Epanoui Jewellery, Self-Employment and Cake

10156101_10154129497750206_814122453762166767_n

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.

914333_625122437581748_1566409949_n

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…

spingtime-school-gates

 

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

1392453_10153610510530206_1545801369_n

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:

featherandstitch

 

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:

highst

 

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

 

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

tee

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

knit
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

skinnies

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. 

An Autumn Wardrobe Update


Do you have a ‘mum uniform’? You know, a default ‘look’ that you are able to reference on three hours sleep in the morning when the last thing you want to do is pick an actual outfit? I most definitely do, but it’s getting to that time of year when my Havaianas and optimistic sleeveless tshirts are no longer going to cut it. Yes, a heatwave has been predicted for this weekend, but the rain is hammering down right now and I’m in a hoodie so it feels like a long way away.

And so I’m looking to autumn, my second favourite season after summer. Not surprisingly I’m probably going to be wearing a similar autumn uniform to last year – as being the mother of a 1 and three 3 year old doesn’t really lend itself to silk and cashmere – so we’re talking jeans, trainers, light scarves and sweaters. It may be plain but it’s comfort all the way, baby.

Here’s what I’ll be wearing come October:

autumn

Distressed jeans, £44.95, GAP. Navy bird print scarf, Fat Face. Fur hooded parka, £75, ASOS. Crew neck knit, £34.99, Mango at ASOS. Striped sweater, £14.99, GAP. Liberty print Vans, £54.99, Office.

FYI: what I wore last winter, what I wore this summer, my pregnancy wardrobe.

How To Dress A Bump

how to dress a bump

I loved being pregnant.

OK, I didn’t. I really didn’t. I felt sick, exhausted, flat out ill. I never had the pregnancy glow, at least not without the help of a lot of make-up. I looked grey, had bad hair and could not stay awake. One of my lasting memories is that of me at three months pregnant, lying on the sofa. Trying to entertain a 1 year old Elfie but just weeping because I felt so wretched. She was laughing so I think she found the weeping entertaining.

But still, I loved being pregnant and I love to look back on the time when my babies were in my tummy. It’s a pretty crazy and magical thing that we women do, growing people. Elfie has recently learned that babies grow in mummies tummies and I’m trying not to feel offended that she asked me if I had another baby in there when we were in the bath last week. Instead I feel touched that she has been asking to get back in my tummy :) And then she says “oh no! Elfie too big!”. Too right.

how to dress a bump

how to dress a bump

This time last year was my favourite time of pregnancy. I was about 30 weeks pregnant and had finally found some energy, I wasn’t too freaked out yet about being a mum of two under 2 and had stopped feeling so ill. I was completely unable to eat during the first 18 weeks and ended up losing a lot of weight so was all bump. It’s lots of fun dressing a bump!

how to dress a bump

how to dress a bump

how to dress a bump

One thing I never got on board with was Maternity clothes. I could never bring myself to buy clothes from such a small collection that would last me only 9 months, although even now only a year on there seem to be so many more brands out there to choose from. There’s Vertbaudet for one, Keungzai and good old ASOS Maternity. In fact, looking at all the photos on this page I’m not wearing any maternity wear: only maternity-waistband jeans and leggings (H&M are best for these in my opinion… I definitely don’t still wear them. Ahem).

how to dress a bump

how to dress a bump

There’s absolutely nothing like having your child grow inside you. It’s so freaky and alien-like but also the most natural thing you can do. I often feel a bit sad that this is something men won’t ever get to experience, but then I’m not sure they could handle it. Plus they get to do other fun stuff, like peeing standing up ;)

I’m getting way too wistful about pregnancy here, it’s making me feel quite nervous (and if Will is reading this I expect his balls are slowly retreating at the thought of Harold baby number 3). To balance it out I’m going to remind myself of this: piles. Constipation. Leaky boobs. Pregnancy UTIs. Post-natal depression. Morning sickness.

It’s not working! How is pregnancy so intoxicating?

how to dress a bump

how to dress a bump

Thank-you to Vertbaudet for collaborating with me on this post. Please take a look at their selection of fabulous maternity wear!