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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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June 23, 2013

Case Study: J.W. Anderson x Nikon 1

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I love my Nikon D7000, but I'm a tiny bit jealous of the Nikon 1 owners at the moment for they now have a 1940s-style leather case, created in collaboration with of-the-moment (and deservedly well beyond) British fashion designer J.W. Anderson, made just for them and their snappy little sidekicks. The 400 bag limited collection is available in black, white, orange and blue colourways and reflects J.W. Anderson's unisex approach to design. The bags can now be pre-ordered at the Nikon Store and are priced at £85.

I love this case, carrying it would make me feel like a mid-century sailor with impeccable taste in accessories. How 'about a bigger one for us Nikon users with chunkier cargo? Please?

Below, Jonathan Anderson speaks from his studio not only about his collaboration with Nikon, but why London is "the epi-centre of new", how he approaches design for his womenswear and menswear collections and why a designer should never compromise. If you've been following fashion recently you'll know that these aren't empty words, the man is pushing boundaries. (Bonus: his Northern Irish accent):

 
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Photos courtesy of Nikon

June 11, 2013

Glasgow: On the Train Through Northumberland

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Last weekend I went to Glasgow. This post really has nothing to do with Glasgow except for the fact that this is what I saw out the train window on the way! But I have too many photos of Glasgow to post at once, so we'll start the tour here. Northumberland, the county that borders Scotland in the east, is absolutely stunning country - you can see other trips to various sites here - and is the reason that when people invariably say to me, on a weekly basis for the past nearly 8 years, "Canada is beautiful, what are you doing here?" I reply, "Have you SEEN your country?!" Yes, Canada is beautiful, but it's massive and therefore not beautiful everywhere. And the UK pretty much is, you're never very far from breathtaking scenery. One of the first observations my husband made when we took our first trip through Northumberland when we moved here, is how all of the land is used for something, and so you don't have the wastelands you see in North America. All of this land has been owned for hundreds of years by someone, taken care of and given purpose, and it's easy to see why it inspired so many landscape painters over the centuries. You can be so tired your eyes are burning in their sockets but it's almost impossible to look away when travelling through areas like this. And if you like sheep, you'll get your fill and then some. Somehow none of my pictures have any. But I swear they are everywhere up here. Really.

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The rapeseed fields (worst name ever!) create wonderful, bright yellow, massive colourblocks on the landscape. 

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Pretty painted houses dot the coast of Berwick-upon-Tweed, the last town in England before you cross into Scotland. 

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We saw rainbows along the way for about 20 minutes, and when I exclaimed, dumbfounded, that we kept seeing them I was made fun of for not understanding how rainbows work. I have now reminded myself by reading about it (it's been a long time since grade 7 science class!). I still think it's a little bit of magic happening there. 

More to come on actual Glasgow...

Photos © The Swelle Life

May 08, 2013

Standout Stools: How to Make Them Work in Your Space

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I've been thinking a lot about stools lately, you know, as you do! We looked at beautiful breakfast bars last week and saw a variety of great looking bar stools, and then I found myself in Harrogate drooling over a high back stool of exquisitely woven hot pink polyurethane (trust me) in a contemporary furniture shop, saying "if only..." Sound familiar? A (good) stool is one of those furniture items that is universally appealing, but actually found in very few homes. It's probably for the same reason as why I don't have one in our home: we don't think we have the space. I lamented this 'fact' to the owner of the shop I was visiting and he stated quite confidently, "You always have room for a stool." He wasn't a hard-selling kind of guy, he was simply stating a truth which has trickled through; I've since realised after coming home and scrutinising every room of ours for potential places to put such a stool, that it's not about shoe-horning it in to your existing decor for the sake of it, but rather seeing it as a replacement for an existing piece, or even as a foundation piece to build your space around and create a vibe that works for you. If a particular item excites us that much, it can be worth mixing up our traditional approaches and coming at our spaces from a fresh - and sometimes scary! - perspective.

