Thursday, 31 December 2009

New Year's Resolutions

I have actually managed to fulfill pretty much all the New Year's resolutions I made last New Year's. This is wrong. New Year's Resolutions are meant to be things you will actually never do, aren't they?
Let's be honest, New Year's resolutions should have become declassee by now. Haven't we all had enough of setting ourself challenges that will make us feel guilty or inadequate for the next 12 months? 
Apparantly not, if the diet pages in Grazia are anything to go by.
My list from last year was quite ambitious but not massively exciting - pass driving test, learn a foreign language, write more outside of work and other boring things. So this year I am going to make things more interesting.

Resolution 1/ Take a photography course - let's be honest, my pictures for this blog could do with a bit of work. Plus my dad has lent me a Canon EOS to play with and it would be nice to be able to take it off automatic and have something more than a colourful blur to show for my efforts.

Resolution 2/ Own some Chanel (see previous post)

Resolution 3/ Eat less - self explanatory but hardest to achieve

Resolution 4/ Meet more designers

Resolution 5/ Stop being intimidated by fashion parties and try to go to more of them

There are others, private ambitions that I won't share here because then I will just feel like an idiot if they don't come to fruition. 
The past year has had its ups and downs for all of us. But the fashion industry has had a particularly rocky year and, I think, is also in need of some serious resolutions that will help it move forward...

Resolution 1/ Please stop describing anyone over a UK size 6 as 'curvy'. It's insulting and alienates large numbers of women whose wardrobes could really benefit from some industry input. 

Resolution 2/ Take business classes. I don't think I need to list the number of companies that have gone under thanks to this recession, but some of these could really have been avoided with some proper business management. 

Resolution 3/ Move on from the 80s already.

PLease feel free to add you own in the comments box below. Hope you all have a lovely evening tonight and a very fruitful, satisfying and well-dressed New Year. 

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Oh Chanel

I've been a bit out of the loop on the fashion news recently, but even Karl Lagerfeld makes it into Indian newspapers. It's hard not to feel affection for an innate showman who is so completely eccentric, creative and impossible and so obviously devoted to his job. Plus his collections for Chanel are incredibly lustworthy.
The current collection (Fall/Winter 09) is a good case in point and is pretty much my favourite collection this season.

(pictures from - view the full collection and read Sarah Mower's review here)

Buying a Chanel piece is a real investment - it's one of the few brands that can hold its value and frankly it bloody well should given how much it costs.
If you're looking for an investment buy, the classic flap bag is pretty hard to beat. But I'd also recommend one of this season's beautifully cut, discreet and surprisingly versatile black dresses or gauze tweed skirt suits.
Lagerfeld has also released this rather lovely brooch in tribute to Coco Chanel, which is bound to be a serious collectors piece in years to come.

This brooch is also the perfect example of why Lagerfeld has succeeded at reviving Chanel's fortunes after years of unmemorable failures (can you actually remember what it was like before he took the reigns?).
Lagerfeld has a deference for the label's history but isn't drowned by it. His collections are gently witty and this really is rare in fashion where everyone tries so hard to be taken seriously or try so hard to be 'fun'. But they are also - for the most part  - eminently wearable. In each collection there will always be something for the discreet dresser who wants subtle luxury and something for the woman who wants everyone to know she is wearing Chanel the second she walks into the room.
It is thanks to Lagerfeld's vision that Chanel has been able to make its first foray into China this year with the well received Paris-Shanghai Metier D'Arts collection (a collection shown outside of the usual seasons showcasing the work of Chanel's specialist ateliers). Needless to say the collection is lovely and unmistakably Chanel.
Put simply, the man is frighteningly clever.

I long to own something by Chanel. I do currently have a pair of Chanel shoes in my wardrobe - perfect black patent flat peep-toe pumps with a silver metal lining on the toe. I bought them from Yasmine Le Bon at the Really Really Great Garage Sale, held in the Selfridges car park and organised by former model Lisa B to raise money for the Mothers4Children Charity. They were rather cheap and beautiful and I couldn't resist, but sadly I'd have to shave about two centimeters off each foot for them to fit so they sit in my shoe drawer in their box and occasionally I pull them out and stroke them. Really I should sell them and use the money for something actually useful like my going-back-to-university-to-do-a-masters fund. But the idea of selling them fills me with horror.
There is nothing rational about this. I would be the first to admit that being obsessed with a pair of shoes that you can't realistically wear without cutting off your toes is more than a trifle shallow. But the only way I could part with them is if I had some Chanel in my wardrobe that I could actually wear. And even then I don't know if I could just sell them to some stranger - far nicer to give them as a gift to someone who you know will love them.
One day this will happen... It's my birthday in a few days and my brother promised to do something nice, so you never know. But until then I just want to look lovingly at the Chanel website for a bit, ok?

Monday, 28 December 2009

Gertrude Shilling

Stepping off the plane in lovely Gatwick airport I almost immediately came down with a throat infection. I'm now laid up on the sofa in umpteen layers of cashmere watching Sky + episodes of Gossip Girl and Project Runway and, therefore, missing the sales. 
I spent a significant amount of time in India in the company of my extremely fabulous second father, Mark Rowan, who amongst many many other things is an artist whose work was recently acquired for the Khalili Collection. This man is one of my favourite people in the world. Plus he has incredible stories about some of London's most interesting creative people. 
Mark is one of those people who seems to know everyone, including a gentleman called David Shilling, who designed hats for his rather wonderful mother, Mrs Gertrude Shilling.
Sadly, Mrs Shilling died in 1999, before I was old enough to have registered her on the fashion icon radar. But an icon she really is. Her hats made her the "Ascot Mascot", wearing creations including a five foot tall Giraffe hat, an oversized top hat with a rabbit popping out of it, a TV, a giant apple with an arrow through it and a giant purple and blue Bo-Peep bonnet...

(Images via Flickr Celinecelines,,, and

It seems that, with the death of Isabella Blow, we are rapidly losing all of our great hat wearers. Ascot is becoming rather staid. It takes a certain kind of confidence to wear an extravagant hat, but we should all wear more hats. "Wear more hats"is certainly a good New Year's resolution.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

The crumbling remnants of colonial Goa

Goa was once a Portugese colony. I say once, but that makes it sound like a long time ago when actually this huge and rich part of India was under Portugese rule up until the 1960's, well past the liberation of the rest of India from British rule.
There are lots of parts of the region's Portugese past still in evidence here. Menezes is still one of the most popular surnames. The local dialect is littered with Portugese words. And 15km from the big town, Margao, is the tiny village of Chandor which hosts two crumbling mansions which once belonged to two branches of one of Goa's most powerful families - the Braganzas.
I can't resist a crumbling mansion, so I passed up the opportunity to go to a temple town in favour of going to look at dusty chandeliers and empty ballrooms.
The Branaganza houses are in two wings of the same house which was originally a fairly grand house in the fifteen hundreds but was expanded to provide two homes for the two sons of the family.
One half, the Menezes-Braganza house, is still quite grand, although the family now only uses the first floor of the house. The ground floor used to house the staff and kitchens but is now all closed up. The door was opened by the 90-something-year-old family matriarch, Aida de Menezes Braganza, and we were guided around by one of her reltives who speaks English, Portugese, the local Concani dialect and a bit of French as well. The house is packed with incredible old furniture, Goa's biggest private - although a little worse for bookworms - library and a vast array of antiques including incredible oyster shell windows, mother-of-peral inlaid ebony chests, Chinese porcelain and locally carved silver. In among it all are photos and portriats of the family thourhg the generations. But they wouldn't let us take photos, so I can't show you.
However in the other wing, the Pereira-Braganza family home, we were shown around by a caretaker who let us take photos of everything. It was a bit more dilapidated - which made it more romantic and charming as far as I'm concerned. I'm a bit of a sucker for these things.
It's obvious the family once had the same range of impressive antiques that the other side has, but as they've been sold off over the years they've been replaced by children's drawings, pictures of the family, posters and little religious plaques that quote the bible at you in a fairly unoffensive manner. The house is also run by an elderly matriarch, but it's quite clear that the two women aren't each others biggest fan - the Menezes-Bragazans seems quite bitter about everything they've lost and quite fussy about who they want in to allow into their ballroom, while the Pereira-Braganzas are just getting on with life.
Anyway, this was my idea of day trip heaven and I hope you're an old romantic like me and can see how amazing it is, even from my rubbish photos;

The salon - lined with cabinets that were probably once full of antiques from around the world but are now full of little nick-nacks given as gifts by visitors.

The ballroom complete with crumbling pressed zinc ceiling and chairs given to the family by the last king of Portugal.

The covered walkway that leads off from the ballroom and the guest bedroom.

The guest bedroom.

The relic (gold plated shrine containing a jewel encrusted fingernail) of St Frances Xavier, housed in the family chapel which has an impressive gold encrusted altar that leans forward so far that it feels like it's about to fall on you.

General views.

As we were leaving a whole bus load of school children arrived to have a look around. They weren't allowed into the Menezes Braganza half but they were allowed in to the Fereira-Braganza half...

The teachers relaxing in the grounds of the house

Mrs Fereira-Braganza surveying the scene

Aida de Menzes-Braganza doing the same, although much more disapprovingly

The old signpost outside

And afterwards we went into Margao and I bought 5 metres of pale peachy pink raw silk.
God knows what I'll do with it, but it seemed apt.

Friday, 18 December 2009

India - pictures from a car window

The journey from Margao to Colomb, the main town and little village we are staying in in south Goa, takes about 30 minutes. I stuck my camera out of the window and took a whole load of pictures. There are rather a lot of them, but here they are for your perusal.
(Please note: I am well aware that my photography isn't about to win any prizes, so if you're not interested in India please do skip this post. Normal fashion blogging will resume shortly. Hopefully.)