I love clothes. Even more, I love clothes shopping, and if asked to name my top 2 favourite brands for clothes at the moment, I think I would name COS and Toast.
Toast is now available in my local John Lewis, but I have to make the journey to London or Brighton to get a COS fix. The issue with that of course, is that I feel I have to buy something as I have made the journey. Luckily that never seems to be a problem.
COS opened its first shop in London in 2007 on Regent Street. It encompasses ‘minimalist’ styling and is a very distinct look apparently inspired by ‘architecture, graphics, and design’. I can’t say I was aware of that when I started buying the brand, but I do know the clothes are super easy to wear, reasonably priced and are ‘all season’ friendly. COS now has 194 stores worldwide and is part of the H&M group.
I particularly like their A line jersey dresses which are beyond comfortable to wear but look really stylish. I have this one below in 3 colours which may be a bit OTT, but they are a ‘go anywhere’ dress working perfectly for weekends or weekday meetings. The retail is £55 which I think is very reasonable.
(My first idea was just to take pictures of the clothes, but it was suggested that people would be more interested to see them worn, so Andy and I spent a hilarious hour in the garden taking the pictures on this page. It was our first attempt at taking pictures for the blog so I’m sure we will improve – but we did laugh, particularly when I nearly fell in the pond.)
The quality of COS is better than others I could mention on the high street and is not as trend driven. And because of their simplicity, a dress will last years! Apparently there is some similarity between COS styling and such high market brands as Celine and Stella McCartney. I don’t tend to look for those brands due to my budget, so can’t really comment, but I certainly feel that I’m wearing something a little different that is striking in an understated way. I know that sounds like a contradiction in terms but you will see what I mean when you visit a store.
Their trousers are also very nicely cut (quite generous to) but are not the everyday you find on the high street. Occasionally, the styles are a little too outlandish for me, (I tried some trousers on last week which had lots of extra material down the sides and I looked like a cross between a clown and someone wearing a curtain), but generally I find something I love. I crave their culottes in all colours at the moment and have some gorgeous ones in cream and black. As the fit is quite generous, I tend to pair loose fitting trousers with a more structured top, as I don’t want to look engulfed by the clothes I’m wearing.
The trousers below are COS, the blouse from Toast.
The other element that COS offers is colour. The shops are arranged in different shades and hues and you will be drawn to whatever shades suit you. However my advice would be to go for something that you wouldn’t normally wear, I’ve tried orange and yellow dresses recently which I would normally avoid, but have been a revelation once I have them on!
The pricing is very reasonable – the clothing on this page retails £55-£70 and are usually machine washable.
Two last points to to mention: firstly if you see something you like- get it! I have been caught out more than once, seeing something I fancied in Brighton COS, but for whatever reason, put off buying, and when I tried to buy online or in-store only a few days later, it had disappeared. I think they change designs and stock must be on a quick turnaround so be aware.
Secondly, if you buy online, be aware unwanted items cannot be returned to the stores, they have to be returned overseas which is a bit annoying. I spoke to the staff about it in Brighton, and they said they got lots of complaints about not having a facility to return online items to stores and are looking to change it.
Overall though COS is an understated well kept fashion secret. COS, hear my plea….. please put a store in Hampshire soon!
Toast is also a relatively new brand established in 1997 and based in Swansea. No overseas returns here, and there clothing comes in gorgeous brown paper wrapping when you buy online.
I have loved Toast clothes since I discovered them about 3 years ago. A friend moans that the clothes sometimes tend to be a darker hues and are “depressing” but I loved their Ink and Air print this summer and you can’t go wrong with their crop tailored jeans and heavy A Line skirts. The dress below is navy cotton poplin, it has a very comfortable neckline and a drawstring waist with cotton herringbone ties to fasten either side and pockets.
Toast favour shift dresses and on the prairie blouses. The detailing like the side ties dresses shown here allow you to style it as you wish. Striped Linen pinafores were a big part of the collection this summer and I invested in one or two and have lived in them.
Jamie and Jessica Seaton are Toast’s founders, and they met at Birmingham university where they were both reading archaeology (!) and although they began their working careers in that field, ( !) they soon left digging behind for the world of design. They started with knitwear and have never looked back.
“It’s non-fashion fashion,’ says Jessica. ‘The clothes that we’ve become known for making make you feel good, a bit special, but they don’t wear you, and they’re comfortable – and that combination is quite hard to find.’
They have grown steadily and although they have had a healthy boost of investment and involvement from French Connection, Jessica and Jamie are still the ones in charge. Long may that continue.