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Burberry, a lesson in customer service: Part 2

For those of you who read my previous post on Burberry, here comes part two in the case of the missing button.

Having published my post on Sunday afternoon,  I received another e-mail from Burberry on Monday morning. They’d picked up on my blog post (wow, they’re fast) and got in touch to try to “restore my faith”.  I was intrigued and agreed to have a chat.

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I have to say I was very impressed with how they dealt with me on the call. It wasn’t just that the lady I spoke to was incredibly friendly and apologetic  (as you’d expect), but it was also that she was open and honest about their internal processes and how she wanted to make sure they did better next time. She took the time to address some of the specific concerns I mentioned in my post, for example explaining to me how the social media team connects with the customer service team and so on.

I was left convinced that Burberry really is heading towards being a seamless back-end operation when it comes to joining the dots between customer service and marketing. This is the key first step for a brand to get right, to then deliver an equally seamless experience externally to customers. It’s all the more important when, like Burberry, you offer the option of customers being able to get in touch with your company via (very public) social media channels.

Even though, in my case, Burberry admitted they hadn’t followed the right course of action first time round (apparently, they shouldn’t have charged me for the button without a proper enquiry into any quality issues), the way they subsequently dealt with the problem struck a a good balance between attentiveness and humility.

In my day job as a brand strategist, we talk a lot about how ‘responsiveness’ is a defining quality of the most successful brands today and Burberry’s reaction to my expressed disappointment was a great example of this in action.

On my call with customer services, Burberry also talked to me about their ambition for customers to “have the same feeling in every channel” and this is a spot on strategy. It’s often the little things, the minute interactions – like replacing a missing button free of charge – that make the difference when it comes to how you feel about a brand, particularly one that promises luxury.

Best of all, my shiny new buttons arrived in the post this morning, in a lovely Burberry package and with a personal letter. Nice.

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Well done Burberry. You have now given me a new story to tell. And a lesson in how you can change consumer perception  of  brand with a little bit of love.

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Asian Inspired

I’m just back from a wonderful trip to South-East Asia, visiting my family for Chinese New Year celebrations in Singapore and then heading to Vietnam for some relaxation and exploration.

Chinese New Year is an amazing time to experience Asia. It’s like a concentrated version of its already vibrant self, with brightly coloured decorations filling every street and an even more enthusiastic than usual focus on feasting.

I didn’t realise how much the Chinese influence would also be felt in Hoi An, the town where we stayed in Vietnam. There is a large ethnically Chinese population and so they fully embrace Chinese New Year too, adorning the whole town with paper lanterns for the entire Lunar New Year period. Even the tailors, where my mum and I got some dresses made, spoke my dad’s family dialect – very useful for bargaining power.

From a style perspective, I discovered a new bond with my grandmother over our appreciation of printed trousers. We can’t really communicate as she doesn’t speak English but we can point and smile at each other. There was a lot of pointing and gesturing over the fact that my Topshop printed trousers were almost identical to her traditional Chinese silk pyjamas.

My grandmother has her ‘look ‘down to a tee. She wears the same style of outfit (see below) every day, simply changing the fabric and pattern to suit the occasion. She carries it off with a grace and elegance that belies her 95 years of age. I’ve got a lot to learn from her. It’s the ultimate capsule wardrobe.

My Chinese grandmother with her on-trend printed trousers

My Chinese grandmother with her on-trend printed trousers

She doesn’t know it but my grandmother is so on-trend right now. It makes sense –  as the shift in world economic and cultural power heads East – that Asian style should be influencing the catwalks of the world’s fashion hubs. It doesn’t take a trained eye to see that the shows from the recent London, Paris and Milan fashion weeks were filled with Asian-inspired silhouettes, fabrics and prints.

Even the most French of the fashion houses, such as Balenciaga, are explicitly looking East. Their recent appointment of the Chinese American Alexander Wang is no coincidence. As the Guardian recently pointed out, ” Wang, who speaks Mandarin, has a high profile in China where his own-label already has a Beijing flagship. There seems little doubt this is part of his appeal to PPR.”

And indeed, Wang’s debut show for the label, had a much more structured, Asian feeling to the silhouette – a significant departure from the slouchy, New York style of his own label.

Balenciaga, A/W 2013 (image from Vogue.co.uk)

Balenciaga, A/W 2013 (image from Vogue.co.uk)

Other labels such as Kenzo also have designers of Asian descent at the helm (the amazing Carol Lim and Humberto Leon) and although they don’t take it too literally, there is no denying the influence of Asia on their collections. Their Paris show earlier this week had some pieces that wouldn’t go amiss in my grandmother’s wardrobe.  I love the polka dot blouse and skirt combination below that feels ever so subtly oriental but also very modern and fresh.

