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Risk it, go for it!

Mary Quant once said “Risk it, go for it.  Life always gives you another chance, another go at it.  It’s very important to take enormous risks.”  That’s exactly what she did in the Swinging Sixties, redefining what it meant to be young and seizing every opportunity that came her way.

The Fashion and Textile Museum’s latest exhibition; ‘Swinging London: A Lifestyle Revolution’ explores the design and the fashion of the Chelsea Set, in particular Mary Quant and Terence Conran, but touching on the work of other designers of the era, who worked with them such as Laura Ashley and photographers of the time.

I visited with my Mum, who grew up during the wonderful Sixties in London.  I often think it must have been a fabulous era to be a teenager in.  Taking Mary’s philosophy of risk, I chose a different outfit to something I would normally wear which also gave a nod to the Sixties/Seventies, along with embracing the current trend of co-ordinates.  The skirt and top were from River Island, the beige mac was M&S (I was channelling my inner Mod here) as well as the orange espadrilles.  The bag I styled it with was also River Island – a great copy of the Dior saddle bag.  I tied in the orange shoes by also wearing orange hoop earrings from Accessorize.  Unfortunately, the risk didn’t really pay off as the outfit was not a great choice for my fuller figure.  Fashion is about having fun and Quant certainly promoted fashion as a game, but we have all had our fashion fails.  Why not share some of yours below?

 

While a relatively small exhibition, Swinging London gives a great overview of fashion from 1952-1977, displaying homewares, fashion, furniture, lighting and ceramics and is very reasonably priced to visit at less than £10 per ticket.  Visit before the exhibition closes on 2 June 2019.

Mary Quant was born in Blackheath, London in 1930 and was instrumental in the Mod and youth fashion in the sixties, along with being one of the designers accredited with the mini skirt and hot pants.  She opened her first shop, Bazaar in Chelsea in 1955 and two years later a second branch, in Knightsbridge, designed by Terence Conran.

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Terence Conran was born in Kingston Upon Thames, London in 1931and started his own design company in 1956, designing a shop for Mary Quant.  He is most famous for the household and furniture store, Habitat, opening the first branch in Chelsea, London in 1964.  Involved in other retail businesses, along with architecture and interior design; more recently he is known for a number of London restaurants which he has created.

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The below photo shows the co-ord set designed by Quant in 1965.  The design of the fabric was a textile from Liberty of London, originally an early twentieth-century block-printed fabric, which Liberty converted to a screen-print.  The ‘Sgt Pepper’ coat is by Michael Mott for Paraphernalia, a leading boutique in New York who acknowledged the influence of Mary Quant and her boutique.

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The shoes below, came with a carry bag and are from a 1967 range by Quant when she collaborated with G.B. Britton – a work boot manufacturer.  They proved to be unpopular, given that like wellies, they were too hot and sweaty in summer and too cold in winter.

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Part of the exhibition was Elizabeth Suter’s sketches which captured the designs from the sixties catwalks.  What makes these sketches all the more brilliant is that they were drawn mainly from memory, as sketching during the shows was not allowed.  These were captivating and showcased such a wonderful talent.  I would love to have some of these framed on my walls at home.

Following the exhibition, Mum and I explored some previously unvisited corners of Bermondsey and discovered a lovely parade of cafes and shops which included Kat Maconie the shoe designer and London Glassblowers where they display glassblowing as well as selling signed decorative pieces by Peter Layton.  We went on to discover Vinegar Yard, an urban garden and street food market that has pop up shops selling vintage clothing, antiques, records and art, amongst other things.  Vinegar Yard only opened in April this year and you can’t miss it, due to its art installation of a train carriage with giant ants crawling over it.  Artist Joe Rush created the ants and has a working studio within the yard.  Just round the back of London Bridge station, this is a classic example of what I love best about our Capital, there is always something new to discover around the corner!

We finished the day in the vibrant Borough Market with lunch at Fish! which served delicious fish and chips in the heart of the market.

We had a lovely day out, proving that South London has just as much to offer as the more central and traditionally tourist parts; after all Mary Quant herself was a South London girl!

Why not take a leaf out of Quant’s book and take a risk, after all when you die you always regret the things you didn’t do.

J’adore Dior

When I think of Dior I think of femininity, luxury and class.  When Dior launched his first collection in 1947, he created The New Look – the hour glass silhouette.  The press dubbed the collection The New Look because of its revolutionary nature.  In contrast to wartime boxy styles, his designs emphasised the curves of the female body.

