Thursday, 17 November 2011

Dear Father Christmas....

Julie, you still look great.
 I'm going to picture-list below a few of my 'favourite things'. Not Julie Andrews' because there are only so many whiskers on kittens you can be smitten by in my opinion. Items that I have purchased in the last few months that haven't cost the earth but I wouldn't want to lose. Inching nearer to Christmas it's a good way for me to start making a mental note of affordable pressies that I think would be greeted with a genuine smile, not the "where's the shop receipt" kind and in these eco times a little second-time-around purchasing can no longer be perceived as cheap. Can it?
Qualy sparrow key ring and whistle...and house!
The dog we wish we had, found in a charity shop.
Bulgy eyed sheep picture found at car boot sale.
Magazine rack, vintage shop.
Printers letters,  loved by kids when it spells their name!
Knitted blanket, cheap, secondhand and happy.
Fantastic fakes! From Abigail Ahern
Bananagrams. Bought for the kids, loved by the adults.
Black candle and metal holdall. I just like its differences.
Assorted salt and pepper pots. Secondhand.
Diptyque' lovely body oils.
Printers draws filled with all those little things.

 The only problem is when I find my pressies I have to remember to part with them too! I hope the receivers appreciate the loving home they are being ripped away from. But that's Christmas for you, tears, tantrums and trifle. Mine of course. 

Monday, 7 November 2011

Love the Clothes You're In.

"Hey you, leopard legs!" Aaargh....
  I made a wonky clothes purchase a few months back. Caught up in a misguided moment of buying at speed with the continual threat of  our 18 month old son Asa, pegging it out of the shop, I thought the idea of me in a pair of leopard print jeans wasn't too radical. I would dress them down. I would de-sexualise the animal-print skin-tight look by only ever wearing them with enormous, stay away from me style jumpers. The type that is always pre-owned by a lesbian fishing woman on the Isle of Sheppy. A pair of converse or flat ankle boots and the chance of a wolf whistle from a leering builder would be zero. Bingo! Although I know that I'm no longer of an age that the scaffolders would turn their heads to, I still find myself giving a garment the wolf whistle measurometer. I grew up with boys and to be wolf whistled at would make my blood boil! And the problem with these trousers was, unless worn in my lesbian armour attire, I could hear wolf whistle alarm alerts going off like fire-engines. So there wasn't much room for deviation in my mind. And when it came to reaching for the oversized, over grown jumper for the fourth and fifth occasion I realised that those trousers just weren't and aren't my thing. Flexible they were not and I do love a bit of bendability from my clothes, so I gave them to Jo and she gives them the sexiness they deserve. I can't wear them how she does but then I don't have glossy, swishy hair, an unapologetically sexy way of sashaying and daughters, - yes, maybe my boys are making me into a tom-mum. Either way, I love the way she dresses, I'd even go so far as to say I admire it but I'm also aware that my personality likes clothes that are a little less foxy.
 When I worked as a stylist, as a way of rustling up some good money fast to set up my own business, I was fortunate enough to work with some decent bands who quite honestly did not need any styling. Supergrass, Coldplay, Matthew Jay, Turin Brakes and Divine Comedy were just a few, none of whom are wardrobe entourage heavy but the record companies couldn't help themselves, at a time when there was a whole lot of budget given over to a whole lot of image. I remember receiving endless calls from panicky record company juniors telling me how they didn't want a band to look but never any references to what they were gunning for. Great. I could see the musicians coming out in hives at the thought of meeting a stylist and me, the stylist was already apologising for the prospect of telling them what to wear. In the end I just went shopping for them. I could see what their personal preferences were and like a well meaning female friend I simply edited out any penchants for long leather coats or ill fitting jeans. No-one ever had a freaky style transformation and everyone was happy. These boys were musicians. They didn't need to be Gaga'd to be appreciated.
 What I have come to find as I get a little older is that personal style is a wonderfully liberating thing and you don't have to be a fashion lover to have it. Know what you like and don't worry about Gok Wan's opinion. If he had his way I'd be walking around town with my "baps out and strutting those leopard legs"! Stick someone in something they are not comfortable in and the clothes wear the wearer. Around our neck of the woods, in trendy Dalston zone, there may be a sea of young style types but an awful lot of it is so self-conciously fashion that  I don't see them as individuals. They are a mass of fashion, all wearing the same current trend as their uniform and morphing into one big clump of boringness. Shrunken jumpers, kids duffle coats and geeky glasses. It all looks cold and uncomfortable. No wonder they all seem so glum.     
 So next time I'm caught in a mad-dash must-buy moment I will take a second to weigh up the number of lesbian-fishing-top outings the garment will require to survive my alarm bell ringing head. More than two and I'm running the same way as Asa! I'm not from Sheppy you see and I'm married. To a man.
My trusty seafarin' beauty. And Jessie.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Jean Junkie.

