Monday, 30 November 2009

Journey into hell (also known as Brent Cross)

I think that we have by now established that I am a big fan of shopping. I love the thrill of the chase, the finding of a bargain, the touch of something new and the spring in your step when you put on something that makes you feel fantastic for the first time.
But even I have my limits. Yesterday I spent most of the day recovering from a trip to Brent Cross, the epic-centre of everything evil in shopping. Somehow a group of architects, planners and retail folk all came together to create a place that saps every last inch of your will to live out of you while surrounded by lovely things that mock you by being out of stock or expensive and hundreds of incredibly badly dressed people who bump into you, make a lot of noise until your head hurts, or, in one extreme case, throw up on passers by (admittedly the thrower upper was about three). And the worst thing is that these incredibly badly dressed people can actually afford the things that you can't.  
This all in a grey faux-marble artificially lit environment that breeds a herd mentality of the kind that makes you queue for the supremely mediocre Wagmama's rather than just leaving as quickly as humanly possible with a bag of Waitrose's finest to scoff in the car on the way home feeling pleased with yourself for having escaped but supremely drained of all mental energy.
It's even worse at the weekends. Especially in the run up to Christmas.
Being a rare native north-west Londoner, I grew up with Brent Cross and have seen it evolve into its full Dante's-seventh-level-of-hell-like current incarnation. When we were young it was a good place to go and hang out after school because it was indoors and no-one would tell us off. Now it just gives me nightmares.
How could they do this to something as good as shopping?
I was forced to enter its horrid halls yesterday because my Mac suddenly froze and needed to be taken immediately for treatment at an Apple Store. But of course London Transport being the wonderful thing it is and me living on the Jubilee line, there is no tube to take me to the Apple shop in town at the weekends. So I girded my loins in the manner of Orpheus setting out to rescue Eurydice and drove through the pouring rain willingly into the underworld.
Look at how they've tried to decorate it for Christmas to make it seem almost cheery;

This is the best picture I could get of the nicest bit of Brent Cross. The roof in the central bit actually looks ok. Shame it only covers a small fraction of the shopping pit and none of the actual shops.
It's not even like the place would be useful if there was a zombie invasion (too many vulnerable access points). In fact, if anything, it's the place where the zombies are most likely to spawn.

Not everything about Brent Cross is bad. It does have both a Waitrose AND a John Lewis which means I can buy yummy cheese, Touche eclat, sewing supplies, Family Guy, Vogue and have a diverting rifle through Topshop all under one roof. But Sunday was horrific. 

Saturday, 28 November 2009

straight men don't understand - part 1

(Yves Saint Laurent Autumn/Winter 2009 via

There are two types of women - those who dress for men and those who don't.
Well, actually that's a bit unfair. We all like to feel like we are attractive to men and that will affect the way we dress. But there is a dividing line, perfectly illustrated last night at the Hoxton Bar and Kitchen by the girls in too-tight super short body-con dresses with flippy hair and the girls in low cut sparkly things and skinny jeans and bleached blonde hair - a triumph of presentation over content.
These girls are really all about feeling good about themselves by dressing to attract men. I do not condemn this (much) but if it means that your skirt is so short that you have to keen tugging it down when you dance, perhaps you should have bought the next size up.
There are plenty of women who prefer a more subtle take on this and then there are those who dress for other women. For these creatures little is as satisfying as an honest complement on your outfit from another woman whose style you admire. And in fashion world this means wearing things that the majority straight men will never understand and often actively dislike.
Last night I wore one of these things - velvet, high waisted, vintage Mani peg legs that finish just on the ankle. JFK was unimpressed at dinner, but LMWAI and Miss Laura Trouble, who have a regular DJ slot at Hoxton Bar and Kitchen loved them.

(It might look like they're dancing and having a good time playing records, but they're actually just filled with excitement about my trousers.)

The trousers were a bit of a find - all those reconnaissance visits to Oxfam Gloucester Road finally paid off. They make me feel a bit Katherine Hepburn and, unlike most high waisted trousers or peg legs, don't make my bum look like it spreads over an area the size of the Sahara desert.
They're a bit difficult to photograph - black velvet is a bit of a light vacuum...

(Black velvety goodness)

I wore them paired with the perfect Margaret Howell Breton t shirt (an ebay bargain) and gold metal belt from the Topshop sale a couple of years ago plus my current favourite heels.

(More goodness)

We drank beer and tequila, the ultimate good time combo, but perhaps a little bit too much. Have spent most of today recovering. Ouff.

p.s. Watching The City. Perfect hangover viewing and cameos from Jane Aldridge of Sea of Shoes (who I slightly hate for being pretty and very young and in possession of an amazing wardrobe and getting to wear Chanel for the Crillon Ball. Seriously.) and Tommye Fitzpatrick of Fashionologie being shot for Elle. Lucky things.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

And for my London readers who don't need to save their money for Christmas presents...

Sample sale spectacular!!!

