With the bi-annual behemoth that is fashion-week season gearing up its cogs to launch full steam ahead – New York’s designers already having taken their final bow (rose appliqué on a gold metallic skirt? I salute you, Creatures of The Wind) and London’s fashpack waiting with bated breath for its vibrant showcases to begin today – I find myself reflecting on the status of designers and their relationship with the everyday, budget-restricted fashion-consumer. There is undoubtedly an intercontinental audience which devours each collection offering that luxury fashion labels present, so much so that even haute couture has experienced a complete re-genesis in more ways than one (design and consumer-base-wise, which you can read about “here” in more detail). Having said that, it would seem the majority of current shoppers pick-and-choose from heavily-diluted, high-street versions of trends that were only truly incarnated on the catwalk. While said versions are often orchestrated to produce excellent copies for their price (being a high-street customer myself, I have no qualms with buying into inspired pieces), one still isn’t getting the masterpiece, the product envisaged exactly as its creator would have it.
In instances like these, a singular beacon of hope arrives in the form of designer sample sales. Breaking down the pre-empted barriers between customers with varying budgets, they offer a slice of pure, unadulterated designer items (albeit at greatly-reduced prices). The stream-lined events allow anyone the opportunity to experience the luxury of purchasing high-end, and the magic of wearing perfectly-tailored, immaculately finished garments and accessories that would convert the most staunch of high-street advocates. With these thoughts in mind (having only witnessed the beauty of sample sales a handful of times) I set off one bright London morning with a mission:
The venue in question was the Music Room, a Mayfair-based design space noted by fashion insiders for having hosted a plethora of sample sales in the past, Jimmy Choo being one prime example. A stone’s throw away from Bond Street – and the surrounding avenues boasting grand designer houses such as Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Emporio Armani – the location was perfectly fitting. Walking pass the gorgeous architecture only further fuelled my excitement, and as I started my walk up South Molton Lane, I thought about what lay in store. I’d heard of the sample sale through Miista, a London-based, Spain-produced shoe brand that I’ve nursed a serious style crush on throughout the entire summer. After perusing their colour-bursting, holographic designs in Shutterbug a few weeks ago, I was eager to view their shoes in even more depth and, with any luck, finally get my hands on one of their colourful pairs of shoes. An added bonus was the fact that all styles would retail at a fraction of their usual price tags, with some never-before-seen shoes and one-off creations that never made it to production making their debut. A select number of highly-acclaimed London labels were also set to make notable appearances – all of which I was eager to further explore – so I wasted no time in entering the red-bricked building and heading to the sample area upstairs:
Inside, I was greeted by a vast, polished exhibition space that was essentially a blank canvas – all the more feasible for creating different ambiences between sample sales, product launches & catwalk fashion shows to name a few. The minimal interiors meant that every vibrant item showcased was particularly impactful, and naturally, I gravitated towards Miista‘s shimmering displays:
Even being well-aware of Miista‘s colourful designs (having written about them twice “here”) I was still somewhat taken by surprise at the collective shoe kaleidoscope that awaited me. Row upon row of open shoe boxes displayed a contrasting mixture between S/S’s holographic, printed styles and darker, new-season designs that both made a statement. Alongside their more adventurous pairs (think emerald feathers, knee-high velvet boots and metallic flatforms, all of which I was attracted to), lay equally stylish – but somewhat more wearable – styles, from buckled suede boots to tan cut-out brogues. Attempting to narrow down a favourite would’ve been in vain; the showcased pieces were far too individualistic to be outmatched by one another. One Versace-esque velvet boot, complete with glittering jelly heels, threatened to steal the show altogether – but then its Spring/Summer counterparts waltzed in with vivid perspex platform heels and gradient boots, and I was left completely torn, pining over multiple shoes at once!
