meli melo Autumn Winter 2016

Working with Mindfulness

If you haven’t heard about mindfulness by now then you must have been hiding under a rock. Today, mindfulness is cropping up everywhere from the prison service, the military, education, health care, parenting, sports and business as well as in popular mainstream activities such as mindful gardening, eating, walking and so on. But how can it help you in the workplace? First, a little background on the buzzword of the moment…

how to be mindful

‘Mindfulness’ was first introduced to the West in the late 1950’s and was then secularised into mainstream medical circles in the 1970’s where it was initially trialled – with extreme success – for patients with incurable and/or terminal pain and illness. It was discovered that focusing on the present moment, with open awareness and non-judgemental attention to whatever arises (thoughts, feelings, body sensations), reduces our levels of stress and increases our sense of well-being. A wealth of research supports mindfulness as a highly effective technique for (deep breath): stress reduction, pain management, increased productivity, enhanced creativity, improved memory function, greater self-confidence, better self-awareness and self-care and, above all else, a significant increase in happiness and well-being.

In the workplace, this all translates to being able to get your job done more effectively and with less stress, which is good for you – and for your business, colleagues or company. The major reasons that mindfulness is so beneficial to working smarter are that it increases focus and attention. Most of us tend to rush around under the illusion that trying to do several things at once is an effective strategy. Whilst research consistently indicates that women are better at multi-tasking than men, it still isn’t a smart way to work. In fact, multi-tasking is sometimes dubbed ‘the art of messing several things up at once’ – this is NOT an accolade. With mindfulness, the art is in learning to train your mind to become more focused, to sustain this focus and to get each task you have to do done with clarity and efficiency. The result is that you will become more productive and less stressed – fantastic!

how to be mindful at work

It does often feel counter-intuitive not to rush about haphazardly from one thing to another, even if you know it isn’t really helping, and this is because you may have trained your brain to be heavily distracted – at work, according to research, this can actually mean that for up to 50% of the time your mind may be wandering off task. So it is time to rewire your brain to get focused, effective and really productive using the simple practice of mindfulness.

If you want to try training your mind to become more focused give the following very simple exercise a go, try it frequently (2-3 times a day) for at least a week:

● First begin by noticing that you are breathing. You should find that you are doing this all the time, everywhere you go! This means you can do this exercise anywhere, anytime.

mindfulness at work

● Watch your breath flowing into your body, starting at the nose or mouth, and then follow the course of the breath as it leaves the body. Allow yourself to pay good attention to the physical sensations of breathing.

● If your mind wanders, don’t panic, this is just your habitual distractibility appearing, it is inevitable and normal. Just be gentle but firm in guiding your focus back to the sensations of breathing.

● Any thoughts, emotions or physical sensations that you notice can now be observed, you do not need to engage with them, embellish them or push them away. Just see them appear and come back to the breath.

being mindful at work

● Allow yourself to watch the breath come and go for a few minutes. Doing this keeps you present-moment focused, and every time you notice and are aware of the present moment (in this exercise by watching the breath) you are strengthening concentration.

With time and practice you will see that your distractibility decreases and that you can apply the same technique that you have used here for watching the breath towards any task, so that you learn to work smarter. To find out more about how mindfulness can help you reduce stress, gain confidence and get more done, check out Working with Mindfulness.

Working With Mindfulness

Dr Michael Sinclair and Josie Seydel are the authors of Working with Mindfulness. It is out now, published by Pearson, priced at£13.99. ‘Working with Mindfulness is an engaging and practical guide to reducing stress, transcending setbacks and enhancing performance at work. With more than 50 mindfulness exercises, it’s a perfect introduction to a more fulfilling way of working.’ – Arianna Huffington, Editor-in-Chief of The Huffington Post.

Life & Work

“You have cancer”. Words that no one wants to hear, ever. Kristin Hallenga was diagnosed with breast cancer aged just 23.  Her story is moving, powerful and one that – luckily for Kris – has a happy ending. A diagnosis of stage four cancer (the most advanced type) at age 23 and everything that entails – radiotherapy, chemotherapy, hospitals and hair loss – would be enough to knock the fight out of most people. But not Kris. Oh no, she beat cancer – and went on to set up her own breast cancer charity: CoppaFeel!

Coppafeel Kris

Its premise? “We’re here to ensure you check your boobs regularly, throughout your lifetime. Simple as that.” CoppaFeel!’s aim is to put an end to the misdiagnosis and late detection of breast cancer by making sure people check their breasts regularly, and are aware of the signs and symptoms. The charity doesn’t receive any funding from the government, relying solely on donations and fundraising through regular sponsored events. So yes, Kris Hallenga is quite probably the most inspiring woman we’ve ever featured on here. We found out what makes her tick – and whether she can run in heels…

Motivation for me is all about…

Doing something that matters. If I wasn’t doing something that I knew made a big difference, I would find it very hard to motivate myself, I may even struggle to get my ass out of bed each day. I am also very motivated by deadlines, I am a last kinda girl so without the stress of a deadline I get very little done (this article is case in point)

coppafeel charity

Success means…

The world and their dog checking their boobs to ensure everyone stands the best chance of surviving breast cancer. Ideally, this disease wouldn’t even exist.

