What do you do all day?

Last month we became part of an Italian organization which seeks to help Italian fashion companies and brands that produce using artisans in Italy.  One of the first projects we will participate in with their – albeit small – support is the Chinese buyer trip next week.  On Monday, Marco had the first meeting with the other companies from the organization, but there was so much to discuss that the meeting is to be continued on Wednesday.  We’re eagerly awaiting the outcome and round-up of that meeting! I have always been surprised that there isn’t more EU support for Italian ateliers, being a dying breed that really must be preserved, so this was an exciting start to the week that I thought you would all like to hear about.

People often ask me what I do every day and there’s so much I never know where to start. I usually start the day by checking and replying to emails since the BE team members are all on different time zones.  Then my son wakes up far earlier than I would like him to and of course when his father is still sound asleep.  He generally wakes up and shrieks until I pick him up and bundle him into our room, where we spend at least half an hour reading books and looking at animals on the iphone until eventually he says “Mamma?, mamma? mamma! mat!” (Swedish for food) and points at his mouth.  This happens like clockwork virtually every day, so we get up and make breakfast together before daddy drops him at daycare.  After that I do some exercise and then start work around 9am if I don’t have a meeting.

Today I’ve been planning our China trip, checking on the delivery of the bags (they are already cleared for delivery and in Hong Kong, yay!), applying for our visas at the Chinese Embassy, checking trend reports for the coming seasons, finalising our SS12 line sheets and swatch books, writing a few SS12 trend blog posts and starting on AW12.  I finished off with a trip to a farm/park and then dinner with the family and finally had to tuck both Theo AND his favourite ball up in bed before getting back to work this evening.  It’s been a really fun day, some of the SS12 trends are really amazing, especially the prints I found at the Milan show.  Here’s one of my favourites:

SS12 fashion trends, prints

Now it’s time for bed. Hope you’ve had a great day too!

Jackie XX

 

 

Belen Echandia goes to China

Belen Echandia is off to Beijing!

Picture of Beijing

The last few weeks have been busy, busy, busy preparing for my trip to China to show our collection to Chinese buyers.  We started our Spring 2012 handbag collection really early this year and what a collection it is – probably our best ever – but it seems that no matter how early we start, we never complete things as early as we would like.

Just before the summer I left Theo for the first time ever since he was born – mainly because his father travels a lot and we don’t have grandparents to help us in Stockholm – and went to London to work on the new collection with the pattern maker.  It was a fun and whirlwind day, since I combined it with a bit of shopping (new shoes!) and a lunch meeting with one of Grazia’s fashion editors to discuss her dream bag. What a treat that was – after 15 months of breastfeeding and taking care of a small baby I was climbing the walls and seriously ready to shop until I dropped!

After the Grazia meeting we went through all the ideas and the patterns and I signed a lot of things off and then we packed up a box with our ideas and sent it off to Marco so that he could begin the next stage of making the samples when he returned from his summer break. Usually Marco goes away during the entire month of August – it’s a tradition in Italy because of the seemingly never-ending summer heat.  They don’t have air-conditioning in all parts of the workshop, making it even more difficult than usual to work.  But this summer there wasn’t any time to take the whole month off, even though all tanneries and hardware producers close, so they spent a part of it working on our new samples.

Our samples take a long time to produce, sometimes even one whole week per bag because of all the back and forth and new details that need to be tested and confirmed. I know that you’re all going to email and ask me to show you the new collection immediately, but I really can’t – I do promise though that it will be worth the wait when you see the final collection.  But just to give you a teaser/a glimpse into the way we work, here is a part of one of our SS12 bags (a flap) being produced

Handbag flap drawingHow to make a handbag flap

I love seeing sketches go from pencil on paper to final leather piece, so I thought you might find it interesting as well.  I guess lots of you would love to be a fly on the wall in the workshop watching those talented Italian hands cut and stitch the leather.  It’s really a treat to see.

The China trip has proved a little more stressful than I initially anticipated.  First of all, we had to send all the samples to the photographer so that we could put them on the line sheet, but of course, they were not ready in time given that they had to be shipped to Bejing 3 weeks before the show.  So we managed to photograph just 7 of them, which was thankfully enough to get the line sheets ready. Phew!

There was a lot of back and forth and worrying about whether everything would go smoothly and then, just before we sent out the bags we were told by the Chamber of Commerce that to ensure we didn’t pay taxes in China (as the bags are coming back), we needed a carnet to travel with our bags.  So Julia and Karon filled out what felt like 100 pages of very detailed information and we  paid over £400 to get the carnet.  It took days and Julia and Karon worked late two nights in a row, bless them, but they managed to get it all done in time.  Unfortunately UPS then had other ideas and refused to let our boxes leave with the carnet unless we used a very expensive freight service, so we had to abandon that route and send the boxes with an ordinary courier and without carnet.

Please cross your fingers for us that the boxes arrive in time!  We’re leaving next Thursday on the 20th, arriving back in Stockholm on Wednesday 26th.  I’m really not looking forward to being away from Theo for all that time, but on the other hand I can’t wait to visit Beijing.  Will post another update here soon.  Have a great week! Jackie XX

AW11 Trends: The Wellington

 

The humble wellington boot has come a long way  since I was a child and wearing wellies really wasn’t considered cool.  Fast forward 25 years and the boot is a style symbol,  worn and styled by celebrities with a pair of leather shorts or skinny jeans and available in masses of colours, from turquoise to bright red.  Even Jimmy Choo, the company known for its sky-high heels and super delicate shoes has introduced a range of wellingtons.  There are surely those who think wearing wellingtons is sloppy, but you only have to look at Hunter’s latest “Styled By” Campaign (on their Facebook page) to see how stylish these boots can be.

