Behind the scenes

Autumn/Winter17 Press Day

Whoever said summer is the quietest time of year, has obviously never worked at Kettlewell! Last Tuesday, having only the week before wrapped up a fashion shoot in London, we headed back up for our autumn/winter 2017 Press Day – a sneak preview of next season’s collection in association with our friends at Red Leopard. Fashion writers, editors and stylists, working for titles from Vogue and The Times to the Evening Standard and The Pool, as well as some of our favourite style bloggers, turned up to have their colours analysed by the experts and to view the new collection in Red Leopard’s wonderfully stylish penthouse setting in Battersea.

And even the fact that the mercury outside was hitting 28C didn’t dampen the press’s enthusiasm for finding out what new styles and colours we have in store for autumn/winter, from jackets and skirts to tops and dresses. As new collections go, this one was particularly well received, with our faux-suede Alexa biker-style jacket in five colours proving the biggest hit (getting the journalists to try them on was easy – getting them to take them off was the hard part!), closely followed by merino knitwear in shades of carmine red, emerald, Indian ochre and teal, and our elegant new Paris jacket (with the star range of handbags and make-up bags also getting their fair share of oohs and aahs, too). Now all that remains to find out is what you, the customer, thinks of the new collection when it hits the website in six weeks’ time.

 The Autumn/Winter collection launches on August 30 2017

Saluting the sunshine hues by Melissa

Did you spot Kettlewell in The Times this week? T2 had dedicated the front page and a double-page spread to our favourite topic, colour, and specifically how to wear it this summer. Fashion Director Anna Murphy was telling us all to move beyond blacks and neutrals and embrace the season’s sunshine hues, and for those overwhelmed by all the colour choice on the high street right now, Kettlewell was the place to go to find the colours that work best for you. It’s always great to get a mention in the national press and to take part in any conversation about colour, so we were thrilled to be included.

Talking of summer colour choices, we’ve been poring over Pantone charts and mood boards in the studio this week, choosing colours and prints for our Spring/Summer 2018 collection.

With Pure Zen, Living Garden, Drawn Botanicals, Mystical Tribes and Neon Tropics among the predicted style trends for 2018, it was a case of assessing a range of potential prints to identify ones that would best work for our styles and fabrics, as well as, of course, our customers. Then it was down to the serious business of choosing new colours, with each of the four seasons, Spring (me), Summer (Sarah), Autumn (Claire) and Winter (Anna) selecting the shades for their respective palettes from literally thousands in the Pantone charts. It’s rather like a group of people in a restaurant intently viewing the world’s longest menu, imploring the next person to go first before making their own choice.

The key is to leaf through the Pantone charts, colour by colour, and hone in on the shades that you are instinctively drawn to, with an eye on the style it would suit. With 150 shades already in the range, it’s no easy task to find ‘new’ colours.  Winter is the hardest season to work with, as the colours have to be spot-on:  intense and vibrant or icy and sharp, with no shades in between, but the three others have plenty of variation either side. After hours of intense colour scrutiny, we had whittled it down to our favourites.

Heliotrope, blue jewel, shell pink, dove grey, azure and pink geranium have been our bestselling colours this summer, with the apple butterfly print and red and white Breton stripe among our most popular prints. It’ll be interesting to see which of the shades we’ve just picked out will be topping the charts this time next year.

Inside the Studio – by Melissa

While the rest of the world has been focused on what to wear on holiday this summer, here at Kettlewell we’ve been busy concentrating on what they will be wearing next Autumn. Over the past weeks, we’ve been putting the finishing touches to our A/W17 collection ready for the upcoming photo shoot in early summer, as well as making headway with S/S18.

That’s the nature of fashion – always a couple of seasons ahead. The endless pursuit of fresh new looks is what I love about this industry, and I must admit that tracking them down has become something of an obsession of mine over the years. Nowadays, when I’m out shopping, it’s less about me and what I want to wear, and much more about sourcing potential styles and fabrics that I think our customers might like. I’ll feel all the fabrics, inspect all the labels and try as many clothes on as I have the energy for.

