Mae Engelgeer, you have made me covet a tea towel. Or two, or three. The Dutch textile designer has created the Woww, Fest and Bow collections of graphic fabrics, developed in small quantities at the Textile Museum Read more...
IDEAS FOR PASTEL HOME ACCENTS
It's been impossible not to notice that pastels are making a huge splash in everything from fashion to home decor this spring. The sorbet shades go far in brightening up a room and most Read more...
BUILDING THE PERFECT BREAKFAST BAR
We all love the idea of a big, spacious eat-in kitchen, but I don't think I'm alone in getting equally excited about a well-designed breakfast bar - and if you're really lucky with space you can have both! Read more...
ERDEM'S SPRING STUNNER
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 Read more...
CHANEL FILM: BICOLOR, THE MAKING OF THE CARDIGAN
Leave it to Chanel to turn the making of a cardigan into something magical. From choosing the colour of the finest cashmere threads to the finishing of the piece with those intertwined C buttons Read more...
PERFUMED GRAPE & RASPBERRY LIMEADE
Recently, Welch's invited me to create a Temperance Cocktail based on one of their new grape juice drinks. The recipe would be an addition to a menu of alcohol-free cocktails created by London expert mixologist Read more...
SUBVERSIVE CERAMICS: BARNABY BARFORD
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 Read more...
Headpiece by Will Cotton, based on Alexander McQueen
This was initially supposed to be a Valentines post...obviously that did not happen. It was too soon after my first post of Will Cotton's works anyway, and that is a lot of sugar to consume at once (no complaints here though). New York magazine's spring fashion issue featured a cover and spread of Elle Fanning as Will Cotton's latest muse, wearing designs from the spring runway accessorised with sweets and icing against candy land backgrounds that are blowups of Cotton's paintings. I haven't actually seen Fanning in any films so I have no opinion of her as an actress (though I hear she's talented), but I do like her as the human embodiment of sweetness in Cotton's paintings; it rings genuine. (Those Fanning girls really buck the child actor stererotype, don't they?)
Cotton reworked the clothes into "something even more perfect for the environment", adorning them with all kinds of dainty designs made from icing, and 'Cottonised' a brand new Reed Krakoff bag by shoving a couple of big squishy cakes into it!
You can watch the behind-the-scenes video featuring Will Cotton and Elle on The Cut:
Elle pipes the icing corset Will Cotton created to be worn over a Dolce & Gabbana bodysuit. Cotton made the earrings and headpiece, too.
Elle Fanning wears a Marchesa gown in front of Will Cotton's Pastoral, 2009
Will Cotton hand piped this Erdem dress with icing to create sugar appliques
Eyes by Will Cotton, based on Dior
Will Cotton based this dot candy detailed bag on a Fendi design
This Thom Browne skirt reminded Will Cotton of a tea tray, so he decorated it with petits fours "because what a nice thing would that be?"
Elle wears a Marc Jacobs dress in front of a version of Will Cotton's Insatiable, 2008
And you thought your purse was messy. Will Cotton stuffed cakes into this Reed Krakoff bag!
Elle wears Reem Acra in front of one of Will Cotton's gingerbread house paintings
An ink on paper rendering of Elle in a Louis Vuitton romper by Will Cotton
Elle lounges on sugar crystals wearing Valentino's 'glass slippers'
Raf Simons takesDior back to the garden for Haute Couture SS 2013
With Haute Couture, we get to see florals rise up from the 2-D of print and pattern and 'pop' as embroidered and appliquéd blossoms so delicate you need to whisper, or so lush you want to run around in them. Flowers figured heavily at Dior (my favourite collection of the 22 houses, I think, who showed) and Chanel (of course they did, you don't waste the hands of Lemarié) while they texturised a selection of looks at Giambattista Valli and Valentino. The haute couture flower is so exquisite in its craftsmanship that it transcends trend and exists as simply a thing of beauty to admire, forever.
Giambattista Valli appliquéd swelled-bellied and cinched-waist dresses, and accessorised with bronzed bouquets
Valentino Haute Couture SS 2013
Since we're talking about the specialness of haute couture, I can't not mention Valentino without also drawing attention to the dresses detailed in piping. This kind of handwork has featured in many Valentino collections when the man himself was at the helm, and now Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli have taken the technique to extraordinary lengths. According to Tim Blanks as per the notes received at the show, the tulle cage-like cape below - over a dress of layers of organza embroidered with birds and butterflies - is scrolled with crepe piping that took 500 hours of hand-rolling to produce. And that was just one of several piped creations that took the catwalk. Blanks added that one roller apparently developed carpel-tunnel syndrome during the production of the collection. That's not suprising, but what is, is the fact that it was only one person! I'd say it was well worth it, but then it's not my gnarled hand we're talking about, is it?
You can faintly see the embroidered birds and butterflies peaking out from the 500-hours-of-handpiping 'cage' cape
The hand-piping in Valentino red. It's like fancy iron work but in crepe.
Chanel Haute Couture SS13
Chanel is generous with giving us glimpses into how their haute couture is made. Below we see the skilled hands at work at Lemarié, Lesage and Atelier Haute Couture Chanel as they create the collection 'Le Savoir Faire' for the spring-summer season. It's a three-minute video, but I think I could easily watch three hours of tulle ribbon being pulled through metallic threads:
Will Cotton, TAFFY FOREST, 2007. Oil on linen, 72" x80"
A few weeks ago we looked at Wayne Thiebaud who often uses food, particularly desserts, to express the nostalgia he feels for his past, and he presents it to us from an unusual and intriguing perspective in his paintings. Now we're exploring Will Cotton who also works with sweets - he builds maquettes of the candies and cakes to create landscapes in his studio which he then paints hyper-real pictures of - as his preferred means to provoke discussion. But the similarities end there, according to Cotton (and probably anyone else who is familiar with both painters): "Thiebaud's cake paintings are in the tradition of still life painting, mine are about landscape."
However, like Thiebaud's dessert works, his paintings are extremely appealing - who doesn't like the look, the taste, or at least the childhood association with sweets? - yet you sense immediately that there's far more happening on that canvas than simple representation.
I'd love to go on, but I've been reading about Cotton for three days now and can't quite sum him up in a neat little package after attempting to digest his interviews which each take him at completely different angles. So if you're curious to know more, have a look here, here and here. And do it while eating a giant ice cream sundae with a disgusting amount of whipped cream and a cherry on top.
Will Cotton, PASTORAL, 2009. Oil on linen, 60" x 72"
Will Cotton, CROWN, 2012. Oil on linen, 80" x 68"
I never imagined I'd be talking about Katy Perry on The Swelle Life, but the result of her collaboration with Will Cotton is too good not to get into. If his paintings elicit an intense longing for a real-life Candy Land where you can wander around and have a nibble off a gingerbread house or a drink from a chocolate stream, then these videos from Perry's album Teenage Dream (2010) - Cotton painted the cover art for the CD and consulted on and built some of the video sets himself - are the closest you'll get to the real thing.
Before the video for the California Gurls single (which features Snoop Dogg wearing a suit covered in tiny pastel-coloured cupcakes) here's a look at how the packaging for the Teenage Dream CD was produced. It comes with a cotton candy scent and I love that the burly printing press operators were determined to find a way to get that sweet candy smell into the CD liner.
When the nut house inevitably calls to confirm my reservation, I hope it's this one:
Will Cotton, NUT HOUSE, 2007. Oil on linen, 36" x 40"
Will Cotton, ALPINE RUIN, 2008. Oil on linen, 60" x 84"
Will Cotton, CROQUEMBOUCHE, 2010. Oil on linen, 54" x 39"
Will Cotton's sculpture, clockwise from left: CAKE TOWER, 2010, polystyrene, acrylic polymer, pigment, gypsum, 48" x 16" x 16"; AGAINST NATURE, 2012, plaster, wood and pigment, 74" x 48" x 75"; SWEET, 2009-2010, polystyrene, acrylic polymer, pigment, gypsum, 46" x 38" x 38" Will Cotton, CUSTARD CASCADE, 2001. Oil on linen, 108" x 144"
Will Cotton, CHALET, 2003. Oil on linen, 70" x 80"
Will Cotton, DEVIL'S FUDGE FALLS, 1999. Oil on linen, 96" x 144"
Will Cotton, FOREST, 2003. Oil on linen, 60" x 70"
Will Cotton, GHOST, 2007. Oil on linen, 72" x48"
Will Cotton, ICE CREAM CAVERN, 2003, Oil on linen, 70" x 80"
Will Cotton, SPUMONI RIVER, 2003. Oil on linen, 80" x 80"
Will Cotton, PEPPERMINT HIDEAWAY, 2001. Oil on linen, 68" x 80"
Will Cotton, MONUMENT, 2009. Oil on linen, 72" x 84"
Will Cotton, SWEPT AWAY, 2000. Oil on linen, 68 x 80 inches
Will Cotton, "UNTITLED" 2003. Oil on linen, 80" x 120"
The Great Gatsby's release in May is going to unleash a frenzy for 1920s fashion, much like The Artist, Downton Abbey, Boardwalk Empire, and the 1974 film adaptation of the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, starring Mia Farrow, have. (It's hard to believe the 1974 film influenced fashion trends if this is any indication of taste at the time.) The lust for dropped waists, chiffon overlays and delicate beading really is guaranteed to explode this spring: the costumes for the film are a dream collaboration between Miuccia Prada, renowned film and stage costume designer Catherine Martin, and Baz Luhrman who directed the film. (Martin and Luhrman have been married since 1997, first meeting at college in their native Australia, and the couple have worked together ever since. I'll bet their dinner conversation is awesome.)
