I think the best presents are often the ones that cost the least, but are given with most love. This year my mother handed down my Grandmother’s brown alligator handbag from the 1950s, after having had it furbished up for me.
Granny was a true English eccentric: a classic Nancy Mitford-esque bolter, on husband number three by the time I was a child. She was a famous beauty with exceptional taste, and indulged it at every turn: jewellery, luggage, clothes, lovers, foreign travel. The only thing she didn't indulge were her three children, who were brought up by her first husband and by her parents, when they weren't at boarding school (from the age of five.) She spent her way through the family fortune in the manner of sand through fingers until there was nothing left but memories and a wardrobe of exotica.
However, she & my mother were reconciled throughout our childhood and we adored her: she was the mistress of the grand, sweeping gesture as she floated around in kaftans, dangling necklaces, chestnut wigs and diamanté sunglasses, heavily bejewelled fingers firmly clasped around a rattling glass of Johnny Walker, often with a fluffy cat or small dog in tow.
She lived on a narrow boat on the Broads and, for a while, ran a guest house by the seaside on the Norfolk Coast. She ended her days in a small flat on the Costa Blanca with husband number three and his fine set of white moustaches, although I think in her head they were still living back in the glory days when he was a Second World War Squadron Leader with an OBE to match, and she was the ravishing belle of the ball.
When she died, we flew over to Spain and packed up her life. This bag came back with us then. I think my mother had mixed feelings; it represented the money her mother didn't stint on spending on luxuries rather than on her children.
So, my Mama had it reconditioned by Mr Urbanska in Edinburgh when she was on a business trip with my father earlier this year. They completely renovated it, mended the clasp, replaced the worn strap and spruced up the suede interior. It is as good as new, & I adore it. And I love that it has now been carried by three generations of my family.
PS Extremely thought-provoking article here from The Times on the growing clothing mountain, & wearing your parents' hand me downs
Saturday, December 29, 2007
I think the best presents are often the ones that cost the least, but are given with most love. This year my mother handed down my Grandmother’s brown alligator handbag from the 1950s, after having had it furbished up for me.
Christmas presents are such a lottery. I spent days making lists, thinking about the perfect present for everyone, but I suspect that others aren't quite as fussed about getting it right. Some of my relatives can really come up trumps in the what on earth department, but my mother can be usually relied up on to get it right - I didn't give her a list. (It's no surprise that I ended up working in fashion.)
My top presents from her: silk pillow cases from Ginger Lily, (is she trying to tell me that my skin needs all the help it can get as I get older?!), some Florentine writing paper, the most enormous four foot wide & six foot long dark grey fine cashmere scarf/wrap from Fenwicks that can be twisted as a scarf but will never bulk up, twenty pairs of black lace boyshorts from M&S to restock my knicker drawer, the V&A Golden Age of Couture exhibition hardback, and the absolute classic Mulberry Anthony satchel for using at weekends. (And which was sold out on Net a Porter). She tells me she swiped the last one out from under some other shopper's nose in Selfridges. Don't mess with my mama when she's on a mission.
I’m suffering from the usual festive guilt: is it very bad form to eBay off one’s unwanted Christmas presents? I have accumulated some extra special items and, now that I live abroad, it does seem fairly pointless to shove them in the back of a cupboard to gather dust. I’m a big believer in re-gifting, (there’s generally a home for most items), but these few presents are just so wrong I just can’t see anyone else wanting them. The worst offenders are always fashion accessories: working in fashion as I do, I have very particular taste and, not least, I have made a huge effort over the past year to fine down my wardrobe to pieces that I love and really work, rather than the experimental collection I accumulated in my twenties, so there’s no space for the well, maybe, I guess pieces. Especially when they have to be lugged across the Atlantic and back.
One of the joys of being based in the country is not having to bother with the sartorial. I had two of my fellow village friends (also in exile from London for the Christmas season) over for tea & cake and we admitted that we hadn't washed our hair since Christmas Day, had eschewed any make up, and were wearing an assembly of clothes that were kept at home purely for wearing in the country. K, in particular, was wearing her father's extremely manky Barbour which I would put money on her never wearing in Hackney. I'm rather enjoying not bothering, but fear this mode of living may become rather too enjoyable....
Sunday, December 23, 2007
While looking for a J Crew cashmere picture to illustrate my previous piece, I came across this ravishing dress. It's no secret that J Crew are looking to up their fashion quotient (& with it, their price point), and I was somewhat sceptical. After all, if I am going to drop serious money, then it's unlikely to be $1800 on a piece from the equivalent of the American High Street. But a dress like this, in such luxe fabric...maybe*... esp now that I know that the cashmere is from Loro Piana.
The dress has a tulle underskirt for volume, and the back has a very deep V neck wich ends in a pretty bow. The bodice is made from a dense 9-gauge Milano knit for structure, while a looser 7-gauge flat knit gives the skirt a flowing drape.
To be honest, I can't really think of many occasions where it would be practical to wear a cashmere balldress: it's going to be way too hot for dancing in central heating obsessed America. But it would be perfect for a black or white tie party in one of those freezing cold Scottish castles, (or even the arctic village hall in Scourie in Sutherland in the Scottish Highlands where we spent one truly bonkers NYE), and it would look great with a Clan sash draped across it.
*when I win the lottery
Cashmere Cardigan $2650 by Loro Piana at Neiman Marcus.
You may not have heard of Loro Piana, the venerable cashmere company who make some of the world's softest, and most expensive woolly garments. Apart from clothing multi-millionaires from their fancy-schmancy boutiques in the fashion capitals of the world, they have become the world's largest cashmere maufacturer and have a thriving fabric wholesale business making cashmere, vicuna & wool fabrics. This much is in the public domain. There have been rumours for years on=line that they sold their cashmere to J Crew and my personal little birdy in the fabric industry tells me that J Crew buy in such vast volume that it makes commercial sense for Loro Piana to supply them. Anyway, that certainly explains why J Crew cashmere always seem to be such good quality for the price point.
