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During university, I worked part time at Rugby Ralph Lauren, the preppiest, most WASP branch of the much loved Ralph Lauren. Sadly, after only eight years of existence, it shut down and with it my continuous supply of bow ties, monogrammed Oxford shirts and schoolboy blazers (see here). Anyway, it was AMAZING. My whole wardrobe was candy coloured shirts and a mix of minimal, masculine accessories, such as collar pins, paired with classic feminine pieces like lace dresses or tartan skirts. Life was one Ivy League runway dream, and attending UCL at the time, it was probably the closest thing to it that was based in London.
It was probably that period of intense preppiness that was the seed to the growth of my winter wardrobe. In Asia I don’t dress like this, I mean for one it’s too hot and secondly, people will stare at you more than they already do. After the passing of Rugby, I looked to other classic brands to fill the void that tweed, herringbone and jacquard left behind. Primarily to Club Monaco, a sister brand bought by Ralph Lauren in 1999. And guess what, I worked there part time too. Tip for students, if you want quality clothes and you’re looking for a part time job, don’t mess around with the union bars where you’ll have to watch your friends throw up whilst you gaze enviously at their drunken mess (before your manager asks you to clean up). Get a job at a luxury store and value it because employee discounts are insane.
The fit at Club Monaco ranges wildly from each piece and usually comes up larger than the stated size, so trying something on in store is important. To get the most out of this brand, I’d recommend getting sale alerts in your inbox because their signature line of cashmere is well worth the price. Usually retailing for between £200-£400 for a jumper, cardigan or cape, you can score something for as little as £100. As much as I love high street brands like Topshop, a sweater there will set you back at about £60 and it’s more than likely not a natural fibre. This brings me to two more points.
Until having worked in luxury retail, I never understood clients’ fascination with the material of the clothing. Obviously feel, texture, weight and the stitching matter to me but I didn’t understand why some customers turned their noses up at synthetic fabrics. The truth is, IT MATTERS SO MUCH!! Honestly, cashmere is the only thing that keeps me warm and I don’t have to layer more than two things on top of it in this single-digit weather. Maybe the only exception to this is Heat Tech at Uniqlo but that’s barely ‘investment’, it’s as essential as white ankle socks.
Onto the last point I wanted to make, winter wear is more than keeping warm. It’s about longevity, especially if you’re a huge high street fan. From snapping up great party pieces that you can wear on repeat each festive season, to finding the best classic coats so you can save your money for one seasonal outerwear must-have, there’s one rule: Cost per wear. To me this means favouring timeless, investment pieces over trends. So if I go into Topshop and I absolutely love something that stands out, I’ll get it because it won’t be on the shop floor when I visit a fortnight later. However, if we’re talking basics, it’ll be there for weeks. If it’s Zara, I know that everything ‘statement’ will end up in the end of year sale and if I still want it then, I’ll buy it. In my experience, it’s best to stick to clean, versatile pieces that can’t go wrong.
Club Monaco blazer and jumper
Zara shirt and coat
Sam Edelman boots