Born in 1905, Dior retrained as a fashion artist in 1935.  Tragically, he died of a heart attack in 1957, just ten years after the launch of his first collection, however the legacy left by Dior continues to inspire some seven decades later, through the six artistic directors that have succeeded him in the fashion house.

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The V&A’s biggest fashion exhibition since Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty in 2015 Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams, has been a sell out for the London Museum, leading them to extend the exhibition for a further two months until 1 September 2019.  The exhibition was inspired by the Christian Dior: Couturier du Rêve in Paris and also explores the designer’s fascination with British culture.  Dior is quoted as saying: “There is no other country in the world, besides my own, whose way of life I like so much.”  He was fascinated by England’s great houses, ocean liners, Savile Row tailoring and royalty.  He often showed his collections in grand country houses, such as Blenheim Palace in 1954 in aid of the British Red Cross.

I had long anticipated the release of tickets for this exhibition and finally got to visit in March with my friend.  For the visit I wore a red t-shirt from Topshop with J’adore on the front to emulate an actual Dior t-shirt worn by Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City Movie 2.

I paired the t-shirt with a black satin, bias cut skirt from New Look.  A similar skirt produced by Topshop was an Instagram sensation and therefore a sell out.  The weather still being somewhat chilly, I also wore my trusty New Look faux leather biker jacket that is one of my go to pieces.  To really set the outfit off, I wore black suede heels that I purchased in Belgium some years back and accessorised with an Asos bag which I thought had a look of a Dior saddle bag and actually appeared in Fabulous magazine sometime after I had purchased it.  The only true Dior I wore was my mascara, Diorshow which I can’t rate highly enough.  A lady on the tube commented on how beautiful my shoes were but after a whole day in London in them, I can assure you I was using a rather different word to describe them!

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The exhibition has over 500 objects, including over 200 rare Haute Couture outfits, displayed with accessesories, original drawings, perfumes, magazines and photographs.  The exhibition is set out over different themed rooms and is a display of absolute beauty, curated perfectly to take you on the Dior artistic journey.  It looks at where Dior found inspiration for his designs from the eighteenth century, to travel to gardens.

The entrance to the exhibition looks at Dior’s life and then focuses on The New Look, particularly the bar suit, acquired by the V&A in 1960 and considered to be a key piece of his first collection, reimagined subsequently by many artistic directors.

Dior in Britain’s main attraction was the dress designed by Dior for Princess Margaret to wear in her 21st birthday portrait in 1951.  Dior said of the princess: “she was a real fairy princess, delicate, graceful and exquisite.  The same adjectives could be used to describe Dior’s own creations.

The next room is historicism and looks at the influence of the eighteenth century on Dior and subsequent artistic directors.

Christian Dior enjoyed travel and took inspiration from art, landscapes and architecture in different countries.  The Travel room looks at how travel inspired his, and future designs of the fashion house. My favourite outfits in the room are shown below.  On the left an Egyptian inspired piece by Christian Dior – John Galliano and part of the Haute Couture Spring-Summer 2004 collection.  This is purely art, if totally unwearable.  On the right, the dress was for the Tokyo presentation of the 2017 Spring-Summer haute couture collection and I just adore this Christian Dior – Maria Grazia Chiuri creation, which with the trailing cherry blossom, encompasses the femininity of Dior.

The next room was by far my favourite, The Garden, and I could have spent hours in there.  It truly felt like a secret garden, which is exactly the feel Maria Grazia Chiuri wanted to create in the Musee Rodin where she displayed her first couture collection, as homage to Dior’s love of gardens.  Flowers influenced both Dior’s designs and his wonderful perfumes.  He would often sketch in the garden and as a boy he loved to study his mother’s plant catalogues.  Dior said: “After women, flowers are the most divine of creations.”  The room was simply magical.  The centre piece gown, seen top right in the below collection of photos is Christian Dior – Maria Grazia Chiuri and part of the Haute Couture Spring-Summer 2017 collection.  The detail is phenomenal with the petal-like decoration created using layers of dyed feathers.

The centre bottom photo of the collection above is a dress by Dior – Raf Simons and part of the Haute Couture Autumn-Winter 2012.  The dress was worn by Natalie Portman as the face of the Miss Dior perfume.  The bottom right picture of the above collection shows to the far right a dress by Christian Dior – John Galliano, which was part of the Haute Couture Autumn-Winter 2010 collection  and is hand painted silk, clinched at the waste by a green bow representative of garden twine.

