Girl Bosses


Danielle Hodgson-Lindley is the brainchild behind Velvet Circus, a brand that she launched after finding a niche. At Velvet Circus they are dedicated to creating unique experiences in the world of weddings, villa parties and events of all kind; every project is bespoke and tailored to suit their clients’ tastes and personal style.

Here at House of Coco, we love brands that offer that personal touch and Velvet Circus does just that. We spent some time with Danielle finding out more about her and the brand… Can you tell us about your journey which lead you to setting up Velvet Circus
I moved to Ibiza in 2006 from Harrogate in North Yorkshire, with my boyfriend (now husband). I started working for Ibiza Wedding as their head stylist for 8 years , I then saw a niche on the island for top stylist and decoration hire companies working freelance and it was then that Velvet Circus was born. This meant I could then work for all of the planners and concierge companies on their events.

Do you offer your services outside of Ibiza?
We offer services in the Balearics.

Do you have a specific way of working with your clients, if so, tell us about that…
We start by either meeting our clients in person or we chat to them on the phone. We gauge a little on what they like/don’t like and then we put together a comprehensive proposal with inspiration, photo shopping and plans accompanied with a finance sheet. This is followed with more meetings with our florists and clients to get everything just right.

Tell us what being an entrepreneur means to you…
To me this means making a dream come true, I’m also always thinking of a way to be more creative and expand my business. Being a good boss and treating staff well with a good sense of morale is really important to me because, ultimately, we are a family!

Have you made any business mistakes that have turned out to be beneficial learning curves?
I’ve made some mistakes with regards to the way I lay out rules and terms with suppliers and clients which as you say, these are great learning curves that better my business and have lead to me making the business work more efficiently.
If you were to offer one piece of advice to anyone looking to set up their own business, what would it be?
Make sure that you manage your business with a sense of authority but also kindness, always be fair. People will always remember that you work in this way.

Do you have any words of wisdom that will empower us in to feeling that we can achieve anything we set our mind to?
If you feel it in your gut then go for it!

Find out more…

Sarah Haran is the founder and creative director behind her brand of the same name. Something that launched on the back of her hobby, she was inspired to make a handbag that not only looked the part but it kept you organised whilst on the move too. Now, making waves in the industry, craftsmanship is at the forefront of the brand and Sarah Haran is one to watch.

We spent some time with her to find out more…

Tell us about the journey that lead you to launching your brand, Sarah Haran…

As Founder, Creative Director and Mum of two, what started as a hobby – when I taught myself how to make handbags, became a passion that I finally turned into my career! I was inspired to create the perfect handbag to ensure I was completely organised when on the move and was carrying a bag that worked easily with the wardrobe I travelled with. I also wanted to be confident and “look the part” in every situation.

Whilst working full time as Chief Operating Officer of a publicly listed company, iomart, I learned how to design and produce handbags myself. Following an apprenticeship with the ex Creative Director of Mulberry, I designed the Dahlia. This beautifully functional tote bag soon became my every day bag and as friends and colleagues began requesting their own, the Sarah Haran brand was born

True craftsmanship is at the forefront of your brand, why is that important to you?

My love of style and my need for functionality that didn’t compromise quality or craftsmanship was really key to me. I wanted to create a lasting product that was not only sustainable but was something you could rely on every day and would not fall to pieces. I also wanted to create a product that could be restyled to make the handbag look completely different by simply adding on different accessories.

As I grew my brand it was no longer feasible to produce every handbag personally, so I began my hunt for the perfect partners who understood the craftsmanship values I wanted to bring to my brand. I wanted craftsmen and women who understood the need to create a product that would last.

Preferring family-run businesses, rather than big, faceless factories it took me ages to find the right partners. I literally researched for hours online and then travelled around Europe and found small factories in England, Spain and Turkey, with over 100 years of experience in producing handbags and small leather goods.

You only work with small partners, opposed to faceless factories that have a high turnover. We really respect this and would love to know, what are your views with regards to fast fashion?

I have always loved the skills and craftsmanship associated with smaller artisan led family-run production businesses, rather than faceless factories, When I was in my teen years I designed my own clothes and was fascinated by the skills of the local tailors (I lived in the Middle East at the time). My mother taught me to sew and I really enjoyed it – sourcing fabrics and trims was much cheaper then, than buying ready-made clothes.

Whilst you might never want to be seen twice in an outfit I think you would have made more effort to try to restyle an outfit in the past but with the advent of fast fashion you can literally purchase another outfit for such a low cost that there is no encouragement to restyle or reuse.

Thankfully, I think that we are all now so much more aware that it is time for us to all make more considered purchases that have a greater longevity and help reduce the impact on our planet. Whilst I truly respect everyone’s decision on how they purchase I do think the fashion industry has a responsibility to do better and enable us all to be able to buy better. Our handbags have deliberately been designed so that you can restyle them to look different thus ensuring your look can be easily changed with an accessory. They come with a lifetime guarantee as well so we are really standing behind the life of our products.

Since launching the brand, what has been your biggest achievement?

I think having the confidence to step out of my previous IT role and take the decision to actually start my business was a huge achievement. Since then the achievement of launching a brand that has received over 350 5 star endorsements and how we have changed the lives of our customers really is my biggest achievement. Reaching our second year in business and achieving our sales goals has also been a highlight, as well as being recognised for having a seriously excellent product by the Observer, The Guardian, Daily Mail You Magazine, Sunday Express, Marie Claire and Homes & Interiors, Good Housekeeping, and various online publications. It gives me confidence to keep pushing on!

Looking back, is there anything you would do differently?

It’s always so hard when you start a new business, particularly when you change career and sector, you just don’t know what you don’t know. I was easily swayed at the start as I really did not know how to present my brand, so if I was to change anything it would be to really have stuck to my guns on what my brand is about. I think I probably stuck to long with a PR agency because it’s so easy to be sold the dream of quick success. If I could go back I would definitely change them out sooner!

Your bags are stunning and practicality is at the forefront of what you do. Do you plan on launching other products down the line?

Yes, ultimately I would like to design a range of beautiful products that really are functional and will aid women in their day to day life’s. We already have plans afoot for this and this year have already launched our first Merino & Cashmere wraps. Watch this space

What does 2020 look like for you?

2020 is full of opportunity I am sure. My brand has gained more traction, more reviews and we have a great team in place now to help us really grow the brand. We have new designs we are working on and I am really excited to enter the 20’s with a roar. We are here and we want to continue to empower women with beautifully functional products!

Our readers love to travel, what destination is at the top of your bucket list?

I have been very lucky to have travelled a lot seeing a range of different cultures and life’s. Next on my list would be going to Vietnam or the Cayman Islands. Both very different places but both hold a sense of a different life to my normal every day so definitely on my bucket list.

What’s a piece of advice you have received that has stuck with you?

I think a key bit of advice I have received is that you should always be willing to be easy to do business with. There are so many opportunities out there and everyone approaches them differently but the lesson of being willing to listen, to take on advice and to provide an excellent service makes you easy to do business with.

I have found that making our brand customer focussed and easy to deal with has given our customers a high quality experience. This has led to over 350 5-star reviews for our products with a net promoter score of +98%.

For anyone wanting to launch a fashion brand, what advice would you give?

Stick to what you believe your brand is all about and try not to be swayed by other ideas or input from others. You started your brand inspired by your own story or experiences and its often easy to get distracted.

Make sure you know who your customer is inside out, it really will make things so much easier.

Finally, I think you must also be sure you love what you do – you spend more time working on your brand so you must be passionate about it. Some days will be tough! Be willing to hustle as people simply may not take you seriously at the start. You have think out of the box to get their support. Hustle to get sales as well, that’s the true lifeblood of your business.

Find out more…

#sarahharanuk on facebook, twitter and instagram

Camille Defago might only be 21 years old, but this girl is one to watch. Born and raised in Lima, Peru she is passionate about fashion. Her mission as a designer is to empower creativity in to everyone that wears her clothes and she offers something original, vivid, and extrovert with her designs. Think bold and bright, Camille Defago is the brand that will brighten up even the darkest of days.

Entrepreneurial from a young age, Camille was always destined for greatness. We spent some time with her to find out more about her, the brand and her plans for the future…

Tell us about the journey that lead you to Camille Defago the brand… Oh my god I’ve been through so much, hahaha. When I was 15 I started designing collages but didn’t have the confidence to publish them or show them. When I moved to Buenos Aires I decided to create a Instagram account with a fake name and started posting my collages. I started getting lots of engagement and reactions so I decided to change the name to By Camille Defago. Then I moved back to Lima and printed my collages on big frames, I sold every single one of them. This encouraged me to create my first brand called Viva la Vida, it was a brand of men’s swimwear that were printed with my colorful collages. I had such a terrible experience making my first summer campaign for Viva la Vida (because of the photography and video team) that when I sold every swim short I decided to leave the brand aside and not continue with it. I didn’t want people to know me as a random brand, I wanted people to know me by my name, Camille. This is when I decided to launch myself as a designer and started creating pieces under my name as a designer. You want your customers to feel empowered when wearing your designs, how do you achieve this? I achieve this by offering extrovert, colorful, joyful designs. Each collage has a story and great memories behind them. People highlight from the rest each time they use my clothing because of the color. I don’t want them to feel ashamed about standing out from the croud, from breaking boundaries, for being different and original, I want them to feel empowered, GREAT. Achieving this through strong and bold collages. Bright, colourful and bold, your designs make a statement. Who is your dream customer? My dream customer would definitely be top celebrities. I would love someday to dress Chiara Ferragni, Alexa Chung, Bella Hadid and other jet setters. But my actual dream customer is a girl who is confident of herself, who loves everything about her, LOVES to travel and spend her summer’s in Mykonos or on the beautiful beaches of France. She is confident, strong, bold, she is light and definitely stands from the crowd. She doesn’t care what people think about herself, she is true to herself and to her personal essence.

