The perfect summer shoe

Anyone who knows me will say that I am a total print fanatic. Whether it be a tropical floral, a monochrome check or an African waxed cotton design, my wardrobe is overspilling with bold patterned pieces. So much so that I have to remind myself to buy basics to balance all the crazy colour. Although who doesn’t love a print clash, right?

So imagine my delight when I was introduced to the gorgeous Saira shoes, whose footwear is an eclectic mix of quality Indian woven fabrics and modern London styling. The brainchild of St Martin’s College educated Aditi, the company is named after her daughter Saira (which also means happy). And one can’t fail to be happy when wearing these shoes. Handcrafted from exclusive limited-edition Indian fabrics and cushioned with leather insoles these are both a treat for the feet and the eyes.

Creative Director Aditi (right) with her daughter Saira

Images: © Hannah Young

The shoes come in a range of different styles, from the holiday-friendly slide to my personal favourite, the city-loving bow-toe mule. All are available in a variety of bold hued fabrics, with prices ranging from £80 – £110.

A selection of the stunning styles available at Saira

This week saw the launch of their first UK pop-up shop in Shoreditch, London. The opening was marked with an in-store event, complete with delicious sugary treats by Cutter & Squidge, bubbles by Skinny Prosecco and tunes mixed by DJ Pips Tayor. Oh and a multi-coloured giant balloon wall, the ideal backdrop for that obligatory selfie.

Photography by Hannah Young

Pips Taylor on the decks (Image: © Hannah Young)

Pretty cakes by Cutter & Squidge

Bubbles by Skinny Prosecco

Fellows guests included The Saturdays singer Vanessa White, Made in Chelsea star Rosie Fortescue and chef Gizzi Erskine (seen here in a pair of the bowed mules).

Photography by Hannah Young

Photography by Hannah Young

From top: Vanessa White, Rosie Fortescue and Gizzi Erskine attend the launch

Images: © Hannah Young

So if you’re looking for a fabulous statement shoe to see you through the remainder of the summer, I would highly recommend you head to Saira. The only problem you face is deciding which of the gorgeous patterned styles to opt for. Trust me, the struggle is real 😉

Saira pop-up store, 189 Shoreditch High Street, London E1 6HU. 

Open daily 10-6pm, Sundays 11-5pm until 30th September 2017.

http://www.saira.co.uk/

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Bubbles and flying balls at the fabulous Boodles Tennis event with PlayBrave

Champagne, strawberries, a plethora of white… it can only mean one thing. Tennis season! Today is the official rest day and halfway point of The Wimbledon Championships and the nation has been gripped by tennis fever. Despite being a keen spectator for many years, it was only last month that I picked up a racket again. Memories of short tennis lessons and summers spent playing doubles with my family came flooding back and I can safely say I am now well and truly hooked. Which is why, when an email popped into my inbox last week inviting me to an exclusive PlayBrave media day at the Boodles Tennis event at Stoke Park, I was quick off the mark with my enthusiastic reply.

The intimate 2,000 seater stadium at The Boodles Tennis

For those like me who have not heard of the event before, let me divulge a little about tennis’ best kept secret. Set at the stunning Stoke Park Country Club, The Boodles is an intimate, luxury grass court tournament, occurring one week prior to Wimbledon. No seat at the 2,000 seater stadium is further than 12 metres from the court, which means guests have unparalleled views of the A-list players, who over the years have included Murray, Djokovic, Agassi and Nadal. The atmosphere is relaxed and light-hearted, the players joke with the crowd and the sound of corks popping around the court is as common as the sound of tennis balls flying through the air.

The stunning Stoke Park Country Club – the setting for numerous films including James Bond’s Goldfinger, Layer Cake and Bridget Jones’ Diary

So on to the day itself. First stop was the PlayBrave tent, where I was kitted out in a fab blue Ursula wrap dress, white Shadow cap and matching white wristband – I do love a sweatband! I never thought I would play sport in a skirt, but the lightweight fabric and body-skimming fit meant I felt more comfortable than I would in my usual sports leggings and t-shirt. To protect my modesty I also chose a pair of white Kara ball shorts, with special inverted pockets. It is amazing how a superior quality sports kit can make you feel so special. I genuinely felt like a pro.

Ursula wrap dress, £75, Kara ball shorts, £29, Shadow cap, £20, Relentless wristband, £7, all by PlayBrave

Nicole V-Neck Tee, £55 and Monique skort, £49, both PLayBrave

All four girls in our group opted for a skirt (or skort), with colours ranging from the gorgeous white and pale blue two-piece chosen by Natalie, the cute white Tour skort and matching fuchsia trimmed tank chosen by Jenny and the sleek black Monique skirt and Nicole V-neck Tee worn by Beth. We all unanimously agreed we felt like professionals in our fab tennis outfits. Do you think we look the part?

