Ne’er cast a clout till May be out’

A little linen love.. as Lydia prepares the first suits of the season.

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Its funny, April is just beginning and I already have a number of linen suits in the works. Are we all so desperate to leave winter behind us, and shed our layers?

I think so….!

Linen is such wonderful textile, made from the flax plant. Tough to manufacture but strangely it changes when made into clothing. A strong fabric, and one of the few that are stronger wet than when dry. That crumpled look is the trademark of a great linen outfit. 

Historically it was known for plain beige tones, but over the years we have seen a rainbow of colour become available.

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linen fabrics

Flax grows all over the Mediterranean and in Asia. A tall reed-like plant it’s long fibers make it easy to spin into thread. Flax is difficult to weave because there is little elasticity which makes it far more expensive to buy than cotton, for example. This exclusivity of linen heralds from being so time consuming to produce and requires a great deal of attention during its’ nurturing.

However, it is associated with sunnier climes, warmer days, cricket and polo matches, all because of its exceptional coolness and freshness in hot weather. All these qualities makes it a staple for the wardrobe.

Loro Piana have triumphed this year, creating a stunning range of wool, silk and linen mix fabrics which make up beautifully. Also they don’t crumple quite so much and the colour waves are vibrant and asexual. Loved by all.

But linen is my true love, and I’m very excited for my new suit to be finished. Well if you cant beat them join them right?

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Until next time….

Smart casual….

I am often asked about the rules…..

You know ‘the rules’….”It was so much easier when we all just wore suits”.

So often invitations come with ‘Lounge Suit’, or ‘Smart Casual’, and it often throws them into a bit of a tizzy…And not really feeling comfortable with ones outfit, can affect your confidence. Especially if you are meeting new people and feel that you got the remit wrong!

Ahead of the Business Academy day for MyFaceMyBody, Stephen Handisides and I talked through his look for the day and we decided smart but casual. It was a seminar day with lots of interacting. Stephen was filmed throughout and we wanted to look approachable and professional but still relaxed. We decided the Prince of Wales which is such a great pattern, in an 11 oz British milled twill, accompanied by flat black Loro Piana for the trousers, with a crisp white shirt would achieve the desired look – perfectly….

The day was brimming with great Business tips, speakers such as Nadine Rogers from St James Wealth who gave a superb address. Also the Seesaw Gang who delivered a relaxed overview helping to make many aspects of Social Media more accessible to us. Bit size chunks, kind of Social Media for dummies….so many great ideas and contacts were taken from the day.  We are looking forward to next one, where I will be delivering an overview of ‘ First Impressions & Image’…

Until next time….

Highland Fling

Firstly Happy New Year….

So the year is underway, the world is waking up and there is optimism in the air – 2017 is going to be a great year.

With that I have had a number of phone calls from clients who have been losing weight due to personal challenges such as training for the Marathon, and needing alterations. Having trained for the race, I was so lucky to have tremendous support from family, clients and friends and having had to pull out was simply gutting – I know how much time was invested in getting to running fifteen miles, the effort that goes in is ginormous, I truly felt like Forrest Gump. Being told I could not run or even walk to take part in the race was very hard to take in.

For many, the New Year means resolutions, and we hope they keep them – I guess its what we want for ourselves thats important not the often imposed ideals from others, perhaps that’s why people often lose sight of their goal.

Having enjoy the most wonderful Yuletide, topped off with a trip to Edinburgh for Hogmanay, we were spoilt with the most incredible torch parade, buzzing atmosphere and stunning firework display on New Years Eve. It really is the most incredible spot to spend the holidays. We had glorious sunshine every day but my was it chilly!!


Reports suggested the crowd topped over 80k on NYE with over £4m in revenue is generated by the many events hosted by this incredible city. Suffice to say Edinburgh was busy and as such many kilts were adorned by brave men in the bitter cold days whilst we were there.

Men in skirts, what do we think about that?

The kilt stretches back to at least the end of the 16th century, it first appeared as the belted plaid; a full length garment whose upper half could be worn as a cloak or hood. When we think of Scotland, the images conjured for me are tartan, hills and kilts.

