship to the UK. But we are still within our first year of trading. 

We plan to continue scaling our business at a maintainable rate and wish to better establish ourselves within the UK before we begin to compete with retailers on a global scale. 

Also, the new Brexit regulations came into effect as of January 2020, from what I can gather from speaking to others, this has resulted in many import/export difficulties at the moment. So, it is probably not a great time to be importing to/exporting from the UK anyway.

What trends do you foresee for 2021/2022 when it comes to nursery decorating? 

I would be looking to my Mum for answers with this one – she tends to have an eye for these things. Although, I have noticed that when it comes to nursery design certain colours seem to be very popular at the moment, blush pink and pearl grey are being used a lot.

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

Well, that depends entirely on the occasion. But being in lockdown for the majority of 2020 due to the pandemic, there’s not been many opportunities to get dressed up. But you can’t beat a smart fitted shirt, jeans/trousers and a pair of all black Prada America’s cup shoes.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Depends on what I’m buying. Asos is pretty good as a general all-round store – I can normally always find something I like on there. If it’s designer I’m after, then I prefer to shop in-store at an outlet where I can try it on.

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

It’s been sometime since I’ve bought any clothes. I’m not even on the Bambini and Bo payroll yet!  It’s still early days so all the money earnt is being put right back into the business. 

I will most definitely be treating myself to a new wardrobe when I receive that first pay-cheque.

Boots or Shoes?

Depends on the season, chelsea boots work well with jeans in winter but summer when the legs are out it’s got to be shoes.

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

For Pinning Later


Our website: https://bambiniandbo.co.uk/

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

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

Great to chat with you Theo and I wish you and your mum continued success with your ventures!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Theo Clarke – apart from the header/ Pinterest picture which is by Linda Hobden

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An Interview With Author Ashley Brown

London based author and writing coach Ashley Brown told me that her writing was inspired by the rollercoaster of life, fuelled by coffee and an insatiable sweet tooth – especially where jammy dodger biscuits are concerned! Her latest book “ The Sugar Game” is a modern novel which looks at the phenomenon of Sugar Daddy websites and the young women who willingly sign up to be sugar babies. Lured by glamour, romance, opulence, money, fun and independence, these young women often find what they crave (or do they?) and the risks involved are just as real. “The Sugar Game” follows the lives of 2 best friends who join up to become sugar babies – 2 young ladies who crave glamour, fun, clothes and a plan to cover each other’s back to make meetings as safe as possible. But did they really realise what they would be risking? I found the book fascinating and a really good, believable read so I couldn’t wait to discuss the book with Ashley over jammie dodgers…

Hi, I’m Ashley, where to start? Well, I have been driven by curiosity my whole life. I was born in Kent and raised in small village, you know the ones I mean…the kind where they still have milk floats and the baker knows your name. I tried the ‘normal’ route that my friends and family were taking, even managed seven years at law school to become a lawyer for the grand total of two weeks. (Ally McBeal can take the rap for that one. Thankfully that Alice in Wonderland approach to life got the better of me. My inner Alice led me to job-hop around the world for a few exhausting and hilarious years. They inspired my first novel ‘Jobslut’. Writing was such a relief. I have finally found what feels like my place in the world, and settled my restless soul. So here I am still, typing away and supporting aspiring writers to find their voice.

Who or what inspired you to write “The Sugar Game”? 

In a word, choices. They intrigue me. Particularly those of young women pulled to the ‘big city’, determined to make something of themselves. I know that feeling intimately, the call of the wild. That first rush of freedom you inhale landing in a fresh playground to chase your dreams. One thing you will get to know about me from reading my books is that I am inspired by real life, I have always been observing the world around me. When living in LA during my years of job hopping having decided to dip my toes into acting, this was a choice I saw many young women were making to fund their ambitions. Women that became my friends, who were open, vulnerable and honest with me about their secret lives. Once my eyes were opened, I realised this was a a trade that seems to be happening everywhere yet nowhere, wrapped in discretion and secrecy. I was hooked and a story was developing, so I followed it exploring a world that blends light and dark and attracts some very interesting characters. 


