FASHION | VALENTINE'S DAY IS COMING: 5 OUTFIT IDEAS FOR YOUR NEXT DATE

Our guest contributor Amy Goldsmith talks us through her top picks for #ValentinesDay in this week’s fashion story…

Whether you and your darling have been together for a while or it’s a relationship that’s just starting to bud, Valentine’s Day is a great opportunity to indulge in some romance. What will you be doing this year? Are you and your partner going out to a simple dinner? Will there be roses, chocolate, and grand romantic gestures?

However you decide to celebrate your love, one thing’s for sure –there’s a sweet date waiting for you in the future and you’ve got to be ready for it! Sexy, cute, elegant, you’ve got options to take this date anywhere you want, and we’re here with some cool suggestions to help you put together the perfect outfit.

SULTRY SEDUCTRESS

The way to a man’s heart? Velvet. It’s lush, smooth, and it will engage his senses as his hand brushes over your waist – it simply gives a tactile dimension to your outfit that’ll make him want to sit closer. A soft velvet dress paired with six-inch heels and a cheeky little smirk that promises a hot night ahead will make his mind spin. We recommend the Zara Printed Velvet Crossover Dress because it’ll show off your sexy legs and hug your figure just right; pair it with some burgundy heels and maybe a long coat over it so you can experience that moment of hearing him gasp as you unbutton the coat and slide it off your shoulders...

CUTE AS A BUTTON...

Demure, sweet, with just a dash of naughty, another great outfit idea is pastel-colored or white lace, preferably something that makes you look delicate, feminine, and still absolutely sexy. This Newlook sheer lilac frill trim top is a gorgeous choice, especially if you pair it with a nude undershirt and slim jeans or trousers. Wear ballet flats and let your hair fall down your shoulders in loose curls and you’ve got a nice, romantic look on your hands that’s so innocently sexy.

SASS AND SOPHISTICATION 

Feminine, mysterious, and luxuriously sophisticated, maybe you want a look that will have the guy sweating as he tries to impress you. Enjoy his open-mouthed stare as he sees you in a tight little pencil skirt and something like this Rockmans Elbow Sleeve Ruffle Blouse and black pumps. Pin your hair in a sleek chignon, paint your lips with some wet, nude lip gloss, and give him a smile girl – you’re an elegant goddess and you need to own it! Confidence is an essential part of this look, so enjoy your own beauty!

DANGEROUSLY SEXY

Maybe you’re an edgy gal who likes to make the head turn wherever she goes, who breaks social conventions and likes to get a little dangerous with her fashion. In that case, leather pants are your friend, baby! Slim leather pants, this satin wrap top, and the magical ingredient – over the knee boots! Throw on a leather jacket, wear bright red lipstick, and rock this bold look! If you want to dial it down a notch you can pick high-waisted skinny jeans instead of leather pants, and maybe switch the shoewear to high-heeled ankle boots

SATIN AND LACE

Let’s not forget the most important part – lingerie. Red is almost traditional for Valentine’s Day, but hey, it works. Nothing makes a gal feel sexier than red lingerie, but if you prefer, you can also go for the more mysterious-looking black or charmingly sexy white or pink. However, we’d like to encourage you to take it a step further and wear a corset (we know you always wanted one), because there’s nothing like a little burlesque moment to bring some fantasy and sexy romance to the date (or rather, what comes after it). Imagine yourself in a burgundy corset and black stockings with garters, then imagine your man as he sees you in it. Hot, hot, hot!

Excited about your date? Well there’s nothing like a little shopping session to keep you going until Valentine’s Day is here, so get creative and put together an outfit that will knock his socks off and make you feel sexy and stunning!

FASHION | THE SHEARLING COAT

From high -flying aviators to dodgy dealers at 1970s market stalls, the shearling coat has seen many fan clubs over  the years, mostly male. But this season sees female fans embrace it in a big way, with an array of colours and varying textures. This style is a sure fire hit for the coldest season of the year. Editor Cathy Martin looks at some of the most popular….

Topshop

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The colour of this fleecy number has got me all sheepish. And it’s available in TALL and PETITE also

Price: £79

Zara

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This one is channeling GOOSE in 1980s movie Top Gun and we love it for that.

Price: £89.99

Monki

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I’m not overly sold on the colour and exterior pockets of this one, but the team here love it, so, it stays.

Price: £65

Mango

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Simple, chic and not too bulky (if you don’t like the extra inches that a big shearling coat brings). Plus, the length is advantageous for cold kidney types, like me!

Price: £69.99

Urban Outfitters

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I’m not one for zip fastenings on wool or cotton coats, but this is so cosy and would be fab on a park walkabout. Four legged friend optional.

Price: £75

MM6 Maison Margeila

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I have a feeling this would drown me. But do I care? Not in the slightest!

Price: £1,830 

Topshop

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This is definitely reminding me of old men in background of the Only Fools and Horses re-runs. But in a cool way.

Price: £79

Reiss

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Aaah black, the fashionista’s favourite. This beauty is super soft to touch and dreamy to wear.

Price: £895

Newlook

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A bit on the light side for me – both in colour and in silhouette. But pretty for just a taste of shearling.

Price: £49.99

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Much prefer this option from New Look – better shape, much more interesting take on the original flying jacket silhouettes.

Price: £49.99

Michael Kors

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The colour is a wee bit ‘meh’ for me, but I know plenty of peeps who adore these greeny-browns. I do love the fluffier fleece on the collar though.

Price: £295

Louis Vuitton

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Well hello there super luxe! This coat is unpriced, which probably means I cannot (and will not) ever afford it. But, wow!

Stella McCartney

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This is beautiful and luxurious – the perfect coat for a country weekend with plenty of walks and stop offs and gourmet pubs.

Price: £1435

Saks Potts

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Now this baby is cute! I would most definkitely save my pennies and purchase this princess

Price: £980

Yves Salmon

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Super rich colour and texture – exactly how this kind of coat should look and feel. Boom! 

Price: £1890

Frame

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Almost velvety in texture – and super feminine in colour. We love!

Price: £680

Chloe

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This baby has definitely got our engines running.

Price: £3305

Stella McCartney

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Not super keen on the hooded part of this jacket, but it looks super cosy none the less!

Price: £945

Saint Laurent

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Love this. But what is with the REALLY long arms?

Is it me or is this coat made for Mr Tickle?

£4280

Coach

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Totally boho and 1970s. This is one of my faves…

Acne

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If you’re gonna wear white, you gotta do it right. And this kinda does it.

Thick and full of style – I love this jacket!

£1120

Victoria Beckham

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VB doesn’t disappoint with this cropped number.  Is it weird that I would like to see her and David in matching versions?

£1545.

Belstaff

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I normally love Belstaff, but my school report comment back to this one is a bit ‘could’ve done better’. Sorry! Nice trims though.

£1695

Escada

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This is a beauty, but its colour has been so widely copied on the high street that I am finding it hard to appreciate the price

£1750

Coach

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Yes, yes, yes, yes! I’m having a total When Harry Met Sally moment here. And it’s not fake!

£1985

Isabel Marant

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I think this would look super cool on one of those understated French gals.

Cold Brit or Irish lass? Not so much.

£2645

Maje

Is this a bit too Rodeo? For me, I’m sorry, but it is.

£1700

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Sandy Liang

Love this colour and the collar too.

Coveting one right now

£1520

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Kenzo

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This Kenzo coat is amazing – and perfect to clash with red for the ultimate AW17 look

£1335

DIESEL BLACK GOLD

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Totally beaut coat – just like something out of In the Name of the Father movie.

£2245

ALEXANDER MCQUEEN

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This baby is right up there with the Coach number. One of my faves this season, but unfortunately sold out about 20 mins after release.

£4295

SANDRO

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Love the red collar and cuff – definitely a hit this season.

£1375

Whistles

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This beauty from Whistles is something you could wear to herd sheep and get lost in the herd. We’re thinking, Donegal, New Year’s Eve, and a pint of Guinness. Slainte!

£995

FASHION | THE MAC IS BACK

Born at Burberry for soldiers in the damp and dirty trenches of WWI, the traditional #trenchcoat has made a major comeback for AW17. From Celine to Max Mara , this stylish classic is enjoying a renaissance, and offers a convenient way to tackle the transitional period from the warm summer days to cooler Autumn evenings – and there are both modern and traditional variations now available on the high street too.

