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Grown-up Gingham

By Justine Tabak

Grown-up Gingham

It's no secret that I love gingham. Reminiscent of school dresses in summer and french cafe curtains, this perennial fabric manages to feel modern and fresh year after year. Although gingham has been firmly 'on trend' recently, I prefer to use this classic check for its lasting appeal, appearing in both my summer collections so far and I'm sure years to come. As an ode to this fresh cotton fabric, I wanted to cast a spotlight on some of my beautiful customers who have worn my new gingham Primrose Hill dress. Each wonderful woman manages to wear the dress in their own way, bringing their individual style to the look. I've been wearing mine loose for day, shown here on a recent trip to Lisbon, and then cinched in with its tie belt for summer parties. 
I hope you enjoy seeing how others wear theirs and please do keep sending me your photos!

This dress has been extremely popular this season and previously sold out, but I'm pleased to say that it's now back in stock and available on the website. I even have a pink gingham version in the pipeline so do let me know if you're interested.  

Hoping you are all enjoying the sunshine!
Justine x

Holly Ounstead, sustainable stylist extraordinaire, wears the Primrose Hill dress in her recent interview with Vilda magazine:

http://www.vildamagazine.com/2018/03/fashion-diary-ethical-fashion-stylist-holly-ounstead/

The beautiful actress Ophelia Lovibond attending the Marriott International loyalty programme launch party.

Sustainable blogger Rachael Cooney has been kind enough to post my dress several times on her instagram in dreamy settings, both hanging in her room in London and wafting through the streets of Portugal on her holiday.
One of our stockists, the Acey, have a fantastic journal where they interviewed British chef Alexandra Dudley. Here she is at my local fruit and veg shop finding the freshest ingredients. Read her interview at:

https://the-acey.com/blogs/news/interview-with-chef-alexandra-dudley
At my recent Spitalfields in Bloom pop up, Karin bought a new Primrose Hill dress and was kind enough to model with her adorable pooch. Doesn't she look great!
Here Rosie Birkett, cook, stylist and storyteller, sits surrounded by her beloved gingham.

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The Secret Gardens of Spitalfields

By Justine Tabak

The Secret Gardens of Spitalfields
Hello lovely subscribers

I'm busy getting everything ready for my Summer pop up next week and am very excited to welcome you through the doors. Princelet Street in Spitalfields is a short walk from it's famous market on one side with vibrant Brick Lane on the other, and tucked between old Georgian houses squeeze into narrow 'Dickensian' streets, some of the oldest in all of London. These early Georgian houses built just after 1700 were inhabited by immigrant Huguenot silkweavers and from which precious silk was woven into jacquard silks which graced the nobility and royalty of the time. Whilst the architecture is remarkable, what I find most charming about the area is the sense of community and camaraderie that persists no matter how much the area has changed in the last 20 years. I used to live in this very street many years ago and have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to return, 'adopting' a house from a friend.

Alongside my pop up, which runs on Friday 15th 12-6pm and Saturday 16th 11-6pm, eight local homes are opening their gates to welcome you into their 'secret gardens'. Tended with love, the gardens of Spitalfields have the same mysterious charm as their interiors, feeling rich with history yet springing with new life. The National Open Gardens Scheme weekend, with open gardens on Saturday 16th, gives us all the opportunity to take a sneak peak inside and witness the pride and joy of local residents in their full blooming summer state. Make a day of it by visiting my pop up before exploring the eight local gardens in the area, both on Princelet, Wilkes, Fournier, Spital Square and Elder Street, and relax at the end with a home-made tea at 5 Fournier Street!

To find out more about the scheme please visit the National Open Gardens Scheme website:


A local blogger and historian, a favourite of mine who writes under the pseudonym 'the Gentle Author', sent out a wonderful post earlier in the week about the event. Below I've included a few photos from his blog for a taster of what you might find...