I really enjoyed reading your book, “The Sugar Game”.  London is an exciting place for young people, and this novel follows the lives of two young ladies in London who decide to join up a Sugar Daddy website to become sugar babies, in a bid to experience some glamour, romance and an opulent lifestyle – which are real but so are the risks.  I thought you balanced out the heady romance with the associated risks very well. Why do you think Sugar Daddy websites are very popular? Do you think the emotional/ physical risks are swept under the carpet? 

Good question. One as a writer, I was keen to take a deep dive into, peeling back the layers of the onion. The great thing about fiction is it allows you to explore the truth in a way non-fiction never touches. What I found was interesting. When you look at the reason’s women become sugar babies, their motivations and struggles are ones all we can all relate too. From wanting a better life, childhood demons, insecurities driving a need for ultra-independence. Our fears and aspirations lead us all to take different paths, upon which we embark yes initially the emotional and physical risks are ignored. And when you look at the backdrop of relationships that is more the norm these days, from broken homes to the media glamourising divorce (I mean even Brad and Jen didn’t make it) love almost becomes the enemy. For some women becoming a sugar baby is a way of seeking revenge. Using their femininity to make them feel powerful What I do know is that at some point or another, the risks and damage catch up with you. There is certainly a sugar tax that comes with the lifestyle. Though the beautiful thing is that no matter what choice you make, when you are ready, it’s never too late to write a different story. 

The characters in this novel are quite believable – Jess & her bestie Holly, Tom the taxi driver, the shady Harry….etc which character did you relate to the most?  Which character was the hardest part to write? 

I would say Harry. He was the darkest of all the characters. And most behind in his journey of the ultimate destination I hope all my characters to be heading. Living an authentic, fulfilling life and accepting love to be a part of it. Yeah, I think Harry still has a way to go. And naturally Jess and Holly still have a few bumps ahead of them. I fell so in love with the characters that this has turned into a three books series, so watch this space. 

 Researching Sugar Daddy websites and the lives of sugar babies for your novel must have been quite interesting… did you discover anything that shocked you or uncover some nugget of information that was unexpected?  

There were many stories and juicy discoveries which I am sure trickled into the books some way or another. Though speaking to the men made me realize you can never guess someone’s reasons for doing something. One gentleman told me the reason he turned to sugar babies was that he found women his own age jaded and too keen for the things he had already done. He was twice divorced, had kids and just wanted some fun. Though guess what? After two years of dating sugar babies, he became bored of the lack of connection with girls half his age, gave it up and went back to finding one of those jaded women who understood him. On the other extreme, I did discover that for a lucky few this is a place they find true love. One girl I know is still happily married to a sugar daddy she met years ago. That’s the thing about love, it writes a million different stories. 

Growing up, did you envisage yourself as a writer or did you have other career aspirations?

Have a read of Job Slut and you will see I had every career aspiration going. I dipped my toes in everything from law, property to acting before I hunkered down to reflect on it all. That will always make my first book very special to me, it was where I found my true calling, something I had nearly given up on. 

Is “The Sugar Game ” available to purchase worldwide?

It is indeed, via all the online bookstores and in terms of physical stores it is currently stocked in Hong Kong and LA. Perhaps after lockdown it will be in more, I do miss a browse around a bookshop.

If you could visit any place in the world to inspire your next novel, where would you go and why? 

Anywhere hot with a beach, exotic fruits and fresh air. Its more the process of travelling that inspires me over the destination, once I am in that travelling head space idea’s tend to flood in every which way. 

Are you a bookworm yourself? If so, what genres (or authors) do you usually like to read? 

I wouldn’t say I am a complete book worm, though I am always reading something. I love movies, shows and plays too. I read women’s fiction, I love the classics like Bridget Jones and Sex in the City. I read authors from Jane Fallon to Lisa Jewell, though always open to new blurbs that catch my curiosity. 

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

Ok, so since I moved to LA I went from high heels and office wear to trainers and yoga pants. And it kinda stuck. The great thing about being a writer is I can wear whatever I feel comfy in, I am currently wearing a black topshop jumper and navy leggings. When I dress up, I tend to stick to jeans, heels and a nice shirt. 

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I love Topshop and Armani exchange if I am feeling fancy. 

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

More colourful, comfy jumpers to snuggle up in. Also I am always ordering hats, pink, black, grey and white, fluffy ones. 

Boots or Shoes? 

Boots, I find them so much more comfy, and can put them over jeans and leggings. Though in the summer, flip-flops or wedges. 