I couldn’t have got there without…

My twin sister Maren. She is the bread to my butter, the carrot to my hoummus. From day one of me having cancer she has been a bit a legend, staying strong, making me food, sticking the kettle on on the particularly rainier days. When we first met, in the womb, I knew she was going to be my best mate for life, and without her I wouldn’t have achieved half the things I have. Before cancer our lives were going in very different directions and we were living very far apart, me in Beijing, she in Cornwall, and now we get to work together and talk every day! I am very lucky I get to work with my best friend and try to make the world a slightly better place with her.

coppafeel founder

I always start my day with…

A cat’s bum in my face. My cat, and flatmate, Wilhelm stop at nothing to get me up so I feed him. That is then followed by a green tea, checking my emails and a juice involving at least nine carrots.

When I don’t feel inspired I…

I read through emails we’ve received from people who have got so much out of CoppaFeel! either through checking their boobs and finding cancer early, or someone who has volunteered for us or is a Boobette and loves the friends they have made from being an ambassador for us. I often think of my friends who have died of breast cancer and that they wouldn’t want me moping around feeling sorry for myself, they’d want me to keep going, to keep fighting for a future where none dies of breast cancer. So I do.

coppafeel boobettes

When I am feeling unwell or demotivated I find being at Boob HQ perks me up a lot. I LOVE walking into the office and seeing our girls beavering away, getting excited about their projects or a new exercise class we should all go to together. It’s a fun and hard-working environment that can’t NOT motivate and inspire you. BUT if that fails then a trip to Cornwall and a stroll on the beach with my sister’s dog Rambo always sorts me out.

The landscape for women in business today looks like…

An inspiring space. I am surrounded by kick ass, creative, determined women so what I see is a future full of girl bosses everywhere. At least, that’s what I want to see.

The trait I most deplore in others is…

Having a meeting about a meeting about a meeting. There’s nothing I hate more than waste, including wastage of time. If it can be discussed, negotiated and agreed on the phone, then pick up the phone. I don’t like pointless meetings and too many people in London have them.

kris hallenga

I’d like to be remembered for…

Giving people the best chance to survive cancer. I don’t want to be remembered as “the girl who bravely battled cancer and eventually lost”. When I am done here, I will have lost nothing. I hope people see that I am navigating cancer the best way I can with as little suffering and fighting as possible. Aside from cancer, I want people to remember my awesome sense of humour and love of glitter and cat merch.

What makes me happiest is…

GELATO. MUSIC. FOOD. Good food, good company, good weather and good ol’ chats about life. I love watching people I love be happy and get excited about life and adventures.

coppafeel fundraising

Can I run in heels?

For LOLs, sure. Otherwise, I prefer my pom pom flats.

For more information, see the Coppafeel! website. Fancy a challenge? The CoppaFeel! Hilly Hundred is returning to the hills of Cornwall this September! The charity is partnering with the Eden Project, where the ride will start and finish, and you can choose between two hilly routes – the Hilly 100 miles or the Hilly 100 km. The event incorporates Cornwall’s most breathtaking scenery, the iconic Eden Project Biomes, endless support en route and lots and lots of hills!

Life & Work

The trends for ‘athleisure’ and ethical fashion may be booming right now, but they’re old news for Alice Asquith. It was way back in 2002 that she founded Asquith: a stylish brand offering luxe yogawear, sustainably-made from eco-fabrics. Launching in the era of shiny Lycra and unflattering sportswear, it was important to Asquith that women felt comfortable and elegant in the collection, and actually wanted to wear the soft leggings and comfortable cover-ups – whether on the yoga mat, running errands or just meeting a friend for coffee.

asquith london yoga

Fast forward to 2016, and Asquith’s beautiful quality activewear is more popular than ever. With customers increasingly concerned about sustainability and ethical practices, choosing Asquith’s responsibly-made certified organic cotton and bamboo just makes sense. “Being kind to people and the planet is at the very heart of the Asquith brand,” explains Alice. Making customers feel their very best, women working with women – and taking Asquith global, we found out a little more about the entrepreneur behind a rather beautiful brand.

