Colour conversation with design guru, Louise Chidgey

From textile buyer at The Conran Shop to colour forecaster and author, design guru Louise Chidgey has led a life devoted to colour. Now the owner of Dorset’s most colourful lifestyle store, Brassica Mercantile, she shares her journey through colour – and reveals why a pop of neon orange never fails to lift her mood.

How did you come to open Brassica Mercantile?

All my career has been geared up to working for myself. Starting out as a buyer for the Conran Shop, which was my benchmark, paved the way for many exciting opportunities.  After many years in retail, I moved to trend forecasting, taking on a creative consultancy role which allowed me to really think about product and its lifespan. It included a lot of travel and presentations in far-flung corners of the world which in turn gave me an insight into merchandising and the retail environment. Although Brassica Mercantile is a small store in the quiet Dorset town of Beaminster, the product comes from all over the globe.

What inspired the name Brassica?

The full name of our business is Brassica Restaurant & Mercantile, which incorporates the two strands of the company. The restaurant came first and we put a competition out with all our friends with a prize of two Eurostar tickets to Paris for the best idea for a name – however they were all so silly we ended up choosing Brassica ourselves as we were looking into produce grown locally to Beaminster. The mercantile part, which is a term for one who is engaged in trade and commerce, was added on to differentiate from the restaurant.

How important is colour to you?

Colour is hugely important, it defines everything! I spent many years colour forecasting at WGSN.com and Stylus.com, analysing colour palettes for the seasons ahead. It’s very interesting how colours can go in and out of fashion and how different they are from country to country.

Colour makes me extremely happy. Now that I live in the depths of Dorset, I get to see the changing colours of the seasons so much more than when I lived in London. Saying that, England is quite grey and a colourful house is respite from this.  My personal colour palettes are muted, definitely not primary colours – always a bit left of centre, but saying that a hint of neon orange always lifts my mood!

Hygge seems to be a big part of your brand.  Can you tell us why…

Environment and aesthetics play a huge part in my daily life – architecture, interiors, fashion, art all make my heart sing and this in turn has a positive influence on my wellbeing and health. Emotional design is perhaps a good word for it.  Hygge creates an environment which is also emotional – and that to me is very important, particularly when creating and designing the restaurant. I wanted our customers to feel immediately welcome and comfortable and perhaps even a little cosseted.

You’re the co-author of the book Paint & Paper: A Masterclass in Colour & Light. Tell us more!

David Oliver, the founder of the Paint & Paper Library, approached me many years ago. He wanted to write a book on colour but with a young family and running his own business he didn’t have the time! He laid out the structure of the book and sourced all the images and then I did the research and the copy. It was a long winter of coming home from my day job at WGSN to complete the 45,000 words!

How does your love of colour manifest itself in your own home?

Home is full of colour and pattern – everything from hand-dyed washed linen to Moroccan Azilal rugs. At the moment we still rent out our house in London and rent in Dorset so to personalise our home has been mainly through paint colour and possessions. I used to work in India a lot when I was the textile buyer at The Conran Shop, so although it was 20 years ago, I still have many of the samples from back then. I also love going to Marrakech and have a penchant for rugs!

Has colour made its way into your wardrobe?

I can’t get enough navy blue. I always pair it with pattern (I love patterned blouses and socks). Maybe a touch of neon orange too.

Have you ever had your colours analysed?

Yes, when I was 18 as I was temping at a colour analysis company in London. I think at 18 I wasn’t that interested. I only wish I could find out my palette now!

And finally, do you have a favourite colour?

I have a palette which doesn’t seem to be changing at the moment: dark bluey/grey, dirty rose pink and mustard yellow.


You can find Brassica Mercantile’s website here and Brassica Restaurant’s website here

This Christmas give the colours that suit everyone!

You might notice that so far I have held off talking about Christmas shopping, parties, over eating and general festive fun too much, but now we’re in December all bets are off and it’s nothing but festive posts from here on in.

To kick off, let’s talk gifts. Whether you’re dropping not-so-subtle hints (top tip: just leave this webpage open) or picking the perfect gift for a loved one, I’ve rounded up the Kettlewell pieces you need to add to your list.

