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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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March 12, 2014

New poll shows ‘thin at all costs’ attitude declining

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Holly Willoughby and Kelly Brook aren't women we think of as 'big', but they're not at risk of falling through the cracks in the pavement, either. As they look now, they represent the current, ideal, 'healthy', body. According to a national survey conducted by New Look, it appears more British women are favouring this curvy, well-proportioned and toned body type over the super skinny look associated with models like Kate Moss and Cara Delevingne. There are some interesting findings in this poll, but first I want to address a few things that tend to come up when discussing female body type perceptions.

I'm not going to show the super skinny girls because I don't want to pit one body type against another, which in essence is pitting women, individuals, against each other. For every body type, there are countless women who identify with it, and they don't want to be categorised and labelled. Speaking of labels, we keep hearing the term 'real women' which tends to be applied to women who aren't slim. But there actually are women who are naturally thin and they don't even have eating disorders! They are real women, too. And let's keep in mind body types can change quite drastically throughout a woman's life. Holly Willoughby was a slip of a girl when she was a young presenter, and as she matured and had children she developed another kind of lovely body. Bodies do change, and I'm not talking about extra weight, I mean how are bodies are structured. Ask any woman how many different bodies she's lived in and very few will give you a blank look. Even Kate Moss. Yes she's still model-thin, but even she has filled out since that Calvin Klein campaign. 

Ok, let's get to the poll. It was commissioned as part of an ongoing campaign into understanding women's body confidence and how it is affected by the media. 2,000 women aged 18 to 65 from the UK were asked a variety of questions in order to gauge a number of things: what kind of body size and shape do they feel is ideal in a woman? How do they feel about their own bodies? To what extent do they believe the portrayal of women in fashion magazines is an accurate representation?

Here are some highlights from the survey:

  • The national average dress size is size 12 (equivalent to US size 8)
  • The national average body type is ‘hourglass’ (46%)
  • A third of respondents, making up the majority, like curvy figures the best, with Holly Willoughby and Kelly Brook dominating the responses
  • For the first time since Marilyn Monroe achieved international success in the mid-1950s, British women ages of 18-24 (89% of 18-24-year-olds) have the same celebrity body shape icons, while only 6.4% of girls in this age group aspire to look like Cara Delevingne
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, women rated their body confidence at 5
  • The national average for what aspect of their body they would change if they could,  was ‘size’. Waistline (16%) and Breasts (14%) came 2nd and 3rd
  • Situations that cause women to feel least confident about their body is ‘on the beach’ at 57%, while ‘On a night out with girl mates’ was the third highest for the nation at 23.5% 
  • 39% of respondents do not believe that images of celebrities in magazines or online media accurately reflect what they look like in reality
  • The national average (48%) believed that it was not achievable to reach a similar body shape and size to celebrities in magazines and online
  • 74% of respondents have an ideal body type they would like to achieve, while 63% of these respondents believe that they can achieve this ideal body shape.

Dr Michael Sinclair, Clinical Director at City Psychology Group, says “The media's portrayal of female celebrities and women generally makes it look all too easy to attain a perfect body weight and shape, but in reality women no doubt find it a lot harder than it appears to be.” Yes, we can all attest to the reality of achieving our ideal body! The good news is that fashion retailers have recognised that women's body types vary, and they're becoming more and more amenable to offering fashion for all sizes and shapes, such as New Look's Inspire Range which offers a complete collection of fashionable clothing in sizes 14-28.

 And one more observation: both Holly and Kelly have very endearing, genuine smiles in the header photo here. Bright-eyed and wide-grinned is usually how they present themselves, and therefore both are thought of as cheerful, positive people. I think this keeps the already popular pair top of mind; for women especially, body type and happiness seem to be inextricably linked. Achieving happiness is as aspirational as getting your ideal body, if not more - well, it should be! 

