Monthly Archives: April 2010

When Ship-Shape met… ELLE’s Natalie Wansborough-Jones

Natalie Wansborough-Jones

As promised, here is my interview with ELLE’s Senior Fashion Editor Natalie Wansborough-Jones, who was in Bristol on Thursday to promote ELLE’s new competition, Shopgirl to Stylist.

Nestled in the corner of French Connection in Quakers Friars, we chatted about the influence of shop assistants, the must-read fashion blogs of the moment and style tips for S/S 2010…

SSBF: So Natalie, could you tell us a bit more about the concept behind the Shopgirl to Stylist competition?

NW-J: Our editor, Lorraine, went to New York and basically in New York there’s this whole big thing with shop assistants there – they are almost like celebrities there so she absorbed this kind of power.

The high street is very important to Elle. It’s all very well us shooting high-end designers like YSL, which I don’t actually think is affordable to everyone at the moment, but there are really strong mid-range and high street brands out there so its important to us to push that. I guess that all kind of mixed together to inspire us to find a great shop girl on the high street that wants to be a stylist and give them the opportunity to do that.

SSBF: There is so much information and inspiration available to consumers now, such as window displays, magazine spreads etc. How do you think shopgirls and guys have an influence in the way people dress?

NW-J: I think its not just in the shop either, I think that what is fantastic now is that, and I’m already starting to see developments having only been to French Connection in Bristol and Whistles in London so far, is that the people that work in these shops already have their own identity.

The Whistles girls all looked so incredibly chic, obviously dressed in Whistles, and the French Connection gang here are really, really cool, and they all have this identity, almost like its affiliated to their shop. Whether we find that regionally, I’m not too sure yet but seeing them out on the streets, they are almost setting a trend – I think that’s very true of the Topshop staff in London, they’re all almost part of a little gang in a way and they’re literally pioneering what [clothes] they have in the shop by simply being out and about in it themselves.

I’m constantly impressed by young people that I see on the street that put together high street in a really intelligent and cool way. I look at them and think ‘that’s amazing’, and I absorb that information and it influences me. I think as an outside thing it draws people into the store that can take inspiration from [the shop staff].

French Connection style-challenge

Above: Natalie critiques an outfit put together by French Connection staff

SSBF: There are many websites and blogs out there, such as and The Satorialist, which focus on street style and real people. What do you think of those kinds of blogs, ‘cause to me it feels like a revolution, making people a lot more aware what they put on their backs…

NW-J: I think you’re totally right, I think its fantastic. I actually just did a shoot with Garance Doré, who I think is a fantastic blogger and not only was she really cool to shoot with because her perspective, the way she looks at things is really new to us in a sense: its not a very controlled studio environment necessarily, it’s a bit more free, a bit more natural. We had many, many chats about fashion and she’s looking at it from a really intelligent point of view, not necessarily having this enormous background, she almost fell into it in a way and she’s and incredibly talented illustrator.

She has all of this going about and I think actually yeah you’re right – [bloggers] are pioneering a new moment in fashion for us and I think that’s why people are really recognising them and giving them a fashion status so to speak; Dolce & Gabbana putting them in the front row at their show for example. ELLE actually used Scott (Schuman, of The Satorialist) for a photo shoot a few years ago, before my time there, but this has been happening for a while and now its suddenly exploded and its almost like they have a certain amount of respectability.

SSBF: I guess that ties in with the Shopgirl to Stylist competition in that very few of the numerous fashion and style bloggers out there are in the business – they might have previously been in the business or are aspiring to get into the business but many of them have just fallen into it because they love fashion and now they’re seen themselves as fashion icons in a way. Do you have any particular websites or blogs that you like reading?

NW-J: Garance’s blog, I love her blog, Scott’s blog – I love his work too… I have to say I love the Purple blog by Olivier Zahm – I get huge pleasure out of looking at that – those are the three that my main focus is on.

SSBF: Do you have any favourite stylists?

NW-J: I do, I think that Melanie Ward is a fantastic, hugely influential stylist, I think Jane Howe was a massive stylist when I started assisting, I mean, she was the one who I found huge inspiration from. I think there are some amazing, hugely iconic stylists out there.

SSBF: Thanks to two universities Bristol has a huge population of students, many of whom will be graduating this year – do you have any tips on how they can break into the fashion industry?

NW-J: Perseverance; do as much work experience as you can. Every job for me, climbing the ladder to where I am now, has been through working for free and being in the right place at the right time but doing as much work experience as possible I know its hard when you’re not always being paid but do as much experience as you can and hopefully you’ll just get that moment when someone wants to employ you then it all sort of goes from there.

SSBF: So, so much of it can come down to timing then?

NW-J: It does, and that’s why this competition is so fantastic actually because to give you an indication, I will probably start to get CVs and applications on my desk around January from people asking me for internships and we don’t even start to look at anything till July. So you can imagine the amount of applications we get and a lot of them just get filed away unless there’s something like ‘friend of a friend’ situation, which does happen.

