My London Cultural Diary: Caren Downie
Brand Director of Finery London shares her fashion expertise and insider's secrets to London
Caren Downie, Topshop
Most know about Philip Green's high street mogul Topshop though less are probably familiar with the effect that Caren Downie had on the growth and expansion of the chain. With a keen eye and dynamic vision, Downie revolutionised the aesthetic of the store, transforming it from a drab highstreet stop off to a dynamic fashion heavyweight in it's own right, commanding a sartorial influence on generations of young women.
Alongside this drive, the former buying director of Topshop also initiated the now renowned NEWGEN sponsorship scheme, in which young designers receive sponsorship and mentoring from established industry figures at London Fashion week. Previous beneficiaries of the scheme have included Alexander McQueen, Matthew Williamson and more recently Christopher Kane, Erdem, Mary Katrantzou, Meadham Kirchhoff, Simone Rocha, J.W.Anderson & Christopher Raeburn. Needless to say, NEWGEN is now one of London Fashion Week's highlights, tipping editors off as to the designers to watch for the season ahead.
At Asos.com, Caren worked similar magic working within a team that led Asos to grow from 0.9 million customers to 5 million customers in four years. Now, she has decided to move away from the major players into the world of start up fashion. Launched last year in partnership with former Topshop colleague Emma Farrow (Head of Design) and Rachel Morgans (Head of Buying) Finery London is already achieving remarkable success.
The Finery Team: Caren Downie (L); Emma Farrow and Rachel Morgan
What is it about Finery London clothing?
The team behind Finery are on a mission to create timeless pieces, unaffected by seasonal trends. The brand fills a gaping hole in the market for well made and elegant pieces which remain affordable and easily accessible. It also offers a much needed balance to the Scandinavian domination by brands such a Cos, & Other Stories and H&M. The unique look of each item gives the brand a thoroughly London aesthetic, and it is unsurprising that the team at Culture Whisper are enthused by the new launch.
Everest backpack, £119
We caught up with brand director of Finery, Caren Downie to learn more about her insider fashion knowledge and top tips for London's cultural scene.
The place which inspires?
Waterloo Bridge - it takes in so much of London from the historic to the modern. It reminds you of all aspects of London life.
Best loved walk or view?
Getting lost in London and discovering somewhere new and unexpected are always the best walks
Best spot for live music?
St John's, Hackney is small but still very atmospheric
Hidden gem no-one else knows about?
Le Moulin boulangerie in Kentish Town does the best sourdough
Lemonia in Primrose Hill has a lively atmosphere and very popular with the locals
The Richmond on Queensbridge Road is sure to make a huge name for itself, both the food and service are fantastic. A great way to spend a Sunday afternoon!
Favourite local restaurant?
Patron, Kentish Town
The National, obvious but unbeatable
Most loved item of clothing?
Vintage green suede coat - it's well past it's best but I can't throw it away
The outfit you regret the most?
Items that scream a particular season and don't stand the test of time are the easiest to regret
Most cherished novel?
The Spire by William Golding
Most memorable cultural experience of the last year?
Miles Aldridge at Somerset House
Highlight of the month?
I loved London Craft Week, there were workshops and talks all over the city which celebrated the creative excellence we have here
What London culture are you looking forward to in 2015?
Savage Beauty, the McQueen exhibition at the V&A
Finery Favourites: London's in Bloom
In a bid to redefine florals for spring, Finery are addressing the season with bold shapes and vivid florals:
Hawley printed trousers, £59
Elmington garland pop strap back dress, £69
Garland pop print shorts, £39
For the full collection visit www.finerylondon.com
By India Doyle