And of course this man….
Highland dress and the tartan are among the most powerful, symbols of Scotland. It has been claimed that ‘a man in a kilt is a man and a half’;  It is absolutely no coincidence that the kilted 51st Highland Division was rated by the Germans as the most formidable of all the formations they came across during the First World War. Certainly the British government had no doubts on the matter when, after the defeat of Bonnie Prince Charlie, they banned the use of Highland dress and the tartan, which they clearly saw as an incitement to further subversion. Offenders were killed or sent to the colonies. The form of Highland dress has always owed much to the army and it was the Highland regiments which kept the kilt and the tartan alive until at last, in 1782, their use was once more permitted. Before that time, Scots were only permitted to wear any Scottish wear if they joined the British Armed Services. Pipers were permitted to wear their kilt, but usually in a Regimental colour. Other service men – most were permitted to wear the balmoral with their clan badge on it. A high price to pay to wear highland clothes, laying their life on the line to do it.

The kilt had many advantages in the Highland climate and terrain. It allowed freedom of movement, it was warm, the upper half could provide a voluminous cloak against the weather, it dried out quickly and with much less discomfort than trousers and if required it could, by the mere undoing of the belt, provide a very adequate overnight blanketing. The sporran, or purse, was generally made of leather for day wear; the head and skin of the badger, seal, ermine for evening.

Today, tartans abound and it is an unfortunate person indeed who will not be told by the tartan shops that he or she indeed can buy ‘their’ tartan. The ascribing of a vast plethora of names to membership of various clans has long been an industry in itself. The element of fantasy is still with us today now that Highland dress is popular as never before. There is something that is very special indeed about the kilt and the tartan. 

The kilt has now become, beyond any doubt the national dress of Scotland;  I hope it is kept that way and not just mere fancy dress.

Conclusion – we love men in kilts…

Party Season……

Not too sure how it happened but the party season is nearly upon us. With a number of stunning creations in the works, clients have had fun with embracing colours, maybe its a kick back from Daniel Craig as 007, as I have three blue velvets and also a maroon in the works! 

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The history of the Dinner Suit dates back to the 1860’s, with the increasing rise of outdoor events amongst the middle and upper classes here in Great Britain. With the Lounge suit being adopted as an alternative to more formal day wear. A more formal tailcoat became popular for evening wear. The Prince of Wales is recorded to have worn one of the first tailless coats, at Sandringham and then after Edward VII which was referred to as a smoking jacket.

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The Prince’s experimentation became more and more apparent around 1885 enjoying “a garment of many colours, such as was worn by our ancestors” and “short garments coming down to the waist and made on the model of the military men’s jackets.”  These garments we refer to as a suit jacket with tailcoat finishes, were first described around the same time Cowes (the English coastal jaunt and best known as the home of British yachting), which the Prince enjoyed and was closely associated. At that time it was used for warm weather use but soon rose in favour to informal winter occasions. This evening tailcoat would have been worn with all the same accoutrements as the tailcoat which included the trousers.

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Interestingly in the USA the earliest reference to a dress coat, were the summer and fall of 1886 and, as with the British references from this time, it varied between waist-length mess jacket and the more widely accepted suit jacket. It was Tuxedo Park where the wealthy would gather for upstate New York countryside events that Griswold Lorillard, a son of one of the founders, and his friends who were often written about in society columns for their flamboyancy. They arrived dressed to the nines at the club’s first Autumn Ball which would have been in October 1886 wearing the ” tailless dress coat”.  Sadly we don’t know if this garment was a mess jacket or actually a conventional dinner jacket, from there Tuxedo Park was prevalent in the world of society gatherings and from where the name came from.

It was James Brown Potter a resident of Tuxedo Park, who wrote about this new look and many period newspapers give account that first the jacket was worn by dapper young mavericks to formal events and gatherings which then would have been considered strictly formal. The American establishment at first rejected it, but by 1888 society accepted its position as a popular garment at both summer and informal evenings marking it as very much part of look of the day. 