The question is, which brand to buy?  I trawled the internet and narrowed my selection down to 3 of the most stylish brands and now I want you to help me decide.  I’m going towards the Hunter right now as they seem to be the best fit for me and available in lots of colours and styles.  But I can’t make my mind up so I would love your opinion. Here is the short list:

Ilse Jacobsen

Ilse Jacobsen Hornbaek


Ilse Jacobsen is a Scandinavian brand founded by its namesake in 1993.  Like me, Ilse Jacobsen wasn’t a fashion designer when she started her fashion brand and like me, she wanted to do something different to the mainstream.  Ilse focuses sharply on quality and simplicity in her design.  I love the vintage look of the lace-up boots, the focus on natural materials and innovation and the fact that just like BE bags they cannot be found everywhere and on everyone. But I’m not so sure about the laces.  On the one hand they are different, but on the other hand I am not that tall and I have thin legs and I think a streamlined silhouette might be better (?).

Two other style options from the Ilse Jacobsen line: this gorgeous pair of grey snakeprint plain boots and the plain pink ones. Perhaps not in pink.  Somehow though, these just do not have the cool factor the IJ lace-up boots have and they are not as refined as my next two options.


Hunter

 

Hunter is probably the oldest brand of wellingtons there is, founded as it was in 1857 in Glasgow, of all places.  Before its international jet-setting days of celebrity superstardom, Hunter also made such things as tyres, golf balls and rubber flooring.  I LOVE these boots because they are simple and recognizable, although I do see them everywhere and I usually prefer to avoid things that everybody else is wearing. But – they are stylish, good quality, I have lots of different colours to choose from and their fun approach to collaborations really does appeal to me. I also love their latest Facebook campaign, “styled by” in which they have asked style icons to style their favourite Hunter boots in their own way.

My biggest dilemma with Hunter is which style and colour to choose. Should I go for the Classic or the Regent? Tall or short? Matte or gloss? Black or bright purple… do you own a pair of Hunter and have an opinion to share?

Le Chameau

Worn by the Duchess of Cambridge and her sister Pippa, the Le Chameau brand is a much more conservative look than I would usually go for, but they are reported to be more slender than the other boot brands and they are made by master bootmakers using natural materials, in the same way they were 80 years ago.  It is very important to me to respect and support this kind of craftsmanship, because I have a big fear of fast-food and fast-fashion taking over the world and bad quality becoming the norm.  So I would love to buy them, but this brand reminds me a little of Mulberry before its move to Far-Eastern production and international sales.  In a couple of years they will probably also sell red, purple and blue wellingtons, but for now my choice is a little more limited and the brand less fashionable, much as I would like to support them.

Here are the choices I have narrowed it down to:

So please tell me, what do you think? Should I get the vintage, cool lace-up Ilse Jacobsen, the super stylish celebrity-crazed Hunters or the refined Le Chameau? What would you do?

 

 

Jackie’s style tips: How to survive winter

I actually LOVE the autumn and winter seasons. I love big coats, I love leather bags, I love boots (especially my black fur Muks Mukluks), I love cosy winter nights by the fire and outdoor candles sitting in the snow outside candlelit restaurants.  There are a few things that make winter extra special for me, so I thought you might like to share them.

1. Try some bright red nail varnish

This could actually be “bright pink nail varnish” or any colour that takes your fancy. I just love bright nail varnish against cool winter skin.  I also love bright lipsticks, although they don’t suit me.  There is something so sexy and wintry about bright red lips and bright red nails. A sophisticated red, of course.

Red nail polish                                                                                                 Image courtesy of rednailart.com

My favourite blog about nail varnish is Sara’s Daily Polish.

2. Invest in the most expensive winter coat that you can afford

A well-fitted winter coat is essential.  Depending on your location, you’ll likely spend at least 140 days wearing it and hopefully you will choose wisely and wear it for years to come.  A bright, wearable coat can be just as classic as a smart black one. Buy the most expensive one you can afford, since along with your shoes and handbag your coat is the item you will wear the most and is one of the most on-display items in your wardrobe.  I never thought I would write “love” and Versace in the same sentence, but I love Versace’s Military Wool Coat:

Versace Military Wool Coat

3. Invest in a pair of stylish leather boots/fur boots

My favourite boots are made by Muks. I have two pairs from last winter (grey and black) and I wore them almost every snow day we had.  They are comfortable yet chic and both look and feel very warm and cosy as well as stylish and fashionable.  The new soles can be comfortably worn in the snow without becoming wet.  I almost can’t wait for the really cold days to come so that I can break them out again.

Muks Mukluks

4. Invest in some stylish leg warmers

I love wearing skinny jeans and leggings with my calf-high fur boots in the winter and stylish leg warmers are a must on really cold days.  If you’re handy with the knitting needles, you could even knit some.

Stylish leg warmers

5. Buy a stylish hat

I love hats. I have quite a small head, so I can’t carry off every style and unless you have the perfect hat head (you know who you are) it is worth trying on a few different ones to find out which one suits you the best.  My favourite on cold winter days is a sloppy knitted hat worn baggy on the sides with a scarf draped around my neck.  Whilst we’re looking at this picture, how amazing are Sienna’s red shoes!

Winter beanie hats 2011Image Courtesy of La Vie Boston Blog.

6. Invest in a good skin lotion

My skin gets really dry and chapped in the winter so a good cream is a must. I use Avalon Organics lemon, rosemary or lavender lotion.  Thick and creamy but not sticky, this cream is absorbed easily into the skin, smells amazing and is natural to boot.

7. Invest in some key pieces of jewellery

A classic pair of pearls (mine have little diamonds on them) matches beautifully with the high-neck sweaters of autumn/winter. A beautiful ring takes the place of a necklace, which can no longer be seen under all those layers of clothing.  I love Monica Vinader’s beautiful nugget ring.

Monica Vinader Rings

Invest in a good handbag

How could we forget this one!

Clutch bag season!

