Monday, March 31, 2014

Springtime Florals in Cream and Brown

Today is a BEAUTIFUL Monday here in London...and I am back at work after spending ANOTHER weekend in the office. At least I got enough sleep last night to put this outfit together. It's finally springtime and I am going to celebrate! All of these pieces are several seasons old, but you can definitely get the same look with some pieces that have just come out. I love wearing floral skirts to the office with a coordinating blazer. The blazer keeps everything looking sharp and pulled together, while the skirt lets you celebrate springtime in style! This is also the perfect way to wear the new floral midi skirts that are so popular this season. I've paired my skirt with a chocolate brown blazer, but a white, cream or beige blazer would look equally lovely. Just stay away from black - the weather is too sunny for such a dark color! And to polish it off, my beloved nude pumps - they are definitely going to see a lot of action throughout the spring and summer - I think it's finally time for my black pumps to think about retirement!

Skirt: Ann Taylor, similar for US here and UK here
Jacket: Ann Taylor, similar for US here and UK here
Pumps: Corso Como, similar in UK

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Sartorial Statements: Business News Roundup

Super short post today as I am back in the office frantically working for ANOTHER weekend. The IPO market is HOTT AND SEXY right now and everyone wants to get in on the action. It's like the paparazzi and Kim Kardashion - every VC wants to get their shot. This will probably not be good for all the companies who are forced to go public prematurely by VCs who want to cash out while they can, but it sure is bringing in the big bucks for the law firms! Here's a list of articles about the fashion-focused companies who are or are considering an IPO:

Versace (as discussed earlier on this blog)
Jimmy Choo (I wonder if they would be willing to pay their IPO team in shoes??)
J. Crew

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Prim and Proper with Peacocks

Whew - what another crazy week!! I billed about 85 hours last week and a friend of mine in the office billed over 100. Wish the markets would cool down for a bit so some of us lawyers can get some sleep! Last week I also got to go to the Netherlands for a business trip - my first business trip, yay! I didn't wear this outfit, opting for my formal black interview suit instead, but putting on a suit made me start thinking about ways I could dress it up and make it a bit more fun for day-to-day at the office. Whenever I need suit inspiration, I always look to powerful women (mostly in politics) to see how they wear their suits. Here, my inspiration was Madelaine Albright's famous pins. I LOVE peacocks and wearing this one around the office makes me smile. For a more relaxed suit look, I paired my navy blue suit with nude pumps instead of black, and added a neutral-colored camisole in a similar color. It's a bit hard to see in the pictures, but the raspberry colored earrings coordinate with the jewels on the peacocks' feathers.

Suit: made in Hong Kong, similar skirt and jacket at J. Crew (US and UK)
Pumps: Corso Como, similar in UK
Brooch: similar here for US, here for UK

Monday, March 24, 2014

A Dash of Springtime Orange

WOW what a weekend! The whole team was in the office all night Friday, all day Saturday, and all day Sunday until 4am!! This was one of those CRAZY deals that the client wants to get done on a impossibly short timeline, so it was all hands on deck! find something to wear on Monday morning, after three hours of sleep. I'm definitely reaching for my brown pencil skirt - it's become a spring staple in my wardrobe. Sleepless nights always leave me feeling off temperature-wise, so a warm, cozy sweater is a definite must. To try and keep me awake at my desk, I'll add a nice dose of bright orange - maybe seeing the color will wake me up when I start nodding off. Simple jewelry completes the look - I don't want any more complications!

Skirt: J. Crew, brown pencil skirts here for US and here for UK. I did an extensive discussion on this J. Crew skirt here
Sweater: Ann Taylor, similar low v-neck style here for US and here for UK
Camisole: Ann Taylor, similar here for US and here for UK

Earrings: Similar here for US, here for UK

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Springtime Florals in Black and White

Springtime may not be here yet, but my closet can't wait any longer for some florals! This skirt is probably the riskiest thing I have ever worn to the office, since it's a strong Prabal Guruung print on a full circle skirt, which is an unconventional style for my conservative office. The skirt is also a touch shorter than I would prefer, though being in Europe allows me to get away with slightly shorter skirts than what is standard in the US. Having the skirt in black and white helps tone it down a bit, though. I never really know what to wear with this skirt - black or white on top looks too severe. Here I've paired it with my turquoise sweater for a nice pop of color. Back to pearls again as well - they help make almost any outfit look classy and office-appropriate :-)