Here's an exercise to try: Use your coveted stool (or any wish list item you have an enduring lust for) as a starting point for a particular room and think about what you can move, or get rid of - chances are you'll have at least one major thing that you live with that doesn't thrill you anymore (there's a joke in there I'm not going to touch). I'll use my living room as an example: I have a large sideboard that was once my pride and joy and now I see it as an eyesore, and also I'm bored with how I've decorated it on top; it served me well for a time but I've moved past the style altogether. Replacing it with another sideboard that's more my taste now is one option. But, what if I were to abandon the idea that a large, decorated, storage piece needs to anchor the view into my living room? And the armchair that looks nice but isn't sat in all that much? What else could I do with that space? This is where the scary and exciting makes an entrance - oh, the possibilities! But a clear focus is important. The ultimate goal here is to achieve a balance of function and flow; your space needs to be harmonious and comfortable to be useful and enjoyable.

Here are some ways you can create a stool feature in your home, starting with a living room in which the stool doubles as a table (above, notice how the odd proportions of the higher stool with the low sofa are balanced by the articulated desk lamp), and a secondary dining area in a contemporary style:

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The table and high stool set give this workspace a unique industrial-meets-natural vibe:

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I really love this alternative to the home office (below). Yes, having skyscraper ceilings and gigantic windows with a great city view makes this space magical, but you can create something similar in your own home - it's just a matter of priority! In fact, it has me thinking about how I work (I refuse to be stuck in our little office upstairs all day). That armchair I mentioned earlier that doesn't get a lot of action happens to be in front of our bay windows, and I'll bet that the stool that has me preoccupied would fit just perfectly in front of a charming table...

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Sources linked from photos

April 19, 2013

Erdem's Spring Stunner

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Just when I thought I was leaning toward more minimal designs in fashion (because my interior/decor tastes are definitely less fussy these days), I get a blast of sunshine in the face at first glimpse of this dress. I guess I will always get an adrenaline rush from layers of transparency, cheery colours, and the special details like embroidery (why would I fight that?!). This is Erdem's latest masterpriece which jumped out at me in an email newsletter and I had to investigate. It's a very pricey one, so this is just for daydreaming, though I have no idea where I'd wear it should the dress fairy grant me a wish. And those shoes!! I've always loved a t-bar, and I'm a slave to pretty blues. They're Nicholas Kirkwood for Erdem which is given away by the floral lace upper. The metallic platform, heel and trim give the shoe a bit of an edge and offset the delicateness of the dress, if the excessive chunkiness and cut-out in the heel didn't already do the job. 

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If you like vertiginous heels, take a look at Milanoo for their sky-highs in a variety of styles.

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April 12, 2013

Swelle Review: Brothers Strawberry and Festival Pear Cider

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I'm a cider girl. I hadn't even tried cider, ever, before moving to the UK over seven years ago, but because of its prominence here - there's a renaissance happening and these days it's as popular as lager, thanks to Somerset's enduring commitment to the tradition of cider making - I was encouraged to give it a go.

As with wine and beer, not all ciders are created equal. There are some that could be served as apple juice and no one would know the difference. But I found my preferences fell somewhere between the super sweet and quite dry and I couldn't really find something my taste buds would stay loyal to. Not being a beer drinker (bar the odd framboise but does that really count?) and my tendency to become narcoleptic on literally a few sips of wine, never mind spirits (I'm fun, eh?), cider's appeal endured because it's crisp and fruity, and I've always liked bubbles. 

Last week the family-run, Somerset-based cider producer Brothers sent me two of their new flavours to try: Festival Pear Cider, and Strawberry. The 500ml bottles arrived with their new spring/summer branding featuring vintage-style labels based on a drawing that the wife of one of the founding brothers made nearly 20 years ago. I was really up for trying them because a) as mentioned, cider is my go-to drink, and b) somehow I hadn't crossed paths with Brothers before and c) I love the berry ciders. Or at least I love the idea of them. My last favourite now just seems far too sweet so I found myself in cider limbo.