March 11, 2014

Unlock Art: A Short History of Art Undressed

NakedorNudeClick to view on the Unlock Art website

"The nude is a painting of a man or woman who looks at ease and confident. If they look vulnerable or embarrassed then they're naked. Not nude anymore." -  So said the 18th century critics to keep artists from being accused of 'ungodly behaviour'. This is from A Short History of Art Undressed, the fifth film in the Tate Unlock Art series, supported by Le Meridien. As with all art prior to the 20th century, it was no coincidence that its subjects fell into a narrow range of categories, and even more restricted was how they were allowed to be presented. This film looks at nudes throughout history and their reasons for being. The rules have changed now, but is the change enough? I talk about this a bit further down in our meeting in London last month with author Frances Borzello

Before we get into the heavy, I can't not show a little bit of the treats from our wonderful day. I'm always excited to see what our 'greeting' cocktail at Le Meridien Piccadilly will be and how it will tie in with the theme of the film. This time Franz created for us the 'Undress Lady’, a fresh and fruity virgin cocktail made with peach juice puree, lime juice and apple juice, garnished with the physalis fruit as decoration, the leaves opened up to reveal the 'naked' fruit: 

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We later came back to a really lovely afternoon tea at Le Meridien Piccadilly, and since we're already talking about the goodies I'll get to that right now, and it includes our talk with Frances which leads into our tour of nudes at Tate Modern.

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We indulged in all kinds of sweet and savoury delectables and I went back and forth between them before I decided I should stop before I burst. And on our way out we were given a box of three eclairs made for the film - the eclair is the new macaron! - with silhouettes of nudes in chocolate dust on each. I don't have a photo because I was on my way to the train station but I can tell you they were very rich and delicious. 

As mentioned, we had a special guest, Frances Borzello, who is the author of the book The Naked Nude (Thames & Hudson, 2012). We were each given a hardback copy to take home which also came in handy for the intriguing discussion we had over our tea with Frances. Frances told us that the book is dedicated to her grandchildren - who aren't allowed to look at it! Frances is such a lovely person, very warm and approachable, and later when she was asking each of us about our blogs it came out that she was once a fashion editor for the Chicago Sun-Times! (I'd mentioned to someone that day that Le Meridien has connected us with so many talented, intelligent and truly delightful people connected to the Unlock Art project either directly or indirectly - author and art historian Linda Bolton, art critic and writer Jessica Lack, director and producer Susan Doyan, artist Olivia Plender, and now Frances - and that I'd just realised that they've all been women.  Well I recognised that each was a woman of course! But I mean I eventually clued in that the collective has been all women, razor sharp and contributing good, meaningful things to the world.)

Anyway! Frances spoke about what prompted the book, which began when she was asked to respond to Kenneth Clark’s The Nude of 1956 in which he said the nude was a category - like portrait or landscape - cleaned up for art. Not so much anymore, as some of the more recent works cited in The Naked Nude prove, with no modesty to be found. I'm not showing any here, but you can google Jenny Saville for examples of nudity at its most raw and emotional (she paints with a Bacon-like brush). Frances raised a fascinating point, that being the fact that we don't have a way of looking at such rawness, these direct and provocative expressions of nudes. You realise immediately that she's right and it's an observation that slips by the rest of us because we take our recoiling for granted; it's natural so therefore it's the right response. But is it? There's no code like there was in the past when nudes were used to illustrate religious or mythical stories, and women were idealised as nudes, presented as passive or motherly and never looking directly at you so it was ok. There was a framework entered into and so the viewer was safe, but this began to be challenged, from Manet's Olympia to Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, and today we've got strangers' private parts coming at our faces - sometimes not even the ones we expect - and what do we do?! This opens a fascinating discussion; if we can resist the urge to say 'ew'  and look away, interesting things can happen. As Frances points out, the artists are asking questions. They don't have the answers, they just want you to consider what's in front of you. She thinks that's a good thing. I think being able to do this has a lot to do with acceptance of ourselves and others, naked. For now, it seems most of us just don't want to know. 

Theswellelife_frances (1 of 1)Frances Borzello hosting our afternoon tea at Le Meridien Piccadilly

Earlier, when we arrived at Tate Modern we found ourselves on the southwest side and noticed this unusually structured building going up right behind the museum:  

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It turns out it's going to be an extension of Tate Modern, and this is what it's going to look like:

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The day before we visited Tate Modern, it served as a London Fashion Week venue for the Topshop Unique show - a first for both. The video of the collection was running on a screen in one of the common areas, but my focus was on the people in the shot:

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And now we start the tour that Linda Bolton created for us - you know her from the previous Unlock Art posts - that takes us through the ways in which nudes were used to tell stories and express ideas and emotions:

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The KissRodin. 1901-1904

"The Greeks sculpted them. So did the Romans. In renaissance Italy the idealised nude was the top subject but made respectable by choosing the subjects from the bible or classical mythology. We’ve got an over life-size idealised nude in Rodin’s Kiss made at the beginning of the 20th century." 

