My eyes popped out when I saw Everlasting Sprout's magical pastel knits in 2009, my introduction to the Japanese knitwear label now solely designed by Keiichi Muramatsu, and I've Read more...
STANDOUT STOOLS: MAKE THEM WORK IN YOUR SPACE
I've been thinking a lot about stools lately, you know, as you do! We looked at beautiful breakfast bars last week and saw a variety of great looking bar stools, and then I found myself in Harrogate drooling Read more...
WOWW...THAT'S MORE THAN A TEA TOWEL
Mae Engelgeer, you have made me covet a tea towel. Or two, or three. The Dutch textile designer has created the Woww, Fest and Bow collections of graphic fabrics, developed in small quantities at the Textile Museum Read more...
IDEAS FOR PASTEL HOME ACCENTS
It's been impossible not to notice that pastels are making a huge splash in everything from fashion to home decor this spring. The sorbet shades go far in brightening up a room and most Read more...
BUILDING THE PERFECT BREAKFAST BAR
We all love the idea of a big, spacious eat-in kitchen, but I don't think I'm alone in getting equally excited about a well-designed breakfast bar - and if you're really lucky with space you can have both! Read more...
ERDEM'S SPRING STUNNER
Just when I thought I was leaning toward more minimal designs in fashion (because my interior/decor tastes are definitely less fussy these days), I get a blast of sunshine Read more...
CHANEL FILM: BICOLOR, THE MAKING OF THE CARDIGAN
Leave it to Chanel to turn the making of a cardigan into something magical. From choosing the colour of the finest cashmere threads to the finishing of the piece with those intertwined C buttons Read more...
There must be something in the air; for the past several years there's been a steady stream of pregnancy announcements from friends and family, amongst a sustained media obsession with celeb mums-to-be and how they style their bumps. It wasn't all that long ago that being 'with child' was a time to get through the best you could, fashion-wise. But it's a different world these days where the event is celebrated in a big way, with every detail and every need catered to. So now, not only do we not have to compromise on style, we may even be better dressed than before we got our bumps!
I remember my first shopping trip when I was just starting to show. In this particular shop I discovered all kinds of brands making great clothes exclusively for the expecting fashionista, and I couldn't tell the difference between most of them and 'regular' clothes; in fact, I'd passed by several times, admiring the outfits in the window without realising it was a maternity boutique! The design of the fashion is so clever; much of the first and second trimester sizes can be worn after the baby arrives which helps justify buying a few more pieces or one or two 'special' things. I splashed out on a slate blue cashmere halter top with silk straps and I can tell you exactly which drawer it's in, eight years on and in a different country from where I gave birth!
Bon Prix has some great maternity coats in styles that fit right alongside what's already in your wardrobe. The short trench (right) is smart and adorable and is designed so the belt sits higher to accommodate your bump, and afterward the bottom of the coat will simply lie flat. The black wrap nightgown is another item I'd wear for the duration and beyond and feel quite cute flitting about in the house, and those jeans are fantastic - there's no need for a giant elastic waistband, we're women, not Homer Simpson! Ok, so maternity pants are probably not going to last beyond the bump, but keep them around - they may still come in handy for a few months after your baby arrives (I looked pregnant for about six weeks after and we would joke that a twin just needed a bit more time) and if you like to indulge in the all-you-can-eat buffet once in a while you'll be especially glad for them. (I joke, but hey, you never know!)
Finish your outfit with a great piece of jewellery or a scarf - accessories are a fantastic way to feel stylish and keep up with fashion when you're not feeling particularly modelesque. And a gorgeous bag will go a long way, but you already knew that!
NW3 Japanese Ikat Print Dress from ASOS, my Esquivel perforated saddle brogues and Chan Luu necklace. Dress c/o ShopStyle
I'm such a dress girl because they're just so easy to wear and they look great, but I'm very particular about what gets a place in my wardrobe. First, the dress can't be too short, and these days that's actually a tall order! Knee-length is never a trend, is it? It doesn't make for an exciting runway collection or coveted editorial; there's no story in it. But many of us feel more comfortable with a few extra inches on the hem so we don't have to worry about showing too much, especially when sitting down, and we need a bit of insurance against the wicked wind which has no mercy for short, floaty styles. I also tend to stay away from black because it does nothing for my complexion, and I love how colour and print lift your spirits (it has that effect on those around you, too!). Versatility is also very important as the seasons here in England are, well, kind of non-existent, so anything too heavy or too light will not get much wear.
I found my dress at Shopstyle which is a search engine site that allows you to search over one million fashion and home items from the web - really! It's very useful for finding something specific, such as a particular style (ie. maxi dress, cropped pants) and you can search for your favourite brands and colours in your size and price range which helps narrow the options down to a still generous yet digestible offering. I searched a few different ways: first I looked at day dresses in my size and favourite colours, then maxis, then florals, then Cacharel who is a favourite brand, and I almost went with a gorgeous white and bold print silk dress with contrasting ribbon tabs that wrapped around the torso and hip (it was less fussy than it sounds, it's French after all). It was 70% off which put it right into my price range. But silk isn't good for daily dressing, especially for someone who likes to wear their lunch as well as eat it, nor was the style and colour and I was looking for a dress I could wear a lot. So I returned to my search, still hopeful, and found this NW3 Japanese Ikat Print Dress from ASOS which I immediately loved. I liked the textural print, and despite being dark, navy does actually look good on me, and the sleeve was perfect as in it was not too short, and exists in the first place! The details were great; I've been a fan of the exposed back zip ever since they first appeared and it was nicely finished with navy trim on the sleeve, neckline and split hem which wasn't too high. The final consideration: was it too short? ASOS gives the height of the model - a hugely helpful detail! - so you can get an idea of where a dress will fall on you. She's two inches taller than me so I was hoping that meant I'd get a bit of extra length, and I did; I still have my modesty intact. The dress is brilliant. It's super comfy, and although it's made of a light, silky material, the textural print makes it look more substantial and it can be worn with tights in cooler weather.
In terms of styling the dress for spring, it looks great done simply with the white sandal that echoes the print of the dress. But the neck is cut quite high in the front so to offset that slightly, a long and delicate chain necklace that is just barely noticeable does the trick. As this dress can be worn both casually and dressed up, I like to pair it with my pink saddle brogue Esquivels to add a pop of colour without competing with the dress. My navy leather biker jacket works well as does a simple mac which is also important, you don't want to be all ready to go out the door when you realise none of your outerwear work with your lovely new outfit!
I'd recommend Shopstyle for finding a specific item, or just to browse to see what's out there that you may not otherwise come across - I found all kinds of great shops I had no idea exsisted alongside the big ones - and you're also likely to find many items on sale. And be sure to search for your specific size and you'll avoid the disappointment of finding a greatManage accounts piece that is available in every size but yours!
Stylight is a dynamic online fashion community and shopping search engine that I've just had a go at playing around with after being invited to review the site. Fashion lovers have been connecting and sharing their new finds for four years in Germany, and just recently Stylight has launched in the UK. It's like window shopping with the bonus that you can engage with the items by 'hearting' and saving them to your fashion board as inspiration for yourself and other members. Your boards can be further customised with photos and text, and you can enhance your theme by adding a video or song - just put in the title or artist and Stylight will locate it for you. And if you find something that you absolutely must have beyond lusting for it on your monitor or phone screen, you can buy it from its originating shop.
Let me take you through it from the beginning so you can see how it works:
Go to www.stylight.co.uk (or www.stylight.com if you're elsewhere, you can select your country from the homepage). You can browse the site and check out member boards, shop from the Women and Men fashion categories - there are over 111,000 women's items to choose from! - or have a look through the Stylight magazine which has a good variety of current fashion stories, How Tos and interviews.
When you want to begin interacting, you'll need to register. It's a very simple and quick process, even if you use your email rather than Facebook to login. The Join button is at the top right of the menu on any page, or you can find it at the bottom of the homepage.
From here you can continue to browse the site for something that catches your eye - it may be a photo of a member showing off their unique personal style, a quote you like from their board, or a dress from the shop. Or, you can go straight into creating your own board using the big 'ADD' button that appears in the top menu once you've logged in.
I've created a board called 'Orla Daydreaming' (below) based on my love of Orla Kiely. There are lots of Orla pieces in the shop so I chose my favourite bags and dresses and added them to my board, along with a photo I took at Orla Kiely's SS12 presentation at London Fashion Week (it's important that any photos you upload to your board from your computer are your own). This adorable model was my favourite, all smiles of the genuine kind which is so rare! She really brought out the sunshine in the clothes and that inspired my quote. I finished off the board with a fittingly light and cheery song, Stereo Total's I Love You, Ono (apologies if it sticks in your brain, it'll do that!).
Once you're a member you can follow other members by hearting their boards, and their latest activity will show up in your feed. It's a great way to explore style options similar to your own, as well as expand your horizons by seeing how different styles look on other members which may work for you, too!
All in all, I like how the site flows - the layout is clean, the features are easy to navigate, and there's a lot to keep you engaged without being bombarded by visuals. In fact, you didn't really need my instructions, it's so simple there's not really anything to figure out! Have a go playing around, have some fun with the fashion, and if you've got some great style of your own share it with the Stylight community!
The history, the culture and the fashion, not to mention the
instantly recognisable sights; it’s hard not to think about London without getting
a little bit romantic about it. From the Victorian London of Dickens to the
Swinging London of the sixties, the city has seen it all and yet never fails to
Yet, as big as the sights are, and as fantastic as the
museums and the galleries are, it’s the small delights that make it for me. The
city is brimming with hidden gems channelling the various eras it has
witnessed. London’s past is never far away so it’s no surprise that some call
it the vintage capital of the world. Vintage cafés and retro boutiques adorn
most corners of the city, filling in the gaps between established flagship
stores and long-standing culinary institutions; both of which make the most
perfect way to take a moment to soak up London’s vintage side.
Style-wise, London has seen it all and been at the centre of
it all: flappers, mods, the austere chic of the forties, fifties pin-up, cool
Britannia in the nineties to name just a handful. Needless to say it doesn’t
Photo credit: HoV, Telegraph
Flagship must: Established in 1879, Oxford Street’s House of
Fraser has been there since Queen Victoria ruled the throne. Now a British
staple, the Oxford Street store houses exclusive collaborations and myriad concessions
such as Links of London and the re-launched iconic brand Biba.
Hidden gem: Vintage shops of all sizes and descriptions can
be found all across London, but for a more curated offering head to House of
Vintage. Found just
off Brick Lane, their collection ranges from the 20s to the 80s with
top-quality vintage pieces from YSL, Givenchy and Burberry amongst others.
Top tip: Eschew the tacky souvenir shops in favour of a more
Photo credit: Natalie Clince
just a London tradition, but quintessentially English, afternoon tea has been a
ritual since the 1840s. Originating from the need to bridge the gap between
breakfast and dinner back when two meals was the norm, it is the perfect way to
take some time out mid-afternoon. Afternoon tea isn’t just about tea of course
– expect freshly baked scones with clotted cream, delicate finger sandwiches and scrumptious cakes. For the
more extravagant, many places have the option of an accompanying glass of prosecco
Flagship must: The Athenaeum Hotel in Mayfair has won awards
for its afternoon tea, including the prestigious Tea Guild Award which is the
equivalent of an ‘Oscar’ for tea!
Hidden gem: The Soho Secret Tearoom is indeed quite hidden.
Occupying the space above a pub, this is a truly vintage experience with music
provided by a gramophone and delicate chinaware.
Top tip: A full afternoon tea is serious business and it’s
usually required that you book in advance.
A stroll in the park
Photo credit: Natalie Clince
Flagship must: Hyde Park is probably London’s most famous
park for a reason. Open to the public since 1637 and spanning three-hundred and
fifty acres, it has monuments, a lake, an ornamental garden and all kinds of
activities from horse riding to swimming. Surely the greatest form of
entertainment here though is soaking up the atmosphere and indulging in some
Hidden gem: Tucked away amongst the Georgian terraces of
Greenwich, Greenwich Park Orchard is certainly a hidden treasure. Bearded keystone
figures hug the surrounding walls of a park rich with wildlife and features
that date back to the 18th century.