First, I opened the Festival Pear Cider which is a stronger concoction than their regular pear, and most other ciders, at 7%. I was pleasantly surprised to find after one crude swig straight out of the chilled bottle that its initial sweetness is cut with a drier finish. For me, this is the perfect balance. Next, and on a different day, I tried the Strawberry (4%) which is a pear cider with strawberry juice - Brothers specialty is Perry - and was almost in shock that this bright red liquid beaming from my glass wasn't overwhelmingly sweet. Yes it's sweet of course, you don't buy berry varieties expecting something else, but like the Festival Pear, it's nicely balanced. So thank you, Brothers, you're now my go-to cider. I can actually finish a whole bottle!

A little history on the company: Brothers Drinks Co. Limited was started in 1992 by the four Showering brothers whose family have been making Perry in Somerset since 1658, and whose grandparents were behind the successful Babycham from the 1950s! (I have some of their dainty vintage cocktail glasses with the adorable white deer on them.) Brothers began selling its cider exclusively at Glastonbury back in 1992, and since then, its following has continued to grow, loved as ‘the company that introduced pear cider to the UK.’  (They found that most folks didn't know what perry was and responded more favourably when they were offered 'pear cider'.) For the next 10 years the Brothers Bar became increasingly popular, so five years ago Brothers Cider was launched into the on and off trade, by popular demand, for the first time. Today they are the sixth largest cider company in the UK Off Trade Multiple Grocers, and one of the fastest growing cider brands in the market.

Cheers!

April 09, 2013

Subversive Ceramics: Barnaby Barford's The Seven Deadly Sins

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I think the most intriguing art works are those that deliver a message through craft, combining technical skill and statement. Even better is when a pleasing, and seemingly benign, exterior - such as clusters of pretty porcelain flowers - draws us in to confront us with something we didn't expect; to surprise, and possibly even shock. This is the experience British artist Barnaby Barford has created with his new exhibition, The Seven Deadly Sins, currently on show at David Gill Gallery in London's Mayfair. 

Known for his controversial re-modelling of traditional ceramic figurines, Barford describes his latest ceramic subversion as ‘love gone wrong’. He has made a series of mirrors which reflect the viewer and convey elements of the ‘sin’ they represent: Pride, Avarice, Gluttony, Envy, Lust, Sloth and Wrath. Human in scale, they reflect the viewer in full length, challenging perception in terms of form and message. The initial response is to marvel at their beauty and delight in the intricate detail which has gone into the construction of the sculptures. Then, the surprise, or shocking twist, plays its part when closer inspection of the frame's porcelain filigree flowers and foliage reveals images loaded with emotional, and sometimes distasteful, messages. For example, Gluttony carries images of fast food and takeaway menus, Envy uses photographs of the London riots in the summer of 2011, and Lust shows clusters of flowers bearing the faces of porn stars.

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According to the artist's statement, Barford explores the nature of sin through these seven works, posing the question: Are sins a plague upon the social order or the grease that turns its wheels?  At what point does desire turn into obsession or an unhealthy intensification of a perfectly understandable impulse? Barford has spent the last twelve months considering the way society measures and values extreme sensations. “We are all hard-wired to desire power, love, possessions. That’s probably the way all humans have been like,” he says. “It’s not fundamentally bad to desire things but what interests me is the way these ‘sins’ can motivate people. How does the idea of ‘sin’ affect people these days when we live in a largely secular society? What are the consequences?”

In confronting what he sees as uncomfortable truths about contemporary society, Barford decided that the viewers of his work should find themselves not just reflecting on the ideas he has presented to them but also, literally, reflected within the mirror. “You see the piece and you see yourself within it,” he says. (I am dying to know how many people fix their hair when standing in front of these mirrors, especially Pride.)

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Pride. Barford has created a mirror which demands that the viewer sees themselves in entirety, portrayed like a god, within the curved portal of an icon. This mirror is surrounded by a multitude of flowers in golden clusters which frame the viewer, giving the reflected figure an heroic status. Barford’s interpretation of Pride is his take on the familiar phrase, “If it makes you happy…”, expanding on the notion that pride can be defined by arrogance, defiance, desire for self-fulfilment and self-satisfaction, no matter what impact your desire might have on other people. He was inspired by Henry Fairlie, British political journalist and social critic, who said: “Pride excites us to take too much pleasure in ourselves, but not to take pleasure in our humanity… it causes us to ignore others.”

