Posts Tagged ‘Mary Portas’

We Did The Monster Mishka Mash…

Friday, October 28th, 2011

The Duke as Count Dukula and I Ready To Style Up a Storm At Mishka Vintage

Last night I hosted a Halloween Styling Night at my favourite North London vintage emporium Mishka.

Spooks, witches, children of the night braved the cold wet wilds of N8 to shop: channelling their inner divas of darkness purchasing looks perfect for the twilight hours and start of party season as Halloween leads to Bonfire Night, leads to Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve…  aka a fabulous bunch of excuses for a cocktail dress, Ossie Clark maxi dress, bias cut lace beauties, or any number of retro treats.  As treats become the new tricks!  Boom….

Sherene From My London Agency and Friends. VERY happy with their purchases.

Lizzie and Miles from Mishka with Kirsty a Local Luminary.



Felicity Knows Her Bags! Formerly PR for Angel Jackson: She Was Delighted With This Retro Lovely.

The lovely Nadia Jones whose has designed the best in high street womenswear (from Oasis to Mary Portas), fell in love with a 30s webtastic long dress, perfect for an awards ceremony she is attending next month; while my bridesmaid, the stylist and some might say living Barbie ‘Dolly’ Anna Trevelyan, rocking a fluro pink wig (sadly I wasn’t with my camera to capture the moment) swooped on an 80’s black and lurex long, sleek cardigan.

If you didn’t get the chance to join us last night, I suggest you do soon!


Fade to Grey: I Don’t Think So Young Man!..

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

My Mother and Baby Last Week at My Allotment.

Browsing the Nowness website last week, I chanced upon the blog and work of New Yorker Ari Seth Cohen.  He has spent the past few years photographing, partying and celebrating those more foxy than silver, more Iris Apfel than shrinking violet; more likely to dye their hair violet than give up their love of sartorial charm and swagger.  Given I have been raised by my own hot rocker mother, a woman whose mantra is ‘darling never give up’, and whose pilates-flexed limbs mean like her mind she is forever young, I too celebrate all that is wise, yet fun, fabulous, yet proud of the lessons learnt by these charming stylistas.

Most of whom are a generation+ older than my mother, yet never forget that more is more and a dash of lipstick, a pair of red trousers or a quirky felt fedora add colour, passion and texture to everyone’s day.  I like the feeling that the best is yet to come and we can all still have fun and play with fashion: sometimes we are told it all stops at 30, taking a look at these portraits and knowing my mother and the woman she is yet to become, I can only say, ‘oh really?’

Iris Apfel: 80+ and still upholding the more is more mantra.

We have Mary Portas revitalising the high street and Channel 4 with her new shop (and the tv programme Mary Queen of Shops tie-in) for the 40+ woman at House of Fraser, proudly defying women to be in their power and purchase what really works for them.  At the Paris Fashion Week shows this week, it really struck me as I gazed covetously at the Chloe catwalk, that these were the kind of clothes I would love to wear, without worrying something or too much was hanging out, while yet feeling I was in the room with enough of a fabulous quota for me to feel stylish enough that I could hold my head a little higher, my shoulders a little straighter: as I do when I feel good…

Kinga walking the Chloe Catwalk SS12

‘Young woman you’re going to be an old woman some day; don’t worry about it, don’t sweat it, everything adds character’…  Ari Seth Cohen’s book is due out next Spring.  Amazon are already offering advance order reservations: and who said past 50 women are invisible?..

She's Amazing: I styled this lady for Sunday Times Style in emeralds and YSL: over 80, she had been modelling for 60 years and somehow was the most beautiful woman in the room.



Going through my own archive I found this shot from a story for Sunday Times Style with Kim Andreolli.  Bedecked in emeralds and YSL, this mother of all models, who had been in the game for more than a lifetime, said that her daily dose of yoga kept her young, flexible and alert.  I celebrate both her beauty and the hope that with a little yogic discipline we all can aim to reach so high for so long…

My Interview with Mary Portas for ASOV

Friday, August 26th, 2011


Mary Portas is a brilliantly British phenomenon. She transformed Harvey Nichols into the shop we all wanted to spend in; then she marched onto our TV sets, teaching her retail mantras to failing businesses, the charity market. From OAPs working in charity shops, to overly hair-gelled estate agents, her refreshingly real retail prowess made for gripping viewing, as we saw her map out how they could improve their businesses, we all felt her verve, her potent power at seeing where things could improve and wanted so much for them to listen. SS-Become
Now with her store-within-a-store at House of Fraser on Oxford Street, Mary has identified a gap in the mid-market high street here in the UK, the over 40s stylish woman. Cecilia Chancellor is the model: a face at once familiar to anyone who remembers ‘The Face’ or my old boss the talented stylist Anna Cockburn’s 90’s fashion shoots and I think the perfect fit for Mary’s store and its image. En route to a Cornish weekend away she kindly answered a few questions about the store and why someone like me (a new mother with so little time to shop, that service now more important than ever) might like to go there.


