Last week I had the pleasure of attending a special beauty evening at the Heals store on Tottenham Court Road. The Sleeping Beauty event saw speakers Sarah Stacey and Jo Fairley, of Beauty Bible, joined by Geraldine Howard of Aromatherapy Associates. Between them, they discussed the link between a good night’s sleep and good skin. They illustrated how, aided by AA’s cult Deep Relax products (‘knock out drops’, according to Jo) and the best apps, it’s possible to ‘sleep clever’ – blocking out the day’s stresses and sleeping deeper, resulting in better looking, younger skin.
One of Jo’s favourite apps is the Brainwave Dream Inducer by Banzai Labs (69p on the App store). With this app you can set your own music or listen to pre-programmed soothing sounds, while the app sends gentle pulses to your brain to help you relax and enjoy a deep sleep and vivid dreams. Definitely want to try that one out!
Unlike so many press events, I really felt that the evening struck the right chord. The speakers were witty and friendly – and quite importantly succinct so the evening didn’t drag on. We were free to stay and chat as long as we wanted, have hand massages courtesy of Aromatherapy Associates using their heavenly rose scented serum & lotion and peruse products. During my massage I got talking to one of the AA beauty girls about aromatherapy, which honestly I’ve never really considered an essential in my beauty arsenal. She explained how simply sniffing pure frankincense oil can interrupt nervous anxiety or even a panic attack. Suffice to say, I bought a bottle!
One of the most interesting and ‘aha’ moments I had during the evening though was when talking to Sarah about my skin concerns. Thinking she was going to recommend me a cleanser, she in fact explained how the skin is simply the gut on the outside and if I don’t take care of that then I can’t expect my skin to improve. Showing me a green juice recipe from one of the Beauty Bible books it was clear that these women live ‘wellness’ and it made me stop and think about what I’m doing to my body and how to take better care of it. Easier said than done, but definitely worth investing in.
Considering I studied Kulturwissenschaften / Kunst (Culture/Art) in Berlin in 2008-9 I never actually came across the Berlinische Galerie. Similarly, I was not familiar with Dorothy Iannone (b. 1933). But upon reading an overview of her oeuvre and concerns I felt compelled to go check out the retrospective exhibit on her at BG, dragging S. in tow when we were there in March.
What I discovered was that she was unashamed about her depiction of female sexuality and her style is vividly graphic and colourful – an absolute feast for the eye. This is the kind of thing that’s right up my street.
She actually pasted fragments of stories within a lot of her mosaic-style paintings and even wrote an autobiographical narrative, albeit in 3rd person, about her meeting Dieter Roth, who she went on to leave her husband for (both the men were also artists). These she illustrated with graphic novel-style drawings on individual sheets. One (below) talks about how her art makes her immortal, which warms me.
In her later works she played with video, sound and life-size installation paintings and her style became more graphic, almost comic-book in style. But it’s the colour and pattern clash of her early works that I found so mesmerising. I highly recommend seeing them in the flesh.
For the first time ever I attended the Vogue festival this year, mainly to see it for myself but also because Phoebe Philo was speaking. I attended the talk, Phoebe in conversation with Alexandra Shulman, and below are my favourite notes from the hour. (N.B. As I was furiously scribbling a lot of these are in note-form/paraphrased.)
P: Céline didn’t have a historical designer. It was liberating, I could do what I wanted to do. What it did stand for was quality. I never looked at the archives.
A: Did you talk to a lot of people, friends, about what was missing in fashion? Because Céline has added to the offering out there.
P: I didn’t look around, it came from within. It’s what I really believe. I don’t put it out there unless I stand behind it.
A: Can you define the things you believe in? It seems you really feel pained by compromise?
P: I find mediocrity hard. I am a passionate person. I believe I give it a lot, so if it’s not good what’s the point?
Talking about the new Céline flagship store on Mount Street:
P: I think [the stores] should stand for something. I just wanted it to be strong. There are lots of shops around that are quite bland. I wanted to do something different and new. I worked with FOS, an artist on the interior. A completely absurd, wonderful guy. Very into function. He knew nothing about luxury goods.
A: What attracted you to fashion?
P: It was a bit of a calling. I feel somehow it was always in me. Using clothes to say something. When I was little I was very clear about what I wanted to wear. My mother dressed me in good, tasteful clothes and I wanted to wear things that were a bit sparkly, spangly and trashy.
A: How do you feel about being copied?
P: Mostly it’s flattering and exciting. Coco Chanel said ‘so long as you’re copied you’re relevant.’ Occasionally it’s too close to the bone but the details, the fabrics, the craftsmanship is hard to copy.
A: How much do you feel you personally have to exemplify the brand?
P: I don’t really think about it. I don’t find it useful to me getting on with what I do to think about it. I just do what I do.
A: You’ve said you dislike the cult of the designer. You’re always in strong control of your image.
P: I’ve just done what I was comfortable doing. I have an innate fear of fame. It doesn’t look like a good place to be. I like being incognito, I value that freedom.
A: Women aren’t usually at the top, running businesses. Do you think it would be different if they did?
P: I don’t think gender is relevant. I see men struggling as much as women within fashion. I think it’s more to do with individuals, personality. It’s a high pressure job. The bigger question is why aren’t there more women generally running companies? It should change. It is changing.
A: Would it make working practices different if women were running them?
P: Not particularly, I don’t see it like that. We should spend more time just getting on with it, not talking about the difference. But – somehow, somewhere girls are getting the message that they’re not good enough. I think clothes can make a political statement. When you wear Céline you should feel confident and strong. We should be teaching young girls to feel good. I don’t think young boys necessarily feel good either, maybe it’s our culture.. But there are so many more men in powerful positions. I think it’s motherhood. There’s a breaking point where people have left to bring up children and when they come back they miss the stage at which they would have gone right up. For the average person I think it’s very complicated. I’m very privileged and fortunate. It’s tough.
On the fashion industry’s unrealistic perspective on women’s bodies.
P: It’s complex. It’s good to talk about it. It’s unrealistic to think the fashion/film/sex industries won’t have an extreme ideal of beauty as a way of selling themselves. Let’s talk about it though. I don’t have the answers. I really do believe anybody can be seductive and sexy and gorgeous and beautiful. We use an extreme idea of beauty as a way of showing Céline but I don’t believe it should be like that outside of the show.
A: The role of the show? The point?
P: It’s a concentrated way of getting the message across. They last 8 minutes. Our moment. Everyone stops talking, they listen and watch. Been very happy showing in that format but Rick Owens’ show [with the dancers] got me thinking I’ve got to think about another format sometime.
A: But there’s still that moment.
P: It’s that created environment. Every detail of that is yours. Some sense of live performance. I’m moved by it. It takes effort.
Question from the audience: How did you decide what to wear to collect your MBE?
P: I just did it. I went with my family. They were all very proud of me, it was a wonderful moment. I just did it. I just got dressed that morning.
Question from the audience: What element of clothes do you think are emancipating for women?
P: Women should have choices. I’m not a fan of women being sexualised through clothes. As long as she’s chosen to wear it, it’s different. You should dress for yourself. Don’t dress for other people. There are too many images of women that are sexualised. It’s disempowering. I would prefer if we didn’t behave like that.
Question from the audience: Why haven’t you got your own company? The ‘Phoebe Philo’ brand?
P: It hasn’t happened so far. Maybe it will. I feel very fortunate so far.
Question from the audience: Any ambitions you would still like to fulfil?
P: I would like to create a foundation while at Céline helping people on some level. I’d like to spend some time working with less fortunate people than myself.
Question from the audience: Why don’t you sell Céline online?
P: I strongly believe you should experience Céline clothes, ultimately in the Céline store. Get a sense of the store, the materials, the world the clothes are set in. Or you go to a department store. But there you can still touch them, feel them, see how they’re constructed, look at the lining.. I feel that that process of buying clothes is important.
I lived in Berlin from 2008-9 so going back is a bit like going home. This time round I wanted to do stuff I’d never done before as well as re-visit my favourite haunts. The first highlight of the trip has to be the serendipitous decision to check out the inside of the Berliner Dom (cathedral).
Located a short hop from Alexanderplatz and right on top of Museuminsel it’s a central, charming area – when we arrived there was a Sunday market right outside. Entrance normally costs €7 to explore all corners of this historical building, but as there was a service taking place we paid a reduced admission of €4 to go up to the museum and dome.
The museum exhibited drawings and mock-ups of the cathedral via its various architects – well worth a visit for architect buffs, but the real show happened further upstairs. Getting narrower and narrower as we ascended higher and higher, there was an opportunity to look over into the cathedral and see the service, as well as peek out at the view that awaited us.
The top, the dome itself, was terrifying and amazing (I’m afraid of heights) but I think that’s what it all the more worthwhile. When you’re up there you have to walk the entire circumference to reach the exit and go back down so you get a 360 degree view walking round. We timed it so well that we only had to wait ten minutes to see the sun setting. Glorious.
I was lucky enough to get an invite to the private view of the Royal Academy of Art’s latest exhibit, Sensing Spaces. I cannot believe that after almost 8 years of living in London I’d actually never been inside the RA, despite walking past numerous times. It was bizarre exploring the gallery for the first time finding that there were structures in place hindering and inviting visitors to interact with the space in a new way when I wasn’t even au fait with the traditional way *slaps wrist*. Either way, this exhibit begs some interesting questions about how we interact with space, and the traditions of design, curation, interaction and architecture.
For starters we went to the top of the wooden structure by Pezo von Ellrichshausen and said hello to the angels on the ceiling.
Moving through the exhibition you really engage all senses (hence the exhibit title, duh) – from Kengo Kuma’s traditional Japanese bamboo scent/light scultpures that were altogether satisfying and soporific (below), to Li Xiaodong’s hide-and-seek labyrinth…
…and Diébédo Francis Kéré’s interactive structure (pic below) that boasts a fun colour sensitivity and invites visitors to contribute to its shape, which feels like a really innocent and childlike way to ask questions about architecture.
This exhibit is perfect date fodder. Go play!
Posted: February 8th, 2014
, Diébédo Francis Kéré
, Kengo Kuma
, Li Xiaodong
, Pezo von Ellrichshausen
, Royal Academy of Art
, Sensing Spaces
Comments: No Comments
For our anniversary S and I took to Mr & Mrs Smith to find an English country hideaway – you know the kind where you can enjoy a whisky while sitting by the fire. We didn’t quite find anything that matched that criteria, though we did find something better. The Aviator on the Surrey/Hampshire border.
This luxury hotel sits next to the Farnborough airfield, so is oft used by pilots. Rather than eschewing this would-be mundane fact, the hotel has embraced it. It could have gone the way of a literal homage to all things aviation, but instead the hotel simply nods to its neighbouring venue with a sleek aesthetic and bachelor pad feel that recalls the early days of air travel – when it was an expensive luxury rather than a mass-marketed quickie portal to Europe.
We stayed in a Sky suite, an impressive room that’s larger than our East London flat. A large corner sofa separated the living area from bedroom, though both areas had a television and was pleasingly decorated with walnut and leather furniture and Egyptian cotton sheets. I loved the walk-in wardrobe, especially important on relaxation weekends away as they keep our suitcases and clutter out of sight. What’s great about staying here as a couple is that the airplanes are a constant reminder of escapism, and of course appeal to the boy inside the man.. The gentle hum of planes taking off weren’t a disturbance, but an attraction.
Since the hotel has just started offering spa treatments we got the chance to try them out. The hotel doesn’t yet have a spa per se, but undertakes spa treatments in a hotel suite that has been kitted out for the purpose. We were treated to a couples massage and facial. The massage itself was gentle and relaxing and segued beautifully into a sumptuous facial which left me smelling sweet and feeling refreshed. The only downside was that post-treatment the relaxation room was a walk down the corridor which jarred slightly with the intimate pampering experience. Complete with current issues of Vogue, GQ, etc. as well as cucumber water and fruit, it hinted at what the hotel’s spa facilities could become in time.
With the spa facilities, restaurant, bar, and in-room free mini-bar and DVD library it’s very easy to hibernate here all weekend long.
Posted: January 24th, 2014
, Mr & Mrs Smith
, Spa treatments
, The Aviator
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Congrats to all the amazing menswear designers I’ve had the privilege of working with
Posted: January 8th, 2014
Tags: Agi & Sam
, Alan Taylor
, Astrid Andersen
, Bobby Abley
, Christopher Shannon
, Craig Green
, James Long
, Joseph Turvey
, Kit Neale
, Lee Roach
, Liam Hodges
, Lou Dalton
, Massimo Casagrande
, Nasir Mazhar
, Nicomede Talavera
, Roxanne Farahmand
, Tom Ryling
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As I’m off to India for Christmas I’m trying my hardest to get my fill of that ‘proper British Christmas feeling’. You know, mince pies and homemade decorations, the smell of orange and cinnamon, a roaring fire and that kind of thing. When I recently read this lovely short story, A Christmas Memory (1956) by Truman Capote it chimed with that spirit and I wanted to share an extract of it here:
Imagine a morning in late November. A coming of winter morning more than twenty years ago. [...]
Morning. Frozen rime lusters the grass; the sun, round as an orange and orange as hot-weather moons, balances on the horizon, burnishes the silvered winter woods. A wild turkey calls. A renegade hog grunts in the undergrowth. Soon, by the edge of knee-deep, rapid-running water, we have to abandon the buggy. Queenie wades the stream first, paddles across barking complaints at the swiftness of the current, the pneumonia-making coldness of it. We follow, holding our shoes and equipment (a hatchet, a burlap sack) above our heads. A mile more: of chastising thorns, burs and briers that catch at our clothes; of rusty pine needles brilliant with gaudy fungus and molted feathers. Here, there, a flash, a flutter, an ecstasy of shrillings remind us that not all the birds have flown south. Always, the path unwinds through lemony sun pools and pitch vine tunnels. Another creek to cross: a disturbed armada of speckled trout froths the water round us, and frogs the size of plates practice belly flops; beaver workmen are building a dam. On the farther shore, Queenie shakes herself and trembles. My friend shivers, too: not with cold but enthusiasm. One of her hat’s ragged roses sheds a petal as she lifts her head and inhales the pine-heavy air. ‘We’re almost there; can you smell it, Buddy?’ she says, as though we were approaching an ocean.
And, indeed, it is a kind of ocean. Scented acres of holiday trees, prickly-leafed holly. Red berries shiny as Chinese bells: black crows swoop upon them screaming. Having stuffed our burlap sacks with enough greenery and crimson to garland a dozen windows, we set about choosing a tree. ‘It should be,’ muses my friend, ‘twice as tall as a boy. So a boy can’t steal the star.’ The one we pick is twice as tall as me. A brave handsome brute that survives thirty hatchet strokes before it keels with a creaking, rending cry. Lugging it like a kill, we commence the long trek out. Every few yards we abandon the struggle, sit down and pant. But we have the strength of triumphant huntsmen; that and the tree’s virile, icy perfume revive us, goad us on. Many compliments accompany our sunset return along the red clay road to town; but my friend is sly and noncommittal when passers-by praise the treasure perched on our buggy: what a fine tree and where did it come from? ‘Yonderways,’ she murmurs vaguely. Once a car stops and the rich mill owner’s lazy wife leans out and whines: ‘Giveya two-bits cash for that ol tree.’ Ordinarily my friend is afraid of saying no; but on this occasion she promptly shakes her head: ‘We wouldn’t take a dollar.’ The mill owner’s wife persists. ‘A dollar, my foot! Fifty cents. That’s my last offer. Goodness, woman, you can get another one.’ In answer, my friend gently reflects: ‘I doubt it. There’s never two of anything.’
Home: Queenie slumps by the fire and sleeps till tomorrow, snoring loud as a human.
While Goa sounds glamorous for Christmas, the combination of heat, suncream, sweat and dust has me worrying about my wardrobe. So the likelihood is I’ll pick up some cheap pieces to see me through the two-week break. The best thing about shopping for summer weather in the British winter is that a) there’s not much on offer, so there’s no getting overwhelmed and b) a lot of items that are suitable are likely to be reduced.
While it’s going to be 30 degrees, because I’m so pale (practically reflectively white on a beach..) I’d rather ensure I’ve got layers if I’m feeling uncomfortable. This Celia Birtwell for Uniqlo long-sleeved cotton top, £7.90 is fun and colourful way of covering up.
Ditto for legs – these Uniqlo draped trousers £9.90 are light and comfortable, and perfect for pairing with a vest top.
This Uniqlo grey flowy dress £9.90 is perfect for the flight as much as throwing over a bikini to go down to the beach and will look great with bright accessories bought from local markets.
As for beauty products – Elizabeth Arden 8 Hour Cream is a cult and this special Sun Defense for Face cream in SPF 50, £25 will ensure that I don’t go wrinkly before my time.
I can’t resist this smell; I’ve put this luxurious REN exfoliating body polish, £32 on my birthday wishlist. It’d be perfect for scrubbing away dead skin cells and maximising my tan.
For hand luggage/the beach this vivid turquoise Folli Follie bag, €105 in the sale, is a good size with lots of individual pockets, and it’ll be sure to add zing to my outfits when I get back to the British winter.
and if money were no object, I’d be shuffling around in these badboys by Marni..
Posted: November 18th, 2013
Tags: Celia Birtwell
, Elizabeth Arden
, Folli Follie
, Space NK
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It’s funny that as street food is such a big deal right now no-one is letting Winter stop them from carrying on with the craze. The latest foodie venture to open is Night Tales, an outdoor pop-up by the people behind Dalston Roof Park. On Friday I went to check it out.
Nestled into a small space in Abbot Street car park (off the road next to McDonald’s on Kingsland Rd), you wouldn’t know it was there unless you were looking for it. Kept warm with plenty of heaters and by letting in as many people as possible, everyone seemed to be in high spirits. One girl was obviously so excited by the new street food destination that she’d rolled around in cutlery and was sporting a fork on the back of her jacket.. (lolz).
While much smaller than its nearby neighbour Street Feast, Night Tales has a certain charm about it, a wintry novelty perhaps. There are only a few stalls offering food and two bars serving drinks. I liked that it had a DJ (the programme changes with line-ups from NTS, House of Disco, Seth Troxler & Vortez Jazz Club) and, potentially, space for dancing, under which a mezzanine area spilled over with revelers.
Lovely people from Patty & Bun serving up beef
Whilst we were tempted by a P&B burger, we ended up going for Smokey Tails’ pulled pork in brioche buns with pickled red cabbage and a side of smoked mac’n'cheese. (There was also BAO steamed pork buns and Rainbo’s gyozas on offer.) The negroni bar was a bit unloved (ice cold drinks at £7.50 a pop are probably not the way to go), but the Hot Toddy (£5) and Hot Spiced Cider (£4.50) went down a treat.
It is slightly disappointing that places such as Night Tales are charging an entrance fee of £3 per person, but the fact of the matter is Dalston foodies will lap it up and pay the cover charge (- the alternative FOMO syndrome doesn’t bear thinking about). I just hope that at least in this case a good proportion of that is going towards a good cause, as Bootstrap Company (Night Tales’ daddy organisation) supports Bootstrap Campus, a project to help young East Londoners get into work.
My advice is get down there early if you can and bagsy a table for your eats. It’s a popular one.
Night Tales, open Thurs-Saturday until 14th Dec
Thurs 6-11pm / Fri 6pm – 12am / Sat 3pm – 12am