Category Archives: Shopping

Winter life in colour

Winter is definitely on its way. As days get shorter and shorter, the grayness of the cloud-covered sky merges with darkness of trees and buildings, extra effort is required to stay in a good mood. Very often I find that on a gloomy morning, my mood tends to be a little gloomy too, especially if I have an early start. It does not help that most people are dressed in black and gray, adding to the natural grayness and darkness of the season.

20131112-131828.jpg

Of course, there is nothing I can do about the weather or the current season, but I can add more colour to my life during this time to uplift my mood.

There are many ways to add colour. For me this always starts with my outfit. I believe wearing colour not only significantly affects our mood and state but also it influences how we are perceived by others and therefore can influence the quality of our communication and interaction with people around us.

Recently, I have been working with a friend, who has changed her career from a tired corporate employee to entrepreneur . She decided to change her wardrobe, previously made up of black and grey staples, and is no longer scared to add colour to her outfits, sending message to the outside world that she is inspired and confident. Another friend was wondering why people rarely approach her. The answer was her all black outfits (which by the way were draining for her light complexion) were saying: “I am not open to communication”. When I encouraged her to wear a lighter, brighter colour, not only did her mood change, but she could not stop admiring herself in the mirror and got a spark in her eyes, which was impossible not to notice.

Colour can change, enhance, hide, transform. Every morning I start with choosing a main colour or several complimentary or clashing colours for my outfit, depending on my mood, tasks that lie ahead, occasion and how I want to be seen. I highly recommend experimenting with colour in your outfits and observing how it influences your mood and even interactions with others.

Wearing colour can be scary if you are used to wearing neutrals, such as black or gray. Some people complain that finding colour in winter collections is challenging. But as with anything, once you start consciously paying attention to something, you will start noticing it everywhere. All you need is a desire and willingness to experiment. I hope these tips will be a helpful starting point.

1. The most obvious way to add colour to your winter look is to invest in a bright-coloured coat.

red coat

A friend from Spain recently complimented me on my coat in a bold colour and confessed that all her winter coats are dark, reflecting her “winter mood”. No wonder our mood worsens in winter. Not only is there less sunlight, but also we eliminate colour from our wardrobe.

I am a big fan of bright coats and encourage investing in a coat that is not black. We are often told that coat is an investment piece and should be as versatile and long-lasting as possible. I agree that coat is an investment piece, but black is not always the best answer, not to mention it does not suit everyone. My recommendation is to have several options in different colours, one of them neutral, either light grey, brown, navy, beige, camel or black (if it suits you) and another one in a brighter, lighter colour. If you consider that in many countries we wear coats for at least 4-5 months every year, doesn’t it make sense to invest in several different ones?

For example, I have a blue, a red, a purple coat and a coat in a black and white pattern.

There is a fantastic choice of coats in all shapes and colours this season. This is a very helpful feature from Never Underdressed, where the editorial team has selected the best coats online for us. My favourites include (click on an image for further details):

All Saints coat Eudon Choi coat varg coat eudon choi coat toast coast joseph coat zara coat coat

2. Bright accessories

If a coat in a bold colour is not for you or you worry you may get tired or bored of one colour, then think about accessories – scarves, gloves, hats, even belts to wear with your coat. This is the easiest way to add colour and style to your winter outfit and to personalise your winter look.

bright winter accessories

3. Wear coloured denim

The trend for bright coloured denim has been around for a couple of seasons. There is a great choice of jeans in non-traditional colours: electric blue, turquoise, red, purple or orange. Choose the one that works best with your winter sweaters and coats. Or, if you can, wear your summer jeans with warmer tops and scarves. Another alternative is a statement skirt.

20131112-131808.jpg
I love turquoise. It reminds me of seaside holidays and instantly improves my mood.

4. Footwear does not have to be black

I’ll admit, most of my winter boots are black, but I am adding new colours too: burgundy, light grey, beige.

My new Bobbies ankle boots in burgundy. Beige ones are lovely too.
20131113-000630.jpg

Final words on adding more colour to your life in winter… 

If you are going to wear black, make sure it suits your complextion. If it is too harsh or draning, go for grey (lighter shade), navy, beige or camel, depending on your skin tone.

blue coat
Blue works better on lighter cooler skin tones

Think about your favorite colour and find ways to add more of it to your wardrobe, even if it’s only a small accessory.

There are other ways to enjoy a more colourful life in winter.