From a handbag perspective, autumn/winter is clutch and shoulder bag season for me.  Although I never stop wearing my crossbody bags, I love to wear a big, stylish shoulder bag in the winter.  As for clutch bags, whilst summer means alfresco picnics and long evening walks, the darker autumn and winter seasons bring lots of parties, LBDs and cosy dinners with friends.  This season we’ve ordered some beautiful colours in our classic clutch.

Anthracite

Anthracite is a dark, semi-matte metallic gunmetal which is understated and chic, yet glamorous.  This colour matches with everything, particularly black for a chic Italian look.

Belen Echandia Anthracite Clutch Me

 Buy Now

Leopard Pony Skin

Snow leopard is the trendiest material out there this season, but surprisingly it is also a classic. Trends come and go every few years – in case you haven’t noticed – and animal prints are touted as the hottest thing at least every couple of years.  For those who don’t watch trends as such, snowleopard is a very special material that works with lots of colours, from the obvious black to more surprising colour and print clashes, for those with more daring style taste.

Belen Echandia Snow Leopard Clutch bag

Grey Snakeprint

Snakeprint is not for everyone, but I love it.  This snakeprint is super soft and luxurious, although very hardwearing.  The print adds just the right touch of glamour and the understated colour is lovely with chic black outfits but also matches many other colours.

Grey snakeprint clutch | Belen Echandia clutch bags

Buy Now

Hot pink

Last but not least, bright colours are probably the biggest trend this season, but a happy colour will never go out of fashion.  This delicious pink chevre is bright but wearable.  I would wear this with a cocktail dress, smart trousers and heels or even a smart jumpsuit.

Clutch Bags by Belen Echandia | Clutch Me

 Buy Now

Bright winter coats

This weekend winter suddenly and harshly arrived to Sweden.  One minute I was walking down the street in a short-sleeved sweater, or heading out for a run in just leggings and tank, the next I was freezing.  This happens to me every year – winter begins and I’m always surprised.

This year, thankfully, I’ll be heading to Greece in the middle of September for a lovely week of sunshine with the very good excuse of having to attend a close friend’s wedding.  But there will still be plenty of winter in Sweden to wear warm coats – and this year I intend to wear bolder colours than I normally would.

Here’s a rundown of the coats I’m considering this season. Leave me a comment at the end and give me links to any winter coats you’re currently lusting after.

Vermillion

Those of you who read my blog often know that I am currently obsessed with vermillion orange. It suits my skin tone perfectly, is a wearable bright (unlike harsher or darker shades that can wash me out), will match with so many different things  and best of all, I just love the colour. It makes me feel happy just to look at it.

Here’s one of my favourite vermillion coats for this season. Do you have a favourite?

Vermillion winter coat

Here’s our Madrid crossbody in vermillion orange, which would look so great with this coat!

Belen Echandia orange crossbody bag

Purple

Purple is a wearable colour for some, but tricky for others. It suits fair or dark skin tones set against dark hair best.  Think Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada.  The darker/milder the shade, the easier it is to wear.  Overly bright colours can look harsh in certain lights, so choose your colour wisely if you want this to be an investment piece.  I love dark purples and aubergine colours like this one:

Purple winter coat

Red

Red is another wearable bright, although some people are quite scared of wearing it, or see it as an aggressive colour. I like warm reds the best, those with a slight pink undertone.  Scarlet is too harsh for my skin tone and really needs to be made in an expensive fabric to avoid looking cheap.  This season’s reds are mainly expensive looking colours, so it’s the perfect time to invest in a bright red coat.  Our red chevre is an expensive-looking matte leather.  Nicole Richie looks beautiful in this light red coat:

Red winter coat

Belen Echandia’s red chevre Milan Satchel would look amazing with the right red coat:

 

 Belen Echandia Milan satchel Red

 

Pink

I believe that a coat is really an investment piece and personally I would not spend a lot of money on a pink coat.  But I am looking to be persuaded. Do you have a pink coat? Would you buy one?  Please send me your tips!

Until next time.

Jackie XXX

 

 

Jackie’s new food blog

Falafel Recipe

I’m so excited to tell you that I have co-launched a food blog!  Many of you know that before launching Belen Echandia, I had written a business plan for a healthy salad bar.  That venture did not go ahead for several reasons, but healthy food remains one of my passions – particularly making healthy food that tastes great.  Since my son was born I have been concocting all kinds of new dishes for him, including sneaking vegetables into everything from burgers to smoothies.  I’ve also taken up baking, but I only bake with almond and coconut flour – high protein and so good for you. I also make a lot more raw food than I used to.

After our sons began to eat, my friend Nina and I would swap recipes for wholesome baby food, feed each other’s children and just generally discuss baby food and the new dishes we had made up.  Lots of people asked for our baby food recipes, many suggested that we start a food blog.   So we did.

Little Foodies is great for those of you who have babies or children and need some inspiration for what to feed them, but it’s also great for those who don’t have children and just want to find some healthy recipes that are tasty and interesting.  Please send us your questions, recipe requests, feedback and/or comments.  We look forward to hearing from you!

English version: Little Foodies
Swedish version: Bra Barnmat

To stay in touch with us, please visit our Facebook page.

Jackie & Nina

BE’s Customer Loyalty Programme Launches

Belen Echandia is launching a customer loyalty programme.  Here are the basic tiers.  Please email us if you have any questions.  We are working on a way to let all customers know their applicable level.  Meanwhile, if you would like to know, please email us individually and we can verify this for you.  Please bear with us, thank you.

Silver (Basic):  Customer must have purchased at least $1000/700GBP worth of items from our online boutique in the last calendar year.  Rewards currently associated with Silver customers are – stellar customer service, birthday stamp, free standard (Royal Mail) shipping on full price stock items, gift certificate worth $50/£35 at the end of the year with a handwritten thank you note, preview of next season’s collections.

