Ok, so this is now last month's news, but the collection is still available throughout spring, and I do happen to be a fan of Orla Kiely so I wanted READ MORE...
LONDON HAT WEEK KICKS OFF
I love hats. Proper millinery ones. I don't wear them so much anymore, but they're fun and they break up the visual monotony on the streets. Britain loves hats, too, which anyone READ MORE...
MAISON BLUE HILLS: AT HOME IN NATURE
If I didn't know better, I'd swear this house, a 2300 square foot family home called Maison Blue Hills, could be found somewhere in the Norwegian woods, based on the interior alone READ MORE...
FAVOURITE AW14 COATS FROM NY AND LONDON
There were so many great coats showing in New York and London (and now in Milan), so I decided to focus on favourites from the first two fashion weeks. Most of us can't afford to shop the READ MORE...
ARCHITECT-DESIGNED DOLLHOUSES HELP KIDS
I love an unconventional dollhouse; for some reason miniature versions of every day things have universal appeal, and even better when it goes beyond the scaled replica and offers a unique perspective READ MORE...
FASHION FILM: ERDEM SS14
Erdem has always been a favourite of mine for his ethereal aesthetic and seasonal (or rather season-less) reinterpretations of florals. Trevor Undi has made a film that presents an enchanted look READ MORE...
Different ways to add grey to your outfit from cavells.co.uk - it doesn't have to be dull!
Light, medium and dark. Ok, there are many more shades of grey than that, maybe even 50, but I'm not touching that one; these clothes are staying on. I'm such a colour freak, yet I've always gravitated toward grey. I think it's the softness of the colour that appeals, in the same way a pastel would, but in a warmer and cosier way. Who can resist a chunky-knit heather grey jumper or a charcoal cashmere winter hat? And grey makes for one of the most versatile neutrals. Unlike beige which can register as well, nothing, grey has a quiet presence that complements any other colour, works for all clothing, footwear and accessories, and is a great alternative for committed lovers of black when they want to mix things up a bit without abandoning their signature look.
Grey is probably the best colour for layering; wear a range of shades at once for a smart, tonal look. And if you want to introduce colour yet stay with the monochromatic scheme, greys with a blue or lilac tint will subtlely brighten your outfit. These styled looks illustrate the appeal of layering with grey - who wouldn't want to slip into any of these outfits?
You can't help but have noticed the massive marketing push of online fashion retailers this year, geared toward teens and young women, for dresses made for a night out at a price point this demographic can actually afford. One such site is Little Mistress who were recently recognised, for a second year in a row, as a standout when they were awarded Draper's Young Fashion Brand of the Year. No small feat, considering the judging criteria includes strong design and trend awareness, good pricing architecture and the offer of something different to the market.
Through their online shop the brand offers the full spectrum of fashion categories, though their offering is focussed on an extensive range of dresses, from daywear to special occasion, priced between £25 - £200. There's also a Curvy category that offers a decent selection of dresses in sizes 18-24, and a collection of sweetly feminine party dresses for little girls ages 5 - 12. Incentives to order include a 15% discount for students and free UK returns.
I did a little window shopping online at New Look after a friend lamented not having anything 'glamorous' for the holidays, but didn't want to break the bank right before Christmas. It's a conundrum for most of us, I think, trying to shop for some new looks for parties and family events when we're meant to be focussing on others. And all on a budget!
I like to choose pieces that are easy to wear and versatile. Comfort equals confidence, and with so many styles of clothing available it makes good sense to go with something that can work for lots of different occasions without being too middle of the road. So I went with a dress that pops in cobalt blue and works well for both day and evening. The shape is my favourite body-con style, it hugs the figure yet sits on the modest side, the short sleeves balancing the mid-thigh length to create a more subtle kind of sexy.
A great coat is essential for looking polished and put together as you get yourself from place to place. I went with a style that is a mix of classic in burgundy boucle, practical with its warm mid-length, and cool with zips and a biker style lapel. This coat can be worn for anything, with the exception of sledging and snowball fight!
Sometimes a tired outfit can be revived with clever accessorising. Take the the silver and white stone cuff. It's a festive piece that would instantly lift an all-black outfit, and add some extra icy winter sparkle to a white silk top or dress. The clutch is an essential party piece and should complement your outfit. This box clutch in black and gold geometric cut-outs is a stand-out item yet will go with just about any outfit in solid colours and maybe even some prints. And a sharp belt is another must-have for finishing a special outfit. The gold chain detail of this belt gives a touch of refined texture and will raise the style factor of black trousers or a form-fitting dress.
And for a little cuteness and humour at home, I included a pair of New Look brown knitted mouse slippers which will keep feet warm on a chilly Christmas and New Year morning whilst being adorable. I think these will help make my friend's festivities a little more fun and exciting!
Already have a piece from the Uniqlo Ultra Light Down range? Upload a photo of yourself wearing it to Twitter or Instagram using #ULD by 20th October and you could win £300 to spend at Uniqlo (that will buy a lot of winter clothes!) One winner will be selected at random from UK entries and one will be selected from French entries. For more details see Uniqlo's competition page.