Only 21, you have achieved so much with the brand already. What has been your proudest moment?

I know I have achieved a lot of things by now but I have so much to go through. I have so many projects, visions and idea to take my brand to the next step. My proudest moment was my first fashion show which was this December 2019. We put on a great show: 20 international and national models, we did it at a huge house which was built 50 years ago so it had a renaissance twist to it, my collages were projected on the walls of the house, 150 guests, it was amazing.

Talk us through an average day at the business?

We have a weekly team meeting every Monday in which we talk about each months objectives and each team member’s tasks. Once a month in a week meeting we brainstorm about new ideas and visions that can be added to the brand. In this way I involve my team members and consider their ideas and opinions. I want them to feel as part of the family, part of The C Team. I want them to be as passionate to the brand as I am.

What are your plans for the future? I have changed my mind many times. I wanted to open physical stores in London, Dubai, Japan, New York and others. But learning about the new consumer now a days I have decided to invest 100% on e-commerce. Our consumers are changing into online consumers, not physical. So now my plans for the future is to focus on keep selling worldwide through fashion e-commerce platforms. I also have in my plans making pop up’s in beaches like Mykonos, Ibiza, Majorca, Sardinia, Santorini, Marbella, Corfu and other top destinations. I want to focus also on creating mind-blowing fashion editorials, amazing marketing campaigns, and taking my brand all around the world! My plans for the future and my main goal right now is to have the opportunity to showcase my collections at any fashion week: Paris, London, NYC, Milan. Anyone of them would be great and huge for the brand. Since launching the brand, what has been your highlight?

Definitely having the possibility of being featured on respected fashion magazines. Literally when I started my brand, my long term goal was to be showcased in Vogue. I had less than a year with the brand and I was featured on the most respected fashion magazines in the world: Vogue, Tatler, Vanity Fair, Condé Nast Traveller.

Looking back, is there anything you would do differently? I believe everything I have been through has happened for a reason. I wouldn’t do anything different because it has made me who I am today as a designer, brand and person. I have learned so much in the business, without even studying Fashion Design. (I study communications hahaha). I know all of my experiences will take me somewhere big.

Our readers love to travel, what destination is at the top of your bucket list? 

Definitely, The French Rivera, Mykonos, Amalfi, and Bali.

What quote do you like to read when you are lacking motivation? “You will never influence the world by trying to be like it” For anyone wanting to start their own fashion business, what advice would you offer?

Everything is about taking risks, you got to take risks in order to grow.

Don’t worry about stress, its just part of the process. That’s the beauty of it. Enjoy it.


What are your plans for the business in 2020?

My future for this year is to produce a swimwear collection for summer 2020 (Europe & USA), focus on creating mind-blowing editorials, and creating a beautiful campaign that involves my country, Peru. I will take and empower my collages into the three regions of Peru: Coast, Highlands & Jungle..

Find out more… www.camilledefago.comCamille has recently launched a blog on her website to talk about entrepreneurship, culture, fashion, art, and other factors that have made her and the brand what they are today..Instagram:Brand: @wearcamilledefagoPersonal: @camilledefago

Amanda Marshall is the founder of 3 Donkeys, a company that she runs whilst juggling life as a mother to 5 children. She’s not afraid to get her hands dirty, literally, and the company was born out of a frustration with the lack of products on the market for women who work hard in farms and stables.

She carried out market research and had numerous conversations with other females that she knew in similar working environments – farming, equestrian, dog walking, gardening – even painters & decorators. It soon became clear there was a gap in the market – and demand was high and that is when she decided to launch 3 Donkeys.

So, in 2017, she set about designing a coverall that was totally practical, adaptable, and versatile, looked good and kept her clean too. And, as they say, the rest is history.

Here, Amanda tells us more about animals being her therapy, her plans for the future and more…

Q) Tell us about the journey that lead to you launching 3 Donkeys

My 3 Donkeys journey started shortly after the birth of my 3rd child Roberta in April 2007. Alongside my rather eclectic mix of animals (horses, alpacas, donkeys, to name a few) I had a small flock of Shetland sheep and during lambing I practically lived in coveralls, they were the conventional men’s all-in-ones. It was a constant struggle to remove them in a hurry and they were the worst fitting clothes I have ever worn. I looked for a women’s alternative and could only find a slightly better fitting version of the men. This however did not solve the ‘removing in a hurry’ issue. It was at that point that my design first, popped into my head. However, family life got in the way and my design was put to the back of my mind for another day.

Fast forward to 2017 and I started to notice more women asking on social media about a ‘true alternative’ to men’s coveralls. After extensive searching on the internet both nationally and globally, it soon became apparent that no one had produced one. I asked as many women as I dared without releasing exactly what I had planned and with the help of a some amazing friends and a few skype meetings between Devon and Australia, my design was a reality and ready for the legal journey of registering etc and the task of thinking of a name started in Ernest. Anyway with the rejected name pile growing and no obvious name jumping out at me, the same friend who helped on the skype callssaw a post on my personal Facebook profile of my donkeys Teabag, Woolley and Dave running off (in the opposite direction that I wanted!) and messaged me with, ‘what about 3 Donkeys?’.

It immediately clicked for me because we are a family business and although only Teabag and Dave are related (mother and son) , the 3 Donkeys are like a family unit. Donkeys are also known for being doggedly hardworking, like our coveralls.

2017 and 2018 saw many prototypes during development for trials. It was made harder because of the fact that it was a completely new concept for coveralls, with the full length waist zip allowing for not only easy removal but being able to wear the jacket and trousers independently and the fact that I wanted to be able to zip them together when wearing them. They were trialled extensively by women not only in farming, but at stable yards, competitions, dog walkers and gardening. I finally had a coverall which was functional, versatile and feminine.

Q) Talk us through an average day in your life…

An average day in my life starts with 3 school runs. I have 5 children ranging from 6-year-old twin boys, 2 daughters (12 &16) and my oldest son who is 18 (and about to start his university journey). Followed by posting stories on our social media profiles. I am very fortunate that I have lovely friends who help me with my animals, which allows me to concentrate on 3 Donkeys. Mornings are generally spent catching up with emails, discussing what is on the daily to do list with my parents who are also an integral part of the business, this mostly fuelled by cups of Tea. I usually head into my shed or 3DHQ as my children named it, in the afternoon sorting out stock, packing orders and jotting down new ideas. The afternoon school runs often come around far too quickly followed by sorting out supper and helping with homework. Sitting around the kitchen table to eat is one of my favourite times of the day as I love to hear what everyone has been up to.

Q) Do you plan on expanding the range in the future?

I currently have tall and petite versions of the classic in development with the hope to release them a little later this year.

Q) Your business was founded because you couldn’t find this product on the market. What research did you. Do before launching?

I spent time researching in shops (mainly agricultural and equestrian), extensively online both on uk sites and global ones and the uk intellectual property office. I also asked many women who use coveralls, finding out what would be on their coveralls Wishlist.

Q) Looking back, is there anything you would do differently?

There are so many things that I would do differently now, however at the time I knew nothing about the industry or indeed the process and started my manufacturing journey visiting Manchester and many of thefabric manufacturers there, which fortunately led onto meeting our pattern cutter and in turn our coverall manufacturer.

Q) Being eco-friendly and sustainability is important to you, can you tell us more about your mission…

I really believe that we all have a duty to be as eco-friendly as possible. With this in mind our packaging is plastic free and reusable, recyclable or compostable. Our coveralls are all made in Britain using the best materials possible – for example our Dartmoor coveralls are made from 100% Ventile® weatherproof cotton and are made to last, thus reducing our fashion footprint.

Q) Who is your ideal customer?

Our ideal customer is someone who has the desire to keep their clothes clean and dry but not compromise on quality, style or femininity, at work or leisure.

Q) Our readers love to travel, what destination is at the top of your bucket list?

I love to travel and one day I hope to see more of America and visit a rodeo along the way.

Q) What does self-care mean to you?

I have found starting 3 Donkeys® to be a real emotional rollercoaster, especially with my lack of business knowledge and starting from the bottom. I am very fortunate that I can go and spend time with my horse Tia and labradoodle Hattie when I need some Me time, to relax and refocus. Animals really are the best therapy.

Q) What quote do you like to read when you’re lacking motivation?

The quote I often tell myself is ‘If you opt for a safe life, you will never know what it’s like to win’ by Sir Richard Branson. It always helps spur me on when I need a little motivation.

Q) What are your plans for the brand in 2020?

My main goal for 3 Donkeys® during 2020 is for our brand awareness to continue growing as it has done, I always have so many ideas of new design features and materials to use which will come along as we grow. I really am excited for what this year holds.

Find out more about Amanda and 3 Donkeys…

Our website and across our social media pages @3donkeysclothing.

Catherine Blades is a force to be reckoned with, a powerhouse and true boss babe who founded a company of the same name. Catherine Blades Couture , award winning wedding dress designer, exploring the world of art, love and female consciousness and a name that should be on everybody’s lips. When you think wedding, you need to think Catherine Blades Couture.

Catherine Blades provides a fully bespoke service creating stunning wedding gowns and occasion wear that are unique to every client.

Her intimate knowledge of cut and fit set her apart from other designers. She is a highly skilled dressmaker, taking your ideas and transforming them into the dress of your dreams. The warmth and personal service you will receive at the Blades Bridal studio makes having a dress designed and made by her a truly wonderful experience, one that has her clients feeling at ease, and thoroughly enjoying the process from beginning to end.

Catherine learned her craft with some top name designers, including Alexander McQueen, and over the past 20 years has refined her skills to become a couture dressmaker, designing and hand crafting exquisite gowns using a mix of traditional and modern techniques, luxurious fabrics and stunning embellishments. Catherine designs with innovation, and her creations are cutting edge.

Catherine works from the beautiful Blades Bridal studio, set in the tranquil countryside on the Berkshire/Hampshire border. All dresses are designed, made and fit by Catherine personally and her attention to detail leave her clients owning a truly stunning bespoke gown.

Catherine is not just a couture designer. She is an artist in her own right, creating stunning works of contemporary art and exploring the art of bridal in a totally different way. Her work as an artist allows her to bring that creative vision to her design work, which sets her apart from so many other designers.

Here, we spent some time with Catherine to find out more…

Tell us about our journey so far to get to where you are today…

Working for Alexander McQueen and being a freelance creative pattern cutter, working in the wedding industry was not at the top of my list. Whilst freelancing, I found myself working in a reputable bridal shop. The very first customer I had sent flowers to me at the shop as it was the best service she’d ever had. I think from that moment I was pretty hooked, knowing that I had the ability to use all my skills and make a difference to each and every bride during this life transition filled my heart with joy. I worked in retail for 12 years before Catherine Blades Couture began in 2012.

It was the day of Prince William and Catherine Middleton’s Royal Wedding that cemented the fact it was time to open my own studio. Having worked for McQueen and also the lady who created the flower girl’s dresses, I felt that it was my time.

My philosophy has always been the same, that each bride should be totally unique and have something designed and created just for them. Having sold 5 of the same wedding dress in one day, telling each girl how utterly lovely she looked, it felt fake. I didn’t want my brides to feel that they were on some sort of conveyer belt, so now each dress is designed working closely with the bride, using my expertise in cut, fit and design, to create a dress which conveys not only the way she wants to look, but the way she wants to feel.

I work with the most incredible women, the most luxurious materials, and, in the most tranquil of settings on the Hampshire, Berkshire border, in South East England. I spend my days creating bridal gowns that are loved and cherished by their wearer.

You recently made a pivot in your business and want to take a slightly different direction, tell us about this…

I have discovered, whilst on my creative journey, that what seemed to be the ideal job, has now become a quest for true connection to ones heart, soul and authentic self, that in a time when, as women, we are learning to embracing a new sense of femininity, we need a bit of courage to love ourselves in totality. From the pit of my stomach, I knew brides suffered from a lack of self love, and as female consciousness rises, the need to express this through art has become a must for me.

The new direction of my business aims to express how to love ourselves fully. This journey is detailed on my blog, The Art Of Bridal.

I shall be getting all romantic, positive and creative. Showing you how I work for my brides, what inspires me, and also taking you on a journey of self discovery, as I embark on producing some exhibition pieces for an art show that combine a variety of creative, philosophical and spiritual works, helping us, as women, become more connected to the divine feminine, peace and balance within our hearts .

When people say “I Love My Job” part of you thinks “yeah right” or “is that even possible”, but for me it’s true. Everything I do is in the pursuit of becoming more whole, in order to serve my beloved brides. From the ability to manage my own stress, to pushing my boundaries of creativity to meet a bride’s desires, the sense of reward is immense and for these opportunities of growth I am truly grateful.

There is no other dress that is as important as your wedding dress. To me, a wedding dress is a sacred gown, that empowers the bride with love for herself, and the journey ahead, representing her in all her glory, and radiating her inner beauty. The seams, fabric, cut and every detail must be infused with deep love, confidence and the pure potential for a successful loving life. This is my Zen and hopefully it can be felt in abundance by the wearer.

What is it like working in the wedding industry?

Working in the wedding industry has been an absolute joy. I’ve met some incredibly talented and supportive individuals. Coming from a bridal retail background it is exceptionally different having your own business. I now have the ability to support and connect on a social level, an essential part of both my business and my personal growth. I’ve built some beautiful relationships with my clients and other business owners alike.

One of the most important relationships I have is with my colleague, right-hand woman, former wedding photographer and graphic designer, Jo, of Grey Card Creative. We work closely on my brand direction, website and promotional materials, and have a great working relationship as well as friendship.

Collaborations have been essential in order to bring my visions to reality, starting with ex-bride Chrissy Lippett of Smart Frames Photography on some branding images and art works. I have recently collaborated with Sam Lucas of Sam Lucas Photography, and the husband of one of my brides. Sam is an incredibly talented individual, and we have worked closely together on creating branding and artworks together in the past year. My mentorship of him has been most rewarding for us both.

Tell us about the most important relationship in your life…

The most important relationship in my life is the one I have with myself. This may sound egotistical, but I’ve come to realise, in the last few years, that when my connection to myself is in balance, when my mind is focused, and when I’m creating from the heart, this is reflected through each and every relationship around me.

This has not always been the case. When I have been in a state of war with myself, when my self talk was aggressive, this was reflected in the lesser amount of love and connection I was able to give to my clients and to others around me.

My home life is one of laughter and love with my husband, daughter and dogs.

Although different to my home life, the relationship I have with my brides is one of great depth and honour to be part of such an impactful time in their life. I’m lucky enough to class the majority of my brides as friends. This individual connection to me is like gold.

The one relationship that I value above all others is the one with my daughter Sophie. She is 15 years old, and is part of a generation that is under such pressure, more than any other generation has had before. As I connect with her, the work I create is my legacy to her.

What does self care mean to you?

Self care to me is about creating a reality that feels like a dream, allowing stillness and clarity everyday. The social world we live in has us pushing constantly, breaking down boundaries, and presenting the best version of ourselves. Self care and a balanced life to me, are the same thing . I keep it very simple, but these simple daily habits mould my day and mental state. I awake early and work the best in the mornings.

I take a long walk with my dogs in the woods every afternoon, no matter how busy I am. This always clears my head and helps me to work more efficiently.

I have a Himalayan salt bath every evening and go to bed at a decent time. These simple habits help me to live a wholehearted life, where clarity and balance are essential.

In fact these are the topics of my art. Clarity is discovering your authentic self, not the one you’ve been told or programmed to be, not the one that society would lead you to become, but a version of yourself that comes from the heart, from a deep understanding of who you are and your connection to everything around you.

A life that leads to being calm, centred, transparent, joyful, fulfilled, balanced, inspired to live as a fearless, free and a joyful master of incredible clarity and integrity.

“Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness,” Brené Brown writes in Daring Greatly. “It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, no matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough.”

I am forever tweaking and learning how to be the best version of myself and it’s not always pretty and perfect, sometimes we have to unravel a little in order to learn how to live the right way .

Top of travel bucket list is…?

The top of my travel bucket list are visiting Japan and Tibet. I have always been fascinated in a zen way of living. Oh and Burning Man!

Outside work, what do you like to do to switch off?

I take a long walk with my dogs in the woods every afternoon, and take pleasure in being in nature.

Family time is important to me, and I make sure that my life/work balance is considered.

Looking back over your career, what have been your highlight?

The highlight was the day I found my sanctuary. A random set of circumstances lead me to take an alternative route, driving past a to-let sign. I turned left past a beautiful grand house, and opposite some tennis courts was the studio, a converted and extended stable unit, with a wild flower meadow and romantic mown path leading to some grand oak trees. I fell in love instantly, not only with the location, but the potential of who I could become there.

There is always a moment with every bride when I’ve created her vision, and I know that all the hard work, worry and endless hours of hand stitching have paid off. When the deepest of connections happens, and the bride is transported in her mind and heart, standing next to the person she loves. This has to be the highlight for me with every client.

Yes, I drive a sports car. Yes, I have the freedom of being my own boss. Butthe real highlights of this career is making other people happy, and it fills my soul.

