Having always been a fan of Alexa Chung’s style (since waaaaay back the golden ages of the T4 days), I was looking forward to the launch of her own fashion label, ALEXACHUNG. Alexa, is of course no stranger to fashion design, with a decade of experience to her name, for brands such as MADEWELL, Superga and Marks & Spencer. But this is the first time we can really see what Alexa wants us to wear – the ‘proper’ designs and concepts by Alexa herself. And having looked at her 150 piece range, I can confirm that “its sooooo Alexa“. You can see that Alexa is heavily influenced by her favourite cities (New York & Paris) with an added bit of her wicked British humour to boot.
ALEXACHUNG returned from New York this year to creatively direct a business distinctively tied to her British roots.
At the heart of the brand, Alexa’s vision: to create clothes that people want to wear. Combining Parisian chic with a New York edge, as well as the very British sense of humour, it is inspired by everything from Jane Birkin’s insouciance to David Hockney’s stripy sweater.
ALEXACHUNG prides itself on its unique approach to making clothes, combining distinctive fabrics and prints with classic tailoring alongside more feminine designs. The result is a carefully considered, alluring combination of prim, racy and rock ‘n’ roll, where frivolous party pieces interact with grown-up tailoring and classic silhouettes.
ALEXACHUNG will produce four in-season collections per year internationally, with stockists in over fifteen countries.
I’m super excited to share the ‘Chats To‘ feature from these gorgeous chops ! Meet Steph Douglas, mega-Mama of 2 (soon to be 3!), founder of brilliant business, Don’t Buy Her Flowersand one of the hardest working people I’ve ever met!
Here, Steph talks to us about the drive to start up Don’t Buy Her Flowers, The Man Package and being the daughter to a Vicar. Oh and FYI, Steph and the other INCREDIBLY TALENTED women that were featured in that horrendously inaccurate Daily Fail ‘article’ are worth SO MUCH more to their family, friends and I for one am inspired daily by these wonderful women who go above and beyond in life. I’ve never skim-read something so atrocious, EVER. The article, simply put, boiled down to shoddy so-called journalism from a very jealous battle-axe. These women juggle a million plates without dropping a single one – whilst also maintaining their own businesses and careers, their home and all the while also making their own families, or the families of complete strangers, feel loved.
ANYWAY! Not gonna give them any more airtime than they have already been so lucky to have.
Over to you Steph!
CB: Firstly, please introduce yourself and your brand. SD: I’m Steph and my business is Don’t Buy Her Flowers – we sell thoughtful gift packages.
CB: Brand names are a really important first impression of what you’re about, so how did you come up with your name? SD: Well…ours is a pretty clear idea of what we’re not! The name came really quickly, because of where the idea for the business came from. Lots of brands have really abstract names and unless you’ve lots of money so that people will know what your brand is – which I knew we didn’t – having a name that is very clear is definitely a help.
CB: Where did it all begin? What inspired you to start up your concept? SD: It started after I had my first baby and I received eight bunches of flowers from lovely family and friends who wanted to say ‘congratulations’. I was sitting on the sofa feeling overwhelmed and sore and leaky and the bouquets made me feel worse. It was another thing to care for and I just didn’t have the energy – or the vases! I also found that the things people did that showed they knew how I was feeling and what I needed, whether that was food parcels or the friend that came and did my ironing and held the baby while I bathed the toddler, or just the message from a friend saying “BTW I found breastfeeding hard initially and it might take a while so don’t panic, you’re doing great”, meant so much. It’s very easy to get caught up in the joy of a new baby, and it is a joy, but it’s also many other things including exhausting and I think new mums need looking after. We launched as gifts for new mums and then very quickly our customers wanted to sendour packages for Get Well, Bereavement, Birthdays – any occasion when someone needs a little TLC.
CB: What is your brand ethos? SD: The idea and everything we do centres around thoughtfulness. We see lots of gorgeous products all the time, but unless they help someone in a practical sense or offer some TLC, they’re not right forour packages.
CB: On a day-to-day basis, what or who inspires you? SD: There is an awesome growing network of women doing their own thing and trying to figure out the juggle along with our position in society and how to still be a mother and a partner and a friend and I’m inspired by that community all the time. It doesn’t mean it’s easy or we all get it right, but we’re all trying to work it out in our own way.
CB: Can you tell us about or give us a sneaky peak of something new that’s coming up? SD: We introduced The Man Package a few months ago – our customers asked us for a version of our Care Package for men. They’ve been sent for Birthdays, New Dad’s and Get Well Mostly, and as Father’s Day is coming up (18th June folks!!) we’ve added golfing and gardening magazine options for the older chaps. We’ve also got a Gluten Free Care Package coming up, which is again in response to customers asking for it.
CB: Anything you wish you’d known before you became a parent / best piece of parenting advice? SD: The biggest thing I wish I’d known is that people weren’t actually judging me and my choices, and all that time I spent worrying about whether I was getting it ‘right’ I was doing my best and that was all my children ever needed. Mostly I think new mums need to be kind to themselves as we generally are not.
CB: Parenting-essentials, we know there are more than a few! But what is the one thing you can’t leave the house without? What is your most used piece of parenting/child paraphernalia? SD: It used to be wipes but currently it’s colouring and activity books. Buster and Mabel are really in to them so we can go for food and not be in that intense ‘ORDER NOW!’ rush as we walk through the door, which we were in a couple of years ago. They’re both pretty obsessed with the iPad but we haven’t cracked it out in restaurants yet… will see how long we can keep that up!
