Will you buy the new clothes from M&S?

It has been several cheap sexy clothes  years since M&S-watching became a national sport. As a country, we have a soft spot for the brand that we think of as quintessentially British (though one of its founders, Michael Marks, was originally Polish — thank God for immigration). We all grew up wearing its pants and socks, and receiving its pyjamas on Christmas Day, eating its really superlative chocolate biscuits and Percy Pigs. And so, long after the company’s womenswear sales first floundered — more than a decade ago now — we’ve all been rooting for Marks & Spencer, waiting for news of a collection that would help it to compete on the fashion front with the trend-focused likes of Zara. It may be time to tweak the conversation.

This week’s preview of the brand’s spring/summer 2018 collection — plus a capsule of kimono-inspired eveningwear launching online today, produced in collaboration with Graduate Fashion Week award-winner Claire Tagg — was in line with what we might call the new normal. It highlighted M&S’s season-after-season strengths — underwear, outerwear and cashmere, for example — and other areas in which the brand just can’t quite crack the winning formula. More on those later.

If there is one clothing department you’re loyal to at Marks & Sparks, it’s likely to be underwear. The team behind this must be a truly well-oiled machine: for spring, bras, knickers and lacy one-pieces are as pretty, flattering and well-constructed as ever. Bralets have proved such a hit that the brand will now offer them up to a G cup, with hidden structure underneath to provide support. The Rosie Huntington-Whiteley line, now celebrating its fifth anniversary, is M&S’s most successful lingerie collection to date — “We estimate something like one in 50 British women owns a Rosie bra in the UK,” says Soozie Jenkinson, who heads design in the department. For spring it will now include a full-cup shape and robes in soft modal fabric. I wonder if they all say a group prayer each day that Huntington-Whiteley never gets bored with bras.

A pre-preview recce of a London branch on Monday reminded me how strong M&S’s cashmere offering is: at its heart is a round-neck Autograph jumper available in 12 colours for £75 a pop, with a host of other styles available. For spring, I learnt yesterday, they’ve introduced a long, grey M&S Collection cardigan (£85) that looks deliciously comfortable, like something you would put on the moment you got home and refuse to remove. It even has long sleeves with thumb-holes, which are a godsend for flimsy types like me with perennially cold hands.

The design team have picked up on the trend for shirting, and that’s reflected in some useful pieces that would work equally well for the office or the weekend: one neat blue pinstripe M&S Collection top is cleverly gathered and draped at the collar (£27.50). An Autograph shirt in the same stripe flares from the waist with a hem that dips at the back (£39.50), and a crisp white V-neck blouse is pulled in by a sash (£39.50).

Outerwear, as always, includes some well-priced corkers. I like a knee-length coat in a large red check (£79). A cropped leather Autograph jacket (£249) is reversible: olive green on one side, navy on the other, and modern in its collarless, clean style. A black-and-white gingham trench coat has been given pleasing proportions: broad lapels and a generously wide belt, all the better to give the effect of a small waist (£89). There are also strong accessories for next season, in particular a cross-body navy and teal satchel (£29.50), a Jackie O-ish top-handle pink bag (£29.50) and a pair of white pointed mules with a chic V cut-out at the front (£25).

The Size-Inclusive Fashion Movement

When Kathryn Retzer, Patrick plus size shapewear  Herning and I were finishing our interview about how their startup 11 Honoré is both laying the foundation and paving the way for size-inclusive fashion, their moms were walking out of their holiday photo shoot. For the founders, this mission is personal.

“I’ve been helping my mom shop and edit her closet for the last 20 years. It’s been very challenging and frankly depressing because there is so little out there for women over a certain size,” said Retzer, a former editor at Allure, Vogue and Town & Country. “Like all of these women, she loves fashion and she wants to look beautiful. That’s why we’re working with designers to give women a fashion experience they’ve never had.”

11 Honoré is more than an e-commerce marketplace, which is what makes the platform so powerful. The team is leading the size-inclusive fashion movement with an editorial platform featuring interviews with activists and designers like Candice Huffine and Prabal Gurung. Most significantly, they’re working hands-on with designers to help them extend their collections and even providing younger brands with the resources to do so. Retzer personally spends time with every brand to curate their 11 Honoré selection and has witnessed the evolution of pieces from an initial sketch to models walking down the runway at New York Fashion Week. “67% of women in the U.S. have significantly fewer options for all clothing from everyday wear to workwear. By working with these brands, we are changing the fashion industry standard in every way imaginable,” she said.
Brands range from Christian Siriano and Zac Posen to La Ligne and Rachel Roy; For every designer brand added, four or five contemporary brands are added too. “Variety of the best brands is what we stand for. We’ve focused all of our venture capital dollars on providing women with the best selection that we can give her to feel beautiful in all aspects of her life,” Herning says.

