Sophie Hulme : Bold as brass

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Sophie Hulme, double plate tan tote, £535 (Liberty)

If you’re as obsessed with bags as me, then you can’t fail to have already discovered the beautiful creations of Sophie Hulme. A British designer, graduating in 2007, she set up her own label within two months and the rest as they say is history. Now stocked by all the finest retailers – Selfridges, Fenwick and Harvey Nichols to name but a few, this is the result of huge ambition and excellent design.

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Sophie Hulme Black Leather Satchel, £255 (Selfridges) 

Sophie’s bags are characterised by the brass plates which adorn both the large totes and smaller satchels. They signify genuine luxury, but with a tough edge. I found myself gawping when coming face to face with one on the tube recently. They really are beautiful up close! And it’s not only the bags which have been given the expensive brass treatment – I’ve fallen for this chip fork necklace..it’s somehow elegant and fun at the same time. Amazing!

ImageSophie Hulme, brass chip fork necklace, £60 (Coggles.com)

So, if you’re in the market for something special, but understated, this is the brand for you.

Visit Sophie’s website – SophieHulme.com

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Stay classy with Mint Velvet

Today, I want to share with you a brand I love which has been on the scene since 2009, but which (in my opinion) still remains rather an undiscovered secret for the 20-something market. Mint Velvet markets itself as ‘relaxed glamour’, and with a collection comprised of elegant pieces in neutral tones with quality lace, bead and button detailing, it does just that.

Stone embellished top, £69 and mink battered sequin skirt, £149

Set up by three ex-Arcadia employees with backgrounds in establishing Principles and Topshop as leading brands, it is evident that these ladies know their target market inside-out and with highly desirable butter-soft leather jackets and on-trend shell tops, they tick all the boxes.

Foundation lace dress, £129 and Caitlyn print dress, £89

Available both online, at a number of standalone stores as well as being stocked at John Lewis and House of Fraser, Mint Velvet is slowly taking over the world. Prices start from a very reasonable £29 for a silk-front top and top off at around £249 for a leather jacket, so get involved and get classy now!

Mink sequin, £89 and bead top and sorbet cropped jeans, £59

Visit the Mint Velvet website.

Furnish yourself with a Furla

It may have been a while since we last spoke, but I’m back and I wanted to share my recent handbag obsession with you!

An Italian brand which has been supplying bags, shoes and accessories to the masses since 1927, Furla epitomizes understated cool without being flashy, label-heavy or as expensive as half the other designer brands out there. I love the subtle fastenings and good quality leather they use and so I find myself this season hankering after one of their beautiful bags..

Get yourself down to their Regents Street store for some lunchtime eye-candy or browse online..your choice. Here are my favourites!

(Montmartre Boston Bag, Furla, £370)

(Furla, Equestre Large Top Handle Bag, Saks Fitch Avenue, £614.19)

(Globetrotter Messenger Bag, Furla, £315)

Luxe sandals

It’s that time of year again! The sun is out, we’re all attempting to break out our Spring wardrobe and inevitably you are starting to reassess whether you have anything stylish (that isn’t black or a boot) to wear on your feet.

(Carvela Kute bow sandals, Kurt Geiger, £55)

I find that March or April are the prime times to pick up your summer sandals. The shops have all the best ones at this point so if you want to get ahead, buy some NOW..rather than struggle with the bargain bins come June.

These beautiful Ravel ones are top of my list. Thanks to Dorothy Perkins, Ravel shoes are back on our radar..and not only are they 100% leather, they are also super glamorous. I cannot wait to get these out!

(Ravel leopard wedge sandal, Dorothy Perkins, £55)

My tip for the ultimate in luxe sandals are embellishments and good quality materials. Currently hankering after these very expensive Moschino fork sandals in black and gold – a classic colour combination, versatile and very luxurious – these will see you through the season if you can stump up the cash in the first place!

(Moschino Fork-front sandals, Farfetch.com, £329)

Minty madness

Pastels are everywhere right now, however I can’t seem to quite get my head around wearing baby blue and powder pink – it feels a bit twee.

(Berenice Bejo in a mint green gown at the 2012 Oscars)

However, the one Spring shade I have taken to is mint. Since Berenice Bejo stepped out in a beautifully jewelled mint gown at the Oscars, it’s been taking over my wardrobe rapidly. Mint is beautiful, mint is elegant and fresh and mint is the go-to trans-seasonal colour! Here are a few beauties I’ve spied. Enjoy!

