Rebeka Russell founded Manderley Press, a London-based publishing house that aims to reintroduce forgotten titles to a new audience by giving them distinctive new covers, illustrations, and introductions.

We asked Rebeka to write about anything that tickled her fancy for our blog to celebrate her second summer book, Joan Aiken's The Tales of London Town. I hope you like what she has written.

For as long as I can remember, I have loved clothes, shoes, handbags .... and books. When I was four, I was given 50p and went to a local jumble sale on my own (it was the 70s). I carefully chose a scarlet pure wool cardigan with vintage buttons and a pretty pattern along the hems.

And to accessorise, I found a matching patent (plastic) red box-shaped handbag with a gold fastening and wide handles. I still have the bag, and it gives me the most immense frisson of joy to open and close it - feeling, as well as hearing - the satisfying click of its now-worn clasp.

Some years later, I travelled to northern Spain (again, solo—that's another story) with travellers' cheques (remember those!) stored safely in a flat ballet-pink money belt worn under my distinctly unfashionable t-shirt. I was eleven and in heaven.

I grew up in a tiny village on the northeast coast of England during the '80s and '90s, where most people's fashion choices were dictated by the need to protect against the elements or prepare for a horse in a muddy field. Suddenly, I was thrust into a world of dressing for dinner, accessorising outfits, and matching bags to shoes. Also, it wasn't minus 10 outside or blowing a gale, so there was no need for a wide-striped polyester parka...

I spent hours - HOURS - in a Spanish shop called Globe (now sadly closed) choosing a burgundy red jacket with embroidered flowers on the back and matching sage green wide-leg trousers and a spotted mustard blouse. And to top off the outfit, a treasured pair of gold ballerinas (now, distressingly, long lost).

My friends back home were unimpressed upon my return, but this did not deter me. My teenage years were filled with holiday jobs endured almost entirely for cash to shop for clobber—which I sourced quasi-religiously from a selection of three or four charity shops in our local town (the nearest city with a department store or clothes shop was a three-hour round trip on the bus), inspired by weekly episodes of The Clothes Show on BBC1.

And it was while shopping for a black sparkly cardigan in Miss Selfridge that I accidentally got into university. Even though I had no intention of applying, I was allowed to travel with my fellow classmates on the school minibus tour to Oxford.

While they diligently visited colleges and spoke to admissions tutors, I applied myself to the serious and all-consuming art of speed-shopping. Leaving Miss Selfridge, I bumped into an old school friend who was a few years older and studying at Lady Margaret Hall.

He invited me for lunch, where I sat next to the history tutor, who offered me a place there and then. True story. My teachers did not believe me, but on results day, I phoned the number on the scrap of paper the tutor gave me and voila. I was off to Oxford. It was all thanks to my taste in cardigans, obviously.

The intervening years have been delightfully kind to me, my wardrobe, and my career. I have lived, worked and socialised with a backdrop of gorgeous and colourful clothes, accessories and books. I have been able to combine my love of fashion with my addiction to literature and travel. My two worlds of text and images merged beautifully, leading me to the best of places and people, too.

Which brings me to Yvonne - (founder of Kemi Telford) who is not only my friend and neighbour, but my inspiration, my inadvertent mentor and of course, my muse too.

Who else could stylishly—and seemingly effortlessly—combine bright yellow Crocs with a patterned dress made of effervescent colours and a shiny green puffer jacket just to drop off the kids at school? The very notion is enough to lift my spirits and bring a smile to my face. I love seeing what Yvonne is wearing—something shockingly supreme and interestingly different each time we meet.



In these sometimes dark days, literally but also metaphorically, I don't want to imagine my life without the dash of colour each Kemi Telford dress or bag brings. Never has there been more of a need to celebrate with style, colour, and panache.

So think of four-year-old me next time you are choosing a bag. Go bright; go bold; go beautiful. Who knows where your fashion choices will lead you... If you're lucky, you'll meet an Yvonne too, and she might change your life!

Rebeka’s latest published book is The Tales of London Town by Joan Aiken: This beautiful book is now open for pre-order. You can reserve your copy over at manderleypress.com

You can connect with Rebeka on Instagram.

Her website is here

SHOP THE SHOOT

March 13, 2024 — Yvonne Telford

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