11 Honoré is also committed to price consistency, ensuring their customers never see a higher price tag for the same garment because it is a larger size. “We made a decision to keep set prices, even if we have a higher production cost. We want to help designers get their production teams where they need to be to serve women. That’s when we’ll start seeing a real change,” Retzer says. “We’re committed to equality and making sure we’re providing every woman the opportunity to express herself. There is already a lot of sensitivity to the retail experience for women. We established from the start that we absolutely will not have any negativity on 11 Honoré,” Herning adds.

In addition to their e-commerce and editorial platforms, 11 Honoré is building a repository for magazines and publications to style cover shoots. Their efforts will play a significant role increasing size inclusive representation in the media. Magazines are dependent on samples sent from designers, which are usually between size 0 and 2, making it less common for them to feature a diverse set of models, the founders shared. “We invested in a complete sample set of every style in our Fall collection so magazines can come directly to 11 Honoré for access to extended samples,” Herning explains. “That’s why we’re working tirelessly to develop our brand matrix and doubling down to expand to Europe. It is critically important that we start demonstrating diversity in the media.”

Downtown Lake Worth location suits women’s clothing store owners fine

Carrie Childs, co owner of CarriElle’s Closet , a women’s clothing store in downtown Lake Worth, knows all about ladies and what each should be wearing.

Childs, 56, was a former corporate recruiter in the nation’s capital for more than 30 years. She bought all her suits from boutiques because she wanted flair and kick.

« I could walk into any boardroom and close a deal, » Childs told The Palm Beach Post last year. « My advice is always dress better than the person you’re meeting because it commands respect. »

Childs, along with Elle Horigan, CarriElle’s Closet’s other co owner, have been garnering respect in Lake Worth since their shop opened in June 2016 on 9 North K Street.

« It’s gone really well, » Childs said. « Being a brand new brick and mortar, we had no numbers to work off. We knew we had a goal we had to meet and we were very successful doing so. »

Childs declined to say how much their company has made, but said she was surprised at the figure.

« We were surprised because of where we’re located, » she said. « We’re off the beaten path and we don’t have any other commerce on this side of the street. »

Childs thanked city residents for keeping the business open during the summer months when the cash registers don’t ring as often. « We’re looking forward to getting our seasoners back because that’s our bread and butter, but kudos to our locals for keeping us alive, » Childs said.

Childs said the company’s one year lease is now a month to month lease not because the company plans to leave, but because it was simpler. « It’s such a pain to go the lawyer and we have such a good relationship with our landlord, » Childs said. « So, instead of waiting for the lawyers to review a lease, we made it casual. »

In the just under 500 plus size workout clothes square foot space, visitors will find new classic chic outfits from Escapada Living, Karen T. Design and Lily Pulitzer. Customers will also find what the women call « upscale resale » clothes from Diane von Furstenber, Adrianna Papell an Alice and Olivia.

