Saturday, 27 July 2013

Fashion kickstarter of the month: the Buckitt bag

image via
I am a bit addicted to Kickstarter. I love seeing how innovative and inventive people can be when they really have some of that good old cheesy passion. I've even gone as far as backing one or two projects, but usually I end up buying a product I first discovered on Kickstart once it's gone into production.

The Gilf was one of my favourite buys - a small piece of plastic that screws onto and tripod to hold your iPhone. It really helped change the way I produce video for work and it's proven useful so many time. 
But I'd never seen a fashion project that really got my thinking about pulling out my credit card. Until now...

I struggle a lot when it comes to bags. I lust after bags I could never, ever afford, many of which are highly impractical (yes, Chanel, I'm looking at you). I used to like Mulberry and even started eating packed lunches to try and save for one, but prices have gone up and the Bayswater has become both ubiquitous and a bit Boden mum-ish. 

Finding a handbag that really works for me has been considerably harder than finding someone I want to spend the rest of my life with. 

What I want is something that isn't too easily identifiable but still desirable, quite simple in shape and construction without too much hardware, big enough for a laptop and/or some shopping, made from the kind of leather that gets better with age and doesn't need to be looked after much and shows evidence of real care in its construction. And it has to go with pretty much everything and look a bit cool. And be affordable. I know it's a lot to ask. 

As a result, I'm an avid collector and user of canvas bags. They're the low-commitment solution to the handbag problem. A bit like a reliable shag buddy.

A lot of them are looking pretty battered and filthy - they get periodically washed but have a tendency to shrink as they're made of fairly raw cotton. 

So the first line of Rae Jones' Kickstarter pitch really hit a nerve:

"I was encouraged to design the Buckitt bag after becoming increasingly disillusioned by otherwise stylish women using grubby canvas totes, and even supermarket plastic bags, to carry their day-to-day belongings in."

Made by British manufacturers, hand stitched and big enough to carry my life in without looking like that's what I'm doing. Bingo! It's a beautifully simple and spacious design, with no unnecessary hardware and serious craftsmanship in its construction.

Image via the Buckitt Kickstarter
The only problem is that, although undeniably decently priced for what the bag is, I'm scared of spending that much money on something I haven't seen in person, haven't been able to touch, feel its weight, put on my shoulder and look in the mirror. So I'm just backing a tiny amount. But I'd definitely encourage anyone looking for a simple, practical bag to take a gander...

The Buckitt: bags via Kickstarter from £170 (they're going to retail at £270+)

Monday, 22 July 2013

Paris notebook: handmade jewellery from Medecine Douce

Paris is packed with tiny boutiques selling the kind of jewellery that I love - delicate but not too girly, made of decent materials that won't turn your skin green and it's all small businesses selling products they like at reasonable prices.
But although we went in to quite a few of these boutiques, I didn't really see anything that made my heart beat that little bit faster, nothing that triggered a totally illogical desire to buy something entirely ornmental with no real purpose.

Jewellery is different in this respect from most other fashion items. It really is pointless. Shoes, however ridiculous, do serve a function, as do clothes, hats, bags, wallets... but not jewellery.

For my grandmothers, jewellery - proper jewellery - was a real investment. That was its secondary purpose beyond the ornamental. And the best pieces were saved for special occasions. But most women I know don't buy jewellery like that any more. I don't really wear much jewellery on special occasions - it's usually just a great dress with minimal additions. And I certainly don't have the kind of money that would stretch to even high-end costume jewellery of the kind that retains value.

I grew up surrounded by cheap costume jewellery as a result of my grandpa and uncles' jewellery wholesale business. Going to their warehouse was a bit like visiting Aladdins cave, except everything was neatly organised into cardboard boxes labelled in black marker pen with my grandpa's distinctive small caps handwriting. I still have some boxes he labelled as it's one of my strongest associations with him. He was an amazing person to be around as a child and I was thoroughly spoiled. I used to love wearing loads of cheap jewellery. It was fun, and experimental, and quite freeing to just be able to wear it all at once.