I'm a huge fan of Japanese clothing brand Uniqlo, so I was thrilled when I was asked to review an item from their autumn/winter range. I have a few pairs of their trouser leggings, a dress and scarf from the Orla Kiely collaboration, one of the new cashmere sweaters, a bunch of vests, and their underwear and socks are fantastic as well. The quality/price ratio is rivalled by no one and proves that you can actually have good design and high quality - consistently! - at an affordable price ('affordable' meaning actually accessible to everyone, I've seen some interesting interpretations of what is affordable). Most importantly, the clothes endure. They wash well, keep their colour and shape, and I haven't lost a button or had a hole pop up in anything - even the socks. The styles work together and lend well to layering which is especially useful in the cooler months - or UK life in general. We can see three types of weather in five minutes here on the coast and watch it repeat as if on a loop from morning to night, so this kind of dressing is especially important for this girl who hates to be cold or too hot (well, who doesn't?). But then what do you do with the layers when you have to peel one off? This factor plays into my choice.
I wanted to review something from their Ultra Light Down range having not tried it before and being curious and in need of a new coat. After much deliberation and weighing style, practicality and colour choices, I chose the Ultra Light Down jacket in 62 Blue (£59.90), which is exactly the one shown in the first header photo. The promise with the items in the range, which includes jackets, vests, parkas and coats for women, men and children in various styles, is that it provides super lightweight warmth that's 'portable and pocketable', fitting snugly in its own travel bag. The lightness is achieved by inserting the down (90% down and 10% feathers) directly into the outer shell made of a super thin nylon which is coated with a special ciré (wax). The process provides breathable warmth. The product features note that a high quality down must exceed a fill power of 550, and Uniqlo's Ultra Light Down is in excess of 640.
When I received the jacket I first noticed the beautiful colour; it's a duck egg shade with a subtle sheen. The second and third things that struck me when I picked up the jacket were how incredibly light it is, like air, and how lovely and soft the material felt. I put it on and it fit like a glove. I ordered a small and the proportions were perfect if you like a close fit, which you would with this style as it has panels for shaping and is meant to follow the lines of the body. It feels like wearing a silky summer duvet, and it made me wish I actually had a duvet version of it for sleeping. Already I've brought it to Sweden and London (twice) including a dinner in a Hackney warehouse, and because of unseasonably warm weather didn't need it the first two times, but the beauty of it is that it's so light and compact - practically non-existent in your luggage - that having it and not using it is inconsequential; when packing you don't have to make a guess and risk needing something you didn't bring or cursing something you brought but didn't need.
Here are more uses and features for the Ultra Light Down range:
Travel. On planes, trains and automobiles, it provides warmth without bulk so you can move around a remain comfortable, and if you don't need it any longer it can literally be folded up and shoved into its travel bag and tucked into your own bag, or pocket. It's especially handy for airports which tend to be hot and stuffy - I find Heathrow brutal for that - and the last thing you want is to have to carry a heavy coat on top of your bag and carry-on.
Pockets galore. You get two invisible outside pockets which open with a sleek zip sewn into the side seam, and two large internal pockets, all of which are incredibly handy for keeping keys, change, cards and phones. I was especially grateful for mine while in London's underground this week, I was able to zip in my Oyster card securely and then get it quickly when exiting the station - the mob behind you won't wait while you search for it!
Retains its looks. When you pull it out again it goes back to its new condition and shows no sign of having been scrunched up.
Great for layering. Pile it on top of a couple inner layers without getting sweaty or looking like the Michelin Man, and put it in your bag or pocket if you don't need it for the time being.
Indoor warmth. Trying to keep your heating costs down but freezing in your house? Wear the jacket inside without feeling too weird about it!
In case it's not overwhelmingly obvious, I love my Ultra Light Down jacket, it does everything they promise at an unbelievable price, and yes does keep you warm in chilly weather. I'm looking at getting at least one more, probably the jacket with the hood. I've also bought my daughter the Light Poly Fill Down coat from the Kids's range (£29.90) in the same colour as I have because it's so pretty, though we now look like we coordinated our outfits when we go out of the house!
It's been ages since I did some handbag daydreaming; I tend to buy a good bag every few years and stick with it as long as I can to justify the cost. To avoid temptation I try not to let my eyeballs linger on anything new for too long, though there are exceptions (I'm looking at you Balenciaga). I only have one bag for each season (spring/summer and autumn/winter) and tend to put the old ones away for when my daughter is old enough to (hopefully) appreciate them. So in order to get as much out of the bag as possible, I choose a colour that will go with everything - to me, aqua goes with everything! - in a style that is practical. I find that no matter how great a bag looks, if it doesn't do what you need it to do, and feel good when carried, it'll stay in the closet. (Am I the only one who feels weird saying 'wear' when it comes to bags? I prefer 'carry'!)
So I've indulged in a little 'window shopping' at Cruise Fashion which was actually the first premium designer shop I visited when I moved to the north east of England eight years ago. I picked a selection of day and evening bags from their website, as well as purses and wallets, which I'm actually in dire need of after the clasp on my purse broke and noisily spilled my change onto the floor of a shop - of course the coin compartment had to be chock-full that day!
