La la la - I'm going home on Tuesday. Much as I like being in London to see all my friends and family, eat proper Indian food, annoy my sister & play with the dog, I do feel that Manhattan is where I need to be right now. I've been away since 16 December and I've been so sick (two eye ulcers. Two!) & broke that it's been hard to enjoy myself over here. Not least, 75% of my wardrobe and possessions are in New York.
There was a slight excitement yesterday when I was asked if I was interested in presenting & producing a series of daily reports from London Fashion Week for a global TV station which I've worked for before. I postponed booking my flight, organised somewhere to stay, & started to negotiate my fee with the station. Then the stupid cow of a producer changed her mind and cancelled me this afternoon. And now my plane ticket has gone up by £60. I could kill her.
Still, at least I get to go home in FIVE DAYS. I am rather excited.
Thursday, January 31, 2008
La la la - I'm going home on Tuesday. Much as I like being in London to see all my friends and family, eat proper Indian food, annoy my sister & play with the dog, I do feel that Manhattan is where I need to be right now. I've been away since 16 December and I've been so sick (two eye ulcers. Two!) & broke that it's been hard to enjoy myself over here. Not least, 75% of my wardrobe and possessions are in New York.
WGSN reports that talk show host and former supermodel Tyra Banks is set to present a new reality TV show that's out to find a fashion magazine editor.
IMDB reveals that the show is being dubbed "The Apprentice meets The Devil Wears Prada. Producer Ken Mok says: "It is a competition show about aspiring assistants looking to become assistant editors at a fashion magazine."
Bosses are said to be looking for a magazine to participate with the series, which is set to air on US network, CW, this spring.
Now I know how professional musicians feel about Pop & American Idol.
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
I popped into Hampstead Gap last week for a quick poke around the sale (I love me a Gap sale), and found not just a pair of tailored black flannel short shorts for £2.99(£2.99!), but a big pile of Pierre Hardy Mary Jane style pointy toe flatties. When Pierre Hardy's shoes for The Gap launched in London, I was in Manhattan, and my beloved editor friend E purchased me a pair of the black patent platform heels and posted them to me back in New York.
I had fully expected all three styles in the Pierre range to have sold out by the time I returned to England in December, and certainly the black heels had been snapped up immediately, but thw two tone shoes and the Mary Janes were still kicking around in store.
A chat with the Hampstead manager revealed that they aren't being marketed as Pierre Hardy shoes, and so no one was buying them. Same story in Camden Gap. The manager's theory? If they stuck a big Pierre Hardy sign above them, they'd fly out of the store...
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
It’s easy enough to make a grand entrance at Market, a new-ish restaurant in the gastro-wasteland of Camden. Simply push aside the heavy curtain and fall down the hidden step into the dining room as did I and several following customers through the course of the evening.
Fortunately the low key restaurant, with its metal topped tables and salvaged wooden school chairs (watch out for the authentic vicious Wolford-snagging splinters) has attracted a clientele who are far too busy nose down in their troughs of glorious food to take much notice of flailing guests.
Replacing a long-time Chinese restaurant on Parkway, Market couldn’t be more different in approach, with its emphasis on seasonally driven produce and daily changing menu. It’s part of a new wave of London restaurants that ape brasseries with their relaxed local vibe but serve resolutely British food: mackerel paté, pollack, pork cheeks, oysters, offal.
T & I loved our main courses: deeply flavoured beef stew & root mash for her and red curry for me (rather less curry and more fragrant coconut milk with boiled courgettes, coriander sprouts & peanuts), with a side dish of, and here's something I never thought I'd say in a review, stunning January King cabbage, although we weren’t such great fans of the somewhat hectoring owner/server who seems to have froideur as her default mode.
We finished with an ice cream which may be the best I’ve ever eaten, with delicate rosemary notes, served in an old school Duralex glass with rhubarb compote, and a textbook warm bitter chocolate cake before gloating over our very un-London like bill of £48 which included a glass of wine, bottle of fizzy water & service.
Monday, January 28, 2008
We knew Jane Shepherdson had something up her sleeve after she left her job as brand director at Topshop. You don't become arguably the most influential woman in British retail and then leave to spend more time with your cats/children/lover.*
But who knew she'd be getting in bed with Baugar? It was announced today that she has finalised a deal with investment company Baugur to purchase Whistles with immediate effect. Jane becomes CEO of the retailer and is joined by Finance Director Keith Wilks and Marketing Director Jo Farrelly, both of whom worked with Jane at Topshop.