Looking forward to seeing you next week!
Justine x

Photos credited to The Gentle Author. To find his blog, which I'd thoroughly recommend, please visit Spitalfields life:

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The Last Linen Post (for a while)

By Justine Tabak

The Last Linen Post (for a while)

Hello lovely subscribers

With the passing of a beautiful bank holiday weekend, our celebration of linen alongside the wonderful I Love Linen campaign came to an end. We've had a great time sharing with you our journey with linen, a fantastic sustainable fabric formed from flax that we've featured heavily this year in my spring summer collection. However, as a last hurrah I wanted to share the story of linen from seed to fabric. I hope you enjoy the story of flax below, as well as some particularly pretty vintage illustrations of the flowering flax plant. 

Justine x

 

The Story of Flax
 

Linen starts life as a plant. But when you wear it or sleep on it you don’t think “plant”. A transformation has taken place! Every year between March 15 and April 15 (the climate decides exactly when) linseeds are sewn in fields across Northern France, Belgium and the Netherlands. Linseeds are the source of the flax plant, which is itself the source of linen. 

The flax plant reaches one metre in height 100 days after being sewn, typically in June. Soon after, tiny blue flowers start to bloom. Each plant is packed with buds, which flower at different times and different days. A delicate flower lasts no more than 24 hours, turning the fields into a constantly-renewing sea of cornflower blue; like a weeks-long firework display, one flower fades as another bouquet bursts out nearby. 

But what happens next? 

July, when the stalks have lost a third of their leaves, is harvest-time for the flax crop. To benefit from the full length of the fibre, the plants are not cut but pulled up, using a special harvesting machine. 

The long roots remain in the soil, helping to fertilise it. Flax is an excellent break crop: a crop that is used in rotation every few years to interrupt the repeated sowing of crops, such as wheat or corn. Flax secures healthy fields without the need for extra fertiliser, leading to a 20-30% increase in returns on crops grown in the field the following year. 

The long stalks are laid on the ground in swathes, layers of flax a metre long, where they await retting. 

The retting stage is also determined by the weather. As sun makes way for rain and vice-versa, the swathes of flax begin to break down and dry out, helped along by microorganisms and bacteria in the soil. Slowly the green stalks become golden straw and are ready for scutching. To achieve the highest quality, “people have to be impassioned by the flax and linen”, says Edouard Decock, a scutcher from Bergues in Northern France. “A good farmer is a farmer that goes to the field to see how the flax is doing each day, check whether it needs turning over or left for longer,” he says. 

Scutching is a mechanical process that happens throughout the year. In a cavernous barn, the straw is fed into a machine about 100 metres long. Passed through numerous metal rollers, the straw is broken and beaten, shedding the seeds and hard woody core before emerging at the other end as soft silver strands. 

The transformation of flax into linen is a zero waste process and every element of the flax plant finds a purpose. Seeds, rich in omega 3, are harvested for animal feed and oil, while the woody hard core (shive) goes to make animal bedding, mulch and insulation. Even the dust becomes compost. But those soft silver strands are the source of linen’s best-known manifestations: long fibres are spun and then woven into pure linen fabric, while shorter fibres can be mixed with cotton or wool to create beautiful blended yarns. Flax fibres also beget original textiles and composites – resulting in a multiplicity of products from shirts to surfboard to curtains to armchairs.

From 'The Sunday Linen', a weekly blog written by the I Love Linen campaign.
To subscribe, please visit:


https://ilovelinen.uk

Justine x

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Laundering Linen

By Justine Tabak

Laundering Linen

After talking so much about my love of linen in recent weeks and having included so many linen pieces in this season, I wanted to talk a little about caring for it so that it lasts a lifetime. Linen is such a versatile and low-maintenance fabric, being both beautiful in its irregularity and hardy enough to keep up with the wonderful messiness of busy lives. Whether covered in flour from baking, paint splattered in the studio or speckled with dirt from picnics in the park, linen washes quickly and easily and if anything gets better with age. Here are a few of my top tips for looking after your linen:

 