Check out my faves to suit every budget and style here:

& Other Stories

£165 online at   & Other Stories

£165 online at & Other Stories

Marks & Spencer

£99 at Marks & Spencer

£99 at Marks & Spencer

Zara

£119 online at  Zara

£119 online at Zara

£69.99 online at Zara

£69.99 online at Zara

Topshop

£160 from  Topshop

£160 from Topshop

Mango

£49.99 from Mango

£49.99 from Mango

Burberry

£1,495 from  Burberry

£1,495 from Burberry

Michael Kors

£350 online at  Michael Kors

£350 online at Michael Kors

  A.W.A.K.E

$1,033 at  Matches

$1,033 at Matches

Stella McCartney

£1,795 at  Net-A-Porter

£1,795 at Net-A-Porter

ADD DOWN

£252.30 at Shop Bop

£252.30 at Shop Bop

Max Mara

£545 at  Max Mara  or call into Max Mara on the Lisburn Road, Belfast

£545 at Max Mara or call into Max Mara on the Lisburn Road, Belfast

Just Cavalli

£834.99 available at  Zalando

£834.99 available at Zalando

FASHION | FIFTY YEARS OF M&S

It’s quite unbelievable that M&S has been part of the shopping landscape in Belfast for fifty years. But then, I find it hard to believe that I am not a decade off fifty myself – eeks!

This month, the iconic retail brand celebrated the landmark with loads of instore activity and a lovely nod to the past with an archive exhibition at the Donegall Place store. And whilst I found it amazing to look back in awe and wonder at some really fab pieces, I fell totally love with the new collection’s coats on my last visit. 

Having worked in the textiles industry in the past, I am a stickler for fabric quality and thankfully, M&S consistently delivers with pieces which work in terms of both form and function – they fit and flatter. Coats are thoughtfully and thoroughly designed – and they last at least a few winters, while blouses retain their pizazz even after a whole season’s outings.

This season, heritage fabrics and rich earthy colours set the Autumnal tone in the brand’s AW17 collection, as traditional looks are reworked with a contemporary twist. Checks, sumptuous velvets and statement knits are given a chic update; because classics never go out of style.

The softer side of luxury is explored as cosy furs meet pastel florals and a warmth of metallic. Daywear is elevated; blurring the conventional day to night mood and making the everyday, extra special.

The colour rules are redefined, as head to toe hues take centre stage. (And this, I love – been doing it for ever now!) The M&S AW17 collection encourages women to stride into the new season with bold colour combinations; deep red, rich fuchsia, inky navy and warm caramel, and pave the way for a daring new direction. I’m in!

Modern Heritage

Classics with a contemporary twist

Autograph Trench £89, Top £45 &, Skirt £49.50

Autograph Trench £89, Top £45 &, Skirt £49.50

Soft Touch

A little luxury everyday

Per Una Coat £89

Per Una Coat £89

Colour Code

The bold and the beautiful

M&S Collection Coat £99, Jumper £17.50, Trouser £35, Bag £79 & Shoe £45

M&S Collection Coat £99, Jumper £17.50, Trouser £35, Bag £79 & Shoe £45

Light After Dark

Shine out in the crowd

Autograph Coat £99, Belt £12.50 & Boot £49.50

Autograph Coat £99, Belt £12.50 & Boot £49.50

STYLE SPOTTING AT THE WEST COAST COOLER FASHIONWEEK LAUNCH

You know the summer is coming to a close when the Autumn West Coast Cooler FASHIONWEEK invitation comes in, and who better to pick the best dressed from this season’s press launch than the fierce female behind FASHIONWEEK herself, none other than Belfast Times columnist/blogger Cathy Martin?

Each and every season the FASHIONWEEK shows and events come around so quickly, and in between the organisation of the events, I field questions and comments from show goers and fashion fans alike - and ‘what should I wear?’ is one of the most common questions! The truth is that these days, most things go, as long as they’re worn with sass and confidence. And another truth is, I often have no idea what I will wear myself to host the shows until about an hour before!

I’m always inspired by our guests and audience members though, and very often they pull out all the stops to up the ante on the style stakes. At our recent press launch in Bullitt, I hardly got chatting to anyone - the event flew by in just an hour and we had over 150 guests, so I missed catch ups with about 149 of them! I did take some time afterwards to pore over our photographers’ pictures, and have whittled the city’s style mavens down to my top ten (ok, eleven) fave looks from the day - in no particular order I might add!

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First up, the navy ladies. I loved blogger Louise Vance and ASDA PR Fiona Anderson’s navy looks. It was the colour I chose to sport myself, so it definitely got a thumbs up from me as a chic alternative to the typical fashionista favourite, black.

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There were two woodland green looks that I loved also - my chum Claudia Brown, who was with me this summer for my VOGUE intensive experience, came over for the launch and helped me style up some looks. While there, she raided my styling rail and wore In Chlomo on top and Pimkie green velvet flares on the bottom. The look was topped off with some William Morris frames from our official eyewear partner, and the overall effect was very cool.  Teenager Lucy Watson looked super sophisticated and beyond her years in an AKANI dress with elegant arm detail - sure to be a hit on the runway in October.

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Looking all white was blogger Emily Hancock in a backless LWD, studded shoes and a cool pair of Sixties-inspired glasses. Siobhan Murphy from Shiv on Style blog wore a white based floral dress with just enough trim to get you guessing if it was Gucci or Gabbana. Whatever it was, it was totally of-the-moment for the balmy late August afternoon that was in it.

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Also sporting florals, and rarely one to miss my top ten style watch, is friend and designer Katie Larmour, who wore a black mesh skirt with a richly coloured Jacquard-weave jacket peppered with the colours of an autumnal bouquet. She’s a massive Balenciaga fan, so I’d put my money on that for this jacket, while the studs on her bag suggest Valentino, and on her feet, those are unmistakeably Louboutins.

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Vloggers Melissa Riddell and Niamh Cunningham were almost twinning at the launch with their super tight black skinnies and pops of this season’s fave colour - red - as well as the obvious similarities in their fab wavy/curly blonde hair. I loved Melissa’s red fringe earrings and Niamh’s wrap top fringing. Actually, there was definitely a fringe earring memo out there, because at one point I saw bloggers Aisling Gallagher, Katie Andrew, Lauren Foley, Danielle Donohoe and Emma Jane Mooney all lined up together for a selfie, and all wearing them (if only I had that shot here!)

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Melissa also nodded to Dior with her slogan tee and she topped off her look with some amazing eyewear by William Morris. In fact she loved her new frames so much she has since had her prescription lenses put into them.

Finally - the ladies in black included make up artist and blogger Rosie Kirk who daringly added metalics to her look with a sexy fishtail skirt; and lastly two of my F Words speakers Tiffany Brien and Kim Constable looked just the business for two of the hardest working people online here. Kim was spectacularly dressed by Peel on Bloomfield Avenue while Tiffany wore a fab M&S dress that I also have - and one that I could live in, every day!  

So that’s a wrap - for more details on the BFW shows, you can always contact me directly from the links on www.belfastfashionweek.com

FASHION | MY VOGUE DIARY

If you’re a massive Vogue fan like me who had the famous ‘supermodel’ cover on her bedroom wall at 16 years old, then an opportunity to work and learn at the very heart of the nation’s (nay, the world’s) fashion bible is something to jump at - to jump ridiculously high and excitedly at. So when, last December, I got word back from Conde Nast College that, at 43 years old, I had been admitted to their Vogue Intensive summer intake, I was beaming.

Why did I want to go back to school and be at the bottom end of the chain when I had reached relatively great heights back here at home?

Well, to continue formal learning at any age has a disruptor effect. One is forced to rethink how things are done and to use the time for introspection to discover a better way. I had an overwhelming desire to learn more, to experience new kinds of creativity and to mix with exciting people full of fresh ideas and global influences.

For a few reasons, childcare being the most important one, I kept my summer plans quite low key and told only 4-5 people until about May, when I had accommodation and travel arrangements all sorted for myself and my five year old daughter Valentina, who I had planned to bring along with me for the ride. Being a single mum is not easy. Being a single mum and having to go home every night to do bathtime and prep packed lunches for camp the next day, then spend the evening on a laptop catching up on the day job when your twentysomething colleagues hit London town is, I found out, really quite hard. I come from a large family and like feeling part of a pack, so I suffered big doses of FOMO.  

