Insta-Influencer: Dropscotch

Instagram’s a funny old thing. It’s the social platform I use most for my blog, but sometimes it can be a bit vacuous.

Yet, if you search hard enough and bypass the #happyvibess, dodge the #fridayfeels and ignore the celebs who get 13M views for simply blowing a kiss, there’s some real gems. Insta accounts with substance and style, their talented creators exhibiting their craft.

Like Dropscotch.

Any artist that skilfully blends clever, striking design with 1990s R&B and streetwear styles is a winner in my eyes. It was the TLC-inspired t-shirt that caught my eye and had me scrolling down the page, swiftly followed by the iconic Sade Adu set in colourful geometric style. The image of Brandy from the Sitting Up in My Room video (*finds Brandy on Spotify and listens to I Wanna Be Down on repeat*) made my stomach ache a bit with glorious nostalgia.

Dropscotch is the brainchild of artist and illustrator Luke Davis. He started the business earlier this year with his partner Emma, as a way to combine their key passions: illustration, fashion and music. Luke trained as a journalist and worked as an editor at a London creative agency, which gave him the chance to work with incredible illustrators and designers and ensured a good foundation in the software he uses to create his striking compositions.

Their work really spoke to me as it combines two of my favourite things; '90s R&B music and streetwear style. I grew up on the former and covet the latter. R’n’B was the soundtrack to my formative years and in the days before the likes of Spotify, digitalised music and streaming it filled my mixtapes and came crackling out of my first car stereo. I played SWV’s 1992 debut It’s About Time a million times in my early teens and remember being fascinated by TLC’s Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg video on MTV.

Although I’ve always been into a variety of genres of music, my tastes have further diversified with rock, indie, jazz, soul and country amongst my favourites but, to me, 1990’s R’nB doesn’t date and still sounds fresh.  From a fashion perspective, you only have to look at the likes of Vetements to see how much this era has influenced current trends. I’m just as comfortable in an oversized sweatshirt and voluminous tee than I am in dress and I’m hoping to build up my trainer collection rather than heels.

Dropscotch’s Luke cites his creative influences as including the Memphis Group style of design that was popularised in the 1980s, geometric pattern-making and classical portraiture. In addition, album sleeves, editorial designs and streetwear styles provide every day motivation. The TLC and Aaliyah t-shirts are part of a series called Down in which every illustration is inspired by a classic female R&B video of the 1990s.  They are going to release a few as screen printed t-shirts in the coming weeks and months, as well as signed art prints and possibly some accessories which is exciting.

And why the name Dropscotch? As Luke explains, all his favourite things drop - from basslines, to limited edition sneaker releases to dancing bodies, while hopscotch represents fun out on the street.

So there you have it, the power of Instagram. It’s worth enduring the not-so-good stuff to find a real gem like Dropscotch. I wish Luke and Emma all the very best and even though my t-shirt collection is getting a little out of control, I don’t know how long I can last before giving in to the S. Double-U. V. one.

For now, I’m off to listen to Brandy and Aaliyah like it’s 1994 (which it is usually is in my head).





Trousers That Make Me Think of Wine

All of a sudden spring is well and truly here - with the lighter evenings and radiant days it has officially sprung. In my eyes though, it didn’t evolve with a subtle rise in temperature or give warning with a dip in the evening chill. Instead, spring jabbed me on the shoulder and when I span around, shouted BOO in my face.

Argh, I’m not ready. I need to have a panic-pedi. My legs are milky white and in no way ready for public viewing. I’m still sorting the jumpers from the jeans of my autumn/winter wardrobe, let alone the spring/summer one. The latter is currently wedged into a couple of vacuum-sealed storage bags under the spare bed (the ones that no matter how tightly you seal the little bugger a hiss of air will still seep out) and needs a cull.

On the streets, plastered over Instagram and popping out of fashion magazines though the S/S trends are out in full force, and I absolutely love all of them - like pastel and khaki hues , those amazing Paperbag-waist tapered twill trousers by Stella McCartney and flirty off-the shoulder tops in gingham, the super check of the summer. Despite its surprise arrival, spring is by far my favourite season. The promise of the new, of rejuvenation and even personal transformation should you so wish. Time to reveal shoulder, leg and ankle which have been concealed under hosiery and baggy jeans and act out your own dress rehearsal, ready for the main performance; summer. The block colour palettes are dreamy, the fabrics are swishy and light and soft florals and statement sleeves are ready for weddings, race meets and al-fresco dining.