CB: Along the same vein as above, what is your ultimate Mum-Essential? What is your go-to item that you just can’t live without? SD: Let’s go with my Tiba + Marlbag. Even though they’re officially changing bags, I got it after mine were out of nappies so it’s never carried baby stuff, but it is always rammed with snacks and felt tips and has a protective bit for my laptop so I use it every day. As a back pain sufferer, the rucksack is a saviour. Thankfully they’ve made it a stylish accessory!
CB: What gives you ‘Mum-Guilt’? And how do you get round it? SD: The juggle. Trying to do too much and then dropping balls and realising I can’t do it all and that something has to give. My favourite thing is weekends with no plans except to hang out as a four. It gives us a chance to recalibrate and the kids are always happiest when we’re not distracted or rushing out the door to meet people and be in line with other people’s timetables. I like seeing other people too (!) but I think with busy jobs and school and nursery, time to be just us is always just what we need and means we start the week a little calmer.
CB: Me-time is super important too, what do you like to do to zone-out? SD: I love reading but for some reason it had become something I only did on holidays. I don’t sleep that well and find if I relax with a book before bed I sleep better, so I’ve just bought a load and love the escapism.
CB: Which are your go-to brands/shops? SD: If I go in to &Other Stories I can guarantee I’ll find something (or a few things) I’ll love. Bimba Y Lola is great and not as widely known – some of their prints are really cool and you generally won’t find everyone in them. And John Lewis is always good for well pretty much everything.
CB: What current wardrobe item is your all-time favourite and why? SD: Ooh I just got a very cool jumpsuit from Lowie with a tropical print on it and I’m going to live in it over the summer. I love a jumpsuit – less knicker flashing than dresses, you can dress them up or down, plus one item and you’re done. Perfect.
CB: Choose 3 words to describe yesterday. SD: Long, expensive and cakey (we were at the Richmond Fair and I was helping on the school cake stand. Doug took the kids off around the fair all afternoon and I’m pretty sure spunked £40 easily)
CB: Tell us something about you that might surprise people. SD: I would normally say that I’m a Vicar’s daughter, but as there was a (terrible and inaccurate) article in the Daily Mail last week that included this fact, it’s probably not a surprise! I have a History degree?
CB: What’s the kindest thing anyone has ever done for you? SD: I think it’s the thoughtful things that come when you really need them but don’t even know you need them? I was feeling pretty knackered a couple of weeks ago and a friend stopped in on her way home from work to drop off a cottage pie and a bunch of flowers. I burst in to tears and it was just lovely to know someone was thinking of me.
CB: Recommend a book, film or album from the past year. SD: I’m currently reading ‘Big Little Lies’ after watching the TV show and loving it. The characters are just brilliant.
CB: What can you see out of your closest window / what is your current view? SD: I’m actually working on my laptop in the car on my way to West Sussex to my brother’s pub! We’re going through a very idyllic village with a cute primary school and lots of pubs and discussing how one day we will live in the country. Not ready yet though…
CB: Other than with your family & friends, where would you most like to be this weekend and why? SD: Oooh, always family & friends obviously, but in a couple of weeks I’m going to Menorca with a couple of girl friends and I am so looking forward to lying in the sun, reading and doing very little else. It’s come at just the right time.
Don’t Buy Her Flowerswas founded with a simple aim: to provide thoughtful gift packages for new mums, because they deserve something lovely just for them.
From launch we received requests to send our gifts for other reasons as well as after a baby arrived – birthdays, get well, bereavement and to say ‘it’s going to be ok’. We’ve had many reports of recipients crying when they open their package, overwhelmed that someone has thought of them.
So what’s wrong with flowers?
Although they are always lovely to receive, we wanted to create something that was more thoughtful and useful for mums and women at those times when they need it most. Something that encourages her to take ten minutes to herself. For new mums, we know having babies is amazing but it’s also a rollercoaster and can be hard. Knowing someone is thinking of you can be a huge boost and it turns out that our customers wanted to express that same sentiment to friends and family for all kinds of reasons.
Flowers say “I’m thinking of you”. A gift package from Don’t Buy Her Flowers says ‘I’m thinking of you, this package is all about you and I hope it makes you feel good’.
‘When I had my first baby, I received eight bunches of flowers. We didn’t have a lot of space and we certainly didn’t own multiple vases. I had to give them away or bin the least fresh to make way for the most recent. I also felt completely overwhelmed with everything – the baby, the visitors, the bodily functions – and trying to arrange flowers and then dispose of them was all a bit much, however pathetic that sounds. I found that other parents felt the same and Don’t Buy Her Flowers was born.’ Steph Douglas, creator of dontbuyherflowers.com
Meet Erna Leon, founder of MERCER7, an Artist, Fashion Designer, Stylist, Shoot Art Director and super Mama to boot! MERCER7 makes life easier for the Modern Woman; Erna’s keen (sartorial) eye and selection process removes all the barriers that online shopping often presents. Essentially, doing the research and quality control for you; taking the hassle out of online shopping! Because we’re all tight on time these days!
Erna is not only mega inspiring, she’s a joy to be with in real life too. Her accent is one of my favourites, she has one of the best smiles (and wardrobes!) and had SUCH an interesting upbringing! Here, Erna chats about her varied career background, her varied upbringing and the inspiration that drove her to create her start-up.
CB: Hello my darling Erna, please introduce yourself, your background and your concept, MERCER7. EL: I am Armenian, born in Georgia and New Yorker turned Londoner. I spent my formative years in New York, so I call New York home as I lived there from the age of 16.I studied fine arts from a very young age and when it was time to choose my future profession, I decided to go into fashion design at FIT in NY (Fashion Institute of Technology) and took my bachelors degree before working for brands like Halston, Betsy Johnson to Calvin Klein Jeans to name a few.