Top tip: Hyde Park and many others often host events, both
big and small, so it’s always worth checking if anything is going on.
It's been impossible not to notice that pastels are the big colour story for spring. This is good news if you love ice cream shades and are a fan of mint green, one of my most favourite colours, which doesn't show up much outside of this particular cyclical trend. I'm especially eating up the pastel jeans which are available not only in a couple shades of blue, pink, green and yellow, but the whole spectrum of pales to brights and every tint in between including peaches, aquas (my other love) and lilacs. And as far as colour trends go, pastels are far more wearable and enduring than the neons (unless you are needing to be visible on the streets at midnight).
The jeans I picked out, above, are from New Look, in a super-skinny style which come with a good amount of stretch and can take the place of a legging if you're looking for the comfort and the streamlined look, but want to appear a little more 'dressed'. (And unlike leggings, it's not considered indecent if you wear a hip-length top with them!)
My favourite topper for these colour-saturated skinny jeans is a blazer in an equally cheery dessert shade, like this pale pink waterfall lapel style (right), also from New Look, which balances and complements the harder look of the denim skinnies with its soft cuts and colouring. It works equally well with tailored trousers or shorts, paired with a high heeled court shoe or flats. The great thing about the blazer is it's a piece that will hold its appeal through the years. I've got a fitted blazer that I bought about 13 years ago, and I never got rid of it because the colour is a gorgeous blush pink that never feels dated and works with just about anything, and almost any blazer style can be relevant again if you just wait a bit, this one included. If the lapel is a bit wide or skinny for current trends, that's when a gorgeous silk or cotton scarf comes in handy! Blazers and jackets are the wardrobe category that should be thrown out last - buy wisely and style creatively, and you will always be able to work the pieces into your seasonal rotation.
To complete the outfit, I picked out a few more pieces that will maximise the pastel look. The beauty of these pieces is that they not only look gorgeous together, but they can add a sweet pop of colour when worn with creams, beiges, greys, navy and even blacks - mint and lilac-pinks work especially well against navy - and mixing it up with neutral tones and darks will help you avoid looking like a walking candy store. Not that there's anything wrong with that!
Clockwise from top left, all from New Look: Blue metal trim bow pumps; Pieces Gisella pastel green printed snood; Vero Moda mint green patent wristlet; Tokyo Doll green ruffle neck blouse; gold pretty bird stud earrings, and soft pink sports watch.
I must have had clutter solutions on my mind when I chose the theme for my most recent product Ideabook for Houzz.com: Fabulously Decorate Storage. Before we left England for the holidays in Canada, I spent many hours getting the house ready for a friend's parents who were going to be staying there while we were away, and I became painfully aware of just how much clutter we'd accumulated. We couldn't deal with all of it in time so we hid it, hoping that they wouldn't open the tallboy sideboard in dining room, or the bombe sideboard in the living room, or any of the bottom three drawers in the kitchen... I haven't had a report of an appliance manual/children's drawings/miscellaneous plastic things avalanche enveloping them, so I assume they resisted the urge to see what's in there. Most of it is paper that we have to sit down and sort out - fun! - and a lot of it can be shredded or recycled. But there are so many things that, despite their apparent uselessness, have to stick around for a while longer. The good news is there are ways to deal with them that don't have to involve ugly plastic storage bins. Or lots of yelling (just me?)
The 20 products I chose for this Ideabook are storage solutions that will actually enhance your decor while helping hide a little, or a lot, of clutter. From small, shimmery bowls that will obscure those annoying little bits that can't seem find a home, to a filing cabinet that will instantly make your home office a happy place - yes, even a metal one! - there is hope for us clutter magnets yet. The products above are some of my favourites from the Ideabook. Some are way beyond my budget but they plant ideas in our heads (hence the name of the book), while others are really affordable, such as the harlequin print Circus Sack from Danish designers Varpunen which I just love; I see a trio under my living room sidetable holding and hiding everything from magazines to DVDs to Wii controllers. (Here's a tip: don't keep anything in a room that doesn't belong there and you'll have much less clutter. Note to self: shipping materials do not belong under the couch.)
If all of this organisation talk has inspired you to start the year with less mess, you can get more helpful ideas from these articles:
It's getting closer and closer but I wanted to share some of my favourite products that are perfect for getting ourselves ready for festive events and also for gift-giving. Each are personal must-haves that I can recommend as products you can rely on to be of excellent quality and do what they promise. This is hugely important to us these days as no one wants to waste money - and time - on things that disappoint!
ghd hairdryer I'd given up on buying professional hairdryers after two purchases, a few years apart, turned out to be no better - and in the case of one, not even as good - as the cheap models I owned. I didn't see the point in spending four or five times the money unless the results were extraordinary (duh, a no-brainer obviously). My faith was unexpectedly restored when I tried the ghd air™ (£99) which promises to be "quicker and quieter with smoother and shinier results" due to its 2100W motor, body shape and advanced ionic technology. Let's focus on those words 'advanced ionic technology'. I've heard about this for a few years and paid no attention, I thought these were just the next beauty trend buzz words to get people to buy more products that they didn't need. ghd tells us this technology will "lock in moisture for softer, shinier results that last for longer, with far less frizzing". Is this even possible in a product made for drying? Well, when I first tried this model a few weeks ago my hair was in need of a cut - my back layers were starting to take on that awesome pom-pom look which is always the point of no return, and the ends also needed a good trim thanks to the dry heat in the house we can't get away from in winter. The first time I used the ghd air™ I noticed it was really quiet (I'd gotten used to my old one sounding like a jet taking off in my ear) and it felt nicely balanced and streamlined, a good weight without being too heavy. And yes, it was powerful and dried my long hair quickly. But what I couldn't believe was that when I was finished, my back layers were defined again and not hanging in a frizzy mass; it looked like I'd just had a haircut. Let me be clear: no one is lazier than me when it comes to blowdrying, I don't even use a brush while I'm doing it. I send that hair flying all over in a wild frenzy and then brush it out when it's all dry and hope for the best. My results were all down to this hairdryer and I'm still in disbelief at how well it works. I was able to put off my haircut for another three weeks and could have gone longer if I wasn't travelling to Toronto (that was my Christmas haircut). My hairdresser comes to me - mobile is so the way to go! - and I told her about my new magic dryer. She said she'd also been looking at it and asked if she could try it out on me. I said of course she could, other hairdryers are no longer allowed around my hair! She loved it and said she was going to ask for one for Christmas, and she also commented on the good condition of my hair before she'd cut it, she wasn't used to seeing it without the frizz. It's also great as a gift, presented in a very pretty, stud-embellished box. I can't recommend this hairdryer enough. It delivers what it promises.
Pure + simple Skin Restoration MaskandEye Brightening Cream As you know from my recent post gushing all over Pure + simple, I've been a huge fan of their holistic approach to skincare and wellness and have been using their natural, organic products for over a decade. I tried the Skin Restoration Mask ($16.45) a few weeks ago and when I saw that it left my skin incredibly soft and glowing and as smooth as glass, as if I'd done something far more extreme than applying a treatment, I realised how ideal it would be to put on before you go out on a special day or evening, as the first part of your makeup routine - you just don't want to waste that face at home! It is literally a mask, a gauzy piece you place over your face that's full of soothing rejuvenating ingredients. Give yourself at least 30 minutes to relax with it on so you get the full benefit (your eyes aren't covered so you can still see). For the eyes I love Pure + simple's Eye Brightening Cream. It's lightweight and has a firming and toning effect which is essential for me as I'm prone to allergies which make your eyelids feel 'loose' - not a good look. It includes a peptide complex that also helps to improve lymphatic circulation and elasticity to reduce under eye bags and puffiness (which I used to call My Morning Look). And dark circles are minimized by a flavone extract from the blue passion flower. Ultimately, I love the way it feels when I first put it on, like a breath of fresh air for your eyes. As always, the Pure + simple products deliver more than you had even hoped.
Zalando.co.uk During the holidays we're expected to dress up a few times, but I'm realistic and I always go for equal measures of looks and comfort. I know I'll be eating, so anything too restrictive around the waist is out, and I like a bit of stretch. But I still like nice details. Thanks to Zalando's wide range of clothing (massive, really) you can find any dress you need or want at any price point, and I found mine in this Private School jumper dress (£85). It's a stretchy knit (comfort!) that is easy through the waist (food!) and the intarsia collar and placket create a neat trompe l'oeil effect (detail!). It fits on the small side so you have to order up a size, but the quality is fantastic - the intarsia was perfectly knitted - and the shape is very flattering on the body. The black is nice and saturated, and the 'trim' is simple enough that you can play around with textured tights or go straight school girl with basic opaques. If weather permits, it looks fantastic with a simple black court shoe (or a bright if you're more daring), but if it's icy out and a heel means you'll wind up on your back on the pavement, this dress will also look great with a knee high wedge boot. (And don't most people want you taking your shoes off at the door anyway? I once had trouble getting a party guest who arrived with a friend of mine to take off her high heeled boots after coming in with slush all over them, she didn't want anyone to know how short she was. We already knew. When I pressed it she hopped up on the kitchen counter and stayed there most of the night.) And as for accessories? Styling can be fun, but I love it when the outfit is enough and a simple pair of earrings is all you need to finish the look. This is that dress.
Shapewear.co.uk Ok, this is a bit weird because I am showing you my underwear, though that's not me in them (but you can think that if you want to). On the left is the greatest underwear ever, called Edgies (£9.99) due to their breathable Wonderful Edge® silicone finish at the legs that keeps them in place, and it really does, without any rubbing or irritation. In other words, you won't be dying to get them off at the end of the day. They're made of a microfibre that is so fine it's like wearing nothing, so they're invisible and totally comfortable. I go with the boy short style but they also come in other styles. In the middle is the Body Wrap Boy Short (£19.95) which is also invisible, seamless, light and comfortable. I go for these when I'm wearing a dress for a bit more smoothness through the hip. They come in a range of fashion colours and I love the Diva Dot in beige. Lastly, because I have a drawer full of bodyshapers that I just hate because they have weird seams that show through clothes in unfortunate places, and are not at all comfortable to wear (rhymes with 'Spranx'), I tried something different to wear under jersey dresses that hide no secrets. The Full Smoothing Bodyslip (£32.95) is by the same people that make the Edgies, so it's seamless and the hem doesn't ride up. And you don't need to wear a bra with it, it's got molded cups with adjustable straps and it does the trick for me (still feeling weird about telling you this). It's only a '1' for control (the lowest level) but it definitely holds you in. And there it is! If you're frustrated with your shapewear or even just your every day wear (Edgies are awesome for jeans and working out) I highly recommend giving these a try. And they're not expensive either. Win-win!
Everyone loves and covets cashmere, but we tend to think of it in terms of classic styling. While every wardrobe needs a good, basic cardigan or jumper in that softest of textiles, it doesn't have to be relegated to being just that 'old standby' piece you'd never part with but don't often wear. There are endless ways to make your old cashmere exciting again, and incorporate new cashmere into your daily seasonal outfits while keeping on trend, thus creating your own collection of special future classics.
The crew neck cashmere jumper is a luxe basic that never goes out of style, and it will always look smart worn over a crisp oxford shirt in classic white or contrasting shades for a pop of colour. Spring 2013 is all about the collar and we're going to be spoilt for choice when it comes to shirt options or embellished stand-alone collars we simply tie or snap around our necks (which means we get the cashmere right against our skin!). If your jumper isn't a shade that works today, or the shape isn't particularly flattering to your figure (we've all gone awry with the boxy styles at one time or another), update it by choosing can't-go-wrong black, navy, or baby blue, or hot pink or coral, in a fitted shape. (I have cashmere in a bright coral and baby yellow from about 10 years ago and both still look fresh, current and lovely! But a beige one feels a bit anemic for my liking these days.) For more styling ideas, Pure Collection offers some fashion forward ways to incorporate all kinds of cashmere pieces into your outfit through their Lookbook. And as for those old boxy jumpers that are so soft and cuddly yet do nothing for your shape, you can give them a new life with a little bit of DIY creativity. Ask your friends if they've got any cashmere they're not wearing, and if at least one of you is handy with a sewing machine, you can cut them all up and make new patchwork jumpers and cardies that you'll be excited to wear. Make the most of them by adding vintage decorative buttons and bits of trim to make them truly unique. (And in the end you've each got a timeless keepsake from each other!)