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The Three Dancers, Picasso. 1925

(continuing on from above) "But around that point vanguard artists were painting the nude in a different way. The jagged forms of Three Dancers convey an explosion of energy. The image is filled with Picasso’s personal recollections of a triangular affair, which resulted in the heart-broken suicide of his friend Carlos Casagemas. Love, sex and death are linked in an ecstatic dance. Her face relates to a mask from Torres Strait, New Guinea, owned by the artist and points to Picasso’s association of ‘primitive’ forms with expressiveness and sexuality. Picasso didn’t ever go completely abstract. Even though this painting is slightly abstract, you can still make out exactly what it is. The painting depicts three girls dancing in what is apparently a hotel room – you can see blue skies and a balcony in the background giving the impression of joy, celebration. The wallpaper symbols reflect Russian text, which translates into a joyful word. The painting also gives the impression of bullet wounds in places, with jagged edges and shapes that are far from beautiful. Perhaps these negative connotations further portray the triangular affair and the heart broken suicide of Picasso’s friend by gun shot." 

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Nude Woman in a Red Armchair, Picasso. 1932 

"This work belongs to the remarkable sequence of portraits that Picasso made of Marie-Therese Walter at his country property at Boisgeloup. Marie-Therese is presented as a series of sensuous curves. Even the scrolling arms of the chair have been heightened and exaggerated to echo the rounded forms of her body. The face is a double or metamorphic image, the right side can also be seen as the face of a lover in profile kissing her on the lips. Her hands almost look like dove wings – giving an impression of beauty."

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Nude, Green Leaves and Bust, Picasso. 1932

"Another painting of Marie-Therese Walter in another flattering stance – she is presented in this painting as a series of pink curves once more."

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Nude Woman with NecklacePicasso. 1968

"This painting is somewhat different to Picasso’s paintings of Marie-Therese Walter. The subject is Jacqueline Roque, his second wife of which he is thought to have worshipped and resented for her youth and beauty. The painting presents crude connotations such as bodily fluids and flatulence and she is presented almost as the sum of her sexual parts. The green colour could also be seen as beast like – however it could even be suggested that Picasso was simply finding a contrasting colour to the red cushions. Picasso was in his 80s when he painted this picture." I will say that this painting is even more provocative - and not just a little bit gross - in person! 

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Self Portrait, Christian Schad. 1927

"The nude can become disturbing, take a look at Christan Schad’s take on it. This self-portrait with the female nude is a good example of the new realism. Based in 1920s Berlin Schad looks back to traditional German art – check out his Renaissance-style sheer shirt, but it’s also a distinctly modern work. The nude in the background has a scary and alienated look. Her face is scarred with a brand, inflicted on Neapolitan women by their loves to make them theirs and unattractive to others. It is a startling emblem of the potential violence underlying male possession of the female body. We can also see an industrial scene in the background and a strange singular flower. The juxtaposition of objects present a negative outlook, although the nude itself is attractive and almost idealistic. Perhaps this painting presents a classical nude in the modern day." 

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Agosta, the Pigeon chested man and Rasha, the Black Dove, Christian Schad. 1929

"This painting shows a deformed white man and a black woman – both ominous figures of this time in Berlin with the rise of the Nazis. These figures present non-idealistic nudes – the complete opposite to the idealistic Greek nudes we have seen. Both of the figures unerringly return our gaze – the figures were accustomed to scrutiny, earning their living as sideshow acts in Berlin funfairs. Unusually, this unsettling portrayal of the objectification of the body, voyeurism and social alienation is focused on the male as well as the female nude." 

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Family Jules NNN (No Naked Niggahs), Barkley Hendricks, 1974

"This picture shows a relaxed nude where the pose and title are confronting the way representations of African American nudes have been received, feared and censored and directly tackles the widely accepted notion of the hyper-sexualised black body. His response seems to say ‘if this is what you expect, then this is what I am going to give you’. However, the spectacles and pipe give the man an intellectual presence, taking away from the initial thoughts of the picture and confusing it somewhat." 

After we discussed this work, we were told that the room it hangs in is offered for event bookings, such as dinners. And that more than a few times requests have been received to cover the painting or even remove it altogether. We all had the same reaction, that if you are going to book a room at Tate Modern, you get it as is - the art lives here after all! (Just to clarify, this request is always denied.) 