I spread my time perusing the varying styles over the three days in which the sample sale was held, as I initially discovered, to my chagrin, that most shoes were an UK 4/ EU 37 (I take one size above, and attempted to fit into some, but for the most part it was literally too much of a stretch). My hope was restored, however, when I heard through Anais (one of Miista’s sample sale organisers) that additional sizes and styles would be appearing over the sale’s duration, so I diligently made appearances each day to have a quick browse over new arrivals. Every shoe style was a jaw-dropping £30 – a phenomenal discount – so this added to my determination! Anais was a wonderful help during my time at the sale, with a pleasant attitude that never once faltered, having assessed my style perfectly from the start by showing me shoe options that accurately matched just what I was looking for in a pair of Miistas. It was thanks to this genuine approach that I didn’t leave the sample sale empty-handed, and I finally left with not one, but two, pairs of Miista shoes in tow:
To say I was overjoyed to make my first ever Miista shoe purchase is an understatement – I couldn’t leave the building & retrace my route fast enough to unbox and unearth my pink suede KIA beauties, so I could shamelessly parade around London in these wearable yet statement-making ankle boots. I love the attention to detail found in all of the shoe label’s designs, present in this case from the elegant gold cross zip detail. The shocking pink shade is surprisingly refined – the boots accompany a multitude of my outfits seamlessly. On the sample sale’s final day, I wore them around town in my coveted House of Holland dress and Om Diva perspex satchel to rack up some LDN style points (I additionally wore said outfit to HoH’s Carnaby Street pop-up shop, but I’ll save that tale for another soon-to-be-revealed post). Equally, however, you could sport the ankle boots with an all-black ensemble for an even more impactful finish. Either way, I’m seriously in love with these awe-striking boots – and though I’ll be sharing the second pair (those gorgeous HANA boots that look incredibly flattering on the ankle) with one of my shopping companions who ‘conveniently’ takes the same size, I’m really looking forward to styling these shoes also; perhaps with some on-trend tartan pieces thrown into the mix. To keep up-to-date with all of Miista’s magical shoe escapades, you can follow the brand on Facebook & Twitter – check out their website “here” to discover the inspirational means by which Miista first came about, and for some equally-inspiring imagery and blog posts. Their Midnight Waters A/W ’13 collection is a sultry haven of deep shades and clashing textures that, on the surface, channels a more grown-up version of S/S’s brighter metallics – click “here” to view the full lookbook. With a stylish legion of loyal fans steadily increasing by the minute, it won’t be long before all four corners of the planet, and beyond, are head-over-heels for its creations. ♥
While I was pretty starstruck over my Miista success, I was sure not to neglect the other enticing London labels on-offer. Directly after Miista‘s display was Crisian & McCaffrey, an ultra-sophisticated shoe brand whose luxurious styles are coveted by the likes of Nicole Scherzinger and Lady Gaga. Counting Harvey Nichols as an exclusive stockist, the importance placed on quality craftsmanship – from initial designs to finished product – is evident right from the start. Conceived in 2009 by Crisian & Nareesha, an eclectic English-Venezuelan design duo, the creations are both feminine and edgy, sensual and empowering; difficult balances to strike which are somehow captured rather effortlessly in every pair of stylish leather heels they bring to life. Click “here” to view Crisian & Caffrey’s über-luxe designs and ethos – I have my shoe-obsessive eye on the Alana Gold Sandal (it’s no wonder Harper’s Bazaar took a shine to it).
I lingered at Donna Ida, browsing the pieces and speaking with the assistants over the non-debatable importance of finding the perfect pair of jeans. Originally founded in 2006 by an Australian entrepreneur & denim purveyor of the same name, Donna had a mission to streamline the process of jeans-searching as much as humanly possible, knowing as well as any woman does how incredibly tedious the search can normally be. Donna has since launched three specialist denim boutiques (you can check the locations “here”) that put full emphasis on locating individualistic, on-trend jeans that cater to a plethora of shapes and sizes (the Donna Ida experience is so intricate that they even offer a tailor-made service, to adjust the selected jeans to your exact measurements). Having read an article previously on the brand but not browsing their collections fully, I was delighted to recognise a multitude of reputable denim brands at the sale – Current/Elliott straights were showcased alongside a neon/gold pair designed by NYC-based Eugene Is My Middle Name (check out their innovatively-presented site “here”) and some vibrant geometrical jeans from the company’s in-house IDA label. With a carefully-selected array of luxe garments and accessories also on-offer (think leather-tweed biker jackets, non-fussy, chic knitwear and IDA fur coats, all made for welcoming the colder months seamlessly) to accompany one’s denim finds, Donna Ida’s concept is one that is seriously well-thought out, and will undoubtedly strike a cord with so many females out there, myself included. Keep up-to-date with the brand by following them on Facebook & Twitter - you can instantly start your online denim browse “here” (I’m particularly enamoured of the newly-arrived Rag & Bone houndstooth skinny jeans). Additionally displaying lingerie and fragrances on the online boutique, Donna Ida‘s reign near encompasses a lifestyle; making a contour-flattering purchase could finally lay those inner, denim demons of yours to rest.
PAPER London‘s vibrant clothing rails were some of the first to arrive in my immediate line of vision, but I postponed acting on my intrigue until after I had cleared out Miista to properly devote attention to the alluring pieces. Drawing nearer to the showcased collections, there was a decided focus on prints and eye-catching colours, distinguishing the stream-lined garment shapes and well-defined fabric cuts. The pieces oozed texture contrasts – a feature I personally can never get enough of – with knits showcased alongside flowing blouses and silk blazers embellished with striking monochrome collars. Led by the brand’s founders, Kelly Townsend and Philippa Thackeray, the label takes Made In Britain statues to an ultra-luxe platform, with every graphic, structured garment that graces a collection made entirely in London. Bringing a unique marriage of maximalist prints and colours & minimalistic designs to the vibrant London fashion scene, the pieces were far too alluring to leave behind without a spot of self-indulgent purchasing:
It truly was love at first sight for this vivid fine-knit dress, which I spotted on a rail of clean-cut, tailored garments. The fabric is so incredibly light that it cascades beautifully – down to just above-the-knee if you’re quite petite like myself- and the vibrant geometrical print is surprisingly flattering. I found the piece to be somewhat sheer, so I would suggest pairing the dress with a simple black slip and opaques – or over jeans for a relaxed yet impactful look. I was already adamant on purchasing the garment judging by appearance alone, but when I heard its unreal sale price (from £285 to £85) my determination to make the dress mine majorly increased!
