Category Archives: London

Swarovski Crystallized’s SS10 collections

There’s only one thing I love more than beautiful jewellery, and that’s being able to get creative and make up my own creations.  So, I went to the Swarovski Crystallized press day to check out which new pieces I’d be lusting after when the sun comes out again.

The Azzaro collection, designed by Vanessa Sewell, is full of bold, simple and sparkly pieces in silver and gold.  One of the main pieces is a vintage-style black and silver shell locket necklace with a chain tassel.  It reminds me of something from Titanic and it would look amazing with a silk, drop-waist evening dress.

My personal favourites from the Azzaro collection are a blingtastic crystal encrusted wave cuff and slim bangles with rows of tiny crystals.

I was blown away by the new collection by French jewellery designer Philippe Ferrandis and would put every single piece on my wish list (mysterious benefactor, take note please).

I’m not sure what most of the stones are, to be honest, so I’ll let you judge the pictures for yourself….

I love the contrast between the iridescent white flower and the spiky crystals on the ring and earrings.  They look quite Japanese and futuristic – perfect for the winter snow queen look.

The pearl and emerald necklace and earrings have a vintage, Jazz Age feel and are priced between around £250 and £500.

The new ready-to-wear collection is inspired by the fresh, clear light of a Scandinavian summer.  Pieces incorporate oval spheres and interchangeable pendants in subtle, neutral colours.  The silk cord necklaces reflect the beach element and they will go perfectly with next season’s nudes.

The mainline collection featured some pretty affordable pearls for under £20 and everyone was fawning over the stretchy crystal bracelets that you can stack up, costing just £10!

We were also treated to a sneak peak at the exclusive Daisy Lowe collection that she designed with the Creative Director.  The pieces are typical Daisy with black, green and silver stars and moons – flirty but a little bit dark and mystical.

All collections are available from January at the Swarovski Crystallized store.

Swarovski Crystallized 25 Great Marlborough Street, London, W1F 7HU.

Fam Love Gays…and sailorgirls!

I’ve already grown tired of dressing appropriately for the cold weather, although I’ve still been trotting round in a tweed blazer rather than a full-on winter coat, so taking a peak at Fam Irvoll’s SS10 collection has lifted my fashion spirits (which took a dent after seeing Heidi Montag wearing those sequinned Miu Miu socks early this morning).

Fam is a Norwegian designer who shows at Oslo Fashion Week and has just been taken on by Blow PR, so we’ll be seeing much more of her nutty knitwear over here.

After studying at the Ecole Supérieure des Arts et Techniques de la Mode, Fam came to Central St Martins for her BA (Hon) in Fashion Knitwear, graduating in 2008.

Fam’s colourful past collections have featured shrunked dolly dresses, sweaters with 3D ladybirds and ice lollies, ruffled prom dresses and a quirky mouse bustier top – all in eye-popping colours.  My personal diagnosis of Fam’s style would be part Sonia Rykiel crossed with Grayson Perry and My Little Pony – not a bad combo, I might add!

Celeb fans already include Mika and Lady Gaga, who apparently called up Fam and ordered a 3D cherry sweater and a cake headpiece.

But quickly on to Fam’s SS10 collection, I Love Gays, which is dominantly nautical with Hawaiian and 50s rockabilly influences.  It’s very sailor girl meets Dorothy with a bit of Dolly Parton thrown in for good measure.

For summer, Fam has traded in her magenta and purples for more primary colours like banana yellow, pillarbox red and cobalt blue.

The collection features embellished denim, flirty sailor dresses, tutti frutti prints, cherry print skirts, playtime tomboy shorts and a striped jumpsuit with a proud-looking 3D flamingo standing guard.

I absolutely adore the sparkling sailboat headpieces and there are plenty of other accessories to keep your wardrobe entertained, like blue and red bow bobby socks, ruby slippers and berry and floral headbands in the style of Brazilian samba queen Carmen Miranda.  It would really make my day if there was a Fred Butler or Tatty Devine collaboration on the cards – I reckon they could make some mad pieces together.

Fam runs her own club night, Neverland, in Oslo with her equally creative friends and like the name suggests, she gets inspiration from fairytales and east London/Oslo club kids. You can follow Fam’s crazy adventures and adorable outfits on her blog.

Prices start from £40 and you can find stockists by contacting Fam on her website.

From the catwalk to Hackney…

Inspired by Burberry’s new ‘social networking site’, Art of the Trench, I met up with my Italian friend Cristina for breakfast and a long-overdue trip to the Burberry Factory Outlet at Hackney Central (ah, the luxury of Bond Street shopping just five minutes away).