Is there anything you would do differently?

There is always a darker, more serious side of me, that wants to come out and play. I think it’s the Alexander McQueen influence in me. My art allows that, and also the red carpet dresses that I’m creating. I think if I were to do things differently, I would have started my art work sooner, but I often think that maybe I didn’t have enough to say then, and the timing is perfect right now.

I would have worried less in the early days if I’d know what I do now. The first 2 years were torture, feeling like I had to have everything figured out, scared to make a mistake, scared to get anything wrong. The loneliness was intense and my inability to share my vision was frustrating. I felt I had to be everywhere and know everything, whilst raising a young daughter and keeping a happy marriage. The standard pressure of being a women in business these days. Now I realise it is possible to have it all, and not be under so much self-inflicted pressure.

What does 2020 look like for you?

In 2020 I hope to produce some of my best work to date. My dream is to exhibit at the Satchi gallery and have a Harper’s Bazaar front cover. To dress the stars and provide centred guidance. The change in my business has opened the cage door, allowing me to function as the truest version of myself. As an artist, as a soon to be reiki master, and as a master couturier.

Follow Catherine Blades Couture for more…

Chrissy Lippett – Smart Frames Photography

Sam Lucas Photography

Grey Card Creative

The Art Of Bridal




In 2000 Ruth Dent was working in IT in the City.In 2001 she had her son and decided it was time for something different. Like most mothers, she wanted to spend time with her son, and commuting and working in London meant 12-hour days, which didn’t work for her, and she was fortunate to be able to stop working.In 2003 she took an Adult Education Evening Class in Abstract Art – and from there finished up in 2010 with a First Class Degree in Fine Art Printmaking. Proving that no matter your age or stage in life, you can start a new career any time.

Whilst experimenting with her style, she showed four paintings to a friend and his immediate response was that they would look great as (Hermès) silk scarves, right up our street!

From here, the seed was sown, although it would take her three years to actually get to the point of launching. She decided to manufacture in Britain (Macclesfield – the silk centre of England, complete with its own ‘Silk Road’), and to design and make her own packaging as she couldn’t find what I wanted, a perfectionist at heart. She also came up with ‘Travels with my scarf’, as that was a key part – taking the art off the wall, so it could be shared, travelled with and worn (we all have limited wall space), as well as creating memories with the collector.Effectively she would appropriate her own art, enlarge and transform it into digitally printed silk scarves. These would be gifts to oneself or a friend, presented gift-wrapped to create an experience which includes the story behind the artwork.

Ruth Dent is all about art, not fashion, and we love everything that she stands for. Here, we spent some time with her to find out more…

Looking back, is there anything you would do differently?

Yes – most of all would have been to listen to myself, my own intuition and to recognise that I was doing my own ‘thing’ which is different to that which others do.For me, the art comes first.I am an artist first, and the scarves appear after the art, and not every image will become a scarf.

So – there never was going to be a Spring-Summer or Autumn-Winter collection, and yet I tried and failed to get into retail ?! … I finally woke up in 2017 when I arrived at my studio, exhausted from attending various trade fairs and realised that I needed to stop and spend more time in the studio and move the scarves to being available exclusively online.

Now the scarves are available exclusively online, and I am very happy brightening up the world one scarf at a time.And it’s okay for me to decide when to launch new scarves, and for only a few artworks to become scarves.After all, these are treasures to cherish, wear and keep, to travel and make memories with.And after 5 years I’ve only just launched the 10th scarf …

The latest scarf has been released in an edition of 50, compared to editions of 100 for the two ‘centenary’ scarves (Voyage Out and Suffragette), and higher stated editions for the other 7 – although I haven’t printed the entire edition for them, but that was when I was trying to get into retail …..Going forward I shall release scarves in editions of 50 unless there is a centenary involved!

How do I want women to feel when they wear my scarves?

Elegant, inspired, elated; wrapped in creative energy.

Who is my dream customer?

My dream collector loves colour, art and stories.The art speaks to her (or to the person who is buying the scarf as a gift, and knows it will be liked) – I’ve seen this, and as the scarves are so colourful and bold they either ‘click’ with someone, or not.

She is independent and makes her own decisions.She wants to wear something that is different, expresses her personality and which won’t be on every street corner.Opening her wardrobe to see her collection of bold, brightly coloured scarves hanging on the door makes her smile.

She loves her scarf, wears it with pride, is admired and can share the story of her scarf and its travels.

She has joined me for the journey, receives my monthly newsletter and hits reply to reach out to me occasionally.

Talk us though a day in your life.

This question makes me think of the program: ‘What does an Artist do all day?”And the answer is: many more things than making art!

So – my permanent studio is in my house in Lot et Garonne, South-West France.I’ve had a studio there since 2009 and moved my permanent studio there in 2018 when I had to vacate my Rochester studio.Since then I’ve been going to and fro between Kent and France, and am gradually spending more time there.

Wherever I am I start the day writing my ‘morning pages’, with a coffee.

In France I head into the studio, working on the latest painting(s), taking a break for a walk before lunchtime to buy bread.After lunch I head back into the studio unless I am waiting for the paint to dry – this can takea couple of hours or a day – either way, I will keep going back to see how it’s drying, and that way I can intervene if I wish – adding more paint, or moving it around.

There’s the monthly newsletter to produce, which includes photographs of my work plus an exhibition I’ve seen or place I’ve been.I am in regular contact with my IT and Fulfilment providers, and others, such as my scarf Manufacturers, Photographer and Graphic Designer as the need arises.

Exhibitions require a lot of work: curating; packing, transporting, hanging, marketing, writing about the work, organising the PV, invigilating (on some occasions) and finally take-down, packing and transporting. It is always tremendously rewarding to see ones work exhibited and to be able to meet the visitors, and to chat, if they want to about the work.It’s the Spectator that completes the circle, when a piece of art ‘speaks’ to them.They bring themselves and all of their experiences, and mostly see something completely different in the work to that which I do – and that’s great, as I never want to be prescriptive.We all see differently.

‘I mix colours with emotions to help people celebrate life on earth’.

That’s also the case with the scarves, as collectors are drawn to the one that contains the colours and energy that best suit them.I have seen people’s faces light up when they have wrapped one of my scarves around them, and know from comments received that they feel special when wearing them.

New scarves have their own timeline – from when I select the images, decide upon the size and particular silk to creating the digital file for printing.Samples are produced from which I make a final choice.Then to decide how to wrap and how to include the story and my welcome message.In the last couple of years, my ideas have changed: the Suffragette Scarf comes wrapped in a print which contains the story on the reverse side, whilst Pathways Scarf comes with an original painting and a letter.Much of this work will be done whilst the scarves are being manufactured – which takes a couple of months.

Sometimes I like to live with and wear a scarf before releasing it.That happened with Pathways Scarf.I’d had it sampled along with three others, and wore it over the summer, when I found it so versatile and easy to wear!

I have started creating a weekly video, and batch making the videos when I am in the UK.When there I go to The PrintBlock to screen print – maybe packaging for scarves or to work on an idea, or a new set of prints.

I do like to get out for a walk each day, and several times a week, take a longer walk with my camera.

And of course there’s all the other stuff – emails, social media, accounts – and everyone has to deal with that, so it’s boring and we won’t mention it!!

Nature feeds my soul – can you tell us more about this?

Yes – this realisation arrived when I was writing about ‘Breathing Space’, the installation that brings the forest into the gallery, in response to my/the question: ‘Did cathedrals, temples, stupas and labyrinths originate in the forest?’

Rather than re-think and re-write, I’m going to include here the first part of the text that I read out at the Breathing Space / Espace d’inspiration openings (and which you can hear me reading in the ‘Arrival at Breathing Space’ video):

Breathing Space

Twirling around as sunlight and shadows play a game of hide and seek.

I move; they move.I am still; they still move.Attracting my attention, showing me lines, textures, shapes and colours.Fleeting and passing, these images freeze, to be replayed staccato like as a film in my memory.

Aware of my continually shifting viewpoint , I look forward, step forward and look ahead.Every step marking subtle changes.Familiar and fresh, I ramble along well worn paths where light and dark sparkle and glint amongst the trees.

Did cathedrals, temples, stupas and labyrinths originate in the forest?

I have experienced their grandeur, trod the same stones as countless others and felt at peace in the cool darkness, amongst soaring columns as shafts of light point out what is to be discovered in their partially illuminated interiors.

My spirit can soar in all of these places, and yet it is nature that consistently nourishes my soul.

The mesh of the tree trunks.Those from ages past extend their branches to secure their space, whilst thin, coppiced trunks sway and chatter in the breeze.Clashing and bending, creating an elongated grid which constantly shifts with the breeze.

It is never silent in the woods – there’s always the sound of oneself, and the birds, and perhaps most surprising is when the trees clap, their upper branches swinging into a frenzy as the wind whips through.Are they mocking or congratulatory, I wonder? There is rhythm and energy.And complaints from the birds as they are forced to move!