The Ateliers room demonstrates how test garments are made in white cotton fabric so the fit and shape of the design can be checked before making it in the actual fabric and adding embellishments.

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The exhibition concludes with The Ballroom which was where Dior could really allow his imagination to run free and showcase extravagance.  Dior once said that: “evening clothes are the most glamorous and fascinating things a woman can have as the evening is the time when you escape the realities of life.”   This room was really atmospheric with relaxing music and lighting moving it between day and night.

The dress to the bottom right of the collection above is Christian Dior and part of the Haute Couture Autumn-Winter 1949 collection was embroidered with thousands of shimmering sequins and has to be one of his stand out pieces.

The final dress we see is the below creation by Christian Dior – Maria Grazia Chiuri and was part of the Haute Couture Spring-Summer 2018 collection. The inspiration for the dress was an original 1950 hand-painted fan by Christian Dior, held by the mannequin.  Having his signature embroidered in the skirt is symbolic of his lasting legacy.

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If you can get to the exhibition, I highly recommend it.  Additional exhibition tickets will be released on the 15th day of each month for the month ahead and limited tickets are available to purchase daily at the museum on a first come, first served basis.  Dior remains one of the greatest designers and his creations are often seen both on the red carpet and in the fashion magazines.

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The shop at the V&A also has an impressive range of books on the designer and souvenir drawings, photos and stationery from the exhibition.

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Sadly my finances will probably only ever extend to the makeup and perfume of the fashion house, but his influence can often be found in high street designs.  He was a true God of the fashion world.  Long may his legacy continue.

Hearts and flowers

First thing on a Sunday morning, London is like a ghost town, quietly waiting for its admirers.  A short walk from Old Street tube station, takeaways and bus routes give way to older streets with more historical buildings and over sized greenery seems to be heading towards us, as people struggle home with a new pot plant or two.  Where are we heading?  Columbia Road flower market.

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The flower market began as a Saturday market but was later moved to a Sunday to accommodate a growing number of Jewish traders, for whom Saturdays were a day of rest.  Moving it to a Sunday also allowed traders from Covent Garden and Spitalfields to sell off stock left over from Saturday trading.  Following a demise in the seventies when there were suggestions of demolition, the locals fought to save the market and the surrounding Victorian shops and since then it has gone from strength to strength.  The market now attracts people from around the world and as well as being a great place to pick up a cheap bunch of quality flowers, or a pot plant to transform that awkward corner of your home, the market also appeals to photographers and film makers.

The market is a feast for all the senses, with flowers in every colour of the rainbow available, their sweet scents filling the air, blending with the waft of freshly brewed coffee coming from the many cafes.  The day we visited, the air was filled with the sweet scent of lavender.  The second or third generation market traders call out their deals in cockney accents and there is a general hubbub as people squeeze their way along the stalls.  Music can also be heard from the street buskers.

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When you have had your fill of the plants, the Victorian shops behind offer vintage crockery, gifts and art.  Then it’s time to chill in one of the cafes.  We accidentally stumbled into a vegan cafe and I can tell you a vegan pain au chocolat doesn’t quite hit the spot, but I did feel like a hip east Londoner!

My husband bought me the most gorgeous roses which lasted way longer than your average bunch, despite being carted round London with me for the rest of the day.

It might mean an early start but the market is well worth a visit on a Sunday morning.

This was Valentine’s weekend and so after the historic market, we headed to the modern Shard to experience the view from the top, whilst sipping champagne.  I of course dressed themed for the weekend, in a top with hearts on the collar, paired with skinny jeans – both Oasis and complimented it with red ballet pumps by Mauro Leone purchased in Milan and a red heart bag by Floozie.  I wore my trusted faux leather jacket from New Look as despite the sun, it was a chilly day.

At the beginning of any romance, it’s all hearts and flowers but once you have been together a few years, that all falls by the wayside, only to be replaced with the day to day routine.  It’s important to still appreciate each other, so this year we decided to celebrate Valentines Day like we did in the early days.

The trouble with going out on Valentines is you are usually faced with an overpriced fixed menu and crammed in so tight that you virtually bash elbows with the person next to you every time you lift your fork to your mouth.  Maybe we have just been unfortunate with our choices in the past, as this year we booked our local restaurant, Eight and although it was a set menu – the price was reasonable and we were in no way crammed in.

I wanted to get proper dressed up, just as you do in the first flourish of dates.  I decided to embrace this year’s animal print trend and wore a jumpsuit from Oasis with some red wedge LK Bennett sandals.  I even had my nails themed for the day.

Rather than just cards this year, we also did gifts.  Men being notoriously hard to buy for, I got my husband some clothes from Superdry.  He got me the best kind of chocolate – one that doesn’t get you fat!  Have I discovered the holy grail I hear you ask?  No just some fantastic eyeshadow by Too Faced that is scented with chocolate!

Love comes in many shapes and forms and needs to be nourished.  Many of us spend the best years of our lives searching for our Mr Darcy, just like Bridget Jones.  When we find him though, do we forget to appreciate what we have and take it for granted?

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At the location used as Bridget Jones’ flat in the films

Along with romantic love, one of my other great loves is London.  It is such a fusion of all the cultures and traditions of the world.  It doesn’t matter how many times you visit, there is always something different to see and old and new blend together seamlessly.  I particularly like the creativity it unleashes.  A wander along the Thames from London Bridge to Blackfriars is made all the more beautiful by the entertainers.  This particular day, there was a poet, typing you an instant poem on an old typewriter and a bubbleologist.  A painting by Jimmy C of Shakespeare reminds us that London’s relationship with culture and the arts dates back centuries.

London’s people are what makes the city so wonderful and we all pull together when our centre of multiculturalism is threatened by extremists.  The love Londoners have for each other is perfectly depicted in the street art of hearts created in Brough Market by the artist Jimmy C following the terror attacks there in 2017.  Each heart represents one of the eight people who lost their lives that night.  There is so much hate in the world but ultimately love will conquer all.

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The 12 outfits of Christmas

Christmas is my favourite time of the year, not least because it brings everyone together and helps you to really appreciate the wonderful people that are a part of your life.  Christmas also makes it legitimate to wear as much glitter and sparkle as possible!  The shops begin Christmas sometime in October but I refuse to get too into it until December.

On 1st December, out came the advent calendars, including one for Rufus of course, which by Christmas Eve he had completely annihilated!

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This was also the day of the first outfit of Christmas as we enjoyed a festive curry with friends that evening.  I wore a navy glitter dot dress from Oasis with navy suede heels from New Look and a matching clutch from Boohoo.  I even had my nails navy with the ring finger glittery.  The dress was a surprising disappointment on the quality front, particularly given my love for Oasis and the usual excellent quality.  The glitter shed itself all night, adding plenty of sparkle to the curry house and the next passenger in my husband’s car!

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I always like to arrange a trip somewhere to really get me in the mood for Christmas, so this year I chose one of the best and most famous Christmas markets in the UK – Bath.  My second outfit of Christmas comes in here.  I wore a red dress from Oasis with a mid brown funnel princess coat also Oasis and some black suede, calf high, slouch boots (yes you guessed it – Oasis) that I have been lusting after for a couple of years so finally treated myself to.

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Bath is somewhere I have wanted to go for some time and it didn’t disappoint although sadly the weather did.  Rather than a nice crisp winters day with a few light flurries of snow that would have made it the quintessential start to Christmas, we were treated to drizzle!

The market stretched for miles through the Georgian streets, selling everything from paintings and crafts to hot chocolate and waffles!  I was drawn by the smell of citrus fruits and cinnamon to a beautiful Christmas wreath stall.  We also got a couple of unusual presents for people.

While in Bath you have to visit the Roman baths it is famous for.  The baths are one of the most visited historical sights in the UK.  The thermal spring rises here meaning the baths flow naturally with hot water.  Bathing was a major part of Roman society and culture and this sight has been remarkably well preserved.

From Roman times to the late 1700’s, we had afternoon tea at The Regency Tea Rooms above the Jane Austin centre.  Jane was fascinated by bath, mentioning it in all her novels and even making it the setting for a couple of her stories.  We enjoyed the ‘tea with Mr Darcy’ served by waiters and waitresses in period costume, and avoided the worst of the rain.

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After more shopping we warmed ourselves with a drink at the Abbey Hotel’s Apres ski bar.

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As darkness fell, the beautiful streets and chalets were lit with pretty fairy lights and we finished the day with carols at the Abbey.

The following day, inspired by our trip, we put up all the Christmas decorations at home, while enjoying a snowball of course!

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Mum and I went to see the Tina Turner musical the weekend before Christmas, so this was outfit number three!  I wore a navy glitter knit dress from Warehouse with a pink shearling coat from Zara.  After the fantastic show, we took in the lights of Covent Garden as we headed for dinner at Browns.