Practicalities out of the way, I then planned my wardrobe. Of course! I needed to streamline packing but choose clothes which were interesting enough yet practical for the summer heatwave and the rain which followed, plus allthe walking required in London meant that my usual Jimmy Choo Anouks just weren’t going to cut it over there.

I actually kept a photo diary of some things that my colleagues were wearing for the first three weeks and I cant wait to look back on that in weeks and months ahead to see what we all wore with the benefit of perspective. One colleague, Ari Peralta, wins my fashion award. He dressed en pointe each and every day.

On arrival I met with colleagues from over 20 nationalities and we discovered that our common passion ensured that the flames of fashion were well and truly ignited. After a fun initiation day (which included a fashion pub quiz - an idea for FASHIONWEEK maybe?) we got stuck in and learnt about fashion history from Suzanne Lussier, then fashion futures from Katie Friedlander, among others.

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Among my favourite characters while there were Vogue editor-at-large Fiona Golfar who was funny and fascinating in equal measure; and John the doorman at Vogue House, who seemed to have an uncanny knack of knowing where every one of the 750 Conde Nast staff were at any given time. In fact, there were quite a few interesting characters it has to be said.

Sadly, I didn’t get to see Edward Enninful, the incoming editor, who hit the news recently with his alleged ‘purge of the posh’ after former editor Alexandra Schulman’s departure, but I did enjoy an insightful carrot juice with one incoming editor from back home who was welcoming and warm in equal measure.

Day to day, we were mostly learning, but also working on practical projects and even pitched October edition ideas for critique, which was scary - and that’s saying something considering I’ve been public speaking for almost two decades - doing my TED talk in 2015 was less nerve-wracking!

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During  my time there I shot a still life for Manolo Blahnik, and although I did a team shoot with a grey fur boot, I had personally fallen in love with a green, egg-shaped clutch bag with a Swarovski handle at the brief. On seeing it, I immediately thought of a greedy magpie, who would steal the sparkle for her nest. So the night before I set about collecting branches, feathers and twigs in nearby Battersea Park and then built a nest from scratch, twisting and binding the wood and blades of hay together, then spray painting it white to show off the bag’s colour and to give a Christmassy appeal. If we had time, I would shoot it as well as our group shot. Thankfully, we did, and I was able to use a magpie feather borrowed from milliner and friend Grainne Maher on a trip home placing it nonchalantly beside the nest when shooting it. Our photographer loved it. I was delighted to get fab feedback afterwards, for both my own extra shot and our team shoot, but the biggest pleasure came when I opened the September edition of Vogue a few weeks later and saw the bag in the Manolo ad campaign, with a magpie silhouette beside it. Not bad, eh? I was on the same track as the brand team. Beaming again!

As well as the still life shoot, I worked with an American-Swiss-Irish-Australian group of fab ladies on a portfolio fashion classics shoot including a biker jacket and a body suit which was a really fun project. I sourced a red skirt from Belfast designer Gordon Donaldson and picked up a sexy red swimsuit in TopShop to style it up. The team paired the look with my colleague Sofia’s Balenciaga boots and another colleague Scarlett’s Moschino bag as well as some earrings I’d bought but not yet worn. We had so much fun directing our beautiful model Gardelina to run and jump in front of the lens.

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My least favourite part was using photoshop and InDesign. I felt really out of my comfort zone as I had previously always outsourced all elements of design, however having identified this as a weakness, I have now invested in these programmes and aim to practice more so I can produce my own artwork or blog content when I want to.

When Valentina wasn’t around (she didn’t stay the full four weeks), I managed to visit the Balenciaga exhibition at the V&A, the Tate Modern, The Saatchi Gallery (Self Expression to Selfie is a fantastic exhibition), the Fashion & Textiles Museum, the amazing Grayson Perry exhibition at the Serpentine and many more artistic experiences. I lounged on the rooftop pool at the Ned, ate in Sushi Samba, SoHo House, the Soho Hotel, J Sheeky’s, Bob Bob Ricard’s, The Ivy, Sketch, Bluebird and quite a few other awesome eateries. I watched Jez Butterworth’s amazing play The Ferryman (and took Valentina to see School of Rock also) then I sank a couple of cosmos at Dean Street Townhouse with my former BBC colleague Ceire Deery, who produced the BRITs for 15 years and is about to produce the MTV EMAs in London in November. I also caught up with Michaela Weir, now super senior in House of Fraser as well as many other NI alumni doing great things in London at Little House and Morton’s in Mayfair and joined the Christmas press launches for Selfridges, Debenhams and House of Fraser, among others.

The city is as vibrant and inspiring as ever and, despite a jam-packed schedule, the experience of spending a month there has left me refreshed, re-energised and ready to tackle the next few months (years) with gusto. My colleagues - young and old - taught me as much as the training team did - I learnt from them in so many ways, and made some nice friendships along the way, in spite of my initial FOMO.  

This feature first appeared in Northern Woman magazine, September 2017.

PURE LONDON'S SS18 trends

EXPERIENTIAL TRENDS FOR SS18 AT PURE LONDON

This weekend I ventured to London’s Olympia to soak up the trends for SS18 at PURE. I was educated, enriched and inspired.

Pure London is the UK’s leading trade show for fashion buyers, but even as an observer industry visitor, I learnt so much as the show boasted a global offering championing new feature areas, emerging brands, an unrivalled education programme and seminar content. It combined serious business with creative and inspirational experiential content initiatives including keynote speeches from fashion designers Dr Pam Hogg and Henry Holland as well as the trends shows and buyer briefings from WGSN - which I loved.

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WGSN isthe bible of trend forecasting and, during her Buyer’s Briefing, Sara Maggioni, (Director Retail and Buying at WGSN) stated that consumers will be buying less but buying better. Sustainability and versatility is key; with season-less and dual-function items offering value for money and the blurring of genres and categories opening up cross merchandising opportunities. Here are her key predictions for SS18. You heard it here first!  

A new category to watch out for, and an extension of the growing Athleisure trend, is Sloungewear – based on statistics stating that by 2020 45% of Americans will work from home, Sloungewear offers a merging of active, sleep and loungewear. 

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Dresses, in particular midi styles, continue to be the biggest category but there is an increasing indication that we’re seeing a return to separates, as well as multi-functional items such as the two-piece dress - an item that can be deconstructed into three items. Drawstring tops are a new take on volume and ruffle tops for SS18, and Angel sleeves offer a new alternative to the cold-shoulder styles.

Colourways see the continued influence of prints. Pink now becomes a core shade not just a fashion shade but sees a move away from dusty soft pinks to more daring Magenta and Fuchsia tones with a high octane 1980s feel, while Rose Terracotta offers soft neutral pinks with reddish hues. Pale Sage brings a new alternative to pastel mints and utility greens which are set to be key for swimwear.

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Other key colourways include Lilac, Bold Red, Summer Wine, and Solid Neons used as detail features to contemporise utility and military looks. Textures and materials for SS18 include sheer and luxe Soft Glitter, modern Contemporary Lace on boxy shapes, Feminine Sheers to give a flowing feminine feel to contemporary shapes, exaggerated Bows, Ruching and Drawstring as an update to the familiar gathering silhouette, and Lace Up details especially coming through on denim. Prints and Patterns in the form of florals, stripes and placement prints are still growing, and Tie-Dye becomes less hippy and moves into more contemporary territory on denim and wovens. Slogans continue but become more inclusive – eyecatching, Instagrammable, and featuring messages of inclusivity, non -gender and against discrimination. And the use of World Fonts indicates the move towards Globalisation over Westernisation.

To help with S/S 18 planning, WGSN’s four overarching Vision themes were mapped across six key retail drops, providing clear insight into which Vision trend will be most relevant for which parts of the season, enabling effective planning for product development across all seasonal ranges. 

The season opens with Slow Futures, focusing on practical and functional product that crosses over from winter into the Spring Transitional drop. 

Slow Futures focuses on the importance of basics, but with a more luxurious approach. As demand grows for long-lasting essentials, fabric assumes a new importance. In this trend, basic no longer means ordinary. Quite the contrary: wardrobe staples are becoming more lavish and desirable. 

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Minimalism is a key influence in the Slow Futures trend, but moves away from its purist roots to embrace strong silhouettes, clever cuts and added texture. The trend for raw edges becomes more tactile with all-over finishes, and slubbed fabrics use silks and jerseys, adding interest to simple designs with elevated details. Shapes become more structured, as sharp edges and circular silhouettes become more important in tailored and volume items.

