If like me you have a knack for ordering the wrong size when shopping online, listen
up: the crinkle trend is your friend. Hello stretchy, one-size-fits-all styles – music to my ears. Even more so the case whilst I'm pregnant, changing shape
daily and frankly have no idea what size I am.
Brands like swimwear hero Hunza G have been responsible for paving the way to the crinkle redux, showcasing a rainbow collection of late eighties/early nineties Pretty Woman inspired designs. ASOS has followed suit with its own line of bikinis, swimming costumes and beachwear. Here are a few that have made their way into my summer wardrobe... and guess what, they fit! (Sidenote: I ordered a mixture of the regular and fuller bust options where my preference wasn't available and both have worked fine.)
If aggressively high-waisted bikini bottoms leave you feeling more Borat than Love Island super-bod, don't bother with them. Virtually all these designs are either block colours or simple stripes, meaning you can mix and match your bottom halves with any shapes you feel comfortable with (or in my case here even just a pair of shorts). At least those are the rules I'm playing by...
My new go-to and now worst-kept secret is online boutique Studio B, which is where I tracked down dresses for two of June’s biggest events, Royal Ascot and Masterpiece. Eagle-eyed founder Beth has sifted through the most covetable names out there and curated a collection of current, on point beauties from brands like Rixo (my Under the Sea dress pictured), Baum und Pferdgarten, Paradise Row, Stine Goya and Gestuz. And it's an eye-poppingly lust-worthy line-up.
I wore this to the preview night of Masterpiece, but Studio B is not just about dressy vibes. Scout out slogan tees, pom pom shoes and knitwear too in this cyber treasure trove.
I can't remember when I got more excited about, or had more fun wearing, a dress. I mean look at it; its ankle-sweeping, moves-like-liquid, spirited design is a sartorial dream. Not to mention that metallic mermaid green and gold. I have to confess I hadn't heard of the brand, Dhela, but it's now firmly on my radar thanks to Baar & Bass who are stocking it this season. And discovering and supporting new, upcoming names is definitely something I've always endeavoured to champion.
I wore it to see two of my oldest friends tie the knot in the sparse and dramatic scenery of Morocco's Agafay Desert (camel-riding and belly-dancers included). These images were shot on the doorstep of our eco-lodge, home for the night after being whisked out of Marrakech Medina a couple of hours before. As you do.
basically skirted around addressing our unbelievably exciting news on here. Absolutely over-the-moon to say Olly and I are expecting our first baby this autumn – which brings with it emotions of complete joy and utter disbelief every day!
This was the first project I shot (with jewellery brand Kiki Mcdonough) on crawling out of my morning sickness cave and whilst, at most angles, there are no telltale signs of a bump at this stage, the overriding feeling I remember was the sheer relief of being up and about, talking to people, and feeling a bit more like myself again.
I'm now well into my second trimester and feeling not just like a human again
but pretty great. Though I thought I'd share a few of the feelings I went through back when everything was still underwraps. We made the decision to keep it entirely to ourselves and harboured our little secret for two months before even breaking the news to our families.
Don't get me wrong, nothing can usurp the dizzying joy of discovering you have a baby on the way (I read somewhere it's the happiest reason for feeling like crap which rang true). I'll never forget calling Olly at work and his disbelieving reaction when I broke the news, which just sounded like I was joking. But the first trimester can be a cruel mistress and it wasn't long until she took hold; here are a couple of the things she had in store for me
– Intense fatigue. I quickly gave into the fight and surrendered to the uncontrollable urge to go 100% off grid. In bed for a month day and night; progressed to the sofa for two weeks after that
– Permanent hunger that trickily came hand in hand with a complete aversion to all foods; the thought alone of meat, fish, vegetables, eggs or anything with a remote idea or sophistication or flavour had me curling my toes. I remember thinking Asian food – ordinarily a firm favourite – sounded like the pits. So it was bananas and bread round-the-clock, including many a 4am pitstop
– Nose of a bloodhound: Olly eating supper in a separate room with two doors closed between us became a hard-and-fast rule. Also not welcome: dirty tube smell, dirty dog smell, shower gel, shampoo... and pretty much every other smell under the sun
– Lack of drive and generally not feeling myself
I'm writing this several weeks on and, while it can feel relentless and like it'll go on forever (especially when you're not sure if and when it will stop), once it starts to subside it's actually quite hard to remember what your symptoms even were. So to all you brave women out there also nurturing your secret, hang onto that excitement, there's a bright and beaming light at the end of the tunnel. There'll be a lot of opinions and voices but do things your own way.
