Stories

At home with you

By Justine Tabak

At home with you

Hello lovely subscribers

I hope you're all managing to stay safe and well, and keeping your spirits up. Whilst separated, together we fight on for the hope of brighter days to come.

In recent days I've been finding pockets of joy through social media, and with that in mind I have a favour to ask ...

This season we shot our Spring collection earlier, but I’d planned to be shooting a second, more summery photo shoot featuring new pieces with my small team. With that not being a possibility right now, I thought I’d turn to you, and ask if you wanted to share snaps taken around the home or garden wearing your favourite JT style? It can be from this season or any previous, and we’ll share as many as we can on both instagram and a coming newsletter. If nothing else seeing your beautiful faces will make me smile! 

I wanted to share with you a few photos I've spotted already on instagram. Each one as unique and beautiful as the wearer...

Nikki, one half of @styleinthestix wears her gingham Primrose Hill dress looking particularly sophisticated hanging out the washing! 

Emily glances out the window from her beautiful St Tudy Inn wearing the gingham linen Whitstable dress ... @emilyscottfood 

Mirror, mirror from Rachel's bedroom, the Holkham shirt dress for those days when you feel like you need to elevate your 'working from home' outfits above PJs!

Not one but two pics (see pink flowers at top of page ) from Claire @cakeandmoss who has always taken the dreamiest of photos wearing my dresses. She wears the red gingham Primrose Hill and the chamomile lawn Riding House dress.

Lisa and Buddy ready for 'dress up Friday' in her London Fields dress. I love that she's styled this piece with her trainers! @_lisa_dawson_

Not one but two for Kate of @wearsmymoney. Whilst the first strictly speaking was taken last year on holiday, she shared this recently to remind us of all the wonderful adventures we have to come once we reach the other side. She wears the Isabel Primrose Hill dress (sadly sold out), and the Arlington floral Riding House dress.

Twinning checks with her sweet daughter, Lisa from @alwaysstylish_lisa in the navy gingham Primrose Hill dress. I love the blue Matisse in the background. 

A poppy red Petticoat Lane dress for Rachel from @stylemeshort to celebrate her son's 15th birthday.

Cara out on her daily walk in her linen Hanbury dress.

Juliet wears her mint stripe Primrose Hill dress in the sunshine of her garden this weekend.

And here's my effort, wearing my red gingham Primrose Hill dress, with my favourite cup of Yorkshire tea. Sadly looking at this picture, I realise it's time I got some potting done !

I can't wait to see your photos from wherever you may be, simply send over to support@justinetabak.co.uk or tag me on instagram.

Stay safe and sending love to you all,

Justine x

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The long and short of it ...

By Justine Tabak

The long and short of it ...

Hello lovely subscribers

In these unprecedented times I'm sure you've been incredibly touched by the spirit of community all around, neighbours looking out for each other, volunteers in huge numbers offering to help the vulnerable, and the genuine warmth of social media to connect digitally where we can’t physically. Creativity has been blossoming as people take time to slow down, becoming resourceful and watching this collective spirit has been a joy.

We had our own ‘make do and mend’ moment last week; we received our last batch in from our lovely makers before we headed into lockdown, but due to us all doing our best to follow social distancing some of our usual steps to check production were missed resulting in the dresses being made longer than planned. In these times we have to be patient, mistakes happen and most importantly all involved are safe and well, so with a glass half full I’ve found I quite like the longer length too! With the wonders of photoshop photography has been tweaked, and I’ve decided to open up offers for both lengths on the site. If you would like the longer length they’re available to buy now, or alternatively you can preorder a shorter length and I’ll arrange a detour with my sewing machine to hem for you, even posting on the extra fabric which you could then turn into a matching accessory!