Washing

  • Linen fibres are actually most strong when wet, so can easily hold up in the washing machine.
  • Cool wash your linen - I recommend 30 degrees. Whilst all my linen has been preshrunk and treated, it's both better for the linen fibres and the environment. Because linen fibres are so smooth stains are easily removed, so high temperatures aren't necessary. 
  • Linen is highly absorbent; perfect for summer dresses, but needs to be considered when washing as it can soak up twice its weight before dripping. Make sure there is plenty of room in the drum.
  • Use fabric softener if preferred ( but not necessary)

 

Drying

  • I find my dresses age best when I tumble dry them as it keeps the dresses soft and floppy and creases just hang out. Use a warm setting, not too cold and not too hot.

  • In the summer, I like to hang my dresses outside on the line. This lets the creases fall out (although a few creases in the right places help to give linen that body and effortless charm - see below), and also gives them that summer fresh smell and looks lovely hanging in the garden.

 

 

Creasing, not Ironing 

  • Sometimes before I wear my dresses I 'twist' my linen to give it the right sort of creases. A strategic twist removes any harsh creases whilst giving a gently wave to the fabric that gives it more movement and body when on. See the photo below for the two different 'twist knots' that I use.
  • If you like a crisper dress you can iron it, just make sure you do so on the reverse first to remove the creases whilst damp, then on the front.
  • Linen softens with age, so the longer you wear it, wash it and love it the floppier and comfier it gets. Gathers ripple smoothly, the fabric relaxes into the curves of your body. Linen is truly meant to be worn over a lifetime, improving in beauty with age just as the women who wear it.

 

 

I hope this has been helpful and encourages you to wear your linen pieces again and again.

Justine x

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Fashioned from Nature

By Justine Tabak

Fashioned from Nature

Last Monday, lovers of linen industry-wide gathered at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London to celebrate the launch of the wonderful 'I Love Linen' campaign. With the support of major brands such as John Lewis, Designers Guild, Toast and Jigsaw, and planting a field of flax in the grounds of Chelsea School of Art, the campaign is sponsoring the new exhibition, 'Fashioned from Nature' at the V&A.  And so, on a sunny spring evening, I was lucky enough to attend the private view of the exhibition as well as enjoying an evening with friends of flax.

I'd thoroughly recommend the exhibition, a showcase of designs from history to now using yarns, fabrics and prints inspired and created from natural materials alongside a modern statement of where we need to respect our natural environment through sustainable choices and longevity in our clothes. There are some truly beautiful pieces both from the archives and from cutting edge crafters. On show were delicate laces, hand hewn embroideries, block printing and incredible couture cutting through to modern technical innovation, deconstructed design and recycled clothes.
On a more personal note, for the private view, we were honoured that the girls from team 'I Love Linen' all wore dresses from my new spring collection, an amazing compliment when they had a whole raft of other prestigious brands they could have worn, being chuffed would have been an understatement!


Here are some of my highlights from the exhibition. The movement towards sustainability and ethical practice has come to the fore in recent years, and although there is still far to go, an exhibition like this which focuses on using natural resources, charting our history with nature as an industry and highlighting the pioneers who are trying to push fashion forward in a sustainable way is a huge statement of positive movement and a testament to the power we have to make change. I'm so proud to be even a tiny part of this wave of change, aiming to make clothes in a simple, local way with beautiful natural fabrics, particularly linen that only needs water and sunshine to grow with no nasties.
I hope you enjoy the pictures, and if you can make it, do visit the exhibition which is on now until 29th January 2019.


Justine x  

 
 

Made in Lancashire 

In Britain, cotton manufacturing was based in Lancashire. By the 1780s, the inventions that enabled cotton threads to be spun mechanically had been discovered. The tall mills which housed the machines transformed the landscape in the North. Early spinning mills, like Richard Arkwright's mill at Cromford in Derbyshire, were powered by water.

Remodelled and Re-used

The British cotton from which this dress is made is block-printed with trails of flowers. The dress was later altered to give it a more fashionable appearance. Garments from this period often show signs of updating and repair. Clothing was valued and not disposed of so readily as today. The original 'slow fashion.'