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Bicycling around Central Park with the barrister. Staying at M's glorious apt in the West Village and waking up to find it had snowed overnight. Top of the Rock with Liz. Finding the perfect skirt for $2 in the East Village Flea Market. Being placed front row at several fashion shows: unexpected but always pleasing. Freewheeling down Broadway on my bike. CSS at Irving Plaza with Laura. Riding the rollercoaster at Coney Island. Managing to make cupcakes in my toaster oven. Sunbathing by the pool on the roof of Soho House. Casa Mono with Henry. Hotel room hanging with Garbage. Dressing up as a Deadly Sin for Hallowe'en. Brunch at The Carlyle with my parents. Making out with a preppie banker. Oxenberg cash-llama scarves. Sunday lunch with Barry Humphries & Angelica Huston on Ed's penthouse roof terrace. Suppers of raspberry martinis and French fries with BA. Dachshunds everywhere. Always having painted nails. Birthday supper at Morandi. Brooklyn Botanic Garden with Muv & sis. Strand Books. Wine & therapy with Mich. Eating hot dogs at Crif Dogs in the East Village. Kaiser Chiefs at Hammerstein Ballroom. Picnic-ing in Union Square with Clare. Guacamole. The Waverly Inn with CA. Dropping $600 on frocks on my birthday in the sale at Miguelina on Bleecker. Dating a boy in Brooklyn. Swimming in an open-air pool on a pontoon in the East River. Looking like high class call girls at the Four Seasons with JD. Riding a police horse in Central Park. The Whistlers at The Frick. Dancing to The Cure at Beatrice Inn.
Friday, December 21, 2007
During CMJ in October I hopped it down to Fontana's on the Lower East Side for Los Angeles' Viper Rooms' series of showcase gigs. On the Friday I was there to support my gorgeous friend Julian aka Shah (ex-Whitey) who had flown in from LA to play bass for CC Sheffield's band Le Rev.
A somewhat odd evening. Julian whisked us up to backstage before the show, and I sat down with CC who charmed me from the get go. Intelligent, self-deprecating and funny, she is a talented actress & model who puts a large chunk of her earnings into her self-financed band. She hasn't taken the easy option of churning out pretty girl pop, and instead plays a fantastic post-punk set. It has to be said she also looks fabulous.
After jumping about like a Mexican bean during their (very good) set, I retired backstage to regroup & get stuck into the vodka. Which is when Julian appeared, uttering the immortal line, "Harvey Weinstein wants to meet you."
Somewhat tipsy, and very unbelieving (Fontana's isn't exactly a glam venue), I followed him downstairs, weaving through the grubby dancefloor to the front bar where Harvey Weinstein was indeed perched across a bar stool, talking with CC, who had told him a writer from XXXXX was in the house. Hence the summons. Turns out he's a very big fan of the band and of CC, who he thinks will go far. We chatted for a while, and then I made myself scarce, whisking into the bathrooms to scrawl down, rather illegibly, Harvey's pearls of wisdom.
Check out Le Rev's MySpace, and CC's blog.
In this city where restaurant meals are so often a medley of gastronomic cliché and mediocre execution, finding a plate of food that transcends the pedestrian is a hard slog. But there IS some exciting food to be had in New York. And, for a Londoner paid in pounds, it's staggeringly cheap. Even a three course, Bordeaux and Armagnac fuelled grand bouffe at the hottest restaurant in Manhattan, the Waverly Inn, which surely has the most overpriced, expensive wine list in America, costs £50/$100, including 20% service. This is a short list of some of the best - & worst - places I've eaten in the past year.
Maze at The London: Gordon Ramsey's secondary joint at The London after Restaurant Gordon Ramsey. More relaxed, and the tapas style menu means you can graze at will. Truly delicious. Truly expensive. (Try not to flinch when reading the wine list which competes with Waverly on add a couple of zeros mark ups.)
The Jackson Heights Diner: Proper, authentic Indian food way, way out in Queens. Total cost: $10
Casa Mono:< Mario Batali's tiny, perfect, modern take on tapas & raciones. Delightful in every way.
The Spotted Pig: Manhattan's first and only gastro-pub tucked away in the Victorian West Village. Chef & co-owner April Bloomfield has, quite simply, one of the best palates in Manhattan.
Public. A former library in sexy Nolita, this Peter Gordon twin serves up interesting AND delicious Pacific fusion plates, with a stonking wine list, fab cocktails and a hot clientele. My favourite go-to NY restaurant.
Lil'Frankies in the East Village for the best pizza I have ever, ever, ever eaten in laid back Downtown surroundings. Great music piped in from East Village radio next door. (Jesus & Mary Chain last visit) Award-winning wine list & Italian al forno specials too.
Schiller's Liquor Bar: The poor man's Balthazar from the same stable. Faux French bistro on Lower East Side. Super sexy boys drinking at the bar, buzzy atmosphere, clever wine list, and the food's not half bad either.
The Carlyle: Old world, grown up Sunday brunch. Immense amounts of delicious food, Champagne, exemplary service, and Upper East Side regulars in furs & pearls in the corners.
Allen & Delancy: Neil Ferguson (ex-Ramsey Holdings) finally sets up on his own in a dark & sexy LES room. Hearty dishes, and well-meaning service.
I also enjoyed Waverly Inn, Morandi, Takahachi, Pop Burger, The Modern and Shake Shack. God I enjoyed Shake Shack.
Grimaldi's: Consistently voted best pizza in New York. We slogged over to Brooklyn to queue for an hour to eat burnt, over cooked pizza with disgusting, almost inedible mozzarella. Really, really bad.