Luxe layering is a great way to wear your cashmere, especially in autumn in lieu of a coat or in harsh winter for extra warmth without sacrficing style, and it's another look that is always current if you wear the right pieces in the right way. You can go eclectic by mixing colours and prints, but be sure to choose carefully and include a least one solid to avoid looking like a random pile of fabric! You can't go wrong with black and shades of grey which may seem safe, but it has that reputation because it's the easiest way to look polished and pulled together. When putting together the layered look, use lighter weight layers underneath and add the heavier ones last so you appear proportioned, and if you get hot you're able to shed one or two pieces and cool down. If you're a hat person (if you're shaking your head 'no', I'll bet you just haven't given them a chance or are yet to find the right one for you), a smart fedora can take your outfit from comfy boho straight to fashionista if you've got the confidence to go for it. Take a good look in a full-length mirror, then choose your footwear. Don't immediately go for your favourite shoes or boots, but try on different styles to see what balances your outfit (something lighter may keep you from looking to wrapped up and heavy) and is appropriate for the weather and the occasion. (I'll never sacrifice comfort over style, especially if it means I'll avoid freezing or becoming crippled an hour into my day. But there are ways to do this, we do have options that aren't torturous!)
Cashmere can also be incorporated into your look as accents, such as sleeves contrasting a silk bodice, or a cashmere felted flower brooch, for example. And of course there's the perenial classic, the pashmina. There are endless clever ways to style a scarf and a simple tutorial online or from someone in the know can instantly make an old but good piece exciting and new again. There's nothing lovelier than having cashmere against your skin, and people do respond well to someone who looks cozy yet well styled, don't they? I know I do. Have fun with your cashmere!
Pure + simple's Kristen Ma explains why natural skincare is important for our health as well as beauty
Ten years ago, I walked into a beauty shop and spa next door to my office building at Yonge & Eglinton in Toronto. I'd worked next to Pure + simple for quite a while, but until that day had hesitated to venture in. The name suggested natural skincare, and I'd come to mistrust those who claimed to sell natural skincare products because I knew that a hugely popular, global company that based their entire philosophy on the concept were not as they appeared, and there had been an exposé on some smaller producers of 'natural' products mostly sold in health stores, which made me believe there was really no such genuine thing being sold commercially. (At this time I had no reference for Pure + simple, unaware of their stellar reputation in the city and many awards. I was still kind of new in town.)
Do the Opposite
I finally walked through their door when I'd had enough of being greeted by the oil slick on my face in the washroom mirror at work. I'd never had oily skin before and didn't know what was going on. I bought blotting papers but they were a temporary measure. (One day my male director appeared around the corner of my cubicle and found me with one stuck to my forehead and each cheek, I'd just left them on for some reason. I said "Um, I've got a bit of an oil problem." Better to be honest because it certainly warranted an explanation, he thought I'd decorated my face with Post-its.) So I found myself standing in Pure + simple when a young woman, with skin so clear and fresh it reminded me of what skin is actually meant to look like, approached. I told her about my problem and she explained that my skin was dehydrated and was compensating by producing more oil, and that I needed a heavier moisturiser to rehydrate and balance it. The last thing I wanted to put on my visibly oily skin was cream, especially a heavy one, but nothing I was doing was helping so I thought that sounded crazy enough to work. (Ever since that Seinfeld episode I've believed there was something to the notion of doing the opposite of what you'd normally do if life isn't going so well - and I'm happily married because of it. I can't believe I have George Costanza to thank for that.) I bought the moisturiser she recommended and was really impressed that she was so confident about the principle behind what she was telling me, yet she was not at all pushy about it. I put it on that night and again in the morning. I remember the next day my face was hardly shiny at all and I couldn't believe how quickly it turned around, and the oil never returned. Needless to say, I went back. I wanted to know more.
Kristen Ma and Ayurveda
That vibrant young woman with the enviable complexion was Kristen Ma, co-owner of Pure + simple Inc., along with her mother Jean Eng. They created their first product range after finding nothing suitable on the market to address their skincare needs. I found out that there is a specific ideology behind their holistic spas that I wasn't familiar with - both are Ayurveda practitioners in addition to being highly skilled estheticians, and approach the attainment of beauty through health. Kristen explains it for us in her first book Beauty: Pure + Simple - a must-read for anyone frustrated with their skin despite having tried everything, or just not feeling generally well (the two go hand-in-hand). Ayurveda guides us to live in harmony and beauty, according to our individual constitutions, known as doshas, and our environment. Unlike western medicine which focuses on alleviating symptoms and conditions with drugs and surgery, Ayurveda searches for the root cause and treats ailments from this perspective. It specifically considers the characteristics of the individual, while understanding that our mind, body and environment are always changing. Makes good sense, eh? I've been on the other side of the Atlantic for the past seven years but I always come back to Pure + simple when I visit Toronto - they do the most heavenly facials which are second to none, I've got one booked just before Christmas - and their products and advice always straighten me out.
Although I've been a Pure + simple devotee for over a decade, somehow the only products I'd tried from their proprietary line were their organic hydrosols which I just love - I alternate between rose and lavender, the latter also being great for oily scalps and refreshing what I call 'plane face' after a long flight. All of my skin and body products had come from their shops but from other high quality natural and organic lines they carried. Well, recently I found out what I was missing and was also introduced to products from the new specialised Holistic Vanity lines for Damage Care and Rosacea Care, Kristen's brainchild. All are made locally in Toronto using undiluted and concentrated, organic, therapeutic ingredients harvested seasonally and are free from ALL of the harmful ingredients commonly found in commercial beauty products (you can see a list of the undesirables at the bottom of this page).
So what do I think? I love the completeness of the Damage Care line which offers a treatment for each sin you've put your skin through at one time or another resulting in cellular injury. I'm guilty of causing some: sun damage (when I was a teen they still sold suntan oil with no SPF!) which leaves you with hyperpigmentation that becomes more pronounced as you age, and the thing we all do even though we know we shouldn't - picking. Those little scars your mother warned you you'd cause if you didn't leave your spots alone but you'd escape to the bathroom to willingly annihilate your face in private? Got some. Add the effects of pollution, stress and free radical damage and pretty much anyone will have a skin issue that needs addressing.
These products gently yet effectively help improve specific damage symptoms:
Rejuvenating Rosewater Cleanser
- It all starts with proper cleansing. This milk formulation hydrates
depleted skin as it removes damaging surface impurities. My skin looks
so fresh afterward as it contains absolutely no stripping agents to
cleanse the skin.
Repairing Rosehip Skin Tonic - This tonic smells heavenly, thanks to water extracted from the
rosehip fruit. Rosehip has been found to be excellent in treating pigmentation and is
one of the only natural, non-bleaching ingredients to do this
effectively. It's a treat to put on your face.
Edit: I clued in this morning that I didn't give the Rosehip tonic enough credit! I use it twice a day after cleansing and the lightning fast, almost complete removal of the hyperpgimentation on the sides of my face is probably due more to the tonic than the lotion below. The lotion surely does the job, too, but I use different moisturising products from this list on different days, and the tonic is consistently applied twice a day so I think I owe it the credit for this small miracle of a transformation. Use it with the brightening lotion below and you'll be rid of that 'dirty face' look in days. Seriously. It's been three weeks for me and there's hardly anything there.
Brightening Hyaluronic Lotion - Something about the combination of seaweed extracts and the 15 percent hyaluronic acid - one of the best actives for increasing skin hydration and encouraging cellular repair - makes this hyperpigmentation fighting lotion work. I'd only used it a few times and wasn't even looking for any improvement as it was so early, when I noticed that the 'sandy' look on the sides of my face was reduced, looking a lot less blotchy and now barely noticeable. Amazing. And it achieves this without bleach. (Why would you put bleach on your face?!)
Regenerating Seabuckthorn Berry Oil - This is the healing one, helping to repair skin marks, weak tissue immunity and scarring. Loaded with nutrients, it's
great for undernourished skin types and it also provides topical protection as a shielding barrier for
damaged complexions. I still get a little surprised when I pump it and see its bright crimson colour from the Seabuckthorn Berry oil. But don't worry, the addition of evening primrose oil prevents it from staining your skin. I feel like I'm giving my skin a hug when I put on this soothing oil.
Restorative Raw Argan Oil - When my skin is angry (those hormonal times so enjoyed by my loved ones) I turn to this oil that repairs broken out, sun damaged, and inflamed complexions and helps to restore balance and increase tissue health. Made with raw argan, this oil is crafted with care by the artisans of an
all-female co-operative in western Morocco. Its entire
extraction process is done completely by hand and sustainably, employing
a zero-waste approach.
And I have one product from their excellent Rosacea Care line which is the Comforting Camellia Oil. I don't have rosacea but my skin can go red and blotchy for some reason at times, so I'm glad I have this on hand. It contains skin comforting Camellia (green tea oil) as well as the ancient
Ayurvedic anti-inflammatory Turmeric (also known as curcumin), and
permeates deeply to charge the skin with extra resilience.
Don't be afraid of using these oils on on your face - all Pure +
simple oil products are free of petrolatum and parabens and are
non-comedogenic, meaning they will not cause breakouts. I can attest to this!
We've had some face-stripping windy and bitter weather here by the sea recently, and if my skin isn't protected properly I come home looking looking like a fine leather glove left on the radiator to dry out (I know what this looks like because I stupidly did this once). So on those days I've been using Pure + simple's Nourishing Sunflower Cream with an oil on top of that, and not once have I come in from the cold resembling a wizzened leather good. And you can't forget the lips - their Organic Lip Oil in Lavender calms inflamed, sensitive lips (I use this when my lips are so weather beaten I could cry) while the Peppermint freshens and plumps as well as hydrates.
About the oils: Kristen recommends blotting your skin with a tissue if you look oily, but I've never needed to, it absorbs completely into my skin and you would never know I put oil on my face. I always rub the excess oil left on the palms of my hands onto the backs, and from just this tiny amount I have seen a major transformation in how old my hands look. (Has anyone else looked down only to be horrifed that your hands look 20 years older than your face?) I am now a total oil convert. As long as it's Pure + simple.
For more advice on how to find that healthy balance visit Kristen's blog Holistic Vanity, and see her fantastic YouTube channel for all kinds of insightful videos including collaborations with other Toronto experts on topics such as healthy digestion, anti-inflammatory diets and DIY all- natural styling and beauty products.
Pure + simple has three Toronto locations and one in Oakville, Ontario, and they offer their entire product range for sale through their online shop. And yes - they ship internationally!
If you're in London or going to be in December you'd be mad not to visit the first Lu Flux shop! Lu and her team will be making bespoke patchwork alphabet cushions in store alongside an array of womenswear, menswear and accessories. Lu is a huge Swelle favourite - her colourful, textural clothes are pure joy! For a peak see the Lu Flux website
('Faceted' would have sufficed but alliteration just sounds better)
I know what I want for Christmas. Forget diamonds, I'll take my facets in the form of water-based blue resin, please. (I wasn't going to get diamonds anyway but it's still a compliment.) I've been looking for decor pieces that are different from anything I have. My living room is in need of a minor transformation, and I like to buy things that aren't just space fillers but unique and beautiful and the kind of piece I won't be looking at in a year saying 'I am glad I am no longer the person who thought this was a good idea.' But these things of enduring significance tend not to come cheap, so it's a slow process building that collection. (If bookmarked web pages and blogs count as a collection, I'm already there!)
These Faceture vases, which I think are better without flowers - the way the light catches the facets is beautiful enough - are made by Phil Cuttance, a New Zealander who manipulates each object's form with a turn of the hand before casting, making every piece genuinely unique (you can see how he does this in the video above). Phil says:
“I like the idea of people knowing where products come from, and what
goes into making them. I think a lot of products are now seen as ‘throw –
away’ as they are made on a mass scale, in places far away from where
they end up, and out of sight. There was time when people commissioned a
local maker or craftsman to make an object, which gave it an inherent
value. I like that model.”