Skirt:Prabal Gurung for Target, similar here for US and here for UK

Sweater: Gap, similar here for US, here for UK
Necklace: Tiffany's
Shoes: Stuart Weizman, similar here for the US, here for the UK

Friday, March 21, 2014

Review & How to: Find the Perfect Pencil Skirt

As someone who used to do lots of sewing (before I started working in BigLaw), in this series I'm hoping to pass on a bit of what I look for when shopping for high quality professional clothing by reviewing a popular work closet staple and describing how to find the perfect one for your closet.

Scoring: I use a five point system, where a 3 is the average. For an aspect of the garment to receive a 3, that means that the garment has met what I would consider the average standard for a garment of that purported quality level and price range.

Today's review: the J. Crew 120's pencil skirt
Available for US here, for UK here
Overall Score: 3.5

About this Piece
A basic pencil skirt is definitely a wardrobe staple for anyone who works in an office. J. Crew offers their pencil skirt in four basic colors (black, navy, light grey and dark grey), and always issues one or two additional colors based on the season (the brown color shown here was a spring color in 2012). When buying a pencil skirt, you want to look for something that is not too tight and made with a high quality material, because pencil skirts can quickly go from looking professional to looking overly sexy if they are too tight or made out of a cheap, stretchy fabric. This is definitely a piece where you should look for good quality, as a well constructed classic pencil skirt can last in your wardrobe for many years.

Fabric - 4/5
When picking suiting pieces, I always try to buy 100% wool. To me, wool pieces look more crisp and elegant than blended-fabric pieces. In addition, wool does not have the stretch of rayon or polyester, which means the manufacturer has to take time to actually fit the piece properly and cannot rely on the fabric's stretchiness to make up for design flaws. Finally, since high-end men's suits are almost always 100% wool, wearing a 100% wool suit makes me feel like I fit in better at my male-dominated office.

J. Crew advertizes their 120s merino wool fabric as being extremely high quality with a "silky-smooth finish and refined drape." While the fabric is definitely smooth, it feels a bit thin given its price point. 4-season wools are supposed to be light enough to wear in the summer, but still maintain the sturdiness of a wool fabric. The fabric itself is woven very tightly, giving the garment a nice glossy sheen to it, but the actual threads that make up the fabric feel a bit thin - as though the thread itself was spun too thinly before the fabric was woven. In comparison, when I have had pencil skirts custom-made, the 4-season wools that the tailor had available were all slightly sturdier than what J. Crew offers here. What bumps this skirt up to a 4 in the fabric analysis is that it is the only 100% 4-season wool pencil skirt at this price point out on the market at the moment. So far, it appears that other comparably-priced pencil skirts are all made of, to some degree, wool blended with a synthetic in order to allow for some stretch. The downside of such blending is that the fabric does not have the same high-quality look and feel of a 100% wool garment.

Construction - 4/5

The skirt is constructed well, though to be honest there isn't that much you can mess up on a basic pencil skirt. Seams appear to be straight and there are no loose threads. The waistband has been reinforced with slightly thicker cotton fabric (you can see it in the picture above, as it is cream). This is a nice touch, because the slightly thicker fabric keeps the waistband from rolling or pulling. Also, having cotton on the waistband means the wool does not rub against your skin.

The skirt is appropriately lined and the lining is fitted well to the main garment. I did not detect any lumps or irregularities where the lining and the garment had not been properly matched.

There are two darts running down a couple inches from the waistband at the back of the skirt. When you are trying the skirt on, make sure those darts are going straight down the middle of each rear end "cheek." The darts should also lie perfectly flat. If the are not in the middle of each cheek and they are puckering or bubbling, the skirt probably needs to be tailored a bit.

Detail - 3/5

As a basic pencil skirt, there is not much detailing, but J. Crew has added a few nice touches that I would expect to find on any well-constructed skirt. First, they have attached the lining to the skirt with a length of twisted thread (as you can see in the picture above). This is a nice touch to ensure that the lining of the skirt does not ride up underneath the skirt. Second, J. Crew has added tapes to the skirt so that it can be hung without using clips on the waistband. This is a nice touch, as it preserves the integrity of the skirt and avoids the chance that the waistband will develop indentations from where the clips rest. I do not actually use these tapes, as I simply turn my skirts inside out. That way the hangers' clips are on the inside of the waistband. However, if you prefer your skirts to hang right-side-out, I would definitely recommend using these hanging tapes.

