Fashion Rambler meets Matthew Williamson

So. I had JUST landed from Paris and I was already on it. Matthew Williamson was propping up the bar in Manchester’s new French Brasserie, Aubaine, in Selfridges Exchange Square.
I got a chat with him that you can read on The Fashion Network here.
I picked his brains on LFW, Manchester, Online and Social. Here is what the Chorlton born designer had to say about Online.
Fashion Rambler: Your clothes are all over the .com, but you operate your own transactional website. How does it fare?

Matthew Williamson: It’s been going a year, it’s going OK. I think the internet and social media and anything to do with the internet is a difficult proposition if you don’t have the funds to make it a legitimate engine. We’re doing what we can with what we’ve got. We’ve just joined Facebook, about 10 years behind everyone else. *laughs*

fR: Watch out, you’ll be on Twitter next.
MW: Steady. Don’t hold your breath. We’ve just joined this Facebook and got 8,000 fans now so….
 Matthew’s SS12 Collection
fR: So, online is a big scary world but you’re doing OK since 1 year isn’t long to be in the game and 8,000 Facebook likes means something.
MW: It’s a long, slow thought in our minds. We’re meeting the right people and for it to really work one needs to put in a lot of effort and time. It’s not about slapping up a sight and hoping you sell. You have to do a lot work.
 Customers get a preview of the SS12 Collections in the new French restaurant.

fR: How do you try to keep your own personality as part of the online engine?

MW: We try to with Facebook. We keep our customer in the know. We’ve started, in the last 6 weeks, to post blogs that are personal, from me. They inform readers about what I’m up to. I do an event in my store in London once a month, we plot them 12 months in advance. Next week I’m doing a press event to meet people in industry that I may not have met yet. I know the Alex Shulman’s [Editor of British Vogue] and those kinds of people but not the new generation; bloggers, stylists. 

I love being in the store, seeing the customers, I genuinely like knowing what women think of the clothes. It’s all well and good doing a show, on a girl that has a body like a boy but I do quite like engaging and learning. I’ve been in so many changing rooms with so many women and they’ve told me so many things!

Read the full interview here.


Fashion Rambler meets Henry Holland

Selfridges Manchester Trafford Centre hosted a bit of a do to celebrate a new concept in Menswear. Yes, Primark is now stocked within the Menswear Department. *pause for effect*
If you’re bored of hearing about Primark. Scroll down for the interview with Mr Henry Holland. (pictured above)
And although Primark wasn’t the only alteration to the Menswear offer in the out-of-town Shopping Mecca, it was certainly the most talked about. 
Whilst Mixologists concocted potent potions from Whiskey and Rum, whilst Henry Holland span the decks and whilst half naked underwear models (including Stuart from Big Brother) strutted around the floor with balloons – I was sussing out the Menswear offer from Primark.

You may have read my blog that recently announced the Primark/Selfridges collaboration [read it here] and the pictures of the Menswear Edit would have left the snob in you feeling decidedly uncomfortable about their stance on the matter. Why? The truth is, the clothes are relatively spot-on and the price is to die for in this pocket-money-less climate. 

The department benefits from ample floorspace (more than most concessions) but is tucked away under the grand staircase towards the very rear of the shop. Primark have provided bespoke fixtures and fittings that are a leap away from the drap faux-pine and blue plastic we’ve come to associate with their stand-alone stores.

What is interesting and troubling about the clothes is that they look the part within the store. They’re colourful, exciting and the prices are just fantastic (note: Primark is the only concession in Selfridges to advertise item prices on bold end-of-arm boards). 

Why is this troubling? Well, the inner clothes snob in me is about to come out… when you take these clothes home they’re still Primark. You lose the prestige of the store and have nothing to fall back on except a Cederwood State or Denim Co. label.

So. My answer to this snobbery is to buy well. Avoid ‘basics’ and go for the gimick. YES it’s Primark and NO you don’t care (or at least you’re too poor to care). Also, some of the gimmick items, like this Xmas sweater, don’t have Primark labels! (Bonus)

I got a couple of minutes with Mr Henry Holland, designer and resident DJ for the partay.

Fashion Rambler: Mr Holland, what do you think of Primark being welcomed into Selfridges Manchester Trafford Centre?

