Lady Melissa Percy Meet the new cool country set
Bethan Holt takes a look at the new brands bringing a modern twist to dressing for the great outdoors
Where would you expect to find Britain’s brightest young things in the early hours of a Saturday morning? Not so long ago, the answer might have involved tumbling into a cab outside an exclusive nightclub in Mayfair. But for Lady Melissa Percy, the answer couldn’t be more different.
“I’ve just had five of my best girlfriends up to Scotland for a weekend of adventure,” she remembers of her l latest wild antics. “We camped, woke up at 5.30am and then spent t the day grouseshooting shooting, canoeing down the river and quad-biking.” This w wholesome desire to spe spend downtime in the countryside ch chimes with the he health-conscious mi mindset of a mi millennial ge generation that has sh shunned drinking an and taking drugs in favo favour of the natural high highs offered by fresh air a and endorphingen generating country pur pursuits.
But this renewed enthus enthusiasm for spendi spending weekends in the gre great outdoors does throw u up one tricky
dilemma: what to wear? Lately, a series of new labels and poster girls for a very modern breed of countryside style have answered the question, with their blend of the most elegant traditional tropes with a more contemporary and, yes, cool aesthetic.
Thirty-year-old Lady Melissa, known as Missy to her friends, is on a mission to reimagine the country look with her new label Mistamina, which launches this weekend.
“Ever since I was tiny there was never stuff out there for girls which was trendy and cool, especially if you had your own individual sense of style,” reflects Lady Melissa. “So my mum, my sister and I would either buy boys clothes in small sizes, or we had things made, which is incredibly expensive.”
Mistamina (the name is a purposefully mischievous play on her nickname coined by her old tennis coach) is the passion project that Lady Melissa, daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland, has thrown herself into since her divorce last year from Thomas van Straubenzee, one of Prince William’s closest friends and godfather to Princess Charlotte.
Rather than completely reinventing the heritage look that is synonymous with British country life and still carries serious style kudos – Stella McCartney’s latest collection includes quilted khaki coats and belted field jackets reminiscent of those you might find hanging in the boot room of most country manors – Mistamina updates the classics with sleeker, more flattering cuts, which still leave room for moving around easily in the fields.
And in fabulously posh style, each piece is named after a beloved family dog.
“Rupert was my dad’s first dog, and he had the softest ears you have ever felt in your life, so we’ve named a lovely soft shirt, which comes in three colours, after him,” she explains. “When you’re outside, it’s good to have layers, because you’re either too cold or too hot, so it’s quite handy if you can just take off one.”
She advises wearing them tucked into plus fours or high-waisted jeans, depending how much or how little you care to amp up the look. She has also been careful to keep prices accessible, with shirts and jumpers coming in between £70 and £90.
Lady Melissa is not alone in her mission to give the country look a modern twist. Lucia Ruck Keene and her sister Rosie van Cutsem launched their label, Troy London, last year after a trial collection in 2015 went down a storm with their country set.
Their “hero” pieces are parka jackets that combine supreme practicality – think waterproofed seams and hoods that cannot be shifted, even in the most blustering of gales – with a refined, elegant look that has made them catnip for the Duchess of Cambridge, who has worn hers for two public engagements to date.
Lady Alice Manners, a model and Sunday Telegraph columnist, says country style is “quite a personal thing”.
“Some of my friends and sisters see dressing for the countryside as a time to really show their fashion kudos,” she says. “And, of course, we are all secretly taking notes on how we’ve all worn certain items.”
She recommends mixing fashion labels such as Chloe and Isabel Marant with modern country clothing brands (Holland and Holland and Troy are her favourites) with a select few family favourites – her mother, the Duchess of Rutland’s old brown ankle boots and suede trousers are current obsessions.
Because it wouldn’t be true country style without an heirloom or two in the mix.
mistamina.commistam The DuchessDu of CambridgeCamb wearing her favouritefavou Troy London jacket;jacket Lady Melissa Percy, right, wears the ‘StanleStanley’ jumper, £90,
British model Jacquetta Wheeler wears Camo wax parka, £375 troylondon.com