5 Great Christmas Gift Ideas

Finding Christmas gifts, whether they’re for your mum, dad, grandma, boyfriend/girlfriend, best friend or brother/sister, can be a nightmare (believe me, I know), so I’ve put together a list of 5 great Christmas gift ideas (hopefully covering all angles) to give you an idea of what to get your loved ones this year:

Tea For Two Set from Cornishware (£50.00)

Blue Tea For Two Set from Cornishware

Does your mum or grandma love anything kitsch and homely? In that case, the very sweet kitchenware from British company Cornishware could be a brilliant gift. I really like the blue Tea For Two Set (also available in red), which includes a tea pot, milk jug and two mugs. Perfect!

Men’s 506 Regular Fit Jeans from Levi’s (£75.00)

Men's 506 Regular Fit Jeans from Levi's

I don’t know about you, but my dad’s a typical man who tends to like easy gifts, like jeans or a jumper. I usually opt for jumpers, so this year I’m thinking I’ll go jeans, but a nice pair, such as these regular fit jeans from Levi’s. They’ve got a fit he likes (fairly relaxed – nothing overly “trendy”) and a nice, subtle wash. Plus, they look like all the cheaper jeans he has but will probably last much longer, so they’re a practical gift, too.

Pastel Birds Scarf in White from Lisa Angel (£14.00)

Pastel Birds Scarf in White from Lisa Angel

My best friends are a lovely group of girls I’ve known since school, but I still find it difficult to find a gift for Christmas, or even their Birthday, that I know for sure they’ll love. However, I just bought one of my friends a beautiful printed scarf from British brand Lisa Angel (also very affordable at just £14) for her Birthday, and I don’t see how she won’t love it. Lisa’s scarves are really pretty and they’re very seasonal, with the winter months just around the corner and all. One of these will make a great Christmas gift!

Sterling Silver Star Ring from Alison Moore (£45.00)

Women's Sterling Silver Star Ring from Alison Moore

For your girlfriend or sister, this handmade sterling silver ring from designer Alison Moore is a lovely option. It’s priced very reasonably and is something that the recipient would wear for a long, long time, so it’s definitely worth spending the pennies.

Also, take a look at Alison’s hammered heavy unisex silver ring (£60), which could be great for your boyfriend or brother.

Men’s Hooded Two-tone Jumper from Bershka (£39.99)

Men's Hooded Two-tone Jumper from Bershka

I have 3 brothers, so I can sometimes be a little lazy when it comes to buying them gifts. Often, they’ll just get some nice chocolate or a DVD, however if I’m feeling generous they might get clothes. I’m never 100% on what they like, but I usually just try to buy things I think will suit them and include the receipt, just in case they don’t like it. It’s usually the best way to do it. This men’s hooded jumper from Bershka is quite a nice option I think they would like, so this or something similar would make a nice gift this Christmas.

Good luck shopping for your loved ones this Christmas! I hope I’ve helped. Let me know how you get on!

Images courtesy of Cornishware, Levi’s, Lisa Angel, Alison Moore & Bershka

What types of Running Shoes are there?

Like many, I used to assume that running shoes were running shoes and that there was just one type for everything, however I recently realised that this isn’t the case and that the type of running shoes you choose can really effect the way you run in different locations and even help prevent injury. Here’s a quick guide to the different types of running shoes on the market:

Road Running Shoes

Road Running Shoes from JD Sports

These offer lots of support and cushioning to absorb the impact of hard surfaces. If you’re regularly running long distances – if you go for a morning or evening run, or if you’re training – these are the shoes for you. General purpose running shoes are available at reasonable prices from most, if not all footwear retailers.

Trail Running Shoes

Salomon X Ultra GTX Trail Running Shoes from GO Outdoors

Trail running shoes tend to have a deeper tread in comparison to the relatively shallow tread of general purpose running shoes. A deeper tread helps to provide better grip on softer, uneven and slippery surfaces. These are usually a bit more durable, too. Because of this, trail running shoes can cost slightly more than general purpose running shoes. If you’re in the market for a pair of trail running shoes, it’s best to go to a retailer that specialises in outdoor gear or activewear, such as GO Outdoors, Cotswold Outdoor and Mountain Warehouse.

