If you’re searching for alternatives to the gorgeous lifestyle site, Toast, look no further than these equally superlative pared back brands for beautifully simple living.
Today, in its own words, Toast ‘aspires to a more thoughtful way of life, creating and curating simple, functional, beautiful clothing, homeware and editorial.’ Doesn’t that pretty much sum up what we all aspire to in this hyper-connected era?
Well, luckily for us, these websites are nailing a similar vibe.
When Veryan Raiker founded her eponymous London studio, she wanted to give women the ‘freedom to be comfortable and confident in (their) style’. She was determined to offer ‘simplicity with a focus on high-quality fabrics and details’. And she was adamant that her brand should be sustainable. ‘Sustainability for me,’ she says, ‘embodies a thoughtful approach to life, taking time to make the best decisions.’ What you find on this site, therefore, is a beautifully curated, pared back edit of great separates.
Colours are called soothing things like Garden Room Green and Seeded Cream. There is also a small selection of lovely linen and cotton accessories. We hope this element expands in due course; in the meantime, we will take one of the make-up bags in blue stripe, please.
Working with artisans, textile mills, knitwear companies and makers across the UK and Europe, Plumo chooses its products for their distinctive quality of design and craftsmanship. Esther Roth founded the company, which is based in north London, in 1998. Esther, the business brain behind the brand, was joined by her sister, Verena, the creative one, seven years later. They say: ‘Plumo is an organic and slow-grown family business. In a way, it starts with us being sisters from a small town and the urge to travel and see the world. We both have wanderlust and plenty of curiosity.’
The website isn’t quite as refined as the others in our list, but its eclectic wares are just as wonderful. We would like the Cactus Vase Midi, and we certainly wouldn’t say no to the Bristol Pants, which look perfect for winter – or to the Green Aran cardigan while we are at it.
At contemporary British womenswear label, Sideline, woven indigo fabrics are worked into inventive designs. Steering the ship on the England’s south coast is the founder, Ellen Brookes. She says: ‘I design for the women around me – like-minded women who care about fashion and how they dress, who are effortlessly stylish and softly confident.
They’re not interested in faddy, throwaway clothing, instead coveting unique pieces that show integrity and thoughtfulness in their design.’ Sideline is committed to sustainability – and the packaging incorporates no single-use plastic. In other words, Sideline is bang-on-point, and the site is fresh and ethereal. The clothes are cool and impossible to tire of. Made in Scotland of pure wool, the Orla Scarf has stolen our hearts. The Frankie Jumpsuit is irresistible, too.
MAUD & MABELwww.maudandmabel.com
This gallery-cum-shop-cum-website is a dream. It sells a carefully chosen selection of beautiful everyday objects that are made from clay, cloth and wood. The Maud & Mabel mission statement reads thus: ‘We believe in uniting contemporary craft with elegant design, and in marrying the old with the new. We celebrate imperfection alongside perfection, and we covet the simple and the meaningful. Everything we stock is designed to be used and treasured, adding a touch of magic to the everyday.’
We are hankering after the A.B. Apuntob Wool Dress in Ecru. Made of Finnish Birch Plywood, the Set of 5 Trays would surely enhance anybody’s living space.
‘Chic, shockingly affordable and very well designed,’ is how Vogue magazine describes Finery. The clothes from this British womenswear label are louder and more trend-led than the other brands on this list. It deserves its place, however, for its carefully considered, well-priced pieces that transcend seasonal dressing.
Co-founder Caren Downie says: ‘We want everything to feel special. Throwaway fashion just doesn’t feel relevant any more. I would like to think that it’s because people have more respect.’ Quite so. We are drooling over the Isla Print Midi Dress.
Another proponent of slow living, OFFON is a family-run business that produces hand-made clothes for women and little girls. There are no seasonal collections here, just individual orders for brilliantly conceived pieces.
For mamas, we love the Checkered Cotton Dress With Long Sleeves and for little girls, our pick has to be the Tour de France Print Dress.
Bravo, Phaedra Clothing! This website – which sings with stunning photography – goes so far as to have a tab called MANIFESTO. Quite something for a fashion brand, no? Among the pertinent points it makes is this one: ‘Phaedra celebrates the human rather than the machine. A garment is a narrative, a piece that changes over time. Linen becomes softer and suppler, colours lighten subtly, and the cloth is imbued with memory – all signs of a long and happy relationship between garment and wearer.’
You can just hear the passion oozing from the founder, Deva O’Neill, who – from her studio in an old shoe-making factory in Norwich – designs, cuts and sews all of Phaedra’s products herself. Made out of Lithuanian linen, the Persephone Dress is lovely (bear in mind that all clothes have a lead time of four weeks). And a cup of tea in one of the Pinch Pots will warm the cockles of your heart.
Manchester-based husband-and-wife team, Alex and Rachael Otterwell set up Object to create a unique neighbourhood shop and global online destination. They say: ‘Working with directional brands built on craftsmanship, quality and simplicity, our carefully curated collection of menswear, womenswear and objects for the home has been personally hand-sourced by us.
We only ever choose pieces to be a part of our Object family because we genuinely love them, would wear them ourselves and would be proud to have them in our home.’ This Olive Mesh Soft Bra And Panties set is going straight on our Christmas list. Plus, the Woven Tassel Rug has cosy autumnal evenings written all over it.
You might not immediately associate Ralph Lauren fashion with that of Toast, but the brands sell a similar aspirational lifesyle, even if the former is more Hamptons,while the latter is more Climping. Fresh faced models with their preppy fashion beckon you from superbly styled interiors or from manicured countryside, it's easy to get drawn in. As you would expect, price tags are high to middle but the clothes look great and you can go the whole hog, furnishing your house the Ralph Lauren way too.
We like the way that Lauren takes classics and gives them a twist, just like this denim shirt with a neck tie. Genius.
By Becky Ladenburg
Updated June 2020
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