Minimalist chic

RADICAL STYLE

When I received an invitation to a a yearly charity ball, I knew exactly that I was going to wear one of my samples. Long or short selves, with voluminous skirt, accompanied by simple sandals but The Row. Maybe a sash to make it more party like. Hair up.

My best friend wasn’t convinced. For the record- I never ask anyone’s opinion on my outfit unless it’s my stylish mother and I only ever listed to her. But people will do that to you, though- they will offer unsolicited advice and get annoyed when you take it on board.

My friend was becoming increasingly irritated that I wasn’t taking her suggestions into account. “But it’s not dressy enough- she said- you could wear to the office”. “I can wear it to the office and to a ball- I’ve designed it that way”- I replied. She wasn’t giving up. I was planning on wearing barely there sandals from The Row, a recent birthday gift to myself. She didn’t like the pairing, preferring I wore something silver or gold, or as a last result- black classic stilettos from Jimmy Choo, which were languishing in my closet ever since I mostly stopped wearing heels.

But I knew how I wanted to look and none of her-well meaning- suggestions had any place in my look. I couldn’t compromise for the sake of a party. I knew I wouldn’t feel myself in sequins and sparkly shoes, even if I were to look very different from other women at the ball.

At the end of course I wore what I planned on from the start. Even my friend had to admit that I looked great (here goes modest me ;)). I felt chic, classy, effortless- and myself.

So when Garance Dore recently wrote a post about becoming radical, it resonated so much with me. She talked about people and time, how making conscious choices who she spent time with and who she observed on social media made her life a much better one. Even though she didn’t talk about style, for me it was in the style department that I realised I became a radical. I refuse to compromise no matter what, I don’t pay attention to shiny new distractions even if they are all over Instagram and I only ever chose pieces which align with my vision. There aren’t many so I don’t shop much. I insist on purity of my vision (how is this for radical) and I learned to recognise “almost there” items. The result is that I look exactly the way I want to- chic, stylish, sharp – and like no one else.

Sustainable brand

THEY HAVE NO RIGHT

I’m going to tell you what really, really makes me angry in fashion. Apologies in advance if I sound like an angry lady- that’s because I am. I’ve been reading Business of Fashion recently and one article really stuck with me- one of the super cheap, super fast fashion labels announced a huge increase in revenue. We are talking millions upon millions. I’ve heard vaguely of this brand so I knew they were selling 100% polyester but to give them credit, I went online and checked. Yup, still there. Still selling polyester. Still destroying our planet. Thanks guys, you are awesome. Not.

It makes me angry that in today’s day & age, when we have so little time left to change the tide and the future of our planet, there are these brands who enrich themselves at our cost. Yes, it is our collective cost. You, I, our children we have right to clean water free of plastic particles, to clean air and fair wages. So, no thank you, I don’t want your £10 dress. It means for me that someone (our planet, other women) got hurt in the process.

I am totally, fully aware that not everybody can afford more expensive clothes. And that these brand exists because there is a consumer demand for cheap clothing. But I think that brands who have the power of money and platforms with millions of followers behind them, have a social responsibility to lead in shifting consumer mindset. They have a voice but only use it to enrich themselves. I wonder if these people have children? What sort of world will they leave them?

So ladies, its our call. We can change things around. We can buy less, buy better quality and get off the fast fashion carousel. There are so many natural, environmentally friendly fabrics out there. Things can get made locally (for me its Europe) for a fair wage. I’m ok with having one dress for a long time, providing it’s great cut and quality. There is something to be said about having trusted clothes that makes one look and feel amazing.

As for Instagram… I used to think that I needed to show new clothes all the time but actually, I was completely mistaken (I’m talking about my private account). My old cashmere jumper (which I’ve had for 8 years) and a silk skirt (4 years) got as many likes as a new dress. My followers wanted to see a consistent style, which got better when I actually stopped buying clothes.


Black long elegant dress

LET ME INTRODUCE “HER”

I’m so happy to finally show you the first finished sample. I say “finished” but there are still minor corrections to be made. You won’t see them though, it’s more about construction and the fit so what you see here it’s pretty much the end.