Gold: Customer must have purchased at least $2500/1500GBP worth of items from our online boutique in the last calendar year.  Rewards currently associated with Gold customers are – stellar customer service, birthday stamp, free standard (Royal Mail) shipping on stock regular priced items or free Courier shipping if purchasing two or more regular priced stock items at a time, free standard shipping for BE Couture items, gift certificate at the end of the year worth $75/£50 with a handwritten thank you note, preview of next season’s collections.

Platinum: Customer must have purchased at least $5000/2500GBP worth of items from our online boutique in the last calendar year.  Rewards associated with Platinum customers are – stellar customer service, birthday stamp, free shipping (Royal Mail or courier) – your choice) on regular priced stock items, free standard shipping for sale items, free standard shipping for BE Couture items, preview of next season’s collections, option of gift voucher worth $75/£50 or complimentary small item at the end of the year with a handwritten thank you card. Option to ask us to source the leather for one bag per year (subject to leather type and availability) without further charge.

Diamond: Customer must have purchased at least $10,000/6,000GBP worth of items from our online boutique in the last calendar year.  Rewards associated with Diamond customers are – stellar customer service, birthday stamp, right to free courier shipping on all orders (regular stock, sale stock, BE Couture), free return shipping, preview of next season’s collections, book of new season’s leather swatches*** (where available), gift certificate worth $75/£50 and complimentary small item at the end of the year with a handwritten thank you card, option of ordering a maximum of two small leather goods from pen holder, angel purse (fabric lining only), business card holder and having them made as a custom order.** Option to ask us to source the leather for two bags per year (subject to leather type and availability) without further charge.

*As of February 2011, all Belen Echandia members who have purchased during 2011 will be started at the Silver level.  Customer’s status will be reviewed on a yearly basis, in January of the present year.

** This does not include wallets. This list may change at any time, depending on our atelier.

 

Winter 2011 trends in pictures

Row 1, left to right

1. Kara Ross Cuff, now on sale via Matches Fashion:

2. Amazing Burberry Coat in bright orange

3. Belen Echandia Warm Red Milan medium satchel in chevre (goat skin)

Row 2, left to right

1. Leopard Print heels

2. Shoe boots (Prada, what were you thinking?)

Row 3, left to right

1. MIH Jeans

2. Gold

3. Fur

Fashion Trends AW11

We have only just started wearing our summer whites and already everyone’s talking about autumn – but as we’ve learned to our peril in previous seasons, the early bird catches the worm, or rather, the best clothes. I am always surprised when I do my last-minute seasonal shopping to discover that the best pieces sold out several months previously. But not this year, I won’t make that mistake again.

If you’re a last minute shopper like me, don’t worry because I have rounded up some of the hottest pieces for this coming autumn/winter 2011 that you can still get your hands on.

Androgyny

I love this season’s androgyny trend, because rather than being all about women looking like men in suits and men’s shoes, there is a big focus on details: I call it girly androgyny. An oximoron, perhaps, but the fur, the lace, the scarves and red shoes:  it is undeniably feminine if not girly.

Block colour

Finally, my favourite way of dressing is flying high at the top of the fashion charts.  Good news if you’re partial to a colour pop.  The autumn runways started off where spring ended and sent a riot of bright colours to extend summer well into December and possibly even make it last until next spring. Red/blood orange was the clear favourite, from cardinal to vermillion, whilst greens, blues and pinks sat alongside the usual blacks and warm October shades.  I think this Burberry trenchcoat from the AW11 collection is amazing.

Texture

Texture is everywhere this season, from fur to sequins to knits and suede.  Of course, my favourite trend is textured leather.

Textured leather has been around for a while, but I still just cannot get enough of it.  This season, textures and prints are hot news alongside block colours.  Autumn/Winter is always my favourite fashion season, but this one is going to be my favourite for a long time.

I love texture on bags because it adds detail and distinctiveness without the need for big logos, which I don’t like at all.  I love all kinds of texture, from subtle to strong, from irregular to regular, from soft to hard.    My favourite combination is an irregular, soft texture, which is why I love our new super soft, black textured goatskin LA Tote.  I love this style because it works just as well as a hand-carry (one of the coming season’s big trends) as a shoulder bag and it is just so comfortable and stylish as an elbow-carry, which is my favourite way to wear a bag.  I also love the strength of this leather, its boldness.  It also fits nicely into the androgyny trend and could be worn by both men and women.


COLOUR OF THE SEASON: VERMILION ORANGE (Burnt orange)

Visit to Roma

Many brands call this colour “burnt orange” but I much prefer the sophisticated, French “Vermilion”. Whatever you call it, burnt orange/vermilion is a hot colour this coming autumn 2011 season and I, for one am very happy because this colour is amazing.  For a colour, it is so wearable that it is almost a neutral.  It pairs well with so many colours and outfits.  It works with every hardware from gunmetal to gold and suits most skin tones.  Best of all, it is just sooo pretty and makes a nice change from the even more ubiquitous cardinal and scarlet reds (not to mention a great change from my usual favourites, black and pewter).

As is often the case for me with colours, I prefer my accessories to do the talking.  This coming season, a bag, cuff or perhaps a coat in this gorgeous burnt orange/vermilion will see you through to next spring.  On that note, I actually don’t see this colour going anywhere for quite a while.


See by Chloe elbow patch sweater
$295 - net-a-porter.com

 

Diesel distressed jeans
$94 - coggles.com

 

Jimmy Choo platform high heels
$895 - net-a-porter.com

 

Monica Vinader ring
$355 - net-a-porter.com

 

Annina Vogel diamond earrings
£1,250 - net-a-porter.com

 

 

 

Belen Echandia: Belen’s Scrapbook: Inspirations

1. Black and White Stye Icons via My Inspiring Dream

2. Vintage Magazine Cover: Interiors Magazine

3. Paolo Navone’s Parisian Flat

4. Book shelves

Animal prints and pony skin – AW11

Animal prints and fur are hot news again for the AW11 season, but this time we’re seeing subtler prints like milky-white snow leopard alongside their flashier cousins.  We’ve used pony skin for the Belen Echandia handbag collection before, but this is the first time we’ve ever incorporated leopard and zebra into our larger handbag range. Only a small number of pieces are available and we’re very excited with the results.

