Good God I love travelling. I never did the whole backpacking gap yah thing post school and had no desire to because a) the standard route sounded kind of dull and b) I’m not really a hostel kinda gal. But I do genuinely regret having not encountered more countries and cultures around the world and am in the process of amending that. Whether it’s a trip of the in and out just for a brunch kind or of a more dune buggy driving in the desert thing, visiting different places, having new experiences and meeting new people are something I enjoy almost above all else. Over the coming months I’m planning on pushing the boat out a whole lot more in these respects and heading to continents and cultures I’ve never encountered before. For the moment though, let’s talk Europe. First up, a weekend at the Zalando Summer House in the company’s native Germany…
My experience working with Zalando has never been and I suspect will never be anything other than wonderful. I had so much fun experimenting with a more urban, sporty aesthetic when we collaborated on their Karl Lagerfeld collection, the site is taking on new premium brands and launching awesome campaigns like nobody’s business this season and their team have always struck me as a whole lot of fun. As did the idea of spending a weekend in the German countryside with Zalando and a bunch of fellow bloggers from all over Europe. Upon arrival at Berlin airport we were informed that the house was a 2 + hour drive out of the city. Not going to lie, this did not fill me with joy – sitting still is not my finest skill, to put it very mildly – but when we arrived it was instantly obvious that the long journey was worth it. Somewhat stupidly, I had never considered how bloody beautiful the German countryside might be. Once the nap that rendered me foetal for the first hour of the journey ended thanks to an urgent need for a loo break (ok, a fag break but I went with the former as my excuse) I awoke to blue skies, corn fields, quaint cottages and just utter rural paradise. This continued for many a winding lane more until at last we pulled into the sweeping driveway of a country pile made up of two, I think, barn conversions surrounded by rolling fields, such woodland and endless horizons.
After swapping my stale feeling travel jeans n’ tee for a gingham sundress I joined my fellow Zalando Summer House attendees for fresh lemonade, cocktails and home baked treats out on the lawn where a long table had been bedecked in freshly picked flowers. I was the only Brit on the trip and unlike most similar occasions, I didn’t recognise many faces and it was lovely to get to know new bloggers from all over Europe. The experience also reiterated quite how many smart, stylish and inspiring girls there are around breaking conventional career moulds to develop their own individual brands and bold new business models.
Several hours of chat and cake later we were led past the lake and through the fields to an area where hay bales and blankets had been set out ready for us to gather around a projector screen. Why the al fresco lecture hall? Well, basically the theme of the trip centred around the idea of nature and its role in providing constant inspiration for fashion designers. This sounds a bit obvious I know but the way in which our host, New York trend forecaster, concept designer, stylist and lecturer Gemma Gambee unpacked and explored the topic was anything but. Within about 2 seconds I’d become utterly entranced by Gemma’s talk. This wasn’t exactly a shock given my borderline sad obsession with luxury branding, trend progression, fashion history and all things digital, basically Gemma’s areas of extreme expertise and the main areas unpacked in her witty, captivating and almost unbelievably on point views on the industry past, present and future. I’m not joking when I say that I’m a total geek about that stuff. My friends and family literally (and unsuccessfully) beg me to shut the hell up about the thesis I finished well over a year ago. Luckily however, some people are equally obsessed so after being that student sitting at the front with their hand up every 2 seconds I was so happy to be able to corner Gemma afterwards and learn more about her work.
Talk over, we all headed back to our interiors envy inducing rooms to freshen up before heading back for a delicious dinner under the stars followed by a marshmallows and hot chocolate – or more red wine, a better option – around a campfire.
The next day I awoke, then promptly fell back asleep, then awoke again a few hours later a raced to breakfast in a panic. Annoyingly I’d seemed to have come down with some sort of bug (possibly explains the uncharacteristic need for all of the sleep) so had to miss the morning’s activities. But regardless of how rubbish I felt, nothing and no one would stop me getting stuck into the afternoon’s activities. An area of the garden had been transformed into a Zalando showroom where we were all given free reign to pick a full look, something that naturally turned into one hell of a scramble, before hair & makeup followed by a photoshoot in the woods.
Once everyone had been groomed and got into their gladrags it was time for our final dinner, which team Zalando had refused to tell us anything about. Frustrating though this was, when we arrived I was rather glad they hadn’t. In another field another beautiful table had been set alongside a bar and a feast laden barbecue area opposite another al fresco set up involving sofas and a DJ booth. The food was so goddamn delicious (BBQ’d GAMBAS, I MEAN!) I ran the risk of slipping into a food coma but luckily a strong cocktail got me and Irina on our feet and soon everyone joined us to dance to an epic noughties RnB playlist until the wee hours.
Huge thanks to Zalando for a wonderful weekend!
Love Ella. X