After marrying a Brit in New York seven years ago, we moved to London and the rest as they say is history. We’ve got two kids now, Luca is 4 and Lily nearly 3, so London definitely became my second home.In terms of concept:MERCER7 is a curated womenswear website for effortless style and collaborative fashion platform.
I focus on timeless, versatile and high-quality pieces that represent timelessness rather than fast-fashion trends. I combine a mix of brands which scale from entry level up to one-off investment. Every item I feature is easy-to-wear and simple-to-style taking you from day to night. The collection is curated to work together seamlessly, allowing women to easily build outfits and their own capsule wardrobe with sustainable pieces that transcend the latest season.
This edited approach helps busy women to simplify the art of dressing by creating your “go-to” uniform: a single aesthetic in endless combinations that never compromises on impact or individuality.
The magazine section of the website is a big part of the MERCER7concept. I interview other creatives and feature articles written by our contributors, so it’s all about giving voice to others, rather than being all about me.
CB: You’ve got so many strings to your bow Erna, but where did MERCER7 begin? What inspired you to start up the concept? EL: I come from a fashion design and art background, so first and foremost I wanted to create a collaborative fashion and lifestyle platform where it enabled me to work with others. From art directing photoshoots, working with brands to curating collections around capsule wardrobes and featuring other creatives on my platform.Online shopping can be overwhelming and websites are all too often saturated with too many options. I used to return most things I ordered online due to poor quality, it would look great on screen but the reality when I received my order was that the pieces looked completely different and I was never a fan of returns. So seeing how time consuming online shopping can be, I wanted to create a focused space with a single aesthetic all in one place, to make shopping easier for busy women.
My personal selection process removes all the barriers that online shopping often presents. Essentially, doing the research and quality control for you, and taking the hassle out of online shopping.
CB: Brand names are a really important first impression of what you’re about, so how did you come up with MERCER7? EL: Coming up with a name was fun, but tricky at the same time. My NY friend David advised me to write my favourite words that had meaning to them. MERCER7was one of them, besides being one of my favourite streets in New York, the true meaning of the word is “Dealer of fine fabrics” which resonates massively with MERCER7 and my focus of quality.
The No.7 resonates with our belief in ‘collective consciousness’, collaboration and positivity. MERCER7 supports and collaborates with other creatives and brands through a series of interviews and features, design and styling.
CB: What is your brand ethos? EL: ‘Shop less, choose well’ Dame Vivienne Westwood said it better than I ever could, and it’s this mantra for sustainability that I live by at MERCER7. We don’t need more. We need better. Whilst this drives my mission, it’s the people that are at the nucleus of my brand.
I want to inspire, collaborate and create a lifestyle concept with a purpose: SUSTAINABILITY THROUGH TIMELESSNESS. I believe that our everyday can be lived in a more sustainable way by being more mindful, consuming less by choosing better.
CB: On a day-to-day basis, what or who inspires you? EL: Women inspire me. Sisterhood between women and mothers who are working to achieve their dreams. I meet so many incredible supportive women full of ambition and drive, it is truly empowering to listen to their stories. Connecting and seeing how hard everyone works inspires me daily.
CB: Can you tell us about, or give us a sneak peak, of something new that’s coming up? EL: I’ve got my launch party coming up May 23rd at the gorgeous space, IceTank in Covent Garden, which Push PR are helping me to organise.
I’m extremely excited about the party and the premiering of the fashion film that I’ve directed and styled, featuring gorgeous Zara Martin and Whinnie Williams. I am grateful to everyone who collaborated with me bringing the vision to life. I had an amazing team of creatives which I couldn’t really do without so it’s all thanks to them – Simon Wisbey was the photographer at my shoot, Sian Davis and Tara Darby filmed it all and Tahira Herold was my guru hair and makeup artist.
CB: How do you juggle being a working Mama? EL: I don’t juggle it very well just yet. I am a work at home mum with two days of childcare per week, which isn’t very much when I work 24/7. But I’m hoping I will learn how to balance it better soon and stop working when the whole world is asleep.
CB: Anything you wish you’d known before you startedMERCER7 / best piece of business advice? EL: How hard it is but how rewarding at the same time. I’ve been so blessed with incredible people who have entered my life as soon as I started this journey. I am not naturally business minded as I am more of a creative type. I’ve always been this way so all I can advice on business front is just be honest, be kind, work hard to turn your vision into reality and…be organised. (I’m not when it comes to keeping receipts, etc so trying to be better at that!)
CB:Anything you wish you’d known before you became a Mama / best piece of parenting advice? EL: How selfless you become, overprotective and paranoid at times. Best piece of advice on parenting would be – listen to your kids, be present and don’t have too many rules.
CB: Parenting-essentials, we know there are more than a few! But what is the one thing you can’t leave the house without? What is your most used piece of parenting/child paraphernalia? EL: Snacks, gotta have snacks in your bag at all times! And baby wipes. I also carry a pencil and paper as Lily loves to draw so if she gets bored, I give her something she can scribble on. Luca is a bit older so he gets an iPhone with puzzle apps which he loves doing if we are out and I can’t entertain them on a bus for example.
CB: Along the same vein as above, what is your ultimate Mum-Essential? What is your go-to item that you just can’t live without? EL: It sounds sad, but it’s got to be my iPhone and my camera. With the new business launch, I am on the phone…a lot. Managing my social media, planning my content, taking product photos, street-style, researching and replying to emails. The list is endless but I could never be able to do it without these two essentials.
CB: What gives you ‘Mum-Guilt’? And how do you get round it? EL: I feel guilty all the time especially since launching. I don’t have much childcare so I am trying my best to find balance and make sure I’m not constantly working around my children (which isn’t possible at this time but I’m trying). It is so important to spend quality time with them without any distractions.
CB: Me-time is super important too, what do you like to do to zone-out? EL: Watch Netflix, meet up with my friends, or read interesting articles. It’s a rare treat these days.
