Welcome to the Pradasphere

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Somewhat unfortunately, the opening of the Pradasphere at Harrods just so happened to take place in the midst of last week’s tube strikes. If you don’t live in London and haven’t experienced what happens to the city when we have a tube strike, the situation is something like a cross between Armageddon and Dawn of the Dead. Standstill traffic; glazed eyed commuters running, shouting, knocking each other out of the way and generally stampeding around in a state of unbridled rage that I suspect many of us secretly enjoy, we Brits do love a good moan. Getting anywhere is a complete nightmare which is why I ended up walking to Knightsbridge from my home in Hammersmith, not a vast distance but wearing heels, carrying world’s largest handbag and in a rush it was far from ideal. I also fell over, twice, and was a sweaty, knee grazed mess by the time I arrived. I was regaling this tale to the Harrods team when a fellow attendee, who’d also just endured the journey from hell responded to their disbelief with a sentence that said it all; “but it’s Prada” i.e. we were all prepared to endure pretty much anything to be there. This rather sums up the fashion world’s feelings for the brand and explains why we were all in such a state of giddy excitement and nervous anticipation over the opening of an exhibition on its legacy held within a department store. Would it do justice to a label that has revolutionised the way many of us think about, feel about and approach fashion? Would it offer an insight into the mind of Miuccia, innovator, renegade and inspiration? Or would it be more of an exercise in flogging (fabulous) product within the glorious surroundings of London’s most famous temple of consumption? I’m incredibly relieved – and impressed – to tell you that the latter couldn’t be further from the truth.

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Prada flags and expertly styled window displays may offer the outside observer a taster of what’s in store on the fourth floor but they couldn’t begin to convey the depth of detail and content up for ogling inside the Harrods Pradasphere. Running down the centre of the space, exquisite show looks are displayed in towering cabinets of curiosities, arranged thematically with titles such as “Femasculinity”, “Animality” and “Excessivity” and  referencing the recurring motifs in Miuccia’s collections. In typically Prada fashion, this exhibition eschews the typical divisions of the fashion system, blending seasons and decades, ready-to-wear and couture craftsmanship to concoct a taxonomy of Miuccia’s different obsessions, demonstrating the lasting role each plays in the DNA of the brand. In the case of a designer whose every collection feels like an absolute original, it’s fascinating to see how in fact they all tie together, weaving a narrative of her career through the inspirations she returns to time and again yet somehow uses to create pieces that feel fresh and new.

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Housed in a glass cabinet at the far end of the space is an exhibit containing a glittering array of objects and fabric swathes displaying Prada’s innovative use of ancient and industrial processes. As the V&A’s sartorial super show this year makes clear, Italian fashion is about oh so much more than glamour and the Pradasphere reiterates that simply but effectively. The point is clear, you can have all the ideas in the world but without the necessary skill and craftsmanship it’s just not going to work. Elsewhere Prada’s diverse projects and passions are explored, ranging from film collaborations with the likes of Wes Anderson to those with the worlds of architecture, sport and art. There is, of course, a specially installed shopping space and an incredibly chic Marchesi Café too but like every aspect of the exhibition they’re executed in a way that feels very subtle, cool and inimitably Prada.

The Pradasphere will be open at Harrods until the end of May. It’s definitely worth checking out!

Love Ella. X

Posted on by Ella Catliff in Reviews 1 Comment

LPA x The OUTNET: Modern Iconic

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I know I always start project posts with something along the lines of “I am SO excited to share…” and it’s always true, but I really do have butterflies over showing you these shots. Especially given that the whole thing has been under strictest embargo until today. This is also a project that, without sounding like too much of an arse, I’m particularly proud of. It’s been my baby for the past few weeks and very nearly went rather wrong but I’m so delighted with the results and really hope you’ll love them too.

