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Behind… Karen McConnell’s Royal Highland Show coverage

Karen McConnell Royal highland ShowI for one was completely blown away by Karen McConnell, aka Karen & Clan and KAEquestrian’s Royal Highland Show content… did you see it?

As an ambassador for Hiho Silver, and as a friend, I did know what was happening before it did. In a full disclosure kind of way. But an idea is just an idea, isn’t it? It’s the execution of these things that REALLY matters, and Karen completely surpassed my expectations (which were pretty high, let’s be honest!). More than this, I genuinely felt like I was at the Royal Highland (and I really wasn’t, I was in Worcestershire!), saw new products thanks to her Instagram Stories, and also have not got a serious liking for Holland Cooper… which was something I didn’t have before. I didn’t ever dislike the brand, far from it, I’ve always been very impressed by what Jade and the team have accomplished, think the showroom is to die for and more, but seeing the outfits styled in a way that I would wear. And seeing how they all endured all day wear. And hearing Karen rave about them too means that they’re now firmly on my list of stands to visit at the next event I go to.

But I digress.

The whole content plan leading up to and during the Royal Highland Show was geneuinely superb, so I asked Karen a few questions to get the inside info from the show. You ready?

Behind… Karen McConnell’s Royal Highland Show coverage

Why did you pick the four brands you did to work with?
I chose HiHo Silver, Mackenzie & George, Fairfax & Favor and Holland Cooper as the four brands to work with on this project as I absolutely love their products. They all stand for the height of style and quality and together, I think, they make up the perfect country outfit.

Did you learn anything new about the brands working so closely with them?
Absolutely, Obviously when you start asking about the different products and manufacturing processes, you develop a better understanding of the products themselves but the most interesting part for me is getting to know the personalities within the teams that ultimately make up the overall personality of the brand. As a consumer, when I find a brand whose personality I like and get on with, I’m completely sold and as a blogger it’s absolutely vital that our personalities gel in order to create content that complements the brands I’m working with. I feel after working on this project together, I know all the brands a little better, love them even more than I did before and hopefully they know me a bit better too.

Karen McConnell Royal Highland ShowWhat did you enjoy the most about the Royal Highland Show? How long have you been going?
I’ve been going to the Highland Show since I was a child and it’s always a great event with loads to see (and buy!). It really does pull the whole of Scotland’s rural community together (as well as lots of others from south of the border and further afield) and this year, wall to wall sunshine just made it even better. As always with these events, although I love the attractions and shopping, what I love most is bumping into friends, clients old and new, and meeting new people with similar interests.

How did you come up with the idea of working with a brand a day, and how did you find implementing that during the event?
I knew I wanted to do something different at this year’s Royal Highland Show (last year was all about the equestrian side of the event), and with country style and fashion becoming such a large part of the Karen & Clan blog, it made sense to me to feature all my favourite country fashion brands who were exhibiting at the show. A brand a day just made sense to me as that way I got to really dedicate my whole day to showcasing the brand to share with my social media audience. It also worked well when I did IG story takeovers for Hiho Silver and Mackenzie & George. Implementing the format was really easy, I always knew where my focus needed to be.

What were the favourite pieces you got to wear and use from each brand – just one from each (I know it’s hard!)
Oooh, this is such a tough question! If I had to pick only one item from each of the brands they would be…..
Hiho Silver – The Bumblebee Necklace – I only spotted this on the website the other week and instantly loved it. I’ve not taken it off since the show, so cute!
Mackenzie & George – The Windsor Maxi Clutch in Navy – I’d coveted that for a while and it’s even more beautiful in real life. I got it embossed with my initials too which makes it even more special.
Fairfax & Favor – The Heeled Amiras in Tan – I wore these three of the four days at the show and they’re super stylish and surprisingly comfortable. I’ve never owned a pair of over the knee boots before and I was nervous about whether I could pull them off (in my head they were only for tall people!) but I LOVE them.
Holland Cooper – Another really hard choice but I really loved the Cadogan Jacket in Stone Herringbone (link to Duke) I wore on the Sunday. Its military influence is super-cool but the gorgeous tweed makes it instantly classic in style. I loved teaming it up with the matching Carrie Cap too (I know that’s two products – sorry!)

