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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What I wore to London Fashion Week AW17

So today I FINALLY settled down to write my post on London Fashion Week Autumn/Winter 2017. While the fashion editors are now happily ensconced in Paris, the capital of couture (via a stylish week in Milano), I have been stuck in front of my computer trawling through and editing a ridiculously large number of images. So you’ll have to forgive me for the week long delay. In fact there are so many pics I would love to share, that I have decided to write not one but three blogs over the next few days. Lucky you 😉

Today’s will be a synopsis of my outfits for LFW, so get ready for some serious selfies people. Details of the shows I attended and all the gorgeous clothing I saw will follow later in the week, but for now let’s talk OOTD aka ‘outfit of the day’…

DAY 1 – FRIDAY – Channelling my inner Lagerfeld

On day one I decided to opt for a Chanel inspired look combining herringbone, a pussy-bow blouse and a bold faux-pearl necklace.

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Pink coat, Dorothy Perkins; Faux-fur collar, boohoo.com; White pussy-bow blouse, Uniqlo; Herringbone dress, Zara; Sunnies, Jeepers Peepers; Necklace, car-boot sale; Bag, Oasis.

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My gorgeous friend Davina and I enjoying cake at the Fashion Scout Ones to Watch show. Yes that is actual cake at Fashion Week. Hard to believe I know!

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Dashing photographer Paul Allen and I posing in our matching herringbone monochrome outfits at The Waldorf Hotel prior to Paul Costelloe.

DAY 2 – SATURDAY – Savage Youth

On day two I had a number of shows to attend and also was planning to party in the evening, so I opted for multiple layers of floral embroidery, customised denim and my fave pink coat.

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Pink coat and collar, as before; Denim jacket, New Look – beautifully customised by Pistache Artists; Floral embroidered dress, Primark; Ankle boots, River Island (available here): http://www.riverisland.com/women/shoes–boots/boots/black-leather-wide-fit-buckle-boots-698635.

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A selfie with my lovely little sis Zosia who accompanied me to shows on Saturday. Twinning in our faux-fur collars 🙂

DAY 4 – MONDAY – Checks and tassels

After giving myself Sunday off (naughty I know) my ensemble on day four was a riot of colour – grass green checks, baby pink outerwear and a canary yellow bag.

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Jacket and collar, as before; Checked dress, charity shop; Yellow leather bag, Hobbs; Over-the-knee tasselled boots, River Island.

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Engraved 18ct gold plated pendant, by Hurley Burley from http://www.NotontheHighStreet.com (similar available now); Star studs, Forever 21.

NB. If your ears react badly to non-precious metal then the gorgeous jeweller Laura Gravestock has 18ct gold plated star earrings here: http://lauragravestock.com/shop-by-item/earring/dainty-star-stud-earrings-1177.html

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Necklace, gift; Sunglasses, KG by Kurt Geiger.

DAY 5 – TUESDAY – Leather snake-print skirt and pumps

The final day called for flats and this tonal outfit was just the answer. I balanced a leather snake-print pencil skirt with an oversized Aran sweater and simple trainers. All topped off with a masculine 3/4 length khaki coat, which I found for £5 in a charity shop in Jan #winning

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Vintage wool khaki coat, charity shop; Sweater, Mango; Leather snake-print skirt, charity shop; Trainers, Lacoste.

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Yellow leather bag, Hobbs; Berry heart key ring, Aspinal of London (available here): https://www.aspinaloflondon.com/products/heart-key-ring-in-berry-lizard.

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Necklace, gift from my sister-in-law (from Accessorize); Earrings, Topshop.

I was also lucky enough to get my hair cut by the lovely Toni & Guy team at London Fashion Week headquarters. They did a fantastic job. Thanks again guys!

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BEFORE

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AFTER

All in all I had the most fabulous Fashion Week ever. Please let me know your thoughts on all my outfits. Do you have a favourite? Are there any you don’t think work? And also watch out for my posts later in the week with all my images from the shows and a thorough synopsis of all the gorgeous designer stands.

Oh and one more thing… I also had the pleasure of meeting the astonishingly beautiful supermodel and photographer Helena Christensen at a Lights of Soho event. Life goal achieved!

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Me and my fave 90s super, Helena Christensen

http://londonfashionweek.co.uk/ http://fashionscout.co.uk/ https://lightsofsoho.com/ http://toniandguy.com/

 

Leaping forward into Spring

So spring has finally sprung. Even if the sun isn’t quite blazing, when it does rear it’s pleasant head you can actually feel the warmth for the first time in months. Added to which the days are getting longer and the hazy scent of summer eves spent in beer gardens hangs in the air. Plus this Sunday is the day the clocks go forward marking the official start of British summertime. Begone winter, we welcome you spring!

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With this is mind today’s post is quite a summery affair. I recently acquired a new pair of trainers and have been loath to remove them since. In fact only my obsession with keeping them looking brand spanking new has stopped me wearing them daily. I have been wanting a pair of white trainers for quite some time and have been debating the various merits of the Adidas Stan Smiths (a bit too ubiquitous), the Superstars (a very close contender) or a new pair of classic Converse All Stars (a wardrobe staple).

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Then I was thrown a curve ball in the form of Lacoste’s new SS15 collection and I fell in love. With the clean lines of a tennis shoe, discreet branding and super soft leather (comfy to wear from day one) these Carnaby Evo’s will carry me through shopping days, weekend brunches and meetings alike. And aside from the stunning minimalist design, what I actually love most is that they are slightly cream rather than pure white, which adds to their chic retro quality.

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Carnaby Evo, £84.99, Lacoste available at Office.co.uk

Like a missing jigsaw piece they fully integrate into my current wardrobe and pull together some of my favourite clothes. Also did I mention how super soft and comfy they are? Here is how I plan to style them this month:

Weekend brunch: Dress, Topshop; Earrings, Claire’s; Necklace, Whistles; Oversized clutch, Primark; Jumper, Mango; Trainers, £84.99, Lacoste

Meeting with clients: Sleeveless Ponte jacket, £42, Topshop (available now); Necklace, Whistles; Polka-dot shirt, New Look; Boyfriend jeans, Nobody; Trainers, £84.99, Lacoste

A stroll in the park: Boyfriend jeans, Nobody; Jumper, Gap; Polka-dot shirt, New Look; Trainers, £84.99, Lacoste; Purse, homemade gift; Necklace, Primark

Feel inspired? Then check out the full Spring Summer Lacoste range available now at http://www.lacoste.com. Unfortunately for those of you with delicate feet these trainers are from the men’s collection (sizes range from UK 7-12) but there are very similar women’s options available.

For other items featured on this page head to http://www.topshop.com, http://www.newlook.com, http://www.primark.com, http://www.mango.com, http://www.gap.co.uk and http://www.claires.co.uk

I ♥ Clarks (there, I said it)

When I was a kid I lusted after their patent red Mary-Janes (the ones with the daisies) but was only allowed the sensible black pumps. And my favourite thing ever was being measured by the special electric foot-sizing machine (so space age it caused actual queues in the store). Now my love for Clarks has come full circle as this summer they have produced a collection that is pretty darn fantastic. Led by their cute ad campaign (great styling by Sophie Kenningham) the stores are currently filled with chunky block heels, fab two-tone sandals and some gorgeous brogues.

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Here is an edit of my favourite styles – including the block heeled Susie Deva, which I have worn on every sunny occasion of late and has elicited numerous compliments.

2-Clarks Susie Deva white&silver £49.99

The go-with-anything Susie Deva, £49.99

2- Clarks Romantic Moon (Lilac and silver) £49.99

This season’s must-have sandal shape – the two-tone Romantic Moon, £49.99

2-Clarks Studio Punch £49.99

Neon and embellishment in one with the Studio Punch, £49.99

Clarks Scotch Glow £44.99

Channel the 70s with the Scotch Glow, £44.99

Clarks Scorpio Star Natural Combi £49.99

Or opt for the colourful Scorpio Star wedge, £49.99

Clarks Hamble Oak in Stone Leather £54.99

The Hamble Oak brogue comes in numerous colour options, £54.99

Clarks Hotel Diva natural £65

Flats with a minimalist edge – the Hotel Diva, £65

2-Clarks Gin Crush £49.99

Anyone for golf? The Gin Crush in silver and white, £49.99

2-Clarks Desert Boot Lilac suede £85

The classic Desert Boot reworked in pastels, £85

As well as tapping into this season’s trend for minimalist chunky shoes, Clarks products are also made to last, with many of the 100% leather designs featuring super-comfy padded insoles. If the last time you stepped into the store was when you were 5, perhaps it’s time for a revisit. Trust me, you’ll end up buying the brogues in every colour.

 

All above shoes from Clarks. In store or online now: http://www.clarks.co.uk

Best foot forward

I was recently introduced to the Portuguese shoe brand Dkode and totally fell in love with their shoes. My favourite, the statement Thyone peep-toe boots (designed by Aleksandar Protic) are the epitome of summer with their unique cut-out design. What’s more they’re surprisingly comfy (win!) and versatile (double win!). Here’s my guide on how to wear them this summer…

Dkode Look 1

With boyfriend jeans and a printed jacket

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Art attack – with a printed dress and multiple necklaces

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Going tropical with a floral blouse and on-trend culottes

Thyone peep-toe boot, £140, Dkode

They come in a range of colours if white is too impractical. How about a go-with-anything blush metallic or dramatic black mock croc?

Dkode Thyone - Metal Blush Natural

Dkode Thyone - Black Croc

Thyone blush metallic, £140, black mock croc, £160, Dkode.

Other favourites to look out for are the futuristic Thetis wedge and the boldly coloured brogues and monk shoes. Perfect for those summer days when only a flat will do.

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Thetis wedge, £140

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Daiana brogue in red, £109

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Deandra monk shoe in verdigris, £110.

All shoes from Dkode. Online purchasing on their website launches soon. For further information go to http://dkode.com/