I’ve also been known to subtly take a snapshot of a print someone is wearing in front of me in a queue, and wherever I go – whether it’s a party, out on the street, on the Tube – I’ll go up to strangers and talk to them about their clothes and have a good look at the label. You can imagine how much my children love that!

As anyone who works in fashion retail will tell you, building a new collection is a long and complex journey, from inception to delivery. For us, the creative process starts with research on a shopping expedition – a shop report, where we check what’s currently in the stores and look at fabrics, shapes, necklines, prints and styles. There’s also a trend report, where our designer, Sarah, will create mood boards based on trends relevant to Kettlewell. After we’ve considered which designs will work in our available fabric groups, the sketching begins in earnest, before specs (measurement and detail specifications) are then sent to our factories to produce samples.

Naturally, being Kettlewell, colour is a huge consideration for us, and each season we’ll select 80 new colours, 20 each for Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. As we already have so many colours (150 at the last count), we will literally spend hours poring over the Pantone books and consultant swatches, searching for fabulous new colours that we haven’t done before (Winters are the hardest to achieve as they have to be spot-on: intense and vibrant or icy and sharp, with no shades in between). We’ll also look at best-selling colours and good neutrals, and consider customer requests and online comments.

And then, of course, I’m also continually photographing colours on my travels, taking inspiration from everything around me, from a pebble or a strand of seaweed on the beach to blossom on a branch or the rooftops of Rome. Colour inspiration, as I have come to learn over the years, can come from the unlikeliest of places – you just have to go out looking for it.

Hit colour refresh

What a month March is turning out to be. Not only have we been busy putting the finishing touches to our A/W17 collection, but we’ve been zipping between location recces in Bath, high summer brochure photo shoots in London and filming in Henley-upon-Thames. Added to that, Kettlewell has had the best start to a season ever, for which I must say a huge thank you for all your continued support.

Anyway, there’s nothing like the shift from winter to spring to get everyone talking about colour, and that’s what we were doing last week in Henley with our good friends at Country Wives . For those of you who may not have heard of it, Country Wives is an online magazine, set up by Annabel, Grace and Ellie, three friends from their London days, who have come together to share tips and ideas about everything from food to fashion. We’ve been lucky enough to team up with them once before , but this time we were videoing Grace having a colour refresh  with Helen Venables, MD at House of Colour.

It turns out that 25 years after she first had her colours analysed, Grace’s wow colours have shifted in her seasonal palette and she is now a vibrant autumn, which, I have to say, is a perfect match for her personality. Enthusiastic, vivacious and ever open to suggestion, Grace embraced Helen’s wonderful bright colour drapes with an open-mindedness that was refreshing to see, and loved our Acid Lime, Fiesta Orange, Saffron and Mallard tops, which I highlighted in the second of the vlogs, How to (successfully) wear bright colours .

Back at Kettlewell HQ, we’ve been busy doing some filming of our own this month, and the eagle-eyed among you may have spotted a number of short Style Guide video clips dotted around the website, as I talk through a range of styles, including the Striped Boat Neck, Silky Tee, Print Daphne blouse and Butterfly Print Tee. We’ve had some really positive feedback so far, with one customer telling us that the style clips give her a good idea of “whether I’ll like it on myself… It makes outfit ideas come alive when you can see them in real life.” Look out for more as they pop up over the next couple of months, as well as some longer ones where I’ll be sharing my favourite pieces for Spring/Summer 17, and do let us know what you think. After all, it’s because of you that we’re here!


Time for tees – by Melissa

There’s something about the arrival of spring, the sun shining, the birds tweeting and that hint of warmer summer days to come, that has got me excited about wearing T-shirts again, this time unencumbered by winter cardis and jackets.