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The Uncertainty of the Poet, Giorgio de Chirico. 1913

"de Chirico’s quiet square evokes the classical world through a dream-like vision. A sculpture of Aphrodite’s torso is placed provocatively alongside a bunch of bananas. In the background a passing train suggests the sense of the contemporary and the immediate. de Chirico’s early works were hugely admired by the Surrealists, who saw them in a dream-like parallel existence." 

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Metamorphosis of Narcissus, Salvador Dali. 1937 (yes, there are nudes in there, a group of skinny ones in the middleground)

"The surrealists looked at the nude and played with the classical nude of Antiquity viewed through the lens of Freud’s investigations into the human psyche" - in other words, this is when nudes got risqué, and gave more than a little away about what was going in Dali's mind as well! 

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As I've mentioned previously, the group just loves Linda, and her style has certainly not gone unnoticed so I couldn't resist snapping a photo of her very 'Linda' coat!

A huge thank you to Frances Borzello, Linda Bolton and as always, Le Meridien, for another eye-opening day of insights into art. 

‘Unlock Art’ is an exciting series of short films offering an imaginative, witty, and enriching introduction to the world of art.  Created by Tate in partnership with Le Méridien, Unlock Artfeatures eight short films that put art under the spotlight, with topics ranging from the history of the nude to humour, Performance to Pop Art, presenting all the need-to-know facts. Bold in approach and rich in content, the film series was conceived to make the arts more accessible to a wider audience. Marc Sands, Director of Media and Audiences Tate, said “Our goal is to promote public understanding and enjoyment of British, modern and contemporary art. This series of films launched will offer an entertaining, thought p rovoking yet witty approach to art. With an exciting roster of presenters, and the imaginative and creative content of the films, we want to connect people who might not have considered some of the subjects before with contemporary art.”

Part of Le Méridien’s ethos is to support emerging artists. It furthers this commitment through its Unlock Art™ Programme, which offers Le Méridien guests complimentary access to forward thinking cultural institutions around the world. These partnerships allow guests to explore a local, inspiring cultural experience, simply by presenting the Unlock Art™ room key. Le Méridien’s Unlock Art™ partner in the UK is TATE Modern and TATE Britain.

Photos © The Swelle Life

March 08, 2014

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

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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. 

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.

March 05, 2014

Along for the Ride: Beastie Boards x Chidy Wayne

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I live a five-minute walk from the sea, and our stretch of beach is known as one of the UK's best surfing spots, but despite the proximity I think it'll always be a spectator sport for me. I just know I'd wind up in a full body cramp while trying to get up on the board and have to ride to shore stuck in a hunched rigor mortis-like position, or finally get up and wipe out spectacularly, Greg Brady-style. (Remember that Brady Bunch episode where they all go to Hawaii and Greg enters a surfing competition and falls off and hits his head on a rock thanks to the 'tabu'? No, he didn't almost die because he was an inexperienced surfer catching some of the craziest waves on the planet, it was because of the 'cursed' tiki guy he was wearing as a necklace! And who holds a surfing competition at a part of the beach that has rocks anyway?)

I think my spectating might not even be about watching the surfers on my doorstep; it's more about appreciating from afar the particularly beautiful boards from Brooklyn-based surf and skate board makers, Along. Handmade in sustainable materials, their limited edition designs reflect old school techniques while delivering a contemporary aesthetic through those clean, gorgeous woods. And to keep the flow of nature-inspired boards moving, they collaborate with other like-minded talents to create special collections, such as the one with Barcelona-based illustrator Chidy Wayne which has just recently launched. ALONG’s founder and director David Lopez sat with the artist in front of an Alaia surfboard while listening to 60s soul music and speaking about the feeling of riding the pools at Chelsea Piers, or a wave in Nicaragua. Out of this came Beastie Boards (love the NYC tie-in there), "five beautiful acrylic on wood beasts represented with the wildness but precision a rider needs to face both concrete or real waves."

And these guys are as good at image making as they are crafting boards - have a browse of their daydreamy website and watch the video for the Along NYC x Chidy Wayne boards, further down. Most of the images are in black and white, yet all you see and feel is sunshine. 

These are painted decks of the Beastie Boards, and one for the waves:  

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They're just so cool, I'd say they'd make great art pieces for the home. But these awesome boards would be wasted if they didn't see the outdoor action they were made for. 