You’ve done a huge amount of research into what to wear at country and equestrian shows for your Royal Highland feature. What would your top tip/s be when it comes to clothing for these kind of events?
I think dressing for a country show you need four key ingredients – a gorgeous tweed blazer or cape, a comfortable pair of boots (you’ll be walking all day), a great bag and fantastic accessories. If you have all of those things, all you need are your favourite pair of skinny jeans and a shirt and you’re good to go!

To find out more about Karen’s trip to the Royal Highland – here are some must see blogs and vlogs…

What I wore to the Royal Highland – Thursday

What I wore to the Royal Highland – Friday

What I wore to the Royal Highland – Saturday

What I wore to the Royal Highland – Sunday

What’s in my bag – Royal Highland vlog

What to wear at a country show – vlog

How to make the most of your time at Badminton Horse Trials

With Badminton very much here, I wanted to share with you some of my top tips, to help you make the most of your time at Badminton Horse Trials. This is a truly AMAZING event and I can’t wait to go this year, but trust me on this, prior planning prevents poor performance. Sounds like a military operation, doesn’t it? It isn’t, but I have found my enjoyment for events has been increased 10 fold by following the advice below. It’s a bit like like advice your mum would give. But I’m doing it clad in Hiho Silver, my Mackenzie & George Fedora and my Fairfax & Favor Explorers. Horse Trials uniform if you will… so here goes…

How to make the most of your time at Badminton Horse Trials…

1. Organise. I know, I know, it’s such a boring tip, but it’s a big one. Get all your clothes organised the night before. Locate your purse/bag/car keys/ticket THE NIGHT BEFORE. Do everything the night before. Make a list of stuff you need and put as much of it in a heap by the door or even in the car. This might mean poo bags and leads if you’re taking a dog, waterproofs and umbrellas or sunscreen. Give yourself a little time to think and plan… it’ll save you running around in the morning and increasing stress levels before you get into the car.

2. Maps. Ah. Another piece of parental advice. If you have stands you HAVE to see, print off a map of the tradestands from the Badminton website and get them marked on with a pen. When you’re there, you’ll thank me. You’ll move around in a much more efficient manner, saving miles on your boots and also saving you lots of time.

** Make sure you add Hiho Silver on stand 188 – you can see the Official Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials Jewellery Collection there, Mackenzie & George in Rural Crafts, Super X Country and Eqclusive to your list of must visits!!**

3. Drinks. Drinks matter. And not the alcoholic kind. I’m notorious for the amount of water I drink (as in, nowhere near enough), but when you’re at an event and you’re running around, it’s really easy to get dehydrated. Add in some tea, coffee or alcohol and you’ll find you have a banging headache and a bad mood way too early in the day. My best bit of advice is bottled water. Get a bottle or two and pop them in your bag and drink them. I hate having headaches and find they make me feel really rubbish and definitely hinder my enjoyment of the day. This changes the game. Obviously get other drinks too when you’re there, but you know you have a supply!

4. Food. Food is a must. Make a plan to eat. There are amazing stands there but I tend to buy some food to take (almost a picnic!) and also buy something delicious there as a treat. The last few years I have found myself eating on the move, and having a sandwich and some crisps in my bag has been a big plus. It doesn’t mean I’m not visiting the amazing stands there, but it stops me having a low when I get super hungry and I’m in the middle of something.

5. Footwear. PLEASE PLEASE wear good footwear. I’m wearing my Fairfax & Favor Explorers but will also take my Rudds in case its really wet. Both of these boots are comfy, robust and durable. Please PLEASE don’t go for flip flops or heels if you’re planning to walk the XC course. Please. Come on. That’s crazy bananas.

6. Weather. Take everything you need for all the seasons. Sunscreen, sunglasses, hat, wellies, waterproofs, coat, etc. You don’t want to get burnt or soaked.

