Supporting small brands through difficult times
Every time I start a post the world seems a little stranger and today I feel as though I’m broadcasting from a bunker. It’s a concept that’s quite vivid in my imagination because I’ve always been a bit of a living history geek. When I was at Selfridges I seemed to be the only person other than the archivist who was interested in the store’s story. Sensing a kindred spirit he used to allow me to go and join him in the archives on my lunch breaks and he shared tales of all kinds of things. One was about the secret WW2 bunker in the store’s basement that was used by both Churchill and Eisenhower because it concealed an early Telex machine that enabled them to send critical encrypyted messages.
Anyway that’s your ‘Did You Know?’ for the day. Now we’re facing a situation that feels world threatening again and yet we need to keep it in perspective. For once the enemy is a common one and we’re all fighting it together. What can we do? Well stick to the social distancing plan wherever possible by staying in. Another thing we can do is support the businesses that we love. If we want them still to be there when we come out of this we need to stand by them now.
I’m going to look at two today but before I start I just want to add a word on delivery drivers. I asked one of our regulars how he felt about working during lockdown this morning when I saw him. He told me that he and everyone else he knows is just grateful. They’re all self-employed and in the absence of a lifeline for self-employed people he needs the work to feed his family. It’s up to you to take a view on this but for now, keeping them in employment is one way of supporting the people in your local community as well as the retail industry.
The brands that are going to be hit the hardest are the smallest ones so today I’m supporting two of my particular favourites because before coronavirus happened they were already working hard to do retail differently. The great thing about small brands is that they can act quickly at every level. While the big retailers are standing still and blinking in the coronavirus headlights, they’re busy doing what they can to be agile.
Nayna at Hope Fashion was one of the first to mobilise. Last week she sent an email to all customers offering a very personal Hope service of going through the new SS20 range individually with them on Facetime. The team there are even happy just to have a chat with customers – I love this generosity of spirit at a time when so many people are feeling isolated. Today she sent another bulletin showing how the team at Hope are keeping their spirits up as they work from home with a ‘pub at home’ experience and inventive ways of keeping fit. So if you’re looking for a little light relief to drop into your Inbox each week it’s worth subscribing to their email updates.
Like every retailer Hope’s new SS20 collection has started to drop. Big retailers such as M&S have already cancelled £100 million worth of orders for SS20 but it won’t be so easy for smaller brands so I urge you to have a look at their site. As always, they’re particularly good for apple shapes and those with a bigger bust. You’ll remember from past posts that Hope specialise in clothes that skim over the midlife midriff.
They invited me to choose something from their new delivery and for me it was a no brainer. They have a particular style of jumper that they call the ‘clean crew’ and I always feel they undersell it because it doesn’t have an unflattering round crew cut, instead it’s a beautiful boat neck designed to flatter your clavicles. Here it is on the model.
It’s a cashmere merino blend and so soft that it’s like wearing a cloud – the perfect weight for Spring and cool summer evenings. Each season they release it in a different colour and I’m building a collection. So far I have navy and ivory, this time I was thrilled to see that they’ve launched it in red. They always do a matching scarf so that you can have the luxury layered look but still strip down easily in those overheated moments.
It’s going to be very difficult taking photos over the next few weeks as we live through lockdown – you’re going to get to know the village very well and you’ll see a lot of Teddy because I need him with me to show that we’re exercising when we’re taking photos too. Here’s the combo on me on Sunday, I was posting the last couple of orders from the blogger sale.
Cashmere and merino jumper; matching scarf; Cargo trousers; Hush boots (AW2016)
Hope is a great place to go to if you’re looking for clothes to give you an elevated and yet casual look at home. They produce everything ethically and they’re a tiny team run by a group of enthusiastic midlife women like us. Here they are wearing some of the new styles and they’re offering Midlifechic readers 15% off full priced purchases until the end of April with code together15.
Cotton Saddle stitch cream jumper; Full circle navy maxi skirt; Merino and cashmere jumper; Scarf; Linen blend comfort trouser; Breton contrast hem jumper; Cotton knit wide leg trouser
I thought some of you would like this khaki dress too – I always wish I could wear khaki and this is lovely.
The other brand that I want to support today is Baukjen. Again it’s a small team and they too put their hearts and souls into everything they do. I love popping in to see them when I’m in London. They work from a beautiful old sorting office in Kentish Town where you see a small team of designers sitting at their drawing boards pulling new ideas together. They then pass them through to the on site tailor who whips them up so that they can focus on the minutiae of the fit, creating designs that really flatter the body.