Fashionistas are going nuts now that Prada have released Miuccia's sketches of designs from the film, which are worn by Carey Mulligan who stars as Daisy Buchanan. Here are glimpses of four out of the 40 cocktail and evening dresses created, all of which are adapted from past Prada and Miu Miu collections:
I'm very curious to see how the orange fishscale dress translates in the flesh!
Carey Mulligan as Daisy Buchanan in Baz Luhrman's film adaption of The Great Gatsby
Carey's character poster. Never mind the dress - my eyes are all over the art deco backdrop!
Let's go back to Mia Farrow as Buchanan, who was also in great company having been dressed by the great costume designer Theoni V. Aldredge, whose prolific and honoured career in film, television and stage spanned six decades. Aldredge won an Oscar and British Academy Award for her work in The Great Gatsby, and her designs from the film were adapted for a clothing line at Bloomingdales.
Yes, that is Sam Waterston on the left behind Mia.
More fun facts about The Great Gatsby, 1974 (the third filmed version of the novel):
The rights to the novel were purchased in 1971 by Robert Evans so that his wife Ali MacGraw could play Daisy. She blew that when she left him for Steve McQueen, who was originally considered for the role of Gatsby. Not surprising that he didn't get it.
Mia Farrow was pregnant during shooting and so wore loose, flowing dresses and was shot in tight close-ups to conceal her growing belly.
Truman Capote was the film's original screenwriter but was replaced by Francis Ford Coppola who later claimed the director, Jack Clayton, didn't pay much attention to it: "The film I wrote did not get made."
Critics weren't moved to "stand up and cheer": Vincent Canby made this statement in his review of the film in The New York Times : "The sets and costumes and most of the performances are exceptionally good, but the movie itself is as lifeless as a body that's been too long at the bottom of a swimming pool." Owwwch. And gross.
I can't not mention Midnight in Paris, the Woody Allen film in which a nostalgic screenwriter (Owen Wilson) inexplicably finds himself inserted into 1920s Paris, first at a party with The Great Gatsby author F. Scott Fitzergerald and his wife Zelda. The costumes, by Sonia Grande, are scrumptious. It's about as close to time travel to one of the most exciting eras in art, literature, fashion, music and philosophy in Paris as we can get. (They even go briefly back from then to La Belle Epoque!)
I can't believe Wayne Thiebaud hasn't featured on The Swelle Life before now. I remember seeing the American painter's work - he shuns the title of artist, looking down on "art" as "an abstract term that's still developing" - in art class in high school, it was one of his iconic dessert paintings and my eyes lingered on it for half a second before I turned the page in my survey text book. I didn't get it, I was too wrapped up in the fascinating, salacious and just plain weird lives and works of the Surrealists. At a time where adolescence is transitioning awkwardly into adulthood, the perpetual child-like curiosity and dreamstate exploration of the Surrealists just fit the teenage brain so well.
We're looking at Wayne Thiebaud now because I became reacquainted with his cakes the other day, playing Go Fish with my daughter, of all things. We were using a deck of Modern Art cards I bought her that are made for the game - a great way for children to learn the names of Modern artists and their works, and it comes in a set for Contemporary as well - and when it was her turn she asked me if I had any Wayne Thiebauds. A bell rung and I said Go Fish, and then later when I picked one up myself I looked at it with fresh eyes and realised I'd wasted so much time not appreciating what he did in 1960s, and what he is still doing. Yes, he is still with us at 92 years of age and incredibly, he still paints and does it as well as he ever did. In 2010 he created the google 12th birthday logo; it was of course, a birthday cake:
Like a Cezanne bowl of fruit, there's much more happening in Thiebaud's still lifes beyond his simple subject, whether it be a sundae, lipsticks, or a toilet. My initial response is noticing the presence of the subject; these are dramatic little pastries with their heavy, punctuating shadows that could not be reproduced in reality, and colours in acid hues that really stick. What I love is how each individual object, when conveyed as part of a group, has its own set of qualities and occupies its own space apart from what surrounds it. (This is the point where my dad is reading this, leans forward, squints and asks "Really?") What's been noted about Thiebaud's earliest work is its obvious 'pop' qualities derived from its focus on objects of mass culture, yet they predate Pop Art, suggesting that he may have influenced the movement. I'll take Thiebaud over Warhol any day. I can feel Thiebaud.
For more about Wayne Thiebaud and to further understand (and fall in love with ) his work, watch the Smithsonian's video
Wayne Thiebaud with one of his wonderful streetscapes. Like his still lifes, they also prompt us to look beneath the surface.
A few weeks ago we admired the painterly cakes of Nevie Pie Cakes, and I had saved her wedding designs for a separate post, they were just so charming and sweet, in an understated way. I thought I'd seen it all when it comes to types of wedding cakes, but this is the first I've seen of the cakemaker creating a nostalgic feel by drawing upon the illustration style of children's books of the mid-1900s. My mother-in-law kept every book from my husband's childhood, which are all in near-perfect condition, despite being read often (this was not the way things were in our house, covers looked chewed even after we had to give away our dog), and we now read them every summer with our daughter when we visit. I especially love the Golden books. When I look at the cake above it reminds me of them. I don't think I could eat this cake, it would be like devouring childhood memories!
Nevie-Pie Cakes' display at Selfridges - could you walk by without picking up something?
A vintage blue love-bird budgie wedding cake with 'lace' appliques and handpainted flowers
Wipe down your screen because you're probably going to lick it. (No? Just me?) I was asking all kinds of questions when I thought this was actually some lucky girl's bridal shower - did she get to eat during? What happened to the leftovers? And how can I get an invite to her next party? But this heavenly scene is just that, a set-up for a photo shoot. Amanda of Ruffled, an inspirational wedding blog she began after finding a lack of resources for creating a vintage wedding - see her stunning 1930s-themed nuptials here - worked with a team of talents to produce this patisserie brunch bridal shower shoot, including event designer Melissa of The Loveliest Day. It's not hard to see that Ladurée and other tea and pastry salons of Paris inspired the shoot, the centrepieces being a dessert table and a tea bar, and it's all been done to give you ideas so you can create your own. So better get going on amassing an enviable collection of cake stands and plates for styling! Some of the stands and platters you see are available at the My Sweet & Saucy Shop.
The tea table was set with vintage teacups, saucers and silverteapots and no detail was spared. Each variety of tea had its own custom colored label, and the chalkboard menu, hand drawn by Jane of Olive Hue Paper Goods, identified which color tea tag coincided with each tea.
Melody of My Sweet & Saucy created the pastries for the shoot including this cake for the shoot, and due to all the begging, shared her decorating secret here
Even the sugar cubes were displayed in a way that elicits squeals. Squeeeeeal!
Marshmallows in Toasted Coconut, Raspberry and Vanilla Bean & Cocoa
As promised, here's more from the incredible Cake Opera Co. in Toronto. A few weeks ago we were treated to their artistic cakes, and now we're getting gushy over their pastel confections, made even more tempting by their gorgeous styling. One of the first things I'll be doing when I arrive in Toronto in July is visiting their Eglinton Avenue West boutique and studio. I will not be eating sugar the previous week to get my craving good and ravenous because I plan to do some gluttonous shame eating (except that I don't feel the shame).
Crispy meringues in Toasted Almond & Vanilla, Strawberries & Cream, and Cocoa and Coffee.
Nothing impresses like the Tower. Choose from macarons, truffles or croquembouche.
Petits Gateaux - how do you choose just one? You don't!
Butter cookies layered with creamy ganache fillings in lemon, cocoa, lavender and hazelnut
Macarons, of course. That is the most perfect shade of blue!
The books I loved most as a little girl had two elements in common: lovely and colourful pictures, and enchanting stories. The stuff of wonderful daydreams that made childhood magical. As the years have passed, I've found that through their vivid imagery and words, these affections have remained firmly embedded in the mind and in the heart.
So what a treat is to continue the tradition, thanks to Birds of a Feather Shop Together, a gorgeous and witty book of 'Aesop's Fables for the Fashionable Set', adapted by author Sandra Bark who serves up life lessons with delicious fashion savvy. Bil Donovan masterfully brings the fables to life with his vibrant watercolour and ink illustrations, taking the anthology from bookshelf to proud display.
It's such a joy to read; a fashion and beauty indulgence that feels a bit of a guilty pleasure until you reach the end of the tale and see that fashion and morals can indeed coexist! The original stories are found at the back of the book, though once you've read Bark's there's no going back.
This book has become one of my daughter's favourites, and when I have to put it down because it's bedtime, she invariably reaches over and opens it back up to have a longer look at Bil's illustration for that story. I love that this book is one she'll remember for the rest of her life.
Birds of a Feather Shop Together is a hardcover book (the cover has a gorgeous texture with brilliant colour saturation) published by Harper Collins and includes 17 illustrated stories plus their originals. It is available to buy for £12.95.
Huge thanks to Bil Donovan for introducing me to this beautiful book and to Harper Collins for providing the copy. It is much loved.