India custom made clothes for women in US

EShakti is a plus size workout clothes fashion clothing e commerce company that offers women the option of customisable sizes, as also standard sizes. Buyers can get the kind of neckline, sleeve and length they require. At present, the company primarily serves the American market. It is one of the few international consumer brands to originate from India. « Looking her best is what the customer expects each time she shops for clothes anywhere. But styling preference is often not met and finding the right size is very difficult with ready made clothes. It is a very strongly felt need that we meet. We do customisation on scale. Nobody else does it, » says BG Krishnan, founder CEO of eShakti, who hails from Chennai. The fashion design team sits in New York, with back up designers in India. The chief design officer has 20 years of experience and has worked previously with Liz Claiborne—the American fashion designer and businesswoman, who founded the famous Liz Claiborne Inc, which later became Fifth Pacific, and is now called Kate Spade Company.
After the preproduction template is created, the dresses are made at six factories in Gurugram in Haryana. The technology part, the catalogue design, and the back office work is done from Chennai. A large database is being built, with almost 200,000 neckline, sleeve design changes. The exercise is completely automated, with the system itself learning to make changes. eShakti started off selling lifestyle fashion clothing to women in the US. Krishnan realised that there is a lot of variation in size and shape, and not all American women are able to get the exact fit. In fact, more than 50 do not conform to the hourglass figure, which is the industry standard. Further, 65 of American women take plus sizes, but account for only 20 of the market, and 40 women are outside the height range of clothes available. The huge 116 billion apparel market, therefore, has significant untapped potential due to lack of availability of customised clothes.
Online retail accounts for about 20 of the apparel sold—hence, custom made clothing is an opportunity worth over 15 billion. Krishnan says that customised clothing is not a niche market, as it impacts over 80 of women customers, regular or plus. What made this Chennai based brand marketing professional turned entrepreneur sell high fashion to the US? « The internet changed the way we do business. It has allowed small people to reach out to small group of customers at a low cost. Today, customers start talking about us to each other on social media and spread the word around. Marketing budgets are coming down. Many things have become possible that weren’t so earlier. » In 2008, Krishnan decided to concentrate on custom clothing. He gave up the factory outsourced preproduction template. « There can be body sizes like 45 38 49. A size 8 is shaped differently for a woman who is 5 feet 8 inches in height, compared to a woman who is, say, 5 feet 2 inches.
The garment has to be made to fit this customer who is far from standard size. The site allows women to send their measurements and make alterations. The dress is virtually created on the computer, with necessary changes made in bits and pieces, and draped on virtual models. Using these models, the pattern is adjusted and gets printed out in the factories in Gurugram. The company has filed for patent for its pattern making process for customisation. The demand has been picking up, and eShakti has grown 60 over the previous year. The company has opted for moderate pricing, avoiding premium and budget. Margins stand at 33. Krishnan is confident of making profits by early next year. He explains why. « We launch 25 new products every day in line with the trend. We are faster in introducing newer products than a brand like Zara—the Spanish clothing and accessories retailer. We can bring new products to the market in three days, while others launch products at the start of the season, make them six months ahead, and bear the risk of not being able to stay in tune with emerging trends. »
The current average number of SKUs (stock keeping units) on the site is 1,000. It culls out 25 SKUs every day for low performance. It does not have an inventory of finished goods and has only fabrics inventory, which is also for 11 days. Delivery is done in 10 14 days. The site offers a no questions money back guarantee. Products carry a label providing the names of those who made the garment. The internet era has helped eShakti market itself at comparably lower costs. « We advertise on digital media. Search engine market has come into its own, which has helped us a lot. Customers act as our ambassadors, even on Facebook ads. We have built a network of bloggers, affiliate platforms and social media. eShakti only promotes products that are doing well, never products that are not. Others are compelled to do the opposite due to their inventory based system. This makes our messages more credible. »
eShakti has been written about widely in American media in magazines such as Glamour, O, The Oprah Magazine, Essence, Seventeen, Woman’s Day, Woman’s World, First for Women, among others. In fact, Glamour featured eShakti among a handful of brands including Gap, Ann Taylor, BCBG and Lands’ End in its section on style tips. The Wall Street Journal called eShakti as a ‘harbinger of mass customisation’ in an article called ‘Liberation from the Size Tag’. Krishnan does not face serious competition, yet. The company has shown a lot of growth over the last three years and expects to maintain the momentum in the coming years too. He is confident competition cannot catch up fast. « We are working on ideas that are all based on customer experience. Technology is driving customer expectations. Our unit production system software, self measurement systems, just in time printing, scalability are exciting concepts. They are difficult to replicate. We have hired specialists in robotics. We keep investing in technology. A David can take on a Goliath with customers promoting us constantly and with technology on our side. »

This Brand Makes ‘Fancy’ Clothes for the Jeans-and-T-Shirt Crowd

My everyday plus siz eworkout clothes outfit formula isn’t all that exciting or hard to follow. Start with jeans or trousers (always high-waisted), add T-shirt and mules or sneakers I can easily slide into, and voilà, done. I like to keep things simple and easy regardless of where I’m going, what I’m doing, or who I’m doing it with.

That might be why I felt so seen when Liana Clothing — an LA-based souped-up basics line boasting retro velvet ringer tees and matching lurex-threaded socks — launched back in late 2016. There’s a perfect balance of casual and comfy without any of it coming across as sloppy or only appropriate for weekends. Think classic Hanes tee, but five million times more fun and soft.
While the line debuted last year with just a selection of socks and tees, the latest fall/winter collection introduces a ton of ’70s-reminiscent silhouettes and styles, like velvet track jackets ($220), scalloped ($115) and glitter-mesh ($80) long-sleeved tops, and a cozy sherpa hoodie ($250) lined with soft cotton that you most definitely won’t want to take off. (Like, ever. Look at it!)

