We all know that women are often excellent multi-taskers, but there aren’t that many who hold down a full time serious creative and management role, AND run a fashion business on the side. Ursula Lake is the launch Fashion Director of the brilliant new fashion, beauty and lifestyle website NeverUnderdressed and the founder and designer of modern swimwear label Violet Lake.*
Ursula and I first met over ten years ago, when she was the assistant to a stylist who was shooting main fashion for Conde Nast Traveller, where I was Fashion Bookings Editor, organising the fashion shoots. Before joining NeverUnderdressed, she was Contributing Fashion Editor for The Sunday Telegraph’s Stella magazine.
Ursula was always an absolute joy to work with, and I love that, as we have progressed up the career ladder, our paths continue to cross with astonishing regularity, as we find ourselves on shoots together, at the shows and all the events that we attend. Because I am do impressed with her multi-tasking, I thought she would be perfect for A Day in the Life. (Of course, being the ultimate over-achiever, she has given me two days, not one!)
6.00am – Alarm goes off. If it hadn’t, my three cats probably would have woken me up anyway. They are always ravenous and will do all manner of tricks to get our attention in the morning from knocking my book off the bedside table, to putting a paw on my nose whilst purring loudly.
7.00 am – Bootcamp Pilates class on a reformer bed. I am put through my paces for 55 brutal minutes. It’s always agony, but it’s a great way to start the day and I am always pleased that I have made the effort to go. As it’s a Friday and I don’t have too many appointments today I dress casually in a pair of Current Elliot boyfriend jeans and a simple navy t shirt from Cos and wedges from Paloma Barcelo. I always have sunglasses with me and my current favourites are from Oliver Peoples.
8.15 am — Drink a protein shake that I made at home while I walk to the tube. My general recipe is: A scoop of Warrior Blend Raw Protein Powder (in Natural) a banana, a teaspoon of Meridian cashew butter, a tablespoon of raw cacao, chia seeds and spirulina. I blend this with sugar free almond milk and ice. It’s pretty filling and normally sees me through to lunch.
I am always multi-tasking and try to use all of my day wisely. I have a BlackBerry so that I can respond to emails from while on the Tube, safe in the knowledge that they will send themselves once I am above ground: I wish the iphone did that!
8.30 am – Go to Harrods to see a preview of their new store windows celebrating handbags, which are really lovely. Twenty different designers have collaborated to create unique windows for the store, from Burberry to MCM, with lots of limited edition bags and styles that are only available in Harrods. The most expensive is a giant Prada bag (big enough to sit in) which can be yours for £35,000 but there are also £40.00 See by Chloe bags of which there are only 4 in the world. There’s a photo booth where you can then email your portrait with your favourite bag to a loved one as a not so subtle hint. I take some silly pictures with an amazing floral Sophie Hulme clutch.
NB I am wearing sunglasses because I haven’t had time to put make up on at this point, so I am hiding behind the shades!
9.30am – Arrive at the Never Underdressed offices in Holborn and have a cup of Rooibos tea, having given up caffeine about 8 years ago, and I drink it by the gallon. My first job after checking my emails, is always to choose the day’s edit for our style selector pages. We try to cherry pick the best clothes and accessories that have just arrived ‘in-store’ from various different online retailers. It’s often very tempting as you get to see all the newest items from a variety of retailers at varying price points. I find that I buy most of my clothes on line now!
I also post a few Instagram pictures from the Harrods preview. I am addicted to Instagram! Then I write a thank you note to the PR girls from Coach handbags who hosted a really fun lunch party yesterday to celebrate American Independence day. I am great believer in hand written notes, and they always feel so much nicer than a thank you email.
11.00am — We are preparing a huge new trends feature on the site which will be going live on the site soon. Have a team meeting to discuss this and find out what photographic assets we need to get together for this and start planning exactly how the feature will look.
12.00am – I have had a pile of invoices and receipts on my desk for too long now. I vow I am going to tackle these before lunch.
I.00pm Invoices dealt with, I wander down Lambs Conduit Street to get some air and get a juice from Crush. There are some great independent shops there selling unique stuff, including vintage furniture and unusual homewares. It’s a good street for café culture and it’s a really lovely place for a hangout in on a sunny day.
Lunch is a salad made last night at home and brought in with me. (I have a clip lock Tupperware obsession that is almost out of control.) I use part of my lunch break to check on my Violet Lake emails to see if there is anything urgent that I need to do. I deal with most of the press requests for the brand, so I check to see if any magazines need samples or prices or have any questions. I also deal with all customer enquiries personally and there are normally a few questions about sizes or colour or fit. I really enjoy chatting to my customers as they give you excellent feedback both good and bad.