About the author and illustrator:
Sandra Bark is a New York Times bestselling author who collaborates on books with notable figures. The founder and curator of the street art blog the Scenic Sidewalk, Sandra lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.
Bil Donovan is a fashion illustrator whose work has appeared in various publications and advertising campaigns worldwide. A brand ambassador for Christian Dior Beauty, he teaches fashion illustration at the Fashion Institute of Technology and is the author of Advanced Fashion Drawing: Lifestyle Illustration and illustrator of The Dress Doctor. He lives in New York City.
To read about Bil on The Swelle Life, including our interview, browse the Bil Donovan category here.
Here's a look at some the book's stunning story illustrations, by Bil Donovan:
'Birds of a Feather' - the level of detail is just incredible!
Cute cakes have their place - it's nice to eat something pretty without feeling as if you're destroying it. But there is another level altogether in the world of cakes, an artistry where the ingredients are regarded as media, the edible kind, and cakes are masterfully transformed into objects of exquisite beauty.
Alexandria Pelligrino is one of these extraordinary talents. As a fine artist she travelled to Florence to continue her art studies, then took up residence in Bologna, the gastronomical centre of Italy, where she became enchanted by food. This led her back to Toronto where she enrolled in the Patisserie program at Le Cordon Bleu. It was here that she met her future partner and pastry chef, Jessica Smith (more on her later!). Alexandria went on to found Cake Opera Co. in 2007 and has since achieved international recognition as one of the industry's leading cake designers. One glance at her stunning cakes - and her! (below) - and you wouldn't question why.
There are dozens of incredible creations on the Cake Opera Co.'s website, so I'm going to focus on my favourite of the cakes for this post. In the header image we see the Masquerade Ball-inspired Morretto Mask, one of the first of her signature 18th Century French figurine cakes. The "doctor death" mask, worn by bourgeoisie to conceal their illicit rendezvous, juxtaposes the fawn in her arms, a symbol of birth and innocence. How often do we get symbolism in our cake?!
This is Cake Opera Co.'s Milk Glass cake which I think is my favourite for its simple yet luxuriously textured detailing, created to resemble 1920s milk glass. The original was created as the piece du résistance for their table display at the 2010 Wedding Co. Show. A milk glass collector herself, Alexandria studied and combined many of her own cherished pieces into the final design. The desired result was to be a sleek yet vintage looking cake, evoking interest with its dynamic architectural form and contrasting this silhouette against more simple, pressed glass-like motifs. It is finished with a spray of confectionary glaze to resemble lustrous glass.
The Château de Versailles' Galerie des Glaces inspired this magnificent Hall of Mirrors cake. Created completely of cast sugar tiles and 24Kt gold molded details, it was constructed as an ode to Louis XIV, Dauphine of France, lover of luxury and excess. I think it's almost as ambitious an undertaking as the Hall of Mirrors itself!
'Pomegranate' is the four-tiered beauty that was borne of a request from event stylist Cynthia Martin to collaborate on a project at The Fermenting Cellar. The Style Me Pretty wedding blog had chosen Cynthia to take a Bohemian Romance-themed inspiration board and turn it into reality.
The cake is adorned with luxurious hand-sewn ribbon medallions and brooch detail, as well as an evocative hand sculpted pomegranate crowning the piece which denotes mystery and opulence. I love it when the cake designer uses textiles as decoration, it's such a lush effect.
Every neighbourhood benefits from an ice cream shop, especially when it brings a bit of retro - and French! - charm like our Beaches and Cream Ice Cream Parlour. Overlooking the seafront, its tiny space spills over with sweet-toothed locals on sunny days. The ice cream is made here in the North East by the family-owned Beckleberry's, which my daughter thinks is a flavour of ice cream because it's on all of the flavour markers. Hmm...how about it? Why not a house flavour called Beckleberry? I'm tasting blackberry with some pistachio bits for some reason (they do a wonderfully creamy pistachio!). And they do a fantastic sorbet- their Blackcurrant & Kirsch sorbet was awarded the Fortnum & Mason's Supreme Champion in 2008. (That's the ultimate accolade in the fine food industry.) I cannot wait to try the new Mascarpone.
Next door is the Beaches and Cream cafe that serves afternoon tea and some food. And of course ice cream desserts. I can't thank them enough for painting their exterior woodwork - which spans the ice cream shop and the cafe that stands on the corner - that gorgeous dusty duck egg colour.
...is probably still not enough. I found so many wonderful, unusual pieces when putting together my Fantasy Furniture Ideabook last month for Houzz.com (what, you don't have a throne in your house?), and I've been meaning to go back and revisit some of the more intriguing makers.
Germany's Entwurf-Direkt is behind one of my favourite pieces from the Ideabook, an awkwardly stacked set of drawers - is it a chest? a console? - with brightly coloured highlights. The creation is part of their 1000 Drawers project in which orphaned drawers (who knew?) are refurbished and designed to be attached to the wall. Each drawer is numbered and stamped and comes with a certificate. I would like to adopt one:
This is all part of a bigger project founded in 2001 by Entwurf-Direkt that would bring together a shop/event/art venue in one space. Today there are locations for shopping, exhibitions and lectures in both Hamburg and Berlin where you can also find advice on how to incorporate their unconventional furniture into your own decor. That's a good one because you'll probably need help (the answer is not to pile up your existing furniture so it fits in.)
I can't decide which I love more, the one in the header for its cheerful colour, or this for its pleasingly asymmetrical arrangment of 11 mismatched drawers and pulls, and the corrugated texture of the blue drawer: I won't strain over it, it's a moot point - at well over €2,000 I can't afford them! They're all one-offs, and I do think they're worth it. They're like mid-century modern with a sense of humour.
I love these things, let's look at more!
You can buy a single drawer! What would you do with one?
Jil Sander Navy - those dusty blue platforms are awesome
I'd best get on this, London has begun - here's a quicky survey of my favourite looks from the shows and presentations in New York. There's a ton of gorgeous clothes but how I choose is what pops off the page - usually it's a combinaton of soft or striking colour with some kind of textural appeal. When I see the clothes in person my appreciate scopes wider, but in this case there's an ocean standing in my way. Clean lines are as exciting to me as exquisite embellishments, it's all in how it presents.
I've missed ADAM and Adam Lippes' great smile. Sorry to see him and his gorgeous clothes go.
Giulietta - I don't know where that all-in-one should be worn, but I love the icy blue and matching shoes
Usually I loathe olive green, especially when paired with orange. But Preen's take is so clean and fresh I think I'm getting a nostaglic feel, it's like a modern version of the 70s colours from my childhood (don't do the math please). My brother had a brown and orange suit with giant lapels!
Kate Spade's Deborah Lloyd collaborated with Garance Dore who produced two illustrative prints for the collection, seen on the right. Maybe you inspired one of her stylish characters!
Unabashedly feminine and youthful, Valentino's latest 'little sister' collection Red Valentino is not only darling and pretty, it doesn't care that the season it's to be sold in is autumn, I like that! Lots of blush pinks, floral appliques and prints, mini lengths, ruffles and bows that traditionally resurface in spring. We have been moving toward seasonless collections for a few years now but I still get a real jolt when I see such fresh loveliness in the shops and editorial pages as I lament the skies being jet black at 4pm in November. Red Valentino is what it is, year-round. I like a label that has an aesthetic you can set your watch to.
Ok, you pretty much need a concave chest to wear these dresses so you don't look like a Lolita Jordan, but aren't the illustrated fairytale backdrops are a dream?
I have really been looking forward to this one! Come daydream with me, it's calorie-free. (But who cares anyway, right? Some things are worth it and more.) These heavenly treats are from Ladurée's 'Collection Noel 2011'. I think their packaging is the ultimate in pretty, when I was last in Paris I bought the Marie Antoinette loose thé you see in the blush pink paper cannister on the right because I wanted to see it in my kitchen every day, and I do! (And also because it's called 'Marie Antoinette', the combination was too much to resist.) It's displayed proudly on a shelf with my favourite teacups. Somehow it got a little scratch on the front when I brought it home - why is it never on the back?! - and I admit it nearly killed me to see it blemished. (Somehow I got over it.)
Here are more of my favourites from the collection, which is nearly everything!
Yes, you can eat this. It's Ladurée's Christmas Ball filled with a delicate chocolate sponge, chestnut mousse and pear cremeux. Oh why do I do this to myself...
An icy blue gift box of 'Fleur de Neige' macarons
The bulldog is of course French. Ladurée often takes inspiration from cute animals for their package design, and sometimes the chocolates themselves, as in these coloured mice.
Ladurée's muse, Marie Antoinette.
What a gorgeous blue! Nevermind the macarons, I'll eat the box.
A candy box made of chocolate!
The Gourmandises and Macarons hampers. That is one lucky girl who gets a hamper for Christmas.
It's going to take me a few more days to edit the rest of the shots I took at Fred Butler's mindblowing SS12 presentation at LFW on Sunday, but I couldn't wait to show one of my favourites - a head piece or hat, lilac-pink (one of the best colours ever) hexagonal sunglasses and fabric earrings that follow through on the sorbet softness of the voluminous scarf/top/jacket (in the full shot it's like a longer bolero style). The fact that I can't quite define it exactly is one of the reasons I love Fred Butler.
