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NEVER KNOWINGLY CONCISE CHATS TO // Erna Leon | MERCER7

Meet Erna Leon, founder of MERCER7, is an Artist, Fashion Designer, Stylist, Shoot Art Directer and super Mama to boot!
MERCER7 makes life easier for the Modern Woman; Erna’s keen (fashionable) eye and selection process removes all the barriers that online shopping often presents. Essentially, doing the research and quality control for you; taking the hassle out of online shopping! Because we’re all tight on time these days!

Erna is not only mega inspiring, she’s a joy to speak to in real life too. Her accent is one of my favourites, she has one of the best smiles (and wardrobes!) and had such an interesting upbringing!  Here, Erna chats about her varied background, upbringing and the inspiration that drove her to create her start-up.

CB: Hello my darling Erna, please introduce yourself, your background and your concept, MERCER7.
EL: I am Armenian, born in Georgia and New Yorker turned Londoner. I spent my formative years in New York, so I call New York home as I lived there from the age of 16.I studied fine arts from a very young age and when it was time to choose my future profession, I decided to go into fashion design at FIT in NY (Fashion Institute of Technology) and took my bachelors degree before working for brands like Halston, Betsy Johnson to Calvin Klein Jeans to name a few.
After marrying a Brit in New York seven years ago, we moved to London and the rest as they say is history. We’ve got two kids now, Luca is 4 and Lily nearly 3, so London definitely became my second home.In terms of concept: MERCER7 is a curated womenswear website for effortless style and collaborative fashion platform.
I focus on timeless, versatile and high-quality pieces that represent timelessness rather than fast-fashion trends.  I combine a mix of brands which scale from entry level up to one-off investment. Every item I feature is easy-to-wear and simple-to-style taking you from day to night. The collection is curated to work together seamlessly, allowing women to easily build outfits and their own capsule wardrobe with sustainable pieces that transcend the latest season.
This edited approach helps busy women to simplify the art of dressing by creating your “go-to” uniform: a single aesthetic in endless combinations that never compromises on impact or individuality.

The magazine section of the website is a big part of the MERCER7concept. I interview other creatives and feature articles written by our contributors, so it’s all about giving voice to others, rather than being all about me.

CB: You’ve got so many strings to your bow Erna, but where did MERCER7 begin? What inspired you to start up the concept?
EL: I come from a fashion design and art background, so first and foremost I wanted to create a collaborative fashion and lifestyle platform where it enabled me to work with others. From art directing photoshoots, working with brands to curating collections around capsule wardrobes and featuring other creatives on my platform.Online shopping can be overwhelming and websites are all too often saturated with too many options. I used to return most things I ordered online due to poor quality, it would look great on screen but the reality when I received my order was that the pieces looked completely different and I was never a fan of returns. So seeing how time consuming online shopping can be, I wanted to create a focused space with a single aesthetic all in one place, to make shopping easier for busy women.
My personal selection process removes all the barriers that online shopping often presents. Essentially, doing the research and quality control for you, and  taking the hassle out of online shopping.

CB: Brand names are a really important first impression of what you’re about, so how did you come up with MERCER7?
EL: Coming up with a name was fun, but tricky at the same time. My NY friend David advised me to write my favourite words that had meaning to them. MERCER7 was one of them, besides being one of my favourite streets in New York, the true meaning of the word is “Dealer of fine fabrics” which resonates massively with MERCER7 and my focus of quality.
The No.7 resonates with our belief in ‘collective consciousness’, collaboration and positivity. MERCER7 supports and collaborates with other creatives and brands through a series of interviews and features, design and styling.

CB: What is your brand ethos?
EL:Shop less, choose well’ Dame Vivienne Westwood said it better than I ever could, and it’s this mantra for sustainability that I live by atMERCER7. We don’t need more. We need better. Whilst this drives my mission, it’s the people that are at the nucleus of my brand.

I want to inspire, collaborate and create a lifestyle concept with a purpose: SUSTAINABILITY THROUGH TIMELESSNESS. I believe that our everyday can be lived in a more sustainable way by being more mindful, consuming less by choosing better.

CB: On a day-to-day basis, what or who inspires you?
EL: Women inspire me. Sisterhood between women and mothers who are working to achieve their dreams. I meet so many incredible supportive women full of ambition and drive, it is truly empowering to listen to their stories.  Connecting and seeing how hard everyone works inspires me daily.

CB:  Can you tell us about, or give us a sneak peak, of something new that’s coming up?
EL: I’ve got my launch party coming up May 23rd at the gorgeous space, IceTank in Covent Garden, which Push PR are helping me to organise.
I’m extremely excited about the party and the premiering of the fashion film that I’ve directed and styled, featuring gorgeous Zara Martin and Whinnie Williams. I am grateful to everyone who collaborated with me bringing the vision to life. I had an amazing team of creatives which I couldn’t really do without so it’s all thanks to them – Simon Wisbey was the photographer at my shoot, Sian Davis and Tara Darby filmed it all and Tahira Herold was my guru hair and makeup artist.

CB: How do you juggle being a working Mama?
EL: I don’t juggle it very well just yet. I am a work at home mum with two days of childcare per week, which isn’t very much when I work 24/7. But I’m hoping I will learn how to balance it better soon and stop working when the whole world is asleep.

CB: Anything you wish you’d known before you started MERCER7 / best piece of business advice?
EL: How hard it is but how rewarding at the same time. I’ve been so blessed with incredible people who have entered my life as soon as I started this journey. I am not naturally business minded as I am more of a creative type. I’ve always been this way so all I can advice on business front is just be honest, be kind, work hard to turn your vision into reality and…be organised. (I’m not when it comes to keeping receipts, etc so trying to be better at that!)

Mama // Erna with her children Lily & Luca

CB:Anything you wish you’d known before you became a Mama / best piece of parenting advice?EL: How selfless you become, overprotective and paranoid at times. Best piece of advice on parenting would be – listen to your kids, be present and don’t have too many rules.

CB: Parenting-essentials, we know there are more than a few! But what is the one thing you can’t leave the house without? What is your most used piece of parenting/child paraphernalia?
EL: Snacks, gotta have snacks in your bag at all times! And baby wipes. I also carry a pencil and paper as Lily loves to draw so if she gets bored, I give her something she can scribble on. Luca is a bit older so he gets an iPhone with puzzle apps which he loves doing if we are out and I can’t entertain them on a bus for example.

CB: Along the same vein as above, what is your ultimate Mum-Essential? What is your go-to item that you just can’t live without?
EL: It sounds sad, but it’s got to be my iPhone and my camera. With the new business launch, I am on the phone…a lot. Managing my social media, planning my content, taking product photos, street-style, researching and replying to emails. The list is endless but I could never be able to do it without these two essentials.

CB: What gives you ‘Mum-Guilt’? And how do you get round it?
EL:  I feel guilty all the time especially since launching. I don’t have much childcare so I am trying my best to find balance and make sure I’m not constantly working around my children (which isn’t possible at this time but I’m trying). It is so important to spend quality time with them without any distractions.

CB: Me-time is super important too, what do you like to do to zone-out?
EL:  Watch Netflix, meet up with my friends, or read interesting articles. It’s a rare treat these days.

CB:  Which are your go-to brands/shops?
EL: I love brands like Acne, Anine Bing, Iro, Joseph, and more accessible brands like & Other Stories, Cos, Tree People, Weekday, Me+Em, Samsoe, Toteme, to name a few. But my ultimate if money was no object brand would be Saint Laurent.
I only shop pieces I curate now as I am one of the customers I keep in mind – on the go busy mum. So if I buy something I wear and love, it goes straight to my shop.
The Outnet is a great one as well because you can get amazing deals on beautiful designer clothing so that’s where I look a lot too.

CB:  What current wardrobe item is your all-time favourite and why?
EL: A biker and a blazer. I live in them.

CB: Choose 3 words to describe yesterday
EL: Manic. Productive. Fun.

CB: Tell us something about you that might surprise people.
EL: I didn’t learn how to ride a bike till I was 30 years old!

