Category Archives: Style

Winter Want List 2014: Style

grana hong kongFeel that tiny drop in temperature in Hong Kong over the past few weeks? Well that, my friend, is what us shopaholics know as a trigger… a trigger to buy new things because it’s a whole new season! Right?! RIGHT. It’s called Becky Bloomwood logic, y’all.

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Summer Lust List 2014

Why isn’t there a Santa for summertime? There are simply too many things I want… and not nearly enough fairy godmothers to gift them to me!

ANIMAL MAGIC

Forget animal prints, I’d rather take “animal magic” to a more literal… and cute… level!

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Abercrombie & Fitch hits Hong Kong – I like girls that wear Abercrombie & Fitch…

UPDATE: In November 2016, Abercrombie & Fitch announced their Hong Kong store would be closing, as a result of the economic downtown – it had been rumoured for a while and what with Forever 21 also exiting their phenomenally expensive space in Causeway Bay, was not really a surprise. As part of their rebranding, A&F also removed all their #HotGuys videos from Youtube (and from the stores!); props to various gay YT channels for preserving Call Me Maybe for perpetuity, whilst I’ve plugged in some other fan/news videos to try showcase the mayhem of the opening. Let’s remember the good times…

So, in case you live under not just one rock but ten tonnes of them, Abercrombie & Fitch finally opened its first Hong Kong store in the iconic Pedder Building in Central.

At 11am, August 11, 2012, the doors finally opened (signature Fierce cologne filling the air). People queued overnight, lines of not just hundreds but thousands swarmed all the way around Pedder, an MTR exit was closed and police barricades were in effect. Don’t believe me? See the video above!

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Red Carpet Rundown: I ♥ Jennifer Lawrence

Over the past month, I have come down with an overwhelming fever… HUNGER GAMES FEVER. You’ve seen my mani, you’ve listened to my ramblings and now you must tolerate my love for Jennifer Lawrence too.

She was at a lot of awards shows circa her Oscar nomination for Winter’s Bone. She was a truly annoying Mystique in X-Men: First Class. And she’s dating Tony from Skins. Honestly, I never felt much towards her other than indifference. But come her casting as Katniss Everdeen, The Girl On Fire, and suddenly she clicked… To the power hundred!

Lawrence is phenomenal in the films… driven, hard, urgent, grounded, strong but vulnerable compulsive watching… but I’m here to tell you about my raging girl crush instead. Katniss Everdeen was always going to be a winning character if she was played right, but what I love about J.Law (as probably no one is calling her) is how awesome it was to see a real woman on screen. A woman who didn’t look anorexic, didn’t look plastic, didn’t look like she spends every waking moment in the gym refusing carbs, but a curvy, gorgeous, young woman with a natural fresh beauty and a magnetic screen presence. And my, has she worked some gorgeous gowns during the Hunger Games promo tour. As The Girl On Fire rightly should!

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Monki see, Monki do! Monki Spring/Summer 2012 Collection

My story with Monki, the Scandinavian street-style sister brand to H&M, has been a potted one. But, and I’m going to spoil it now for you all, it’s one with a happy ending – completely down to Gloria, their superstar PR in HK.

When it first arrived in Hong Kong, I rolled up to their Mong Kok store excited at the prospect of something new (no Monkis in the UK back then!) – but I was hugely disappointed. Everything was black, baggy and oversized or black, cropped and oversized, there were far too many pairs of leggings for me to process and overall, the whole thing was far too fashion-forward for me. I scuttled back to H&M tail between my legs and vowed never to return.

I then wrote an article criticising Monki and wished Cos, another of H&M sister’s brands, would make the trip to the 852 instead. Enter Gloria, who went to the trouble of finding my email address, messaged me to say that she was sad that my experiences at Monki had been disappointing – but wondered had I been recently, as actually Monki had had a bit of a style makeover.  I took a look at the pictures and was amazed. Colour! Non-baggy! Not all leggings!

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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!

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.