The Elephant: Incomprehensibly well reviewed and way over-priced East Village Thai gets it all wrong. Green papaya salad with no chilli - and no taste. Inedible pad thai.
Kittichai at 60 Thompson: Eye-wateringly over priced Thai, with model eye candy and designer room in fantastic SoHo hotel. One for palate dead fashion victims.
Savoy: I so wanted to like it. Great service, interesting room. Sound ethics. And horrid food which was way too clever by half. There was one ingredient in every plate of food that was distinctly off key, so you grimaced at every other mouthful.
Pastis: Sacred cow of McNally empire (Balthazar etc). Abominable in every way. Inept service, stroppy management, tourist-Mecca. Omelette aux fines herbes on a par with the offering at an English service station cafeteria: a rubbery, three inch high, pallid oval lump of dry solidified scrambled egg.
Soho House: Possibly the most unexciting menu in New York at its price point. Well-meaning but useless service. And, unforgiveable in a city of faddy eaters, barely anything for vegetarians bar the odd salad or bit of goats cheese.
Café Felix: Otherwise known as SoHo's Euro-Central. If you can fight your way through the over-excitable crowd of Eurotrash at the bar to a table, I'd stick to olives & drinking spirits. Until Felix I thought it was impossible to balls up a plate of moules-frites. And the wine. Eurgh. It's unacceptable to serve vin de table, pretend it's a glass of Sauvignon Blanc & then treat us like fools for pointing this out.
Every time I return to London I feel completely food-ed out. Although I am a good cook (I'm writing a cookery book and am obsessed with food), I eat or take out from restauants, bars & cafés in Manhattan maybe eight or ten times a week as my apartment is just too small for entertaining.
Many Manhattan-ites (especially the single 30-something variety) are in the same boat, which seems extraordinary to Londoners who eat out maybe once or twice a week: with a two course meal with a single glass of wine for one at, for example, Pizza Express (an average upmarket-ish chain) costing approx £30/$60, it's just too prohibitive to eat out in good restaurants frequently unless you have a generous expense account.
So in London we eat an enormous amount of more inexpensive cuisines: Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, Malaysian, Indian and more. For me it's not just a financial thing, it's a taste in part fuelled by the travelling I have done all over the world, both for pleasure and as a travel writer for a Sunday broadsheet and a major glossy travel mag.
These small, often family-run UK restaurants turn out extraordinarily good food, equal to the dishes you are served in resturants, hawker stalls, markets and street corners in Bangkok, Mumbai, Cochin, Hanoi, KL, Singapore and the rest. The Vietnamese restaurants on the Kingsland Road in Hackney, Indian in Southall...Chinese in the West End...
And goodness, I miss this in Manhattan where the food from these cultures is sub-par every single time. Greasy, soggy Chinese; Thai green papaya salad with no balance of flavour and shockingly, no chili; a Madras curry with no heat and no perfume; flaccid pad thai; Pho with overcooked noodles; dumplings with wrsppers seemingly made of shoe leather. I just do not understand why it is so, so, so bad, so inaccurate. All the spice and chili is stripped out of iconic dishes, leaving them as pale imitations of themselves. The only exception to this litany of execrable food is Mexican, which explains why I eat Mexican food maybe six times a week.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Well, aren't we all the cat's pyjamas?! I was very chuffed this afternoon to receive an email from Catwalk Queen telling me that my blog had been voted one of the top 100 fashion & lifestyle blogs. Especially chuffed when I discovered that only 20 of those blogs are fashion per se, and only ten of them are independent like mine. And how lovely to be in the company of some of the blogs that I admire hugely, namely my two fellow English fashion editor anony-bloggers DisneyRollerGirl and Mrs Fashion, and Queens Michelle & Marie of Kingdom of Style. You can see the rest of Catwalk Queen's Top Fifty here.
I know I've said it before, but I am continually astonished that my blog, with its schizophrenic content, ranging from restaurant reviews to catwalk reports via dating mishaps and insider gossip, which started off as a glorified letter home from New York to my friends & family in England, has found its own constituency. I love being part of the blog community, and appreciate every email and comment I receive... keep them coming!
I adore classic shaped leather satchels for weekends. I have certain criteria: they have to made from stiff, hard wearing leather that will age well, be brown, have a long adjustable strap, a flap that fastens with a buckle and, above all, no over-designed bells & whistles. For years, I've been toting an old vintage one of my mother's, but it's been re-stitched together so many times that I doubt there is any original work left in it. Definitely time for a replacement.
As regular readers will know, I was enormously disappointed with the lame satchel offering from Boden, which got sent straight back along with their ill fitting & badly sized riding boots.
So, as I like to hand out projects rather than Christmas present lists, I put my sister on the case. She has the twin credentials of a truffle hound ability for sniffing out items on the internet and the time to do so. I can't say I actually expected her to find exackerly what I wanted, but was gobsmacked when she came up with the bag above which is so utterly perfect. (Although she's not quite so pleased: she has to buy it for me now.)
A mere £75/$150 from The Celtic Sheepskin Company, the Sennen satchel is even more pleasing as the company has strong ethical policies, is based in Cornwall where it employs local people in an area of high unemployment, and regularly uses organic and recycled products - even recycled wool in their womens' jackets. Impressive. Upon further investigation I discovered these fab ear muffs (£48/$96): I also like the Isabelle bag which is just £95/$190, and the Envelope bag which is just £20/$40 Best of all, no one will know where you got them from. Goodness, I am bored with logo'd bags.
I'm very impressed that so many companies have decided to send virtual cards this year. This card from Tom Dixon is quite my favourite so far.