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The fabrics used for the jackets and trousers were heavier, Barathea type fabrics associated with a coat, with a dressy Shawl lapel in satin, or ribbed silk, either no button or two buttoned on the jacket. By the early part of the 20th century the peak lapel with a one button became extremely popular too. It was the Edwardian dandies who were noted for using both Oxford grey or very dark blue for their evening attire.

By the time of the first World War the grey option was less favoured but the midnight blue became increasingly popular and rivalled the more widely used black by the mid 1930s. We then saw the introduction of Notch lapels, a look associated from an ordinary business suit, and considered vogue in the 1920s. The trousers started to be finished with braid along the out-seam of each leg and this became standard by the 1930s. The look continued to evolve with double-breasted jackets and white jackets also becoming favoured in hot weather.

By the 1950’s, there was a rise in colours, texture, and patterns too. The 60’s continued experimenting regardless of the seasons. And the 70’s saw the Notch lapel fade and large Peak lapels appear on many musicians, actors and fashionistas which was quite the look of time. Notch lapels returned in the 1980s, and in the 1990s ‘tuxedo’ jackets emanated traits of the business suit, such as two- and three-button, with flap pockets, and centre vents. These trends continued into the 21st century and midnight blue is again a popular alternative. With less rules, lighter fabrics, and many Mills offering fabrics which are far from plain, the Dinner Jacket has evolved to be another way to truly express your personality should you wish. 

In the last decade I have made a number of Dinner Suits/Tuxedos for Weddings which I have to say looks fabulous in the black & white photos…..

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……..aswell as events such as Awards and Dinners.screen-shot-2015-01-10-at-21-30-28

Fashion on the Ration: 1940s Street Style

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Whilst in Manchester, I made time to visit the Imperial War Museum. Fortuitously I was able to also take in this most fabulous exhibition that celebrates the ingenuity, determination, but also the plain battiness of the attempts by the stylish to get around rationing and shortages of everything from knicker elastic to buttons at wartime…

unspecified-2I truly don’t believe my generation or younger have any idea of the sacrifices and the resourcefulness of people during the war. Pops always says ‘we went into the war with nothing and came out with even less’. Still to this day, he has instilled in me to not be wasteful. Making clothes from a very young age, reusing fabric and creating something new was such a joyful way to spend those early years but was a result of he and my Mothers experiences of that dreadfully dark time.

My Manchester trip took me to the TV studios with the flux of trendy people, high tech equipment, swishy new buildings, bars and offices all a far cry from the images that really stayed with me from the Museum. So much so its taken me a while to fully digest just what they lived through.

I explained about my company and how interesting and relevant the exhibition was to my business and to my readers. Hence I was allowed to take photos.

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We live in a time where consumerism is at an all time high. But there is a trend that is returning to recycling and reworking old to new. The principle gained during dark days when really there was very little to play with.

For example, the wedding dress pictured here was worn by 14 brides. unspecified-19

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The styles of the 1940’s were really very feminine, and with the high waists and floaty skirts played to the body shape beautifully.

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We are also seeing a rise in ethical production from some of the larger manufacturers too.

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So for some top tips……

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I do hope I have inspired you to visit it…

A temporary, personal, Brexit to France

Having spent time in Nice over the last few years, I have been fortunate to meet some great people and open business up here. This trip I decided to take a wander through the streets and explore more. I absolutely love the Socca, this is a traditional peasant snack, best described as a large chick pea pancake. Delicious straight out of the oven with oodles of pepper and washed down with a glass of local Rosé.

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I was keen to learn more of Nice’s history. A trip to The Massena Museum reflects on a time of wealth and stature prior to the country being destroyed by the British. As Napolean’s first officer, Andre Massena was sent to win wars. A bit of a pirate.

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After the Second World War, the Music College in Nice really helped make it famous for Jazz, Musicians came from far and wide and there were an abundance of clubs. At one time there many figures such as these, standing over 15 feet tall; sadly this is the last one outside La Negreseco on the promenade.