Racing Flats

Adidas Adizero Adios Boosts Flat Running Shoes

As you may have guessed, racing flats have a very shallow tread and are consequently much lighter than the other types of running shoes. Racing flats are often raised at the front to encourage running on the toes to increase speed and some even have spikes to help improve grip. As these running shoes aim to help increase speed, they’re usually used by professionals or serious running nuts during races. If you’re after running flats, sports specialists such as Nike and Adidas have some great options.

Happy running!

Images courtesy of JD Sports, GO Outdoors & Adidas

5 Things A Good PR Agency SHOULD Say

After last week’s post titled “5 Lies Most PR Agencies Tell“, I received a lot of feedback, telling me that it’s helpful to know what lies PR agencies might tell, however how do you spot a good PR agency? In the spirit of supplying where there’s demand, I’ve put together this post, which outlines what good PR agencies should say and things to look out for, to give you an equal idea of positive and negative aspects of PR. Here I go…

“You’re not getting in Vogue next month…”

Unless you’re paying a large lump sum every month, it’s worth knowing that it’s unlikely your brand is going to be in Vogue just a few weeks after you’ve started working with a PR agency. Companies should be honest about this. Yes, they may strike gold and get you a briliant feature just weeks into the process, but the truth is that it does take time. A PR agency has to introduce you to their contacts and start building a foundation before the ball really gets rolling, especially if you’ve never worked with a PR agency before. What you should be hearing from the agency when you first meet with them is something along the lines of, “You’re not going to get Vogue next week, but we’re going to work hard and try to make this happen, but with time. We’d hope to achieve this level of coverage eventually.”

“You’re not quite the right fit for our agency…”

There’s a lot of companies out there that just want your money, regardless of whether they feel they could do a great job in working with you. A good PR agency should be able to say no. If your brand isn’t right for them and their client portfolio and contacts, they should give you a polite, “It was lovely to meet you and we like your brand, but we don’t feel it fits with our company. Other agencies you could consider that might be more suitable are…” – after all, if they’re not working with you, they shouldn’t hesitate in trying to help point you in the right direction with the knowledge they have of the industry.

“We specialise in PR, not sales…”

Believe it or not, there are countless companies that try and fob brands off by telling them they could provide a sales service for them, which usually involves the agency contacting buyers (who they should know already if they’re offering the service) and trying to get the brand stocked in a particular store. Some companies do offer this as an extra service and they do it well, but there are also lots of agencies that will jump on the phone and try to find buyers AFTER you’ve signed the contract, because they simply don’t have the relationships with buyers already established. A good PR agency should be honest and simply say, “No, we don’t work in sales but it is something we could look at in the future, however for the time being we’re solely PR focused”. There’s no point in offering a service if you can’t do it well.

“We hope the press we secure you will lead to an increase in sales, however we can’t guarantee anything…”

Obviously every brand and PR agency hope that press coverage will boost sales, however sometimes that isn’t the case. It pays to understand that press is presss and is, in most cases, more about building brand image than anything else. Click-through rates that then lead to sales from press coverage alone is very, very low, so it’s not something any agency should guarantee or enforce. They should simply say, “I can’t guarantee that the coverage we get you will generate sales, however we’ll target media that’s right for your brand and will help to build the brand’s image. Eventually, you should begin to see a boost in sales, along with a boost in brand engagement and support, but it takes time.”

“We’re happy to work with and around you and what you can afford…”

This might just be my personal opinion, however I strongly believe that a company who wants to work with you should be willing to adapt their prices and services to suit what you as a brand can afford. I regularly get approached by brands with just £100 or so to spend each month, and if I like them I’m always happy to work with them and provide them with a slightly reduced service – e.g. they will receive less press coverage than brands spending more. No agency should have 100% fixed prices that they’re not willing to budge on. If an agency isn’t willing to budge on their prices (within reason), they’re not that crazy to work with you. Fact.

Although, with this point, do note that agencies do have certain costs to cover and therefore when I say “within reason”, I do mean it. You can’t expect an agency to half their prices and still offer the same service they offer higher paying clients. It’s not fair. Start small and grow – the main focus is getting your brand out there, even in a small capacity.

I hope this gives you even more insight into what to look out for if you’re a brand seeking to work with an agency or if you’re someone working or wanting to work in PR.

If you have any questions or comments based on your own experiences, please do share them with me!

Tallulah’s Threads AW14 Teaser

Tallulah’s Threads is a Brighton, UK-based vintage boutique offering a selection of carefully selected vintage clothing for women. It also carries a small collection of its own vintage-inspired pieces. The brand was founded in October 2012.

Danielle Collier, the founder of Tallulah’s Threads, kindly provided me with a handful of images of the Autumn/Winter 2014 collection exclusively before their official release later this week. The collection includes pretty floral print dresses, as well as a very lovely tartan smock dress. Beautiful and very reasonably priced, with most items retailing at around £35, this is definitely a brand to have on your radar!

Tallulah's Threads AW14 vintage floral print dress

Tallulah's Threads AW14 vintage tartan smock dress

Tallulah's Threads AW14 vintage blue floral print dress

You can purchase selected items through the Tallulah’s Threads website.

Photography: Cameron Fry @ Crate47
Styling: Danielle Collier

Images courtesy of Tallulah’s Threads

5 Practical Winter Jackets for Women

Following on from my recent post titled “5 Practical Winter Jackets for Men”, here’s a list of 5 practical winter jackets for women that will definitely keep you warm and dry this winter:

Active 3 Layer Extreme Women’s Waterproof Jacket from Mountain Warehouse (£79.99)

Active 3 Layer Extreme Women's Waterproof Jacket from Mountain Warehouse

Fully waterproof and breathable, letting moisture out to keep you dry on the inside, this is a brilliant women’s waterproof jacket and it comes from Mountain Warehouse, a UK outdoor retailer that’s perhaps not as respected as other retailers for its slightly older demographic. However, it has to be noted that Mountain Warehouse is slowly catching up and is making high-quality outdoor gear that’s on the same level as some of the more expensive brands, such as The North Face. This particular jacket features elasticated draw cords on the hem and hood, giving it an adjustable and, consequently, more flattering fit than other styles.

Reaction Thermic Jacket from Craghoppers (£80.00)

Women's Black Reaction Thermic Waterproof Jacket from Craghoppers

I think this women’s black waterproof jacket (also available in blue) from Craghoppers makes a nice, lightweight and breathable commuter jacket – especially if you have a bit of a walk to the station in the morning and don’t want to get soaked before you get to work. This jacket also features a fleece lining, which is sure to keep you nice and snug on cold winter mornings.

Women’s Skiddaw Waterproof Jacket from Berghaus (£150.00)

Women's Skiddaw Waterproof Jacket from Berghaus

Perhaps because of its slightly higher price tag, Berghaus seems to be the brand of choice for female commuters in a lot of cases. I’m not sure whether they offer the best jackets if you compare all outdoor retailers, however the majority of their styles are quite smart, which gives them a bit of an edge for those earning slightly more than your average Joe. This waterproof jacket has a flattering cut and is fully waterproof. It’s also very practical in that it features a roll away hood, five pockets (plenty of room for all your bits and bobs) and adjustable cuffs and hems, allowing for an attractive fit.

W Welsey Trench from Helly Hansen (£150.00)

Women's Khaki W Welsey Trench from Helly Hansen

Because of its slightly younger appeal in comparison to most outdoor brands (excluding The North Face, which I personally find quite overpriced), Helly Hansen is a favourite of mine when it comes to outdoor gear, and jackets in particular. This women’s waterproof trench coat (available in khaki, black and navy) is probably the trendiest jacket on my list, but the most fitting in that this is a brand creating attractive outdoor gear for women that flatters the silhouette and has the practical features a lot of luxury brands we consumers favour are missing, such as being waterproof and breathable. Comfortable and versatile, this is a great everyday piece for when the colder weather hits.

Jilly Women’s Stylish Black Waterproof Coat from Trespass (£25.99)

Jilly Women's Stylish Black Waterproof Coat from Trespass

It’s not quite Helly Hansen, but this similar trench style from Trespass is a nice option if you’re looking for a somewhat stylish waterproof coat at a very affordable price. This jacket is fully waterproof, has 2 zip pockets, and the waist belt helps to flatter the silhouette. It’s a great lightweight option for that commute or a dash to the shops.

If you have any waterproof jacket suggestions, including styles or brands I’ve not included in this list, be sure to leave a comment with your recommendations.

Images courtesy of Mountain Warehouse, Craghoppers, Berghaus, Helly Hansen & Trespass

Review: Chiquito Restaurant Bar & Mexican Grill

Yesterday evening, despite numerous warnings from my colleagues that the food was “just average” and that it was “really overpriced”, I tried Chiquito Restaurant Bar & Mexican Grill for the first time. It was a friend’s 20th birthday and me and some friends thought we’d try somewhere new and different, and as Chiquito had recently opened its new restaurant in Stanway, Colchester (Essex), we thought we’d give it a go. But, to put it quite bluntly, it was a disaster of an evening, and I’m going to tell you why.

Chiquito Restaurant Bar & Mexican Grill Logo

Picture this…

You’ve just finished work and have ran through various London train stations before jumping on a train to Colchester from London Liverpool Street with just minutes to spare. You’re knackered and, as usual, the train is running late. You’re already annoyed. You get off the train at the other end and it’s freezing cold, but thankfully your friend is there to pick you up and take you to the restaurant where you’re celebrating your friend’s 20th birthday with what you hope will be a delicious meal and a good time. You finally get to the restaurant, quite hungry and ready to sit down and enjoy the evening, but it all goes wrong pretty quickly.

Despite your friend booking a table for eight a few days before, you arrive to find that Chicquito hasn’t registered your booking and they need to try and rustle up a table for you. They get on it but leave you waiting 20 minutes before asking you to take a seat, despite your table being sat empty for the duration of that wait, and then you finally sit down and find your table is made up of one circular table and one square table that the restaurant staff have thrown together, and you’re all sat at slightly awkward angles. It’s not the group vibe you were hoping for and you envy the large, empty, perfectly rectangular table that sits empty over the other side of the restaurant.

Your waiter finally returns to your table after 15 minutes and takes you drinks order. He says he’ll be back in just 5 minutes with your order, but then takes almost 20 minutes to return. You’ve had your eye on your drinks, which have been sat at the bar for at least 10 minutes, but your waiter is too busy joking around with another table over the other side of the restaurant that arrived shortly after you.

Your drinks finally arrive and the waiter leaves again, promising he’ll return in 5 minutes to take your food order. He returns 20 minutes later and finally takes note of your starters and mains, joking and laughing while he does so – even though you’re already getting irritable. It’s been a long day. Almost 30 minutes later your starters arrive. They’re quite pleasant tasting, but you begin to question why you’ve paid £5 for garlic bread that tastes the same as any other restaurant’s £2.50 side.

Your dirty plates are finally cleared 20 minutes after you’ve finished your starter and you’re promised that your main meal will be with you shortly. Your friend complains to a waitress walking by after 30 minutes, asking where the main meals are, and she responds with, “You’re still waiting?! Let me check! You’ve been waiting a while!” – we didn’t disagree. She returns promptly to tell you that she’s not quite sure what’s happening and that she thinks your waiter is just being “quite slow”. Very helpful.

20 minutes later (50 minutes in total), your main meal arrives. Two of the orders (luckily your friend’s, not yours) are wrong. They take them away, alter them slightly (e.g. replacing a veggie burger with a beef burger) and bring them back. Everyone has what they ordered at last. Hoorah!

Unluckily for Chiquito, you’re really not in the mood to eat your meal after waiting almost an hour and (to be really honest) you realise that your £14 chicken wrap doesn’t actually taste that much different to the £4.99 option at the pub in town. You begin to question why everyone was so buzzed about Chiquito anyway…

The night has been long and you and your friends are really, really disappointed. It was nice to see everyone but it just wasn’t worth it. Your friend’s boyfriend decides to have a word with the manager to see what can be done, because you’re totally dissatisfied with the entire evening – everything from the service to the waiter and the food was a total disaster. Plus, when you complained to the waiter about how long the food took, his response was to chuckle and say, “You’ll live!”. You want to punch him and begin to wonder why you didn’t just go home to bed straight after work.

Kindly, after agreeing that the service was completely unacceptable, the manager swiftly gives you 50% off your total bill and takes all drinks off the bill, too. Great discount and swiftly done (unlike the rest of the evening), but you realise just how much mark-up this restaurant is making (if they’re happy to give 50% off with no arguments) and you’re now even more annoyed.

It’s 10:20pm and you finally leave and manage to get a lift home from your mother, who luckily lives just 10 minutes down the road (saving you a 30 minute train journey). You’re back home by 10:50pm and decide to go straight to sleep and let the nightmare of Chiquito pass you by.

To summarise…

Pros

  • The food’s edible
  • They’re swift at giving out discounts when the service has been terrible

Cons

  • For the quality of the food, it’s very overpriced
  • The service is totally unacceptable and staff need a serious training session
  • It makes you wish you had just ordered a takeaway pizza
  • It leaves you wondering why you’re not always as insanely happy as your waiter. What’s wrong with your life?

If you’re thinking about trying Chiquito, I would strongly recommend ensuring that it’s a restaurant that’s been there a long time and has trained staff and good recommendations from people you know. If it’s just opened, give it a couple of months. Also, make sure you try and get a hefty discount code from somewhere, because the food costs way more than it should.

If you’ve been to Chiquito, please do leave a comment and let me know what your experience was like. For those of you who still need to try it… Good luck!

5 Must-have Tartan Skirts

Walking through London yesterday, I couldn’t help but notice that tartan skirts seem to have made a bit of a comeback for Autumn/Winter 2014. I must have seen about five girls wearing tartan skirts in the space of 30 seconds!

I’m a big fan of tartan skirts – I think they’re a classic – so I was really happy to see them about again. On that note, I’ve put together a list of five must-have tartan skirts you’ll love. Here they are:

Circle Skirt In Red Tartan Print from ASOS (£28.00)

ASOS Circle Skirt In Red Tartan Print

The length of this tartan print circle skirt from ASOS is what attracted me to it. This particular skirt is a great option for both work and play. Tuck in a white shirt for work or tuck in a graphic t-shirt for coffee with the girls. Either way, you’ll look fantastic in this vibrant piece.

Rocket Tartan Mini Skirt from Vivienne Westwood (£126.00)

Rocket Tartan Mini Skirt from Vivienne Westwood

I have to admit, I’m not as crazy as most about the work of Vivienne Westwood, however this tartan mini skirt is a beautiful piece. The colours are rich but not too bold and the cut is edgy. I’m 99% sure this will look fantastic with whatever you pair it with. That being said, it is a pricier option when there are so many much cheaper styles on the market.

Tartan Check Mini Skirt with Wool from M&S (£35.00)

Blue Tartan Check Mini Skirt with Wool from M&S

I’ve never paid much attention to M&S, partly because both my Nan and Mum buy their clothes there, however this blue wool tartan skirt is one of my favourites. Pair this with a blouse and blazer, throw on some black heels, and you’ve got yourself the perfect trendy office look.

Tartan Tube Skirt from Oasis (£25.00)

Black and White Tartan Tube Skirt from Oasis

This is probably my least favourite on the list, however I still like it because I think Oasis has a nice selection of clothing and is a little underrated. The main aspect of this skirt I like is the versatility of it and how it’s suitable for both casual and smart. Tuck in a t-shirt or scoop neck top for a little casual edge, or throw on a blazer and blouse for a job interview or meeting.