The great thing about Kettlewell is that we know the colours that work for everyone, so you know you can buy a colour that will wow, whoever is receiving it. Rather pleasingly, true red falls into the ‘universally flattering’ category (see this post from a few weeks ago), as does pebble grey. And rich teal and soft white are also fairly safe bets, flattering a huge range of skintones. All of these shades combine to make a gift palette that’s sure to wow.

L-R:  Florence Infinity Scarf in marine blue, Camisole in true red, Star Wrap Bracelet in light grey sparkle, Star Keyring in aquagreen & grey, Suede Leather Purse in aquagreen & grey, Fine Cotton Tee in kingfisher, Willow Scarf in true red

L-R: Suede Tassel Clutch in ghost, Short Cascade Wrap in deep lagoon, Cosy Cotton Stripe Top in nimbus & pastel blue, Tassel Necklace in red & bronze sparkle, Lace Camisole in true red, Silky Crew in soft white, Leather Star Makeup Bag/Clutch in aquagreen & grey

L-R: Metallic Leather Clutch in tin, Ava Dress in Peacock Blue, Milan Knit Crew in light silver, Long Rio Wrap in true red, Cashmere Gauze Stole in Pebble Grey, City Poncho in marine blue, Loafers in red sparkle

Colourful, colourful Copenhagen

As you have probably gathered by now, I’m never happier than when I’m hunting down new colours from everyday life, whether it’s the terracotta of Portuguese rooftops or gorse yellow of a Cornish headland. You never know when you might come across that next big shade that, translated in to a seasonal palette, our customers will love and want to embrace in their wardrobe.

Cities are jam-packed full of colour inspiration, and nowhere more so than Copenhagen, which John and I visited for a couple of days last month to source ideas for our AW18 collection. According to a recent fashion piece in The Times, colour is surprisingly big in the Danish capital at the moment, with the clothes as colourful as the crooked houses down on the waterfront at Nyhavn, a deliciously vibrant riot of pinks, oranges, blues and yellows.

Scandi style used to be synonymous with neutrals, minimalism and endless monochrome, but if the clothes shops I visited are anything to go by, colour has certainly come to town, with my current colour crush, orange, leading the way, from the palest peach to vibrant winter orange and burnt orange styled with gold. In fact, it was all that I could do to stop myself going into a colour shopping frenzy (Copenhagen is eye-wateringly expensive, so I was restrained and came away with just a few pieces of clothing, some watermelon nail polish, and some rolls of colourful ribbon to make a start on my Christmas wrapping).

If you’ve never been before, I’d heartily recommend Copenhagen as a city break destination. To the soundtrack of a thousand tinkling bicycle bells – bikes have outnumbered cars in Copenhagen for years now – you’ll find lots of historic back streets to explore and great places to eat (we had dinner by candlelight in a little restaurant that felt like we were dining in someone else’s home, with only two choices on the menu, and the rest of the time feasted on the most amazing open sandwiches with earthy homemade rye bread). And if, like me, you’re a fan of colour (which I’m assuming you are!), you certainly won’t be disappointed.

7 items, 7 outfits

 

Once upon a time, when I first started writing this blog, we didn’t used to be able to create a complete capsule wardrobe using only Kettlewell pieces, so we had to send you elsewhere to fill in the gaps. I’m really thrilled that we’ve introduced so many more items over the years, and it’s now possible to create a complete look knowing that each and every piece has been carefully selected to mix and match as well as compliment your skintone and colouring.

Rather than diving into a full capsule wardrobe, which can be somewhat overwhelming and not actually that useful, I’ve created a ‘mini capsule’ using seven Kettlewell garments to create seven outfits, for a full week of colour fun.

7 items

Remember, this is just a sample wardrobe. If your style is a little less classic, go for the Alexa Jacket rather than the Paris jacket, or you might prefer to swap the Ponte Trousers for skinny jeans. Or if you love the classic look, maybe a dress instead of the dressed-down Davina tee? What would your perfect seven items be?

