Thursday, 30 September 2010

Down with camel

Here's a spash of colour from Acne as an antidote to all the camel sludging around the place just now. Despite the hundreds of magazine pages and shop displays dedicated to insisting that camel is THE colour to wear this season, camel is – let’s be honest here – a bland shade of brown that suits about one per cent of the population (that's the one per cent who can afford to buy Chloe). It will be out on its colourless backside come January. And then you’ll be stuck wearing your unflattering trousers/coat/jumper – or, worst of all, cape – while everyone else breathes a sigh of relief as they thankfully pull on their black and grey (or pretty well any other colour at all). Most of us, sadly, do not look like Ali McGraw or Lauren Hutton when wearing high-waisted camel trousers. I know black is commonplace, and navy can be boring, but camel feels like fashion's scraping the barrel.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010


The December edition of pretty well every magazine I've seen features these paper decorations. Cheap, very cheerful and re-usable, they're available in a variety of shapes, from the balls above to giant bells and white stars. Hang them from your ceiling for a stylish alternative to tinsel and plastic decorations. Sending them out to stylists must be keeping the lovely people at RE seriously busy. RE is a gem of a shop hidden away behind a petrol station in the depths of Northumberland (well, Corbridge to be exact). It's a fabulous, friendly place to visit, and stunningly presented, but if you can't quite get there have a look on their website, which is packed with all manner of original, intriguing and inspiring bits and pieces, from vintage furniture and eiderdowns to American glass cake stands.

Monday, 27 September 2010

REN's coming up roses

Rose Otto Ultra-Moisture Serum, £40, REN

You know you’re in a super-cool, on-the-ball boutique hotel when you find REN in the bathroom (the Boundary, for example: see post dated 13 May). If you haven't come across REN before, let me introduce you. REN launched in 2000, with a USP of producing beauty products that do not contain synthetics, parabens or petrochemicals, yet are still both beautiful to use and efficacious (an approach that has been adopted by a host of other companies in their wake). They are ‘clean’ products, but don’t have that ‘worthy’ feel to them – they look and smell great and they feel luxurious to use. No wonder its fans (including me) are ardent, bordering on obsessive.

REN’s rose products are their strongest line. The Moroccan Rose Otto Bath Oil is beautifully decadent and non-greasy, and is gorgeous used as a skin oil, too. There’s also Rose Otto Body Wash and a lusciously rich Body Cream (£24.50 and it lasts for ages) that leaves your skin petal-soft and scented. All of them make great gifts. The Rose Centrifolia Cleansing Gel is a cooling face wash that cleans and gently hydrates the skin, and the Rose Ultra-Moisture Serum (£40), worn under moisturiser, uses rice germ, jojoba, coconut, camellia and lemon oils along with rose damascene oil to really lock in moisture. Many people are wary of layering oil onto their face, thinking it will leave a greasy shine, but an oil containing high-quality ingredients like this actually sinks into the skin and gives it a radiance and hydration you just don’t get with a cream. The Rose Otto Body Scub has been much raved-about in magazines, and it does give your skin a buffed sheen, though I reckon the creams and oils are better investments – most of this ends up down the plughole.

I also recommend the Keep Young and Beautiful Serum (£45). Yes, it costs rather more than Protect & Perfect, the bargain Boots serum that everyone went mad over for a while – but for my money it’s way more effective, and genuinely feels like it makes your skin look better. And there aren’t many products, especially costing less than 50 quid, that truly make your skin look better (with the fine exception of Dr Hauschka’s Rose Cream). Also worth a try is Omega 3 Night Repair Serum; it takes takes longer to absorb into the skin so use only a small amount for the best effects.

REN’s website is as good-looking and effective as its products (and that's not always the case). You can search by product or, most usefully, by skin type. And there are some good offers too, including free trial sizes, plus a free £20 Mayday Rescue Balm when you spend over £30. Look out for their kits to try out five different trial sizes before you splash out on a full-size one.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Manolo at Liberty

Liberty was recently voted best shop in London by Time Out magazine. It’s always been a favourite; even back in 2002, when I was editing Time Out’s shopping and fashion section, it was raking in the awards for its shoe and beauty departments. Liberty continues to go from strength to strength because it has never rested on its laurels – and it could so easily sit back and rely on its history (135 years of it) and location to pull in the punters. Instead Liberty is constantly reinventing itself, bringing in the coolest, most desirable labels and developing their own exclusive ranges to boot. It’s wonderfully un-snooty as a store, and really feels like the heart of shopping London. Whether it’s tea, rare perfume, edgy designer label, madly expensive lingerie or even a sewing school you’re looking for, you’ll find it in the elegant surroundings of Liberty... and find huge pleasure in looking.

At the moment they have an exclusive range by Manolo Blahnik instore (and online, for accessories but not shoes). With everything from cute shoe-print lavender bags at £6.95 (great for gifts) to satin court shoes in brilliant yellow and lipstick red (around £420), the range brings a bit of Blahnik a little closer to us mere mortals… though the saner among us might balk at paying just shy of 100 quid for an umbrella, however pretty it is. Oh, and the knee-length Arctic goat-hair boots (£925) are surely just ludicrous, in so many ways. There are plenty of sleek and wearable court shoes, though, and the shoe-print fabric has great charm. And the velvet boots in sugar pink and midnight blue are straight out of a fairytale: The Elves and The Shoemaker, perhaps.

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