So with this competition the winner is being fast-tracked right to the front of that enormous queue and even if you enter and don’t necessarily win, you still get the chance to come and be with us in the office and spend some time with us. So to have that connection – if people come back to us in two years we’ll know who you are – and I think its simply being able to put a face to a name is really helpful and not just reading a CV that gets filed away somewhere.

SSBF: One final question: what would your best tip for Spring/Summer 2010 be for ELLE girls on a budget? Is there one particular piece or trend that they should look out for?

NW-J: I think keep it simple and keep it chic. There’s definitely a sort of French feel in the air so I’d have to say a really great trench coat.

Thanks so much to Natalie for the interview, the lovely staff at French Connection and Arabella from Talk PR for contributing to this interview.

Bristol launch for ELLE’s Shopgirl to Stylist competition


The winning team: French Connection staff with judge and Senior Fashion Editor Natalie Wansborough-Jones

Ship-Shape had an early start this morning, arriving at French Connection in Quakers Friars at 9am for the launch of ELLE magazine’s styling competition Shopgirl to Stylist.

‘Fashion’s answer to the x-Factor’ was launched at the beginning of March but over the next four weeks the ELLE team are hitting the high streets of the UK to promote the competition, which would see the winner receiving a coveted six month internship at ELLE HQ in London. This morning was a chance for Bristol to flex it’s fashion muscles as French Connection staff were given the challenge of styling a mannequin in a S/S 10 trend using items from the shop floor.

The team’s efforts were judged by ELLE’s Senior Fashion Editor Natalie Wansborough-Jones, who was on hand to offer style tips and to encourage shopgirls – and boys – to enter the unique competition. Today the three teams came up with festival, floral and city chic looks and speaking of the winning team, pictured above, Wansborough-Jones applauded the use of accessories and said the look was “very ELLE”.

Wannabe stylists have until 4th June 2010 to send in their entries to the website, where readers can comment on and ‘love’ their favourite looks. After that the finalists will have the opportunity to be mentored by by ELLE’s infamous Fashion Director, Anne-Marie Curtis before the winner is announced in the October 25th anniversary issue of ELLE. So what are you waiting for? If you’re aged 18 or over and currently work for a fashion retailer then send in your entries and represent Bristol while you’re at it! For more details on how to apply and to see all the entries click here.

Ship-Shape was lucky enough to interview Natalie Wansborough-Jones about this competition, life as a stylist and the fashion blogs she can’t live without so keep your eyes peeled for the post, coming shortly.

French Connection in Quakers Friars, where the event took place

French Connection in Quakers Friars, where the event took place

Staff team up to put together a S/S 10 look for the styling competition

A team dresses their mannequin in a bid to win an ELLE subscription for a year

 Senior Fashion Editor Natalie Wansborough-Jones tweeting from the store

Senior Fashion Editor Natalie Wansborough-Jones tweeting from the store

A load of Cox & Baloney


This afternoon I paid a visit to Whiteladies Road to investigate a vintage boutique that has been on my brain for weeks. I first picked up a Cox & Baloney flyer at a launch party for Crack magazine, then when M and I went out for dinner with some friends last night the name cropped up again on a flyer for a vintage event at the Thali Cafe. Despite the boutique having been up and running for five months I never quite got round to visiting but I simply couldn’t wait any longer so went to take a peek at the store, located inside Woolies Indoor Market.

This bizarre market used to be a Woolworths (RIP) so I was surprised that inside it was full of entrepreneurs selling everything from pies and coffee to soft furnishings and books. Wandering towards the back of the market a sign helpfully pointed me towards the stairs which took me to Cox & Baloney, and I felt like I had stumbled back in time.

Leather trunks, retro lampshades, tweed jackets and geometric 70s prints were just some of the gems I noticed as I ventured in to the boutique which had been lovingly decorated with kitch flower garlands and grand gold framed mirrors. I fell in love with some ‘reworked’ Laura Ashley dresses and a carpet bag but sensibly, perhaps somewhat too sensibly, left my credit card at home.

Co-owner and vintage enthusiast Joney Lyons mans the till

Co-owner and vintage enthusiast Joney Lyons mans the till

However this did give me the opportunity to chat to shop gal on duty and co-owner of Cox & Baloney, Joney Lyons, above. Joney was kind enough to fill be in on her transition from working in the production office of the BBC to running her own vintage empire, along with friend Amy Cox. Tired of working on projects such as Lark Rise To Candleford and Hollyoaks, the girls teamed up to create Cox & Baloney, a vintage boutique focused on recycling and “putting something back” into the community.

Cox & Baloney source many of their vintage finds locally, encouraging customers to bring in unwanted garments in exchange for a share of the profits. “People bring stuff in and sometimes we buy it from them or otherwise we’ll split the profit, or give [the item] back if we can’t sell it” says Joney, “this way locals get to make some money and recycle their old clothes”.

As a customer comes up to the counter to pay for her black suede fringe boots I finger through the rail of vintage dresses and soak up the charming atmosphere. Soon Joney and I are back to chatting about fashion in general and how trends look to the past for inspiration. “Why go out and buy brand new when there are so many fantastic originals? We’re giving granny clothes a new life again.”