As I mentioned a little while ago Baukjen are leagues ahead of most retailers when it comes to sustainability. They’re a Pending Certified B Corporation which means that they have been independently audited to have the ‘highest standard of social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose’. I could easily fill two blog posts with the actions they’re taking but fortunately they’ve pulled it all together succinctly here. They also have a transparent European supply chain that you can read about here.
However their principles go way beyond sustainability and they are fantastic employers, fully supportive of their largely female team and the work life balance they need to attain. They also give a minimum of 10% of their annual profits to charity every year. So I think we can agree that Baukjen are good eggs which makes them another brand worthy of our support in these difficult times. I’ve picked out a few pieces from their current collection to show you. Of course Baukjen do some beautiful dresses and tailored workwear is another speciality but for now I’m concentrating on pieces you can wear at home.
A Baukjen try on
As always I’ll show you the model shots first and then the outfit on me. Last Saturday we did our usual canal walk and had to dig our heels in at the spot when we reached the lovely pub because of course it was closed. I was wearing Baukjen’s striped breton in a vibrant spring green. The cut and cloth of these bretons is the important thing. I have a few of them and they’re a high quality 100% organic cotton that is fully biodegradable and washes brilliantly so that they look new every time you wear them. It has a flattering boat neckline and it’s currently in the mid-season sale – here’s the model shot.
Organic stripe top; wide leg crop jeans
The cargo pants I’m going to show you are also from Baukjen and as always they’re beautifully cut. They’re high waisted so they make your legs look much longer and although they have cargo styling, there’s no added bulk from pockets on the legs. As you know, utility’s a big trend this year and they make such a great change from jeans – also available in khaki, you’ll wear them for years. Here’s the model shot of the trousers:
… and here they are on me. I’m wearing them in the shot of the red Hope jumper above too so you can see them again there. They’re true to size but they come up a little longer on me than the model making them full length.
Organic stripe top; Cargo trousers; Down jacket; Trainers
Next up I wanted to try their boyfriend jeans. They’re so well reviewed that I’ve been wondering about them for a while but I tend to avoid boyfriend cuts because they so often have a lot of fabric in the body and at the top of the thighs – exactly where I don’t need any extra bulk. However these are more like a straight leg. I thought I’d go for white with summer in mind because I’m always looking for a white to contrast with the navy and red in my wardrobe and it’s hard to find a pair that doesn’t cling and has no opacity issues. Here they are on the model…
… and on me. They came up slightly big, a size 10 would have been better so you may want to order two sizes, imagine this outfit on a sunny day with a bit of a tan.
Boyfriend jeans; Baukjen top (past season); Heeled loafers (now in the sale, gifted SS20)
The last piece I pulled out was an unusual one for me because it’s patterned. However I know that Baukjen prints are handpainted in house, I’ve seen them being done. I have a particular love of wild spring flowers, my mum specialised in botany when she was doing her teacher training and we had beautiful paintings like this that she did so it makes me think of her. Blouses were a mainstay of my UK summer wardrobe last year and they will be this year too, maybe more than ever because who knows if any of us will be going anywhere.
Don’t forget that Baukjen currently have 20% off all full priced purchases with code MIDLIFECHIC20.
Wildflower blouse; M&S wide leg crops (SS18); LK Bennett boots (AW19)
And that’s it from me today, it may feel strange to be shopping at a time like this but it’s one small way that we can help to keep the wheels turning. Retailers have made the clothes, taken the photos and need to keep on paying their staff. Even if you’re not shopping at the moment, please support them by clicking through to showing them that you’re still here. I’m focusing on the little brands for now because they need the most immediate help but I’ll pull together posts for big brands every so often too.
I’ll do a midlife lately on Friday, until then, stay in and stay well. I’m sure everybody here would like me to say a huge thank you to anyone who is working in the NHS, at schools or in any of the other vital services. Don’t forget to join in with the ‘clap for our carers’ on Thursday night at 8pm. Stand on your doorstep wherever you are and show them your appreciation – it’s been done in Spain, France and The Netherlands, now we’re joining in too.
Thank you for reading today and supporting small brands through difficult times.
New drops today
Boden main spring collection here
Hush main spring collection here – 10% off with all orders placed before Sunday, code APRIL10
Current sales and discounts
- Reiss up to 25% off all new season here
- Whistles 25% off all new season here
- Me+Em sale on here
- Baukjen sale on here
- Cos sale now on here
- White Stuff sale on here
- John Lewis price matching hub here (including 30% off JL&P and Kin)
Recent posts you may have missed
Great British Boltholes – Yorkshire
Spring/Summer 2020 trend update
What to look for when you’re buying jeans
Chatting through the points you raised in the reader survey
What to wear with jeans now – SS20
How to know what clothes suit you
What I’ve been doing and wearing in February
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