CB: Which are your go-to brands/shops? EL: I love brands like Acne, Anine Bing, Iro, Joseph, and more accessible brands like & Other Stories, Cos, Tree People, Weekday, Me+Em, Samsoe, Toteme, to name a few. But my ultimate if money was no object brand would be Saint Laurent.
I only shop pieces I curate now as I am one of the customers I keep in mind – on the go busy mum. So if I buy something I wear and love, it goes straight to my shop.
The Outnet is a great one as well because you can get amazing deals on beautiful designer clothing so that’s where I look a lot too.
CB: What current wardrobe item is your all-time favourite and why? EL: A biker and a blazer. I live in them.
CB: Choose 3 words to describe yesterday EL: Manic. Productive. Fun.
CB: Tell us something about you that might surprise people. EL: I didn’t learn how to ride a bike till I was 30 years old!
CB:Whats the kindest thing anyone has ever done for you? EL: My family has been incredible throughout this whole startup journey. My parents helped me massively to set up. And my mother in law is always there for me when I am desperate for childcare. She is also taking the four of us on holiday to Portugal this summer because she knew we couldn’t manage a holiday this year. I am really grateful!
Besides family, Emma Hart from Push PR has been a Fairy God Mother and a mentor to me. This woman is incredible, genuine and kind hearted. I don’t think I’ve ever met someone so supportive and giving as her. 5 minutes in her company and you feel empowered and inspired. Some people have just got this skill to make you believe that anything is possible and she is definitely one of those people.
CB: Recommend a book, film or album from the past year. EL: I’m a massive music fan, I love old school rock’n’roll albums like The Rolling Stones, Hendrix, for example and indie bands. Also my friend from Alberta Cross is amazing and my LA friends The Peach Kingsare great too. Their new single Treasure Map is a soundtrack to MERCER7fashion film and it’s so good!
CB:What can you see out of your closest window / what is your current view? EL: I am in my bedroom at the moment so I can see my garden and a lot of green. We live in Highgate so we are surrounded by the woods and the Heath.
CB: Other than with your family & friends, where would you most like to be this weekend and why? EL: I would love to be somewhere sunny this weekend! Anywhere, I won’t be too picky, but just sunny and be surrounded by palm trees and have fresh coconut water in my hands.
Thank you so much Erna for taking the time out of your mad-busy schedule ahead of your launch party (incidentally, which is tonight) to chat to me. You’re a wonderful person, so thoughtful, always inspiring – and taking in inspiration in the most curious of places! I’m so lucky to know you and I am MASSIVELY proud of everything you’ve achieved with MERCER7so far. You’re ace of frikkin base pet!
I’m so terribly sad to miss the MERCER7launch tonight (see my Insta @JudyPink🙁 ). But I know you’re gonna smash it and its gonna be super stylish and beautiful; with a room full of incredibly talented folk that all love you heaps! You’ve worked so bloody hard, so let your hair down tonight Mama, you really deserve it!
I think everyone can agree its been quite a rubbish week! (Unless you’ve had a good week! If so, do tell me why!). We’ve had lots of personal issues going down, things not going right, exhaustion and of course, one of our new rabbits sadly passed away last night. But hey ho, the weekend is here! WOO. We made it! And here are my ‘Something for the weekend’ picks for this week.
I’m still hooked on bright red. TOPSHOP have some brilliant wardrobe essentials in this wonder-hue. I’ve also picked the TOPSHOP // MERCI Slogan Teeas its a fab Gucci dupe of THAT tee, for the tiny price of £15.00!
After the week we’ve all had – I think in celebration of it being Friday we all deserve a big GIN – lots of Gin. Adnams are maybe most known for their Beer, but their Copper House Dry Ginis award-winning. I’ll drink to that. Cheers! #SOLIDARITEA
I wanted to give a bit of Friday Woman Love this week to SARAH BAILYand have featured one of her wicked metallic accessories – the GIRL GANG Card Wallet. Sarah is a London-based accessories and outerwear designer, offering the ultimate accessories for party girls and metallic magpies alike. Combining luxury with fun and using her signature bright metallic leathers – all pieces are hand-made in London, Sarah’s design ethos is to create striking and versatile items to inject an element of fun and party spirit into every moment, and to make her clients feel like rock stars every day. I had the pleasure of sitting next to Sarah at the MOTHERS MEETINGS Christmas Party. What an absolute babestation!💖
Have a lovely weekend gang – head to my Instagram to tell me which your favourite pieces are and why – or what you’ve got planned this weekend!
Meet Joanna Riding, founder of Mini Maison, a brilliant online store offering modern, but playful, nursery and kids’ decor to style-conscious customers who wish to look beyond the high street – AND Mama of TWO!
Jo talks to us about how she juggles being a Mum Boss, the Mini Maisonconcept and THOSE Blue Blahnik’s!
CB: Please introduce yourself and your concept. JR: I’m Jo and I’m wife to Steve and Mum to Joshua and Sammy (4 and 2). Mini Maison, my company, sells modern décor for nurseries and children’s bedrooms.
CB: Brand names are a really important first impression of what you’re about, so how did you come up with your online alias/brand name? JR: Mini Maison came about through good old fashioned brain storming over the course of a few weeks. It wasn’t the first name that came to me but I knew that I’d change my mind a few times before settling on THE one… I was right – I went through Little House, Lilliput Décor and a few others before settling on Mini Maison!
CB: Where did it all begin? What inspired you to start up your concept? JR: I started Mini Maisonafter I struggled to find modern décor for the nurseries I designed for my boys. I researched for a while (probably for too long, because I was so nervous to actually take the leap) and our virtual doors opened in 2015. The business is currently going through a period of change as we grow to incorporate ALL children’s décor and not just babies, because I realised that as my boys grew out of their baby years, I was STILL struggling to find the cool products I was looking for on the high street.