Whilst some are finding it useful to use this time to engage in creative pursuits, I can honestly say that some days I’ve struggled. I’ve had days where I feel like I need to be moving and making, but equally others that it’s been hard to get off the sofa, the shock of the news still sinking in. There’s no right or wrong here, and I’m slowly learning to be as gentle with myself as I would with others. If you have been finding it useful to keep busy and connect with your creative side, we’d love to see any projects you’ve been working on at home in the ‘make do and mend’ spirit. Send any photos you have to support@justinetabak.co.uk or tag me on instagram @justine_tabak , and I’ll share your stories to celebrate our community of makers.

I'm loving these vintage wartime graphics for 'make do and mend'....

 

Along with the two Poets Road dresses we also received a fresh batch of red and white gingham and beautiful navy broderie anglaise Primrose Hill dresses. All of these styles come from the same pattern block, an easy breezy silhouette perfect for wafting indoors and out. Sizes are limited overall, and unfortunately we don’t know when we’ll be able to make any more at the moment, so please do order to avoid disappointment.

Stay safe, stay home and sending all my love,

Justine xx

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A letter to you

By Justine Tabak

A letter to you

Hello lovely subscribers 

These are truly challenging times we find ourselves in, it's difficult to put into words and absorb the ever changing situation. Family and friends separated, holidays shelved, children at home, we're all doing our best to keep busy in what has become a very stilted, surreal place. So first and foremost, stay safe and we are sending our warmest wishes to you all. 

In many ways it seems frivolous to be sending out letters about clothes and certainly, dresses could never be deemed life essentials. But what I'm learning very fast is how my tiny community, however small, has been hugely supportive and messages of positively have come flooding in. 
Over the coming days, weeks, or however long we find ourselves distancing from each other, my aim beyond all is to never loose sight of the fantastic community we’ve built here. I’d love to help share positivity and joy in any way I can. We’re all in this together!

On a practical side, this is where we are with the collection. First batches of Spring stock are safely at the warehouse where they were delivered many weeks ago. New styles 'coming soon' are sadly on hold, ready to go once these days are behind us. You can still pre order for some of these styles, and please do check out the ones in stock, lots of lovely joyful and comfy pieces for days spent at home. Any previous pre-orders should be with you very soon. 

I work with three lovely manufacturing workshops, two in London and one in Great Yarmouth. Our newest makers in Norfolk are luckily managing to carry on for the moment, albeit with stringent hygiene practices and sensitivity to their loyal staff. We are fortunate to know all our makers inside and out and all of them have been taking the right precautions for their employees, working at safe distances and wearing the correct protective clothing. Our teams are small and tight and no risks have been taken within the 'family factories'. 

With safety as top priority however, our London manufacturers have now closed for the time being and we will be supporting them through these very difficult times.

Here's Yuksel and Sital who run our two London-based manufacturing workshops respectively.

Over at our Bletchley warehouse, the wonderful Susie and her team have put some clear and stringent practices in place. They are continuing to post out your orders with attention and care, whilst practising social distancing within the warehouse space. All staff who can work from home are doing so, and those who need to be on site have been divided into two rotating teams. Hygiene is uppermost and you can be sure as safe an environment as possible. To their current knowledge their couriers are continuing but please bear with if a delivery takes that little bit longer. 

Here's Susie and Chloe back in January at the warehouse...and a packing station below...

And as for me, the studio is home based so whilst distracted with the news, it will be a time of consolidation and creativity. I'm working remotely with Chloe, and as a two man team we will keep each others spirits up remotely. New ideas will surely flourish, and we’re getting back onto our own sewing machines very soon! I'm a firm believer that adversity makes for creativity and we'll be getting in touch with you over the coming weeks to see if you'd like to get involved. 

And of course, do keep in touch, on the support email support@justinetabak.co.uk or via Instagram. The customer camaraderie is a beacon of hope within all this uncertainty and we will get through this together. 

As always, thank you for all your support, stay safe and love to you and yours. 

Justine xx

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A Mothers Day Post

By Justine Tabak

A Mothers Day Post

Hello lovely subscribers

I debated long and hard whether I should send this newsletter today. In these unprecedented times we're all struggling on a practical level, how to function in a more limited environment, and on an emotional level, it's excruciating to think of missing the company of loved ones. My parents have 180 years between them, so it's hard to contemplate how they will manage in the coming weeks. But my Mum says we 'have to keep positive and keep going', 'pull together and things will be alright'. 

So after much consideration, I decided to carry on and write about my Mothers Day offer, simply because in moments of suffering, reaching out to community is more important than ever. As trite as it sounds, I hope an element of normality will give you chance to pause and smile, refreshing the hope that we can and will get through this together. 

To Mum, to Grandma, to Mummy and if you just feel like it in these anxious times, to Me. Celebrating and cherishing our Mothers should never be forgotten in whatever way we can. It’s a small sweetener in these difficult days, but please accept a code for these colourful jumpers should you wish to send a huggable woolly in the post for this Mother’s Day. 

Use ILOVEMUM15 at the checkout for 15% off just this week. I’ll be asking my kind partners to send next day post where possible. Oh and these jumpers are made in Scotland, if there was ever a time to support local British business it’s now.

Stay safe, and please do feel free to reach out and get in touch.

Justine x

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Crafted in Norfolk

By Justine Tabak

Crafted in Norfolk

Firstly, I hope you're all managing in this period of huge uncertainty and sadness that is affecting the global community. I had planned this post a week ago and so much has changed since then. In many ways it seemed frivolous to be talking clothes when health concerns are uppermost in our minds but then I thought we still need to find pockets of joy and most importantly show our support together through our collective stories and creative communities. So if you have a quiet moment, read on to discover the story behind my new dress and maker... 

I’ve been wanting to create a shirt dress for quite some time now. A dress that makes you feel both ‘put together' yet casual, can be worn 'dressed up or down' by simply by loosening up a few buttons at the neck. Pretty and practical - the simple idea of a shirt dress epitomises everything I try to achieve through each and every style. 

So this spring I've introduced the Holkham shirt dress, inspired by vintage Edwardian work dresses and named after a pretty village from the county it is hewn. Fitted and flared to it's ruffled hem, this dress sleekly skims the body, topped by a neat rounded collar and tiny frills adorning the three quarter sleeves. Cut in deadstock cotton shirting, made thoughtfully throughout and of course with all important deep pockets. 

When it came to making this style, I wanted to find a manufacturer who was used to making shirts and found the perfect partners in Yarmouth Stores. This heritage company has been around since 1898 and famous for making classic coastal workwear -  Fishermans smocks, traditional chore jackets and aprons. They have clothed Edwardian 'herring girls' of the fishing industry, wartime work forces, aprons for shopkeepers right through to modern style mavens who love the authenticity of a real workwear jacket.

When I visited Yarmouth Stores last year, what struck me was the community spirit, with all the pattern making, cutting and sewing all under one roof. The original building, overlooking the River Yare, is a mix of painterly heritage and modern studio employing 20 machinists in its sunny upstairs workspace, beams of coastal light streaming into the airy spaces. You really felt the warmth of a traditional family business with an open friendly environment of workers, some employed for decades.  

But it hasn't always been easy and Yarmouth Stores is a splendid reminder of the few surviving manufacturers we still have in this country. Whilst so many retailers have outsourced to far flung cheaper production, Yarmouth have remained strong to its original brand and adapted over time, still making original workwear but also selling their own updated classics through their website. It's hard to find a more dedicated team of makers and crafters.

https://www.yarmouthoilskins.com

Here we share some photos and pages from the history of Yarmouth Stores ( formerly Johnson and Sons ) plus a few photos of our dress being made just weeks ago at the factory...if there was ever a time to buy and support small and local, it's now. 

Wishing you all well 

Justine x

At present day Yarmouth Stores, each dress is carefully cut on a 'lay' per size from card patterns. The cutter works out how to cut the pattern creating the least amount of cloth wastage. Bundles are created to hand over to seamstresses, who sew each 'piece' with care, from overlocking through to pressing and finishing, adding buttons and buttonholes and snipping threads.