Ranging in price from $60 to $250, the new collection also introduces another first for the brand: four styles of pants, including velvet track pants and striped “bowling” pants. “The first time doing bottoms is huge because I wanted to create something close to the brand’s DNA, creating something transitional and still comfortable, » says designer Lili Chemla in a press release.

She notes that her personal favorite pair, the Burnout pant ($130), happen to also be the best seller at the moment. “They look like a chic black work pant, but feel like your favorite sweatpants you’ve had forever.” It also feels important to call out these pink pull-on velvet pants ($140) that I wish I could have in every single color.
$90 for a velvet ringer tee and more than $100 for sweatpants might hit the retail flinch point for a lot of folks. But if you (like me) live in basics all day every day, the selection from Liana will be a treat even if it’s also a splurge.

Shop the full collection (and what’s still available from drop number one) straight from lianaclothing.com. You can also get your hands on the brand’s new holiday sock collaboration with Moda Operandi as of today, too.

We cling to clothes we wear?

We buy shoes we don’t wear, wear shoes we don’t like and have — buried at the bottom of a drawer — a cute bra that no longer fits.

This is true even if we are men. Well, some men.

If we are other men, what we have at the bottom of the drawer, usually an upper-drawer or the one in the nightstand, is a pair of cufflinks and a tie clip, none of which have been worn since the first Bush administration.

Men also have a number of ties — accessories so unruly they needed clips to keep them in place — but given that so few occasions demand ties these days, they remain, like old Playboy magazines from the 1980s and sweaters hand-knit by old girlfriends, tucked behind something else. They are not quite hidden, not at all valuable, but not quite rubbish. Not yet.

Women have hosiery, not that we ever use the term, with one run near the top or one small hole near the big toe, fixed with either nail polish or hair spray, tucked away so that we can use them in an « emergency. » We have bathing suits that have lost their elasticity, T-shirts that have been washed so many times they’ve lost their shape as well as their design and Capri pants that have lost all hope of being worn by a person declared legally sane.

We might even have a poofy-sleeved Laura Ashley dress stashed somewhere. When I was in college, I saved up for month to purchase a deeply flowered Laura Ashley corduroy peasant dress only to discover that it made me look like a peasant. I looked like I should be picking escarole. All I needed was a basket tucked under one arm.

I gave that Laura Ashley to my tall, thin sister-in-law when she got pregnant and then it perfectly suited its wearer. She looked elegant enough to be taking tea in an English garden. She didn’t look like she should be on a Contadina can. (« Contadina » actually means « Italian peasant woman. »)

Over the years, my spouse and I have given to friends, donated to thrift shops or bagged then shoved into charity bins hundreds of items of clothing. Having bought most of my clothes secondhand when I was a kid, I know that these items usually go to good homes.

But there are still some old relics that haunt me. Even knowing better, I have trouble letting them go. For example, I have beautiful blue suede cowboy boots from wilder days that now press on the single most painful part of my third metatarsal. I might as well use them as matching vases. Yet every time I think « just donate them already, » I dig in my heels, metaphorically of course, and refuse.

Maybe I don’t need an organizer. Maybe I need an exorcist. It’s not that I need mothballs or Hefty bags; I need somebody with salt for the corners of the closet and sage to disperse the clinging memories.

At the very back of the closet, there’s an aggressively unattractive, lace, high-necked jacket that I won’t relinquish. I’ve never worn it. It is the only garment I possess that still has tags.

Nevertheless, I fantasize about the time this will be the absolutely perfect thing to throw over my shoulders and make an entrance. All eyes will turn my way. And although it will be the obvious comment, no one will whisper, « Is she wearing a doily? »

(No kidding: I’ve just gone to look at the jacket again. I think the entrance I’ll be making is onto a stage where I’ll be playing Miss Havisham. Maybe I’ll wear it with Capri pants for the full effect.)

I know I should keep only what fits, flatters and feels comfortable but I might have to hold onto the boots and the lace.

My new motto when it comes to dealing with what’s in my closet it this: Some things you keep for sentimental reasons; when that’s the case, you need to take care of them; most of the time, however, you should let them go.

Basically you gotta know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to give ’em away.

Gina Barreca, plus siz eworkout clothes an English professor at the University of Connecticut, is a Hartford Courant columnist.

A simple guide to dressing for the Australian summer

Summer heat in Australia calls for a ‘less is more’ approach, and the peeling off of any unnecessary layers is crucial but also liberating and fun. The feeling of the warm summer breeze, salty air and simple statement pieces is an exciting thing to look forward to, but the key is remaining in a place where you feel beautiful and healthy in your own skin, active and ready to make the most of the summer days ahead.