There’s a real sense of everything flowering, but for me there’s a real sense that I hate everything in my wardrobe. I’m still wearing ankle boots as (*see panic-pedi*) I’m not ready to brave cold toes in sandals or chilly heels in mules. I want frills and puff sleeves, but I’m still playing it safe in long-sleeved tops. I need inspiration…

These statement trousers from The Finery might just save the day.  When I clapped my eyes on them in the concession section in John Lewis the other day on a very rare shopping trip and gently ran my hands over their soft viscose fabric, I was momentarily overwhelmed. I hadn’t had that reaction about clothes for a while. They are called Argent Contrast Panel Trousers in Lilac Vines Print (is it me or does Lilac Vines sound like wine?) and I love them.

With side pockets, a high waist and contrast hems, not to mention a bold but beautiful print, they are too floaty for the office, too in-your-face for the Toy Library and I’m struggling to picture where I might wear them but, right now, I don’t care.

I am revelling in the sheer beauty of them and have literally just impulse-bought them, gulp, and snapped down my laptop lid before I had time to change my mind.

In your face, spring. Let’s do this.



I’m an adopted East Londoner, having lived in Walthamstow since 2008 (when I announced to my long-suffering husband, then-boyfriend, that I would be moving in with him for two weeks until I found my own place and NOT A WEEK MORE).

Fortunately for me, I never left and eight years later I’m still rinsing the life out of E17 and discovering exciting new things. Spaces including The William Morris Gallery, Central Parade and The Mill E17 have created a hub for creative thinking and working, and with the continued expansion and redevelopment it looks like the innovation just keeps on coming.

I thought I knew the ‘Stow quite well but I didn’t realise just how many creatively-minded folk actually hung out here. By the power of Instagram and my love of all things sartorial, I recently stumbled across womenswear website BORN AT DAWN and was excited to discover that (a) its founder, Lucy Knights (@magpie_fashion), is based in Walthamstow after migrating from the North of England (b) there were so many things about her style, her creative outlook and the impressive way she balances motherhood, work and general life that I could relate / aspire to and (c) the concept and thinking behind the brand is right up my street.

So what is BORN AT DAWN? It’s a multi-brand e-commerce website launching in early 2017 that promises to offer rising fashion and accessible luxury. With the current deluge of womenswear websites available - but with differing and sometimes questionable price, quality and style - BORN AT DAWN heralds the beginning of a new way to shop.


There’s lots of things that made Lucy’s brand stand out for me and piqued my interest in its launch next year…

  • It will be focused. As a busy working parent herself with limited time but a desire to be on trend, Lucy knows all about the importance of maximising the time available to you. So BORN AT DAWN will be carefully curated to ensure only desirable, must-have items are stocked and align with women’s busy lifestyles.
  • It will be effortless and represent go-to, easy to wear pieces that we all want hanging proudly in our wardrobe. Lucy promises to hunt down pieces that are beautiful but versatile, and also allow us to glide effortlessly from day to night - always a winner. The collection promises items that can be worn ten times or more which in turn helps to decrease the cost per wear and justify the investment. Plus, they’ll match many of the staples most women already have lurking in their closets -  a huge bonus.
  • It will be personal. Lucy is offering a personal shopping element to the collection (available in selected areas) where customers will have the opportunity to book an evening to view the collection and receive expert saying advice, and host a trunk show in the luxury of their own home with friends round for a ‘Born at Dawn Night In’. (I hear prosecco corks popping).


Lucy has spent the majority of her career specialising in luxury fashion retail, and having worked with Harrods on their womenswear sales and strategy prior to conceiving BORN AT DAWN, it’s safe to say she’s an authority on all things elegant.

So it comes as no surprise that one of the most exciting elements of BORN AT DAWN is the range of brands that feature as part of the collection, many of which are Scandinavian and French inspired and so naturally exude that timeless, effortless look.