It has taken me a while to get here. I have never been keen on animal prints.  But a couple of months ago, I was at a museum with my son when I spotted a woman wearing a velvet leopard-print crossbody bag which was a very similar shape to our Covet Me Mini.

The bag was quite simple, so I don’t know if it was the otherwise chic Scandinavian style that did it, or the fact that I could suddenly visualise a BE leopard print Covet Me Mini, but this woman rocked her animal print bag.  Animal prints suddenly seemed very wearable.

And now for a few pieces from the up coming animal print collection:

1. Clutch Me in leopard with black super soft matte trim

2. Milan Satchel in snow leopard with black super soft matte trim

3. Covet Me Mini in snow leopard with black super soft matte trim

 

Autumn Winter 2011 handbag and leather trends in pictures

Row 1,  left to right:

1. The clutch – The Duchess of Cambridge, AKA Katherine Middleton, made the clutch the handbag of the moment.  From weddings, to evenings out with the girls, to dinners and formal events, as well as just a date at the movies, we all need a clutch. Stuffing things in pockets is so last season.

2. The mini crossbody – If you think this bag looks too small, think again.  If you like any of the following, you need a mini cross body bag: Travelling (this style is perfect for looking chic and keeping cool whilst strolling through markets/cities/tourist attractions, running through airports when you need to quickly access passports and tickets), strolling around your own city, going to concerts or cycling (are you seriously going to carry a shoulder bag?), doing anything with small children (hands-free? It’s essential).   My stepfather once asked me why I had brought my “suitcase” to dinner – don’t make the same mistake.

3. Cuffs -  What more to say? Leather cuffs are now. They are hot. I usually have trouble wearing them because my wrists are so small, but these are lovely and so comfortable.

Row 2,  left to right:

4. Hand-carry/elbow-carry – If you like to hand-carry your bags you’re in luck this coming season. Luckily for those who don’t, our L.A. Tote has an adjustable handle that can be worn either way.

5. Red – Some people are scared of red. They think it is aggressive or difficult to wear. I think red is amazing. It can provide a drop of glamour in an otherwise monochrome colour palette in the shape of red nails, red shoes or a red bag. There is a shade of red to suit everyone, from cardinal to vermillion and back to scarlet.  Our red bags with chains are made from chevre (goatskin) and they are amazing. You will feel like a million dollars.

6. Prints/black and white/pony skin – Three trends in one, would you expect anything less? Our snow leopard pony skin bags are of the moment but don’t worry about them being trendy, have you noticed that animal print are “in” roughly every 2-3 years, maybe even more often? This is a trend that never really goes out of fashion. If you’ve been hesitating like me, don’t hesitate any longer. Buy now!

Row 3,  left to right:

7. Coin purses - Little coin purses are so cute and so useful: we all need them.  They are great for loose change, for tickets, for receipts, for taking as a mini mini clutch bag on an evening out.  An essential item in a woman’s wardrobe.  I’m going for the anthracite or the zebra pony skin.

8. Texture – Textured leather is amazing, particularly if it’s soft and smooshy.  I love the uber luxurious feel of Belen Echandia’s textured chevre leather (goatskin).

9. Colour – Ah, wearable colour… where have you been all my life?  In the deep dark trenches of Scandinavian winter (my husband is Swedish) I survive on colour therapy.  But thankfully, this season brings a lot of wearable colours and particularly colourful accessories, so I can wear my dark jeans and boots with this darling little colourful crossbody.

I hope you enjoyed my breakdown of upcoming handbag and leather trends.  If you did and/or you have any comments, please drop me a line!

Brightly coloured chevres

Ever since I wrote that post (this one) we’ve been inundated with emails asking us about available colours of chevre.  So we’ve started taking pictures of the chevre colours that are available now.  Today, we’re posting the bright colours. If you’re looking for a brightly coloured goatskin bag, here’s a run down of what we have (please not that these colours are fully-stocked and available now, but leathers frequently go out of stock so if there is a particular leather that you know you want, the best thing is to put down a deposit on it):

PARIS

We’re calling this colour chart “Paris”.   The colours look (on my screen at least) exactly as they do on the colour chart. This is an extremely soft, beautifully uniform leather. It does not show marks easily.  The colours are saturated and deep.

 

DIXAN

This is a washed chevre, meaning that it is a little more matte and has a little more texture – and the colours are a bit less saturated than Paris and Guanto.  These colours are my favourites, just because I like that “washed” look.  Here is a close-up of the texture of that leather in red, with all our linings:

Here are the bright colours from the Dixan colour chart:

GUANTO

This is a glove-like leather, the most classic of the three and as saturated and uniform as Paris, just with a little more gloss. This colour chart is a little harder to shoot, but we’ve had a go!

Please email Janelle (@) belenechandia.com – removing brackets – if you have any questions or would like to know more about these amazing leathers.

Jackie XX

Rock Chic Style for AW11

Rock chic style

 

 

Otis Maclain short sleeve shirt
$128 - new.amrag.com

 

Oasis cropped denim jacket
£45 - oasis-stores.com

 

Balmain black leather pants
$3,020 - stylebop.com

 

Supertrash gladiator sandals
£94 - theoutnet.com

 

 

Inspirational women design their dream bags

I recently read an article in the Sunday Times about girl power.  Although female emancipation occured a long time ago and gender equality has been a hot topic since the 60s, it is only really now that companies are actively seeking a high proportion of women as directors and non-executive directors.  “Girls, your time is now”  the headline said.