So you've been a bridesmaid half a dozen times and now have a closet stuffed with super shiny satin dresses in off-ish colours that you can never wear again. The next time you are appointed the honour, get the bride to ring up Tara Subkoff at Imitation of Christ and ask if she'll work the nuptials into her next fashion week show. She'll give you and your mates pretty lace and applique dresses to wear down the catwalk aisle. Well, she may (she won't), she's done it before.
Last Thursday at New York Fashion Week, Subkoff revived her IOC label with a collection of remade vintage dresses for spring, presenting them in a processional that is said to have been a genuine wedding for heiress/model/actress Lydia Hearst (always go for heiress as your primary designation, it's the most stable). But the bridesmaids were models. A bit impersonal, but it ensures they won't get too fat to fit into their dresses when the big day arrives, and your wedding photos will be aesthetically pleasing.
I've been dying to get back to my tour of Versailles! We're back on track now with Marie Antoinette's bedroom. I know what you're thinking, "This can't be it." Well, this was just one, her bedroom in the Petite Trianon, her private chateau (which really was private - husband Louis had to ask permission to enter, not that he really cared to).
It's very modest in contrast to its salons, though surely better than anything we have, but still very small (which is why the angles in the photos are short):
Either she was incredibly petite or she liked to sleep in the fetal position. I don't think she had a choice here!
The reflection in the mirror looks odd due to my crude eradicating of the tourists (yes, I know I am one, too, we're all guilty of ruining each other's photos)
Marie Antoinette's other 'throne'
Now I found this a bit odd. As you stand in the doorway to her bedroom you will find a tiny salon to the left. I guess this was her ensuite sitting room and there's nothing strange about that, but it just felt so awkward, kind of shoehorned into the space. Though still lovely and not lacking in the handcrafted detail of the grand salons, done in white with gorgeous silvery blue tapestry accented with lots of gilt, of course.
That second mirror on the outside wall seems strangely placed?
Lots more to come next week (and the next week, and the next week...)!
You may not be aware, but two Fridays ago there was a wedding in England between one of the world's lesser known princes and a girl he met at school. It went off with minimal fanfare and left the British populace largely unaffected but for a vicar who did cartwheels up the aisle after the ceremony, though rumour has it a red squirrel crawled up his pantleg and the gymnastics were a peppy attempt to loosen it from his knickers. It's not known whether the squirrel has since repented.
Kidding aside, the cake was pretty spectacular. Sometimes you see the results of what wealth can afford people and you think "What a waste of money." Not here, at least in my opinion. Renowned British cakemaker Fiona Cairns created the official version in an all-white, flower and ensignia-adorned traditional fruitcake. Its delicate and elegant and not at all pretentious, in relative terms, compared to some ostentatious celeb cakes which were five and six plus feet of what would appear to be subjective beauty. Norway's Crown Prince Haakon and his bride Mette-Marit had a 7 tiered wedding cake of raisins and rum that weighed 140 Kg, measured 2.69-metre high and was decorated with Viking ships. Hmmm...I hope it tasted good.
Fiona talks about how she felt when she was asked to make the Royal wedding cake and explains the 'language of flowers', a Victorian tradition that Kate asked her to incorporate into the design of the decoration:
We returned from Paris last night kicking and screaming (in my mind, anyway). I was so exhausted from my glorious nine-day tour of gluttony that I fell asleep reading my daughter the Marie-Antoinette story book that I bought for her at Versailles (they left out that nasty last bit). And missed being the Easter Bunny. Daddy forgot, too. Luckily I woke up before she did, realised, and got right to it. Phew. Childhood innocence saved.
Not having the time to buy the Easter treats before we left for our trip, I had no choice but to buy them in Paris. That might sound like a dilemma to celebrate rather than lament - I prefer to buy handmade chocolates for Easter - but it's incredibly expensive there. Paris barely tolerates Cadbury but there is an artisanal chocolatier on practically every corner, so that's where you go and all of them are pricey. I saw a large chocolate egg for €140 and nearly laid one myself. Smaller treats, then.
There were a lot of chocolate fish as is the tradition, and neat things like a real egg shell filled with dark chocolate (it at least looks real, we're still not sure!) Update: it was real.
On our last full day in Paris I took my daughter to Ladurée. I booked the Castiglione Salon, the prettiest room, and we shared a brunch which was tough to finish between us - we had to bring home the macarons for later and had no room for their divine Saint-Honorés! It still stings.
But we left with the mauve coloured white chocolate Easter egg done up in a pretty lilac Ladurée ribbon that you see in the photos with Baby Swelle, and some other pretty deliceuse that I will show you next week. We heard movement inside the egg - it contains tiny Ladurée surprises! We're about to investigate...
Can you take another week of vintage teacups? I've just added two more cup and saucer sets to my collection and couldn't wait to photograph one of them especially, I bet you can guess which.
The beautiful handpainted turquoise and gold floral set is from Noritake, but oddly the mark on the bottom of the teacup is only a partial print of their Komaru symbol with no writing other than what looks like three errant letters, and as far as I've found there wasn't an era in Noritake production where only the symbol was used. I wonder if it's a second? On one side of the exterior the handpainted flowers remain, but the gilt decoration is completely missing, as if it was never there. Considering the other side shows hardly any wear, and the inside is full ornate, it seems intentional for whatever reason. More than likely it's pre-1921. But it's so gorgeous and so delicate, it's like eggshell, none of this matters. Let's call this piece mysterious and curious!
The other set is a perfect little miniature George Jones. In 1907 Trent Pottery became Crescent and after 1921 the marks said 'Made in England', so that puts this set somewhere between 1907 and 1921. It's incredible that so much of this delicate china survives 100 years.
Following on last week's column where I did a show and tell of my favourite teacups(what's the past tense of 'show and tell'? Showed and told? Show and telled?), I introduce my beloved teapot. It's a Noritake, circa 1920s that I fell in love with at first sight in a Bristol antique shop. Noritake produced this style in Japan for the English market (this wasn't what the Japanese were into, of course). I don't use it for tea, it sits on the mantle as the centrepiece of the living room. I'd like to use it maybe once or twice but because of something the antiques shop owner said, I don't dare.
Its beauty lies in its colour, style and delicate detailing: handpainting in turquoise and pinks with a bit of yellow and green, all finely outlined in gold, all of that glorious gilt, the delicate handle and spout - if you know what this style is called please let me know, is it double scroll? - and its uncommon pedestal style. I would have happily paid three times as much as was being asked, it's exquisite and pure joy. Luckily I didn't have to as I didn't really have the money!
One teensy thing - I can't help but imagine how it could be even more beautiful if the bottom half was painted as well. That struck me at first, I wondered if the artisan went for the lunch and it got fired before he was finished! Noritake produced so many generously ornate pedestal teapots that I can't help but think twice. But I do love it as it is.
I'm always on the lookout for beautiful antique or vintage teapots and am especially interested in Noritake's pedestal styles, so if you have any great finds to share, please do!
To sip a cup of roses you need some whole dried fragrant rosebuds with hot water poured over in a pretty teacup. Mine come courtesy of my lovely friend Kate who got some as a gift at the Charles Anastase show last September. I think that beats a bottle of water!
The tea is soft and tastes perfumey, as you would imagine, and it's gorgeously aromatic. So be sure to indulge in a sniff with every sip! (I didn't feel like drinking the rest of my third cup so I just held it to my face and repeatedly huffed it. Best to do that when you're alone.)
Update! My brilliant Kate offers this suggestion for the leftover tea (after huffing it, of course): "I freeze left over tea into little ice cubes. Something pretty to put into home made limeade in the summer!" For Kate's fantastic limeade recipe see here!
My small collection of teacups and pots are among the prettiest things I own. I've decided to show my absolute favourite teapot in a separate post because I love it that much (it's a 1920s handpainted Noritake pedestal pot and you can see a preview in the shots below), but for now here are some of my favourite cups and saucers which include my newest Wedgwood, a stunning little deco set with lavender and pink flowers, even on the inside of the rim (I love it when the pattern is carried through to the inside, it's so stark otherwise). It was the obvious choice to host the rosebuds.
Befitting such a gorgeous set was the box it came in. Look what you get when you buy something from Wedgwood's Harlequin collection (it's perfect atop the ivory French bookcase which needed something but I wasn't sure what):
Below is an adorable cup and saucer Christmas tree ornament from Wedgwood, if you haven't guessed. I wouldn't dare hang it on the tree, that slippery ribbon would slide right off the needles and it would probably break, and who wants to see this sweetness only once a year? So it sits on my French antique aqua painted side table where it and the other breakables act as a magnet for the hands of friends' small children (my daughter has never broken anything of mine so I forget that she's not typical). You can actually hear my teeth grinding.
This trio is from Royal Albert's 100 Years collection. They re-released an iconic style from each decade starting with 1900, and I had difficulty choosing whether to get the 1930s Polka Rose or the 1990s Hartington Lane. I know, you can't believe it either, that I went with 1990s design over the 1930s. The Polka Rose is a mint green tiny polka dot pattern but it just seemed such an obvious choice for me, so I went with the lilac set from the far less enchanting era, you don't see lovely purples all that often and I do love them.
If you look closely at the saucer and dessert plate below, you'll see a subtle (but more obvious in person) cross-hatch pattern all over the lilac. That is pretty much what makes it 90s, I can't really explain why it does but I think you might know what I mean? It's not a pattern that would likely ever be repeated as such and it bugs me a bit, actually! (I know, total weirdo.)