It is right next to one of the best restaurants in Nice called Koudou, which is run by our friend Jean Christophe Probst.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Palais de la Jetée, was the most incredible and beautiful pier that was inspired by Crystal Palace and sadly no longer exists except in postcards. paintings and a few old photographs…After rising from the first fire and being reborn in all its splendour, it was barely to survive 50 years.

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The walkway built by the British in 1820, aptly titled The Promenade des Anglais is a promenade along the beautiful Mediterranean waterside. It reflects the love the British had for Nice, as we still do whether its Winter or Summer. Measuring around 7 km long and reaches from the airport on the West to the Quai des États-Unis to the East.

 

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The only sadness is that the iconic blue seating along it, is few and far between these days. So much so they have a statue in its honour.

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Here is a fine example of Trompe l’oeil (trick of the eye), the term used for this technique; you will see it located on the facade of many buildings in Nice and across France. This is a plain wall with no windows but the detail is such that it is really hard to tell its not real!

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Naturally it was extremely sad to see the tributes laid to those who died in the recent attack. It’s not just Nice that is hurting. So many countries are as a result of this crazy time in which we live.

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So Burkinigate was slightly unsavoury, my initial thoughts being how dare do four men armed with guns get to tell a women to undress. However having spent time here, unlike the Brits, they want action and reassurances and to feel something is being done. However, the Police carry guns here, and since the attack there is heightened security. The local Mayor created this new By-Law as people believe the beach is for freedom. I thought the Burkini was genius but makes me feel sad women are so oppressed, surely when in Rome, Nice or Syria – local rules apply.

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Concerts are held here, but it is an absolutely genius play ground too. A computer generates playtime and the children delight in catching the water jets. Its a joy to listen to the laughter and often screams, as the water is cold!

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The people here are colourful, maybe that’s because there is 300 days of sunshine! All the shops are abundant with stunning outfits, there is a natural sophistication they have and that we strive for.

Making suits with an English twist is kind of cool as they are used to more generous Italian cuts. Most of my clients work in Finance in Monaco but live in Nice. It’s a truly wonderful city, friendly, not too small or big and they are way more forgiving of my terrible French than Parisians. But I have suits to drop off in Paris on the way home. This time I am driving a rather gorgeous Porsche. Well it beats flying, the trip will not be do direct, but I am not in a hurry as its Bank Holiday in Grande Britain!

 

British Summertime..

I wrote in my last two posts, that I truly hoped Euro16 wouldn’t be the predicable disaster it transpired to be – and that we all exercise the right to vote for Brexit. As it turns out the youth that this is really going to effect didn’t show up. 16-17 year olds were not included and a huge proportion of the country had no idea what they were actually voting for. How can this be?

Can we reboot and start the year again please….

After a rollercoaster ride, I just wanted to reflect on the fun stuff…..

Since those posts, I can report a glorious day spent at Wimbledon, it was my first time, and what a classy event that is. The atmosphere inside the court and on the hill was intoxicating. Many make such an effort to dress up and it it really did epitomise Summer for me. Plus of course the joy of watching ‘British’ Andy Murray the following weekend win the competition!

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That weekend I also had a musical extravaganza with Take That and Stevie Wonder. Given the first single I ever bought was Sir Juke, I was bursting with excitement. A sun blessed weekend with flip flops seemingly being the order of the day for most of the 130,000 attending the concerts over the weekend.

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It got me thinking about how having grown up with all these icons how they, their look and styles have evolved.

Last week I made it to the Pet Shop Boys and again was simply blown away. I guess as they have all been in my life for thirty years we have all grown up together.

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Take That, well the moves, their polish and brawn complimented by their uber cool outfits. They are as relevant now as they always were. Certainly not missing Robbie that night, they danced with the energy of men half their age. Very cool, svelte and an utterly slick performance.

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Stevie Wonders set of over four hours couldn’t disappoint. So many great songs. Such a privilege indeed. The stage show was less theatrical but by golly, just mind blowingly fantastic.