For pinning later


Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc

Come follow me on insta @ashleyloubrown for writing inspiration, a dose of my life and exciting new projects. 

For books, a nose through my blog or find your own voice with some coaching head over to my website www.ashleyloubrown.com

My thanks to Ashley and Ben Cameron of Cameron Publicity & Marketing for the copy of The Sugar Game for reviewing purposes. All opinions that I have made are my own.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Ashley Brown

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Say It With Songs

A song can conjure up many memories – good, bad and ugly. Many of us have that “special” song and what can be nicer on your anniversary, birthday, special moment than sending a card to that person who has that song connection with you. Song words convey such a lot but to have that song playable in card form is so nice! I came across Ellie’s website, Say It With Words, and immediately hunted for my wedding song – Aerosmith’s “I Don’t WantTo Miss A Thing” to send to my husband on our anniversary! Alas they didn’t feature that song, but a quick email request and Ellie was able to help and thus the card was born! Another email to Ellie requesting an interview…. Hi Ellie!


Hello! My name is Ellie Fitzgerald. I live in Surrey with my husband Paul of 20 years, our 17 year old daughter & our giant Malamute Cherry

What inspired you to set up “Say It With Songs”?

Last February, I searched for a Valentine’s Day card for my Husband, nothing was hitting the mark. At the same time a song came on the radio in the shop – it was ‘our song’ with the words that meant so much and said everything I wanted to say – I wanted to send him that song ….. it was then the idea was born. Having worked in the music industry for 20 years, music is a great passion of mine, so when I was made redundant when lockdown hit, I decided to jump in and give it a go. Say it with Songs – combines the sentiment of a greeting card with the power of a song.

So, how do you access the music part of the card? L

It’s really simple – on front of every card is an instantly recognisable song lyric eg “ I will always love you” On the reverse of the card is a code – you simply open your smartphone camera and scan the code and then you can choose to stream the full song instantly from either YouTube, Spotify or Amazon Music. You can play it as many times as you like & keep it forever.We all have a song that takes us back to a time, person or moment in seconds….whether it’s a ballad, a dance floor classic, a heavy rock anthem or a pop cheese guilty pleasure …in just a few notes we are literally right back there. Everyone has also heard a song with lyrics that speak to the heart, resonate, help us through, give us strength or – simply – make us smile

You have a lovely variety of cards with a great song range too. What song title cards are proving popular amongst your customers so far?

We have over 100 titles, our top five titles are ‘Have I told you Lately’ Van Morrison, ‘You are the Sunshine of My Life’ Stevie Wonder, ‘Cant help falling in love with you’ Elvis Presley, ‘Never Gonna Give you Up’ Rick Astley and ‘Girls Just wanna have fun’ Cyndi Lauper.

Have you got a favourite card? What is the story behind your favourite song?

So, the song that started it all for me was ‘By Your Side’ By Sade, it literally says everything I want to say to my husband. His song to me is ‘knocks me off my feet’ by Stevie Wonder, a song we have loved since we met. Both songs are now cards.



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

 The cards are shipped internationally and we are just starting to distribute in other countries so its growing fast.

Although you have a great song range, do you cater for bespoke cards eg if the special song you wanted doesn’t feature in your range? 

We try too, I get maybe 10/20 suggestions a week from people and those that I feel will be loved by many are added to the new titles schedule – we add maybe 5 new cards every 2 weeks.

10% of your profit goes to the music therapy charity Nordoff Robbins.  What does the charity do?

Nordoff Robbins provides vital music therapy to enrich the lives of people with life-limiting illnesses, disabilities and feelings of isolation.

Are your cards made from ethically sourced materials?

Of course – building a brand with a sustainable imprint was fundamental. We use FSC approved 350gsm card, its acid free, with a Heavy Metal Absence & made using vegetable based inks. We use recycled envelopes & wrap in 100% biodegradable cellowrap. Proudly designed and made in the UK.

Have you always wanted to have a musical career or did your career aspirations lay elsewhere?

I always wanted to work in music so followed that path from day 1 . I have worked on both the record label side & managed the careers of  artists, but building music brands has always been my passion and where my creativity sits best.

