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Candles

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Hello, my name is Meghan and I have a candle problem. (Hi, Meghan.) Candles are such a simple and aromatic way to personalize a space. They’re calming, fairly inexpensive (when you don’t want candles from London…um, oops) and lets not forget the most important part – they’re preeeettyy. Like the candle nerd that I am, I’ve got an ongoing wishlist of candles I’m coveting at all times. Here’s a few I’d like to put on my bookshelf very soon!

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Byredo BohemiaPenhaligons Blenheim Boutique / Tom Dixon Royalty

Voluspa French Cade Lavender / Spitalfields Candle Co. / Aquiesse Scented Soy

Murdock Patchouli Scented / Green & Spring Relaxing Home

Image: Pinterest

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Create a Space: Work Nook

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What do you do when you realize you own entirely too many pillows for your bed and couch? Why, you create a nook in your dining room area, of course! Had some redecorating fun yesterday and also created a new, functional workspace I now plan to take full advantage of.

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And when life is just too much, well, this nook also functions as a pretty great place to curl up and smush your face in pillows.

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{Throw, some pillows and bottom 4 wall prints from West ElmPottery Barn paisley pillow, Home Goods small table, Anthropologie mug}

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Career Inspiration: William Banks-Blaney of WilliamVintage, Pt. 2

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Continuing from yesterday, here’s Part 2 of my interview with the founder of WilliamVintage, William Banks-Blaney.

Read on to learn about the treasures you can find in the middle of bales of hay, who’s in charge of bleaching the store floors and what you should keep in mind when shopping for vintage pieces…

8. Where’s the strangest or most far reaching place you’ve discovered pieces?

I go around the world. My whole point with dresses is they travel. So the thing I would say to anybody is always go in the thrift store you walk past. Always go in the consignment store. Always keep an eye on your local auction house which sells furniture because every now and again they get a coat. The most amazing one I had was actually through friends, which happens occasionally. It was the mother of a great friend of mine who had been quite the thing in the 60’s. And is still quite the thing actually, she’s a fabulous woman. She lives in the US alot of the time but she kept a base. So I met her in Devon which is down in the beard of England. She was emptying this little barn, it was just a place where the family could lay their head. It was like a playhouse, a den. She said, “I think I have some pieces you might be interested in.”  Most of the house had been emptied.

There was this wall of 1960’s linoleum wardrobes and everything was in chaos. She opened up the doors, and you know, this is a 4 hour train journey from London. It’s in the middle of nowhere. There’s tractors and sheep and bales of hay. There’s nothing.  In front of me were 17 pieces of the Courreges haute couture collection from 1967 and 1968 in perfect, unworn condition which she had had made when she lived in San Francisco when she was best friends and neighbors to Audrey Hepburn. She used to go for her fittings with Romy Schneider and Audrey on a jet and have fittings with Gabrielle Chanel and Andre Courreges. That was the most amazing experience – getting on the train and passing sheep and hay and farmers and arriving at this tired little barn. Opening up the doors to this little wardrobe and they were just perfect. Just extraordinary. That was probably the most amazing moment, the best reveal I’ve ever seen.

9. When cultivating and shopping for a vintage collection as part of your wardrobe, what are some key elements to keep in mind?

Okay, I think firstly don’t be a label snob. You should always go buy the cut, the construction, how good it makes you look and how comfortable you feel in it. Remember with vintage lots of pieces of amazing clothing have lost their labels. They’re 30, 40, 50, 60, 70 years old. Just go by what you love. From a price perspective, if something isn’t labeled, it shouldn’t really be very much money. Generally speaking, apart from a few exceptions. So be wary of paying quite alot of money for something if somebody is saying to you, “this is without a doubt Christian Dior.” Ask why, ask how, see if they have photographs of this piece being worn in L’Officiel. Understand what you’re buying and make sure you’re not being fleeced.

Be aware of buying something that is almost perfect. It’s a mistake I made in the early days where you find that spectacular 20’s flapper dress that’s covered in beads and there’s 3 square inches of beads missing. You will spend more money and more time trying to fix it than you paid for the dress. In the same way I buy for WilliamVintage, really just focus on things that are perfect. Try and avoid the thing that has the stain or has a patch of really intense wear. All the times you think, “I’m sure I can fix that”, normally you never have the time or the understanding of what you’re taking on board.