Motivation for me is all about…

Ethically making activewear using the best quality eco fabrics. Women can then treasure Asquith clothes knowing that the planet and people have not been compromised for profit. I also want women to feel great in Asquith on and off the mat – with the fit, cut and softness of the fabric being the very best possible. A woman wrote to me a while ago who’d had breast cancer and recently underwent a mastectomy, she said that for the first time in years, whilst wearing Asquith, she felt sexy and pretty. That made my day.

asquith activewear

Success means…

We’ve been around for 14 years now. I’m keen to expand the Asquith brand globally. We’re launching in the US this year and I’m excited about being able to spread the word and take our sustainable and lifestyle message worldwide. And to create a community of like-minded women who share tips and advice on health and wellbeing.

I couldn’t have got there without…

Creative inspiration and encouragement from my mother and grandmother and the loyalty and support from my amazing team. Plus the generosity, enthusiasm, input and design ideas from numerous yoga and Pilates teachers over the years.

asquith london yoga clothes

I always start my day with…

I wake at 6am, have a shower and start the day with 20 minutes meditation. I’ve been practicing Vedic meditation now for over six years, meditating for 20 minutes twice daily and it keeps me focused, calm, grounded and gives me amazing clarity and energy. Then I’ll do ten minutes yoga stretching followed by a fresh ginger tea whilst I read my emails, to the sounds of Shaun Keaveney on BBC Radio 6. I love my early morning starts.

When I don’t feel inspired I…

Go for a walk in the park to switch off and feel calmed by nature. I live close to Hyde Park so I’ll walk through the park to the V&A, my favourite museum since childhood – I visited with my grandmother when I was little and we’d always explore the Fashion Department. The V&A never fails to inspire me creatively. I just pick any room and marvel at the design – it’s the greatest museum in London and we’re privileged to have it.

asquith london

The landscape for women in business today looks like…

I find a huge amount of support from women in business. In the wellbeing community I work with so many yoga, Pilates teachers, studio and spa holiday owners. We cross promote and support and share. It’s a relatively small and tremendously supportive community of wonderful women. And working in sustainable fashion I’m always meeting interesting and wonderful women who want to promote the benefits of ethical fashion.

The trait I most deplore in others is…

Bad manners. Can’t bear it when people don’t treat each other with respect.

asquith yoga

I’d like to be remembered for…

Making women feel beautiful, elegant, comfortable and feminine when they wear Asquith and enhancing their experiences – whatever they’re doing. It’s a tall order but I know it’s something we already achieve, and that delights me.

What makes me happiest is…

Being with my partner exploring a new city, looking at great art, staying in a lovely hotel, eating delicious food, all bathed in gorgeous sunshine. Perfect. He and I are both hideous planners so we always get the most out of a place.

asquith london activewear

Can I run in heels?

If I was being chased by an angry, grizzly bear, yes.

For more information and to shop the collection see the Asquith website. You can also find the brand on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter @asquithlondon.

The Outfit

This week I had a ‘shopping day’. I genuinely don’t think this is something I have done, maybe ever. And I appreciate that while scores of people do this activity regularly – some every weekend – many hate the prospect of enduring flashing flesh in changing rooms or simply don’t care about clothes to spend their precious spare time battling with people, stuffy stores and not being able to find the car for hours. I do have a theory that every one does care to a certain degree, especially if they say they don’t, because everyone selects in some way what they put on each day, but that’s a whole different topic in itself – one for another time.

shopping day

As a Costume Designer I spend my working life in shops, shopping for other people, so a trip to a city centre in my spare time doesn’t appeal to me, and this is why I don’t ‘go shopping’. However, I do make impulse purchases – never tried on – as I shop for characters, whatever I am designing. And what has transpired is that I am the proud owner of three double wardrobes of clothes, and a chest of drawers (you know, for the folded stuff). And absolutely no coherent outfit to be seen.

capsule wardrobe

This traditional-style shopping day came about as I am not currently working on a project, and was in search of some new jeans so had an afternoon to spare on this hellish mission; the paradox of the luxury of a day off and the worst task imaginable to undertake during it. I also wanted a cashmere sweater and some boots for an upcoming trip to New York, practical ones with a sole suitable for the snow and ice, as my last winter trip to NYC was a permanent ice rink of embarrassment in several highly impractical footwear choices, And these are a sensible footwear choice, unlike the Gucci loafers which I really would rather purchase.

gucci loafers

I did find some great fitting jeans in APC – much to my delight as it was the first place I tried – although their “no washing for six months” policy is beyond my capability of rational thought. Essentially I spend my life dealing with other people’s dirty clothes after I have shopped for them so I am now literally obsessed with washing. Also, jeans get ‘knees’, and six months of ‘knees’ are some crazy jeans. Maybe APC people don’t sit down or walk anywhere for six months? It was after the jeans that I realised my list for the day basically involved buying An Outfit. I finally needed to heed all of the well-intentioned magazine advice and buy An Outfit. Revelation One, aged 35.