Posing on court with PlayBrave MD Simon Dowell

(Left to right: Wayne Gordon, Kevin Palmer, Me, Elsbeth Carr, Natalie Robinson, MD Simon Dowell, coach Matt Bell, Jenny Pacey)

Next stop was the courts, where head coach Matt Bell put us through our paces with a tennis lesson that included shuttle runs, volley rallies and a game of piggie in the middle. At one point I looked up to admire the players on the courts next door, only to find it was 6ft4 Australian favourite Nick Kyrgios and 6ft6 20-year old German Alexander Zverev. Being 5ft7 I am rarely dwarfed, however I truly felt like I was in the land of the giants and was incredibly excited to be sharing the grass with these phenomenal players. Thankfully I was not on the receiving end of one of those killer shots.

Nick Kyrgios warming up on the court next to us

Taking team courtside selfies

This was only the start of the day as the fabulously hospitable PlayBrave MD Simon Dowell had a treat of an afternoon lined up for us – a champagne reception, a delicious 3 course meal and an afternoon of sporting entertainment from tennis superstars Zverev, Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkanikasis.

Starter: Crab, prawn and avocado terrine

Dessert: Deliciously decadant cherry and chocolate ganache

A stunning tennis themed centrepiece concluded our lunch

On to the tennis where I was lucky enough to watch Nick Kyrgios beat his opponent Philipp Kohlshreiber in straight sets. Despite his ongoing hip injury it was amazing to witness his phenomenal serve from such close quarters.

Nick Kyrgios (AUS) d. Philipp Kohlshreiber (GER) 6-4 6-4

Then it was on to a jovial yet nonetheless competitive match between current World number 10 seed Alexander Zverev (highly tipped for future championship titles) and Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis (or Koko as he is affectionately nicknamed by his fans). The players seem to be firm friends and despite a close match there was also plenty of on-court banter.

Alexander Zverev (GER) d. Thanasi Kokkinakis (AUS) 7-6(4) 6-7(4) 10-2.

Image: © PlayBrave Ltd

After a fantastic afternoon of tennis, bubbles and fabulous company it was time to interview the lovely Simon Dowell, who had invited me to Stoke Park for this wonderful day. As official sponsor of the tournament for the last 6 years, Simon explained how PlayBrave had come to be associated with tennis’ best kept secret and all about his ‘eureka moment’ in the Lake District in 2009.

A selfie with Simon outside the PlayBrave tent

Simon: I was on a walking holiday in 2009 in the Lake District, kitted out in a merino wool t-shirt, gilet and packline jacket. It was minus 15 but I couldn’t believe how warm and comfortable I felt. I went back to my tennis club and the head coach was wearing 3-4 jackets and could hardly swing a racket. It looked ridiculous. I thought to myself why don’t we bring some of those outdoor layering ideas into tennis. I went to Wigmore Sports and they loved the idea. I then had to come up with a brand and for me PlayBrave epitomises what we all love about sport. It’s all about ‘playing brave’ in the big moments, performing under pressure, whatever your sport. I then had to find a designer…

Me: Do you have one in-house designer?

Simon: We actually have a team of designers now but I worked very closely with the original designer to capture a special aesthetic. It was a fantastic collaboration, working closely to make sure the designs looked beautiful, but were also very functional to enable completely free movement and to liberate your swing. One compliment we receive from our customers is that when they are playing in our garments they don’t feel like they are wearing anything.

Me: I can testament to that. I have worn the dress and I felt very comfortable.

Simon: One of things that really excites me is when you see someone in our garments, bringing them to life and you can see the free-flowing design we have created.

Jenny and Natalie put the PlayBrave garments to the test on court. Image: ©PlayBraveLtd

Me: The short skirt seemed to be a popular choice today (with the girls obviously, not with the gents).

Simon: Yes! The interesting thing about tennis in this day and age, is lots of people like the more classic tennis look, which is very smart and elegant. We cater to that audience, but also lots of people are wearing gym wear on the tennis court. We have a new fitness collection coming out later in the year and I am excited about people being able to wear our clothes in the gym, when they’re playing tennis and also mixing and matching. All our garments are made in Portugal, I think you felt the fabrics?

Me: Yes they are amazing. So lightweight!

Simon: That comes from the Portugese fabrics and their workmanship. I have visited all the factories we work with, I know the factory owners. For me it feels very personal. And all our garments are being crafted by family owned factories, which is another special element.