10. What influences your purchasing – is it completely based on instinct?

It’s completely based on instinct. But it’s a combination of things. When I buy, I buy something I like. It can be something that makes me smile because it’s ridiculous but I know it’s incredibly editorial. It can be something I think will make a woman look fantastic on a red carpet. By and large, the pieces of clothing I think are just really chic and really wearable whether you’re 22 or 72. Of course, now that a few years have passed, when I’m hunting I’ll inevitably see pieces and I will think, “oh my god, Tilda will love that”. I’ll have certain clients in my head and I’ll know immediately. Rachel [Zoe] is a great example. I can be hunting and I’ll think, “she’ll go nuts for this” whether it’s 70’s YSL or just a great thing. It’s also that thing of we all change tastes and feelings and I’ll just have a moment of loving tea colored dresses. They’ll be in my head for a little while and I’ll focus on those and then I’ll move on to the next thing.

11. What’s an average day like for you and how big is your team?

Our team is very small. Our team is me, Elspeth, who is now director of the company who works full time and is really the yin to my yang. She looks after our database, our appointment diary, our accounts, our paper trails. Everything that’s basically not visual I’m not allowed anywhere near. That’s her domain. She’s really kind of our chief exec; she runs the company. Then we outsource. We have 3 seamstresses who work with us at different grades. From one woman who is haute couture trained and working our way down. We’ll always change a hem, throw in a dart and work on pieces. Obviously with our more specialized pieces, there might be the need for, on a very good piece of haute couture that’s in fantastic condition, the stitching and the seams might have weakened. It’s her job to really secure that in the museum conservational style.

We work with an incredible dry cleaning company who most famously cleaned Audrey Hepburn’s collection of Givenchy haute couture from the 50’s and 60’s. They really know what they’re doing and they’re amazing because this guy is like Michael Caine. He’s like, [imitates accent] “aww right, aww right Will. How’re you doin, how’s things goin?” He’s a proper old school Londoner and he’s obsessed with vintage. He has this huge company and it’s like an airplane hanger. But he personally adores vintage so he does all of our pieces personally.

So our team is small, it’s me, Elspeth and our team of seamstresses in house. And I still bleach the floors.

12. Since you’ve pretty much cornered the market on dressing for the BAFTAs, are we going to be seeing any WilliamVintage on American red carpets soon?

I hope so. I’d be delighted to have a dress or two featured at the Oscars. Though obviously it’s that much more complicated with an ocean between us. We’re working with alot more stylists in the US and we’re working with alot more actresses who are partly based in the UK some of their time. We’re in conversations at the minute. It’s the plan to have a little bit of a WilliamVintage moment this year.

13. How do you see British style as differing from American style? Do you see a difference?

I think it’s become a lot more unified these days. I think there was a huge difference in the 50’s, the 60’s and the 70’s because it was so polarized. Each city was so different culturally. Britain in the 60’s was about Mary Quant, the Beatles, the mini dress. Same with France with Andre Courreges and Pierre Cardin. The 70’s were America’s to me really with Halston, Fendi, all of the great new generations of luxury sportswear from America really sealed the deal for me for that look.

But now, I think largely because of the internet. You can live anywhere in the world and have a Stella McCartney dress delivered in 36 hours. It’s about liking the piece. Whether you’re in Delhi or you’re in Connecticut, you can access similar clothing. The world has become a smaller place. It’s much less rare now to have a friend that lives in London or New York and equally to have a store that opens branches that much closer to you or sells online.

If there’s any difference, there’s a little bit more of a focus on tailoring in British clothing generally, particularly in sportswear just because culturally we have it from the Savile Row days. Whether you’re looking at the high end and looking at what Sarah Burton’s doing at McQueen, Stella McCartney even in her simple shift dresses; there is much more of a reliance on how something is constructed, how something is engineered. So I often think the sportswear of America is a little bit easier to wear, a little bit more forgiving. Lets not forget, it’s suited for hotter climates by and large. There’s a very big difference just in terms of protecting yourself from the weather you have to focus on. We’re much more jackets, separates, layers, tailoring, a reinforced shoulder, a more defined waist. That European look might have diffused but that’s where I notice it. If I’m walking down local High Street in the UK, to this day, I still think you can say “yep, that’s quite a strong, sharply tailored jacket” whether it’s for a man or a woman. I don’t see as much of that in the US.

14. What’s next for you? Are there any plans to open other stores?

I think we will eventually have a US store. We’re currently working on a much longer term plan over the next 5 years and a US presence is definitely part of that. We’re in a very lucky position in that the company is growing irrespective of the recession. Month on month and year on year, we’re just skyrocketing. We’ve been approached about doing books and we’ve been approached about doing a TV series. We’re working with an increasing amount of stylists and magazines. We’re also working with alot of fashion houses now. We’re working with alot of creative directors of brands increasingly who are looking for inspiration. So, yes to US presence and we’re currently in conversations about books and TV shows.