With all the vintage treasures on offer I’m inclined to agree – every piece in this boutique no doubt has a story behind it which is more than can be said for a brand new Topshop denim jacket. The clothes and accessories in Cox & Baloney are competitively priced, even cheaper than what some high street retailers charge so this hidden gem is worth checking out. The lovely ladies also attend regular vintage fairs such as Gimme Shelter at The Lanes and for a list of all upcoming events check out their Facebook page.


Trunks, suitcases and hat stands all help to display gorgeous vintage treasures

Table linens and cloths have been carefully folded and displayed


A display of shoes, fabric scraps and vintage buttons: swoon!

A deliciously tacky carpet bag - Mary Poppins and River Island would be proud...

Funky furniture creates a cosy space within which to rummage

Vintage dresses from the last four decades

Vintage dresses from the last four decades


The indoor market boasts more than just boutiques, including cafes, book stalls and a Pieminister!

Calling All Students!

Cabot Circus student nightThe loans are in, exams are looming and Spring/Summer trends have hit the high street so take a break from the books and head down to Cabot Circus for this Thursday’s student evening.

Ah, university. The three year ride of discounts, student nights and blagging as much stuff for free as possible. Yes, I do remember staying up till 6am to finish a project, high on Pro Plus and surviving on chocolate digestives, but come on – all the parties, discounts and shopping sprees made it worthwhile. Come to think of it, I probably wouldn’t have been up until 6am, high on Pro Plus and surviving on chocolate digestives if I hadn’t gone to all the parties, or used my discounts on numerous shopping sprees but that’s another matter…

Cabot Circus was still a building site when I was at uni and although this meant missing out on events like these, I think my bank manager was pretty grateful! But now Bristol’s most fashionable footpaths are becoming student paradise from 4-8pm on the 28th as discounts, goodie bags, nibbles and live music take over Cabot Circus and Quaker’s Friar.

Participating stores include A Wear, American Apparel, Warehouse and Urban Outfitters so just bring along your student ID and enjoy. If you’re

strapped for cash then look out for plenty of freebies from Rituals, Tampopo and and G Star.

Cabot Circus Student Night, Thursday 28th April, 4-8pm.

Click here for more information.

Knock-Off Fashion


Today I finally met The Magazine Man. I don’t want to get him in trouble, but for those that don’t know, Magazine Man loiterers around the Bear Pit at the bottom of Stokes Croft, selling magazines at suspiciously cheap prices to passers by.

Previously only a rumor and subject of speculation, I was skeptical as to whether or not such a man existed. M and some other friends have told me about this vendor, as they are well aware of how magazines, fashion magazines in particular, are like crack to me. At the moment I’m forced to buy various publications on rotation each month, but if I had my way I would hold subscriptions to just about every glossy going.

So, when I heard about this mythical creature selling discounted magazines I was curious to say the least. And sure enough, alongside the likes of More and Reveal, there they were; Marie Claire, Grazia, Look and Elle. But Magazine Man was not the man I had pictured in my fantasies – no top hat, no jolly expression, no shouting ‘roll up, roll up!’ or handing out balloons to small children. In his place was a scruffy, shifty eyed tramp, who was obviously not selling these magazines because he was morally outraged at their RRP.

My eyes lingered over the titles as he slid up to me to let me know his latest deals. I didn’t have any cash on me but decided to walk away anyway, unable to get my head around why I hadn’t pounced on those glossy fashion bibles. He wasn’t there when I came back after meeting S and when I mentioned my reluctance to purchase, she came out with a surprisingly truthful comment; “We buy knock-off fashion all the time” she said, “buying a cheap fashion magazine is no different from shopping for cheap fashion at Primark”.


Like most girls I know my wardrobe is 50% cheap-as-chips fashion, 50% God-bless-the-credit-card fashion

This got me thinking about knock-off fashion and it’s place in society. Knowingly buying fake designer goods is different from a splurge in shops like Primark but while not exactly a taboo any more, cheap clothes still come with a hefty price tag. Mass production, dodgy labour and production, excessive spending and increased textile waste are all a result of our desire to have the latest catwalk imitation right now.

In recent years documentaries such as Blood, Sweat and T-Shirts have highlighted how little most British consumers know about where their cheap-as-chips fashion comes from. Thanks to the spotlight on climate change retailers are starting to introduce ethically friendly policies and the recession has almost certainly been a factor in the increase of attendance at sewing workshops and vintage fairs. But there is still an obsession with catwalk copies at knock-off prices and I don’t see this changing any time soon.

So how can you look achingly on trend without breaking the bank or contributing to child labour? Simple: do your research, make do and mend instead of throwing away perfectly good clothes, shop at vintage stores/jumble sales/charity shops and have a go at making your own clothes – you might be surprised at how satisfying it is once you get past managing to thread a needle without pricking yourself to death.

For more information about ethical fashion on the high street check out the Ethical Fashion Forum and for details of Primark’s ethical trading initiative click here.