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JH ENGSTROM EXHIBITS: "FROM BACK HOME"

Iconic Swedish photographer JH Engström is currently exhibiting 'From Back Home' in Berlin, a collection of images tracing his childhood memories back to the province of Värmland READ MORE...
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REVIEW: 'TREAT PETITE' BY FIONA PEARCE

There's something so irresistible about miniature food, the treats we love made into tiny packages you can just pop into your mouth - virtually guilt-free! READ MORE...
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GEMMA, LILY & LINDSAY'S PHOTO BOOTH FUN FOR DIOR

"Three friends taking pictures of themselves in a photo-booth as they go off to Glastonbury festival''. This was the brief John Galliano (remember him?!) gave to Nick Knight READ MORE...
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12 STUNNING PHOTOS THAT CAPTURE THE WORLD

As an amateur photographer, I'm fascinated by the universe of possibilities we can explore in creating images with our digital camera - why limit ourselves? I read a debate a while ago READ MORE...
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'FROM ARCHITECTURE TO FASHION IN 8 SECONDS'

Since 2007, Montreal photographer Nicolas Ruel has been refining an in-camera double exposure technique, where with a quick swivelling motion of his device, a second plan is overlaid on a main READ MORE...
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LULA GOES TO JAPAN

Lula is about to pretty up Japan even further this October with its unique mix of memoir, philosophy and fantasy, as interpreted by editor Kazuo Sazuki READ MORE...
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March 17, 2014

Lula Magazine Goes to Japan

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Lula is about to pretty up Japan even further this October with its unique mix of memoir, philosophy and fantasy, as interpreted by editor Kazuo Sazuki. Sazuki has launched several highly acclaimed culture and fashion magazines in Japan, including RUSSH JAPAN. His company, Selek Limited, will be publishing Lula Japan.

Brit girls love Lula - still an independently published fashion title here - and now its youthful, dreamy and bold style will be a perfect fit for the Japanese market. I can't wait to see that first issue - will Sazuki use Japanse models?

And this is a good excuse to show some covers. I noticed that the more recent looks show an adventurous hand when it comes to makeup: 

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 Kelly-Mittendorf-for-Lula-14-Spring-Summer-2012

March 08, 2014

Orla Kiely's First Shoe Range is for...Clarks!

Orla

Ok, so this is now last month's news because that's when it launched, but I am a fan of Orla Kiely so I wanted to talk about her shoe range with Clarks. I'm surprised this collaboration with the British heritage retailer - they've been around since 1825! - is the Irish print designer's first venture into shoes, mainly because I thought she'd have launched under her own label long ago if only to supply the shoes for her presentations at London Fashion Week. One season in the Portico Rooms at Somerset House - until three collections ago this was her LFW home which she transformed into a 1970s-tinged Orla Kiely world - I was admiring the wooden platforms on the models and then realised they were from Topshop, and thought how tough it must be to find the perfect pair to finish off her retro-inspired looks each season and complement her bags just so. 

Orla Kiely's collaboration with Clarks would have been slightly more eyebrow-raising if the modest high street retailer hadn't already done a collection with another homegrown label known for prints, hipster fave Eley Kishimoto, two brands you would never think of simultaneously, which made it kind of cool. And Clarks didn't order a watered down approach for the masses, or at least that wasn't what was delivered in the end; the electric zig-zag and cubic prints in bold colours were true to the duo's 'pay attention to me!' aesthetic of the time. 

Eley-Kishimoto-x-Clarks-belmodo.tv-10Past shocker collaboration, Clarks x Eley Kishimoto

Clarks is known as a shoe retailer of modest styling and modest pricing which has positioned itself as the trustworthy place to buy quality shoes for your kids (and have them fitted properly), and for adults to buy a nice, sensible pair, leaving a wide gap in the middle. These designer collaborations get the teens and fashion-savvies excited and in the door, or clicking. And maybe it's not so surprising to see Clarks stretching so far outside of their comfort zone with these crazy graphics and sky-high platforms; United Nude's Rem D Koolhaus co-founded the forward-thinking, edgy shoe brand with British shoemaker Galahad Clark - yes, of that Clark family. Nice to see they're not afraid to play around and have some fun. 

Here's the Orla Kiely collection for Clarks, in all its chunky-heeled, platformed, Mary-Jane and T-barred glory:

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And look how she's incorporated her famous double stem print into the sole of the shoe:

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If you happen to be a Canadian fan of Orla Kiely, you're in luck - the collection launched today at Gravitypope and it appears to include everything seen here. 