15. How would you describe London to someone (like me) who’s never been? Where’s the best place to people watch and really soak in the city?

Oh, I have so many! I think the extraordinary thing about London is it’s so multi cultural but it’s heart is actually very small. Yes, it’s a huge city and it has a degree of sprawl. But Zone 1 London (if you look at a map we have Zone 1 to 5) actually is walkable from the Houses of Parliament to Buckingham Palace to Shakespeare’s Theater on the banks of the Thames. It’s all very accessible. I have a few favorite spots. I love Borough Market, which is on South Bank. It’s a 19th century covered market with lots of independent dealers that come in to London to sell. There’s the meringue man, there’s old fashioned butchers, there’s cake makers and there’s the Brazilian guys that do all of the amazing pastries. There’s places to have amazing cups of coffee and sit down and watch the world go by. You can look at the Thames, you’ve got this 19th century market right beside you where you can eat something delicious for very little money. You can watch everybody – from some of the most famous chefs in the world to rather chic mummies out with their babies to young guys out and about. It’s a complete cross section of London. That’s probably my favorite spot for a real London moment where I think it’s a real combination of food, style, architecture and the Thames, which to me is what our city is entirely about.

 

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A HUGE thank you to William for letting me “grill” him with questions and to Tim Beaumont for making it happen!

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Career Inspiration: William Banks-Blaney of WilliamVintage, Part 1

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Sometimes, life will throw you some quite wonderful moments. Such was the case Friday afternoon when the tremendously lovely William Banks-Blaney of WilliamVintage kindly allowed me to ask him many questions during his last afternoon in LA. To me, William has one of the coolest jobs around and I love that while his career path was always guided by a love of visual art, his journey to WilliamVintage was a winding road which led him in many different directions.  I so admire the amazing business he’s built for himself in really just a few short years and was thrilled to learn more about the history behind some of his fantastic finds.

I’ve divided the interview up into 2 parts. His answers were so thoughtful and filled with such a wealth of information I couldn’t stand to leave anything out!

Read on to find out about the first dresses William ever purchased, how the OxFam edit came about and what delectable goodies are waiting for you when you shop at his store…

1. What brings you to Los Angeles on this trip? 

I’m in LA for a few days because I’m filming for a US TV show that’s based in fashion and reality which I can’t reveal the name of yet. But, thats the primary cause. I’m also seeing some clients who are based over here and having a little bit of a chat with a few museums about some vintage haute couture pieces. And I’m seeing my new godson who’s San Francisco born and bred although he’s only 20 days old so I’m going to go and visit him.

2.  Going back to your school days, did you study anything particular at school? Was fashion always a primary interest or did it evolve? 

No. Not at all. I was always the fashion nerd. My degree was history of art and architecture. Then I worked as an interior designer so anything visual was the thing I really fell in love with. I always adored fashion as an expression in the same way you can understand a culture through a building or through a painting. I thought the same was acheivable through a dress, at its most precious level. But I didn’t want to go into fashion for a long time because I thought it was already covered, it was a very mercenary field. Then 3 years ago, I wanted to make a big change in my life. I wanted to start again, start fresh and I’d had years of interiors clients say, “you should do clothing, you should do vintage.” Because I would often be in Turkey hunting for rugs for an interiors project and I’d see an amazing coat and think “oh that’s perfect for Enid.” And I’d bring it back. I would often find these pieces I’d give as gifts. Or I’d say to my clients, “I found this and it cost me 300 pounds so give me 305 pounds.” It was fun.

 3. What were you doing before you opened WilliamVintage?

I spent a long time in luxury retail working in furniture. My other great passion apart from interior design was antiques. I worked for a company that designed and built furniture at the top end of the market. Then I was poached and I worked for an antique dealer. Then I was poached back again by the design company. Then I branched out to just doing interiors. I would inevitably find when I was asked by a client to help design a dining table and chairs, they’d then ask me about the room it was going to go in and I’d end up doing the room. So I worked in interiors and I loved it, still love it. It was a combination of increasingly being more drawn towards fashion and thinking there was this gap in the market for really edited vintage. And being perfectly honest, personally I had a really rough couple of years. I had an awful relationship break up. I just wanted to do different. I just wanted to say, “you know what? It’s kind of today and going forward.” I just bit the bullet and did the first little sale.