As well as being one of the most useful pieces in my wardrobe, tees for me are bound up with nostalgia. They remind me of sunshine and happy holidays as a child in Cornwall and Brittany; of ice-creams and seaside and being together as a family. They also remind me of being at school in the 1980s, sporting my favourite oversized bright orange tee with the words ‘Relax’ from Frankie Goes to Hollywood emblazoned across the front, and then later, when I moved to London and started working for a fashion mail-order company, buying a 100% cotton Ralph Lauren tee for the princely sum of £45 (what seemed to me like a small fortune for a T-shirt 20 years ago), which felt fabulous.

Tees have followed me right through life and, as you probably know, are the reason John and I started Kettlewell in the first place, wanting to provide this simple basic to the very highest quality and in a range of colours that had never been done before.

The first Kettlewell catalogue from 2005

I also love the fact that few other items of clothing have such a long, cool and varied past – something my daughter, Tash, and I discovered a couple of years ago when we went along to the History of the Tee exhibition at the V&A. Did you know, for example, that the T-shirt is 106 years old, originating from underwear and only officially becoming outerwear in 1913 when it became regulation uniform for the US Navy? It grew in popularity as sport became a common activity, and was a teenage staple in the 1950s, due in no small part to the dashing screen icons of the day like James Dean and Marlon Brando, and in the 1960s the T-shirt became a pop art canvas for boutique designers. Flick through any fashion magazine today and you won’t be able to turn for images of the slogan tee, saying it loud and proud. The tee has certainly earned its place in fashion history.

From a design point of view, people tend to assume that nothing could be simpler than a tee, but as we have come to realise over the years, the basics can often be the most difficult to perfect, as there’s no hiding from the shape, fabric and stitching. The hard-working tee must accommodate the tall, short, straight, curvy, broad shouldered, narrow shouldered, busty and flat-chested among us (I’m always amazed by how many different body shapes actually fit into a size M), as well as those who like a smooth fabric, a thick cotton or one with stretch. Then there’s the question of how short or long do you like your sleeve, which colour to choose from your seasonal palette (if you’ve had your colours analysed you’ll know about wearing your best colours close to your face), and what sort of neckline flatters your shape, from v and crew to scoop and boat. Who would have thought that such a simple basic could throw up so many choices?

Style considerations aside, the T-shirt has always been a wardrobe stalwart for me – versatile, feminine, hard-working, super-comfortable… and always, at the back of my mind, evoking memories of childhood holidays and ice-cream. Roll on summer.

Melissa’s Four Favourite Tees:

1 Stripe Boat Neck (True Red Stripe)

2 Butterfly Print Tee (Apple/Soft White)

3 Love Colour Tee (Flamingo Pink)

4 Silky Tee (Blue Jewel)


To see our Pinterest board ‘Time for Tee’ visit Kettlewell on Pinterest

It’s all in the detail – by Melissa

threadEach season, before all the garments are shipped, I make a point of visiting our factories to inspect the production. With a matter of weeks now to go before the new SS17 collection lands, I’ve been out to Portugal with my Quality Control Manager, Anna, to visit two new factories that we’ve recently started working with – an exciting time because the new collection has a more diverse range of fabrics than ever, including linen jersey, cotton lyocell and more styles in 100% cotton.  linenmelissa_colours

 Meanwhile, John and our in-house designer Sarah have been busy making the final production quality checks over at our other factory in Turkey to ensure every sleeve is even, every button hole neatly finished, every label stitched on straight, and every sleeve the perfect length. It’s no mean feat working your way through a checklist with more than different 20 styles, each in small, medium, large and LL, but we know you won’t settle for anything less than the best, and neither will we.


 When John and I first set out in our search for a factory, we agreed that we wanted to produce quality T-shirts that would wash and wear like a dream. The reality was that it was almost impossible to find somewhere that would produce small quantities in several styles in lots of different colours at a cost that wasn’t through the roof – a nightmare for any factory as the sewing lines are forced to keep stopping and starting to change the thread colours, and consistency is easily lost. It soon became clear to us why other manufacturers were offering only a limited palette. Thankfully, we found a family-run factory in Izmir, Turkey, which understood what we were trying to achieve in terms of quality of fabric, accuracy in colour and detail in fit, and we’ve been working with the same factory for the past ten years.