February 18, 2014

TSL Features in Paper Magazine

PaperMag

To tie in with London Fashion Week, New York's Paper Magazine has run a feature called 8 British Bloggers Disrupting the Fashion World and they've included The Swelle Life in their roundup. I was thrilled to be interviewed for the piece; one of the answers published mentions a redesign - yes, the blog's six-year anniversary is approaching and I'm going to be giving TSL a new look and even a new name as soon as I can get started.  The content will remain the same but there will be more design-focused categories, and without giving too much away before launch, it will be a bit of an 'education' - yes that's a hint!

Have a look at the feature and discover some great new British-based fashion blogs! 

February 15, 2014

All Rhodes to London

Zandra-and-safia-Z-chair-900x667Zandra Rhodes with People Tree founder Safia Minney

British designer Zandra Rhodes is a favourite amongst fashionistas for her unbashed love of colour and print, prolific and enduring fashion career, and her revolutionary contribution to textile design - and you can't not love her bright pink hair! Here is a conversation journalist Millie Davies had with the fashion icon at her London home:

We meet Zandra Rhodes in her fabulous London penthouse, an oasis of colour nestled a stone’s throw from The Shard and atop of her self-founded London Fashion and Textile Museum.

More than 50 years into her illustrious career, the fuchsia-haired veteran designer Zandra Rhodes is as busy as ever. “I only flew in from California this morning”, the 73-year-old fashionista lets slip as we discuss her latest collaboration.

The acclaimed textile designer has recently partnered with ethical fashion house People Tree to launch a bespoke range, ‘Happy Woman’. With her fabulous fingers in many pies, what sparked Zandra’s interest in this particular label?

“At first I simply thought it was a great cause and that People Tree did a very good product. And then of course having gone to India with the founder of People Tree, Safia Minney, it led me along to realise what a good cause it is. And one to keep plugging away for.”

Famous in the international world of fashion, Rhodes has shown an interest in sustainable clothing before, lending her name to the Pick Your Cotton campaign. She’s also collaborated with some of the biggest names in British retail heaven, in partnerships with Marks and Spencer, Topshop and MAC.

Talk turns to Zandra’s instrumental fashion museum; it hosts workshops, archives and its very own fashion school. Its latest Artists Textiles Exhibition was opened by the acclaimed museum director Sir Nicholas Serota and the Bermondsey building offers inspiration to a new generation of fashionable types in the capital.

What’s Zandra’s view of the success of the museum? “Well I definitely think it’s had an impact on making the textiles more visible,” she candidly offers.

Zandra_Rhodes

Zandra shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Currently dividing her time between her two bases, London and San Diego, she cites travel as a way to channel her creative energy. And whilst most of the fashion elite will be flocking to London for front row seats at next week’s London Fashion Week, the iconic figure is jetting back to the States to raise awareness for a women’s cause.

“I’m doing a show called Go Red for Women and it raises awareness that, actually, women have strokes and heart attacks more than they get breast cancer.”

As an advocate of women’s issues, how does Zandra think women fare in her industry?

“I think women have a harder road all round in whatever they go into.” She reflects. “The only thing I would say is – pointing it out can cause you more trouble.”

Having exhibited hairdos in a myriad of colours, most recently a brilliant pink, Zandra insists that artistically she would never be led by a favourite colour; rather, “one designs in whatever one needs.”

With the People Tree collection sporting fun, bright, and 100% organic cotton frocks and blouses, it’s a safe bet that sombre tones never featured on the drawing board.

Popular in the UK, America and beyond, Zandra continues to make an impact on global fashion. In her impressive career, she has produced multiple clothing lines, designed exclusive jewellery ranges and somewhat uniquely designed the set and costumes for the opera.

Having risen to success in the 1960s, does Zandra have any advice for present day aspiring designers?

“Only that no hard work gets wasted. And unfortunately you have to work harder and harder to get there right at the beginning.”

Zandra – who can add an OBE to her accolades - remains as big a name in British fashion as ever. As we leave the designer’s radiant home and emerge into the darkness of London’s streets, we can’t help but carry some of her sparkle with us.

‘Happy Woman’ is the new collaboration between Zandra Rhodes and People Tree.

February 05, 2014

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 at the designer's Spring/Summer 2014 collection, and like Erdem's clothes, it's really beautiful. 

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December 09, 2013

North East Photographer Launches The Sill Photography Competition

The Sill photography competition 2Photo © Cain Scrimgeour

As the “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” draws to a close to be replaced by the stunning sights of an English winter, North East photographer and film maker Cain Scrimgeour asks members of the public to enter a competition celebrating all things bright and beautiful about Northumberland National Park.

Cain, 23, from Whitley Bay, is supporting a photography competition in partnership with Northumberland National Park Authority and YHA (England and Wales), the organisations behind The Sill, a proposed £11.2m national landscape discovery centre in the heart of the Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site.

The Sill will replace the current visitor centre and YHA youth hostel at the Once Brewed site with a state-of-the-art building that is both “inspired by the landscape and of the landscape” and which, as its centrepiece, will feature a fully accessible green roof made from unique Northumbrian Whin vegetation that visitors can actually walk onto.

The Sill will inspire and transform how people understand, access and enjoy the natural and cultural landscapes of Northumberland National Park including the Hadrian’s Wall area as well as other outstanding areas in the region like the Cheviots, North Pennines and Northumberland Coast. These beautiful and dramatic areas, rugged landscapes and fantastic wildlife provide perfect scenery for budding photographers.

Cain ScrimgeourCain, who recently provided time lapse footage and wildlife imagery for Robson Green’s new ITV1 series Tales from Northumberland, hopes to inspire local people and visitors of all ages to capture the quintessential beauty of the entire Northumberland National Park area and beyond on camera. He said: “I’ve spent a lot of time photographing and filming various parts of Northumberland National Park and the wider North East region and the opportunities to capture breath-taking images are truly staggering. The Sill will introduce so many people to this rare beauty and I’m very excited to be involved with the project from the outset.

“I hope people of all ages and walks of life will get out and about with their cameras, whether they are highly technical pieces of kit or just their smart phones, and capture for themselves what the area has to offer. The colours and tones available at the end of autumn are absolutely gorgeous but it’s a really diverse landscape and genuinely looks amazing in every season; particularly the winter.

“In return for entering photos into the competition, you’ll have the chance to be part of something really special from its very beginning – the images will be used to promote The Sill far and wide and may even be incorporated into the new building somehow."

The photography competition is open to all ages and experience levels, with a category for under 18s and a category for over 18s and a winner will be chosen at the end of each season. Photographs are welcomed that capture the essence of Northumberland National Park and other special Northumbrian landscapes in relation to one of three themes; environments (including lakes and rivers, crags, hills, iron age hillforts and traditional buildings etc), flora and fauna (all forms of wildlife from cattle to forests) and activities (including everything from people working on the land, children’s bike rides to rock climbing and astrology).

Stuart Evans, The Sill Project Director, said: “The Sill will be a hub to inspire people to visit and learn about Northumberland National Park and beyond. Those who live in and work this land are well aware of the fantastic views the Northumbrian landscapes offer and we’d love more people to experience and discover this for themselves and help us share the sights with many others. 

“We’re thrilled that Cain is supporting the campaign, he has produced some awe-inspiring work in the park and will be a very welcome addition to our judging team when we make some very difficult decisions regarding our winners! We’ll be awarding some fantastic money can’t buy prizes, including a photography workshop with Cain.

The Sill photography competition 1Photo © Cain Scrimgeour

“The bank of images we generate will be used to promote The Sill and we hope that contributors will feel immense pride in helping us bring our striking landscapes to life. We’re currently trying to raise £3.7m of funding to match what we’re set to receive from the Heritage Lottery Fund to bring our ambitious plans to fruition and these photographs will certainly help to demonstrate the wealth of opportunities on offer to potential funders.”

Northumberland National Park provides an abundance of extremely photogenic subjects, from the Cheviot Hills to Steel Rigg and red grouse to salmon, but anyone hoping to capture more adventurous activities should keep checking the events page of The Sill’s website for details of other photographic opportunities.

The best entries will be uploaded to The Sill’s social media profiles so anyone interested in seeing contributions from budding photographers of the North East should search ‘The Sill’ on Facebook and follow the project on Twitter @thesillproject.

Entries can be uploaded to Facebook, Twitter or submitted by email to thesillproject@gmail.com. Images need to be at least 300 dpi and a maximum file size of 10MB.

In entering the competition, entrants agree that copyright of the images belongs to The Sill and can therefore be used by them in any way they see fit, although attempts will always be made to credit the photographer.

The competition is ongoing and a judging panel including Cain Scrimgeour will determine winners on a quarterly basis.

For more information about The Sill and the upcoming events, visit www.thesill.org.uk , find The Sill on Facebook or follow The Sill on Twitter @thesillproject

November 20, 2013

Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore!

Issy_2

Starting today, Somerset House, in partnership with the Isabella Blow Foundation and Central Saint Martins, presents Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore!, a major fashion exhibition celebrating the extraordinary life and wardrobe of the late British patron of fashion and art. Tickets can be purchased from the Somerset House website.

For more about the exhibiton and Isabella Blow's fascinating life in fashion, visit Not Just a Label and Daphne Guiness' Guide to the exhibition on Vogue.co.uk. (Daphne owns her late friend Isabella Blow's entire fashion collection, purchased after her death to stop it from being sold at auction and dispersed.)

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November 13, 2013

Best of British Design: Tom Vousden

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The James Desk (£1500) and James Desk chair (£675) in Walnut, with tweed upholstery. Also available in oak.

The 100% Design exhibition showcased some great British design talent, and my favourite part of attending was discovering new names. Welsh designer/maker Tom Vousden caught my eye with his uniquely elegant desk and chair frames in walnut and oak, and I loved how he combined the woods with other materials. Powder coated steel made up the legs of the side table and the shutter-like panels on the sideboard, and an armchair featured hand-knitted cushions in warm tones. I really wanted to sit in it. I should have. 

A bit about Tom Vousden: After finishing a Three Dimensional Design course at Manchester Metropolitan University in 2011, he returned to North Wales to make high-end, bespoke furniture for a variety of clients. Tom uses modern technology and techniques along with hand making to create authentic furniture of quality and longevity. 

For more information about these pieces or to enquire about bespoke designs you can contact Tom through his website

Tom_Vousden_100%DesignTom Vousden at the 100% Design show

Tom_Vousden

Tang Side Table (£355) with oak top and powder coated steel legs in blue; the James Desk Chair in walnut

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The James Desk in walnut

Tom_Vousden_KnitChair

 Lounge Chair with hand knitted cushions and hand turned oak buttons (£1550)  

Tom_Vousden_WalnutDeskWalnut Office Desk, Chair and Cabinet

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Lounge Chair in leather (£1350) with Oak Side Table (£325)

November 01, 2013

A Look at 50 Years of the Mathmos Lava Lamp

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I had a lava lamp in university. I bought it during the revival of the trippy 1960s ornament when they seemed to be everywhere. A lot of the styles were kind of big and clunky, and then I saw one that seemed more 'me', a slimmer model with a brushed silver base and top and the coolest colour of purple lava, a soft hue that looked gorgeous when the light was on. It was a Mathmos 'Astro' lamp and I got compliments on it all the time because it was different from the others. I loved that thing. It became kind of a night light because I'd fall asleep staring at it on my desk. 

Mathmos is celebrating 50 years of the lava lamp this autumn , and in reading over the history of the company I've learned some things about this iconic piece of pop culture. It's a British product, invented by Edward Craven-Walker who went on to found Mathmos in 1963. And all of the compoments are made in Britain, even today. Mathmos has committed to keeping the manufacturing of their classic on home turf and the company continues to be entirely British owned and run.

Here's a charmingly retro video (love the 'Barbarella' soundtrack) - showing us how each part is made - the bottle production in Yorkshire, metal spinning by hand and robot in Devon, and the formulation and final assembly in Poole, Dorset where it all began - with some lovely scenery shots from each location:

 

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To celebrate their 50th anniversary, Mathmos have launched a limited edition Astro with commemorative certificate signed by Christine Craven-Walker, the wife and business partner of the inventor. Alongside the limited edition is the new Heritage collection inspired by vintage colours and finishes in celebration of Mathmos’ long history:

Mathmos_astro_lava_lamp_heritage_range low res
Here's a look at some vintage images from the early days of Mathmos:

Craven-Walker traveled the country selling from the back of an ex-postal van known as 'Smokey' - how neat! I wonder if it still exists?
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One of the first adverts for the Mathmos 'Astro' lamp

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Inventor of the lava lamp, Edward Craven-Walker. He is quoted as saying, "If you buy my lamp, you won't need drugs... I think it will always be popular. It's like the cycle of life. It grows, breaks up, falls down and then starts all over again".  

Mathmos_original_lava_lamp_'1960s astro prototype by the founder of Mathmos' LR

The prototype of the 1960s Astro, created by the founder of Mathmos. It was inspired by a design for an egg timer that Mr. Craven-Walker saw in a Dorset pub!

I'm feeling nostalgic now, are you?

All Mathmos lava lamps are available to buy direct Europe-wide from www.mathmos.com

October 16, 2013

The #UnlockArt Film Series Experience Begins...

TheSwelleLife_3D (1 of 1)Upon arrival I was given 3D glasses so I could find my room which had my name encoded on the door - a new way of seeing things? This set the tone for what was to follow....

Here I am again at one of my most favourite places, Le Méridien Piccadilly in London, this time for their UNLOCK ART film series experience. It's only mid-afternoon as I'm writing this and already we've had a day packed with all kinds of wonderful delights ('we' is me and six other lucky bloggers), and we've been told there's a surprise to come before our "immersive" five course dinner experience with A Taste Full Space this evening. We've received instructions to be in our rooms at 6pm for the first surprise and I can't wait to find out what they have cooked up - if I know Le Méridien, it will be out of this world. 

UnlockArt
Click the image to watch the film at the Le Méridien Unlock Art site

This morning at the hotel we were treated to the Unlock Art debut screening of Bringing Performance Art to Life, the first of a series of eight exclusive films created by Tate in partnership with Le Méridien. It was brilliantly presented by Frank Skinner who delivered the most clever of scripts, written by Jessica Lack (with a bit of improv we've been told). The objective of the films is to make art inclusive and accessible to everyone, taking it from 'high brow to street level', to Unlock Art for those who may not otherwise have paid attention for whatever reason, be it they don't understand the art, or think it's not meant for them. Delivered with the perfect dose of respectful humour, this historical survey of this provocative genre was entertaining, engaging and educational, and I wasn't bothered about whether I understood at that moment exactly what performance art is - yes even as an art student I struggled to get my head around it - I just wanted to keep watching. For me, it opened the mind and bridged the gap between 'us' and 'them', and hopefully it will do the same for many others as well. This afternoon we had the opportunity to chat with Susan Doyan who directed and produced the series, and she was lovely. What a talent. This easily digestible tour of the arts, from Surrealism to Pop Art, will continue to roll out monthly at the Le Méridien Unlock Art site. In addition, The Guardian will also be posting the videos. 

Update: The BBC has also featured the story and video which you can see here

TheSwelleLife_Pil&GaliaKollectiv_2 (1 of 1)

And what better to follow than actual performance art? Pil & Galia Kollectiv's 'A Guide to Office Clerical Time Standards' is an instructional piece based on a corporate manual from 1960. The pamphlet is focused on the time necessary for the accomplishment of minute labour procedures in the office, from the depressing and releasing of typewriter keys to the opening and closing of file cabinet drawers. In the performance, seven costumed performers represent the different levels of management and employment while performing the actions described in the guide, accompanied by a live musical score. It was a very rhythmic performance that captured and held the attention of the audience throughout its repetitive acts. 

Now let's talk about the food. Jumping back to my arrival, I found a treat in my room after I entered be-spectacled in 3D. A trio of fortune cookies were waiting to be opened, and in them were these messages:

TheSwelleLife_fortunecookie_welcome

I ate them up and was so excited to see what art was going to be unlocked for us. 

After the performance, a unique array of tiny cocktails and food, both savoury and sweet, were served. Never passing up an opportunity to make a moment special, they presented chocolate covered strawberries hanging from umbrellas which was just so neat!

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After the lovely talk with Susan Doyan I came up to my room and found this:

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Being a three-time (and counting I hope!) veteran of these Le Méridien experiences I knew what was in that teapot: an infused gin, one of the hotel's specialties, and tonic to mix for a totally unique G&T. (See more here.) I was so full after my Caligula-like ravaging of the mini foods (and drinks) but there was no way I was letting that pot sit idle and I poured a delicious cup (and kept going until it was all gone). And I ate more than that one bite missing from the macaron. As you can see, I really had no choice. 

Next up: Our immersive dinner. Hint: Hackney, locked cages, dancing zombie girls...

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