factory visit

Take your time: the bespoke shirt



Turnbull and Asser bespoke shirt for women

The French may have Charvet, but we have Turnbull & Asser. In matters of sartorial excellence, a bespoke shirt has to be one of life’s great not-so-little luxuries. So in the name of research, I took up the offer of trying out the service.

Shirts factor big in my book, The New Garconne: How to be a Modern Gentlewoman and they’re also enjoying a major fashion spotlight moment, especially those of gargantuan, deconstructed proportions. And yet here’s a fascinating fact: only about 1% of Turnbull & Asser bespoke shirts are made for women. (more…)



Postive fashion: Unmade customised knitwear



Unmade customised knitwear
The dreaded Christmas jumper season is incoming and if there’s one thing I loathe, it’s novelty sweaters. If you want a standout sweater, why not design one yourself? It’s easier, and more affordable than you might think.

Just before London Fashion Week, I got the chance to explore the studios of Unmade, a pioneering London company doing radical things with knitwear. (more…)



Workshop visit: At Chanel, it’s all wheat, no chaff



Chanel L'Epi brooch fine jewellery Les Bles de Chanel

When did wheat get such a bad rap? What was once revered for giving us our daily bread is now feared for making us fat, tired and irritable. Time for a rebranding campaign perhaps, but who would have expected the redeemer to be…Chanel?

In fact, the notion isn’t quite as eccentric as it seems if you know the history of Chanel. The young Gabrielle Chanel had humble beginnings, spending her childhood in the rural French region of Auvergne, known for its wheat fields. As a young woman she became friends with Salvador Dali, who once gifted her a painting of wheat, a gesture that symbolised success, growth and prosperity. From there on, wheat became one of the signature house codes, woven, embroidered and knitted into many a collection. Fast-forward to 2016 and the humble ear of wheat is the focus of some of the most extravagant Chanel pieces you can buy – from the ‘Les Blés de Chanel’ high jewellery collection. (more…)



Oh la la Lesage



inside Lesage couture embroidery studio with Chanel

“There is only one person who knows how to make this piece; this lady has been working here for thirty years.” This, and many other such factoids are the type of geeky nugget one gobbles up on a visit to the Lesage couture embroidery workshops on the outskirts of Paris. On an industrial estate that’s a step up from your average (think sun-dappled and tree-dotted), it’s where the hands of dedicated embroiderers stitch and bead Chanel’s finest couture showpieces. (more…)