7 outfits 


 







Links to: Paris Jacket, Merino Crossover, Grace Pencil Skirt, Ponte Trousers, Davina Tee, Long Vest, Silky Roll Neck


This week’s post uses colours from the Winter palette. Each week we will be choosing a different seasonal palette to illustrate our blog posts – watch out for yours!

How to wear true red, whatever your palette

True red. Vibrant, festive and confident. And, believe it or not, a colour that we can all wear. If you’ve always thought that you couldn’t wear red, the chances are you’ve been trying one with the wrong undertone or brightness level. True red has neither a yellow or a blue undertone, meaning it sits bang in the middle of the four seasonal palettes, and can tone in with all of them.

The trick is in how you wear your true red; what you wear it with. Pairing vibrant true red with stark black and white creates a totally different effect to pairing it with cream and aqua, or chocolate and tan, and which one looks best on you will depend on your seasonal palette.

If you already know your own seasonal colour palette, just click on the link below to go to the appropriate post for your palette. If you haven’t had a colour analysis yet, don’t panic. You can either make a start on your journey into colour by visiting the Kettlewell colour quiz or simply read on for some great looks that will maximise that universally flattering true red, whatever your skintone.

 

 

 

 


Davina Tee in true red


 

Paris Textured Jacket in true red,  Ponte Trousers in charcoal and a Darcey V Neck in soft white


Grace Jacquard Blazer in marine teal, Grace Pencil Skirt in marine teal, Silky Roll Neck in true red, simple court shoes


​Lace Camisole in true red, ​Merino Crossover in emerald, ​Cashmere Gauze Stole in true red, navy skinny jeans


 

Meet our Summer Ambassador – Annabel Simons

From the perfect party dress to the essential dinner party top, our Summer colour ambassador and lifestyle blogger Annabel Simons from CountryWives reveals the pieces on her Christmas wishlist this year…

 Annabel wears an Alpaca Shawl in French Navy with a Pink Fiesta Three Way Scarf

What are your daytime essentials for work and weekend?
In winter, it’s jeans or leggings with a pair of Chelsea boots and something like a Silky Rollneck and Cosy Merino Wrap, which I’ll have hanging over the back of my chair when I’m writing the blog from home (your thermostat starts to go haywire when you get older so this is the perfect coatigan for shrugging on when you get chilly, just adding a Gauze Stole Scarf if you need to head out). I used to wear a lot of skinny jeans in the past but nowadays I find straight-legged jeans more flattering and work better with boots.


Annabel wears the Ava Dress in Iris Bloom, she also has a Leather Star Makeup Bag in Aquagreen and Grey

My perfect Christmas party outfit?

A great va-va-voom dress like the velvet Ava Dress if I’m going to a Christmas party or smart trousers and a top, such as the lovely new silky-feel Lulu Curve in Cherry, if I’m out to friends for a dinner. The Lulu Curve is double-layered and the lining means it hangs so much better and shows fewer lumps and bumps than a normal T-shirt. I always like to dress up because I think it’s nice for the hostess if you make an effort, and I’ll always make sure I finish off the look with earrings, scarf and a decorative necklace.

Annabel is wearing a Lulu Curve top in Cherry and has a Light Grey Paris Textured Jacket over her shoulder. She has added a silver Multi Star Necklace

Favourite piece from new winter collection?
It has to be the Ava, but I also love the Velvet Scarves for a bright pop (the Peacock Blue one is fabulous). The Cosy Merino Wrap is also great. I like the fact that it works equally well over a dress and trousers – it’s the kind of item that I know will get plenty of use this season.

Here, Annabel wears the Sofia Dress in Teal and French Navy, with a Velvet Scarf in Peacock Blue and a Cosy Merino Wrap in Bright Navy.

Your favourite Summer colours?
Pastel shades from pale blue and duck egg, through to pale lilac and pink (I wear a Cashmere Gauze Stole in Peony all the time). I also love red, especially a pop of it for a scarf or necklace.

Best feature?
My hair. Only because I know that everyone in the hairdressers is always asking for my hair colour! Everyone thinks it’s dyed until they meet my sister and realise that she has exactly the same colour hair. Feature I’m not so keen on? My neck – it’s very long and a bit wrinkly, so I don’t like it at all.