Fit - 3/5

Overall the fit of this skirt is decent. I had to get it shortened about two inches, but that was the only tailoring that I found necessary. Even if the length is correct on you, I would recommend taking the skirt to a tailor and having it tapered in a bit towards your knees so you really get that 1960's pencil skirt look. Most clothing manufacturers today make their pencil skirts as rectangles, because they will fit the most customers that way. In order to get the true pencil skirt look, however, the skirt should be tapered down towards the knee beginning at the upper thigh. Be careful when tapering, however, because you will still need to be able to walk!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Waiting for Spring

I absolutely love, love, LOVE this outfit! It's perfect for those days where you can smell spring coming around the corner, but it just isn't quite here yet (or it is here, but can't get past the full-blasting A/C in your office). While this might be more of a fall outfit in the US, here in London browns and creams are definitely a spring combination. Plus it gives me another excuse to carry my new vintage purse to work!

Skirt: J. Crew, similar for US here, for UK here
Sweater: Banana Republic

Bag: Vintage Skins (they will ship to the UK)

Shoes: Brown Ann Taylor pumps, similar for US here and for UK here

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Polished and Powerful in Pants

I like to think of this outfit as my Victoria Beckham outfit, as I can totally see her wearing something like this to work. She's been known to wear a lot of professional-style clothing now that she is designer with budding fashion empire. Plus this outfit just makes me feel strong and powerful without having to wear a suit jacket. I also love wearing long strands of pearls - it makes me feel a little bit ladylike and a little bit vintage without overdoing it.

Pants: made in Hong Kong, similar for US here and UK here
Sweater: old J. Crew, similar for US here and UK here
Pearls: similar for US here and UK here

Monday, March 10, 2014

Touch of Red and Windswept Hair

This outfit is a bit of everything I love all in one. I absolutely love the color red and wanted a chance to wear it with the brown skirt. I love the lace in this sweater and the tan under-panel makes it look classy and elegant without being too sexy. And I love these red earrings, as they were a gift from my husband, along with the little plumeria necklace which was a gift for my parents. All-in-all, a lot of warmth and good memories went into this outfit!!

Sweater: Banana Republic, similar for US here and UK here
Cami: Ann Taylor, similar for UK here
Skirt: J. Crew, similar for US here and UK here
Necklace: Na Hoku

Friday, March 7, 2014

Sartorial Statements: A Match Made in Fashion & Business Heaven

Photo from London Ethnic's LFW Runway Show

By now everyone who follows the fashion/luxury goods industry knows that the well-known private equity firm Blackstone has purchased a 20% stake in the renown Italian fashion house Versace. Vanessa Friedman, the Style editor of the Financial Times, theorized that Blackstone purchased the stake in Versace because Blackstone wants to expand its hotel group. She argues that Blackstone has an interest in developing its portfolio in the hospitality sector, particularly since it just launched Hilton back into the public with its IPO in December, and currently has no boutique brand. Given that the fastest-growing area of luxury is luxury experiences (meaning hotels, travel, excursions, etc.), and that Versace has dipped its toe into that market with one Versace hotel in Australia and another opening in Dubai, Friedman believes that Versace may be Blackstone's boutique hotel brand.

While Blackstone may choose to expand Versace's hotel offerings, Blackstone's decision to purchase Versace has more to do with the changing face of private equity investments than any strategy to add boutique hotels. Private equity firms originally made most of their money through leveraged buyouts. Leveraged buyouts work like this: the private equity firm picks a company it thinks will be profitable, ideally one with strong cash flows. The private equity firm goes to a bank and borrows most of the money it will take to buy the company, and then adds in a little bit of its own money. Once the private equity firm buys the company, it restructures it by changing the management, selling off non-performing product lines, etc. – paying down the debt and trying to make the company more valuable (or at least appear more valuable) to potential investors. In about three to five years, the private equity firm takes the company public again through the IPO process, sells it to a larger company, or to another private equity firm or the own company’s management.