Have a coffee or lunch in somewhere where you can enjoy the interior design and colours you like.

20131113-192322.jpg

Add different colours to your meal, not only will you get more vitamins this way, but the eating experience will be more enjoyable.

Warm winter salad
Warm winter salad

Buy yourself a bouquet of flowers.

The best way to instantly bring more joy to your day
The best way to instantly bring more joy to your day

Further reading: designer Roksanda Ilincic has great tips on adding colour to your wardrobe.

If you would like to find out what colours work best for your complexion and how to add more colour to your wardrobe, get in touch to book a free discovery session.

Advertisements

Fashion inspired by real women

One of the reasons I started this blog is because I love sharing new discoveries, be it travel destinations, restaurants, boutiques, designers or cafes serving good coffee. Recently, I have made a new exciting discovery: a designer brand whose philosophy resonates with my view of fashion – DEPLOY demi-couture.

On my way to DEPLOY’s event at Home House in London last week I had no expectations and intended to only stay for under an hour. But the story about independent sustainable fashion business I heard and the stylish, feminine and, what inspired me most, customisable clothes I saw that night left me very curious. Keen to learn more, I arranged to speak with DEPLOY’s designer and creator, Bernice Pan at her boutique near the fashionable Marylebone High Street in London. This small elegant boutique is filled beautiful clothes that flatter a female figure, made from luxurious natural fabrics, that are sourced from certified ethical suppliers. I felt like I travelled back in time to the pre-mass consumption period in history when clothes were tailored for the customer and the service was very personal.

Elegant clothes made from high quality natural fabrics
Elegant clothes made from high quality natural fabrics
Shoes and accessories
Shoes and accessories
DEPLOY boutique has a beautiful hat collection
DEPLOY boutique has a beautiful hat collection

Bernice, who has a PhD in Fashion Design Innovation and a background in architecture brings a new, multi-disciplinary approach to fashion. She founded DEPLOY in 2005 creating a fashion brand that revives the golden-era couture and at the same time embraces innovation and puts the concept of ethical consumption and sustainability at the core of the business model. The name “DePLOY” signifies action for Bernice, it means applying the ethos of responsible, sustainable high quality style throughout the whole supply chain. But also, according to Bernice, “trends can become a ‘ploy’ to increase consumption”. And while she understands that it is natural for a business to want to increase sales, she is concerned with the amount of waste we create as a result of such consumption. So DEPLOY wants to offer a new form of consumption to “de-ploy” obsolescence. This is why the clothes she designs are not for throwing away every season. They are made specifically with a person or function, not a trend, in mind.

This jacket can be turned into a simple cropped version. The denim material is innovative eco-friendly fabric made from recycled coffee grounds
This jacket can be turned into a simple cropped version. The denim material is innovative eco-friendly fabric made from recycled coffee grounds

I, personally, loved two things about DEPLOY: the creative element that each piece of clothing carries and style aesthetics of the brand and the boutique: think old-style glamour, luxurious fabrics and textures, quality and attention to detail, and flattering ultra-feminine cuts.

The fact that the clothes are designed in a way that allows customers to be creative and wear one piece in many ways is what, in my view, sets DEPLOY apart. Dresses become skirts and blouses, jackets become vests, there are removable decorative details, such as additional folds of fabric or ruffles, on some jackets or dresses. Many of the detachable parts are interchangeable making the entire collection very interactive.

Designs that encourage creativity: one dress can be worn in two completely different ways
Designs that encourage creativity: one dress can be worn in two completely different ways
Versatility: trench coat that can be worn as a dress too
Versatility: trench coat that can be worn as a dress too

This definitely takes personalisation of fashion to a new level. “Designers are not the only people who are creative,” says Bernice, “creativity is for everyone”.

This approach to fashion – “less prescriptive and more liberal” – definitely speaks to me and many other women, I am sure.

The fact that all designs are inspired by real women and their needs really appeals to me too. “The starting point for me as designer is what the clothes can do for you,” says Bernice. Women and what they need to look comfortable and confident is what inspires her designs. My guess is this is why the clothes are of such high quality and the cuts are so flattering. Most pieces are designed to accentuate the waist and flatter (or help to create, as in my case) feminine curves. “Women walk out surprised at how feminine they can look,” shares Bernice.

I try on a jacket with detachable sleeves that helps to do exactly that – add womanly curves, something I always attempt to do with clothes for my straight up and down figure.