Outfit four was for Christmas drinks with friends and was a black blouse with gold spots from Oasis with black leggings, also Oasis, with black stilettos with a bow detail on the back from New Look.

We had an early Christmas day, on the Sunday before, at my Mums with my gorgeous nieces and for this I wore my soft animal print dress from Oasis with purple Ugg boots.

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Christmas Eve arrived and we had both sets of parents over for dinner.  I wore my gingerbread men christmas jumper from Oasis with a velvet mini skirt from New Look.  We had a great meal, followed by a board game and then headed to midnight mass.

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Christmas day was spent as a couple this year.  We had bucks fizz and scrambled eggs with smoke salmon for breakfast.  We cooked a wonderful Christmas dinner in the evening and in between pigged out on nuts and sweets while finally wrapping the rest of the presents.  This year I decided to get crafty with my wrapping.  I wrapped the presents in brown paper and added red and white twine, stickers from a Kikki K book and fancy tags, finishing with a slice of dried orange.

Christmas day saw me wear a fun Christmas t-shirt I got from River Island some years back and a checked mini skirt from Oasis.  I was spoilt rotten with beautiful gifts, as was Rufus, who had a Christmas eve box, his own Christmas dinner and a blanket with his name embroidered on it from spoilt rotten pets!

Boxing day was a total chill out day, spent in our pyjamas on the sofa watching DVD’s so outfit eight was lounge clothes and cute slippers from Oasis.  I did move from the sofa briefly to make some gingerbread men!

We met Mum’s family in London on 27th for a delicious meal at The Parcel Yard in Kings Cross station.  Afterwards my husband and I sipped champagne at the champagne bar at St Pancras.  I wore a knitted stripped sparkle dress from Oasis with the same mid brown coat and slouch boots I wore to Bath earlier in the month.

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An afternoon with Phil’s family was spent in black skinny jeans from New Look, slogan t-shirt from Boohoo and a grey cardigan from Oasis.

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My Mum and I had the great treat of taking my nieces to the pantomime which was Cinderella this year.  For this I wore a mustard jumper and denim pinafore – both Oasis but to complete the look wore the wonderful Cinderella shoe necklace that my parents-in-law got me for Christmas.

All too soon, it was New Years Eve and I must be getting old as I turned down various invitations, to spend the evening in pyjamas, watching DVD’s and drinking fizz with a glowing log burner and my Yankee candles to add a bit of hygge.

So I saw out 2018 in outfit twelve of my Mary Poppins pyjamas from Marks and Spencer.  New Year always marks a time of reflection on things achieved and those still to achieve.  Once again I made a long list of New Year’s resolutions.  This year I am determined to at least achieve one and it’s a big one – to lose nearly three stone in weight.  I’m the heaviest I have ever been.  Weight is sneeky – it creeps up on you and enough is enough.  I started well with a seven mile walk around Riverside Country Park on New Year’s Day!  Let’s see if 2019 is the year I finally achieve that.

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What resolutions did you make and how are you doing with them so far?

 

 

 

VIP for the day

One of the A-list events in the calendar for me now is Stylist Live.  It is an annual three day event that brings to life everything sassy, affluent female commuters, in London and other major UK cities love about the free, weekly magazine – Stylist.

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Stylist being distributed at Southwark tube station

On my way to Olympia for the event in November, I was admiring a ladies skirt on the tube and then realised I might look a bit odd starring at her so struck up a conversation.  Turns out she was off to Stylist Live too and the fabulous skirt she was wearing had been designed and made by her.  Check out more of her great designs by following her on Instagram @luxefromclare

I always like to make an effort for these sort of events to at least try and look like a stylish, sophisticated woman so I wore black leggings from Oasis with a Kookai blouse and New Look biker jacket, paired with my suede stilettos with tassels on from New Look and Oasis cross-body bag.

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This year my best fashionista friend and I opted for the VIP tickets and I am so glad we did.  While last year was good, this year was on another level.

On arrival we were filtered into a special queue and within the VIP lounge, there was plenty of space to relax and a separate cloakroom from the other ticket holders which saved the long queue at the end of the day.  Your ticket included a free go on the vending machine of dreams which despatched a pack of Candy Kittens gourmet sweets and if you were lucky some great prizes ranging from Warehouse vouchers to a holiday.