CB: What is your brand ethos? JR: Mini Maison is the friendly place to shop if you’re looking for playful, modern design for your kids’ spaces; bedrooms, nurseries and playrooms. I’ll always do my best for my customers and try to make Mini Maison a place to go for good, accessible design.
CB: On a day-to-day basis, what or who inspires you? JR: My kids inspire me daily to be a better person. Sometimes this errs into mum guilt (see above) but I started Mini Maison so that I can be work and fulfil my ambitions AND be around to pick them up from school.
CB: Can you tell us about or give us a sneaky peak of something new that’s coming up? JR: We’ve got a few new brands joining the Mini Maison family in the next few weeks… I can’t say too much but it includes these two absolute beauties (below).
CB: Anything you wish you’d known before you became a parent / best piece of parenting advice? JR: People will ALWAYS have an opinion, if you’ve asked for it or not. Go with your gut – Mama usually knows best. And… nap when the baby naps. This is a crucial one for me. Even if it’s not every day, you’ve got to make the most of a napping baby because the napping phase DOESN’T LAST! I know some people struggle with this but if you choose to tidy your house instead of sleeping when you’re knackered then I might think you’ve lost the plot a bit (I LOVE sleep – it’s my special skill, being able to sleep anywhere, anytime!)
CB: Parenting-essentials, we know there are more than a few! But what is the one thing you can’t leave the house without? What is your most used piece of parenting/child paraphernalia? JR: When they were babies I had SO MANY must haves (that I then had to wean my children off of!): Ewan the Dreamsheep, Sleepyhead, dummies, swaddling suits (basically swaddles with zips on that meant we didn’t have to faff around with getting the tightness right – although they do look like straight jackets!). Now they’re older, we’re finding that they’re all about the night lights – sometimes more than one (good job Mummy has a never ending supply!). And an iPad – I think that one goes without saying, right!?
CB: Along the same vein as above, what is your ultimate Mama-Essential? What is your go-to item that you just can’t live without? JR: Concealer – to cover breakouts and also the massive bags that are usually hanging around under my eyes!
CB: What gives you ‘Mum-Guilt’? And how do you get round it? JR: Time I spend working and not ‘being’ with my kids. Running your own businesses does sometimes spill over into ‘family time’ and I think this is inevitable. But I do feel bad that I’m sometimes replying to emails or dealing with last-minute problems when I’m meant to be paying attention to the boys. This means that I do put the TV on more often than I probably should, and I feel REALLY guilty about this.
CB: Me-time is super important too, what do you like to do to zone-out? JR: I actually rarely feel like I zone-out or turn off. I’m almost constantly thinking about work – whether it’s new product ideas, new marketing techniques, listening to a podcast, let alone the actual work-work that goes into running a business. I’m desperately trying to tune out the voices in my head which are constantly chattering about the business. My husband and I try to have one evening a week where I’m not on my phone or laptop, and we just make a nice dinner and have a few drinks together. Also, seeing my bestest friends just helps me feel more centered (if a little hungover).
CB: Which are your go-to brands/shops? JR: Where do I start?! Iove Zara for clothes – I’m like a kid in a sweetshop and it’s great also for kids clothes too. I do try to buy from some smaller brands too, including Scamp and Dude and Fred & Noah for the boys. My friend Lucy runs Born at Dawn and she has curated a range of beautiful, timeless clothes that I want ALL of!
CB: What current wardrobe item is your all-time favourite and why? JR: I still have my wedding shoes, which are THE blue Manolo Blahnikshoes from Sex And The City. I try to wear them to events as often as I can (which is not very!) but to be honest I just like getting them out of the box and looking at them as they are just SO beautiful. In terms of things I actually wear regularly, you’ll almost always find me in a pair of skinny jeans. They’re my go-to-staple (even if they are on their way out of fashion).
CB: Choose 3 words to describe yesterday. JR: Chocolate (it was Easter), fun and family.
CB: Tell us something about you that might surprise people. JR: I have a really thin skin and worry A LOT about what people think about me. People are always surprised to hear this because they think I’m really confident but on the inside I’m usually bricking it and worrying about how I come across. NB. This can lead me to talk a lot, often about a load of old shit!
CB: Whats the kindest thing anyone has ever done for you? JR: My husband is always doing kind things for me and is incredibly thoughtful and I feel blessed that I’ve surrounded myself with the most incredible friends and family… their kindness regularly sees me through the week. One particular occasion springs to mind, after I’d had my second baby (by c-section) and couldn’t drive or walk very far, my friend Catherine would come to my house and help bundle me and my boys into the car and take us out for the morning somewhere, so that I didn’t actually go insane stuck in the house.
CB: Recommend a book, film or album from the past year. JR: Bad Moms – this was the last time I went to the cinema (I know… too long ago!) but oh my god, it is SO funny. It’s so good to spend your evening properly laughing out loud watching a film with a friend. Also, Amy Schumer’s autobiography is a brilliant read.
CB: What can you see out of your closest window / what is your current view? JR: Our garden – and it’s just reminding me of all the work I want to get done on it before the summer officially arrives
CB: Other than with your family & friends, where would you most like to be this weekend and why? JR: On a beach, with an endless supply of food and drink, with some shade available (I think this officially makes you a Mum when you can’t spend too long in the sun anymore!), and some books and magazines.
Loved chatting with you Jo – looking forward to seeing howMini Maison continues to progress, expand and inspire!
Welcome to Mini Maison, a shop offering modern and playful nursery and kids’ decor to style-concious consumers, wanting to look beyond the high street. Our carefully selected and curated products look equally good in a bedroom as they would in the rest of the home.
