When I was seventeen I got a work experience placement at a PR agency. My friend got a placement at an accountancy firm so the week before we started, we went to buy some suitable “workwear” clothes. I remember us both thinking that we definitely needed a white shirt but more importantly a pair of black trousers. No one we knew worked in a corporate environment so I’m not sure where this inspiration came from but I reckon it must have been from watching a string of Hollywood rom-coms where the heartbroken girl decides to focus on her career and what follows is a montage of her in a trouser suit powering her way through the city, downing martinis and declining numbers. I don’t remember much about the trousers that I ended up buying, only that by day two of my placement, I realised that a good pair of non-ripped black jeans would have been a better option for the world of fashion PR. The trousers were swiftly dumped.
Fast forward a dozen years later and my career as a fashion journalist has well and truly taken off and I’m still sans trousers. That is until an e-mail plops into my inbox asking if I’d like to try a pair from the relatively at the time unknown brand Me+Em. A quick glance through their look book and I’m intrigued. The following week I’m not sure how I ever managed to get dressed without a pair of wide legged navy and white side-striped trousers or a pair of cigarette style cropped just at the ankle. Since then I’ve been to countless fashion events and fashion weeks, from London to Paris where I’ve spotted endless fashion editors and bloggers sporting the brand.
So what is it about the brand and specifically their trousers that we love so much? Well, firstly they fit really well. They sit just just below your bellybutton and are cut flat so you can wear a myriad of different tops without having that annoying bulky bulge that tends to happen with others. Thanks to their silhouette they don’t look overly corporate. Both their wide-legged and cigarette styles look great with a trainer but also work well with a pointy heel for days when you want to look a bit more smarter. Plus they don’t need to be dry-cleaned. Instead, I just bung mine on a cool temperature in the washing machine and then hang to dry. Best of all they dry crease free which means more time spent in bed rather than ironing.
Here, Me+Em’s founder and director Clare Hornby explains how it all came about…
‘I have always loved fashion. When I was a teenager growing up in Manchester I’d go buy Vogue patterns with my mum and after she’d made them I’d spent hours in front of the mirror going ‘can you just move the pocket’ or ‘can you shorten the sleeve’ so I think I was obsessed with details from day one.’
‘When I got a job as a sales assistant in Harrods and I just remember being blown away by this world of glitz and glam. I could never afford anything full price but in the sales there would be 70% off on top of our discount so I kind of got addicted to that kind of high quality but at a cheaper price.’
‘When I went into advertising I couldn’t afford designer clothes full price but didn’t like the quality of highstreet. I just knew there was a gap to be filled between high quality and price. At Me+Em we have a direct to consumer model so we don’t do wholesale. We’re obsessed with the quality and function of the fabric and the cut.’
‘I worked in advertising for fifteen years and if I were presenting a campaign to clients I’d feel like I’d want to look smart but not too corporate. So that’s what my brand is all about. For every piece we talk about the three “F’s” – flattering, functional and fashionable. They all matter in equal measure.’
‘I try on every single pair of trousers. I don’t like when they go around your bottom, I like them to fall because that makes your bum looks smaller. The cigarette shape is one of our bestsellers. But I prefer a wider leg. I’ve got a long body but short legs so I’m obsessed with long elongation. We use a technique where they go over your shoes but then if someone wants to shorten them they can, even those with the stud detailing, and they’ll still be super flattering.’
‘I spend a lot of time with our customers. We create a monthly theme and then drop pieces into stores and online weekly so it always feels fresh. Our customers are really interested in fabrics. I’m all about creating pieces that don’t crease and that you can fling in the washing machine and tumble dryer. Even our white cord trousers can go in both.’
‘When Kirsty Wark wore our side-striped trousers on Newsnight the press went crazy. I thought it was hilarious that they called them tracksuit pants. Our core customer is between the ages of 38-45 years but we see a lot of cross generational buying. So mothers will come in and buy for their daughters, and daughters will come in and buy for their mothers. It’s the same with celebrities and influencers, everyone from Nicole Kidman to a 22 year old blogger. They all wear the pieces different but it’s all our brand. Nowadays, it’s all about a style not age when it comes to dressing.’
‘I’m not a nautral ‘dresses’ person and I feel it’s a category that needs tackling. So we’ve been trying to create iconic shapes with plenty of contemporary detailing. I don’t want to show my whole leg so I’ve designed a dress that is slightly longer at the back and at the front still shows a flash of ankle. That way you can wear them with a trainer or a boot. And then we’ve got cuffs and collars and loads of sporty details to keep them looking modern.’
‘In the studio we talk a lot about “wardrobe un-lockers.”‘ They are pieces that disrupt and breakup your look. So for autumn winter 2018, we’ve got a series of graphic tees that look great with jeans and a blazer. And we’ve done trousers with a coloured side stripes and used lots of different fabrications. It’s a subtle way of giving a nod to a trend. Yellow is huge for next season but maybe you don’t want to wear a full look. With our trousers you can opt for a yellow stripe down the side and you look instantly up to date.’