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/

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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

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

‘Ghost in the Shell’ premiere with Danusia Samal

Today sees the launch of the long awaited and massively hyped blockbuster ‘Ghost in the Shell’ starring Scarlett Johansson and Juliette Binoche. Check out the trailer here:

Appearing alongside these superb actresses is up-and-coming, uber-talented hottie Danusia Samal. Who just happens to also be my cousin! With a background in theatre, the voice of a soulful angel, and a training at Brit school and Central School of Speech and Drama, this is Danusia’s first (of no doubt many) film role. And what a movie to land!

Danusia Samal attending the Paris premiere of Ghost in the Shell 21.03.2017. All images: Getty Images

Over numerous traditional Polish family gatherings, Danus and I have always discussed that if she were to do red-carpet and needed a stylist I was her gal. And this month we finally got to work together for the first time, as I styled her for the Paris and New York premiere of her film. It was the most fun ever and I think you will all agree that Danusia looked absolutely stunning. Below are pics of her on the red carpet (apologies for the watermarks, these belong to the photographers named and I must give credit to them for their work). She looked like an superstar and worked the red-carpet like a pro, despite being incredibly nervous.

Danusia Samal wears metallic green jumpsuit, Edeline Lee. Gold bangles and rings, Laura Gravestock. Black suede courts, Darmaki.

Black suede courts with metal heel, Darmaki. Sparkly clutch, Bimba y Lola.

As Danusia’s stylist, I wanted to reference the sci-fi genre of the film and also accessorise with lots of angular bangles for a futuristic warrior feel (another nod to her role in the film). I think this outfit had exactly the desired effect whilst showing off Danusia’s astounding figure. Special thanks to the gorgeous London Fashion Week designer Edeline Lee, creator of this fab metallic jumpsuit (named by Edeline as ‘money-green’), who allowed us to visit her showroom and play dress up in all her designs. And also the adorable Laura Gravestock who provided numerous bangles and rings for us to stack up and Darmaki for these fabulous avant-garde heels. The unique long fish earrings are from Danusia’s personal collection.

Here are some behind-the-scenes details from our fitting day:

Now onto premiere number two in New York, which was only just this week. Our original plan for this was to go for a long sequinned gown, but a last minute re-fit last weekend resulted in this cute embroidered lace dress from Ong Oaj Pairam, paired with silver accessories. Again, Danusia worked it like a star on the red-carpet and even managed to pull off the jaunty socks and sandals look.

Danusia attends the New York Premiere of Ghost in the Shell  on29.03.2017. Wearing dress, Ong Oaj Pairam. Large earrings and rings, both Pilgrim Jewellery. Small lightning bolt studs, Laura Gravestock. Sandals, New Look. Socks, stylist’s own. Photos: Getty Images.

And here are a couple more pics from the after party just coz I love these shots:

Photos: Getty Images

And finally a few detail shots of the Pilgrim Jewellery earrings and rings at our fitting day:

All of the above clothing and accessories are from the current Spring/Summer collections and are available to buy now. Please go to the following websites to find out more. I hope you like the styling and enjoyed the pics. Comments welcome and happy shopping!

https://edelinelee.com/ http://lauragravestock.com/ https://www.darmaki.com/ http://www.bimbaylola.com/cms/?lang=en http://www.ong-oajpairam.com/ https://www.pilgrim.net/shop www.newlook.com

Stars, sleeves and copious amounts of colour at London Fashion Week AW17

First of all Happy Friday everyone. Only a few more hours until you can break free from the shackles of the office and let loose for two whole days. If, like me, you find yourself a little distracted on a Friday afternoon, perhaps I can interest you in a little melange of fashion to carry you through until home time.

If you caught my post on Wednesday you will know that this season I am actually planning three blogs about London Fashion Week. I have already covered all the selfies with my last ‘What I wore’ piece. Today I will show you what I saw on the AW17 catwalks and tell you a little about the labels that I loved this season.

FASHION SCOUT – ONES TO WATCH

Ones to Watch is always a great way to start Fashion Week as it highlights some of the newest talents breaking through. By far my favourite of the quartet of designers showing was the gorgeous Krasimira Stoyneva, whose fringed statement jackets and star motif prints were a colourful crowd pleaser. Her signature use of synthetic hair is supported by her hashtag: #WearHairNotFur. Do not be scared this is not real hair or real fur!

