Friday, 30 July 2010

Top hats

Just a quick post to share these fantastic – and not a little eccentric – light shades. How great would they look hanging in a dressing room? Choose from the Jeeves black/champagne Bowler Hat Pendant (£150) or the Wooster black/silver Top Hat Pendant (£170), all by Jake Phipps at Heal's.

Sunday, 25 July 2010


In Edinburgh yesterday to see my friend Zee. Apart from drinking copious coffees in Valvona & Crolla, we explored Jeffrey Street (just up from the station), where there’s a great retro-style sweet shop, Lickety Splits, and an interiors store called Moleta Munro stocking an eclectic range of lighting, prints, rugs and other textiles by designers such as Donna Wilson, Bestlite and Arne Jacobsen and SCP. Especially liked the Bold & Noble map prints (above, £38) and the Norm lampshades, which add a touch of style to any room.

Harvey Nichols was really lacklustre, though (apart from the Shu Uemura counter which was buzzing as always, mainly due to the enthusiastic, talented girls who run it). The store’s fashion edit increasingly seems to focus on the big bucks rather than cutting-edge style, and it’s looking a bit tired – and more than a bit bling. So instead of introducing current hot labels – Acne, perhaps, or Erdem, or Basso & Brooke, or Rick Owens – a new ‘Beyond MediSpa’ has appeared on the Womenswear floor, so you can buy a new face along with your Lanvin. Just another case of trying to make Botox and other injectables seem like a normal, everyday thing to do.

Other new additions to Womenswear include Project D, the line fronted by Dannii Minogue. Is it just me who finds this depressing? All those struggling, exciting, genuinely talented young labels trying to get a foot in the door – and yet something like this gets hype and prominence in the media (such as a front-page story in the Times fashion supplement) and in stores like HN simply because someone off the telly has put their name to it. It can only be a matter of time before Peter Andre’s jaunty menswear line hits the store, or perhaps Katie Price’s jeans line. It’s a slippery slope, and cheapens all the work, training, skills and toil that designers put in. There’s always bound to be some crossover in our celebrity-obsessed times, but something seems wrong when a store like Harvey Nichols stocks clothes purely because of who’s behind them.

Rant over. I was cheered up slightly by a few rails of Alexander Wang, but irritated by the glitzy Burberry Brit rather than Burberry proper – surely the classic trench coats sell everywhere, as would the peacoats? I do think this is where Net-a-porter is cleaning up: the range of labels on offer is so much more appealing and comprehensive than this tiny, limited, rather patronizing offering. No surprise that, just like the Dublin store, it was dead quiet in here on a Saturday afternoon… while, I'm quite sure, Net-a-porter’s tills were ringing.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

On sale online

Online giant Asos contines to buck all trends and flourish in the face of recession (sales are currently up by 54%). A look at its sale helps to reveal how: you can pick up a silk shift dress by rising star designer Holly Fulton for £32 (down from £85), as well as posh Green & Spring bath oils and lotions, as stocked in Liberty, from £12.50 (nearly half-price), and Andrea Garland floral body cream from a tenner. Also standing out in the sale is a navy wool peacoat by Gap at £53 (down from £89.50) – a bargain version of the Burberry a/w 2010 classic – and Andrea Garland floral body cream (from a tenner). The beauty sale features everything from Paul & Joe lipsticks through to Girls Aloud false eyelashes (!) for £2.50. Free delivery and returns is an extra bonus.

Sunday, 18 July 2010


I’m moving house in a few weeks, so in classic head-in-the-sand mode I’m going to the cinema as many nights as I can, leaving the drudgery of packing to the last possible minute. After Breathless (see below) and Greenberg (so dull), I saw Heartbreaker, a French comedy starring Vanessa Paradis. As escapism goes, it doesn’t get much better than this: glamorous locations, fabulous clothes, Dirty Dancing and a truckload of Gallic charm. It’s hard to tell which is the bigger star – Paradis or her Herm├Ęs handbag... it’s certainly a close-run thing. Chanel and Celine clothes also co-star (though a Paul Smith suit doesn’t come out of it well – along with Andrew Lincoln as the buttoned-up Brit). Roman Duris is flamboyant and artfully dishevelled, Paradis a tiny, gap-toothed mannequin, and the comedy is wonderfully slapstick. Great fun.

Saturday, 10 July 2010


I went to see Breathless last night at the cinema, a super-sharp new print to celebrate the cult classic’s 50th anniversary. Paris looks at its best in black and white and it has never looked prettier than here, with beautiful classic cars lining the streets. Jean Seberg and Jean-Paul Belmondo as the amoral Michel, all swagger in his too-big suit, are all about beauty too. The real star of the show, though, is Seberg’s elfin haircut – one of the most influential in cinema history, along with Audrey Hepburn’s in Roman Holiday, perhaps? How modern, gamine and young she looks, refreshingly natural, and effortlessly stylish in pumps, stripes and dark glasses. It's all so far from the identikit collagen-plumped, botoxed, airbrushed blandness that's ubiquitous today. It makes you want to march straight to the nearest hairdressers and brave the scissors once and for all. Not to mention jump on the Eurostar, wearing a single-breasted trench coat, to smoke many, many Gauloises.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Sale tip

Go online quick to Acne Studios for their final sale reductions, with big discounts on items like these leather boots (£136, down from £340) and a cotton/linen trench coat that's good for autumn/winter (£162 down from £405). Much as I love these boots, I guess they're not ideal for autumn's rainy days....