CB:Whats the kindest thing anyone has ever done for you?
EL: My family has been incredible throughout this whole startup journey. My parents helped me massively to set up. And my mother in law is always there for me when I am desperate for childcare. She is also taking the four of us on holiday to Portugal this summer because she knew we couldn’t manage a holiday this year. I am really grateful!
Besides family, Emma Hart from Push PR has been a Fairy God Mother and a mentor to me. This woman is incredible, genuine and kind hearted. I don’t think I’ve ever met someone so supportive and giving as her. 5 minutes in her company and you feel empowered and inspired. Some people have just got this skill to make you believe that anything is possible and she is definitely one of those people.

CB: Recommend a book, film or album from the past year.
EL: I’m a massive music fan, I love old school rock’n’roll albums like The Rolling Stones, Hendrix, for example and indie bands. Also my friend from Alberta Cross is amazing and my LA friends The Peach Kings are great too. Their new single Treasure Map is a soundtrack to MERCER7 fashion film and it’s so good!

CB:What can you see out of your closest window / what is your current view?
EL: I am in my bedroom at the moment so I can see my garden and a lot of green. We live in Highgate so we are surrounded by the woods and the Heath.

CB: Other than with your family & friends, where would you most like to be this weekend and why?
EL: I would love to be somewhere sunny this weekend! Anywhere, I won’t be too picky, but just sunny and be surrounded by palm trees and have fresh coconut water in my hands.

Thank you so much Erna for taking the time out of your mad-busy schedule ahead of your launch party (incidentally, which is tonight) to chat to me. You’re a wonderful person, so thoughtful, always inspiring – and taking in inspiration in the most curious of places! I’m so lucky to know you and I am MASSIVELY proud of everything you’ve achieved with MERCER7 so far. You’re ace of frikkin base pet!

I’m so terribly sad to miss the MERCER7 launch tonight (see my Insta @JudyPink 🙁 ). But I know you’re gonna smash it and its gonna be super stylish and beautiful; with a room full of incredibly talented folk that all love you heaps! You’ve worked so bloody hard, so let your hair down tonight Mama, you really deserve it!

C
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Make sure you’re following MERCER7 on Instagram: @MERCER7Official , Facebook and sign up to the newsletter for the latest updates. You can also follow Erna’s adventures outside of Mercer7 on IG: @ErnaLeon

#NeverConciseChats #ClaireChatsToMERCER7

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SOMETHING FOR THE WEEKEND // 19.05.17

 

ALL FEATURED ITEMS ARE NOW AVAILABLE IN THE NEVER KNOWINGLY CONCISE // SHOP (AND PER LINKS BELOW).

TOPSHOP // Plisse Duster Jacket – Red – £59.00
TOPSHOP // MERCI Slogan Tee – £15.00
TOPSHOP // FERN Studded Slider – Red – £42.00
ADNAMS // Copper House Dry Gin – 70cl – £26.99
SARAH  BAILY // GIRL GANG Card Wallet – Turquoise & Silver – £39.00
BAO BAO ISSEY MIYAKE // Prism Cross Body Bag – Black – £265.00
SANRDO // Round Buckle Leather Belt – Black – £100.00
WHISTLES // High Waisted Barrel Leg Jeans – Black – £95.00

I think everyone can agree its been quite a rubbish week! (Unless you’ve had a good week! If so, do tell me why!). We’ve had lots of personal issues going down, things not going right, exhaustion and of course, one of our new rabbits sadly passed away last night. But hey ho, the weekend is here! WOO. We made it! And here are my ‘Something for the weekend’ picks for this week.

I’m still hooked on bright red. TOPSHOP have some brilliant wardrobe essentials in this wonder-hue. I’ve also picked the TOPSHOP // MERCI Slogan Tee as its a fab Gucci dupe of THAT tee, for the tiny price of £15.00!

After the week we’ve all had – I think in celebration of it being Friday we all deserve a big GIN – lots of Gin. Adnams are maybe most known for their Beer, but their Copper House Dry Gin is award-winning. I’ll drink to that. Cheers! #SOLIDARITEA

I wanted to give a bit of Friday Woman Love this week to SARAH  BAILY and have featured one of her wicked metallic accessories – the GIRL GANG Card WalletSarah is a London-based accessories and outerwear designer, offering the ultimate accessories for party girls and metallic magpies alike. Combining luxury with fun and using her signature bright metallic leathers – all pieces are hand-made in London, Sarah’s design ethos is to create striking and versatile items to inject an element of fun and party spirit into every moment, and to make her clients feel like rock stars every day. I had the pleasure of sitting next to Sarah at the MOTHERS MEETINGS Christmas Party. What an absolute babestation!💖

Have a lovely weekend gang – head to my Instagram to tell me which your favourite pieces are and why – or what you’ve got planned this weekend!

C

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NEVER KNOWINGLY CONCISE CHATS TO // Joanna Riding | Mini Maison

Meet Joanna Riding, founder of Mini Maison, a brilliant online store offering modern, but playful, nursery and kids’ decor to style-conscious customers who wish to look beyond the high street – AND Mama of TWO!

Jo talks to us about how she juggles being a Mum Boss, the Mini Maison concept and THOSE Blue Blahnik’s!

CB: Please introduce yourself and your concept.
JR: I’m Jo and I’m wife to Steve and Mum to Joshua and Sammy (4 and 2). Mini Maison, my company, sells modern décor for nurseries and children’s bedrooms.

CB: Brand names are a really important first impression of what you’re about, so how did you come up with your online alias/brand name?
JR: Mini Maison came about through good old fashioned brain storming over the course of a few weeks. It wasn’t the first name that came to me but I knew that I’d change my mind a few times before settling on THE one… I was right – I went through Little House, Lilliput Décor and a few others before settling on Mini Maison!

CB: Where did it all begin? What inspired you to start up your concept?
JR: I started Mini Maison after I struggled to find modern décor for the nurseries I designed for my boys. I researched for a while (probably for too long, because I was so nervous to actually take the leap) and our virtual doors opened in 2015. The business is currently going through a period of change as we grow to incorporate ALL children’s décor and not just babies, because I realised that as my boys grew out of their baby years, I was STILL struggling to find the cool products I was looking for on the high street.

CB: What is your brand ethos?
JR: Mini Maison is the friendly place to shop if you’re looking for playful, modern design for your kids’ spaces; bedrooms, nurseries and playrooms. I’ll always do my best for my customers and try to make Mini Maison a place to go for good, accessible design.

CB: On a day-to-day basis, what or who inspires you?
JR: My kids inspire me daily to be a better person. Sometimes this errs into mum guilt (see above) but I started Mini Maison so that I can be work and fulfil my ambitions AND be around to pick them up from school.

CB: Can you tell us about or give us a sneaky peak of something new that’s coming up?
JR: We’ve got a few new brands joining the Mini Maison family in the next few weeks… I can’t say too much but it includes these two absolute beauties (below).

CB: Anything you wish you’d known before you became a parent / best piece of parenting advice?
JR: People will ALWAYS have an opinion, if you’ve asked for it or not. Go with your gut – Mama usually knows best. And… nap when the baby naps. This is a crucial one for me. Even if it’s not every day, you’ve got to make the most of a napping baby because the napping phase DOESN’T LAST! I know some people struggle with this but if you choose to tidy your house instead of sleeping when you’re knackered then I might think you’ve lost the plot a bit (I LOVE sleep – it’s my special skill, being able to sleep anywhere, anytime!)

CB: Parenting-essentials, we know there are more than a few! But what is the one thing you can’t leave the house without? What is your most used piece of parenting/child paraphernalia?
JR: When they were babies I had SO MANY must haves (that I then had to wean my children off of!): Ewan the Dreamsheep, Sleepyhead, dummies, swaddling suits (basically swaddles with zips on that meant we didn’t have to faff around with getting the tightness right – although they do look like straight jackets!). Now they’re older, we’re finding that they’re all about the night lights – sometimes more than one (good job Mummy has a never ending supply!). And an iPad – I think that one goes without saying, right!?

CB: Along the same vein as above, what is your ultimate Mama-Essential? What is your go-to item that you just can’t live without?
JR: Concealer – to cover breakouts and also the massive bags that are usually hanging around under my eyes!

CB: What gives you ‘Mum-Guilt’? And how do you get round it?
JR: Time I spend working and not ‘being’ with my kids. Running your own businesses does sometimes spill over into ‘family time’ and I think this is inevitable. But I do feel bad that I’m sometimes replying to emails or dealing with last-minute problems when I’m meant to be paying attention to the boys. This means that I do put the TV on more often than I probably should, and I feel REALLY guilty about this.