This jacket that turns into a vest is very flattering on many female figures.
This jacket that turns into a vest is very flattering on many female figures.
For example, it helps to add feminine curves to my straight up and down figure
For example, it helps to add feminine curves to my straight up and down figure

Other pieces I am shown promise to work like magic by creating shape and curves in all the “right” places and hide what us women are not so keen to show.

This jacket is designed in a way that helps to flatter the lower abdomen area, an area that is considered 'problematic' by many women
This jacket is designed in a way that helps to flatter the lower abdomen area, an area that is considered ‘problematic’ by many women

Ever keen to define what style is, I ask Bernice to share her thoughts. “Style is about the grace of the woman herself, people don’t need to try and be someone else,” she answers. I could not agree more.

If you don’t know DEPLOY already, I highly recommend visiting their website http://www.deployworkshop.com or stopping by the boutique in 34 Thayer street in the Marylebone area in London. I will be coming back before too long, having added one of DEPLOY’s dresses and a jacket to my A/W wish list.

Some of the photographs used here were provided by the DEPLOY team

Exploring fashion and design in Antwerp

For a small historic European city with medieval architecture Antwerp is surprisingly cool and avant-garde. Belgium’s second largest city and Europe’s second largest port, Antwerp is rightfully referred to as the fashion capital ever since the 1980s when it was put on the international fashion map by the “Antwerp Six”, six Belgian fashion designers – Ann Demeulemeester, Dries Van Noten, Marina Yee, Dirk Bikkembergs, Walter Van Beirendonck and Dirk Van Saene – who graduated from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts and shook the fashion world with their avant-garde designs. Today, the Royal Academy in Antwerp is one of the best in the world. And this, in my opinion, has a major impact on this small city and its eclectic style.

I discovered Antwerp in 2000 when I moved to Belgium. One thing I immediately noticed was Antwerp’s very distinct character and attitude that makes it stand out among all other Belgian cities in term of atmosphere and style. Antwerp’s style is bolder, brighter, edgier. For years, I have been visiting Antwerp like a local. First, when I lived in Brussels, I went there for shopping or clubbing, two things Antwerp is known for in Belgium. Then, after I moved to London, I came back regularly to visit friends. But during these visits I rarely took the time to explore the city, as it often happens with cities we know, preferring house parties and dinners to discovering new places. So this year I decided to see this beautiful and vibrant city as a first time visitor.

There are many reasons to visit Antwerp: classical Flemish art, beautiful architecture – from medieval to baroque to art deco and modern – vibrant café culture and nightlife, delicious food, chocolate and, for some, hundreds of varieties of Belgian beer.

I went to Antwerp several weeks ago intending to explore its unique fashion and design scene and get fresh style ideas. By “fashion scene” I don’t mean high street shopping; Belgian fashion often resembles creations of art and shopping is similar to walking into art galleries.

My Antwerp shopping experience definitely felt more like a gallery crawl. Most of the fashion scene is clustered in and around Nationalestraat, where Dries Van Noten’s Het Modepaleis (Nationalestraat 16) is located. His beautifully designed hand finished pieces decorated with feathers and embroidery gave me an impression I was in a Belle Époque period shop.

Modepaleis
Het Modepaleis
Dries Van Noten's embellished pieces
Dries Van Noten’s embellished pieces

Ann Demeulemeester’s shop is a dramatic space in monochrome colours with an occasional splash of colour breaking into the black and while palette from one of the clothes rails – a completely different feel to van Noten’s boutique.

Ann Demeulemeester's creations
Ann Demeulemeester’s creations
Leather necklace
Leather necklace

Anwerp has several very interesting concept stores. I came across one of them – Seven Rooms – completely by accident. Bright and spacious, this is the space where I could easily spend an afternoon looking through carefully selected pieces by international fashion designers, beautiful furniture, and even food and wine.

Furniture pieces at
Furniture pieces at Seven Rooms
Seven Rooms
Seven Rooms
Seven Rooms
Seven Rooms

Another beautiful concept store worth a visit is 13 GraanMarkt. It also has a lovely restaurant inside.

If you are planning to visit Antwerp I highly recommend going to these shops, if only to look at design and fashion as creation of art. If your budget does not allow you to buy avant-garde creations of the famous Belgian designers, but you are keen to add a bit of Antwerp style to your wardrobe, try these shops.

Essentiel, Antwerp fashion brand that for me really reflects the city’s bold, colourful, sometimes edgy style.