As a print I've completely fallen in love with my star-smattered blue dress. But there's more to Kapara London's line than meets the eye; this is fashion with a heart.
A foundation launched by the brand improves the lives of children in Jaipur, where the clothes are made. Through buying Kapara pieces, the programme employs women from the slums and teaches them how to sew. Better still, these women are stitching uniforms for Jaipur's children: one purchase = one uniform sewn.
Images shot at Petersham Nurseries on my very spoiling birthday day out on June 12th. Oh yes – and introducing the bump!
(Don't worry I didn't eat all the delicious food photographed, but I'll be looking forward to tucking into things like that again post bump.)
I know a hotel is going to be right up my street when I make friends with a spoilt and well-loved animal within the first half an hour of arriving. Regardless of a place having all the details executed to a ridiculously high and stylish standard, which Villa des Orangers undoubtedly does, it’s the extra money-can’t-buy ‘feeling’ that gives somewhere the true X factor. So when Bagera the smiling, purring and probably luckiest cat in Marrakech rolled over for a tummy tickle as soon as I spotted her on a sofa by the pool I knew I was somewhere special. (If you follow me on Instagram you'll understand my excitement was elevated further still by the fact I also have a cat from the Jungle Book clan called Mowgli at home, who recently celebrated his 19th birthday – what a babe). While I (try to) appreciate cats aren’t for everyone, it’s also the staff’s kindness and character that really shine through when you chat to them about less run-of-the-mill things like this.
We arrived at Villa des Orangers straight off the back of a magical wedding in the Agafay desert where we stayed in electricity-free eco-lodges. And, if I’m honest, we were in an exhausted heap. Happily, on coming back into Marrakech, awaiting us was a lush, cool oasis of calm – a stark contrast to the bustling, hot, sticky and at times pretty overwhelming streets of the Medina we'd become so familiar with. Over-tiredness and Medina mayhem was immediately pacified with birdsong, unexpectedly leafy gardens and sunlight dappled nooks beneath shadow-throwing awnings.
We ate breakfast beneath theaforementioned awning accompanied by tiny Disney-like birds hopping around the tables. We tucked into tagines poolside for lunch – I'm sure it's not where most people opt to have piping hot food served but the staff were ever-accommodating for the weird Brits looking to soak up the last of the North African rays. And come nightfall we were happy to surrender to tiredness – cue indulging in room service whilst wearing
fluffy white robes with tassels on the hoods before turning into a bed that my high-standards husband described as the comfiest ever. I'm a true pillow snob and am 100% with him on this. Kudos.
Befriending the small army of animals:
I've already filled you in on Bagera. In addition to this, two tortoises roam wherever they please and are surprisingly a) friendly b) speedy. I nearly tripped over one on my way back to our room so rerouted to the hotel kitchen to ask for some breakfast for him. Apparently he frequently turns up there himself so he's more streetwise than I gave him credit for.
Swimming slow lengths in the silky pool:
There's something about the water here, it doesn't feel like other pools. It's generously heated too – I'm often still shivering in other so-called 'heated' pools. Plus it's one of the prettiest set-ups to admire as you bob up and down.
I’d been cold for around five months. That was until I checked in at The Spread Eagle. Less than an hour and a half from London, set on the edge of pretty West Sussex market town Midhurst, this is a 15th century coaching house decked out with 39 one-of-a-kind bedrooms oozing character and charm.