Don't ya just wanna know those  Levi' gals? Gee.
 I remember my Mum asking me over the phone, a few days before my first serious job interview 'what are you going to wear?', no doubt thinking that this was the dawn of a new age for her youngest child. Finally she would morph from a slightly dishevelled studenty old scruff bag into a woman. Get a power suit, brush her hair, carry folders. Ok, maybe not the latter but for a lawyer mum to an art school daughter there was always a pretty big gulf in our fashion waters. Not that my Mum ever berated my choices but I can sympathise as a parent her desires to see me 'pretty up' on a more regular basis. However, I often made her laugh at my charity shop finds and she certainly approved of those secondhand prices. But on telling her that "you really don't dress up to these sort of interviews, Mum, so yes I will be wearing my jeans and no, I won't be brushing my hair", I think she did wonder whether I would ever have a grasp of the adult world. This fashion thing looked pretty prepped and primed to her. In the papers, with their little nod to the Paris shows, all picture and no writing, would be trussed up fashion editors scribbling away in front of sashaying mannequins. Vogue, whilst not my Mum's thing looked glossy, Elle, Marie Claire even Mizz! But her daughter, never one to be easily persuaded otherwise didn't seem phased about going to Paris, meeting some important fashion houses and looking like a lay-about. I however saw it quite differently. I was right then and stick by it now. Fashion should never look uncomfortable, too serious or contrived. Get your jeans right and you can get through most doors, anyway I wasn't going for a job that needed me to win over the confidence of a boardroom of suits. I wasn't trying to heal rifts in the Middle East and I certainly wasn't, unlike my mother, trying to help families in a courtroom. 
 So I donned my jeans, probably my converse and some kind of t-shirt and had a very successful trip. Over the years I haven't had to tailor my work clothes much. Maybe in Italy I embraced a bit more polish but jeans were and are a staple that I can't see ever going away. The honesty of denim makes me a die hard Levi' fan and the fashioning up of the jeans business has kept me away from the sand blasted, rhinestone shaking, over-priced designer kind. Find your fit and make them work for you, because, like a loyal dog, they never let you down. 
Worn day after day after day after day .....

Thursday, 13 October 2011

London Love.

Flippin' A!
 Our 1 year old has taken to walloping of late. That random, didn't see it coming, arm back, smack in the face sort. Always timed when I am attempting a serious conversation with another adult and he (Asa) deems it inappropriate to the schedule he had planned, namely eating, playing, eating some more and then sleeping with his jumbo soft toy that needs its own mode of transport to manouvre it. I rather admire his approach in halting my waffle and often can't help but chuckle at his timing, as I look at him in shock while he sizes me up for another blow - 'wham, take that woman!' I've had enough little folk now to understand the term 'phases' and 'boundaries' but after an embarassing incident in our local park this week, where he left evidence of his misdoings all over the face of another small person (he had been examining the oily wheel of a car prior to the attack), I felt it was time to introduce my young offender to a bit of culture. We live in an amazing city, piled high with art, architecture and museums. It was time to step this nurturing thing up a gear. 
 Tacita Dean, a British artist, now based in Berlin, is the 12th artist commissioned to install a piece of work in the Tate Modern' Turbine Hall. All of our children have spent many hours over the years, running around this fantastic space and the excuse to visit is always just one whack too many away. So on Wednesday Asa and I did just that and we felt exceptionally lucky. London can be perceived as a dirty, overcrowded, overpriced metropolis, belching out fumes and noises often indistinguishable to our country counterpart but for all of that there is an unquantifiable energy of creativity and to have exposure to so much is a heavy weight in the balance that favours our life here. Tacita Deans work, entitled Film, is a homage to analogue film, a medium which, in the digital age is fast becoming extinct. Stretching the whole height of the hall, it commands your immediate attention as you sit, engulfed by the blackness of the space, eyes drawn towards her everchanging, calming and hypnotic images. Asa loved it. What had I been waiting for, pushing him on swings and shadowing him around playgrounds these last few months? 'Culture me up mama.' Next week Gerhard Richter is on his hit-list (and that's not the walloping kind!). I love this kind of reform.
That's my boy, calling forth another mini.
'Good work Tacita. Who needs a swing, eh?'


