Dressing for work and day-to-night confidence most definitely has its pitfalls. Feeling well-turned out, looking stylish and wearing outfits that feel work-appropriate all score highly on what women want from business (and weekend) wear.
But how often have you invested in a clothing ‘power piece’, only to realise that it looks amazing but isn’t comfortable and bobbles on the first wash. Or that everything in your wardrobe is dry clean only.
The good news is there’s a new generation of fashion brands out to fix that. A favourite trend of ours is for business-wear created by women with a previous life in the corporate world. Who better to design clothing that understands what women need for work and play than other women who’ve been there?
Sarah Haran founded her luxury handbag company while working in a successful career in IT. When she struggled to find a practical bag that also left her feeling stylish and well turned out she created the Dahlia Tote bag. Now, she has a whole range of designs that support other women to feel a million dollars, organised and confident.
With this insider info, Sarah’s selected her pick of brands from women who’ve left successful first careers in business to launch their own fashion labels. Not only beautiful, these practical designs will help you build an easy-to-wear work and weekend wardrobe with wow factor.
Libby Hart became director of a top investment bank at just 28 years-old so you can rest assured her brand Libby London dresses women for a world she knows and understands. Her designs are timeless but have a contemporary edge that keeps them up to date. Look out for her shirt dresses which are great rolled up for travel-packing and designed with sleeves, demure necklines and hems that “flatter, rather than reveal.” Her hard-wearing, stretch fabrics last, plus most are washable so you can just chuck your clothes in the machine or hand-wash.
The brand is also a great option for smart un-stuffy tailoring where every piece has a matching option in jackets, skirts, trousers and dresses. You can also order swatches of fabrics to sample, or use the VIP trying on service which comes straight to your home.
Match: the Libby London Exeter Shirt Dress in Cobalt (£189) with the Sarah Haran Iris Satchel in Smooth Orange (sale price £350)
Match: the Libby London Battersea Green Wrap Jacket (£175) with Marie Camera Bag in Burgundy (£345)
Co-founded by Polly McMaster – with a background in consulting and finance, an MBA from the London Business School and included as one of Management Today ’35 Women Under 35’ - The Fold creates clothes that aim to level the playing field between business attire for the sexes.
The Fold believes that “looking as smart as a man in his bespoke suit gives a woman the same level of confidence and gravitas at work”, and we tend to agree. The brand’s versatile pieces are high quality, modern, in timeless designs that won’t be in and out with trends, and its suiting is comfortable and made from crease-free, resilient fabrics. As Polly puts it “when most of the men in the room are wearing bespoke suits, you need to be on a par sartorially to hold your own”.
They have a Chelsea store and you should check out their Workwear Matters Report, full of research into whether what you wear to work impacts your career (spoiler: the answer’s yes).
Match: The Fold Astwood Jacket in Toffee and Navy Check Wool (£325) and Astwood Culottes in Toffee and Navy Check Wool (£185) with Sarah Haran Dahlia Bloom Tote in Off White (£395)
Match: The Fold Haslemere Dress in Blush Herringbone with the Dhalia Tote Bag in Grey (£495)
The Dai fashion label was created by Joanna Dai, a California native who brings a love of ease to the polished style sensibilities of London and New York – where she worked during her finance career – to create beautiful, functional clothes that allow the wearer to move.
The real hero here is the fabric Joanna uses, created to make dressing for work feel like dressing for leisure. (We like the sound of that.) The smart fabrics she’s engineered have a luxe feel but are life-proof with 4-way stretch and wrinkle release, as well as being machine washable, quick drying, breathable and pilling resistant. Designed for maximum versatility and with elegant lines, we love their sharp tailoring and different trousers shapes to suit everyone.
Match: Dai Trail Blazer in Black (£395) and Back to Basic Blouse in Ivory Silk with crepe silk bowtie (£195) with Dahlia Tote Bag in Black Moc Crock (£525)
Match: Dai Fundamental Dress in Midnight (£275) with Dahlia Tote Bag in Burgundy (£495)
VISIT - https://daiwear.com/
Ceffin was created by Samathan Cameron after she struggled to find fashion-forward clothes that weren’t corporate or dull during her time with hubby David in 10 Downing Street, and working as Creative Director at Smythson. The most trend-led brand on our list, we love Ceffin’s bold dresses and modern suits in fresh colours - which pair perfectly with trainers or heels – for easy fashion that’s pulled together and professional, but very creative too. These pieces look great styled from day to night for women juggling busy schedules and are billed as fashion you don’t have to overthink.
Look out for the brand’s edits of wedding wear, tailored suiting and machine washable wear!
Match: Ceffin Clement Turn Up Trousers in Black (£210) with Jessica Bowling Bag in Mocha (£525)
Match: Ceffin Freya Dipped Hem Midi Dress in Navy (£320) with the Michelle Tote Bag with Organiser Insert in Black (£395)
Long the preserve of men only, Distinctively Me brings the pleasure of the made to measure suit to women’s tailoring. They had to be on our list! Jill White founded the company after working in the corporate world managing a £350 million business division, when she wanted to open out the transformative powers of perfectly fitting clothes. She’s believes wearing a bespoke suit will have you standing a little taller and feeling that much more confident in your skin.
The process of getting a made-to-measure suit is just delicious. You’re invited to Distinctively Me’s Hampstead Studio where you’ll try on sample sizes to get an idea of style – and what suits you – before being measured, fitted and pampered along the way. Being able to choose distinct finishes such as the buttons, lining and pockets of your suit all add to the experience.
Carry on the individual feel by personalizing your Sarah Haran bag with our modular sections and tassels in different colours and effects.
Match: Distinctively Me Paneled Pencil Skirt in Burgundy Leather (made to measure - £275) with Dahlia Tote Bag in Berry (sale price: £396)
Match: Distinctively Me Tailored Boucle Jacket in Cream (made to measure - £525) with Dahlia Tote Bag in Tan (£495)
For all handbags featured, visit https://www.sarahharan.com/