7. Cars. Remember where you left your car. I now take a picture of where I’ve parked the damn thing with something obvious that I can find again in the background. You’re speaking to someone who lost their car for an hour at the NEC. Always take a pic or something else that will help you find it again.

8. Bags. Take a good bag. Backpacks are great, but I’m taking my Fairfax & Favor Windsor because it has plenty of space, it’s comfortable to carry and I love it. Take something with lots of room for your essentials.

What tips did I miss? What stands are on your must-see list? I’d love to know!

 

Behind… Mackenzie & George’s new feather brooch collection

Mackenzie & George Feather BroochI’ve decided to give my Friday blog a little reshuffle. You’ll still see interviews with new businesses and more established ones, but I wanted to broaden it out a little. See, I have the privilege to work with and coach some of the most amazing equestrian and country businesses in the UK and beyond. I find it beyond exciting to have this involvement and seeing a plan comes together fills me with joy. In my job as a business coach, I often can’t shout about things, at least not until they’re out in the world… but when they are, well, it’s a shame not to! It’s celebrating the wins of my amazing clients and also explaining a bit more about what goes on behind these campaigns and achievements. Because as lovely as they look and seem (and they are fabulous), a lot of hard work goes into each and every success. And I want to highlight just how hard these business owners work to achieve the results they do.

Today we have a good one, all about Mackenzie & George’s lovely new feather brooch collection. Not only are these brooches stunning, but there’s a great story behind them too.

A bit about Mackenzie & George… before we get to the feathers…

So, if you don’t know about Mackenzie & George – WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?! Don’t panic, we’re going to get that sorted now. Mackenzie & George is run by husband and wife team Chris and Melanie Clarihew in Shropshire. The company is best known for its stunning range of handmade British leather belts that are designed and made in the Shropshire workshop. The attention to detail is simply incredible, and the fact that all the belts can be personalised too makes them even more special. In addition to belts, Mackenzie & George also sells a range of country accessories including beautiful felt fedoras, clutch bags, key rings and bracelets… and the company has just launched a new feather brooch collection.

Why are the feather brooches so special?

Unlike the belts, Mackenzie & George don’t make the feather brooches, but that doesn’t make them any less special. Because they’re made by a lady called Wendy Goode who Melanie and Chris have known for years.

“We were helping Chris’ parents on their stand at Badminton Horse Trials back in 2011, and they were opposite Wendy, who has been making these gorgeous brooches for over 20 years,” said Melanie. “We got chatting away and it turns out she was living the village along from where Chris’ dad grew up in the Scottish highlands. And this place is TINY, so that was quite a surprise. Anyway, we got on really well and continued to be wowed by her beautiful creations and the care that went into each piece in terms of preparation and her overall approach. Fast forward to Chris and I setting up our own business and going to our first BETA International in 2013, and Wendy was also exhibiting. Again, we got on really well, and she mentioned her current stockist at the shows was going to focus on their showrooms instead. She liked what we did and we all thought our products would work nicely together. We created some hats on variations of designs she had, and the feathers completely transformed the hats giving them a completely timeless look.
“We’re now the exclusive stockists at the shows, as she is very protective over her pieces not just being all over the place, and loves the way we present them and explain her story.”
Why am I telling you all this now? Well, Mackenzie & George has just brought out a new Wendy Goode feather brooch collection.

The new feather brooch collection available from Mackenzie & George

The new collection has a larger range than before but is still amazing quality with each piece being beautifully designed. Wendy is also an incredible, meticulous artist, and nothing leaves her workshop without her exacting approval. Each brooch uses hand arranged feathers mounted in upcycled shotgun and rifle casings or handmade silver and bronze cones. The feathers come from a range of birds including game birds like pheasant, mallard and guinea fowl, as well as peacock, blue jay and more. I was about to write a note next to guinea fowl saying how much I love those brooches, and indeed it’s true, but I haven’t seen one I don’t like (and as I work with Mackenzie & George, I’ve seen a lot of feather brooch pictures!). The great thing is the range available as there’s a huge range of different colour combinations and different sizes. If you’re looking for a subtle feather pin, Mackenzie & George will have the perfect one, and if you want something bigger, to make a bolder statement, I have seen plenty that fit the bill too.