A groundswell of emotion – deep, primal.Of being, belonging and of forever … changing.A challenge to capture the moment, a glimpse, a feeling, an emotion.To explore what is seen and unseen. To acknowledge the healing found in nature, in colour and in truly seeing and being.Alive.

Between the trees light abounds, making dust visible as it swirls around.These folds with their soft edges are invitations to look deeper; to go further.Then suddenly a threshold has been crossed and one is grounded and surrounded and in the midst of a clearing.

What will you find?

What lies within?

Is nature hiding?

What is nature hiding?

… That’s the end of that part of the text, and I am happy to answer any supplementary questions you may have.

What does self-care mean to me?

Balance … recognising the need to slow down, speed up, exercise, take a rest, see my homeopath … I’m still learning to listen to myself and my body.To go with the flow and with the rhythms of the seasons and the moon: time to have ideas; time to push forward; time to let things go; time to rest – to let things rise/marinade.

That all sounds great, and I am a work in progress.I think there’s a difference between challenging oneself and pushing, putting oneself under pressure.I know that I both challenge and pressure myself, and at least I am now able to recognise when I’m pushing myself too much, and to step back, review and reconsider what I’m doing and why.That’s where the ‘morning pages’ really help (see Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way), as the idea is to simply write and let whatever wants to be said to come out and onto the page.Sometimes a subject arrives before I sit down, other times I start writing and questions, ideas come, and then possibly some answers!And not always …

Tell us your favourite motivational quote …

‘Look back at what you have done, then look forward and consider what you could achieve’Dame Elizabeth Esteve-Coll

I met Dame Elizabeth Esteve-Coll when she was Director of the V&A Museum – which also happens to be my favourite museum.

What do I do for inspiration when Im lacking creativity?

  • Go for a walk – likely with my camera, so the walk lasts longer because I will download the photos and they may lead me to something else.
  • Go and see and exhibition – looking at the work of other artists usually generates a desire to get creative oneself.
  • Pick up some materials and play around with marks, shapes and colours – just for fun.
  • Leaf through a book about a favourite artist

Our readers love to travel, what destination is top of your bucket list?

It’s a journey and a destination …. and of course, there’s a story!

So – I haven’t yet visited New York (really … !?).However, I have visited the US as I have cousins in Denver.(My Mum’s twin sister and her family emigrated there many years ago).As a family we (Mum, Dad and my sister) made two trips to Denver, and went on a road trip each time.During these two trips we visited ten of the western States.

Roll back time, and many moons before we would go to the States, I remember my Grandma making several visits and travelling transatlantic on the QE2.I still have a postcard she sent me from New York.

So – top of my bucket list is to travel to New York on the Queen Mary; to experience the distance, the sea, the stars.To go on a voyage and to arrive in New York harbour and to float past the Statue of Liberty, as thousands of others have done so, and then to experience New York – with visits to MOMA, MET, the Guggenheim, etc.

What does 2020 hold for you?

Plenty of studio time as I have three areas of work that have their origin in Breathing Space:

  • ‘The Day the Sky Shattered and Flew Away’ – a continuing series of paintings on canvas and on paper.Plus an Artistic and Musical Performance at the Monflanquin Festival of Arts and Heritage, 20-21 June, where I will have an outside space, and paint on canvas and paper, whilst Alec Dent creates a soundscape with synthesizers.
  • ‘An Invitation to Breathe and Dance with Life’ is a new piece of work which will see me work on a much smaller scale than usual.I shall be painting a number of 10 x 15cm ‘invitations’, which will be used to raise money for Running Space. (more info about the charity below)*.
  • Plus I have an idea for an Artist book, related to the Tree Alphabet

In addition:

  • Abstract Art Scarves – there will be one or two more scarves this year.
  • Art Videos – I have started making and releasing a weekly video about my art, what inspires me, and how/what I see.These include a soundtrack, written by Alec Dent (my son).
  • I am going to be turning my garage into a Print Studio.

*Charity Info: Running Space

I am collaborating with Running Space on ‘An Invitation to Breathe and Dance with Life’, as I want to do something to help / help raise awareness, after one of my son’s friends died by suicide last year.The project is still being defined, and I’m not able to give out any more information than that given above.I’m feeling under pressure (yes – from myself) and have decided not to specify how many invitations (postcards) will be painted.We also want to get our act together and sort out when, where and how to launch the project; our ideas are fluid and we realise we need to communicate what we’re doing well in advance of the launch.That’s why I would like to mention it, and then there will be more information as we make decisions and put plans into action, on my website.I realise that House of Coco focuses on positive, uplifting articles – and it’s great to read them.I often stay away from the ‘News’, and my work is celebratory, as, quite frankly, there’s more than enough angst in the world.

Where can people find out more?

Website: plus signup to receive my monthly newsletter




Friends first, business partners second. Rach and Jude are the co-founders behind Bubble and Pop, a brand that offers baby changing bags for women that love to have a bit of colour in their lives.

Here, we find out more about how they balance their business and personal lives, plans for the future and more…

Tell us about the journey that lead to you launching Bubble and Pop…
When I was pregnant with my second baby, I decided to treat myself to a new baby bag as my first one had ripped after just a few months. I really love bright colours, so I wanted something vibrant, fun, spacious and a little bit different. I also wanted a bag that would help me stay organised as I am ridiculously scatty and forgetful. After an hour or so of trawling through a lot of grey, navy, baby pink and polka dots I gave up my search as I just wasn’t getting excited about any of them.

The next day (I’m a fast mover!) I decided that if I couldn’t find a bag I really loved, I would just design my own! I talked it through with my husband and he came up with the idea of creating a pocket labelling system, so I would always know just by glancing in the bag if I had all the essentials. This was so important for me. Getting a baby out the door can be such a faff and I was always getting flustered and forgetting the basics like nappies and wipes. I knew that being able to set my bag up in a way that suited me and having a visual cue of all the things I needed would really help me. It’s all about the system!

I put together a quick business plan, emailed it to Rach and asked her if she would come on board as the organised half of the enterprise. Thankfully, she said yes!

Rach and Jude, you both founded this company together along with being best friends and cousins. How do you balance your relationship so that everything isn’t just about work?
Having fun is something Rach and I do very well, and we have had some hilarious adventures over the years! When we do see each other in person, we make sure that there’s time set aside to talk business and then it’s back to hanging out and catching up. Rach lives in the Caribbean and I live in Brighton so we don’t get to see each other as much as we would like anymore. However, we did have a fantastic trip to New York for Rach’s birthday last year and after chatting about our latest design for about twenty minutes we got down to the serious business of shopping, eating gigantic bagels for breakfast and enjoying that very special New York vibe. Rach lived there for 18 months so she knows all the great little spots for lunch and dinner that I would never have discovered. We’ve always been good travel buddies, which is why I had a feeling we’d make a great business team.

You sound like you balance each other out perfectly. Have there been any disagreements since launching the brand and if so, how did you handle those?
I can honestly say, we haven’t had any so far! We have very similar sensibilities when it comes to design so creating our first collection really was a joyful experience. Rach has a great eye for detail and she’s also very practical, so when I get carried away with the novelty of an idea, she’ll be the one to say ‘yes, but Ju, who would actually use that?!’

Tell us about the Ollie and Ella collection, where did the idea come from?
There were two things we wanted to do with our first collection. The first was create a bag that was spacious, practical and functional that really helped you stay organised when you were out and about with baby. There’s nothing worse than being caught out by a poop emergency (all mums and dads will know the kind we mean) and not having everything you need to hand immediately! With our pocket labelling system and easy access zips, you can get to the essentials like wipes, nappies and clean clothes with minimum faff.

The second thing we wanted to do was create a collection that was bright and vibrant with lots of colour and patterns that were a little bit different. As a parent you spend a LOT of time with your baby bag, so you really have to love it. Our designs won’t be for everyone, but so far, the people who love them really do love them!

When you were students, you traveled a lot. Where was your favourite trip and why?
Oh, there have been a lot of fun trips! Our first big trip together was to Australia in 2000, the year that Sydney hosted the Olympics. We had such an amazing time both in Sydney and backpacking down the East Coast from Queensland. We went diving on the Great Barrier Reef, trekking through rainforests, drank a lot of cheap beer and narrowly escaped an encounter with a saltwater crocodile. Long story short – we were down on the beach one evening drinking wine from plastic cups and wondering why the beach was so deserted on such a gorgeous evening. We discovered the next day that it had been evacuated as a saltie had been seen roaming about on the sand hunting for his next meal. We were totally oblivious!

Looking back since founding the company, is there anything you would do differently?
No. I think you have to be incredibly brave and a little bit nuts to start your own business and I have such admiration for anyone who takes the leap of faith to do it. Mistakes are part and parcel of the process and you just have to ride them out and learn from them. ‘Chalk it up to experience’ is a phrase we have used quite a lot in the last couple of years. Along with, ‘we’ll get there!’

