It would be helpful, at this point, to have an impartial bystander try to describe my wardrobe for me. I'm emotionally tied to it, for better or for worse—therefore, it's hard to judge if it's any good or just complete chaos.
I've worked in fashion for 11 years now, and have accumulated more clothes, shoes, bags and accessories than you could probably imagine. I have a small walk-in closet (let's just get this fact out of the way; I know I'm spoilt), and it's permanently overflowing. I'm on a near-constant clearing out mission, giving items to friends and family, storing pieces I feel sentimental about, yet the fashion mountain seems harder to scale every day.
I need to get rid of what doesn't work and stop being under the illusion that I have nothing to wear. It's not true; it's just that I can't see the quality wood for the shitty trees. Fed up with being overwhelmed every day by choice, I'm starting to think about the items I come back to, the brands I always revisit and the pieces worth saving up for, holding onto, or fixing and mending, should they start to look a little worse for wear.
In my decade of working in the industry, I've grown fond of certain brands for one simple reason: They look and feel better on me than others. I don't particularly care for what's cool; I just like what I like. There are shoe brands I'll visit before investigating any other options, safe in the knowledge that they'll not only have styles I love and can afford but that they'll be comfortable too. Some labels are my #1 stop for dresses that work with my hourglass figure rather than fight against it.
There are a handful of high-street brands I'd wholeheartedly recommend to my friends because fast fashion should still last a long time and look chic. Some luxury names really do warrant whopping price tags: I could never have dreamt of owning anything from Prada or Sonia Rykiel when I was an intern, but saving up to buy a beautifully designed, high-quality piece of merchandise that will last year upon year really does provide a rush of excitement.
So keep scrolling to see the best fashion brands, IMHO.
As a huge fan of '70s fashion, I've long dreamt of owning a vintage edit of iconic Sonia Rykiel knitwear. (What I wouldn't give for an original trouser suit.) The late French designer's wares have been long appreciated for their incredible quality, and the brand—under the helm of Julie de Libran—continues that high standard today. The brand is quite pricey, so I always seek it out when sale season arrives, or via secondhand or past-season e-commerce sites. A while ago, I invested in a jumper when it was on sale (it's one my knitwear designer friends are obsessed with due to its level of detailing), but I also own this floral dress (a gift from The Outnet) and a shearling-collared coat I bought during the London store's Christmas sale about seven years ago—and have worn every winter ever since.
Uterqüe is Zara's grown-up, more directional sister brand. Moreover, it fits my figure far better and features more luxurious fabrics. Since it launched a few years ago, I've invested in quite a few items: The shoes are well-made for the price point (they're manufactured in some of the best factories in Spain), trousers are well-cut for my thicker legs and its dresses are always easy to throw on but still have plenty of design bang for your buck. I splurged on a red leather jacket which always garners compliments, and I can't wait to wear a '70s-inspired jumpsuit when the weather improves… Although the brand is significantly more expensive than the other labels in the Inditex stable, I'd say this appeals to my buy-less, buy-better tendencies.
I've spoken before about my love for the dresses coming out of Ghost's renaissance. The brand has been kind enough to gift me in the past, but since that point, I've been hooked and have bought more versions to add to my growing collection! From the colours and prints to the easy, breezy silhouettes, there's nothing more comfortable to throw on than one of Ghost's midis.
As far as affordable fashion brands go, Mango has to be up there with the best. The brand has completely transformed from a few years ago, offering grown-up pieces that reflect the trends (but aren't slavish to them) at a decent price point. Over the past year, I've bought multiple dresses from the Spanish brand, but also trouser suits (always too long on the leg, so bear that in mind if you're short), real leather and suede shoes (from a comfort POV, faux-leather footwear just doesn't cut it for me), and a lot of earrings. My tip? Don't shop in a physical store. The experience really doesn't match up to the great goods available, so focus your efforts on Mango.com and be sure to check out its Committed collection, as it's not only more elevated in design but also more sustainable.
