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.

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