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

Shoes – At the moment in lockdown life- its trainers and wellies, but fab ones – I have some amazing glitter Nike Air Force 1 & also some cool Veja ones that I virtually live in and so new Hunter wellies (for walking my giant dog) that are knee high and have a slight platform.Prior to lockdown, I have some Isabel Marant boots that have a hidden wedge so although they are flat, they make your legs look great, and for going out, my favourite EVER pair of heels are a Stuart Weitzman for Russell and Bromley pair – I wore them with silk PJs this NYE lockdown.Clothing, pre-lockdown, it’s usually a silk midi skirt from Anthropologie and a funky graphic tee as my go-to.Now its Hush trackies and comfy cool sweats as my work wardrobe.

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

Yes, My go to is hushuk.com and Anthropologie – Literally love everything from these brands.

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

Everything from Anthropologie – in the sale ! Their sales are insane!

Boots or Shoes? ( & Why?) 

Right now, it’s actually boots, with working from home and lockdown and walking my huge dog twice a day – The cool new black Hunter boots give me my glam fix (even in a tracksuit) but normally it’s shoes every time.

For Pinning Later


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

Website www.sayitwithsongs.com

Instagram: @sayitwithsongscards

Facebook: @sayitwithsongs

 Please check us out – and get 15% off with code BOOTSANDSHOES

My thanks to Ellie at Say It With Songs for creating my “Don’t Want To Miss A Thing “ card. The Aerosmith photographs are by Linda Hobden; the other photographs are published with kind permission of Say It With Words.

Linda x

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Little Book Of Big Knowing Book Tour

It has been a “different “ couple of years since COVID-19 entered our lives and turned what we took for granted upside down – despite the hardships, pain, loss and freedom curtailment there has been some uplifting and positive moments too. So, with life and its problems in the forefront of most people’s minds, on my blog this week I’ve joined author Michele Sammon’s “Little Book Of Big Knowing Book Tour”. Michele wrote this book for those folks who love thinking about life’s big questions, like “What’s My Purpose?”, “Why Am I Here?” …. I’m sure you’ve got the drift….

Book Summary

The Little Book of Big Knowing is filled with tiny bursts of insight to nourish your heart, warm your Soul, and help you to remember your true self. 

If you find yourself asking big, deep life questions like, “What’s my purpose?” and “Why am I here?” then you’ll want to curl up with The Little Book of Big Knowing.

Three reasons why you’ll love this book:

  1. ·     It includes gentle reminders of why you are here, who you are at your core, and why your dreams matter to more than just you.
  2. ·     This book will help you to look at life in a light-hearted, joyful way. Consider it spirituality with a playful twist!
  3. ·     And the best part is, the book is written in short bursts you can read in any order. So you can pick it up, read a little bit, put it down, and come back to it when you’re ready for more!

This book is perfect for someone who wants a little dose of playful spirituality every day to remind them of the bigger picture.

Print Length: 138 Pages 

Genre: Spiritual Self-Help 

ISBN-10: 1736168606 

ISBN-13: 978-1736168608 

Publisher: Michele Sammons 

The Little Book of Big Knowing is available to purchase at Amazon.comBarnes and Noble, and Walmart.com. You can also add this to your reading list on GoodReads.com. 

About the Author, Michele Sammons 

Michele makes her home in Memphis, Tennessee, with husband Scott and chocolate Labrador, Dewey. The Little Book of Big Knowing is Michele’s first book, but probably not her last. You can discover more about Michele’s work on her website: 

https://www.michelesammons.com

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MY REVIEW

This little book is definitely big in sayings and quotes – it is the sort of book you dive in at various points and the sayings you come across seem to strike a chord with whatever question you’re pondering. You can read the book from cover to cover – and I did for the review back in January – but it was only afterwards, weeks later, that I realised the book’s true potential and strength lies with the fact it needs to be delved into at intervals! I do have my favourite excerpts and they need no explanation…

“Face life with a twinkle in your eye and a smile in your heart”

And …

“Change occurs from the inside out. Change is about shifting your perspective, choosing what you give your attention to, where you put your focus.”

Excerpts FromBigKnowing_eBook.

BOOK TOUR DETAILS



ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

My thanks goes to Michele Sammons & the Book Tour team (Nicole & Kelly) for inviting me to join the book tour and for the copy of the delightful Little Book Of Big Knowing.

Photographs are published with kind permission of Michele Sammons (the author photo & the book). The header photo & Pinterest photo are by Linda Hobden.