The Human Cost of Progress

In 1858 William Henry Perkin opened a chemical factory in northwest London. There he manufactured aniline purple, later called mauveine. Silk absorbed the dye well, but dyeing cotton could not be done without mordants (fixing agents). 

Synthetic azo dyes (derived from the chemical compound benzidine) did not need mordants to fix them to cotton. However, benzidine was toxic, causing dermatitis and an increased risk of bladder cancer.

 

 

Buy Less, Care and Repair

'Jumpers provide me with a site for direct actions,' says artist and maker Bridget Harvey. 'Their body-like forms [can be] recast as messengers to communicate discourses of repair, protest and activism. MEND MORE Jumper was initially made as a placard for the Climate March in 2015, and has since been an aid for dialogue and social engagement.'

Changing Seas

Environmental impact is challenging to measure. The first two satellite images from 2000 and 2014 show the Aral Sea in central Asia. It began to shrink after two rivers - the Amu Darya and Syr Darya - were diverted to irrigate cotton fields in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. In 2005 Kazakhstan built a dam to protect the North Aral Sea. 

The loss of the South Aral Sea has had devistating social and environmental impacts. Yet the third photograph from 2017 shows signs of the eastern lobe of the South Aral Sea returning because of higher than average rainfall and snowmelt. Whether that renewal will continue, or the lake will entirely disappear, remains to be seen.

Many thanks and congratulations to the I Love Linen campaign! A gentle reminder - I'm continuing my special promotion to celebrate the campaign, so please do use the following code up until the 14th May for 10% off all linen pieces:

ILOVELINEN10

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I Love Linen

By Justine Tabak

I Love Linen

What beautiful weather we are having this week! I hope you are managing to enjoy the sunshine, we certainly deserve it after the awful March we had. 

You may have noticed how much of this season's collection is linen. I absolutely love linen; it's timeless, natural and I love the texture with its uneven slubs and grain, taking colour so well from natural dyes to bright colour pops. Moreover, it's a really sustainable fabric, growing quickly with just water so no nasty pollutants and zero waste. Not only does it's quality lend itself perfectly for my designs, creating easy effortless shapes for everyday dressing, but it's sustainable nature fits perfectly with my ethos of trying to create a brand with a conscience. Having used linen for recent seasons, I was thrilled to be contacted by the I Love Linen campaign to work together to promote and celebrate linen within the UK. 

The I Love Linen campaign launched on 13th April to celebrate Europe's most sustainable, innovative and local fabric and has an exciting month ahead of them. The jewel in the crown is their sponsorship of the V&A's new exhibition 'Fashioned by Nature', collaborating with brands up and down the country who love linen, from John Lewis to Brora, Jaeger and Designers Guild, they'll be working hard to spread the love. I'm proud to be accompanying some of these world famous brands.

As part of this celebration I'll be sharing with you my journey with I Love Linen, starting next week with a guide on how to best care for your linen products and a sneak peak behind the private view of the V&A's 'Fashioned from Nature' exhibition. For now, please do follow the I Love Linen instagram account @wearelinen, and sign up to their wonderful blog called the Sunday Linen which is a treat to read on a Sunday morning. 

For this special period of 'linen love' I'd like to offer you a special 10% discount on all things linen from the new collection whilst the campaign is running. Please use the following code at the checkout until 13th May:

ILOVELINEN10

I'll be giving out linen seeds with every order too so you can grow some flax in your garden at home! Alternatively, if you find yourself around Chelsea please feel free to come visit my pop up on the Kings Road, open till Sunday 29th April, and pick up some seeds in person.

Enjoy the sunshine!
Justine x

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Spring in Bloom

By Justine Tabak

Spring in Bloom

Can you believe this weather for an Easter weekend! 