Sunday, 9 October 2011

The Beautiful People.

Richard Avedon's anonymous beauty. 
 It is hard to pinpoint the moment when I fell out of love with 'fashion'. Hard because I'm not sure I ever truly fell for her at all. The youngest child in a family of five, I always tried to find a way of re-interpreting an overly worn, multi-hand down, out of date and probably other sex item of clothing. Three brothers and then a sister who confused even the local priest with her boyish haircuts, scuffed up knees and inability to do pink, left me with little in the way of glitter but as Cinders would agree, it's when you're up against it that you really dig deep. So as I grew and would occasionally be gifted some money by my Mum, 'to spend wisely on a few new pieces of clothing to see you through this next year', it was understandable that I might find one item that compelled me to buy it. As I would sit on the cross-country train home, post splurging at the nearest shopping centre in the ultra glamorous city of Peterborough, my sister would be weighed down with a dozen or so bags bursting with dependable navy tops, reliable jeans, the occasional Etam number and a whole lot of grey. I however would have one bag. One item. No change. But I would adore that dress/top/jumpsuit. They would be the most fantastic shoes this side of Paris. The greatest pair of trousers East Anglia had ever seen. Fortunately my parents saw me as the token creative number in a house full of super brains and such things would be allowed to go unjudged. So it came as no surprise to them when, after art school I chose to do a degree in fashion design. It was easy. It made sense. I could do the whole collection thing, work the production, fuss over the details but I never really factored in the people.
 My woman, my world, the life that I saw being draped in my designs was never going to be the person that shopped in the boutiques I ended up selling to. She was someone that might appreciate the work I would do but lived outside of the business I was in. She was a woman in her husbands shirt and some jeans, collecting vegetables from an allotment. The woman covered in paint, wearing overalls, decorating a garden shed. The lady who always talked to my mum after church on Saturday evening, perfectly balanced in her dress, antique jewellery and silver grey hair. And then there was the lady who always carried her wicker basket with her, smoking a cigar, her perfect figure wrapped in a tailored shirt and slacks. These were the women I admired. To me they were bourgeoise left bank intellectuals who talked about literature, art and music. Not to say that is what I have become, this is all fantasy don't forget! But essentially it is this woman who made me turn my nose up at the business of 'Fashion'. For all its supposed glamour around show-time, its fantastical crowd of followers lapping up the next it-bag, it-shoe, it-girl, the beauty is pretty thin. I saw a girl crossing the road today, as I was waiting at the lights who, in all her wonky unself-aware ways was one hundred times more beautiful than any of the fash pack, presently pounding their pointy feet around the shows in Paris. She wouldn't have turned heads and she didn't stop traffic but in a world where everyone and everything is sprayed, polished and prepped to within an inch of its life, her natural and uncomplicated way of dressing and just being, made her stand apart. 
 Fashion will always draw me in but as I get older I definitely care a little less about Vogue' version of beauty. I've lived long enough now to see the wheel of style turn over more than once, repeating old looks with little change. True beauty is often found in the differences and I can embrace that thought. It's a whole lot cheaper to master. 


Thursday, 29 September 2011

Hairy Stuff.

Artist and part-time hairdresser  Ron Mueck and muse. 