I went to the Valentino sale today. It was a bit different to the usual scrum - very quiet, very expensive and very popular with Russians apparently.  Absolutely nothing there I could afford aside from a carrier bag. No, really.

The above is the edited highlights of the sample sale extravaganza that is hitting London. There's also an Anya Hindmarch sale going on today, tomorrow and Saturday. You can register for it here.

A good sample sale always makes me feel a little hot under the collar. They're really exciting, even though I rarely actually buy anything. Just the suggestion of an amazing bargain is enough to make me feel a bit flustered. The sample sale is like the diet coke man in my world.

I am most excited about the Osman and Christopher Kane sales... Sad to be missing the Peter Jensen though. Can someone report back for me?

Dear New York readers...

I know you exist, I can see it in my web stats which I am becoming increasingly obsessed with as my readership builds. This post is for you.

When I saw this I nearly wept because the other side of the world is definitely too far to go for a mark-down.

Yes it's an Acne pre-sale at Acne Studio in New York. There's also one at Opening Ceremony in LA. Sigh. (For those who have not been following the story, I am currently consumed with lust for everything Acne related. No, not the skin condition, the clothing label. Yes, I know it's an unfortunate name, but have you seen those wedges? And the pearl collar t-shirt. And the amazing collection of little black dresses... ok, I'll stop now.)

This week has been pretty amazing for new readers. There's more than 100 of you. And this week I have had new readers from as far afield as Vancouver, Brisbane, Goa and that most glamorous of all locations in the world, Nottingham. Hello lovely new readers!

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Fashion events...

To begin with you feel invisible. Then you worry that if you talk to someone they will shoot you down with one arched and perfectly threaded eyebrown.
In fact, it's a bit like this (just replace the trees with thin, stylish people who all seem to know each other);

Which is why they have to serve so much champagne.

Of course I bitch and moan, but I am always thrilled to be invited to one of these things even if I know I will spend quite a while in the corner avoiding eye contact before I gather myself together enough to talk to anyone. Hopefully, this is something I will get over. Having had an unusually successful year this year with regards to actually fulfilling my New Year's resolutions, perhaps adding 'be better at socialising' to next year's is a good step forward.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Christmas wish list entry number 4 - knitted things by Yokoo

Etsy has done many good things for young niche designers, giving them a platform to sell their own wares and skipping the ridiculous struggle to find stockists, business partners and all that jazz. 
But Etsy is also overwhelmingly vast. It's just too much for me to filter through. So I am always grateful when other people flag up a great new Etsy find, be it affordable or otherwise. It allows me to feel smug about finding something new and unusual without having to do all the field work... lazy I know, but at least I'm honest about it.
One of my most recent Etsy finds is Yokoo, and yes, I know I'm very late to jump on this bandwagon because other bloggers have been banging on about her for aaaaaaaaaaaaages. Plus she's not just on Etsy, but also on Urban Outfitter's US site, not that that's much help to me.
But it wasn't till I saw a picture of TheShoeGirl's knitted chain scarf (she bought it after seeing in on Tavi's blog) that I actually went and found Yokoo's etsy shop. I'm a sucker for a big chunky knitted scarf, so it was pretty much love at first sight. Plus she also gives good interview.
Knitted things make great christmas gifts. I'd really quite like any of these;

Visit her shop here.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Mode En Module

Liberty is my favourite shop in the world. No really. Just seeing it's lovely windows makes me instantly feel comforted. It's pretty much my Tiffany's, my safe place, the place I go when I hate the world and just want to be surrounded by lovely things.
I love the beauty hall, the perfume room and the Frederic Malle sniffing booths, reminiscent of that Pierre Cardin, 1960's vision of space age design.
I love the jewellery room with its glass cabinets full of lovely things by Alex Monroe and Vivienne Westwood and others, surrounded by lovely leather bags and the Liberty of London room full of ridiculously overpriced and pointless things. I love the wooden ballustrades and the thick carpet and the mirrored changing rooms and the haberdashery and the smell and the tea room and the mens department. I could live without the scarf room, but nobody's perfect.
Most of the time I avoid the first and second floors though. Because this is where the clothes are, and the clothes make me sad. Because I can't afford them. 
But a few weeks ago I let myself wander around until I found the Acne rail where I saw The Dress. This Dress to be exact.

(Acne Wise 1 A/W 09)

It had to be mine, despite the price tag. Not that much for a dress on the grand scale of things, but more than I have ever spent. However, I usually feel guilt when I buy new things, and I felt no guilt after buying The Dress, which I take as a good sign. 
Anyway, to cut a long story short, I had a nice chat with the sales assistant who helped me buy The Dress. Her name is Ann Nelvig and she is a jewellery designer. She's been working part time at Liberty's while establishing her own jewellery collection, Mode En Module, which has just launched online with a rather nicely presented website
I am a big fan of monochrome, simple layouts and moody photography, and the web site ticks all those boxes. Plus Nelvig's zinc plated and leather designs are beautiful, tough and organic in an Ann Demeulemeester-esque manner and worth a gander for anyone that way inclined. The cluster bracelet and ring are my favourites. Just remember you saw them here first.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Christmas wish list entry number 3 - via India Knight's Posterous

Where The Wild Things Are Carol and Max silver pendants by etsy seller Roadkill.
$150 each plus postage.
Found via one of my favourite blogs, India Knight's Posterous.

