5 Key Buys That are the Foundation of My Workwear Wardrobe

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Determining what to wear to work is never an easy choice, but it can be even more of a challenge when your job isn’t the typical 9-to-5. In a bid to shake up our own work wardrobes, we sought out the advice of some of the best dressed women working today. Next up is Anna Foster, the stylist, designer, and founder of sustainable luxury brand E.L.V. Denim. As Anna balances motherhood, running a business, and encouraging us to shop more consciously, we asked her what workwear means to her and which key pieces she relies on for each of the (very) different roles she plays day-to-day.

1. The Pencil Skirt 2.0

(Image credit: Phill Taylor)

The pencil skirt has undergone a fashionable reinvention for 2024, and gone are the days of restrictive tailoring and twinsets. Instead, expect to find pencil skirts in glossy leather, statement prints, and as Anna demonstrates, elevated denim, that is every bit as business-meeting-ready as pinstripes. Sophisticated skirts like this work hard in any well-curated capsule and come into their own in the warmer months when a wide-leg trouser is too much fabric.

You’re the Founder and Creative Director at sustainable luxury brand E.L.V. Denim but started out as a Fashion Editor. How did you find the journey pivoting to a new field in fashion and what was the moment that sparked your decision?

“I have been in the industry for over 25 years, and I was beginning to notice that there was a shift in our collective perspective. We were losing sight of the joy of clothes due to the sheer enormity of what we were producing, and sadly quality and craftsmanship were becoming less of a priority. I really wanted to change this narrative and restore the essence of what fashion truly means, which is to uplift and inspire, encapsulating a feeling of joy that comes with discovering something truly exceptional. Each garment would be designed not only to flatter the wearer but also to resonate with their unique sense of style and identity. I have loved this journey because I am learning something new every single day. Don’t get me wrong, it was hard to leave my career as a fashion editor, however I was able to take all that I had learnt about exquisitely made clothes and transfer that knowledge to E.L.V. DENIM to create pieces that make you look and feel amazing. Clothes give you confidence and a great pair of jeans is an essential part of your working wardrobe.”

What does a typical day look like for you?

“Up at 6am and after getting the children off to school I head up to the studio for around 8am. There is an hour of quiet before the team arrive and I cherish that time working on the collection or pairing the jeans which is a really important part of our design process. The team arrive and every day is different, we might be finishing the collection, in the middle of production, shooting a lookbook, holding a pop-up, or having a customer come in for a made-to-order appointment. The variety of what we do and the team I work with makes each day so special. Yes, it can be overwhelming as we are a small team, but I have to remind myself how lucky I am to be doing what I love with a team who inspire me. I try and leave the studio around 4.30am to collect my son (the other two make their own way home), and then I’m at home helping with homework and hanging out with my children. My husband and I share dinner responsibilities, and then if I’m not at a work event, I can be found with a cup of tea and watching a movie or TV series. I try to be in bed by 10 or 10.30 as I am rather obsessed with getting 8 hours of sleep. It invariably fails as I am an avid reader, and I will get sucked into a book (currently it’s A Gentleman In Moscow by Amor Towles, leant to me by my dear friend Mimma Viglezio).”

Shop Pencil Skirts:

E.L.V. Denim

The Denim Skirt Charcoal Grey

THE ROW

Laz Wrap-Effect Wool-Blend Midi Skirt

E.L.V. Denim

The Classic Light Blue Denim Skirt

Emilia Wickstead

Noah Houndstooth Pencil Skirt

Carolina Herrera

Cotton-Blend Skirt

Jacquemus

Obra Belted Leather Skirt

2. Versatile Dresses

(Image credit: Phill Taylor)

If ever you needed proof that dresses are the ultimate instant-outfit, look no further than slips, midis and maxis that are perfect for desk-to-dinner dressing. Take notes on Anna’s layered approach to styling up by starting with a minimalist base and adding personality with tailoring and statement accessories. You can wear the same dress time and again with casual flats, trainers, pumps or sandals depending what what your day entails.