Your baby bags are really unique and help women showcase their personalities. Do you plan on expanding the range in the future?
Yes, absolutely. We have big plans for lots more collections for both parents and children. Another baby changing bag is on the cards – most likely a rucksack design for the next collection – and we’d love to design a range of travel bags as well. We both live away from home and travel a lot with our children to see Granny and Grandad, so we know how important it is for little people to have luggage they can manage and for mum and dad to have a bag that works for the aeroplane.

In 2020, what are your plans for the brand?
Our big focus for 2020 is to start getting into independent boutiques and expand into markets outside the UK. We’ve had such lovely feedback from all our customers so far, which has given us a great confidence boost and the courage to start thinking bigger. It’s very early days still but we really want as many people as possible to discover our bags.

For anyone looking to launch their own business, what advice would you offer?
Firstly, and most importantly, you have to absolutely love your idea and your product. As in, really love it. We’ve had days and weeks where it has felt like pushing a boulder up a hill but we knew we had a great product that people would love and we have both thoroughly enjoyed the process of designing it. That kept us going on the ‘what were we thinking?’ days!

Don’t do it on your own! Having someone to pick you up on the down days and bounce ideas off is so important. It also helps to keep you accountable and on track with everything. Even if you don’t want to work with a business partner, I’d recommend hiring a mentor to help you get clear on your strategy and cheer you on when the going gets tough.

Don’t make any decisions when you’re tired or emotional! Come back to it the next morning with a fresh head.

Don’t work yourself to the bone. Yes, building a business requires hard work, grit and determination, but there’s no point having an awesome business if you’re too tired or burnt out to enjoy it. Rest, go at a pace that works for you and trust the process.

Celebrate all the little wins. This one is so important. The to-do list is never ending and it’s all too easy to focus on the things you haven’t done or achieved yet. Take every lovely review or piece of feedback, every tagged Instagram post, and every single sale as proof that you’re doing great and moving in the right direction.

Both mothers, wives and entrepreneurs. How do you create a work / life balance?
This is definitely tough in the early stages of building a business as there is always something you feel you should be doing. Boundaries are so important though, and remembering that when you’re with the kids, you’re Mummy not business woman, and when you’re with your partner, you’re Jude or Rach – the person they fell in love with when sleep was plentiful and leaving the house wasn’t a military operation!

Our readers love to travel, what destination is at the top of your bucket list?
Jude: South Africa for the wildlife and the wine!

Rach: So many places on my bucket list but for 2020 we’re hoping to do some Greek island hopping for a couple of weeks.

Tell us your favourite quote to read when you are lacking motivation…
‘Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?’

I love this Mary Oliver poem. Life is so short, so precious and such an incredible gift. Give it everything!

Find out more about Bubble and Pop…

You’ll find us at and on Instagram @bubbleandpopUK

Lorna Veale is the founder of No Secrets Beauty, a brand that was born out of frustration with the beauty industry. In 2010, her GP suggested that she consult a private doctor who specialised in complementary and holistic medicine. The results were life-changing.

It was this personal experience that inspired her to launch her brand and spread the word to the masses that no hidden nasties in your skincare products was the way to go.

Here, she tells us more about a day in her life, her plans for the future and more…

You went through a very personal experience which lead you to launching the company. Through that you must have helped a lot of other women overcome similar issues from using your products. What has been your biggest success story to date?

I would say being here at all.The journey from visualising your brand and products to then holding them in your hand, seeing them on a shelf for sale and, of course, actually using them, is a significant achievement in itself. We were also thrilled to receive a Beauty Shortlist Editor’s Choice Award for our Hand Cleanser and to have been shortlisted for our Shower Creams in the Free From Skincare Awards in 2019.

You’re passionate about honesty in beauty, why is this important to you?

When I was advised by my Dr to remove a long list of ingredients from my world, I was faced with the task of self-education and intense label reading.I discovered that claims on the front of bottles, or within advertising campaigns, are not always necessarily backed up by what is in the product.This lack of clarity really niggled me.It also became clear that if e.g. a shower gel didn’t include Phenoxyethanol, it did not mean that you could be confident that other items in a range didn’t.It is easy to read a food label and recognise E-numbers, but cosmetics products have to legally be labelled using the INCI system whereby Latin and chemical names are used.This makes it incredibly difficult for consumers to make decisions.

Once you have been advised to avoid ingredients that can disrupt your hormones, significantly dry out your skin, deplete your immune system etc… it is hard to turn back.It is also hard that the majority of items in any beauty hall, or chemist, contain these ingredients and we are all oblivious to these facts, drawn in by amazing synthetic fragrances and perhaps unable to think that large organisations could be filling bottles with cheap ingredients.

You can often taste the difference when eating a more expensive food item.However, it seems the same isn’t true in beauty.Whether something costs £1 or £50 is not always an indicator that kinder, more wholesome, ingredients areused.

Talk us through an average day in your life…

My husband and I both principally work from home.We have school age children, so the day begins with sorting them out and the school run.We are fortunate to live on the edge of a town, but in a converted agricultural barn and surrounded by farmland, so every day I try and take a walk for about 30mins – often while on the phone or ideally listening to audio books, which I love. I spend a lot of time on emails, social media and pulling together all the aspects of product formulation, packaging design and photography.Having started this business in 2018, the e-commerce route to market was our chosen place to start.Therefore we are constantly learning about e-marketing and how to find our customers.

If I have time in the evenings, I try to relax watching Monty Don or a good crime drama!

Who is your ideal customer?

Our customer wants to use something that looks, feels and smells amazing but most importantly has no hidden nasties.

How do you want people to feel when they use your products?

Life is so busy, that I sometimes feel the shower or bath is the only place where you can get five minutes to yourself.We use the maximum amount of essential oils permissible in our products, so that the smell is gorgeous, but more importantly, one can benefit from the powerful healing properties and can support ones emotional balance.I hope that people can really breathe in the oils that nature gives us and switch off; perhaps be transported to a favourite holiday destination and leave their bathroom ready for the day or for a wonderful night’s sleep.

Are you planning on extending the range in future, if so, how?

We have one new product that will be available soon on our website. It’s a delicious Body Jelly – this is our take on Body Oil, except we’ve set it with sugar, like a jam, so that the bottle doesn’t end up constantly sticky. Suitable for hands and body, it melts into a therapeutic oil as you massage it in and, of course, smells glorious.

We have a couple of other things up our sleeve, but don’t want to say too much at this stage, except they are very exciting and we will launch those via our newsletter!

How much does social media play a role in your business?

Not having our own retail premises, we approach choosing images to share on social media as you would think about dressing a window, or pulling together a little display for a shelf. We use social media to talk about who we are and what we do. To share things that inspire us, things we love and are important to us.

Looking back since launching the brand, is there anything you would do differently?

With hindsight, we wouldn’t have placed our first products in plastic packaging.We chose – what we felt – was the best option at the time which was recyclable plastic – but of course now we all know differently.

Our readers love to travel, what destination is at the top of your bucket list?

This year we are going to India and joining an organised tour around Rajasthan, before going to Goa for some beach time.I had wanted to go to India years ago and have various travel guides that I’ve collected over the years in preparation for this trip.

What are your plans for the brand in 2020?

We are really excited about extending our range, hopefully introducing a more masculine scent too, and devising ways to encourage people to give No Secrets a try.Anyone who smells our products, says ‘wow, that smells like a spa’, but we realise it is difficult for people to make such a decision on-line without having that sensory experience.

Tell us your favourite quote to read when you are lacking inspiration…

All truth passes through three stages: first it is ridiculed, second it is violently opposed, and third it is accepted as self-evident.
Arthur Schopenhauer
19th Century Philosopher

This quote inspires you to keep carrying on and trying to get the message out there.

We all want quiet. We all want beauty … We all need space.Unless we have it, we cannot reach that sense of quiet in which whispers of better things come to us gently.
Octavia Hill, 1883, Co-founder of the National Trust

This quote is really helpful when you are feeling overwhelmed by various things.

For any one aspiring to launch a company in the beauty industry, what advice would you offer?

Patience and perseverance. I hadn’t appreciated the time it takes to develop, test and produce a range.I think it’s great to learn from other inspiring women.From Jacqueline Gold’s appearance on Desert Island Discs, I took the phrase ‘courage comes before confidence’.

Where can people find out more?

Instagram: @nosecrets_beauty

Facebook: @NoSecretsBeauty

Here at House of Coco, travel is in our DNA, we do it on the daily and can often be found jetting from hot destination to another in a heart beat. As much as we try and remember the important things, like sun screen, we can somethings get waylaid with cocktails and parties to remember to look after our skin. Cue Sunsibility, the brand that has UV protection built in to it’s clothes to protect you even when you forget.

Founded by Angeli Jackson, her journey has been filled with rejection but it has spurred her on even more to make a success of her brand, and that she has. Here, she tells us more about the brand and her plans for the future…

Tell us about the journey that lead to you launching Sunsibility…

I was studying a BA(Hons) Product Development for the Fashion Industries at The London College of Fashion and wanted to create a functional and practical range for my final collection.The initial idea was a ladieswear collection for Lupus patients (65% of Lupus patients are sun sensitive ).This has now evolved into a one stop shop for UV protection including men’s and childrenswear but also sunsuits, sun creams and window films for general everyday protection.LCF wouldn’t support me as they didn’t think it was commercially viable which made me even more determined.I worked so hard and when I did graduate, the college were there supporting the project as it was a successful idea.The following year I gained a start up loan from The Princes Trust and began to turn the dream into a reality.