Started by an interiors-loving mum who gets inspiration from blogs and social media, she found it almost impossible to get her hands on the products that she was seeing online, in the UK, resulting in high shipping costs and problems with boring things like customs and import tax. And so Mini Maison was born. A simple idea; to bring you contemporary accessories for your little one’s bedroom, all the while offering unparalleled customer service and individual style.
Enjoy browsing and please do not hesitate to contact us should you need any assistance or have any queries. Oh, and please stop by regularly as we will be adding new products all the time.
I’m gonna cut straight to the featured MAMA Ring by RACHEL BALFOUR x BONNIE DOMAN. I absolutely love this ring, with the engraving designed by my lovely pal, Bonnie Doman. Bonnie is a bloody brilliant Art Director, Designer, Illustrator, mega-Mama and all round total babe – you can catch her latest adventures on Insta: @Bon_Ldn.Rachel Balfour is a wonderfully talented jewellery designer and created her collection with the belief that jewellery is much more than an accessory. Not only this, but Rachel creates her fine jewellery with conscience – 10% of the profit from each sale will go to Rosa – a charitable fund set up to support initiatives that benefit Women and Girls in the UK. All pieces are designed, created and finished by hand. You can follow Rachel on IG, here: @RachelBalfour.
As always, you simply cannot go wrong with a TIBA + MARLbag. Designed by two of my favourites, Anna & Lydia, TIBA+ MARL have to be the go-to brand for changing bags with a difference – they have longevity and are UNISEX. All bases are covered when it comes to T+M. We use ours almost daily – as an actual real-life back pack (Eli is way past the need for a changing bag – but hey, those baby wipes will forever be an item I do not leave the house without!). Our Elwoodusually keeps my Mac safe and sound these days (it’s super spacious) along with all the other clart we NEED with us! I’ve seen that a PINK version is coming soon – NEED!
Have a lovely weekend gang – head to my Instagram to tell me which your favourite pieces are and why – or what you’ve got planned this weekend!
Meet Claire Packer – Mama, founder of AUT:CTION, blogging the Autism journey of Ned, support to fellow Autism families and an avid Instagrammer at @NedInTheClouds.
Claire is one of the most inspirational people I’ve followed on Instagram. She is a mega-Mama (and thensome!) to wonderful brothers Ned & Kit, cooks amazing food, has a wardrobe of pretty awesome t-shirts and is refreshingly honest to boot!
Claire talks to us about where it all began, her inspirations and new projects on the horizon.
CB: Firstly, please introduce yourself and your ‘concept’ CP: I’m Claire. Not a concept as such but I write about Autism. I have a blog, a very exciting project on its way and I run support groups for parents of children with autism.
Lovely, lovely Ned.
CB: Usernames are a really important first impression of what you’re about, so how did you come up with your online alias? CP: I genuinely can’t remember choosing @nedintheclouds. Ned hadn’t been diagnosed then though and was tiny so it’s lovely that it describes him so well now. His head is always in the clouds.The name AUT:CTION came from my husband. I love it. It’s a PITA to type though and hashtags are always wrong*! Our new project uses the same AUT:concept. Against my better judgement!
CB: (Incase anyone wants clarification, the correct hashtag is #AUTCTION).
CB: Where did it all begin? What inspired you to start up your blog? CP: Instagram word allowance! I started writing about Ned’s journey on Instagram from the day he was diagnosed. I had a lot to say and the word allowance was smaller then. I transferred my posts to the blog and although I still talk about autism using IG, Ned In The Clouds is our real story.
The Packer family.
CB: On a day-to-day basis, what or who inspires you? CP: My family. They push me forward. They make me take steps I may not have taken and try things I might not have tried and their blind faith in me inspires me to be better and to try harder.
My friends. Especially those on a journey similar to ours. Strong, no bullshit women who have to fight for every little thing and who deal with things that they never expected and still laugh and joke and find the humour in this stuff. They, and their experiences have inspired my next project.
CB: AUT:CTION is such an amazing way of raising awareness and funds for something so important, and close to your heart. How did the concept come about? CP: The first AUT:CTION came together from initial idea to fruition in about 3 weeks! I had no idea what I was doing. There had never been anything like it before so I was making it up as I went along. I was, and still am, friends with some amazing brands and artists through Instagram. I sent lots of messages out one morning telling people about my idea and asking whether they’d like to be involved; and if they would like to donate goods to be auctioned. The messages came back in, yes, yes, yes. It would seem I would be having an auction! I was terrified. I needn’t have been though, we raised £3500 in a week. I couldn’t believe it. The second year I’d learned lots of lessons so it was smoother and less complicated and had different ways to be involved. We raised £13,500. This year was our best result yet and the total is currently around £13,800.
CB: I imagine AUT:CTION requires a lot of organising behind the scenes, this is your 3rd year, how has the process been this time? CP: Good. I get more organised every year! I have spreadsheets and everything now (which, if you know me, is unbelievable). The hard part is the sheer amount of time it takes. I start at the beginning of January when the initial conversations with donators take place. Over the next three months I have about 75 continuous email conversations and spend a lot of time on my phone. Bringing it all together at the end so it’s good to go is a great feeling. Then there’s the promo stuff. Trying to come up with new ideas to get it out there and to engage people is a challenge. We seem to be doing ok though!
CB: What has surprised you the most about AUT:CTION? CP: The kindness of strangers. It never fails to amaze me that someone will bid and pay £150 for a £100 shop voucher. Or bid hundreds of pounds for items they know they could buy for less. Or people who donate not just goods but their time to be auctioned. Or the people who are involved in a myriad of different ways. People are so incredibly generous and I am so incredibly thankful for it.