2.30pm — Lauren and Kate from FarFetch.com come into Shortlist Media to show us a rail of new designers that they are selling on the site and to tell us more about how FarFetch works. There’s a great bag from Wendy Nicoll and a very chic range of clothes by Merchant Archive who have produced their first ‘new’ collection inspired by the vintage styles they sell in their store.
3.00pm Quick check on the Wimbledon scores: It is the Mens semi finals day after all and I LOVE Wimbledon. It’s my favourite sporting event of the year.
3.30pm-6.00pm I put my head down to get going with editing our Trends report catwalk images into six main trends, so I spend the rest of the afternoon going through hundreds of catwalk images and filing them into these trends.
6.00pm I leave the office promptly and get the Tube home.
7.00pm After a quick pit stop at home my husband I head out to a favourite pub in Barnes called ‘The Brown Dog’ to meet with my best and oldest friend Laura and her husband Andrew.They are in London for a few weeks from Seattle where they live with their three boys. There was lots of catching up to do and rose to be drunk in the sunny pub garden. Home in bed by about midnight!
Saturday 7.00 am — Wake up and feed the moggies and get myself together for yoga. I run to my class which is fairly nearby to me in Putney and do an hour of Hot Vinyasa Yoga in an infared heated room at the House of Yoga. It’s a pretty warm day already and even hotter in the class so I get a good sweat on!
After the class I drink a coconut water to rehydrate and walk back home in the sunshine.
9.00am. Get home, have one of my protein shakes and get ready for my day.
9.30am First off I need to do some work for Never Underdressed as we are a seven day publishing machine, and so our style selector pages need updating with new items. Once I have finished that I am on to Violet Lake things.
I spend the morning responding to emails from customers, doing any refunds or exchanges that need to be done and filing invoices. I then put any new press that we have had on our website and update our Facebook page. I also write thank you letters to the journalists or stylists who have been good enough to include us in their publications. Having good relationships with the press is paramount to building a brand’s reputation and customer base. I know, as a Fashion Director, that I love receiving a personal note from a brand or designer when I have featured their products, so I like to do it too.
I also have a look through our new advertising images that have come in from our photographer from a recent shoot and start the long task of choosing which photographs to use for next year’s campaign. Because the range keeps growing and growing, there are a lot of shots to look through. Violet Lake has a skeleton staff of three (me, my husband, and Kerry in our warehouse) so I have to do a lot of mundane jobs too. It’s not particularly glamorous, but it’s an essential part of running your own business and keeping our costs down.
During the week we have had a lot of press samples returned so I sort through these and put them away in the relevant boxes, I try really hard to be keep things organised but it can get in a mess, so it feels cathartic to have a good sort out. Because Violet Lake is a brand for real people, and not just slender models, we often get requests for different sized samples for shoots. Some get used and some don’t so I pack up the’ box fresh’ perfect items and then post them back to our warehouse in Nottingham.
I work pretty solidly till about 1.30pm when I make myself some lunch (Ryvita and avocado and home-made roasted tomato and onion sauce) and then move my computer from my office to the sitting room so that I can carry on working while watching the TV! I find that a dull job like imputing my receipts into a spread-sheet is done best with a bit of entertainment in the background and so I catch up on some book keeping while I watch Bartolli win the Wimbledon Women’s final.
5.00pm — With my work done, Elliot and I jump on his motorbike and head to the South Bank by the Royal Festival Hall where we browse around the numerous food stalls to get some early supper. I end up with a Mezze of falafel, tabbouleh and an artichoke salad, while Elliot has a home –made organic burger. We try a Kir Royal made with cider which is an acquired taste and Elliot then orders a salted caramel crêpe and a chocolate ice cream. When Elliot is not helping me out with Violet Lake, he works as a personal trainer and is very fit, so annoyingly I am on a permanent diet while he eats like a pig!
7.30pm — Curtain up at the Old Vic Theatre to see Tennessee William’s ‘Sweet Bird of Youth staring Seth Numrich (who is quite easy on the eye) and Kim Catrall. It’s a really fantastic production with a brilliant cast, excellent staging and set and great costumes. I can’t recommend it highly enough and runs until the end of August.
10.30pm Back home on the motorbike and in bed by midnight. Shattered!
*In 2009, after an exhaustive and disappointing search for the right bikini, Ursula finally decided to design her own line. The concept behind Violet Lake is simple; there are six different styles of interchangeable bikini tops and six bottoms and all of these come in five different sizes and in thirteen different colours. Uniquely, all the bikini tops have tie fastenings so that you can really fit them to your body and make them as supportive as you need them to be, and the colours have been chosen so that they harmonise with at least two others within the range. There are also four styles of one piece swimsuits that are available in ten different colours.