My picks of day bags above were based on a few criteria. First is style longevity: there's nothing too 'on trend' here that will seem irrelevant in two months time - the Balenciaga City bag, for example, has been Number 1 on my wish list for years and is an enduring fashionista favourite. Second is versatility of colour: the red of the Chloe Bridget bag is a gorgeous, deep shade that will work as well as a neutral yet packs some colour pop punch, and is a nice change from black. And every bag collection should have one tan leather bag for a bit of rustic style, the Gucci Miss GG offering that perfectly worked-in hide that isn't too orangey - I have trouble with that colour! This one is rich and buttery. And lastly and probably most important - will it accommodate our stuff? I chose not overly structured bags for ease of use, and because a somewhat fluid shape not only looks cooler and less fussy (I'm going for 'cool' over 'proper' at the moment), it means if we need to stuff it to its limits, we can. But there are times when we just don't want to carry a bag while travelling or want to get around light when we just need our cash and cards and little else, and for that the cross-body bag is an essential to have at the ready. I bought mine at least five years ago and because the leather was of such high quality in a beautiful and versatile anthracite grey, I still love it as if I just bought it and it will probably be the only one I need for the next few years as well. That's value!
As for evening bags, while I'd love to come off as someone who requires an endless array to choose from for all of my fetes and events, I don't actually need to call on one all that often (but please feel free to think that if you want to). With the exception of weddings and other formal celebrations that require a bit more consideration, you really just need a good clutch or elegant shoulder bag that suits your style. I'm not overly fussed about things being a perfect match as long as it works; we're not being photographed and critiqued on the red carpet, so go with what you love. I especially love the Jimmy Choo metallic leather clutch because it's a bit glam as well as kind of rockin' with the chains, so you can give a bit of edge to a more proper look or add some subtle sparkle to something more casual. And it looks like it fits nicely in the hand; you can't grab a lot of clutches like that and I think it looks and feels more natural. (Can you tell I'm not much for formalities? It makes me feel weird.) The fine chain shoulder bag is an option for those who aren't keen on clutches, and they're more practical for nights out when you want to hit the dance floor, unless you like the idea of waving your bag around in the air while you work it. (I once saw a girl in the middle of the dance floor doing moves with a giant tote, I mean it was massive. The only reasonable explanation I could think of was that it was a very expensive tote bag that she had bought that day and she was going to be seen with it even if looked wildy awkward and out of place. And it did, but she had fun.)
A great wallet or purse is just as important as a great bag, I think. Any of these look good enough to double as clutches and will likely fit a lipstick and concealer, and isn't it lovely to pull out something fab when you go to pay for your fruit and veg? It just makes things nicer. When choosing your new wallet or purse be sure that the configuration of the compartments will work for you. For example, if you hate a small snap pocket where you have to dig with one finger for change (that's me!) then look for a zip section or clasp purse built in. And if you have a ton of cards - every shop has a loyalty card now - then be sure it will accommodate what you need to carry with you on a daily basis.
All in all, the best bag for you is all about a balance of style and function, and if you have that you can enjoy the bag for many years. Happy daydreaming!
I'm not sure if it's the nostalgia for the days of late August, that curious mix of dread - of those lazy summer days coming to an end - and excitement - of seeing all of your friends again and beginning a new year - but even now I still get a bit of that conflicted buzz as September approaches. The back-to-school preparations for my daughter are not quite as fun; they're very different from when I was a school girl as we could wear whatever we wanted back in Canada (at least until I went to Catholic high school), whereas in the UK, uniforms are standard across the board and based on a grey pinafore and white shirt. That's both a blessing and a curse. It stifles individuality, but it also makes dressing straightforward and is a great social equaliser for kids.
I thought about what my 'back-to-school' outfit might be, 'school' being a metaphor for refocussing and getting down to business. I found some things at Javelin Online that would not only make a great outfit, but the individual pieces can be worn over and over with other things. I based the outfit on a classic piece by Maison Scotch, a bouclé jacket in a mix of blues with a pretty, studded ribbon neckline. The lining is quilted for the autumn season and the bird print in complementary blues is a lovely feature in itself. If you want to show it off you can turn up the cuffs. A white oxford shirt would look very smart underneath, but I went with a long-sleeved fitted top by American Vintage because I like things to be really simple and comfortable, and in superfine Supima cotton the top is a great basic for layered as well. I'm all about skinny bottoms at the moment, so I went with the Vero Moda zip leggings in navy, then realised why these appealed - I already have them in green and purple! They are a stretch cotton blend pant with side zips and they do up with a back zip, and with the high waist they are very flattering and great for long waisted figures such as mine. They add a bit of edge to the formality of the bouclé jacket, yet are very practical and versatile as an every day pant. And they keep their stretch through wear and washing which is an essential quality. To finish off the outfit - I'm a minimalist when it comes to accessorising - I chose an Olivia Burton Colour Crush watch with a vintage-style face and electric blue leather strap. It complements the outfit with a bit of gold and it will add a pop of colour to more neutral outfits. Lastly, the bag. It had to be a leather satchel to get into the back-to-school spirit, and this teal, compact version is by Fly. Like the other pieces it's great for daily use, and while satchels are very on-trend at the moment, this type of bag will never go out of style and should last ages.
I think these pieces are a wise investment for the fall wardrobe and beyond - longevitiy is important! - and a good kickstart to feeling good and ready for a productive season.
