Monday, 29 November 2010

Craving cashmere

Cashmere dress, £315, Chinti and Parker at Net-a-porter

Cashmere v-neck, £159, Celtic Sheepskin

When there's a thick layer of snow on the ground, cashmere comes into its own. Whether it's a long pair of gloves (preferably by Brora) or a full-on cashmere dress, cashmere adds a little style to your layers and makes you feel less like an overgrown yeti. It's a wardrobe staple that will look good year after year if you look after it (and don't shrink it in the wash like I have...).

On the high street, Cos are doing a great cashmere hat for £25 and matching scarf for £50. Marks and Spencer are always a safe bet for decent cashmere. Their cashmere harem trousers make for fun lounging gear (£99), and they also have good value V-necks (search the men's section as they tend to be larger), an attractive beaded top and some good scarves too including this striped one at £29.50.

Cashmere crew-neck, £243 (was £541), Rick Owens at theOutnet

At the higher end, theOutnet has a pile of reduced-price cashmere by names like Rick Owens and Vanessa Bruno, such as the crew-neck cashmere jumper above.

Check out Net-a-porter for an exclusive range designed by Chinti and Parker, the masters of stylish cashmere, including a very wearable cashmere dress and an oatmeal-coloured cape. I am slightly obsessed with their elbow-patched jumpers (as pictured right, £285): they are the last word in luxury, with an attention to detail that lifts them out of the ordinary. The Breton-stripe cashmere jumpers and striped dress are deeply covetable too.

I also rate Izzy Lane's UK-made cashmere as I've mentioned before – their slouchy V-neck in oatmeal (£175) constantly sells out; it's available in other colours too. Celtic Sheepskin also do a good version, as well as some cheerful long cashmere socks.

Crumpet have a bit of a sale on right now so you can snap up a rather Christmassy sparkly cashmere cardi from £100 (less than half price). Love the over-the-knee socks, too.

Sparkly cashmere cardi, £180 (was £432), Crumpet

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Star in the North

The December edition of pretty well every magazine I've seen features these paper decorations from RE. Cheap, cheerful and re-usable, they're available in a variety of shapes, sizes and colours, from balls to bells and white snowflakes, and make a stylish alternative to tinsel and plastic decorations. Sending them out to stylists must be keeping the lovely people at RE seriously busy. This gem of a shop is hidden away behind a petrol station in the depths of Northumberland (well, Corbridge to be exact). It's a fabulous, friendly place to visit, and stunningly presented, but if you can't get there have a look on their website, which is packed with all manner of original, intriguing and inspiring bits and pieces, from vintage furniture, chandeliers and eiderdowns to American glass cake stands. A true one-off that really shines.

Thursday, 11 November 2010


I was going to write about Bath's spa, but got distracted by Whistles. Whistles is hard to ignore these days. Ever since Jane Shepherdson took over, the label has garnered huge amounts of press coverage; the Observer in particular nearly always has something from Whistles on its fashion pages. I remember Whistles when it stocked designers such as Dries van Noten alongside its pretty tea dresses. It has an edgier, more urban feel now, though I've found that many of the designs look great on the page but not so great in the dressing room. Though maybe that's my own fault for trying on jersey harem trousers in the first place....

One problem for Whistles is that their turnaround is so fast now, and their sales so regular, that you feel rather cheated if you buy anything full-price. And now designers such as Alexander Wang are making luxe utility wear more accessible, Whistles often feels pricey. However, they've currently got some good deals online and in store, such as this Millie leather jacket (above) and a military-style leather jacket both £200, down from £275 – pretty good for leather of this quality. For everyday, this Drew dress (below) is a flattering fit and can be dressed up or down.

Today Whistles launches one of the big guns in its armoury – the latest (and final) Roksanda Ilincic collection. The Serbian designer will continue to wow the high street with this stunning clutch of jewel-coloured satin sheaths that are set to dance out of the shop and into every Christmas party. Stand-outs include Adenium, in a beautifully subtle shade of mink, and the Nettle dress (below) in vibrant emerald satin, both £325. Ilincic's mainline dresses start from £800 and go up, up, up.

Nettle dress, £325, Roksanda Ilincic for Whistles

Monday, 8 November 2010

The beauties of Bath part I

A weekend in Bath. Good friends, lots of coffee, great food, a visit to the spa and some sunshine. What a treat. I'm going to do a post about the brilliant Thermae Bath Spa, but first things first. Amid the rather lovely sedate shops of Bath – White Company, Toast, Cath Kidston, Jigsaw (this is real Cabbages & Roses country) – there are some real gems.

We all went a bit mad over Comptoir des Cotonniers. This label, established in 1995, really nails that timeless French chic look, combining excellent quality with Gallic flair. From masculine-cut tweed overcoats and trenches to silk Japanese-print shift dresses and a brilliant red silk-satin dress that would sing out at any party, these clothes epitomise effortless chic that will endure season after season. With my Yorkshire roots, I can't help preferring clothes that last.

My favourite piece, among many, was this striped jumper in the softest cashmere. It is impossible to capture how very RED the red is – it's that almost-fluorescent red that really jumps out at you. It was paired with a khaki shirt to great effect by the girl in the shop. As Laura said, you could never feel miserable wearing this top; it would cheer you up instantly on a dark day.

Cashmere striped jumper, £156, Comptoir des Cotonniers

The staff in the Bath store are seriously good-looking (almost off-puttingly so, in that you don't have a hope of looking half as good in the clothes as they do!), on the ball and helpful without being pushy. Many pieces are on sale at the moment so it's well worth a scout. Great accessories too – this appealingly soft and squishy 'school bag' is very Mulberry Alexa-ish but considerably less expensive. I loved the limited-edition Doc Martens that Comptoir did a few seasons ago: the toughness and durability of Docs is beautifully tempered by the soft charcoal-grey leather.

For accessories that also add a certain je ne said quoi, head to VintagetoVogue, a superlative vintage store hidden just off Milsom Street. I could have spent hours rummaging in here, trying on original Lock & Co. bowler hats (£150) – very Paul Smith/Hermes a/w 2010 – and fabulous military coats, the inspiration for this season's entire bestselling Burberry collection. From trilbies to leather gloves, vintage handbags that could be Louis Vuitton's latest and rails full of one-off dresses from years gone by, the items here are high-quality rather than cheap secondhand tat. Again the staff here are brilliant – full of enthusiasm and with great rapport for their customers.

A new store specialising in jeans plus luxe labels such as Chinti and Parker (for the very finest cashmere) and Elizabeth Lau opened this weekend: Mimi Noor. Mimi stocks the very best jeans labels, from J Brand to Dylan George. And Chinti and Parker's Breton stripe jumper and super-soft caramel-coloured V-neck with pockets are the last word in luxury (around £265). Mimi knows her stuff on the best styles and shades to suit you. Clearly, in Bath, shopping is as it should be.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Capital prints

House of Holland's new wool jumpers (£250) featuring capital cities, including this Paris knit and the London Big Ben, are eye-catching, fun and cool – just what's needed as the days grow darker. They've just landed at Selfridges, but expect to see a heap of high-street versions any day soon; Henry Holland's irreverent and playful approach to fashion is refreshing but easily imitated.