When Paul Lowe's Hambledon wish list appeared in our inbox we were super thrilled. We had always hoped he was as lovely and jolly as his book and blog make him out to be, and it turns out, he really is. Here is his pick of our festive treats, and guess what, they are just as jolly as he is.
He's one of the world's leading interiors bloggers. A man hooked on hue whose gorgeous book, Bright Bazaar, is our turn-to for colour inspiration. Ever so pleased to have Will Taylor, aka Mr Bazaar, here, making some bold and bright picks from our wares.
Hello all kinds of newness. New clothes, new labels and totally new territory for us. Never before have we embraced pre-collections in such a big way. And how exciting it is. To be mid-November, nearing the end of the season, immersed in Christmas, and suddenly be whisked away to new shores.
Collette and new label Lemlem take us to tropical climes with their gorgeous resort collections. Womenswear favourites Chinti & Parker, MiH and Custommade hit us with fresh instalments of what they do best; knits, shirts and dresses ahoy. Meanwhile newcomers Markus Lupfer and Studio Nicholson up the fashion stakes; Markus with his crazy sequin knits and uber party dresses, and Studio Nicholson with impeccable wardrobe classics. Accessories get a refresh too with new styles from Hudson and Beck Sondergaard. Get on board.
The curtain of ultimate secrecy (well, it would have been if you weren't such a bunch of nosey parkers. Honestly, putting a partition up in the shop is the equivalent of a big red button saying 'do not push'!) is down, which can only mean one thing. Our 2014 Christmas Shop is open and ready for holly-jolly business!
Our newest jeweller on the block is the lovely Phoebe Coleman. Fresh out of Shoreditch, the collection is part rock and roll and part whimsy and supremely pretty. There's a piece on every Hambledoner's wish list. Here Phoebe gives us a little peek into life in the studio.
We love a family-feel independent, so are super excited to be stocking menswear brand, Arpenteur, run exclusively by two cousins (and a certain pattern maker they admit they couldn't work without). We hear from founder Marc Asseily on their lessons learned, brand inspiration and Arpenteur's guilty pleasure. Bibimbap, anyone?
Describe your typical working day.
If we had to sum things up, we would say there is a bit of design and pattern making, a bit of production and factory visiting, and a lot of e-mails and phone calls.
Who or what couldn't you work without?
Our pattern maker, a lady with a long experience [in the industry]. She is the one who understands and translates our intentions into shapes.
What do you like most about what you do?
We are an independent company (the brand is just the two of us, and we are cousins). The best thing is making our own decisions and being able to work without any compromise on our values.
Which project, collection or achievement are you most proud of?
Every season we develop original fabrics, in partnership with French knitting and weaving mills. We try to get fabrics with a good balance between rugged quality and comfort. This is something we're always proud to achieve and show.
Who would you most like to see wearing an Arpenteur design?
Anybody who likes the story we try to tell, gets the feelings we try to comunicate through our products, and maybe shares the same values of independence (and style!)
What has been the most important lesson learned?
Always try to ask ourselves the right questions to make a product better from one season to another. There is always room for improvement.
Who or what inspires you?
French folk culture, clothes and art are a very strong source of inspiration. We also try to translate personal feelings about things we see and like. It may come from various media or random observations in our daily life.
What would you like to do in the future?
We are always looking for new people with specific skills we can use to make better garments, and we would like to keep it that way for as long as we can.
What is the Arpenteur team's guilty pleasure?
There is a Korean restaurant not far from the office, serving the best bibimbap dish in town. We could eat there every day of the week.
And finally, tell us a bit about this season's collection...
The AW14 season tries to focus on simple but strong styles, with a focus on outerwear. Our ideas stay pretty much the same from season to season. We just try to find new fabrics, improve and reshape things we previously did. As with every season, there are a number of classic gallic sportswear fabrics: wool melton, moleskine, boiled wool and corduroy.
The Arpenteur AW14 collection is now available in store.
With the arrival of our Pies and Tarts recipe book and our long love affair with a Falcon pie tin, this was an idea that was first mooted last year. Finally, with pie eating season upon us and the need to bid a fond farewell to two members of the team, we had the perfect excuse to make it happen.
So for a fortnight we talked about pies incessantly; favourite recipes, how to make the perfect pie crust, piccalilli or mustard on the side. Lucy turned to her trusty Nigella's bacon and egg number, Victoria opted for pecan, Finn slaved for hours over a mascarpone cheesecake and Rob pulled off a spectacular dark chocolate torte. It was pies aplenty for all, and a perfectly Hambledon send off for Kate (now fully ensconsed as a lecturer up at Winchester University) and Rich (now managing the new Nigel Cabourn store in Covent Garden), who we wish only good and great things.
Condiment lovers take note. We've expanded our Makers & Merchants range to include sauces, pickles and preserves. All handmade here in the UK by small, artisan producers, then given the full Makers & Merchants makeover. All bright red and bold type. Which we love. Not that we're swayed by the fancy packaging. They hapen to taste really, really good too. Especially on the side, next to a big wedge of pie.