CB: Me-time is super important too, what do you like to do to zone-out?
JR: I actually rarely feel like I zone-out or turn off. I’m almost constantly thinking about work – whether it’s new product ideas, new marketing techniques, listening to a podcast, let alone the actual work-work that goes into running a business. I’m desperately trying to tune out the voices in my head which are constantly chattering about the business. My husband and I try to have one evening a week where I’m not on my phone or laptop, and we just make a nice dinner and have a few drinks together. Also, seeing my bestest friends just helps me feel more centered (if a little hungover).

CB: Which are your go-to brands/shops?
JR: Where do I start?! Iove Zara for clothes – I’m like a kid in a sweetshop and it’s great also for kids clothes too. I do try to buy from some smaller brands too, including Scamp and Dude and Fred & Noah for the boys. My friend Lucy runs Born at Dawn and she has curated a range of beautiful, timeless clothes that I want ALL of!

CB: What current wardrobe item is your all-time favourite and why?
JR: I still have my wedding shoes, which are THE blue Manolo Blahnik shoes from Sex And The City. I try to wear them to events as often as I can (which is not very!) but to be honest I just like getting them out of the box and looking at them as they are just SO beautiful. In terms of things I actually wear regularly, you’ll almost always find me in a pair of skinny jeans. They’re my go-to-staple (even if they are on their way out of fashion).

MANOLO BLAHNIK // Blue Satin Pumps – £745.00

CB: Choose 3 words to describe yesterday.
JR: Chocolate (it was Easter), fun and family.

CB: Tell us something about you that might surprise people.
JR: I have a really thin skin and worry A LOT about what people think about me. People are always surprised to hear this because they think I’m really confident but on the inside I’m usually bricking it and worrying about how I come across. NB. This can lead me to talk a lot, often about a load of old shit!

CB: Whats the kindest thing anyone has ever done for you?
JR: My husband is always doing kind things for me and is incredibly thoughtful and I feel blessed that I’ve surrounded myself with the most incredible friends and family… their kindness regularly sees me through the week. One particular occasion springs to mind, after I’d had my second baby (by c-section) and couldn’t drive or walk very far, my friend Catherine would come to my house and help bundle me and my boys into the car and take us out for the morning somewhere, so that I didn’t actually go insane stuck in the house.

CB: Recommend a book, film or album from the past year.
JR: Bad Moms – this was the last time I went to the cinema (I know… too long ago!) but oh my god, it is SO funny. It’s so good to spend your evening properly laughing out loud watching a film with a friend. Also, Amy Schumer’s autobiography is a brilliant read.

CB: What can you see out of your closest window / what is your current view?
JR: Our garden – and it’s just reminding me of all the work I want to get done on it before the summer officially arrives

CB: Other than with your family & friends, where would you most like to be this weekend and why?
JR: On a beach, with an endless supply of food and drink, with some shade available (I think this officially makes you a Mum when you can’t spend too long in the sun anymore!), and some books and magazines.

Loved chatting with you Jo – looking forward to seeing howMini Maison continues to progress, expand and inspire!

C

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Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for upcoming product launches by signing up to the Mini Maison newsletter and by following Mini Maison on Instagram: @MiniMaisonUK

#NeverConciseChats #ClaireChatsToMiniMaison

THE STORY

Welcome to Mini Maison, a shop offering modern and playful nursery and kids’ decor to style-concious consumers, wanting to look beyond the high street. Our carefully selected and curated products look equally good in a bedroom as they would in the rest of the home.

Started by an interiors-loving mum who gets inspiration from blogs and social media, she found it almost impossible to get her hands on the products that she was seeing online, in the UK, resulting in high shipping costs and problems with boring things like customs and import tax. And so Mini Maison was born. A simple idea; to bring you contemporary accessories for your little one’s bedroom, all the while offering unparalleled customer service and individual style.

Enjoy browsing and please do not hesitate to contact us should you need any assistance or have any queries. Oh, and please stop by regularly as we will be adding new products all the time.

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SOMETHING FOR THE WEEKEND // 12.05.17

ALL FEATURED ITEMS ARE NOW AVAILABLE IN THE NEVER KNOWINGLY CONCISE // SHOP (AND PER LINKS BELOW).

ALLSAINTS // Tassel BALFERN Leather Jacket – Black – £380.00
MANGO // Printed T-Shirt – White – £6.99
KENZO // Suede Espadrilles – Black – £155.00
RACHEL BALFOUR x BONNIE DOMAN // The MAMA Anchor Ring – Gold – £450.00
ALEXANDER MCQUEEN // Twin Skull Bangle Bracelet – Gold – £145.00
RAY-BAN // RB2180 Round Phantos Sunglasses – Antique Pink – £125.00
TIBA + MARL // Elwood Backpack – Silver – £130.00
TOPSHOP // Raw Hem Straight Jeans – Pink – £40.00

I’m gonna cut straight to the featured MAMA Ring by RACHEL BALFOUR x BONNIE DOMAN. I absolutely love this ring, with the engraving designed by my lovely pal, Bonnie Doman. Bonnie is a bloody brilliant Art Director, Designer, Illustrator, mega-Mama and all round total babe – you can catch her latest adventures on Insta: @Bon_Ldn. Rachel Balfour is a wonderfully talented jewellery designer and created  her collection with the belief that jewellery is much more than an accessory. Not only this, but Rachel creates her fine jewellery with conscience – 10% of the profit from each sale will go to Rosa – a charitable fund set up to support initiatives that benefit Women and Girls in the UK. All pieces are designed, created and finished by hand. You can follow Rachel on IG, here: @RachelBalfour.

As always, you simply cannot go wrong with a TIBA + MARL bag. Designed by two of my favourites, Anna & Lydia, TIBA+ MARL  have to be the go-to brand for changing bags with a difference – they have longevity and are UNISEX. All bases are covered when it comes to T+M. We use ours almost daily – as an actual real-life back pack (Eli is way past the need for a changing bag – but hey, those baby wipes will forever be an item I do not leave the house without!). Our Elwood usually keeps my Mac safe and sound these days  (it’s super spacious) along with all the other clart we NEED with us! I’ve seen that a PINK version is coming soon – NEED!

Have a lovely weekend gang – head to my Instagram to tell me which your favourite pieces are and why – or what you’ve got planned this weekend!

C

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NEVER KNOWINGLY CONCISE CHATS TO // Claire Packer | @NedInTheClouds

Meet Claire Packer – Mama,  founder of AUT:CTION, blogging the Autism journey of Ned, support to fellow Autism families and an avid Instagrammer at @NedInTheClouds.

Claire is one of the most inspirational people I’ve followed on Instagram. She is a mega-Mama (and thensome!) to wonderful brothers Ned & Kit, cooks amazing food, has a wardrobe of pretty awesome t-shirts and is refreshingly honest to boot!

Claire talks to us about where it all began, her inspirations and new projects on the horizon.

CB: Firstly, please introduce yourself and your ‘concept’
CP: I’m Claire. Not a concept as such but I write about Autism. I have a blog, a very exciting project on its way and I run support groups for parents of children with autism.

Lovely, lovely Ned.

CB: Usernames are a really important first impression of what you’re about, so how did you come up with your online alias?
CP: I genuinely can’t remember choosing @nedintheclouds. Ned hadn’t been diagnosed then though and was tiny so it’s lovely that it describes him so well now. His head is always in the clouds.The name AUT:CTION came from my husband. I love it. It’s a PITA to type though and hashtags are always wrong*! Our new project uses the same AUT: concept. Against my better judgement!

CB: (Incase anyone wants clarification, the correct hashtag is #AUTCTION). 

CB: Where did it all begin? What inspired you to start up your blog?
CP: Instagram word allowance! I started writing about Ned’s journey on Instagram from the day he was diagnosed. I had a lot to say and the word allowance was smaller then. I transferred my posts to the blog and although I still talk about autism using IG, Ned In The Clouds is our real story.

The Packer family.

CB: On a day-to-day basis, what or who inspires you?
CP: My family. They push me forward. They make me take steps I may not have taken and try things I might not have tried and their blind faith in me inspires me to be better and to try harder.