capsule wardrobe for women

Proposing that this should consist of neutral pieces that stood the at least vague possibility of working with at least a few of the other random purchases to create A Wardrobe quickly became Revelation Two. I sensibly changed into the newly purchased jeans as this would be the key to An Outfit working. Alternatively, you could take the piece which you want to get an outfit to go with with you, thus no one thinks you are crazy –  in fact, they are jealous of your cleverness and foresight.

crazy fashion

I have always been a firm believer in unpatterned, simple clothes in classic colours, and there is absolutely no reason ever to buy a t-shirt in a colour with any kind of print on it. These are life rules that you would think would translate into ‘Woman Capable of Dressing In Chic Classy Way’, but it’s just not that simple. I have some great tees and vests already at home, so they weren’t a requirement at least.


When it comes to tees, I recommend Petit Bateau if you like a tight fit as the longer line tucks-in well, even into low rise jeans to avoid any plumber’s bottom issues. H&M men’s department also has lovely soft crew necks (unlike the thick jersey usually used in women’s tees) so they tuck well into waistbands also as they are cut longer for guys but not tight at the bottom. I often find women’s tees so tight at the hem they become incredibly uncomfortable sitting on the part you don’t want it to and it’s impossible for them to create an insouciant pull so it sits over your waistband, you know, should you so wish to do so.

uniqlo cashmere sweaters

I was after a black cashmere crew neck sweater and I found one of these straight away in Uniqlo of course. And there were lots of great neutrals, ecru, grey marl, navy and black – it came in bright colours too but as I am An Outfit buying I also didn’t want to be too trend led. At £70 that’s some very reasonable cashmere, which washes well if care is taken. The cut is not cropped, but not so long that it does the dreaded muffin top hug, with a small vent on each side giving it extra movement where we have hips so it really is an impressive sweater, especially for the price.

chanel style tweed jackets

Isabel Marant Etoile (which I historically prefer to the main collection anyway) has some great pieces for long term staple outfit dressing. I found an unlined double breasted tight-fitting jacket with great shoulders and a neat classic line for £260, a jacket perfect for travelling as it can be worn with jeans for perfect smart casual. It works as a light jacket for spring through autumn and a great layer for winter, mostly as the cashmere sweater looks perfect underneath. And this jacket works really well dressed up for the evening too, so it feels like a smart, sensible purchase.

timberland slim boots women

The boots took much longer to find, but I found some really great slim black Timberlands with a solid rubber sole, waterproof and sturdy. They are not as heavy as many practical boots, or traditional Timberlands for that matter, and being a slim style they are not too bulky for my 5’2 frame either. They also sit in a great place up the leg to work a turn up on any trouser, and should give me a bit of London rock whatever the weather in NYC. My Mama just bought a pair for a trip to Krakow too, so shed that For Rappers Only impression and take a look.

travelling light

Once I returned home, I realised the enormous success of this trip as I packed, I do believe I managed to create one of those staple wardrobes of which publications so often speak, the ubiquitous An Outfit. I included in my suitcase in addition to my new haul a pair of Stan Smiths, an oversized slouchy sweater, a cashmere vest, some knitted wide leg black pants and a pair of heels along with an old oversized tailored overcoat styled up with a brooch and everything goes with everything. I am a changed woman.

capsule closet

The challenge now is when I get back, parting with all the pieces I like but have nothing to wear them with, but for the next week I shall revel in the wonders of An Outfit, in fact even, The Staple Wardrobe. Fashion editors, it’s has taken you 35 years, but finally you have got through and I have listened, and I profess you are all correct; it really does take the stress out of dressing. Hopefully when I crack this officially full time {=(i.e. in ‘real life’ when I get home) I could even treat myself to a very on-trend whatever-the-colour-next-season-is sweater… You never know!

Point of View

I have always found it bizarre that women can be so harsh to other women. Our choices, our lifestyles, how we dress, the new haircut – we are lovers or haters. It is either amazing that someone gives up work to have a baby and stay with them as a mum, or awful – there’s no in-between ground. Everyone talks about “choice” and no judgement but then I always sense that I am being judged all the time. I have a great example of that.


I launched a brand that creates conversations. We have had magazines refuse to take our advertising. We have had journalists who love the idea and products but their editors ‘don’t want to go there’. We have seen people on Twitter suggest that we are the root of all evil and are demonising women. Then we have heard what real women think. The friends who have struggled with thrush. The new-found fans who have tried everything a doctor suggested. Women sensitive about how their vagina feels and want to do something about it. Yes, I did just say vagina.

