Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Handbags or Rucksacks? Which is the winner?

Hello lovelies!

I'm talking functional fashion today, and it's bags in particular that I'd like to discuss.  If you're a long time reader of Coco, you'll already know that my favourite fashion staple is a good handbag.  If you're a newbie, hello and thanks for reading...FYI I love bags!!  I have bags of all shapes, sizes and brands both high street and designer in my wardrobe; but when I'm shopping, travelling, or working and I need a lot of space, I always favour a tote bag.

In London with my Mister and my well-travelled Louis Vuitton Neverfull

I bought my Louis Vuitton Neverfull PM in 2015 when I turned 30.  I'd always wanted a high-end designer bag so decided that this was the perfect opportunity to treat myself and I have to say, it's travelled to all corners of the globe with me!  It's definitely the most practical of my handbags and very roomy, but because it's a luxury item I try not to use it everyday in fear of it being broken beyond repair (a girl's gotta dream big-but it may be the only one I ever have!!).  The other problem with a tote style handbag is that when it gets full and heavy, my shoulders and arms get heavy too!  

The solution to the problem?  Enter the rucksack...

I'll be honest, I never thought I'd ever use a rucksack (I didn't even have a rucksack when I was at school-I had a satchel!).  I bought this one on the high street at H 'n' M for around £20 (I chose it because it's very similar in style to Burberry's rucksack, yet about a 100th of the price!!) deliberately choosing a cheaper option in case I only used it once.  The first time I used it, I was forever searching all of the pockets for my phone and lipstick, but once you assign a pocket to an object, you're good to go!  It's really practical, has heaps of space inside, and when it gets super heavy, at least I can spread the weight across the two straps; achey shoulders be gone!!  I added the key chain and badges just to make it more individual.  I'm finding that for everyday functionality,  I'm opting for my rucksack more and more and I don't think I'm alone in this.  When I'm shopping, or even just browsing Instagram, I definitely see more rucksacks than ever before; it's like a rucksack revolution!

 With my lovely friend Krissi at a fashion event, rucksack in tow

So what are the deciding factors when choosing handbag or rucksack?  Let's look at this from an everyday practicality perspective.  Say you're at college, or have a super busy lunch hour where you need to commute from one place to another.  You've got lots of stuff to carry, but you have to also eat your lunch on the go, or carry a coffee; in this instance you can't beat a rucksack.  It's the handsfree option, everything is tucked away safely but you can still manoeuvre with ease in a way that you can't always with a tote.  But if you travel light and rarely have the mad dash commute, and you'd favour something more stylish, maybe a tote would be the best choice.  Whichever you chose, if it's an every day bag you need, my advice would be to choose one that's well made.  For long life, chose a really good genuine leather; trust me your bag will last longer and be more durable to every day wear and tear.  Plus there's something really cool about leather; it ages beautifully so even when it's old it can still look amazing when it's a bit on the shabbier side.  If you carry a laptop, just be sure to factor it's size into the mix before you make your final choice; again real leather can help protect your sacred devices due to it's durability.  

So which is better?  Well personally I think that they each have their benefits.  For dress-down days, I'd definitely favour my rucksack but for more formal wear, it would always be a tote.  Both are practical in their own ways and I guess the real favourite is determined by lifestyle choice.  

So now to the verdict; which would you choose?  I don't think I'll ever be able to give up my handbag addiction, but I'll certainly be adding some rucksacks to my collection!


Thank you to MAHI Leather for inviting me to write this article.  All images and opinions are my own.

Friday, 9 June 2017

125 years: The Bowes Museum, a celebration...

Hello lovelies!

If you're from the North and you're looking for something to do tomorrow, then why not visit the beautiful Bowes Museum?  Tomorrow from 10am-6pm, they are celebrating their 125 years, and it's going to be quite the party! Live music (including Sunderland stars The Lake Poets), a picnic in the grounds, chat to John and Joséphine, children's activities, talks and tours and much, much more!  And the best part?  It's only £2.50 for adults (museum admission included) and free entry for accompanying children!  That's a whopping saving and a great excuse to spend the day exploring an amazing place!

While you're there, you could check out the amazing Joséphine Bowes exhibition.  She was such an integral part of the museum's creation, and the exhibition is really very interesting!  I loved looking at her fashion influences and the things she loved!

Or you could reimagine Wedgwood with Michael Eden.  Imagine having a vase in your home that depicted X Factor's Honey G, or the cast of Strictly Come Dancing!