How to wear the feather brooch

The feather brooches are incredibly adaptable and can be worn with fedoras or on jacket lapels. They’re the perfect accessory to complete a true country look, and with such a fab story behind the company selling them and the lady making them, they’re definitely the feather brooches to buy this season.

Find out more about Mackenzie & George’s new feather brooch collection online or see them at shows.

It’s a Burghley Horse Trials Must-See!

Annabel Brocks Quilted black Gilet With Natural Collar fIf you follow me on social media, you may have seen the short videos I have been putting out this week with my must-sees at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials. In case you missed it, here are some of my top picks… in alphabetical order…

Annabel Brocks– whether you’re looking for luxurious clothes for autumn/winter or fabulous products for some winter sun, Annabel Brocks (in the Lifestyle Pavilion) is a must see. I adore the faux fur head warmers and am kind of looking forward to the winter and when I can wear them again! In addition you’ll find capes made using tweeds, faux suede gilets, kaftans, ponchos and even sun hats! Definitely add them to your list!

Butler Stewart – for tailored tweed, make sure you check out Butler Stewart. For ladies and gents there are off the peg garments as well as Made to Order and the new Made to Measure collection (the latter being launched at Burghley). And if you saw Oliver Townend at the trot on Wednesday, you will have already seen some Butler Stewart in action…

Dogs & Co – Melanie and the team are LOVELY, but more than this, the products are exceptional. I regularly rave about the UniWalker (it’s been a favourite too, but I call it by its old name, the Figure Of Eight), but the rolled leather collars and the brightly colours microfibre ones have also really caught my eye…

Fairfax & Favor – yeah – I love them. I have my eyes on a pair of Explorers as my next purchase but give the Reginas, Drivers and Windsor bag my hearty seal of approval. At the start of Burghley, Fairfax & Favor launched the new Electra velvet Chelsea Boots… and don’t forget the Amiras. The over the knee beauties.

Hiho Silver – for all your equestrian and country jewellery needs, obviously! At the start of Burghley, Hiho launched a new 4 Star solid gold bead with diamonds that fits on the foxtail and Cherry Roller Bangle. The company has also released a special Burghley charm and some other stunning sterling silver, solid gold and gold vermeil pieces. So go and see them.

Lula Bo – I found out about Lula Bo through the lovely Emily and Inkpot & Press… and then drooled over the products. At Burghley, in addition to all of Lula Bo’s other carefully selected products, Clare Shaw’s scarves will be on sale. And they are lovely.

Mackenzie & George – THE place to go for your belt and fedora needs! Mackenzie & George’s Chester Belt was my favourite in a recent vlog, and after seeing Imogen Murray in a felt fedora and feather pin from M&G at the trot up on Wednesday, I want one more than ever now! In addition, Mackenzie & George offers a personalisation service, so you can have your belt or clutch bag personalised with foil or just a simple debossed finish. LOVELY!

Noble Outfitters – a brand I’ve long admired – will be unveiling the new autumn/winter collection. With rich autumnal shades to complement any skin tone, technical prowess for busy people and clever touches too, Noble Outfitters is somewhere I would spend a bit of time!

Rudds Wellies – yep – we all need them – and Rudds Wellies are lovely. They’re made with a special rubber to give them a 12 month no split guarantee, have a super comfy lining, stirrup friendly soles and lots of other features too. You can find them in Rural Craft, which is also where you’ll find Mackenzie & George.

Teddy Edward – since I spoke to Stephen, founder of the brand, for my ‘a few minutes with‘ feature, I have become a teeny bit obsessed with the company’s range of British made products. Combining classic designs that are easy and flattering (amen!) to wear with Great British manufacture, I’m ever so slightly obsessed.