This charming book was found at Barter Books in Alnwick, one of the most glorious book shops to whittle away a couple hours on a rainy day. This season's collection feels very fresh and floral, being inspired by the hopes of long, hazy summery days spent in my local Clissold Park, but also practical for our slightly nippy British weather that we'll most likely get! Whether your long Easter weekend is spent in the garden or by the fire, take a look inside at these beautiful botanical illustrations in 'Flowers of the Woods' and dream of summer dresses, flowers and sunshine.

My Covent Garden Dress, just arrived, is made in bright and bold printed linen with a beautiful vintage Bloomsbury floral print. The style is very similar to my popular three tiered Petticoat Lane dress, but with a flattering V neck. This light and summery dress is cool enough to wear in the height of summer but warm and long enough to both keep off the spring chills and brighten your mood. Weather rain or shine, have a wonderful Easter weekend.

Justine x

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A feast for February

By Justine Tabak

A feast for February

Last weekend, the gorgeous Rosie Birkett, food writer and stylist extraordinaire, wrote a lovely piece on the best seasonal recipes to enjoy in February for her feature in The Telegraph magazine. "Folding linen, wearing linen", she looked beautiful in my signature Petticoat Lane dress in one of my upcoming new colours, an airy duck egg blue. I'm currently working on final tweaks for my spring collection launching in March, but it's no surprise that I've used lots of linen in the collection with it's fresh, natural charm. I love Irish linen; the texture and drape is divine. I work with two small mills, one in the Republic and one in Northern Ireland, who create, dye and wash bespoke colours and weave tailor made checks. Irish linen doesn't come cheap but really is the crown of linens with its rich weightiness and drape, a luxurious fabric to wear yet tough enough to be washed and worn everyday. Perfect for cooking up a storm in the kitchen! 

So here is one of Rosie's delicious recipes. As a lover of baking, I've chosen to feature her rhubarb and white chocolate blondies - I love the combination of the sharp twang of rhubarb with gooey sweet white chocolate! 

Rhubarb and white chocolate blondies 

MAKES 12

INGREDIENTS

  • 250g rhubarb, chopped into 4cm lengths
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 1 vanilla pod, split
  • juice and zest of ½ lemon
  • ½ tsp ground ginger (optional)
  • 100g unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for greasing
  • 120g plain flour
  • 200g light muscovado sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 100g white chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 60g flaked almonds

METHOD

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas mark 6. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
  2. Place the rhubarb on the tray in a single layer and scatter over the caster sugar. Scrape out the vanilla seeds over the rhubarb and throw on the pod along with the lemon juice, zest and ground ginger (if using). Cover tightly with tinfoil. Bake for 30 minutes, until the rhubarb is just soft. Set aside to cool. Once cool, drain the rhubarb from its syrup, reserving the syrup for another dish
  3. Grease and line a rectangular baking tin, approximately 21cm x 18cm.
  4. Mix the flour with a quarter of a teaspoon of salt in a bowl.
  5. Place the muscovado sugar in a different bowl and stir in the butter until well combined and not lumpy. Add the egg and stir vigorously, until smooth. Add the flour and fold in lightly, until no streaks remain. Add the chocolate and half the almonds and stir to combine.
  6. Spoon three quarters of the batter into your tin, smooth it out using the back of a spoon, then top with the rhubarb. Spoon the remaining batter over so it’s part-covering the rhubarb 
and scatter on the rest of 
the almonds.
  7. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a skewer comes out with some crumbs that are a little moist, but not raw. Cool completely in the tin, then cut into squares.

To read the full article, including recipes for roast rolled pork belly stuffed with leeks, sourdough and preserved lemon, and blood-orange-baked hake with caramelised chicory and paprika potatoes, please follow the link below to the telegraph's website:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/food-and-drink/recipes/feast-february-starring-best-rhubarb-white-chocolate-blondies/

Rosie has written two recipe books which I'd thoroughly recommend, East London Food and A Lot on her Plate, both widely available online and here at https://www.hoxtonminipress.com/collections/books/products/east-london-food

You can follow Rosie Birkett on social media to keep up with her at @rosiefoodie on instagram.

Happy baking! 

Justine xx

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