Henry Holland; I think the official line for Selfridges is quite good in that they say their customer buys everything from Primark to Prada and they think there is a real cross over between high end and low end. They don’t think people shop one and not the other. People like to mix and match their own styles. I think it’s fine. I don’t know what the big hoo-har is about. It’s a massive store so I think Selfridges is big enough to cater to all different markets.
FR: What were your best bits of this season’s London Fashion Week?
HH: Usually every season the best bit is when my show’s finished and I can have a drink! But I think this season everyone was saying Christopher Kane’s [show] was really good. I wasn’t there in person but people were crying and that because it was so amazing. It was beautiful – the fabrics and stuff he developed were so amazing. Richard Nichol was really good. I went to that one. It was beautiful. I thought that Roksanda Ilincic was great and I was at Louise Gray as well that was great. Really good.
Note: I saw Mr Holland at Nicoll’s show, he was a little boozy and asked if his breath smelt of Vodka. It did. 🙂 
FR: You operate two brands, your mainline: House of Holland, and your diffusion line in Debenhams: H! By Henry Holland. How do you manage to juggle the two?
HH: It’s quite easy. We kind of oversee what happens with the diffusion line – working with the design team and designing that stuff is very different. It’s really rewarding because you see it a lot. You see it on girls. It’s about building a new brand. It’s two separate entities, a very different customer and in a very different space. Whereas House of Holland – there’s nothing that happens in my office that I don’t know about. From sales to distribution, to production, to all the design – every single thing. There’s still a team of five of us and people think we’re a huge company. We have a very wide reach. We distribute far and wide.

Fashion Rambler meets Monica Vinader

A while back now I was asked to pop to the Moet bar in Selfridges Manchester Exchange Square to meet a very important lady. This lady was Monica Vinader, of the jewellery brand that takes her name.

The Rio in Sterling Silver, from £100.00, buy here.

Monica Vinader started in 2002 as a bespoke jewellery brand whilst Vinader was working in South America with her husband. However, once the world got a peak at Vinader’s stones, demand exploded and just 9 years on we’re sat in Manchester discussing the launch of Monica’s first two out-of-London UK stores. Monica has four of her own boutiques worldwide, sells in Selfridges, Harrods, Liberty’s, on her own site and online with net-a-porter et al.

My Rio Bracelet. 
I chose Black because, in the world of Monica Vinader, it represents Energy,
(something I need lots of!)

Quietly impressed with the UK’s second city (yes you heard, bog off Birmingham), the brand has opened not one but two concessions in the city’s two Selfridges stores. Leading the way with signature friendship-style bracelets the brand is known for their Fiji and Rio unisex ranges. That’s how I know the brand.

However, when I asked about Monica’s ‘menswear line’ for 2012 I was shocked to hear (rarely heard) honesty: “Do you know, I don’t think I do a menswear collection yet”. 

PR, Tyler stopped breathing and I pushed my dictaphone closer. “What?”

“No not yet, I think the Fiji and Rio are very unisex but I don’t think I’ve had a proper go at menswear”. 

Monica Vinader

It isn’t often we see a business owner being self-critical on the record but I have to say that I agree. Although I adore the Fiji and Rio bracelets, the look, the idea. I don’t think they, alone, constitute a menswear line. Not to say I think Monica Vinader needs anything else to please the menfolk, the Fiji and Rio do that quite well as it is. But, like Monica, I agree that if you’re going to call it a menswear collection it needs to be a collection.

The Fiji (with gems), from £85.00, buy here.

Our conversation bounced between Indian sourcing, ecommerce, social media and Hugo from Made In Chelsea (a fan of the brand) and throughout Monica proved every bit the professional but keen for a giggle.

You can see the rest of the interview with Monica on The Fashion Network here


Primark sets up shop in Selfridges

I know. WAH!? But, listen. This is a GOOD thing. I’m rather excited. Why? because when Primark get it right, they get it right and I love a bargain (don’t you). BUT, as is probably the same with the majority of the sane British public, I don’t like their stores. 
They’re messy, sweaty, filled with nasty people and generally rather depressing. I understand that it is this cutting corners and cutting costs that makes the fashion so cheap BUT still, WWMPD (What would Mary Portas do?)
So. I think this is a rather exciting prospect for the King of low-end to shack up with the King of High End. Plus, can’t wait to get my hands on these rather sexy items!

Primark Menswear Edit. Coming soon to Selfridges Manchester Trafford.

Beyonce’s House of Dereon UK launch, in pictures.

Why bore you with another blog on the latest range by Beyonce when you’re up to your eyes in Beyonce by now. 
Yes, she’s brought House of Dereon to the UK, yes it’s African inspired, yes it will fly off the Selfridges shelves despite being rather dull. We know that. Now. The launch was a whole different ball game. Brand Beyonce on speed. We heard her music, were attacked with her perfume, walked though a hologram of her face, danced to her videos and then saw her in the flesh for about 10.5 minutes in total. (no words said).
Here is a pictorial documentary of my experience, courtesy of the lovely Lynda Moyo’s camera:

Arrive at Selfridges London carpark (I know) They did it up nicely though, more digital screens than a football match and a white washed roof.