Sass is a range of products to give women choice. There are some washes to ensure women (who ARE using shower gel) have a healthy and ph-balanced option. There are sport products so that chammy creams and serums can protect and help you to recover after a spin class.The beauty products help prevent ingrown hairs and give you an easier way to shave. Most of these products have been created based on personal experience.

Sass intimate products

Having to shave due to laser treatment, cycling 400km in Kenya and feeling on the brink of thrush every night. My mum had always told me not to use shower gel and to air myself… But I don’t want to be worried about what I wear, what underwear I choose, or if I have had a session in the gym, I don’t want to feel sore or irritated. To me this is all about choice.

Of course we want to understand and engage people but we also know what we stand for. When people question the brand, it’s ethos, or the products I am always open. Some are polite and engage in conversation, others take to an intern who helps us with Twitter, or raise the issue with Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour. All great ways to share an opinion but I often feel it is judgement in another way. Trying to make women fit into a ‘feminist box’ – I am not sure why we feel the need to do that when we all set our own path.

sass intimate skincare

It is exactly that which is true for SASS. For me true Sass comes from being who you want to be. It is not about judging anyone. A confidence that shines through. I was recently on a panel with The Guardian and the fellow panelists showed how alluring that can be. The vulnerability of being open and having a confidence that of course no-one has all the answers – that is real confidence.

For me when it comes to looking after our vagina I know some people are happier with just water but I wasn’t. We are all for choice and choice shouldn’t mean compromise, but I will let you make up your own mind!

sass products7

Carrie Osman is the founder of CRUXY&CO and co-founder of MAD Brands. She started both businesses having gained over ten of years of marketing experience, working for entrepreneurs and for Mars Inc. Her passion for business and branding saw her named as one of Marketing Magazine’s 30 under 30. In November 2013, Carrie decided it was time to make her own mark and created CRUXY&CO: a challenging and provocative consultancy that repositions businesses.  Carrie’s latest venture is MAD brands which she co-founded with Mark Curry. The MAD portfolio currently includes intimate skincare brand SASS, with more innovative, inspiring products to launch soon. 

Public Speaking 101

Terrified of public speaking? You’re not alone! According to research, 70% of adults report facing communication anxiety and it’s likely that we’ve all worried about public speaking at some point in our lives. I’m no exception, even though I teach public speaking for a living – and I’ve overcome the fear of public speaking myself. Whatever sector you work in, it’s an indispensable professional skill. Want to improve your public speaking? Here’s what I’ve learned…

public speaking fear

We fear fear itself

Most of our fear is that people will notice that we’re nervous. Largely that’s not true. Whilst we may feel like a quivering wreck, the audience see maybe 20% of our nerves. That’s because you’re standing inside your body feeling all those wobbles, whereas the audience are outside your body, not really thinking about you. Audience members are thinking more about themselves than they are about you.

public speaking tips

Nerves are actually helpful

The speakers I coach are best when they have a twinge of nerves. It’s what keeps the buzz in public speaking. When speakers have no nerves, I can see that they’ve become complacent and they do a less good job.

Nerves dissolve when we focus on the audience

Whilst we’re focusing on ourselves it’s possible to feel self conscious and awkward. But if you stop thinking about yourself and ask yourself a question about the audience you’ll find that there are more people than just you in the room. The more you focus on your audience, the better you’ll do at pleasing them too – it’s a win-win!

public speaking

Perfect is not the point

Nervous speakers love to over-prepare, it’s a way of controlling a scary situation. If I can just do it right, then they’ll like and accept me as a speaker. But the deal is that perfection isn’t what impresses an audience. We don’t care whether or not you remembered 35 or 36 of your 38 key points. What we want is a human connection with our speaker, which means you can make mistakes and you can be a bit messy, so long as we see that you’re being authentic.

Find a purpose that’s bigger than your fear

Ultimately to overcome nerves you need a reason for speaking that’s bigger than your fear. Think of Gandhi – he was incredibly socially anxious as a young lawyer in South Africa, yet he carried his nation to freedom. That’s because his purpose was bigger than his fear. To truly overcome your nerves, you need to see public speaking not as a horrible thing to get through, but as an act of leadership that you will take up in order to help others. Doesn’t that sound more like something you could do?

gandhi public speaking

How to be Brilliant at Public Speaking by Sarah Lloyd-Hughes is available to buy online here. Whatever the occasion, whatever the content, whatever the situation, this book will teach you everything you need to know to plan, prepare and deliver any speech or presentation and will give you the skills to deliver it with style, wit, charm and confidence. Discover expert tips, tricks, tools and techniques that will help you build on skills and abilities you already have so you can stand up in front of any audience and really wow them. 

