Shopping for tailored workwear with La Belle Epoque
When working in the city, you can sometimes feel like style takes a back seat to the 9-5. Not for us though. We love stepping into the office feeling our best and if there’s one thing that we like to give a well-deserved injection of fun to, it’s tailoring. Tailoring is a staple in every working woman’s wardrobe. We all know the power of a well cut suit for both men and women, but the pièce de résistance of any good workwear look is a classic shirt. There’s an understated elegance in a shirt that at the same time means serious business and one of the things we look for in a shirt is if we can take it from desk-side to dinner without looking like we’ve just left the office.
Enter La Belle Epoque, who have answered our sartorial prayers with their beautiful and elegant shirts and blouses. Founded by Kristina Rate, the upscale brand mixes contemporary pieces with luxurious fabrics to create a timeless collection featuring uniquely wearable styles. We sat down with Kristina over a cup of coffee in Covent Garden to discuss all things La Belle Epoque, which she describes as ‘casual, yet smart, functional yet chic’.
Taking the words right out of our mouths, Kristina has designed and curated a collection suitable for both day and night, citing her own love of shirts as one of the inspirations for the line. ‘I always knew what look I wanted from a shirt but couldn’t find it – now I’ve found what I want’, She tells us of her desire to start her own range. For us, the small matter of shopping for shirts is enough of a struggle, but the design process in La Belle Epoque is what keeps them ahead of their competitors in providing a shirts with a ‘couture’ look as opposed to run-of-the-mill white blouses.
When discussing the design process, it is clear that this is where Kristina’s passion lies, ‘I find the range and variety of shirts to be so diverse that I think the potential for design is huge. It is essential to match just the right fabric to an individual style as the cut and fall of a style requires a particular fabric to bring out the best in every shirt.’ It is this attention to detail which adds to the high-end feel of the brand, not to mention each shirt is crafted here in England from the finest Italian and worldwide cottons and, upon purchase, gifted in beautiful packaging. These days, so few brands carry out a service from start to finish, and the care and attention given by the La Belle Epoque team means they have the potential to go far in the industry.
One of the main things we tend to look out for when shopping for a shirt is the details; the features that make one shirt different from the next. La Belle Epoque is a go-to for this as no two pieces are the same and Kristina clearly felt the same way, only designing items she would wear herself but at the same time thinking about the different ways in which people wear an item. ‘I design for each shirt to bring out the best in each personality.’ Many successful businesses start with a single idea, even if not to go into business, but Kristina’s came from making a shirt to wear to an event after dissatisfaction with the choices available to her. At the dinner, a guest complimented her on it and asked her where she could get one. This led to Kristina making not one but two shirts for the woman, and this was only the beginning or La Belle Epoque.
The brand is going from strength to strength at the minute and the SS14 collection is simply stunning, with an array of styles including a high neck smock style shirt, collarless styles, wide sleeves and plunging necklines to add a splash of variety to everyday dressing. The collection comes in classic colours of black, white, pink, and blue to suit all your workwear needs and the finer details of buttons and stitching are impeccable finishing touches to simply elegant pieces. The use of the highest quality fabrics in construction means each style is flattering and versatile and works as hard as you do, meaning you can quite easily take the shirts from day to night and still feel your very best. Even better, each piece has a unique personality and as Kristina hopes, it will look different on each person wearing it and, after building up a collection of La Belle Epoque styles (which you won’t be able to resist!) you will never look the same every day at work again. Kristina emphasises, ‘Except for the most formal occasions a shirt present the most versatile and stylish staple for your wardrobe. It can be chic, casual, relaxed all at the same time.’ To this we can definitely relate.