“Blink” Retail: Brilliant Black Leather

After many, many season’s in the fashion doldrums, black leather and leather inspired looks are now super hot again. Brought back into our style consciousness through the brilliant Biker jacket, and now diversifying into great dresses, skirts, shorts and even the (gulp) leather trouser is looking very, very good again. Here’s some of our favourites shot at retail over the past month or so. From high end to high street, fashion is showing leather a lot of love!



Massimo Dutti

Massimo Dutti

Somerset by Alice Temperley

Somerset by Alice Temperley

River Island

River Island

Miss Selfridge

Miss Selfridge

All Saints

All Saints













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“Blink” Retail: Atterley Road launches

We’re sent lots of press releases and information about new stores, products and launches. I have to say that not many of them make it on to the blog as we strive to share things that have the “Blink” perspective, and that we find exciting, inspiring and innovative. In the case of Atterley Road, there was no doubt about us sharing the news with you, as upon looking into what this new online fashion store is about, I managed to find a Whistles Tshirt that I’d been told was sold out in the size I wanted, alongside lots of other brands that I really love. Result!

The site concept is that it’s an online version of the perfectly curated high street. The word “Atterley” is a pun on the French word “atelier”. Atterley Road is home to a selection of products from Jigsaw, Whistles, Iro, American Vintage, Petit Bateau, Hartford and many more fantastic brands. The founder of Atterley Road is Katie Starmer-Smith, formerly at Jigsaw. I was really interested to know what inspired Starmer-Smith to launch Atterley Road…
“In the last decade the high street has changed almost beyond recognition – the boutiques, the independents, the kind of places where you would find that one off have all but disappeared as they are pushed out by the big chains. So we head online in ever greater numbers looking to fill that void and yet so many women I know find the experience completely overwhelming. Unless you are prepared to trawl dozens of individual sites your choices are limited to either cheap, fast fashion on one hand or very expensive designer fashion on the other, which for most of us is out of reach. Where is the site for women who want beautiful clothes, impeccable service and boutique experience – all at an accessible price? With Atterley Road we are aiming to fill that gap.” says Katie Starmer-Smith.

Well, I can attest to the fact that the online shopping experience with Atterley Road is easy and straight forward. I’ll let you know about the ‘impeccable service’ once my parcel arrives…

Here are some shots of product that’s proving very popular on the site so far-

 Jigsaw Printed leather satchel, £99.00

Jigsaw Printed leather satchel, £99.00

 Des Petits Hauts Kelly quilted jacket, £134.00

Des Petits Hauts Kelly quilted jacket, £134.00

 Filippa K Print wool crepe dress, £175.00

Filippa K Print wool crepe dress, £175.00

For more retail news, click here.

“Blink” Print: Spot On

You know things must be tough out there when the mid season sales seem to start before the season has even got under way, and the stores are rolling out Christmas windows before we’ve even had Halloween. At times like this, its a comfort to have elements in your collection that are ‘safe bets’. As a shopper, these will provide you with a bit of an extended fashion moment, so no need to panic that you’ll be over it before you’ve got some wear out of your purchase. One of the ‘safe bets’ that we absolutely love is the spotted print look. We were tired of seeing a sea of stripes (another super safe commercial option) and so this has provided us with a much needed distraction. Working from the catwalk interpretations from inspirational brands like Stella McCartney, right down the fashion food chain to the good old high street. If you’re not dotty about a simple polka dot, you can swap in stellar stars or why not go kitsch and quirky, replacing your spots with mini motifs like hearts or even animals?







Oxford Circus

If you’d like to see more pattern inspiration, just click here. Enjoy!

Blink Interviews: Jason Kirk of Kirk Originals

I first met Jason Kirk when he had just launched his business, Kirk Originals– we were both very young! I was at Whistles and he came in to show us the collection. I recall seeing some really amazing frames. Brilliantly innovative shapes and materials that were super desirable. They made a great impression on me and I have been keeping a watchful eye on how Kirk Originals has been developing since then. I recently had the fortune to make contact with Jason again, through the wonder that is Twitter. I was delighted when Jason agreed to be interviewed by us. There are some fascinating insights into Kirk Originals and his approach to business. Thank you so much Jason.