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Sloth. Barford has created a mirror which resembles a lazy loop, a bulging shape, weighted at the base with the easy, swelling lines of a bag filled with cushions. “I wanted to use just plain white flowers for Sloth,” said Barford, “because it’s about not caring. It’s represented by a shape full of nothingness and the sense of an emotion which is too inert to love or hate anything or anyone.” He adds another quote from Henry Fairlie, “Sloth is a sin which believes in nothing, enjoys nothing, loves nothing, hates nothing, finds purpose in nothing, lives for nothing and only remains alive because there is nothing it would die for.”

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Gluttony. An obsession with food is clear to see within this mirror. Resembling the bloated gut of the digestive system, the flowers carry Barford’s witty take on the availability of food and a human inability to resist temptation when it is presented so frequently, and universally. The flowers which adorn the puffy shapes of this piece are patterned with fragments of takeaway food menus and fast food advertisements. “From fatty kebabs to extreme fine dining, humans can’t stop thinking about food,” says Barford. He adds, “For a dieter the idea of food is negatively all-consuming and for the greedy person it’s a constant urge.”  The pale tints of the fast food menus are seductively pretty and appealing, just as they are intended to be in their real purpose.

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Wrath. The sharp shape of a mirrored star sits at the centre of this intense piece. Using the hot, flame colours of red and yellow, the impression of a bomb-blast is immediately apparent. Barford has taken the intensity of anger, when it spills into violence, and has represented it in a cacophony of colour loaded with exploding emotion. “The bomb is a master motif of our time,” says Barford. “A British viewer might see this and think of terrorism but an Iraqi might think of NATO bombs and a Japanese person might think of Hiroshima. At first glance this piece may seem cartoon-like but Barford deliberately uses this style to evoke an emotional distance from the reality of violence. He sees the piece as an example of the way vengeance can be carefully planned, designed to inflict maximum damage and pain but ensuring that the impact is well removed from the person who has planned it.

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Lust. Barford confronts the extremes of contemporary sex in this piece.  The flowers are beautiful, as with all the other mirrors, but they each bear the image of a porn star’s face, eyes closed, as they act out their roles for other people’s enjoyment. “I wanted to concentrate on the actors’ faces,” said Barford. “These films are impersonal, in the sense that it’s not the faces that the viewer’s want to see.” Yet the viewer of this piece will see themselves reflected within a splattered border of fleshy faces in varying states of ecstasy, disengaged, doing their job for the lust of others.

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Envy. This, his most political piece, is about desire for other people’s possessions and the notion that, if they can’t have them then this festering resentment can result in wilful destruction and theft of other people’s property. Barford has used the urban disturbances in London and other UK cities in the summer of 2011 to illustrate this extreme sensation. “What happened during those riots was appalling,” he says, “but you can understand how a sense of injustice, coupled with violent opportunity, can catapult people into a situation when they take what they can, because they can.”  He adds, “There’s this idea that people feel an entitlement to enjoy what others have and an irritation that others should enjoy what they don’t have. We are sold the idea of society as being equal,” he says, “and everyone having equal opportunities. But sadly we are simply not equal.” This large oblong mirror is covered with a filigree of creeper, like a lascivious weed which threatens to engulf the entire piece. Each of the leaves bears an image of the riots; hooded youths throwing stones, breaking windows, rampaging in the city streets and confronting the police. The piece’s beauty belies the depressing violence which envy can promote so suddenly in people who believe they can justify criminal behaviour as an aspect of their ‘right’ to possess other people’s goods.

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Avarice. The desire for money is plainly seen in this handsome piece. Florets of porcelain blooms each bear the fragmentary image of some of the world’s great currencies. Greenback dollars for the leaves, pink Euros and Sterling pound notes as well as Yuan, Rupees, Turkish lira for the flowers. Avarice confronts the viewer with their basic desire for wealth, depicted as the wreaths twist and turn across the mirror’s organic shape. “The obsession for wealth can be seen both reflexively and reflectively, demonstrating desire and seeing the truth,” says Barford.