It’s made of  bamboo silk, a wonder fabric about which I can talk for hours on end. Luxurious in look and feel, sustainable, machine washable(!), breathable, biodegradable…I can go on 🙂 I was going to make it in black bamboo only but my super stylish mother thought I could add a few dresses in white, too. She has a point-as the collection will be released for Spring, white one will look great with a raw leather belt and tan sandals.

I designed the whole collection to go with flat shoes (although it would look good, too paired with a mule with a low, dainty heel) for that effortless, powerful look- and feel.  For me, nothing says “confident” more than long skirt and flat shoes. I don’t feel like conforming to someone else’s idea of beauty. I don’t need or want sky high stilettos and skin tight clothes to feel powerful, beautiful or sexy.

I made this dress to take my clients from desk to dinner. To make them look and feel elegant, effortless and powerful without trying. And to make them forget about the dress and get on with their amazing lives.

Ps. And it has pocket, guys, it has pockets!

Chylak bag

DEATH OF AN “IT” BAG

Despite this title, a recent Dior campaign, where the fashion house gifted scores of influencers a re-issued saddle bag made it clear that an IT bag is alive and well. The bag promptly sold out and the photos of it flooded Instagram. Couple of years ago I would consider buying it. These days, I shudder at the thought of owning an an IT item of the season.

My bag collection is very small. I own a vintage Chanel 2.55, which I bought 11 years ago and two Celine bags, with no logo or hardware and only tiny, gold embossed letters. Blink and you miss them. As I know myself more and more, my taste takes me on a journey towards absolute simplicity- austerity almost. I cannot imagine myself wearing Ralph Lauren blazer with the brand’s recognisable logo. By the same token, Michael Kors bags are utterly lost on me.

My grandmother told me once that the ultimate luxury is only recognisable to a knowing eye. I now know what she meant and it has become my style motto.

I don’t buy anything these days because all my cash goes into development of my brand. But one day, when have disposable income again, I will buy two bags, which I love for their utter simplicity and elegance.

Zofia Chylak is a Polish brand who makes incredibly stylish yet utterly inconspicuous handbags. I owned some of her first creations and loved them. Granted, these days the waiting list for most of her bags is longer than from here to next week, yet because of lack of hardware and stunning elegance, they don’t feel like a coveted IT item of the season. There is no shiny logo dangling from a strap. A “crocodile” embossed small handbag which I have my eye on has a charm of a vintage Kelly, yet is totally contemporary. The other bag I’m coveting is Roma is by a British luxury brand, L.O.N.B. Again, it’s so elegant yet so discreet. It’s the opposite of being you face yet you would do a double take if you saw it on the street. Both are items I can easily see gifting my granddaughter one day, long after the excitement of Dior saddle bag had vanished.

THE ILLUSION OF “I WOKE UP LIKE THIS”

Those of us who ever read any books on how Parisian girls don’t get fat and swan around looking all cheekbones and tousled hair, could be quite susceptible to the myth of “I woke up like this”. I know I have been. “I woke up” with perfectly tousled hair and luminous skin. “I’ve just put on some concealer and smudged an eyeshadow, and just happen to look amazing”. Yeah… I know I’ve certainly felt inadequate in the looks department. The apparent simplicity of the look- I mean how hard can it be? The answer is very and you will most probably need a professional help unless you’ve done it for so long you are practically pro yourself.

When I called on the help of @aga-makeupartist the brief was straightforward- make me look like one of these French girls 😉 I wanted my face chiseled by light and shadows, with no obvious eyeliner, pencil or too much mascar. I wanted “natural” hair that looked like a careless bun, which I put up in a hurry that morning and now it was half falling apart. I imagined we would be done in 30 minutes flat.

An hour and half, we were still there.

Two hours later and effect was incredible- suddenly I was all cheekbones with luminous skin and deep green eyes, thick, tousled hair…and yet, had I told you I woke up like this, you could really believe it.  In a way it was a revelation- firstly that it is all an illusion. And that you can achieve it – if you want to. And that no one really looks like this in real life (unless you are Giselle that is ;)). The drawback of course is that you need to know what you doing. And that it takes a long time- even for a pro. But at least I’m over the illusion now.