Now over to Jason for some background on how Kirk Originals came to be, and then the inquisition…

Sidney (my grandfather) and Percy (his brother) Kirk were great innovators in the optical industry. In 1919 they turned a sewing machine into a lens cutter and within a few years they had factories in London and helped other people around them open factories so that London became a world centre of optical excellence. At the time, they were in Hatton Garden. My father was an optician, along with all his brothers and cousins but none of my generation was into it at all. It all seemed very dry and conservative until I discovered a stash of glasses that Sidney and Percy had designed in the ’50s and ’60s, beautiful upswept blues and greens. At the same time, I got made redundant by L’Oreal and used the small amount of money they gave me to make some new frames. It was around then that I met my future wife and business partner Karen, who is a graphic designer by trade, so we launched Kirk Originals together in 1992…..so next year is our 20th anniversary!

Tell us about your current design crush

Design can take itself too seriously sometimes so I enjoy the humour in say Ron Arad’s Rover Chair or Paul Smith‘s creativity.

Which comes first for you, personal style, the brands handwriting or trends?

Personal style, without any hesitation. A good designer’s handwriting should be obvious without any effort to make it so. It is always so dangerous to attempt to move with trends. Perhaps sometimes a personal interpretation of a trend but even that should happen naturally if you are tuned in to your target audience. We design what we love and what feels right to us. Usually we find some sort of parallel with the direction the market is taking but, more often than not, that is coincidence.

Do you think commerciality or creativity is the most important?

Creativity of course, but it is fascinating how commercial aspects impact on creativity. The obvious symptom is seeing design become banal because of commercial pressure to sell. We have always resisted this whatever the pressure. Our store on Conduit Street is not designed to sell ‘as many frames as possible’. We know it could be more commercial. It is designed (by Campaign Design who are superb by the way) to reflect our attitude to eyewear, to our profession and to creativity in general.

People come to Kirk Originals for something different. If we did bow to commercial pressure and design the same frames as everybody else then we would be relying on our brand name to sell our products…..that is just not our style. We have built up a great following that we value and appreciate but I doubt that any of those people buy our glasses because of our name. What we hope to achieve is enough loyalty for them to be interested in what we are doing each season and then, if our work merits it, they will buy from us again……and again……and again.

How does the idea of sustainability impact on your collection?

We study our products and our packaging very carefully for sustainability issues. Our chosen medium or the one in which we have the most experience, is plastic and, specifically in eyewear, this tends to be acetate. Re-cycled acetates are very limited at the moment, largely because production is dominated by a few giants but things will have to change.

Our SS2012 collection will be produced entirely in acrylic (shhhhhh, don’t tell anyone). This brings a whole new wealth of possibilities, especially in the ‘green’ arena. I believe we are the only people to be hand-making acrylic frames so this is a very exciting new venture.

What are you currently working on and how is it shaping up?

The next launch for us is a collection called BEAM and its sister collection SUNBEAM. They will be launched at London Fashion Week in September and at the SILMO optical show in Paris at the end of the month. We have been working on this for several years; frames hand made entirely from acrylic which is very light, easy to adjust and it has an amazing range of colours.

This bucks the trend of black and tortoise shell frames that has been stagnating for a while and, if I may loop back to an earlier question, this reflects a response to the economic environment. When things stated getting tough, eyewear went ‘simple’. “Retro” was all we heard for the last few years. I would visit opticians in Germany and Holland and see shops full of black and tortoise shell frames all looking like variations on the Wayfarer. Lazy design. Safe design.

I love retro styling and some of the most beautiful frames were designed in the 50s, 60s and 70s but STOP. How about that personal style that we were talking about before?

So getting back to the point, Sunbeam is our innovation to celebrate our 20th anniversary next year. Colours are bright. Shapes are big and bold. The finish actually looks like glass – very Kirk Originals.

What’s currently inspiring you?