The Seven Deadly Sins can be viewed at David Gill Gallery at 2-4 King Street, St James’s, London SW1Y 6QP until Friday, 12 April. Concurrently, an exhibition of his earlier work will be shown from February 9 – March 17 at the American Museum of Ceramic Art in Pomona, California, USA.  

April 02, 2013

Vintage London: A Charming Day Out

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.

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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.

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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.

Afternoon tea

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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

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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.

March 25, 2013

Heavenly Mix: The Regent Street Cocktail Safari

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Le Meridien Picadilly's elegant Bloody Mary Fizz, and the Chrysler Cocktail at Bar Américain at Brasserie Zédel

Yet another reason London is so great: The Regent Street Cocktail Safari will be launching in April at restaurants, cafés, bars and hotels along Regent Street, London W1, created as an extension of the internationally renowned Regent Street Food Safari. Shoppers will be able to enjoy multiple venues in one evening, tasting the signature cocktails and small plates each venue has developed for the occasion. 

Taking part in the 2013 Regent Street Cocktail Safari are MASH, Bar Américain at Brasserie Zédel, aqua, Gaucho, The Living Room W1, Sartoria, Courthouse Doubletree by Hilton, Le Meridien Piccadilly, Dirty Martini and Inamo.

To experience the Regent Street Cocktail Safari, visit Regent Street Online, plan your route, reserve a time at your chosen venues, gather your party and enjoy.

CourthouseDoubletree+DirtyMartiniFor mint lovers, the Cos-Mojito at Courthouse Doubletree, and Dirty Martini's Tropical Pear Martini

Here are some suggested itineraries to get you started:

Start at MASH on Brewer Street to try their movie themed cocktails, the American Psycho and the American Beauty. Bar Américain at Brasserie Zédel will be serving Salt Beef Bagels, Hot Dogs and Slider Sandwiches alongside their signature Chrysler Cocktail, with a Cognac base. Go to aqua for their Iron Lotus and Guatemalan Spirit cocktails to complement their Spanish tapas.

Gaucho have created their own Regent Street Cocktail including Smirnoff black with Aperol and a saffron infusion. The Living Room, W1 are launching their brand new Bar Sliders menu, a new concept, with their Regent Street punch. Sartoria have designed 3 cocktails to embrace the West End spirit including a RegentStreet special, made with lychee juice, whereas Courthouse Double Tree by Hilton have created the Regent Street Cosmojito.

At Le Méridien Piccadilly (a personal favourite of mine for these reasons) you can try the mini tasting menu with three mini food plates and three tasting cocktails. If you’re a sushi fan, Inamo is offering a sushi selection with their signature spicy cocktail the Inamo, with chilli syrup. If you’re looking for a martini, head to the experts at Dirty Martini to try their Tropical Pear Martini, Mango & Chilli Martini, or signature Dirty Martini. 

And here's what's in those delicous cocktails along with all of the other details:

Le Méridien Piccadilly 

21 Piccadilly
020 7734 8000

Cocktail: Bloody Mary Fizz. Twist on Red Snapper, Citadelle Gin, Mix Of Spices, Clarified Tomato Juice with a foam top. £14.50

Mini tasting menu: 3 mini portions of food, including Pork Belly & Hock Brawn, Liver Parfait, Prawn & Crab Cocktail & 3 tasting cocktails: Just Like That (Crystal Head Vodka infused with Rosemary, Mandarine Napoleon Liqueur, Homemade Limoncello, Fresh Lime ), Noble Swizzle (Tanqueray No.10 Gin, Pierre Ferrand Premier Cru Cognac, Swiss Absinthe, Almond Butter, Fresh Lemon, Lemon Bitters), Bees Knees (Appleton 8yo Rum, Drambuie, Honey and Lemon Juice). £20 - one tasting selection.

Bar Américain at Brasserie Zédel

20 Sherwood Street
020 7734 4888

Cocktail: The Chrysler Cocktail. Cognac, Chambord, Port, Campari, Orange Curacao, Bitters. £9.75

Small Plates: Salt Beef Bagels, Hot Dogs, Slider Sandwiches. £3.95 each.