ADDENDUM: A kind commentator directed me here, to product & furniture designer Jamie McLellan's wonderful illustration side project. For it is he who designed this fabulous card for Tom Dixon.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Fur is a difficult call to make. I've been a vegetarian for 22 years, a militant one to start with but, as I've grown, learnt and mellowed, I'm a lot more relaxed now. I happily cook meat for all my friends, would raise children to eat meat, don't freak out if I find some meat in a dish I'm eating, taste my gravy, wear leather - and vintage fur.
Yes, as you're realising, consistency isn't my strong point. But I went vegetarian not because I am anti-meat, but because I was anti-cruelty. If free-range, organic meat had been available way back then, I doubt I would ever have considered vegetarianism. Nowadays, there's no personal reason for me to remain vegetarian and I suspect I may not be for very much longer.
But I always buy free-range and try to lead an ethical life. Where fur is concerned, I only buy vintage, from the 1950s or earlier. I like the idea of recyling, of not adding to the clothing mountain, or pumping chemicals into the atmosphere through producing artificial fibres. I also like being warm. (As my sister points out, in countries where there is a real risk of dying from cold, the fur debate doesn't exist.)
Few of us are consistent in our attitudes towards animal cruelty, bar vegans. After all just how many battery hen-eating, anti fox-hunting people are there? Tens of thousands, I know. Along with all the anti fur people who happily wear leather, sheepskin or shearling (which very often are not the by-product of the meat industry, whatever you may think). I think the point I am trying to make is, before making knee jerk criticisms of other people's ethics, perhaps we should all examine our own actions a little more carefully?
When I was considering how to keep warm in the New York winter, I looked at these, but disliked all the artificial fibres, and resented paying for something so unaesthetically unpleasing. Then on one of my regular eBay trolls, I came across the coat pictured here.
Not only was it inexpensive at £20/$40, I loved the waisted shape, flared skirt and knee length. Like all good vintage coats, it is beautifully finished, with an embroidered satin lining, braided seams, wonderful buttons, hidden furriers hooks, secret pockets in the lining, reflecting that this once was a very, very expensive coat. So, I bought it.
Indeed, before she died, my grandmother had difficulty getting her head around the fact that a mink jacket with glorious diamanté fastenings that might have cost the equivalent of two or three thousand pounds as a status symbol back in the 1950s could now be picked up for £30 on eBay and worn, as I did, with jeans and Converse.
(I think in the 21st century fur jackets only really work dressed down with trousers or denim, otherwise you can run the risk of looking trashy. I saw a girl on Fifth Avenue the other day wearing one with a pencil skirt and knee high boots, and the look had a whiff of streetwalker about it. Maybe if one was ultra groomed, with a salon fresh do, serious jools and Louboutins, a fur jacket could work with a smart skirt, but how many of us work grooming to that extent each day? So, with a wardrobe of dresses to cover up, and seriously cold knees, I am very excited to have found a long fur coat that doesn't fall from the shoulders in that Upper East Side/Russian/Mafioso/kept woman manner.)
Thank you all so much for your get well wishes. It is so very cheering when one feels so comprehensively rotten. I am now tucked up in bed at my friend's home in Highgate. Once it was a village with a tollgate into London, perched on a hill overlooking the city, and today Highgate still feels separate from the rest of London with its Georgian and Victorian houses. I'm in the attic extension of one of those houses, in a bedroom with huge roof windows open to the sky, so that I can see the stars.
MY parents live in the depths of the country, where nursing care would be almost impossible to arrange, so I am, guiltily, imposing myself upon the staggeringly generous C. It is lovely staying with a family though: C and I have been best friends since we were 16, and I can hear Ollie, my three year old chocolate-smeared godson having his bath downstairs and his little sister Luella squeaking about. Although I am in my own guest suite, it has an open staircase so they can't resist crawling up the stairs to investigate what Aunty XX is up to. (Sleeping, in the main.) Ollie tried to feed me chocolate today. Very self-sacrificial of him. And impressed that he already equates chocolate with medicine.
Anyway, the prognosis from the surgeon is very good, although I can't sit, walk very far, wear trousers, or heels (the horror!) for maybe a fortnight. Luckily the fabulous District Nurse team will be visiting me in bed every day to look after me. The National Health Service is just beyond extraordinary. Coming from New York, I appreciate the NHS more & more each day. All this costs me not a penny. (Well, it does in taxes, but you know what I mean.)
Right. I have to do some sleeping. Lovely, lovely painkillers. Mmmmm.
Monday, December 17, 2007
Gah. After the most tortuous journey imaginable, I am finally back in London. Three inches of frozen slush and an ice storm, combined with ungritted roads in Jersey nearly made me miss my check-in time slot. Not that it wld have mattered, as we sat on the apron for nearly three hours whilst they attempted to de-ice the plane. Then it took an hour to de-ice the luggage hold on arrival at Heathrow. Left home in East Village: 5.30am. Arrived at sister's in Hampstead: 12.30am. Not good.
Tomorrow 0730hrs I go in for the chop. I do hate general anaesthetics, and this is my fifth in two or so years. Still, I get to lie in bed for a week and, given the piteous central heating prevalent in England, that is probably the best place to be right now, considering it's bloody freezing. Even stuffing a snoring dachshund under the duvet last night didn't help much on the warming front. Thank goodness though for the thigh high socks I, um, liberated from my last catalogue shoot, and which are currently doing duty as bed socks in a wierdly quite sexy-looking kind of way.
Anyway, next despatch from my sick bed on Wednesday. xx
Following a nine-year absence from London Fashion Week, Vivienne Westwood is returning to show her Red Label's AW 08/09 collection on-schedule in February. The Red Label, which has not been shown during a fashion week before, was first launched in 1994 to appeal to a wider audience and is inspired by Savile Row tailoring and French couture. Vivienne's first line the Gold Label will be shown in Paris, as usual.
