Sunday, 26 August 2012


Toulon is not known as a fashion centre. A navy town in decline, stretched between sea and mountain, the old town has lost its colourful reputation as "Chicago", a sailors' paradise. A corrupt administation keen on dodgy real-estate deals emptied the centre of its traditional inhabitants and the creation of a shopping mall killed the small shops that made it a destination: the "tropezienne" sandal maker or Régine, the made-to-measure swimsuit seanstress closed shop.  All that remained untouched was the fabulous daily fruit and vegetable market and the "chichi fregi",  a churros like delicacy that beats its Spanish equivalent hands down.

For a few years, the authorities with a new administration have tried to reverse Toulon's decline and started renovating the narrow streets to attract a new breed of cafes and shops.One such new comers is Abyss, Veronique Rouge's clothes shop, located  on the "petit cours Lafayette", the market street.

In her mid forties, Veronique Rouge has been designing clothes for 20 years, first in Montpellier, then in Paris and now in Toulon. She designs her clothes in the studio located above the shop, the models are made in Nîme.

She uses end-of-line couture fabric: silk, cotton, linen and her prints come from Japan in very limited series. Her multi-talented assistant Anne, designs jewellery and appears as model on Abyss' mini-catalogue.

The clothes are based on draping which creates a timeless look and fit a variety of sizes and body shapes. Most buyers are women over 40 who enjoy the sharp look, the luxurious fabrics and colours at vey keen prices. You have to try the clothes on to reveal their full potential.

13bis rue Paul Lendrin
83000 Toulon

Friday, 17 August 2012

The bathing suit ordeal - help is at hand

Age doesn't improve the ritual unpleasantness of bying a swimsuit. I never enjoyed staring at myself in neon lighting and going through the damage limitation exercice. The experience would normally take place in a department store, in the name of choice. Picking up promising models on the sales rack to accomodate budget constraints would produce a great fit in an unacceptable colour whilst the ideal flattering hues would only come in minute or ginormous sizes. Sales assistants would be either invisible and unhelpful or so keen to make a sale as to praise the lime green slahed-at-the waist bulge-enhancing horror that you tried as the price was so good. I have found an alternative: Jocelyne, the most charmingly old-fashioned lingerie store known this side of the Mediterranean.

Located in the old town, the shop is a time capsule of days gone by when Toulon was a vibrant and louche navy port and "Toulonaise" women looked after their curves with gusto. Selling lingerie from Aubade, Bolero, Lou, Lejaby, Chantelle, Triumph, Jocelyne also stocks a selection of swimwear from Rasurel, Roidal, Freya and various others.

Jocelyne who runs the epinonous shop, is a hands-on sales person. She will size you up, produce suitable styles in the correct cup version, adjust your breasts, pull and push elastics to ensure the right fit. She has run the store for 25 years, taking over from the previous owner of 50 years. With only 2 owners in 75 years, this is a specialist shop if there ever was one, dedicated to serving a discerning clientele with friendly but direct advice. The lady who was told her real size was a 44H, not a 36D was kindly told to sit down before learning the truth.

She knows her stuff and if her taste can be frillier than mine, I recognize her expertise. Her motto is to make women feel good about themselves. "The right swimsuit will find you" she says. With her help, it did!
Jocelyne Lingerie
Lingerie, Corseterie,
Swimwear, Tights, Stockings,
Specialist in large sizes
15 rue Paul Lendrin, Toulon 83100
Tel: +33494923743

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Erickson Beamon

After a few months break to accommodate multiple house moves and a return to full time work, I am excited to be back! Having moved to a different neighbourhood, Mutton is stepping out of her beloved Notthing Hill and exploring new areas. Commuting for a while through Chelsea and Pimlico gave me the opportunity to cycle through the lovely Elizabeth street. Poilane was always a draw (but I must confess a feeling that the bakery has been  hit by the death of its founder and that it's retro country look is becoming a bit stale). Allegra Hicks sells her dresses not far but her prices make me look but not buy. A welcome sight in the street is the shop window of Erickson Beamon, a familiar name that brought back memories.

I own a few pieces from that jewelry designer, bought a long time ago when I used to sneak out of the Soho square office to Liberty at lunchtime and clear my mind of numbers and reports to gaze happily at beautiful and quirky earrings.  Erickson Beamon can no longer be found at Liberty but they are available at House of Fraser, Net-a-Porter and even through the EB diffusion line at Debenham's.

Known for their spectacular use of beads, Erickson Beamon make statement jewelry that regularly appears in fashion shows but can also lend a taste of glamour to an outfit in less exalted circumstances.  You can take advantage of the sale that brings prices down 30 to 50% for the Autumn-Winter collection, and greater discounts for "vintage" pieces, not negligible when retail prices hover around the £500 mark.