Courthouse Double Tree by Hilton

19–21 Great Marlborough Street
020 7297 5555

Cocktail: Cosmojito. Fresh mint, lime, sugar, orange bitters, Grey Goose Citron Vodka, Cointreau and a splash of cranberry juice built over crushed ice. £9.50

Small Plates: Light Bite - Bocconcini and Cherry Tomato. £5.95 Spanish tapas platter - Stuffed olives, Spanish chorizo, chilli garlic chicken with tomato, garlic bread fingers. £17.95

Dirty Martini

10c Hanover Square
0844 371 2550

Cocktails: Dirty Martini - made with Ketel One Vodka or PlymouthGin, Dry Vermouth and garnished with Kalamata Olives and a sprig of Thyme. Mango & Chilli Martini - muddle a small slice of chilli and absolut mandarin, mango liqueur, mango juice, sugar syrup, lemon juice and garnish with a red birds eye chilli. Tropical Pear Martini - Absolut Pear Vodka with Amaretto, orange Curaçao, Creme de Banane, pineapple juice, lime juice and garnished with an edible flower.

If you're in London, you'd be mad not to go! 

March 20, 2013

Canadian Lukas McFarlane Wins Got to Dance 2013

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Lukas McFarlane performs wearing his signature single sock which he says will now be framed 

Despite the instantaneous nature of television competitions, a successful dance career is not built in a moment. It can start as early as five years old when parents buy their child's first discount dancewear and sign up for dance classes, hoping at least that their daughter or son will have fun, and at best display a talent for the art. 

The story of Lukas McFarlane, a contemporary dancer who has just won the UK’s most popular television dance competition Got To Dance 2013, began something like that. The 19-year-old Lukas - so proud he's a Canadian, too, from Calgary, Alberta - has been training for 14 years to win this life-changing award and its massive £250,000 prize. He packed up and moved to London alone after finishing high school to pursue his dance career, and it's clear it was well worth the sacrifice of leaving his supportive and close family behind. 

The astonishing performance

The live final took place at London’s Olympia in front of an audience of 6,000. Lukas stole the hearts of the teary-eyed judges and audience with his extraordinary one-of-a-kind performance to Alex Clare’s Too Close, and elicited a rare standing ovation from the judges Kimberley Wyatt, Ashley Banjo and the usually stone-faced Aston Merrygold, who practically convulsed with giddiness when Lukas completed a series of energetic, momentum-building pirouettes. 

Ashley Banjo had this to say: “Normally I find it quite easy to put what I want to say in to words, but with you I can’t. I have never, ever been so inspired by a dancer in my life. Honestly you have changed my entire outlook on this competition and what to expect of people in this competition. You’ve raised the bar of Got To Dance”.

In the past, contemporary solo dancers didn't have much of a chance at winning Got to Dance. The criticism was consistently that they were good technically, but they weren't giving anything beyond that. It's Lukas' incredible passion combined with a flawless technical ability that makes him outstanding; he's so perfect in motion that he can dance instinctively and ignore the academics of his routine and that allows him to give 100% emotionally while he's performing, and it's that engagement that touches his audience and reduces 6'4" street dancers to tears. 

Great support

The judges thought that Lukas at least deserved a place in the top three, but the dancer’s huge fan base - it's the viewers who vote for the winner - helped him leave his fellow competitors behind. McFarlane’s family made the trip from Canada to support their son during the live final. 

His father, Stan McFarlane, admitted that the TV show “turned out to be something quite bigger than they first thought it would be”. He added, “He started dancing when he was five. He’s really enjoyed it. We tried to get him into other things – soccer, skiing, gymnastics, but he’s always preferred to just dance”.

Surely, many children are going to recognise Lukas as an inspiring role model and start dancing, and maybe even find that special dancer in themselves.  

