A new favourite vintage haunt in Spitalfields, East London.
A dose of New Year inspiration courtesy of Paul Smith.
A wee round-up of catwalk highlights from the the British fashion capital this season, and a look at the emerging trends for spring/summer 2014.
Orla Kiely does whimsical, ultra-feminine dressing like nobody else. Floaty frocks, retro prints, girly collars… you get the picture. On the other hand, this grey wool dress shows just how Kiely has got immaculately cut feminine tailoring down to a tee as well.
Perfectly fitted with its carefully placed darts and nipped-in waist, this dress does all the work. The weight of the wool hangs just so, and the full skirt, collar and oversized buttons give an ultra-feminine spin to clever cutting – power dressing for the retro-loving girly girl.
This dress was another bargain from the sample sale I went to back in February and has quickly become one of my top go-to dresses, a dress that you can throw on and instantly feel ‘done’. Doing up the zip is an instant boost, making you sit up straighter and put your shoulders back. It has served me well – perfect for work as well as play.
Here I paired it with my tweed Crombie coat (Next), tartan scarf (Urban Outfitters), heeled ankle boots (Clarks) and beloved oxblood Cambridge Satchel, and finished off the look with ruby lips and Heidi hair.
If you want to get your mitts on an Orla Kiely bargain yourself, their latest sample sale kicked off today and runs until Saturday. Hotfoot it to The Music Rooms in Mayfair for abundant pretty dresses and ladylike bags (I’m drooling over their Facebook and Twitter previews). I’m no longer in London, so make sure you do some serious shopping for me!
These shots were taken a few weeks ago during one of the first, albeit short-lived, ‘Golden Hours’ of the year. Sundays are made for baking, blogging and strolling somewhere leafy, and on this particular Sunday, Highgate Wood beckoned. We had been before, but only in driving sleet and a howling gale; the sunshine-dappled leaves and snowdrops peeping tentatively from the undergrowth made for a lovely Spring walk.
Orla Kiely’s autumn/winter 13 presentation was sheer retro perfection, from the tops of the models’ dishevelled beehives to the tips of their shiny shoes. And as soon as I clapped eyes on said shiny shoes, I knew I had to track down a pair for myself.
A little sartorial detective work told me the beautiful patent T-bars were in fact from Kurt Geiger’s sister range, KG by Kurt Geiger. Meet Daphine. With her round toe, retro T-bar, buckle fastening, chunky mid-heel and high-shine patent finish, it was love at first sight – the perfect balance of unashamed girliness and ladylike elegance.
Toe-tapping T-bars have got to be the most fabulous footwear legacy of the 1920s. Hot on the heels of Baz Luhrman’s adaptation of The Great Gatsby, which premiers at Cannes Film Festival next month, all things ’20s are set to go stratospheric. Gatsby is one of my all-time favourite reads so needless to say I can’t wait to see it – and I’m sure this won’t be the last you’ll hear of it on my blog.
For me it’s style references and details – rather than the full-on look – that make a Gatsby homage more fashion forward than fancy dress. These KG shoes certainly fit the bill and add a dose of understated glamour to any look – the perfect partner for feminine dresses as well as more tailored ensembles.
I was extra pleased with my find as I managed to put a £20 gift voucher towards my purchase, courtesy of Elle magazine’s March issue. I took my shiny shoes out for their first spin at my cousin’s wedding last month (more on my outfit to come soon). I certainly felt as glamorous as the models at Orla Kiely’s show and the mid-heel and soft leather meant my tootsies were perfectly comfortable too.
For their next outing I quite fancy pairing them with a pair of white tights – à la Orla Kiely AW13. How would you wear them?
Now I have my eyes on the nude pair too, which have been marked down in the sale just in time for Spring…
Norman Parkinson was one of the greatest and most enduring fashion and portrait photographers of the 20th Century. He was an innovator who changed the face of both genres: eschewing the stiffness of the time, his images capture life, spontaneity and character. He photographed everyone from movie stars to models, rock’n’rollers to royals, in an impressive career spanning six decades.
The legendary photographer is subject of a new retrospective at the National Theatre, ‘Lifework: Norman Parkinson’s Century of Style’, which coincides with the centenary of his birth this month. The exhibition traces the photographer’s lengthy career from his first forays into fashion before World War Two to shots taken shortly before his death in 1990.
This collection of Parkinson’s most striking images makes it clear why many consider him the father of modern fashion photography. So many of his creations could leap from the pages of a magazine today because he actually introduced many of the motifs we now consider to define the genre: juxtapositions, unexpected props and far-flung locations. Parkinson’s pictures tell a story, marrying fantasy and escapism with a natural and easy elegance. This is, after all, the balancing act of fashion photography – it gives us just enough of a hook to make believe, yet conveys an otherworldly ideal. Parkinson found beauty in the ordinary and made it extraordinary.