The most discernable features of good china are its pristine sheen (no relation to Charlie), and the gorgeous gold gilt detailing. I will just sit and stare (not for too long, don't worry), you can see how solidly made and perfect the pieces are, and you can feel it in your hands.
I so look forward to Orla Kiely's presentation at each London Fashion Week. She transforms the Portico Rooms at Somerset House and it's like stepping into another, very beautiful, world. This season the setting was a forest, complete with birds perched in trees and in wooden birdhouses, and two cabins showing her collection film. Unfortunately I only had a few minutes this time and had to run off without sitting down to watch it, but from what I saw the way it was shot reminded me a bit of Un Chien Andalou!
Oh yes, and the clothes! There is so much to engage the senses that you almost forget about models and clothes until you see what felt like omnipresent beings. Very nicely dressed ones. Everywhere you looked there was the same platinum-haired model in a different outfit of course, superimposed on the walls and peering out from behind the barren tree branches. The colours were all very muted, as if they were meant to blend in with the scenery, bar a nice shock of tangerine.
I included this very blurry photo of Orla because it captured a sweet moment. I was taking a photo of the film from outside the cabin when she walked out, realised she was in my shot and made a very humble 'oops, sorry!' expression. It's ok, Ms. Kiely, you can step into my shot any time! She's awesome.
And have you seen the Orla Kiely cars? The microsite for the Citroen DS3 by Orla Kiely is a pretty neat interactive catalogue of the range. Click the image to see it.
The looks at New York Fashion Week are typically about chic power dressing and street-luxe cool over sweet and lovely, though the youthful and pretty is represented by a few labels and that's what I look forward to. I'll never grow up. I don't even need new inventions of old classics, taking cues straight out of the 60s is perfectly fine with me as evidenced by my love for these powder blue wool and cashmere (that's a good guess) coats from Philosophy di Alberta Ferretti:
Simple, feminine and classic with minimal updating. Pure Rosemary's Baby beauty. The pale blues featured heavily in this collection, all done in super soft fabrics and knits, and every look had a coat, all of which I badly want:
And the colour carries on through the collection. It's a refreshing palette of pastels with some gold to jolt us out of the calm just a bit, and further proof that the 'rules' of dressing for the season are becoming obsolete. I have been asking and will continue to ask every autumn, 'Who says we have to dress dark and gloomy?' In my world, olive doesn't even exist. Hey, if dressing in head to toe black is what you like, that's great. But for those who feel that they would be breaking an institutionalised fashion rule to emerge in a pink coat in December, fear not. It will brighten your day and that of those around you so go to it!
Ok, first, this toile - a garment made in muslin or canvas to work out a new design so you don't waste the actual fabric - was snapped when it only had one sleeve. This dress will have two sleeves! The black shirt has nothing to do with dress, it was just cold that day. So this should alleviate any concerns that I am doing a line of one-armed dresses in the plainest and cheapest of fabrics, in case anyone thought I was a total weirdo. (You can still think that if you want to but for for other reasons.)
So, what is this Swelle label? It's a house label for my shop, Swelle Boutique, a way for me to offer pretty, every day dresses that don't have to be dry cleaned. At a lower price point. I'm so proud of all of the clothes in the shop which are worth every penny and then some - especially now as most are on sale - but I wanted to round out the selection with the kinds of pieces - mostly dresses - you can wear over and over through the season, and if a glob of ketchup jumps from your burger onto your chest, you won't die. (For the record, I still need to wear a bib.) I'll continue to feature exclusive pieces from a few other designers whose work I adore, but for this concept I decided to take matters into my own hands.
How am I doing it? I'm working with a dress maker and pattern cutter who has years upon years of design experience and whose construction is excellent, she's a perfectionist which is what I was looking for. I choose the fabrics, trims and buttons and request the style and then she cuts the pattern and makes the dress. And then we can play around with the buttons and trims - the fun part!
The styles are mostly based on the clean, feminine shapes of the 60s, as in shifts and trapeze dresses, and there will be a bit of 50s. I have an incredible print, very painterly flowers on a super soft white cotton that appear to be falling and then gathering more densely at the hem, and it will be amazing as a full-skirted 50s style. Simple, pretty and fun. I bought most of the fabrics when I was in Edinburgh last month and it was the prints that jumped out.
Now I'm going to say something odd: The fabrics shown here are my least favourite of what I came home with. But that's not to say I don't like them, I picked them out and paid for them! So I do like them but not as much as the others, so I wanted to start with them, come up with a dress I loved and then it would get even better. This one has a gathered trim on the hem and sleeve in the constrasting colourway to add texture and give the slightest puff. The buttons we've used to adorn the placket (they're for show, the dress has a back zip) are actually not either of the 1930s buttons from France that are pictured here - I love that they are still sewn to the original card! - but pale pink glass vintage roses I've had with me for years. There are enough for two dresses and I think they are the perfect highlight for this very floral, vintage-y dress!
So what you get from Swelle is a new favourite dress for daily wear that is likely a one-off - each will have something just a bit different - was not made in a factory and may have pretty vintage buttons, and comes at a price that won't make you immediately relegate it to 'Wish List'. The first pieces of the spring collection will be introduced early March and new styles will be produced continuously throughout the year. Only a few in each fabric will be made so there will always be fresh looks in the boutique.
Riccardo Tisci followed up last season with a kind of 2.O of Givenchy's winter anatomy references with his new obsession: Japan. The pieces in the photos below aren't the most laboriously detailed ones but they're my favourites, and the backs of all of them are even more impressive than the front. However, it's worth mentioning that according to Tim Blanks, one really out there outfit required 2,000 hours of cutting and 4,000 of sewing, and a single pair of trousers had 90 meters of plissé. Now that's haute couture! You know my feeling that your eyeballs should desperately plead 'May I have a rest, please?' upon viewing an haute couture show and your brain should fizzle from over-stimulation and amazement.
Karl Lagerfeld delivered what we always want from Chanel. Pretty, delicate, youthful beauty, this time inspired by light and the ballet. There were skirts and dresses over skinny pants and leggings, lots of floaty chiffon - I don't need to mention boucles and tweeds do I? and - flats! At first I wondered why the models looked so 'normal', and that was because they weren't Amazons in their little ballet shoes. I have to say I prefer the freakishly elevated walk down the runway but hey, at least there were no clips for the blooper reel.
Cutting into this cake should be considered attempted murder. I've seen a lot of gorgeous cakes since Cupcake Monday began in 2009 but this has to be the most beautiful yet. This stunning wedding creation is from pastry chef Erin Gardner of New Hampshire's Wild Orchid Baking Company.
Cameos, a skeleton key, pearl buttons and delicate brooches spill out of a vintage jewellery box, all edible of course - if you can bring yourself to do it! And know that I would fight you if you tried.
Here's a closer look at the detail:
As for what's inside it could be bricks for all I'd care because I'd never bring a knife to it! Just a little lick, maybe.
Here are more gorgeous cakes from Wild Orchid Baking Co:
"The prints are drawn by my good friend and many time collaborator Neil O'Driscoll (he also makes my films each season). A very talented man! The toile de jouy is in fact personalized and is made up of pictures of me and my boyfriend Alex, our dog Burt Wellington and many of our friends which is so so lovely."
Isn't it? How great would it be to have you with you friends, furry ones, too (I love that her dog's name is Burt Wellington!), immortalised in a toile de jouy? I've always loved this style of print, especially in blue, and it flows right into Lu's style of storytelling through clothes. My first recollection of the toile de jouy was in my aunt's teenage bedroom when I was very little (looks awesome under Shawn Cassidy posters). And I think on a quilt, too, also at my grandparents'. Both in blue.
A little background - the toile de jouy originates in - can you guess? - France! in the late 1700s in Jouy-en-Josas, a village near Versailles. The factory that manufactured it was founded in 1760 by German-born Christophe-Philippe Oberkampf, (1738-1815), a textile entrepreneur. According to Quilter's Muse, the factory at first produced only floral designs block printed with wood blocks. In all, more than thirty thousand block print designs were utilized to print fabric there. Imagine the archives!
As for who printed Lu's, I think I know, but I'm quite certain it wasn't done with wooden blocks!
Even self-confessed freaks for Facebook must admit that there is no charm to be found in a keystroked message electronically delivered to their computer, even if it's from your dream babe whose profile photo is a winsome gaze into the sunset and he ends it with at least one X. Fill your special keepsake box with printouts and it could easily be mistaken for the recycling.
Yet as long as paper and pen are available, those of us who lament the slow death of the handwritten, hand delivered message can still indulge in the romantic tradition of letter-writing. (If us keyboard jockeys can still write - does anyone else find your fingers are like rubber when you go to sign a form? I actually have to practice to keep my once prided penmanship!)
One kindred spirit is the lovely Jem of Beautiful Clutter, a English blog of beautiful things and like this girl, is all about the details. It's a real treat to look at and read, full of loveliness and most likely you'll learn something, too. One day Jem was having a conversation with a reader in the comments about the diminishing tradition of postcard sending, so I piped in and asked if she wanted to revive it. Soon I received this really beautiful postcard, just before Christmas, and it was just the sweetest thing - mission perfectly accomplished!
