Friday, 28 May 2010
Monday, 24 May 2010
The gingham dress stood out in particular because Christopher Kane has made this fabric hot again for summer 2010. But gingham can go either way: though cute and sexy and fresh when worn by Brigitte Bardot on the beach at St Tropez (and, let’s face it, in her heyday Bardot could make a binliner look a million dollars), it always reminds me too much of tablecloths. More specifically, the Gingham Kitchen in Doncaster where we’d go for egg and chips and banana milkshakes as kids – it was a riot of red and white check. And even if gingham doesn’t bring to mind your local Italian restaurant, it definitely harks back to unflattering school uniforms. So all credit to Kane for making it sexy and modern this season, with split gingham skirts and dresses (see above) that manage to be both demure and flirty. It’s no surprise that the high street’s taken note; look out for gingham shirts (£55) and bikinis by J Crew (at net-a-porter.com) through to mini skirts at Topshop. Toast has a neat (though pricey at £99) little shift dress, Jaeger has everything from trousers to a wrap dress (on sale for £99), or try a subtle touch of the trend with a gingham scarf by NW3 at Hobbs (£35). Tablecloths ahoy!
Sunday, 23 May 2010
Thursday, 13 May 2010
The E2 area of London really has become the best place to stay when visiting the capital. With a huge pile of lively and unique markets, shops and bars on your doorstep, it feels cool, laidback and right on the pulse of the city. There's Spitalfields market, Brick Lane and Cheshire Street – with its great independent shops, including the brilliant Labour & Wait – and Columbia Road flower market. Then there are the many cool bars and eateries around Leonard and Great Eastern Streets, and exquisite cafe/delis like Verde, just opposite Spitalfields Market. And the good thing is the scattering of hip affordable hotels in the area, such as the Hoxton Hotel: rooms start from £59, but sign up on their website to hear about their regular sales, when you can book a room for £1 or £29. The next one is tomorrow, 13 May, at 12pm, and they sell out immediately. I managed to bag a room there for £29 last year, and it's the most brilliant bargain: rooms are small but perfectly formed, there's a coffee machine that's free to use, it has a really buzzy bar downstairs and you get Pret a Manger stuff for breakfast. I really can't think of any other hotel that offers so much for so little.
Nearby, Nick Jones of Soho House recently opened Shoreditch House, where rooms start from £75. This sounds like another great deal – it's bound to be fabulous as everywhere he touches turns to gold, whether it's in Balham or Manhattan.
If you're in the market for style and luxury, Conran's Boundary is a seriously memorable place to stay. Voted Best New Hotel in London by Condé Nast Traveller this year, it is all about attention to detail. Staff are smart yet chilled in Joe Casely-Hayford-designed uniforms. The bright, fresh ground floor shop/café, Albion, has its own bakery, and seats outside to enjoy a coffee or fine breakfast and some prime people-watching. The 12 hotel rooms and five suites are themed by designer or design movement, from Eames and Le Corbusier to Bauhaus, and are immaculately beautiful and luxurious. Plus there’s tons of REN stuff in the bathroom which, shallow as I am, would make me supremely happy all by itself. But the icing on the cake, literally, is the rooftop bar and restaurant, complete with log fires, comfy seating and rugs for when it gets chilly. It’s a great place to eat and an even better place to drink, with magical city views, though it doesn't stay open very late in the evening (as it’s a residential area), which is a terrible shame – it’s such a romantic setting. Rooms start from £140 per night, though you’re looking at £200 for one of the extra-spacious corner rooms on a Saturday night. For a touch of style in the city, it ticks every box.
Friday, 7 May 2010
Tuesday, 4 May 2010
Long skirts and dresses are starting to sweep across the pavements for spring/summer. At last – a trend that doesn’t appeal to just one per cent of the population. It’s not often that the whims of designers appeal this naturally to anyone aged over 18, but the maxi does not call for good legs/toned arms/tiny waists – or, indeed, anything at all really. And anything to get away from these ‘jeggings’ – the leggings pretending they're jeans. Seriously, what is everyone thinking? Whatever Grazia says, they are appalling. Hideous. There is not a single person that actually looks good in them. They make your legs look like sausages, whatever your shape. Surely in years to come they will be THE item that people are truly mortified to have worn in the belief that they were fashionable.
Anyway, back to skirts. While a tiny percentage of the population have the legs to pull off a mini or teeny denim shorts the minute the sun comes out, many more of us, aware of what our legs actually look like in the light of day, look for something less bare, but cooler and low-key.
So it's good news that the maxi's having a moment. Designers from Cavalli to Lanvin, Erdem to Diane von Furstenberg has gone long and luxurious with their skirts this season; check out Balenciaga's silk racer-back maxi dress in black and white print (see above). In the spirit of laidback luxe, all the best labels have done a great maxi skirt or dress this season, including Rick Owens and Acne, Vanessa Bruno and L’Agence (check out their jersey maxi, £169 and dresses online and at Selfridges) and Vanessa Bruno – they've all done a great maxi skirt. Also on this bandwagon are The Row (designed by the Olsen twins), with a gorgeous fitted jersey dress. And one of the best buys has to be the T by Alexander Wang split jersey skirt (see top), a sexy twist on the look. All the best maxi skirts seem to be black, though H&M’s leopard-print maxi (14.99) and Topshop’s 18 quid jersey number in khaki are fun.
I still have a floor-length silk Dries van Noten skirt in black I found at Whistles many years ago (remember when their main stores stocked the odd gem by designers too?). Silky and light as a feather, it can work with everything from a neat leather biker jacket and boots to dressier tops and heels for evening. Versatile, wearable – this trend’s got legs.
There’s another side to it, though. Stella McCartney’s billowing satin floral-print version has inspired a rash of followers and every high-street store seems to have wafty floral halterneck maxidresses in their windows just now. Which is fine if you have a holiday home in Hawaii or spend most of the year drifting around Ibiza, but acres of synthetic fabric is not going to do anyone any favours on the dirty rainy pavements of London/Dublin/Manchester…. It’s one thing to channel Jade Jagger or Talitha Getty, but quite another to end up looking like Nana Mouskouri. And many of these dresses are tiered, which makes things worse. While in Stella McCartney's hands this might look fabulous, in others it can move towards the meringue. And, rather than mask imperfections, a billowing dress will generally make the wearer look at least two dress sizes bigger. So go steady around those floral numbers.