I've been in Toronto for most of the summer and noticed something that I notice every scorching, disgustingly humid summer in the city: women walking around in oppressive, sweat-inducing skinny jeans, jumpers and jackets - I even saw boots! I think there are two reasons for this masochistic choice of outfit, beyond the possibility that these people were born without sweat glands. First, some women simply don't do shorts and dresses. They have a kind of 'uniform' they feel comfortable in and they'll put up with the elements year-round to keep their look going. (This seems to be a theme in metropolitan cities; it's typical of London, Paris and New York as well. And yes, it does get hot in London!) Second, it's easy to get excited about the new autumn collections which hit the shops at the height of summer, and it may be just too tempting not to wear that soft, fluffy crew neck we've just bought, before it makes sense.
So while I'm out in the sweltering streets in as little clothes as I can get away with while maintaining my decency, I've still been keen to look at cold weather wear because I need a new coat, and a new coat is a great excuse to buy new accessories. I found one I love at Mackage, a Montreal-based design duo and one of the best outerwear brands around for high-end quality and styles to die for (see my previous droolings here). My dream coat for this season is a wool trench-style with leather sleeves that features a silver zipper that runs from the sleeve hem to the elbow, and it looks so sleek and polished, especially with the neck done up. A coat like this deserves accessories that are equally luxurious, and what's more lush than cashmere?
Pure Collection is a great shop for fine and sustainable cashmere, so not surprisingly I found the perfect colour block sweater in soft greys to go under the coat. It has a funnel neck which will keep the neck warm if you want to wear the coat open, and the softness of the cashmere looks and feels wonderful against the skin. You won't get a chill as it's made in a heavier gauge knit to keep you toasty in cold weather. (Also handy for wearing in your house in the UK where the insulation is not even clsoe to adequate!)
As for the accessories, it would be a shame not to carry through the theme to complete the look, so my pick for warm hands is a charcoal pair of cashmere gloves (the coat is actually a very dark grey) that adds a soft contrast to the slick leather sleeves but still blends visually. And the head cannot be ignored - you may think you are not a 'hat person' but I'll bet you are! They're essential not just for keeping warm on chilly days, but the right hat pulls a look together like nothing else. The outfit was monochromatic until now, and you know my love of colour, so I couldn't resist going for a pop of one of my favourite hues, a cashmere beret in winter coral. I haven't come across a complexion that coral doesn't complement; it's a colour that instantly brightens you up, and what better time than during the doldrums of winter?
I'm happy to say that fitness has found its way back into my life, in a rather butt-kicking way. I've been taking Muay Thai classes (that's kickboxing) which is the hardest thing I've ever done because of the conditioning aspect - the sweat mop comes out 15 minutes into the merciless two-hour class and you kind of want to die, but you also love it. It's funny that way. I ignore the fact that there's a defibrillator on the wall and that I might get punched in the head.
The fun part of committing to fitness is getting a new workout wardrobe. (I'm convinced that even sitting around while wearing stretchy clothes made of sweat-wisking fabrics burns a few calories in itself.) I admit that when I started my sessions I wore old leggings and an ancient, shapeless T-shirt of my husband's because I just wanted to cover myself up and spare others a nasty scene. Luckily consistency pays off, and now my parts have toned up enough to dress in proper gear without shame. And you really do need clothes that are built for the activity if you want to be able to move well and be comfortable.
With that in mind, I've created an outfit wish list and it all begins with what's underneath. Underwire is a big no-no in terms of comfort but most of us need firm support if we're running and jumping. (I learned the hard way, and your trainer will look at you sideways if you're running with your arms folded over your chest). So a good sports bra is an absolute must, as are bottoms that are light and stay in place. I chose the Panache Sports Bra and matching shorts from My Curves and Me first due to the set's looks; I love the contrasting greys and lilac detail. But where it really counts is in the wide, padded straps of the bra - no digging! - and the generous cut which will help you avoid a shock in the mirror when your top goes south and what's underneath goes up. I know from looking around 15 minutes into a class that this does not only happen to me.
Next is the top and leggings. I, um, sweat a lot and therefore need to dress as light as possible on top while actually wearing a top. And sometimes you want a good legging rather than shorts and a capri will be less hot than full length. This ribbed tank with built-in support converts from straight straps to an X-back and would work great as a layering basic for every day wear. (And yes the straps are very thin and would not cover those of the sports bra, but I think that would actually look kind of cool.) The ombre capris are a very fashionable take on the gym staple and they have reflectives on the knee that help keep you visible during night-time runs (which I don't do because running and me don't gibe but that may be a good feature for you). They also wick away sweat so you'll feel dry during your workout.
And some finishing touches can be quite essential. I'm only now clueing into the fact that I can actually do something about those stray pieces of hair that fall into my face - which is highly inconvenient when wearing boxing gloves - and that's to put on a non-slip headband. I like the thin style and vibrant blue which is what I would try before going for a John McEnroe-esque 70s sweatband. As for outerwear, I usually show up for classes already dressed, and for most weather in the UK you need a jacket or coat, and I think this Adidas by Stella McCartney jacket would be perfect for milder weather. It's a splurge but I'd wear it for all kinds of things, and it's actually two looks in one - an outer panel that is like a smaller jacket layered on top zips off when you warm up or just want to change up the style. And bright yellow will put you in a positive, energetic mood.