Tour Tank, £35, and Tee, £39, both by PlayBrave

Me: Tell me about your involvement with Boodles and how you came to sponsor this lovely event?

Simon: The opportunity arose when a friend of mine was looking for tickets. He contacted the owner of the event, one conversation led to another and three weeks before the event 6 years ago we were offered the opportunity to sponsor. For me The Boodles is very intimate, it’s personal, it’s a niche event for people that really love tennis and for us as a niche sportswear brand it was a perfect opportunity. I think it’s a great partnership.

Me: Final question… who would be your dream tennis player to dress?

Simon: My favourite tennis player is Roger Federer. He embodies elegance and grace and is a truly exceptional player. Obviously he’s signed up to Nike, I’m sure for life, but if I were to see Roger Federer kitted out in PlayBrave that would be a unique moment for me. That would be it!

For now I guess we’ll just have to do 🙂

Massive thanks to Simon Dowell, MD of PlayBrave for the amazing hospitality and the gorgeous tennis outfit, and to Richard from Henman Communications for the invite. One of my favourite days ever and a must for all tennis fans!

The PlayBrave clothing collection is available to purchase at: https://www.playbravesports.com

View my full interview with Simon Dowell here:

The Boodles Tennis is held at Stoke Park Country Club, Park Road, Stoke Poges, Bucks SL2 4PG.  http://theboodles.com/

Fitness Friday! Jack Wills launches men’s sportswear collection

Ah Jack Wills… home of the grey marl sweat and the brand renowned for making hoodies acceptable attire for non-teens. And who doesn’t love a good hoodie? Well, this week sees the launch of their first ever men’s sportswear collection, featuring international model and fitness coach Roger Frampton – whose abs are another level of inspiring! Think quality gym vests, crew-neck sweaters and long sleeved running tops all in a subtle colour palette that whispers sophisticated sportswear.

Roger Frampton in the Jack Wills Sporting Goods campaign.

Whilst this may not be a huge departure from their usual heritage casualwear, it marks a decisive move into athleisurewear with a range of pieces made from high-performance technical fabrics. Designed in London, and created in Portugal by the same factory that produces products for Olympic athletes, the fabrication ticks all the specialist boxes – quick-drying, breathable, antibacterial and with added sunblock. This follows the successful launch of their women’s sportswear range in January (note their stylish two-tone running leggings and cropped hooded sweaters) and taps into the current fashion obsession with sports-luxe and the booming fitness market.

Jack Wills women’s sporting range includes two-tone sports bras and running leggings

The new men’s sporting range features crew-neck sweaters and training shorts

At this week’s launch I caught up with founder and CEO Peter Williams, who talked about the new direction for the brand and his old love of baseball caps. After founding the company in 1999 aged just 23 , Peter (now 42) has watched Jack Wills evolve with age. He states that he wears the label every day, adding that with menswear it is ‘all about the basics and getting the quality just right. If men find a T-shirt they like they will buy it in every colour and so we ensure that the fit, shape and the weight of the cotton is perfect.’ He also mentioned that one of their current bestselling items is his-and-hers matching baseball caps, a product that they brought back to stores in the last few years. And whilst teens and early 20-somethings buy into the bold branded logo garments, the original customers who have grown up with the label are looking for more understated branding. Hence why the logo on the new sporting range features a more discreet boxed Jack Wills emblem.

The clothing as seen in the Kingly Street London store

Healthy snacks by Protein Haus at the press launch, including their fabulously named Muscle Snickers and Health Balls

Currently the range features approximately 16 pieces, with prices starting at £24.95, but by autumn there will be additional accessories and further garments added to the collection. Oh, and if you happen to see a pair of branded Jack Wills boxing gloves come September, you can credit that idea to me.

Products are available from the Jack Wills London stores in Covent Garden and Soho, Heathrow Terminal 3 or online. To shop the collection go to: http://www.jackwills.com/sporting-goods

For more information about Roger Frampton visit: http://www.roger.coach

The bold and the downright beautiful

This week I was lucky enough to be invited to the wonderful Fashion & Textile Museum on Bermondsey Street for the launch of the Gudrun Sjoden exhibition ‘Four Decades of Colour and Design’. I am quite ashamed to say that despite all my years of living in London (and many hours spent on Bermondsey Street) I had never actually been inside this beautiful, multi-coloured Zandra Rhodes owned tribute to fashion. But now I have and it does not disappoint. Accompanying the bold artwork, was a deliciously colourful breakfast of rainbow lattes, flower-filled granola pots and goat cheese and red pepper muffins. I mean… how can you resist when food looks this pretty?!