As I’m sure you already know, this year The OUTNET is celebrating its 5th birthday. On one hand it seems as thought the time’s flown by. On the other I cannot imagine an age before it or what on earth we did without it. Where else could one purchase a slinky tweed Mulberry pencil skirt for under £200? As I did just last season. Brand new Peter Pilotto pieces at 60% off? Good luck finding that at any other e-tailer on the planet! 5 years is a big milestone for any company and with The OUTNET going from strength to strength, they’ve decided to celebrate by releasing a very special limited edition collection of 17 truly iconic designer pieces. In my opinion, the collection really epitomises what makes The OUTNET such a brilliant and widely popular destination, not to mention separates it from every other designer outlet out there. The OUTNET is a place to go to find high fashion pieces at (comparatively) low prices but, as the pieces are all at least a season “old”, it’s not about snapping up flash in the pan fads. While their carefully curated stock is always the kind of stuff you want, nay, need right this second, The OUTNET is fundamentally all about modern classics. Pieces that transcend their season and become perennial style staples, guaranteed never to render you an outdated sartorial pariah. And that, my friends, was the premise of the 5th Birthday collection. From the glossy black McQueen clutch to J.W. Anderson’s sell out paisley prints, Equipment’s signature silk shirt and that va va voom Roland Mouret dress, these items are all utterly classic and timeless but not in the way that, say, a camel cashmere sweater is. Each is exciting, contemporary and covetable. But, unlike many seasonal “it” pieces, none of them were cursed with a life span of just six months.

My collaboration with The OUTNET on their 5th Birthday collection began, as all the best collaborations too do; over fine wine, great food and even better company at Dean Street Townhouse last month. The lovely OUTNET team treated me (and Char) to a delectable dinner where we caught up, had a damn good time, and they told me all about this collection. In between getting very excited about that, and almost as excited about the fact DST had Battenburg Cake on the menu, I came up with an idea. As the 5th Birthday Collection is all about the modern iconic, I thought it would be fitting to capture them in locations that represent this concept too. After all, London is hardly short of bars, restaurants and galleries that feel as cool now as the day they opened but are fast becoming emblematic of the city. Luckily The OUTNET agreed and gave me free reign to take their then-unreleased designer wares to style and shoot them in locations of my choosing around town. A potentially rather risky move on their part but (thank God) it’s all worked out well. As I mentioned, it wasn’t entirely plain sailing. I’ve never organised a shoot of this scale before and it turns out that managing every tiny detail of it – from picking the pieces to use, to arranging permissions at each of the locations, managing hair, make up and transport – isn’t so simple. With my final thesis draft submission and Easter thrown into the mix, it was a something of a challenge to say the least. But possibly thanks to dumb luck and desperation, not to mention everyone else involved being brilliant, it all seems to have turned out wonderfully! So without further ado, here you have my and The OUTNET’s guide to rocking the modern iconic…

Balmain Brunching at The Modern Pantry

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Balmain 5th Birthday Collection Printed Cotton Top, £130, available at TheOUTNET.com here
Alexander McQueen 5th Birthday Collection Squeeze It Patent Leather Clutch,£357, available at TheOUTNET.com here
Iris & Ink Leather London Stretch Leather Leggings,£398, available at TheOUTNET.com here

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The Modern Pantry can be found at 47 – 48 St John’s Square, Clerkenwell, London EC1V 4JJ. Click here to visit the website.

Oh to be the girl that brunches in Balmain! Actually to be the girl that does anything in any of the pieces from the The OUTNET 5th Birthday Collection would be pretty awesome. This is definitely the kind of ensemble that would turn a few heads on the commuter tube but that, my friends, is never a bad thing. Since those fierce shouldered blazers, Balmain has churned out collectors items season after season. This tee perfectly encapsulates the brand’s haute badass vibe and iconic gold button details but in a way that remains just subtle enough to be something you’ll for all manner of occasions. I could just as easily imagine teaming it with distressed denim and flat sandals for the weekend as glamming it up with second skin leather and a glossy Alexander McQueen stunner from the birthday collection, as I did here. London is positively bursting with chic brunch perfect spots at the moment but The Modern Pantry is a personal favourite. Its very name explains why The Modern Pantry was the perfect choice for this piece. The sleek decor, Clerkenwell location (a time tested gastronomic and cultural area currently enjoying a major moment) and innovative menus are utterly contemporary. Both the downstairs cafe and upstairs restaurant dish out a delectable eclectic array of updated classics and imaginative fusion cuisine concocted from exotic ingredients sourced across the globe alongside the finest wines, or if you’re feeling virtuous, fresher-than-fresh organic juicies and smoothies on tap. At the same time The Modern Pantry isn’t so trendy or hipster packed that it puts you off or run the risk of being yet another there one day, gone the next hotspot. It’s a stylishly understated hotspot with integrity that will no doubt stand the test of time.

