Having It All

How peaceful life would be if we really could have it all. Everything you ever wanted landing straight into your lap through a click of the fingers. It would be amazing, wouldn’t it?


Many people often think that way. So why do we constantly read stories of the rich, famous and successful, who have fallen into the depths of anxiety, stress and addiction? Typically, the main reason is because – in their scramble to ‘have it all’ – they succumb to the short term pleasures in life rather than focusing on the long term gains. So what can we do today, to reap a more rewarding and fulfilling life tomorrow?



Uncertainty is the biggest stress that most of us face in life. We should remind ourselves that we are animals and therefore need the same feeling of safety and security that animals do. Stress is there for a reason. It is a red flag that warns us that all is not well, and that there are areas of our lives we need to pay attention to.



Animals will feel stressed unless they are in a safe environment where they do not have to worry about predators. Such an environment would include a safe place to stay, food, water and other animals of the same species around them for protection – the necessities in life. In the same way, order for us humans to feel safe and secure, we need to first focus on obtaining the things that bring us safety and security; a home, financial security, a strong and healthy body, a long term partner and good friends.


So, write down all the things you want out of life so you can see them clearly in front of you. Divide them into two lists, “needs” and “wants”. “Needs” are long term goals such as financial security, a home, a car, savings etc. Wants are short term pleasures such as material possessions, nights out and weekends away.



Ultimately, it’s crucial to prioritise our “needs” before our “wants” if we wish to attain peace of mind. Many people tend to feed their short term “wants” before their long term “needs”, which leads to insecurity and stress. There is nothing wrong with having the latest mobile phone, seasonal fashions, or a spa weekend away, but make sure your long term plans are in place first. “Wants” are fine in moderation, but keep them under control.



Avoid getting into debt through buying unnecessary things. “Wants” will only ever provide you with short term pleasure and these tend to be your material possessions or emotional pleasures which, although are exciting in the moment, lose their appeal very quickly. If you are spending too much time and money on your “wants”, then in the long term, your “needs” will not be met, leaving you insecure and anxious about the future. Only spend what you have. Once you get into debt, you will find that rather than owning your possessions, your possessions start to own you.



Finally, be grateful for what you have. There will always be others with more than you, so don’t compare yourself to them. Instead contemplate all the things that you do have, as you will start begin to appreciate how good your life already is.


Toby Maguire is founder and CEO of Working in Balance, which runs retreats and workshops specialising in corporate wellness, and wellbeing in the workplace. From January 2017, Working In Balance is hosting a series of unique and rebalancing retreats in the spectacular setting of Six Senses Douro Valley, Portugal. Working in Balance aims to educate individuals and organisations on the negative effects of stress, how to reduce it and how to improve physical and psychological well-being. Guests at the retreats will receive a range of tips on how to work more productively and efficiently, and the retreat also includes an individual wellness assessment, two hours of daily themed workshops and seminars, Tai Chi, meditation and yoga classes, as well as fitness activities and a relaxing daily massage. For more information and to book, see the Working in Balance website.

The Problem With Marriage

There’s something very wrong with marriage in England and Wales that you’re probably not aware of. I wasn’t until this year, when I was asked to fill out some paperwork ahead of my wedding in June. Take a look at the example marriage certificate below to see whether you can pinpoint what makes this document utterly anachronistic. (Hint: mum’s the word.)


If your eyes have studied the part reserved for parents and you’re wondering where the area saved for mothers is, you’ll be looking a long time. That’s because it’s forbidden to list your mother on a marriage certificate issued under the jurisdiction of England and Wales. Yes, that’s right: forbidden.

This astounding fact applies regardless of the type of wedding, or what kind of officiant marries you. Yet in Scotland and Northern Ireland, both parents are listed on marriage certificates. What’s going on with this seemingly un-united anomaly within an ostensibly forward-thinking, inclusive part of the United Kingdom? What about people who have no relationship with their father? Whether it’s because they genuinely never knew their father, or because they wish to preclude him from getting a name-check (no, family dynamics can’t always be fixed with a good old cup of tea and a resolute heart-to-heart), there’s a spectacularly Dickensian solution to this scenario. In the acceptable absence of a biological father, the box marked ‘Parent’ will bear the word ‘Unknown’, regardless of a mother’s solo triumph at raising an individual.


Stepfathers don’t qualify either, unless they’ve officially adopted the person in question. As for two female parents: my guess is that this is frustratingly complicated – possibly even distressing – to get around.