Brands include Samsoe & Samsoe, Selected Femme and Mads Norgaard and the very cool Maison Scotch - based in Amsterdam and known for scouring the globe to discover unique pieces - which has me particularly animated. Eager shoppers can expect beautiful shirts, soft sweatshirts, easy embroidered kaftans and summer dresses when the brand launches for SS17. Also, 2NDDAY, the Danish progressive womenswear label whose foundation is denim, leather and tailoring and part of the Day Birger et Mikkelsen group features as part of the BORN AT DAWN collection for SS17 and will offer special leather pieces, jumpsuits and perfect boyfriend jeans. Simply heavenly.


BORN AT DAWN and what it stands for spoke to me on many levels. I've reached a point where in my *ahem* mid-late 30s, I seem to be busier than ever and juggling a huge mound of stuff. This doesn’t mean my enthusiasm for fashion has dissipated, quite the opposite, but I simply don’t have time to embark on long shopping trips or spend hours browsing loads of websites. Sometimes, I’m lucky if I can have a wee.

I still want to be on trend but sometimes outfits need to be versatile as I mostly have a wriggly, dribbly baby attached to me and dash around at full pelt. I’ve always had a preference for the experimental and as I’ve got older and wiser my sartorial choices are (hopefully) a little more refined. I’ve never been a fan of the over-done look and favour a minimalist, clean aesthetic that labels like The Finery London and & Other Stories offer, or Jenna Lyons and those super cool Scandi girls radiate. Crucially, on a maternity leave budget I need mid-range prices but with undiluted quality and need to feel that by dipping into my savings to buy the odd piece it’s at a price and quality I can justify.

Lucy explained that the brand's woman is “…a strong, down to earth, creative, social individual. She is confident, accomplished and successfully balances the many different roles she has in her life”. It’s like someone has tapped into my brain and discovered what I’m aspiring to be.

BORN AT DAWN and Lucy’s vision could not have come at a better time for me. My little baby boy is now six months old and whilst he keeps me completely on my toes, I think I’m...gulp...ready to fully embrace fashion again. Yes! Bloggers like Dress Like A Mum and Mother Pukka have realised that many new Mums, like myself, struggle with their identify after having children and are striving to change the bad reputation of Mum dressing. The struggle is real - I’ve lost my nerve and am stuck in a uniform of feeding-functional, easy-to-fling on garb but I'm starting to rebel.

So, here’s to the power of creativity and accessible luxury. Wishing you all the best Lucy and I can’t wait to experience BORN AT DAWN when it launches next year.

I’m excited to dress like me again.







What I Wish I’d Known


In October’s British Vogue, the industrious Victoria Beckham pens a letter to her 18-year-old self with advice on how to survive a life in the spotlight - from body image to marriage to outlandish outfits.

The feature shows VB, styled by Kate Phelan and photographed by Lachlan Bailey, in a range of beautiful clothes but it was the words that moved me. The letter is poignant and insightful but at times painful. I’ve always believed a hint of sadness and a great sense of humour lies beneath that cool exterior, but here it is on paper.

I don’t live life in the limelight nor was I part of the most famous girl group on the planet. Yet Victoria’s letter made me think about 18-year-old me; with fondness, sadness and a bit of longing for that breezy young woman on the cusp of what seemed like EVERYTHING.

Inspired, I penned my own letter to me with some sage advice of my own. (Sadly without a photoshoot in the Carlyle Hotel).

Dear Nicola

Nothing happens, and nothing happens and then everything happens.

You’ve finished college and have three A’Levels tucked under your Topshop belt (although maybe you should have paid more attention in French class and not spent that study day in France gulping wine with the girls, scoffing frites and chasing a flasher.) Your place at Chichester Uni to read English Literature and Women’s Studies was in the bag and things seemed on track. Then you were offered that job, starting on Monday, and had a few prompt choices to make.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand why you’ve chosen to hurtle down the career route and defer the uni place, honestly I do. The work experience, the financial independence (you can buy a new top EVERY WEEK) and a real chance of buying a flat in a few years’ time is tantalising. When you eventually do this, it will be incredible and many happy, sozzled memories will be made.

