If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that I spent some of last week down in London with my blogger friends from the Over40Collective. Enticing invitations have been coming thick and fast this season and if I had the time, I could have spent the summer wafting from one fabulous event to another. Sadly whenever one arrives, I have to grit my teeth and remember that I have a day job to do and an agency to run. In the end I told myself that I could choose just one. So when the brand Madeleine invited all of us to spend day at Chelsea Flower Show together, it was a no brainer. I thought you’d like to come along with us and see what we did – both in front of… and behind… the camera!
The night before
So that we could have an early start the next day, Madeleine had kindly booked the non-Londoners into a hotel for the night. It gave us the chance for a catch up. Now you may not know that Catherine from NotDressedAsLamb is a really good photographer. Liz from WhatLizzyLoves and Michelle from BarefacedChic were keen to have outfit shots taken by her. So, we found a pretty white Kensington crescent and they did their stuff.
Catherine thought it would be a good opportunity to photograph the four of us together. As you’ve seen before, we do a lot of laughing when we meet up and so it’s never easy to get a sensible photograph.
Michelle – Barefacedchic; Liz – WhatLizzyLoves; Moi – Midlifechic; Annette – LadyofStyle
Annette and I hadn’t dressed for an outfit shot so we were probably the least in the mood to behave…
…but in the end we got on with it.
We then went for a glass of fizz. I know I look very glassy eyed in this picture – I want to assure you that it’s because I was straining not to blink when the flash went off. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!
So, that was the warm up. We were very sensible and went to bed at a decent time ready for a full day of flowers.
A day with Madeleine
Madeleine had truly indulged us by booking a very luxurious corporate package which included lots of eating and drinking. One of the things I really like about spending time with the Over40Collective is that everyone really enjoys good food and no calorie counting goes on.
When we arrived, we were greeted with coffee and freshly squeezed juices…
…and we were introduced to both the UK and German teams from Madeleine who are a really great bunch of women.
Raymond Blanc was in charge of the day’s food and every so often emerged from the kitchen to demonstrate his skills…
…the bar staff were creating a range of floral inspired non-alcoholic cocktails…
…which was great because even though it was still early, it was getting hot.
And then it was time to get to work. Madeleine had booked Rebecca Spencer to take our photographs. She is one of the up and coming young photographers who has made her name via Instagram and she did a good job of directing us. I always panic a bit inside when I have to pose formally, it’s harder than it looks.
Jacket; blouse; cropped trousers; shoes; handbag; earrings
As always it was very relaxing working with the others. Lisa from TheSequinist thinks we look as though we’re getting married in this next shot – imagine what a glorious blogger wedding we’d have if we did! So, let me tell you about my outfit. Madeleine gave us complete freedom to choose an outfit from their summer range in our own style. We always really enjoy doing this because we know our styles are so different that we’ll each pick something the others probably wouldn’t think of.
I had hedged my bets on the weather being bad (oh how the weather gods laughed) and I fell in love with the jacket, shoes and bag as soon as I saw them. I had hoped to wear them with this tomato coloured jumpsuit but it had sold out so in the end, I chose these cropped trousers and a silk blouse.
The trousers have an elasticated waist and a sewn in crease and I knew they were either going to be great or frumpy, I wasn’t sure which. Fortunately they were great – comfortable to wear obviously – but little details like the fabric which has a sheen to it, the vent at the ankle and the crease made them feel smarter than your average crops.
I loved the shoes. Because of the block heel they were easy to wear and the silver buckle made them feel very Jackie O. However my absolutely favourite thing was the handbag. It is lined with soft grey suede and has organiser pockets inside. The quality and thought that had been put into the design make it one of the best handbags I have seen – way above the designer brands in my view.
So, after we’d all had our photos taken it was time for M.Blanc’s lunch which was delicious and incredibly healthy.
As you can see, I sat with the marketing team because I wanted to quiz them about the brand. Let me tell you more.
Madeleine is big in Germany. It has been operating quietly in the UK for a few years but is now focusing on building its presence here. There is a small team based in Brighton and I asked them which UK brand they would align themselves with. It was difficult to pin it down but in the end we decided that Jaeger was probably the closest.
Now, as always I need to make sure that I give you a balanced review. Some of you have been in touch since you saw that I was with Madeleine to mention the stock situation this summer so I asked them about it. They had unprecedented success with this particular collection and consequently sold out of a lot of things by the end of April. They know that this has been frustrating and hope they have addressed it for next season.
Because I have never bought from Madeleine, I road tested them by placing a dummy order to see how it would go. Delivery took ten days but they tell me there should be a new system in place for the new season so that will reduce significantly. The return has not yet been processed but it has only been 6 working days so far since I sent it.
There are certain touches that make Madeleine feel very Germanic when you look through their site. The lighting that they use in their photography is very strong, the make-up is heavy and the art direction is different to the soft lifestyle approach that we are accustomed to in the UK. However you could say the same about BMW and it wouldn’t put you off buying one of those!
The clothing exceeded my expectations in terms of quality and cut. Everything was true to size and there were surprising little details such as a chrome Madeleine tag under the collar of the jacket that made each item feel premium. The shoes and accessories were leagues ahead of brands in the UK that I would pitch at a comparative level.
So, stepping back into the afternoon, Monsieur Blanc came over to our table to make sure that we were dressing our lunch with cuttings from the herb garden that you can see in the terrarium.
When we had finished, we went out to do our serious group shots. I really love this one, it shows you how contrasting we are in terms of style – like any group of friends would be. There aren’t many brands that can cater for a range of diverse tastes but Madeleine worked well for each one of us.
L-R: Lisa – The Sequinist; Me; Liz – WhatLizzyLoves; Michelle – Barefacedchic; Michelle – RetroChicMama; Catherine – NotDressedAsLamb; Annette – LadyofStyle
By this point it was turning out to be the hottest day of the year and we, like the flowers, were wilting a little.
However there was a remedy for that with more cocktails (they had the magic of gin in them this time)…
…and we returned to our job revitalised and smiling – accompanied by the man himself.
A few of us broke off to go and have a look at the flower displays – the wild country flowers were my favourites…
… although it was impossible to resist this frame of roses.
It was a wonderful day spent working with a wonderful team as well as my chums. I think all of us at O40Co feel honoured that Madeleine chose to work with us. You know I wouldn’t recommend their clothes if I didn’t think you would like them. In my view, they are especially strong on career wear and occasion wear so go and have a look. There is a ‘spend and save’ promotion on here until 5th June so now is a good time to give them a try – just remember that delivery will take longer than you might be used to.
I’ll leave you with one last moment from the end of a fun filled day, click the play button to see the fans flutter. I still loved the jacket but boy was I ready to take it off!
Have a fabulous weekend everyone – I’ll be back to my usual posting schedule next week so I’ll see you on Tuesday. In the meantime you can see the posts from the rest of the Over40Collective on their sites with details of their outfits. I’ll link them here when they publish – here’s WhatLizzyLoves and RetroChicMama.