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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 19, 2014

Pamela Love's Earthiness with an Edge

Pamela_Love_Jewelry

I don't know where I am with jewellery at the moment. I'm kind of in no man's land with what I like, and so I'm going out completely unadorned, not having the right piece to add to some place on my body, depending what the outfit dictates (I'm not one to pile it on). Looking at the contents of my accessories drawer, I can see what I'm not into right now - unfortunately that is just about everything in there! Like the rest of our wardrobe, our jewellery, costume or otherwise, reflects our style tastes from a specific time, and when that time has passed we either opt to revisit it or leave it behind for good in its velvet-lined home. 

How we adorn ourselves can say more about us than anything else we wear - I met a young blogger last week who wore a headband of pink pom-poms! She's making a statement with that piece and using it to stand apart from every other person on the street - even in London.  My equivalent to her elasticated string of pom-poms is elusive for the time being, that thing that says 'me', and this is why I choose to go without rather than throwing on something for the sake of it. It's funny though, we don't change as people, not at our core, yet how we express ourselves sartorially can vary wildly from year to year, or even season to season. I think that tends to be especially true with fashion followers, we're exposed to so much and so we become somewhat fluid in what we'll adopt as an extension of ourselves. We pull what we identify with most from the trends presented to us, though we tend to see it as us choosing it, rather than it choosing us. 

That long intro was to preface why I'm talking about Pamela Love's jewellery today. The native New Yorker's aesthetic is very earthy and spiritual, with influences from alchemy, astronomy, astronomy and botany, some American Southwest and even a bit of architectural elements from her big city home (you can see her inspirations on her Pinterest). I've never worn a 'philosphophy' before, in fact I usually stay away from anything associated with iconongraphy because it sends a bold message (I guess I prefer to use my mouth to send bold messages). But a pentagram cuff? I never thought I'd consider something like that (despite it's scary connotations it was used in ancient times as a Christian symbol for the five senses or the five wounds of Christ), but it does make a cool cage-like design around the forearm - is it ok to wear symbols for what they look like? It's up to you, I think. (Just be aware of its meaning first!) That's the neat thing about accessories; by simply slipping on a fashioned piece of metal you can step out of yourself and try on an alternate persona for a day and see how it feels. There's no commitment to it. However, you do want to choose pieces that are well made, so a little investment is worth considering. And these days there's no excuse to not support sustainable craft and local production. All of the gemstones and semiprecious stones used in Pamela Love's designs are ethically sourced and almost all metal is recycled. Her entire jewelry-making process, from design to sampling to full-scale production, is completed domestically with the majority of it done in-house at the Pamela Love studio in Manhattan. I love it when good people are behind a brand, it makes wearing them that much nicer. These are the keepers. 

Pamela-love_double-cage-ring_tribal-spike-necklace

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:

Orla-kiely-clarks

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

Orla_stemprint

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. 

March 06, 2014

London Hat Week Kicks off at Atelier Millinery

L-R Scarlett Engineer, Rebecca Peters, La Touche, India Bennett [5]Left to right: Scarlett Engineer, Rebecca Peters, La Touche, and India Bennett

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 in the world knows if they've watched a royal wedding on tv. To celebrate, London Hat Week begins today at the event's official hub, Atelier Millinery, an independent hat shop in Kingly Court, Carnaby. LHW will explore every aspect of making and wearing hats in the city which is leading the worldwide revival of millinery. An exciting schedule of events will be hosted by partners across London during the week, many of which will be free of charge. LHW will run from 6-12 March.

Visit Atelier Millinery to preview the ‘My Favourite Hat’ exhibition featuring the inspiration of some of London’s most famous hat personalities, and special discounts and retail promotions will be offered at hat shops and showrooms throughout London and online, making it the perfect time to find out if you're a 'hat person' or treat yourself to a brand new style.

January 02, 2014

Cléo Ferin Mercury Explores the Jungle

Cleo Fein Mercury AW13 Jungle Parrot Square Scarf

One of the best ways to inject life into your wardrobe is with a new, special accessory. Unlike a sweater or dress, a unique piece such as an art print scarf can be worn every day and make the routine of getting ready to go out into the world more fun and exciting. And it just polishes things up beautifully, doesn't it? 