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https://krasimirastoyneva.com/

MARK FAST

The Canadian knitwear designer Mark Fast showed a bold and beautiful collection featuring a colourful clash of purple, fuchsia and orange fringed dresses, balanced by delicate, pastel feathered and beaded frocks. Renowned for his use of plus size models at previous fashion weeks, it was interesting to see the designer revert to the industry norm, allowing the clothes to be the talking point this season.

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http://markfast.net/

PAUL COSTELLOE

Held at the prestigious Waldorf Hotel, the delightful Paul Costelloe show featured all his signature show stoppers – exquisite cashmere coats, metallic silk jacquard baby-doll dresses and a stunning sheer-print leather finale gown. A nod to the Tudor period came in the form of exaggerated bell sleeves and multi-layered ruffled collars and hems. Beautiful!

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http://www.paulcostelloe.com/

EDELINE LEE

Eschewing the traditional catwalk and opting instead for a presentation, Edeline Lee showed her AW17 collection against a backdrop of raw brick walls and abstract hand-painted panels at the Oxo Tower Barge House. Inspired by the collage artist of the Dada movement Hannah Hoch, Lee’s strong play on proportion, cheeky feminist references and exquisite use of colour (think saffron yellow, muted aqua and brick red) made this one of my favourite shows of LFW.

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https://edelinelee.com/

ASHLEY ISHAM

Always one of my favourites on the LFW Fashion Scout schedule, Ashley Isham didn’t fail to disappoint with a jaw-dropping medley of prints, statement ruffles, hand-beaded embellishment and oversized looping headpieces (is it a hairband or is it an earring?). I was particularly in love with all the bold clashing prints and the fab gold star jumpsuit.

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http://ashleyisham.co.uk/

MALAN BRETON

By the time Malan Breton showed his gorgeous collection, my phone battery had died and my back-up rechargeable battery had also run dry. Fashion fail! However, the eye-catching metallic brocade suits, leather frilled dresses, velvet tux jackets and clever play on sharp masculine tailoring for women was definitely worth a mention.

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http://www.malanbreton.com/

ASPINAL OF LONDON

A strong presentation of all the styles that we have come to expect and adore from Aspinal of London. Next season’s new additions include a kooky Breakfast at Tiffany illustrative print and, channelling fashion’s obsession with customising and monogramming, their fabulous Mini Trunk can now be emblazoned with your favourite phrase or initials. Magic!

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https://www.aspinaloflondon.com/

CLIO PEPPIATT

A favourite of Kylie Jenner, Lady Gaga and Lena Dunham, the presentation by 24 year old South London based Clio Peppiatt was a far cry from the usual catwalk parade. Here models perched, chatted and danced around a cavernous space beneath The Strand in a youthful clash of faux fur, sheer embellished dresses, cheeky prints and Converse high tops. Kitsch, sassy and above all fun, this is definitely one for the cool kids. Oh and it featured my current colour combo obsession – bubblegum pink and red!

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http://cliopeppiatt.co.uk/

ALEXANDRA MOURA

Portugese designer Alexandra Moura showed her collection at the glorious Banking Hall in the heart of the City. The grand location provided a fine backdrop for her oversized romantic ruffles and deconstructed tailoring. Half-worn, half shoulder-robed jackets featured underlying cross-body straps, which doubled up as rucksacks. These were juxtaposed by gorgeous gold lame jacquard prints, inspired by traditional Indonesian fabrics. The earthy brown, mustard, russet and cornflower blue colourway was stunning as were the gorgeous exaggerated sleeves (I smell an AW17 trend coming). A well-executed, beautifully romantic collection balanced by strong, masculine tailoring. I truly loved this show!

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http://www.alexandramoura.com/1617/?lang=en

J. JS LEE

On the final day of London Fashion Week, I had the privilege of sitting FROW at the beautiful J. JS Lee show (another personal favourite of mine). Held at the main LFW venue – with it’s super-sized catwalk – the show was inspired by the childhood urge to dress up in adult clothing. This play on scale took the form of oversized tailoring, dropped shoulder lines, elongated lapels and cute knot detailing. All in a delicate colour palette of charcoal, pistachio, camel, rose and white. A delightful collection from a wonderful designer.

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http://www.jsleelondon.com/

And that concludes today’s post about London Fashion Week. Please do let me know your thoughts and comments. And keep an eye out for this weekend’s post where I will give you the low down on the designer stands, with close up details of all the fabulous accessories. Enjoy your weekend!

With special thanks to Pop PR, Dust PR, Trace and Wolves London for my LFW tickets.

http://londonfashionweek.co.uk/ http://fashionscout.co.uk/