The Royal Opera House was the back drop for Neil & Chris. Light show par excellence, set, didn’t stop dancing and haven’t stopped singing their songs which I just cannot get out of my mind!

They are all such seasoned musicians dressing to perfection for the occasion.

Such a welcome distraction from the crazy world we are currently inhabiting.

Until next time.

Rain, rain, go away…

With all this confetti from heaven falling, I for one am missing my beautiful ‘Mac’.
images-1When our mother Hazel passed away, I found the most fabulous Suede coat and an Aquascutum Mac up in the attic, both which were in desperate need of love, so I had them reconditioned. Hazel modelled back in the day for Liberty and she has told me many years ago, her Mac was a present from one of the shoots. The Suede softened and was relined, and now is worn with great regularity but the Mac went back to the maker. Given the age of the Mac, I was delighted when they said it still had a lifetime guarantee, given the piece was so old, it was fully refurbished and my raincoat was brought back to life. Sadly, I only wore it a few times before going to a well known and prestigious West End nightclub. I had so many compliments upon arrival, and trustfully handing it into the cloakroom then headed off for the night out. Of course when it came time to pick mine up, it had been taken with some nasty alternative left for me, and with little to no recompense – I know can you believe it. I was devastated. Furious to say the least. Caused a stink naturally by which time my Mac was long gone….

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Interestingly, the Mackintosh is named after its Scottish inventor Charles Macintosh, though many writers choose to add a letter k and this variant spelling “Mackintosh” is now a familiar part of our vocab. This cruciall element of the the wardrobe is such because its waterproof.  It was first sold back in 1824, and made from rubberised fabric. Its lightweight quality was specially treated to repel water. Many raincoats are made of a blend of two or more of these materials: cotton, polyester, nylon, and/or rayon. Raincoats are now also created in gaberdine, wool, vinyl and high tech microfibres.
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The 18th-century coachman’s coat is better known as a predecessor of the greatcoat and was likely the forefather of the trench coat. Unlike modern designer garments, each element of the trench was born out of pure practicality. Today, the trench coat is referred to as a raincoat, which brings us to our starting point at the beginning of the nineteenth century. At a time when gas lighting was first popular, and in Glasgow, the gas was derived from coal. It was in 1818, when Scotsman James Syme discovered that the by-product, coal-tar naphtha, was capable of dissolving rubber. Charles Macintosh, seemed the right person to share his findings with, as he had successfully made a lot of money with dry bleach. Also he was an entrepreneur and more likely to see the potential for product development.

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Today, the trench coat is referred to as a raincoat, which brings us to our starting point at the beginning of the nineteenth century. At a time when gas lighting was first popular, and in Glasgow, the gas was derived from coal. It was in 1818, when Scotsman James Syme discovered that the by-product, coal-tar naphtha, was capable of dissolving rubber. Charles Macintosh, seemed the right person to share his findings with, as he had successfully made a lot of money with dry bleach. Also he was an entrepreneur and likely to see the potential.

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By 1823 after many tests and trials the Charles Macintosh & Co. was founded in 1824 Manchester to produce this hard wearing versatile garment. Based in the home of the cotton mills that provided the basic materials for the raincoats. Macintosh had moderate success but by the late 1830s, the coat was flawed by its lack of style and fell out of popularity. Fast forward to 1854 and product development Hellewell’s creating a lightweight reversible Paletot,  which looked in vogue and fashionable, that coupled with its ability to face the elements meant its second wind became so popular as the ‘Macintosh’.

The coat became even more desirable in 1851 after John Emary, who had opened a tailor shop on Regent Street in 1851 developed a special raincoat called Aquascutum which depends from the Latin aqua meaning water & scutum meaning shield. It didn’t take long before  Aquascutum were creating product for the British soldiers. Larger numbers were made for the British military and worn in the Crimean War thereafter the American Civil War, Boer and the Russo-Japanese Wars.