Here's Lukas in action (get ready to gush):

 

I just realised who he reminds me of: If Henry Rollins was an amazing dancer, he'd be Lukas McFarlane

Photo source

February 26, 2013

Fashion Week Favourites: London

DuroOlowu

Duro Olowu returned to London this season to show his scrumptiously chic A/W collection (he's been showing in New York for the past two years). One of my most favourite designers and a very warm-hearted man to boot, through his clothes he shows us seemingly endless ways to wear texture, colour and print at its most joyful, and those ways are becoming more and more refined and sophisticated without stifling one bit of his infectious exuberance. I can only imagine how special you would feel wearing one of his garments. (When I met Duro last autumn his lovely wife was with him and looked fantastic wearing one of his exquisite jackets.)

Sisterbysibling

Look beyond the no-pants, high top trainer, face-eating-muff styling by Katie Grand and you'll see some very gorgeous knits from this sister line of the knitwear house Sibling, appropriately named Sister by Sibling. (Sometimes I feel the need to explain why catwalk presentation can be odd, for the non-fashion readers. Like my Dad. "Why isn't she wearing pants? Who goes out without pants?" "No one, dad. But you notice the sweater, right? And the hat?" "No, I'm wondering why she's not wearing pants." "Never mind, Dad.") Anyway, massive scarves in a gorgeous slubby texture are appealing in a primal way - don't we all seek that kind of assured comfort in the cold? The short sleeves of the fair isle and rosette sweaters balance their chunkiness and make for a cute shape. And they may even look good with pants. 

ClementsRibeiro
I love the sporty look of  Clements Riberio's striped cashmere sweater with the floral mini, and the slightly punky hair that keeps it from looking too preppy. These outfits stood out from the earthier muted tones that dominated the second half of the line up. 

 MichaelvanderHam

Michael van der Ham's usual choppy asymmetry was only to be found in the zig zag of the models' hairstyle this season. The patchwork mashups were (mostly) gone, with the outfits more finished and refined. And if the models look to be even more miserable than usual (actually, with the exception of one, these were the least sour looking of the bunch) it's because van der Ham's inspiration was a 'tough girl - moody and dark.' Ok. But some actually looked like they were in pain. 

PringleofScotland
Pringle of Scotland has pared down their knitwear range to focus on their signature styles, the loveliest of the bunch being the pure white gilet and skirt in an ottoman rib knit that makes you want to run your fingers over and over just as much as wear.

OrlaKiely

I always look forward to the Orla Kiely presentation in what has been her fashion week home away from home for the past several seasons, the Portico Rooms at Somerset House which she would transform into her preferred fantasyland at the time, and always on the Friday. Sometimes there would be live models (which of course I loved, they pose for you), sometimes there would be cardboard cutouts, and other times it was superimposed paper girls on the walls. I've skipped the past two seasons because fashion week takes a heck of a lot of energy, and I just haven't had it for the past year. So I was surprised to find out that Orla moved out of Somerset House and instead set up office, literally, for her fashionable, anachronistic secretaries to show off their new knit dresses, embroidered cardigans and smart handbags between typing and taking phone calls. 

Photo source

Click the image to watch the video of the girls at work (at fashion156.com):

Orla_show

Another reason I love the presentation format:

206551
Sophia Webster showed her new range of shoes in pastel birdhouses in a pastel forest

BoraAksuPhotos: Bora Aksu

I so look forward to inspecting the intricate details of Bora Aksu's clothes up close in the exhibition hall, post-show. The Turkish designer's signature approach involves techniques with the textiles to create all kinds of interesting textures, and mixing knitted elements with both delicate and rigid materials, like chiffons and lace, and hard leather. You can see some details from a past season here.

Fred_butler
Photos: fredbutler.blogspot.co.uk

And undoubtedly the most joyful of presentations come from Fred Butler where you instantly feel validated for your enduring childhood attachment to colour and your desire to celebrate it now in a big way. Which Fred does every day. This season Fred took a more commercial approach and set up a pop-up shop (complete with Fred Butler-esque cupcakes by Pomp de Franc) to allow guests to interact with the goods.

Fred does a film each season and I use them for a little daydreamy escape whenever things are too gloomy in this world of ours:

 

Photos from Style.com unless otherwise credited

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