Having heard rumours on the net about Burberry disciples hunting out jackets for a mere £80, we had high expectations and fully intended to emerge dressed like the slightly smug, Sartorialist-snapped hipsters on the site.

The outlet is like a shining fashion beacon, almost temple-like, in the middle of a particularly non-descript part of Hackney. On arrival, we were asked to put all of our world belongings (apart from our purses, conveniently) in the lockers at the entrance. Usually I’d be horrified at the thought of being separated from my keys, phone and other handbag essentials, but it actually lent to more efficient browsing and I knew my possessions would be safe under the watchful eye of the burly security guards and stern Italian lady on the door.

Our hearts leapt when greeted by a large, checked, although slightly hideous bag at the front of the store, which was just £149.  We were ready to scoop up some of the more tasteful pieces, however, the so-called bargain was more of a mirage than a taste of things to come. The bags that you’d actually want to have on your arm, from the runway collections, were priced between £300 and £700, although this was a mighty discount from the original £1000+.

Discounts range from a shy 20% up to a massive 70%.  Cristina found a gorgeous silk and net cocktail dress in either brown or red that was reduced from £1230 to £120!

Burberry tend to go for one style of shoe for the catwalk shows, and low and behold, I spotted the black patent leather heels with ruched straps from the Autumn/Winter 08 show and the olive green lace-ups from the Spring/Summer 09 collection, all gracing the tootsies of models like Agy, Daisy, Irina and Sasha.

My tops picks of the trip included a delicate, iridescent silver mac for £150, some studded/warrior leather gloves for £89 and some incredible black lace-up, calf-lenth boots for just £200. Cristina hunted out a gorgeous silk and net cocktail dress in chocolate brown or berry red that was reduced from £1230 to £120!

There are some more affordable items like perfume gift sets from £29, checked wool scarves from £69 and a selection of purses and jewellery, including the square warrior cuff from last summer.  The great thing about the Burberry outlet is that there are timeless, investment pieces that you buy for a snip of the price and can keep forever.  The prices aren’t exactly cheap, but if you’re in the market for one excellent quality bag or trench, then you can upgrade from high end high street to luxury for just a little bit extra.

The outlet doesn’t offer refunds or exchanges, so make sure you’ve tried on your purchase, that there are no visible production faults and most of all, that you really love it.  It can be quite easy to kid yourself into liking the best of the pile in the name of a bargain! Come armed with Christmas money and scour the clearance rails with a fine tooth comb for the real discounts.

Burberry Factory Outlet, 29-53 Chatham Place, Hackney, London, E9 6LP

Opening hours: Monday – Saturday 10am-6pm, Sunday 11am-5pm.

How to get there:  Overground: Hackney Central   Tube: Bethnal Green + 106/254 bus to Hackney Town Hall or 20 minutes walk.

Getting inventive at MasterChef Live

Lured by the promise of tasting top notch, gourmet food and spotting celeb chefs, I attended the MasterChef Live press breakfast at Olympia, followed by a gander around the exhibition.

Unlike the TV programme, MasterChef Live is aimed at chefs and foodies of all abilities and there are a number of workshops, demonstrations and top tips sessions from the UK’s leading chefs, offering insider tricks and new techniques.

A big highlight of the weekend is the Invention Test, critiqued by John Torode and Gregg Wallace and hosted by Andi Peter.  30 pre-booked competitors will be given just 30 minutes to prepare a dish from a set of unseen ingredients and impress the judges.

Invention test

The first session seemed to get off to a flying start, with the budding chefs toiling away over the stoves at their work stations, although things got a bit precarious when someone’s pan caught fire!

I also saw the rather handsome James Martin (of Ready Steady Cook fame) doing a cookery demonstration and  Theo Randall giving advice on how to make the perfect pasta at the Hot Tips Pod.

At the centre of the exhibition hall is the beautifully designed Restaurant Experience, where you can pick and choose from special lunch menu, created by a variety of London’s top restaurants.  You can sample Hereford Beef and Bashed Neeps at Urban Caprice, a pork belly bridge roll from Roast to Go and vanilla and ginger cheesecake from Boxwood cafe.

dining room

There were exhibitors from all over the UK, from big players like Rachel’s Organic promoting their delicious new toffee and milk chocolate yogurts and The Co-operative to smaller specialised producers like Loopy Lisa’s Fudge and the decadent Bougie Macaron and Tea.

After the copious amount of artisan pastries and coffee at the press breakfast, eating more food wasn’t the first thing on my mind, so I took a few laps around the venue to try and forge a new appetite to taste the food samples on offer (well, that’s why you come, isn’t it)?

My top discovery of the day was Jacc’s Gourmet Coffee flavoured coffee beans.  I bought a small bag of their Irish Cream and Hazelnut roasted beans, which they ground for me, and I’ve been addicted to it since. The beans are flavoured with essential oils, so you get a deep, natural flavour, rather than the aroma disappearing as soon as it hits water.

coffee

In the Producers Village, you can find top cuts of organic meat from Brown Cow Organics, artisan cheeses at Keens Cheddar, authentic American cupcakes from Beverly Hills Bakery and freshly iced oysters from Mersea Oysters and Ale.

oysters

I was also intrigued by the Aladdin’s cave of different varieties of garlic at The Garlic Farm – my choice is usually limited to single or a pack of three!

But Keith Floyd disciples shouldn’t despair, as there’s plenty of booze to sample from producers including Frangelico, Funkin cocktails, Thunder Toffee Vodka, The Bubbly Champagne Company and Chateau Civrac.

garlic

MasterChef LIVE is on this weekend at London’s Olympia (13th – 15th November).  Tickets are priced from £18 and there are a number of packages available.

Get down to the Invention Test, sponsored by Plenty at MasterChef LIVE.  Just like the programme, contestants will need to hone their skills and hold their nerve to create something tantalising with some tough ingredients – and this time in just 30 minutes. Previous TV MasterChef winners will be there as well as formidable duo John Torode and Gregg Wallace – and Brenda & Audrey, the housewives from the Plenty adverts, will even be there to cheer you on! Go to www.plenty.co.uk or www.masterchef.com for more details.

Jarvis makes an exhibition of himself…again!

Jarvis Cocker took over Shoreditch’s Village Underground for three days of workshops, jamming, cake eating and informal performances.  Taking lead from his ‘happening’  at Galerie Chappe in Paris earlier this year, Jarvis invited everyone to bring their own instruments and take part in yoga, burlesque and Jivamukti yoga sessions, all taught by instructors, with Jarvis and his recruits providing the soundtrack.  Or you could just come to watch and munch on home-made chocolate cake and curly wurlys from Jarvis’ personally overseen Tuck Shop and chillax on big inflatables.

He couldn’t have picked a better venue than Village Underground, with its disused railway carriages and excellent acoustics. It is housed under a viaduct, like a mini version of The Arches in Glasgow, and it felt a lot more welcoming and comfy than the overly-lit, white box setting of an art gallery.

jarvis group

I dropped by during the ‘Bring your own Instrument’ session and Jarvis was perched on a stool playing guitar with members of his band and audience members. They seemed to be mostly improvising, creating dreamy sound scapes, although it sounded very together, like they’d been playing together for years.

Throughout the residency, Charley from the nearby Pure Evil gallery worked on a large graffiti piece dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, which provided the backdrop on the stage.  He was still adding the finishing touches during the final concert!

jarvis graffiti

I hadn’t made plans to go to the concert, as I thought it must have been sold out, but there were still tickets left to buy at the venue (£30 seemed like a lot, but then again, the rest of the festivities had been for free).

Support came from American anti-folk nutter Thomas Truax, who had a whole menagerie of pimped up, hand-made instruments, which look like futurist noise machines.  Truax started out as a solo performer in 90s New York alongside the likes of Beck and Lach and worked as an animator on MTV’s Celebrity Death Match before decamping to London.

Thomas plays everything himself and records each instrument live, layering up the different sounds, then singing and playing blues guitar over the top. He played experimental songs from his latest album Songs from the films of David Lynch, including a cover of I Put A Spell On You from Lost Highway.  The folk at the front were pretty into it, but there were some sceptical mutterings from the oldies at the back, who were probably hoping Jarvis would enlist one of his famous mates to open for him.

jarvis mixing desk

Finally, Jarvis appeared and played songs from his two solo albums Jarvis and Further Complications.  He appeared as skinny and bookish as ever, but when Jarvis starts singing, he is utterly seductive with that inimitably sexy voice and and quiet Northern charm.

There was plenty of bum wiggling and thrusting going on and at one point, he led the audience into a quick aerobics session, as keeping fit seemed to have got pushed off the daytime schedule.

His new songs are more rock based and have a cool cosmic sound that goes into prog-rock indulgence in the slightly comical Pilchard, complete with interactive dance routine.  Further Complications has some hilarious lyrics but there’s an underlying melancholy and feeling of disappointment that could be attributed to the break-down of his marriage to Camille Bidault-Waddington earlier this year.

Jarvis’ main preoccupation of the night was making sure that everyone had enjoyed the workshops and most important the Tuck Shop.  He was concerned that the Roast Beef Monster might not be to everyone’s taste and proceeded to hurl packets of Love Hearts into the crowd.