It used to be that only a few private equity firm existed. In recent years, however, private equity firm have become prolific as an alternative to working at a traditional investment bank like Goldman Sachs. Therefore, there is much more competition when private equity firm try to buy attractive companies. In addition, they can no longer easily find companies that just need a few product lines sold off or new management installed. Private equity firms must, therefore, branch out into new areas of industry and try to find new types of companies that can be made profitable.

The luxury goods industry was, for a long time, ignored by private equity firms. The firms left those companies to run themselves, or to be scooped up by luxury conglomerates like Gucci Group or LVMH who purchased the companies as part of a business strategy. However, fashion/luxury goods are a billion-dollar industry that is massively popular in China, India, South America and other hot emerging markets. It only makes sense that private equity firms would eventually turn to the fashion/luxury goods industry as a new source of purchasable companies. It also helps that fashion/luxury goods companies are now interested in the benefits of being temporarily acquired by a private equity firm, rather than permanently by a luxury group.

Fashion houses that are not part of the luxury conglomerates are often family-owned. Families are made up of people who age and eventually pass away. As the owners of these houses get older, they may not know what to do with their empires. Private equity firms can provide the support and knowledge to help transition a fashion house from being a family-run business into an international mega-company. This is probably one reason why Versace chose to sell to Blackstone - Donatella is getting older and may be looking for ways to ensure that Versace will continue when she is no longer at the helm. This is evidenced by the fact that the Financial Times quotes the chief executive of Versace as stating that Blackstone's help will enable Versace to prepare for an IPO in 3-5 years. Doing an IPO ensures that Versace will have the necessary infrastructure in place to continue growing as a corporation even beyond Donatella's tenure.

Blackstone's 20% stake in Versace does not appear to be driven by the hope of gaining some marginal benefit by using the Versace name for a line of hotels. Rather, Blackstone acquired shares in Versace because Blackstone wants to be a first-mover, buying into an industry that has enormous profitability potential for the private equity firms. For its first foray into the fashion/luxury goods industry, Blackstone has made an extremely safe and highly profitable choice, as Versace is a red-carpet mainstay with obvious growth potential. It is also owned by a family whose matriarch wants to ensure that what she and her brother built will endure past her lifetime. Like finding the perfect pair of shoes for a favorite dress, this is definitely a match made in fashion - and business - heaven.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Winter's (Hopefully) Last Goodbye

I am hopeful that winter will soon be gone, but as it is still hanging over London, I thought I would give this skirt another wear. The gray wool is too thick to stay in my closet  for very much longer, but I've paired it with a crisp Oxford shirt instead of a sweater to make the outfit a bit less heavy and wintery. This is a pretty standard corporate office outfit, but I decided to dress it up with longer earrings that I would usually wear and pinned my cameo over the top button of the shirt, instead of wearing it on my lapel or to the side. You have to be careful when doing this, as you do not want to break the pin by forcing it over a button that is too large, but my shirt's buttons were just the right size. At least the green in my earrings makes me think of spring, even if the weather is not cooperating!

Skirt: Old Ann Taylor, similar here for US and here for UK
Blouse: Banana Republic, here is the same on the UK site
Earrings: my earrings are made of Murano glass. Here are some ones I'm loving in the US and here are some in the UK
Pin: My cameo pin was originally my grandmother's, but Ebay and Etsy always have lots of beautiful options.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Pearls and Purple with a Touch of Turquoise

Even though it hasn't actually warmed up in London yet, this weekend I started moving some of my heavier winter pieces back into storage and moved some of my lighter spring pieces back into my closet. One of those pieces was my favorite light brown pencil skirt that will be in HEAVY rotation this spring and summer, often accompanied by my snakeskin-print shoes :-D Another piece that made it back into my closet was my lovely purple wool sweater. Its 3/4 length sleeves make it feel spring-ish, but since it is wool, it still keeps me nice and warm. 

My lovely necklace is made by Riffat, a British designer who is about to release her first jewelry line. I thought the turquoise was a nice accent to the deep purple of the sweater, and of course pearls make everything look classic and timeless!

Skirt: old J. Crew, similar here for US and here for UK
Sweater: old J. Crew, similar for US here and UK here
Necklace: c/o Handmade by Riffat, email me if you would like her contact details
Pumps: Corso Como, similar for UK here

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