I must admit that in the early days, a quality control inspection was a slightly drawn-out process, but nowadays we know exactly what to look for. While a few of the repeat styles that have been going for two or three seasons, such as the camisoles and long vests, will need minimal changes, we make doubly sure any new pieces meet our specifications, from ensuring all the stripes line up on the seam and around the arm holes on our new Stripe Pocket Dress to the checking that the button holes are in a straight line down the front of our new Jersey Shirt. In fact, I usually try everything on in a size medium to make sure the fit is right and that there are no niggling quirks, and if there are, it’ll be whisked away and changed right there and then on the spot.


 Having seen the first of the boxes packed up and ready to go, I can’t wait for early next month when the SS17 collection hits the website (the catalogue will be dropping through your letterbox any day now, so keep an eye out). Later in March, I’ll be back to Turkey finalise the design and fit of the Autumn/Winter collection. We’ve had the first samples back, chosen the colours and prints, and I’ll also be checking out ideas at London Fashion Week for SS18. It goes without saying that I’m looking for colour. And lots of it!   


The colourful Rooster of Barcelos - from a famous Portuguese legend

The colourful Rooster of Barcelos – from a famous Portuguese legend

The Photoshoot Diaries by Melissa


headerEver wondered what goes on at a Kettlewell fashion shoot? Melissa takes us behind the scenes at the Spring/Summer 2017 studio shoot earlier this month…

I’ve lost count of how many fashion shoots I’ve been on since we launched Kettlewell back in 2004 – it’s probably close on 40 – but it’s still a great feeling gathering together a team that gels creatively and seeing the process through from the first click of the camera. Not to mention the fact that I’m getting to work with great models in some inspiring locations, and seeing the clothes shown off in their very best light.

Over the years we’ve shot in all sorts of locations, from grand country houses in Yorkshire and beach houses in Cape Town to impressive modernist homes in Oxfordshire, but the funny thing is that however big the property, we invariably end up using the smallest room in the house or corner of the studio. Other brands we’ve spoken to tell us they do the same – there’s something about the intimacy and the light that helps you get that all-important shot.

For our recent Spring/Summer 2017 shoot, we hired out the Penthouse Rome Studios in Hoxton, East London. It’s an old hat factory, and although you won’t be able to tell from the shots, the windows overlook a square full of crows (the story goes that Alfred Hitchcock looked out on the same view every day from his office and the crows became the inspiration for his movie, The Birds). For us, Rome Studio ticks all the boxes: it has plenty of natural daylight pouring in (always great to work with and really flattering), lots of space for setting up the Colorama backdrop and a great textured brick wall for added contrast. It also has that ‘blank canvas’ appeal that means that instead of fighting against the backdrop, the clothes really stand out and look great in the contemporary setting.


As is always the case when we get the team together – Ben, the photographer; Keira, our in-house stylist; and Rachel, our hair and make-up artist – the fun atmosphere really helped bring out the best in our Spring and Winter models, Sophie and Violet , with Rachel cracking jokes and Ben cranking up the Eighties and Nineties playlist to help get everyone in the mood.

As anyone who has ever been on a fashion shoot will tell you, getting the right kind of energy going is key, so we always make sure there are plenty of coffee breaks and pit stops along the way for everyone to recharge their batteries and keep the energy levels up. John will go down to the shop to buy in drinks, fruit and nuts for everyone to graze on, and come midday the studio offers a delicious shoot lunch of sea bass and salad, Indian chicken and falafels, and plenty of veggie options. It may not look it, but modelling is actually incredibly physically demanding, with long periods of standing and holding poses, as well as early starts and late finishes, so a good healthy lunch really punctuates the day and gives the models, and in fact the whole creative team, a much-needed boost. Then of course, come three o’clock, everything stops for tea. With cake, naturally.