Bright accessories at Essentiel
Bright accessories at Essentiel

Jutka and Riska, a boutique in trendy South part of Antwerp selling a mix of vintage, own design by the shop owners and creations by young designers along with accessories and occasional interior design pieces.

On Lombardenvest (one of the streets off Nationalestraat) you will find a good selection of European labels, such as A.P.C., Les petites…, Fillipa K, Acne, Maison Sctoch.

Taking a break from shopping (or visiting design spaces as I call it) is easy with a vast choice of cafes in nearly every street.

At night, head to Marnixplaats, a square in trendy Anwerp Zuid (South) area. It has a very lively restaurant and bar scene where stylish locals meet for a bite to eat and drinks.

Sunday, when most shops are closed, is a good day to visit Antwerp’s museum. Recently opened MAS museum in the port area with its own Michelin-starred restaurant is definitely a must-see. Not only is it the largest contemporary art space in the city, but also it has a unique and striking architectural style.

And if you are still in need of fashion and design inspiration, then MoMu, the fashion museum, is the place for you.

Last but not least, I recommend staying at South Side Suite. This tastefully decorated spacious apartment that sleeps up to three people is located in the trendy Zuid area. The location is ideal: it is central enough to explore the city by foot, but far enough from the main tourist attractions to experience a local vibe and enjoy a vibrant food and nightlife scene together with the locals. The hosts, a young Belgian-Brazilian/Angolan couple will pamper you and make you feel at home. I speak from experience, I have stayed with them many times! Book early as it usually gets booked quickly.

20130919-190343.jpg
Enjoying afternoon sun in the trendy Zuid area
Antwerp style - not afraid to stand out with bright colours
Antwerp style – not afraid to stand out with bright colours
Bright accessories...
… and bright accessories
Unusual design
Unusual design
Art deco building
Art deco building
20130919-190404.jpg
Street art

Dalston in East London – an unlikely shopping destination

vintage dress
Channelling Jackie O in my new vintage dress. Who said you can’t wear vintage to work?

If you read my previous post, you will know that I really enjoy shopping, but I can be easily put off by the crowds in shopping streets in central London, especially during weekends. When I go shopping I want to enjoy the process not only get the result. My favourite way to shop is to go to small independent boutiques in quieter parts of the city and buy lesser known designers and brands while chatting to friendly shop owners and assistants about style without having to wait for 30 minutes in queues for changing rooms.

Recently, I felt I needed more than just a fun shopping experience, I needed a style inspiration, having realised I have been going for the same safe “weekend look” for many weeks.

There are many ways to get a style inspiration: buy fashion magazines, look at fashion blogs, go window shopping. But sometimes to get a style inspiration one must go to a place where fashion trends are created and where style is not an option, it is a way of life. In London these places are Hackney and Dalston.

What to wear to this trendy part of the city was my main concern. I don’t have a fear of standing out, but I did not want to stand out for wrong reasons (i.e. lacking style imagination) in my smart casual weekend outfit consisting of jeans, blazer and ballerina flats. Plus, pushing style boundaries and trying new looks can be fun and very liberating.

After a quick look in my wardrobe I found something I thought could work. A skirt I would normally wear on a warm day was replaced by bright animal print shorts (previously worn only once and on holiday) and paired with a t-shirt in a “clashing” pattern (but complementing colour – the aim was not to dress up as a clown). I swapped my favourite footwear – elegant ballerina pumps for slightly edgier black sandals, decorated with metal chain. Finishing my look with a bright red lipstick and a big brooch, I felt ready to meet the hipsters. Don’t worry, I was not self-delusional to think this outfit made me a Dalston hipster or a trendsetter, but I felt more comfortable in my “adventurous” outfit.20130819-223057.jpg

The shopping event I went to was called the Stylist’s Rail. It hosted a number of independent sellers and designers, many selling vintage clothes and accessories.

20130819-223630.jpg

There, not only did I get my style inspiration, but I also found some unique pieces, some of which I can wear to work, at very affordable prices – always a win in my opinion. The quality of merchandise was very good. I found many designer vintage pieces at much lower prices than in more established vintage shops. Of course I could not resist buying a beautiful 1950s style vintage dress from Tuk Vintage, a recently established vintage online shop selling hand-picked pieces from France and the UK .

20130819-223108.jpg
Wearing vintage dress from Tuk Vintage to work this week. Dressing up for work can be fun!
Finishing the look with vintage-style sun glasses and simple accessories
Finishing the look with vintage-style sun glasses and simple accessories

And, very importantly, my weekend style dilemma has been resolved thanks to a unique piece from Ingo Kraftchenko, an upcycled vintage designer. Her beautiful sheer silk maxi skirt will help me feel at home among trendy East Londoners next time I decide to go there.

Designer Ingo Craftchenko
Designer Ingo Kraftchenko

The Stylists Rail holds monthly sale events in East London. I highly recommend it, if you want to have a relaxed and fun shopping experience and an opportunity to buy good quality vintage pieces. The next sale event is held on 1 September.

stylistsrail

Un-learning bad shopping habits

Yesterday, after reading that Issa, a British designer, famous for its versatile elegant dresses, designed a collection for Banana Republic and realising it was nearly sold out after its launch last week, I rushed to one of the branches near my office (one of the advantages of working in the West End). Unsurprisingly, most items from the 40-piece limited edition collection were sold out. Trying to make up for being late, I was grabbing everything I could find in my size. Ridiculous, I know! But my love for designer bargains sometimes clouds my ability to think.

20130814-225942.jpg

Although I usually prefer to buy lesser known brands that I am less likely to see on someone else the next day, somehow a combination of designer name on a label that reads “limited edition” and affordable price tag made it ok in my mind to buy clothes that I will probably see other women wearing. Issa is elegant, not trendy, which means I can wear the pieces I buy for years, I told myself, as I carried 6 items to the changing room.

It was only in the changing room that I was able to pause and think. I did not want to repeat my past shopping mistakes, which included impulsive shopping, buying clothes only because they were on sale, original or recommended by a magazine I like. As a result, many times I ended up with a wardrobe full of pieces that don’t work together, don’t fit properly or don’t make me feel good, leaving me frustrated in the morning because I had nothing to wear to work.

So how did I walk out of the shop with two, not five, dresses (one of them now returned) when the temptation was strong and the money argument did not work?

In my changing room
In my changing room

The first step is to recognise when I am going back to “old ways”. It usually helps me to stop for a second and think about all those piles of clothes I have taken home over the years to give to my family and friends, many of them never worn.

Then, in my head I go through these basic shopping rules

  1. Don’t buy when under time pressure. Going to shop in my lunch break was a mistake and I did buy a dress that was not a perfect fit, which I have now returned. Lesson learnt (again)!
  2. This takes me to rule number two: the fit has to be perfect. This may seem like an obvious one, but I have failed to follow it on a number of occasions and I know others who have too. But what to do if the piece you really, really want is not available in your size or doesn’t fit perfectly? Paula Reed, Grazia’s style director, in her book “Style Clinic” advises: “If a jacket doesn’t fit in the shoulders or lie flat when buttoned, get over it.” “Don’t buy anything badly finished.” “If a garment needs shortening or needs the waist nipped in, fine. But if it needs more, forget it.”
  3. The same goes for colour. I now buy clothes in colours that flatter my complexion and complement or match other items in my wardrobe.
  4. Versatility is important. Paula Reed does not recommend buying an item if you can’t see yourself in more than five completely different situations in it, unless it is eveningwear or sportswear. However, when I am buying something I intend to wear to work, I apply the versatility rule in a slightly different way. I think how easy it will be to combine what I plan to buy with different accessories, jackets and cardigans to create different ‘looks’ for the office. For me, there have to be at least 4 different looks I can create with a piece. Potential to wear a garment day to night is important for me as a woman working in an office who does not have time to go home and change before going out after work.
  5. How does an item make me feel? This is probably the most important factor. Style for me is not so much about the clothes I wear, it is really about how I feel when I wear them. Do I feel great about myself when I see myself in the mirror? Do I feel beautiful? Do I want to smile and begin to daydream about wearing the item I am trying on? If the answer is yes, then it is a sign that I need to buy it, even if it does not seem “sensible” or necessary. Similarly, if a dress or a top is recommended as a must have by a fashion editor I admire, but does not make me feel amazing, there is no reason to buy it. I trust my intuition in this situation.

The temptation to buy on impulse may be very strong at times, but as with any temptation, if we take several deep breaths and pause for a couple of minutes, it becomes less powerful or sometimes goes away entirely.

So what did I buy at the end? A flowy blue-green dress I can wear now and when the weather gets cooler in multiple ways and dress up or down.

This is one way of wearing it.
green dress.jpg
green dress and necklace
green dress2

How do you deal with your bad shopping habits?