Monthly Archives: November 2011

Jack Wills is opening in Hong Kong… and it’s Fabulously British!

Amidst all the new international store openings in Hong Kong (Abercrombie & Fitch, Hollister, American Eagle, Gap, Forever 21), one store has quietly sneaked in under the radar… and may just eclipse them all. Ladies and gents, may I introduce you to Jack Wills.

And it definitely is an introduction. When I mentioned Jack Wills to most of my HK friends, the resounding response was ‘Who?!’. Having lived, attended school and gone to university in the UK, I was very familiar with Mr Wills. It was just getting big when I left around 4 years ago; Nottingham, the big university town where I spent far too many of my formative years, had just got its own store and had basically become THE uniform of choice for nearly everyone from my old school and uni.

The typical Jack Wills wearer then was:

In case you don’t know, that’s JP (played by Jack Whitehall) from  Fresh Meat (and do watch it, it’s hilarious), who basically epitomises near enough every person I went to school and uni with. JP would probably pronounce Jack Wills as “totally rape”… but enough Fresh Meat in-jokes!

Back then Jack Wills was very much a preppy British A&F, beloved by poshos and public schools (their tagline is ‘University Outfitters’, after all). Round my parts, we call these people ‘rah’s – for girls, think Ugg boots, sweat pants, all-enveloping scarves and big artfully-tousled bed-hair; for guys, think rugby shirts with collars never anything but up, lived-in jeans or board shorts determinedly worn in a country and climate that really doesn’t warrant having your hairy legs out for 8 months of the year.

Seriously, I could spot people from my school long after I’d left from the fact their hair was fluffed up to about five times the size of their body and that they were slouching about in sweats with ‘Jack Wills’ emblazoned on their arse. And as you’re probably now realising, I might just be a bit of a rah too. Like blates. But sadly, without the budget!

So I was already more than interested in Jack Wills opening in Hong Kong and the chance for me to relive my rah days. But, having attended a preview of their new store, I am now no longer interested, but EXTREMELY BLOODY EXCITED.

What became clear, especially after chatting to the fabulous Rachel Johnson, head of womenswear (and with a totes awesome first name, may I just add), is that Jack Wills has come on leaps and bounds since my time in the UK. Yes, there’s still rugby shirts, sweatpants and checked shirts galore, but now there’s so very much more too.

I was blown away by their range of dresses, all of which were immediately covetable, absolutely gorgeous and yet still had that signature Jack Wills feel about them. My heart did a little hop, skip and jump of delight when one of the models came out in the spotted black dress above – the very dress I pointed out to my friend a few moments before from the lookbook, stating ‘It must be mine.’

I was also rather enamoured with their fur capes, sparkly cardigans and fabulous tweed-y outdoors coats (with adorable metal anchor-embossed buttons – its the little details that count!) – here’s hoping HK actually gets cold enough to wear them! I’m also going through a cute print underwear and legwarmer obsession, so you can imagine what I made of the box of treasures below!

I loved the way the outfits were styled too – classic but still fashionable and in a way that felt distinctly British. I was also smitten by this Liberty-style print dress (most prints are bespoke to JW), paired with a slouchy knit cardigan, the perfect mix between dressed up and dressed down; all I have to say is, yes, yes YES! And this mannequin, showcasing sparkly sequinned shorts matched with a plain tee and statement-outfit making red blazer (I’m getting Claudia Winkleman vibes off this look) – even more YES! Even if I’d probably never be able to pull it off myself…

The great thing, especially for someone like me who buys what I like rather than paying close attention to whatever’s in fashion, is that Jack Wills doesn’t slavishly follow trends but rather forages its own distinctive path. I’d describe it as British heritage with a modern twist but with clothes classic and well-designed enough to last far more than a few seasons. However, unlike other shops that have an easily-identifiable signature look (*cough A&F cough*), Jack Wills doesn’t feel like a one-trick pony stuck in a major sartorial rut.

The other cause for major excitement – they’re doing BEAUTY. I think I totally freaked out Rachel, JW’s lovely brand coordinator Lauren and gorgeous PR extraordinaire Elle with my extreme excited squealing when they told me! It seems, in my time away, that Jack Wills have branched into nearly everything – home décor, mugs, iPhone accessories, jewellery and, obviously much to my delight, cosmetics too. The packaging, in their signature pink and navy stripes, is absolutely beyond cute and everything looks really affordable too. Obviously I can’t wait to get my grubby little mitts onto some of the product to give them a test drive – but that Union Jack tin stuffed with nail polishes?! It may as well have my name written on it!

I also NEED the following make-up bags – well, you can never have too many make-up bags, right?!

The lookbook is basically the cast of Skins having had a shower and minus the hipster posing, mini Rosie Huntington-Whiteleys and Prince Harrys. A sense of quintessential Britishness is as intrinsic to the brand as with Burberry or Mulberry, but at high street prices. (Though not that High Street – I’d say prices are on the more premium side, comparable to Ted Baker or Club Monaco here, but not unreasonable for the quality and with some more affordable basics. Rachel assured me they wouldn’t be jacking up the price tags for the HK market either, and my wallet thanks them hugely). There’s an emphasis on heritage prints, old-school Arran knits and little details, like embossed buttons and vintage-style labels sewn into each piece, that give it a sense of much-loved tradition but with a youthful twist.

I was also totally in love with the store itself. In HK, home to the mega-mall, store anonymity is the norm. The Jack Wills flagship, housed in Leighton Centre (behind G.O.D) in Causeway Bay, is anything but.

Firstly, it’s huge. Two floors, high ceilings, practically a mansion by Hong Kong standards. Yes, A&F may have got the press inches by forcing out Shanghai Tang but, unless they’re going to work wonders, this is actually the much better shop space.

Secondly, it’s amazing. No longer will wandering through M&S be my only port of call when pangs of homesickness strike – I can now go stroke some Jack Wills stuff too! There are so many idiosyncratic little touches, just the right mix between quirky and cool whilst being distinctively and delightfully British, that I can imagine people (especially Mainland tourists) will be popping into the shop just to take photos – and no doubt, grab a few Union Jack emblazoned souvenirs whilst they’re at it. So there’s a fireplace, vintage luggage cases, huge pre-loved Union Jack sofas, sweeping staircases, dazzling chandeliers, walls of haphazardly placed but perfectly-thought-out pictures, neon antlers, stuffed animals (didn’t take any pictures of these, slightly creepy)… oh and did I mention the big Jack Wills-striped Range Rover too?!

In a place where stores rarely have such a quirky sense of individuality expressed in their décor, this makes Jack Wills a very exciting… and enticing… prospect indeed. Their unique brand identity is just so cohesive (even their business cards have the pink and navy stripes!)… flick through their lookbook and everything just goes. It’s a study in easy fluidity yet without trying too hard.

Honestly, I really can’t think of anywhere that could compare to it in HK, which can only be a good thing. For me, another British chain with a similarly strong (though totally different) brand identity would be All Saints – in Notts, its store was an old bank kitted out to feel cutting-edge cool and rock-star gothic; meanwhile, another brand that has the quirky Brit thing would be Ted Baker, although I feel this has pretty much been entirely lost in HK stores (they used to give away condoms in my local one… can’t see that ever happening here!), whilst on the whole cool word-of-mouth front they’re totally doing a Superdry… but with a slightly posher accent!

A verrrry English tea… complete with too pretty to eat cupcakes!

Jack Wills is famous ‘in the industry’ for not doing billboards and conventional advertising, but going by word-of-mouth and viral marketing campaigns; they used to hire pretty young things to wear their clothes (and no doubt look stunning on them) and have Jack Wills beach and pub parties in the UK, all the time promoting the brand and handing out freebies.

I had a little chat about their marketing strategy here, as I was concerned that with all the new stores opening that would be aggressive about their marketing (seen those huge Gap adverts taking over the whole of Central MTR yet?!) and with very little brand recognition to work on, they might get somewhat lost. However, it sounds like they do have some cool tricks up their sleeves (involving HK’s iconic trams and some fab Facebook competitions) and they’ve created a bit of social media buzz already by inviting so many bloggers to check it out – and from what I’ve seen so far, response has been really positive, myself included!

I brought my friend Aurora along, a hot local twenty-something with a shopping addiction almost as bad as mine (i.e. totally JW’s demographic) and no previous knowledge of JW. She was won over within minutes. What she saw even from a half-finished store and a few racks of clothes had her almost as excited about the store as I was. (And here she is above, rocking her Jack Wills goodies far better than I ever could).

Her – and my! – final thoughts? Forget A&F! Head to Jack Wills instead!

Jack Wills will open two stores in HK – at Leighton Centre, Causeway Bay (see artist’s impression above!) and LCX (Ocean Terminal), Tsim Sha Tsui – at the beginning of December. Thanks to Elle and the whole Jack Wills team for inviting me and being so very welcoming and lovely throughout.

I’ll see you all at the launch party!

Beauty Spot: Becca Skin Perfecting Make-Up System Makeover review

I usually approach makeovers at make-up counters with wariness.