Thomas Burberry opened his first store in 1856 in Basingstoke. A country boy, who recognised the qualities of this fabric had certain properties that he wanted to utilise into overcoats and topcoats. Although Aquascutum was the first to produce weatherproofed raincoats on a commercial  scale, Thomas Burberry soon developed into fierce competition.

Unknown-1Since the horrors of wartime the coat quickly took on its own identity, and made evermore famous by Hollywood icons and featured in one of my favourite movies, Casablanca by Humphrey Bogart.

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and the hysterical Pink Panther films with Peter Sellars as Inspector Clouseau….

images-6Not only have we seen, shorter more fashionable versions of what we knew as the trench coat, it has also since lost its military significance. Now, Burberry are designer investment pieces rather than the once practical garment. So if you know anything about vintage quality Burberry or Aquascutum, you will now understand how sad I was to have Hazels coat stolen, not just for the joy of owning a piece of history, the sentiment of it being Hazels, but because it was stylish, beautifully made and really useful.

Especially with the showers we are experiencing. 

Yes I miss it dreadfully…

And on that note I am off to go singing and dancing in the rain.

Euro 16

The first football match I went to was with my Dad and a friends son, I was 8 and Pops took a beer crate, so I was able to see the game. It was at Portman Road. I remember going to Harrogate to see family friends and the youngest John was hellbent on being a Footballer, and he did, rather successfully actually, the family were the Scales’s. Its been wonderful over the years to watch him success. From Wimbledon, Blackburn, and Liverpool. So from my very early memories, Sport was in my world.

Football began in 1863 here in England, so it spans over 100 years of history, and when rugby football and association football branched off, it formed the Football Association becoming the sport’s first governing body.

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Naturally football has evolved and changed. But during the last 100 years, there have never been more changes than over the past 20 years or so.

Players have to be way fitter as they have to cover more than 50% more distance than players had to in the late 1960’s. Not only do players today have to run more, but they also have to do so at far greater speeds. The expectancy for sprints and high intensity activities performed has nearly doubled since 2002. During a 90 minute football game, the ball is in play and live almost 15 minutes more than in 1990. So not only do players have to be fitter in terms of endurance, it requires more agility and greater mental concentration to succeed at the highest level.

And then there is the money….

Messi, Ronaldo and Rooney’s wages amount to over £10m each, there is a school of thought that wonders what happens when players become bigger than than the Sport. It is sad to hear when friends in Suffolk who want to take their children to Portman or Carrow Road, to watch a game, simply cannot afford to go on a family day out.

With money comes Branding and Footballers are often as much Fashion Icons as Sportmen. With many owning perfume, underwear and clothing ranges, they are perceived as cool and aspirational.

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With Euro 16 around the corner, employers are trying to work out how to keep the workforce from ‘sickies’ many are  showing the games at work to ensure staff come in! And yes as there is a buzz, as we always do we hope, pray England will go the distance, but I often wonder with so much money on the pitch how we don’t perform better as a team. I am sure there are a myriad of answers to that one.

But heh, lets get behind them and keep everything crossed it not a well dressed disaster!

 

In Out, shake it all about….

Like so many I talk to, I also find myself in a head and heart debate over whether we stay or leave Europe. It is flawed and does need a massive overhaul that I do think but would we be stronger without it. I am not sure.

I choose to do business with European partners for a number of reasons, in London I have control of my business production, and if I need to get on a plane I can see any of my other suppliers I can – all within three hours. Also it comes with a VAT neutral status.

I do feel we will become a smaller player as trade negotiations take time, and we will be a Deal Taker not Maker. What will it mean for my Industry, will more companies choose to go father afield. Sadly China is already so dominant and producing for many of the larger brands. Will it put us on the back foot and less attractive to deal with? I think it may well. I speak to as many suppliers and clients who are in pretty important roles and the feeling is we need to stay in, regardless of the nature of their Business.  imgres

I have to say, I am yet to hear a compelling argument to leave.

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Pretty sure we have Nigel Farage to thank for this – come rain or shine on 23rd June our fate will be sealed.

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I do however, feel its really important to vote, even through fundamentally I don’t agree with our Political system. Its our chance to be heard…