Yes, us too! The vessels and the rest of his Faceture series, which includes lamps and sidetables, are sold at Australian-basesd shop theminimalist.com.au, my new obsession. The lamp is just awesome, but I like the slender design of the vessels so much that, for me, the the sidetable's chunky approach can't compare. (It's still cool though!)
This small vase is a limited edition colour called Summer Mint. That totally has my name on it.
The vases in two sizes, lamp and side table. I want to touch them for a long time.
Are you a fan of 007? To commemorate the 50th anniversary of James Bond, the most dapper of British secret agents, my friends at Archie Grand in Sweden have sent two Secret Agents I Met and Liked notebooks for Swelle readers to win (although yours will be splat-free!)
If you're not already a fan of these wildly popular notebooks (they're a personal favourite of mine), here's a bit about them: They have a rigid, colourful cover; the blank white paper is high
quality stock - it's weighty with a lovely texture and a low emission
signature; and the books are tread sewn with a matte leathery lamination. Each has 140 blank white pages. And the size is a perfect 165 x 115 mm.
To enter to win one of the notebooks, please do the following:
Tell us in the comments: who is your favourite Bond?
The competition closes at midnight, GMT (London time) on Tuesday, November 6th. The winners will be chosen at random and announced the following day. Anyone, anywhere can enter. Good luck!
As the nights draw in and a significant slice of your down time is spent wrapped up on the sofa watching box-sets, lighting becomes crucial to create the right mood in your home. Here, a John Lewis guest blogger offers tips on three of the hottest table lamp trends for the cosy season.
Art Deco Decadence
The decadent Art Deco trend isn’t reserved for just clothing fashions this year. American TV hit Boardwalk Empire and the upcoming remake of The Great Gatsby have had the fashion press in a flutter over flapper dresses, stylish geometric shapes and a whole lot of gold and silver. And this look translates seamlessly to the home. Adding a Deco-inspired table lamp to your living room or bedroom is an easy way to inject a bit of glamour into your interior, so look for gold, chrome and mirrored pieces, complemented with subtle colours such as black and peach and curved shapes inspired by nature.
Fun and functional Mid-Century style shows no sign of losing its appeal; particularly as Scandinavian design is currently being credited with bringing ideas from the post-war era back to colourful life. As well as sleek Danish and Swedish accessories, Britain has its own rich history in the style, as proved when the Original BTC London desk lamp switched on interior-lovers in Fifties-set BBC drama The Hour. And there’s no denying the enduring appeal of British designer George Carwardine’s Anglepoise task lamp. A household must-have in the 1960s, the design comes in a variety of bright retro colour pops, and can still deliver on the tasks of function and style today.
If period décor isn’t your bag, and you’d rather create your own unique look by mixing and matching quirky pieces, there’s plenty to delight your statement-seeking eye this season. Choose from a variety of animal-inspired LED lamps, or play with materials by choosing a glass piece to expose the workings of your lamp and bringing the outside in with an untreated wood base. And perfect for that festive feel are this season’s mini tree lamps and house casings, helping to create a warm glow for all the family to enjoy.
So snuggle down with a fleecy throw, get comfy on your Fatboy and enjoy the atmosphere created by your new lighting.
All products featured available from John Lewis at the time of writing.
This is a sponsored post for which I received a John Lewis voucher, and I'm happy to include the article on The Swelle Life as Art Deco and Mid-century Modern design are one of my loves, and I know John Lewis to be a great source for interior decor items!
Few fashion houses have the long and
illustrious heritage of Lacoste. The French apparel company has been providing
smart and elegant designs across its ranges of clothes and accessories for the
better part of a century. It is a testament to the design house's emphasis on
classic lines and colours that its chic clothing has always been synonymous
with the height of style throughout its history.
As a brand, Lacoste is always in step with the prevailing trends of the time:
from its high end style to the comfort of its casual leisurewear. The Lacoste
identity has always embraced a pared down interpretation of contemporary style.
Understated designs in block colours of subtle hues have always been favoured
by the creative minds behind the name.
As autumn 2012 rapidly approaches, it is with some interest that those in the
know are taking note of the design company's new line of clothing and
accessories, Lacoste Live. Lacoste Live proves to be not so much a departure
from the name's brand identity as it is a development and natural progression
into contemporary styles. A new and vibrant colour palette allows the Lacoste
designs to come to life in a collection that emphasises exuberance, energy and
a youthful delight in everything fashionable.
The Lacoste Live range provides a full wardrobe of refined Lacoste creations
and accessories, all of which are conceived to appeal to the smart,
cosmopolitan and youthful customer demographic. From beanie hats to Bruton high
top trainers to the classic Lacoste Polo shirts Lacoste Live has taken its
inspiration from timeless college fashion and developed a new and defining
appearance for this autumn's newest range.
The new style of Lacoste Live embraces the eclectic and draws
inspiration from modern urban, classic Americana and European elegance in equal
measure. Introduced are printed hoodies and tee shirts to compliment and
contrast with the block hues of the Lacoste Polo Shirts. Striped
tracksuits and wide-brimmed baseball caps reference old school street fashion,
whilst the sweater dresses and the woollen crepe dress recapture the daring
feminine style of the 1960s.
Playfulness is on trend and Lacoste has taken inspiration from the thrift store
culture of bricolage and reinvention. Their clothing matches classic designs
with modern colours and toys with concepts of improvisational style. The
women's Rugby and Oxford shirt dresses invert traditional male apparel and
reintroduce them to the female wardrobe. The look may unmistakably be “items
reclaimed from the boyfriend's cupboard”, but the clothing itself retains the
classic Lacoste lines and finesse.
The concept of playfulness and improvisation runs throughout the collection and
it is obvious that Lacoste Live is designed to create complete ensembles of
items that remain bold and striking individually, but which fall together with
cohesion, and a contrast that is effortlessly complimentary.
Lacoste has identified that sophistication has become the hot look for the
style-conscious and urban hipster who is defining
current trends. Classic has become cool, and smart understatement is entering
mainstream fashion once again. The Lacoste Live identity is simple: “preppy is
now hip and edgy”. There is no other name that can match the French brand in
this area of their own expertise.
Food? Homewares? Textiles, fashion, and art? Yes please! If you're in the north east of England it will be well worth a visit to Made in Newcastle's Summer Market where you can indulge in up to 35 lively stalls offering a diverse range of handmade and locally designed products. What to do with the kids? Bring them along without regretting it! A kids' craft corner will have them getting creative with the folks of MiN to make something to take home with them, and a children’s book author will be stopping by to do some readings from her wonderful books. Win-win!
To give you an idea of the gorgeous things you’ll find, here's a sneak preview of the crafts people who will be selling at the event:
Stunning hand woven textiles from a Northumberland-based textile design graduate.
Funds generated from this market will go towards future MiN events to aid their long-term aspiration of having a permanent retail/gallery space, so come along for a tea or coffee and support local creative talent and business!
11th August, from 10am - 4pm in Trinity Centre, Gosforth High Street, Newcastle Upon Tyne. Visit Made in Newcastle's website and their blog to see more.
I've been wanting a bench for the back garden ever since we began to slowwwly build it two years ago. First, we put in a patio and bought a big (by UK standards, so not so big) barbecue with a table and chairs, then built a shed and playhouse. But it was all a bit barren, it needed some life. So this spring we finally tried our hand at gardening and planted some veg, fruit, herbs and flowers in a bed and in some pots and in some hanging baskets, all of it a bit random just to see what would grow well. So far, most of it is doing well while the peppers and tomatoes are keeping us guessing, and I never thought I would be so excited to see salad growing in a pot ('speedy' salad is living up to its name!), but there is something thrilling about being able to go into your garden and pull half your dinner out of the ground. Most of the fruit and veg plants were bought with vouchers given to me by Groupon, to apply to anything that struck my fancy and then share my shopping experience with you. New deals come up daily with many befitting the season, so there was a lot of choice in the way of gardening, from potted plants to mini greenhouses to bird feeders for making your space more lively. And then there was a deal on garden furniture and that was a no-brainer, we would finally have our bench!
There was a choice of two styles, one of wood and iron, and the other all wood. I decided to go for the all-wood at £49 (a 62% savings off the RRP). Like the plants, it was supplied by the online retailer within the time specified and arrived in good form. I couldn't wait to pull it out of the box and paint it, but the skies had other plans and it would be weeks before I could complete it, put it together and take a few shots through a dry lens. It came in a few pieces, so little by little I worked at it, and then last Thursday as you may have heard, there came the flood. Some parts of the bench were inside, others were at the side of the house, and as I watched transfixed on our lawn which within minutes turned into a lake, thinking that the relentless rain and winds would surely kill everything we'd planted (a month's rainfall in two hours!), it never even occurred to me that those painted pieces hiding around the corner might be destroyed. Luckily they weren't, but they sure needed a touch up. When it was clear we wouldn't be needing to build an ark and gather up the animals in pairs, I put the bench together which was easy-peasy, and set it against the fence with my mint green watering can to keep it from looking lonely.
As for the painting, I used the stains I'd bought to do our shed and playhouse (yes, it's a very pastel-y garden) which are Cuprinol Garden Shades, in Beaumont Blue (the darker, slate blue), Coastal Blue and Sweetpea, which is the pale pink I used on the front and back pieces of the seat. Originally, I'd tried to stripe the back rest, but it was a lot harder than I'd thought to get it looking neat, even with a small brush, so I painted over all of it with the Beaumont Blue and I think it looked better for it. It's amazing what a little colour can do!
Prints are back this summer; in fact they've become a catwalk collection staple. Not only are we embracing the classic animal/tribal print but we also love floral print, bold prints and bird prints. With a broad choice in motifs and colours, it's up to you how far you take the trend. Go for this look in various accessories, or as a key piece in a pair of trousers, jeans (I love printed skinny jeans) or a top, or wear the whole look in a dress.
Printed jeans and trousers are hot right now. There is a massive choice available including ranges by Current Elliot, J Brand, Paige and Citizens of Humanity. From Grey Leopard Skinny Jeans to Mini Floral Crop Heaven, Skinny Cherry Print to Multi Arrow or Blue Leaf Meadow, whatever your mood, there are jeans that will match it. If you want to be smarter than denim, try Goldsign Vivien Flare jeans in Regal. These are silk palazzo pants in an eye-catching paisley print and they look stunning teamed with a gold or bold blue silk top. The look is so simple yet elegant.
If you want to go full-on prints in a dress, take a look at Stella McCartney’s bold Hawaiian print denim shift dress. This beautiful dress is a classic fit with a modern print and a Japanese cut. The dress can easily be dressed up or down with the right shoes and accessories so that it will work on holiday, at a party, at work or at a wedding. A key piece that will see you through many a summer event!
Printed tops are a more understated way to display the print trend. Worn well over this season’s other key trend, the pastel and bold coloured jeans, print tops and blouses are a brilliant summer look. Anna Sui has some stunning tunic tops and Tucker offer gorgeous floral and butterfly blouses. L’Agence have some beautiful geo print and scarf print blouses that work perfectly teamed with some smart office trousers, and they are elegant enough to wear after work for a refreshing summer drink!
For some reason, I would often see women in the office following men in wearing plain boring suits with dark black, grey and blue colours matched with a white shirt or blouse and some dull brown shoes. Why?! We don’t need to follow the guys in their office fashion; I believe we should start putting a little bit more colour and style in our choice of wardrobe. There are so many different women’s work outfits available out there and there just as many styles to suit all industries.
You can accessorise, glamorise, and also bring a chic look to the office. We know that hemlines are on the rise this season, and having something cut just above the knee, though as much as it is daring, it is still absolutely appropriate if you wear tights underneath. There's no need to stay in the dark ages and it's about time we take our work fashion more seriously.
As we are approaching summer, it's time to think about lightening our wardrobe and taking in some of the fantastic colours available to us this year. It is important to get some light and airy summer dresses as you do not want to be feeling hot and sweaty at work (unpleasant for you as well as your coworkers!). Reports are claiming that it is going to be an absolute scorcher this year (please, please let this be true), so the invitations to barbeques will flood in and there will often be the temptation to go out straight after work. So make sure that your wardrobe is adjustable to both in-work style and off-work style.
