Because you can't have depths without surfaces.
Linda Grant, thinking about clothes, books and other matters.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Hobbs, unexpectedly

At a dinner on Wednesday night, at which the hostess, as ever, was in one of her proper designer dresses (she doesn't do high street, and nor of course would I if I were rich) I wore, after a lot of hesitation, a two-year-old purple silk dress from Hobbs, which is a British mid-range chain. And was gratified to get an email the next morning remarking on my 'beautiful dress'.

For years I simply ignored Hobbs, the epitome of English rose ware (what you wear if you can afford better than Boden) dull and dated, until I actually saw the purple dress in the window of the Kings Road branch and bought it. Last year I bought an excellent pair of wide-leg black trousers. This summer I bought a plain blue unlined linen jacket to wear with a simple white very hot weather dress. (We have to cover the arms). The range was not exciting but you could find the occasional useful piece.

I now read, from the pen of the fabulous Polly Vernon in the Observer, that Hobbs is hot:

We did not see this one coming. Hobbs – previously the spiritual home of the uninspired day-dress, the enduring-but-dull crew-neck knit and not very much else, let's be honest – has come up with a storming collection of clothes for autumn/winter 2008. These pieces are brilliant: sharply tailored, totally dramatic, with significant fashion edge. We're especially enamoured of the silken cocktail frock with the feather ruff (and why wouldn't we be? It's exquisite!); but we'd be pretty happy with any of it, really.

The Hobbs revelation compounds Observer Woman's strongly-held theory (first expounded in the mag, by me, in the December '07 issue,) that mid-market grown-up lady fashion is going to rule the world, any day now. To wit: Whistles totally rocks under Jane Shepherdson, Banana Republic's had such an amazing inaugural season in the UK that it hasn't even bothered getting itself into a dirty summer-sale scenario, and Jaeger's incoming collection is blowing our minds. We love it when we're right.

I already have one piece from the Jaeger collection and plan to buy more.


Geraldine said...

I've been looking at their website too after popping into my local Hobbs the other day and noticing that in among the Sales tat they'd already started getting some new pieces and have droolmarked the Evia jacket, the Sienna skirt and the Kora Top. All my favourite colours and shapes!

Deja Pseu said...

Let's hear it for mid-market, grownup lady fashion! Still not seeing much of it here.

lagatta said...

There is also a wide choice of mid-heel shoes. Some of those articles look very lovely indeed. Much as I love the retro dotted day dress, I think it would probably look sharper on a younger woman. Do love the greyish-mauve "Heather" colour.

I assume the quality is worth the price?

I'd love the casual "Molly" skirt for cycling in town. There is a significant trend towards "cycling chic" for both men and women, not meaning being overdressed or high fashion, bu eschewing the lycra lout look for normal town wear.

The sartorialist blog you link to has several examples.

Geraldine said...

I cycle everywhere but wouldn't be seen dead in lycra - I just wear my normal clothes. I do have a skirt guard in place though to prevent longer skirts getting trapped in wheel but the only item I would never wear would be a long white skirt which would be tempting providence a b it, I feel!

Arabella said...

I've been a careful shopper at Hobbs for years, and always visit when I return to the UK. There will be many pieces I don't care for (frump factor) but always one or two classics in good crepe or tweed. The store doesn't suffer trends gladly and I like it for that; still wearing their vintage- inspired shoes that are over ten years old.
My most frequent fashion wish here in the States: that Hobbs will open and that Jigsaw wll step away from the east and west coast and open more branches. OK that's two wishes.

Geraldine said...

Their shoes are so comfy too! This summer in the sale I bought some blue suede high heels with a pointed toe for a wedding. I probably won't wear them again but I do love to take them out of the box and stroke them every now and then!

Jigsaw I like on the hangers but their sizes don't fit me properly. My daughter recently trird the same pair of trousers in a 12 and a 10. The 12's hung off her backside and she could hardly do up the 10's. I think you have to know how to wear Jigsaw - it always seems to look better layered to me, but it's not a look I can do.

Anonymous said...

not on the main point of the post but I can't imagine Banana Republic without sales. Their San Francisco flagship store just had a huge sale on really almost everything. They're still sadly a bit too pricey for me to buy at regular price. Things can get down to about 1/3 regular if you're lucky.

Geraldine said...

Thanks for the heads up about Banana Republic. I'd be very wary about buying from the US and all the fuss about returning it if you don't like it. Also I've never seen any of their clothes off the page, whereas with Hobbs I can always stroke the fabric etc.

Has anyone here tried ARTIGIANO mail order. I got a very nice navy linen jacket from them and a blue wraparound dress in the sale this season. Lovely service and the sizing is spot on for me - real grown up clothes too. Can't wait for their new season catalogue.

StyleSpy said...

I'm going to live on the phrase, "silken cocktail frock with the feather ruff" all day today.

Reports from my London friends do seem to indicate that BR is considerably pricier over there than here, they seem to just be swapping pound for dollar symbols which effectively doubles the price. I usually buy BR on sale, but that's more because they seem always to be having sales than because they're too pricey. I do feel that they make a very good-quality garment for their price point -- $60 for their button-front blouses, for example, which are brilliant.

Anonymous said...

all of the things i've gotten at banana republic were pretty well made, nice finishing details and buttons. From what I've seen they seem to be pushing their higher end things there like the monogram collection. Here there's a mix of higher end down to fussy t-shirts and boring work shirts that seem to be sold mainly at the outlets. The only other thing I'd mention is that unless they are changing the fit on clothing sold in Europe it tends towards generous in size and little bit shorter in length than other makers.