Included in the VIP ticket are unlimited snacks, lunch and soft drinks.  We had the macaroni cheese which was to die for and a Bol salad so we felt a bit more healthy!  A glass of prosecco and a gin are extra freebies alongside the complimentary Gordons premium pink gin all ticket holders receive, and most importantly a we received a goody bag worth £150.

The goody bag more than paid for the VIP entrance cost and included some full size products as well as a number of sample sizes.  My favourites include a travel tangle Teezer, NARS lipstick, Jack Wills socks and some clear telephone cord hairbands.

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As if all of this wasn’t enough, a treatment in the beauty rooms was also included with our ticket.  There was a choice with a choice of either Shiseido, bareMinerals, NARS, Laura Mercier or Buxom.  My friend chose the Shiseido which was a cleanse and moisturise session that she enjoyed and I treated myself to a NARS Fashion Week Supermodel Eye.  I have to say, it was quite a transformation but despite them writing down all the products they used and where to put them, I doubt I would be able to flawlessly recreate it.  Afterwards you had access to a dressing up box and a short catwalk so they could create a GIF and email it to you.

More than 250 boutique pop-ups were at the event, providing a range of free beauty treatments, hair styling and shopping opportunities.  I was a little disappointed at the length of the queues for some of the hair styling but the range goods for sale was fantastic, encompassing well known brands such as Spectrum, BaByliss, Fresh and Pixi with emerging newer brands such as Yull shoes and Mean Mail.  My favourite pop-up was Kikki K, the Swedish design stationery brand which a friend at work got me into a few years back.  Its founder, Kristina Karlsson was at Stylist, signing copies of her new book, ‘Your Dream Life Starts Here’.  I was star struck getting to meet her and I hope by reading her book, I am inspired to get on the road to living my dream life.

Talking of inspiration, there were plenty of inspirational talks throughout the weekend and one I found particularly useful was from the Physiologist DR Nerina Ramlakhan who gave practical advice on how we can all get a better nights sleep.

The catwalk show is always one of the best parts of the day for me and being VIPs, we got reserved front row seating to watch the best of the autumn/winter 2018 trends.  Leopard print has made a big come back along with trends of bold, earth tones and cowgirl.  I particularly like the fact that all the clothes are high street and you are given a sheet detailing each look, so it is easier to go and shop for the looks you like the best.

By the end of the day, my friend and I were both shattered but it had been such an enjoyable day.  We will definitely be returning next year and I urge all you fashionistas to read Stylist magazine and look out for tickets going on sale for 2019 Stylist Live event.  To watch a short highlights video of this year’s event (very excited as it’s the first video I have made and edited) check out my Instagram @blahnikgirl

Girls and the city

Fashion icon, Audrey Hepburn once said: “Paris is always a good idea”.  I couldn’t agree more, Paris, like New York is a city I never tire of as there are always new things to discover.

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Paris is chic personified, the city and fashion go together like strawberries and cream.  It is the home of Chanel and Dior as well as the birth place of Karl Lagerfeld, John-Paul Gaultier, not to mention some fabulous accessory brands, Louis Vuitton, Hermes and Cartier.  The allure of  French fashion for me began as a teenager when I discovered Kookai, a label founded in Paris in 1983.  Unfortunately Kookai no longer exists in England so you can imagine my joy on my recent visit to Paris on seeing the store.  Naturally I had to go in and purchase.

In September I spent a very enjoyable long weekend in Paris with two of my closest friends from school.  We started the trip as we meant to go on with prosecco on the Eurostar while reminiscing about French lessons at school and visits to La Serronerie, the house near Normandy that the school owned.  I always adored the French language, despite it not coming naturally to me and so studied it right through to A Level.  I actually surprised myself on this trip at how much came back to me.  When travelling it’s important to be comfortable so I wore a black pleated midi skirt from Asos with a t-shirt embroidered with the Paris skyline from Topshop.

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I first visited Paris aged about 13 with my Mum (see picture below) when her best friend lived on the outskirts and it was love at first sight.  I have returned many times since then, as well as introducing others to its wonderful charm.

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Anyone who reads my blog will know that Sex and the City is an obsession for me and therefore first on my list for this trip was to explore the sights of those 2004 epic finale episodes, guided by the website Set in Paris.  It made perfect sense that Carrie Bradshaw should visit the French capital as fictionally, she is one of the biggest fashionistas and as she puts it so eloquently, is “a person looking for love”.   My outfit for this occasion was carefully planned, a black cord pinafore dress over a mustard long-sleeved top, both from New Look, set off with a beautiful Victoria Beckham for Target silk scarf and Carrie Bradshaw herself would have been proud of the amount of ground I covered in my patent Oasis heels.