Kinship has two drops: Spring which centres around lighter layers, and Mid-Spring & Festival, which explores new festival essentials

Kinship is a trend focused on adventure and travel, driven by cross-cultural connections in a globalised world, and the pioneering spirit of ancient Silk Road trading. This trend offers pick-and-mix influences that take us on a journey from sea voyage to souk, including swashbuckling nautical looks, Islamic geometrics and updated rodeo styles. 

Kinship offers a layered approach to dressing, both in terms of design details and cultural references, which makes it perfect for Spring and Mid-Spring & Festival retail drops. Craft is fused with clever pattern cutting in this trend, and historical and cross-cultural details are key. Romantic and bohemian styles take on a tougher look, and casual looks are elevated with a focus on refined fabrics, raw-edge layering, intricate embellishment and surface texture.

Psychotropical also has two drops: Summer which targets both casual and resort, and High-Summer, which focuses on beach looks, with an emphasis on print and pattern.

Psychotropical sees lush botanical themes take on a heightened, almost synthetic form, with motifs that have a hallucinogenic quality. Colours are deep and saturated, and the juxtaposition of the natural and the man-made creates an unusual tension that feels new for the season. 

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Swim and beachwear is a key reference this trend, which plays perfectly into the Summer and High Summer retail drops. Beautiful constructions and patterns traditionally seen on swimwear translate to apparel here, as beach-to-bar items evolve into everyday dressing, much the same way loungewear and pyjama dressing has. Silhouettes are simple and fluid, rather than restrictive, and materials offer a sense of refinement and luxury

Youth Tonic has an expressive urban attitude that works for the Summer Transitional drop, as the season moves towards autumn.

Youth Tonic embodies the exuberance of youth, but also appeals to older consumers in a market where age distinctions are more amorphous. It's a rebellious direction driven by a new wave of young designers, which defies categorisation and moves gender-fluid styling into the mainstream. 

The Youth Tonic trend takes place against a backdrop of bleak news and social upheaval, which is giving rise to a more outspoken, socially aware generation. Accepted norms are being challenged by young creatives, who are channelling their energy through fashion, clubbing, music and politics. The result is an eclectic clash of styles with a dash of neo- nostalgia, where 1990s clubwear and street style assume a new relevance.

PURE is a great show to visit for anyone in retail or fashion, whether you’re buying or not. There was a genuine buzz in the aisles and it looked like the buying experience was most definitely meeting the needs of the ever-changing customer and audience.  I was happy to see NI buyers like Aileen Wilson from Blush, Brenda Part from Diamond Dolls and Clodagh Shortt from Honey, plus the My Sister’s Closet girls who were there selling their own label to what looked like hordes of hungry buyers. We have a strong independent retail sector in NI/Ireland, and I hope for the customer and our towns’ streetscapes’ sakes, that this continues.

ERDEM X H&M

This month, H&M announced its annual exclusive designer collaboration for 2017 would be with London-based label ERDEM. The brand, which was launched in 2005, is a firm favourite with A-List celebrities including Nicole Kidman, Cate Blanchett and the Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton. Renowned designer Erdem Moralioglu is one of the fashion world’s most talented creators. His designs are known to celebrate the power of beauty while exploring historical references and romantic influences. His label is one of London’s most successful, regularly showcasing at London Fashion Week and winning many design awards including Womenswear Designer of the Year at the British Fashion Awards in 2014.

ERDEM x H&M is set to feature a full collection of feminine and delicate womenswear, a men’s collection and an accessories line. As with all H&M designer collaborations, there will be something for everyone at a variety of price points. Alongside the beautiful fashion, H&M has also announced that iconic film director Baz Luhrmann will showcase the collection, bringing it to life through his one-of-a-kind ability. A teaser of the collection directed by Lurhmann has been released.

H&M has collaborated with many iconic fashion houses over the years and Moralioglu said “It’s such an honour to join the group of designers who have collaborated with H&M. It made me think there’s something hugely exciting about doing something on such a global scale.” Talking about the collection itself Moralioglu said “It’s inspired by much of my youth, from the English films, ’90s TV shows and music videos I grew up watching to memories of the style that defined members of my family. Taking from these inspirations, I imagined a group of characters and friends off to the English countryside for the weekend. There’s a real play in the collection between something decidedly dressed-up and equally effortless.”

The ERDEM x H&M collection will launch in selected stores and online on 02 November. While we wait patiently for the line to go live, let’s delve back into some H&M collections from years past.

H&M’s first ever designer collaboration was with Karl Lagerfeld, back in 2004. Lagerfeld believed the collaboration was the perfect way to engage younger, less affluent fashion fans while simultaneously giving H&M major fashion points. While this collection was ground-breaking and hugely successful, Lagerfeld stated he would never work with H&M again because of the limited distribution of the collection which went against the whole premise of accessible high fashion. Lagerfeld told Vogue, “They did not make the clothes in sufficient quantities. I find it embarrassing that H&M let down so many people. I don’t think that is very kind, especially for people in small towns and countries in eastern Europe. It is snobbery created by anti-snobbery.”

Stella McCartney partnered with the brand in 2005 (and I still have a fab deconstructed rain mac/trench coat from this collection!), then Roberto Cavalli and Comme des Garcons followed in 2007 and 2008 with massive successes, and Lanvin was the designer of choice in 2010. Alber Ebaz said “I hope now that we have so many more dresses of Lanvin many more women will be falling in love and many more women will be fallen in love with.”

In more recent times, the retailer has teamed up with Versace both in 2011 and again in 2012 because it was so successful. Isabelle Marant, Alexander Wang and Balmain are some more of the major fashion players H&M has worked with. The Balmain x H&M was everywhere on social media as the fashion show featured Kendall Jenner, Gigi Hadid and the Backstreet Boys. Olivier Rousteing saw the opportunity to remake some of his most iconic designs at a lower price point, allowing shoppers a taste of the luxury brand. It is arguably the most successful collaboration to date.

Last year’s Kenzo x H&M collection was something new and original for the brand. "With this collaboration with H&M we want to think big, push the boundaries and bring the new energy of KENZO to everyone around the world," said Lim and Leon, the designers.

I cannot wait for the new collection to hit the stores and online, November can’t come quickly enough. Which H&M collaboration was your favourite?

THE FESTIVAL EDIT

Festival season is officially here! As I get ready to hit Belsonic I have picked my festival must-haves. From vivid prints with metallic trainers, straw bags with maxi-dresses and accessories to die for (think mirrored sunglasses, body art, tassel earings and floppy fedoras!) I have it covered…

ANORAKS

A cool lightweight anorak is an absolute must-have – here is my pick of the best…

Bring metallic designs into your everyday wardrobe this season with this anorak. Finish the look with a bodysuit and denim shorts.

With slogans taking over the fashion world, this distressed oversized denim jacket is a must have! Turn your casual vibes up a notch with this statement piece or wear in the evening with a slip dress and diamante choker, love! 

This suede jacket with the tassel detail and soft pink colour is definitely on my festival wish list!

Score a wardrobe win this need-right-now metallic jacket! Wear with your favourite outfit to finish off your look.

Stand out in this colourful, embellished denim jacket that will add the edge to any outfit.

With the unpredictable GB weather you’ll be hoping rain does fall with this gorgeous gold rain jacket.

SHOES/BOOTS

You’ll be doing a whole lotta walking and those masses can leave the ground pretty muddy. One of my ultimate festival rules is good footwear (that still looks great obvs)

You can dance all night long in these cool, yet comfortable silver glitter trainers.

We love the RIRI Puma x Fenty collaboration – slip into this comfy pink bow slippers when the sun comes out.

Because you never know what the NI weather will decide to do- be functional and fashionable in these glitter lace-up wellies.

Hunter wellies are THE must-have festival item. If one thing to be sure of at a festival its to expect a sea of Hunter wellies. Comfy, practical and fashionable – what’s not to love?

JUMPSUITS

I love this long jumpsuit with the halter-style neck and gorgeous leaf print, wear with trainers during the day and add a pair of wedges to take your look into the evening.

PLAYSUITS

Cute, chic and requiring little effort – playsuits are great for festival styling…

This playsuit is bang on trend with the paisley print, kimono style and plunging neckline. Add a choker and some necklaces to complete your look.

SHORTS/TROUSERS

High-waisted, denim, printed, short, long – shorts are IN and with so many styles to choose from we have picked our faves…

How cute are these high-waisted shorts with the frill bottom?! And  check out that print – these will definitely have you ticking all the style boxes.