All I’m asking is please consider your choice; don’t bottle it, don’t think you’re not good enough. Once deferred, you won’t go. Foolishly perhaps, you’ll waste an inordinate amount of time in your mid-late twenties worrying and regretting and feeling inadequate that you didn’t. In fact, it’ll torment you. You'll feel like you’re constantly swathed in clever, worldly grads. You’ll dream about studying English Lit and gobbling up books and wishing that gap on your CV was filled in. The thing is, I admire you. It hasn’t taken much thought really; you’ve based your decision on how you feel right now and that is utterly content. The older you is far more rational and makes careful decisions but, always thinks the grass is greener. You just went with your gut so that’s cool. Things worked out just fine by the way and you got yourself a post-grad degree later on, but go on, give it a little more thought. You never know where it may lead.

On your image. I know you fret about it and what you look like and what other people think of you. It doesn’t matter how many times people say nice things, you don’t believe them. I won’t fib, it hasn’t got much better. But please, enjoy the freedom of being able to fling on what you like, when you like and revel in simply being a hot young thing. Stride onto that beach, wear something short without pulling it down, give it some welly! In a few years’ time there’ll be this thing called ‘social media’ which has turned us all horribly narcissistic and judgy and dictates we must have kale smoothies for dinner and conform to an unobtainable ideal. When you reach thirty-eight and you’ve had a little ‘un and feel most days like an old frump you’ll think back to eighteen year old you and wish you could wear that crop top from Miss Selfridge, just for a day.

Your obsession with fashion is a pulsating, omnipresent thing even twenty years later but wiser, slightly snootier us would like to think our sartorial choices now are a bit more, sniff, refined. Having said that, f*ck it. Experiment. Do the Brit Pop thing and wear out your Gazelles and that funny blue cardigan. Fall in love with Grunge and clomp about in boots. Wear what the hell you like (apart from tight triple denim - you look like Shakin’ Stevens) and continue to let your fashion choices be dictated by the season or trends, and never by what those silly boys want.

Ah, Men. You seem to spend a lot of time being naffed off with some of them, and quite frankly I don't blame you. Things have got a little better in some ways (we currently have a female Prime Minister and, although completely unrelated to how she runs the country, she wears excellent shoes) but we’ve got a long way to go I'm afraid; unequal pay, everyday sexism, and the words ‘locker room talk’ have taken on a sad new meaning which you’ll learn of one day I’m sure. Keep sticking up for yourself. Work harder. Don’t be discouraged by dickish behaviour when at work, when out with mates at night, when simply walking along the road. I’m afraid there’ll be plenty of that.

When it comes to boyfriends and lasting love, persevere. I'm so sorry to say, you’ll meet some proper twits in the next few years and men who will try and extinguish your fire. Don't let them; they’ll disappear from your memory as quickly as they breezed into your life. It will all feel rather amorphous and a waste of your time. Then, when you least expect it, you'll meet HIM. Timing will be an utter git though; you’ll already have decided relocating to the other side of the world is the way forward. Proceed as planned. The first month will be hard and you will never feel paler, nor more scared or longing for Blightly as you do right then and thank goodness your little sister was there to bolster you. But then you'll turn a corner and it will all work out brilliantly. I promise. Oh, and he will be waiting. There are so many more adventures ahead together.

On friendship.  As the years roll by, you'll meet some wonderful new friends (you still do in your thirties by the way) and weave a rich tapestry of totally awesome mates. Some people will let you down and drift away and it'll hurt badly and you’ll really wish they hadn’t. But your core group are still here all these years later, can you believe it? Sadly, life in your NEARLY 40s is busy and seeing them becomes disparate and a feat of diary coordination. But they’ll always be there and you’ll feel better just knowing they are. You still laugh until it hurts when you see them and morph into those excitable, tipsy big show offs you were in your early twenties when you go out or away for the weekend (but not wearing triple denim thankfully). Their presence will always comfort you.

