Showing posts with label Mint Velvet. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mint Velvet. Show all posts

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

My treasured Catherine Walker dress

I spend most of my time in a uniform of Mint Velvet jeans, black jumper and my beloved Rocket Dog plimsolls. But right now I’m trying to work out what to wear to the first posh do I’ve been invited to in ages. I’ve got a stiff-backed invitation saying “Emma Lee-Potter and guest” and my husband and daughter are both so keen to be my “guest” they've tossed a coin to decide who it will be.

After all the agonising I’ll probably end up wearing my treasured Catherine Walker dress. It’s the most expensive outfit I’ve ever bought but considering I snapped it up in 1987 and still wear it, it’s definitely earned its keep.

Mornings were a tough call when I worked as a news reporter back in the 80s. We had to be in the office by seven, ready to get cracking on the biggest news stories of the day soon after. Those were the days when Princess Diana was constantly splashed across the tabloid front pages – dancing onstage with Wayne Sleep as a birthday surprise for Prince Charles and dressing up as a policewoman for Fergie’s hen night.

One of the princess’s favourite designers was Catherine Walker, who sadly died in 2010 after a long battle with breast cancer. The French-born couturier created some of her most exquisite outfits, including an amazing pearl and sequin-encrusted white silk evening gown and matching bolero jacket that Diana called her “Elvis dress.”

When she started her business Catherine Walker modestly called it The Chelsea Design Company.  She renamed it Catherine Walker & Co in 1994 but apparently she chose the original name because “in France you would be laughed at if you opened a shop and put your name on the door as a couturier, unless you had the obvious skill to back it up.”

Sitting on the top deck of the number 49 bus at dawn every morning as I travelled from Battersea to Fleet Street I used to gaze down at Catherine Walker’s simple, white-painted shop in Chelsea’s Sydney Street and marvel at her creations. I dreamed of buying one of her dresses - and one day I threw caution to the wind and actually did. I saved up my work expenses for weeks, keeping them in a battered brown envelope till I had enough. Then, clutching the envelope in my eager hand I went into the shop and bought a stunning navy dress, made of crepe and cut on the bias. The most embarrassing moment came when I had to pay. I opened up my battered envelope and handed the surprised shop assistant  £375 in grubby-looking notes.

Twenty years on, I don’t regret my rash purchase for a minute. The dress hasn’t dated at all and I still love it. And I take an awful lot of pleasure in the elegant Catherine Walker for The Chelsea Design Company label inside.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Liz Jones moans about young women

Over the last few months I’ve stuck up for Liz Jones left, right and centre. I even defended her in this blog back in June, saying “...she writes so well and with such disarming frankness that her diary is a must-read.”

But this week she’s gone a step too far. Even for me. She’s hit out at a whole generation of young women, castigating them for everything from taking maternity leave to not answering their BlackBerrys when they are off sick. She compares maternity leave to a “holiday” and clearly thinks no one should ever be ill. She rounds off her Daily Mail piece by raging: “Personally, I think you should crawl to work if you have to. No wonder the number of women who are unemployed is rocketing. If ever I employ a woman again, I’ll make jolly sure she’ll have already gone through the menopause.”

Liz Jones makes her living by being outrageous, but today’s rant is ridiculous. For a start, she reckons looking after a baby is a doddle, that you stick your infant in the pram, put your feet up and watch daytime TV. As all mothers know, the first few months are wall-to-wall hard graft. I went back to work at a magazine when my daughter was nine months old – and it was easy in comparison. I did endless phone interviews, wrote a couple of articles a day and even had time for a sandwich at my desk – all impossible (maybe I was just a hopeless mother) with a young baby.

But her criticism of “the lack of work ethic in young women today” is even more bizarre. At 19, my daughter and her friends are far more industrious than my generation ever were. They juggle university studies with jobs, start their own businesses and are 100 times more capable than their parents. With the recession starting to bite and employment hard to come by, they know they’ve got it tough and have to be equipped with the skills to succeed. The last thing they need is one of the best-known columnists in the country slating them so unfairly - and with so little cause.

PS: I’ve just discovered my new favourite clothes shop – Mint Velvet. Launched by three ex-Principles employees two years ago, it now has four stand-alone stores (Marlow, Tunbridge Wells, Chichester and Windsor – they should open one up north soon) and concessions in House of Fraser stores across the country. The designs range from soft leather biker jackets, flattering trousers and chic dresses to a gorgeous grey suede cross-body bag I fell in love with. I popped into the Marlow store (above) yesterday and it’s stunning. Best of all, the assistants were helpful, charming and knowledgeable. I’ll definitely be back.
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