Thursday, 8 April 2010

At liberty in London


Life’s great pleasures, number two: a few hours wandering around Liberty. It’s a calm, tranquil place to browse, even on a Saturday – a seductive mix of heritage, cutting-edge labels and friendly, helpful staff. I loved this full-length blue and white striped dress in soft cotton jersey (£125) by Acne; it would look just as great with a leather jacket and chunky boots as it would with flip-flops and a panama in the summer. For autumn/winter 2010, shoe maestro Manolo Blahnik is designing his own Liberty prints, with a limited-edition collection of unique shoes and other gifts on display... could be worth heading over for a look come September.

I also tried out one of the Ellis Faas lipsticks I keep reading about (exclusive to Liberty in London). The bullet-shaped case is very swanky and the colours wonderfully intense, but the Ellis Red, which is ‘sure to suit every complexion’ because it’s the colour of real blood, is just a touch too vampiric for me. If you're even slightly pale, it could all get a bit 'Twilight'.

Before anything, though, the day needs to kick off with coffee and croissants at Maison Bertaux, off Old Compton Street in Soho, because it’s so pretty and eccentric and because the croissants are, for me, the best in London. And because there are daffodils on each table.

You might have seen the American Apparel sample sale on the news; apparently there were serious fights in Brick Lane at Easter weekend as more than 2,000 people queued to stock up on cut-price T-shirts and leotards. Blimey. AA’s leggings are great, though, it has to be said. The Tri-Blend Rib Legging (£23) in grey is about as good as a legging gets – soft, strong and plenty long enough. Plus they don’t go all baggy round your knees after a few wears. Despite first appearances (neon sign outside, loud pumping music inside), American Apparel is not a shop purely aimed at teenagers who aspire to a Flashdance look (without irony). The cotton tops, for example, are good quality, wash well (boring, but still good to know) and – crucially – are just the right length, whether you’re a size 8 or a 16. All we’re saying is, M&S could pick up a few hints here. There’s a reason why people are scrapping over vests on a holiday weekend, and it’s not just because the stuff’s cheap.

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