London-based designer Cléo Ferrin Mercury has drawn upon the Amazon Rainforest and Rousseau's tropical garden paintings to create a fantasised jungle with vibrant colours and animals in their exotic habitat, bringing life to her collection of silk scarves, detachable collars, animal shaped stoles and bow ties. Regarded as 'wearable art beyond seasonality', each piece is made in England and finished by hand. 

Cléo Ferin Mercury’s autumn/winter collection will be stocked at Colette Paris, Ron Herman in Tokyo and Labour of Love in the UK, among others. 

Aren't these the perfect pieces for lifting one's spirits out of the gloomy winter doldrums? I especially love the scarf in the header photo and the floral collar, those vivid colours against the navy background is stunning. 

 

CleoFerrinMercury_collars

CleoFerinMercury_stoles

 
Cleo Fein Mercury AW13 Jungle Pink Flowers Collar

December 28, 2013

DIY: Ramp Up Your Chuck Taylors at Home

Solifestyle_stud_chucksSolifestyle transformed classic Chucks into an edgy pair of kicks by adding screw-back studs bought online. The white laces were later changed up for black for a more streamlined look that lets the studs stand out. 

I had a pair of Chuck Taylor hi-tops in high school, as did pretty much every one else. I think they started out as bright turquoise and I bleached them with no particular result in mind; I did it just because me and my friends were bleaching anything and everything at the time, enduring the noxious fumes for the sake of making things different. They came out a really pretty, washed-out aqua, and instead of wrecking my new shoes which was the outcome I feared, I now had a totally unique pair of sneakers that I loved and couldn't wait to wear. 

If you already have a pair of Converse Chuck Taylors, you may want to take inspiration from the ways others have customised their own. Stud embellishments seem to be a particularly popular approach at the moment, as seen above (you can also buy them that way if you're not into the DIY thing or you're short on free time), and simply replacing the laces with flouro colours, wide ribbons or patterned designs can give your old favourites a fresh look in seconds. Other techniques I've seen include ombre effects if you're especially skilled with dyes; paint spatters - go all Jackson Pollock on that canvas or use a lighter hand for a more subtle effect; drawing, embellishing or stamping the tongue with a bold pattern - try the inside and fold the tongue down to reveal the detail (teenagers can get away with anything); or you can go rogue and take scissors to the shoe and give it a brand new style. I saw one pair with the top part over the toes removed to create an open-toe shoe; I can't in good conscience recommend that one, it just looked weird. 

Last year, an online service was launched to create bespoke Converse Chuck Taylors which allows you to customise the colours of each element of the shoe. However, they only ship within the US. But that's ok, you can always be more creative when you're left to your own devices! 

Here are more DIY ideas to get your imagination running: 

PrettySneaky_fairisleIf you're a talented knitter like Pretty Sneaky, you can create all kinds of textural designs

Converse-Chuck-Taylor-Dip-Dye-03Girl on a Board shows us how to get the ombre effect, which when done well is really pretty, and if you're handy with an embroidery needle you can achieve something like this:

Embroidered_high-tops

Or you can take the easy route like I did and throw them in the washing machine with some bleach!

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.)