 

If you’re going to Burghley, there’s a chance to win some GORGEOUS Hiho Silver jewellery by taking a selfie, posting it on your Instagram and tagging with #HihoStyleSpotter, created with the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials, Hiho Silver AND judged by Hiho Silver ambassador Sophie Callahan. Actually, she’s written a a blog all about it here!

How collaborations work between brands… with Hiho Silver

How collaborations work between brandsI’m very excited to be able to bring you a real life example of how collaborations work between brands. Or, at least, how they can work when they’re done well. And, to make it even more exciting, WE HAVE A CASE STUDY. Oh yes. How collaborations work between brands using a real life example. The real life example uses Hiho Silver, who recently completed a superb competition online that allowed people to win a lovely prize each day for 10 days, to celebrate reaching 10k fans on Facebook.

How collaborations work between brands… and why it matters

If you follow this blog you will know that I am a big fan of collaborations. Why? Because they work. They generate feel-good for everyone involved. Customers win. Businesses win. And it doesn’t have to cost all that much either. What’s not to love? Collaborations can add lots of value to your brand, your followers and the company you’re collaborating with too.. so why doesn’t everyone do it? It’s simple, it takes quite a bit of leg work and often an ability to put your brand’s needs on a level to brand you’re collaborating with. For everyone to win. Everyone needs to win. But that’s a whole different blog.

Now, onto the case study – Hiho Silver

As you may or may not know, I am very proud to count Hiho Silver as a client and the people behind this brand as friends. Hiho Silver is interesting for so many reasons, not least because of the amazing exclusive country and equestrian jewellery designs they create. But more about that another time (or just follow them on Facebook or Instagram, or have a look at their website to see for yourself!). Another thing that is superb about Hiho is the company’s ability to fully embrace new ideas and work with others. It’s refreshing, forward thinking and is one reason the brand is as successful as it is.

ANYWAY. To celebrate Hiho Silver reaching 10k fans on Facebook, it was decided that we’d create a competition to thank the fans for their continued support. The Hiho Facebook community is a special one and gratitude is a theme that runs through everything Hiho does, and it’s always nice to have a reason to celebrate. As it was Hiho’s 10k, it was decided that one prize would be offered each day for 10 days. And that fans could enter on Instagram and/or Facebook. The entry mechanisms were slightly different (and native to each platform), but both options were there to give people maximum opportunity to get involved. So far, so good.

So, where does the collaboration come in? And how do collaborations work between brands?

Hiho collaborates with a number of brands throughout the year on a range of different projects, so it made sense to speak to some of Hiho’s ‘friends’ to see if they wanted to be part of the celebrations. Why? Just to get free stuff? No. It was more than that. The brands that Hiho collaborates with have been chosen because they have a similar target audience – ie – they make/sell products and services that the majority or a significant portion of Hiho customers would be interested in. For this competition, Hiho decided to speak to Annabel Brocks (who provided a stunning Contrast Leather Belt), Evemy & Evemy (who provided a Pluma Silk Scarf), Mackenzie & George (who provided a Chatsworth Belt and personalised keyring), Femmes Fatales (who provided a day’s shooting) and Fairfax & Favor (who provided a Pembroke Handbag). In addition, Hiho provided an Exclusive Hammered Pheasant Necklace, an Exclusive Spinner Ring, an Exclusive Cherry Roller Bangle with CZ Roller and a Leather Wrap with horseshoe or cartridge slider. So there were 10 prizes in total. And so it began. One prize a day for 10 days… and didn’t Hiho’s fans love it! Oh yes. And then some.

Did the brands involved benefit from the collaboration?

And did the brands that were involved benefit too – oh yes. Exposing some of their products to Hiho’s fans and followers (and their fans and followers as people frequently shared posts on Facebook even though this wasn’t an entry mechanism… because it can’t be according to Facebook terms and conditions). Hiho put together two graphics each day during the competition and posted these on its various social channels. In many ways it was a simple competition, but the planning to make the simple competition work was quite involved. Worth every second, but it takes time. To make collaborations work between brands – between anyone – you have to dedicate some time to the cause. And then the results really mean something. And everyone wins. Which is what it’s all about!