Brothers // Kit & Ned.
CB: What is your best piece of parenting advice? CP: Children don’t need things. They need you. Slow down. Be with them. Enjoy them. They are utterly fascinating little things and will teach you an awful lot about the world. Follow their gaze. They have often spotted something you might have missed.
CB: Parenting-essentials, we know there are more than a few! But what is the one thing you can’t leave the house without? What is your most used piece of parenting/child paraphernalia? CP: Honestly? I don’t think I have one now. I barely even carry a handbag. My Tula was essential when the boys were younger though. We didn’t use pushchairs so being able to chuck one up on my back was brilliant. Kit just wants to run everywhere now though. Our carrying days are over.
CB: Along the same vein as above, what is your ultimate Mama-Essential? What is your go-to item that you just can’t live without? CP: My iPhone camera. I am probably guilty of taking too many pictures really. I do try to put it away and have been doing better at being in the moment rather than capturing the moment but seeing beautiful pictures of my children makes me happy. Time passes so quickly and you forget so much. I’m happy to have a record!
CB: What gives you ‘Mum-Guilt’? And how do you get round it? CP: I don’t really get Mum guilt. I could be better of course, I could be less grumpy when I’m tired and I could think of another activity or go to the park when I don’t want to but I’m just doing my best. I don’t feel guilt for being human. I fight hard so my children have everything they need (especially for Ned. Resources and support can often be a fight) and they are surrounded by love and laughter. No guilt here.
CB: “Me-time” is super important too, what do you like to do to zone-out? CP: It’s only now, after 5 years of this game that I’ve begun to take some time for myself. I made an active decision at the start of this year to stop saying no to things. The house isn’t going to fall apart if I spend the day with friends or go to lunch. I haven’t progressed to evenings out yet, that’s next!
CB: Which are your go-to brands/shops? CP: My favourite brands for the boys are probably Bobo Choses and Mingo. Oh and Young Double are our favourite for oversized tees with interesting prints and messages. I like them to wear things you won’t see in the street. They definitely have their own style. Ned has a smart/casual thing going on. Kit often looks like I’ve just pulled him out of a bin no matter what he’s wearing. He’s one of those kids. I secretly like him being a bit scruffy. It makes me laugh.
CB: What current wardrobe item is your all-time favourite and why? CP: I am a jeans and t-shirt person so I don’t have a lot of special pieces. I live in my DM’s though, does that count? Ooh, I do have a giant lilac fluffy coat I wish I had the chance to wear more often. I love that. (Both pieces are featured in the first image of Claire, above!)
CB: Choose 3 words to describe yesterday. CP: Exciting new adventure (we are house hunting).
The Packer family.
CB: Tell us something about you that might surprise people. CP: I haven’t eaten meat since the beginning of the year and have drastically reduced dairy. I am certain that a plant based diet is the healthiest option for us and can’t see us going back now.
CB: Whats the kindest thing anyone has ever done for you? CP: This year during AUT:CTION people began raising money alongside the auctions, just because they wanted to. Some gave the profits of a certain item they sell to us, some had their own auctions. Just off their own back! Just because. Real, proper acts of kindness.
CB: What can you see out of your closest window / what is your current view? CP: The garden which is looking shockingly tidy but only because because the house is on the market!
CB: Other than with your family & friends, where would you most like to be this weekend and why? CP: Hotel room. Room service. Book. Bed.
CP: Stay tuned for a new project from us aimed at parents and carers of children with autism coming soon. We are in talks about a magazine, maybe even some merch. Things are happening! Slowly but surely.
Also a final thank you to everyone who raised money for AUT:CTION this year. We made nearly 14k for Autism projects and the National Autistic Societyand that has put the total raised over the 3 years we’ve been running at more than Thirty One Thousand Pounds. I am so proud to have been a part of it.
If you’re not already, give @NedInTheCloudsa follow on Instagram. Claire has such a beautiful feed – filled with (real life) snapshots of her boy’s , the most amazing eat’s and interior design heaven💘
Thank you so much for chatting with us Claire. You’re a wonderful human – with a wonderful family. It’s been a total joy to follow your feed and the journey for your whole family. I can’t wait to see/hear more about the new projects – such an exciting time for you all. Also, keep on with the Minimalism journey too… you’re so very brave! You really do need to come round and sort these rails out for me!
The reason I’ve featured both the GUCCI // SOHO Disco BagAND theA.P.C // Demi-Lune Bagis because tomorrow I might will finally own one or the other! I’ve lusted over both styles for well over a year – infact, I wrote about them in The Edit | Black Shoulder Bag, this time last year. I still have the medium-sized bag void in my wardrobe, and it’s driving me crazy! So tomorrow we shall see if my beloved wallet even fits in either of these styles – thats the real dealbreaker!
Helping parents be responsibly irresponsible since 2013. The Real Family Rave. Award winning, critically acclaimed, internationally acclaimed. Created by parents who love clubbing, for parents who love clubbing. Dance/Create/Play – see you on the dance floor!
I had been following Big Fish, Little Fish Events on Instagram for a long while and sadly, every time an event came to London town, the date would clash with other plans… or as it happened, we ended up moving to Berlin! If you don’t already know, Big Fish Little Fish “are an independent, grassroots music and events crew that put on family raves with all the freedom and excitement of a mini-festival, right in the heart of cities and towns across the UK”.
So when we moved back, I was desperate to take Eli off to the Family Rave. Fast forward almost a year, and the same things happened – clash of dates. Then finally, FINALLY the 23rd April event came up! At first we thought we wouldn’t be able to attend because Greater Anglia are messing about with the tracks EVERY single weekend for the next few months – which means some weekends, a 3 hour journey into London (which would normally take 35 mins btw). We checked out the trains and realised it was the weekend of the London Marathon – which meant the trains were RUNNING – with no replacement buses, no random journeys. Just direct! BOOM.