The final result is our Holkham shirt dress, made in blue, white and beige cotton pinstripe. Available to buy online now.

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Bring back Laura Ashley!

By Justine Tabak

Bring back Laura Ashley!

In recent weeks there has been a flurry of support for the quintessentially British brand, Laura Ashley as they struggle to survive. The brand has been troubled for a while, lost and without soul in the ever generic high street. Whilst to many this wasn't a surprise, it certainly brought back memories to so many who loved Laura Ashley in its former glory. 

I first discovered Laura Ashley as a small child in the 70's when my Mum would take me to their beautiful shop in Chester. A two storey shop in a period timbered house, it was the emporium of dreams. You could buy bags of fabric scraps (how sustainable is that now!), and one of my first projects was making a patchwork cushion. The shops were always crammed, queues to the changing rooms, clothes strewn everywhere. My Mum loved sewing and bought fabrics for dresses and home, my teenage bedroom was a haven of pink and white ‘Campion’ print on walls, curtains, and homemade beanbags. As I grew up I craved the 'ready' rather than home made clothes and was so excited when my Mum bought my first ‘ensemble’ of cotton lawn bikini and matching ruffled sarong… I wish I had it now! 

In the early 90's, after stints at Fendi, Marks and Spencer and Jigsaw, I was approached to work for the brand of my childhood. The first 2 years working there were really happy, a community spirit that emanated from the top with a ‘family’ who were passionate about the brand. Of all the places I have worked, it was a community of textile artists, clothes designers, pattern makers and machinists under one roof, all rare in the British high street at the time  and you really felt like this was a design hub. Sometimes I’d get to visit Carno in Wales, home of the original factories where they not only made the clothes but printed them too. The best days were spent looking through the archives and incredible print books to choose the look of the next season. Sadly after the company was floated, the love seemed to fade from the brand… it was the age of power dressing and the gentle prettiness didn’t really sit with the times. Ikea had 'chucked out the chintz' and the new owners wanted to move away from the original Laura roots. Such a shame. 

I still feel very inspired by the brand. I've collected some original vintage dresses and even have many of my sketchbooks from that time that I dip into every now and again. One of my favourite archive pieces is a beautiful cream calico and cotton lace dress from the early 80’s. What I love about it is that the fabric is tough and workaday whilst being the most romantic style, practical and pretty at it's best. And the sleeves… yes to sleeves at any age, especially when you get a bit older and don’t feel so confident about your arms! And now I find my teenage daughter loves the dresses, one of her favourites, an original 70’s prairie style, too tiny for me but she loves wearing it with chunky boots to give it an edge. I think that’s part of the appeal of Laura Ashley, these clothes were made for real women, 'modern heroines' that despite references to period pieces, the clothes were practical and made for living in. 

I also have a slightly later 90’s silk tea dress, one I worked on personally with a beautiful hand painted floral scattered over it. Again, a timeless vintage piece that has surpassed any trends. A similar one was bought by Princess Diana, she loved the brand and she used to shop at the Kensington branch after hours. 

I try to carry forward the original values of the company into my own. If Laura Ashley was starting today, I think so many of the original values would be relevant now, in the more sustainable slow fashion world…making locally, timeless style, natural eco friendly fabrics that are crafted and unique. I’ve always loved working for brands that have a strong point of view so that has remained to this day and I hope that my clothes carry that strength of reason. There was a sense of community at Laura Ashley which generated through the business and local factories and out to the customers, in this digital age that has been replaced by social media and a community built via Instagram but used properly, I hope that the same community, kindness and shared love of slow fashion comes through. 

I learnt that to be a strong brand you have to be single minded, it doesn’t matter if everyone doesn’t like what you do as long as you capture your audience through your passion. Laura Ashley was passionate about making clothes with art, culture and romance at it’s roots, all concepts that I try and bring to my clothes now. Customers often say to me that my clothes remind them of Laura Ashley, romantic pretty dresses but not too precious to wear all day, washable and practical. Natural fabrics and pockets, yes pockets!…  Laura Ashley clothes always had pockets and I would never design without them. 