 

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Images © Along NYC

March 03, 2014

Maison Blue Hills: At Home In Nature

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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; but in fact it sits on a steep incline in the Laurentian mountains of Quebec. 

The home has a dual relationship with its environment. Its exterior is discreet, camouflaged in its setting, even when the trees are winter bare:

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From the inside, the house is completely open to its surroundings, treating its occupants to scenery that is constantly changing. In both cases, the house gives way to the wild grandeur of the Laurentians. Through its refinement and simplicity, the design allows for a harmonious coexistence between people and nature - and this appears to have been achieved with a mounted deer head nowhere to be seen!

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The structure of the house is unusual; the kitchen sits between both exterior walls which allows floods of light and open views of the scenery, and the arrangement of the fixtures is atypical as well. Double islands situated perpendicular to the wall keep the flow of the room in sync with the view at either end of the room, never letting you forget where you are. (Except at night, you probably can't see outside unless you're a cat.)

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All of that clean white anchored with light woods and what may be a polished concrete floor (probably not though as it would be freezing) created an almost seamless transition from the outside during the winter season. 

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The exterior walls, entirely covered with vertical eastern cedar slats, will age progressively over the years, emulating the colour of the bark of the surrounding trees. On the flat roof, a bed of river pebbles echoes the colours that can be seen in the adjacent soil, blending it with its surroundings when observed from the top of the hill. 

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Really? Not Scandivanian?: 

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We could all take some cues from the bathroom. Marble tile provides a luxurious backdrop to fixtures with clean lines in serene blonde woods, creating a pared-down elegance. And I'm pretty sure I've never uttered these words before, but I want that toilet: 

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This house is a project by La SHED Architecture.  

Source: V2com

February 27, 2014

Heart-racing: Activewear Meets High Fashion

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What we wear to work out has come a long way from the days of shapeless, grey sweat pants and baggy t-shirts, when making yourself sweat intentionally was seen as a fringe hobby. Now, an active lifestyle is a part of most of our lives - if only aspirationally! - and our options have never been better. Activewear has been featuring regularly at fashion week, particularly in New York where going to trendy gym classes and jogging in Central Park - and looking good doing it - are as common as queuing for brunch. And the fashion filters down through the high street. 

Designer collaborations with sporting giants, such as Adidas by Stella McCartney (below, Spring/Summer 2014) offer a high fashion approach to sportswear, and some go further to blur the lines between what one wears on the street and what one wears on the machines, such as the heavily sports-influenced outfits DKNY showed for this spring, as seen above. 

And if I'm not mistaken, I'm pretty sure you burn a few calories simply by wearing your workout clothes! Kidding aside, there may be actually some truth to this idea (well, you do have to move). New innovations in fabric technology are constantly evolving, not only to make the wearer more comfortable during exercise, but to maximise the effectiveness of your workout. Zaggora's Hotwear, made with their Thermofit fabric, was tested at two universities. Research showed that the use of a Zaggora top and bottom during exercise, at an appropriate level of intensity and while remaining well hydrated, may help to increase the rate of calorie burn. 

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Couturier Anne Valérie Hash showed a look in Paris a few days ago that appears to accommodate some serious action off the runway, in shades of blue, the big hue for fall. The pieces could be worn separately to tone down the sporty look a bit with jeans and a light knit sweater:

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And VPL is known for activewear looks that incorporate pieces that work in and out of the gym, making them a part of your regular wardrobe. Their puffy pullover, sweatshirt and wrap cardigan are similar to what's offered in the regular women's collections: 

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Personally, I love that we don't have to compromise on our workout kit. Of course we don't always need to present as perfection - I can't tell you what I wear around the house to lift weights because it wouldn't be decent - but for a run or heading out to a session, I find it motivating to put on clothes that feel and look good, and do that extra bit for us. 

Photos: Style.com

February 25, 2014

A New Health Drink that's Actually...Good for You?