In these finale episodes, we first see Carrie in Paris as she arrives at Hotel Plaza Athenee and the hotel is even grander in the flesh than it looked on the screen.  The weather was wet, just as it was for most of Carrie’s trip but the hotel is simply striking in any weather with its beautiful balconies, adorned with red flowers and the Eiffel Tower just a stones throw away.

The hotel is on the most fashionable street in Paris, Avenue Montaigne which is home to all the haute culture brands.  Indeed the Dior store where Carrie slips over is on this street.

When Carrie finds herself alone in Paris again, vowing to “do French things and be very parisien” she visits Cador patisserie, where she shares cake with a large dog.  Cador is unfortunately no longer and instead there is Cojean – an organic cafe.

Kong, the restaurant where Carrie meets Aleksandr Petrovsky’s ex-wife and gets an insight into what he is really like is still there although we didn’t go inside.

There is no better people to explore a city like Paris with than your girlfriends and that is what Carrie is missing in Paris.  This hits home for her when she spies four girls having lunch in l’Avenue.

The last time we see Carrie and Aleksandr happy is when they are strolling through place du dauphine after Carrie has bumped into her French fan base.

When Aleksandr feels nervous about the opening of his light exhibition, Carrie ditches her dinner with her fans to attend the museum with him.

Carrie goes to Paris with a new man for a new life but returns with an ‘old’ man to her old life which is quite ironic but of course gave many fans the ending they craved of Carrie and Big finally getting it together for good.  We see Carrie hear the long awaiting declaration from Big on pont des arts “Carrie you’re the one”.

So that was my Sex and the City tour of Paris but of course we did plenty of the sights too.  We stayed in Montmartre which is one of my favourite parts of Paris.  Known as the art district, it has a somewhat more relaxed atmosphere than other areas of Paris.  The main square (place du tertre) has a carnival atmosphere with artists painting and sketching and selling their work.

Overlooking the main square, on the highest point of the city, is the beautiful white stone basilica of Sacre-Coeur.  This gives visitors a great view over the whole of Paris.  The building is awe-inspiring whether seen by night or day.  If the steps up are too much of a challenge, there is a small funicular that takes you to the top for a small fee.  The inside is just as beautiful with its stunning painted ceilings and carvings.

Having done the cultural bit, the shops in this area are well worth exploring, particularly the macaron stores.  A quirky find is the shop Belle du Jour which specialises in traditional, vintage perfume bottles.

On a couple of evenings we enjoyed dinner at L’ete en Pente Douce where delicious food can be enjoyed on the pavement terrace soaking up the Montmartre ambiance.  On the walk back to the hotel, we were tempted into a small creperie for a sweet treat on more than one occasion!

On one of the days while there, the rain became torrential and so we opted to duck out of the showers in some of the wonderful shops along the Champs-Elysees.  We walked the full length of the street to where it meets the Arc de Triomphe.  My friend had a fantastic make-over by the Urban Decay stand in Sephora and we queued for macarons in Laduree.  Laduree is a beautiful and regal store where you can eat in or simply buy some of the luxury sweet treats which the brand has been making since 1862.

I had never seen the famous painting, the Mona Lisa and so we paid to go in Louvre museum simply to see it.  The Louvre is the most visited art museum in the world and the glass pyramid in the main courtyard of the museum is a work of art in itself.  The Mona Lisa however was somewhat of a disappointment.  It is much much smaller than one imagines and you have to fight your way through throngs of people in order to get a look at it behind glass.

On this day I wore a checked pleat mini skirt from Oasis with a Boohoo slogan t-shirt and a long grey cardigan from Oasis.  I finished the outfit with my red patent bow pumps which I bought in Milan.

my outfit

No trip to Paris would be complete without a visit to the Eiffel Tower.  We visited at night when it is spectacularly lit and went right to the top, which while blustery and cold was worth it for the views and the champagne at the champagne bar.  When we came down, I indulged the child in me and had a ride on the traditional Victorian carousel.  It was a magical evening.