Colour. It is often about an attitude or a state of mind than an object or movement for us. We need a little brightness in our lives, some celebration. Looks at the colours of an Ozwald Boateng or a Richard James suit, soak in the ambiance of Sketch. When you are dressed or surrounded by uplifting objects then you feel great. Our conversation with our clients is partly about how they look in their glasses but, more importantly, also how they FEEL in their glasses.

Has your business developed in the way that you anticipated?

Business never develops in the way you anticipate which is what makes it enjoyable. Karen and I still own 100% of the company so we can make our own decisions, right or wrong, and stand behind them.

We plan to open more stores in key fashion capitals and develop our retail strategy but we need to be a little more patient. We are very happy with where we are today and just as ambitious as we were twenty years ago.

How would you describe your brand’s design aesthetic?

Kirk Originals is all about self expression. Everybody is unique and so the challenge is how to express one’s individuality through eyewear. Then on top of that one’s mood is variable so…

By identifying key strands that run through our clients we can create certain key elements in our design that reflect the wearer; they are creative, individual, irreverent, independent, confident…and then we try to translate that into our design.

Interesting though when you compare what people spend on clothing to what they spend on eyewear. Often eyewear is an after thought, which makes no sense because the first and last thing that you see when you are with someone is their eyes. Take a look around you right now. I bet you can see people that spend a great deal of time choosing their wardrobe, investing in shoes but wearing functional eyewear. Bizarre. And so many of them only have one pair……..how many tops do you have? Good eyewear is an investment, like good shoes but it says so much about you (like shoes), not forgetting also the medical importance which I have not even mentioned.

What was your first fashion memory?

When I found Grandpa Sidney’s glasses back in 1992 I did not know much about the world of fashion and design. That was probably an advantage. I had no preconceptions and no hesitation about approaching anyone. In general people were very kind, welcoming, encouraging and willing to help.

As I strolled around London with a hitachi case full of specs, I met Helen Storey, Nick Coleman, Lucille at Whistles and everyone was very supportive. When we opened our store in Covent Garden I wrote to Paul Smith and asked him if I could meet him and just have a chat. He did not have a clue who I was but I got a positive reply and was invited over for breakfast.

This kind of support and encouragement goes a long way and I have never forgotten it.

What is currently tempting you into making a purchase?

I love Moods Of Norway, full of colour and exuberance, great suiting and knitwear.

What has been the biggest challenge for Kirk Originals?

Maintaining our principles when we could have gone more commercial. The very first time we did a show in New York I bumped into Barbara MacReynolds from LA Eyeworks in an antique store. Star struck, I went and introduced myself and asked if she could regale me with one piece of advice. And she did. “Stick to your principles” and perhaps that has been the single most valuable advice we have had.

We started off with £1500 of redundancy money from L’Oreal and we have never had any financial backing. That too has been challenging. We are driven, fiercely ambitious (I recommend  Eating The Big Fish by Adam Morgan) but we have maintained our design ethic and not sold out in order to satisfy any lust for growth or financial reward. Patience. Yes, staying patient is a challenge.

What advice would the you now give to the you who was just launching Kirk Originals?

Tough question. I could make you a long list of things that the text book would have had us do differently but then we are not a mainstream company and I think it is the difference that has contributed to our success. If I was to give advice to anyone starting a business it would be “listen. Listen to everyone”. You do not need to act on what people say but it is far better to learn from other people’s mistakes than your own!

What’s the best thing about your job?

There are so many good things. I work from home with Karen. I see my two boys all the time. I travel the world, work with fascinating people, design, create, set my own timetable and wake up itching to get on with it.

Any future projects that you’d like to tell us about?

We are studying a project to open more retail stores in major fashion venues at the moment. Other than that, we are concentrating on design.

Tell us about your most fabulous fashion moment

Winning a Silmo D’Or award for eyewear design was pretty special. Designing frames for ‘stars’ is always fun too. We don’t name drop but we have had the pleasure of designing for pretty much anyone at the top of the film or music business that you can think of.

