When I first visited the UK 3 years ago I stumbled upon this cute little shop called Jack Wills. Tweed blazers, cosy knits, a logo of a pheasant with a top hat and a walking stick (which is even classier than Mr. Peanut and his monocle)…their tagline was spot on; it was ‘Fabulously British’! Over the next week I kept happening upon this Jack Wills, and soon realised that it was not some wee 7th generation-run boutique, but a transnational megabrand. With no products actually made in Britain.
When I mentioned it to my friend Tori who studied in Scotland, her face scrunched up like I’d just offered her a blueberry (her avowed enemy. Not even blueberry muffins pass her muster). Apparently she and her friends would never actually shop there – it’s basically the British Abercrombie & Fitch (they even have ‘Seasonnaires’ which are their version of the infamous A&F model). But, said Tori, “I kind of get how you would like it”. This wasn’t meant as an insult; Tori knows that I’m a sucker for branded stuff – with every teen birthday present she enabled my Emily the Strange and Paul Frank addictions. She also knows how enamoured I am of cute things (if it’s pink, patterned, emblazoned with critters or redolent of Sloane life, I’m sold). Jack Wills totally fits my bill – it has the British prep feel without the moss/dung-heavy colour palette of Barbour, the youthful whimsy of Anthropologie (seriously, mittens and snoods with names like Austwick and Wilbur? Adorbs), and is mid-range price-wise.
Here are my picks of their current collection:
The Bleakley dress £89.50
I adore this dress. The cut and tartan make it very classic, but it’s bright enough and short enough to avoid being dowdy. I can imagine Charlotte York wearing this to a Hamptons picnic, and Jenny Humphrey (season 1, pre-racoon-eyes and ratty extensions) wearing this to a Christmas party.
The Ribble blouse £26 (down from £39.50)
As a general rule I despise the word ‘pussybow’ (it conjures up horrific images of beribboned crotchless panties), any clothing that is semi-sheer and doesn’t come with a slip (it’s as bad as those ‘chicken pho’ meal kits that have the instructions ‘just add chicken, noodles, vegetables and water’. Ugh) and anything more than 50% synthetic. But I’ll make an exception for this shirt which seems really easy-to-wear and a gorgeous shade of Hubba Bubba Grape (or ‘aubergine’ according to their description. Potato potahto.) And on sale for 26 pounds, you can afford to also buy a simple cami to go underneath and thus avoid the shiny Barbie-boobs that the JW model has going on.
The Alvington Velvet trouser £59.50
These trousers are awesome – forest green, velvet and festive without being Festive (ie. you could team them with an obnoxious penguin sweater but equally a slouchy Grandpa cardigan and penny loafers). Unfortunately I have a strict black jean policy so I wouldn’t touch them with a punt pole (as a thighsome gal I’d be a little worried that they’d make me look like a Michelin sock puppet) but for those that can get away with coloured/textured bottoms, please buy these and allow me to live vicariously through you!
The Kentmere Cashmere Cable Crew £90.30 (down from £129)
I think a simple wool or cashmere cable-neck sweater is a must for any wardrobe. I can’t decide which colour I like best…because I’m so swayed by the styling. The cream: I love the pairing with the wintery wool skirt. The burgundy: this is actually how I’d wear it (black trousers, awkward stance). The grey: I’m not quite sure why it’s paired with white trousers (which I think are solely the domain of Elvis impersonators and post-menopausal Floridians) but the sweater totally ameliorates this sartorial blip and her bad body language (as my Dad would intone, “What would Allan Pease say?!”).
The Calvert Slipper shoe £59.50
I think smoking slippers are great. And they work for any person, anywhere, anytime. Your name doesn’t have to be Sebastian or Tarquin (in fact it would help if your initials were JW, or maybe if you were Jewish, into textspeak and liked advertising your faith through your footwear), and you don’t need to pair these with a morning coat in your family tartan or anything. Jeans and a button-down would work fine. Though a leather satchel and a beagle would be a nice addition, no?
Solid round-up. I’m sure if Tori could see it she’d be barfing like the aftermath of a blueberry force-feed.