Perhaps, after decades of androgynous dressing, it’s a moment to reclaim femininity and realise that it’s okay to wear pretty clothes without being seen as the weaker sex. We can dress up and take pleasure in it. Now, I’d wear the vintage dresses with tough boots and a big mans cardi…much like the very first styling in the Laura Ashley photos. 

I wanted to share some of my favourite Laura Ashley photos from years past in homage to the brand of old. 

News flash! - news has broken this week that Laura Ashley has found a saviour with a new CEO and financial support. I've read they will be reviving their archive and reviving the spirit of the brand. Let's hope that this special British heritage brand can be revived. In the meantime, I'll keep designing for contemporary prairie girls and modern romantics of all ages! 

Justine x

 

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I love Liberty

By Justine Tabak

I love Liberty

Yesterday, on the greyest of February afternoons, I took a 'colourful' and welcome trip to Liberty HQ to see their new range of prints and fabrics. As delightful as ever, the Liberty collection holds a special place in my heart, my Mum made all my dresses as a child, sewn up in remnants bought on exciting trips to London and the Liberty store in Regent Street. My Mum would run up three versions of the same dress for me and my two sisters, green floral for the eldest, red for the middle and almost always blue for me! She was a whizz on the sewing machine and used to mix all the florals in all manner of patchworks sometimes making a matching outfit for my teddy! So from the heart, I really do love a Liberty print. 

What really impresses me, and what people don't necessarily know, is that Liberty have been working really hard behind the scenes to make their fabrics as kind as possible. Tana lawn cotton, a firm favourite of ours, is made using Oeko-Tex cotton in conjunction with the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI). You can find more information on both of these certifications online, but in short this means that their cotton production is more ethical from farm, to the environment and all the way to the customer. Better farming practises used, dyes are non-polluting, and fabrics are tested rigorously to ensure they are kind and responsible at every stage. 

And creatively, Liberty are unique, allowing their large creative team of 20 designers to work thoughtfully over months, hand-painting designs like artists rather than the quick digital methods of the High Street, a 'Slow Design' process that reflects the ethos of my brand. Archive prints and classics we wore and loved as children sit amongst these new designs, and each season they buy meterage tightly and with consideration, keeping prints exclusive, much like our shorter runs that prevent waste.

Our Riding House dress, is a classic Liberty floral with a cool retro feel to it, I named the design 'Arlington' after one of my favourite London squares. This dress also comes in our ever popular 'Camomile' print (more coming  very soon to those waiting!) 

The 'Meadow' floral for our new Camden Passage dress, evokes romantic prairie styles of the Seventies. 

As for how I'll be wearing Liberty florals now, I love layering a jumper over my dresses, tights and chunky boots. My Skye jumper is roomy enough to wear sleeves underneath and adds a pop of richer colour for these transitional months. In super soft mid weight lambswool, this jumper can be worn all year round. Available in leaf green, rose red, haze blue and sunflower yellow. 

Have a wonderful weekend! 

Justine x

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To my Valentine

By Justine Tabak

To my Valentine

If for me your love is true, send to me a bow of blue ... 

Back before the days of dating websites and dating apps, Victorian society used these intricate and delightful cards to attract the attention of strangers or extend gentle flirtations to their 'beaus'. Popular in the late 19th century, a man would cheekily slip a calling card to a woman he fancied as a way to sidestep rigid social rules of the day, where the convention was for women to be accompanied by chaperones. In America, elaborate 'escort cards' with coded symbols were slightly more risqué, with a 'not married' man 'out for a good time'! Typically, on this side of the pond, more reserved Brits would aim to acquaint with beautiful floral illustrations and sweet rhyming puns. 

Take a meander through, and have yourself a lovely Valentines, whether spent with your beau, friends, family or your sweetest self...

Justine x

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