I went to London to meet one of the fashion editors of Grazia recently for a new project we’re working on, which ties in nicely with the topic of girl power.  With our all-girl team and our focus on customer interaction, participation and feedback, girl-power has always been a big theme for us.  I remember how excited we all were when we first started offering custom orders, at the prospect of handing back some power to our customers to decide many aspects of their bags for themselves.

This ongoing project will involve championing girl power by working with inspirational women from various fields to design their dream bags, inside and out.  We have always placed as much importance on the inside features of our bags as we do on the outside, with the aim of making them luxurious and as practical as a busy woman needs them to be.  But of course, what you need from a bag will depend on your lifestyle, your job and what you need to carry around with you all day as well as what you would like it to look like.  So instead of asking these women to simply design their dream bag, we are asking them to design their dream bag as a fashion editor, or singer, or lawyer… the bag that will fulfil their daily needs both in terms of aesthetics and practicality.

The meeting in London was fantastic and we can’t wait to show you the results later on this year.

Stay tuned!

Jackie XXXX

Some of our prices went up, yet others are going down…


We recently increased some of the prices on our custom ordered bags.  There were many reasons for this, which I won’t go into again here.  In short, custom bags are expensive to manufacture in Italy and we needed to raise the prices so that our super high standards didn’t slip.   But now, we have different news – some of our leather prices are going down and we’re passing the difference on to you.

We tend not to use the sheen, original matte and glossy leathers for stock bags any more, because although we love them, they smell great, they wear in beautifully and suit lots of different styles of bag, some of the colours of sheen and original matte (not glossy) can be a bit delicate and mainly we’ve just moved on a bit from our original leathers and we are using more expensive ones.

They are also not as readily available as they used to be.  We have many other customers who love them, though, so we have kept them as a BEC option and for those customers we now have some really good news. Since this is an older item, the tannery has dropped the prices on these leathers and now we can pass these savings on to you.  The prices of our in-stock bags and all future custom-ordered* bags in sheen, matte and glossy bags will drop by up to 20%.

*Please note, this applies to future orders not yet placed.  It does not apply to all styles, since some styles are already so low in price compared to the production cost that they cannot be lowered further.*

UPDATE: By delicate I mean that these leathers are not highly treated and thus they can show some signs of wear a little more than say a pebbled leather might.  If you prefer a leather that does not patinate at all and does not show any marks, this leather is perhaps not for you, especially not in the light pink or light grey, or other light colours.

Belen’s Scrapbook… The world through a designer’s eyes

Buy calf, get goatskin

Red chevre with all the different lining colours we have available to order

As many of you will know, spring 2011 ushered in a new era for Belen Echandia.  Several months of research has paid off and we now have access to the best chevre leathers available – chevre is goatskin, in case you’re wondering.  These skins are small, which means that we can buy them in small quantities for our custom-ordered bags.  They are soft and they come in lots and lots and lots of colours.  Being small and being goat, they are more expensive than our usual skins.  But the quality and the feel of these leathers is amazing.  The Belen Echandia BLACK collection was born.

For the avoidance of doubt, there are various different kinds of chevre. Some are more matte, some are shinier, some are more hard wearing and plumper than others.  Some have a bubble texture or deep veining, others are so smooth you might mistake them for butter.  I personally prefer something with texture as the most buttery lambskins can be a bit classic and delicate for my taste, especially in colour. But who cares what I like, the point is, there is something for everyone.

To give you the chance to try it for youreslf, throughout the month of August, we’re offering all purse forum members and all Belen Echandia customers the opportunity to try our chevre skins in any colour for the same price as our premium crash and metallic leathers.  This applies to custom orders only.  Not all types of chevre are included.  Please email Aimee-@-belenechandia.com or janelle-@-belenechandia.com (removing hyphens) for more information.

 

STYLE CRUSH & PHOTO OF THE WEEK

My latest Style Crush: Alexa Chung in her Burberry mac

We are excited to announce our weekly “Style Crush & Photo of the Week” Contest

We love reading style blogs. We love fashion photography. We love street-style shots in particular: in our opinion, real, inspirational women (and men!) often make much better style icons than over-styled film stars wearing the same old thing. We think Ms Chung bridges that divide, before you ask. She has become a celebrity thanks to her amazing style. Amen to that.

As with most things, style photography is much more fun to share.  So each Friday, we’re going to share our Style Crush with you – and in return we want you to share your latest Style Crush with us.

Here’s how it works:

1.  The first three weeks of the month will be a “Style Crush” contest and the last week of the month will be a general “Photo of the Week” contest. We will specify the focus of the contest each week on our Facebook page.

2.  To enter the “Style Crush” Contest:

a. Share a photo on our Facebook page of a stylish look you love (it could be one you’ve found on the internet, e.g a celebrity, your favourite blogger or a street style shot (we love the Sartorialist), or one you shoot yourself).

b.  Share the same photo on Twitter by mentioning @BelenEchandia #StyleCrushFashion in your tweet.

3.  To enter the “Photo of the Week” Contest:

a.  Share pictures of your Belen Echandia handbags on our Facebook page.  If you upload them to your personal page, tag them with “Belen Echandia”.

b.  Share your photos on Twitter by mentioning @BelenEchandia #PhotooftheWeek with your photo.

4.  The contest will run weekly from 12:00 am EST Friday through 11:59pm EST Thursday.  The winner will be announced each Friday on our Facebook page and receive a £25/$40 gift voucher off their next purchase from Belen Echandia. One voucher may be used per purchase and each customer may redeem a maximum of two vouchers.

Winning photos will be used on our website or blog with a special mention to the winner. We cannot wait to see what you come up with.

Belen Echandia Latest Press

Belen Echandia Press: Edge Magazine

Belen Echandia blog: Customer Polyvore Sets

Belen Echandia latest news: Introducing Janelle

For those who don’t yet know, Rose is taking a sabbatical for personal reasons.  We are very sad to see her go and we know that many of you will be sad too, but we hope that you will warmly welcome our new member of staff, who is all the way over in Hawaii!