We can’t get enough of these fancy cropped trousers with a fun frill finish. Team with a crop top for some laid-back festival attitude!

PrettyLittleThing Neon Tassel Romper £35.00

PrettyLittleThing Neon Tassel Romper£35.00

This neon tassle dress just screams festival! Stand out from the crowd in this gorgeous piexe from Pretty Little Thing @ Asos.

Keep it cool & casual with this t-shirt style dress covered in graffiti.

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Or, more importantly, when life offers you a lemon dress, make sure you bag it. This lemon print maxi dress is perfect for easy breezy festival evenings. The low V neck is flattering for a larger bust too, whilst the splits ensure you have some movement. Throw on some sandals (or trainers in our case) and the only accessory you’ll need is a cocktail

We’re totally crushin' on crochet right now and this open stitch mini dress is wardrobe win. featuring a supported bardot style, short sleeves and fresh white hue.

TOPS

From tassels to crochet and everything in between create style envy with these top picks…

Totally lovin’ this loose-fit blouse with the long full sleeves, finished perfectly with some tassels and cute embroidery!

Crop crochet top – do I even need to say anymore?!

SUNGLASSES

We adore these fun heart-shaped tinted glasses! Perfect for adding a little ‘pop’ to your festival look…

Round sunglasses with colourful frame and super stylish mirror lenses oh and just when we thought they couldn’t get better they have 100% UV protection. #winning

ACCESSORIES

Channel your inner hippy goddess with this girly floral headband

This bohemian style feather crown headband with embellished detailing and pompoms is definitely on our festival wishlist!

A fun, new take on the typical headbands often spotted at festivals.

This gorgeous silver bohemian style layered necklace will finish any outfit (we will be wearing ours with the paisley kimono playsuit in this article)

We are totally diggin’ these art deco earrings.

Thank you Topshop – this feather collar is the ultimate festival accessory!

Steal the show with this incredible floral crown from Rock’N’Rose available on Not on the High Street

Luxurious cotton tassels hanging from gold plated filigree earrings – we love.

This year it’s all about the boho and this necklace has been inspired by the magic of Mexico! This stunning Aztec Necklace will look amazing worn on its own or layered up with other necklaces for a totally on trend look.

Sleep in style with this printed tent by Not on the High Street.
The tent comes with a 5w solar panel, lithium solar storage bank and mobile phone/usb charging adaptors!

Don’t miss a shot with this instant Fuji camera in light pink.

This small portable phone charger is the perfect size to fit in your bag and bring along with you this festival season so you don’t miss any photo opportunities.

Stay hydrated in the sun with this funky watermelon water bottle.

Toasting marshmallows just got boozy! This marshmallow toasting kit includes two bags of alcoholic gourmet marshmallow, one non-toxic gel burner and eight bamboo skewers.

Wading through mud, partying in the rain sleeping in wet clothes are a rite of passage for any festival goer. This will help them out!

Music festivals are great fun but even the tiniest of luxuries go a long wan when you haven't changed your clothes, had a wash, eaten warm food or managed to find your tent for three days.

This kit has exacly what any festival goer needs to make their weekend unfortgettable for all the right reasons.

A poncho to keep them warm, a toothbrush and toothpaste to keep them fresh, ear plugs to help them sleep and a multitool so they can open their cold can of beans.

BAGS

To carry all those festival necessities in style…

Hassel-free, stylish and room for all those beauty must-haves – it gets our vote!

This picnic blanket is round and features a quirky and fun parrot design. It has a buckle to ensure it can always be stored compactly.

This cosmetic bag is the perfect accessory for your glamping or festival experience.

We can’t get enough of the tropical print of this backpack.

Love love love! Packed with everything you need - this little survival kit is essential for anyone attending a festival this year. 

Finish your look with this straw bag with brown leather strap

Dance the night away without worrying about where your bag is with this super cute bumbag!

We know you love a pretty print as much as we do, and we think you'll love this camera bag too. Big enough to fit your essential edit of things, it's perfect for adding a pop of print to your outfit.  And with an adjustable strap, it looks great as a shoulder bag or worn cross body to stay hands-free on the go.

BEAUTY

Get festival ready with these must-have beauty items…

You never know what the weather will be like – keep your mascara at bay with this Dior waterproof mascara. Go for blue to give your look an electric edge

When you’re our all day you want lasting power and here it is – apply this to your face before applying foundation to make it stay put all day long.

Apply to the cheekbones or all over the face to give an enviable glow.

All that glitters…These glitter eye liners are perfect for creating the ultimate festival look.

This lipstick in firey orange will add a welcome splash of colour to your lips this festival season. It has fantastic staying power too!

Take your festival makeup to the next level with these 3D floral face decorations.

Make your eyes dazzle with these sequin lashes available from Not on the High Street.

NicLove's cosmetic glitters are an essential product for all makeup bags. These glitters can be worn any day of the week, as an eye shadow, highlighter or perfect for a night out.

These metallic tattoos are inspired by henna and include; bracelets, nail/finger tip and mid finger tattoos.

STYLIST

Check out this ultimate style guide showing you how to wear this festival season’s latest trends.

Grey lyocell dress, £24.99, H&M (hm.com); MAC lipstick in Velvet Teddy, £15.50 (maccosmetics.co.uk); suede biker jacket, £185, Topshop (topshop.com); oversized crystal hoop earrings, Claire’s (claires.co.uk)

Lace top, £29.99, Zara (zara.com); faux leather A-line skirt, £15, Boohoo (boohoo.com); silver bum bag, £11.99, Spiral (spiraluk.com); Stila Magnificent Metals Foil Finish eye shadow in Comex Platinum, £33.50 (stila.co.uk

Embroidered bralet, £32, Topshop (topshop.com); gold leaf hoop earrings, £6, Asos (asos.com); check trousers, £35.99, Mango (mango.com); Daniel Sandler Luxury Matte Lipstick in Marilyn, £13.25 (escentual.com).

Bomber jacket, £48, River Island (riverisland.com); Rock’n’khol liquid eye pencil in Bedroom Black, £19, Charlotte Tilbury (selfridges.com); blue off-the-shoulder dress, £65, & Other Stories (stories.com); green cat-eye sunglasses, £19.99, Mango (mango.com); Glam Lipgloss in High Society, £7, Nyx (boots.com). 

FASHION | CANNES DO ATTITUDE

It’s Cannes Film Festival Week and, to celebrate, I’ve taken a step back in time to some of the best dresses from the red carpets of La Croisette and beyond over the years. Do these match with your faves? For the record, I think my all-time favourite is Lupita N’yongo’s green pleated Gucci number from Cannes 2015. Gloriously gorgeous!

Do these match with your faves?

Bridget Bargot - 1953 & 1956

1955 - Iconic Sophia Lauren

Elizabeth Taylor - 1957

Princess Diana - 1987

Kate Moss - 1998

Movie Stars

Models, Musicians & Socialites

SNEAK PEEK: WHY I'M EXCITED FOR THE ULSTER UNIVERSITY GRADUATE FASHION SHOW!

There is nothing I love more than celebrating creative fashion design! For some bloggers their passion is High Street fashion, for others it’s all about designer labels, but my passion lies with the creative process and craftsmanship involved in fashion design. From the initial concept right through to the final product, I have always ardently admired the creative flair, talent and dedication needed to be a successful fashion designer. Here in Northern Ireland we have a such a strong creative heritage and I am always so excited to see what our up and coming design students are producing as part of their final projects.

One of the highlights of my fashion calendar is always the Ulster University Graduate Fashion Show and this year the future faces of fashion design will be descending upon the city’s cathedral for their highly-anticipated annual Graduate Fashion Show!

The event, which will take place at St Anne’s Cathedral on Friday 19 May, will showcase the creative and innovative flair of Ulster University’s fashion and textile design students, giving them an invaluable platform to showcase their collections as they take their first steps towards their fashion careers.

I have had the privilege of attending this show now for many years and I am always blown away by the creative talent of the graduating students, who continue year after year to both amaze and inspire me. I love the funky venues and the atmosphere of the show, which is organized by the students themselves. For anyone who is interested in diverse design it truly is a night to remember!

Every year we are treated to an array of design diversity across a multitude of textile disciplines, and this year I am so happy to share a sneak peek at some of my favourite looks from this year’s show!

Knitwear makes a strong statement this year from sexy see through fine gauge knit dresses to appliqué jumpers and knitted tailoring, there is a welcome mix of textures and colours on display adding interest to modern silhouettes!

Design by Abbie Walsh.

Design by Abbie Walsh.

Design by Emma Benson.

Design by Emma Benson.

Design by Glenda Hawkes.

Design by Glenda Hawkes.

An exploration of texture is always a welcome trend, from faux fur to mesh and sheer paneling, and this year it is popping up in everything from sports luxe to eveningwear! A welcome reinterpretation of styles and shapes, these designs create interest through the interplay of colour, texture and tailoring. I especially loved Anna McNeill’s collection, mixing raw hems with cut outs, mesh detailing and sheer fabrics creating interest through texture.

Design by Anna McNeill.

Design by Anna McNeill.

Design by Ellen Hawthorn.

Design by Ellen Hawthorn.

Design by Annemarie McLoughlin

Design by Annemarie McLoughlin

This Spring/Summer saw an explosion of ruffles hit the catwalk and this too can be said of the graduate collections, with Jamie Kerr’s breathtaking pink ruffle dress! Everything about this design is lush, with some seriously fabulous bodice detailing, it is the stuff that girly fashion dreams are made off!

While Lusia Murray has taken a very different approach to the trend creating an almost Asian inspired take on ruffles, creating a beautiful balance of both volume and clean minimal lines.

Design by Jamie Kerr

Design by Jamie Kerr

Design by Lusia Murray.

Design by Lusia Murray.

Last but by no means least we have Anna Thompson and Rhys Harris, who both have interesting takes on pattern. I love the backless detailing in Anna’s look and I for one cannot wait to discover the mystery behind the QR codes of Rhys Harris’ tunic top!

Design by Anna Thompson

Design by Anna Thompson

Design by Rhys Harris

Design by Rhys Harris

It’s been so inspiring to see some of the upcoming collections from this year’s graduates, and I for one cannot wait to see the rest of the student’s collections. The spectacle of seeing their designs in a show setting will make for a wonderful evening and is the accumulation of many months of hard work and dedication on the part of the students.

Hair will be styled by multi-award-winning stylist Andrew Mulvenna Hair while Paddy McGurgan’s Make Up Pro team will create the make-up looks. The addition of Northern Ireland’s leading creatives in these fields as sponsors really adds to the world-class level of show that the students will create!

Tickets are on sale now at just £15 per ticket via: https://getinvited.to/festivalartdes/ulster-university-graduate-fashion-show-2017

The ticket price includes a fab Gin Fusions cocktail along with Skinny Prosecco.

This blog is guest submitted by Louise Vance and first appeared on the Real Elle Woods blog http://the-real-elle-woods.blogspot.co.uk/2017/05/catwalk-preview-ulster-university.html

STYLEWATCH | BELFAST FASHIONWEEK

Who better than the director of West Coast Cooler FASHIONWEEK to pick the best dressed audience members at the shows? The Belfast Times team has handed over the fashion reins to #BossLady Cathy Martin to choose the super stylistas at the shows last month in the latest edition of our #STYLEWATCH… Here goes:

It’s not often I get out to the main lobby to speak to and mingle with our audience members before the show. Usually there is something to deal with backstage, be it a diva drama or a wardrobe malfunction - or even a print error (which actually happened this season, regrettably, rendering our Friday night programmes unusable - we’re sorry!), but this season I made some time to mingle with both our corporate guests and the groups of friends, squads of stylistas and couples who meandered into our events in their droves.  

The style on show was totally incredible - we loved the corset belts, the colour popping galore and some really fab florals - in jumpsuits, dresses and blouses, even some floral embroidered jeans. There were loads of stripes, gingham and fashionista fave - black - in spades, of course. These are my favourite looks from across all shows - did you make the cut? Some people made it twice!

I’ll be style watching again for at the University of Ulster Fashion Graduates show on 19 May in St Anne’s Cathedral - so get your glam on if you’re coming along!

See you next time

Cathy x

Joanne Hynes | A Rousseau Rendezvous launches exclusively at Dunnes Stores

Renowned Irish fashion designer Joanne Hynes unveiled her second collection for Irish retailer Dunnes Stores this morning. The highly anticipated collection is limited to just three stores (Stephen’s Green, Grafton Street and Cornelscourt) and online at dunnesstores.com It was a virtuoso kaleidoscope of colour, with bright limes and citrus pops mixed with tropical prints and textured beads and furs. One of my favourite pieces was a reversible pink fur coat with a shearling/suede effect on the reverse side, but I also loved the bell sleeved dresses in bold red and navy stripes.

 To launch the collection, Joanne hosted a breakfast followed by a catwalk presentation in the Stephen’s Green store for press and customers. The event took place within the fresh fruit and veg aisles, which were customised with giant inflatables and flowers to tie in with the jungle theme of the collection. We arrived to the sounds of the jungle and enjoyed a tropical breakfast before the show started.

Joanne commented regarding the collaboration ‘This collection is an homage to the adventures of Henry Rousseau who dreamed of a tropical jungle. I was inspired by journeys that I never had into the world of Rousseau; using fashion as a fantasy.’

Dunnes Stores has become a powerful platform for established and upcoming Irish designers. Joanne is in the company of Paul Costelloe, Carolyn Donnelly, Leigh Tucker, Helen James, Brendan Courtney, Sonya Lennon, Paul Galvin and Francis Brennan - all of whom design exclusive collections for the retailer.

I managed to pick myself up a fab beaded collar at the launch and wore it to host FASHIONWEEK just after.

STYLEWATCH | MAXMARA

As I mentioned in a previous blog, one of the biggest events on Ireland’s social calendar in the first half of 2017 was an exclusive fashion show by luxury Italian design house Max Mara, as it brought its full Spring/Summer 2017 collection from the catwalks of Milan to Belfast City Hall in support of leading learning disability charity Positive Futures. I was more than delighted to be part of the management team for this event, producing the show alongside the creative director Andreas Stavrou from BaByliss and Nina Walls, owner of the Max Mara store in Belfast, who put on the show.

Here I take a look at who wore what to this event - and there were definitely some super stylish ladies in the audience. And the best dressed wore Max Mara. Of course!

The event was hosted by kind permission of the Right Hon the Lord Mayor Alderman Brian Kingston, who supports Positive Futures and make up for the show was by Charlotte Tilbury with hair by international session stylist Richard Phillipart for BaByliss

All photography courtesy of Brendan Gallagher

FROM ITALY TO IRELAND - MAX MARA BRINGS MILAN SHOW TO BELFAST

One of the biggest events on Ireland’s social calendar in the first half of 2017 was an exclusive fashion show by luxury Italian design house Max Mara, as it brought its full Spring/Summer 2017 collection from the catwalks of Milan to Belfast City Hall in support of leading learning disability charity Positive Futures. I was more than delighted to be part of the management team for this event, producing the show alongside the creative director Andreas Stavrou from BaByliss.

The event was hosted by kind permission of the Right Hon the Lord Mayor Alderman Brian Kingston, who supports Positive Futures and make up for the show was by Charlotte Tilbury with hair by international session stylist Richard Phillipart for BaByliss

Nina Walls, owner of the Max Mara store in Belfast, commented: “The fashion show was inspired by architect, designer and intellectual Lina Bo Bardi in a fusion of creative, radical passion. Bo Bardi was a woman with a vision years ahead of her time who embodied Latin America’s compelling take on modernism; at once rational and sensual, sleek and luxuriant, athletic and sultry, hi-tech and artisanal. For modern women with big ideas, the Max Mara Spring Summer 2017 collection proposes a new blend of voluptuous modernity: intelligent, audacious, sexy fashion with a lifespan as long as Bo Bardi’s designs.”

The collection oozed international appeal, with tropical prints and hi-tech fabrics alongside wooden clogs and visors.

Bo Bardi was connected to Tropicalia, the avant-garde cultural movement whose touchstone was the ultimate exotic icon, Carmen Miranda. The eponymous 1968 album “Tropicália: ou Panis et Circensis” by a group of artists including Bardi’s friends, Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, and Gal Costa, was a landmark musical manifesto and makes for a soundtrack that swings to Max Mara’s chica boom beat.