Our final day came round all too soon and we decided to begin with a boat trip along the Seine.  On this day I wore a Breton t-shirt dress from New Look, clinched in at the waist with a red belt, also from New Look which nicely tied in the red mac from Marks and Spencer.  We visited Notre Dame with its impressive stained glass windows and finished up with lunch at a cafe on the left bank which is linked to the Shakespeare and Company book store.  The book store sells English language books and is part shop and part library.  Many writers write here amongst the books, in exchange for helping in the shop.  It really is an Aladdin’s cave and a bohemian heaven, somewhere I would love to sit and write myself.  It totally inspired me and I’d love to come back.

Paris should be on every fashionistas bucket list and is a perfect break for friends or couples.  I will certainly be returning to one of the greatest fashion capitals of the world.  As Honore de Balzac, a French novelist and playwright said “Whoever does not visit Paris regularly will never really be elegant”.

 

 

Zigazig-ha!

No one knew what the phrase meant but the band that coined it would change the landscape of pop forever.  Who am I talking about, the Spice Girls of course!

The five straight talking girls burst on to the pop scene in July 1996 with their debut single Wannabe which stayed number one for seven weeks.  I was a broke thirteen year old, attempting to record their Top of the Pops performance of the song onto a blank cassette tape while flushing with embarrassment as my Dad announced about Mel B ‘I wouldn’t mind her boots under my bed!’

Spice girls

The Spice Girls were a girl band who embraced individuality with their five alter egos Scary, Ginger, Posh, Baby and Sporty.  They were something teenagers of the nineties could look up to with their girl power philosophy.  It was a new modern feminism.  It taught girls to believe in themselves and take control of their lives as well as the importance of solidarity with female friends.  They loved to make a statement at every opportunity – who can forget Ginger Spice pinching Prince Charles’ bum at the Royal Variety or that Union Jack dress at the Brit Awards!

Over twenty years later, it would appear their popularity hasn’t diminished with people last weekend, rushing to announce on social media that they have secured tickets for their comeback tour next year.  I never saw them tour in their heyday but did go to their 2008 reunion tour.  For me this time round isn’t going to be the same as they are only touring as a foursome, with Victoria too busy on her fashion line.

4 spice

This year I visited SpiceUp, an exhibition about the Spice Girls at the Business Design Centre, Islington London, with my sister-in-law.  Now me being me, I always have to get into the theme and dressed in a denim mini from Oasis, a Spice Girls t-shirt from their 2008 reunion tour and platform shoes from New Look, with a mini backpack also from New Look and Union Jack ribbons in my hair.

The exhibition is a collection of costumes worn by the Spice Girls over the years on stage and in TV appearances as well as extensive memorabilia.  It’s creator is Alan Smith Allison, who started collecting memorabilia aged fifteen.  It takes you through their many albums and singles and even includes some items and costumes from their solo careers.  The Spice Bus from the film Spice World, released in 1997, was the star of the show.  I remember Mum and Dad getting me the video of the film which came in a celebratory tin.

I really enjoyed Viva Forever, the musical of 2013, that critics were very critical of and closed early due to financial losses.  There was some merchandise from this on display.

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Some of the costumes, especially the shoes were unbelievably outlandish and surprisingly most of them looked fairly cheaply made, although there were some designer pieces.  I was disappointed that Geri’s Brit Awards Union Jack dress wasn’t part of the exhibition.  I remember going to a Spice Girls themed birthday party where the birthday girl wore a replica of that dress.

Pop merchandise for the group took off in a way it had for no other band before or since.  They launched channel five and endorsed Pepsi, Chupa Chups, Impulse deodorant and Walkers crisps to name a few.  Their faces appeared on everything from collectable photos to dolls, to duvets!  At the end of 1997, it was estimated they had earned over £300 million in marketing deals that year.  The exhibition even had Pepsi cans with the ring pulls missing, which fans (including me) collected to get a special single – Step to me.

Despite being a young fan who idolised Geri Halliwell, I didn’t think I had that much memorabilia, but as we walked around the exhibition, it appeared I owned rather more than I first thought!  “I had that” became a well used phrase.

It was a great blast from the past and it would appear that fashion wise, the Spice Girls aren’t the only thing from the nineties having a come back.  Checked suits as worn by Cher in the nineties classic film Clueless have flooded the high street this autumn.  I lived in my Benetton sweatshirt in the nineties and it appears sweatshirts are the jumper of choice once again this season.  I have two lovely ones from Oasis and one from Joy.  Even Buffalo platform trainers have tried to make a comeback!

If you have enjoyed this trip done memory lane,  it’s not too late to visit the exhibition and Spice up your life!  The exhibition is showing at Intu, Watford now, until 31 December 2018 – say you’ll be there!

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