Finally, a bag to keep all your sundries. I'm not normally a backpack person - but why not? It makes sense considering it's not good for your alignment to carry a heavyish bag around on one side, and this one offers a clever laundry compartment to keep your sweaty clothes separated, handy access for your water bottles, and a tricot-lined sleeve that fits up to a 17" laptop which could be very handy as carry-on luggage when travelling.
So that's a great start, and you can reward yourself for working hard every month or so with something new to keep you motivated!
Buying jeans can be one of the most frustrating shopping experiences in person: wading through a sea of brands, washes and styles only to end up with nothing, or worse - shattered confidence or a purchase that makes us look weird. I can think of one very expensive pair that made me appear as if I had a permanent wedgie, which is not a good look - and I paid for that! So what chance do we have in finding great fitting jeans on the internet? Jeanography, a new and truly unique online shop dedicated to matching women with their perfect pair, have figured out the solution to what once seemed an eternal fashion conundrum.
I was given the opportunity to try out Jeanography's 'Fit first time' service - designed to give you a perfect pair of jeans the first time you order - and see how it works first-hand. The process begins by making things as easy and commitment-free as possible, leaving no reason not to have a go. After answering a few questions to identify which sizes and styles will work best for you, you are invited to choose three pairs of jeans to try - for free - at home. Or you can choose one pair and based on your first choice and profile, Jeanography's style experts can suggest two more pairs. Delivery (within the UK for the moment) and returns are also free, so you only pay for what you keep. You have seven days to try the jeans and anything that is not received back in 14 days is considered a purchase, at which point you receive an order confirmation and are charged for the jeans you've kept. Easy peasy! (You will be asked to enter your card details upon requesting your trial pairs but nothing will be charged to your card unless you keep any of the jeans after the trial period.)
Now for the fun part: choosing my jeans! I went straight for skinnies which is all I wear right now and refined my search by selecting my size and the rises I wanted - you can choose from low, regular, mid and high. The rise will vary, sometimes significantly, from brand to brand (for example, True Religion's high waisted styles are much lower than others while their mid-rise is very low), but if you pay attention to how they fit on the model you can see clearly see where the waist sits and avoid surprises at home. I went back a few times to be sure of my choices - I had lots of great options - and decided upon these three pairs:
I received my order the next day and within 30 seconds of shutting the door I had flung off the pants I was wearing and tried on my first pair of jeans. As you can see, two of the styles are the same but in a different rinse. I took a risk that the True Religions would fit and I would like them, and luckily they were brilliant, as were the Citizens of Humanity pair. Unbelievable. Now I had a rare conundrum: which of the three would I keep? I was able to choose one pair as part of reviewing the service and I honestly had no idea which to go with, I'd almost wished two of them hadn't fit so well! In the end, I chose the Citizens because they are a classic indigo jean and I don't actually have any dark blue jeans. But I also loved the navy True Religions which are lower in the rise and are a bit more like a cotton jean-style pant which is a nice change from straight-up jeans. So I actually purchased that pair. Anyone who loves skinny jeans knows that they need to fit perfectly to look good; if they're a bit loose they look awful and if the fit is too tight you just suffer and won't wear them. My size is 28; however in the very detailed description for each of my selections, I saw a note mentioning that customers have commented that this jean fits a bit big and they recommend ordering one size smaller. I did, and thanks to this tip I got my perfect fit x 3. As for the lone pair that had to go back, the process was as straightforward as could be: I put them back in the bag they came in, put that in the box and the box into the mailer bag that was included, called the courier quoting Jeanography's account number and arranged pick up at my house. I never had to leave the house.
I should mention that the regular price point of the jeans is high-end as Jeanography stocks only premium denim (but do check out the 2 for 1 summer sale right now). While this may not fit all budgets, it's worth bearing in mind that cheap denim only works for so long before it loses shape and turns on you - I recently got only four washes out of a cheap pair before they lost their stretch enough to make the seam on the inner thighs look a bit lumpy - just what every woman wants! So these jeans are an investment which is reflected in the design as well as the quality; you'll find the latest seasonal styles and updates of the stocked brands' classic best-sellers, but nothing too weird or trendy. Lots of can't-go-wrong, enduring styles and washes with some of-the-moment designs and colours to round out the selection and offer something for the more adventurous jean lover.
There are a few reasons for my 3-for-3 success, and most of them are due to Jeanography's clever ways of matching each shopper with the right options, as earlier detailed, and stocking great jeans to begin with. But it's also a huge help to start off with a bit of knowledge, and that comes down to knowing in advance what jean styles and features work best on your body. I already knew that at this point in time I find mid or high-waisted skinnies most flattering - no muffin tops! - so I was able to focus on those features. (I was telling my mum about my experience and my youngest brother heard about my choice of the high-waisted style and quipped, 'Would those happen to have a 9-inch fly?' Ha ha, no, these are very flattering jeans as you can see above!) But if you're not sure - maybe you've never had a favourite pair or you're in a transitional phase with regards to style preferences or a changing figure - then Jeanography's style experts can help you decide.
