I must admit I had been neglecting my visits to Next recently, so was very intrigued when I was invited to their Blogger Event at their Leicester base. I'm always excited to meet fellow bloggers, but usually this tends to take place in London (or even Birmingham) so it was a bit like a fish-out-of-water Sex and the City 2 type situation, with a bus load of bloggers in a very far-flung setting. Despite the change of scenery, we managed to transfer our online conversations to real life and it was nice to see many a familiar face on the bus (and even those that weren't, I may have still gurned at so I apologise) and feel a sense of belonging.
After a quick breakfast nibble, we were given a lowdown on how Next had interpreted the seasons trends, tailoring what was seen on the catwalks and street to fit their customer. We were shown a few pieces and allowed to give feedback and suggestions to the range so it will be interesting to see if any of it is taken on board. I championed sheer maxi skirts, red lace dresses and Basso and Brooke style prints (so basically everything from my SS11 trend post) and will be stalking my local store in earnest.
My crazy handwriting, a £10 in the post if you understand a word I've written*
Even without our feedback, it was great to see the direction Next is heading in for SS11 with some really nicely embellished pieces, fun prints and sheer shirts in a variety of colours. I wasn't the only one who let out a yelp of delight at the sheer, white collared dress you can see in one of the pictures above. Even from a distance I could tell it was the perfect versatile dress for summer and that some collective website stalking would take place over the blogosphere. All very exciting. Afterwards it was time for the style challenge and the chance to put my SS11 trend interpretations into practice.
Everything I'm wearing here is Next, apart from the jewellery and tights. Random fact: The shoes were two sizes too small and the skirt two sizes too big! And as Tyra might say, I've lost my neck!
Somehow my ramblings were edited into a video, I think I'm using my telephone voice and have never said 'love' so much in my life...
At Next HQ they have a 'mock shop', which could also serve as some sort of time travel device as it shows some of the product that will be in store come February. We were given a key item to style up and were let loose in a Supermarket Sweep (sans Dale Winton) kind of way, with an array of sizes, colours and pieces to put together in a set amount of time. I was given a white linen blazer to style up, which admittedly wouldn't have been my first choice and I did delay myself slightly by chatting to some of the lovely people at Next and Jam, before realising that heck, I had a photoshoot to do and a video to film. How do these celebrities do it?! It took quite a bit of time to get the anti-fit look I wanted (you can see in one of Winnie's photos that I had armfuls of stuff) but I had a very vague Junya Watanabe reference in mind I wanted to achieve (I didn't even attempt to pronounce this in the video). As bloggers we're used to styling ourselves, but it is very rare that we have to do it in front of each other (sometimes squeezed into the same changing room) with unfamiliar clothing, but in the end I appreciated this part of the challenge and the chance to try something different. I somehow ended up wearing tights and sandals, which I swore I'd never do and surprisingly I quite liked the outcome. Result!
It was quite interesting to have a competitive element throughout the day, as it's not often that us bloggers are pitted against one another, normally co-existing in our own spaces in the web. However, it really was the taking part that counted as I got to speak to so many interesting people, eat some tasty food and learn a lot more about the design process of a shop that isn't always on my radar. A few other high-street shops could do with taking a leaf out of their book, with regards to their efforts and understanding of blogs and social media. Five deserving winners were chosen from the styling challenge and will have their looks shot on models for the Next Bloggers Lookbook, so look out for them!
Jacket, shrug, tights, watch necklace, ring - Topshop
Silk Shirt - Cos via Mary's Living and Giving
Leather shorts - c/o Very
Shoes - Nine West
Bag, gold necklace - Brooklyn Flea
Fairisle socks, Cross Ring - Forever 21
Photos - c/o Jazmine, who got told off by security for taking these!
It was certainly a relief to get back into my own clothes again, though it's very likely the sheer skirt will be purchased next month and teamed with existing items in my wardrobe.
I loved Emily's vintage bag and somehow got a picture of it on a moving coach. It was also nice to see Elisabeth, Kit, Carrie, Lucy, Jill and Shini and meet Sarah, Sophie and Becca at the event among a few others I need to track down. I hope they all upload their videos!
So seeing all of the fabulous bloggers made me realise how happy this part of my life makes me (blogging is now my main hobby on my CV, woop) as it was like meeting up with a huge group of old friends and like-minded people. I just wished it could've gone on for longer (though Winnie and I did end up chatting in Leicester station for two hours afterwards, which could've easily gone on longer if I didn't have vital food shopping to do)! What are your thoughts on Next as a brand?
*I jest, sorry! Thanks to Next and Jenny at Jam!