As well as being famous for taking fashion photography out of the studio and into a new fantastical realm (as well as for his impressive moustache), Parkinson is probably best known for his now iconic images of high profile subjects. A favourite of the Royals, and a regular at Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue, he soon came to the attention of some of the most eminent personalities of his day, from the Beatles to David Bowie.
He was somehow able to capture the character of his sitters and convey something about them – maybe it was his own larger-than-life persona and sense of fun that enabled this insight. Either way, his images are an important cultural record, particularly in light of the modern-day notion of ‘celebrity’ that had begun to dawn during his time.
Parkinson’s greatest skill over six decades was reinvention: from fashion to wartime reconnaissance to portrait photography, he was truly the master of his medium and his legacy is still felt today.
The exhibition itself is well-curated, covering the full range of Parkinson’s work and giving a sense of his sheer prolificness. I really enjoy smaller-scale exhibitions in less-likely locations such as this. The atmosphere of the National Theatre was relaxed and we were able to take in the exhibition at our own pace, aided by the snippets of information on offer. I’d thoroughly recommend a visit before the retrospective finishes in mid-May. The BBC has a new Arena documentary about his life and work (directed by Nicola Roberts and set to air on 21 April – I can’t wait!) and designer Roland Mouret has also curated an exhibition to mark the centenary with Bath in Fashion. Clearly the idiosyncratic photographer’s enduring appeal shows no signs of waning.
We’ll definitely be paying a trip to the National Theatre again, it’s a fantastic venue. The South Bank is one of my favourite places in London and as we were nearby, we took the opportunity to wander along the river to the Tate as well. Sadly the Roy Lichtenstein exhibition was sold out until much later in the day but we paid a long-overdue visit to The Tanks instead. This space in the underground chambers of the Tate recently opened and plays host to a programme of performances and events. Formerly an oil store, this is one very industrial space, which I’m sure is intended to juxtapose artily with the displays – it was venue to a number of fashion shows during LFW. I’d recommend a trip before it shuts soon while they expand the building above.
Never one to miss an opportunity to try out a new baking haunt, we also took a little detour to visit Konditor & Cook in Waterloo, as I’ve heard only good things about their cakes. After much deliberation I went for the apple crumble tart and Al had the almond St Clement’s, which were both delicious. They also have shops at Borough Market, Soho, Chancery Lane and the Gherkin and I highly recommend a sweet treat if you’re near any of those places. They also have a cake hotline… now that’s dedication to baking!
Fashion, art and cake – a day well spent if you ask me.
Lifework: Norman Parkinson’s Century of Style is open at the Lyttleton Exhibition Space at the National Theatre from 1 March until 12 May.
Happy Easter to all my readers! To celebrate, I bring you some shots of my Orla Kiely bird print dress – rather seasonally appropriate, don’t you think?
My love of Orla Kiely’s retro, feminine designs is well-documented, so when I heard she was having a sample sale in London, I did a little jig. I braved the cold on a snowy Saturday morning a few weeks ago and made my way to Clapham for the sale. It was so popular, they were operating a one-in-one-out door policy. Watching the shoppers emerge with their bags of goodies as we waited was torture, but I was rewarded for my patience with two bargain frocks, including this adorable and suitably springlike bird print dress.
Regular readers will know my love of feminine cuts and girly prints, and this dress had me at hello. Orla Kiely is well known for her use of vintage-inspired patterns, particularly her now-iconic leaf print. The print of this dress looked like smudgy, irregular spots from a distance but is actually made up of little stylised mink and cream birds.
It is Kiely’s attention to detail that, to me, makes her a standout designer. Real care goes into the cuts – strategically placed darts, tucks and pleats flatter the feminine form; high quality fabrics complement style and fit; and extra details – collars, buttons and bows – are the icing on the sartorial cake.
This dress summed that up for me. My penchant for peter pan collars needs no expounding, but the scalloped peter pan collar on this dress has got to be one of the prettiest I’ve come across. I have a bit of a thing for buttons too (I called them ‘ballies’ when I was wee) and the delicate, perfectly round buttons form a feature on the back of this dress. The construction shows real work too: the retro, voluminous sheer bell sleeves are balanced by a neat nipped-in waist and delicate pleats.
Needless to say, I was perfectly pleased with my purchases. I’ll be sure to share my other dress with you soon. This one was £70 at the sample sale, frankly a bargain for a designer frock, so I thoroughly recommend a visit to the next one! For its first outing I wanted to continue the retro vibe, and channeled sixties style with a messy beehive, ruby lips and my oxblood Cambridge satchel.