Clearly, from my experience I can highly recommend Jeanography as the place to buy jeans online. Or anywhere, for that matter. It's just so convenient. The ultimate test when doing a review is determining whether I would use the service again and pay for it, and I've already made a purchase of a second pair, so there we have it. And I'll be back when the time comes for another. Take your time to figure out what you really want and use their in-house style experts as they know the jeans well, and make those trial pairs count! It's so worth it when you find your new favourite jeans - or maybe even two or three.
Unlike this online shopper, I don't need to pull out my debit card - I have it memorised!
Surely you've noticed the flash sales sites that are popping up everywhere, those online shops that promote sales to their members for just a few days at a time, and then *flash* - they're gone. I do the vast majority of my shopping online and a fair bit comes from a favourite or two private sale sites that I can rely on for legitimate discounts on quality brands, followed up with great customer service. That's all we ask for, right? Unfortunately not all flash sales sites deliver on these must-haves which can mean a disappointing shopping experience, wasted time and money. So I've put together a list of tips that will help you get the most value out of flash sales sites and determine whether your card is best left in your bag. (Please keep in mind that my experience is based on shopping with UK sites!)
Ok. Let's start with the scenario that you've found a flash sale item you want to buy:
1. Do you know the brand? If you're not familiar with the brand, do a search. Look to see if they have an online presence, particularly their own company website or a reputable retail site(s) that stocks them, so you can get a sense of who they are and what they are about. If they are an established brand, they should appear within the first few search results, or at least on the first page. Newer brands may still be building their web presence, but they should still exist online. It's important to do your research because you need to be able to separate the rubbish from the treasures - and it literally takes just seconds to determine if this is a worthwhile brand.
2. Is it really a deal? Get a sense of the brand's price range and look for items similar to the one you've chosen so you can compare the RRP, which is the original, recommended price of the item as set by the manufacturer. We should be able to to trust that the site is reporting prices honestly, but trust needs to be earned. I once saw a pouf that I thought would be perfect for my living room, but didn't buy for a second that the RRP was over £600, as indicated on the product page. Further research showed that it sold for the equivalent of just over £100 on the brand's website, making the 'deal' of £268 not a deal at all! And this was a clear indication that the quality would not be what you'd expect of a £600 item.
Further, I once found an item in the brand's online shop that was being sold at the same price as the flash sale site. This clued me in to the fact that there was no actual deal, and therefore no real incentive or urgency to buy the item as it would still be available online after the flash sale was over, and at the 'discounted' price. That put things in perspective rather quickly!
3. Don't feel pressured by the 'Only 1 left!' message on the item you want, keep calm and make a rational decision. Never buy an item simply because it's nearly sold out. Resist the compulsion to develop an immediate and intense attraction to something simply because it seems to be popular and is about to slip through your fingers. And hey, maybe there were only two available to begin with!
4. Only buy what you actually need, or something special that isn't usually available to you, or is a brand that is not normally discounted. French fine foods are one I will always jump on because I can't buy Fauchon or Hediard in Newcastle, but I don't go as nuts as I used to; I now have what I really want narrowed down to a few favourite things. There are hundreds of flash sales happening every day so you need to practice restraint!
5. Think about the value, not the discount. Ask yourself: am I happy to pay this price for this item? That may seem obvious, but at the end of the day, what matters is not the discount, but the value the item holds for us individually once it's in our possession. We can buy things at 85% off, but if they sit in your closet or cupboard unworn or unused, that is wasted cash, and space. Alternatively, a piddly 15% discount may be a good deal for us if it's on a hard-to-find item or one that is not generally discounted.
6. Demand good customer service. It's my personal philosophy that one sketchy experience is a deal-breaker. Last December I placed an order with a flash sale site about four weeks before the holidays, and all of the items were scheduled to be delivered before Christmas. The one that I actually needed as a gift never arrived, and I received no email updating me on the delivery status. The order was not fulfilled and apparently simply forgotten. I later saw in an issue of Which? that this site scored at the bottom of customer satisfaction survey for guess what - unreliable delivery! However, if there are extenuating circumstances and the customer service representative goes above and beyond to make it up to you (in this case they did nothing beyond acknowledge the mistake), that overrides the error for me and I can happily forgive. But otherwise, don't bother with that site again. Unsubscribe from their email newsletters so as not be tempted back. There are lots of great sites that will follow through on their promises.
Things to know about flash sale sites:
Don't expect quick delivery once you've placed your order. The way they work is when the sale is over they place the entire order with the manufacturer, so it takes time to receive the products and then send them on to you. There are exceptions, however; one I know actually stocks the merchandise and therefore can send it out straight away, and this also means additional savings later when they have a clearance sale, though it really is picked through by that point. So again, remember never buy simply to score a huge discount. There's usually a reason it's been left behind.
Check their returns policy. The site may have conditional returns that may make getting a refund difficult, and due to the nature of flash sales, exchanges are not possible.
So that's my two cents! Shopping should be a positive experience and you should feel good about your purchases. If you have a tip of your own, let us know!
I've been a little slow getting in on the app game despite having an iPad2 for at least two years now; maybe it's because I pretty much only used the iPad to play Ms. PacMan (which my husband put on knowing that would be my first priority because I'm awesome at it - don't laugh!), and I work from home so I'm on my laptop all day and tend to use websites since that's what's in front of me.