What do you look for in the clothes you wear to work?

“I have to feel confident. My style is quite minimal, but I also like to feel sexy in my clothes, not for anyone else, but just for me. I don’t have a mirror in my room, so I pretty much assume that everything I am wearing is going to make me feel good. They have to be functional and, as I am often trying on pieces that we are developing, quick to take off!”

How has your style evolved since you started out compared to now, and how has that influenced the way you design?

“I certainly experimented more with my clothing when I was a fashion editor as every day was different. I was often at events or press lunches or in the magazine office where I was based, so there was more call to ‘dress up’. Now my work is often a lot more practical in the studio and, as I have a denim brand, I am pretty much always in denim. However, I love all the pieces in my wardrobe that I have curated throughout my life, so I make sure I mix them in with a denim jean, shirt, or jacket. I would say my style is effortless and timeless, which is why I still wear pieces that I have had in my wardrobe since 1997. Recognising the importance of timelessness has really influenced the way I design, as I believe consumers have a right to expect longevity in any piece they are investing in. Therefore, everything we design has to last the test of time and trends. Our jeans have a generous seam allowance built into the seams down the front and back which means that they can be altered to adapt to any fluctuation of the shape of the customer.”

Who are your style icons, and do you have any muses?

“I admire classic, iconic dressers who effortlessly wear jeans. Carolyn Basset-Kennedy epitomises quiet, understated luxury, but also, my clients serve as my muses, and I delight in receiving images of how they style their E.L.V. DENIM too. Their creativity truly inspires me.”

Shop Versatile Dresses:

HUSH

Aria Split Midi Dress

E.L.V. Denim

Parker Dress

Doen

Rosaria Polka-Dot Silk-Blend Midi Dress

Reiss

Orange Stacey Ruched Midi Dress

COS

Waisted Pleated Midi Dress

3. Reworked Tailoring

(Image credit: Phill Taylor)

When your job doesn’t revolve around a boardroom, seize the opportunity to experiment with tailoring and silhouettes that reflect your personality while still presenting as professional. Anna swaps fitted suits and pinstripes for deconstructed pieces that feel entirely modern, especially when paired with dark wash jeans and easy flats.

As a designer, mother, stylist and consultant and business owner, you have to wear a lot of different hats. How do you stay true to your own style while still meeting the needs of all of these?

“Clothing makes me feel confident—it’s an extension of my personality, and I have to feel strong in what I wear. When I have a truly busy week (so every week!), I try to plan the weeks wardrobe in advance. When you leave the house at 7.30am to take the kids to catch the bus, there is no time for a wardrobe malfunction and time choosing clothes is minimal. Clothes are really special to me, and carving out time to respect all those pieces in my wardrobe to create outfits, not only makes me more efficient but means that I feel confident every day, rather than being in a rush! E.L.V. continues to expand into different categories and launch new collaborations, but each piece is still uniquely sourced from preloved garments and handcrafted into new designs.

What goes into the life cycle of each piece?

“The preloved garments are sourced here in the UK from vintage warehouses. We don’t take anything that is already desirable or perfect, as these already have a value in the market and can be worn as is. We look for misshapen pieces with imperfections, and in all sizes that have no value in their current form. Just because the current form isn’t desirable, it can’t be said to be the same for the material it’s made from, I believe we have a duty to revalue that material.

The preloved garments are then brought to our local laundrette (the same one that I have been working with for 6 years) to be washed, and then delivered to our studio where each garment is graded. The material is then curated according to colour and grading, ready to be paired with its ‘friend’ before being reworked together to create the new E.L.V. DENIM piece. We use eco finishing on our hardware, our leather patches are furniture off-cuts, and our swing tags are made from our denim scraps. Material of incredible quality needs to be reworked not recycled, and that is when we need to step in, valuing that material to create something new. It takes time and effort, but the final piece is worth it. Creativity excels from being given limited resources, and our purpose is to take what is considered as imperfect and create perfectly tailored clothes.