I wore my bird print dress for a day spent exploring the Natural History Museum. If you’ve never been, and happen to be in London, I recommend a trip – it’s a fantastic collection of fascinating artefacts, and a great (free!) day out in a stunning setting.
If you can only fit in a flying visit, the Treasures Collection in the Cadogan Gallery is well worth a look, housing a carefully curated collection of some of the museum’s most intriguing and historically significant artefacts – from a dodo skeleton to a first edition of Darwin’s On The Origin of Species.
The museum is still as much at the forefront of science and curation as it was when it was founded, leading research and recording up-to-date discoveries, as well as using engaging technology throughout the museum itself. This is juxtaposed with the building’s grand architecture and historical displays, emphasising the importance of the museum itself as a cultural artefact.
We’re often told that ‘fashion’ and ‘fantasy’ are closely linked, but sometimes the only fantasy in a fashion collection is that of actually owning anything on the catwalk. At the end of the day, designers have to please the buyers – and who can blame them really. Even if a collection is a hit with the press, if nobody wants to buy it, then they’re sunk. It’s easy to see how such pressure could stifle a designer’s creative impulses, in spite of their best intentions.
Kinder Aggugini’s dark and mystical collection added a healthy sprinkle of fairydust to London Fashion Week. Looking at the notes before the show I was intrigued – citing the Cottingley Fairies hoax as the designer’s main inspiration, I couldn’t wait to see what he would come up with. In 1917, two young girls from Yorkshire, Elsie and Frances, created photographs that seemed to prove the existence of fairies. They caused a sensation – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was one of their biggest champions, and many people generally believed that the photographs were evidence of supernatural creatures. The beautiful, haunting images they created and the hype they generated are certainly an amazing feat considering they lived in a pre-PhotoShop/Mail Online/Social Media age. And rich pickings for a fashion collection…
I wasn’t sure what to expect really, but the collection seemed to interpret the unusual inspiration cited in the show notes in even more unexpected ways. Aggugini variously interpreted the ethereal images themselves, which were echoed in prints. The designer is well-known for his use of pattern and for autumn/winter 13, his images of ghost-like fairies in an imaginary forest were hand-drawn on floor-sweeping frocks and simple patchwork silk dresses. Quirky patterns ranged from delicate Art Nouveau-style fairy prints to a gargantuan, tongue-in-cheek mushroom pattern.
The collection also played with different vintage styles, including Edwardian influences, given a distinctly modern twist. Buttoned-up maxi dresses, generously-proportioned bell sleeves and delicate lace evoked a contemporary take on early 20th century styles.
The designer’s dark humour shone through too. A pattern of ‘escaping moths’ (as Aggugini described them) was embroidered on top of shredded organza, creating the impression that the dress had been living in a dusty trunk for decades. Black bugle beads contoured the embroidery – catching the light, these added a sense of movement as if the moths were escaping from the tattered remnants of the dress.
Evidence of Aggugini’s Savile Row tenure could be seen in the collection’s beautifully tailored outerwear and constructed silhouettes – from a dramatic, midnight velvet cape, to a black tartan cocoon coat with tail trims and a stunning Italian wool ‘kilt-coat’. Vintage elements could be detected here too; a stunning soft yellow knife-pleat coat (first image in this post) was one of my favourite looks.
The shoes were by cult clog makers Swedish Hasbeens and offered just the right level of chunkyness and insouciance to the delicate dresses and girly matching socks by Purdey. In all, I loved it – I couldn’t help feeling like I wanted just a little bit more, because of the endless possibilities of the collection’s starting point – but the collection was ladylike and polished with a hint of punk, fit for a modern day fairy tale.
It was all in the little touches too – a polka dot print decorated the catwalk in the beautifully lit room of the ME Hotel. Surrounded by views of the London skyline, a Hansel and Gretel-style trail of polka dots lead us through an otherworldly collection.
Mark Fast’s dramatic autumn/winter 2013 collection set a change of pace in sharp contrast with his upbeat, disco-fantastic offerings last season. The collection was a collision of darkness and romance – strong and sexy but revealing a brooding, even melancholic, side to the Mark Fast woman.
The introspective mood of the collection, aptly entitled ‘Through The Darkness’, is due at least in part to Fast’s inspiration this season: legendary Japanese art director and costume designer Eiko Ishioka. Known for her striking costume designs, including her Academy Award-winning designs for Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 film Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and show-stopping costumes for the Opening Ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, Ishioka’s grotesque yet glamorous creations influenced Fast’s autumn/winter aesthetic. The collection was a tribute to the late designer as well as Japanese visual allusions more generally; a celebration of the drama of costume and its role in performance.
Fast’s spectacular, fringed pieces stole the show with their stunning, voluminous silhouettes and graceful movement. Made from a myriad of distressed threads, fringed pieces had the appearance of beautiful, dishevelled feathers. According to the show notes, Fast was inspired by the idea of a fallen angel at work on earth during the night – between heaven and hell, darkness and clarity. There was certainly an otherworldliness to the designs and a touch of the fantastical that moved me.
His signature tight-fitting knits were present too, peeping from beneath dramatic bias-cut cashwool capes. An intense colour palette of black, soft pink, fuchsia, orange and red accompanied the intricate knits; my favourite piece was a lurid pink cape with the aforementioned feather-effect, which gave the appearance of a spectacular bird of paradise.
For AW13 Fast collaborated with celebrated footwear designer Eelko Moorer to create elaborate, stocking-style footwear, which managed to be at once delicate and bold. Black knitted headwear became a severe motif of the collection that tempered the form-fitting shapes and sumptuous textures.
The collection was considered, refined and concentrated in its visual impact. I can’t wait to see where Fast goes next.
The show took place in the stunning new ME Hotel. Just opposite Somerset House on the Strand it was the perfect location for the more intimate shows and presentations. They also have an amazing roof terrace, with beautiful views across London from Covent Garden to the Southbank – I can’t wait to visit in Summer!
When I heard that the Cambridge Satchel Company had plans to open a permanent shop in Covent Garden, after the success of their London pop-up at the end of last year, I was over the moon. I was lucky enough to interview the lovely Cambridge Satchel Company founder Julie Deane a few weeks ago (more on that soon!) and heard all about the plans just before the shop opened – excited doesn’t even cover it. Unfortunately, I missed the store’s grand opening as I was unwell, but I took time out between shows and presentations during London Fashion Week to pay a visit.
To think how far Julie has come from her kitchen table, where she founded the business just five years ago, is mind-boggling. The iconic satchels now have a global following and are stocked in 100 countries around the world with a vast fashion following and wealth of celebrity fans. But I won’t go on – I’ll let Julie do the talking about the company when I post the Q&A very soon.
The new shop is in the Seven Dials area and is an absolute delight. It’s the perfect extension of a carefully-crafted and much-loved brand. The shop has a real boutique feel and the stock is beautifully displayed on simple bookcase-style shelves and antique tables with row upon row of satchels in almost every hue imaginable. It was like a grown-up version of a sweet shop, but with treats that will last much longer than a sugar – or a fast fashion – fix.
The staff were incredibly friendly and happy to help find your perfect satchel (or just let you admire them if you’re not looking to part with your pennies!) and I think the Blogger Lounge (though I am biased) is a brilliant idea. Now, I enjoy online shopping as much as the next person, but there was something so special about making my trip to the shop, browsing the satchels and picking out mine that beats clicking ‘add to bag’.
I thought the embossing station was a genius idea too – the in-store embosser is ready to emboss the lettering of your choice onto your satchel for a small fee. A beautiful personal touch that many shoppers (and there were many when I went!) decided upon, including me. Meet my new satchel…
I’ve always had a soft spot for the Cambridge Satchel Company. I had a very similar satchel for school myself, so you could say this love stems from childish nostalgia – and I’m sure I’m not alone here. The bags are beautifully made – each is hand-crafted in Britain using traditional techniques, a real testament to British craftsmanship. Each is a labour of love, and the product of Deane’s singularity of vision, enviable business-mind and frankly commendable brand-building! A real piece of fashion history in years to come, I think.
I’ve been wanting to get my hands on a Cambridge Satchel since they first came onto my radar a few years ago, and decided to finally treat myself to the style I’ve been coveting for some time: the 14-inch satchel in oxblood. I was torn between the traditional muted colours and something more colourful, so this for me was a good balance between the two – richly hued but subdued enough to fit in with my everyday wardrobe, and not too ‘fashiony’. And you do know my love of burgundy and berry shades! I know I will wear it to death – and I’m sure it will only get better with age. I couldn’t resist getting my initials embossed in silver to match the buckles as a final flourish.
Which colour would you go for? I’d have one in every shade if I could! What do you think about the Cambridge Satchel Company story?
We took these shots at the hidden gem that is our local nature reserve, Parkland Walk. Tucked away at the end of our street is the entrance to a leafy walkway that goes all the way from Highgate to Finsbury Park (Parkland Walk South) and on to Ally Pally (the North part). It was once going to be used as a railway line and there is even an abandoned station, known by locals as the ‘ghost station’ – spooky! The perfect spot for some blog-snapping, expect to see more of this leafy backdrop in future posts, as it’s become our go-to location for a Sunday stroll.