My friends. Especially those on a journey similar to ours. Strong, no bullshit women who have to fight for every little thing and who deal with things that they never expected and still laugh and joke and find the humour in this stuff. They, and their experiences have inspired my next project.

CB: AUT:CTION  is such an amazing way of raising awareness and funds for something so important, and close to your heart. How did the concept come about?
CP: The first AUT:CTION came together from initial idea to fruition in about 3 weeks! I had no idea what I was doing. There had never been anything like it before so I was making it up as I went along. I was, and still am, friends with some amazing brands and artists through Instagram. I sent lots of messages out one morning telling people about my idea and asking whether they’d like to be involved; and if they would like to donate goods to be auctioned. The messages came back in, yes, yes, yes. It would seem I would be having an auction! I was terrified. I needn’t have been though, we raised £3500 in a week. I couldn’t believe it. The second year I’d learned lots of lessons so it was smoother and less complicated and had different ways to be involved. We raised £13,500. This year was our best result yet and the total is currently around £13,800.

CB: I imagine AUT:CTION requires a lot of organising behind the scenes, this is your 3rd year, how has the process been this time?
CP: Good. I get more organised every year! I have spreadsheets and everything now (which, if you know me, is unbelievable). The hard part is the sheer amount of time it takes. I start at the beginning of January when the initial conversations with donators take place. Over the next three months I have about 75 continuous email conversations and spend a lot of time on my phone. Bringing it all together at the end so it’s good to go is a great feeling. Then there’s the promo stuff. Trying to come up with new ideas to get it out there and to engage people is a challenge. We seem to be doing ok though!

CB: What has surprised you the most about AUT:CTION?
CP: The kindness of strangers. It never fails to amaze me that someone will bid and pay £150 for a £100 shop voucher. Or bid hundreds of pounds for items they know they could buy for less. Or people who donate not just goods but their time to be auctioned. Or the people who are involved in a myriad of different ways. People are so incredibly generous and I am so incredibly thankful for it.

Brothers // Kit & Ned.

CB: What is your best piece of parenting advice?
CP: Children don’t need things. They need you. Slow down. Be with them. Enjoy them. They are utterly fascinating little things and will teach you an awful lot about the world. Follow their gaze. They have often spotted something you might have missed.

CB: Parenting-essentials, we know there are more than a few! But what is the one thing you can’t leave the house without? What is your most used piece of parenting/child paraphernalia?
CP: Honestly? I don’t think I have one now. I barely even carry a handbag. My Tula was essential when the boys were younger though. We didn’t use pushchairs so being able to chuck one up on my back was brilliant. Kit just wants to run everywhere now though. Our carrying days are over.

CB: Along the same vein as above, what is your ultimate Mama-Essential? What is your go-to item that you just can’t live without?
CP: My iPhone camera. I am probably guilty of taking too many pictures really. I do try to put it away and have been doing better at being in the moment rather than capturing the moment but seeing beautiful pictures of my children makes me happy. Time passes so quickly and you forget so much. I’m happy to have a record!

CB: What gives you ‘Mum-Guilt’? And how do you get round it?
CP: I don’t really get Mum guilt. I could be better of course, I could be less grumpy when I’m tired and I could think of another activity or go to the park when I don’t want to but I’m just doing my best. I don’t feel guilt for being human. I fight hard so my children have everything they need (especially for Ned. Resources and support can often be a fight) and they are surrounded by love and laughter. No guilt here.

CB: “Me-time” is super important too, what do you like to do to zone-out?
CP: It’s only now, after 5 years of this game that I’ve begun to take some time for myself. I made an active decision at the start of this year to stop saying no to things. The house isn’t going to fall apart if I spend the day with friends or go to lunch. I haven’t progressed to evenings out yet, that’s next!

CB: Which are your go-to brands/shops?
CP: My favourite brands for the boys are probably Bobo Choses and Mingo. Oh and Young Double are our favourite for oversized tees with interesting prints and messages. I like them to wear things you won’t see in the street. They definitely have their own style. Ned has a smart/casual thing going on. Kit often looks like I’ve just pulled him out of a bin no matter what he’s wearing. He’s one of those kids. I secretly like him being a bit scruffy. It makes me laugh.

CB: What current wardrobe item is your all-time favourite and why?
CP: I am a jeans and t-shirt person so I don’t have a lot of special pieces. I live in my DM’s though, does that count? Ooh, I do have a giant lilac fluffy coat I wish I had the chance to wear more often. I love that. (Both pieces are featured in the first image of Claire, above!)

CB: Choose 3 words to describe yesterday.
CP: Exciting new adventure (we are house hunting).

The Packer family.

CB: Tell us something about you that might surprise people.
CP: I haven’t eaten meat since the beginning of the year and have drastically reduced dairy. I am certain that a plant based diet is the healthiest option for us and can’t see us going back now.

CB: Whats the kindest thing anyone has ever done for you?
CP: This year during AUT:CTION people began raising money alongside the auctions, just because they wanted to. Some gave the profits of a certain item they sell to us, some had their own auctions. Just off their own back! Just because. Real, proper acts of kindness.

CB: What can you see out of your closest window / what is your current view?
CP: The garden which is looking shockingly tidy but only because because the house is on the market!

CB: Other than with your family & friends, where would you most like to be this weekend and why?
CP: Hotel room. Room service. Book. Bed.

And finally… 

CP: Stay tuned for a new project from us aimed at parents and carers of children with autism coming soon. We are in talks about a magazine, maybe even some merch. Things are happening! Slowly but surely.

Also a final thank you to everyone who raised money for AUT:CTION this year. We made nearly 14k for Autism projects and the National Autistic Society and that has put the total raised over the 3 years we’ve been running at more than Thirty One Thousand Pounds. I am so proud to have been a part of it.

You can read our story at nedintheclouds.wordpress.com. A blog about Autism.

Until everyone understands.

If you’re not already, give @NedInTheClouds a follow on Instagram. Claire has such a beautiful feed – filled with (real life) snapshots of her boy’s , the most amazing eat’s and interior design heaven💘

Thank you so much for chatting with us Claire. You’re a wonderful human – with a wonderful family. It’s been a total joy to follow your feed and the journey for your whole family. I can’t wait to see/hear more about the new projects – such an exciting time for you all. Also, keep on with the Minimalism journey too… you’re so very brave! You really do need to come round and sort these rails out for me!
C
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#untileveryoneunderstands #Nedintheclouds #NeverKnowinglyConcise #NeverConciseChats #NeverConciseChatsToNedInTheClouds

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SOMETHING FOR THE WEEKEND // 06.05.17

All featured items are now available in the Never Knowingly Concise // Shop (and per links below).

Topshop // Satin Pocket Blazer – Black – £49.00
Cadence – London // Tender Heart Necklace – £120.00
Topshop // 1972 Slogan T-shirt – £15.00
Topshop // Crepe Peg Trouser – Red – £35.00
A.P.C // Demi-Lune Bag – Black – £315.00
GUCCI // SOHO Disco Bag – Black – £715.00
OFFICE // Lucky Charm Studded Boots – Black & Gold – £85.00
Cult of Youth // MAMA Ring – Gold – £80.00

The reason I’ve featured both the GUCCI // SOHO Disco Bag AND the A.P.C // Demi-Lune Bag is because tomorrow I might will finally own one or the other! I’ve lusted over both styles for well over a year – infact, I wrote about them in The Edit | Black Shoulder Bag, this time last year. I still have the medium-sized bag void in my wardrobe, and it’s driving me crazy! So tomorrow we shall see if my beloved wallet even fits in either of these styles – thats the real dealbreaker!

The rest of the featured items are practically my outfit for shopping tomorrow – aside from the glorious Cadence – London // Tender Heart Necklace and beaut Cult of Youth // MAMA Ring; both of which are top of my Love//Want//NEED wishlist! Both made by exceptionally clever (and ridiculously wonderful in real life!) Mama’s themselves. If you’re not already following , please make sure you do! Show a bit of Mama love and support to: @CadenceLondon and @CultOfYouth💘💘 💘

Have a wicked weekend!

C

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IN REVIEW // BFLF Events | Wringer + Mangle, Hackney – 23.04.17

Helping parents be responsibly irresponsible since 2013. The Real Family Rave. Award winning, critically acclaimed, internationally acclaimed. Created by parents who love clubbing, for parents who love clubbing. Dance/Create/Play – see you on the dance floor! 