Shop Tailoring:

E.L.V. Denim

The Jamie Blazer

Ulla Johnson

Talie Cotton, Linen and Silk-Blend Blazer

London Atelier

Reworked Black Blazer

E.L.V. DENIM X The Outnet

The Skirt Suit Twill Blazer

Rejina Pyo

Belted Wool-Blend Canvas Jacket

Tove

Bonnie Belted Cotton-Blend Wrap-Effect Vest

4. Does-it-All Denim

(Image credit: Phill Taylor)

There are few pieces in our closets that we lean on as heavily as a good pair of jeans, and if you’d been relegating denim to your weekend wardrobe, shake things up by swapping out cotton shirts for denim, and wide-leg trousers for loose-leg jeans for a laidback approach that is equally as arresting as a three-piece suit.

What does workwear mean to you, and how do you interpret it for your lifestyle and from a sustainability point of view?

Denim was designed as a workwear fabric, which means it is designed to last. However modern denim has evolved and now sadly includes so much stretch. Stretch denim is not designed to stand the test of time, and its inevitably thrown away once it loses its shape. There is so currently so much discarded stretch denim that it is literally suffocating the planet. As a better alternative you can have original and beautiful long-lasting rigid denim which gives a much more flattering silhouette and holds its shape forever.

What’s your favourite go-to outfit, and how does it make you feel?

My favourite go-to outfit is the E.L.V. DENIM jumpsuit. It can be worn all year round, and no matter my mood you throw it on, and it is an instantly feel-good piece. It needs no help to create the ultimate elevated look.

Shop Denim:

E.L.V. Denim

Classic Denim Shirt Blue

E.L.V. Denim

Mid Dark Blue Stovepipe Jeans

Dries Van Noten

Belted Denim Maxi Shirt Dress

E.L.V. Denim

Freya Wide Leg Jean Dark Blue

Stella McCartney

Denim Mini Dress

MIISTA

Betina Blue Denim Sandals

5. The Instant Outfit

(Image credit: Phill Taylor)

When time is of the essence, having an outfit you can pull together in five minutes is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. While dresses and co-ords will work hard in any capsule wardrobe, a jumpsuit also bridges the gap between comfort and practicality, giving you the option to create an entire look from just one piece. Anna’s denim iteration works all-year round, whether layered up under leather jackets for a chilly spring, or worn loosely with sandals as the weather warms up.

What items do you rely on the most in your wardrobe and what are your most beloved pieces?

“Some of my favourite pieces in my wardrobe are a Hussein Chalayan jacket that was made for me, an Yves Saint Laurent sample from the runway, a Louis Vuitton top that was designed by Sofia Coppola, a Facetasm jacket that was 1 of 20 produced… All of those pieces have such special memories, and I am honoured to own them. When I first started the brand, I realised that perhaps these pieces were in my possession because of my position in the industry, and so I wanted to create a brand that allowed this feeling of uniqueness to be experienced by everyone, not just an elite few.

Creating jeans from vintage denim means that each jean has its own characteristic and personality, just like its owner. Although I rely on jeans every day and they are a staple part of one’s wardrobe, I know that so many people struggle to find jeans to fit, and that is one of the founding principles of E.L.V. DENIM, to give everybody with every body shape an opportunity to find that perfect pair that they can cherish. You can buy a pair ‘off the shelf’, utilise our complimentary service to tailor the jeans to fit if required, and you can come to us to have a made to measure pair. I want every single customer to feel valued and to know that their jeans were made for them, unique to them and can last forever.”

Shop Jumpsuits:

E.L.V. Denim

Classic Denim Jumpsuit Dark Blue

Free People

Touch the Sky One-Piece

AGOLDE

Silka Organic Denim Jumpsuit

Norma Kamali

Norma Kamali Low-Back Slip Jumpsuit

Rivet Utility

New Yorker Distressed Cotton-Canvas Jumpsuit

Marant Etoile

Idany Denim Jumpsuit

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