Our proudest fashion moment must be when we designed a menswear clothing collection which was featured on the front cover of Menswear Buyer and got a spread inside.

I guess if you want something a little more fabulous how about designing the glasses for Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman’s character) in the Batman films.

Who would you love to work with, past or present?

It is always interesting to work with people from other disciplines who bring a fresh and open-minded approach.

I am often asked who would I like to put glasses on that we have not (yet) worked with. That is a little easier…….it is usually people that you never see wearing glasses like David Bowie – is that because he does not need them or he has never seen any that he likes? There is another challenge.

I feel most creative when…

I am in Japan. Yep. Strange but true. Stimulating, inspiring, amazing.

Any final word of advice?

Keep listening. Keep learning.

Jason Kirk of Kirk Originals

The Kirk Originals Conduit Street store

the 'Aretha' frame

the 'Sculpture' frame

the 'Sunbeam Spark' frame

Thanks again to Jason and also to Karen. Looking forward to seeing you at London Fashion Week.

If you’d like to read more inspirational interviews, just click here. If you’re interested in more posts featuring frames and shades, then click here. Enjoy!

Blink Interviews: Gaudion Bowerbank

We first met Gaudion Bowerbank when attending a course on working sustainably at the brilliant Centre for Sustainable Fashion. Gaudion Bowerbank were already well progressed on their chosen path towards showcasing amazing jewellery that had been created sustainably and ethically, and we have watched their business go from strength to strength over the past year- never swerving from their mission.

In 2009 Gaudion Bowerbank was born out of the desire this duo have for creating an environment which fosters artistic freedom and creative collaboration leading to more intelligent design; a studio-boutique that would promote the behind-the-scenes craftsmanship of the best contemporary jewellery in the world. Working from small studios or their homes, the designers’ devote fine materials, years of expertise, and the physical workmanship hours needed to craft the orders by hand, one at a time.

“It was really important to Kelly and I that Gaudion Bowerbank have a point of difference, we wanted to offer our customers and designers a new retail experience, something with traditional values but with a contemporary and fresh aesthetic. Yes, on a basic level it [Gaudion Bowerbank] is a shop, but it’s a gallery too, a window into designers’ studios, and the hub of a vibrant, interactive, creative community.”
Claire Gaudion, Co-founder of Gaudion Bowerbank

Gaudion Bowerbank won designer brand of the year at London Jewellery Week in June 2010.

In addition to running Gaudion Bowerbank; Kelly Bowerbank works as a Junior Fashion Editor at Asos. Prior to that Kelly worked on the fashion desk at the Guardian for almost three years, with editors Jess Cartner-Morley and Imogen Fox. Claire Gaudion, alongside her role at Gaudion Bowerbank, also works for Edina Ronay assisting with design, buying and website development. She began this job whilst studying at London College of Fashion, which is where Claire and Kelly met.

We interviewed Kelly Bowerbank, picking her brains on her inspiration and influences. Thanks for the time you have given us Kelly!

Tell us about your current design crush
I’m really excited about a textile designer we’re launching soon. She’s a very talented weaver who makes beautiful scarves and throws. To the untrained eye her work is haphazard and geometric; but each of the patterns that make up her pieces have a secret Morse code word woven into them. My favourite is the design based on the word ‘love’, if you don’t know Morse code, then you’d never guess that’s what it said, or indeed that it said anything at all. It’s such a clever, imaginative concept, and it makes for an incredibly thoughtful gift. I will be treating the special people in my life to one of her scarves come Christmas!

Do you think that wearability is more important than creativity?
My head says yes, but my heart says no! Seriously, I think that (for me at least), it’s about balance. What I wear has to keep me from indecently exposing myself, fairly dry if it rains, and at a pleasant temperature- those are the non-negotiable ‘wearability’ factors. However, I don’t believe that creativity has to be sacrificed to tick these boxes. Even wardrobe staples: white t-shirts, navy jumpers, black trousers, can have beautiful, unexpected design details. I heard someone refer to these as ‘premium basics’ recently, which I thought was nice.

For you, what is the most important aspect of being an independent retailer?
Being able to promote emerging talent. In times of economic difficulty, the large department stores and chains are reluctant to take ‘risks’ with little-known designers. We can be much more flexible and reactive in our approach, and it means we can support new graduates and fresh talent.

Which comes first for you, personal style or trends?

I have eclectic style. One day I may be dressed in homage to Mad Men, the next could be my take on military, and another I’ll be channeling Snoop Dog (yes really). Trends don’t massively influence me, but I do nod in their direction, especially when it comes to styling my outfits. There’s been a massive shift towards minimalism recently, so I’ll be putting a lot of our designer’s simple, paired back pieces to good use this season.

Do you think that ethical and sustainable fashion can compete with main stream high-street fashion?

It has to, and it is. Today’s customers are shrewd, if ethical fashion doesn’t fulfill their requirements then they just won’t buy it. Of course, there is still room for improvement, but in recent years, the design credentials of the best ethical fashion has really improved to a point where is can easily compete with the fast fashion of the high-street

What season are you currently working on and how is it shaping up?
Gaudion Bowerbank doesn’t really work on seasonal basis, we just choose designers that we love and who deserve a platform for their work. We do apply some common sense to our operational schedule though, for example we wouldn’t launch a knitwear designer in June, when what women really want is is summery dress.

What or who are your longest standing design influences?
Elsa Schiaparelli and Martin Margiela. I’m the proud owner of a Margiela jacket, the shoulders are so huge that I have to go through doorways side on when I wear it. I’ve yet to acquire any Schiaparelli, but I’m hopeful!

What’s currently inspiring you?
We visit many graduate and new designer shows each year, and there have been some great ones this summer. Seeing all of the new talent, fresh and enthusiastic, re-affirms our ethos. Creating a platform that supports emerging designers, that’s inspiring. Claire and I are both also  really looking forward to the Future Beauty: 30 Years of Japanese Fashion, exhibition opening soon at the Barbican Art Gallery. I’m sure I’ll come out of there energized, notepad and pencil in hand, eager to design and create!

How would you describe Gaudion Bowerbank’s fashion aesthetic?
Minimal, timeless, and beautiful. A bold design statement.

What is currently tempting you into making a purchase?

Erm, I’m a little embarrassed by this, but I’ve literally just bought some Rebecca Taylor leopard trousers, despite lots of protests from my boyfriend. After the February fashion weeks I realised there was a huge gap in my wardrobe where animal print trousers should be. Mulberry and Ungaro presented some gorgeous ones; mine are charcoal and black, they’re made of really soft wool. They’re much nicer than what you’re probably imagining! If you haven’t guessed yet, I’m a sucker for fashion…

Any style secrets?
Wear at least one thing everyday that makes you smile. And wear it with confidence.

How has the ethical and sustainable fashion scene changed since you opened your business?

The awareness of ethical and sustainable fashion is growing all the time; both within the industry as more brands launch eco/organic/fairtrade lines, and with customers becoming more conscientious shoppers. Since opening the business, we’ve definitely perceived a positive shift towards sustainable fashion. A year or two ago people were engaging with ethical fashion because they felt they should, but now it’s because they actually want to- there’s been a massive change in attitude.

What’s the best thing about your job?

Seeing the craft behind the products. It’s amazing to be privy to the skill and the love that goes into creating them.

Any future projects that you’d like to tell us about?
We’re focusing on two main projects at the moment, expanding our product range and re-developing the website. It’s a massive job, the revamped site will look clean and modern, and the improved functionality will make the shopping experience much smoother for customers.

Any fashion regrets?
As someone who has indulged in almost every daft trend, you’d think I’d have lots! But fashion is too much fun to have any regrets. Live, wear and learn but never regret.

Whats the best fashion advise that you’ve ever been given?

Don’t save things for ‘special’, it just means you’ll never ever wear them.

Can you share with us your most fabulous fashion moment?
I felt pretty pleased with myself (and only mildly embarrassed) when Jerry Hall had to wait to pass, while the Japarazzi took my picture at an event at London College of Fashion. She was very gracious about it, and totally stunning.