So it’s anything visual. I’ve designed furniture. I’ve designed interiors. I’ve liased with architects. I still do maybe one or two interior design projects a year. My last one I did was a ski chalet in the French alps which was last year which was fantastic, great fun. A few years ago, I did a beautiful estate in Bedford in New York. So I try and keep my oar in because it kind of keeps your eye sharp if you’re in a different medium all the time.

4. So, when you were transitioning from interiors, how did the vintage business begin to grow and take off?

I started with a little two hour sale which was for friends. I took a tiny conference room that held about 30 people. I put some rails up with pieces I had found over the previous 2 or 3 months from everywhere; from thrift stores and consignment stores and a couple of auction houses. Things I just thought had a resonance and were to my taste. The sale sold out and the feedback I got was what I hoped which was the editing. You know, you never say I love everything at Bergdorf’s. Because you can’t, it’s impossible. You can however say, I really love Stella’s look. There is a bit more of an identification, there’s a bit more of an editor’s taste. I thought, “well there’s no reason that can’t happen in vintage. There’s no reason you can’t profile it and edit it and focus on a specific look to your own taste and see what happens with it.” So the next sale I did for a day but in the same room and those 30 original people brought 60 people with them and that sold out. I did another sale and the same happened. By the time of my 5th sale, I was hiring a 5 story house and I had over 400 people in the space of 8 hours and I suddenly realized this had become a thing.

By this point, Vogue had already called me “the vintage king” because they’d heard about it and had sent people and liked what I was trying to do. So, I took the store and I keep the store by appointment for a number of reasons. Firstly, I’m present for 99% of fittings and for client appointments and I have to travel and find it so it’s more manageable in that respect. I also love the idea of there being a store which is by appointment not to be pretentious or snotty or unfriendly. Quite the opposite. When you come in, you have a whole store to yourself. There’s no woman you don’t know in the changing room next door. There’s some nice drinks and there’s always chocolates or cookies or donuts there for you to eat because I don’t believe in starving yourself for a dress. So there’s always some calorific food present. And you just have fun. I think a big point for me in any retail but particularly with WilliamVintage is if you’re parting with money and you’re not having the best time of your life, somebody’s not doing their job properly. We really try and maintain that so whether you’re coming in to spend 200 pounds or 20,000 pounds, you have fun, you feel you get value for money and it’s beautifully presented. That’s the evolution really from day sale to store; it’s the same approach which is very edited, very unpretentious and very straightforward.

5. Did you have a mentor who has sort of helped you figure everything out along the way at all or was it trial and error yourself?

I didn’t. I wanted to approach it buying things I liked and as somebody who doesn’t have a set definition of what vintage should be. I’m not a label snob which is why to this day we’ll have a great shift dress for 90 pounds as well as all the haute couture. I didn’t want to lose that. I didn’t want to get somebody to tutelage me because I wanted it to be stuff I like. It’s like every woman however wealthy they might be; they might have an incredible Chanel jacket with the boucle and the mink trim and the gilt buttons but alot of those women will wear that on top of an 8 pound American Apparel t-shirt. I wanted to get that sensibility in vintage. We do a 60’s shift dress for, let’s say, 100 pounds. It might not have a label but it will be the best of its kind. It will be the best 60’s shift dress you’ve seen.

6. You were recently named the Oxfam Fashion Patron for 2013. Can you explain OxFam a little bit and what your role will be as the fashion patron this coming year?

So Oxfam to start with is a global charity started in England to help fight poverty around the world. Their approach is very much going from the grass roots up so it’s about helping to build structures for communities through sewage plants, through irrigation systems, through education, through really freeing people in small communities. One of the largest sources of income for them is selling secondhand clothes. In the UK, they have 700 stores. They also have stores that do furniture, electricalware, everything you need for life people donate to OxFam. I’ve always really admired what they do as a charity and about 6 months ago, I approached them to say look, I think we have a common denominator here in what we do. Put really frankly I said, “I might be a vintage haute couture specialist but I basically sell a secondhand dress that makes a woman feel like a million dollars.” That isn’t necessarily the case when a woman is buying a secondhand dress from OxFam. There’s a way of layering that because we’re doing the exactly the same job. So that was the initial point of conversations and Oxfam, I’m pleased to say was very keen on working together and came up with the notion of being fashion patron and I’m going to be the creative director for the 2013 campaign.This week, during Online Fashion Week, Oxfam partnered with Vogue.com and I’ve done an edit everyday of OxFam stock.