White Out at The Saatchi Gallery

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Joseph 5th Birthday Collection Cabon Jacket, £272, available at TheOUTNET.com here
J.W. Anderson 5th Birthday Collection Paisley Print Top, £341, available at TheOUTNET.com here
Eddie Borgo 5th Birthday Collection silver diamanté cuff, £225, available at TheOUTNET.com here
Tory Burch Mid-Rise Straight Leg Jeans, £75, available at TheOUTNET.com here

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The Saatchi Gallery can be found at  Duke of York’s HQ, King’s Road, London SW3 4RY. Click here to visit the website

Rarely do I have the courage to wear this much white as I have a tendency to run around carrying vats of Starbucks and subsequently most of my clothes are covered in surreptitious coffee stains. This ensemble would make forgoing my caffeine fix totally worth it. These pieces by J.W. Anderson and Joseph are a gorgeous example of the fashion old guard meeting the new to create a look that simply exudes modern elegance and Eddie Borgo’s diamond bracelet provides just the right amount of subtle sparkle. Aesthetically and metaphorically, the whole thing seemed perfect for a trip to The Saatchi Gallery. As much fun as visiting quirky little galleries can be, there are few things lovelier than visiting a big, beautiful one guaranteed to be packed with inspiring art to gaze upon while wondering, at least in my case, how the hell anyone created it. London has many of these, the Victoria & Albert Museum, National Portrait Gallery, Tate Modern but The Saatchi is one I particularly adore and that felt very appropriate for this shoot. Within it’s wonderfully grand yet refreshingly modern walls it provides an incredible forum for contemporary art, in many cases giving unknown artists the chance to kickstart their careers. While The Saatchi Gallery opened some 25 years ago, it only moved to Chelsea in 2008. And it’s here, amid greenery and eateries (Gallery Mess is excellent) that I feel, or at least hope, it will remain, showcasing work you probably wouldn’t see in other major London galleries within an elegant and airy space that provides a perfect escape from the fast paced frenzy going on outside. The fact that admission to all exhibitions is free doesn’t hurt either.

Skyline Florals at The Boundary Rooftop

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Jason Wu 5th Birthday Collection Floral Print Dress, £570, available at TheOUTNET.com here
Haizhen Wang 5th Birthday Collection Leather Jacket, £650, available at TheOUTNET.com here

Oscar de la Renta 5th Birthday Collection Floral Necklace, £265, available at TheOUTNET.com here

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The Boundary can be found at 2 – 4 Boundary Street, Shoreditch, London E2 7DD. Click here to visit the website.

When the great British weather decides to play ball, there are few better places to be in London than sipping cocktails on The Boundary Rooftop. This is, of course, not the commonest of occurrences so they decided to install a weatherproof bar and restaurant boasting the same panoramic views and chic alfresco styling. Smart folk right there. Luckily last week’s rain subsided for our shoot so we could make full use of the glorious outdoor space and I’ve decided that in future I’ll be spending a hell of a lot more time there! Offering top notch, skyline wining and dining is always going to make a place worth visiting but I think there’s really something about The Boundary Rooftop that’s rather special. The Boundary houses both an achingly cool cafe, The Albion and The Rooftop bar and restaurant as well as 12 rooms and 5 suites. It’s very designed and very contemporary but in a way that makes you want to explore its many floors and stay for a very long time. In fact one of the reasons I rate The Boundary – rooms, cafe, rooftop, the lot – is because it feels very intimate and low key, while simultaneously being absolutely stunning and rather majestic. It was the hot new addition to the East London scene when it opened in 2008, remains of the moment today, and is set to stay that way for decades to come. Housed within an old Victorian building with traditional with a twist British fare served downstairs and modern Mediterranean cuisine up top, totally wired up but designed in consultation with The Environment Agency to keep things green and with aged Olive trees on the roof; The Boundary brings together the old and the new, the high tech and the homegrown in a way that feels very relevant to now yet also very lasting. Rather like the outfit I chose to shoot there. The Jason Wu dress, Haizhen Wang jacket and Oscar de la Renta statement necklace would make you swoon if you spotted them in a magazine showcasing the best of next season but there is a timelessness and versatility to them that will last forever.