Linda x

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The Invisible Vegan Documentary

This week I’m reviewing a documentary called “The Invisible Vegan” directed by Los Angeles based actress and film maker Jasmine Leyva. The film is exploring the unhealthy dietary patterns in the African-American community, how their health could be improved by choosing plant based diets and lifestyle choices. The documentary hopes to redress the prevailing attitudes and stereotypes about veganism within the African-American community and its invisibility by spotlighting alternative and ongoing efforts to raise awareness about veganism .

Film Summary

The documentary begins with the personal story of Jasmine Leyva, a 30-year-old black actress and filmmaker currently based in Los Angeles. Over the past seven years, Leyva has committed herself to veganism, both in lifestyle and research. Taking Leyva’s unhealthy childhood growing up in Washington, DC as a point of departure, the film interweaves her narrative with the professional and personal experiences of a prominent group of vegan activists. The film integrates interviews with popular culture luminaries including Cedric the Entertainer (actor and comedian), John Salley (former NBA player and wellness advocate), and Clayton Gavin (aka Stic of the hip-hop duo Dead Prez).Length: 90 MinutesGenre: Documentary 

The Invisible Vegan is available to watch now on TubiTV and stream onAmazon Prime

About the Author, Jasmine Leyva 

Activist, actress, and documentary filmmaker, Jasmine is passionate about veganism, social justice, and telling her own stories. With a Bachelor of Arts in TV, Film and Media and a Master of Fine Arts in screenwriting, Jasmine is unapologetically an artist. She has worked as an associate producer on a NAACP winning docuseries entitled Unsung and has written and produced for Being, a docuseries highlighting dynamic entertainers in film and music.

Jasmine ultimately decided to let go of her nine-to-five and focus on her goals with no boss except for her own creativity. She went on to produce her own feature length documentary, The Invisible Vegan, a film that chronicles her personal experience with plant-based eating.  The film also explains how plant-based eating is directly linked to African roots and how African-American eating habits have been debased by a chain of oppression. 

Jasmine’s recently appeared on the Vegan Women SummitThe Sarah Scoop Show, and the Soul On Fire podcast.

Website: https://jasmineleyva.com/

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

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCUmSXRtjPgc_JQ4N-h67VUg

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jasminecleyva/

MY THOUGHTS

This documentary was quite interesting – being UK based the reference to say, fried chicken as a black food, didn’t resonate with me.  When I think of American food I think of burgers , steak and tacos!  I don’t think in terms of black or white food. I have been to West Africa and East Africa.  In East Africa, back in 1990,  I travelled with a vegan couple who found it very hard to stick to their vegan diet as every lodge we encountered offered us to eat a stew consisting of antelope (Dik Dik), chicken or crocodile.  In contrast, in West Africa the food was delicious – fried cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, fish ….. I think people’s views on veganism/vegetarianism is not necessarily culture/racial based.  A lot of it is more age related – the older generation are not as open to plant based diets as the younger generation- black or white.  People, regardless of ethnicity, may need a little bit of nudge to explore this healthier alternative lifestyle.

Hisbiscus tea © LindaHobden


Interestingly, when I was in the West African republic of Cape Verde, the two things food wise that stood out for me were the absolutely delicious lightly battered cauliflower florets that my sons at first mistook for southern fried chicken pieces but carried on ordering them daily because they were so delicious; and hibiscus tea, served cold. Hibiscus tea is made from the dried petals of the hibiscus plant and according to the locals, has been known to prevent hypertension, lower blood pressure, reduce blood sugar levels, keep your liver healthy, help with menstral cramps, lifts depression, aids digestion and helps with weight management. A little miracle plant it seems and totally delicious!

#VeganDocumentary Tour Dates

My thanks to Jasmine for allowing me to take part in her Invisible Vegan Documentary Tour.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Jasmine Leyva, except where marked. Featured image by Linda Hobden

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But First Rumi Book Tour

I’m really excited to be able to interview author Chitra Ramaswami as part of her “But First Rumi Book Tour”. “But First Rumi” is a delightful memoir by Chitra Ramaswami. Rumi is a beautiful stray Omani street cat who took a liking to Chitra and trusted Chitra to help him and in return Rumi helped Chitra. This book is more than a tale of a cat being rescued – the memoir explores how love and trust between cats and people can develop, how attitudes towards street cats develop, and how love develops. The book is written in such a refreshingly honest way and I loved reading the escapades of Rumi & co. I really enjoyed chatting to Chitra about all things cats …. But, before that, here is the official resumé of the book:

When Chitra discovered a stray cat in need of help, she never thought they’d wind up saving each other. Struggling to come to terms with an unexpected diagnosis, Chitra returned home to Oman seeking a sense of familiarity. What she discovered instead was a very special cat who changed her life. But First, Rumi is the story of how, day by day, Rumi and Chitra got to know one another, and as she learned to love the little stray, she began to see greater life lessons about herself, her family, her home country and her place in the world. 

What unfolds when girl and cat meet? What happens when you follow your heart? What if the world is not as it seems? Is it worth taking a chance? 

Print Length: 158 Pages

Genre: Memoir

THE INTERVIEW

Hi! I’m Chitra – author of the memoir  “But First, Rumi” . I was born and brought up in the Middle East to Indian parents and now live in New Jersey. I’ve worked in healthcare as a physician and a health educator and now I’ve turned author. This is my first time publishing and excited to see what this experience brings my way. 

Who or what inspired you to write your memoir, “But First, Rumi!”?

I believe the answer lies in my book title 🙂 My cat Rumi inspired me to share our journey with the world. As someone who’s written most of her life, I believe every story has its own predestined time – from when it gets penned down to when it is on its way to its readers where it finally comes to fruition. 

Your book highlighted the life of an Omani Mau/street cat, and your growing love of Rumi.  I found the book interesting as well as entertaining.  I thought how different were the attitudes towards cats, stray cats in particular, in Oman compared with the UK/ USA. Why do you think the Omani street cats are regarded with such suspicion?

Firstly, thank you for reading our story and am glad you enjoyed it. Yes, attitudes towards stray cats are different in Oman as compared to say a Western country. But what makes it interesting is that Oman is  home to people from all over the world added to its own descendants and  this varied demographic may hold the reasons that have led to the current state of the Omani stray cats. We have collectively failed our felines. I believe suspicion towards anything generally arises from a certain lack of awareness or unfamiliarity or a previous negative experience. And yes, this is only a part of the problem as I explain in the book. Another common issue is abandonment either due to misjudgment of what caring for a cat entails or when people leave for their home countries and haven’t planned well for the transition. Ofcourse, COVID-19  has added additional financial strains to the process as well.

Were there any aspects of writing your book that surprised you, pleasantly or otherwise?

The process of writing the book was enjoyable. I also had a great editor and we worked well together. What amused me the most was the amount of work that went into publishing a book outside of actually writing the book! The time and effort needed to get your book in front of your readers has been eye opening. I’ve learnt a lot over the past few months. Maybe I should write about it haha!

What do you enjoy most about having a cat? What did you find most daunting at first?

I’ve come to realize over time that my energy is quite similar to a cat’s. I remember watching a documentary that talked about how cats and humans are actually more alike evolutionarily as compared to say dogs and humans. So it’s not surprising to me that I’m able to just be myself around them rather effortlessly. However, before my experience with Rumi, I  was rather wary of cats and didn’t really know what to make of them. I maintain that I didn’t give them a fair chance and went with the popular notion that dogs were more expressive and loving as companion animals. 

Have you always wanted to have a career in writing  or did you have other aspirations?

Funnily, I never thought of writing as a career even though I always wrote. But moving forward, I’ve decided to share my works with the world. I’m curious by nature – always have been, which in turn has led me to pursue many paths. So be it working with people with various ailments, or teaching or riding horses or ice climbing…. the list is diverse. I’m not really a one aspiration person and am eager to see where my life takes me next. 

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Are you a bookworm? What is your favourite genre and/or authors? Kindle or actual book?

Yes, I’ve loved to read since forever. Favorite genres – Biographies, memoirs, short stories. I’m not into fiction much but am on board with Haruki Murakami’s magical realism. It’s bewitching almost. Love Khaled Hosseini’s works. In poetry – Works of Rumi, Tabrizi, Gibran to name a few. There’s always more than one story that‘s being told in a book and one of them is about the author themselves, their roots,  convictions, motivations – it all comes through. So I tend to consciously seek out authors from various backgrounds for this experience. I find it as good or even better than travel. 

Nothing beats the feel of an actual book but I’m a recent Kindle convert – saves space, easy to bookmark, or look up anything I need to, can even read on my Kindle app on my phone etc 

Is “But First Rumi” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes worldwide – Both ebook and paperback. It’s also available in a bookstore in Oman and managed to sell out and has just been restocked! 

Will there be more tales about Rumi in the future?

Definitely 🙂 There may be a second book in the works as we speak!

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

Hmmm. Depends on the season. I’m a sucker for knee length boots in the winter – I never grew out of my Michael Korrs Preston boots with the golden buckle – love those tiny touches! I also love my riding boots from Dover’s. If I’m going out for dinner or tea I love getting dressed up – A-line skirt and top or a Pakistani embroidered suit( we call it shalwar Kameez), and peep toed heels but overtime I find myself settling for pointed flats – Zara and Rothys always have a lovely line of those. These days, I’m always in my adidas and pumas – thanks to COVID! Not complaining though – I always manage to find something to fall in love with! 

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Zara, Kate Spade, J. Crew, Ann Taylor, Image…the list goes on also love custom shirts I design myself. Etsy’s also a very interesting place – be it for custom clothes, accessories etc 

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

I’ve been looking into vegan fashion lately. It’s a fascinating world and I’m still exploring it. Love the Dharma Store – fun tees and they have vegan phone grips too! I also have my eye on the Catalina tote from lo and sons – super functional and love the shoe compartment at the bottom. So yes, I won’t be surprised if my fashion choices will be completely different five years down the line. I’m learning and growing every day. 

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc
Website: https://cramaswami.com/Instagram: @rumionamission2017


My thanks goes to Chitra for agreeing to be interviewed, for inviting me to join in her book tour and for a copy of her delightful memoir.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Chitra Ramaswami

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An Interview With Breast Dressed

With Mothers Day approaching this weekend in the UK, it seems to me entirely appropriate to introduce “Breast Dressed” – a brand of sustainable maternity and breast feeding clothing to cover all stages of modern mum-hood. The company was launched in June 2020 by Hester who has worked in the fashion industry for over 12 years. I caught up with Hester recently to find out more. Hi Hester & welcome…

Hi! I’m Hester and I’m the founder and designer of breast dressed. I currently live in London after a 6 year stint of living in Hong Kong. I live with my husband and my cat Stu who we fostered in Hong Kong and brought back with us so he could experience the outdoors, and he loves it! I am a fashion designer and have been in the industry for 12+ years. I enjoy HIIT classes, going to the theatre and ice skating – although I am pretty terrible at it!

What inspired the launch of Breast Dressed?

I have always known that one day I wanted to have my own brand I just wasn’t sure what that brand would be. When I moved to London I started to feel unfulfilled so it was then that I really started to pin down what I wanted to do. A lot of my friends had started to become pregnant and have babies and they kept saying how little choice of maternity clothing was out there, and then how even less choice of breast feeding friendly clothing was out there. I did some market research and found everything looked the same, it was all frumpy, mostly striped jersey dresses and it just was all a bit ‘mumsy’. So I thought right, let’s do this! It took me a long time to take the plunge from the safety of my full time job, but I now work part time and do freelance work to help support my dream of growing breast dressed.

Have you always had an interest in fashion  designing or did you have other career plans whilst growing up? 

My mother and father both worked in the fashion industry, they actually met whilst they were both working at Speedo. My mum was a swimwear designer and then had her own business designing ice skating dresses and my father was a marketing director and then became a wholesale distributer. So I have always grown up surrounded by the industry. As kids we used to attend trade shows, have boxes of samples lying around the house, help with sample sales etc. My mum’s studio was at home so I remember when I was poorly and off school I would lie under her cutting table on all her piles of fabric and fall asleep to the sound of her cutting scissors clanging against the table and the rumble of her sewing machines, a noise I still find super comforting. So I feel it was a given I would go in to the industry, I always loved art and textiles at school, so after A-levels I did my art foundation and then went on to study fashion design at Uni.

What are the sort of things you have to consider when designing maternity clothes as opposed to designing clothes for the non pregnant woman?  

I guess the main thing is comfort, it’s so important that my customers feel comfortable wearing my garments. I strive to make my styles as versatile as possible so I actually design them to be suitable for all stages of pregnancy and breastfeeding and for before and after pregnancy too so that they have longevity. Sustainability is key to my brand so I want my styles to be able to be worn for a long time and to want to be worn for a long time. Each style supports your growing bump, up to full term, and they all have easy breast feeding access which is subtle enough that these styles can then be worn and loved long after pregnancy and not look like they are your typical maternity dress. 

I love the Ada Jumpsuit from your collection. It is just the sort of garment I would have wanted to wear when I was pregnant (many moons ago!)  What products/designs are most popular at the moment? 

The Ada is definitely one our most popular styles as is the Lucy dress. I think they are both so easy to wear and style up or down and the suit all body shapes. We just launched the Margot Mummy Collars too which are made from our scrap fabrics and they are proving to be a popular accessory.

 Do you have a favourite style from your collection? 

My favourite is the Ada Jumpsuit – I have it in a few different colours. It’s just so comfortable and easy to wear and I feel really stylish in it too. I wear with my Dr Martens in the winter and my sandals in the summer. Eek, I also love the Airi dress, I feel so feminine in it and our deadstock navy gingham fabric is fab, it’s a printed gingham so feels really unique and its so easy to wash and requires very little ironing so its really practical, a really good throw on style when you don’t know what to wear but want to feel a bit glam.

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

I take all 3 into account, I think it’s really important to listen to your customers but also mix it with my knowledge of design to try and create something unique and new that’s not already out there. Before I began designing I did a big questionnaire asking peoples favourite kind of styles, colours, prints etc and I still refer back to that when looking at designing new pieces. As I want my styles to have longevity and be trans-seasonal I do try to make them classic shapes that will never go out of style but bring in an element of trend. Collars are a hot trend at the moment so we created out Margot Mummy Collars using our scrap fabrics and designed them to fit in to a mummy life style. 

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

Yes we ship worldwide through our website www.breastdressed.co.uk. So far I have sold styles to Australia, Singapore, Switzerland and Canada, It’s super exciting knowing that breast dressed is out in the world!

You have a Re:Loved collection – I have heard of preloved clothing, so what is re:loved? 

Yes so we source pre-loved garments from Ebay etc and we unpick them and mix them together to create new pieces that can then be re-loved by our customers. I love denim so I wanted to incorporate denim in to the breast dressed collection. But it can be costly to produce as you need special machinery for the heavy washes and I didn’t want to use raw denim as it can be quite stiff and I want all my garments to be soft to touch. So this was the perfect sustainable way to be able to incorporate denim in to our brand. We re-invent, re-wear and re-love. The other positive of this collection is that all profits go to charity. Giving back to the community is a long term goal and one we want to keep building on as a brand.

Your brand is striving to become a no waste company – so how are you achieving that aim?  

We use all of our scrap/waste fabrics left over from the pattern cutting of the main garments to create scrunchies, our Margot Mummy collars and brand labels so that our waste is very little. All of our packaging is sustainable and/or biodegradeable. We source fabrics and trims from deadstock suppliers in the U.K, so one man’s waste is our treasure. And we work on a made to order basis so we are only making stock that has been sold. We manufacture in the U.K which is also helping reduce our carbon footprint as the seamstress I work with is local to me so I don’t need to travel far to collect the garments. This will be an ever evolving mission and we are always learning of new things we can do to keep being as sustainable as possible.

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

Oooh, I’m a sucker for some high waist Levi’s, a boxy tee and high tops or Teva sandals! I do enjoy dressing up too but that feels like a distant memory during these current times!

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

Since launching breast dressed I’ve learnt what it’s like to be a small brand so I’m trying to explore new brands and shop from them. I love Paynter, their business model is really refreshing and their approach and customer interaction is brilliant. I also love Gung Ho London who raise awareness of global issues through their clothing.

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

My Paynter jacket! I am so excited, it was my main investment in 2020 and I know it will last a lifetime. I get a weekly update from the brand, last week it was being sewn!

Boots or Shoes?

Hmmm, can I break the mould and choose sandals? I hate wearing socks so yeh a pair of comfy sandals are winners for me!

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

www.breastdressed.co.uk

https://www.instagram.com/breast.dressed/

https://www.facebook.com/breastdressedlondon

Fabulous chatting to you Hester! Your designs are so wearable and desirable, pregnant or not!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Hester/ Breast Dressed

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