Breakfast is served:- Juice shots, muffins and granola from Ethos. Rainbow lattes from Black Box Coffee

Gudrun’s work will be displayed alongside the current long-standing Josef Frank exhibition. Both Swedish-based designers are renowned for their use of bold colour and print, with designs translated onto textiles and interiors, and both have a strong affection for watercolour as a medium. This pop-up exhibition celebrates Gudrun’s 40th anniversary, alongside a beautiful hard-back book detailing her years at the forefront of Swedish design. You can view her working process, her inspiration and examples of her playful, childlike prints. When I observed that her patterns are akin to childrenswear, a member of her team described Gudrun’s rhetoric as being – ‘Why stop dressing like a child once you become an adult? Everyone should enjoy colour and print no matter what their age.’

 

Some watercolour artwork and designs from the exhibition

Gudrun’s mantra remains ‘clothing for women who dare to stand out from the crowd’ and she is her own finest advocate. A cross between British fashion institutions Mary Quant and Zandra Rhodes, with a dash of Cath Kidston, she embraces colour like no other. On meeting the designer, I am drawn to her bold hues, warm smile and sunny disposition, all of which belies an incredibly strong woman who spends her weeks running the business and her weekends ‘painting til she goes to bed’.

The inspirational Gudrun poses in front of one of her prints and outside the colourful Fashion & Textile Museum on Bermondsey Street.

She has won several entrepreneurial awards, received a royal medal from the King of Sweden and has stores all over the world. Despite four decades in the industry she remains true to her concept of ‘comfortable, colourful clothes in natural materials with a Nordic design influence.’ The use of organic cotton and sustainable eco-friendly fabrics has always been of immense importance to Gudrun and her love of travel and exploration – such as her recent visit to India to explore traditional craft techniques – often influence her designs. Here are a few fabulous extracts from her recent book:

 

If you feel inspired and fancy a trip to the boldest museum in London to view a plethora of multi-hued textile designs you’ll need to be quick. Both shows end on 7th May, which gives your precisely 9.5 days to get yourself along to this fabulous tribute to colour and print. Just be sure to wear something yellow. Or fuchsia pink. Or cobalt blue. Who needs grey anyway? I would much rather view the world in Gudrun Sjoden and Josef Frank Technicolor!

Above: Prints from the current Josef Frank exhibition at Fashion & Textile Museum, 83 Bermondsey Street, London, SE1 3XF. http://www.ftmlondon.org. Ends 7th May 2017.

Open Tuesday – Saturday (11am – 6pm); late night on Thursday (until 8pm); Sunday (11am – 5pm). Closed Monday. Tickets for exhibition: £9.90 (adults), £7.70 (concessions), £6 (students). Children under 12 are free.

For more information about Gudrun and to view her collections go to http://www.gudrunsjoden.com/uk.

Main holding image: Seb Higgins

 

British tailoring, French antiques and a bonkers launch party

This week I attended the launch party of brand new menswear retail concept Labassa Woolfe, and it turned out to be one of the most bonkers store launches I have ever been to. Yes, there was stunning tailoring and gorgeous vintage furniture, endless champagne and delicious foie gras. But there was also a dwarf, two goats and a lady dressed as a French farmer’s wife! And live music. And egg throwing. Oh and Benedict Cumberbatch also made an appearance…

Owners Joe Woolfe and Johan Labassa with Benedict Cumberbatch

Oliver Cheshire and Jack Guinness

Carl Barat and Edie Langley pose with the goats

The brainchild of British stylist Joe Woolfe and French antique specialist Johan Labassa, this beautiful store is a treasure trove of meticulously cut men’s tailoring, handmade accessories and unique French collectibles. Combining Joe’s long standing connection with Savile Row and years of dressing A-listers such as Benedict Cumberbatch and David Gandy, with Johan’s family history of French fine dining and antiques, the creative interior commands as much attention as the suiting. And with it’s ever changing display of painstakingly sourced period pieces, every visit looks set to be a new experience.

Shots of the stores opulent and carefully curated interior

A selection of ready to wear and custom-made tailoring is on offer alongside handmade shoes and gorgeous accessories

A feast for all the senses, this wonderful party was an eclectic mix of intriguing dapper gentlemen and fabulously surreal entertainment. Which really is an extension of the store concept itself. So if you are looking for somewhere beautifully brilliant to buy your tailoring or something extraordinary for your home, then head to Labassa Woolfe. I hear Goutte et Canard is served daily at 3pm and is not to be missed. Just keep an eye out for the rogue goats…

Labassa Woolfe, 6 Percy Street, London W1T 1DQ. Open Monday – Saturday (10-6pm) www.labassawoolfe.com