The Collective

Your Spring Wardrobe Starts Here

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What can I tell you about fashion this spring? Quite a bit as it turns out. After what feels like an interminably long February I don’t blame you for wanting to peel off layers of 70 denier tights and chunky cashmere. It’s going to be a while before we’re digging out those pool slides but in the meantime, here are the items that are going to add vim and verve to your spring wardrobe, which won’t make you resemble a mutton or worse still, a popstrel, and more importantly which won’t cost the earth.

The trench coat

Without doubt one of Planet Fashion’s Duracell bunnies – the trench coat is enjoying yet another revival this spring and it’s not hard to figure out why: what else works over a pair of jeans or trousers, your workaday outfit and yet manages to add an edge to a cocktail dress. It’s the best trans-seasonal buy when ‘four seasons in one day’ weather is very much the norm. Read More…

Stepping Out Of Your Comfort Zone

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It’s Febuary and social media is awash with mantras to get out there, carpe diem and step out of your comfort zone. “Blah, blah, blah,” you say to yourself on a morning when all you want to do is wear a duvet to work or better still, roll back under the covers.

It’s the sort of rousing rhetoric that doesn’t always sit so comfortably with a cynical Brit sensibility and yet, and yet….until I tried it for myself I had no idea how empowering or alive, straying outside my comfort zone would make me feel. Read More…

Why Are We Scared Of Our Children?

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Who knows when things got quite so out of hand? Was it when we decided that it was a good idea to become our children’s best friend? Nauseating at best, down right creepy at worst.

I cringe inwardly when I overhear parents asking their toddlers permission to do things: parents who have become so scared of ever upsetting their offspring’s feelings that they rarely assert what needs to get done that day. Since when do three year olds run our lives? Quite frequently it turns out in 2017.

Well little wonder that a backlash of sorts has begun. Should we be worried that today’s society seems increasingly willing to introduce kids’ free zones or is it something to be embraced? Restaurants where buggies (and consequently children) are verboten and the news, okay then, the uproar last October that a budget airline would be introducing kid free flights.

NB Virgin’s Richard Branson has also mooted exploring the feasibility of ‘kids’ class’, Eurostar already has family-friendly coaches on its trains, and China Airlines and Air New Zealand also have ‘family couch’ zones, where seats convert into contained areas for children.

Even as the mother of two little people, I can see the merit of having kid free flights or at least child free zones: no pressure on the parents to keep them quite so buttoned up and the chance for others to enjoy some peace should they choose too.

Of course I’m not advocating that children should sit robotic during a five hour flight but I’m constantly astonished by the extremes of behavior (partly what moved me to write this in the first place), where six and seven year olds, big enough to know better, will yell for the entire journey and children who continue to kick the back of my seat with not a murmur of reproach from the parents sat besides them.

Why are we apologetic or deemed ‘old-fashioned’ and ‘out of touch’ when we expect kids to behave appropriately in public spaces when they go out. Janet Street Porter might be a divisive personality but as she wrote in her column, she is entirely justified in wanting to enjoy a meal in a restaurant or café without being subjected to a torrent of tantrums from the table next to hers. One of the best parenting tips I was ever given as a new mother in the event of a baby melt down was to remember who the parent was. Blindingly obvious I know, but you’d be surprised how many people forget given the children I see who are allowed to talk back, snatch, whizz around a restaurant on a scooter sending drinks and plates flying (yes really!) with barely a murmur from their parents.

Is it because we’ve become too lazy to reprimand them, or are scared of being perceived as the bad cop (you might have to get over yourself here). Perhaps we are worried that we will be deemed as being too strict, something that harks back to our parents’ generation? I know, me neither. Even with the rise of social media where adults are parent-shamed, I find it baffling that adults actually give a fig about what a verbose 14 year old thinks of them on Snap chat.

I have seen parents trip over themselves complimenting their children and yet not one word when their children are rude or out of line. There are children’s activities or sporting events where EVERY child is a winner which is frankly, quite ridiculous and I don’t think I need to spell out to you why.