Late Night Pursuits at The EDITION Punch Room

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Roland Mouret 5th Birthday Collection O’Hara Wool-Crepe Dress, £598, available at TheOUTNET.com here
Alexander McQueen 5th Birthday Collection Squeeze It Patent Leather Clutch, 358, available at TheOUTNET.com here

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The London EDITION can be found at 10 Berner’s Street, London, W1T 3NP. Click here to visit the website.

It’s certainly no secret that I adore The EDITION. I’ve spent more late nights carousing there than I care to remember and one of the hotel’s most delectable, debauchery ready spots is the Punch Room. With it’s oak panelled walls, luscious velvet sofas, roaring fire and mahogany cocktail bar it has an old school opulence to it that’s utterly irresistible. The EDITION burst onto the London landscape just in time for SS14 fashion week and immediately became the place to see and be seen. Some eight month’s later that remains the case and I don’t see anything changing anytime soon. It is, of course, impeccably designed fusing absolute, unashamed grandeur with modernity and originality. This no doubt why, despite being inspired by manor house libraries and 19th century private clubs, there’s nothing remotely fusty about the Punch Room. It’s timeless in a seductively slick kind of way, exactly like Roland Mouret’s signature, slinky wool crepe dress. Both feel exciting, decadent and glamorous but equally, totally reliable. At The EDITION you’re guaranteed flawless service, sumptuous surroundings and that anything you eat or drink will be fantastic. With this Mouret number, you can count on it always being flattering, occasion appropriate and making an entrance. Proof perhaps that luxury never goes out of style.

I really hope you’ve enjoyed this project, it was so much fun creating it. A huge, huge thank you to all the locations for being so accommodating, The OUTNET for going along with my idea and my fantastic photographer Holly for taking such incredible pictures and flogging around London accompanied by world’s largest wheelie bag!

Love Ella. X

Images by Holly McGlynn

Posted on by Ella Catliff in Projects 4 Comments

5 Minutes With: Zoe Karssen

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Zoe Karssen is a brand that really needs no introduction. In under four years the label has become the everyday attire go to for everyone from Kate Moss and Cara Delevingne to Beyonce and Rihanna… and your’s truly, at least whenever I can afford to. Fash casual slogan tees may be the company’s calling card, but recent seasons have seen the addition of knitwear, denim and accessories. With stockists ranging from Net-a-Porter, Selfridges and Harrods to AVN Group in Russia, Zoe Karssen is the epitome of the 21st century sartorial success story. I caught up with Zoe herself to talk inspirations, in house arguments and top quality tees…

LPA: Tell me a little about yourselves…

ZK: I grew up in Winchester in Hampshire, an hour south of London. I studied at Winchester school of art and then onto Bournemouth arts school. I didn’t complete my studies. I already started my first job, so dropped out of education, in hindsight I really wished I finished. Quince grew up in a small city in holland called, Veenendaal. He also studied here and once he had completed his studies, he then moved to the UK to search for better job opportunities.

LPA: What prompted you to launch your label in 2010? Had this always been the plan or did something specific inspire you to do it at that point in time?

ZK: Quince and I met in London, but we moved to the Netherlands when Quince started working for Tommy Hilfiger. I went to work at a Dutch denim brand called, Blue Blood. That’s where a stylist saw me wearing a loose tee, which I had drawn a quote on with a permanent marker the night before (a T-shirt should always be loose fit. I hate tight shirts). The stylist used the shirt in a shoot for the fashion magazine, Glamour. The response was overwhelming and Quince and I saw an opportunity for a private label. It seemed to be at a time when retailers were looking for innovation in the store without any huge investments. Our T-shirts answered that need, we were completely naive and inexperienced but frankly, I think that actually really helped. We completely went for it, no holding back. Quince was full time and I myself in the evenings and weekends, alongside my full-time job (we needed to pay the bills)!