Alibi

When I'm asked if I want to review a product, I check that it's something I'll probably like before I agree, and if it's food I don't want to promote something that isn't good for us. I like to think I'm savvy when it comes to ingredients lists and can't be tricked. So when I was offered Alibi to try, I looked into its claims of being a health drink: "Made with fruit juice, spring water and absolutely nothing artificial, contains a total of 19 nutrients in each can, including 100% of the recommended daily allowance of essential vitamins such as vitamin C, D, B12". This sounded good, but what I really wanted to know was did it contain sugar or artificial sweetener. I've had enough of foods and drinks (the same goes for skincare) that claim to be good for you when those healthy ingredients are actually negated by some pretty bad ones. The answer is Alibi contains no refined sugar and it's sweetened with Stevia,  not artificial sweetener. And it has no stimulants such as caffeine. I have to stay away from refined sugar and I'm also no fan of artificial sweeteners, and I'm not looking for something in a can to make me run off at the mouth and climb the walls, so this was all good news. It does contain natural sugars, fructose from the fruit puree, so if you don't drink juice for this reason you'll want to know this, though it is in small amounts. (I liken it to having a few sips of juice rather than indulging in a full glass, which is how I take my juice, rather crudely from the carton because you can't really pour a sip, can you?). I'd heard of Stevia but didn't know much about it, other than that it's a natural sweetener derived from a plant and has zero calories. I did my research and I was fine with it; it's a far more appealing alternative to refined sugar and artificial sweeteners for many reasons. 

So I received a case that included two flavours: sparkling citrus and sparkling pomegranate. Both are flavours I would naturally gravitate toward, so that was a good start. But the real test is how they taste - would I actually want to drink a can? I was sure the drinks were going to taste weird because, well, with everything else being in place it just would just be my luck that I didn't like it. I first tried the pomegranate flavour and kind of braced myself. Surprisingly, it tasted really good. I waited for an odd aftertaste that didn't materialise. I took a few more sips and again waited for something offensive to happen, and couldn't believe it when it didn't. I let my daughter try the citrus flavour - I have never let her have pop before, she actually didn't know how to open the can - and she loved it, and later my husband tried both and agreed the taste was very good ("it would be great with vodka, very refreshing" - but we won't talk about that further). So it would appear that Alibi have managed to come up with a formula that doesn't compromise on taste, and it just happens to be exactly as I like anything sweet, which is 'not too'. (I have to admit I didn't think that was possible in Britain where I find most things to be so sweet as to be inedible). Unlike colas, I find that I don't feel heavy after drinking Alibi, which tells me it's not as much the CO2 as it is some of the nasty ingredients (probably that syrupy caramel stuff) that makes you feel bloated.  

I should mention that Alibi continually changes their formula to incorporate the latest health ingredients while balancing that with taste, and right now their formula includes Fruit Up, an all-natural fruit extract that has a low glycemic index, and Wellmune beta glucan which is a natural immune system booster (again, I did my research and was fine with this). 

I think this makes a great alternative to pop if you have an addiction to that cola, either full-sugar or diet because we know both do very bad things to you. With Alibi, you get your fizzy fix but without the sugar or artificial sweetener, and the bonus of vitamins, minerals and herbal extracts. And it tastes really good, probably the best fizzy drink I've had. I would buy it and have already had requests at home to do so!

So I'd say, yes, it's good to have an Alibi. 

Alibi Health Drink can be purchased nationally in Waitrose, Holland & Barratt and Whistlestop stores. Ocado and Amazon also stock Alibi online. Prices range from £1.40 to £2.00.

February 24, 2014

Favourite AW14 Coats from New York and London

LFW_CHristopher_RaeburnChristopher Raeburn's outwear uses the latest techno fabrics to resist the elements

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 runways, but I've always gone with coats as the one piece worthy of investment, if you're going to splurge. Something I noticed with the collections thus far is the explosion of colour, not just in the liberal use of every shade of blue, but shocking oranges and lots of vivid multis which was a real surprise, especially for New York, which tends to favour the head-to-toe black look. 

Richard Nicoll went all-out with electric blue, and I love two-tone coats with contrasting sleeves and upper lapels:

LFW_Richard_Nicoll_AW14

Jil Sander Navy showed sporty looks with vibrant colour blocking on seasonal darks:

L_NYFW_Jil_Sander_Navy_AW14

I'm always surprised to like what Tommy Hilfiger is doing, but who could resist these oversized, textured knits: 

L_NYFW_Tommy_Hilfiger

There were many collections that featured a single coat, cape, or jacket (I think I may have included a dress in there) that I particularly loved. If  had to pick one to wear every day, it would be Rachel Roy's wool biker-style coat in that gorgeous blue:

NYFW_LFW_AW14_coats

Belstaff's cozy plaids didn't conform to the continuing volume trend, but the mitts sure did! 

LFW_Belstaff_AW14_coats

Photos: Style.com 

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