The printed writing on the back is in several languages so I'm not sure where it's from, but it's a special card with its soft, dusty shades and delicate gold detailing the image.
Jem wisely didn't want to risk the postcard being damaged so she put it into an envelope. That frees up space to write as well! As you can see Jem is not suffering from rubber fingers, she writes beautifully. I can't say what I sent her as it's on its way but it's something from where I live. Hopefully we'll continue the tradition. How about you?
I want this console table so badly I would give up Coke. If I resisted buying a big bottle every two or three days and put the money in a piggy bank instead, it would only take me 3.8 years to buy it! Well, it's a relief to know that I don't drink £1,175 worth of Coke in six months.
I have lusted after this table from Sweetpea & Willow for about a year and here I am again. There are few things that we desire with any longevity so it's a surprise when the wanting doesn't wane over time. Where I would put it I'm not sure but I would be willing to kick something to the curb to make room. Wait, no, I'm talking crazy. We would all work something out.
The carved detailing on the edges is painted ivory which makes it that much more interesting and beautiful, and you can choose your own colours from a palette of 15 shades, right down to a different one for the top surface, top edge, outer body and interior. The possibilities are almost too much to contemplate. Pink + ivory + grey. Blue + pink + ivory. Violet + bleu marine + parme. I think the original would do just fine and keep my head from exploding.
All of the above also goes for this powder pink and silver side/coffee table, also from Sweetpea & Willow. Marry me! I wanted it for our living room when we bought our house but wishing didn't put it on a truck en route to our house. And I wished really hard.
And then another favourite daydream site of mine where I got a lovely and simple aqua glass chandelier for my daughter's room is the The French Bedroom Company. They got in on the teasing. Yesterday I got an email showing me this dressing table, 'La Table de Rouen' in a blue so gorgeous that if I'm to believe it does match what I'm seeing on my screen it's likely to be haunting me in a year's time, too, if lucky ducks don't snatch them all up. It's on sale. TFBC put out a gorgeous catalogue as well and you shouldn't dare think of bringing it into the bathroom.
I had a couple more to show but these are my favourites and I can't bear anymore, I actually find this a bit painful!
Lu Flux collections are like illustrations of stories. Enchanting, magical and always colourful stories. Each season is essentially Lu's wearable version of a fairytale. A breath of fresh air amongst the high street clones and safe style, there's really nothing out there quite like Lu Flux. Her latest collection Over the Hills and Far Away is presented in collaboration with illustrator Neil O'Driscoll who clearly gets the spirit of Lu's work and brings it vividly to life in both print and film, above.
I was lucky enough to get one of the limited edition illustrated lookbooks at London Fashion Week, it's a keeper:
The photographic lookbook is special, too. Lu designs a set for each collection to create the illusion that her model, or character, is inside a story, and therefore so are we. How can you not be smitten?
At London Fashion Week in September I saw the pieces in person for the first time and fell in love. A new shoe collaboration, Lu Flux for Green Shoes was also introduced but I was so fixated on the clothes I didn't even realise! Also for the first time, patchwork prints were created as a seamless alternative to the actual patchwork pieces, they were used to make a dress t-shirts and leggings (above, top right and bottom second last on the right).
Front and back of a new patchwork dress, Lu Flux's signature style. Lu had just stepped out so that's her lovely assistant Natasha showing me the pieces.
Ok. I need to ask Lu about this print and am doing so right now. The men's jacket which women could wear - see behind on the rack - was just awesome.
Each collection features a few exceptionally spectacular pieces that take days to make, like the loopy skirt (above) and dress:
Speaking of spectacular pieces, I was stunned when I saw this on display at Fashion Week in February, from the Dame and Knight AW 2010 collection (can you believe my battery has just died and I couldn't get detail shots? I could have cried):
The skirt reminds me of the Princess and the Pea. See? Fairytales you can wear!
Every so often something truly great comes along and I'm gushingly grateful. Something that evokes an emotional response of the extraordinary kind, as in not the kind of the thing you experience in day to day life, and connects with a part of you you would almost forget existed if it wasn't so thrillingly nudged every now and then. (Say what? In short, I lose it for beautiful things that tap into a dream state and I can't tell you why. I don't know exactly.)
Photographer and film maker Alice Hawkins made The Good Life which showcases some of the best of AW 2010, it's a moving editorial of sorts. But for me this film is not about fashion.
This is how it's described on Showstudio (yes, them again. What can I do, they're awesome):
"Proper doesn't have to mean prim - Alice Hawkins gives the bourgeoisie mood of the A/W 2010 collections a terribly British spin in a tongue-in-chic ode to Margot Leadbetter, Beverly Moss and quintessentially English class consciousness."
I didn't grow up here so I don't know the 70s TV show after which this film is named, I don't have a reference for Margot Leadbetter, and Google can't seem to tell me who Beverly Moss is, though something tells me I should know. But that's all fine, I prefer no context for this film. As I mentioned I'm not viewing this as a fashion film, though it's tough to ignore the familiar outfits, and the fact that I fell in love with that Dior ribboned sweater on the catwalk, the one that the wonderful Jean Sherman is wearing at her vanity table (which looks a bit different on her).
The Good Life is like David Lynch doing the The Housewives of Orange County (without the boob jobs, trout pouts, useless husbands and ingrate kids). It's a bit film noir and completely dreamlike. The way Hawkins shot it is dramatic and stunning, she plays with light and dark to create the passage of time - the bright, waking sun of dawn with birds chirping, the washed out look of dusk, and the deep shadows of a mysterious night. Yet her passage of time doesn't necessarily make any sense, all weaving in and out in quick seconds and at the same time dragging slowly, which is a huge part of its appeal. Any of the scenes in The Good Life could be seamlessly edited into Lost Highway or Mulholland Drive.
The film also taps into the standard feminine idealism - perfect house, clothes, hair, family, life - and every waking second is bliss, all smug smiles of true contentment. It's as if their air is not the same as the one we breathe. Why, they don't even need it! They exist on a different, Lynch-esque plane.
I imagine Hawkins asked her cast? subjects? to play the impossibly glamorous, self-satisfied woman. But something tells me, if their stories are true, that they felt right at home and quite deserving of such a portrayal.
After writing the previous paragraph I read this, which would have me believe these women are indeed only a slightly less exaggerated version of their 'characters' and that's exactly why they were chosen. I don't think Hawkins like actors, she's intrigued by real people and exaggerating their fun parts. The article also touches upon why the film reminded me of pageants - the unnatural poses, the frozen smiles, and the complete and utter belief in what they portray, which I would sum up as nothing. If you asked them to stand there and smile without moving for a whole hour, they would, no questions asked. Hawkins is into all of that, "she's attracted to those who 'make an effort'". Works for me.
So I'm back with more Wedgwood baubles and the teacups I was talking about in my last post. Thanks to Alexandra for letting us know in the comments that the baubles are not only still available in the U.S., they are on sale! And they have even more designs! Now why does the U.S. site have more options than the UK site? It's a British company! Stop being stingy at home, Wedgwood, they've got more than they need yet we're deprived. Oh, the injustice.
I'm kidding of course (almost). I so want that teacup and saucer so I can display it on my mantle year round. And how about that three-tier cake? Oh, wait - back up. I just checked and they're gone, as they should be!
As for the teacups, I was at first lusting after Wedgwood's Cuckoo collection, those are three with the large floral patterns in the first collage which come in pastel blue, pink, green and peach. Then I saw the cup and saucer set from their Harlequin collection with the gold stripe deco handle and I instantly cheated on the Cuckoos. And the pink and gold daisy mug, wow. If I had those two I think I would have to put all of my food in a blender so I could drink out of the cups as much as possible. (Ew. On second thought I would just look at them a lot. I eat a lot of pizza.)
The dotty cup and saucer in 1950s minty turquoise - the absolute best colour in the world in my mind - is from Royal Albert. I have one of their sets coming for Christmas, I had to order my own gift as it was low stock and I would have missed out. Does that mean I can use it as soon as it arrives? It's a gorgeous lilac floral set of just one cup and saucer and I can't wait to have it, but that was before I saw the deco cup and lost my mind. Even the box is a dream.
I mentioned in the last post that I was going to do a little story on how I've brought blues into the house. (And by that I mean colours and not PMS. Though to be fair both qualify.) Then I realised that it's not the best time for photos as I've got Christmas decorations up, but I will do it. Especially now that we've got an antique tallboy sideboard painted in a saturated cerulean blue which I found today through sheer luck at our local market. For £80. And they delivered it free. That never happens to me, I'm not that girl! It made our kitchen and I can't stop staring at it. After the holidays I'll do my show and tell. I'm going to stare at it now! (It smells a bit funny but that's ok.)
Let me preface this with something I hope I don't have to say too often: Don't get too excited. These are all sold out. But they are just so pretty and as this blog is a collection of beautiful things, well, I just want them on it. I'm like putty when it comes to powdery pastels and icy blues (our Christmas tree is white with arctic blue baubles) and Wedgwood is synonymous with slate blue pottery, hence 'Wedgwood blue', as well as Royal service and the Peter Rabbit dishes from our collective childhood. Wedgwood was established by innovative ceramacist Josiah Wedgwood in 1759. Can you imagine the pride in knowing that 250 years later your legacy would live on and flourish in the spirit in which it was conceived and nurtured? Except that I don't think he was doing designer collaborations back then.
I have three of their little dishes that I bought at the Tynemouth market for I think £1 each. At that price you can blow your nose on them, but that's not really good use now is it? Below are two of them along with a handpainted gold leaf Japanese dish from 1877 which is the thing that the younger children of friends feel compelled to run up to and slam with their fist. It's a miracle it's still intact. It only cost £2.50 but that's not the point. Pocket change for an antique and people still barter if you can believe it. I witnessed one woman trying to get a bargain on a figurine that was 50p. I'll pay 35p for that but no way I'm paying 50! Those vendors stand out there all day and may only make a few quid for their trouble. You might as well just steal it when she's not looking, that would be more dignified!
Okay, at this point I was going to show the Wedgwood teacups I'm in love with - collecting tea cups is a phase I've been going through for about five years now and I don't think it's a coincidence that it began when I moved to England - or go on about how I've brought blue into our house as it's the colour I'm most happy living with. I'm going to take photos of all the blue, in whatever form and do a show and tell. Seeing as it's an ungodly hour I'm going to save both for follow ups. Part two coming tomorrow...
But here's a preview in the meantime, I didn't stop until I found the exact blue I wanted for the walls:
At long last, the new Swelle Boutique is here! As mentioned previously, the first version was a temporary look and format to get my first collections launched. The new site allows for more content and ease of navigation, and it's slicker but still embodies that dreamy Swelle aesthetic - of course it does! I can't do anything else!
More pretty pieces are on their way including dresses for holiday parties from Rowanjoy and Wholly Cow and gorgeous feather and chain earrings and neckpieces by Noémiah.
A Swelle label is in the works as well for spring with a few preview pieces coming in the next few weeks. I love dresses, coats and jackets so expect a lot of those!
What I love most about Tokyo Fashion Week is the fun. There are similarities to some of what we've previously seen in the major fashion weeks (I often think Libertine, Creatures of the Wind and Rachel Antonoff from New York would fit perfectly in the Tokyo lineup) but there's always that little extra of Japanese flavour, a bit more daring, fearlessness when it comes to colour (what's there to be afraid of, anyway? is my eternal question), and things we would simply never ever see at the big four (or anywhere else for that matter) - see the last collage for that.
Schoolgirl sweetness at Sunao Kuwahara
Beautiful People used a shopping mall as their catwalk!
I could do without the blue lips at Nozomi Ishiguro but it wasn't enough to distract from the charming layered pastel-tinted outfits
Liz Lisa gives us what many associate with Japanese culture - an obsession with the candy cuteness of female childhood. She reminds me of Luisa Beccaria for 8 year-olds. (I think some of Liz Lisa's models aren't that much older!)
Please bear with me - I'm still catching up on London Fashion Week posts!
Upon entering the Cooperative Designs SS 2011 presentation at the Groucho Club, I felt as if I'd walked into a scene from Henry and June - if Maria de Madeiros and Uma Thurman had been wearing knitwear in Indian desert hues with leather and stud accessories in their 1920s Paris salons. A barefoot model in a striking graphic monochrome dress was playing a lively ragtime tune on the piano in the art deco-ish room which added to the charm of the scene. And it was a scene.
There's always one face that stands out amongst the models and most keep their observations to themselves (it's so banal to notice the models), but there was one major exception here: an utterly enchanting woman in her 60s or maybe even 70s who was the talk of the room and would have stolen the show had it not been so rich and robust in colour, texture and style:
Hang on, I'm not done yet...she's too awesome:
Two of the girls were talking with their heads together and it reminded me of, again, Henry and June:
I find Chanel's collections reassuring. Being such a fan of lush textures, pastels, and girlie details and cuts, I sometimes feel my preferences are under-represented in a forward-looking design industry that views minimalism as the future. Or that cheap, overdone, saccharine concoctions, like those borne of Jordan's Pepto Bismol-pink-soaked brain are over-represented, which is worse for my case. Chanel reinvents the feminine, adorned woman so exquisitely and so enchantingly with each collection that if they were the lone fashion house cultivating this look, it would still be more than enough to convince the rest of the world it's an aspirational way to dress.
An umbrella shaped like a huge hat - why haven't we seen this before?
Ines de la Fressange walked in the show, officially ending her long rift with Chanel, looking even more gorgeous than one would expect.
I'm not usually a fan of denim at Chanel, in the past it has thrilled me as much as a pair of GWGs, but the jeans on the right look like proper Chanel rather than prison issue. Speaking of prison issue (with classic Chanel boucle jackets just to confuse things further):
But isn't that little boy cute? You have to be this tiny to get away with that outfit. I'm assuming he's Brad Kroenig's son, he looks just like him. Imagine trying to explain to a two year-old that he's going to walk in a Chanel show, one of Karl Lagerfeld's last, as he's picking his nose? That's the life.
Orla Kiely presentations at London Fashion Week are always a treat, quite literally. Not only are the clothes pure eye candy, but this time the print mistress had a sweet-faced 'cigarette' girl serving popcorn in pink retro (of course) cups and the most delicious things I've ever tasted - cake lollies. I wasn't the only one who thought so. A young girl I was standing next to in Orla's tiny cinema was eating one and asked me "Have you had one of these? They're sooo good! I'm on my third one!" That decided it, I didn't need to feel shame for wanting to go back for seconds. Besides, I had already endured being laughed at by two guys who were watching me go to town on one of those popcorn cups. I hadn't eaten anything all day (this somehow happened last season, too) and after some champagne I was desperate. So I stood there with a cup and I ate it all the way to the bottom. It's not like my face was buried in it and popcorn was flying everywhere in a ravenous frenzy (well, only for a moment), but still I must have looked like a freak - hardly anyone even touches the food which is nuts! - but you can't take pictures while holding popcorn so I had no choice. It was use it or lose it!
Moving on....Orla Kiely opted for cardboard cutouts of models wearing the collection to the real deal. That's one way to keep the whining about sore feet in high wooden heels to a minimum. But it worked. Her venue at Somerset House is the Portico Rooms, and she transforms the main room into Orla Kiely headquarters. This time she constructed a cinema, complete with theatre seats, to show her collection and the spirit of it through a film by Gia Coppola - yes, she's related. It took us back to 1960s London, leaving the ochres, oranges, browns and moss greens of the 70s behind (a palette I typically loathe yet I love Orla Kiely without exception), in favour of a rose and mint-green tinted world. There were cupcakes and pretty teacups, ponytails and hair ribbons. It all served to strengthen my resolve that I am indeed a girly-girl. No apologies!
Valentino's super-sweet collection, nicely balanced with a bit of weighty symbolism in the form of cages and underpinnings that tie in with its title The Dark Side of First Love, comes courtesy of Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli (proving to be the right appointment?). This is the couture collection that made me squeal. The society ladies just won't know what to do with this one.
Karl Lagerfeld indulged in moody-hued, embellished and beaded tapestries, sometimes with matching boots (not so sure about those but then, that's so Chanel). The first two looks are my favourites, they are divine:
The embellished transparency combined with the textured striping of this skirt and top from Jean Paul Gaultier really appeals to me. And I just love this photo of Karlie Kloss in the chic trench looking exactly like a designer's fashion illustration come to life. The girl is not yet 18 years old and is the most sophisticated presence on the runway, and no one walks quite like her:
Dita von Teese modelled two outfits for Gaultier. Now, I'm not sure what's going on here but I'll assume it's just an unfortunately timed photo and she's not actually doing the robot, or vogueing. Or both.
Riccardo Tisci doesn't want to show Givenchy couture anymore, he will only do private appointments so the clothes will be that much more exclusive. They were far enough out of my reach as they were but thanks for drawing that line in the sand a little deeper. Well, that's one way it was told. Another way is that he opted for intimate presentations so the details could be fully appreciated (I like that one better.) A quick glance is all it takes to see that these opulent dresses and jackets are rich with painstakingly complex textures that are exquisite and never extraneous, and for me, that is haute couture at its most indulgent and best. And Tisci managed to do it without using black (one chocolate brown dress and jacket was close). Bravo.
According to Style.com's Tim Blanks "He claimed his inspiration was Frida Kahlo and her three obsessions:
religion, sensuality, and, given the painter's lifelong battle with
spinal pain, the human anatomy. The zipper pulls were little bones, a
belt was a spinal column re-created in porcelain." I'm a bit tired of anatomy as a theme as its been done to death in recent years (how many ribs and skulls can one take?) and Schiaparelli and Dali did it way back in the 30s, but when it's interpreted this beautifully - who cares?
I found this wardrobe with the facade of a Georgian dollhouse on the site I bought our sideboard from. It's The Furniture Rooms and they sell antiques as well as reproductions. Our sideboard get lots of compliments when people first come to our house and it's my favourite piece of furniture:
Now, that Georgian dollhouse wardrobe is one cool piece of furniture but it comes at a hefty price, £3250 to be exact. If I were considering spending that kind of money I would like to know more than this:
Georgian style dolls house wardrobe. The wardrobe opens up to a hanging
rail and has a neat mini mahogany door on the front. h213 x w128 x d55 cm
But what's it made of, wood? What kind? Where is it made? Is it grey or white? Can we see inside? Those drawers look like a facade, is that right? Tell us more so we can convince our significant others that we really need this!