Kenzo A/W 2013 Paris fashion week (image from vogue.co.uk)

Kenzo A/W 2013 Paris fashion week (image from vogue.co.uk)

In addition to European labels experimenting with Asian influences, there’s also the home-grown Asian brands gaining global recognition. Singapore label Raoul got a hit of publicity when the Duchess of Cambridge chose one of their dresses for her Asia trip, but it’s been gathering a legitimate fashion fan base for a few years now.

I made a lunchtime dash to one of their stores in Singapore and picked up a lovely silk blouse. If I’d had more time, I would have tried on practically everything in store. The silk printed trousers below are so muted and lovely.

Raoul silk trousers and top

Raoul silk trousers and top

Being back in frosty London, it feels like there aren’t many opportunities to embrace all these lovely, light printed silks and bright colours. But Spring is just around the corner and I’m determined to get out of navy and black as soon as possible. Watch this space.

Performance Cashmere

Dhu – a new ‘performance cashmere’ brand – is on a mission to persuade us that it’s time to give cashmere a little more respect, taking it beyond the realms of cable knit cardigans and off into the great outdoors.

As someone who has on more than one occasion been referred to as Cashmere Tan, it doesn’t take much to persuade me that my favourite fibre could have another role to play in our lives.

I attended the launch of Dhu’s first collection of cashmere performance wear, aptly held at the Royal Geographic Society.  It was here, inspired by photographs of intrepid explorers, that I learnt about the qualities that make this lovely fibre the perfect insulating material for outdoor activities like mountaineering, climbing and walking.

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Ian Moore, the founder of Dhu, can explain the technical bit much better than me, so here is what he told me about how he came to start Dhu and what he learnt about cashmere in the process:

I’m a keen outdoor enthusiast and, like many others, over recent years I have been exposed to the increased use of natural fibres – such as merino – in sports clothing. This led to me considering why cashmere is not being used in the same way. There followed an r&d process, starting by looking into mountaineering and expedition archives and seeing what equipment was traditionally worn. It soon became apparent that cashmere has a rich heritage as a performance fibre, used and credited by early polar explorers and pioneering high-altitude alpinists for warmth in the severest of conditions.
What is often considered as a traditional luxury product also had genuine provenance as a performance garment. Cashmere has long been renowned for its warmth without bulk. The benefits of cashmere appeared to be proven – but there was not the opportunity to enjoy it in a modern performance environment.
What was inspiring was that there was an inherent honesty and simplicity associated with cashmere. It is just natural fibre, providing ultimate insulation – lightweight, breathable, odour resistant and very soft to touch. There are no fanciful performance claims, or technical jargon required. No gimmicks. That was very appealing.

The other admirable thing about Dhu is that they manufacture all the products in Scotland and source the fibre from sustainable farming communities in Mongolia. This feels right for a brand that is very much about doing things the proper way. It’s a natural, sustainable option for those who like being in nature. Simple. Even the one syllable name feels straight forward and honest.

From a female perspective, the combination of rugged outdoorsy-ness and cuddly cashmere is pretty much irresistible. On the launch evening, myself and my friend Alexis, could be found buried within the rails of the super-soft items, ‘testing’ them for stroke-ability. They all scored highly. Winner.

Spanish style

Thanks to my two very generous friends Chuck & Giorgia, I’m just back from a lovely short break in Barcelona. C & G recently bought an apartment there and they kindly invited a group of us to spend the Jubilee weekend with them, eating lots of tapas and pottering around.

My friend Alexis, of OMG I’m getting Married fame, has already written about some of the cultural stuff we go up to. So that leaves me to talk about the shopping!

Barcelona is a super stylish city. Spanish women manage to look chic AND like they’re having a fun time, which makes for excellent people watching.  My favourite fashion find on this trip was the store Uterque. Owned by the people behind Zara, Uterque is yet to arrive in the UK, although it is apparently coming here soon – watch this space. It’s at a similar price point and level of desirability as Cos – another Elle Tea staple – but with less Scandinavian androgyny and more Spanish glamour.

I ended up buying a very cute little jacket which in my head was part Jackie O, part Chanel, but according to my friend Jemima makes me look like a younger Hillary Clinton! No bad thing if you ask me. Hillary is hip these days.

Uterque jacket (from uterque.com)

I also had my eye on some of the lovely leather accessories  – the Spanish are great at leather – but managed to resist. Here’s one of the  many bags I was admiring in store.