I had been following Big Fish, Little Fish Events on Instagram for a long while and sadly, every time an event came to London town, the date would clash with other plans… or as it happened, we ended up moving to Berlin! If you don’t already know, Big Fish Little Fish “are an independent, grassroots music and events crew that put on family raves with all the freedom and excitement of a mini-festival, right in the heart of cities and towns across the UK”.

So when we moved back, I was desperate to take Eli off to the Family Rave. Fast forward almost a year, and the same things happened – clash of dates. Then finally, FINALLY the 23rd April event came up! At first we thought we wouldn’t be able to attend because Greater Anglia are messing about with the tracks EVERY single weekend for the next few months – which means some weekends, a 3 hour journey into London (which would normally take 35 mins btw). We checked out the trains and realised it was the weekend of the London Marathon – which meant the trains were RUNNING – with no replacement buses, no random journeys. Just direct! BOOM.

Natasha from BFLF got in touch with me and mentioned the theme was ‘Popstars & Rockstars’, as part of the Camp Bestival 2017 tour. Many are now aware, Eli is obsessed with his Starman. So for him, it was a no brainer. He was going as Ziggy. He wanted the red hair and the lightning bolt face. He wanted to complete the rest of his outfit himself, of course. Natasha also mentioned a potential venue change, due to the recent happenings at the Hackney club. I imagine this was quite a stressful week between the event for the BFLF team, through horrendous circumstances. But as it happened, they managed to be able to continue with the same venue – and what a venue to boot!

The Wringer + Mangle was really easy for us to get to. A short journey on the Overground took us to London Fields station, where it was then a 2 minute walk to the venue. Eli was clarted out in full Ziggy regalia – and loving all the comments along the route!

Upon arrival at the location, we saw the queue leading down to The Mangle. We were advised by both Natasha and Hannah that there may be a delay for entry as all bags were searched. Rightly so. The airport style security was very thorough, which is great and welcomed by all. Safety first. I was asked to try the water we had in our bag – as well as test my trusty Lipcote. We then went into the depths of the venue. It was dark, there was neon, there was a craft table (Captain Cookie Crafts), cakes and bar for the adults. PERFECT.

These events are aimed at families with young children (birth – around 8 years old) – though we definitely did see folk of all ages there!

 

Facepainters PHACE by Philly, were also on hand, transforming the faces of both Adults (£7) and Children (£5). Had I not already painted Eli’s face myself, I can guarantee he would have had his face decorated – we loved the designs we saw!

So what else can you expect from a BFLF event?

  • Top DJ’s playing club classics (DJ Food, The Orb, Tom Middleton, Terry Farley, Hatcha, Mixmaster Morris, James Tec and Nihal have all played – check individual events for details)
  • Fancy dress themes.
  • Bubble Machines, club visuals, giant balloons, glitter cannons and parachute dance finale.
  • Captain Cookie craft area with themed crafts, giant colouring mural, play-doh table.
  • Licensed Bar.
  • Home Made Cake Stall and savouries.
  • Face painting stall.
  • Play area with tents, tunnels and inflatables.
  • Villa Pia Babies-only chill out safe space with soft mats, beanbags and ball-pool.
  • Free glowsticks and transfer tattoos.
  • Baby change and buggy park.
  • One-off installations/workshops (at selected events only).

 

DJ’s Terry Francis (FABRIC) and David Fosci (BFLF resident) were on the deck’s for this event.

Parachute Dance – something that the Kid’s and Adults all love, of course.

 

 

Entry into the event also includes free glowstick and transfers. Eli chose a Skull & Cross bones tattoo, obviously.

As this event was in conjunction with Camp Bestival 2017 On Tour, there was the opportunity to pose against the photobooth backdrop (Eli needed zero coaxing).  Photos shared and tagged with #CB17ontour and #BFLF would be entered into a competition to win one of 3 Family Guest Passes for Camp Bestival 2017 itself! (Fingers firmly crossed!)

 

All BFLF events are based on the concept – 2 to 4 Hour Party People (ha), so by 4:30pm the event was drawing to a close. The  glitter cannon finale was epic and Eli proceeded to swim/create snow angels in the remnants.

 

Photo: BFLF on Facebook

We had the best afternoon! I cannot recommend these events highly enough. The music isn’t too loud (for newborns, you might want to bring a set of ear defenders – but the volume was more than acceptable for toddlers). Everything was incredibly well managed, organised and maintained by HannahNatasha and their team. The most brilliant amount fun for a few hours – the 3 of us had a good old dance, with Eli getting the ‘big fish, little fish, cardboard box’ dance suspiciously easily…

As parents, with no local support, we don’t get out often. AT ALL. So this was a fantastic way of reliving a little bit of youth and letting our hair down – with Eli absolutely loving every second too!

Just to also highlight, you will need to take cash for additional extra’s once inside (for Face-painting and the cake stall etc), though at this venue, the bar did accept cards.  We had 2 cans of beer from the bar (which does alleviate a lot of spillages I imagine!), but the cans were on the expensive side. So do bare that in mind too. We don’t get out often, so this was fine for us. Adults are not admitted unless accompanied by a child and there is a max of 3 children per adult. This made us feel very safe in a new and very dark environment. Pre-Walking infants do need a ticket, though this is free! (Bonus for new parents!). These events have limited seating (just dance!), club lighting rigs (no strobes) are used and events are busy with around 500 people at each party – which helps create the rave ambience. Each event is stewarded and risk assessed in advance – we saw lots of stewards in high-vis, so you couldn’t miss them! Buggies must be left in buggy park and are not be allowed on the dance floor.

We can’t wait to join the next event! If BFLF visits a city near you, don’t miss it. Travel to one if you can. I urge you. You won’t be disappointed!

C

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Special thanks to Natasha for inviting us along to this event. This is in no way a sponsored review. All opinions my own. Some quotes and details taken from www.bigfishlittlefishevents.co.uk 

THE STORY

Drawing on our experience as seasoned clubbers and parents the BFLF crew create anarchic, social, daft fun for all ages. Inspired by Hannah’s (the founder) lifelong love of clubbing and her babies’ enjoyment of festivals. BFLF is something we want to take our own families to – somewhere relaxed, entertaining, and where the adults enjoy themselves as much as the children and vice versa with grandparents, uncles, aunts and carers all in the mix. Raving always came from the heart, a way to express a love of music and dancing with your friends. BFLF extends that across the generations so you can rave with your family too. It’s a celebration of life, love and music.

We work hard to make sure each event is unique – different DJs, creative themes and guest artists running everything from hula-hoop demonstrations to synthesiser workshops to interactive light installations.

Our parties are held in interesting and quirky venues; clubs, arts spaces and pubs, which help create the ambience of being at a real rave.

Started in Brixton, summer 2013 BFLF now runs on weekend afternoons across the UK, and also works with other festivals and organisations (Glastonbury Festival, Camp Bestival, South Bank Centre, Edinburgh Festival, Beautiful Days, Coventry Mysteries, Kendal Calling, National Gallery, Stratford Circus, The Museum of London, London LGBT Pride, Out With The Family, Winterville, Mini VAULT, Farnham Maltings, Dreamland Margate and the London Electronic Arts Festival).

Regular events are now held all over the country including:  Exeter, Bristol, Oxford, Birmingham,Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Liverpool, Nottingham, Sheffield, Leeds, Newcastle, Leicester and Manchester and many more.

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NEVER KNOWINGLY CONCISE CHATS TO // LUCY KNIGHTS | Born At Dawn

Photo: Leonie Freeman Photography.

Meet Lucy Knights,  Founder of online concept store and personal shopping shopping experience – BORN AT DAWN

Lucy is bringing to you focused, effortless style with a personal touch. A brilliant concept that I’ve seen grow from idea to launch and beyond. (All whilst juggling being a Mum of two gorgeous girls – that’s Mum-Boss inspiration right there!)

We talk to Lucy about the ideas behind Born At Dawn, the meaning behind the brand name and there’s also a treat for our readers in there too!

CB: Please introduce yourself and your concept.
LK: I’m a Northern girl that calls London home and has done for the last 13 years. I grew up in Warrington, Cheshire but these days I live in Walthamstow with my husband Adam and my 2 little girls, Lilia and Pixie Rose. As well as spending time with my family, when I get chance I love playing the host and entertaining- I love bringing our friends together.