I just think it's shame that London's official show schedule is becoming the place to show diffusion and second lines: Marc the season before last, Stella's line for Adidas last, and now Dame Vivienne's. Is this really the way to boost London's reputation and get the foreign press in? I think not.
Saturday, December 15, 2007
gI sometimes wonder if I will ever attain proper grown-up status. Most of my friends in London are married, sprogged up and have vaguely sensible jobs. Me, I'm still behaving as I did in my twenties, and see no agenda for change in the near future.
Last night we had our Big Christmas Night Out. The four of us dressed up (frocking around the Christmas tree as BA put it), feeling all Manhattan sparkly & glam. The English contingent (BA, M & me) have a collective obsession with guacamole, which means that we tend to always eat Mexican food when we go out. (We eat Indian instead of Mexican in the UK: there is one national chain of terrible Mexican resturants - Chiquitos - and that's pretty much it.)
We love Rosa Mexicano because they wheel over a huge guac trolley to your table and make it fresh in a huge pestle & mortar in front of your very eyes. Dos Caminos have a guac station and La Palapa do a pretty good version too, & that's where we went last night. They also do pomegranate and blood orange margaritas. In fact the margaritas are so good that we were singing Christmas carols by the end of the meal last night.
We had lots of parties to go to after supper, but ended up hailing a white stretch limo (I know, I know, but ridiculous fun, & five don't fit in a cab here) to the Crash Mansion on The Bowery to see my great friend Julian (known as Shah), in town briefly to play a gig with hotly-tipped LA band Piel.
Unfortunately they weren't on 'till 1am, so we contented ourselves with a lot of dancing to the bands on beforehand. We were definitely the most over-dressed women in the room - and the only ones on the dance floor for most of the time - but hey, we like making a spectacle of ourselves occasionally.
And then we high tailed it to Beatrice again for more shenanigans. I woke up this morning with The Cure's Boys Don't Cry in my head and remembered doing rather a lot of air punching on the dance floor. Which probably isn't an enormously good idea in a very short mini tunic.
I ADORE Doctor Who. It's by far and away my favourite-est ever telly prog. I love it more than CSI AND House put together. I love David Tennant quite a lot too. Yum. And I lust after the Daleks in Forbidden Planet up at Union Square, but can't quite bring myself to buy one. They are a little bit expensive for a very self-indulgent, self-gifted present. (It's not like shoes: at least you can wear them, even if I have been known to display a particularly beautous pair on my living room shelves.)
I am rather unhappy at present as I fly back tomorrow at 8am, very much against my will, for an op on Tuesday and, instead of spending next week being festive in Manhattan will be flat on my back in darkest North London unable to walk for a week. Therefore I am very happy to discover that there is an hour long Doctor Who Christmas special on the Beeb, with special guest Kylie. Bliss. There are always chinks in the darkness.
And this fabulous piece by the lovely Caitlin Moran in today's Times tells you all about it.
Friday, December 14, 2007
The BFC has announced the Topshop New Gen sponsorship for next season. It's a timely reminder that critical adulation doesn't mean pots of money: young designers like Chirs Kane wouldn't be able to show without this funding.
Catwalk sponsorship: Christopher Kane, Duro Olowu, Erdem, Krystof Strozyna, Louise Goldin, Marios Schwab, MeadhamKirchhoff, Todd Lynn
Exhibition sponsorship: Anna Vince, Borba Margo, Charlotte Olympia, David David, Emilio de la Morena, Felder•Felder, Hannah Marshall, House of Holland, Justin Smith, Nicholas Kirkwood, Peter Pilotto and Poltock & Walsh.
I'm particulary pleased to see lovely Nicholas Kirkwood on this list. I've been a supporter of his since the get go. After he left Cordwainers, he worked for Philip Treacy, all the while planning setting up his own label in 2005. He is way in the vanguard of shoe design, setting the agenda for footwear design way before any of his competitors. This summer he won the prestigious AltaRoma Vogue Italia award for accessories design.
Shoes by Nicholas Kirkwood
This is the Vivienne bag from the wonderful Janet Collin, and my Christmas present to myself.Actually, my one will be in black, but I won't get it 'till I return to London for Christmas. Janet has a background in product design, and has worked on handbag collaborations with Louis Vuitton, Matthew Williamson and US brand Banana Republic.
Most famously she created some of Mulberry's most iconic bags, including the famous Jaquetta, Kiera and Cassidy styles. She has her own label, based in Newcastle upon Tyne England. Although I'm not a big fan of the 'C' word, celebrities like Madonna carry her handbags too.You can see more of her bags here.
Having ISSUES with Blogger. My title picture has gone on a diet, & is a tenth its usual size, and a photo I sent as a test for Blogger mobile has, so far, failed to load. Thing is, I have no idea what the photo is... so apologies if any random photo has appeared overnight!
I have to stop eating. So far this week, I've eaten three courses for supper on Monday night at Waverly Inn, had hot dogs from Crif, Thai from Why Curry in the East Village, dumplings from the Dumpling Man, lunched through three courses at Gotham Bar & Grill, eaten supper at Teany, Moby's restaurant in the Lower East Side and finished off with cupcakes from the Sugar Sweet Sunshine Bakery.
I'll just wear Spanx
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Trolling around on eBay I just came across this dress which I adore. It just says party to me - and I loathe the festive prediliction for acres of bare flesh, and bosoms spilling out of strapless tops: so much sexier to cover up with a suggestion. Unfortunately, Mother Nature saw fit to bless me with a very, very generous bust (perched on flamingo legs - dressing myself is problematic), and so it's never going to fit me. Please someone buy it! (And tell me if you do)
This is the beautiful Julio necklace from new London jewellery designers Close to the Bone. Set up by Angela Gosnell & Ila de Mello Kamath, they design unique jewellery using unusual combinations of semi-precious stones, seeds, knitting and crochet.
