Well, that was a different sort of maternity leave. It’s been 216 days since my last column, and how life has changed! I wish I could say that this was entirely due to our son, Walter, making his way into the world, but the issue of a global pandemic also features. I admit I feel somewhat sheepish about returning to writing about fashion. It all seems a bit irrelevant, doesn’t it?
And yet, as I looked around the shops on my first visit to London last week, I was reminded of what talent we have in this country. I was also reminded of the vast numbers of people employed by the industry, and that’s just the people and products we see. Behind the scenes, at fashion HQs up and down the country (although more likely working from home currently), there are great armies of people employed to make the likes of us want to spend our money and embrace some retail therapy.
So I thought, in this new-look column, I would offer my take on some of the brands that have really caught my attention and might inspire your next purchase at a time when we are all reassessing what goes into our shopping baskets. Why? Well, in short, because these brands do good. Good product, good quality, good ethics, good customer service, a good website experience – the latter being imperative now that many of us prefer to shop online rather than opting for the real-life experience.
Take this, my lockdown dress; a red wrap design, with puffed sleeves and tiered skirt. This dress was bought at precisely 7.28am one morning, when I was feeding my son and simultaneously scrolling through (yet another) summer sale email. I asked myself ‘Do I really, really need it?’, I zoomed in on the fabric to check the quality, I selected my size, and then hit buy – all before my bowl of Shreddies had been drenched in milk. This is not how I normally shop, but that morning I struck gold.
Red dress by Hofmann Copenhagen at Studio B
Studio B is an independent retailer founded by Bethany Rowntree, whose career experience includes buying and merchandising roles at Anya Hindmarch and Matches Fashion. The site is concise, so you feel you have viewed everything rather than having to wade through thousands of items.
You get the feeling that Beth is seated behind your screen frantically trying to keep up with orders, such is the demand for “off the beaten track” sites such as this. So what encouraged her to launch the business? “I asked myself, ‘What do I want to buy?’,” she said. “I can’t afford the luxury brands I worked for and I didn’t want the same as everyone else, [I just had] so many Zara cult items!” Sound familiar? So Studio B is literally Studio Beth, beavering away to bring a great edit of mid-market pieces. Brands such as Sleeper, Stine Goya and Gestuz top her bestsellers list. Think pretty tops to pair with jeans, floaty dresses to add colour to your autumnal wardrobe, pieces that work as well with a biker boot in winter or a sandal in summer. Shop for puff sleeves, laser-cut laces, floral prints, scalloped edge necklines (great for Zoom)… and at the time of writing, no item exceeds £350.
As she packs up the last orders before her holiday, Beth continues, “My approach now is definitely more buy what I love and cut out the ‘Hmm it’s OK’ purchases.’’ Surely a lesson we should all adhere to right now.
Ginnie’s favourites this week…
Orange dress, £280, Stine Goya, Navy dress, £220, Sleeper, Patchwork dress, £275, Hoffman Copenhagen, all at Studio B. Arizona Soft Footbed, £75, Birkenstock; Lip oil, £30, Votary; Perello Gordal Pitted Olives, £2.95, Sous Chef; Sunglasses, £200, Illesteva