And here, there are ample opportunities to get warm; getting snug between the high thread count sheets in the four poster beds or checking in for a few hours of R&R at the spa kitted out with steam room, sauna, pool and an abundance of body-soothing therapies. Even the spoiling treatment I indulged in was a warm hug of a body wrap that lasted a toasty 90 minutes. The South Downs Soother saw me cocooned in cling film as nourishing products seeped into my sun-starved central-heating-parched skin. And lo and behold my winter-long tensed muscles slowly but surely began to unclench.
What makes me happy is pretty simple, not dissimilar to that of a baby. Being warm is right up there. Food is another failsafe way to elevate my mood. On our first evening we settled into the cosy in-house restaurant, every other table full and each adorned with fresh posies of alstroemeria, for a tastebud-tingling feast:
Olives in a Kilner jar
Wild mushrooms on toast with vegetable crisps, fresh herbs and truffle oil
Cured salmon marinated with beetroot with radish salad and horseradish cream
Braised short rib of beef with crispy oyster pickled red cabbage and mash potato
Roast honey glazed South Downs pheasant braised leg, squash, chestnuts, sage and game chips
We were also lucky enough to enjoy breakfast on the wicker sofas in the conservatory on both mornings and, despite the Baltic temperatures outside, the sun streaming through the glass was actually enough to make us want to take our jumpers off.
Various walks on the South Downs are just a stone's throw from the Spread Eagle's front door, where we were able to indulge in some much needed fresh country air, walk past Cowdray Castle and even stumble upon some seriously impressive sunset sheep herding. En route back to London we stopped at Jodie Kidd's pub The Half Moon in Kirdford for lunch, which is well worth a visit too.
It was just the antidote we needed for 48 hours outside of the hustle and bustle of the big smoke.
Following on from Monday's post I'm excited to introduce my first mover and shaker!
Venetia Archer founded RUUBY, an app she describes as 'London’s digital beauty concierge, offering five-star services directly to your door.' Here we step into her fast-paced world running a London start-up, the value of having a strong team around her and the other apps and beauty products she can't live without.
What inspired you to start Ruuby? Do you come from a tech or beauty background?
I come from neither. I was inspired to begin Ruuby after spotting a gap in the market for a beauty platform like this. I began work on Ruuby in 2014 and we officially went live in 2015. This was a time when Uber and Deliveroo had just hit London and I thought a similar service for much-needed beauty appointments would be a saviour for many Londoners.
What’s your typical 9-5?
It varies hugely. I am trying to compartmentalise my week better so that I have external meetings on certain days, and can block out full days in the office to get on with work. My days usually start with a review of the previous days figures... I have an app on my phone that shows me how many bookings we have and I’m constantly checking it. Then, it’s a mixture of talking to investors and other stakeholders and managing new products within the team. At the moment we are super growth-oriented and so a lot of my day is spent analysing our different marketing channels and seeing how those might be optimised. If I need a break from the heavy stuff, I distract myself with Ruuby Instagram and ordering stuff like Ruuby branding pencils or T-shirts...
'The emotional highs and lows are tiring but they are what excite me'
Starting a business in London is no mean feat – how have you found the process?
It’s a lot more dynamic than I ever knew and even in my small time as a business owner I’ve been fascinated to learn how quickly market forces adapt and shift. That has been exciting and I love building Ruuby’s relevance and commercial viability. Starting the business was hard and each day brings a new struggle, but also a new success. The emotional highs and lows can be tiring, but they are what excite me.
How do you stay on top of an ever-changing tech landscape?
I really rely on my CTO, who is incredibly switched on, and we discuss all of our options at great length. It’s a collaborative process and one that requires constant engagement with other developers and tech communities.
What products do you use on a daily basis, both skincare and makeup?
I absolutely love IS Clinical cleanser and Erborian tinted moisturiser. I then add an IS Clinical serum overnight, which is miraculous. The impact in the skin is immediate. Eyeko is my favourite eyeliner, and I am partial to a Kevyn Aucoin lipliner too...
C A R E E R A D V I C E
How has experience from previous jobs contributed to Ruuby?
My first role was in investigative research. I used to be given really wild tasks that might have seemed impossible to answer. I cultivated a can do approach and I think that sheer confidence that anything is possible has really helped me aggressively push and work on the Ruuby concept, which at times has proved rather challenging too.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given / advice you would give to entrepreneurs starting out?
