Now, I don’t normally write blogs about high street clothes shops. But I’m gonna break my rule this time. Earlier this week I went along to the Hobbs press day in their flagship store in Covent Garden – basically just because I was invited and I’ve never been to one of their press days before. I had absolutely no expectations of it, since I’ve rarely set foot inside a Hobbs store since I developed a bit of a Bertie shoe fetish in my teen years (the late 80s if you must know). Bertie was once associated with the Hobbs brand, but I’m not sure if it is anymore.
I managed to sashay confidently past the girl on the door girl, “where did you say you were from?” said she, eyeing up my haphazard approach to dressing with curiosity. Then I manoeuvred myself away from what promised to be a lengthy guided tour through each garment in the collection, nearly sending a mannequin crashing in my eagerness to reach the back of the room. And, I was how shall we say it… pleasantly surprised. Straight away I made a beeline for a lovely gold pine cone necklace, taking in the general fruity folk colours of the NW3 collection. Accessories are one of Hobbs’ strongpoints and there was a nice display of cute jewellery and coloured patent bags.
But I was anxious not to waste too much time, so when one of the immaculate PR ladies glided over (I always feel like a bedraggled mess by comparison) I quickly explained that I was only looking for either designer led collaborations or ethical ranges. AHA! She led me towards a young man, standing in front of a rail and eager to pounce on journalists. I was introduced; this was Dean Thomas, designer of the high end Artisan collection, which sources all of its materials and is manufactured within the UK.
Dean Thomas describes the Artisan collection.
Dean was chosen straight out of Central Saint Martins precisely because he found all the materials for his final collection from within a 50 mile radius of his home town in Somerset. He held up a few pieces from the AW10 collection for me and I have to say, it was absolutely gorgeous. He’s created a stunning pleated evening dress out of the most unlikely of materials: a waxed cotton similar to the type that gets used in Barbour jackets. Then there’s a lovely stripy mohair coat and a super long evening dress with an elegant train. All the wool comes from Jacob sheep in Scotland and a pretty print was manipulated digitally from a photo of virulent purple Scotts thistles. I was pretty impressed I tells thee. Apparently in 2008 Hobbs was given a good shake up with the appointment of Sandy Vernon as creative director (she used to work at Next and Jaeger), and if this is what she’s doing then she’s onto a winner.
I then got pulled over to meet Karen Boyd, formerly of Boyd & Storey, and shown through her domain; the Limited Edition collection. She too has moved over from Jaeger, where her trademark style – elegant tailoring mixed with feminine details such as faux embroidered prints and little lace collars – was given credit for turning around the once fusty label. This collection is beautiful too, but sadly only the goat skins used in the long haired cape are sourced locally. “They’re a by-product of the meat industry, we don’t use fur.” Most of the clothes are of course made in the far east. As, no doubt, is the pine cone necklace that I had so admired earlier, but I was nevertheless a super happy bunny to discover the very same necklace in my press goodie bag. Comfortingly heavy, it’s been living around my neck ever since, a rare accolade.
Karen Boyd talks me through the Limited Edition collection.
All in all I left pleasantly surprised. I think it is to be applauded when a large high street retailer such as Hobbs is confident enough to produce a whole range of beautifully made clothes in the UK, at a price point that will still be affordable to many (if not me). Now if only more retailers were to sit up and take note.
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