(Koko soft leather ballet pumps, Topshop, £40)

(Lace dress, Zara, £49.99)

(Leather Pippa bag in Mint, Modalu, £195)

The trash-fash look

This week I have mainly been thinking about laid back, grunge-style fashion. This may be because I’ve been to 2 gigs in the space of 4 days which somehow means you can’t escape the look. So, today I’m going to show you how to put the ‘trash-fash’ look together and channel your inner Alice Dellal!

So, first port of call would be a good leather jacket – see blog post dated 17th Feb so presuming you have followed these rules and leather is already a staple in the wardrobe, your next essential items are the casual tshirt and the destroyed denim. The key to pulling this off is downplaying it – I’m not suggesting you go hell-for-leather is a crop top and hotpants like Alice – the idea is to make it work for you.

Roll-sleeve tshirts are a must – top of your shoulder / mid-bicep is what you’re aiming for. This gives a somewhat louche appearance. I like the Alexander Wang or Zoe Karssen versions Net-A-Porter currently have or try Topshop / ASOS for more affordable alternatives.

(Zoe Karssen Adieu tshirt, Net-A-Porter, £53)

Destroyed denim shorts – best place for this is undoubtedly Brick Lane. Head to Rokit for some quality vintage and you’re sorted. The prices are ridiculously reasonable (better than on their website.) When searching for perfect denim shorts, the main rules to follow are; wash – get a good stonewash for authenticity and make sure the fit on the waist is good. Once you’ve solved this, you can go about customising the shorts as you see fit (rolling them up, trimming them or destroying them further with scissors.) Ta dah!

(Recycled Denim Turn Up Shorts, Rokit, £24)

4 of the best ankle boots

When it comes to boots, I never feel as though I have enough pairs. Admittedly it’s hard to justify why you need black ankle boots in a cuban-heel, a stiletto heel, with laces and also in a variation of leather or suede for you to feel complete, but somehow this is something I am faced with on a regular basis.

I am not alone in this obsession it seems – take the Ohanian boot (below), I am 1 of 4 of my friends who have now bought these Pied a Terre beauties! This rather underlines the point that good boots are hard to find, but once you find a pair, everybody wants them. So, I have decided to list out 4 of the best I have seen in the shops right now..

(Ohanian boot by Pied a Terre – 1 of the 6 pairs I bought last year)

Completely love these Hudson boots – in fact their entire range underlines what a good boot should be. Not only are they the perfect everyday boot, you’ll be able to wear them year-round as they’re low-rise which means flattering on the shin/calf area = perfect for wearing with dresses in the summer. Loving the buckle-back!

(Encke multi in tan, Hudson Shoes, £150)

These Acne boots are a fash-pack favourite – and unsurprising at that price – us mere mortals can’t afford them! I’d try Topshop’s Ambush boots for more affordable identical alternative – available in a range of colours. These are already hugely popular amongst my group of friends. Gorgeous!

(Pistol short boots, Acne, £350+)

Another celebrity-endorsed brand – Ash, these suede western boots are the perfect transitional heel height. Wear to work and then out in the evening – understated, yet cool. They never go out of fashion. Try Office for some cheaper alternatives.

(Ash Jalouse boot, ASOS, £145)

And…the grand finale – the leopard print boot! OK, they may look ridiculously high (they are) but the benefit of buying an expensive shoe from somewhere like LK Bennett is that you know they’re going to be comfortable as they’re so well-made. A killer heel in more ways than one! Officially the best leopard-print boot out there.

(Dusk boot, LK Bennett, £275)

A ladies guide to mens shoes

Anyone who has known me for at least a short period of time will know about my obsession with footwear – on myself, on other people and how a bad pair of shoes on a man is the ultimate turn-off. i.e. if the shoes are bad, there’s no point looking at anything going on above that. 90% of the time it’s true, 10% of the time you have to concede and force him shopping at the earliest convenience.

(Hiking sandals – the ultimate in offensive footwear)

So, I may not be a man and may not have many male readers, but I will attempt to provide a brief guide to what is acceptable and what is horribly offensive in my eyes. First off – cuban heels, rubber slides, jesus sandals, trekking sandals, crocs and cowboy boots are all no’s I’m afraid so if you have them in your wardrobe, time to build a good fire and send them hiking.