Point of View

You might wonder what you’re letting yourself in for if you search for ‘adult colouring book’, but you’ll be relieved to hear it is definitely SFW. At the time of writing, four of the top ten bestselling titles are adult colouring books, and their popularity is not confined to the UK – this is a global phenomenon. 3.5 million colouring books were sold in France alone last year. I love the idea that people from all over the world are sitting down with a pack of colouring pencils and finding some peace and quiet from colouring in.

colouring book

There’s something for everyone, which is just as it should be. Creative activities shouldn’t just be the preserve of designers and artists; the new wave of colouring books are accessible to everyone and are perfect for those who might be short on time and money. With that in mind, it’s not difficult to see why the appeal of these books is so broad, from a busy office worker who finds it difficult to switch off at the end of a long day to someone who is housebound and enjoys colouring as a creative outlet.

little book of colouring

But forget the colouring books of your childhood. The best of the grown-up versions are highly intricate works of art, designed to be coloured and kept. For The Little Books of Colouring: Peace in Your Pocket, I approached Amber Anderson, a brilliantly talented illustrator from London, as we fell in love with the sophistication and beauty of her illustrations, most of which are inspired by the natural world. We wanted the books to be portable, to fit in a handbag or on a bedside table without compromising any of the design or production quality.

I think part of the appeal is that colouring acts as a kind of digital detox. Most of us spend the majority of our days in front of screens of one type or another, constantly refreshing and flicking between devices. But, even though it’s proven to increase our anxiety levels, going cold turkey on tech can be really difficult. It creeps into all areas of our life. We’ve all heard about the benefits of mindfulness, but it can be quite difficult to get your head round exactly what that means in practice. Activities like colouring are really helpful in encouraging busy minds to focus and draw attention. Colouring in an illustration is sufficiently distracting and allows you to simultaneously focus and switch off from the stresses of every day. And, it’s surprisingly satisfying, too.

colouring for adults

There is very little opportunity to do something creative and to feel that sense of satisfaction that comes from producing something of real beauty. And people are proud of the designs they are creating and sharing them on Facebook and Pinterest. There are even colouring groups, like knitting circles, where people meet up and colour. There’s a nostalgia to it. I remember that quiet focus I felt when I was in school surrounded by paper, pencils, some pipe cleaners and maybe a pot of glitter if there was any left after you spilt it on the floor trying to open it. Colouring books have become an accepted way to replicate that feeling for grown ups, and I wholeheartedly approve.

Jane Sturrock is Non-Fiction Editorial Director at Quercus Books. The Little Book of Colouring series is available to buy online here.

Monogram Mania

The height all things chic must surely be the monogram, I have always lusted after monograms. Obviously the traditional Maison Goyard hand-lettered steamer trunk is the ultimate coup. The only Louis Vuitton I find that catch my eye are older pieces which have faded and worn with personalised bright stripes and letters of their owners – courtesy of their Mon Monogram which is also hand-painted, (somewhat amusingly!) over LV’s own monogram. Vuitton have in fact been celebrating their monogram for years; culminating in the recent collaborative project ‘The Icon and the Iconclasts’ which invites artists to interpret the famous motifs for themselves.

louis vuitton iconoclasts

goyard trunks

Of course, in the case of these trunk-makers, the self-branding came about from the purely practical requirement of their customers being able to recognise one’s luggage when travelling, as opposed to some kind of measure of chicness! But lets face it, those travelling on steamers and railways in those days were already heralding their status and chicness just by being there in the first place – monogrammed or not.

The irony of a monogram feeling so luxurious to me still now – when essentially the house monograms of the Maisons (Chanel’s C’s, Gucci’s G’s and LV’s LV’s of course) – are the most copied and faked of all time does not escape me, but it’s not their monograms that I aspire to, it’s mine. My very own initials. I share those of the Queen which I enjoy, they fit together so perfectly. I am in little love with my own initials, its true. Maybe EJR is the new LV? Maybe he was so in love with his own initials this is how it all started… (Actually his son George created it in his honour, meh).

vuitton trunks

louis vuitton monogram

vuitton monogram

When I was younger, my parents gave me a Samsonite vanity case with my own initials that I loved – a classic 80’s grey with mint green trim, Ooh La La! I somewhat ludicrously toted it about on various holidays, mostly in North Devon but occasionally it got to go on an aeroplane. It was filled with Kylie and MJ cassettes, Anastasia books and that yellow Sony Walkman. Vanity cases, again, such a chic notion, but as my make-up consists of an Eyeko mascara, Chanel eyeliner palette, Lucas Paw Paw, and a Laura Mercier eye base – a case it does not fill. I always fantasise about being the kind of woman who would travel with a vanity case, or a steamer trunk for that matter. Truth is, I am just not. I’m always hauling scripts and 73 Apple products plus their chargers plus adapters, so alas chic traveller – No. Hateful airline ‘you can only have one bag’ lopsided sweaty back-achey techno traveller – Yes.