1) Mary Portas at House of Fraser is a new collaboration for Mary, in that it brings her manifesto – her Maryness to Oxford Street, to a department store and therefore to a mass market who know and love her from her TV shows. How different do you think this is from what is on offer currently on Oxford’s Street, or indeed ‘the’ high street?

Mary: Because I’ve created a curated space; everything in it has been edited down for grown up women in mind. Where there’s just too much stuff in the shops my space cuts through all of that to exactly what women need and want. Then the design of the shop is hugely important; the space and the staff is all geared towards a great experience. You’ve got to see it and feel it to totally get it. Bring your baby in, the staff will take care of you and him and give you coffee….


2) What I love about Mary is her direct no-nonsense charm: she gets straight to the point and we admire her all the more for it. It became a saying in our house: ‘what would Mary say?’ when we experienced bad service in a shop or restaurant. With online shopping so prevalent now, is service even more important for retail’s survival? Will we pay a little more for a little more?..

Mary: Service is a no brainer. Customers want service that includes knowledge. The staff in the Mary shop had an exam before they were allowed near the shop floor. When they serve you,  they will be able to tell you everything about everything in the shop; right down to how the shoes were made, and the essential oil in my candles and the story behind each one.

3) The over 40’s woman Mary has identified is a largely untapped  resource in fashion, which I agree is more fool the industry, as these  are the women whose kids have grown up, who have worked hard and
have  more money available to shop. What do you feel are the differences in their needs and wants from a shopping experience and how are you satisfy this?

Mary: This is the no bullshit audience. They want quality at a
reasonable prince, they want sexy shoes that won’t kill their feet,
they want modernity and style that reflects where they’ve got to in
their life and their achievements. Its not twee. Its slick and cool.
No-one on the high street is doing this.


4) My mother is an extremely glamorous 60 year old: ex rocker, child of the 60’s; well-versed in the ways of boutique shopping, as she started with Biba and Bus Stop. These babyboomers are the ones with
the cash, more than my generation are in lots of cases AND they are eternally youthful, way more than their war bride parents were. However they don’t like showing their knees and i saw alot of above
the knees looks on your website. Is this something, along with the arm coverage Mary has identified, which you are intending to add into the collections?

Mary: You can’t lump 40 year olds next to sixty year olds. Melanie is 40 next year! I’m sure you are in your mid thirties, you would not want the same things as someone twenty years older than you, it’s about a spectrum. There are a few above the knee dresses because the audience is grown up women; and not everyone wants to cover their knees! There are also below knee dresses; structured high-waisted leggings that are like spanx for your lower half, and pencil skirts that hit below the knee, as well as wide leg trousers. Later in the season, I’m proposing chic tunics to wear with those structured leggings and it is such a good look on a grown up woman. So many people are asking about this; I’m not dressing geriatrics. I want modern women through the door; if you don’t like your knees, that where the super high denier tights I’ve come in. My hosiery collection is designed to go with the dresses; the colours are great.

5) I love the collaborations with British brands, such as Clarks and Biba. What more are in the pipeline?
Terry de Havilland perhaps, Eley Kishimoto? For those of us who like our fashion more edgy than Clarks can offer, but still want it age appropriate and fabulous?

Mary: I haven’t collaborated with Biba; Biba is a sub-brand of House of Fraser’s and nothing to do with me! Working with Clarks has been a phenomenal experience for all of uson both sides, and the whole point is that my shoes look nothing whatsoever like trad Clarks. The Clarks elements incorporated into myshoes is the high quality production values, old-school workmanship,and best of all the inbuilt comfort technology. We’ve developed our own colours, leathers, and lasts.  This is Clarks, but not as you know it.

6) Christian Lacroix once told me that women over 60 tend to stop buying fashion. What can you do to entice them back into your shop?