However, as a result of this early glut of sparkle, I am now very picky about jewellery. So back to Paris, where the jewellery was lovely but failed to be lovely enough... and then we walked into Medecine Douce (I'm sure that name sounds much better when pronounced properly in French and without the unfortunate Anglophone echoes).
Founded by Marie Montaud in 2000, Medecine Douce moved to Paris in 2007 to occupy its current space designed by architects Flavia Fabbro and Philippe Delannoy.

The shop (image via

The MD shop, just off the Canal St Martin, takes up the left hand side of the space and is about the same size as most jewellery boutiques. It's pretty enough, but right next door is the workshop where you can watch people hand making all the pieces. Which is a brilliant idea because for people like me who love that shit it makes it much easier to fall in love with the jewellery. And fall in love I did, with two necklaces from the Faust range. I can only find images of the collar necklace and the bracelet, but the long necklace was probably my favourite of the lot.

Collier Faust by Medecine Douce - 95,00 €

Bracelet Faust by Medecine Douce - 80,00 €

And yet I walked away. Realistically this was because I  had already carefully budgeted all my money for goats cheese and pain au chocolats (food always wins for me I'm afraid). But a week and a half later the necklaces are still haunting me.

There is an e-store but I'm a goofball so I'm going to wait until I can go back and walk in and lay down cold hard cash. It's better that way. Also, there's an incredible bakery and a Maje outlet shop just up the road...

You, however, should definitely visit the e-shop, unless you're lucky enough to live in Paris already. They have some beautiful fine jewellery pieces in the Beaurepaire collection at the moment.

Medecine Douce
10, rue de Marseille
75010 Paris
Monday - Saturday 11am - 7pm

I leave you with this thought for the day: Baby Stingrays!

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Paris notebook: Le Fumoir - good food, great cocktails

image from the website of Le Fumoir
I've been lucky enough to find myself in Paris twice in the past month, and both times I've visited Le Fumoir.

I don't know Paris spectacularly well, and hadn't been there in years until I had to go for a work trip in June (I say had to - I was practically jumping for joy when they asked me to go). I went on the earliest train possible so I could have lunch and a bit of a wander with one of my favourite colleagues before we had to meet up with the rest of our group and actually work.

Le Fumoir, just behind the Louvre, was the perfect spot and I would never have discovered it if not for a strong recommendation from a friend. Thank you Martyn!

image from the website of Le Fumoir
We ate lunch from the bar menu - a mushroom salad with a creamy dressing - which was good but not hugely memorable. The cocktails, however, were quite something. And it's a lovely place to just hang out. Given its location it should be packed with tourists and hyper expensive, but it isn't. I think because it's at the back of the Louvre, most tourists just don't get that far. They get sucked into the crowds around the museum and spat back out into the Tuileries and the roads on either side. The foreigners that are found in Le Fumoir tend to be a bit more stylish and/or well informed.  Or those who don't simply follow the crowd.

A few weeks later when we found ourselves walking around the area with a friend who lives in Paris and wondering where to go for a drink, I was rather proud to not only be able to suggest somewhere decent but to also know where it was and how to get there.

We drank zanzibars - delicious concoctions of rum, ginger, honey and lime - and negronis, smoked some cigarettes and listened in on other people's conversations on a warm evening and watched people walking their dogs and the dust blowing around the pathway behind the Louvre. It was all rather nice.

Le Fumoir also has a proper restaurant with a good reputation which I am determined to try on our next trip.

Le Fumoir
6 Rue de L'Amiral Coligny
75001 Paris
+33 (0)142920024

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Glossy box July 2013 review - Seaside Splash

Before we start, I have to confess I am not a GlossyBox virgin. I first subscribed to the beauty samples monthly delivery service about two years ago but abandoned it after a few months - I felt the product selection was slipping a bit and my bathroom cabinet was literally overflowing with stuff I was never going to use.
But I still thought that the idea, in essence, was a good one. GlossyBox is probably the best known of the fashion and beauty subscription services out there and it's pretty slick. For a monthly fee of £10 (plus P+P which takes it up to about £12 ish), you get a beautifully presented box of goodies delivered to your door or desk. Part of the fun is not knowing exactly what's inside.
In theory, the boxes are tailored to your requirements and wants - you create an online beauty profile by answering a few basic questions about your skin type, colouring, product preferences and fragrance preferences. So when the product selection is good and everything works for you, it feels like a real treat. There were a few products I discovered through GlossyBox that I loved enough to buy again - especially this moisturiser by Monu.
But when it's a bit off mark it's pretty disappointing. Which is why I left. After a few lack lustre boxes, the final straw for me was, I think, a box sponsored by Harrods which had namby pamby little samples of products so expensive I could never afford them in a million years, none of which suited me.
But recently, a colleague in my office and a good friend have been using products they got from GlossyBox deliveries so I thought I'd give it another whirl.
This is the first box of my new subscription and I'm happy to report it's a good one!
With great timing, GlossyBox have delivered a package filled with goodies that are perfect for the almost-heatwave we're having in London right now.
My Seaside Splash box came in pretty themed packaging - I'm in the middle of a big wardrobe clear out so the box is being put to good use as a sock organiser in one of my drawers.