See the show.

Meet Mr H!!!

Looking rather grumpy/confused. Lynda looks hawt.


icky champers on the tinted-window-coach-to-after-party that played Beyonce’s latest album…. all the way…

After parties (where no one knows your name, or cares, and the booze is free)

At this point she thought she was Beyonce.

One of the Brummies, A Greek…. (regional press from Birmingham)

Us and another…. probably not Greek.

 Stoopid underground stopped the trains…

And then I went back to Hoxton, climbed into bed and slept. The next day I woke for an early start with the boss and hit LFW. A day in the life of a Fashion Boy.


Selfridges at Manchester Pride

Celebrating its 21st Birthday, Manchester Pride has held the city centre in its grasp for a weekend of festival frivolity. 
I’m mid-Pride as I type and am lucky to be alive considering the amount of Vodka that has passed through my system.
Whilst watching the Parade yesterday I witnessed something rather amazing, Edward Lloyd-Davies, Special Projects Coordinator for Selfridges London Oxford Street was in a little yellow van surrounded by male models in knickers.

Yes. Hilarious. Happy Pride!


Build Your Own Havaianas at Selfridges Manchester Trafford

On a few of my most recent trips to the famed Selfridges Manchester Trafford Centre I have spotted something rather exciting. Flipflops being made for people. Havaiana Flipflops to be precise (the Louboutin of the Flipflop world to those not in the toe-bar community)
I had to check it out.

Havaianas are a Brazilian brand of summer footwear and are the most comfortable Flipflops you’ll ever buy. Seriously. I purchased some from OiPolloi before my break away to Gran Canaria and I barely wore anything else the entire holiday. They’re comfortable, durable and go with anything (in the right colours) I even wore them out at night (for shame) and they looked the part because, if you’re going to dance in flipflops, they should at least be Havaianas!

So. I have some white OiPolloi Havaianas but Adam (the BF) doesn’t, thought I’d treat him and be all nice.

Upon arrival you’re teleported from the sleek shiny Selfridges ground floor to the insane world of multi-coloured foam footwear.

I loved the merchandising, it really played up the idea that we were mixing and matching our own creations, it also, oddly, made me hungry. The idea of customising your own footwear has got this corner of the department store a lot of attention, during hard times people want more for their money. So if retailers can go that extra mile (by not putting the shoes together in the first instance) they seem to be on for a winner!

Upon being introduced to Vanessa we began the Three Step customisation process…

We selected our desired sole (top or slim, slim being a more delicate cut), our desired strap and any glitzy additions, like these crystals below. (which we avoided, this time)
The lovely Havaiana Ladies then set to work putting our selections together. Adam opted for Avocado Green Top Sole and White Straps. 

There was a cool/lethal looking machine that punched the straps through the sole and, un, deux trois, we were done.

 As you can see by Vanessa’s co-worker’s hair, the work can get demanding….

Simply the best in flipflops. 
Exclusive to Manchester Trafford Centre Selfridges for the next few week of Summer, from £20.00.


Selfridges London Oxford, a world of fantasty, indoor snow and roof top lakes.

I made a little trip to the Big Smoke last week for a press event regarding Selfridges
icon‘ Xmas (I know, fashion works way too far in advanced for one to remain sane). Want to see some of the more rediculous from the world of high-end retail?

White (not yellow) bag, Victora Beckham, £18,000.00 (made to order) exclusive to Selfridges

The new IT hat, as modelled by yours truly. (photo courtesy of the lovely Lynda Moyo’s iPhone, see my interview with Lynda here)

Tiny slutty shoes, as hand-modelled by myself and Casey Gillespie of London Confidential. The whole 25 pairs of shoes act as an Advent Calendar for the bargain price of £18,000.00.

So, whilst milling around the press room spotting treats and delights, eating gorgeous things and touching expensive fashions all of which are soon to be on offer for Xmas shoppers I was told about a secret…. there was a party on the roof.

In true Selfridges style they’d spied an opportunity for fantasy and flooded the bloody roof to make way for a pop-up boating lake. Why? Because some rich bloke founded a new sugar (darling) and we must make cocktails to celebrate! I felt I was in an episode of AbFab. After Oysters and HixFix cocktails at Hix Restaurant we went up the express lift (with a library within it…) to have a look.

Incredible isn’t it?