Tag Archives: Fashion

Thoughts on the power of style

As London Fashion Week is approaching, style and fashion is the topic of the moment. Many people are excited to celebrate the time of creative expression through design. But many simply ignore it, claim they have no interest in it or use it as an opportunity to judge fashion as pure vanity. Regardless of what each of us thinks of the fashion industry or even LFW itself, I believe something needs to be said in defense of style and individual desire to look beautiful. Here is a note on the power of style in my life…

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On a grey and wet Monday morning a couple of days ago, I was feeling equally grim. As I was rushing out of the door to make my dentist appointment before going to work, I felt overwhelmed by all I needed to do even before properly starting the day. My promise to myself to stay calm, grounded and slow down this week went out of the window when I couldn’t find my travel card as I was already running late.

At that moment I became very aware of how tired I feel of this long winter, wearing the same clothes for the past three month and wearing multiple layers to keep warm, yet still feeling cold. At the beginning of the season I enjoyed winter fashion. I had fun mixing patterns, colours and textures – soft cashmere in different shades, silk with thick wool – to create new sweater-skirt combos, my favourite look this season. But after nearly three months of winter I have worn every possible combination and I am bored. Last week, noticing that I was slipping into a style rut, I promised myself to be better at honouring my desire for style in my life every single day (even when I am tired or uninspired). I finally found some creative solutions working around my busy schedule to have my dresses ironed and high-heeled boots re-heeled – so I could no longer use excuses that being stylish is too time consuming when I have to rush out in the morning.

On that Monday morning I had a choice: to wear flat boots I am so tired of wearing so I walk faster to make it to my appointment on time or to wear my recently re-heeled stylish suede black wedge heeled boots. I was stressed and late but something inside me spoke in favour of a more stylish choice. As I put on the boots admiring myself for a quick second in a mirror, I noticed a coat I hadn’t worn in months and decided to put it on. It went perfectly with my new burgundy hat. I no longer felt bored of my look. This may seem irrelevant: I was running late and there were more urgent and important things to do than throwing together a stylish outfit. But bear with me…

As I walked into my dentist’s office (she ended up being more late than I was), I was immediately showered with compliments: “Look at how stylish she is!”
“Let me see your handbag!”
“What a hat!”
“You look like a model”

The morning wasn’t so grim any more. I gracefully accepted the compliments and walked out without a hint of rush. Walking at a normal pace (as opposed to my typical speed walking) I saw that  several people in the street were noticing me. It didn’t feel inappropriate. I was surprised at how peaceful and empowered I felt, even though I was still running late for work, where a long to-do list was awaiting me, the weather was still wet and cold and my travel card was still missing. But none of this mattered because I felt beautiful both on the inside and the outside, and there was an incredible sense of empowerment from expressing who I am through style. I kept this awareness throughout the day. Choosing to honour my need, my desire for style in my daily life even when there appeared to be no time for it (regardless of how other may judge it) made my day.

What are your thoughts on style? Does it empower you?

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

Dalston in East London – an unlikely shopping destination

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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.

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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 .

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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.

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London style

My favourite thing to do in the morning on my way to work (but also during my lunch break and on the way back from work) is to admire stylish London women in the streets, on buses and on the underground. It makes my morning commute much more fun and often distracts me from thinking about my work emails and to-do lists. Plus, seeing beautifully put together outfits gives me inspiration and ideas for my personal style. It feeds my creativity. I feel so lucky to live in one of the most stylish cities in the world and have the opportunity to see first-hand ordinary people with a great sense of style that many street fashion photographers capture in their books and on websites, inspiring fashion trends. This is my alternative to fashion magazines, because as much as I like them, I do not always have the time to buy and read them.

Here is my attempt at street fashion photography. I hope these chic Londoners will inspire you as much as they inspire me.

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Smart pieces in neutral shades with a splash of bright colour. Adding a bright accessory, pair of shoes or jacket is a simple way to add style to a work outfit.
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Summer is a perfect season to wear bright colours. It is hard for a woman not to get noticed when she wears red or yellow…
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Summer trousers are fun – this season we can choose whatever pattern or colour we like. They look very comfortable too! An easy and stylish weekend outfit option.

Style matters

You gotta have style. It helps you get down the stairs. It helps you get up in the morning. It’s a way of life. Without it, you’re nobody. I’m not talking about lots of clothes.”
Diana Vreeland

In my first post I decided to explain what my thoughts on style are, given this blog is about style. In my opinion style is often a misunderstood concept. These are the things I often hear when I talk to people about style:

“A sense of style is what one is born with.”
“Style is something certain people have and others do not have.”
“Style is not what serious people should worry about.”
“I do not have time for style.”

Many people seem to confuse style with fashion and following latest trends. But style has little to do with following fashion trends. As Coco Chanel said: “Fashion passes, style remains”.

To me personal style is above all my creative self-expression. It gives me freedom to be who I want to be. It helps me to be noticed and understood.

Style has always been important in my life. Ever since I was a little girl, I have chosen my clothes with care. My mum claims I refused to leave the house when I was four years old if my clothes did not work well together or colours did not match.

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My stylish mum and me

Over the years, my personal style evolved as I changed and developed. Thinking about my past “signature looks”, I can see that their “language” is quite different to how I express myself today . There were times when my style was saying: “I want to fit in”. At other times its message was: “I like to stand out and I am not afraid of my individuality”. And sometimes my style was clearly saying: “I want to be seen, noticed”. Even though I would definitely not repeat some of these looks, I am reluctant to call them mistakes because they reflected who I was and how I wanted to be known at the time.

Style talks before we say anything and it helps us to connect with others. Several important relationships in my life started with style. It was the reason conversations were initiated on many occasions, some leading to friendships. I remember the first time I saw my now good friend Susana at work. I was so impressed with her style that I immediately decided I wanted to be her friend, but not because I only care about appearances and fashion. No, it was because her style was saying that she was a very interesting individual, comfortable with herself, open-minded, well-travelled and creative. And these are the qualities I find attractive.

Susana and I
Susana and I

People often say what is on the inside matters more than what is on the outside. I completely agree. So why care about style then?

Personal style is simply a way of communicating what is on the inside. It is a form of self-expression, what we choose to reveal to the world about ourselves: our mood, our state of mind, the way we feel about ourselves. Appearance is a form of non-verbal communication as much as body language or tone of voice is. This is not a trivial subject, contrary to what some suggest, when about 90% of our communication is non-verbal, according to various estimates.

But just because appearance is a serious matter does not mean we will get it “right” by being serious. Firstly, I do not think there is such thing as the right personal style. Style is individual. Secondly, style is to be enjoyed. And this is how I am going to approach this subject on my blog. I hope my style adventures, experiments and inspiration will encourage you to pay more attention to your personal style and have more fun with it.