But it was time I got onto exploring the universe of apps available to us through our devices, it got embarrassing having to shake my head 'no' when asked if I know this one or that one, then having to explain that I am actually otherwise clued into the online world, I work strictly with digital media for a living! So I decided to put in some time seeing what clever things are out there.
In terms of shopping, clearly I like Net-a-porter. They are the pioneers of online luxury shopping and became the model to follow in terms of website design and product presentation, and they've also got a fantastic online magazine. So I was curious how all of this web greatness translates on an Android mobile phone, specifically the HTC Sensation which is what I use.
This is what the homepage of the app looks like (images are screencaps from Net-a-porter's video):
The landing page automatically opens on the Shop tab from which you can select 'What's New', browse the designer directory and product categories, or see a curated grouping of products via the 'Trend Edit' option. Or you can select the News tab which appears to be the mobile version of their digital magazine, Edit which features brilliantly shot editorial - you can always shop the shoot directly from the page because, of course, everything featured is from Net-a-porter - as well as interviews and trend stories. And also from the front page is a 'Live' option which is something exclusive to the app, and something that took me a few seconds to figure out. 'Why is it showing me products and telling me that they've been added to so-and-so's shopping bag or wish list?' Ah, ok, this is the social aspect worked in. I probably wouldn't browse this feature again, but I am aware that some others would be interested in being influenced by others' choices and so I can see its relevance in a shopping app (as you probably already know, there are shopping apps and websites based entirely on this principle, one of which is coming up). And I suppose it can bring items to your attention that we may not otherwise come across in the vast yet discerning sea that is Net's product offering.
Since the primary purpose of the app is shopping, I tried to buy an item (stopping short of the actual purchase, unfortunately!) to see how the selection process and shopping cart function compares to the smoothness of the website. I selected the 'Shoes' category from the homepage which went to the 'Shoes Type' page where you can select the style you want to look at or just go with 'All Shoes' which is what I did. Then I decided I wanted to see what Esquivel shoes they currently have (my favourite) and to do that I returned to the homepage by hitting 'Net-a-porter' in the top left corner of the screen and found the brand in the Designer A-Z page. It gave me four style options, and I clicked on red brogues with a white detail that has a spray-painted effect because they were screaming for my attention. I ran into a few glitches with the images. I got 'image not available' a few times and as I scrolled through was able to see other shots rather randomly. The first three looked low-res whereas the remaining four were crisp. I wondered for a second how you buy the item and tried pulling up a menu from the bottom I hoped was there, and it was. From this menu you can select to view each of the details you get from the product page view on the website. But I couldn't figure out how to add it to the cart. Trying to conjure an 'add' feature with my finger wasn't working, but after staring at the screen for longer than I'd care to admit, I noticed a + button in the top right corner. I hit it and was given the option to add the shoes to the shopping bag or wish list. I selected 'shopping bag' and a list of sizes dropped down. I went for my Esquivel size which is US 7 and then it showed me my selection with the total and a button to confirm the purchase. I didn't do that since I wasn't actually buying them (nuts!) but I'd assume the purchase would have been successful. I should mention that I browsed quite a few other products and didn't find any image problems with those - everything loaded and looked high-res, so I went back to look at the Esquivels again and guess what, all images loaded and were crisp so it was probably that the images hadn't fully loaded although I did give it some time. I put that down to my phone, not the app.
My overall impression: A smooth and comprehensive app that represents the aesthetic and features of the website well and delivers a similar feel and experience. My one suggestion would be to make the 'add to bag' or 'add to wish list' function more obvious to avoid missing it altogether and abandoning the app in frustration, and ultimately feeling like a dumkopf with no new gear on its way. (Unless this is how all shopping apps work, in which case you can just ignore that last part!)
The Net-a-porter app is free and available for iPad, iPhone and Android in English, French, German and simplified Chinese versions. You can find out more about the app and download it here
Pose is an online and mobile fashion community that has been generating a lot of media buzz and has been called 'The Instagram of Fashion'. There are dozens of sites like it as developers are capitalising on the current hunger for social engagement, fashion show and tells, and the compulsion to buy something right NOW! that looked really hot on a girl who lives in a country that seems so much cooler than your own. Social influence is driving purchasing decisions and the cool kids have it. The developers attract the fashionistas who attract more users who will probably buy something at some point, and they tell their friends about it, and so on.