Recently my seven year-old daughter wasn’t selected to be part of the gym squad. For someone who spends every breathing second (and driving us mad in the process), trying to do a cartwheel or the splits, she was understandably a little crushed.

It was tempting to tell her that clearly her gym teacher hadn’t understood quite how agile she was, or seen her potential, when I thought better of it and stopped myself. Instead, I told her that she might be good but she wasn’t good enough this year, as the standard was high and that perhaps with a bit more practice or considering joining an out of school gym class, she might try again next year and be selected. Did she have a break down? Nope she thought about it and is now more determined than ever.

Vicki Hoefle, professional parent educator and author of “Duct Tape Parenting,” says, “Allowing children to set the guidelines is not conducive for their healthy emotional development.” Clinical psychologist and relationship specialist Dr. Jeanette Raymond agrees, noting that “Maintaining a sense of caring authority at all times makes a child feel safe.”

Capitulating to their demands because it’s easier than dealing with a temper tantrum confirms to children that you’re afraid of them. And once they sniff that fear, believe me the manipulative tykes will run with it! As parents, it’s our responsibility to set boundaries and be consistent.

Of course everyone needs to be tolerant too of children when they are learning to behave in a new environment or a new situation, but I think it’s really obvious when parents are patiently trying to teach them how to behave and when they are let loose to please themselves.

It’s time to stop being afraid of your children’s reaction: Love, affection and nurturing along with disciplining your child are all qualities that are bound together. Taking a stern approach and disciplining your child doesn’t mean you don’t love them. Actually, far from it. On the contrary, it spells out that you love them too much to let bad habits or anti-social behavior prevent them from forging meaningful friendships, relationships and getting on in the wider world and the work place. Really, teaching them to be aware and consider the people around them is going to equip them with the qualities that will allow them grab all the opportunities life has to offer.

Maternity Wear

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I remember it only too well. 2012 and I was pregnant with my second daughter. Truly I wanted to embrace a whole new maternity wardrobe. So too, did my (particularly rampant) Chinese consumer genes, no doubt geed up by all those pregnancy hormones. With a royal baby on the way and Victoria Beckham rumoured to be adapting outfits for the Duchess, the ‘wrap’n’ruched’ dress – that (deeply unfashionable) hero piece of maternity wear’s ancient regime would finally be toppled. 2012 would be the year that pregnant women got a make over in the style annals. Read More…

Your Coat Wardrobe Starts Here

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As a masterclass in dressing for the cold, you’d think the front row of the recent Pret-a-Porter shows would have thrown up a few nuggets on the coat front. Or it would have done if it was actually that cold in September. Yes despite the hysteria and FOMO from the glossies beseeching you to buy your winter coat back in June, for 99% of the population, that is never going to happen.

So is there anything left to buy on the rails? Of course there is. In any case, coat buying should never be done in a rush. Because you need to think very carefully about what sort of coat you need.

Is it to sling on over a pair of jeans or is it something in classic, neutral tones that you can also wear to work that is required? Should it be knee-length or would it be practical if you experimented with a fashion forward, three quarter length dressing gown style? Will it be worn with trousers or skirts and dresses? You are beginning to see that not all coats were created equal. Read More…

New Season Shopping Rules

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I’m just about ready to move on from this summer: hot sunshine, endless blue skies and lucky us, even a September heatwave to ease us back into the working world. It’s been bliss hasn’t it? The chance to loll around in a greying J. Crew hoodie (or the beachiest of summer dresses) and not wonder whether it’s too late to save up for a pair of Gucci Princetown furry, backless loafers (I’m still working that one out) or whether velvet will make you look like your Granny (no it won’t). Because let’s be honest: we’re not a nation that’s very good at hot weather. Charred, not to mention copious quantities of flesh are suddenly deemed acceptable – you don’t see New Yorkers or Italians un-dressing in similar fashion when the mercury hits 28c. Read More…