Here are some practical, stylish and timeless wardrobe updates:

Wear a swimsuit under your clothes
Find something you really love, that can transition from a top to a swimsuit, on those days you spend relaxing by the coast or a pool. This one is a deeper colour and I often wear it with a linen midi skirt or a half-buttoned blouse.

Invest in a free-flowing button up dress
The feeling of a weighted hem is really lovely when you walk, it gives the perfect feminine touch and bounce. This one is simple to dress up or pair with relaxed accessories and bare feet.

The perfect best friend jumpsuit
This is a go-to piece, I always go for linen because it feels incredible and is always cool. Jumpsuits are only getting better and wide legs are super comfortable and easy to move around in.

A bag or backpack you can take everywhere plus siz eworkout clothes
It’s important for me to have a bag large enough to fit books, a camera, water bottles, towels, spare clothes, fruit etc. Antique leather or beautiful canvas or linen totes are super handy.

Why it’s so hard for women to figure out what to wear to work in 2017

In 1985, Donna Karan launched a collection centered on what she called her seven easy pieces. It offered working women a stylish, flattering capsule wardrobe that could be simply mixed and matched for a variety of looks—and a solution to the perennial problem of what to wear to the office.

The “easy” part was very much the point. In US offices, the suit, or at least a button-up and nice trousers, was the men’s uniform. Women’s work dress wasn’t easy at all: Women were expected to be feminine but not too feminine, creating a variety of ways their outfits could go wrong. Too bright, too tight, too dowdy, too sexy, too masculine—all were potential pitfalls. “Easy” did not describe getting dressed for women at the time.

Today it still doesn’t, but for new reasons. Women have made strides in the workplace, but there is no longer any dominant office dress code in the US. Conservative sectors, such as finance and law, may be slowly loosening up, but they still often require fairly formal clothing. Silicon Valley, meanwhile, is a bastion of informality, home of the business hoodie. In between those two poles are any number of offices that fall at different points along the corporate-to-casual spectrum. “Work clothes” no longer just means suits, blazers, starched shirts, and tailored trousers. The situation can make it difficult for anyone to get a handle on what is and isn’t right for the office.

It seems an opportune moment for a designer to come along with a new set of seven easy pieces for women. But as of right now, brands such as Anne Klein, Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, J.Crew, and others that have long sustained themselves by providing women with work clothes are failing to make the situation much easier. They’re being pulled in different directions, or can’t provide any compelling vision of how a modern women’s work wardrobe should look. Many are struggling to keep themselves, and workwear, relevant.

It’s a delicate balancing act. Too much fashion is often given as one of the reasons for J.Crew’s dismal performance in recent years as well. But then an outdated or indistinct design identity isn’t any better, as the struggles at Ann Taylor and Banana Republic prove.

Women trying to shop at these stores clearly don’t seem to be able to find what they’re looking for, or sales would be better than they are. Meanwhile, many are confused about what’s appropriate in different office environments. The increasing freedom to choose one’s clothes may actually be making it more complicated for many women to decide what’s appropriate for work.


Work clothes are polarizing

DKNY—the more affordable, youthful offshoot of Donna Karan launched in 1989—exemplifies one of the challenges of designing a modern wardrobe for women. After Karan left her business in 2015, effectively shuttering the premium label, DKNY carried on under two recently enlisted New York fashion talents who tried to update it for the current moment. They mixed classic tailoring with streetwear and sporty athleisure.

The blend of sportswear and tailoring was always part of the Donna Karan DNA, but instead of one coherent vision, the new look often felt like two separate wardrobes that were too far apart stylistically. Was it for the 30-something professional dressing for a career, or a 20-something looking for streetwear? The attempt faltered, and the designers left last year. DKNY’s owner, LVMH, sold the brand to the apparel group G-III.

The challenge of being on-trend while also serving a working audience is one many brands are grappling with, according to Kat Griffin, founder of Corporette, a popular blog about women’s work clothes. “The problem for a lot of these workwear companies that have always been the stalwarts—and the ones that my readers have loved and relied on—is they are trying to move with the trends, even though a conservative office today still looks very similar to 10 years ago,” she says. “The athleisure trend, the ripped-denim trend, all the different trends that you see at more casual offices are still largely inappropriate for conservative banks or law firms or places like that.”

It’s true plus siz workout clothes that conservative offices have loosened up some, but only some. Meanwhile, many other offices have rapidly lost their formality, to the point that there’s often no distinction between what a woman might wear during the week versus out for the evening or on the weekend.