So I was curious to see what I might get out of it, if anything. For this one I decided to use the iPad2 since the app is image heavy and it's not available for Android anyway. To begin, I had to create an account. I used my email and then was allowed entry. It told me 'Pose is where fashion happens...and you're about to see why.' Ok! Hmm...now it wants me to take a quiz so they can suggest the best people on Pose for me to follow. Can I bypass this? I instantly resent anything that tries to pigeonhole me - I'm a varied and complex individual! And so are you. Oh well. Here we go. I guess it's just trying to make the sea of fashion more digestible and relevant, although it makes me wonder what I'm not being shown. You can skip questions but at the end it automatically chooses people for you to follow. It gave me four users, incuding Rachel Zoe and Coco Rocha. Something tells me that was not random. Next you can create 'collections' to save 'poses' for inspiration, to buy, or to share with your friends. I hit 'stream' and was brought to a page showing me the poses from people I follow, you know, those four I didn't have a say in following. At this point I am prompted to scroll through images, or 'poses' and encouraged to drag some into my collections. The only thing that stands out is a close-up of a grey t-shirt that says 'F*CK' (but with the U) at which point I'm tempted to create a 'So Subversive' collection just for it. (I don't.) I notice buttons scattered throughout that have a user name and image and they seem to be competing for my attention, so I bite and hit one to see what happens. It brings me to this person's stream and indicates I am now following them. Again, no choice and no prior indication this would happen. This particular Poser has 6646 followers and is following 45 people back. That's not very sociable. At this point I know it's definitely not for me. It hasn't offered anything different from other similar interactive fashion communities I've seen (not that I've seen everything), other than it's the only one that places you exactly where it wants you, rather than let you create your own experience. I'm an adult, I can make my own decisions. But I persevere because this is a review. I hit 'Shop' in the side menu and select a photo of a girl wearing a white outfit. From here I can shop pieces of the outfit and I wind up on the Barneys site looking at a Sophie Hume bag and it's like a breath of fresh air being there. I go back to the outfit page at which point the left menu navigation disappears, I can't figure out how to get off the page and I take that as a sign that I'm allowed to bail.
My overall impression: If you like looking at style photos of bloggers, celebrities and other fashionistas and don't mind being plunked into an experience that has been quite conspicuously chosen for you, then have a go. You could have fun. One million other people seem to be.
The Pose app is free and can be downloaded for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad here
The last app I'm reviewing is Bangstyle which I saw on a 'Best Beauty Apps of 2012 list'. I thought it might come in handy for avoiding a repeat of my last salon visit where I tried to describe a very popular colour technique to a colourist who had no clue what I was talking about. (How could she not know what ombre is?!) It's always best to have a photo, you really don't want to assume your stylist knows what you're asking for. (I once wound up with what was essentially a layered bowl cut on top of long hair when I asked for volume. No amount of 'blending' by the salon owner who saw the atrocity and stepped in could salvage it. Don't let this happen to you!)
Ok, so first you create a profile, which according to the reviews was a prohibitively glitchy process at some point and got the app lots of low ratings. It's not anymore and I was able to sign up quickly. Next I'm taken to the Image Community for Hair page (above left) and have a browse of the styles. There is just one page and when I get to the last one a window pops up telling me it's the last and to go to 'Fresh Pix' to view more. I return to the Image Community and see the Fresh Pix tab at the bottom of the page. The pages do not load quickly which was another gripe users expressed in the reviews. I've waited for at least 10 seconds to be shown a new set of hairstyle photos which seems excruciatingly long for something that's meant to deliver instant gratification. I don't see anything that jumps out so I load more and wait again. It seems lots of users have not tagged their image because I see many labelled 'photo' which I imagine is a default tag. You can share an image or heart it to save it to your inspiration folder within the app which I tried and found easy and straightforward. I decide to look at the Articles tab and surprisingly, I find articles that have absolutely nothing to do with hair! There's one on cameras, an artist who creates illusions using wood, how to bake message into your cakes...then I see the filter for the articles and yes, it covers anything and everything. Is this meant to take the place of glossy magazines in the salon? Instead of being stuck with an old copy of Hello! to thumb through you read articles on a hairstyle app? Who knows! The My Style feature is where your activity such as saved photos and uploaded pics is organised. There's also a salon locator...still waiting for that to load as I write this... still waiting...I'm glazing over... My phone gave up and went to sleep. After waiting for two minutes I had to quit and start over. I fared no better after a second attempt and now I can't get into anything. Ok! We're back in. Finally. I want to see if I can filter the styles within the Fresh Pix pages so I can look for particular styles I'm interested in. You can't do this on the Image Community page so I'm not sure what the point of it would be unless it features newly added hairstyles? And I'm stuck staring at the swirly circle again. This is a simple app that could be thoroughly checked in just a few minutes so the download time is really frustrating. Ok, at least I'm able to filter styles now, this is where the app becomes useful to me. Or so I thought. I select 'Bangs' and it does nothing. So I try 'Long' and the same thing, nothing. Looking through the list I can see it doesn't have any kind of a colour category which would surely be an essential for people considering a new look? I tried to go back in three more times with no luck. Oh boy. If you were in the salon trying to show a photo from this app you would have one mighty frustrated hairstylist tapping her foot next to you. I bail on it, and I think you know what my final assessment will be.
My overall impression: Slow loading times and being forced to quit - a third complaint mentioned several times in the reviews - makes it impossible to use this app. What a shame as it may have been useful in the salon. A thorough check of the filter function would hav confirmed that either way.
The Bangstyle app is free (it would have to be) and is available for iPhone and Android here if you're still curious.
If you have tried and true suggestions for helpful alternatives please feel free to let us know!
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 great 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 stylight.co.uk. 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 surprise.
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 disappoint.
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 timeless memento.
Photo credit: Natalie Clince
Not 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 or champagne.
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 people watching.
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 Decorative 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. 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 blot 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.
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!
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 Australia-based 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!
Cupcakes and Champagne is one of the discounted treats you can find
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 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.
What do you think of the 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 also 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!