Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Too cool for school

For a touch of nostalgia, the newly re-released Dr Martens leather satchel is hard to beat. The fact that it's so Alexa Chung may or may not put you off, but one thing's for sure, it's a whole lot cheaper (£125) than the Mulberry bag named after her, as well as being rather refreshingly old-school. There are only 350 made across five colours – cherry-red (above), black, white, green and navy. If you buy online, next-day delivery is free (over £50). Practical, roomy and even better when battered around a bit. Stickers and graffiti optional.

I admit to having a soft spot for DMs that goes back to my stomping-around teenage years. The chunkier versions in bright reds and yellows may be a bit strong on attitude for those of us over, say, 20 – but then, eye-wateringly bright colours are big on the radar for spring. And there are plenty of less in-your-face alternatives, such as the Pascal boot in grey (£75), below, that look pretty good with a maxi skirt and come into their own when there are inches of snow/mud/rain en route.

Saturday, 22 January 2011


Back in 2005, Gaby Basora realised that all the compliments she received about the silk blouses she made herself could kickstart a whole new career. A year later, her blouses were flying off the rails at Barneys New York, and by 2010 she was being stocked in more than 200 top stores around the world. Last September she collaborated with retail giant Target, one of the biggest retailers in the States; previous designers to be involved include Alexander McQueen, Jean Paul Gaultier, Anna Sui and Mulberry.

Now stocked everywhere from Net-a-porter to Harvey Nichols, Tucker is clearly one of those labels that's quietly going from strength to strength. So what's all the fuss about?

I first saw Basora's silk blouses and shirt dresses in Seagreen boutique, Dublin, standing out from choice pieces by Paul & Joe, APC and J Brand. It's no surprise to read that Basora admires the prints and textures of Dries van Noten – the vibrancy of her prints, from antique-style florals to bold plaids, brings the brilliant Belgian designer to mind. The light yet sensuous silk blouses and tunic dresses have a simple elegance and insouciance, and seem right in tune with the Isabel Marant/L'Agence/Acne mood of the moment. Because the silk is the perfect weight and texture, each dress is neither flimsy nor transparent but has an unfussy effortlessness about it.

Her collections are pared down, consisting of a few carefully edited shapes that work, described simply as the tunic; the dress; the camisole. The prints, on the other hand, have romantic, rather florid titles such as Elodie's Grand Mere and Winnie's Flapper Floral Dress, hinting at the inspiration behind them. If, like me, you struggle to find the perfect summer dress – something that's light and cool yet ageless (not too girly or revealing), I reckon Basora's are right on the money. They convey an instant relaxed chic, and this cool wearability is what's making this label so desirable right now.

Check out Basora's website – www.tuckerbygabybasora.com – to see more of her collections, with star sale buys including the Vintage Tucker Long tie Dress (274) in vermillion silk, a bold and brilliant shade that will see you through spring/summer 2011's block colour trend, something that even the most committed black-wearers among us are going to find it hard to resist.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Going Underground

Espresso cups and saucers, £32.99, London Transport Museum shop

I got a perfect Christmas present this year: my very thoughtful brother bought me a huge bag of Colombian coffee beans from Monmouth Coffee Stores, together with this box of espresso cups and saucers. I was seriously chuffed, and am happily spending January wired to the moon while everyone around me detoxes. The cups are from the London Transport Museum shop, which is full of great quirky gifts.

It's a weirdly compelling shop. You can order a sofa covered in the fabric used on Underground trains – they look better than they sound – or buy a striking London Underground film map, which has the usual station names replaced by film titles (below, £9.95). There's also everything from mugs bearing the name of your favourite Underground station – should you have one – to a shopping bag (£9.99) designed by Ella Doran which pays tribute to the number 38 bus.

Love 38 bag by Ella Doran, £9.99

Apart from the coffee stakes, here are some other good things about 2011 so far...

Reading Skippy Dies, and Justine Picardie's biography of Chanel. Watching The King's Speech and looking forward to Black Swan.

Booking ahead: to see Keira Knightley and Elisabeth Moss star in Children's Hour at The Comedy Theatre, London. Then there's Derek Jacobi in the Donmar Warehouse production of King Lear, and Frankenstein, directed by Danny Boyle and starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller. Both Lear and Frank are courtesy of the magnificent National Theatre Live, which brings London's best theatre productions to your local cinema. I know, I sound like their PR person, but I think it's brilliant the way they are making theatre accessible like this.

Staying (in my dreams): at the brand-new St Pancras Renaissance, with its Marcus Wareing dining room; and Fergus Henderson's new hotel in London's Chinatown.

Trying out: sailing in Dun Laoghaire harbour; baking at the brilliant Cake Cafe in Dublin, probably the best cafe in the city.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Great coats

Steve McQueen in The Great Escape

Sales time is when we all go completely TK Maxx, and buy a whole load of stuff we wouldn't normally look twice at, because it's reduced. From designer jeans a size too small (to diet into) and brightly coloured satin dresses for a party (though you'll inevitably leave it in the wardrobe in favour of something black), there are a million mistakes on hangers just waiting to happen. Far better to avoid the over-crowded rails entirely and invest in a great coat, for now, for next winter and for many years beyond.

I've written about Burberry's coats before (see post of 7 June 2010: http://assarahseesit.blogspot.com/2010/06/its-hard-to-beat-burberry.html), because this last season's collection has been such a stormer. Military is a look that returns time and time again as autumn approaches, either in subtle details or, as in Burberry's case, with a full-on battle cry.

Watching The Great Escape in the quiet days after Christmas was like seeing Burberry's autumn/winter collection in action, from the felt greatcoats to the aviator jackets (see film still, below) and, of course, the classic pea coat that looks so dashing on Steve McQueen (as do most things, to be fair).

There are some good reductions in the sale online, such as this greatcoat at £525 down from £750. Still a hefty investment, then, but one that will endure from this winter on.

Wool military coat, £525 (was £750)

Stills from The Great Escape