 

A few minutes with… Melanie Clarihew – Mackenzie & George

I’ve been an admirer of Mackenzie & George for a very long time – not only the products but the
Mackenzie & Georgegorgeous branding too. And you know what else? The people behind the brand. Here I chat to Melanie, one part of Mackenzie & George, and chat about her business.

Tell us about you and your background

Mackenzie & George is run by my husband Chris and I.  Our story starts all the way back to 1974! Chris’ father, Bill, had a belt factory for over 40 years, producing ladies couture belts for department stores and brands like Harrods, John Lewis, Austin Reed, Jaeger and many more. In 2008, Chris had recently finished university, and with jobs few and far between in that economic climate, he started selling some of his fathers belts at Covent Garden Apple Market. Long story short – the selling really sparked an interest in the making, and so Chris started learning how to make the belts (although he has been in the factory on school holidays since a toddler, so knew some of the basics). I had recently lost my job around the same time (I’m from a music/marketing/events background), and started helping Chris, and together we looked at working with different natural and long wearing materials and incorporating traditional saddlery techniques we taught ourselves via YouTube! Eventually we started to do a few craft shows for his parents, with our own mini collection on the corner of the stand, until we took the plunge and set up our own business in 2012 – Burghley Horse Trials being our first ever Chris & Melanie - Mackenzie & Georgeevent. 

What made you want to start a business?

A combination of a terrible job market and seeing an opportunity that really bought the best of our strengths together.  Although most people would think we’re mad living and working together, we get to share all the triumphs and tribulations, and see each other at our very best (and worse!). 

How is Mackenzie & George different?

Attention to detail. Each process is thought out to the tiniest detail. For example, you won’t find a rough edge on any single part of our products – each and every sharp corner and edge is shaved off and hand buffed before being inked and sealed to give the smoothest – and most comfortable – feel and look.  It’s details often overlooked, but makes all the difference to final finish of a quality product.

What makes Mackenzie & George products special?

We pride ourselves on exemplary materials (vegetable and oak bark tanned saddle hide, solid brass hand polished buckles) that we worked hard on developing with small family run manufacturers that Chris has known for pretty much his whole life!  In addition, we take great care to ensure our products are practical, wearable and will last for many, many years (we even guarantee it!). 

If you had to sum up your business in five words, what would they be?

Honest Timeless Quality Handmade (with) Love  (I may have cheated!)

Do you have a motto or ethos?

Wearability that lasts. It’s what we consider when designing and testing designs and improving our techniques

If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring business owner, what would it be?

Get up early – it’s something we’re only learning now really; it’s amazing how much more you can get done with an extra couple of hours in the morning (an 8 week old baby is helping us keep to this!).

One thing that helps you run your business more effectively 

Shopify is amazing. We use it for our website and POS, and it is great having everything in one place, plus all the apps that integrate make it a really powerful tool.

Best thing about running a business?

Something different every day, and fully utilising every bit of grey matter! In one day, our roles can consist of fashion or graphic design, product and machine engineering, (sometimes quite complex) maths, copy writing, craftsmanship, accounting, sales, website design/backend, marketing and even painting/building stand props/workshops!

Worst thing about running a business?

Impossible to turn off. And no one to palm off jobs too. In our first few years we regularly worked 12- 18 hour days, and have gone to shows having been up (quite literally) all night finishing orders! Melanie - Mackenzie & George We’re a bit more on top of demand now, but desperately need an apprentice in the workshop.

One thing we might not know about you

At school, I was voted most likely to run my own business, but also most likely to end up in prison.  I’ve never quite worked out what the shared attribute I have that makes both those things likely, but glad I ended up doing the former! 

Where can people follow you or Mackenzie & George online 

Mackenzieandgeorge.com

http://www.instagram.com/mackenzieandgeorge

http://www.facebook.com/mackenzieandgeorge