Whilst the aim of a personalised Goyard steamer trunk, and or becoming the kind of woman who travels with a vanity case are life dreams conceivably impossible to achieve, I have found some very pleasing alternatives to the monogrammatic fantasy. Little ideas to make your personal life feel a little more chic, in the face of the real life adversity of actually having to do quite a lot of work.

rae feather bagsrae feather

Via Jean Queen Donna Ida’s fabulous Instagram I came across British brand Rae Feather , which ties together two of my very favourite chic things – French baskets and Monograms. Available in three sizes and strap lengths {and a clutch purse, which has been out of stock for months sadly} these baskets are an affordable way to commence this initialled life dream. Baskets are just brilliant and I’ve waxed lyrical about them before. You can chuck everything in and feel like you are tripping around the Riviera instead of carrying parsley, sweet potatoes and CoYo home from the supermarket. Whilst I do appreciate £120 for a basket which is available for around £20 in plain reality, please do appreciate that someone is taking the time to sit and paint, by hand, you on to it. It takes time, so appreciate the artisan. Plus I am comparing this as a solution to a £10,000 + steamer trunk so, you know…

Of course pyjamas are another traditionally popular piece to personalise. Ever since I saw Brigitte Bardot in A Very Private Affair I knew two things for absolute. A. I never want to be a film star. B. I want to wear proper pyjamas.

bardot pyjamas

silk pyjamas

I find pyjama buying as tricksy as bikini buying. The top and bottom halves of my body seem, according to pretty much all retailers, to belong to totally different women. Buying anything for your bust and bottom at the same time is surely one of the worst ideas in all retail history?

Whilst badly-sized swimwear has a much more widespread effect as it is mostly worn in a public space. Coloured Lycra creeping upwards, or sagging away from the body; the idea of badly-fitting pyjamas is almost more uncomfortable for me. They are a luxury item; to be enjoyed solo as one potters around one’s abode, making watching CSI Miami repeats or dusting the books feel glamorous. If you subscribe to wearing any pyjamas at all, you subscribe to letting in a little bit of chic, otherwise you’d just wear a hideously misshapen and weirdly grey t-shirt with a tea stain down it to bed – you know I’m right.

poplin pyjamas

Breakfast at Tiffanys Pyjamas

poplins monogram

Audrey’s slumber kit in Breakfast At Tiffanys is of course legendary. Sleeping eyes are always a must, and earplugs perpetually fall out anyway so why on earth should they not in fact be tasselled? The nightshirt championed here proffers an equally fancy bed wear option, although the practicality of actually sleeping as the fabric python suffocates me slowly through the night terrifies me into avoiding them.

I love Poplin’s offer of simple, yet classic luxury loungewear, and they employ Hand & Lock, a London embroidery institution since the 1700’s, to hand embroider their PJs with your initials. Now if the idea of this luxury excess in order to eat a bar of Green and Black in front of Orange is the New Black seems wild, then you can always wear them outside of course, to increase that price-per-wear value.

pyjamas fashion week

olivia von halle

Since about 2012, it has been touted by The Fashion Industry as 100% acceptable, nay chic, to wear your PJs in the day. Street style snappers at Fashion Weeks across the globe have captured the fash pack sporting the masculine silky separates worn with classic staples, as well as worn in full two-piece printed glory. I recommend Olivia von Halle’s beautiful prints for this, as well as faux fur fox Shrimps’ collaboration with Poplin. Both of which can, of course, be monogrammed…

Five Minute Therapist

It’s fair to say that not everyone gets chance to access their own personal facialist, but yes, we’re pretty good to you here at RIH. Anti-ageing queries or acne concerns? Puffy eyes or fine lines? Each month, we give you the chance to put your questions to super facialist and skincare expert Antonia Burrell…

skincare routine

I’m late to the party with adopting a skincare routine, but now cleanse, tone and moisturise twice a day. I find the whole serum thing really confusing though – do I honestly need one? How are they different to moisturisers and what do they actually do? When should I use one? They seem to be pretty expensive but I don’t want to have to spend loads. I’m 28 and have combination skin with dry patches from time to time.

Serums are very targeted treatments designed to meet a whole host of skin needs – this might be anti-ageing, pigmentation or fine lines, for example. The use of serums really depends on your individual skincare needs; they are very different to moisturisers in that they don’t moisturise the skin as such, they just treat any concerns you have. Serums are usually a little pricier as they have a much higher concentration of ingredients, making them very potent but highly effective!


For dry/combination skin I recommend using a balancing serum to gently bring the skin back to its natural equilibrium. Plant-based formulations that are rich in vitamins and anti-oxidants are a great place to start, and always look for products that contain vitamins A, C & E. Over 90% of the signs of ageing are caused by free radical damage, so it’s important to incorporate as many topical anti-oxidants into your body (inside and out) as possible. Start thinking about your anti-ageing regime now and your skin will thank you for it later!