 It's strange, that old mop thing that grows up north, somewhere above our brow and - hopefully - beneath the crown of our heads. Personally I've always seen it as the more entertaining part of a persons get-up. Akin to the play-dough hair-growing toy and Girls World. It shouldn't be taken too seriously. Chop it, colour it, hell, shave it if you must - for most of us it will grow back. And if that is still the case, all the more reason to lop it off once in a while and see what happens. Hair grows and hats hide.
 My own barnet has paraded many different looks. The long, floppy fringe public school number, the gamine, elfin lesbian one, the orange out-of-control art school mass and the black, poker straight take-me-seriously 'do'. All of them have been fun but the best ones were all done on a whim. A bottle of bleach on my dark brown hair, over a sink at art school or a pair of kitchen scissors and a wish to look like Shirley MacLaine in the film The Apartment. A sudden urge to have an Amish fringe after a night out and various other bizarre creations dotted between. How I've come to have such a chaotic approach to my hair probably stems from the days when I would be dragged to my Mum's local hairdresser and after being sheared by the 'Creative Director' Tony, I was then paraded around the shop, my huge curly bouffant being the admiration of all the blue rinse and perm brigade before being offered my coat and applauded out of the shop. Outside and away from the eyes of my septagenarian admirers,I would throw myself up against the wall, stick thin arms rummaging around in my ski jacket pockets, searching for my ever reliable mop controller, the woolly hat. Suddenly I could reclaim my more inconspicuous look, having moments earlier born a closer resemblance to an over puffy dandelion. In fact, without that hat I was in danger of being carried off in the wind what with the size of Tony' creation on my head.
 Years did pass where I never went to hairdressers. Scarred would be the word. And now? Well, I still view hair in the polar opposite way to someone like Jennifer Aniston. Hair will never be my money maker but I have found peace with  hair salons. However, the general brief I always give to my modern day Tony is "cut it like you can't cut." And it works. Every time.

Shirley Maclaine in The Apartment.
Love her!

Friday, 16 September 2011

Baubles and Bangles.

"Ooh, maybe just 4 more crucifixes
and a truck  load of plastic pearls..."
 I'm not a jangly lady. Not big on bangles, necklaces or rings. Strange really because there is something about jewellery that intrinsically draws me to it. The fancy-dress box mess around mentality that can be liberating and fun, channeling a Madonna circa 1984s Like A Virgin look where all that is needed is a bit of wild abandon and a blindfold. A chaotic clobbering together of all things shiny. Suddenly the eye is magnetically drawn to the trimmings, not the usual fabric covered torso thing that goes on with clothes alone. But why don't I embrace it with a bit more gusto and actually cover an arm from wrist to elbow? Dress it up a bit. I could afford to (stylistically speaking), it is hardly as if it would send my dressed-down look out of balance, no one is going to think I'm off to meet the Queen. In fact, when I look around at many women, there is a whole lot of adornment going on and none of them look OTT. But it is a habit that I can't shake. Less is more. A jewellery anorexia. My Dad' watch is my ownly embellishment and on dress up occasions I go wild by adding a ... necklace. It's a pattern I'd love to break, alas it would ask an extra few minutes from my slimline morning routine and until my kids start to know which way round the gusset of their pants should go of a morning, Dad' ever faithful old ticker will have to do. 
 I do have a friend however who blows all of that out the water with one wave of her candy covered arm. She stacks those bangles high and wears it well. Mixed with her mod-punk fusion look, kids at her legs, buggy as her baton, she is a walking embodiment of how to make it work. I have a bit of style envy but I know when to let someone else carry the trophy. I'll just walk in the shadow of her jewelled up glory. She'd never know. I'm jangle free.
Two pictures from a recent
Louis Vuitton campaign.

A new LV campaign featuring
Rover and my Dad' watch.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Faded Hollywood Glamour.

Norma Desmond is ready for her close-up.....Sunset Boulevard

 Old film footage of long hot summers and endless days that seemed to roll on and on are an intoxicating drug. Couple this then with the hauntingly melancholy sounds of Lana Del Reys beautiful voice in her new debut single, Video Games and you have a hit that is sure to have a ripple effect throughout the next few seasons of fashion. Her voice hints at those Californian years of faded  Hollywood stars. Intrinsically sad yet once heartbreakingly beautiful. I love it. Let's hope her album, out early next year can promise more of her magic.