Watch Jarvis singing Leftovers and having smoochy moment with a lucky girl at the front…

For upcoming tour dates and a free download, visit Jarvis’ website.

All photos by Steven Marshall.

LA pizza in the heart of east London

Pizza East has been on my eaterie radar for quite some time now, so when my mum came down to visit last week, I thought I would make plans and actually book somewhere in the neighbourhood, rather than trawling round Soho in the hope of finding somewhere we both liked.  Ok, my neighbourhood is actually Hackney Central, but the Kingland Road stretch just seems like a hop and a skip away when there’s good food to be had.

We tried to book a table for three and each time I rang, they only had availability for ‘early bird suppers’ at 6.30pm.  However, it was suggested that we’d have more luck if we turn up and wait for a table at the time we wanted to eat.  I guess this is quite a democratic system, as it stops the restaurant being jammed up with bookings for weeks ahead and prevents such pretentions as ‘waiting lists’.

pizza east centre bar

 We were told we would have to wait an hour for a table but they would try to get us seated earlier, although it did end up this long, so we had a bottle of Peroni at the bar. The bar had a great atmosphere and was a veritable ‘who’s who’ of Shoreditch fashion and media types, with Brix Smith-Start buzzing around, waiting for her table.  Despite trying to appear patient and happily lost in conversation, everyone looked so restless that they might have grabbed one of the Italian hams hanging from the ceiling and gnawed away on it there and then. 

So, why is everyone falling over each other to dine at Pizza East when there are plenty of pizza joints in the east end?  Well, it’s the latest venture of Soho House group founder Nick Jones, also the owner of Shoreditch House, directly above Pizza East in the Tea Building (on the corner of Shoreditch High Street and Bethnal Green Road. 

pizza east chairs

The pizzas are apparently inspired by the wood-fired sourdough those at LA’s Pizzeria Mozza, with a mix of classic Italian combinations and house speciality pizzas like veal meatballs with sage, lemon, parsley and cream and another with duck sausage, artichoke, parmesan and boschetto al tartufo.

We started with two orders of garlic bread to share, which came on rustic wooden chopping boards. Each potion consisted of two massive hunks of ciabatta oozing delicious garlic butter with fresh parsley, so luckily we didn’t go for one each.

Our waiter was a chatty Italian guy with very cool Ray-Ban glasses, who recommended his personal favourites and came over almost every time he passed to see if we needed anything.

pizza east garlic bread

Next up was the much-anticipated pizza, although the garlic bread and Peroni had mellowed my growling stomach enough not to wolf it down without wild abandon.

I ordered the speck with rocket, my mum went for the portobello mushroom, shallot, parsley and egg, and Steven chose the hottest pizza on the menu so he didn’t have to share (sorry, maybe it’s just a coincidence), which was salami, red onion and red chilli flakes.

The sourdough base was unlike any I’ve ever tried before and had a crisp, bubbly crust and soft but not too flimsy centre. There was a generous covering of smooth tomato sauce made in-house and the most flavoursome mozzarella clustered near the middle. The speck tasted well-matured and the rocket was super fresh and robust – all in all, everything I could have hoped for in a pizza and more.

pizza east pizza

There was a bit of cross-table swappage and I can report that the salami had a much more meaty texture and flavour than the generic, uniformly thin and greasy versions and the portobello mushrooms had a slightly nutty, garlic taste.

Pizza East also claim to source seasonal and local produce, although I’m sure most of the pizza ingredients are imported from Italy, as they taste so authentic.  The guy next to us ordered the most tender and slow-cooked beef cheek, so perhaps the meat and staple ingredients are from home turf.

We were left feeling pretty full after the starter and main meal (rarely would I go for double bread action in one sitting), but it would have been a shame not to try the desserts, so we ordered the salted chocolate caramel tart on the recommendation of our ‘new best friend’ waiter.  It only seems logical that when sharing between three, you go for the richest, most decadent dessert to make up for all that spoon clashing and thimble-sized portions.

The waiter told us we would get a surprise and in fact there were two – our tart was covered in snowflakes of rock salt and we were given a taster of delightful Moscato dessert wine, that was made in the village next to where he was from.

pizza east caramel tart

The salt really complimented the velvety, sweet caramel and dark chocolate and the pastry was exceptional, with a sandy texture that is really hard to achieve.  With the flaked almonds and mascarpone/soured cream, the dessert took on the taste of a really posh dime bar – absolutely delicious!

