As you know, I’m really keen for my blog to help other midlife women to succeed in the second half of their lives. As such, there are certain brands that capture my imagination because they are run by women like us who have put everything on the line to follow their dreams. They include Finery, Winser, RachelWears, Baukjen, M+EM and Hope. Today I want to talk to you about the baby of the group, Hope Fashion.
I introduced you to Hope as a brand for women with curves back in the Autumn when they first launched. They have done really well and have now launched their Summer collection. The company was founded by Nayna McIntosh who is ex M&S. I haven’t met her yet but she is much loved by some of my friends in London and I will be spending a day with her in May which I’m really looking forward to. This is Nayna wearing the silk and cotton cocoon shirt and chalk cotton stretch ankle grazers from the SS16 collection.
Hope launches Pop Up Shops
This season she has taken the brand one step further by introducing the concept of ‘Pop Up Shops’ which is where the career opportunity comes in. The way these work is similar to the Pampered Chef model -you can host a party in your home for your friends or even build a business around it and become a Hope stylist. This is a clever move because you really need to play with the clothes to see how they work. Hope’s core concept starts with a foundation of fitted clothes to which you then add pieces that have been cleverly designed to minimise areas that you might not be so keen on. This is how Nayna explains it:
“Creating Hope was about doing something to put right what many fashion brands and retailers are missing and utilising my years of experience to create a brand for the 40 plus woman that is right for today. I have empathy with this woman because I am this woman. I’m looking for garments to help restore confidence – I understand my body is changing yet still want to feel good, is that too much to ask? Shopping on the Internet is convenient but it can be unemotional too and for many of us shopping on the High Street can be lonely and unfulfilling. Hope offers a way to fill that gap with friends at home over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. You might call it a ‘back to the future’ way of shopping, or as it’s intended to be – social shopping!”
I confess that I reached a point where I would avoid anyone in the playground who was brandishing a Pampered Chef invitation but these parties look like fun. I think they work because Hope has quite fluid sizing so you can easily house the whole collection without needing a home the size of a small shop. The sizes are encapsulated by Super Slim (8); Slim (10-12); Curvy (14-16) and Super Curvy (18-20).
As I understand it, the system works in the usual way – stylists earn commission and receive a very good personal discount on the entire range to encourage you to wear it. You will also be trained as a stylist and spend time with Nayna when each new collection is launched to ensure that you understand the thinking behind the pieces.
I love the fact that they show some of the photos from the parties on their website which gives you a really clear idea of how the clothes look on real women. So in addition to a model shot like this
You have a real person shot like this
Form as well as function
The team at Hope intelligently consider the rule of thirds when they design which I explained in my last post here. They take into account the fundamental architecture of the body and how to work it well. The clothes are then designed accordingly.
In fact what I like most about Hope and all of the small brands that are launched by women over 40 is the thinking. Having worked for big retailers I know that only too often their ranges are put together by junior buyers who are in their 20s. They focus on the numbers: volumes, margins, markdown discounts and terms. They barely look at the clothes and they have little idea of what a woman over 40 wants. By the time a senior buyer with a bit more knowledge glances over them, the more interesting (less profitable) pieces have been deselected – this is how it all goes wrong.
What could Hope Fashion do better?
At the moment my only criticism would be that their core focus is on women who are looking to disguise their midsection, however I understand that they are doing that because it is an area that is underserved in retail. I’m looking forward to seeing them grow and develop more items that consider other areas of the body, thinking about what we might like to flaunt as well as hide. They also need to sort out some of the glitches on the website, the navigation ‘hover’ tools don’t work well which can be very frustrating.
Hope worn by Midlifechic
So that I could talk about the clothing with confidence, Hope sent me an outfit from the new collection to review. It included silk trousers, a white foundation top and a shrug. Here are the pictures. The foundation layer smooths you down and holds you in, it also has sheer seams to avoid lumpy show through when it is worn with other layers.
The trousers were really easy to wear, loose but not billowy and made of silk – my heart sank when I later spilt olive oil on them. Because they were a sample there were no washing instructions so I put them on a delicate wash and hoped for the best. They came out absolutely fine and I could have got away without ironing them which means they would be great for holidays or any kind of travel.
I was a little unsure about the pale blue shrug until I tried it on and its magic came clear. It drapes around your figure but it doesn’t disguise it. It also covers your upper arms which I know a lot of women hate.
This is how it falls from behind
I hope this gets you in the mood for summer, it was actually only 2°C and everybody else was wrapped up in hats and boots! Behind the scenes there were lots of breaks to warm up (can you see my face was frozen) …
…and the boys kept me smiling whilst the shots were set up…
I really hope that some of you might like the idea of running your own small business on your own terms. To find out more, here are the links you need: hosting a Hope Pop Up event; information about becoming a Hope stylist. To all of my overseas readers, Hope Fashion can ship internationally, contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
A Midlifechic Get Together
Now, I often get emails or comments saying that you would like us to meet up as a Midlifechic community and get to know each other better. To this end I was thinking of organising an afternoon with Hope just for us but I need to be sure that enough people would be interested. I’m imagining a cosy lunch for about 30 people followed by the opportunity to try things on (by the way I wouldn’t be doing it for commission so you wouldn’t need to feel obliged to buy anything). I could also invite a couple of complementary brands along – I already have interest from one of the world’s best skincare companies.
The cost for a ticket would be about £40 and would include lunch, a glass of wine and a goody bag. We would have lots of time to relax together with a cup of coffee (or another glass of wine) and chat about being chic(!) It would probably need to be in September now when the Autumn collections launch so if you would be interested in principal, please could you tick the box below to tell me whether you’d prefer South or North. If there’s enough interest we could do both but maybe I’m getting carried away. Apologies to my lovely overseas readers but just think, if this works we could make it international – Midlifechic: London, Paris, New York, Manchester…!
A note on working with brands
I want to clarify this because a few of you brought it up in your survey comments. Luckily I don’t rely on Midlifechic for my income which gives me a bit more freedom than bloggers who do. However I do need at least to cover my costs which include things like hosting, updates, upgrades and technical support.
So, I have decided that I will very occasionally work with brands on posts like this and only if they have absolutely the right fit. I will always be transparent when I’m doing it, I will also ensure that they accept that my review will be honest and gain their prior agreement that they will have no input into what I publish. If I really don’t like whatever has been sent, I will give the company the option to have the clothes returned without a review. I hope that works for you, like all of us, Midlifechic needs to support itself.
This post was done in collaboration with Hope Fashion but other than sending me the clothes, they had no idea of what would be included, how I would photograph them or what I would say. I wanted to work with them because I genuinely hope they succeed. If we support brands like this, more women will have the courage to launch similar businesses and we will have more choice and better clothing for women over 40.
I hope everyone had a lovely weekend, especially those of us in the UK who had a Bank Holiday, don’t forget to keep in touch.
Posts you might have missed
Here are last week’s posts in case you missed them