 Now back to my harmonica. 
 Less poetic unfortunately - in my hands anyway.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

No to Nosey

No, no and no again!

 When we first moved into our house, nearly eight years ago now, we had little in the way of furniture. Two young twenty somethings with a fat legged baby and a whole lot of excitement. Money had been spent on the bricks and mortar we had bought into, so to think of hiring some decorating help, to ease the eye of the psychedelic colour scheme that pervaded throughout was not even a thought let alone question. A ladder, some overalls, pots of paint and a determination to claim the space as our own was all that was needed. Oh and one more thing,some lace.
 Living in a London terrace, you become quickly aware of the audience of passers by that unselfconciously turn their giraffe like heads at a 90 degree angle and nose innocently into your front room as you go about your not so perfect day. No, I don't look like Alexis Carrington at 7.30am or Sofia Loren by 9pm. I enjoy a bit of Waynetta Slob behaviour on weekend mornings and I overindulge my kids love of Saturday morning crap on the box. But I like to imagine my neighbours believe we are capable of better. We needed a good old fashioned screen to hide behind but I've never liked the anonymity and blandness of that modern phenomenon - the frosted stencil and the net curtain evokes too many bad memories of a particulary scary local who used to twitch them with a fury as any one of my siblings or I would noisily pass their house as kids. But the French, like many things they do, they get it right. Their use of French lace, stretched flat across the pane  always looked so, well, classy and artisan and all things bourgeois. I never imagined as a child holidaying in France that beyond those lacy screens there would be anything I wouldn't want to live amongst, I could ignore the occasional sighting of a toothless old widow who might appear from the residence to sweep away any touristy debris from her medieval village doorstep. 
 Years later, on becoming a slightly more toothful owner of a street level residence I sourced some French lace to screen my own front window. Doing it on the cheap I cut, sewed and fitted it myself. It serves its purpose. It shields the neighbours from our less than perfect reality but it has never been quite right. I don't know, maybe it is the fit, maybe the design, maybe the white would be better black but it has lasted and for me, so many years later it proves my theory that lace is the only way to go. I am on the look out for some vintage lace to do a new replacement however so if you happened to know that antiqued lady I saw all those years ago, did she take the lace with her? It could look good in Hackney, I'll make sure of it. 
A little porte de toilette I visited in France recently.
Even the loos are classy!

Thursday, 21 July 2011

The Old Classics.

Don't trash Coco' style now people or she'll come at you.
Those bags weren't shaped like bricks for no reason!
  No I don't have a Chanel jacket, if I did maybe I wouldn't be the kind of woman who is sitting writing blogs. I'd be drifting through my crumbling French chateau, dogs trailing at my heals whilst looking for inspiration for my boutique jewellery line, based in Paris, that only sells to friends - who have pocket money that doesn't rise in 50p increments on a birthday basis. However, I'd like to have one. But it has to be right. The right length, colour, detailing and the right way of wearing it. That, my friend, is the key to that little boucled box of luxe. And if you don't get that last detail right you may as well have just flushed all your big bucks down the pan. Ms Beckham and you too Beyonce, money don't buy you style. So, sad as it is that these flash cash shoppers are all too quick to buy into those beautiful old classics, as a way of vocalising their wealth, their way of wearing these pieces always sets them apart from the old school. And it is the old school that does it with style.
 So if you are about to take ownership of some French brickwork and you need to figure out the dos and don'ts of your aristo lineage look, check the yes' and nos below. All else fails, wear your jacket naked, with some fabulous jewels. The French have always been at ease with their flesh, non?
Oui, c'est tres chic, low key, ooh la la.
Non! C'est tres horible. Grand hair, nails. Mon dieu.  
Lordy me.... I mean, non, madame. Un abomination!
C'est tres gentile, ma petite mignon.
Crikey, Sienna. Hair, boots, get yourself to Chelsea.
Oui madame. Vous etes un tres belle mamon.
Sacre Couer, Vicky!
No French words can describe ....
Oui, elle etes un fille charmingo.
Non! Get thee back to Cal-i -forn-i-a.