Particular ingredients I would recommend for dry/combination skin include Wild Carrot Root as it’s rich in vitamin A which helps to heal dry skin whilst stimulating collagen renewal. Cedarwood is also great for combination skin as it is a natural astringent for oily skin conditions. Palma Rosa oil is also a natural oil balancer which also works to hydrate and calm. I also love Sea Buckthorn as it’s a very rich source of vitamins A and E, carotenes and flavonoids and is second only to Rosehips when it comes to vitamin C content. It is also rich in several vitamins and minerals. Sea-buckthorn oil promotes skin repair and is one of the most beneficial oils for ageing skin.

Many people who suffer with oily skin tend to steer clear of using natural oils in skincare for fear of making it worse, when in fact it’s what the skin needs. The truth about oil lies within the most basic principle of chemistry – like dissolves like. Oil dissolves oil so by using the right oils you can cleanse your pores of dirt and bacteria naturally, gently and effectively. What’s more, beneficial oils extracted from natural botanicals, vegetables and fruit can replace dirty oil build-up leaving skin healed, nourished and protected and you with clear, glowing skin that is free of imperfections.

I don’t recommend using a serum all the time, and only use sparingly underneath your moisturiser to address any specific concerns you have. If you do suffer with severe dry patches I recommend focusing more on finding a good hydrating moisturiser rather than a serum.

beackstage skincare serums

Have a question you’d like to put to Antonia? Pop your details below and if you’re lucky, you’ll get the answer to your query in a future edition of Five Minute Therapist! What are you waiting for – not everyone gets access to an A-List facialist just like that!

Don’t Interrupt!

I’m a stickler for good table manners. I can’t bear it when people don’t pick up their feet. And finger drumming really gets my goat. I have, I am aware, multiple bêtes noires; but by far the most unpleasant “bad habit” in my book is interrupting. As bad behaviour goes, it’s one of the most common and also the most damaging to interpersonal relationships, but luckily, it’s also one that’s relatively easy to correct.


Interrupting during a conversation takes two main forms: cutting someone off to make one’s own point and finishing someone’s sentence for them. Both drive me mad. The former simply shows a lack of respect for the other person, their right to express themselves, and what they have to communicate. It says, “What I want to say is more important and/or interesting than what you are already in the middle of saying, and frankly, I don’t much care about what you’re trying to tell me”. The latter annoys me because I want to be allowed to express my opinions in my own specifically chosen words. When someone cuts me off and finishes my sentence for me, they almost never say exactly what I was going to say, so I feel like my point is misrepresented and I’m not being fully “heard”. I regularly want to shout “I’m not running out of steam and I don’t need help to make my point; am I just not speaking quickly enough for your liking?” but of course, I’m British, so I just seethe silently instead…

Being regularly interrupted makes the “interuptee” feel unheard, frustrated, disrespected – none of which helps build a relationship with another person, which, ironically, is often the point of having a conversation in the first place. I don’t know anyone who enjoys being interrupted… which is odd since we are almost all both victims and perpetrators of this destructive conversational habit.


So, what happens when you’re the interrupter? In addition to the message you’re sending the person you’re talking to, you’re not doing yourself any favours either. How stressful is it to be responsible for both sides of a conversation – both your own and the end of every sentence your partner tries to get out? How tense do you get when, instead of listening and then responding, you’re formulating your reply to your friend as they’re talking so that you can start making it even before they’ve finished? How often do you finish someone’s sentence only for them to say, “Well, no, that’s not where I was going with that”?

Curbing the urge to interrupt – to butt in with my idea or push people to make their point quicker – is something I’ve been working on for a while now, and I have to say the benefits are both powerful and immediate. When I’m not thinking ahead to my turn to speak, I can fully listen to friends, right to the end of their sentence or story – which lets me relax and makes them feel unrushed and heard – which makes them relax too. Since I’ve heard their full point in their own words, my replies are more pertinent and structured; which makes for a richer conversation.


It’s no fun being interrupted, but short of actually calling someone out on their bad habit, there’s not much you can do about it. But in a spirit of being the change you want to see in the world, you can work on your own tendency to interrupt, and it really is win-win. The less you do it, the better your conversations and, as everyone relaxes and gets used to being fully heard, the less likely it is that you yourself will be interrupted. So, next time you’re chatting to friends, mentally note how often you start talking before others have really finished. The first step in changing a habit is to acknowledge it – and when you do start noticing, I bet you’ll shock yourself. And when you start to stop yourself and force yourself to listen patiently, you’ll be amazed at the effect it has on both the people around you and on your own stress levels and enjoyment of the conversation!