Ethical fashion brand

OUR FIRST SAMPLES

It was very exciting and very, very nerve wracking. As I was waiting for Ana, our sample maker, anxiety was taking my brain hostage.  Has she understood my vision? And if so- will others believe my vision enough to want to be dressed by me?

Ana finally arrived and when she took out all three samples from her bag, I relaxed. Things were good. Samples she produced were exactly what I imagined. Yes, there are things to change but this was obvious- after all this was our first fitting.  Sleeves will be more t-shirt like rather than cap sleeves, and waist in two dresses will go slightly up. Sleeves in a third dress (not on the photo) will be little more dramatic. A lining under a skirt will create a slightly exaggerated, yet still wearable shape.

I wanted to create a small collection of desk to dinner dresses with clean, strong lines. Dresses for women who don’t wear frills or flowers. A woman on Instagram said she loved calmness of my line. I loved the comment so much-  for me it meant the she understood what I set out to create.

There is still a way to go for me. I’m waiting for a delivery of bamboo silk for final samples. I need to organise production, a website, packaging, promotion…But things are moving forward and it makes me very happy.

MY COATS PET PEEVE

September chill in London made me think about a new coat. Our first line of coats will be released in time for next winter so this time around I will have to think about buying one. I’m very picky when it comes to my coats- they have to have big enough collars (fast fashion brands always produce coats with narrow collars), which are stiff enough to stay up (very, very rare).  Fabric must be dense and hold shape and the cut must be slightly exaggerated (limp fabric and stingy cut are the biggest giveaways of a cheap looking coat). Isabel Marant has been my favourite for some time. I managed to buy her coats on The Outnet with some great discounts.

I get really annoyed when brands try to pull a fast one on me. Take Zara for example. Their women coats have OK cuts but awful quality fabric. For the same price their men coats are much better quality, fabric wise. Why??? And most importantly- why are allowing this to happen? My other pet peeve is when a premium brand charges £500 for a coat when I can see from a mile off there are problems with quality- for example there is pulling at the seems (LK Bennet, I’m looking at you). In general, there seem to be very little thought going into the designs (I’ve already had a rant about it in one post below :)). And you know what- the customers sometimes have very little choice so they shell out their hard earned cash to buy this trash.

There seem to be very little in between, good quality coats that don’t cost £2,000 and are ethically produced. Do you know any? Share them with me!

Unbuttoned shirt

UNBUTTONED SHIRT

I have a conundrum every time I try on a shirt I’d like to buy. Do I leave the third button undone and have my breasts fully on show or do I do it up and look like a secretary on the way to the office?  I swear that not many brands actually consider where they place a third button. Mostly, I get that run of the mill, same cut, same old, sam old  which I don’t like because doing up the third button makes me look a little frumpy. I have one perfect shirt from St Lauren where the button in placed slightly lower and it creates that sexy, nonchalant look I covet on Instagram- and it’s actually wearable IRL (and I’m able to skirt the bra, too!).  It feels such a small but significant detail to attend to. Does anyone else have this problem or am I just being picky?

gold bangle

SINGLE GOLD BANGLE

My favourite piece of jewellery is a single gold bangle. It goes with everything- a white t-shirt, oatmeal cashmere jumper ro grey marl sweatshirt (sleeves always rolled up) and of course, a black dress. I love to wear mine on its own to make it more stand out. The Cartier “stack” has been all over Instagram in the last year yet I think it’s the single piece that whispers of understated luxury and chic.

silk shirt

SILK SHIRT

Doesn’t this shirt look just fabulous? It’s lustrous and luxuries yet utterly wearable. You could pair it with a nude skirt in luxurious suede for added sophistication or with jeans for more relaxed yet polished style.

I’d love to make a shirt in bamboo silk I saw the other day. Lustrously white, like a marshmallow or sophisticated in a luxurious hue of toffee or cappuccino.