Natasha from BFLF got in touch with me and mentioned the theme was ‘Popstars & Rockstars’, as part of the Camp Bestival 2017 tour. Many are now aware, Eli is obsessed with his Starman. So for him, it was a no brainer. He was going as Ziggy. He wanted the red hair and the lightning bolt face. He wanted to complete the rest of his outfit himself, of course. Natasha also mentioned a potential venue change, due to the recent happenings at the Hackney club. I imagine this was quite a stressful week between the event for the BFLFteam, through horrendous circumstances. But as it happened, they managed to be able to continue with the same venue – and what a venue to boot!
TheWringer + Manglewas really easy for us to get to. A short journey on the Overground took us to London Fields station, where it was then a 2 minute walk to the venue. Eli was clarted out in full Ziggy regalia – and loving all the comments along the route!
Upon arrival at the location, we saw the queue leading down to The Mangle. We were advised by both Natasha and Hannah that there may be a delay for entry as all bags were searched. Rightly so. The airport style security was very thorough, which is great and welcomed by all. Safety first. I was asked to try the water we had in our bag – as well as test my trusty Lipcote. We then went into the depths of the venue. It was dark, there was neon, there was a craft table (Captain Cookie Crafts), cakes and bar for the adults. PERFECT.
These events are aimed at families with young children (birth – around 8 years old) – though we definitely did see folk of all ages there!
Facepainters PHACE by Philly, were also on hand, transforming the faces of both Adults (£7) and Children (£5). Had I not already painted Eli’s face myself, I can guarantee he would have had his face decorated – we loved the designs we saw!
Parachute Dance – something that the Kid’s and Adults all love, of course.
Entry into the event also includes free glowstick and transfers. Eli chose a Skull & Cross bones tattoo, obviously.
As this event was in conjunction with Camp Bestival 2017 On Tour, there was the opportunity to pose against the photobooth backdrop (Eli needed zero coaxing). Photos shared and tagged with #CB17ontour and #BFLF would be entered into a competition to win one of 3 Family Guest Passes for Camp Bestival 2017 itself! (Fingers firmly crossed!)
All BFLF events are based on the concept – 2 to 4 Hour Party People (ha), so by 4:30pm the event was drawing to a close. The glitter cannon finale was epic and Eli proceeded to swim/create snow angels in the remnants.
We had the best afternoon! I cannot recommend these events highly enough. The music isn’t too loud (for newborns, you might want to bring a set of ear defenders – but the volume was more than acceptable for toddlers). Everything was incredibly well managed, organised and maintained by Hannah, Natashaand their team. The most brilliant amount fun for a few hours – the 3 of us had a good old dance, with Eli getting the ‘big fish, little fish, cardboard box’ dance suspiciously easily…
As parents, with no local support, we don’t get out often. AT ALL. So this was a fantastic way of reliving a little bit of youth and letting our hair down – with Eli absolutely loving every second too!
Just to also highlight, you will need to take cash for additional extra’s once inside (for Face-painting and the cake stall etc), though at this venue, the bar did accept cards. We had 2 cans of beer from the bar (which does alleviate a lot of spillages I imagine!), but the cans were on the expensive side. So do bare that in mind too. We don’t get out often, so this was fine for us. Adults are not admitted unless accompanied by a child and there is a max of 3 children per adult. This made us feel very safe in a new and very dark environment. Pre-Walking infants do need a ticket, though this is free! (Bonus for new parents!). These events have limited seating (just dance!), club lighting rigs (no strobes) are used and events are busy with around 500 people at each party – which helps create the rave ambience. Each event is stewarded and risk assessed in advance – we saw lots of stewards in high-vis, so you couldn’t miss them! Buggies must be left in buggy park and are not be allowed on the dance floor.
We can’t wait to join the next event! If BFLF visits a city near you, don’t miss it. Travel to one if you can. I urge you. You won’t be disappointed!
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Special thanks to Natasha for inviting us along to this event. This is in no way a sponsored review. All opinions my own. Some quotes and details taken from www.bigfishlittlefishevents.co.uk
Drawing on our experience as seasoned clubbers and parents the BFLF crew create anarchic, social, daft fun for all ages. Inspired by Hannah’s (the founder) lifelong love of clubbing and her babies’ enjoyment of festivals. BFLF is something we want to take our own families to – somewhere relaxed, entertaining, and where the adults enjoy themselves as much as the children and vice versa with grandparents, uncles, aunts and carers all in the mix. Raving always came from the heart, a way to express a love of music and dancing with your friends. BFLF extends that across the generations so you can rave with your family too. It’s a celebration of life, love and music.
We work hard to make sure each event is unique – different DJs, creative themes and guest artists running everything from hula-hoop demonstrations to synthesiser workshops to interactive light installations.
Our parties are held in interesting and quirky venues; clubs, arts spaces and pubs, which help create the ambience of being at a real rave.
Started in Brixton, summer 2013 BFLF now runs on weekend afternoons across the UK, and also works with other festivals and organisations (Glastonbury Festival, Camp Bestival, South Bank Centre, Edinburgh Festival, Beautiful Days, Coventry Mysteries, Kendal Calling, National Gallery, Stratford Circus, The Museum of London, London LGBT Pride, Out With The Family, Winterville, Mini VAULT, Farnham Maltings, Dreamland Margate and the London Electronic Arts Festival).
Regular events are now held all over the country including: Exeter, Bristol, Oxford, Birmingham,Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Liverpool, Nottingham, Sheffield, Leeds, Newcastle, Leicester and Manchester and many more.