Vintage necklace £175 (original price £600)
 Erickson Beamon also sell selected lines from other designers. The coveted rings from Rings Eclectic retail at £98 - skillfully navigating the fine line between bling and fun, they come in a dazzling variety of colours and styles.

Rings Ecclectic
On the day of my visit to the shop, there were a few examples of the new collection, clearly guided by a an emphasis on bright colours.

New Spring collection

The shop is located at 38 Elizabeth Street, London SW1W 9NZ
Tel: +44(0)20 7259 0202

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Guerilla knitting!

A new breed of knitters has appeared in London, leaving small and witty signs of their presence all over the city.
Called Lady Loop, Deadly Knitshade's Whodunnknit or The Fastener, a group of graffiti knitters formed Knit The City They are urban guerilla artists and describe thus their approach: "It is a street art that harks back to woolly thoughts of grandmas and nice cups of tea by the fire, takes that stereotype by the blue rinse and drags it kicking and screaming into the street to wrap round a lamppost, blanket a bollard, or swathe a signpost." As Mutton wants to challenge stereotypes of the "older woman", we can only support such an initiative!

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Viva Espana!

In the middle of fashion week's flurry of editorial activity, my middle daughter, an avid reader of free newspapers on her bus journey back home and a kind spotter of good stories for her mum, directed my attention to an article in Metro dated 22/09/2010 on Madrid's fashion week.  She had kindly torn the page for me, which I am reporting on only today. Her eagle eye had spotted pictures of Eloise Bercero  (with the gold colour jacket) modeling clothes from Spanish designer Juan Duyos. 
Juan Duyos is quoted as as saying: "I'm fed up with seeing 10 year old models advertise anti-wrinkle creams for women aged 60". We love this man!

Read more about Juan Duyos in metro:

Monday, 27 September 2010

Chic&Seek - be on trend for less

Chic and Seek is an online shop for high quality second hand clothes.  The web business was created by Tara Nash-King who acts as a broker between sellers and buyers. Tara selects,  sets the prices, photographs and stores the clothes, shoes and accessories presented on the website. The designers she features include Anya Hindmarch, Balenciaga, Chanel, Chloe, Christian Louboutin, Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs, Miu Miu, Mulberry and YSL.
My friend Estelle organised the meeting and we went to see Tara to better understand her venture. Whilst the business is online, Tara's showroom is located in her Notting Hill house where she hosts open days (the next one is Wednesday 28th October) and receives clients by appointment. Fresh faced and personable, Tara exudes enthusiasm for her business and professionalism. The clothes or accessories might be second hand, but service is first class, down to sleek pouches and personalised carrier bags.

 Tara explained that she had long resisted her family's all-consuming entrepreneurial passion. After university, she started working for other people, an accessories company then handbag queen Anya Hindmarch, but soon realised that she too is an entrepreneur at heart. Having sadly lost both her parents at a young age, she took up their mantle, bought a house where she knew that she would some day set up a business. Starting with friends and family, she sourced designer clothes that could have a second life.  Through trial and error, she developed her ability to assess what sells and at what price, and Chic & Seek was born!
Whether they are looking for a bargain or wish to make a return on good clothes they no longer wear, Chic & Seek appeals to women with a taste for high fashion.  Buyers might be time-poor and appreciate Tara's ability to select pieces for them, especially if they make use of the online "chic list" where customers can select items they like.  Others might have a bit too much time on their hands at work and enjoy browsing her website for favourite designers.  Another category of customers is mums who don't want to spend too much on clothes but still look smart and up-to-date. From what I saw on the rails and on the shelves, I think 40+ women could find very good pieces - as long as they can fit a 10, as clothes tend to come in the smaller sizes. Shoes mostly come in size 39-40.  
Louboutin, £260

 Chanel, £1095
In memory of her mother who supported many good causes, Tara organises charity events where customers can combine the fun of shopping with doing good. The next event (focused on breast cancer awareness) takes place on 14th October at Doyle Devere gallery at 30 Ledbury road, London W11 2AB, where hungry shoppers will be able to cross the road to enjoy a 50% discount at Beach Blanket Babylon.
Balenciaga, £1500

Monday, 20 September 2010

Fur-lined boots

In typical fashion manner where seasons are determined a year in advance, on a balmy September week, we are presented with THE supposed trend for boots this winter: shearling lining. My source on that bit of news is How To Spend It, the FT's weekend aspirational magazine.  Its name is so well-chosen, so crude in its assessment of what should still make us dream despite the credit crunch and the collapse of the economy - a world of excess, redolent of bored men and women desperate to spend their way into happiness, that it has to be admired.  With prices hovering around the £600 mark, those trendy boots need to be taken with a pinch of salt and require translation into affordable versions!
I must confess that I like Rupert Sanderson's leather and shearling bootie (£765):
New Look's high street version don't have quite the same look or quality but might do the trick and actually be wearable in the snow.
Browse through their collection on the web for affordable interpretations of the same ideas: