Epanoui Jewellery, Self-Employment and Cake

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When it comes to work I sometimes find self-employment a little tricky. I’ve been a freelance Marketing Consultant for four years now (errm, how did that happen?) and have been lucky enough to include my blog in my job remit for the last one and a half years but sometimes I still feel like I’m playing at my career. This probably has something to do with the fact that I don’t feel like a grown-up yet, and also because with my two little responsibilities I’m not able to work full-time – though with all the evenings I do manage to bash out about 32 hours a week. I absolutely adore working though, it forms a huge part of who I am and I feel extremely lucky that I’m able to forge out a self-employed career in an area I love.

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I have big plans for my business in the future and it’s important for me to keep working hard at what I do. I know I’ll be a role model for my children and I want them to believe they can have it all: a family, a career, a busy and fulfilling life. Which is why I love to meet women who are similarly inclined, women with a fire for business in their belly and who have given up other parts of their lives to go it alone and follow their dreams. Last week I was lucky enough to meet one such woman: Hannah (above, having a little snuggle with Hux), who is a talented jeweller working under the name épanoui, a french word which means to blossom, grow and flourish.

Delicate spheres necklace

I took Hux along to meet Hannah and he was as enamoured as me by her creativity and her lovely jewellery (you can see me modelling the beautiful spheres necklace above and up at the top). An ex-PR professional, after leaving University (she studied Fashion Marketing and PR at Nottingham Trent) she always dreamed of making jewellery for a living and one and a half years ago she took the plunge and left her fast-paced career after attending a course at Central St Martins.

All her creations are designed and made from her home studio in Bedfordshire and they’re exactly how I like them: beautifully dainty and easy-to wear.

Memento inspire bracelet

Radiance coin necklace

Hannah’s pieces are inspired by nature and I love the texture this brings to her jewellery, with this Radiance coin necklace being a particular favourite. I’m also a huge fan of the Memento leather & gold bracelets which come in different colours, each representing a different positive feeling (I think ‘Inspire’ in violet would be the one I’d hanker after!). But my ultimate favourite is the Delicate Spheres necklace (£45); it’s simple enough for me to wear every day and too small for little grabby hands to be interested in it. It looks gorgeous layered up with other necklaces or simply on its own.

Hannah’s attitude to work really inspired me; like me she is easily distracted when she’s working with things like food or the washing (self employment < rock n’ roll) and it was lovely to talk about how we got over our home-working hurdles. We had a similar step into self-employment too, Hannah was commuting into London as I did once upon a time and we agreed how soul-sucking it can be when you’re dying to channel your creativity elsewhere. She says that her least favourite thing about working for herself is the tax return (I hear you, sister) but the best things far outweigh Inland Revenue: she loves to create pieces she knows people will love and treasure forever and says she absolutely loves going to work each and every day.

Heritage necklace Heritage bracelet

épanoui jewellery is great for those big birthdays – 18th, 21st or 30th – because many pieces are able to be engraved. Hannah can make lots of things to order, too: I love the idea of one of her Heritage bracelets with engraved discs, a bit like a charm bracelet. On my birthday list is one with Elfie and Hux’s initials and birthdates.

Florence linen wrap

Hannah’s also just launched a range of 100% linen wraps that are again all handmade in her studio. The creative process to put these together involves design, pattern making, dying, sewing and a lot of love on her part! They also have gorgeous names; above is the Florence but you’ll also find the Annais Leonié, Olivie, Luna and Amelie on the website very soon. I can’t wait to grab one of these myself (£45 – I LOVE the soft grey of the Florence), perfect for summer evenings when there’s that chill in the air.

What I loved about my morning with Hannah was the absolute passion she has for her creations. She comes from a creative family, her mother is an artist and her grandma a dressmaker, so it’s most definitely in her blood. She has such an obvious zest for what she does, her enthusiasm and happiness is infectious. If you’re after some jewellery hand-made in England with love, skill and craft then you need look no further than épanoui.