I have yet to own any Prada clothing, as it's generally out of my spending limit, but shoes and bags? Count me in. Like many luxury Italian brands, its leather goods are of the very highest quality, but Miuccia Prada is also a visionary who can create instant classics (like this little black bag) as easily as she generates a total wildcard trend or It item (I'm saving my pennies for a pair of midi stilettos with a Velcro strap across the front). I own a pair of simple black leather sandals from Miu Miu and a suede platform pair from Prada: Both have been long-lasting, clever purchases I'll continue to resole and rewear well into the future. One day, when I win the lottery, I will track down a colourful shearling coat from A/W 14—a dream ticket.
As with Ghost, I've also previously shared my appreciation of Rejina Pyo's dresses with you. Hers are definitely more dramatic, thanks to its exaggerated silhouettes and unusual fabric choices (the dress pictured is quite a heavy, textural weave, which makes the shape hold in place). Many have tried to pay homage—ahem, copy—Rejina's statement dresses, but buying anything OG is definitely worth it for the fit and generous amount of fabric.
When I find comfortable shoes that I love, I try to buy them in different colourways because I know I'll get heaps of wear out of them—such is the case with these suede boots from L'Autre Chose. The French shoe brand isn't one you come across too often (very few stockists in the UK, from what I can gather), but I've been seeking out its past-season styles for a reduced price on Yoox ever since I discovered these pull-on beauties in beige and brown in 2012. I still wear them now, and they don't even look bad, although they're becoming increasingly battered!
When it comes to clothes that lift your mood, it doesn't get any better than Rixo's patterned yet demure dresses. They're great for nights out, weddings, work and more. What's more, despite the brand's huge popularity, the prints and shapes just don't date. I'd presume that's down to the fact that the fabric is lovely for the contemporary price point (always silk) and that the designers Hen and Orlagh are inspired by vintage styles that have stood the test of time.
Another one of my secret high-street hot spots is Warehouse, and particularly for its co-ords and midi dresses. This Dennis the Menace combo has been worn on repeat since I bought it last February, working for smart days at the office with boots as well as winter evening dos with strappy heels and red lipstick. I think Warehouse's pieces are well-suited to figures with curves, whereas many high-street stores pattern cut for straight-up-and-down bodies. From this classic Brit store, I also own a faux-fur coat in leopard print (you can see it in action here), a gingham summer dress and black denim culottes. All signs point towards the brand not having just one strength but multiple fantastic options across categories.
Aeyde! What did I do before I owned these black mules… and then bought them for a second time around? As soon as I was introduced to this German shoe brand in 2017, I was hooked—and so were many other fashion insiders, with the label's flattering V-cut mules really taking off first in both black suede but also hot-pink satin. Since then, the brand has expanded its collection with an array of wicked ankle boots, flats, sandals and more, as well as collaborating with Lucy Williams, and gathering cool stockists like Net-a-Porter. As such, it's perhaps not surprising that Aeyde's lovely shoes have been seen on the feet of other Who What Wear UK team members too.
It's not that I'm not into the new Celine, but I currently own and still take great enjoyment from some choice purchases I made during Phoebe Philo's era—the most recent being the alphabet necklace that is (sob!) no longer available. I have a couple Celine bags (one was a gift, and one was bought from Bicester Village at a snip of the original RRP), and they've held their own throughout some pretty heavy wear. I have yet to actually own any Celine clothing (although I've tried heaps on and can attest to its greatness), but I'm always checking Vestiaire Collective for pre-loved stock. A few key items are on my list: a zigzag-knitted midi skirt or striped dress from spring 2015, the curvy heeled stretch-boots from last year, a blazer or coat from literally any collection, and the white balloon dress from spring 2016.
I have more gold earrings than I've had hot dinners, but this one pair just keep bringing me inordinate amounts of joy. Pascale James is a sustainable jewellery brand working out of London, creating really unusual, sculptural pieces like these giant earrings cast from lemon slices. I've worn them on holiday and to work, parties, weddings and more—they're light despite their size, and I'll treasure them forever.