Take advice from overly orange sales assistants who seem to think the best way of advertising their products is to wear as much on their face as possible? No thanks! And, when I have succumbed, it’s been a case of too too much – plastered on like a mask (and feeling almost as heavy as one!) in whacked-out colours and with an emphasis on whatever products they’re currently trying to promote, regardless of whether they suit your skin tone.

However, I bring you one notable exception to the rule – Becca.

Too too much is a notion that isn’t really in this Aussie cosmetics brand’s arsenal. They’re all about natural, effortless beauty – admittedly not much use if you’re seeking crazy colours and glitzy glitters, but great for your go-to day-to-day make-up. Becca wasn’t around where I used to live in the UK but as soon as I came over, I made my way over to one of their counters quick-start – and the fact I’m now onto my third bottle of their Tinted Moisturiser should tell you all you need to know!

The guy in charge of my Skin Perfecting Make-Up System Makeover was the very lovely Jan. Ladies, ask for him and you need never fear of the makeover foundation force-field again! He asked about my general make-up look, what colours I preferred and paid close attention to my skin (verdict: good but after a really poor facial, currently extremely sensitive) and skin-tone. I’m vampire levels of fair but Jan picked and applied all my products expertly to create a light, natural make-up look that I was really happy with!

I think you’ve seen enough pictures of me on here to know my general look by now so you’ll have to make do with the after shots only – and the pout is more through effort of trying to take a decent photo of myself, rather than through model aspirations, trust me!

As I knew I was getting made over, I only applied a quick base with SPF and a slick of eyeliner (I rarely leave my neighbourhood without it!) so the first stage was a quick make-up removal. ‘Wow, this eyeliner is good!’ Jan commented, as he moved onto his third cotton wool square for just my left eye… of course, it was a good old Urban Decay’s 24/7 Eye Pencil, one of my bona fide make-up miracles. Jan had heard of Urban Decay’s magical mystical properties but, UD not being sold in HK, had never tried them, so I told him to recruit someone to go haul for him in Sinagpore’s Sephora… and the rest of the makeover breezed by in make-up gossip and easy chatting!

First, there was a primer, then onto their Luminous Colour Tinted Moisturiser, one of my favourite Becca products. It has a really gorgeous consistency and applies silkily smooth, whilst also offering pretty good coverage for a tinted moisturiser (which often tend to be on the sheer side). The best thing about Becca’s Tinted Moisturiser is that it comes in 13 different shades – so you’re bound to find one that matches and blends in seamlessly with your skin-tone, rather than making do with one of the regulation ‘light, medium or dark’ that most brands (and BB Creams) manage. Factor in an SPF of 25, a light and dreamy texture and that a little goes a long way (one bottle generally lasts me around 18 months), and it’s no surprise this is a total stalwart in my make-up bag!

I also loved what Jan did with my eyes, a slightly smoky look but still subtle enough for day-to-day wear. He used a matte taupe shadow from the Lost Weekend Palette and then added extra depth with an eye pencil, but without going heavy on the waterline – and I am absolutely loving those flicks (no Benefit Get Bent Brush required!)!

What’s more – Jan didn’t use mascara. Is he my guardian make-up angel or what?! My eyes are pretty sensitive as the best of times, but following crap facial, have been bugging out more than ever. He took one look and, rather than ploughing on regardless, said there was no way he was using mascara (and even then, went light and gentle with the rest of my eye make-up). You’ll know it’s a super-special occasion if you see me in my mascara, that’s how much I hate wearing it (it always makes my eyes feel heavy, they invariably start watering at some stage and the hassle of taking it off is enough to kill the ‘oooo fluttery’ joy of initial application) so this really cemented it as a perfect make-up look for me.

After finding out I preferred corals to pinks, he went that way for the rest of my look. He used one of Becca’s best-selling Lip & Cheek Crèmes as a blush (Tuberose I think) and I was really surprised with the results. Cream blushes often come off rather intense and feel heavy on my skin-tone yet with Jan’s dab hands, he managed to create a pretty, delicate and effortless coral flush!  I only wish I had enough confidence in myself to know I could work it just as well at home!

IFC’s toilets – home to decent lighting!

After trying a few lip looks, we eventually settled on one I really loved using another cult Becca product, Beach Tint in Grapefruit, a pretty pinky-coral. I’d heard lots of good things about their Beach Tints, which can be used on both lips and cheeks, and because of that, had been expecting them to have the same kind of watery liquid stain consistency as Benefit’s Benetint/Posietint/Cha Cha Tint/whatever new Tint retread they’ve brought out. Actually, the Becca Beach Tint is more like a light cream (intensely bright out the tube but easily blended in) and in my books, work far better as a lip tint than Benetint’s moisture-sapping stain ever did!