Acne's ironically named 'Admire' boot, however, has got to be one of the ugliest bits of footwear I've ever seen. Or is it just me? Surely they'd make you look like you had something seriously wrong with your feet – which no doubt you would if you attempted to walk anywhere in them.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010


I love being given recommendations for books, so I thought I'd do a post on some I've read recently in case they appeal to you:

The Twin by Gerbrand Bakker. Don’t let the cover picture – a couple of cows – put you off: I’m not sure why anyone would pick up a book with this cover (luckily it had a Dublin IMPAC Award Winner sticker on the front, which made it stand out). Subtle, strange and oddly addictive, this quirky read is a study in loneliness yet very, very funny. Loved it.

One Day by David Nicholls. A fun, easy read tracing a ‘Harry met Sally’-type relationship from its beginnings in the 1980s through the decades. But why’s the main character called Dexter? Despite the irritating bits and the moments where the characters don’t ring true, the book's packed with funny scenes (which are just waiting to be made into a film, like Nicholls’ previous novel, Starter for Ten) and plenty of tenderness, very well handled. Will particularly appeal to those who listened to Tracey Chapman in the 1980s and hung out in Soho in the 1990s.

Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan. I first read this years ago but it’s always worth revisiting and only takes an hour or two. Evocative, sun-lit and wonderfully French.

Invisible by Paul Auster. Reminded me of The Magus by John Fowles. Brilliantly structured and darkly compelling, it’s hard to put down. Thanks Laura for the tip.

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin – the story of a young girl’s passage from small town Ireland to Brooklyn in the 1950s. Beautifully detailed and restrained, and brilliantly evocative of place and period.

The Hidden by Tobias Hill. Ambitious and smart, this book grows darker with every page you turn. The characters remain remote and cold, and I found them hard to relate to or empathise with, but it's a good read, with hints of The Secret History and Lord of the Flies, and a nervy, fast-paced finale.

To Reach The Clouds by Philippe Petit, a personal account of his magnificent death-defying tightrope walk between the Twin Towers.

Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann

A Gate at the Stairs by Lottie Moore

Sunday, 4 July 2010


So the maxidress spirit goes on into autumn. This, I reckon, is a good thing. Any day now, in reaction to the long sweeping skirts of the summer, skirts will go micro-mini again – that trend which suits precisely 2% of the population.

Here’s what designer Erdem says about skirts for a/w 2010: ‘I loved the casualness of a boyish jumper and a long satin skirt. It felt modern and right; effortless and utterly chic.' In a season when other options are faux fur, capes and – yawn – the gloomy old parka, this mode of laidback glamour sounds wonderfully appealing. Dries van Noten always gets this look bang on; I have a long satin skirt bought from the Designer Warehouse Sales* in King’s Cross more than ten years ago and it has stood the test of time brilliantly, as all his clothes do (remember when they sold at Whistles?).

Dries van Noten, a/w 2010. Photo: Marcio Madeira /

I’ve always wondered if those websites that enable you to buy direct from the States actually work. I read about a while ago but have only just got round to trying it out, ordering (purely for research purposes, of course) a T by Alexander Wang asymmetric black jersey dress at $140, the equivalent of £97 (rather than the £140 it costs here). I ordered it online on a Tuesday afternoon – and amazingly, it arrived on the Thursday morning (and international postage is free). The only downside is that you have to pay a customs charge on delivery, which varies according to the cost of the item; for the $140 dress I had to pay £28. But it’s still a little cheaper overall, the service is super-efficient and they have a wide selection of stock on offer. And the dress is fantastic: light enough to wear in the summer, bias-cut to flatter curves and as soft as a second skin. In the winter it’ll be great with a cashmere jumper (see First-class cashmere, below right) and big boots. I’m hooked.

Alexander Wang's effortlessly wearable luxe jersey pieces feel confidently modern without shouting about it. These are clothes that will feel and look good for years (handwashing will help; well, there has to be a downside). In a way, long bias-cut skirts and dresses in a low-key, light fabric are what Ghost did so well for years: in magazine articles about the best clothes to take on holiday, everyone from travel editors to celebs always raved about the ease and beauty of a Ghost dress. No wonder Wang was the only name to escape unblemished from Sex and the City 2 (bar Mr Big, who only gets better with age): his fresh young take on clothes stood out from that grim procession of contrived, unflattering outfits.

* DWS have always been some of London’s very best designer sales. The next sales start on September 17 in a new location near Holloway Rd/Finsbury Park tube, with womenswear and then menswear (including names like Paul Smith, Phillip Treacy and Hamnett) at huge discounts. It was always a trek to get there, but always worth it.