I’ve always loved fashion retail, ever since I got my first part time job in a boutique near where I lived (It was in a chain called Morgan if any of you remember it?). I loved clothes, the customers, the buzz and how every day was different. I was always drawn back to it, so following doing a Business Degree at Sheffield University, I completed a Retail Management Graduate Scheme, was a manager at GAP’s flagship store and then spent 8 years at Harrods driving their Womenswear sales and strategy.

I launched BORN AT DAWN at the end of February this year. The mission is to bring focused, effortless style with a personal touch. The collection is mostly Scandinavian and French inspired brands and is centred around wardrobe heroes- beautiful, easy-to-wear clothes that can take you from day to night. All the pieces can be worn multiple times and in different ways, giving you endless options.

A “Night In” experience in also available in selected parts of London for customers that prefer to touch and feel the product before buying. A chance to book in an evening for us to bring the collection to you so that you can invite your friends over for a catch up, have a glass of Prosecco and shop all in the luxury of your own home.

CB: Brand names are a really important first impression of what you’re about, so how did you come up with your online alias/brand name?
LK: It is incredibly hard to choose a brand name! The reason I liked BORN AT DAWN is because it had multifaceted meanings behind it that were special to me. In business terms, it represents our focus on the birth of a new way to shop that suits women’s lives. On a personal level, the name Lucy means born at dawn, both of my children were born at dawn (early in the morning) and the launch of my business and the start of my entrepreneurial journey is a new beginning for me too.

CB: Where did it all begin? What inspired you to start up your concept?
LK: Listening to other women’s frustrations with shopping (and my own!). It’s easier to dedicate lots of time to shopping and fashion when you are younger, for instance in your early twenties, but as we get older and have more responsibilities, things change. When your life gets busier and more demanding due to our career and/or children, you have less time to dedicate to it. You still want to look good but your style changes slightly- you need more versatile, easy-to-wear, good quality pieces that work well together to make dressing straightforward.

We all know there are great high street stores like Zara that are accessible but as most women know- once you find a great piece there, before you know it all your friends will all have it and it will be all over your Instagram feed by the next week. There are mass market websites like ASOS, but who has time to browse 4000 options for just a black dress? They are catering for so many different customers now that it’s overwhelming. I wanted to focus on harder to find, more exclusive brands and build a collection of beautiful clothes that suit busy women’s lives.

The “Night In” service was devised after interviewing women about their shopping habits as many said they still liked to touch and feel the product before buying but couldn’t dedicate time to visiting the shops.

CB: What is your brand ethos?
LK: It’s about always being positive and celebrating real women wearing our clothes in their everyday life. The BORN AT DAWN customer is confident and knows their own mind. She doesn’t want to be a slave to trends or have other people always dictating what she should wear that season. She loves clothes and wants to look good but simply wants to wear what she likes and feels comfortable in.

CB: On a day-to-day basis, what or who inspires you?
LK: Other women inspire me all the time- friends and all the people I have met along the way on the BORN AT DAWN  journey. People who are down-to-earth, positive, work hard, follow their hearts and are focusing on their own version of success whatever that may be.

CB: Can you tell us about or give us a sneaky peak of something new that’s coming up?
LK: I’m always working on future events as love getting out there and meeting our customers. We’ve done some great pop up exclusive shopping events over the past couple of months and we’ve got much more in the pipeline for 2017. The best way to keep up to date is by following the BORN AT DAWN Instagram and subscribing to our newsletter.

Lucy at the recent BORN AT DAWN pop-up event at Southwood Stores
Photo: Shaneen Rosewarne Cox

 

CB: Anything you wish you’d known before you became a parent / best piece of parenting advice?
LK: Don’t focus so much on the birth. Of course, you need to do a little research when pregnant but don’t make it your main focus. The birth is over relatively quickly and the midwife can help you with that but then you have a child to bring up for life, so maybe spend a bit more time researching/thinking about that instead. I was pretty clueless and hadn’t spent much time around babies so I have spent the last 4 years either going by instinct or frantically googling!

CB: Parenting-essentials, we know there are more than a few! But what is the one thing you can’t leave the house without? What is your most used piece of parenting/child paraphernalia?
LK: I’ve learnt to pack quite lightly with kids now and they’re a bit older so I wouldn’t say I need much apart from some changing stuff and spare clothes (vital!) I always have a few kid’s games downloaded on to my phone too in case of emergency- sometimes it’s necessary if they are playing up somewhere they shouldn’t be.

CB: Along the same vein as above, what is your ultimate Mama-Essential? What is your go-to item that you just can’t live without?
LK: Wine. There’s nothing I love better than a glass on a Friday night at the end of the week.

CB: What gives you ‘Mum-Guilt’? And how do you get round it?
LK: I don’t often get Mum Guilt but I recently did just before the launch of BORN AT DAWN when the girls were in nursery a lot and family were helping me out with childcare quite a bit too. I missed them! The only way I’ve found to get around Mum guilt is to try and be focused in the moment when I’m with them. I don’t think the important thing is the quantity of time but the quality of time when you are with them. The times I feel bad are when I’ve been focused on other things whilst looking after them and that’s often when they will play up too. Sometimes it’s hard though when you’re self-employed- its inevitably going to overlap from time to time. We just have to do our best, that’s all we can do.

CB: Me-time is super important too, what do you like to do to zone-out?
LK: My guilty pleasures are KUWTK and Loose Women. I like nothing better than watching one of them when I’m home alone and have an hour spare!

CB: Which are your go-to brands/shops?
LK: Since launching BORN AT DAWN, I’ve only worn pieces from the collection. I curated it to suit busy women’s lives so it’s perfect for me.

In terms of shoes and accessories- I don’t buy often but I buy good quality. Shoes are so much more comfortable if you pay that little bit more and my designer bags have always lasted for years. I love Isabel Marant, Bimba and Lola for shoes; and Givenchy and Alexander Wang for bags.

For the girls, I like quirky Scandinavian brands like Molo and Bang Bang Copenhagen.

CB: What current wardrobe item is your all-time favourite and why?
LK: I love my leopard biker jacket from Mads Norgaard; it makes any outfit feel special. I love how soft the leather is and I’ve always been partial to leopard print so it’s perfect.

Leopard Print Jacket – Mads Norgaard – £430.00 //  BORN AT DAWN

CB: Choose 3 words to describe yesterday.
LK: Slow, Tired, Hard.

I had a bit of a rubbish day yesterday- today is much better. I love going to The Yes Mum Moon Clubs and something she talks about is following your energy flow. Some days you feel rubbish and tired, sometimes you feel on top of the world and you can take on anything. That’s just the way we work as women so I try and not feel bad when I have those kind of days-its normal and I know I will be on track again soon.

CB: Tell us something about you that might surprise people.
LK: My oldest daughters Lilia’s middle name is Butterfly. I love it but no one believes her when she tells them! Hopefully she likes it when she’s older!

CB: Whats the kindest thing anyone has ever done for you?
LK: My parents are the kindest people I know. Despite being on the other side of the country, I always know that if I needed them they would drop everything to be there. I couldn’t name one time as there have been so many but they constantly amaze me with their support and love. I hope that I can make my girls feel the same way.

CB: Recommend a book, film or album from the past year.
LK: I liked “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert. I loved the concept of creative ideas appearing to you as a gift and if you don’t take them, moving on to the next person.

CB: What can you see out of your closest window / what is your current view?
LK: My garden and my daughter’s snail collection. We will get her a real pet one day soon!

CB: Other than with your family & friends, where would you most like to be this weekend and why?
LK: I am desperate for a holiday but don’t think it will happen for us this year with the business launch. One of my favourite places is Ibiza in summer so I would love to be there. I’ve been many times and it holds many special memories for me.

A NEVER KNOWINGLY CONCISE TREAT

Lucy has kindly offered the following code for free delivery on any order: FREEDELIVERY

AND a special rate of £39.95 for a “Night In” service if you are in the catchment area*

*Currently available in most of North and East London and selected parts of Essex. Other areas may be available on request.

Loved chatting with you Lucy. It’s been a total pleasure getting to know you over the last year or so – and watching your BORN AT DAWN concept grow from idea to a beautiful and wonderful business! Congratulations my darling – hope to see you soon!