I absolutely loved the light coral colour, plus the deliciously unexpected fresh fruity scent, but what I loved even more was the finish. It’s pretty much the most natural lip finish I’ve seen, but which still made an obvious colour difference to my smackers. It’s definitely not a gloss, glaze or satin finish but definitely far away from being a matte or balm look either; basically, it’s a totally gorgeous, natural lip look, the ultimate ‘my lips but better’ and has immediately gone down on my wish-list!

Finally, a few judicious dabs of concealer for any red patches, a finishing powder (another Becca best-seller with a feather-light texture and radiant finish) and a highlighter and I was good to go!

Do not fear… I will be getting a new camera soon!

I absolutely loved my makeover – and Jan! It’s a really natural but pretty make-up look that totally suits my lifestyle, which for me, is exactly what a good makeover should be – one that took into account my style and my needs, rather than those of the make-up assistant! This is a look that I would wear without hesitation in my day-to-day life; I loved how light and non caked-on it felt and it stayed picture-perfect for a good eight hours, with the eye make-up holding up especially well. Plus, with Jan talking me through it the entire way, it’s one I feel I could manage to do myself too.

Proof positive that this makeover was a good ‘un through and through? I, control freak and beauty addict, would happily entrust Becca and Jan with my make-up again… and again… and again…!

Becca counters are available at Times Square, Pacific Place and IFC Lane Crawford.

London Show Rooms HK: Spring Summer 2012

Regular readers may remember my Red Carpet Rundowns from awards ceremonies of yore, which generally consisted of me writing in the throes of passion to some stunningly beautiful designer dress. Well now, I’ve actually been and gone and seen and TOUCHED these dresses in person. And they are all SO MUCH MORE AMAZING in person!

But also, in a way, not that much more amazing too. At the end of the day, they are just body-part shaped bits of material, much the same as the body-part shaped bits of material you’d find at H&M, Primark or even the local wet market. Celebs, models and the beautiful people have a way of making you think their garments are some sort of magical mystical cloaks of wonder, elevating them to minor divinity status. But actually, having handled the very garments I’ve swooned at on a pixelated level, I can now tell you – it really is just a dress. No pixie dust, no ethereal glow, no heavens opening sound when you touch them… just a dress after all.

But still exceedingly pretty dresses after all!

Enough rambling and onto the point… I was lucky enough to be invited to the London Show Rooms, a British Council initiative to showcase the work of some of Britain’s hottest designers. Having pored over the recent pics from London Fashion Week, it was honestly like a dream come true!

I went with the lovely Hester from Sassy Hong Kong, and tried to keep my ridiculous squeeing in check in case she realised what a fashion fan-girl I am – especially for someone who generally looks such a state in person!

The event itself was a little weird – I saw someone toting a giant papiermâché hand, which just about says it all. Apart from the fact that no-one bothered to introduce themselves so I had no idea who worked there or who was just wafting around to cover the event like myself, the biggest downfall was that very few of the dresses were displayed on a body – either real or plastic. These dresses come alive shown on people, yet there were fewer than 10 models standing around the room, strutting their insolent stuff (and yes, I did totally feel like I was in an episode of Next Top Model!). A fashion show, or even a small presentation about the designers (or even just better lighting!), would have done more justice to these wonderful garments.

On the plus side, you were allowed to handle the garments to your heart’s desire. I’m far too intimated by snobby shop assistants to ever try and go into the retail shops myself (Pretty Woman syndrome!) so it was great to be able to enjoy a leisurely swoon and sigh, without feeling like my grubby mitts would be shoo-ed off at any moment!

My favourite – Mary Katrantzou. I loved these dresses in print, I loved these dresses in pixel and I LOVED these dresses in person!

Katrantzou’s calling card is colourful, mental, full-on floral prints – as you can see from her rail (banner photo), which is just a riot of rainbow! The dress on the model was just exquisite – the flow, the shape, the way it sat on her body, that gorgeous train and most importantly, the fabulous print itself. You can appreciate how precisely thought-out the colours and shapes are by the way each different print begins and ends so crisply and beautifully – the fact the model looks gift-wrapped is a Brucie bonus! – but this is a perfect example of why high street knock-offs will never quite cut it. There is no way you could get as complex and crazy a print that still looks expensive, flattering and elegant for el cheapo prices!