This draconian piece of legislation exists in 2016 because, basically put, it’s the way it’s always been since certifying marriages became a legal requirement around 1838. The details established back then at the start of Queen Victoria’s reign have never been changed. In 2014, the issue was raised in Parliament after a petition on Change.org was signed by nearly 80,000 people.


Like him or loathe him, this is what PM at the time, David Cameron said: “The content of marriage registers in England and Wales… require details of the couples’ fathers, but not their mothers. This clearly doesn’t reflect modern Britain – and it’s high time the system was updated.”

But as adamant as Cameron was for redress, the Home Office rejected it. Their reason? HO Minister Richard Harrington claimed that changing the law to include mothers on marriage certificates “wouldn’t allow for different family circumstances”. Which begs the question: what different family circumstances? Same sex male couples? At least the box grants male couples their gender. And what about non-binary parents?


Two centuries on since certifying this rite of passage became requisite, there are some things about marriage that have come so brilliantly far within the last 10 years; while something as quietly heroic as the work of mothers still fails to be recognised. To me, a feminist by definition for the reason that I’ve always assumed I can, it’s a sobering realisation that, maybe, we’ve still got a very long way to go.

Enter The Echo Chamber

Were you surprised at the Brexit result? Didn’t see it coming? Perhaps your Facebook timeline and Twitter stream erupted into a collective outpouring of shock and sadness when the UK voted to leave. Sound familiar? The opinions of our friends and those who we follow on social networks generally mirror our own, meaning that – thanks to some clever algorithms – we’re all trapped in a filter bubble. So how to escape the digital bubble – and access ideas outside of your usual social sphere? Enter The Echo Chamber – a groundbreaking new weekly newsletter which will make you think. Alice Thwaite -The Echo Chamber’s founder – tells us more…


What’s The Echo Chamber all about?

The Echo Chamber Club is a weekly newsletter. We understand what the majority of people believe and we directly challenge that status quo. We don’t tend to write much ourselves, instead we curate articles written from other sources and encourage our subscribers to read them.

Who’s The Echo Chamber for?

It is for educated metropolitans. Most people who live in cities have fairly liberal and centrist beliefs – and The Echo Chamber Club monitors social media to understand what is being shared in this group and then challenges it.


Why did you start the Echo Chamber?

The concept of an ‘echo chamber’ or ‘filter bubble’ has been around for a few years. Eli Pariser (founder of Upworthy) wrote a book in 2012 which showed that social media algorithms are engineered so that you see more of the stories that you normally engage with. So someone who is naturally centrist would not see stories or opinions of people on the fringe on their social media feeds.

This was once a theory, and now it’s turned into a political reality. “Quiet conservatives” were blamed for the polling industry inability to predict the outcome of the 2015 election. Most recently, Brexit took many metropolitans by surprise.


For ages, I tried to think of a solution to this problem. It seemed so huge, and the social networks such giants, that it was impossible to solve. Ironically, when I removed myself from my normal surroundings I thought of an idea, and I realised a weekly newsletter might be just the thing to help people get out of their filter bubble. The Echo Chamber Club was launched merely weeks afterwards.

What can I expect to find in the weekly newsletter?

We like to cover things that either have a clear media bias on the subject – like issues like ‘safe spaces’, the burkini, Brexit; or subjects that aren’t covered in the media at all, like the potential genocide in Burundi.


Why should I care about seeing someone else’s point of view?

A lot of media organisations want to make you smarter – and we want to help with that too – but actually our main aim is to make you more empathetic. We want to help people access new ideas. Many educated people struggle with Twitter; let alone with RSS and Reddit. We’ll put in the hours of research so that our subscribers can start with the best contrary articles to their point of view. We will help with your natural sense of curiosity and adventure! In doing so, we hope the leaders of today and tomorrow will make better predictions and decisions about the future of their businesses and policies.

To find out more about The Echo Chamber, head to the website. You can subscribe to The Echo Chamber’s newsletter here – and check out previous newsletters here. Break free from the filter bubble!

Motivation 101

The holidays have ended and summer has come to a close. No, there is not a bank holiday in sight until December – and when you realise that is three months away, you’d be forgiven for wanting to hide under the duvet. So, want to get your motivation back but not sure how? Here are some easy strategies to help you get back on track!