Who would you love to work with, past or present?
Working with new and relatively unknown designers is one of the best parts of this job and what drives Gaudion Bowerbank. But there are of course some iconic designers and brands that we’d love to partner with. It would be amazing to do something with Pierre Hardy, I adore his shoes. You can spot his designs from a mile away, there is something about the proportions,  classic, contemporary, simple, yet creative. Whistles is one of my favourite stores and Jane Shepherdson is exceptionally talented- the Phoebe Philo of the high street. She has a sixth sense when it comes to design, she intuitively knows what women want and she doesn’t fail when it comes to delivering it. I’d never say no to a collaboration with Whistles or her or both!

Any final word of advise?
Keep the momentum and smile even when things don’t go to plan- they have a habit of working themselves out. Make time to see your loved ones even when you’re frantically busy.

Claire and Kelly at London Jewellery Week earlier this year

designs by Simone Brewster

designs by Simone Brewster

designs bu Lua Lua

designs bu Lua Lua

Blink Events: Lets Make Up

We very lucky to have been invited to the launch party for the Session School the other week. Lucky in oh so many ways.

Firstly we got to see our very first fashion employers again- the lovely Rick and Lucille Lewin who were the founders of Whistles. It was my very first job and boy did I learn a lot as assistant to Lucille, the production manager and the designer, as well as being an occasional shopgirl! Rick and Lucille own the space that is now dedicated to the Session School, located above the Chiltern Street Studio (I can still recall sweeping that courtyard!).

Next on the lucky list is the fact that I got the meet Dani Guinsberg and the team who have founded the brilliant Session School, housed in a stunning high ceilinged and sky-lit white washed space in Marylebone. The concept is to create a school where amateurs and professionals can hone their skills in both hair and make up. The team’s feeling is that in order to be as successful as possible within the industry, you really need to be expert at both hair and make up.

Dani, a highly experienced make up artists of over 14 years experience with work published in Vogue, Marie Claire and Elle, along with Sara Hill, make up artist to celebrities like Grace Jones, La Roux, Kanye West and the Sugababes, and Julie Jacobs, make up artist who has worked on catwalk shows for Miu Miu, Prada, Leowe and Louis Vuitton, are overseeing the make up training. Jennie Roberts, a highly successful hair stylist to the likes of Kate Winslet, Rihanna and Take That, alongside Ben Cooke, creator of Posh’s ‘Pob’, and Jonathan Long, one of the most sought after hairdressers and stylists of the moment, are the team sharing their incredible hair styling skills.

Finally on the lucky list is the fact that we got to meet the utterly delicious and delightful David Gandy. He’s a very close friend of Dani’s and had come along to support the launch of her new venture. One thing you don’t get to really see from that Dolce ad is the fact that he has the most incredible blue eyes (what do you mean, you weren’t looking at his eyes?). David is launching a men’s style guide iphone app. We would encourage all of you boys to download it immediately if it’ll make you look anything like the stunning Mr Gandy…

We wish Dani and the stellar team incredible success.

Click here to see more “Blink” events…

The Session School team with Lucille and Rick Lewin, Mel C and David Gandy

David Gandy with Dani Guinsberg

models with Mel C, ex Spice Girl, all styled by the Session School experts

Blink Inspiration: Something in the Air

When we were at the Trendunion presentation for Spring Summer 2011, Li Edelkoort let it slip that the Autumn Winter 2011 presentation would be focusing on birds as the next key inspiration.

Ever since then we have been noticing a few early adopters. Our feathered friends have been providing the inspiration for some great prints, accessories and graphics for Spring 2010, almost like a mini taster of what is to come- if Guru Li is to be believed (and let me tell you, her track record is pretty faultless…). So we suggest you let your imagination take flight (no groaning!) and wing it (still, no groaning at the back!) to embrace this beautiful and inspirational motif.

Click here for more inspiration!

Question Air


Zadig & Voltaire

Carnaby Sreet

Miss Selfridge

Style spotted on Westbourne Grove