Last Friday I decided to do the unthinkable. I turned off my Blackberry, stepped away from my Macbook and treated myself to an afternoon at Bicester Village. With emails about fashion week coming in thick and fast, now felt like the perfect time, if not the only chance left, to sneak in a bit of retail therapy before the September madness begins.
Over the last year or so I've been lucky enough to visit several times for various events but this time I was on a mission and decided to go by myself and allow the whole afternoon to browse through the rails at leisure, have lunch out in the sun at Carluccio's and on multiple occasions, refrain myself from depleting my savings on one handbag or another.
It's been two years since Stella McCartney was announced as the creative director of Adidas Team GB so to say that the kit she has designed for this year's Olympics has been highly anticipated would be quite the understatement. After all, it's been a long time in the making but as we all expected, the designer failed to disappoint.
The full Olympics kit was presented by this years althletes in a runway-like format that was staged in a cinema in the grounds of the Tower of London, which served as the perfect backdrop for the event as the world's press covered the surrounding streets ready to report on the action. Along with the performance technologies that you would expect from Adidas, McCartney also made it clear that she didn't want to compromise on style. In the opening video before the big reveal she made it clear that it was a priority to make the athletes feel confident in what they are wearing to make sure they could perform.
Aesthetically, the kit focused on the Union Jack. 'The first place to start on a project like this is to look at the Union flag,' she said. 'For me it's one of the most beautiful flags in the world and it was important for me to stay true to that iconic design but also to modernise it and present it in a contemporary way.' This came through especially on the arrangement of the colours. With the flags McCartney traded the red in the union jack for turqoise and instead incorporated it on the shoes and collars of the clothes.
More than anything, the event made us all excited about the Olympics coming to London. We've all known that it's coming since 2005 but after the big reveal it finally feels like it's really here.
Are you excited about the Olympics and what do you think of the kit?
Despite what George Osborne may have us believe, the economy both in the UK and beyond is still in a precarious situation and the retail industry even more so. The last six months has seen mega brands like Christian Lacroix, D&G, American Apparel, Gap, BCBG andGianfranco Ferré all hit by financial woes. So with that in mind, you wouldn't expect new brands to attempt to emerge in such volatile waters would you? But that's exactly what LUCZA founder and designer, Karen Scofield did.
But don't worry - Scofield knows exactly what she is doing. She has managed to create a brand that will actually thrive in the downtime as women become more scrupulous about what their money is spent on."Coming home from work I just wanted to take of my heels, tights and skirt but not look like I was ready for bed. I also found that other women felt the same. We all wanted to change into something relaxed and easy yet still look great," she explained. And there you have it in a nutshell. The brand is all about simple, classic pieces that will see your from season to season and are as appropriate to pick the kids up from school or doing yoga as they are to work from home of attend a work event in the evening.
Having met up with the designer recently in light of the brand's e-commerce launch to talk about the brand and why she felt it was the right time to launch, if felt like a lightbulb moment. Why has the 'luxury' side of the loungewear market remained relatively untouched? In today's climate women are looking for clothes that work hard for them are the solution to all of their wardrobe needs due to their demanding lifestyles and that's exactly what Karen has catered for. While at first glance the pieces may seem basic and simplistic, it's only once you've began to play with the collection you realise that that is exactly where there strength lies. "You can mix and match" and it's all about accessorising, Scofield explained as she showed me through the collection.
In the lead up to last weekend's royal wedding, we were lucky enough to be invited to visit Juicy Couture's flagship and showroom on London's Bruton Street. Although all things royal isn't perhaps the first thing that springs to mind when you think of the American brand, after attending their space it quickly became clear that traditional British heritage is important to the brand.
Built in 1706, Juicy Couture's London space is actually the former home of famous couturier House of Hartnell who is one of the most acclaimed couture houses in Britain and is famed for designing the wedding dresses of both Princess Margaret and Queen Elizabeth II. So as you can imagine, wedding dress and speculations about Kate's dress were in abundance. The brand found it imperative to restore the building and maintain the traditional Georgian feeling whilst harmonising it with the signature Juicy Couture aesthetic.
Building aside, the clothes were also on display. Relatively recently the brand launched Bird by Juicy Couture, which is a more fashion based collection that really proves that the brand is a lot more than their signature tracksuits.
I hate to admit this but until last season Maria Grachvogel was completely unknown to me. Having taken an eight year gap from London Fashion Week, the last time she showed her collection - which is often well known for Victoria Beckham's appearance on the runway - I was still dreaming about working in fashion whilst worrying about what was going on in the playground at high school. Last season was the first time I was introduced to her designs and was instantly taken by them and last month, when I was lucky enough to meet the woman herself, I left even more charmed than the first time we'd met.
Having interviewed my fair share of designers over the last few years, not many have been as charming as Grachvogel or quite frankly, appealed to me so much aesthetically. Arriving wearing one of her own printed dresses - one that I already had my eye on -, the designer completely embodied the essence of her brand and looked amazing doing it. "I focus on designing clothes that make women feel good," she said. "Clothes that appeal to the moods of a woman like feeling relaxed, or clothes that make you feel protected, sensual, womanly or dramatic."
Since watching her Autumn/Winter collection last season, I've always considered her as my best kept secret but considering the fact that only last month she appeared in British Harper's Bazaar's September issue and is often referred to as the go-to designer for a legion of fashion editors internationally, it's safe to say that what I once thought was a best kept secret is a pretty bad one.
If you find you don't have the time to pour over the latest catwalk shows, spotting the biggest trends for Fall 2010 - don't panic. We've attended the fashion shows and designer presentations, spent hours obsessing over runway shots and videos to bring you our pick of the bunch, our Fall Favourites. Need to know this season's hottest colours, materials, looks? We have it covered. Look no further than our six chosen trends: grey, leather, military, neutrals, shearling and velvet.
Without a doubt the festival season is a highlight of the year - what more could you want than to be listening to brilliant live music, surrounded by fantastic company whilst soaking up some of those rare British rays of sun all over one weekend. The only thing that fills most festival-goers with dread is how to maintain appearances when in fact a compact mirror, limited shower usage and lots of dry shampoo will be your best friends to get you through the camping scenario.
This is where the angels behind Office and Look come in. At theIsle of Wight festival, which took place this weekend, happy campers were treated to beautifying hair styling, manicures, pedicures, facials and even spray tans in their complimentary Style Shack. Whilst Naomi had a pedicure, my tired locks were refreshed by the Angelic Rebels team into a tousled Audrey Hepburn style up-do. As if life saving salon treatments weren't enough, the team were giving away copies of the latest Look magazine inside their British seaside inspired tent, complete with deckchairs to relax and read in.
Over the weekend, I was lucky enough to join H&M at the Isle of Wight Festival 2010 drawing attention to their Fashion Against AIDS campaign. Although it's the third FAA collection for the high street retailer, this one was H&M's first festival dedicated range featuring everything you need from anoracks to keep you fashionably chic during the typical festival downpours to ethnic inspired harem pants, dresses and the fail safe distressed leather jacket.
If that wasn't good enough, the collection is really making a difference and raising awareness of AIDS. Over the last three years alone over 30million SEK has been raised and 25% of the money from each purchase goes directly to creating youth HIV awareness projects.
To celebrate it's launch, the retailer set up a beautiful Marrakesh-inspired lounge area for press, celebrities and festival goers. The select few were treated to a private DJ, TV screens showing the live performances, hampers in the gardens to relax between shows and a manicures done by the WAH Nails team.
If that still hasn't sold you about the collection, see more images after the jump of Nic and I trying and testing the pieces throughout the weekend.