Remember why you’re doing things

Be it work, life or anything in between – remind yourself of the purpose behind every action. What is the why behind your job? It could be as simple as paying the bills so you can survive whilst you look for a better job, or as fulfilling as it being your calling. Even in your day-to-day life, you can put the why into anything to bring more motivation to it. Why do you do laundry? So that you can have clean, fresh clothes and smell good (and personally, I also find it quite meditative to hang the laundry up to dry). Why do you exercise? So you can be healthy, feel more energised and eat more treats (at least that’s one of my motivations ;).

Identify where you’re going

Knowing where you want to get to is the first step to going anywhere. What is it that you want to achieve? What goals do you want to reach? What is your dream scenario when it comes to work and life? When you remind yourself of this, you will feel motivated to take the steps needed to get there.


Interact with people who inspire you

Follow them on social media, read their books, or meet them for coffee. Think about why they inspire you and how. Discover how they got to where they are today, and how you can learn from them. Personally, when I’m feeling stuck, I sometimes use questions like: “What would Oprah do in this situation?” (Yes, I find Oprah incredibly inspirational!)

Schedule Exciting Things

Take 15 minutes to brainstorm an idea you want to put into action. Go check out the new coffee shop that’s opened. Schedule a lunch date with your uplifting friend over lunch break. Read that book that you’ve been meaning to read for months.It doesn’t matter how big or small the thing is, as long as it’s something that excites you and gives you something to look forward to.


Create moments to relax and recharge

Ironically, in order to get motivated and to stay motivated you also need to have downtime when you are not doing anything. As a human you thrive on balance and need just as much time to recharge and recover as to do things that move you forward. Sleeping is an obvious recovery time but it’s not enough (especially because most of us don’t get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep a night). Book time in your calendar to take a bath, read a good book, get a massage, or simply to just be.

Adapt Your Exercise

If you’re feeling lethargic and low, don’t force yourself into intense ashtanga classes or circuit training – unless you know they make you feel better. Normally, it’s good to match your exercise routine to your mood to slowly nudge yourself out of it. Feeling high? Go to a fun ‘Dance like Beyoncé’ dance class to further boost your positivity. Feeling low? Do some nurturing yin yoga or take a gentle stroll in the park to turn your low mood into a contented one. Feeling frustrated and stressed? Go do some cardio like a spinning class or boxing workout to release the negativity.


For more insights like these, sign-up for free updates from Susanna Halonen – the Happyologist, at www.happyologist.co.uk. As a happiness coach and author of Screw Finding Your Passion, she can help you to build and live a life you love.

Ask A Celebrity Facialist

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? Fine lines or under-eye circles? Each month, we give you the chance to put your questions to celebrity facialist and skincare expert Teresa Tarmey

using retinol anti ageing

I keep hearing about retinol and honestly it seems like there’s so much confusion and conflicting advice that I don’t know where to start. I’m 29 and starting to have some fine lines on my forehead and around my eyes, so I think retinol sounds like it might be a good idea. What do you advise?

Retinol has to be one of my favourite skincare products on the market – if you’ve not heard of it before, it’s a topical Vitamin A-based product which can be bought over the counter. Retinol has many benefits for the skin, basically acting as an exfoliator on a very high speed – and when I say exfoliator I don’t mean the same effect that you would get from a peel or a glycolic acid-based product. Not everyone – but most people – will slightly peel from retinol which in this case is taking away the dead skin as the same time as all the other amazing benefits. Put simply, retinol increases the cell turnover, resulting in fresher, brighter and more evenly-toned skin. I would never advise anyone under the age of 18 to use retinol, as their skin might be too sensitive, but it has great benefits for anyone 18+ that suffers from acne, plus it has fantastic anti-ageing benefits for anyone aged 30+.

retinol skincare tips

As retinol makes the skin more sensitive, I would recommend always using an SPF, or a moisturiser that has an SPF in it. Retinol is suitable for all skin types, but I would still advise you to start by testing a small area before applying it to your whole face.

Product-wise, I personally love Aestheticare as it’s a gentle retinol that over time gradually builds up the percentage. I would get advice on the best way to use it for your skin type and always make sure to ask about the potential of peeling and skin sensitivity. I recommend starting with a low percentage such as 0.3% – 0.5% 2-3 times per week and gradually increasing. Once the skin can tolerate retinol, you can use every night after cleansing. And once your skin gets used to the percentage, you can creep up to the next strength and so on. I would recommend using it in the evening – simply let the product soak into the skin first and then apply your usual products whether that’s a serum or a night cream.


Got a skincare question? Fill in our form with full details and you might have the chance to have Teresa Tarmey answer your question next month! For more information on Teresa, see her website.

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 minute.com 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.