LPA: In just four years, Zoe Karssen has landed many of the world’s top stockists, more celebrity fans than I can even list and generally become one of the most coveted casual wear brands around. Did you have a set strategy to get yourselves there when you launched? And what do you think it is about your designs that people, myself included, find so irresistible?

ZK: We think that quality is super important for a simple item like a T-shirt. Both being trained as graphic designers in fashion, we’ve been obsessed with tees for fifteen years and have become specialists in mixing materials and treatments. The quality of our tees is better than that of many other suppliers. That I would say is a key unique selling point for us.

LPA: Having started out with a collection of easy to wear tops and bottoms featuring quirky prints, Zoe Karssen has grown to encompass knitwear, high end denim, basics and even a few accessories. How have you managed to balance expansion with retaining your strong brand identity?

ZK: We are always trying our best! There isn’t really a manual on how to do this .. its a lot of guess work for us and following our gut feeling! Plus, we have great sales teams behind us that bring a lot of experience and good advise each season on whats working and whats difficult. Then we have to filter this information to what we believe is best for the brand. We try to handle the growth slowly and surely! That’s our motto, don’t rush things too much. For example, when we added the knitwear, we spent several seasons trying to perfect it and get it right before we added another product group.

LPA: Despite how quickly Zoe Karssen has grown, you still manage and create everything in house including shoots. Why is this so important to you?

ZK: First of all, we are control freaks! Secondly, It’s far better to keep everything in house right now, as we keep 100% control and it keeps our costs low. We started this way and I feel like this is crucial to our brand message, it’s really all developed from our gut feeling on what’s cool. We have had such a great response to the brand image, that we don’t try to change it. But, of course it can always improve. It’s a dream, if it just gets stronger every season!

LPA: I always find it fascinating to learn about design processes and the different sources ways and places designers find inspiration. How do you take your collections from initial ideas to finished product? Do you have go to references or is it different each season?

ZK: We are constantly on the blogs and internet, pretty much every day, I have a folder on my desktop and every time I see something inspiring, I save it. By the time, we approach the design periods again, I have a folder ready to go with new inspiration. We also have a solid basis in all of our collections, our best fits don’t change, so it’s more about colour cards and cool new graphics than designing complete new collections every season, that way we can spend more time on the few new styles being perfect rather than having too many and not enough focus in the collection.

LPA: I can imagine that running a label together has both advantages and challenges. How do you balance the responsibilities and decisions between you? What’s the biggest argument you’ve had since launching the brand?

ZK: We are lucky because it’s very clear for us, we have strengths in different fields. Quince runs the business on a day to day basis, finance, logistics, production etc. He also takes care of all the graphics every season. I focus on marketing and the brand image and Quince and I share the design input. So long, as we don’t stray to far from this it seems to work perfectly.

LPA: Could we see further Zoe Karssen lines added in the future? Interiors or childrenswear maybe…

ZK: Never say never! I would love to expand into interiors, but right now we are still young and need to focus. Our main focus this year is on quality, delivering on time to our retailers, basically perfecting what we already have. I have a small project in the pipeline that should be launched at Christmas, but I don’t want to jinx it so I won’t divulge just yet.

LPA: What advice would you give to someone planning to launch their own business?

ZK: First of all, DREAM BIG! DREAMS CAN COME TRUE! Make sure, you have some start up funds, you do need some money to get going. Thirdly, ensure you have a good and reliable manufacturer.. go visit them to check it out (if you plan to manufacture clothing). Equally, it is very important is to have a great brand story with clear brand messaging and imagery, you have to stand out from your competition.

Visit and shop Zoe Karssen online (especially the palm prints, I’m obsessed) here

Love Ella. x

Posted on by Ella Catliff in Interviews 1 Comment

Look Du Jour: Gossip Girl & Personal Style

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What: Coat, Shoes, Handbag & Glasses by Kate Spade NY (c/o), Shirt by J.Crew, Jeans by HUDSON JEANS (c/o)

Where: Dinner at Bob Bob Ricard followed by drinks at Soho House.