Everything comes beautifully packaged and they offer free delivery on Christmas orders within the UK, as well as the option to order customised variations of their pieces.
Oh for crying out loud. I am so fed up with Karl Lagerfeld's muse bandwagon. It seems like every other month he announces that some high profile female celebrity is his new muse. WGSN ran this quote today, "She is a style icon. She is a beautiful, gifted artist. And I very much like her hairdo. I took it as an inspiration. Because, in fact, it was also Brigitte Bardot's hairdo in the late Fifties and Sixties. And now Amy has made it her own style. So, when I saw her, I knew it was the right moment. Amy... she is the new Brigitte."
ACK. As I have said before, dear Karl would appoint Princess Fiona as his new muse if he thought it politic.
Monday, December 10, 2007
If I had to plan my perfect birthday party, then Thursday would probably have been it. I’ve never, ever been a fan of the restaurant/dancing model in London. It’s expensive: at least £150/$300 by the time you’ve paid for dinner, drinks & taxis, and the scene is so fragmented that any feeling of an intimate evening slides away, especially once you’ve had to engage with travelling half way across the city to get from a good restaurant to a half way decent club, one that isn't filled with drunk Royals, trustafarians, City boys, vomiting teens or sleezebag men.
Here it’s a completely different story. Manhattan is so tiny that you can walk from place to place, at worst hop in a $10 cab for a fifteen minute journey. Venues have a better mix of customers, as it’s cheaper to eat out, so good, stylish restaurants don't have that curiously London clientele: Russians, hedge funders and your parents' contemporaries. Frankly, Manhattan is just more fun, younger, hipper & cheaper(so long as you avoid the weekends).
I postponed my partying as L flew in from London the day after my birthday and I wanted to celebrate with her. So I invited fifteen friends to Soho House in Meatpacking on Thursday for pre-supper drinks from 7-9pm. L & I managed to arrive on time, & bagged the three over-sized squishy velvet sofas under the Ron Arad anglepoise installation in the middle of the Drawing Room, ordered Champagne for all, and hoped people would turn up. (Hipsters may raise a sardonic eyebrow at SH, but hell, there's plenty of room, the drinks are good, and you don't HAVE to talk to the i-bankers.)
And, thank goodness, everyone came. The boys looked a little over-whelmed at the sheer volume of ravishing females in stunning frocks. Then again, not unexpected as it was a fashion heavy gathering, including the beautiful designer Francoise Olivas (check out her wonderful collection here), and the girls behind Heidi Klein, in town to meet editors.
Seven bottles later, I staggered off with five girlfriends to Morandi in the West Village for supper at 10pm. Part of the usually dismal McNally stable (Pastis, Balthazar), the food here is actually good, and the wine list better than. There was a snapper in from New York Mag who cldn't keep his lenses away from the girls all through the meal.
We ate bruschetta with super fresh mozzarella di bufala, & a dish of fried olives. Nearly everybody had the special: a chicken liver risotto and I had a double order of the appetizer special: artichokes, peppers, more of that creamy mozzarella, tomatoes. Simple food, perfectly done, washed down with quite a lot of a very good Dolcetta d'Alba.
Half way through my gorgeous friend Christina arrived with a stupendous present for me: a wonderful, light as a feather, cream cash-llama scarf from her latest Oxenberg collection.
After blowing out the birthday candle on my chocolate hazelnut torta (thank you girls) we bundled up (did I mention it was snowing?) and walked through the narrow, tree-lined streets of the Victorian West Village to the Beatrice Inn for very naughty shenanigans.
Hidden away between some brownstones, at the top of the metal stairway to the basement entrance, the bouncers gave us the usual Beatrice line, “Whose party are you here for?”. The only obvious answer was, ‘mine’. After a beat they waved the five of us downstairs, where we found a large china greyhound to stash the coats & presents behind.
Beatrice, owned by Chloe Sevigny’s brother Paul, is a down & dirty dive bar & club with just two rooms filled with furniture & pictures seemingly scavenged from a carboot sale by a blind man, a tiny bar, and a pocket handkerchief dance floor & DJ booth in a grubby back room.
The hangers out are models, rockers, actors, film makers, hedge funders pretending to be rockers, and generally creative people pretending they aren’t enormously successful. There’s just one loo (with a useful-looking wooden table in the corner), everyone smokes like chimneys, and the music is a just-up-my-street mix of Pulp, The Clash, classics like Spirit in the Sky, and the dance music we jumped around to in the early 90s.
After flirting, smoking, drinking and a lot of dancing (flailing?), we tumbled out into the cold at 4.30am when the place closed. M was wobbling like a new-born foal on her super high heels so we found a nice boy to prop her up and we all walked back through the narrow streets to Perry to see her safely home.
In between dropping M & then CA off on W10th, I managed to get thoroughly kissed on a street corner by J, a very tipsy boy we had met earlier in Beatrice, who insisted on walking L & I back to the East Village. It’s always good to have a sherpa to carry one’s birthday presents, even if one does shut the door in his face on arrival with no, um, tip. (He so knew that was going to happen).
And oh dear, the hangovers the next day. (Lola, darling, however did you manage to get to work?)
I wore: the shortest ever black washed silk V neck, cropped sleeve tunic, with black matt 80 denier opaque Wolfords & my vertiginous black patent dominatrix Pierre Hardy platforms heels (so comfy I danced for three hours and then walked home in them), and a huge Giles gold studded black plastic bracelet. Bright pink lipstick and lots of messy blonde hair.
Saturday, December 08, 2007
Thank you blog-ettes for all the wonderful birthday greetings! There has been some bug with Blogspot and today I have discovered 19 unapproved comments in my moderation box which hadn't been emailed to me. But, worst of all, my laptop died on Wednesday and, busy like a bee, have not been able to get to a cafe to blog, write or file copy. Thank goodness tho for Blackberries, remote Facebook and, now, my flatmate's second laptop.