When something is so obviously special and comes with a weighty price tag it only makes sense to tell us everything you possibly can. I wrote about that in a previous post, how perplexing it is that the seller wouldn't tell us just how cool their thing is and take the chance that one or two images are enough to convince us to hit the 'buy' button. I describe every detail of the pieces in my shop, Swelle Boutique, otherwise, how will you know just how great they are? And there's a certain lack of trust that I feel when I see very brief descriptions that leave you asking questions, even when the item is a £30 dress or something even cheaper. It's our money and we want to know what we're getting, we can't see it or touch it and your words are all we have.
Luckily, The Furniture Rooms is a reputable company that delivered on a great piece of furniture (and a neat 70s vase) and I would buy from them again. I took a chance buying our sideboard based on only two exterior views and a very brief description. I just think they should do their pieces justice with more elaborate descriptions. It only takes another minute!
Here's an Art Deco Fan Lamp I passed on when I bought the others because it wasn't an essential, and it's now sold and oh boy does it sting:
And if you're into dollhouses you might like this
If you're a professional or amateur photographer (who isn't these days?), film maker or music composer residing in Europe you may want to consider submitting your best work to Hitachi G-Technology's Driven Creativity competition. Winners and runners-up will be awarded innovative G-Technology drives and the overall winner will receive €5,000 to fund their next project. You can enter until September 30th, 2010 here
Entries are judged not merely on aesthetics but also on the inventiveness used to get your result. One stellar example is Laura Seymour's Gone...But Not Forgotten submission for the film category. It's got it all: technological wizardry to wow you, music to engage you and enough sunny sentimentality in the visuals to leave you feeling that everything is right with the world.
How did she do it?
"Asked by composer Richard Anthony Jay to create a video piece for his
track 'Gone...but not forgotten' incorporating super8mm footage, I was
inspired by the wealth of public domain archive footage online and
decided to attempt to make an animation solely using this footage, and
still imagery also sourced online. This involved a long process sourcing
the materials, then compositing a massive tabletop composition in
Photoshop before then bringing into After Effects to animate one camera
over the table-top and all the elements within that needed to move at
set times in time with the music.
As the concept is about memory, families and capturing the stories of
people from times now gone across the four corners of the table, the
important thing was also to portray a different aesthetic/finish for
each area of the table using filters and colouring to recreate different
film stocks. I used the Magic Bullet colouring suite 'Looks' to achieve
this in Final Cut Pro."
(If you're reading this in an email subscription click the title of this post to see the video.)
The fabulous, sharp-witted Kate Carter finds tissues to be the perfect accompaniment to a browse at Swelle Boutique, calling it "a new site to drool over" in her Fashion Statement column. This is a hugely popular weekly roundup of fashion news and insights both hilarious and astute at my favourite national newpaper, so it's an understatement to say I'm thrilled to bits that Ms. Carter likes what she sees at Swelle Boutique.
Congrats to Neue and Rowanjoy for having their gorgeous dresses featured!
You can see the column here and be sure to sign up to receive Fashion Statement by email for a refreshingly good read.
I was on my laptop tonight (big suprise) with the TV on because that's the only way I watch it these days, when suddenly I found my eyes away from my monitor, held firmly by this image on the TV screen. A heavenly apparition - a figure in miles of layers of pale yellow chiffon that was flowing in and out like one of those ethereal deep sea creatures fluttering in the currents to an emotional score - was so jawdroppingly beautiful I wondered what the heck could this be? It's an advert on Comedy Central for Two and a Half Men for goodness sake!
I watched intensely until the end and anticipated the name that was about to appear on the screen, I hadn't a clue as to what it might be, there was no familiar pattern in this ad (ie. you always know a car commercial no matter who it's for). It was Cadbury's Flake. The delicacy of the chiffon layers a metaphor for the airy layers of the chocolate. You'd think I am now about to say 'I can't believe it, what a drag!' and that the bubble had burst, but actually I was thinking 'Respect.' It was most certainly an homage to Alexander McQueen's stunning Kate Moss hologram but this was no cheap rip-off. I watched it about 10 times it was so captivating. Yulia Lobova is the creature inside the heavenly vessel. Watch it with the view expanded.
I still won't eat a Flake, they are way too sweet and I prefer my chocolate bitter, but the next time I see one I will give it an approving nod.
After a bit of teasing for the past several weeks I am so happy to announce that Swelle Boutique is FINALLY here! I invite you to have a browse to see what gorgeous things the invited designers have been working so hard this spring to create for you.
Swelle Boutique was dreamed up as an extension of The Swelle Life, which in my mind has become a collection of beautiful things that, if you haven't noticed, have a certain look to them! I've met so many designers since writing about fashion who, through their work, represent everything this blog holds dear - exquisite detail, playfulness, inspired and original thinking, a romantic sensibility, and lots and lots of colour, both soft and vibrant - and I am extremely grateful to them for their eagerness to contribute to this project. That includes those who are busy working on their first collections as I write this as they are key to moving this forward. And all of them are the
loveliest, loveliest people which really matters to me. Who wants their
clothes made by jerks?
Certain colours and textures can immediately make you feel happy, and I want this to be intrinsic to what Swelle Boutique offers.
The collections are priced very reasonably for what they are, and I've made a point of having pieces that are accessible and I will continue to do so.
I'm so proud of these amazing designers and really, really thrilled with their
first exclusive collections of one-offs and limited pieces. It all feels
right and I can't ask for any more than that. Thank you.
I need to say that it would have been impossible for me to create my boutique without the unfailing support of my family. My husband Kyle has a relentlessly demanding job, yet he took over - without me having to ask - all my family duties during this last intense stretch and many times well before it, taking care of the house and most importantly, our daughter. I haven't been able to read our four year-old her bedtime stories in a week and she has been so understanding (plus it helps that she loves her Daddy so much). Our cuddle time has had to be brief and to make up for it she's nestled in beside me many times as I've been putting these pages together. She hasn't complained once and just the other day said to me "Your shop is going to be beautiful and everyone will buy your lovely dresses."
I love you, Kyle and Elle. My dreams would be nothing without you.
Carrying on from Tuesday's post on the enchanting dollhouses of Wallington, here are more rooms with unbelievable detail, like the little buckets under the shelf in the pantry on which several plates of food are waiting, as if the family is about to sit down and eat at any minute. Or how each of the mirrors and picture frames are completely different and highly ornate as was the style at the time.
If you enjoy these, well good! There are lots more from the Wallington house to come...
I'm working like a mad woman to launch Swelle Boutique (it's nearly there!) but I wanted to leave you with something special should it be a couple days before I'm able to post again. I visited Wallington a few weeks ago, a National Trust property in Morpeth, Northumberland (that's in the north east of England) with a grand mansion and gorgeous lawns, lakes, parkland and woodland. There's also a beautiful walled garden which we didn't have time to see, but it was cold and gloomy so we'll save that for a lovely day.
I'll tell you more about Wallington in future posts (there is quite a bit to show) but for now here is the first part of the dollhouses from the 17th century mansion's dollhouse room which contains one huge house - like an apartment block - and several smaller ones, the interiors of which are magnificent and shabby all at once. The detail of the period furniture and decor (early 1900s) is breathtaking and some of it is in quite a state of disrepair - evident in the wear on the fabrics and wallpapers and headboards askew - and it creates the feeling that these rooms have actually been lived in by the heavy chested tenants (see below, they are heaving!) for the past century. The effect is utterly charming.
The photos are a bit blurred, the rooms in the dollhouses were very dim and I was shooting through their tiny windows. But it kind of lends to the ghostly feeling and apparently I'm lucky to have had the opportunity to take the photos, it's only been a year since they've allowed cameras.
John Galliano's cruise collection for Dior, shown in Shanghai, is an absolute treat, a sorbet-hued heaven with a bit of 60s sweetness with the back-combed hairstyles, beribboned and bow-tied waists, those prim and proper collars and references to my favourite 60s girl, Francoise Hardy. It seems that Galliano took 'cruise' to mean 'whatever I feel like doing right now' because these clothes sure aren't made for lounging around in chaise longues or lazy walks on the beach. And who cares? We all know what the extra collections are about anyway.
I love that first dress (below, top left) which is why I included it, but doesn't the look from the shoulders up seem a bit P.H.? (No way I'm mentioning that name and tainting my precious blog.) The ombre in the last dress is one of the most gorgeous ways I've ever seen it done in terms of colour and subtlety.
The finale delivered BIG as we would expect from Galliano:
Do you remember those dolls that had the huge, frothy skirts in candy colours? I remember seeing them at carnivals when I was little and thinking they were beautiful (they weren't). I think you could get cakes like that, too, where the skirt was made of an obscene amount of icing:
One last post about Bristol! (For now.) This is yet another cupcake shop (this one also serves ice cream) that I only experienced through the window. It's not the tastiest experience and licking the glass won't actually do you any good but at least the visual impression of sweetness is something that stays with you, unlike that fleeting satisfaction you get from actually eating a cupcake. (I'm trying to make myself feel better about not having a cupcake right now. Every time I post Cupcake Monday I suffer.)
Below we see those giant teacups again in this nostalgic trip down stomach-ache lane. You can order them online and it would be perfect for the sunflower my daughter planted at school which has quickly grown to 18 inches tall and hasn't even bloomed yet. It would be cruel not to buy one of these adorable planters for it. It's the right thing to do.