Good God I miss Gossip Girl. It was, and still is one of my absolute, all time favourite shows… As if you needed further confirmation that I am perhaps the least cool person on the planet. Ok, so it wasn’t exactly Breaking Bad, not that I’ve actually ever watched Breaking Bad but everyone does bloody bang on about it. GG’s plot lines may have got a little cray at times, and more than a little predictable towards the end. But the clothes, oh those clothes! Blair season 1 continues to provide sartorial inspiration some six and a bit years after I first clapped eyes on her delicious array of knee high socks, headbands, girly detailing and masterful, masterful colour coordination. This certainly isn’t a new fashion fixation for me. Not by a long shot. While writing this post, originally just titled “Gossip Girl”, I was struck with a sense of deja vu. My words seemed to be flowing a little too freely and I wondered if I’d read them elsewhere and was engaging in a little semi unintentional plagiarism. I mean come on, we’ve all done that. A quick browse through my Look Du Jour archive revealed that I had in fact written another outfit post of the same name back in December. Somewhat embarrassingly, not only was the name the same, the accompanying musings were practically identical too. This got me thinking about personal style. Of course, most of us are well aware that there are certain cuts or colours that flatter our figures and skin tones. But it’s more significant than habitually opting for A line silhouettes because they make one’s waist look smaller. After a while, the aesthetics and inspirations we go back to time and again essentially become automatic, second nature, an integral part of who we are. I’m not saying for one minute that we should be entirely defined by what we wear, but I think the role our clothes (and accessories, obvs) play in constructing, portraying and protecting our identity is fascinating and goes far beyond the realms of die hard fashion addicts, pre ordering next season Prada while the bills pile up. On an outward level, appearance is the first thing you notice about someone so deciding what sartorial uniform to adopt is effectively deciding who we want to be to the rest of the world. On a more personal and perhaps more important one, it can shape how we feel about ourselves and that in turn shapes, well, just about everything else. I know full well that when I wear an outfit like this one, bright colours, shapes I know suit my body, time tested Gossip Girl inspired girly aesthetic, I’m well within my comfort zone. Regardless of what a rubbish day I’ve been having, when I don this ensemble I feel like myself and confident enough not to give a damn about a few strange stares on the tube (seriously, what’s wrong with people!? See last week’s post). That’s not to discourage mixing things up now and again, hell no. If I’m in a good frame of mind anyway then totally stepping outside my usual repertoire in, say, a mannish trouser suit or vampy haute couture leather confection can be unbelievably liberating, all the while safe in the knowledge that you can swap it for something a little safer that makes you really look and feel like you.

What are your thoughts on this? Don’t hold back, I’d so love to know!

Love Ella x

Images by Holly McGlynn

Posted on by Ella Catliff in Look Du Jour 2 Comments

Monthly Must Haves: April 2014

Spot the feeble fraudster who claimed she’d never be swayed by pool sliders and is all of a sudden finding herself dreaming of these green bad boys… As for Phillip Lim’s latest array of Pashlis, the feelings I have for these bags are so far from normal. TBH all these must haves are, well, must haves and I must have them all!

monthly must haves april

1) Rodarte 3D Heart Motif Sweatshirt, 160, click here to buy
2) River Island Pink Floral Skirt, 25, click here to buy
3) Whistles Maya Gladiator Sliders, 225, click here to buy
4) 3.1 Phillip Lim Medium Leather Pashli, 805, click here to buy
5) Peter Pilotto Elizabeth Printed Silk Cloque Dress, 980, click here to buy
6) Acne Yellow Frame Sunglasses, 240, click here to buy
7) NW3 by Hobbs Yellow Cat Socks, 6, click here to buy
8) Charlotte Olympia Mandy Wedge Sandals, 595, click here to buy
9) Marni Striped Cuff Boyfriend Jeans, 250, click here to buy
10) NW3 by Hobbs Yellow Cat Jacquard Sweater, 69, click here to buy

Love Ella. X

Posted on by Ella Catliff in Shopping 1 Comment