What is the importance of UV protection?

UV Protection is a MUST HAVE.A very large proportion of our customers are sensitive for various medical reasons so UV protection is essential and preparation is key, not getting caught out on those warmer days.Handy accessories can make all the difference.A wrap, sunglasses, hat and a compact umbrella are ideal products to keep to hand.All our clothing is made to order and provide a UPF50+ factor preventing 97.5% of UVA & UVB rays.With clothing, customers do not have to worry about any absorption of any ingredients into the skin but it is very important to apply sunscreen to those areas exposed regularly.

We have a range of timeless classics, gorgeous beach and resort wear ( many multifunctional ), that can take you day into night and keep you safe from the sun.Health is Wealth, so invest in yourself and in your skin whether it’s for protection, against skin cancer ( rates just continue to keep rising ), anti ageing or vanity don’t let it be too little too late. It’s good to be outdoors and needs to be encouraged, we all need vitamin D it’s essential for good bone health and just makes us FEEL GOOD it’s about getting a good balance.

How does the process work when making new designs?

New designs usually come from a purpose or a request it is vital we listen to our customers, their needs and desires.However, I always have a pen and paper handy as new ideas may come to me at any time, especially on holiday as you are watching people at leisure and hopefully protecting their skin or not, as is often the case.Our products are about making sun protection easy and hassle free but it is imperative to look and feel great.We only ever work with our specialist Italian fabric which is a stretch fabric but I don’t really use it in a fitted way, a lot of our designs are loosely cut unless stated otherwise.The fabric is just brilliant and I really did search worldwide for it.It’s cool to wear, breathable, machine washable and quick drying. These fabulous features contribute to any new ideas as its so travel friendly and virtually crease free.I will usually sketch something up and then send it to our pattern cutter.A sample is then made up on site and together the tailors and I will tweak how we’d like it.Once happy we will then put it into production and photograph it as soon as possible.

Looking back, is there anything you would do differently?

I don’t believe there was any other way.I’ve always given it my all but certainly for the first six years, I had 3 jobs whilst trying to build the company.You do what is necessary.I am a great believer in everything happens for a reason. Although one thing I would have liked along my journey and even now would be a mentor.

What is your mission?

To provide quality stylish sun protection and make it easy to wear for all whatever age, genre and wherever you are in the world.UV Protection is for everyone but can also be life changing for those who are sun sensitive.Being highly regarded in the industry is very important and we have some of the best medical and sun protection specialists in the world recommending our products.That to me already means we have done as we set out to do but need to let more people know we are around.

In five years time, where do you hope to see the brand?

Into the new decade with a great focus and plans.We sell direct to the consumer so just expanding our awareness internationally is a focus for the next five years.I have some interesting developments I’m working on but am keeping those close for the time being but do keep in touch with SunSibility so we can update you on new products and services.I am always aiming to bring the best & innovative concepts to our collections.

Talk us through an average day in your life…

I wake up and feel thankful for the health of myself and all those around me this isn’t a ritual but a thought at the beginning of the day along with my two must have milky coffees ( which my husband makes ) to kick start my morning.I also do try and be grateful for all I have & enjoy life !

I have two gorgeous girls, Atalya 9 & Elysia 2 so the school run is first thing and then either onto nursery or my parents who are brilliant and presently help me 3 x a week.They have always been a massive support & strength for me.My working hours are 10 – 5 so once in the office there is a never ending list.My office is attached to the house but completely separate so I go to work like anyone else and come home at the end of the day.Every day is different there is always so much to do.I do wish there were more hours in the day, more days in the month, and more months in the year – There never seems to be enough time !!

What quote do you like to read when you are lacking motivation…

“You can do anything you want to when you put your mind to it – and there is no such word as No !”This is up on my office wall and something I try and teach my children too.

Our readers love to travel, what destination is at the top of your Bucketlist?

Oooh what isn’t ?I love to travel.My promise is to show the children as much of the world as I possibly can.The world is such an amazing place and so inspiring.I used to do a lot of my design work on the plane prior to having kids – that’s virtually impossible to even think about now I don’t get a very time free flight these days !Every time I see / read about somewhere I’d like to visit I put it in my travel box and tick the places off as I go.Long flights presently aren’t ideal but Aruba Cuba and Mexico are on my list for about 10 years time. In the meantime I’d love to explore more of the Greek islands and Italy over the next decade but also more of England too.I live and breathe my holidays I could be in Barbados, I could be in Bognor it’s all about quality time with those you love & creating memories.

How much has social media played a part in your business?

Up to now to be honest very little but now we are present and consistent over several platforms the future is exciting.It is a very powerful tool.It’s a great and speedy way to communicate with our clients.

For anyone thinking about launching a brand, what advice would you give?

A belief in what you do has to be at the forefront of your business and the passion behind it because when things do get tough that is what will always keep you going.You have to enjoy what you do.Everything else is secondary.

What’s the best piece of advice anyone has ever given you?

This sounds crazy but is the absolute truth.I read a book called Flossie Teacake when I was a kid and she puts on a fur coat and turns round three times in the mirror – she can be anything she wants to be !…and honestly, that’s all I ever needed to know and just to believe in myself and what we do!

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LA FERVANCE is an independent Australian-French company who are experts in sustainable luxury beauty. The founder of LA FERVANCE, Melissa Obeid, has directed and overseen every aspect of the product profile, performance, ingredients, packaging and testing.

Melissa’s love affair with France was ignited whist studying at The Paris Fashion Institute in the 90’s. She worked with the biggest names in the fashion world extending these experiences to senior fashion roles back in Australia, followed by a stellar career in high-level arts management. Melissa’s passion for clean beauty lead her to initiate the development and commercialisation of a suite of Australian made, 100% natural beauty products created under proprietary brands sold nationwide. This was an Australian first.

Melissa is a really heavy weight in the beauty world and we spent some time with her to find out more about her plans for the brand, what a day in her life is like and more…

Tell us about the journey that lead you to launching La Fervance…

The LA FERVANCE journey is a truly inspiring one, even to me as the brand founder! It’s one of enormous courage and faith after Jamie and I were inspired to bring our family to France for a sabbatical in 2016 and here we are in 2020 having launched a high-end luxury skincare brand!

Whilst in Senior Management at the world renowned National Gallery of Victoria it is here that I got my inspiration and I discovered the Napoleon directed, Baudin led expedition to Australia (Terre Napoleon). I learned of the fascination which Napoleon and Josephine had with Australia and given my ties with both Australia and France, I found this particularly fascinating.

Then, following the development of natural skincare collections in Australia and my family’s relocation to France for a cultural sabbatical and to better understand the luxury skincare space, I was struck with an inspiration during our initial stay in Paris, to create a skincare brand containing high concentrations of 100% natural, active ingredients from Australia and France within a certified high-end, sustainable framework.

It was upon settling in Provence, that the idea took on a life of its own and very soon we found ourselves aligned with the most reputable laboratories and partners in France – the prestige cosmetics mecca of the world – as we understood that if we wanted the best, it had to be done in France. In many ways, I feel LA FERVANCE continues the journey of fusing these two cultures which are so diverse.

You did a lot of research before launching the brand and perfection was the only way for you. Why was this important?

I’m a firm believer in that if one is to do something, ‘either they do it well or not at all’. One of the motivations for creating LA FERVANCE was to fill a void in the high-end skincare space through the provision of true authenticity around the provenance of active ingredients from 100% natural origins and offering a brand which spoke quality at every touchpoint. The ‘luxury’ is simply a consequence of this.

In order to achieve such ambitious outcomes, there was simply no choice other than to strive for perfection within EVERY aspect of the journey and product offering as our benchmark. We are very familiar with the process and regulations around skincare production in other countries, which is why upon discovering the details around producing skincare in France, particularly within a natural, certified framework, we knew that this was absolutely where we needed to produce LA FERVANCE. The very strict requirements around testing, compliance, regulations are second to none, therefore as time consuming and complex as it was to adhere to a 100% natural and 100% recyclable framework, within the specifications of a globally certified framework, the results are just exemplary and offer a guarantee to the consumer that they are truly buying the best products possible.

The striving for perfection will resonate with those who value the artisan approach which is LA FERVANCE and who appreciate that this comes at a premium. They understand and appreciate that handmaking and hand-filling our European made packaging here in France, compared with doing so abroad will mean they get a premium product and experience. The fact that we insisted on ingredients which are sourced predominantly from France and Australia, rather than choosing more cost effective ingredient options, also contributes to these outstanding results. Those who value our ethos and quality will resonate with the brand and be happy to align themselves with LA FERVANCE.

