I am so excited to finally share this post with you..it’s been a long time coming and honestly, I’m not sure how I’ve kept it under my hat (M&G Fedora and matching feather pin of course!) for so long. As you know, I’m really privileged to be part of the Mackenzie & George brand ambassador team and I’ve been passionate about supporting them ever since I came across the brand at Burghley around about 4/5 years ago now. After meeting the wonderful founders and owners Melanie and Chris in person shortly after the start of A Girl About Country, during a very cold Cheltenham festival, we hit it off and the rest (as they say) is history! Fast forward 3 years and M&G are one of the biggest luxury country accessories brands on the scene (I say one of, I’m actually struggling to think of anyone else that matches them!).
Thanks to their timeless, classic styles and unrivalled quality and workmanship all with a modern style injection M&G have well and truly earnt their place as firm favourites in many a country (and city) wardrobe. So when Melanie casually asked how I felt about helping to design a new M&G belt, I have to say I met the question with mixed feelings. Obviously the first one was undoubtedly excitement and honour, that both Melanie and Chris and the rest of the team would trust me and my style enough to add a bit of A Girl About Country to their collection. The other part of me felt very nervous at this task…M&G have so many striking and stunning designs that I wondered 1., what I could possibly add to the collection that they hadn’t already thought of by these superstars and 2., would anyone like my ideas?
I have to admit, the process was not as daunting as I had imagined and I really enjoyed every second. So the idea came about because of my love of the Badminton belt and my frequent use of it as a waist belt with skirts and dresses. A few sketches back and forth and ideas from the design masters themselves and we ended up with the Clifton Cinch! Why Clifton? Well as you know all M&G products are named after places and this one is no different! What is different is that the Clifton was named by me after a village very close to my heart near to where I live (my village is a bit of a mouthful so it didn’t quite fit the bill!).
I think (or at least I very much hope) you’ll agree, the finished output is truly stunning. It still keeps the timeless and elegant M&G signature feel, which is so integral to my own own style. I’m very much a style over fashion and trends kinda girl, so this belt needed to fit the bill – something that could be worn down the farm, with my jods and of course dressed up as a waist belt (it’s primary purpose hence the ‘cinch’ part of the name). And something that could be worn for years to come. But of course, we needed to inject a little modern twist to our beloved country style, so we made the belt a suede and leather mix, which provides a gorgeous but subtle contrast. However for those who want a more stand-out piece, the belt also fits this bill – the middle section is interchangeable, so you can have a complete colour contrast which is pretty special I think.
So…enough from me, I’m sure you’d rather hear M&G’s take on the whole process so I caught up with Melanie (in her own words the Queen of M&G, but in more official terms Co Founder and Director – although I’m sure you agree, Queen is much more fitting a title!) to get her take on the new addition to the M&G family..
You’ve already got lots of beautiful belts that could be worn as a waist belt so why did you design the Clifton Cinch?
We’ve got belts that can be bought in to your waist size, and sure – look great on the waist. But with the Clifton we wanted something with a bit more flexibility, that can be worn at other points too. In addition, we’ve chosen these gorgeous stirrup inspired buckles as they narrow at the end, which create a really flattering V shape into the waist on both sides.
Why did you enlist the help of one of your ambassadors to design the belt?
Well the reason it was designed is all because of Harriet! Harriet has often worn her Badminton belt on her waist, and we would have endless people messaging and calling wanting to do the same with theirs. However, often if it is sized for the hips, it wouldn’t be able to go down small enough for the waist, and attempting to do so would mean all the snaffles around the belt went a bit skewed. So, we wanted to create a belt that would look perfect on the waist, and thats why we spooke to Harriet about how her dream waist belt looked!
How did the collaboration and design process work?
Well I guess I’ve talked a little about it above, in how we started. Then it was a lot of chatting over messenger, too-ing and throwing on buckle options, widths, etc. Harriet came to see us at the workshop and we showed her the first sample, which whilst it ticked a lot of boxes something wasn’t quite right. We’d used our usual full grain vegetable tanned saddlehide, and it gave the belt a very heavy, slightly old fashioned edge to it. So we wen’t back to the drawing board, thinking that thinning down the edges and stitching would give a more refined look, but the real breakthrough was when we decided to combine some leathers we’d been working on for a different range with our suedes… The combination of textures created a more more elegant belt that was more suited to wearing on the waist, and immediately felt more inline with Harriet’s style.
Designing in action…a trip to M&G HQ to work on ideas for the Clifton Cinch with Co-founder and Director, Melanie
How is this belt different to others in the M&G range?
The combination of our grained leather (as seen on our cuffs) against the smooth soft suede isn’t something we have done before. In addition, you’re able to swap and purchase additional central pieces, creating two toned and contrast combinations of navy and tan.
Describe the Clifton Cinch in 3 words
Refined, versatile and flattering!
How would you style the belt?
I’m really into the paperbag waists on trousers and skirts that are everywhere at the moment, so I would wear mine instead of the long tie that usually comes with that style.
When can we get our hands on one??
We will have a limited amount available at Burghley Horse Trials, however they will also be on the website with a fab preorder discount this week, due to be shipped towards end of September.
So there you have it! I am so passionate about this belt and I know you’re all going to love it too..so don’t miss the pre-order discount or a chance to see it up close and personal at Burghley later this week. Theres also a little competition I’ll be running with M&G to celebrate the launch of the Clifton Cinch, so make sure you have your eyes peeled over the coming days for that – especially if you’ll be at Burghley!
Thank you again to the wonderful Mackenzie & George team for allowing me to be part of the design squad and add A Girl About Country into such a cherished brand!