Madame Oui Paradis.


And there you are, naked but for Chanel
and your beautiful child
- and house
-and face
-and Frenchy ways!

Au revoir...

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Print It.

Native Indian women, looking print-tastic.

I've never been a loud and proud print girl. My focus when it comes to clothes has always been about proportion and cut, the balancing of fabric weights and a love of cool, quiet, stylish elegance. I'm talking as a fashion designer now, this isn't a pre-occupation I always choose to afford myself, I appreciate that life offers other more worthy distractions but if I'm going to write about print then I need to confess I have a habitual avoidance of it - until now. 
 What influences these subtle creative changes is hard to pinpoint. Print always has and will continue to be used successfully across the broad spectrum of the fashion world but when it taps into the minds of the more monochromatic designers, you know it is about to have its moment. I recently bought an old Missoni tracksuit in a secondhand shop (I refuse to call everything vintage - it's an adjective used to denote a time where something of quality was produced and there is always a whole lot of rubbish that you need to sift through before you find that gem,) and where a few years ago I would have pushed past it, on the hunt for something a little more well, subtle, I bagged it. The tribal knit printed trousers, played out in bright primarys, balanced with a perfectly tailored-jacket, over a simple marl vest is a thing of beauty! How did my wardrobe survive before? Suddenly, seriousness is given a shake up and celebration and festival make an appearance. In fact it is as I get older that I am happy to throw out the rule book a little more and have fun. Who cares if my neighbour thinks I look bonkers, my 6 year old is trying to pinch my trousers and that's the kind of thumbs up I like.
An Indian in Hackney.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Play It Again!

Dancing the Latin way - beautiful.

 We love music in our house. I married a man who sings before he talks when waking in the morning. (An annoyance at the time but whilst writing, alone, in a normally noisy home, I am being a little rose-tinted). And what happens when you listen to so much music, largely contemporary but interspersed with classical as a relief, is that when a new sound or style comes through it can have the power to stop you in your tracks and wish you to hear the same song played over and over again. Why, I don't know. I'm an awful musician but much like many trends, when something sounds right it is because it is hitting on a zeitgeist moment. A corking example of that for me right now is 'My Brother The Gun' by Mariachi El Bronx. I love it - Mexican, passionate, rhythmic and poetic. The more rhythmic side project of a Los Angeles based punk band, this is definitely one for my tea-time crew to dance to. So tonight boys, dust off your dancing shoes and get ready to shake your maracas cause the Latinos are coming to Hackney! 
(well, through some speakers in a kitchen.)


Wednesday, 15 June 2011

There's Always Something.

Subtle, sophisticated, harmonious and different.
Full marks to the owners of No. 43.

 There are sometimes the occasional moments before a blog post where I find myself wondering what to write about. Usually, I'm thick with things to say but when much of your day is given over to looking out for the little people, it can distract even the most style opinionated of us from looking around, outside of our own cardboard boxes to the plethora of design inspiration that starts in the very same street you might live in. So whilst taking an ambling cycle ride home, after the desperate dash of a cycle ride into school, I found myself pondering about my next blog. As nothing immediate sprung to mind I switched on my 'inspire me' radar vision glasses and within five seconds was doing a dodgy U turn to stop and photograph some gorgeously lovely shutters. They were painted a beigey sort of colour and were sitting on the inside of a steely grey frame but the golden thread that held it all together and elevated it from 'nice' to 'we have the best window in the street' status, was the use of a soft yellow, skimming the edges of the panelling. I love it. It is the next step on from just beige and greige which we all still love but it adds a little more festival to an otherwise pretty grown up and sombre look. 
 Colour me up baby, I'm off down to our booby-trap of a cellar now. I'm sure I've got a sample pot or four of that very same yellow and if Moo man sleeps for just a little bit longer...

My dodgy U turn - nice railing post though.

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Who is this Lady?

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went to st.martins,graduated as a fashion designer, worked in italy, set up my own womenswear label, married a lovely man and then stopped everything (well, almost) to pop out four little boys. have plans. will do.