Isabella_Blow_2

Isabella_Blow

November 03, 2013

Pretty Kicks: Gola x Liberty Art Fabrics

Gola_LibertyGola, the teen go-to for sporty school bags and shoes has teamed up with Liberty Art fabrics on a range of trainers and rucksacks. You really can't go wrong when teaming up with Liberty; in this case those ditsy florals give Gola's youthful sporty trainer a completely new look that appeals to a broader market. I am so past the teen years that I barely recognise myself in high school year book photos (that could be a good thing depending on the year), but I'd go for these hi-tops in a quick second. I'd easily wear the low ones as well but lately I'm leaning toward the high style, which we called hi-cuts back in the day in Canada when I wore them in middle school. Maybe I'm feeling nostaglic. Speaking of those days, you know how there are things everyone did that you look back on and ask, "What were we thinking? We'll never see that come around again!" There are two I can think of: the comb in the back pocket, and wearing hi-tops with the laces tied behind the tongue to pop it out. We'd wear our jeans tucked into the shoes, it was all about that tongue. I'm not sure where this trend originated from, I wasn't aware of any pop-culture references at the time and we did it simply because we saw the older kids doing it. Run-DMC? Or did some cool kid just put his shoes on sloppily one day and others copied it, went to the mall and then it spread out to the rest of the schools from there? (I actually knew someone who claimed they were solely responsible for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles craze. Alright, then.) Well, a couple years ago I saw some local kids around 16 or 17 years-old wearing their hi-tops with the tongues popped out and I couldn't believe my eyes. I'm still dying to know where they got that from, on the other side of the Atlantic all these years later. Maybe it would solve the mystery of why we did it. 

For the record, if I go for the hi-tops, I'm lacing them up all the way to the top. I can't rock that look anymore (and don't want to) but no one's going to tell me I'm too old for pretty blue flowers!

 

Gola_Liberty_HiTops

 

October 29, 2013

Pull-on Boots for Ease and Style

Pull-on_bootsWinter boots in various styles that pull on, available at www.mozimo.co.uk

Maybe it's that I'm lazy. Or always needing to have left the house five minutes ago. When it's time to get ready to go out the door I stare at my collection of footwear, sometimes neatly arranged on the shoe shelves, most times scattered about the floor, and look for the easiest pair to slip on in under half a second that will go with my outfit. Shoes and boots that need to be loosened so I can get my foot in and then tied up will be the last thing I go for, no matter how much I love them, at least when it comes to the daily routine. Sometimes I'm happy to see the rain because it means I can simply walk into my wellies and then run out the door! (I know, that's so wrong. No one should wish for rain when we're under threat of it most days). But does anyone really want to fuss with their footwear every day? We want convenience in all aspects of our lives and what we wear is no exception. How many of us have chosen fashion over function only to pass over those fiddly things for the 'next time' that might never come?

I've got a fantastic pair of Paul Smith biker boots that I love, but they're a real production to put on. A heavy-duty full back zip that starts right from the bottom of the heel with three buckles to fasten all the way up. Oh they're worth the trouble if I'm willing to go through the ritual, but I find I wear them about 80% less than I would if they went on effortlessly. They could be every day boots, but I mostly opt for something that slips on unless I really, really 'need' to wear them, and this is based on whether I care about making a statement at that moment. (There's a mum who does the school run in sky high stilettos every single day, regardless of the weather. That is a level of commitment to one's style, and one's elevated height most likely, that just slides off my brain.) But you can feel just as polished and 'you' in easier styles, such as the ones I've selected from Mozimo, above. They all simply pull on - the laces, buckles and zips are embellishments. There's one exception, however, and that's the work boot style. I included them because I really like the idea of them with skinny jeans, my uniform of sorts, and they can be worn undone. Just loosen the laces when you take them off so you can just slip into them next time, and if you have two extra seconds you can tie them up! I guess if two seconds makes a difference to your day it might be time to get a bit more organised, eh? I'm working on it. 

October 14, 2013

Reinvigorate your Autumn Wardrobe with Clever Legwear

AW14_legwear
Legwear gave the AW13 looks a special finish at (clockwise from top right): Anna Sui, Red Valentino, Anna Sui and Rachel Antonoff

It's not unusual to become bored of our wardrobes despite regular acquisitions, but how can it be that we can find nothing to wear in our ever-expanding sea of clothes? Maybe we're looking in the wrong place. For skirt and dress lovers, it's easy to breathe some new life into our outfits by focussing not on the garments, but what's worn with them. Legwear offers unlimited styling options, taking your outfit  in whatever direction you're willing to go. Anna Sui (as seen above) is probably the most consistently bold of the designers when it comes to head-to-toe printed and patterned looks, using custom tights to echo details in the clothes for maximum effect. Her approach may be too-full on for some personalities, but we can take cues from the elements and balance the outfit according to what we like, such as pairing a solid colour A-line dress with embellished tights to transform a plain look into one that's more edgy and fashion-forward. 