The products:

Anatomicals: Spray Misty For Me facial spritz

This is my favourite of the lot - I had a facial spritz revelation in Paris (more on Paris on the blog soon) and my tiny Avene face spray has just run out so it's arrival is perfectly timed. And it feels and smells quite fresh, perfect to shake off that horrible muggy tube feeling that always leaves me craving a shower. Me and this spritz could develop a really meaningful relationship. If only the packaging was just a tiny bit more tasteful and expensive looking. I know looks aren't everything, and being lilac does make it easy to find in my bag and the plastic bottle helps make it cheap (£6). But I do like some quality packaging.
It's got rose, lavender, peppermint and witch hazel in it so should stave off some of the greasiness and spottiness I'm occasionally prone to when it gets hot in the city and pollution gets all clingy like a dog with a deep fear of abandonment. I've been spraying it on myself all day, I can't stop - I think maybe they put some kind of crack in it.

Ciate: paint pot (nail varnish for those who don't speak marketing) in Island Hopping

I don't normally go in for this sort of thing to be honest - nail varnishes just chip and my nails are nearly always different lengths because they break or get bitten so painting them seems a bit silly. Plus glittery  nail varnish is a bugger to remove. But this one is really pretty and summery and goes on much, much easier than most glittery nail varnishes do. The pigment is really good too - I only put on one (quite thick) coat. I'm not entirely sure how to take a nice picture of my hands, but I've tried so you can sort of see the effect...

The bow on the front of the bottle is a tiny bit twee, but we can let that slide.

Nip + Fab: Shine Fix

I was a real fan of Nip + Fab's Spot Fix when I got it in a previous GlossyBox delivery. But their moisturiser was a disaster. The Shine Fix makes lot of claims, as these things are wont to do. Apparently it contains 'microsponges' which target and prevent shine. It also has something called Seboclear (tm) to 'target visible pores'. Both of these sound like those pseudo scientific things they attach to beauty products to make you believe in magic (this does occasionally work because despite all evidence to the contrary I am a sucker for magic).
Shine and visible pores do not bother me overtly, although I do suffer from both occasionally as I have skin and skin does get shiny and it does have pores... but I'm trying it out anyway. Thus far the difference isn't hugely noticeable. My nose might be a bit less oily if I really pay attention. But it hasn't brought me out in instant spots so I'll persist. If it does anything significant I'll let you know.

Alterna: Bamboo Style Boho Waves

This is one of those 'beachy hair' effect sprays that's supposed to make you look like you've just spent the day surfing and your hair has dried in the sun. Like bed-head hair, this is an ideal that is hard to achieve if your hair is quite fine like mine. This spray doesn't work miracles, but I like it. I applied it on partly damp hair this morning, and even after being smushed with a cycle helmet before it had completely dried my hair does seem a bit more oomphy. I like tiny bottles of hair product - I'm more likely to use them because I can carry them around with me. And this one smells nice.

Coola Suncare: mineral sunscreen tinted moisturiser

This was the only real miss for me. It has a decent texture for a tinted moisturiser, but I'm actually not a fan of them usually. Laura Mercier is possibly the exception. I did like the idea of a tinted moisturiser with a mineral suncream included so was willing to give it a go but the colour was a bit off. I didn't even fully apply it before pulling out the Bioderma for a quick removal job.

I'm looking forward to getting the next delivery, but I do need to be vigilant about keeping the bathroom cabinet under control... I'll be giving away any unused products every now and then so stay tuned!