A quick word about alcohol if I may. Us and booze aren’t ever going to be compadres I’m sad to say. In summary, we’re shit at drinking. Buy hey, don’t let that stop you. Just a few wise words that will save a hell of a lot of money, time and hoo ha. That first night in Malia (shudder) DO NOT lock everything including your passport in your suitcase in the absence of a safe and then go out for ONE DRINK JUST TO EASE YOURSELF IN ON THE FIRST NIGHT. You will dance until 7am, lark about in the sea and lose the key. You'll then blow your holiday booze budget on a call out to a Cypriot Samsonite expert to break into said case, wearing your friend’s clothes for two days while waiting for Samsonite Man to rescue you. Then, you’ll repeat this party trick in Thailand with your girlfriends and nearly miss an internal flight. Don’t accept that complimentary pink drink in Ayia Napa, no matter how jovial the guy trying to get you into the bar is. You will contract gastroenteritis and be forced to fly home after a measly three nights of partying. (You’ll never forget Danuta sleeping at the end of your hospital bed though,  making you laugh. She’s a keeper that one). Also, Thai Whiskey does not just contain Whiskey. Oh, and avoid cast iron radiators after an afternoon of drinking when you’re clapped out and have over done it. Ouch. 

Lastly, on self confidence. This is a huge, huge barrier. It'll cost you tennis finals, it will make your first month living in Sydney painful and difficult and you’ll turn down great opportunities due to pesky confidence-deficiency. My advice? If you’re thinking about it but that inner voice is saying ‘I can’t’, don’t listen. Do it, or at least try it. Be brave. It’s tough I know, there’s no magic overnight cure and you will always struggle, but age will make you wiser and you will care less one day. Believe me. You’ll travel the world all on your tod in a few years time without a care in the world. I promise.

I’ll go now and let you find your own way, but some final words if I may. You’ll learn so much over the coming years that it’ll make your head spin. You’ll love fiercely and, sadly, you’ll lose people that are close to you and it will hurt like hell. But, be strong and be positive. Be curious and polymathic. Read a lot. Live life. Mostly, be kind and gracious and love those around you. Believe me, you are a very lucky girl.

The most heavenly things await.

Love Nicola x

VB takes me back to 1997


When Victoria Beckham was pictured leaving a hotel in NYC a few months back* in bold summer brights, two words immediately sprung to mind.

(*Apologies, being a Mum-that-blogs means I operate on a time delay. I’m either way ahead of the game after a night-feed Twitter sesh or miles behind).

Those two words were Electric Angels.


Electric Angels was the acclaimed debut collection by designer Matthew Williamson who had graduated from London’s Central Saint Martins college in 1994 after studying a BA in Fashion Design and Printed Textiles. Williamson had launched his own fashion label, Matthew Williamson Ltd, with his business partner Joseph Velosa.

In 1997 a cold call was made to Plum Sykes, who at the time was the Fashion Assistant at British Vogue. This led to a meeting with Sykes where she placed an order with Williamson for some of his self-designed silk scarves. Encouraged by this reaction, Williamson focused on creating his first ever womenswear collection for SS98, which was to be shown at London Fashion Week. The rest, as they say, is history.

Picture the scene. It’s September 1997, LFW is in full flow and Electric Angels is illuminating the catwalk. The show featured only fourteen looks, but they were hugely impactful pieces, including bias cut dresses in a zingy palette of colours such as tangerine, fuchsia, magenta and aqua. The collection was an ode to the dragonfly, with hand-embroidered organza dragonfly wings swooping across shift dresses and sitting on the shoulder of cardigans.

Perhaps most memorably, the models included Kate Moss, Helena Christensen and Jade Jagger. Williamson’s catwalk debut received widespread acclaim and deservedly made him a luminary of the British fashion scene. The early '90s had seen the introduction of grunge and minimalism thanks to Marc Jacobs’ historic and very cool (but at the time criticised) grunge collection show for Perry Ellis in 1992. In stark contrast, Williamson’s show was an outburst of spirited brights, sensual exoticism and intricate details which caught everyone’s attention and would define his signature style.


So, back to Victoria Beckham and the reason I’m writing this. It was VB’s bright aqua trousers and fitted red sweater that reminded me of the bias cut dress that Kate Moss wore. Trust VB to reference one of the most important moments in fashion history, a show that made a huge impact on the style world and paved the way for an illustrious career that continues to stand the test of time. Williamson’s signature aesthetic remains vibrant with patterns, textures and kaleidoscopic colour.


Electric Angels lasted just seven minutes but was the starting point for the label, which under Williamson and his business partner Velosa, has continued to grow.

The show without question remains one of my all-time favourite fashion moments so far and the beautiful models and exotic pieces had an enormous impact on me. It was magnetic.