Janelle Walters has been training with Rose for the last few weeks.  Janelle is a long-term customer and fan of BE, so she knows all about our bags and our service – many of you may already know her.  We asked Janelle to take a picture of herself and set up a little interview to learn more about her.  She created this great collage and sent over this warm response.  Welcome Janelle!

  • You’ve told us a bit about yourself in pictures, please tell us a bit more about them and what each one means to you.

The pictures of the scenery with the bright blue skies, palms, ocean, and waterfall signify my love of the water and the place where I live.  Hawaii is often called paradise and that is a pretty accurate description!  I included a few “modeling” shots of the styles that I love and a picture of my little white Maltese.  I also snuck in a couple of personal photos which show the center of my world-my three beautiful children and  my most favorite person in the world (a.k.a. cute husband!) and I from our wedding.  We were dancing to a classic Sinatra song as our first dance.  You’ll also notice a cup (probably filled with a fragrant jasmine dragon phoenix or matcha tea) with a fun saying, “If the tiara fits wear it.”  Mugs and tea cups are one of my favorite things to collect.  While I do actually have a beautiful tiara from my wedding packed away, this is just a fun reflection of part of who I am.  I love pretty things, being pampered, and have a major obsession with shopping and fashion!

  • We love dogs and so do lots of our customers. What is the name of your puppy?

I have a furry white, seven pound Maltese who is about a year old.  I fell in love with him instantly and though my husband really didn’t want a dog at the time, he bought him for me (and all of his supplies-eek) while I cuddled him and decided on a name.  Cosmo!  Cosmo loves to play but he thinks he is a human and turns his nose up at other dogs.  We need to socialize him more at our neighborhood dog park!

  • You’ve obviously been a big fan of Belen Echandia for a while J. Which are your favourite styles, and what are you going to try to convince us to do more of now that you’re working for BE?

I love arm carried satchels like the LA Tote, casual bag, Make Me Smile, and a good messenger bag like my current favorite anthracite Covet Me with the gunmetal hardware.  Did you know that it also looks great on the shoulder if you shorten the strap as much as possible?  I love this bag!  I’m going to try to convince BE to do more arm carried bags with short rolled handles since boston bags are my long standing favorite.  Being of mixed Asian descent and going from a fair to more tanned complexion through the year also means that I struggle with color.  I hope to contribute some color suggestions that would work for those of us who hail from sunny cities and sport tans and also those with the typical Asian skin tones.

  • Anything else you’d like our customers to know about you? They are surely all excited to meet you.

I’m a total foodie but also am very into healthy, clean eating for the most part.  I love to read, cook, and bake and am very hands on with my children and all of their lessons, along with the virtual charter school we chose to enroll them in.  I’m also sort of obsessed with cardio and weight workouts!  Since I was little, I’ve always been described as a “people person”.  Some of my strong core beliefs include the importance of honesty and always giving others the benefit of the doubt even if you don’t understand their intentions at the outset.  Treat others as you wish to be treated.  My spiritual beliefs shape me.   Although I may be a realist, I consciously choose to have an optimistic view of life and of others.  I really am just so grateful to be exactly where I hoped I would be at this stage in my life and I’m excited to bring my happy enthusiasm to BE while getting to know all of you better!

Belen Echandia latest press: OK Magazine & Grazia

Belen Echandia Inspirations: Springtime in Paris

Belen Echandia chevre leathers: Review of the week

This week we’re mostly going to let the pictures do the talking.  When Frederique received her bag, she emailed us to say:

“I received my parcel on Friday morning and the bag is just gorgeous! I love it, and so does my boyfriend :)

The size and color are perfect, the leather is matte and yet, shiny in the sunlight. It´s amazing.”

Thank you Frederique.  Enjoy the pictures and have a great weekend. xxx

 

Belen Echandia AW11 Trend report: Denim and leather

I’ve spent most of the last few years in a pair of jeans.   They are easy to dress up or dress down and there are so many ways to wear them.  Every time I find a favourite pair of jeans I buy multiples, convinced that I will never again find a pair that fits me so well.   Currently my favourites are these True Religion’s Misty Super Skinnies, which I bought from Shopbop and own in several colours.  I’m slightly nervously awaiting a pair in white.  Nervously because I’ve always looked ridiculous in white jeans.  Let’s hope these are the exception.

I’m not a slave to fashion. Skinny jeans in particular can go out of fashion and come back in again and I wouldn’t notice because I can’t imagine life without them, but it’s still fun to look at current trends.  In fact I’ve found some of my favourite pieces trying styles which “will never suit me” just for fun.  So here’s a round-up of what’s next in the world of denim:

Coated Denim

Denim that is coated to look like leather is this coming season’s hottest trend.   Not being a fan of leather trousers, I’m undecided about whether to try it.  The full-on ‘leather look’ of these infinity metallic gold jeans may not be for me, but I quite like this Ellie Tahari pair so perhaps I could pull off a subtle version of this trend.

 

Photo courtesy of Fidelity Denim www.fidelitydenim.com

Photo courtesy of www.elietahari.com

Trouser-style jeans

Touted as “the next step in jeans after the flare” this style looks suspiciously like a “reinvented flare” and my first impression is that they could be quite unflattering unless you’re very tall and/or super skinny.  I think I would look frumpy in some and clown-like in others.  They are quite cute but this one is not for me.

Photo courtesy of Lucky Brand Jeans

Denim shirts

Denim shirts are not usually my thing, but they are big news for AW11 and much to my surprise, I actually did find a few cute ways to wear them. I love Ashley Olsen’s look with her low-cut black jeans.

Photo courtesy of www.injeanous.com

And the season’s colourful jean fashions mean that men can get away with them too. I’m not saying every guy could rock this look but I think Kanye pulls it off quite well.