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The point with it being to do what we do at WilliamVintage, which is to edit very tightly through their hundreds of thousands of pieces of clothing. Pieces that appeal to me I feel are relevant and really wearable. But the price points are 9 pounds, 12 pounds, 24 pounds, 42 pounds; really affordable pieces. Because I want people to see that irrespective of how much money you can afford to spend on a garmet, there is no reason why you shouldn’t look at vintage. It just should be a part of your wardrobe. Whether you call it vintage or secondhand, they’re great items of clothing you can layer in with really amazing pieces. The plan with OxFam over the next 12 months is to really break down the barriers and show OxFam is this extraordinary store. My point is I don’t see why you can’t, if you’re surfing online for clothing, you might go on to Net-a-Porter and then you might want to check ASOS or Cocosa and then you should just check OxFam. It’s got more than a quarter million pieces of clothing all of which are one-offs. The side benefit from my perspective is all of the money goes to charity.

I really want to see OxFam blossom and for people to realize they can buy online at OxFam and find a fantastic 60’s cocktail dress or find the perfect maxi that’s great for music festival or a fantastic cableknit chunky sweater from the 70’s that are still so chic for under 50 bucks. We’re really driving it together so people realize vintage isn’t a rarified thing. Really importantly for me, it isn’t something to be scared of. I have a huge amount of clients who like me feel vintage isn’t about being a size 4 and knowing how to work a biker jacket and being 22 years old. It’s about wanting a really great piece of clothing. But some women find it difficult initially thinking, “well how does that work in my contemporary wardrobe?”. What I try to do is help with that by saying, “look here you go, here is a butter soft, nude colored, cashmere cardigan. It’s 25 years old. Put it with your jeans, put it with your t-shirt, put it over your shift dress for work.” It’s about how to layer vintage so you just view it as a piece of clothing without this anxiety that can develop about getting it wrong. Because it’s the way you buy any clothing.

7. How did you get your foot in the “vintage door”, so to speak? Do you remember your first important acquisition?

I remember the first two dresses I bought which were two dresses I fell completely in love with by a designer called Ferdinando Sarmi, who is long forgotten. He was the creative director at Elizabeth Arden Fashion in the 60’s. He won the Coty Award for fashion. His work is amazing; he did that combination of the billionaire hippies of the 60’s.  Beautifully tailored, really beautiful. It was the period before America had fallen back in love with French couture. So the Italians in the 60’s were really governing US fashion. There were these two dresses, one of which I still have because it can’t be worn. It’s this acres and acres of jade green silk chiffon with a back train of periwinkle blue silk chiffon column dress. It’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen, I just adore it.

The other dress I bought with it was also by Sarmi and it was this chocolate brown empire top half and then an ivory skirt. Very 60’s, covered in Paco Rabanne style paillettes. I bought these two dresses thinking, “why did I do that? They might be the first two dresses of what I’m thinking about doing.” I was at a girlfriend’s engagement party about ten days later and I’ve known her nearly my whole life. She was getting married, she was 41 and she said, “I can’t do a white dress, it’s ridiculous, I don’t know what to do.” I looked at her and said, “I think I have your wedding dress.” I’ve since found out when she came to see it, she brought a girlfriend of hers and the conversation they had had was, “well, we have to go and see Will because he’s thinking about doing this business and he thinks he has a dress that might work for my wedding.” They came and she completely loved the dress. I closed the zipper on her and it was a perfect fit. We didn’t have to change the hem or change the tailoring. I charged 20 pounds more than I paid for it so that was officially the first WilliamVintage dress.

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…stay tuned for Part Two tomorrow!
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Christmas Tree Love

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During the holiday season, there is little which excites me more than buying and decorating my Christmas tree. While I typically tend to stay away from an overabundance of glitter and sparkles in my fashion choices, I don’t hesitate to pile it on to my Christmas decorations. Often, my decorations spread glitter all over my floor. But, as far as I’m concerned that just makes it more festive! Christmas trees will always be magical for me and I’ll let you in on a little secret: the quickest way to my heart is lots and lots of twinkle lights.

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I’ve spent a few years amassing my ornament collection which is comprised of many sparkly butterflies, some DIY gold balls which I hand tied little pieces of ribbon on and silver West Elm leaves with book pages on them . My absolute favorite ornaments though are my gold butterflies which are positioned all around the tree.

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For some of your own sparkle and glamour this holiday season, check out these glitter snowflakes from West Elmthis unique Peacock ornament from Crate and Barrel or these antique owls  from Nordstrom.
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