Design is often said to be about pulling order out of chaos but Bo Bardi wasn’t all scared of letting chaos in. Her quasi-brutalist concrete and plate glass structures would be incomplete without the rainforest that grows around (and through them). The profuse flora and fauna that she adored inspire lush prints, sliced into patchworks that echo the precise geometry of her architecture. Torn layers of propaganda posters echo the tumult of design, culture and politics into which Bo Bardi threw herself.

Bo Bardi created some mouth-watering design classics. The ‘Bola de Latao’ chairs she installed in her home, ‘Casa de Vidro’, look as good today as they did in 1951, in wellworn tan leather, with restrained saddle stitching - which appears too on luxe suedes, double faces and the new BoBag.

Like Max Mara, Bo Bardi loved those traditional leather crafts, but she embraced new technology too. Max Mara borrows high performance jerseys and nylons from the sports arena for glamorous bodycon dresses, bodies and combinations with heat sealed construction. A structured mesh gives a hi-tech makeover to Max Mara’s own design icon, the 101801. Shiny new Lina sunglasses and Bardi-esque wooden soled techno-clogs completed the look.

All in all one of the best international collection fashion shows I’ve seen in Ireland.

All photographs courtesy of Stephen Potter

FAMILY | LITTLE PEOPLE MAKING BIG FASHION STATEMENTS

This article also featured in NI4Kids Magazine & www.NI4kids.co.uk  

The new season is here, and with it, a spring in its fashionable step.  In this week’s blog I talk prepping your littleuns’ wardrobes for some serious summer fun.

I’m sure, like me, many of you are in Whatsapp or Facebook Messenger chats with other parents who share stories as well as parenting tips and life hacks. Mine are quite often hilarious, but also offer some serious tit-bits of info and advice that I have found to be invaluable at certain times.

One thing we’re all talking about at the minute is summer schemes, Easter activities and February half term to-dos. And as it’s my first year of Valentina having a school uniform, I have all of a sudden found that her wardrobe is full of clothes which don’t get worn so much anymore and are getting a wee bit small, so I am longing for occasions to actually wear all her pretty clothes before they just don’t fit anymore. Or just sell those ones on eBay and buy more - which is my usual strategy.

So while I sat last weekend with a whole myriad of leaflets, flyers - and even spreadsheets - planning, let’s face it, a better social life for my daughter than my own, I digressed to a few online shops and created a bit of a best-buy list for SS17 for this blog.  Be it a lunch date with Nana or a week long summer camp full of activities, these top picks should help you cover all bases.

For me, there’s one children’s brand out there that nails all things fashion for kids, and that’s Boden. Season after season they score all the goals with the perfect mix of practical and pretty; and I for one have dressed Valentina in their clothes almost exclusively since she was a tot. 

I’m a big lover of colour for kids, so I’m always delighted to flick through the Boden catalogue and see vibrant colour blocking and bright prints abound alongside frills and florals for little princesses - with rockets, stars and animal appliques that are sure to make the little men in our lives stand out in the crowd too. 

Already in my online basket is the cutest Blue and Yellow Heart Pocket Jersey Dress, £20, with spots, stripes and little contrasting heart pockets, perfect for stashing treats, it’s bang-on-trend and, when paired with the yellow and white Spot Fun Leggings, (£14), it makes for an adorable ensemble.  I also couldn’t go past these canvas high-tops, £35, exactly what I was looking for for Valentina’s boyfriend’s birthday present - yes, she has a boyfriend. At age 5.  In bright white these shoes will go with every outfit in any mini man’s wardrobe and the contrast pop art hues give them a super cool edge. With run-faster stripes and shouty slogans, the kids will love them too.

Canvas High Tops £35 at Boden

Canvas High Tops £35 at Boden

Swimming lessons and beach days are sure to be in the mix come summertime, and I’ve completely fallen in love with the Rainbow Frill Swimsuit from Marks & Spencer, an absolute bargain at £10 and available for ages 0-5, perfect for my little mermaid.  And even though I’ve no boys, I am sure any boy will feel every bit the superhero with this Spiderman Sunsafe suit, £14, a purchase that’s both super cool and super practical, ideal for summer sunshine holidays.

Rainbow Frill Swimsuit £10 at M&S

Rainbow Frill Swimsuit £10 at M&S

Something a little sweeter for a day of picnics and tea parties with the grandparents is this pretty and pink disco sparkle swan dress, £36.  Crafted with a jersey bodice and a twinkly tulle skirt - so it’s not only bang-on-trend, but the embellished neckline and sparkly waistband gives her the gift of girly glitter.  All that’s missing is a tiny tiara! 

Disco Sparkle Swan Dress £36 at Monsoon

Disco Sparkle Swan Dress £36 at Monsoon

If your little dude is too cool for school, let him rock it out in this cute denim shirt from Zara, a bargain at only £12 and easily dressed up or down.  Button it up with a pair of chinos on bottom and some cool booties to boot, or style it out with shorts, open shirt, white tee and Converse; taking him from day to disco. 

Denim Shirt, £13 at Zara

Denim Shirt, £13 at Zara

Discos aren’t the only partying that tiny tots seem to have lined up these days; let’s not forget the utopian idea of a pyjama party - as long as it’s at someone else’s house, thanks to that mummy in your friends’ group who swoops in with the suggestion of an overnight stay.  At last, a BREAK!

Gingham is one of my favourite trends this season, it’s practical and easy to wear for all, so when I spotted these pink gingham pyjamas in Next, £13, 100% cotton and with a cute collar in tow, it was straight into the shopping basket.  A similar offering for the boys comes from Marks & Spencer this season, in a traditional grey and white print, keeping him on trend from only £14.

And on the subject of pyjamas, I think it’s time for bed for me. Goodnight!

FASHION | BODY SHAPE FEATURE

Apple, Pear, Pencil? Which body shape are you? We all come in different shapes and sizes: And, according to stylist and Belfast FASHIONWEEK director Cathy Martin, knowing your shape is the first step in finding out how to make the most of your body. Once you know how what to highlight and what to hide, you can hit the shops with confidence. And best of all, with the right clothing know-how, you’ll even be able to turn an apple into an hour glass or a petite princess into a leggy lovely.

Cathy’s first piece of advice - self love. “Take a long, hard and very honest look at yourself in the mirror. Naked if possible. These days we all have way too much self-loathing for my liking, and we will likely be drawn to things we don’t like first, but as you look over the bits you dislike - be they a wobbly tummy or a big behind - try to focus also on bits that you do like - including facial attributes like eyes and smile. And then remember that fashion can be a tool - a weapon even - in your armoury of the day to give you confidence, add height, strike off inches and much more. It takes practice to know what works for you. For me, I avoid busy prints and stick to solid colours in hues that suit my skin tone. I streamline my (apple) silhouette & add height and length where I can. I hope my tips can help others.” Read on to find out more.

 

YOU’RE A PENCIL BODY SHAPE IF:

•You have similar measurements for your boobs, waste & hips.

•Your legs are longer than your torso.

•Your legs and arms tend to be slender.

AT-A-GLANCE CLOTHING GUIDE

•Bright shift dresses highlight your slender frame. Try necklines that widen your upper half, as this will shrink your hips and bottom.

•Belts transform your pencil into an hour glass.

•Dresses that cling to every curve give great shape. A little cardigan or jacket adds oomph up top.

•Structured jackets, shirts and coats that nip in at the waste are great for you.

•Brightly coloured tops with slim black trousers give you endless legs and a curvy top half.

YOU’RE A PETITE BODY SHAPE IF:

•You’re 5ft 3in or under.

•You have short legs.

•You have a short torso.

•You have a slim waist.

•You have narrow hips

AT-A-GLANCE CLOTHING GUIDE – PETITE

•Dresses in simple shapes and bold colours make you appear taller. Pile your hair up high and get into hats.

•High-waisted flares give you the illusion of longer legs. With denim, go for a snug fit as baggy jeans can drown you.

•Heels are a must. Shoes the same colour as your legs or tights give the illusion of longer legs. Platforms when you’re in trousers or jeans are perfect.

•For a really luxurious look go for a satin blouse and pencil skirt, some heels and fishnets!

YOU’RE AN HOUR GLASS BODY SHAPE IF:

•Your boobs are the same measurement as your hips.

•Your waist is much smaller than your hips.

•You have shapely, broad shoulders.

•You have shapely legs that end with neat little ankles.

AT-A-GLANCE CLOTHING GUIDE – HOURGLASS

•Dark denim will slim your hips and bum. The darker your jeans or trousers the smaller you’ll seem. Big back pockets will make your bum look even smaller.