LuxuryLegs_1The knee high style, opaque and textured tights reflect the looks from the A/W runways

A legwear style I particularly love, but is largely overlooked or undiscovered, is the knee high. We're not talking about the old-fashioned, lazy alternative to the nude, sheer tight, knee highs now offer something altogether different and exciting. I think the best ones are those that mix textures and have special details, and therefore give your look a unique and polished finish, as seen at Red Valentino. If going out with explosed knees feels too young for you, knee highs can still be brilliant for wearing with longer length dresses and skirts, and may actually be more practical if you want to avoid having to hike up your tights throughout the day!

And you can never go wrong with an opaque tight; they are a classic wardrobe staple. They now come in every shade imaginable and you can go as conservative with your outfit as you'd like - think monochromatic for a sleek look - or have fun mixing high contrast colours such as yellow and blue. You can find a great selection of opaque tights at Luxury Legs in a range of deniers and premium materials including merino wool and cashmere. I've found that investing a little more in my legwear pays off at the end of the day; they last longer, look more refined and generally feel nicer to wear.

Think of your legwear not as an afterthought, but a key wardrobe piece to build an outfit around. Also, notice when you're out and about (especially if you live in a particularly stylish city) how other women are wearing their tights, what stands out and what would work for you. I'll never forget how my eyes were drawn to the legs of a fashion editor at a fashion show in Paris, her tights were textured down the side through an open pattern in the weave, it lifted her all-black outfit and made her look incredibly elegant and stylish - why don't more of us do this? Let's have more fun with our legwear!

October 07, 2013

Choosing Boots for the Elements

TheSwelleLife_Snow_boots

I'm no Imelda; I'm definitely a 'less is more' type when it comes to footwear. I try to find something that will work for lots of situations, for practicality - unless one is lucky enough to have a cedar shoe closet, an unbridled footwear addiction can create the worst of chaotic clutter! - and also to get that 'cost per wear' value as low as possible; I hate the thought of something perfectly good sitting idle. And if you're going to splash out, it helps justify the cost if it's that pair that's going to be pounding the pavement for the better part of the season. 

Whereas spring and summer's varied wardrobes beckon for options, winter is more about function and so daily footwear can be streamlined into a couple useful pairs more easily. In the UK, unless it's a particularly freakish season, we don't get a lot of snow but it's good to have something that can do in a pinch, and of course we do get a lot of rain. I find that in addition to wellies - an essential here! - having a pair of snow boots at the ready is wisest, because when a storm hits and you're rubbing your eyes in disbelief at the blinding white scene out the window you'll be patting yourself on the back for being prepared. Walking around with toes that feel like cold stones and trying in vain to avoid sliding down the pavement on your back just isn't worth it even for a day, is it? So something with a heavy lining for warmth and a good chunky tread will get you through. 

But let's get back to wellies. There are all kinds of hybrids now that give you the warmth and heavy tread of a snow boot along with the waterproof protection. With regards to consolidating one's footwear options, have both but choose your styles for each wisely so that you can get through the season matching all of your outfits. Look for a classic style in a colour that will go with everything, and be more adventurous with the other pair, if that suits your personality, so you can have a fun and outgoing option to play with, too. I've got a pair of bright turquoise Hunter wellies that I love but first felt a bit self-conscious about wearing because you could see me coming a mile down the street. But they always get a smile and a compliment because they brighten up a gloomy day, and four years later I'm still wearing them for that reason. 

Here are my picks of snow boots (above) and wellies (below) in styles ranging from classic to edgy while being practical. I love the ones that are like snow boots and trainers in one, they'd be perfect for going on walks as you'd stay warm and be able to deal with whatever terrain is underfoot - so no excuses, then! 

TheSwelleLife_wellingtons

Styled shots from Net-a-porter.com

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