Absolutely Fashion: Inside British Vogue


It took 100 years to open their doors, but would the fashion bible ever share its secrets?

It’s safe to say there's not a lot of glamour in my life at the moment. Style is scant, elegance is exiguous. September Vogue has been woefully neglected along with its mates August, July and June Issues and summer trends, although eagerly observed, blew right past me.

As I write this I’m lunching, keeping one eye on baby Evan via the Baby Monitor App and gulping down my one-mug-of-caffeine-tea-as-per-NHS-guidelines as if someone’s going to take it away from me. There’s a dollop of peanut butter on my just-washed jeans and let’s not mention my crazy hair.

So the news that a BBC Two documentary series is about to air portraying life at British Vogue as it celebrates its centenary year is music to my ears. (The only music in fact, I’m eating in total silence apart from the occasional clattering of fork on plate in case the radio wakes the baby). I literally sat up for the first time in ages and felt enthused about watching something I have a bona fide interest in.

The first episode of the two-part documentary Absolutely Fashion: Inside British Vogue, will broadcast on Thursday 8 September at 9.00 pm and promises to show what Vogue wears and what Vogue eats (can you even imagine?! I can’t, but would bet my Marc Jacobs bag it’s not peanut butter on toast).

It was shot by award-winning filmmaker Richard Macer (in association with his company Platform Productions) who, for the first time in British Vogue’s 100 year history, was granted unprecedented access to the magazine’s daily life over a nine month period. Macer’s footage includes one-on-one interviews with editor-in-chief Alexandra Shulman and her power team of editors and key contributors, major fashion photoshoots and international shows. He also captured the every day running of the office as they prepared for and started to commemorate 100 years of the world’s most influential and celebrated fashion publication.


The documentary series promises to go behind the scenes and “uncover the world of high fashion like never before” and provide viewers with a candid and fascinating insight into an ever-changing industry. Episode one takes us to the end of the Spring/Summer 2017 fashion shows in September 2015. We get to follow Shulman and her creative heads - including Fashion Director Lucinda Chambers (who I imagine takes on the role of the magnetic Grace Coddington), Creative Director Jaime Perlman, Fashion Features Director Sarah Harris, Editor-at-Large Fiona Golfar, and the wider Vogue team. Later on in the series, Macer's camera observes some of the fashion world’s most popular characters on set, including Edie Campbell, Mario Testino and of course Kate Moss who has appeared on more British Vogue covers than anyone else. What would a fashion documentary be without Moss?

I cannot wait to watch it. I imagine Absolutely Fashion: Inside British Vogue to be like The September Issue with a huge dose of British eccentricity and dazzle. I’m expecting huge characters, unfettered style and plenty of fabulous melodrama. For years I’ve wandered through London’s Hanover Square and seen Vogue House looming in all its palatial glory, contemplating what it’s actually like to run the UK’s style bible; how big decisions are made, exactly where inspirational shoots are prepped and great features are concocted and tried to get a peek through the doors in vain, so I'll be glad for the virtual tour.

You can watch the trailer below (did anyone else feel a bit nervous when the great Alexandra Shulman said "have you got a pass?"), although it provides only a tantalising excerpt, and The Guardian’s Morwenna Ferrier was lucky enough to get a sneak preview which you can read about here.

The preface on the BBC Two website explains “the films observe a world not just intent of celebrating the glories of the past, but also facing up to the challenges of an uncertain future”. It asks “With Instagram and other social media starting to challenge the magazine’s exalted position, can Shulman keep it on top?”.

I have no doubt. The magazine in my opinion remains as powerful and exciting as it has ever been. It influences and inspires, it provides a heady escape from the norm and an endorsement from Vogue magazine guarantees continuing success for labels, models and brands. I continue to buy and collect the print version on a monthly basis as well as devour the digital content.160730-02I’ll happily be at one of my closest friends’ wedding celebrations when the documentary airs on Thursday (surrounded by glitzy ladies with a little Evan attached to me and timing my quaffing of champers around feeding) but will catch on iPlayer as soon as I can.

In the meantime, I’ll be watching half hour snippets of The September Issue in preparation (whilst doing some ironing. Oh the glamour).

Absolutely Fashion: Inside British Vogue on BBC Two starts on Thursday, 8th September at 9pm.