Clare (far right) wears a jacket, £ 275, T-shirt, £ 50, trousers, £ 185, and a trainer, £ 195 Model wears a leather jacket, £ 450, blouse, £ 95, pants, £ 195, and a trainer, 195 pounds, all of it meandem.com
With the highway locked, this quirky boutique-style label has breathed new life into our wardrobes – and dominated the way we shop
Clare Hornby started ME + EM in 2009, with the goal of providing busy women with quality workwear at affordable prices.
I started my career at Harrods where I was able to invest in luxury clothing thanks to my employee discount. However, when I turned to advertising, it was no longer possible – I couldn’t afford it. It makes me want to find a way for women to enjoy luxury fashion at affordable prices.
We are a direct to consumer brand [bypassing third-party retailers] which means you can actually buy luxury items at a lower price. We are meticulous in everything we do like luxury brands and every piece we make has to be good, functional and timeless. We are suitable for multiple models, test fabrics and hone designs. It takes time, but it’s worth it for the final product.
Our regular customer is very busy and wants a classic style with a modern twist and hard work for him because he doesn’t have time to scour endless websites for clothes.
We’re best known for our trousers – I’m called the ‘trouser whisper’ – but, unsurprisingly, our knitwear and casual wear did really well last year, particularly our palazzo pants. The appetite for our shoes has also increased. After the successful launch of our trainers last year, we have more footwear to come.
Many famous women, including TV stars, royalty and actresses including Saoirse Ronan, Gillian Anderson, and Helen Mirren. put on ME + EM. In terms of ME + EM, the biggest compliment anyone can give me is that our clothes have made them feel more confident – because that’s what it is for.
Blazer, £ 325, jumper, £ 75, trousers, £ 325, and trainer, £ 195, all meandem.com
Winner for wow off-duty
Founded in 2003 by Mandy Watkins, Hush is loved for his easy parting and an ethos of putting comfort first – not least, his cult runner.
The idea for Hush was born from my first British winter after I moved here from Australia.
Cold and dark came as such a nasty surprise that my reaction was to hibernate, and I realized there must be a gap in the market for clothing brands dedicated to making time at home special. When I was redundant, it gave me time and a little money to pursue my dreams.
Brands often reflect their origins and I think Australians – Australians are a pretty laid back and optimistic group – show up in our products. Plus, my husband is a journalist, so this lifestyle element of the brand was an integral part of Hush from the start and something we probably did before anyone else. Plus, we grow the business literally from the kitchen table, so it’s very personal. I hope our customers can see that intimacy and care.
We used to have jumpers that were our hero style – until they started popping up everywhere. Now maybe our skin runner. My own favorite is the trousers I wear [opposite] from our current collection – I love the colors, their androgynous vibes, the way they dress up or down. They’re also comfortable, nice and don’t tangle up.
A customer once wrote to us that Hush changed his life. She told us she used to be scared on weekends because she never knew what to wear, but we gave her a wardrobe that finally allowed her to look forward to it.
It means a lot. I know we don’t save lives, but smiling on other people’s faces is always a great achievement.
Mandy, far right, in T-shirt, £ 27, trousers, £ 79, and trainer, £ 145 Model in cardigan, £ 69, top, £ 25, jeans, £ 69, and sandals, £ 89, all hush-uk.com
Great choice for casual glamor
Twelve years ago, Liz Houghton created Mint Velvet with friends Jane Rawlings and Lisa Agar Rea. In 2017 he was given an OBE for his business nous.
I want to create a business that is fun, with strong values and a sense of community. Even though we work 24/7 at first, it never feels like a job and we make sure our family is a part of the journey, tying our partners and children into everything from registering web addresses to sending out our flyers. The importance of our culture was brought home to me seven years later when we lost our son Will in a cycling accident. The whole team embraced me and continued to do so, finding more creative ways to raise funds for the Will Houghton Foundation.
We make clothes for women who want to look fashionable and confident but don’t feel blocked by what they are wearing. Our customer is a modern woman with a lot of demand for her wardrobe and she wants good clothes that will stand the test of time. It’s about attitude over age.
Whenever people like Holly Willoughby or Susanna Reid wear our clothes, we sell out of style. But our greatest moment was when the Duchess of Cambridge put on our coach. We were instantly sold out and had requests from all over the world to inquire about them.
Closing our boutique during a lockdown is a huge setback – I know I have a great team, but their resilience and positivity is incredible. Thankfully, our online sales are strong – I think our relaxed atmosphere is just right for the moment.
Our casual wear, unsurprisingly, has flown out, as have our denims, candles, and beauty treats. Looking ahead, I’m excited to launch our collection of state-of-the-art holiday events this month and our pool and beach suite for the summer.
Liz, far left, wearing shirt, £ 69, trousers, £ 99, and shoes, £ 109 model wearing jacket, £ 299, jumper, £ 79, trousers, £ 89, and trainer, £ 99, all mintvelvet.co.uk
Blazer, £ 169, T-shirt, £ 22, trousers, £ 79, and sandals, £ 89, all mintvelvet.co.uk
Youth style champions
With no design experience, Marielle Wyse started Wyse London seven years ago, starting with a bright cashmere crochet and growing from there.
Meanwhile Wyse arose from a desire to design – selfishly! – for myself, I also want to serve women who do not want to be dictated by fashion; who wants to wear clothes that don’t wear them.
I started making cashmere jumpers, but decided to expand it, first with a print, then denim, partly because my work was being copied, but I also realized that just making cashmere was limiting. The four of us on the design team now – we’re still a small business, but growing with confidence.
The funny thing is, for a brand made mostly of cashmere, clam dung is our hero piece. They’re comfortable, but also have the advantage of dressing up your top, so if you’re on a Zoom call, you’ve got these lovely shells. The age range for women who buy it is very wide. We posted a 75 year old customer photo in it on Instagram, and never had such a positive reaction.
Over the past year or so we’ve grown like never before. When the lockdown started, we took a bag of clothes home and opened up Instagram, lifting things, asking: ‘Do you like this?’ We realized that we could get customer feedback just by talking to people. This is a game changer. And I’ve found that we cater to a much wider range of ages than I thought: a lot of women text me saying they bought something their daughter is now taking. In fact, the number of messages I receive from older women who say they are rediscovering their love for fashion because we are extraordinary. The real style is youthful.
Marielle, far right, wearing denim jacket, £ 185, blouse, £ 175, and jeans, £ 180 model wearing jacket, £ 180, dress, £ 240, all wyselondon.co.uk Boots, £ 250, jigsaw-online.com
Fashion Director: Shelly Vella
Interview: Laura Craik
Photos: Eva Schwank
Assistant mode: Joanne Toolan
Make-up: Linda Johansson in One Representing using KVD
Cosmetology assistant: Olivia Cochrane
Hair: Alex Szabo at Carol Hayes Management uses Rita Hazan
Hair assistant: Kirsty O’Brien
Model: Steph Hall in Model 1
Production and casting: Lucy Coghlan