A new discovery - Seconda Mano, 114 Upper Street

For a compulsive charity shop fan, ebay shopper and jumble sale connoisseur like me, regular wardrobe clear outs are very important. Many of my friends have reason to be thankful for this, because usually I like giving things away to people I know will enjoy them rather than faff around on ebay.
But in the last couple of years, as my fashion knowledge has evolved, I have become far stricter with my shopping habits and I have also begun buying things to sell to help cover my costs. This can be quite hit and miss. Ebay is a pain in the backside and can be unpredictable - some gorgeous designer clothing won't even sell, let alone sell for what it's worth.
The easiest way to sell designer clothing is via clothing exchanges, but many in London don't exactly offer a fair deal. The worst culprit is the clothing exchange in Notting Hill where they will offer you £30 for something they will sell for more than £100. Which sucks. And they won't take anything they deem too 'classic' or by niche designers.
But, if you don't mind waiting for your money, there are some who will sell your unwanted designer clothing and accessories on your behalf with a 50/50 split.
My new favourite, Seconda Mano, is on Upper Street in North London. The shop itself is hidden away under a Giovanni's hairdressers at number 14, but the window is filled with incredible finds including a hot pink Chanel suit jacket and a brand new swoon-worthy Chanel Cocoon bag.

Downstairs is a virtual treasure trove of lovely things, today overseen by a nice man called Adam who gets almost as excited as I do about Christopher Kane.

I have just added some of my own pieces to their stock, including a vintage 70's emerald green satin YSL cummerbund, pale blue perspex Stella McCartney Belt and a pair of gorgeous black silk wide legged Jasmine Di Milo trousers which are sadly too short for me but will look spectacular on the right person.
This is my new place to sell on my best pieces. And might also have to be my new place to go to treat myself when the sample sales, garage sales and jumbles let me down.
One day when I have my own house and don't have to have such regular clear outs, I'd quite like it if my basement looked a little bit like Seconda Mano.

Oh, and did I mention the shoes...

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Inside the Prada party

So, last night I found myself in the Prada shop on Old Bond Street standing at the side and pretending to look very interested in the book they were launching  because I didn't know anyone and hadn't had enough champagne to talk to the scary people.
Of course, after a couple of glasses of champagne it transpired that some of the scary people were actually nice people who would talk to me like a human being even though I was ostensibly there representing an architecture newspaper (my day job) and not technically a fashion person.

However I was very pleased to be the one who recognised Christopher Kane before the very nice girl from Grazia did, even though she managed to identify a Jagger spawnling that I wouldn't have recognised in a million years.

People I saw/recognised that might mean something to you but I didn't speak to because the pan fried scallops on a bed of black rice seemed like a more sensible option;
- Bianca Jagger (the other Jagger spawn I didn't recognise was a daughter of Jade Jagger - surely too young to be partying already?)
- Various fashion editors and writers
- Christopher Kane
- The doyenne of west London vintage shops Virginia Bates
- Brett from Suede (what does he even do these days that means he gets invited to nice parties?)
- Tolula Adeyemi, model du jour and possesor of the amazing two and a half thousand pounds fur shorts - so expensive it needed words instead of numerals - plus some incredible legs...

People I spoke to;
- Amy Molyneaux and her date Alistair who claimed to also be a non-fashion person but, being a dj, was rather taken with the music selection provided by a girl in a deep blue velvet dress and perfect inky black bob behind the shiny black decks upstairs. Amy was nice even though she didn't have to be because I was patently not anyone of any importance at all, but quickly moved off to talk to someone who was.
- Joanna from Purple PR who was really lovely and friendly and normal.
- Jess from who was wearing an amazing shade of lipstick by Mac which I'm fairly sure was called Impassioned. Or something like that.
- Ashleigh from Grazia who was pretty awesome.

What we drank;
Pear cocktails in short tumblers

What we ate;
Pan fried scallops on black rice in a small matt black bowl (black is still the new black)
Smoked Salmon arranged in elegant rounds on tiny squares of bread
Medium rare grilled beef with horseradish dip
Chicken on a stick. No really, it was a bit of chicken on a little bamboo stick.
Little edible chocolate bowls with chocolate and orange mousse
Large profiteroles with a crunchy caramel disc on the top

Here's some general pics;

So there you go. It was actually really fun. I had three glasses of champagne, which as anyone who knows me will attest, is far more than enough to make me tipsy.

Trundling off to the very unglamorous tube home, I passed by the window dresser for Dolce & Gabbana putting the finsihing touches to their Chirstmas displays for the New Bond Street store...

Suffice to say the entire tube journey home was spent thinking about those shoes, the second entry on this year's pointless Christmas wish list. Got home in a merry haze and ate a rather large amount of these before hitting the hay...