Also ‘romance’ is back in fashion this year, so celebrate by treating yourself to one of the many flowing maxi dresses on offer. These full-length designs can make you look effortlessly elegant. Dresses made of light materials and touched with colourful patterns are perfect for the summer.
And if you don’t have time to hit the shops because of a busy work schedule, then have a browse online. There are some fantastic bargains to be had. There is one good thing about a global recession, friends: cheaper clothes!
With the opening of their first store near Nothing Hill this February, Max Studio, a U.S. clothing label, brings their unique style across the Atlantic. Founded by Leon Max in 1979, Max Studio, a California-based company, has been designing for nearly three decades, smart, feminine designs for the modern shopper looking to renew their wardrobe. The new U.K. store will feature a wide range of casual MaxStudio.com line, as well as the limited edition Leon Max Collection.
A single look at the Max Studio's 2012 Spring collection, and it's obvious that pure fabric is our friend. Whether it is a shoulder-drape, crinkled silk chiffon maxi dress in russet orange, or an iridescent chiffon side-drape dress in watercolour tones, get ready to let out your inner Greek deity. Sheer layers flow delicately down these romantic designs, some featuring an open back. The tops and shirts, too, follow the female shape with fine lace material that drapes naturally.
For a cutting edge look, Max Studio offers a wide range of fitted blouses in cotton as well as in jersey; several fitted black cocktail dresses can also be found – with a range of accessories from simple lace to bands for a unique, stylish appearance. In trousers, you'll find skinny jeans as well as wide-leg, which pair perfectly with an asymmetrical top or jersey tunic.
You can very well go from refined casual to cutting-edge fashionista, or walk a fine line between the two, with this Spring 2012 collection. With designs as unanimously seductive as Max Studio's, one can only wonder where the next store will pop up!
In these days of austerity, or what I like to call "make your own fun times", we're heavily relying on discounts to maintain our lifestyle. I've never been particularly extravagant when it comes to spending on entertainment, but it's nice to get out for a lunch or dinner once in a while that doesn't end in pangs of guilt, yet hasn't been ordered from a 'value menu'.
I was already aware of dealcollector.co.uk, but it wasn't until I was asked to review the site that I learned of the wide range of deeply discounted offers that are available in our local areas and abroad. Goods and getaways include cruises to cupcakes to fine French dining, and the site will automatically detect where you're located and deliver the relevant offers.
What I love about dealcollector.co.uk is that it consolidates all of the best online deals into one site - hence the name! - including the ever-popular Groupon and the exclusive members' lifestyle club Keynoir, which handpicks indulgent experiences in London. All Keynoir adventures are first tried and tested, and the list reads like a girls' dream weekend, a mix of fun and culture. Current experiences include The Kings Speech Play at Wyndhams Theatre followed by an exclusive Q&A with the cast, and a VIP hair makeover at top London salon Lisa Shepherd, including wine and lunch.
If you're planning a getaway, consult the site for local deals before you go and make the most of your stay while keeping on budget. Visiting East Anglia? At the moment you'll find luxury accommodations in a 17th century English manor house and spa at Groupon Cambridge at 74% off, and that includes a three-course dinner, welcome bottle of chardonnay and breakfast. That's reason enough to visit! (Seriously, the planning for our next family holiday will start with this site - a grand country estate weekend is no longer an elusive fantasy!)
For our friends in Northern Ireland, Deals Belfast has all kinds of deeply discounted offers including an on-location photography workshop, six-bottle case of wine, and magnolia saplings! The deals seem so random which makes it fun to browse.
And I can't neglect to mention the funny and goofy deal descriptions on Groupon, some cheeky copywriter is working hard to make us smile - and it's working.
You may have noticed the widget in the first sidebar that always shows some neat furniture or decor items. It links to my Swelle Ideabooks on Houzz.com, an incredibly inspiring site for endless daydreaming about spaces and the things that make you want to live in them. If you don't already know it, you must visit. You will return, I promise you.
Since being asked to contribute, I've created five Ideabooks featuring 20 products each that fall within a theme I've chosen for that month, with my thoughts on how it might work in a space (and I love it!). My fifth collection is Pastel Mid-century Modern, my tied-for-all-time-favourite architectural and interior style. (I think you know what the other one is, and there are four idea books for that.) The George Nelson sofa is shown in black but colour options are available in your mix of candy and pastel colours which would look like a paint-by-numbers set of paints. Imagine the combinations!
Each product links to the website where I found it so you can get full details and order. I admit it can be torturous! But it's too dreamy not to indulge.
I was doing some online daydreaming which is actually part of my job these days as an Ideabook contributor for the hugely inspiring Houzz.com (see the widget in the sidebar), and I found these gorgeous cast iron slipper baths which can be painted! I love anything customisable and my imagination began to run wild. Blush pink? Dusty blue? The exterior comes with a grey primer finish so you can do whatever you like. Pastel stripes? That's the challenge of customisation, I become hopelessly indecisive. You can also take the standard Black Imperial cast iron feet or upgrade to chrome, white or antique gold. Oh boy.
Above is the Imperial Ritz style which comes in two sizes, and below is the Imperial Waldorf and Imperial Bentley showing other tap configurations and colour possibilities. And then there are other paintable styles that have modern feet or bases and that's where my mind begins to become overwhelmed!
What do you think of the hardwood floor? Laminate flooring would make the most sense if you want that look in the bathroom. A friend has rustic planks in hers which is a huge space and with it being all wood it has a completely different feel, as if it's another room in the house that happens to have a bath, shower and toilet. I mean you can dance around in there and not run into anything! (Yes, I can attest to that.) I lalso love glass tile and hope to one day have a huge bathroom that is covered in pool blue tiles, looking straight out of a David Hockney painting.
This post is sponsored; however, the content is 100% original and reflects my personal views of the company and their products
The only thing I knew about Melvita before visiting their website to review it is that they are a skincare company. I've become a bit cynical when it comes to beauty products due to the unrealistic promises and the marketers' relentless pounding of the message that youth equals beauty and we need to get it at any cost. That's one side of the cosmetics of the industry and I was hoping to see the other. And I did.
I was happy to find that Melvita is all about organic skincare products and that they are not a bandwagon company using empty eco-catch phrases to sell products. The company was founded in 1983 by French biologist and beekeeper Bernard Chevilliat who has shown a remarkable commitment to delivering high quality, natural skincare. Each product is created to exceed the high standards set by ECOCERT France, the independent state-approved certifying body of organic beauty product manufacturers, and this applies to ingredients, raw materials, production and packaging.
Now the fun stuff! One of my most favourite beauty products are floral waters. They're like a treat for the face - they smell fantastic and are refreshing, and they wake up tired skin. Melvita’s organic-certified floral waters are distilled from fresh or dried plants and flowers that help retain the healing benefits and aromatic qualities of the ingredients. Try giving your clothes a little fragrant mist as well. I'm partial to rose or lavender scents and Melvita offers those as well as orange blossom, chamomile, witch hazel and cornflower.
And it's only natural that a beekeeper would give us some great beehive products - not for your face, to eat! Even better, I say. The organic range of honeys and sweets were amongst the first Melvita products and offer many nutritional benefits of propolis, royal jelly, and pollen. I'd really like to try the Honey and Berries Candies and the honeys from Pyrenees and Ardèche, France. And the honey with lavender flowers, organically certified of course. I could go on. I love honey.
Can you ever have enough tea dresses? Recently I was offered the opportunity to review an item of my choice under £50 from JoeBrowns.co.uk. Staying true to type I immediately went searching for a pretty frock and found an extensive selection of women's dresses. While there's a range of styles to suit most occasions, the common link was ease and comfort - perfect as I was hoping my choice would take me through long days of walking around Paris next week in warm spring weather.
In the end, my love of 40s styling, florals and pale blue won me over and so I went with the Flippy Tea Dress, priced at £29.95. It fits on the larger side so I had to go down a size (which I certainly didn't mind) and it's very open in the front, so you need to wear a little camisole under it and expect that you will see a lot of it as the ruffle will flip out unless you pin it down. (That just reminded me I have two 1930s silk and crochet camisoles that would be a pretty complement to the ruffle neckline.) The waist is high and elasticated - much appreciated during a week of gorging on French pastries - which is covered by a tie belt. My favourite detail is the little front fabric covered, loop-fastened buttons.
The fabric is a gorgeous pale blue with rose and cherry coloured flowers and little white dots all over, in a very soft viscose. The easy style and softness of the fabric make it extremely comfortable, so much that I considered sleeping in it! I didn't want to take it off.
I'd recommend this dress for pretty and super-comfy daily wear - just remember to have that camisole on hand and you'll have a lovely 40s style outfit.
Get in the suitcase Flippy Tea Dress, you're coming to Paris!
My love for French furniture is well documented here, but what really makes my heart explode with giddy glee is the painted variety, especially when done in soft and pretty pastels. So imagine my delight when I discovered Out There Interiors and saw these lovely and adorable pink and blue pieces. Better yet, the prices are affordable so I don't have to suffer unsatiated in my French furniture lust, I can actually own them!
The Princess chest of drawers is a great shade of soft pink and my daughter and I would be fighting over who gets it. I love the distressed gold handles and decorative locks and its shapely Bombay-style curves. I would happily kick out what I've currently got in the alcove on my side of the room for it, it's not a bad piece but it's ivory and it doesn't give me the smiles I would get upon seeing the pink when walking into my room, and I do love my colour.
Pink is wonderful but it's great to have a options that bring happiness. I have a super soft spot for washed-out turquoise, it gets me every time. The aqua Demi chest is beautifully distressed to look as if it was passed down through the generations and is finished with pretty pewter handles. Dreamy.
Out There Interiors is a UK-based online shop with a showroom in West London offering many exclusive items that they design and manufacture themselves, and all are from ethical sources. Their delivery costs are very reasonable and they are stated on the product pages so there's no shock at checkout. And they're very friendly, too. Can you tell I'm smitten?
Now I love our beach, the aptly named Longsands that spans Tynemouth to Cullercoats, and the neighbouring idyllic King Edwards Bay with the Priory Castle overlooking the North Sea from its beautiful, craggy cliff. But last weekend I really fell hard for the beach and seaside community of Saltburn-by-the-Sea in North Yorkshire. We were visiting our lovely friends in their new home in Yarm for the first time and they spoiled us in all kinds of ways, and one of them was taking us to their local beach to share the beauty.
Not only was the beach gorgeous and expansive with an impressive look-out pier, there were all kinds of charming little shops, restaurants and ice cream stands, and of course anything one needed to surf (no, I didn't, that would look ridiculous). It was a clear, sunny day and people from all over had come to pretend it was spring. I have never seen a queue so long for fish and chips, and in England that's saying a lot. (It was worth the wait!)
This post is for this week'sInteriors & Exteriors feature and it's long enough sticking to the theme, so I'll post the beach shots separately. Are you craving fish and chips now? I am.
In the town, just a quick uphill walk from the beach, there were some great shops. I was already lagging behind and we needed to eat lunch so I didn't go in, but I wanted some photos of the wonderful window displays of Northern Lights Interiors
As I was snapping away I saw a woman smiling from inside - you can see her below! and I smiled and waved. As I headed down the road she came out after me and asked if I'd take photos of the storefront, they'd been having trouble getting them without cars in the way and I was happy to oblige. I even had a man ham it up for me!
We passed a random rusted-out door that appeared to lead to nowhere with a keypad right in the middle. I'll bet if you pushed the right numbers it would transport you to another dimension. Prove me wrong!
This photo would have been so much cooler if I'd waited just 10 more seconds...
On display at Arts Bank were lamps and tables in vibrant patchwork by Jane Atkinson and a metal sculpture by Ray Lonsdale. Each contains a 'secret meaning' in the form of an object placed in the head. Now, if I'd read the brief beside this life-size contemplative man instead of taking a photo and reading at home, I would have looked and been able to tell you what was in his head!
Ok, first, this toile - a garment made in muslin or canvas to work out a new design so you don't waste the actual fabric - was snapped when it only had one sleeve. This dress will have two sleeves! The black shirt has nothing to do with dress, it was just cold that day. So this should alleviate any concerns that I am doing a line of one-armed dresses in the plainest and cheapest of fabrics, in case anyone thought I was a total weirdo. (You can still think that if you want to but for for other reasons.)
So, what is this Swelle label? It's a house label for my shop, Swelle Boutique, a way for me to offer pretty, every day dresses that don't have to be dry cleaned. At a lower price point. I'm so proud of all of the clothes in the shop which are worth every penny and then some - especially now as most are on sale - but I wanted to round out the selection with the kinds of pieces - mostly dresses - you can wear over and over through the season, and if a glob of ketchup jumps from your burger onto your chest, you won't die. (For the record, I still need to wear a bib.) I'll continue to feature exclusive pieces from a few other designers whose work I adore, but for this concept I decided to take matters into my own hands.
How am I doing it? I'm working with a dress maker and pattern cutter who has years upon years of design experience and whose construction is excellent, she's a perfectionist which is what I was looking for. I choose the fabrics, trims and buttons and request the style and then she cuts the pattern and makes the dress. And then we can play around with the buttons and trims - the fun part!
The styles are mostly based on the clean, feminine shapes of the 60s, as in shifts and trapeze dresses, and there will be a bit of 50s. I have an incredible print, very painterly flowers on a super soft white cotton that appear to be falling and then gathering more densely at the hem, and it will be amazing as a full-skirted 50s style. Simple, pretty and fun. I bought most of the fabrics when I was in Edinburgh last month and it was the prints that jumped out.
Now I'm going to say something odd: The fabrics shown here are my least favourite of what I came home with. But that's not to say I don't like them, I picked them out and paid for them! So I do like them but not as much as the others, so I wanted to start with them, come up with a dress I loved and then it would get even better. This one has a gathered trim on the hem and sleeve in the constrasting colourway to add texture and give the slightest puff. The buttons we've used to adorn the placket (they're for show, the dress has a back zip) are actually not either of the 1930s buttons from France that are pictured here - I love that they are still sewn to the original card! - but pale pink glass vintage roses I've had with me for years. There are enough for two dresses and I think they are the perfect highlight for this very floral, vintage-y dress!
So what you get from Swelle is a new favourite dress for daily wear that is likely a one-off - each will have something just a bit different - was not made in a factory and may have pretty vintage buttons, and comes at a price that won't make you immediately relegate it to 'Wish List'. The first pieces of the spring collection will be introduced early March and new styles will be produced continuously throughout the year. Only a few in each fabric will be made so there will always be fresh looks in the boutique.
The other day I had nearly convinced myself that I could feel spring coming, because I hadn't had my Delusional Thought of the Day yet and this one suited me quite nicely. The sun was shining and there was that auspicious sheen about things that suggests good things are on the way. But in January, in the north east of England two minutes from the North Sea, the weather isn't likely going to be delivering these good things. So why fight it? Instead I decided to indulge in that which makes the cold good. And that is coats. If you have at least one great coat, you're not going to resent having to put it on.
Moncler caught my eye two years ago when Giambattista Valli transformed the puffy coat into elegant satin coat dresses, ball gowns and egg-shaped bombers for Moncler Gamme Rouge's F/W 2009 collection. FarFetch has a lot of coats and jackets from Moncler's current collection and I am especially in love with the Baie quilted down jacket (top, middle), which must be the chicest warm piece I've seen yet. It's got the pocket detailing of a Chanel boucle jacket and the bow scarf is adorable.
Despite my husband's apparent imperviousness to cold, he's due for another winter coat, so I did a bit of daydreaming for him. Looking for men's designer coats is fun because the 'designer' part of it means that for most guys this requires some stepping out of their comfort zone.
I remember in the mid 80s seeing a guy with huge teased hair wearing a beat up jean jacket with the arms ripped off over a leather jacket. He was really trying to get it all in there, he had the bandana and everything and I swear you could hear a wailing guitar riff as he walked by. So it was interesting to see this biker jacket from Rick Owens DRKSHDW (above, left) - with a denim body and leather sleeves! I wouldn't have thought this look could be pulled off today but Mr. Owens has done it. You're on your own for the bandana, though. But I can't see Mr. Swelle wearing that and I'm sure neither can he.
So the middle jacket is one that would be a serious contender and from the looks of it might even be adequate for his 6'3" frame. This is a vintage denim coat from Commes de Garcons Vintage that pushes the blazer look beyond the norm but is inconspicuous enough to not get weird looks on the Metro. That's important.
And the last one is my answer to a guy who only wears a scarf never. Seems coats are generally a hassle, too, so what about a non-coat? This lambskin 'jacket', also from Rick Owens, has only one sleeve and it's short - even better! This could honestly do for him in temperatures right down to 2°! Okay, I'm exaggerating. 5°.
Can you say your quilt is made by an Intergalactic remnants trader? You can, if you buy one of Jimmy McBride's aka Stellar Quilts hand embroidered creations. I have never, ever seen quilts - or anything else from an independent craftsperson/designer, well he's a textile artist actually - promoted this way. I pity anyone trying to top this film featured on Etsy for ingenuity, it's a tall order. Traditional craftsmanship combined with forward thinking has limitless potential for new concepts that appeal to what lies within so many of us these days - a yearning for that nostalgic feeling, and the wonder of technology. They can co-exist! I love McBride's message that no matter how advanced we as a civilisation become, we will always need comfort and warmth.
Do you remember when you were a teenager and started going over to guys' houses (only when parents were home, Mom and Dad if you're reading this - and they were gay!) and you first saw their bedroom (as you passed the open door on your way to the bathroom) and you saw that they still had a space-themed bedroom? McBride's quilts are the perfect transition piece from space-loving boy to man, so if you're 15 and you're still into your planets and stars and spaceships and beginning to feel a little uncomfortable about it but you aren't ready to pack it all in for the grey or navy striped bedspread, you don't have to leave it all behind - you can still have planets and stars plus nebulas, spacestations and a scene depicting an "attack on the energy collectors surrounding V838 in the 3rd quadrant occupied by the Reni"! Each quilt tells a part of McBride's intricately woven space odyssey so if you really want to indulge in the fantasy, oh boy can you! And you've invested in a piece of art you can really live with.
Pillar in the Carina Nebula
Hey, wait, it's ok Mom and Dad! That's (my brother) John's room I'm remembering! It was like being in Battlestar Galactica. Which reminds me that the only non-girlie thing I ever wore was Battlestar Galactica running shoes when I was 9. I don't know what happened there but they must have been the only pair Buster Brown had in my size at that particular time my feet grew another centimetre. That's the only place my mom would take us because they measured our feet properly and sold proper shoes. In other words, they didn't sell Sparks. I remember one day we had to take off our shoes at school for some reason and I was the last to grab mine from the pile to put back on, and the teacher held them up and said 'Whose are these?' and I sat there looking around thinking some dummy doesn't even recognise his own shoes. The other kids had to remind me they were mine. I tried to pretend that of course I knew they were my shoes, I was just taking my time getting up. Me and those BGs, we just didn't gel.
I want this console table so badly I would give up Coke. If I resisted buying a big bottle every two or three days and put the money in a piggy bank instead, it would only take me 3.8 years to buy it! Well, it's a relief to know that I don't drink £1,175 worth of Coke in six months.
I have lusted after this table from Sweetpea & Willow for about a year and here I am again. There are few things that we desire with any longevity so it's a surprise when the wanting doesn't wane over time. Where I would put it I'm not sure but I would be willing to kick something to the curb to make room. Wait, no, I'm talking crazy. We would all work something out.
The carved detailing on the edges is painted ivory which makes it that much more interesting and beautiful, and you can choose your own colours from a palette of 15 shades, right down to a different one for the top surface, top edge, outer body and interior. The possibilities are almost too much to contemplate. Pink + ivory + grey. Blue + pink + ivory. Violet + bleu marine + parme. I think the original would do just fine and keep my head from exploding.
All of the above also goes for this powder pink and silver side/coffee table, also from Sweetpea & Willow. Marry me! I wanted it for our living room when we bought our house but wishing didn't put it on a truck en route to our house. And I wished really hard.
And then another favourite daydream site of mine where I got a lovely and simple aqua glass chandelier for my daughter's room is the The French Bedroom Company. They got in on the teasing. Yesterday I got an email showing me this dressing table, 'La Table de Rouen' in a blue so gorgeous that if I'm to believe it does match what I'm seeing on my screen it's likely to be haunting me in a year's time, too, if lucky ducks don't snatch them all up. It's on sale. TFBC put out a gorgeous catalogue as well and you shouldn't dare think of bringing it into the bathroom.
I had a couple more to show but these are my favourites and I can't bear anymore, I actually find this a bit painful!
Let me preface this with something I hope I don't have to say too often: Don't get too excited. These are all sold out. But they are just so pretty and as this blog is a collection of beautiful things, well, I just want them on it. I'm like putty when it comes to powdery pastels and icy blues (our Christmas tree is white with arctic blue baubles) and Wedgwood is synonymous with slate blue pottery, hence 'Wedgwood blue', as well as Royal service and the Peter Rabbit dishes from our collective childhood. Wedgwood was established by innovative ceramacist Josiah Wedgwood in 1759. Can you imagine the pride in knowing that 250 years later your legacy would live on and flourish in the spirit in which it was conceived and nurtured? Except that I don't think he was doing designer collaborations back then.
I have three of their little dishes that I bought at the Tynemouth market for I think £1 each. At that price you can blow your nose on them, but that's not really good use now is it? Below are two of them along with a handpainted gold leaf Japanese dish from 1877 which is the thing that the younger children of friends feel compelled to run up to and slam with their fist. It's a miracle it's still intact. It only cost £2.50 but that's not the point. Pocket change for an antique and people still barter if you can believe it. I witnessed one woman trying to get a bargain on a figurine that was 50p. I'll pay 35p for that but no way I'm paying 50! Those vendors stand out there all day and may only make a few quid for their trouble. You might as well just steal it when she's not looking, that would be more dignified!
Okay, at this point I was going to show the Wedgwood teacups I'm in love with - collecting tea cups is a phase I've been going through for about five years now and I don't think it's a coincidence that it began when I moved to England - or go on about how I've brought blue into our house as it's the colour I'm most happy living with. I'm going to take photos of all the blue, in whatever form and do a show and tell. Seeing as it's an ungodly hour I'm going to save both for follow ups. Part two coming tomorrow...
But here's a preview in the meantime, I didn't stop until I found the exact blue I wanted for the walls:
I'm always up for supporting Canadians - or anyone for that matter! - who make it their mission to bring interesting things to the marketplace, and Up To You fits the bill. From my old hometown of Toronto comes this new concept shop of curious objects, for those who like their days infused with a little humour, oddness, and fun. Such as? Well, wouldn't you prefer your coffee mug to leave neat, swirly designs instead of the usual boring ring? The frustration of nearly ruining your oak top or white table cloth becomes "Aw, look at that...how pretty!" I also like the corrugated coffee cup and coaster combo being the texture freak that I am. And although I would be craving it constantly, I would love to sit my cup on top of that thick bar of chocolate. Which of course isn't really chocolate but don't you want to sink your teeth into it? (I know that I would put my teeth on it just a little bit. And maybe lick it, but just once.)
You can tell I'm in a cup phase, I haven't mentioned anything outside of their Kitchen and Tabletop category. There's everything from lighting to toys to T-shirts. And funny things that made me laugh such as 'moldy' sandwich bags to prevent the office jerk from stealing your lunch. (Who does that? No, really, who does that? At one place I worked we were always getting our lunches stolen. And even if someone was dumb enough to forget what they brought and mistake someone else's for their own, there's no excuse for eating my friend Kerri's sushi that she was so looking forward to all morning, or the tasty samosas I had bought next door and put in that fridge just 20 minutes before. Yes, it was 11 years ago and it still stings!)
Wow, where were was I? Oh yes, funny stuff:
They have book covers that will make you look smart and hide your shame at the same time! Worried what the judgemental-looking stranger across from you on the metro will think of your Danielle Steel novel? It would help if they didn't put her name in a gigantic point size front and centre but since they do, how about Complete Japanese to the rescue? Konnichi wa to you!
You can visit the Up to You shop online or have a browse in person at 1483 Queen St. East in Toronto - they've got all of their products displayed in an actual flat so you can have a voyeuristic shopping experience. It's like going into someone's cool house and buying their neat stuff!
Yesterday during Showstudio's latest LivesStudio session, Stephen Jones created a floral centrepiece and a beautiful hat trimmed with fresh flowers as his contribution to their latest exhibition, Florist. When Stephen reappeared after changing outfits - I love that he had a setting up outfit and one for working - he greeted us with 'Welcome to Glamour on a Budget' and I thought he was kidding, but apparently that was the title of this project. Which makes perfect sense considering the centrepiece was made of yogurt pots, wire hangers and toilet paper rolls! It's like the coolest nursery school craft time ever. And you'd think I'd have a photo of the final piece but the feed cut out, then they broke for a bit and there's nothing on the site. Just trust me it didn't look like it was made from the contents of your recycle bin!
The piece will be available for sale in the Showstudio Shop, so I'm a bit confused as to how that is pulled off with fresh flowers! An edited version of the session is currently being prepared.
The next Livestudio happens Monday, 6 December 10:00 GMT and it's with Mary Katrantzou!
The model was wearing an incredible John Galliano trench:
And Stephen loved her shoes:
Photos are screencaps of the livestream, the trench and final shot is from Showstudio
Showstudio has just begun their livestream of Stephen Jones (12:00 GMT) who is creating a unique piece for the SHOWstudio Shop's latest exhibition Florist - what a treat! This is part of their series of live-streamed performances in which eminent industry figures will be joining the LiveStudio, crafting floral-themed works in tandem with the exhibition and celebrating SHOWstudio.com's ten year anniversary.
Showcasing the entire process in a live stream for today only, Jones' floral artefact will then be exhibited and available for sale.
As I write this Stephen is changing his outfit after having laid out his materials. They include a crystal vase that was a wedding gift to his mother in 1947, glass top hat, art deco mat, his baby bowl, something he bought with Janet Jackson, a book of flowers he found in Italy that he 'brought for Nick', that one being Nick Knight obviously. His friend Princess Julia is playing the music to keep viewers entertained while he wait.
Oh, he's back! And he's wearing a three-piece black suit with a Santa hat that has flashing lights on the furry trim, and an equally festive white and red dotty shirt. He's fun, eh?
You can't miss this, he's an amazing story teller and just wonderful to listen to and watch, and he's full of all kinds of flower arranging tips and then some. See him here
Don't arrive at your holiday party going to town on a kebab.
Drink in moderation to later avoid needing and therefore asking your fellow revellers if they can lend you a Tena pad (or is that just me?)
Check that your new exorbitantly priced heels are not dragging half a toilet roll behind you.
No matter how good you think you are at doing The Robot - don't.
And most importantly, make an entrance in a gorgeous dress that is guaranteed to bear no resemblance whatsoever to the latest high street window display, for there's a good chance if you do, you won't be the only one representing. You'll be spending the night hiding behind pillars and portly gents while guests are mentally comparing who styled it better. Who needs that? (And you had to pay for it!)
The charm of being an original amongst the identikit masses is one of the reasons I exclusively offer one-offs and limited edition pieces in Swelle Boutique, and luckily I know some very talented people who specialise in doing just that. The three dresses above, left, are one-offs from Rowanjoy, a long time Swelle favourite who uses new and vintage fabrics to create her enchanting, adorable pieces that make girls look dreamy. The Wrapped Up strapless styles are the perfect party dresses and the Obscura halter can go holiday soiree as well as resort.
On the right: It doesn't come more special than an original print created by an inspired and inspirational artist who is behind many of the prints from the London fashion week catwalks. Rob and Kate Burton are the duo known as embodied.creative, and Swelle Boutique is thrilled to have the opportunity to offer their exquisite, limited edition, made-to-order digital art print dresses to you. Thoroughly contemplated imagery is richly layered on fine silks to produce complexity and beauty in colour and texture, as seen in the stunning Babaji and Moonshadow dresses. A collection of gorgeous scarves in a choice of silks and sizes is also available.
Wholly Cow is an English label of one-off and limited edition pieces that have beautifully handmade touches such as contrasting crocheted collars and sleeves, and hand carved oak toggles specially made for the dresses, all seen above. Fabrics are luxe and include silk crepe and Italian tweed. The lovely tweed in the toggle wrap dress above has pretty turquoise flecks throughout the pattern, complemented by the crocheted collar. The black shift can be made in a variety of lengths with your choice of colour for the mohair silk crochet sleeves. The cobalt version is a one-off that also looks great as a top with skinny jeans.
By buying at Swelle Boutique you are supporting independent designers in the UK, Italy, Canada and the United States who personally create the high quality, original work that bears their name, from conception to final stitch.
At long last, the new Swelle Boutique is here! As mentioned previously, the first version was a temporary look and format to get my first collections launched. The new site allows for more content and ease of navigation, and it's slicker but still embodies that dreamy Swelle aesthetic - of course it does! I can't do anything else!
More pretty pieces are on their way including dresses for holiday parties from Rowanjoy and Wholly Cow and gorgeous feather and chain earrings and neckpieces by Noémiah.
A Swelle label is in the works as well for spring with a few preview pieces coming in the next few weeks. I love dresses, coats and jackets so expect a lot of those!
Victim Fashion St. is having a sample sale and if you're in London you'd be mad not to go! Not only will there be loads of tea-stained, vintage lace adorned creations but bespoke shoe designer Natacha Marro and Glovedup.com will be represented there as well. Come on, that's awesome. If you want to know more about Victim and see some of Natacha Marros killer platforms you can read my interview with my dynamic friend Mei Hui here.
To get everyone revved up for The Shoe Galleries, a shoe fanatic's fantasy come true courtesy of Selfridges, they want your shoe story. And for your contribution you may just win a years supply of shoes! You won't be competing with me; unfortunately my only shoe stories involve whining, blisters, cuts, friends asking 'Do you own any shoes you can actually walk in?' and limping in bare feet on city streets with a grimace on my face and naughty words spewing from my mouth, because all of my favourite shoes have it in for me. Despite their disloyalty, I still love them. Maybe my daughter will have better luck with them one day.
The Shoe Galleries is due to be the single biggest shoe destination in the world, showcasing 150 designers with 55,000 pairs of shoes in stock at any one time and 4,000 pairs on display. That should increase my chances of at least one pair loving me back?
Part of the inspiration for The Shoe Galleries was the idea that everyone has a shoe story, whether it stems from your favourite pair, a hidden gem or your first expensive pair that cost a month's rent. Tell yours to Selfridges and not only will you get to shout about your favourite shoes to the whole world, but you could be in with a chance of winning a gorgeous new pair (one winner every week!). Plus one lucky winner will scoop a year's supply of shoes from Selfridges!
Daphne Guinness has already submitted hers and it sheds light on why she was wearing those Alexander McQueen 'reptilian' shoes in the first place - which were several sizes too big - and surprisingly she swears they were very light and comfortable! We won't get the chance to call her bluff so let's just take her word for it, shall we?
Above is just one view of this shoe paradise, and Selfridges' Director of Accessories Sebastian Manes describes what The Shoe Galleries will look like when complete:
"Imagine you are in a gallery. From the entrance you see a succession of doorways, and at the end a huge window flooding the space with daylight. Your journey begins at the front, with shoes from the best of the high street. Slowly you begin to travel through different galleries until you reach the end - the couture designer gallery, flanked by Chanel and Louboutin, and a vision of Eden - the new suspended garden at Selfridges. Shoe heaven!"
And don't forget to grab some Pierre Hermé macarons on the way out!
Imagine my surprise and delight when on Saturday I looked down at the table in my mother-in-law's living room - we're in Toronto now! - and saw Noémiah's gorgeous illustrations by Miss Paule T.B. spanning the entire cover of the National Post's Style section! The gestural renderings of Noémie Vaillancourt's beautiful and unusual feather and chain jewellery were most obviously the highlight of the feature on Montreal's Festival Mode & Design, which practically gushed about the exciting design talent produced by this vibrant and electric Canadian city.
Swelle Boutique currently offers an exclusive mini-collection of one-off necklaces and earrings by Noémiah. There are four pieces left!
The Summer Sale has begun at Swelle Boutique, with up to 40% off one-of-a-kind and limited edition dresses, tops and skirts - plus free shipping worldwide! Cue the fireworks and party streamers, and where's my megaphone? I've also installed a new photo viewer so when you click on the photos on the product pages you get a nice, slick presentation.
The Liana Dress from Neue (top left) has been a popular one to try on with the local girls, its sweet styling in Italian silk with gorgeous pleat detailing is hard to resist, but with its empire waist and button front it's best suited to small busts. If you're petite and have had your eye on the Liana, now's your chance to get this limited edition, tailored, silk dress at a reduced price. The sleeveless Viviana Dress is extremely flattering on, with stunning pleats, and there's just one left in size small.
The Dagger Dress by Rowanjoy (top middle) has been featured around the blogosphere and is one of Swelle's most drooled over pieces. As it's a one-off it comes in only one size, a UK 10 which is true to size. The Dagger Tee is really lovely, hand screenprinted in an art deco design with a neckline of vintage floral cotton and lace appliques on the front. It's long enough to wear with leggings. A one-off in UK size 10.
What can I say about Lu Flux? Her Plume Skirt is a dream with 10 layers of individually cut and sewn plumes or petals (I like to think of them as petals) with a beautifully finished interior of organic cotton with fully finished edges. The two that are left are done in different fabrics, making each a one-off - and they're £100 off! Pair the skirt with the Bow Tie vest or Bow Tie T-shirt (only one left!) of organic cotton with an inlaid 'bow'. The Marsupium Pocket Dress is a very easy fitting and substantial one-off dress of organic cotton that fits small to large sizes. It has a band of pockets in different fabrics all around the waist and looks great cinched with a belt or ribbon. I would have shown it that way had I thought of it before the photo shoot!
I found this wardrobe with the facade of a Georgian dollhouse on the site I bought our sideboard from. It's The Furniture Rooms and they sell antiques as well as reproductions. Our sideboard get lots of compliments when people first come to our house and it's my favourite piece of furniture:
Now, that Georgian dollhouse wardrobe is one cool piece of furniture but it comes at a hefty price, £3250 to be exact. If I were considering spending that kind of money I would like to know more than this:
Georgian style dolls house wardrobe. The wardrobe opens up to a hanging
rail and has a neat mini mahogany door on the front. h213 x w128 x d55 cm
But what's it made of, wood? What kind? Where is it made? Is it grey or white? Can we see inside? Those drawers look like a facade, is that right? Tell us more so we can convince our significant others that we really need this!
When something is so obviously special and comes with a weighty price tag it only makes sense to tell us everything you possibly can. I wrote about that in a previous post, how perplexing it is that the seller wouldn't tell us just how cool their thing is and take the chance that one or two images are enough to convince us to hit the 'buy' button. I describe every detail of the pieces in my shop, Swelle Boutique, otherwise, how will you know just how great they are? And there's a certain lack of trust that I feel when I see very brief descriptions that leave you asking questions, even when the item is a £30 dress or something even cheaper. It's our money and we want to know what we're getting, we can't see it or touch it and your words are all we have.
Luckily, The Furniture Rooms is a reputable company that delivered on a great piece of furniture (and a neat 70s vase) and I would buy from them again. I took a chance buying our sideboard based on only two exterior views and a very brief description. I just think they should do their pieces justice with more elaborate descriptions. It only takes another minute!
Here's an Art Deco Fan Lamp I passed on when I bought the others because it wasn't an essential, and it's now sold and oh boy does it sting:
And if you're into dollhouses you might like this
I was given the opportunity to review a cute coat from Very.co.uk and
I took it, I'm a coat girl and you can never have too many. Some people
have a closet overflowing with shoes, my thing is coats and jackets.