Listen to your consumers. Requirements constantly change and your clients really do evolve. We launched Ruuby with a focus on high-end salon appointments and the on-demand piece was just an add on. I personally wasn't convinced. After about a year, the numbers proved that the opportunity really lay in servicing clients at home and we have since truly embraced this focus. We had to slowly rebuild our technical infrastructure to support this side, but it's been absolutely worth it.
Where do you look for inspiration?
I look at other innovative, modern brands. I love to see how other businesses are changing that consumer-business relationship. I hate the impersonal aspect of large, established companies, and I’m excited by the challenge of reworking that.
What are your tips for staying motivated?
Surround yourself with positive, hard-working, inspiring people. The road can be lonely, and it’s important to protect against this. I love speaking with other business owners and understanding their approaches to problems I might be facing. There’s never one right way and that’s motivating in itself.
Running your own business can be relentless. How do you switch off?
To that... I don’t know the answer! Exercise is good – it’s an hour where you simply can’t think about work, so it’s enforced. Stage 2: meditation.
'The road can be lonely... surround yourself with positive, hard-working, inspiring people'
Q U I C K F I R E R O U N D
Beauty product you never leave the house without?
By Terry Baume de Rose.
Fire and Ice facial at Dr Preema.
Last person you called?
My financial advisor.
Lark or night owl?
Lark! I get up at 6.30.
Non-fiction business books.
I take Uber everywhere. It’s not ok.
Other go-to apps?
Planoly for Instagram and Slack for talking to my team.
Huge thank you to Venetia for taking time to be interviewed for my blog and sharing her wisdom.
Images supplied by Venetia and sourced via Pinterest.
Sparked by various events towards the end of last year, I've decided to kick off a series of interviews with some of the many inspiring individuals I'm lucky enough to know and continue to meet thanks to my job. Inspiration for this struck in a number of places: listening to a panel of movers and shakers from all walks of life at the launch of Bumble Bizz (dating app Bumble's answer to LinkedIn); binge-listening to the How I Built This podcasts; and attending an out-a-my-comfort-zone nutrition seminar on gut health and its relationship to mood hosted by The Rooted Project – a large portion of which was very science-heavy and well and truly over my head but nevertheless awoke parts of my mind that had in all likelihood been asleep since school.
Listening to the How I Built This podcasts in particular, where top level CEOs of companies such as Airbnb, Instagram, Whole Foods and Virgin are interviewed on their career start-up stories, it occurred to me how many of them had experienced multiple unsuccessful businesses before finding the one that stuck. This have-a-go attitude is something that really ignited something in me, highlighting it's rarely a linear path to success and failure is not something to be feared, rather an exciting learning curve. It would be way worse to always wonder 'what if'. Don't overthink it.
So, after a few months scribbling ideas, scrawling spider diagrams and chatting it over with friends, I'm hoping to shed light on a few new career stories in a bid to celebrate those who are bravely carving exciting paths and ask them to share their nuggets of wisdom. Stepping into other worlds feeds curiosity like nothing else and I hope this inspires those who are thinking about giving something new a go – whether that be taking a leap of faith on a start-up, testing the waters in a new industry or plucking up the courage to apply for a job at your current company.
You don't need to know where you'll be in five years, you can always adapt as you go and perhaps most importantly of all it's about recognising the bigger picture – we are so small in all of this and having a go, whether it goes to plan or not, is always admirable. When I first got into the copywriting game my dad, also a copywriter, taught me a favourite Hemingway quote of his: 'The first draft of anything is shit.' You have to start somewhere.
The first interview will be live in the next few days so watch this space.
In case the Elly are not what you're looking for but you're still after some distressed denim, I've linked below a selection of ready-made frayed hem alternatives, as well as a few you can take the scissors to yourself to do your worst.
Try the jeans on with various pairs of sneakers and boots before you actually take the plunge – take it from me, it's so frustrating when you wreck a pair through impatience. Go gradually – you can always cut more off but can't stick it back on!