Smart shoes – a good leather shoe should form the basis of a working man’s wardrobe, but be sure to avoid the square-toed or overly pointy category. They’re just weird and either give the impression of an overgrown school-kid (square toe) or flashy chav (overly pointy.) You’re ideally looking for something with a nice oval / almond toe. I think these shoes are just right – the key is quality so be prepared to spend some cash.

(Alfrick, toe cap oxford, Reiss, £149)

Boots – great as long as you’re not tucking your jeans into them. You’re not in a boyband and you’re certainly not an All Saints model. Stick to either a simple, unfussy chelsea boot with slim fit jeans or these Chukka boots which are smart, without being overly formal. Remember chunky soles are for Tom Cruise. If you’re short, suck it up – no woman wants to date a man in heels!

(Crockett & Jones, Tetbury chukka desert boots, Selfridges, £280)

Casual – the trainer is where a lot of men go off-piste and you uncover some scary choices. Running trainers should stay at the gym – they look terrible with jeans. Velcro or slip-on trainers are creepy – don’t even think about it. Invest in some classic Converse (ideally white) or some slim-fitting Puma/Adidas/Onitsuka alternatives. A chunky trainer will cause some weird conflict with the bottom of your jeans so to keep the lines smooth, choose an understated, slim-profile shoe in neutral tones and you can’t go wrong.

(Onitsuka Tiger Mexico 66 Trainers, ASOS, £65)

Hope this helps – now to find a man who fits the shoes!

Mimi’s beautiful bags

I used to live just off Brick Lane and as anyone who’s into their fashion will know, it’s a haven for new designers, jaw-dropping vintage and the odd crackhead. But I’m not here to talk to you about crackheads, I’m here to introduce you to Mimi!

(Handy Pelham in tan, Mimi Berry, £262)

Mimi Berry is a St. Martins Graduate so that alone should give you an indication as to the standard of her products, but let me give you a bit of a run-down. Starting out in 2001, Mimi set up camp on Cheshire Street, bringing fine leather bags and purses to those of us who had only ever known a cheapo Topshop special.

Now re-housed in Bethnal Green, the Mimi name is rapidly spreading and since 2007 she has produced bags for the Tate and is now stocked in Anthropologie and Toast. This is a far cry from when I first found her, still relatively unknown on the Brick Lane backstreets. You had to ring a buzzer just to enter the shop!

(Medium Musette in black, Mimi Berry, £185)

My favourite then and now is the medium Musette. Quality italian leather combined with excellent brass fittings make for an expensive-looking bag which certainly competes with the big name brands such as Ally Capellino. I think they’re probably nicer anyway!

(Classic large Bond in red, Mimi Berry, £80)

I also love this Bond wallet in red. It looks like something Mulberry would produce (but at the fraction of the cost!) and doubles up nicely as a clutch. Stylish and multi-functional – what more could you want? If you like what you see, get yourself down to Mimi to check out the diverse women’s (and mens) options. You will never be hankering for good quality leather again!

Visit the Mimi Shop at Unit 1, 7 Winkley Street, London, E2 6PY

Our secret Kate

Kate – a name now synonymous with elegance and great taste thanks to the Duchess of Cambridge, but did you know there’s another stylish Kate out there? Going by the name of Kate Kanzier, she is a designer producing excellent shoes and bags at highly affordable prices, but it’s all a bit of a secret unless of course you work near Leather Lane where her one-and-only shop resides.

Producing cutting-edge leather bags and shoes since 2001, my current favourite is the Duena which is a fantastic lower-budget alternative to the colour-block totes which designers from DVF to Anya Hindmarch have produced this season. I think this bag is chic and perfect for every day and available in 6 different colours, you’re bound to find your perfect match. Just chuck everything in and go!

(Duena Tote, Kate Kanzier, £65)

Kate Kanzier also stocks a wide range of brogues, ballerinas, heels, wedges and boots. 90% are leather, but even the faux-leather are very well done so worth the spend. Check out the vintage-style courts and tassel slippers, they are divine. For Spring, I am considering investing in these powder blue suede brogues. (Elvis would be proud!) With vibrant pink laces and a chunky heel, these will be ideal with my rolled-up skinny jeans or with ankle socks and a flippy skirt. Ahh…come on sun, I need an excuse to wear these!!!!

(Betana blue suede brogues, Kate Kanzier, £55)