Photo courtesy of www.livedrjays.com

Button up

Embellished jeans are all the rage again for fall 2011, particularly button embellishments. Look out for ankle buttons, more-crotch-buttons-than-necessary and buttons all the way down your thighs.  This photo by George Chinese shows a pair of beautiful Sinclair cotton jeans with button detailing.  Mind you, it could be the amazing sweater, bracelets and boots which draws me to this look.

 

Photo Courtesy of womensweardaily.com

Satchels

All this denim calls for a cute satchel and for this of course I’ll be selecting a Belen Echandia, the only problem will be deciding which one.  For a relaxed day look I’ll be choosing our Belen Echandia New York satchel in Oak leather or Chestnut chevre leather.  For a darker, more glamorous look I’ll be going for our new bubble goat skin satchel, probably the mini version which transitions beautifully from day to evening.

Photo courtesy of www.belenechandia.com

Which just leaves me to ask you: how will you wear your denim this autumn?

 

Belen Echandia: 5 reasons ‘Made in Italy’ is important

I used to write a lot about why Belen Echandia bags are Made in Italy and what “Made in Italy” really means for handbags today.   Some of you may remember an article about big brands exploiting illegal Chinese immigrants in order to get their “Made in Italy” badge, or sending bags back to Italy to have a clasp attached.  I don’t know when or why I stopped writing about it, but yesterday I visited a children’s shoe shop and got a sharp reminder to write about it again.

Most of us remember visiting shoe stores with our parents as little children.  In my particular shoe store there was a cool machine that measured our feet shape/size and gait, but the memory that stands out in my mind is the smell of the leather.  Oh, what a smell! I was obsessed with leather even then.  So yesterday I visited a couple of stores to find Theo a pair of shoes.   Both were leading children’s shoe stores.  But as we walked in, I was confronted not with the waft of lovely leather but the smell of plastic and chemicals. I walked straight out again.

Now I’m not saying that all shoes and bags produced in the Far East are full of plastic and chemicals (although I happen to know that this store’s shoes are all Made in China and other cheap-labour countries) and that all shoes and handbags produced in Italy are made from Top Grain leather: to imagine so would be naive.  But it certainly is true that there are Italian tanneries who dedicate themselves to the art of natural leather production and that in general Italian (and probably most local European) handbag production is smaller in scale and more detail-oriented than it is in the Far East.  Most importantly, there are decades if not centuries of experience inside European ateliers that it really would be a terrible shame to lose. It is also great to be able to order custom bags and to know that the handbag production is so small scale that you are unlikely to find the same bag elsewhere.

I’ve been writing about this subject for many years and the tide does seem to be turning somewhat, with people demanding to know more about the true origin and nature of their bags and other products.  But as I said a few years back, and it is still just as relevant, unless more people start asking these questions, the Italian craftspeople that do remain will eventually succumb to the pressure and close their doors forever, as many have before them.  If this happens the real losers will be those of us who love well-made leather goods and niche labels, for it is only the big brands – with their over-reliance on advertising and mass-production – who can get away with the bad quality and high quantities demanded by Chinese factories whether in Italy or in the Far East.

So go on – the next time you are considering purchasing a handbag, ask where and how it was really made.  If you have any doubts at all – don’t buy it.  If you have 30 seconds to leave a comment, I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject.

Belen Echandia Musings: The birth of a bag

In this, the second part of this series, I’m going to talk a little bit about more how we start with a sketch and end up with a bag.  This time we’re looking at the L.A. Tote bag from our summer 2011 handbag collection.

These bags at first glance may look exactly the same, minus the front pocket, but they are in fact quite different.  For a start, the first bag we made from these sketches was big.  No, not big, huge!  The dimensions made it very deep and boxy, too boxy to sit comfortably against the body or be worn as a shoulder bag.  All Belen Echandia bags must be comfortable to wear, it’s essential, so  I didn’t like the shape or size of the first sample bag at all… but only because the dimensions were wrong.  I also wasn’t keen on the front pocket. In the sketch it looked kind of stylish, but in real life it looked like it had been tacked on to the bag as an after thought.  Here is the first sample bag:

Exterior pockets were a must on this bag, though, since I use mine a lot: for my bus pass, or gym card, or whatever I need handy.  Belen Echandia bags must also be practical as well as chic!  I want to find things quickly in my bag and I’m sure that you all feel the same.  Whilst pondering this I thought about my London Tote bag (mine is black super soft snakeprint) and how I love the slip pockets on the outside.   They are so useful for getting everything in and out.  So I suggested to the design team to try adding slip pockets to this bag style and remove the “stick-on” pocket, which by now was bothering me more and more each time I looked at it.  I also changed the dimensions.  I know that our customers (and for that matter most women) want a bag that can be worn comfortably against the body, something which doesn’t jut out excessively.  So we narrowed the bag right down and went for the next sample.  We made that sample bag in cornflower blue and although these are not professional pictures by any means, I will share them with you for the sake of completeness (this sample has now been sold, thanks for all your enquiries).

When we received this next sample we wondered if it was now a little too small.  Hmm… a few discussions later we realised that the problem was not the overall depth but the shape of the side.  It need to be a little bit deeper at the bottom (just a bit) so that it would taper up nicely.  The bag already fitted nicely both on the shoulder and the arm and we all loved the adjustable strap.  Here’s the piece that Marco cut. As soon as I saw it I knew that it was just perfect. I would love to hear your thoughts!

And here below of course is the final bag.  It is super soft and slouchy. It can be arm carried or worn on the shoulder. It can fit a lot but also be worn with not much in and still look good.  And of course, it has a very handy pocket spanning the outside of the bag, inspired by our very own London Tote pockets in a moment of genius :) .





Truly one of my favourite bags ever.  Should you like our design aesthetic and want a Belen Echandia handbag for yourself, thank you! You can buy one here: