Monday, 27 July 2015

A useful find

Oliver Bonas luggage tag 99p from Oxfam

This was initially going to be a 'chazza find' post but I thought instead I would actually post about something I picked up in a charity shop that I actually needed. More often than not, my charity shop scores are things that are unessential; items that I see and pick up on the off chance (see: several hundred jumpers, more than a few shirts, copious vintage shoes, etc) and this is because I always find my best chazza finds when I'm not looking for anything specifically.

I think this is the crux of charity shopping; for me at least, if I go out with a specific item in mind I'm never ever going to find it, but if I just wander about with little or no focus on what I am looking for, I tend to find some great things. It happened that whilst I was mooching through my local Oxfam, I spotted this Oliver Bonas luggage tag, and snapped it up for the excellent price of 99p.

Now, I had a luggage tag which I used on my suitcase when I went to Primavera. Adrian and I took the train through France and Spain to get there, and unfortch our train home was delayed by a couple of hours in Spain, so we ended up missing the Eurostar train home from France. When we eventually arrived in France, we dashed to the other side of the city to try and get the next available train, and in the crush as we exited the carriage, my lovely Emma Bridgewater luggage tag either fell off or got caught and snapped off my bag. Gutted. 

I was hoping I might be able to find the same one elsewhere, but since I had no luck with that, I picked up this copper one from the chazza. I love the leather finish and the colour is really pretty, too. It retailed at £14.99 which I wouldn't have paid but at just under a quid I'll happily pick it up! I'm so pleased with it and it just goes to show that you can find items of use in the charity shops; they aren't limited to clothes. Sometimes the bric a brac sections might look a bit ropey but if you take the time to have good look through them, you're bound to find something worth buying!

XO Amie

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Vintage and modern

Wearing: Topshop jeans vintage blouse and bag Whistles shoes

I like to incorporate vintage elements into my everyday looks and I think the key to doing this (for me, anyway!) is to mix those older pieces with more contemporary styling so they don't look too costume-y. I've already posted about ways that I like to wear vintage here and here, and this is a move on from that, by combining the decades to make my look unique.

I'm not sure what decade this linen blouse dates from but judging by that neckline I'd say late 80's/early 90's. It's also got that godawful elbow length sleeve as well so I rolled them up a few times to make it more contemporary. Not a bad blouse, overall; it's 100% linen, washed up beautifully and cost me the princely sum of 99p. Worn with these ecru boyfriend jeans (that I've posted a review on here) it makes a modern and edgy look (in my opinion!) I wouldn't choose a top like this to wear with a midi skirt, for example, it might make it look a bit frumpy, but with a ripped up anti-fit jean, it lends a bit of femininity.

I feel a bit matchy with all-navy accessories, but I pulled together the navy shoes and bag to wear with a more intricate look earlier in the week which I felt needed grounding with base colour accessories. They do work with this look, in my opinion; the shoes add a bit of interest and the bag is so cute with the tassel and gold hardware details. Jewellery wise, I kept it simple with the pieces I always wear, and this simple triple band silver ring.

The best thing about vintage is that you can guarantee no one will turn up wearing the same look as you; and it's a really easy way to dress up something simple like a pair of ripped jeans. I think this blouse would also worn well dressed up smartly, for example with a pair of black trousers (I love black and navy as a colour combo!) and maybe a touch of leopard print.

XO Amie

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Charity shop find of the week #19

Zara polka dot shirt £6.99 Oxfam

This is my 19th charity shop find post since I started this series on the blog, and I have to confess that I haven't even posted all the chazza finds I've unearthed over that time, only my very favourite ones! This polka dotted Zara shirt is no exception; brand new with tags it was only £7 (which I still think is plenty for a chazza shirt, but I did love it!)

I spotted this (ha) on the rail of my local Oxfam, not my favourite chazza but if I'm walking past I'll always go in and have a look. I do find that Oxfam tends to be one of the more expensive charity shops, at least where I live, but now and again I can pick up a bargain or two from the rails. They often have special offers whereby all clothing, say, or all footwear, is half price, so I often go in on those days particularly.

I have quite a good selection of shirts now but they are always useful and I didn't have a polka dot one so I thought I'd add it to my collection. It has a really cute rounded collar, and I really like the slightly oversized look it has. I will wear this with skinny jeans and brogues or sandals for a really cute and slightly preppy feel.

Have you bought anything in the chazza recently?

XO Amie

Friday, 24 July 2015

A Blogger's Guide #9

Read the rest of the 'bloggers guide' posts here

I only ever intended to write 10 posts for my 'blogger's guide' series, which will have hopefully given an insight to newer bloggers on elements of blogging that aren't so often talked about. I want to use this one to talk about public relations and self-marketing, which is something that I've struggled with often through my blogging career so far. For the final post I will be surmising the series so far and also looking at other ways in which you can make blogging work for you.

PR, or public relations, is a vast topic that I won't attempt to cover in one short blog post, but the key to building a successful blog relies very much on your ability to communicate with and become attractive to PR agencies and brands. I mean this in the most un-obnoxious way; of course, if you are only interested in blogging as a hobby, and don't want to make it into anything more than that, then you can post whatever you like and network as much or as little as you want to, and that is absolutely fine. If you do want to build a contact network, however, and have opportunities to work with external partners, you can take steps to improve your chances of making this happen.

In my experience, agencies and PR companies have a job to do, and that job is normally to spread information and garner interest in a product or campaign that they have been instructed to hype by their client. As a blogger, you have a certain amount of reach and influence, and you can both benefit from striking up a working relationship. You may be lucky enough to have an agency or brand reach out to you, or you might want to contact a brand you think would make a good fit with your blog. There are ways to go about this, but there are some things that I've always tried to keep in mind when doing any of them, which I'll outline below.

If you see a brand and you want to work with them, the best thing you can do is get in touch with them directly. You might tweet them, create a post about why you like their brand and product so much, or simply send them an email. You're making a pitch to the brand to ask them to work with you, and this is an important thing to get right. If I decide to approach a brand, I research the company thoroughly, and have a look at bloggers they might have worked with in the past. If my blog is of a similar ilk to those used before, there's no reason for me not to also throw my hat into the ring and see if they would like to work with my website. I always tell a brand what I can offer; not down to individual statistics (but if you do have a particularly high following on a social media platform this is definitely worth mentioning) but they ways in which I feel I could benefit their brand by working with them. I do have an idea in mind of the sort of post I'd like to put together, but I'm always careful to be realistic; if you are a new blogger with a small following, a 'wish list' type post to begin with, maybe in exchange for a discount code, is a good place to start. I think that there is a lot of interest in becoming a blogger 'for the freebies' and actually, this isn't a huge part of what working with a brand is about; you can help to build your readership by working with bigger companies and this in turn will give you greater clout going forward.

It isn't practicable to expect to work for free, and this is where the edges begin to blur a little. If you are blogging as a hobby, should you expect to be paid? If this is the case, how then can you turn your hobby into a job? Again, I can only offer up my own opinions and share my experiences within this field. I've found that after 6 years of hard work, I am at a point where I am able to turn down projects that I feel don't perhaps suit my blog or simply don't sit within the remit of the blog's content; but at the beginning I really did take every opportunity. This meant for about 5 years I would post content to build my portfolio, and this has led me to work with some incredible national and international brands, which has  lent my blog greater influence and allowed me to take part in more lucrative campaigns. It's a bit of a snowball effect; once you start rolling, you can build on your successes and in turn make your blog a must-visit destination.

Be respectful when working with PR companies and agencies. If you get the chance to take part in an amazing campaign, thank them. Turn the post out in good time and share it over your social media. Drive them to want to work with you again. Build your network of contacts by proxy; and by professionalism with regard to the way that you conduct business through your blog. At a recent blog club meet up, a business owner shared that she had sent out samples of her products to many bloggers and not one had reviewed it, posted it online or mentioned it on their blog. Even a thank you email, a small touch that takes only a minute, will have agencies and PR remembering you and earmarking you to work with in the future. Market yourself and your blog by your actions, your manners and your professionalism, and you can continue to make your blog reputation work hard for you.

XO Amie

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Gifting on a budget

Flowers from a local florist, Jumper from a charity shop

 It's always lovely to give a gift to someone, and even better when you know it's something they'll really love. A friend of mine left work recently to start a new job and I wanted to get her a small gift, but of course it's that week or so before payday and funds are tight! With this in mind I was inspired to write a post, to share a few of my tips for gifting on a budget.

I won't mention actual prices in the post as I know my friend occasionally reads my blog and despite it being the thought that counts, it still feels like if I write down what I paid for everything, it's like I left the price on! My friend is fashionable and quirky and not only is she starting a new job, she's also moving house, so I wanted to get her a couple of things that would be pretty and practical!

I've talked before about supporting local businesses, and I found a lovely florist shop near to me who had an amazing selection of plants, flowers, succulents and cacti. I ended up choosing a pretty flowering potted plant which will last longer than a bunch of flowers and was less expensive than a floppy bunch of supermarket florals!

Some people wouldn't dream of buying a gift from a charity shop but I don't think you should rule them out; many have brand new items for sale and even if something is second hand, a quick spin round the washing machine is enough to freshen it up again. You can make your money go further here, too; an item a friend would love but you might not have been able to afford brand new suddenly becomes accessible. I was so pleased to find this amazing Whistles jumper for a fraction of the retail cost, it looked barely worn but I gave it a wash and de-bobbled it to make it look even better!

The plant was wrapped for me at the florist at no extra charge, and I picked up some gift wrap to make the jumper look a bit more special. I actually spent more on the card, labels and gift wrap than the presents cost, which just goes to show that you can be economical and thrifty without being tight! Great presents are all about the thought behind them, regardless of the cost, and if you can find something you know someone will really love, it shouldn't matter where you buy it from!

XO Amie

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Budget beauty worth the hype

Budget beauty buys: Body Shop White Musk Smoky Rose body lotion here // Nougat London body shimmer here // Kate Moss Lilabelle body lotion here // The Body Shop Love Etc body lotion here

Following on from this post where I talked about premium bodycare, I wanted to look at the budget versions where I could and contrast them in a post of their own. Nothing here costs more than £10, which I think was the entry price point for most of the products on the other post.

The Body Shop is somewhere I can always rely on to find great body care items at reasonable prices. I love the smell of the White Musk Smoky Rose range, which has the sweetness of the musk tempered by the rose, in a light, easily absorbed lotion. The Love Etc fragrance is also a really lovely one, it has been discontinued now I believe (I bought in bulk so I wouldn't run out in a hurry!) but it's always worth checking out the range they have in store for great alternatives.

Nougat London is a new-to-me brand but this sparkling body shimmer is really lovely. It's a very fine milled shimmer so it lends a glisten over a glitter, and it's lightly fragranced cherry scent isn't too overpowering. If packaging is important to you, this one will also look lovely on your bathroom shelf!

Finally, a celebrity product! This Kate Moss Lilabelle body lotion actually came with a fragrance and I've linked above to an outlet selling the two. I don't normally invest in celeb products as I always find they smell the same, but this one is really quite pleasant. It is a lightweight lotion too which is creamy, not runny, but not heavy or greasy, and I was using it almost daily until I switched it out to try a body oil.

I've noticed as I compared the products that the more expensive, high end brands were more oil based; I've been using the Elemis product I reviewed here daily and I've found it has made my skin feel softer than the lotions that I've been using previously, but I will review all the products again in an 'empties' post once I've finished them!

What's your go-to body lotion or oil?

XO Amie

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Brand Focus: Everlane

Image credit: Everlane

When I find a new brand I usually test the water before posting on my blog buy making a purchase and seeing if it is as good as I hope it will be. I've been unable to do this with this brand, Everlane, as they are based in the USA and therefore shipping (though not impossible) is quite expensive, but I did think the brand would be worth talking about in a post because of their groundbreaking sales methods.

Everlane believe in a culture of transparency throughout their production and retail. They have a simplified ethic: know your factories, know your costs, always ask why. By creating working relationships with factory owners and ensuring workplace compliance, the brand is able to carefully chart every aspect of the journey of a new piece of clothing; from cloth cost and pattern cutting to garment construction and advertising. Instead of the usual 8x markup you would find on the high street, Everlanes' online exclusivity negates the need to include bricks and mortar costings in their final retail prices.  The result? Incredible quality, simplistic clothing and incredibly modest pricing.

What drew me to the Everlane brand was their extensive use of some of my favoured materials. Silk, linens, wool and cotton; most fabrics are based in nature and carefully selected to be made into the specific product. Clicking through the site, you can look at, say, a pair of tailored high waisted shorts. Clicking on the 'traditional retail price' of $115, you are shown a breakdown of the product's actual cost: $8.72 for materials, $3.05 for hardware, $5.15 for labour, $3.08 for duties and $1 for transport, leading to a true garment cost of $23. The price on the site is $50 for the garment, whereas it would be $115 in a retail store.

This pricing transparency is interesting and eyeopening. It is obvious that retailers are intending to make money, otherwise they wouldn't have a business, but the markup is actually quite staggering. I suppose that if they are a bricks and mortar retailer they will have greater overheads to consider, but this honest and fair approach on pricing and sourcing is integral to the ethic of the brand and actually lends it weight; if more retailers took heed I believe there would be greater benefits for both consumer and supplier. 

The silk blouses retail at around $78 on the site which equates to about £50 in English money and whilst I am always buying silk shirts in charity shops, if I was to buy one 'off the peg' I would probably look to spend closer to £100, and I don't know if I would struggle to find a shirt made from 100% silk; more often than not these days they are a blend or a silk-handle fabric that just doesn't have the properties of the real thing.

If you are interested in having a look at the site, you can check it out here. If you want to make a purchase you can get product shipped to the UK through HopShopGo which allows trackable shipping to the UK for US brands.

XO Amie