You could learn about David Garrick and the theatre, or you could simply wander and take in the immense grandeur of the permanent exhibits at the museum, seeing the life that John and Josephine lived.

If fashion is your thing, there's always lots to see in the amazing Fashion and Textiles department...

But you must make sure that you save time to go and visit the beautiful Silver Swan, the jewel in the crown of the Bowes Museum...

...and it's always worth a wander around the amazing gardens!

If all of that makes you hungry, you could always visit the wonderful Café Bowes for some scrumptious food (the fruit scones are my favourite!!).  My tummy is rumbling just thinking about them!

With all of this on offer, what is there to stop you?  I can guarantee you'll have a really amazing day, and hopefully the museum will hold a special place in your hearts forever, just like it has in mine!

For more information on the 125th year celebration visit The Bowes Museum website here


Friday, 2 June 2017

Joséphine Bowes: A woman of taste and influence...

Hello lovelies!

On Friday 19th May, I was kindly invited along to The Bowes Museum for the preview of their latest exhibition 'Joséphine Bowes: A Woman of Taste and Influence', a particularly special exhibition as the museum is celebrating its 125th year this year.  I've written many pieces about the museum and its exhibits over the last couple of years and in that time, I've grown particularly fond of Joséphine; she was French for a start (I love all things French!), was incredibly fashionable, a lover of art (artist and collector)-I'm sure should timings and backgrounds have aligned, we could've been wonderful friends!  But as she is sadly no longer with us, the best tribute that I can give her is to tell you all about her exhibition (and her extraordinary museum!) in hopes that you might make a visit.  I attended the preview which was excellent, but was so keen to get back and learn more about Joséphine, that I visited again just this week!

In tribute of her love of French fashion-I wore my favourite French blouse to the preview-I hope she would have approved!

I was first attracted to Joséphine because of her love of fashion; she always liked to look glamorous and spent copious amounts of money on clothes, but referring to her as a fashionista really is doing her a massive disservice as she was so much more than the sum of her clothes.  Starting out as an actress in Paris, she met her husband John Bowes in 1847 whilst he was living there (although he regularly visited England to keep abreast of his affairs; he was a wealthy landowner having inherited collieries and estates in County Durham following the death of his father, the 10th Earl of Strathmore).  They fell in love and were married in 1852; he gave her the nickname Puss.

 A portrait of Joséphine 

John Bowes

A mechanical mouse bought by Joséphine for John

John Bowes indulged Joséphine's love of fashion, regularly buying her clothes and fine jewellery.  Often dressed by Charles Frederick Worth, her favourite and leading couturier of the time and the dresser of Empress Eugénie of France, Joséphine often spent large sums of money on couture clothing and accessories, and although few portraits of her exist, those that do show that she had exquisite taste.

A recreation of the dress from Joséphine's portrait

As well as having amazing fashion sense and style, Joséphine was also very accomplished at choosing interiors for her home.  A woman with a keen eye for detail, she often employed the Parisian firm Monbro fils aîné to help her decorate and furnish salons across her and John's numerous properties (her salons were credited with being some of the most brilliant in Paris!).  There are various receipts from the Bowes' to Monbro on display in the exhibition which give a great insight into Joséphine's spending and to just how much having a stunning home meant to such an important lady with a new social standing.  Walking through the museum, there's also evidence of this in the recreation of some of the key rooms from her various homes.  A keen socialite and host, the Bowes' homes must have been stunning places to visit for soirees.

Probably the most important thing to learn about Joséphine was her love of the arts, because without this, The Bowes Museum would not be standing today.  She was an avid collector and a serious artist herself, having exhibited her own paintings in the Louvre at the annual Paris Salon four years in a row from 1867 to 1870.  In a time when art was dominated by men, this is a spectacular achievement and testament to her tenacity and forward thinking.  As well as her own art, Joséphine spent much time buying the work of many up and coming young French painters, potters and writers.  After spending years collecting, it was Joséphine that was the driving force behind the museum, as a way to share her collection and by the 1860s, the plan for the museum dominated the life of both her and John.  She was the dealer and negotiator for the acquisition of most of the Bowes' collection of art and its worth noting that the Silver Swan was acquired by the couple in 1873, for the bargain price of 5,000 francs (it had first exhibited at 50,000 francs); with the aesthetic appeal it still has today, it surely was worth every last franc!

A selection of Joséphine's own paintings
The fabulous Silver Swan
Joséphine was the driving force behind the museum

The foundation stone for the Museum was laid by Joséphine on 27th November 1869 and the saddest part of the Bowes' story for me is that neither she nor John got to see the Museum in its completion.  Joséphine had many recurring health problems, but her death in 1874 still came as a shock; she was aged just forty-eight.  John died in 1885, and their coffins rest side by side behind the Roman Catholic Church at the edge of the museum park, facing the museum.

Architectural sketches of the museum and the trowel which laid the first stone

Without even realising, Joséphine and John have given so much to the people of Barnard Castle.  The Bowes Museum is one of the most beautiful and unique buildings in the North of England and the exhibitions that it attracts are simply wonderful.  Joséphine was such an influential figure in bringing the museum to fruition and by wandering through its various galleries, its clear to see just how exquisite her taste was.  I'm so in awe of this wonderful lady and truly thankful to her for her vision.  A wonderful story of a couple deeply in love who were just as successful in their business dealings together as they were in their personal lives, they truly were a power couple of their time and one whose legacy will live on forever in this wonderful and beautiful building.

Thank you as always to the wonderful staff at the museum for allowing me to write this review and for inviting me to the preview.  'Joséphine Bowes: A woman of taste and influence' runs until July 16th, 2017.  For more information about visiting the museum, please visit their website here.


Monday, 22 May 2017

Fenwick York's Summer Garden Party and meeting Margaret Woodliff-Wright...

Hello lovelies!

Since I've been a fashion blogger, I've been lucky to meet some really amazing, talented and inspirational people (and been lucky enough to make some wonderful friends along the way!).  I've formed friendships in places I'd never have expected to find them, and have really enjoyed uncovering my loves of both fashion illustration and fashion history through working with The Bowes Museum and visiting various exhibitions up and down the country.  I write about fashion because it is my passion; an outlet for my love of all things designer and couture, so much so that it is easy to get lost in my little world and forget about those who might be reading my ramblings!  One lady who stumbled across my little corner of the internet, is the amazing couture milliner Margaret Woodliff-Wright who I am pleased to say contacted me to tell me all about her creative world, and we stayed in touch.  I could spend hours pouring over images of her intricate and beautifully made hats, so when she invited me to come to Fenwick York and view her latest collection as part of Fenwick's Summer Garden Party, I jumped at the chance to finally meet her in person!

Fenwick's Summer Garden Party took place on Thursday 18th May and was a fantastic event in which they offered amazing discounts throughout the store, with 20% off fashion and 15% off beauty (and some further discounts for the early birds between 9 and 11am) perfect if, like me, you're always looking for designer bargains!  It's worth noting too that as part of Royal Ascot week, Fenwick were also showcasing work from different milliners up and down the country.  Fenwick often run amazing promotions across their group, so it's always worth checking their website here to see what's up and coming in your local store (mine's Newcastle, and my boyfriend and I often visit on a weekend-it's by far our favourite place to shop and the best place to visit for the latest in designer labels in the North-East; we love it!).

A display of Margaret's work in Fenwick, York

I hopped off the train in York on Thursday afternoon and hot-footed it straight to Fenwick; I couldn't wait to meet Margaret and see her beautiful collection.  I love Fenwick in York and after a browse around the handbag section and their amazing beauty hall, I headed upstairs to find Margaret on the first floor, in amongst the designer womenswear.  She welcomed me with open arms and it was lovely to finally meet her in person.  She introduced me to her friend Erica, who was modelling one of her newer designs, Summer Rosa priced at £375, which looked absolutely stunning!  The timing of my arrival couldn't have been better, as Erica and Margaret were about to take a tea-break at the instore Carluccio's and kindly invited me to join them; a great opportunity to get to know them both a little better!  We chatted about work, and Margaret told me a little more about her Spring collection.  I should point out here that her work is absolutely stunning-she is an incredibly talented lady!  All of her pieces are completely handmade; she studied Couture Millinery at Leeds College of Art and alongside creating her seasonal collections, she also takes commissions and creates everything at her studio in Northumberland.  I have seen many of her pieces online, but nothing could have prepared me for how sensational they'd be in person.  Her pieces in this collection range from £125 to £375 and there really is something to suit every style, taste and colouring!

After tea, she told me a little about each piece in turn (and even let me try on some of my favourites!).