I expected that due to Pizza East’s location and lineage that it may be somewhat standoffish and have the tense atmosphere of hipsters experiencing carb-guilt (a neurosis I also suffer from at certain strong-willed times of the year).  However, the staff were so welcoming and open and there was a great buzz of everyone getting stuck in Italian-style and chatting freely.  There are also small touches from Shoreditch House such as Cowshed handsoap and lotion in the bathrooms that remind you that it’s not just your regular pizzeria.

I also kind of like the communal dining aspect, as you never know who you could be sat next to, and as I usually end up next to the village nut-job, they’re often keep you entertained.  It did feel like I was sitting on a wooden  toadstool though, so a proper bench or comfy seat wouldn’t go amiss.

pizza east bar

I’m looking forward to Pizza East’s take-out service that’s due to launch in December and I like the idea of having a deli counter where you can buy store cupboard items like oil and sauces, as well as branded products from the restaurant.  I’m also tempted by the charcuterie and cheese boards on offer at the centre bar – great for avoiding the pizza-induced mid-afternoon slump and the tedious queuing.

Not only is Pizza East the most exciting new restaurant in the Shoreditch area, but it has the friendly feel of a neighbourhood restaurant that could quite easily become my ‘local’ for years to come, and that’s not a decision I take lightly!

Pizza East, 56 Shoreditch High Street, London, E1 6JJ

Pizza East on Urbanspoon

Vivienne Westwood’s manifesto reading

Last night, I went to a reading of Vivienne Westwood’s Active Resistance Against Propaganda, organised by The Last Tuesday Society, at  The Tabernacle in Notting Hill.  The manifesto was read by Viv herself and children’s theatre group, The YoungStars Academy, in front of an audience of fashionistas, activists, artists, students and proud parents.

Vivienne Westwood was as flamboyant as ever in a glorious printed jumpsuit, white statement specs and a headband with BRANDED emblazoned on the front.  She introduced the manifesto to a rapturous applause and the children read their parts aloud.

Two of the older kids played the main characters, Alice and Pinocchio exceptionally well and everyone in the audience squealed when the tiny girl playing the White Rabbit bunny hopped across the stage, wearing tufty white rabbit ears – so sweet!

 vivienne

Vivienne Westwood wrote her manifesto 2 years ago and it has since been performed twice – the second time I peered through the glass of the Design Museum while out and about on the South Bank to see Vivienne reciting it with the help of Peaches Geldof and what looked like Jaime Winstone from a distance. 

Vivienne believes that by immersing ourselves in art and culture, we can find happiness in a soulless age, and that as judges of culture, we should strive to get the art that we deserve.  She had a few stories to tell about modern art ‘bullshitters’ who questioned her sense of appreciation because she didn’t deem their works as relevant or true art.

viv

Another part of her ideology is that art should be universal and if the meaning is obscured or inexplicable for the majority , then it is not really art. I agree that the artist should be able to explain his state of mind and motivation, but art based on complex theories shouldn’t be dumbed down for a quick overview, and sometimes a bit of mystery and open-endedness can be enjoyable.

Vivienne references Aldous Huxley in her manifesto and agreed with his peceived three evils in the world –  nationalistic idolatry, non-stop distraction and organised lying. By taking influence from art and to some degree history, Viv believes that you can make yourself completely immune from propaganda and their detriments.

The reading was really entertaining as well as educational, as Vivienne’s humour, warmth and passion really brought the words to life.  She digressed, dismissed things as quickly as stating them and told amusing stories to stress her points.  Vivienne had the disarmed nature of a family member rather than one of Britain’s biggest fashion icons, although what she was saying was not to be taken lightly.

vivienne 3

There was a bit of time left to answer just three questions and as usual in Q and A sessions, an audience member perplexed both Vivienne and the audience with her overblown terminology and pedantic questioning regarding spiritualism and the ‘earth keepers’ in the Amazon. Saving the rainforest was meant as a post-script to the reading, and I’m still not sure if she was suggesting that Vivienne should go and live with a rainforest tribe or something. The confrontation did make Vivienne more impassioned and urgent though, and she came off-stage to discussed it with her while everyone went downstairs for a complementary Hendricks gin and tonic and some tropical beats from Todd Hart of Dalston Oxfam Shop.

Like the majority of the audience, I left the reading feeling inspired and while there were some aspects that I didn’t necessarily agree with, Vivienne reminded me to pursue knowledge and to try and find what it is that at this point in life will make me truly happy. So, remember what Vivienne says: books are cool, culture is vital and pretentious ‘art’ is bullshit.

To find out more about the AR Against Propaganda Manifesto, visit:  http://www.activeresstance.co.uk