Talk us through an average day in your life…

I don’t think the word average has ever really had a place in my life ? I start my day at 5am. Whilst this certainly does not come naturally to me, I recognise the importance of the extra two hours waking up early as being sacred and highly productive to me as what I can achieve during these ‘power hours’ far exceeds anything I can accomplish throughout the remainder of the day. I use this time to meditate, focus on my intentions, plan for my day. I’ll then wake the family and after a hearty breakfast I drop the children off at school. They attend an International bi-lingual school in Paris as they’re fluent in French, after being spoken to in French since birth and spending two years in a village primary school in Provence. Depending on the morning meeting schedule, I’ll then try to squeeze in a power walk, whilst admiring the stunning architecture and street scenes which inspire me daily, then it’s back home to prepare for the day. This can consist of meetings with our laboratories, packaging experts, suppliers, attending various industry trade-fairs, meetings with stores, product photo shoots – or planning sessions at our office near Opera Garnier. .

Being an independent brand, Jamie and I manage every aspect of its development in collaboration with experts in these fields to create the intended outcomes, so this means many diverse tasks being juggled simultaneously – and lots of ‘to do’ lists!

The afternoon sees me take on the role of Mum’s taxi, commuting our children to their various horse-riding, golf and tennis activities. We’d love to see some Aussie rules football in there, but it’s yet to catch on in France!

A family dinner follows during which we share about our day. The children are so invested in the LA FERVANCE journey, as they have lived every single moment of it since we arrived for our ‘sabbatical’ in 2016 and then decided to stay in France to develop LA FERVANCE. They have shared in discussions around colours, perfumes, textures etc. It’s been wonderful for them to be privy to the process and witness the highs and lows of the entrepreneurial journey.

The usual night-time routine follows and once the children are in bed, Jamie and I will continue working, before I apply ECLAT EXTRAORDINAIRE as a sleep mask before much needed good nights kip.

Who is your ideal customer?

I see the ideal LA FERVANCE customer being defined by an attitude not an age. It’s the savvy consumer who is astute, outward thinking, who won’t be influenced by smoke and mirrors marketing. They understand the skincare space, are aware of the ingredients they choose to place on their skin and appreciate their place in the market. They understand the motivations behind us using locally produced glass and responsible forestation packaging and both recognise and appreciate the various LA FERVANCE points of difference. In many ways it is a cynical consumer who questions and takes an interest in the story and who is inspired by such. Our ideal consumer takes the time to understand how our various decisions around minimising our carbon footprint and streamlining the product range, were made to support a more sustainable brand offering. They are astute, worldly, aware and can see through marketing hype by turning the package over to read the fine print ingredients – beyond the product name and positioning.

How do you want people to feel when they use your products?

LA FERVANCE feels like another member of our family. We have spent years perfecting the formulas and have approached every element with great integrity, so when people purchase the product we want them to feel special, to feel joy, to see and feel positive outcomes. Since launching on 29 November 2019, we have received nothing but positive and glowing feedback which is an absolute joy – extremely satisfying indeed.

We want people to feel completely indulged within the sensorial experience that is LA FERVANCE. The packaging, the product visual, texture, aroma, feeling and affects of LA FERVANCE are like no other in the market and so when people use LA FERVANCE, we would like them to feel transported to a different world when using the product.

ECLAT EXTRAORDINAIRE is our launch product and is an original ‘conflict free’ Italian gold infused multi-mask formulation, which may be used in several ways. It is a world first and by being an all-round beauty balm, with such a divine texture and perfume, it is proving most popular. As a morning instant glow product, there is nothing more active than this 100% natural, real gold balm which glides over the skin and doubles up as a ‘leave on’ treatment. As a sleep mask, it feels so soothing and indulgent and it may also be used as an innovative treatment mask, as after the treatment time the mask emulsifies with water and massage, leaving the skin plum and glowing upon removal!

What’s your best selling product?

This is a question best asked a year from now, once our first collection is rolled out in its entirety. We decided to launch with one stand out product ECLAT EXTRAORDINAIRE in November 2019, which is our certified, beautifully presented, exquisite multi-mask gold infused product, and the response to this has been exceptional. At the time of launch we ran a parallel sampling exercise, with those who had received a sample going on to order the product as they had become ‘addicted’ to the affects, the perfumes and the affects of placing real gold on their skin first thing in the morning.

Over the past few years we have developed equally exceptional and complimentary products, all within the ‘Fusionistique’ multi-functional framework.

Our philosophy is based on using targeted active ingredients in higher concentrations for more effective results, along with fewer more potent products within the collection. Less is more! This is what luxury is all about.

What has been your most successful moment to date?

There have been so many moments of success since we launched. I think that in terms of the turning point for LA FERVANCE – it was when we got the invitation to participate in the Positive Luxury, Positive Week event in London last October, hosted by the Universal Soul Company at Gazelli House in Knightsbridge. This is where I introduced LA FERVANCE globally for the very first time in view of the official launch in November and was able to talk about the brand journey, it’s inspirations, the ECLAT EXTRAORDINAIRE and answer questions from the guests. To be able to finally share LA FERVANCE within a public forum was deeply satisfying.

For me personally, this visit to London was also hugely rewarding, as it enabled me to reflect on my own personal and professional journey – having lived in London as a young Australian traveller back in 1994. Reminiscing about my time in that shared apartment in West Kensington, and all I had lived since then, only to come full circle, being in London again 25 years later as the founder of a luxury skincare brand, was cathartic experience – the feeling of which I will always remember.

You relocated to France to focus on this brand, why did you feel this was an important move?

Relocating to France from Australia was important for many reasons. For me personally, having lived in Paris in the 90’s where I worked in fashion and established many strong friendships and connections which continue to today, it was important to return to the source of this creative energy, the buzz, the inspiration. As a family, it was invaluable to have the experience of being able to travel throughout Europe and expose the children to such a rich history, different cultures, languages, friendships and memories.

From a brand perspective, to return to the source of the initial inspiration and that of the Napoleon directed, Baudin led expedition to ‘Terre Napoleon’ (Australia) was crucial to the essence of the brand. LA FERVANCE is a ‘Fusionistique’ brand and as such it fuses many elements, namely these two extraordinary cultures.

France is the global mecca of high-end skincare and perfume creation, so to develop and launch LA FERVANCE in France, to my exact brief and under the guidance of the global experts in skincare – with a combined experience of centuries, provides the brand with a clearly advantageous proposition and an energy which could not be achieved had it not been developed in France.

Are you planning on extending the range in future, if so, how?

A complete and complimentary collection has been in development since the LA FERVANCE journey commenced in 2016. Every product complies with the most stringent global certifications for natural cosmetics and fit within our ethos of 100% naturally sourced, active ingredients and have undergone rigorous testing. When skincare is designed to an exact brief by experts in their field, it is not necessary to have an excessive number of products within the daily regimen. The intention of LA FERVANCE is to streamline the routine, with highly concentrated products which fulfil several functions successfully.

Our current customer base is already asking when the next product will be released as they are so satisfied with the ECLAT EXTRAORDINAIRE which is a great sign.

How much does social media play a role in your business?

Being an independent, self-funded brand social media plays a significant role within our business model. We enjoy the instant responses received by those who engage with the brand and the potential we have to reach a wide and diverse audience.

Having said that, I still really enjoy print media and also like seeing the brand represented in this way.

Looking back since launching the brand, is there anything you would do differently?

Not a single thing.

Given the long gestation involved with the research, development, testing, finessing, production, Jamie and I had a long time to consider our approach and to plan accordingly. We even managed to do a brand ‘refresh’ before the brand was launched! – hence by the time we came around to going ‘live’ with LA FERVANCE, we were content and confident.

Of course there are always some areas which one questions, but I believe this is all part of the journey and should be viewed as opportunities to do things differently in the future.

Our readers love to travel, what destination is at the top of your bucket list?

Oh, I love to travel too! I am yet to visit Central and South America, so this is on the bucket list. I only wish I had visited Cuba 20 years ago! Russia is also a country I am looking forward to visiting. I studied Russian history at senior school which I found fascinating and having also been in Senior Management at the National Gallery of Victoria for many years, I had the pleasure of viewing The Banquet of Cleopatra which was originally housed in the magnificent Hermitage museum, so this is absolutely a building in which I would like to lose myself for a day or two!

What are your plans for the brand in 2020?

To continue to spread the word about LA FERVANCE and what makes the brand a stand out in a crowded skincare space.

To establish key retail partnerships with global retailers aligned with our principals and brand culture.

Tell us your favourite quote to read when you are lacking inspiration…

I have so many favourite quotes. I live by quotes and Khalil Gibran is the author of many of my preferred ones.

Before I set off on my first o/s adventure as a young adult post university, I was considering the pros and cons of doing so and in a magazine I came across ‘Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must first be overcome’. I cut that out and placed it at the front of my journal. I guess the same thinking applies today.

For any one aspiring to launch a company in the beauty industry, what advice would you offer?

Create a brand which is defined by your own passion, rather than one which complies with market trends. This will stand the test of the many challenges you will face and resonate with a genuine target market.

Find out more…

People can follow us on the usual channels of our website or #lafervanceskincare or our Facebook page.

We welcome any queries or questions at