Friday, December 07, 2007
When I started writing this blog at the beginning of March 07, it was only ever intended to be a record of my time in Manhattan. Since then I have picked up an entirely unexpected constituency and am thrilled by the sheer volume of readers each day. Month on month both my page views & unique visitors double. With this rise in exposure have come emails from potential advertisers: both Agent Provocateur & Net a Porter have approached me in the last month and, today, a blog syndication company asked me to join their network.
I am still in two minds about advertising: I'm not sure that my volume of traffic would generate enough income to make it worth losing my independence. This is because, as a commentator also reminded me, internet advertising for the small, but high quality (!) blog is a somewhat one-sided: the advertiser gets a permanent presence for basically jack, but I get very little recompense.
However, where blog syndication is concerned, forget it. The business model is that they ask you to sign a very wide-ranging licence allowing them to freely edit and then to syndicate your work, royalty-free, in return for the added exposure your blog would receive. The blogger has no control over which parts of the blog they syndicate or to where it will be syndicated.
Whilst I am not, in principle, against the idea of reaching out to new readers in this way, what offends enormously is that the syndication company is paid for the blog content they provide to external media sources, without in turn paying the bloggers.
Of course, I understand that there are 60 million or so blogs out there, and that many people would be ecstatic to be picked out in this way. I am indeed flattered but, dislike the way that bloggers are supposed to be SO grateful at the exposure that they will relinquish their rights - and payment.
I am not in the habit of letting other people make money off the back of my own labours without recompensing me accordingly. (I should make it clear that there is a very small amount of money that can be made through this company, but it is truly, truly negligable). Ethically, I believe that their offer is unacceptable and I will not be taking up their offer to join their network.*
*(Of course, added traffic would make advertising more lucrative, but this is a side effect and still does not address the matter of the blog syndication company making money off the bloggers copy.
*ps I have changed the title of this post at the genius suggestion of the wonderful Nonsense on Stilettos
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
It is my birthday today and I am feeling very weepily happy as I hadn't expected many people to remember as I am so far from home. But, of course, technology has made 'far' a relative concept, and Facebook means it is difficult to forget a birthday (unless, like me, your notifications are at the bottom of a page and you end up forgetting your best friend's birthday last month - of which I am very ashamed).
So I have been innundated with an extraordinary amount of Facebook messages & emails, and received two splendid bunches of flowers. Best of all my two year old goddaughter Amelia sang me Happy Birthday. I am feeling very blessed right now at having so many thoughtful and funny people in my life.
Still, my lovely ex-boyfriend R summed up the age in which we live rather brilliantly:
"How I hate Facebook. It has in an instant degraded the kudos of people like me, who always remember friends' birthdays, by automating that once meaningful feat of recall. Have a wonderful day."
Normally I thrown the mother of all cocktail parties chez moi for 100 or so people, with my patent martinis made by lovely barpeople, and all my girlfriends in fabulous frocks looking delightful. This year I have invited twenty or so New York friends to drink some pre-supper Champagne with me at Soho House. It will certainly be more civilised than my London parties but, I am sure, given the brilliant friends I have made over here, no less enjoyable.
And ooh hoo I have a GREAT party frock to wear too. (Thank you CA for coming shopping on Bleecker today!)
These Liberty of London evening bags are fantastic: I think a shot of colour looks fabulous against black and, even better, clashing against this season's colourful cocktail dresses. I didn't pick on these Liberty pieces because they match the name of my blog*, but because I admire the way that they are moving the brand into the 21st century without losing sight of their identity (Hello Jaeger).
Blowing up the iconic art nouveau Ianthe print from the Liberty archives in this way looks fresh and avoids the feeling of cutesy that haunted Liberty for so long. It's also particularly clever to make these brilliant colourways available exclusively at Dover Street Market.
Without a doubt, DSM is London, & possibly Europe's most exciting retail space now. Nominated for Best Retail Concept at the British Fashion Awards last week, they was robbed by Marc Jacobs (woo hoo - opening a store. Really innovative), as I have complained at length already, both on this blog & in the real, bylined world.
*(The name of my blog has nothing to do with the Liberty of London store)
Monday, December 03, 2007
If you are female, under 35 and live in Manhattan, chances are that you watch television's newest vice: Gossip Girl. It's a sherbet light froth, more believable than The OC, & as addictive as 90210 in its heyday. (Now I'm showing my age), Set on in the world of private schools, & millionaire parents, these High School-ers exist on cocktails & thin air, shag for, well, Manhattan, & party for America. It's no wonder it's become so popular: it's executive producer is Josh Schwartz, who conceived The OC.
I may be (sometimes) a proper grown up with a serious job in the fashion world, but this is my weekly dose of escapism. All my girlfriends here are equally obsessed - and we are in our 30's and, I suppose, could be said to know better. But sod it, I like fluff as much as I do more cerebral pursuits, and I'm happy to say so.
Gossip Girl is based on the popular novel series of the same name written by Cecily von Ziegesar, which shines a spotlight on the lives of six teenagers attending private school on Manhattan's Upper East Side.
Blair and sidekicks.
Serena van der Woodsen (Blake Lively) and best friend Blair Waldorf (Leighton Meester) are the two key female leads, and slated to be the Mischa Bartons of their generation. Blair's boyfriend Nate Archibald (Chace Crawford), trust funder Chuck Bass -(played by you'd-never-guess-it-but-he's-English Ed Westwick) and the outsider Humphrey siblings from hipster Williamsburg Dan (Penn Badgley) and Jenny (Taylor Momsen) complete the key characters. The series is narrated by "Gossip Girl" (the voice of Kristen Bell), who writes an onlooker's blog which continually stirs up trouble.