Uterque bag (from uterque.com)

Although the one thing I ended up buying was predictably navy and black, I was nearly tempted to be all Spanish and embrace the bright Mediterranean colours in Uterque. They looked fabulous in the shop but somehow I wasn’t not sure it would look quite the same on the grey streets of East London. Judging by this week’s weather, I did the right thing.

Uterque lookbook

My other new find in Barcelona was the cutely named Bimba & Lola.  The jewellery and accessories are adorable and original, and apparently they can be found in Westfield Stratford!

May inspiration

A few bits of inspiration from May so far…

1. Amazing India

I’m just back from a trip to India to visit my friend Jo – of Under an Indian Sky – and it is hard to capture the experience in words without resorting to cliche. So instead, two pictures:

Of course the first has to be tea-themed. Here’s a scene we were rewarded with  after a long, humid walk through the tea plantations near Munnar in Kerala.

Tea picking near Munnar, Kerala, India

And the second is an amazing sight that strolled past my sun lounger on Cherai beach, again in Kerala. I love this eldery lady’s style and elegant windswept look. Her beautiful colours, prints and draping made me feel quite ridiculous in my bikini.

Sunday morning beach walk, Kerala, India

2. A magical telling of Snow White

Last night I went to see Preljocaj’s Snow White at Sadler’s Wells. It was a magical show, not least due to the stunning costumes by Jean Paul Gaultier. I was lucky enough to be in the third row from the front, so close I could appreciate the intricacies of the outfits. JPG really knows how to tell a story through clothes.

The final wedding outfit was an incredible hooped dress with fringing that moved like a dance of its own on the beautiful Snow White.

Snow White with costumes by Jean-Paul Gaultier (image from jeanpaulgaultier.com)

And the dominatrix-style get up of the wicked Queen couldn’t have been more appropriate and theatrical with the blood-stained cape and the cruel corsetry. Wow.

The wicked queen (image from jeanpaulgaultier.com)

 

Elle Tea does bright colours

I’m just back from a trip to NYC  (pre-hurricane thankfully) where, in between work meetings, I managed to make a pit stop at my favourite all-American store- J.Crew.

I intended to pop in to stock up on the basics they do so well – white t-shirts, skinny cropped trousers, super-soft cardis – but I got distracted by the riot of colour and went off brief.

I’m not usually one for wearing bright colours. My clothes tend to come in tones with harmless sounding names such as blush, ivory and, on braver days, soft coral. But in J.Crew, I found myself purchasing two items – the pencil skirt shown below and a lovely jumper – in a colour described as ‘vibrant flame’. Despite my initial terror at such a bold and brash sounding name, I’m enjoying the foray into a world of real colour.

J Crew Pencil Skirt

So far, the move has been well-received as a welcome change from my neutral tones, although my mother (Elle Tea’s sometime style advisor) is yet to be convinced. She knows my natural homeland is a gentler palette but for now, I’m enjoying the little fling with bright colour.

She will be pleased to hear I’m not intending to take the step of wearing head-to-toe ‘vibrant flame’. Although it does look fantastic in the picture below.

J Crew all-red ensemble

Note that J.Crew has literally just opened an online UK store  so the opportunities to indulge in preppy bright colours are endless!

We Are Handsome

It may be dreary and wintery outside but a girl can at least dream of sunnier climes and summer holidays.

For those lucky enough to be jetting off somewhere sunny sometime soon, may I introduce you to We Are Handsome, a swimwear brand that is currently experiencing the surge of publicity that follows when a superstar like Rihanna is photographed wearing your label.

For us mere mortals, shopping for swimwear is never one of life’s most rewarding experiences. In fact, it more often than not ends empty-handed and with a resolution to do more exercise.

Although I can’t guarantee you’ll look like Rihanna in their swimsuits, I can guarantee that you can’t help but be cheered up by We Are Handsome’s colourful designs. My friend Debz – who currently works at We Are Handsome in sunny Sydney – kindly gave me the scoop on the label and some gorgeous pictures of their latest collection.

The Sirin suit from We Are Handsome

Based in Australia and launched in 2009, We Are Handsome set out to create bold,  individual pieces splashed with eye-catching graphic prints.

This season’s collection, entitled ‘The Aviary’, is inspired by mythical birds. Each piece represents a different bird and its unique pattern of feathers and colours. Every suit is placement printed (no repeat patterns) to ensure it is individual, and celebrity worthy.

The Minokawa from We Are Handsome

For those who want to splurge on one of their suits (they don’t come cheap), We Are Handsome is stocked in a number of places including Net-a-Porter and Selfridges.