Thank-you Hannah for your awesome attitude and a lovely coffee morning! And thanks for not letting on to the Internet that I hate half of Hux’s cake… ;)

 

Springtime At The School Gates

Hi More than Toast readers! I’m Katie and Alice has very kindly allowed me to write this post for you. With each passing season it seems fashion rules relax even further, meaning you can wear the same pieces for work and play – and from season to season – if you choose them carefully. Thanks for having me!

I know we’re all still in our thickest winter woollies, but it’s never too early to start planning next season’s wardrobe, particularly when you can pick up some of spring and summer’s key trends now. For me, my wardrobe has to be pretty multifunctional – cosy enough to walk the kids to school in the morning, smart enough if I’m going into the office or comfy enough to wear if I’m working from the kitchen table at home. And while pieces that tick all those boxes can be tricky to find, I’ve already got my eye on a few…

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Subtly sheer

Sheer fabrics were another big trend on the 2014 runways. And because sheer pieces are bang-on-trend most seasons, vintage boutiques and sites are a great place to pick up blouses that are true multi-taskers. This polka dot blouse from Rokit looks very Stella McCartney but at a fraction of the price. I’ll be wearing with leather look skinnies and ballet flats for a gorgeous off duty look or tucked into black trousers for work.

New season flats

While fashion and practicality don’t always go hand-in-hand, when it comes to footwear, it was all about the flat during New York Fashion Week’s spring summer 2014 show. There were Helmut Lang’s white mesh slip ons, Peter Som’s psychedelic brogues and Oscar de la Renta’s floral pumps. These flats from Heels.com take in many of next season’s trends with their white, lasercut styling. I’m going to be wearing mine with wide-legged or cropped straight legged trousers or to give a bit of an edge to a girly floral tea dress.

The classic trench

When it comes to spring cover ups, you simply can’t go wrong with a classic trench coat. It’s a wardrobe staple that you’ll wear and wear, which transcends seasons and years. Burberry’s spring summer 2014 runway show, as always, showcased the most stunning trench coats. This time round, the designer most famous for iconic cover ups sent models down the catwalks wearing beautiful pastel hues including lilacs, minty greens and sky blues. But, given that I end up spending more on my little ones clothes than mine these days, my budget doesn’t quite stretch to Burberry. Instead, I’ve been scouring the high street and I love the gorgeous soft khaki version from La Redoute. It has stunning peplum detailing on the back meaning you can wear over everything from workwear to a LBD or just with a pair of jeans for the school run.

The statement necklace

A key look for many seasons, the statement necklace is showing no signs of falling out of favour. It’s one of my favourite go tos when I’m rushing around fitting in the 9-5 with doing the school run. By wearing a pair of black skinny trousers and a white t-shirt with my parka and high tops to take the kids to nursery and school, I can add low heels, my necklace and blazer for a work look which is smart enough for meetings with the boss. This Marni necklace is stunning. It’s pricey but would work with everything. I’d wear over t-shirts, under the collar of a crisp white shirt or to liven up my little black dress.

The slouchy trouser

We’ve been squeezing ourselves into skinny jeans for seasons now. And, while a great pair of skinnies, particularly a high-waisted pair, can be super flattering, it’s great to see a slouchier silhouette appearing. I’ll be wearing mine like the models in the Karen Walker show, turned up and teamed with brogues, a cropped sweater and a blazer. This pair by Serbian designer Roksanda Ilincic combines this season’s checks with next season’s slouchiness – the perfect transitional piece.

Getting dressed: Winter Jumpers

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It’s taken 28 years, but I think I’m finally at a place where I feel happy with the clothes in my wardrobe. I know what I like, I know what I feel comfortable in and I know what (I think) looks good. I try to steer away from reverting to my ‘mumiform’ (more on that here) and I really have Gap to thank for sorting all my basics out in their sales. I love the Gap sale more than anything.

My current obsession is jumpers. I throw on my jeans or trusty Gap skinny pants or jeans, a nice jumper and my leather jacket. A pair of boots or my favourite trainers and boom, I’m done. My absolute favourite jumper is anything in grey marl: at last count I had five and I will keep going until I am bored of grey marl (I’ll never get bored of grey marl). Grey marl grey marl grey marl!