(My husband pointed out the other day that not only can he not slide his
wardrobe door fully open because my side is so stuffed but that I also
have my own wardrobe in the study filled with my outerwear. I believe that was in response to me declaring "I don't have that much stuff compared to some people!" Point taken. It's all relative.)
My little addiction to coats stems from their magical powers of transformation. You can
get away with dressing not so chic underneath (school run, anyone?) but if you've got a great
coat to throw over it you can look as if you carefully contemplated your outfit before you left the house. Having said that, I'm not sure it's a good thing to appear as if you spend a lot of time thinking about your clothes - effortless over try hard - but it always astonishes me how some people haven't figured out that it takes the same amount of time to put on a bummy coat than a fabulous one! If you have the right pieces, the work is already done.
That's why I like this jacquard coat from Love Label (despite looking miserable in the photo, sadly this was the best of the lot!). First, the shape. Ladyline and A-line (admittedly I'm filling out the 'A' bit more than I'd like at the moment) is a flattering cut that looks great over anything, especially dresses and skirts. Instant loveliness. The coral colour appeals to my love of the happy hues and the details are pretty: the sleeves and back have a split that adds a bit of stylised volume and each is finished with a little bow that adds just enough sweetness. The cotton has a subtle jacquard pattern and the lining is a polka-dot printed coral acetate. And the fit is good, no too-small armholes or weird proportions. For £49 I'd say this is really great value - worth pushing all of my other coats and jackets over to squeeze into the overpacked wardrobe!
Lovely, romantic and soft is the look and feel that Toronto-based
accessories designer Erin Summer conveys with her one-off Coco
Boudoir accessories. And since many of us are into that kind of thing I'm offering several exclusive designs, created especially for Swelle Boutique. Made from
vintage trims and
findings with surfaces generously adorned with faux pearls and chiffon
rosettes, each piece is painstakingly handsewn to create a beautiful
one-off creation with its own little treasures worked in.
They make look delicate but they feel nice and weighty in the hand
due to their solid construction. Each piece is lined with felt for
comfortable wear. Someone else likes Coco Boudoir, too - look for her in the Summer 2010
edition of Martha Stewart
Fancy one of these delish pieces? Click the images for details and to purchase:
Judy Blame is the latest resident at Showstudio to spend a day being filmed and livestreamed while making original, one-off creations. An absolute treat of a feature, I think. It's a wonderful thing to see the creative process in action and it's fascinating to watch the individual's face as they do their thing, all the subtleties of expression that can range from satisfaction to frustration (Gareth Pugh was giving his sewing machine the business at one point) and everything in between. Which makes it a real burn that I forgot to watch today! (Been just a little busy).
The legendary London-based stylist, jeweller and accessory designer who has it bad for buttons and badges contributed two pieces to Showstudio's Blackwhite exhibition. Viewers watched him "stitch and adorn a pearly king's titfer" - that's not something you hear every day - and rework and develop a rather
extreme neckpiece that would require a great deal of inspection to fully take in everything happening within the black and white curiosity. (My silly tendency to identify things as offspring of incongruent parents has me thinking the necklace could be the result of a collaboration between Mr. T and Karl Lagerfeld.)
Now that's a cool looking man. The neckpiece and adorned cap will be soon be available in the Showstudio SHOP. And if you're into Gaga you might want to head over to the site, she's practically lived there for the past month.
Amneris jacket of fine summer wool and Liana silk pleated dress, by Neue
By now you have likely thought that the teaser under my banner was just that, but I promise that Swelle Boutique is actually on its way! Thank you to all who have been asking about it. I did the final photo shoot on Sunday - I'm thrilled with the results! - and it will be ready to launch in two weeks.
Like The Swelle Life, Swelle Boutique is a collection of beautiful and original things, and I'm so excited to present the dresses and accessories that, for the most part, have been made exclusively for Swelle. I've invited my favourite designers to create pieces that follow the boutique's concept of lovely, romantic and soft things that are of high quality materials and workmanship. All of the pieces are either one-offs or limited edition and are made by the designers - no factories involved here - and each one has special details that are unique to their vision and technique. Offering exceptional, 'happy' things is the whole point in launching this project, which I hope to be a lasting one.
If you are interested in any of the pieces you see here you can reserve them or get more information by emailing me - click the 'email me' link in the top left sidebar under that goofy profile photo.
Admiral dress of vintage lace, mixed silks and cottons by Rowanjoy - one of a kind
Photos by Denise Grayson (Yours Truly) and Paul Marr, respectively
I visited The Cat's Meow when I was home visiting Toronto in the summer, it's my favourite brick and mortar vintage shop. And here's why. It was one of the few things I got to do between getting strep throat twice while home. I popped in to see what was new and gorgeous (everything) and found myself obsessing over several dresses and two hats. And a beaded bag. And some 1930s silk camisoles with crochet necklines of which I bought two. Never mind the jewelry which I didn't even have time to ogle. Why? Because I mentioned to the lovely Louise, the gracious owner of the boutique, that my parking pass had probably run out and she informed me that they tow everyone at the stroke of 3. And it was well after 3 pm. I looked out and saw that Avenue road had been cleared of all parked vehicles, including mine. And that sucked so hard. Especially as my mother-in-law's house was just a five minute walk up the street. But it was so hot outside it was gross. Like if you exert yourself for 10 seconds your armpits turn into sprinklers and you're sporting a sweat moustache. You can see why I drove. But Dunce of the Year me forgot to check the signs, probably because I thought I would only be there for about 20 minutes, not the hour + I actually was (as if, I'm never quick with anything. Case in point - this took me four months to post).
Anyway, there were loads of enchanting dresses with beading or sequins or adornment of some kind and I had to take pictures. For a preview of what's new now (rather than four months ago) you can follow The Cat's Meow blog for some serious vintage lusting. And if you're in Toronto and haven't been - a visit is a must!
Some men are great at finding presents their wives or girlfriends will love, but many others are hopeless. Pour souls. A common problem is having trouble deciphering the subtleties of what she loves and why. But we can't blame you, sometimes it's not necessarily discernible what's great and what's meh, or God forbid - tacky! in our eyes. Case in point: Crystals and rhinestones can be beautiful in the right hands but when they're not you can look like a bedazzled nightmare. A Judith Leiber crystal embellished cupcake clutch is the cutest thing ever. The same idea from Wal-Mart is not.
So if you're finding yourself in panic mode - don't fret, there's still time! - you need help unless you want the holidays to be marred with side-eye stares and little, forced-out sighs that say "You really blew it, Dude. You've sent me into early PMS and now you're going to have to deal with it. Don't you know me?" (I wouldn't be so ungrateful of course. It's not like I've ever received a plastic turd or something. I'm referring to a friend's sister who did in fact give a plastic turd from a novelty shop to her mom on Mother's Day when she was a teenager. And that was with money her mom had given her. She bought the turd and spent the rest of the money on herself. Her mom cried. It was not a good Mother's Day.)
This is a dream list item but I had to show the girls. It's the adorable package clutch from Judith Leiber
You can't go wrong with choosing from Net-a-Porter (*nudge nudge wink wink*), they wouldn't dare try to sell us something naf. I could take any page in any of their Gift Finder
categories, close my eyes and point at the screen and it would be a winner. Whatever you choose, be sure to get it wrapped! Their gift boxes are beautiful and they're keepers - exactly what you see on that magical splash page, bow and all. There are amazing bags and shoes of course, but I recommend that if that's what you're leaning toward you do a bit of sleuthing to find out what she's mad for - brand, style and colour. There's nothing worse than getting a great gift and feeling guilty about thinking 'But I wanted the other one!' We girls are very particular about what we carry and put on our feet. I don't know how you guys deal with us.
Here are more of my picks, whittled down from hundreds (I tried not to go too crazy on the prices and included a wide price range):
These are from the Stocking Fillers
collection which includes a Peruvian wool snood kit from Wool and the Gang (that's a loopy scarf you can pull over your head like a hood, guys); an Erdem and Globe Trotter collaboration vanity case (a bit big for the stocking!); Burberry heart-print umbrella and Stella McCartney knickers of the week!
And you might want to stay away from this one, guys. It's Solange Azagury-Partridge's Ballcrusher
Victorian miniature greenhouse by Simon Costin. £6,000. Model Coco Rocha. Albion Cosmetics A/W 2009 campaign. Photographed by Tim Walker.
Have you ever wondered what happens to those cool and unusual props made for editorial shoots and campaigns? Well, some of them now go Showstudio's new curated shop. It was established to sell an exclusive selection of one-of-a-kind creations that will appeal to collectors eager to own a piece of fashion history. Showstudio's got the inside track in that renowned British fashion photographer Nick Knight is the creator of the site and the shooter of many of the spreads from which the items came. Others are from Tim Walker's fantastical and dreamy editorial so if you have the cash to scoop up the greenhouse please know that I hate you. Just a little bit.
Cherries by Simon Costin.Edition of 9. Albion Cosmetics A/W 2009 campaign. Photographed by Tim Walker.
Taxidermied Belgian tiger on painted wooden base, £50,000
Alexander McQueen S/S 2010 PUMA
campaign Crane Vs. Tiger, photographed by Nick Knight.
I'm uh, assuming it died of natural causes...
Poodle marionette by Shona Heath, £6,000 British Vogue, April 2008. Model Karen Elson. Photographed by Tim Walker.
Eyeballs by Shona Heath. 6 pieces, £3,000. British Vogue, December 2008. Photographed by Tim Walker.
Life-size Toy Soldier costume by Shona Heath, £5,000. ‘Soldier, soldier, won't you marry me?’
British Vogue, April 2008. Photographed by Tim Walker.
Now here's something interesting. It's a pirate flag made from a Union Jack, created by John Galliano for a 2001 portrait shot by Nick Knight. Price, £25,000. That's a lot of sterling for a piece of distressed cotton with a stencil spray-painted on it. So, the perceived value must be in the idea that Galliano made it with his own hands (I'd want proof) to serve as the backdrop for an iconic photograph of himself. Surely many of his fashion designs, particularly haute couture, sell at a price even higher than this. It could be argued that his dresses, embellished by artisans at Paris' last remaining specialty ateliers and the product of hundreds of hours of work should be considered works of art. And I'd agree. But the flag? And to the extent that a price tag of £25,000 is justified, even to the least objective of fans? What do you think?
‘John Galliano’. Design Museum London, 2001
Photographed by Nick Knight
was going to post my photos of the bar at the Champs Elysées Ladurée - the epitome of the French/macaron/pastry/girlie experience -
but they came out slightly blurry because I was trying to sneak them.
It just seemed too gauche to take pictures in such a
breathtaking wonderland of sugary delights. So instead I give your theirs; it's what the bar in
heaven must look like. I was standing right at the door when the bar
opened, queuing to get some macarons at the shop and lamenting the wait
time for the cafe (I made up for it a few days later when a friend came
to visit) and my eyes nearly fell out when I looked into the room.
And guess what they serve there? Macaron cocktails!
am going to be in Paris in a couple weeks, alone. I am not averse to
going for a drink by myself if it means having a macaron cocktail. But
what if I want a second? Does that border on rather sad? Maybe if I
drink four or five I won't care about appearances. Actually, that's a
Let's not stop there. There's too much Ladurée dreaminess to share:
One of the rooms upstairs at the Champs Elysées location
I had the Saint Honoré fraise and pistache and nearly died.
The spring/summer collection for packaging
Ladurée at Harrods in London
Oh, why did I do that to myself as I'm about to eat a cheeseburger...
Born from a
digital interpretation of the iconic logo of the brand, the shoes are
crafted from Italian calf leather and printed in relief realized by
heated metal plates. “Wrapped around the foot, these shoes adapt in an
ergonomic way to the shapes of the body" explains Hadid. The run is limited to 850 pairs which will be sold exclusively at colette from July 20th. No price has been given. Most likely to avoid a collective gasp around the world.
That's all the info colette provided and I can't find anything on Hadid's site. I think we deserve more! How do they stay wrapped? Are they unisex? What colours will be available? Will I be able to leap over tall buildings in a single bound?