Mary: Nothing, I’m not trying to entice anybody over 60. I’m trying to entice women with modern minds who don’t go around with a number attached to their sense of who they are.


7) What trends can you see translating from the catwalk into your store, ie appropriate for the market you have identified, in the next season?

Mary: I don’t see this market as a sub-group who are inspired by different trends than the rest of the market. This market is living in the same cultural landscape as everyone else; their needs are just slightly different, their desires are more sophisticated, and they put up with less crap because they can spot it a mile off. These are women, who if they had the budget would be shopping at Prada, Marni, Jil Sander, Donna Karan and DvF. There is nothing out there for them at a mid-to-premium high street level.  My sister is at the top of her profession in the NHS; but she could never stretch her salary to Prada, only on big birthdays. When she came to my shop she was like a kid in a candy store.   We’ve already set down some of our Spring 2012 trends. We’re feeling for sleek 1990’s inspired modern sporty silhouettes; we’ve got some spectacular prints in development with a contemporary artist, and there is a definite 1930s feel of opulence and elegance in the air inspired by the chic of Nancy Cunard and Diana Vreeland.


8) Do you intend to take this to other stores after London?

Mary: Yes. Manchester is next.

9) How hard is service with a smile?

Mary: I only employ happy people, service with a smile comes
naturally to them.,default,pg.html


Snow Siege Glamourama Inspirations

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

While I work out the looks, poses and how to look intriguing, rather than just bulging at the seams, for my soon to be revealed ode to how to looking like the stylist I am while growing week on week, as I am now 5 months pregnant, in the true spirit of diversion, here is a sonnet of love to all those Winter Wonderland inspirations, primarily gleaned from my quintessential top five favourite film list: David Lean’s epic and gloriously beautiful ‘Dr. Zhivago’.

This film has seen me through so many epochs: from childhood Christmas holidays, to litmus tests with boys, to snowed in in New York, through to New Year’s Day two years ago, when I needed some TLC, unaware that life was about to change forever…  I have been building up for another sitting: that’s the glory of the modern age – dvds which you can switch on, off, pause, choose; rather than trying to sit through a film en famille on Boxing Day, when your mother and grandmother would rather discuss whom in the film used to be married to whom and what to do with the garden next Spring…

So here is my litany of timeless Winter inspirations, to show why capes, cossack collars and (fake!) fur trimmed cloaks are year on year a jaw-gasping choice to entertain the glamour of our snow-sieged hearts, eyes and escapist imaginations.  Having just been bought the most delicious vintage red cape (thank you so much my darling Juicy aka Sarah Reygate, for Christmas – perfect for bulge explosion pregnancy stark glamour, mixed with Red Riding Hood playfulness methinks!), from Mary Portas’ beautifully decorated spanking brand new Living and Giving Shop (109 Regent’s Park Road, Primrose Hill, NW1), which was designed by my old friend Kate Monckton (once the best and most helpful pr in London, now a one to watch interior designer: , it seems fitting to hark back to true style and show a gallery of glamspirations, perfectly (like red capes) suited to bright white snowy days and misty, dark nights.

Geraldine Chaplin arrives back from Paris to Moscow; at the train station in all her glorious Parisienne couture.

This utterly gorgeous colour combination of pale pink with soft grey, marking her time spent learning the art of glamour in Paris – perfection.

Too much is just enough.

The scenes with Lara (Julie Christie), when Yuri (Omar Sharif) falls in love with her, coincide with front-line on the Eastern Front during WW1, then the revolution and thus the colour palette shifts to utilitarian taupes, khaki and earthy tones.  Echoing images from Soviet stark propaganda, these are then wholly practical: woollens, tweeds and furs, yet utterly romantic.

Julie Christie showing how blonde on blonde is always beauty.

Lara an Yuri arriving at the Summer House.

Genius art direction, or how to make sunny Spain and wax look like freezing Russia on ice.

Elizabeth Taylor showing how to rock a mono cape and hat look at Heathrow Airport in The VIPs

The VIPs, directed by another great of British cinema, Antony Asquith and based loosely on the true story of Vivien Leigh’s attempt to leave Laurence Olivier, is another film where each outfit is jawdropping in its chicly cut simplicity: stuck at an airport as fog stops all flights, somehow fabulosity never leaves the room, while scene on scene Elizabeth Taylor shows the value of cut and shape, aligned with perfect taste.

Hooded perfection in The VIPs.