A recent discovery of mine is the boutique Feather and Stitch in Richmond and online (see the interview I did with founder Fiona Sanderson over at Mama). Up at the top I’m modelling their Des Petits Hauts Kirsh top: it’s all fleecy on the inside and so cosy. Here are my current favourite sweaters from their collection:

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From top left: 360 Jack Sweater, £215. Des Petits Hauts Gunter Sweater, £108. Des Petits Hauts Azia Sweater, £99. 360 Jules Sweater, £189.60 (Father Christmas, if you’re reading, this is the one). 

And some from the high street:

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Grey Sweater, £9.99, H&M. Boatneck Sweater, £22.99, Gap. Sweater with pearls, £35.99, Zara. Skull Sweater, £7.99, Gap.

 

All About Winter Footwear

Right now I’m sitting at my computer trying to work. The heating is on full blast, I’ve got a hot cup of tea and I’m wearing ski socks, sheepskin boots, thick jeans and a cosy jumper. I should be warm but I’m definitely not… I’m cold! And this is how it is, every year from October til (argh…) April.

My troubles lie in my feet. My feet are FREEZING: always have been, I can’t seem to do much at all to warm them up. I sleep with thick socks on, cosy them up under a cushion on the sofa and use my hot water bottle to death. Which makes finding winter shoes a real challenge. I don’t want to wear my UGGs to death; I prefer wearing them in the house as slippers so always feel dressed down when I tramp around town in them.

What’s a (cold-footed) girl to do?!

Enter Brantano. Not a brand I’ve bought from before, but a recent peruse of their website has shown a huuuge range of women’s shoes for a girl like me who have even the chilliest of feet. From shoes to trainers, heels to flats… you need not shop anywhere else for your winter footwear. Here are my favourites.

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Mustard flats, £55. Pumps, £16. Blingy flats, £20. Purple trainers, £55.

They also have a brilliant choice of women’s boots, because you can never have too many pairs of boots, right? These are the ones I think will keep my toes warmest this winter.

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Studded boots, £40.  Biker boots, £40. Knee high boots, £99. Ankle boots, £60. 

Disclosure.  

50 Quid At Zalando: Win It!

When it comes to clothes shopping I’m pretty predictable. I turn to the Gap sale for jumpers and tops, ASOS for everything else and odd adventure to Topshop or Office for shoes if I’m feeling wild. I suppose I’m typically time-stretched and have made the transition from wanting to look good regardless of how many scratchy sequins that takes to prioritising comfort and a good fit; I find items I like and buy them in different colours (holla Gap Skinny Minis in blue, grey, green and aubergine). I always seem to hone in on similar colours and styles (grey raglan jumpers, breton stripes, v-neck t’s) and wear them happily over and over again.

So when I wander into a shop with no particular goal in mind I always feel a bit lost. The last time I ended up in Topshop I realised I felt a bit too old to be in there… do people really wear those outfits? I had to bid a hasty retreat to Zara where I bought yet another breton boatnecked tshirt to remind me of my fashion sensibilities. I would like to not feel this way though, to be a bit more adventurous when it comes to the clothes I wear. I want to re-discover the feeling of dressing in something I really really love rather than slipping into yet another long-sleeve jersey dream just because I’m tired and it ‘feels a bit like my pyjamas’. 

So I’ve started stepping up my Pinterest fashion scrapbook habit. Ogling the fashion blogs and Instagram feeds of women closer to my age whose styles I covet (my favourites are The Frugality and Random Fashion Coolness). Throwing out clothes that no longer feel flattering or fit well so I can more clearly see the ones that do, re-discovering my Mary Poppins-esque box of scarves and accessories.

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Quicksilver oversized cardigan, £60. Colourblock jumper, £38. Sous Le Sable ring, £50. New Balance trainers, £80. 

This apparel upheaval came hot on the heels of an email from online fashion retailer Zalando, who wrote to me asking if I’d like £50 to give away to a reader of my blog. I was like, totally, I’ll do anything for my readers, even if it means shopping.