This PAPER London dress is one of those rare pieces that manage to act as both statement & staple, with its contour-enhancing shape, silky-knit texture and diverse shades all able to dazzle and be a go-to option simultaneously. Combining mid-range prices with high-range quality, PAPER London‘s modern yet womanly creations guarantee a long-lasting spot in your wardrobe – if you’re more inclined to be wallet-savvy with purchases, however, be sure to keep an eye out for any future sample sales. There’s one currently hosted at the TEA Building up until Saturday, which I’m striving to make an appearance at (you can check full location details and other logistics “here”). To keep fully up-to-date with the luxe brand, you can follow updates on Facebook & Twitter - and you can start your unmissable perusal of the site’s offerings “here”. The garments will see you from workdesk to stylish weekend nights without skipping a beat – these are the invaluable pros of a luxury label run by women who understand the needs of modern, graphic-print-loving females.
The last sale section I visited – and dutifully browsed on all three days – was that of KNOMO London, a sophisticated label whose incredibly chic bags and accessories are nearing their 10th anniversary since inauguration. Having been aware of KNOMO‘s backstory from reading ‘How To Set Up and Run a Fashion Label’, I was intrigued to peruse the designs in-person, discovering that the brand had recently undergone a complete rebranding, a thoughtfully-chosen fox emblem now adorning each piece as part of the transformation. There was a plethora of varying bags on offer, from patent-red covers to grey fur laptop sleeves, all oozing an incredibly luxurious quality that belied the sample sale prices (leather/quilted sleeves and a selection of laptop bags retailed at just £10, with more detailed versions of the latter showcased at £20). While I was suitably charmed by the label’s luxury offerings, I was just as taken by KNOMO’s motivational ethos. Created by a group of like-minded individuals who committed full-time to realising their innovative dream, KNOMO‘s name is a marriage of ‘knowledge’ and ‘mobility’, with the brand’s core focused and moulded by the rapidly-advancing world of technology. When KNOMO‘s founders conceived the label almost a decade ago, they concentrated upon the importance of technology before many other brands banked upon the concept over the coming years. It is this insightful ability and precision when crafting each piece – every item is made-to-measure for whatever brand of smartphone or laptop it envelops – that sets KNOMO‘s standards to an impressive par. From a blogger’s point of view, the point is even more valid – technology is the future, moreso than it is at present even, and finding labels that appreciate that concept (with care and consideration put into their customer’s everyday, technology-related needs) is a luxury. Suffice to say, I didn’t leave the section empty-handed; quite the opposite:
Indulging in quite a few KNOMO products was inevitable from the start – the combination of high-quality, practical bags and unbelievably low prices would’ve been criminal to ignore! My shopping companions and I took home a couple of the brand’s iPad sleeves and laptop bags, the former striking the balance between practicality and style, with protective layers encasing the tablet that still manage to look stream-lined. My favourite purchase, however, was undoubtedly the patent black leather bag. I don’t need to re-enforce how vital an asset my laptop is, and being able to bring it wherever I need more seamlessly than with suitcases, while still maintaining that practicality element, feels like a privilege (additionally, the bag is lined with quilted padding to ensure it doesn’t take any damage en-route). The marvel of KNOMO is that, while there are plenty of compartments in each bag for other necessities (my laptop bag can house my phone, wallet, headphones and key make-up products seamlessly alongside other details), the pieces are so compact and sleek that at first glance, you wouldn’t imagine how much they can actually store. One sui-generis KNOMO feature I’m quite taken with is the Tracker ID code embossed inside every bag, sleeve and phone cover, that gives full contact details of the brand in the event of any bag loss – upon buying any KNOMO product you should register your unique code on the website as soon as possible, to ensure that the bag finds its way back to you in worst case scenarios.
You can follow KNOMO London on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram for updates – click “here” to enter the stream-lined site and discover their smart yet practical collections, further product info and additional details of the brand’s essence. KNOMO London‘s unique designs set them apart from fellow label peers, and with the incredible technology evolution of the past ten years, who knows what the next decade will bring. One thing is certain, however – where KNOMO leads, I’ll be following suit. ❤
As I conclude my reflection of The Music Room‘s late August sample sale, I face directly out to the ocean, watching white horses fleck the dark blue waters and moving in synch with every wave. If you follow me on any social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter or Instagram) you may already know of an exciting blog development… La Femme Eclectique is heading to London Fashion Week!! I’ll be covering for the website in Somerset House tomorrow, and to say I’m excited is a complete understatement… I’ll be posting more comprehensive round-ups on LFE, so if you want to keep up-to-date with short and sweet descriptions & imagery, I shall be keeping my social media accounts (especially Instagram & Twitter) thoroughly updated. I won’t reveal too much about my outfit just yet, but I will disclose that Miista shall be making a prominent appearance – with London calling, I wouldn’t have it any other way. ❤