I also hate the fact that as you get older you put on weight in all the wrong places (although I don’t want to get skinny as that doesn’t actually suit me, either). I’m starting to come to terms with the fact that no matter what you do, you have to just accept your body, within reason, and then dress accordingly. Oh, and always look at your back. French women never forget to check what they look like from behind!

Claire (Autumn) wearing Cypress Green, Annabel (Summer) in Iris Bloom and Melissa (Spring) in Cosmopolitan Velvet Faux Wraps!

How does wearing your colours make you feel?
Wearing colour, particularly round my face, makes me feel better and gives me an instant uplift. As you get older your skin loses a lot of its dewiness and freshness, and without painting yourself like something out of the circus, it’s far easier to put on something close to your skin in a great colour.

Since I was first introduced to Kettlewell, there has been so much more colour in my life. If you’d  looked in my wardrobe three or four years ago, you’d have found white, navy, grey, brown and black. Now it looks like a Summer wardrobe and is so much better for it, particularly as I tend to live in a uniform of jeans, jeans and more jeans. Even just having a sweater in my right colours can make all the difference.

Annabel wearing a Merino Tunic in Bright Navy with her favourite peony Cashmere Gauze Stole

No outfit is complete without…
A scarf. As you get older, you get colder, so putting something round your neck is immensely useful. I wear scarves all year round; even in summer when I go off on holiday I’ll pack a couple of scarves to drape round my shoulders in the evening. Nowadays I find that you don’t need a really thick scarf, even in winter: my Peony Cashmere Gauze Stole and Dusky Rose Florence Infinity Scarf are all the cosiness I need.

You can follow Annabel (and her friends Grace and Ellie) over on the CountryWives website.

The colour rules you should be breaking

There are so many ‘rules’ that I hear around wearing colour. Sometimes I’m amazed that any of us manage anything other than top to toe grey! I thought it was about time to bust some of the myths and misconceptions that I hear about wearing colour, and share what the one real rule is that matters when it comes to wearing colour.

Black looks chic on everyone

There is no good way of saying this: it just doesn’t work on everyone. If you want the slimming, sleek silhouette effect without the skintone draining downsides, go for navy, charcoal, dark olive or petrol blue instead, whichever works best for your skintone. You’ll look more chic and more well rested.

Our models are wearing the Paris Textured Jacket.  Eveline (Autumn) wears Leaf , Sophie (Spring) wears Light Grey,  Georgia (Summer) wears Marine Teal and Violet (Winter) wears Black.

Redheads can’t wear pink

You so can. The question is, which pink. If you have a warm complexion, you might better off in coral hued flamingo pink or soft mellow rose, but if you have a cooler skintone, maybe musk rose is more your specialty, or even a bold fuchsia. Whatever your skintone or hair colour, there is a right version of almost every colour for you. Take the colour quiz to start learning what that version is.

Spring: flamingo pink Long Sleeve Tee, Autumn: peach melba Camisole, Summer: rose Long Vest, Winter: fuchsia Silky Roll Neck

I can’t wear green

Well, now you can. There is a shade of green for everyone. The chances are, if you’ve been struggling so far, you’ve been picking the wrong shade. Too cool, too warm too bright or too muted and it’s all wrong, but get it right and you’ll look bright eyed, glamorous, bold and stylish. It’s all in the tones.

Spring: apple Long Camisole, Autumn: tree top Semi Scoop 3/4, Summer: tropical teal Fine Cotton Tee, Winter: pine Lulu Curve

You can’t mix gold and silver

Actually, you might be able to. If your skintone lies in a more neutral space – ie you still fall into a seasonal palette (we all do!), but you are at the less extreme warm end (for Springs and Autumns) or cool end (for Winters and Summers), a mix of metals might work really well with your colours to set off those more ‘neutral’ (in terms of warmth, not brightness) shades.

 

Tiny Star Necklace in Silver, Multi Star Necklace in Silver and Gold, Davina Tee in Latte

It all comes down to one rule…

As far as I’m concerned the only rule that matters is this one: wear the colours you love and that love you.