I also loved this tropical-coloured coral reef asymmetric dress from The Katrantzou (held by Hester!). What you can’t really see in this photo is the gorgeous stiff full skirt, which pouffed out uber-cutely, and it’s such a shame I didn’t get to see this on a model, where it really would have come alive. Again, this isn’t the kind of tailoring you can get for high street prices – and that’s coming from someone that has been looking for that proper pouffy structured full skirt for ages! (Or alternatively, tell me where and I’m there!)

My next favourite, somewhat surprisingly, was Marios Schwab. His pieces were SO much more beautiful in person; on the catwalk, they can look a little plain – especially compared with all the other crazy colours and vibrant prints that come out to play for Spring/Summer. What I’ve always loved about his designs is how they always perfectly combine the tough with the sensual, the sexy with the soft. Despite the corsetry and cut-out elements to many of his dresses, they’re the very antithesis of the tired old trollope standby, the bandage dress.

It’s an overtly sexy, tight-fitting silhouette, but muted with netting, overlays and veiling. It’s lattice-work that actually reveals very little at all. It’s tough shapes and colours, but then a sprinkling of Swarovski crystals. And what amazed me most was how soft these were to the touch. Many bandage dresses I’ve handled before felt hard, rigid and constricting – that’s how they suck you in all the right places – but these were meltingly fluid, like a buttery soft fluid leather. I really loved the pretty lilac and blush coloured ones, which often lose out on the red carpet stakes to the more obvious black, white or nude numbers.

I also adored the work of Peter Pilotto. Pilotto’s digital prints were really hot a couple of seasons ago, where everyone and their ice-cream man was seen in his colourful abstract numbers (or a high street knock off of them!) but I feel he’s since been overshadowed by the likes of Katranzou and Erdem. Well, this collection showed me that he’s definitely still alive and kicking… with a vengeance! These were ultra-colourful, but in much less whimsical way – I’m gonna call it future-tribal! These were also some of the more complex dress shapes on show with lots of intricate cutting and plenty of those full structured skirts I love. Here’s the red dress I was eyeing for my wardrobe!

I was expecting to be wow-ed by Roksanda Ilincic and Jonathan Saunders, two of my other favourites on the red carpet (especially the divine Ms Roksanda, as worn by my ultimate girl crush, Kate Middleton) yet I ended up being a little disappointed.

Ilnicic’s pieces for me have always been about stunning cutting, draping and folding and an effortlessly tactile structured but unstructured elegance that enlivens her essentially simple and classic shapes. On coat-hangers, this just wasn’t evident. The colour palette was gorgeous – vivid turquoise and fuchsia jewel tones playing off muted mustards and grey but I needed to see these on a person! I’m still lusting after her Debenhams collection though!

Saunder’s rail was pretty delicious from afar – a cool ice-cream coloured rack of spring sorbets, especially to the right of my picture where my favourite of his pieces sat. As worn by Samatha Cameron and another one with a Debenhams collaboration under his belt, I felt his outfits were a lot more mainstream than most of the other designers here, though would probably look lovely on (Thandie Newton is another fan and I always think she looks amazing), but unfortunately they didn’t do much for me on the hanger either. Some of his prints were surprisingly acid-y, Pucci-esque and Mystery Machine-worthy though – I guess we just don’t get to see those on the red carpet as much.

David Koma was another surprise – him of dressing Cheryl Cole on X Factor in dustbin lids fame. As expected, lots of chunky embellishments (see the 3D Persplex on what I believe was a miniskirt yet which was so short I wouldn’t even wear it as a scarf!) but I saw some more mature designs in there too.

I loved the model’s outfit, which was decorated with awesome iridescent panels of sequins, shimmering and gleaming like insects wings in the light, which just looked intensely flattering yet still different. Expect to see more of Koma on the red carpet – and with a Topshop collaboration on the way (as has Katranzou, by the way), his time is definitely now.

Holly Fulton is another ‘one to watch’, who apparently revels in bad taste. Not really my style but nice to see some unashamedly happy designs (she’s supposedly influenced by Versace and most of these would fit right in with their H&M partnership) – but I have to admit, the model does look amazing!

Finally, some shoe porn of the highest order from Nicholas Kirkwood. I could have spent half an hour playing with these alone. If ever there was a case for shoes as art work, here it be. I once called Kirkwood’s designs ‘pure joy on a hoof’ and after seeing them in person, I stand by that description!

Of course, they’re far too beautiful for me to ever actually want to wear, as opposed to bring out the closet to stroke lovingly in times of sadness – as if I’d ever be able to afford a pair anyway!

So there you have it… amazing designer dresses are amazing. Not that amazing. But still amazing enough.