The first that drew my eye was 'Georgia' priced at £250, a truly beautiful piece made from stiffened lace and finished with a Swarovski focal button.  'Georgia' sits beautifully on the right side of the head on a couture covered headband.  The colouring wasn't right for me as I'm very pale, but on darker hair with a dress in a similar hue (or against a contrasting colour) this would look sensational-I was so in love with it!

Noire semi-turban, decorative turban wrap in black shot lurex sinamay, over a couture base.  worn casually with a feature bow positioned to sit over the left ear

Next I tried on a black half-turban which was equally as beautiful and unlike any headpiece I've ever seen before.  I loved its detail, but I think you'll agree that it was better suited to the lovely Aimee from social media and marketing than it was to me!

Aimee wearing Noire semi-turban (image credit here)

The piece I was most excited to try though was an Audrey Hepburn inspired number (I LOVE Audrey!).  Based on a 1950s piece by Dior and set on a wide satin covered headband, the 'Lady Johanna' priced at £300, was very easy to wear and was the most beautiful colour.

My favourite to wear however was this little pale blue flat cap, set on couture hat elastic.  I let Margaret expertly place it on my head and I loved the way it looked against my short hair.

Pictured with Margaret having lots of fun trying on all of her styles!

I didn't try on every piece, but I hope my images give you an idea of the sheer craftsmanship and beauty of Margaret's work.  I've listed a little bit of information from Margaret's catalogue about many of her hats in turn, below:

 Alicia, £200, measuring 15cm and featuring 3 ruffle satin cream peonies and mother of pearl effect stamens all set in crin roll (worn to the right of the head, attached with couture hat elastic)

 Front centre: Charlie Aqua, £200, 10cm base.  Pure silk aqua covered cone, miniature silk roses, two cut coque spiky mounts.  To be worn to the right and attached with a metal headband.

 Francesca, £375, 15cm button base.  Hand-rolled and dip-dyed cotton organdie roses and lilies set on a pale pink sinamay button.  To be worn to the right and attached with couture elastic.

 Another of my favourites, Brooke Ivory, £125.  Ivory coque feathers with diamanté detail, set on sinamay silver with silver tipped feather and diamanté fascinator, cut coque feathers.  Worn to the right on a satin-covered narrow headband.

 Lily, £375, 16cm base. Vintage rose hand-finished goose nagoire feathers, ivory circular crin centre with Swarovski detail.  Worn to the right on a couture headband.

 Round hat, back of photo: Eloise, £375, a pale-pink parisisal saucer, the crown is covered in silver cocktail fabric.  Saucer finished with silver crin bow, Swarovski diamantés and silver crin detail to the underside.  Worn centrally, attached to a silver fabric padded headband.

Centre, left: Gina, £375, Hand-finished ombré coque feather headpiece.  Over 150 feathers with Swarovski highlight quills.  Worn to the right on a metal headband.

Annabelle, £200, 10cm button base.  Pale-pink sinamay button with three pleated organza ribbon roses, green hand-beaded centres and massed pink veiling.  Worn to the right, attached with couture hat elastic. 

Lucille Boater, £200, 20cm base.  Soft grey satin, aubergine hand-rolled ribbon roses, veiling and beaded quills.  Worn to the right and attached with a comb and couture elastic.  Margaret also told me that this top hat was constructed from flat pieces, a style she often uses when she teaches her hat making workshops.

Finally I was shown these two pieces:

One is set on a couture-finished headband, the other on a base which is the suitable diameter needed to be allowed entry at Royal Ascot.  These pieces are the ones that she is going to be teaching her workshop attendees to make on May 27th; imagine being able to make your own beautiful couture hat!  Margaret's workshop takes place at Gallery 45, Felton and starts at 10.30am.  Full details can be found on her Facebook page here.

Image credit: Margaret Woodliff-Wright

Sadly the day was drawing to a close, and as I headed away to grab a bite to eat before catching my train home, I was so thankful to my little blog for allowing me to meet another wonderfully creative person.  I also enjoyed getting to know some of the wonderful staff at Fenwick; I loved the Summer Garden Party event and can't wait for the next one!

Image credit here

If you're interested in any of the hats featured in this post, they are all available to be purchased.  You can do so by contacting Margaret via her website or emailing info@margaretwoodliffwright.com.

All images are my own, other than those credited to other sources.

I hope to profile Margaret in a future blog post, so please look out for that! But for now, thanks to both Margaret and the staff at Fenwick York for being so welcoming and allowing me to cover such an amazing couture collection.

Until next time,

Kayleigh x