Serena, Dan, Nate & Chuck.
The costumes rock too, less costume-y than Sex & The City, which went beyond parody in the last couple of series, generally making guys of the actresses. The designer is Eric Daman, who was an assistant designer on SATC, and also styles for i-D. Although I've yet to meet a schoolgirl who wears $900 Clergerie boots or $500 sequin Tory Burch frocks, they look hot enough on Blake Lively aka Serena van der Woodsen to make me seriously consider some copy-cat retail.
And it's not just the clothes that rock, the music does too. In the same way that she broke niche bands on The OC to a wider audience (Death Cab for Cutie, the Shins), Gossip Girl's music supervisor Alexandra Patsavas, has picked up on new NYC bands like The Virgins, who she mixes in with acts like The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Amy Winehouse, Feist, Air & The Bravery.
It certainly has its ridiculous side: all the mothers look about five years older than their daughters, which isn't surprising considering that Serena & Blair both look 25 rather than seventeen. All the teens drinks like fishes, and have no problems getting into bars & clubs where they suck down martinis like Kool-Aid.
Serena: Seventeen, going on thirty.
Rumour has it that Gossip Girl's been bought by ITV2. Every time I try to describe it to my London-based girlfriends, all I have to do is say , "better than 90210" and I have instant converts: I predict the next UK cult show. (Let's just hope the Writers' Strike is resolved soon - they've only shot 12 out of the 22 episodes slated for this season.)
I am feeling super smug as I had actually bought all my Christmas presents by the 1st December. This is unprecedented: I am more of a desperate rush on Christmas Eve type of girl, but living 3741 miles from home means I need to be a little more efficient this year. It also helped that I had a massive deadline to meet last week, which meant I royally procrastinated and got a lot of admin done instead of writing. C'est la vie.
I have ten children & babies to buy Christmas presents for, and four of them have birthdays near Christmas too. For the adults, 75% of people are getting books because they can be ordered on-line and delivered to my sister in London, so I don't have to schlep them across the Atlantic, but I do have some genius American presents: I'm particularly pleased with a leather baseball glove and ball for Miss P's stepson and a whole family of Little Red Riding Hood fingerbobs for his sister from Dinosaur Hill, a teeny toy shop in the East Village. I've bought my godson a Tiffany piggy bank with blue spots. They aren't expensive over here, (& I'm staying with his parents for a week). I think it's a perfect godmother-ly present: it'll (hopefully) teach him thrift and his mama will appreciate the Tiffany gesture.
January is a pretty dull month. If you happen to find yourself in London, then may I suggest that you relieve the pre-fashion week boredom by booking yourself a ticket to Hokum, master magician Pete Firman's show at The Bloomsbury Theatre on Friday 25 January 2008.
Sunday, December 02, 2007
Well, Mr W was beyond charming, and we had a delightful - and delicious - lunch at Café Cluny in the West Village. I worked my way through asparagus with chanterelles, hollandaise and a poached egg, with a huge pile of French fries on the side to mop it up. There may have been some frisée & leaves for texture, but I wasn't so interested in the salad component...
Cluny is only three blocks from here but I nearly went arse over tit every other step on the icy pavements. Mr W insisted on walking me home, so I clung onto his arm, but I am afraid there was zero chemistry on my side. Thing is, he's a proper grown-up, in his forties, whilst what I really need are some bad, naughty going-out male friends who want to paint the town red and misbehave, regardless of age. And, whether a boyfriend or a friend, I need a boy who can throw snowballs, chuckle at nothing, eat a lot, and jump around at gigs. I don't think Mr W is one of them.
Oh it's snowing! There are big fat snowflakes drifting past my top floor flat. All I can see from my bed are snow laden branches and the grey, snow-filled sky. I was woken up by the sound of the neighbours scraping the pavements. I'm staying on Perry in the West Village for five nights at my friend M's beautiful and very grown-up apartment whilst she is on business in London. The rooms have cornicing, architraves and wide sash windows and there is a working fireplace. I feel as though I have been teleported into the New York of Edith Wharton.
It's minus four outside (or 24F - I do love that you can choose between 'English' or 'Metric' on weather.com to get either farenheit or centrigrade readings), and the snow storm is predicted to last until Tuesday. Meanwhile I have a lunch date with Mr W. I'm not sure exactly what kind of lunch date it is: a friend in London asked if I was single and then introduced us to each other in an email, so I am presuming this is a kind of unspoken blind date. Although whether Mr W knows this is another matter. Still, Sunday brunch in the Victorian haven of the Village with an interesting man in a snow storm. That sounds fun.
I'm hungry now tho, so I'm going to make a huge pile of eggy bread )French toast w/out the sugar & syrup) and eat it in bed with the papers, whilst listening to my new music.
I had a perfect Saturday, which ended up in the Union Square cinema with a bag of popcorn watching the sugar-sweet new Disney romance-fest, Enchanted, starring MacDreamy & Amy Adams, and a hamming it up Susan Sarandon & Timothy Spall.
I spent the day writing, checked out Project Runway for the first time on TV (so much better then the English one), and then popped on my heels and cabbed it to Sushi Samba (made famous by Sex & the City) on Park Avenue & 20th for girls' supper. Friday & Saturday nights in the city are flooded with weekend warriors. Everywhere is rammed, and the streets, especially in the East Village, are filled with drunk twenty years olds. So, a quiet, healthy, alcohol-free supper is exactly the way forward.
The girls were on their way home by nine fifteen, so I trotted down to Union Square to Virgin and bought the new Killers & The Cribs albums (both excellent), plus some My Bloody Valentine and Louder Than Bombs - The Smiths' 1987 America-only album, both of which I have on cassette. Does that show my age? After the movie, I marched home to the West Village in the sub-zero temperatures, dancing along to Editors and The Pixies.