Plaid Circle Skirt from American Apparel (£48.00)

Black and Yellow Tartan A-line Circle Skirt from American Apparel

Skater skirts are brilliant for nights out. Throw this American Apparel skirt on with a cropped top or sweatshirt (as photographed) and you’ve got yourself a relatively effortless and affordable look that’s cute and even a little sexy. Perfect!

Opt for tartan this season and just have fun with it!

5 Lies Most PR Agencies Tell

Working in PR has allowed me to liaise with others who work at companies other than my own, which has given me an honest insight into how the industry works, particularly in fashion. PR is an industry that’s not always honest. Many PR companies constantly lie to the brands they work with or want to work with and the media they’re building relationships with, and I thought it would be insightful for me to share some of my findings with you. If you’re a brand seeking a PR agency to work with or if you’re someone who’s looking to have a career in PR, this is definitely for you.

Here’s just some of the lies most PR agencies will tell:

“We spend any time we have liaising with the media and our contacts to ensure the best results for our clients…”

This is a statement I read recently in an email from another PR agency, and I would like to confirm to you all that this, in most cases, is simply not true. Yes, those who work in PR, including me, do spend an awful lot of time liaising with the press in order to achieve the best results, however it should be know that we also spend a lot of time eating out at nice restaurants with friends, attending nice parties and events where we drink and have fun with our +1’s (usually not in the media), and chatting over coffee to stylists about lots of irrelevant things. 10 minutes of chat about “work” and 50 minutes about crap is usually the way it goes.

It’s not all about business and I don’t mind admitting that. PR is a job with countless perks and that should be clear. It shouldn’t be shameful to want to enjoy what you do!

“Securing press takes a lot of time…”

Again, in most cases, this is untrue. If a PR agency or someone who works in PR has the right contacts, which they should if you’re paying them (sometimes quite a lot of money) for a service, press features are very quick and easy to secure. In most cases, all it takes is an hour or two (if that) to push a press release out, send some emails and arrange some coffee dates, and you’ve got coverage for a client for the entire month. Not to mention, if you work in fashion PR half the work is done for you just by the simple fact that stylists and editors often email or phone you to directly request samples or images from a client. It’s really not that difficult!

“You won’t find what we offer anywhere else…”

Lies. There are lots of PR agencies who offer the exact same services and do these services just as well as others – it’s just a matter of finding them! PR has a lot to do with how well you get on with the client (and how well the client gets on with the agency) and that is often why a client will choose to stay or leave. You’re not offering a unique, special service – you’re doing what a lot of others are doing, too. It’s definitely not news that a large number of those who work in PR have the same contacts. There’s no doubt that it’s the personality or image of the agency that often determines why a brand will work with that agency.

“We don’t earn as much as we should…”

I charge the majority of my clients between £150 and £250 each month and, for that, they get a service they’re usually happy with and a nice amount of coverage – sometimes what I would consider too much for what they’re paying (in comparison to other companies) – and everyone’s happy. Even with my small team, I average £30 an hour. It’s not a bad amount of money for the time you put in. However, the vast majority of PR agencies charge between £350 and £700, if not more, for coverage that really isn’t that much different or more effective to what companies who charge much less are able to secure. People are just greedy. Fact.

That being said, this does change when you start paying an agency thousands instead of hundreds (these agencies are usually the top dogs in the industry and have a lot of pull with the media), but how many new brands can afford to splash out like that?

“We know what’s best for your brand…”

In some cases, this can be true, however it’s the brand who knows their demographic and targets, and it’s the brand who knows how they want to be portrayed. The job of the PR agency is not to change the brand based on what they think – it’s to take the voice of the brand and devise a plan that works well to achieve those brand targets, including relevant media coverage. Of course you can advise a brand on the quality of their products or their price points, but the brand has the final decision on these aspects. Fact.

Hopefully I’ve given you some insight into what it’s like to work in PR (if you’re looking to do so) or work with a PR agency (if you’re a brand owner). Honesty is the best policy, but in fashion in particular it doesn’t always work like that. But that’s not news, is it?