•A V-neck will elongate your neck, perk up your boobs and show off your cleavage.

•Fitted waistcoats or other waist-cinched tops will emphasise your waist.

•Height will always flatter your figure so heels are great for you.

•Pull your hair into a ponytail and accessorise with big dangly earrings to highlight your shoulders & draw attention upwards

•Belts with every outfit will highlight your tiny waist.

YOU’RE A TALL AND LONG BODY SHAPE IF:

•You’re more than 5ft 8in.

•You have long slender legs and a long upper body.

•Your arms are long and slim.

•Your shoulders are narrow.

AT-A-GLANCE CLOTHING GUIDE – TALL AND LONG

•A maxi dress is the ultimate style for the tall and long girl. Wear a bright colour and flaunt your sexy shoulders.

•A belted funnel-neck coat with a waist cinching belt gives gorgeous curves. A frill-edge coat adds femininity.

•Knee-length boots give shape to the calves.

YOU’RE A PEAR BODY SHAPE IF:

•You have small, pert breasts.

•You have a long waist.

•You have a flattish tummy.

•Your shoulders are narrower than your hips.

•You’re a size larger on the bottom than you are on top.

•You have largish thighs and shortish legs.

AT-A-GLANCE CLOTHING GUIDE – PEAR

•Bootcut jeans and trousers will balance out your hips and thighs.

•Straight leg, high-waisted trousers elongate your bottom half. Look for lengths that hit the floor and team with heels for a sexy, powerful shape.

•Dresses with a belt accentuate your waist. Structured shift dresses highlight your waist whilst gently skimming your hips and bum.

•Hats take attention away from your hips. A beret adds a shot of Parisian chic, whereas a funky trilby is a cheeky ‘look-at-me’ accessory.

YOU’RE AN APPLE BODY SHAPE IF:

•Your hips and bum are slightly smaller in width than your chest and tummy.

•You have a rounded tummy.

•Your arms are slim and long.

•You have well-shaped, slender legs.

•You have large boobs.

AT-A-GLANCE CLOTHING GUIDE – APPLE.

•Leggings and skinny jeans streamline your legs and, teamed with a loose fitting A-line or trapeze dress, trick the eye into thinking your entire body is long and thin.

•High-waisted pencil skirts with big wide belts hold you in and give you an hourglass waist.

•Short loose dresses or tunics show off your legs and arms while concealing your stomach.

•A-line or swing coats are a great way to look shapely and stylish in cold weather.

•Strappy high heels make your lovely legs look even leggier.

This article first appeared in the @BelTel newspaper in February 2017

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KEY TRENDS AT SS17 FASHIONWEEK

This week I am taking a quick peek at the hottest trends due to hit Ireland’s busiest catwalk this March.  

Back for its twenty-third season, my super stylish event Belfast FASHIONWEEK, kicks off from 23-26 March with a busy four day schedule, including nightly catwalk shows, the return of popular fashion & food fusion events like Sushi Saturday and Style Sunday, as well as the welcome addition of the Lavazza Style Saturday brunch.

As always, the full FASHIONWEEK schedule is available online at www.belfastfashionweek.com. Tickets for the main shows and the Lavazza brunch are priced at £20 (FROW is now SOLD-OUT) while Sushi Saturday (£35) and Style Sunday(£45) bookings – which include 3 courses of delicious food as well as fashion - are all available by calling 028 9042 1509.

Sassy in Stripes

Whether beetle-juice or bumble-bee, stripes are one of the hottest trends for the season.  Rock them super-sized or super-skinny; they’ll be sure to keep your look sassy this season.

Splash of Colour

Bold and bright colours are a staple for any fashionista out there this season.  Stun in full colour-drenching (head to toe in one colour - including tights and shoes!), or use contrasting fabrics to stand out amongst the fash-pack.

Summer Accessories

If you don’t want to block it; POP it!  (Colour, that is, of course). And what better way to add colour to your wardrobe, than with the ultimate SS17 accessory.

FASHION | 24 HOURS IN MAXMARA

As Ireland’s Ambassador for the UN-supported Women’s Entrepreneurship Day, I had a busy schedule on November 18th - which is the annual date for International Women’s Entrepreneurship Day. To kick start proceedings, I was hosting a breakfast in Dublin supported by Ulster Bank’s #BusinessWomenCan initiative, which saw speakers including TD Kate O’Connell and mentors like Fiona Gratzer from Unislim as well as super lawyer Majella Creenan take to the stage to share stories and insights into the world of business, politics and academia.

For this event, and indeed for the six events I had to attend throughout the whole day, I partnered with MaxMara, who agreed to dress me for the occasion. Or rather, occasions! This blog and vlog tell my Max Mara story.

To breakfast, I wore a beautiful Italian woven wool jumpsuit in grey with a black fleck embroidery and paired it with a thin black poloneck underneath. Polonecks are huge this season and adding one under this jumpsuit gave winter warmth as well as adding a dimension of demure and discretion - keeping my speech and the work done by women in Ireland to the fore. The fit was perfect, with a nipped in waist and a panel across the front which could be worn open or closed - I chose half open to take emphasis away from my bust and draw the eyeline down towards the waist line. The leg was wide, and super chic, allowing me to wear flats underneath for the dawn walk from my hotel, but equally complementing my Louboutins which were slipped on as I entered the building.

After breakfast, I drove to Belfast where I attended the Prince’s Trust ‘Lunch With an Old Bag’ charity luncheon event at the Harbour Master’s Office (a beautiful historic building in the heart of the city’s docklands). This charity, which is the foundation of HRH Prince Charles, does wonderful things for less privileged kids to get them integrated into society and the world of work. The lunch was fun and, with author, comedienne and sometime activist Helen Lederer (Absolutely Fabulous) speaking after lunch, it was a really inspiring couple of hours. The look I wore for this event was my favourite of the day, another jumpsuit, but this one was light pink brushed wool on the (flared) leg with a green sequin top and monochrome stripe pockets - not a look for a shrinking violet! It drew much admiration and, I think, a few buyers from the store, although it was very much limited edition.

Mid afternoon, I moved on to the Northern Irish Women’s Entrepreneurship Day event, where I spoke about the uncertainty of a new Trump Presidency in the US, and the effects of Brexit on north-south business relationships. Here I wore a coffee caramel coloured dress with leather and tweed panels as well as some more monochrome inserts. Again, a dream to wear with the shape and fabric totally flattering on my non-model-like figure. (For the record I am a UK 10 and 5’5” tall).  I had topped this off with a truly beautiful and iconic MaxMara coat for bracing the November weather outside. If you’ve never tried a Max Mara coat, please make it your mission to visit a store and put one on - for the experience if nothing else. It is the dreamiest of mantels - with wool so soft you could sink into a slumber, should you decide to rest your head on it. It’s no surprise that iconic women the world over choose Max Mara when they are looking for a stylish staple to last season after season - and in some cases, generation after generation!

Just after this, I hosted a fashion show wearing what I would call the party version of the previous dress. The staples were the same - more of that beautiful coffee caramel coloured wool, but with monochrome patchwork pockets, similar to the pockets on my lunchtime jumpsuit, and, like the lunchtime jumpsuit, the top half of the dress was sequin, a coppery gold coloured sequin, which was perfect for the time of year and the pre-Christmas-season that was the occasion.

I also popped in quickly to a press briefing on SS17 wearing the most beautiful silk blouse and cream silk pants - I was so very lucky to have pre-season access, and I am glad I did because the ‘all white everything’ look really stood out inthe wintery crowd.

Lastly, I attended some industry cocktails wearing a casual but VERY cool striped sequin jumper with black silk pants. The jumper screamed cool in the most unassuming way possible - and after wearing it to this, the last of so many events that day followed by a late supper in the former butchery which is the much-accoladed Bull & Ram restaurant in Ballynahinch, the final stripes had me hooked, I purchased the top the very next day.

In short, I had the most wonderful day playing my own kind of grown-up dress-up, wearing clothes made from the finest of fabrics and fibres. The staff at the Belfast Lisburn Road store couldn’t have been more helpful and accommodating, especially with sizes as they listened to my personal whims and woes about shape (or misshape!) from outside the changing room curtains.

I always say it is better to save for investment pieces rather than fast fashion which isn’t always about quality nor about attention to detail in the design. With the house of Max Mara you can feel the craftmanship ooze out of each piece of Max Mara clothing like design is in the very vein of the garment. Que bello!