So I got to it. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Zalando, but BOY was it easy to lose a couple of hours surfing their choice of women’s, men’s and children’s apparel. The place is simply ginormous and is stuffed full with brands you will have heard of and brands you won’t.

zalando2Sisely dress, £55. Maya bobble hat, £25. Oversized grey jumper, £32. Faux leather trousers, £35. 

My final choice of purchase with my £50 was the Sous Le Sable ring; I never ever buy myself such frivolous things and I’ve been wanting to beef up my ring collection ever since I stopped wearing my wedding and engagement rings (I also love Deepa’s textured gold rings and one of these is on its way to me too). But because ‘restraint’ is not my middle name I also picked up the New Balance trainers… as much as I love my Vans I can’t wear them every day, can I?! And that bobble hat, too. Ahem.

It’s over to you: what would you spend your £50 at Zalando on? To win a £50 gift voucher just wiggle on over to their website, pick which item you’d most like to buy and stick it in the Rafflecopter widget below. It doesn’t have to be under £50 (lots of mine weren’t) or even for you!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I’m now having an attack of the guilts. Should I have bought something for the kids instead of fulfilling my own selfish shopping needs? I think this is one of those situations when I say sorry – not sorry.

Giveaway Terms & Conditions:Start date is 12am, 5th November 2013 and the closing date is 12am, 13th November 2013. The winner will be chosen at random by the random winner generator on Rafflecopter and notified within 5 working days by email. The winner must have fulfilled the mandatory requirement and posted their choice in the Rafflecopter widget. The prize is not transferable. There is no monetary alternative and your voucher will be emailed to you. 

The AW13 Mumiform

I kind of like having my ‘mumiform’. The clothes I can, on days when I’m too tired/busy/stressed to wade through my cave of a wardrobe, just throw on in one combination or another and I know they’ll look good. And it not good, at least acceptable.

From Autumn through to winter it goes something like: jeans, comfy tshirt, sweater, boots; the jeans skinny and stretchy and the jumpers woolly. Comfy and warm, the sartorial equivalent of a big hug.

So when Dorothy Perkins got in touch with news of their new Essentials Range my ears picked up. A selection of 10 key pieces to simplify my A/W wardrobe? Perfect…

DP’s have selected The Biker, The Sculpted Tee, The 2in1 Dress, The Fit & Flare Dress, The Skirt, The Fur, The Blouse, The Item Sweat, The Cute Fit Knit and The Skinny (jean) as essentials we can choose from to quickly update our wardrobe this season. I selected The Sculpted Tee, The Cute Fit Knit and The Skinny as essentials I knew I would wear all winter. Here’s how I’ll be rocking them:

The Sculpted Tee

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The sculpted tee is great for days you want to just throw on a tshirt but need to look a bit dressy. I wear mine with a Zara leather jacket, skinny blue jeans and my new Liberty print Vans (yep, I bought them!).

The Cute Fit Knit

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The Cute Fit Knit is great for those like me who have felt the need to put the heating on already (BRRRR!). It’s lovely and cosy to sling on over the top of a tshirt and dress up with some indigo skinnies and boots.

The Skinny

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I love these skinnys. The rise isn’t too high but high enough to hide my leftover mumtum, the stretch is perfect and they really old their shape (no going baggy at the knee, side eye my old TopShop Baxters…). I wore these for my Radio 4 appearance earlier on this week and I’m wearing them on a date tonight, they truly are versatile.

Have a listen to Natalie Hartley, InStyle’s Fashion Director, as she chats about the new Style Essentials collection:

The collection is a great value way to update your A/W wardrobe – prices start at a happy £14 – and pieces are both versatile and on-trend.

Makeover your winter wardrobe with £500 to spend on this seasons Style Essentials! Dorothy Perkins will put you and a friend up in a fancy hotel and send you off for a posh meal after you’ve been given a styleover by one of their friendly Style Advisors. What’s not to love? Get entering!

Dorothy Perkins sent me my favourite items to try from the collection and also compensated me for my time to write about them. Which makes me one happy bunny.