C

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Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for upcoming BORN AT DAWN events by signing up to the newsletter and follow Lucy on  Instagram: @BornAtDawn_

#NeverConciseChats #ClaireChatsToBornAtDawn

THE STORY

There once was a girl who enjoyed shopping for clothes. It was a pastime, a hobby, something she enjoyed… 

Then she got a little older. Now she has more responsibilities and demands on her time and the enjoyment starts to wane. Her life has changed and so has her style. She needs a different wardrobe. She needs outfits that will take less thought, are easy to put together and ones that can take her from day to night. She needs the pieces she buys to be versatile, to last, look great and she wants to wear them multiple times and in different ways. 

She tries the mass market online websites but they are trying to cater for so many customers that she gets 3908 options for just a black dress. She tries a shopping centre but there is no atmosphere and it’s hot and busy. She manages to discover an amazing jacket at a popular high street store but within a week it feels like every single person on her Instagram feed is also wearing it. She tries to follow catwalk trends but it’s hard to find the time, and by now she knows what suits her. She simply wants to wear things she loves rather than being dictated to. 

The perfect solution would be to spend hours browsing independent stores but it’s impossible. So before things go from bad to worse and she runs the risk of ending up in a changing room in her underwear on TV being made over by Gok Wan, we decided to step in. 

We have spent the last year researching brands and travelling across Europe to discover harder to find, more exclusive brands and buying beautiful pieces that can be worn multiple times and in different ways so you have endless options. We hope you love the collection as much as we do. X
 

 

 

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NEVER KNOWINGLY CONCISE CHATS TO // MARK LEMON | Lemon Drop Books

 

Photo: EMILY GRAY PHOTOGRAPHY.

Meet Mark Lemon, the Founder & Author of independent Children’s Book publishers, Lemon Drop Books. Award winning Children’s Book Publishers, no less!  Disillusioned with the lack of diversity in Children’s books, Mark Lemon (with two mixed-race children of his own) decided to create a series of exciting story books with non-white characters. With thrilling tales and beautiful adventures, the Otis & Thea Lemon series is fast becoming a firm favourite in family households.

We talk to Mark about some exciting collaborations, a cause close to his heart and exceptionally important campaigns, – including #diversechildrensbooksuk.  Plus, what happened when Mark had a previous role in Silver service?!

CB: Please introduce yourself and your concept.
ML: My name is Mark Lemon. I am the Founder & Author at independent children’s book publishers, Lemon Drop Books.

CB: Brand names are a really important first impression of what you’re about, so how did you come up with your online alias/brand name?
ML: With a name like Mark Lemon, we had to fit Lemon in somewhere! Lemon Drop Books seemed to have a memorable ring to it.

CB: Where did it all begin? What inspired you to start up your concept?
ML: I have always enjoyed writing, but never thought to do it as a career. After our first child was born, I had the idea of writing Otis’ very own adventures. We quickly noticed a lack of children’s books featuring non-white protagonists. I wanted to find books that the kids could look at and relate to and imagine themselves being a part of. So, in an effort to diversify children’s literature, I created my own.

CB: What is your brand ethos?
ML: Our brand ethos is to create beautiful and diverse children’s books, which all children can enjoy across the world.

CB: On a day-to-day basis, what or who inspires you?
ML: On a day-to-day basis my kids inspire me. Creating Lemon Drop Books was for them, building a legacy for their futures. I am inspired by people who are brave enough to go it alone, grabbing their careers by both hands. Don’t get me wrong it’s tough, but the great thing about Instagram is the supportive network that shouts from the social sidelines, cheering you on! My main inspiration is my family.

CB: Can you tell us about or give us a sneaky peak of something new that’s coming up?
ML: Look out for my collaboration with the brilliant parent merch Mama, Mother Like No Other coming very soon. Using our Dad slogan, ‘I Dad It My Way’ we are releasing a t-shirt for the lead up to Fathers Day. From every t-shirt sold we will donate the proceeds to the amazing bereavement charity, Winston’s Wish. This is a charity close to my heart due to losing my father suddenly at the age of 12. Please keep your eyes peeled and join us to support this great cause.


We’re hoping to soon kick off our campaign promoting diverse children’s books across the UK. Across the UK there is a greater need for diversity in children’s literature in the mainstream. Over the previous two years a good friend of ours, Marley Dias, has been promoting her 1000 Black Girl Books campaign across America; meeting Barack & Michelle Obama at the Whitehouse and carrying out interviews on all major television stations. I would like to bring a similar campaign to the UK #diversechildrensbooksuk. We will be asking authors, publishers and organisations across the country to donate to us their diverse children’s books. Once we’ve received the donated books, we will then distribute to a large number of schools, filling that gap in the school Libraries.

CB: Anything you wish you’d known before you became a parent / best piece of parenting advice?
ML: SLEEP! Sleep as much as you can pre child. More importantly, just relax and enjoy the early years.

CB: Parenting-essentials, we know there are more than a few! But what is the one thing you can’t leave the house without? What is your most used piece of parenting/child paraphernalia?
ML: Snacks. ALWAYS make sure you have some form of food to plug the shopping aisle or bus meltdown! Children get hangry just as much as adults, if not more.

CB: Along the same vein as above, what is your ultimate Papa-Essential? What is your go-to item that you just can’t live without?
ML: It would have to be my phone.

CB: What gives you ‘Dad-Guilt’? And how do you get round it?
ML: Using my phone too much is probably my main ‘Dad-Guilt’. I’m sure this is happening across the parenting land, but I do need to remind myself to put my phone down and listen to the children. My wife is very good at letting me know when to STOP.

CB: Me-time is super important too, what do you like to do to zone-out?
ML: Just sitting down and listening to music is usually a good zone-out for me. Basically, anything that allows me to shut off my brain. My mind is constantly trying to think of new ways to get our books out there.

CB: Which are your go-to brands/shops?
ML: I love brands like AllSaints, Reiss and for a long time my footwear only consisted of Nike Air Max 1’s (still does). I’ve got to shout out the brilliant Parent Apparel ladies for their Dad-merch. My most comfortable chill out jumper has to be my ‘Breaking Dad’ sweat – go check them out!

CB: What current wardrobe item is your all-time favourite and why?
ML: It would have to be the AllSaints denim shirts. The fit is really comfortable and they age well.

CB: Choose 3 words to describe yesterday.
ML: Holidays, sunshine, kids!

CB: Tell us something about you that might surprise people.
ML: I worked at Claridge’s Hotel in London as a silver service waiter. At the end of a shift I was taking dirty plates and cutlery down to the basement. I was waiting for the service lift when a lady wearing sunglasses and a very large minder came out of the lift. It was Mariah Carey and her bodyguard. “Good evening.” she said. I think I mumbled something like, “Yes it is.” It was good fun working at Claridge’s.

CB: Whats the kindest thing anyone has ever done for you?
ML: I would have to say that one of the kindest things that someone has done for me is to support me through a very difficult time when I was a teenager. Throughout your life you meet people that keep you on the right course, offering amazing support. The kindest acts are generally the selfless shows of support.

CB: Recommend a book, film or album from the past year.
ML: I discovered the Robert Glasper Experiment last summer. He’s a brilliant musician with a great style.

CB: What can you see out of your closest window / what is your current view?
ML: I can see a main road. I’m currently in a café drinking coffee. Yep, I’m one of those guys on his laptop with his headphones on.

CB: Other than with your family & friends, where would you most like to be this weekend and why?
ML: Probably sat on a sunny beach in Jamaica, drinking a bottle of red stripe.

Loved chatting with you Mark! Really hope to catch you at an event sometime soon! Wishing you lots of luck for your impending busy ventures!

C

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Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for those incredibly important causes and campaigns that Mark has highlighted. You can follow Mark on Instagram: @LemonDropBooks, Facebook and via his website: Lemon Drop Books; where you can also find the wonderful Otis & Thea Lemon books for purchase too.

#NeverConciseChats #ClaireChatsToLemonDrop

 

 

ernaleon_4

NEVER KNOWINGLY CONCISE CHATS TO // Jen Fuller | @EttaLoves

Say hello to Jen Fuller, founder of  ETTA LOVES –  an incredibly stylish collection of sensory baby muslins designed with love and science to support your baby’s development.  We love to champion a family-run business and Etta Loves was founded from the sofa by Jen! When you buy from a small business, you’re supporting a family. And that always feel’s nice. Even better when the products are this clever and functional!

CB: Firstly, please introduce yourself and your concept.
JF: Hello, I’m Jen Fuller and I am the founder of Etta Loves, we produce stylish and sensory baby textiles that are designed with science to support babies’ eye development.

CB: Brand names are a really important first impression of what you’re about, so how did you come up with your brand name?
JF: Funnily enough I love my daughter Etta’s name (it was my choice; my husband would have called her Aida) so when I devised the idea of sensory baby textiles it seemed to slot into place. It was discussed at length with my NCT friends, who are a bunch of smart, creative and inspirational women, and everyone agreed it was unusual and catchy, with a sense of authenticity given that Etta is chief product tester!

CB: Where did it all begin? What inspired you to start up your Brand/Social account(s)/Business/Service/ Movement or Concept?
JF: I was sat on my sofa during one of the fairly boring early days feeding 4 week old Etta and watching Ru Paul’s Drag Race, when I realised that Etta’s gaze was locked onto my black and white patterned jumper. It was the first thing I’d notice her actively try to concentrate on, that wasn’t a face, and something just clicked. Muslins are so omnipresent for the first year of life, and beyond, so when you add in how multi-functional they are and the close proximity they come to a baby’s face it made sense to start there and make them do something far more valuable than just mop up baby yuck!

CB: What is your brand ethos?
JF: To make products which start with the science, but never forget the style or the function. Products that both you and your baby will love. Products which complement your little one’s visual development whilst retaining a real sense of style for you.

CB: On a day-to-day basis, what or who inspires you?
JF: I’m inspired by all sorts of random things, but am also lucky enough to live in Walthamstow which has the most amazing community of entrepreneurs and wonderful small businesses. I really feed off the people I have met during my journey so far, and when I team that with two of my NCT friends who are actively involved in the business it’s just a joy and hard not to keep being full of ideas.


CB:
Can you tell us about or give us a sneaky peak of something new that’s coming up?
JF: We are about to expand the Etta Loves Animals range into washcloths and dribble bibs, and the second “Etta Loves …” collection is in the design phase, with samples due soon. The new collection will have the same stylised unisex appeal but is a very different inspiration from “Animals”.

SENSORY WASH CLOTHS // COMING SOON

CB: Anything you wish you’d known before you became a parent / best piece of parenting advice?
JF: The best advice for me was that everything is just a phase, which is so commonly banded around but so so true. When you’re stuck in the deepest despair about them not feeding, napping, pooing etc it can feel like you’re totally helpless and that it will never change, but it always does. That and to ask for help, lots and lots of it.

CB: Parenting-essentials, we know there are more than a few! But what is the one thing you can’t leave the house without? What is your most used piece of parenting/child paraphernalia?
JF: Funnily enough muslins, especially given that Etta is the snottiest baby I’ve ever come across! Second only to Calpol and Cedric the zebra!

CB: Along the same vein as above, what is your ultimate Mum-Essential? What is your go-to item that you just can’t live without?
JF: Dark chocolate and eye cream. They were essentials before and whilst my world has shifted they are just as important, if not more so!

CB: What gives you ‘Mum-Guilt’? And how do you get round it?
JF: Going to work (not Etta Loves) 4 days a week. Being on my phone when Etta is in the room. Doing anything at the weekend which doesn’t involve her. The usual really. I don’t get round it I think I just justify all types of work as being essential to our future, and have to tell myself that I do need to prioritise myself every now and again as ultimately it will make me a better, well rounded mum.

CB: Me-time is super important too, what do you like to do to zone-out?
JF: I really enjoy Yoga but have been a bit crap sticking to it. Reading a book is a rare but enjoyable treat, and actually gardening in these spring / summer months.

CB: Which are your go-to brands/shops?
JF: I am a big fan of Zara for Etta and I, and I also love Born at Dawn, a new curated online shop for stylish and classic piece for adults. For kids clothes I adore The Mini Edit as they have the best collection of cool clothes I’ve come across and within it I’m addicted to Mini Rodini for Etta. I also discovered this week that Cos does baby clothes… which is dangerous information! I’m a huge fan of interiors so will lose myself in House of Hackney or the John Lewis haberdashery department.

CB: What current wardrobe item is your all-time favourite and why?
JF: It’s between my Hush boyfriend jeans and a new Stella Nova jumpsuit from Born at Dawn.

CB: Choose 3 words to describe yesterday.
JF: Paris, workshop, wine.

CB: Tell us something that might surprise people about you.
JF: Perhaps that I am working full time in my role at a media agency and running Etta Loves in the spaces in-between. Or that I lived in Spain for a year, and it turned out that my old boss is now being hunted by Interpol…

CB: What’s the kindest thing anyone has ever done for you?
JF: I generally find that people are kind more often than not, however my husband Chris often surprises me with little acts of kindness. I knew he was a good’un when after a few weeks of going out I caught a nasty cold. My doorbell rang and when I opened it no one was there but a box full of everything that I both needed to tackle a cold plus a few of my favourite treats was sat on the doorstep. It was such a thoughtful thing for someone to do, it really stuck with me.

CB: Recommend a book, film or album from the past year.
JF: I’ve just finished reading A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara and wow was that a beautiful yet harrowing read. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

CB: What can you see out of your closest window / what is your current view?
JF: It’s dark and we live on a fairly busy road so I can’t see much through the obscured window film! New people have just moved in across the road so my view is normally them mooching about their daily life.

CB: Other than with your family & friends, where would you most like to be this weekend and why?
JF: In the countryside breathing clean air and with a 24-hour beauty therapist on hand. I need some serious buffing and revitalising at the moment!

Loved chatting with you Jen – you’ve created a wonderfully functional and SCIENTIFIC baby product; that is super stylish too. Eli is almost 5and we have muslin’s still in use – proof that this is product that you’ll be using for a long time after those new-born day’s are over! Looking forward to watching how Etta Loves evolves!

Be sure to follow Jen & Etta Loves on Insta: @EttaLoves and shop the latest collection: Shop Now.

C

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ETTA LOVES // THE STORY

Sat on my sofa with a heap of mucky muslins by my side, I realised that 4-week old little Etta was staring at my top. It was the first thing I’d noticed her actively trying to focus on and unsurprisingly it was a simple black and white pattern.

After a month of trying to rotate black and white clothing (which got both difficult and boring) this got me thinking; why isn’t one of the most seen items by babies designed to stimulate them and capture their attention? And why wouldn’t you use medical knowledge of babies’ visual development to make them the best that they could be at doing this? And while you’re at it they should be stylish… 

Functional, developmental and stylish muslins are what I wanted to create.

Now don’t get me wrong, I own other lovely muslins and some are black and white. But whilst these provide some stimulation for my little one through the very fact that they are high contrast, they haven’t been developed with this as their primary objective.

Etta Loves muslins are not only practical, super-soft, absorbent 100% cotton, but they have been designed with input from an early years visual expert, to ensure that they stimulate babies’ visual and cognitive development. As such the range is split between 0-4 months and 5+ months.

As an added bonus they look fabulously stylish, so whoever uses them will look great, regardless of which bodily fluid they might be trying to catch…

ETTA LOVES // THE SCIENCE

 

At birth, an infant’s vision is very limited as their visual system is not fully developed. Over the first few days and weeks of life vision improves steadily and infants will be able to see high contrast patterns in black and white.

Very young infants do not see in colour because the cells in the retina which detect colour have not yet fully developed. Their main focus will be on objects 8-10 inches from their face – which is happily the approximate distance from their face to your face when you are interacting with them.

By around 6-8 weeks of age babies can focus on your face more easily, and that is when you might notice that gorgeous first smile being returned right back to you.

During the first few months the brain is working out how to work the eyes together as a pair and vision starts to improve quickly. At this stage babies will start to learn how to track objects and will start to reach out for things that they find interesting.

It is generally thought that by the age of 5-6 months children have much better colour vision, although at this stage it is still thought to be not as sensitive as that of an adults. Children of this age will mostly be attracted to bright, strong primary colours.

Vision continues to improve steadily through the first 12 months and beyond into toddlerhood. It is possible to assess vision in infants, babies and preverbal children and any concerns about your child’s vision should be discussed with your GP.