As a result of the management buy-in, Whistles will be separated from its former owner Mosaic Fashions through a newly-created company owned in part by Jane and her team. Commenting on the development of the brand Jane said, "We see a great opportunity to create something unique for the woman who loves great design, isn't scared of a little edginess and who wants to reference but not slavishly follow trends."
I adore Whistles. Not for its own label safe knits & trademark pretty tops, but for its clever buy of labels like Antik Batik & Michael Stars. (And I love its bargain sales too.)
But my love of Whistles goes way, way back. My very first black tie outfit came from Whistles in Oxford. When I was 16, my contemporaries all seemed to sport taffeta evening dresses with sweetheart necklines and poofy skirts (this was in 1988 before fashion had filtered down to teenagers) and, if you were really cool, you wore black DM lace ups or eight hole boots with your dress. Laura Ashley and Monsoon were popular, or else girls made their dresses in the Textiles classroom after school.
Me, I wore a curvy nipped in waist, black double breasted wool evening jacket with a low square neckline and long sleeves, matched with a staggeringly trendy (at the time)Ghost anthracite, dropped waist, full circle knee length skirt in Ghost's trademark wrinkled viscose. No one 'got' my outfit, but I loved it -and I loved my mother more for buying it for me from her meagre salary. I remember that the jacket cost £125 - an absolute fortune back then, and the skirt was £85. I still have both pieces, but the skirt no longer works now that I have hips, and the jacket strains over my bust. I've wrapped them both in tissue paper, and stored them in my parent's attic.
*delete as applicable
I'm quite keen on Mango at the moment, following the announcement of an intelligent spot of sponsorship directed towards two young British designers. After having sponsored Osman Yousefzada's LFW show last season, (& whilst continuing to support Osman), they will also be sponsoring Jean Pierre Braganza.Braganza's signature sharp tailoring and deconstructed shapes can be seen at his show at the Mango flagship store on London's Oxford Street on Sunday, February 10. The utterly briiliant Osman Yousefzada, whose show also takes place at the store on the same day, debuts his collection of Little Black Dresses in 220 Mango stores worldwide from March.
Photo: Jean Pierre Braganza SS08. Vogue.com
When I read that Moët was introducing a tour bus this February to transport editors around the east end of London to the series of fashion week shows known as The Block, I thought, what a great idea. Especially the bit that read, “Guests will be greeted with champagne.”
Then the release went on to list the designers whose shows would be included: House of Holland, Fashion East, which includes Louise Gray, Noki and David David, Roksanda Ilincic and Gareth Pugh. And I thought hmm, but isn’t Giles showing there too, and on the same day?
And then I remembered: Giles doesn’t like, indrawn breath, fashion assistants, and scabrous people who might actually not have drivers or the wherewithal to take cabs, to attend his shows. Senior editors & important buyers only darling.
Whilst I understand that designers like to show in spaces that work with their collections, that are often rather small, I also think that if you are going to be part of the official LFW schedule then you shouldn’t treat the junior editors, assistants and foreign press with such derision. Especially when London has so few big names showing.
And especially when his front row last season had David bloody Walliams, Margot Stilley and Savannah Miller perched on it. Any moral high ground gained was lost the moment he let those completely fashion-irrelevant attendees in.
There's been a rumour floating around over the weekend that Lucinda Chambers, fashion director of British Vogue, is the new creative director of Jaeger. A Condé Nast spokeswoman hadn't heard this, Lucinda Chambers says it's not true, and the Jaeger press office flatly denied it to a friend. However, as we all know, just because someone denies something, it doesn't mean that it won't happen one day...
This rumour comes on the heels of the announcement of Jaeger chairman Harold Tillman's appointment as chairman of the British Fashion Council.
It'll be interesting to see how Jaeger's Belinda Earl is planning to give the company the shot in the arm it so badly needs. Whilst editorial coverage of the Jaeger London line has been good, and the SS08 collection looks interesting, if a little schizophrenic, the Regent Street flagship store is currently packed with heavily discounted sale rails, and knocked down handbags.
On my visit this week, the store was not attracting the key 25-25 fashion market, but was filled with Jaeger's ex-core customer: confused looking Middle England housewives and grey haired grannies, desperately seeking in vain the comfortable Jaeger pieces they had been buying for the previous twenty years.
If Jaeger's continuing rebranding fails, it won't be for want of trying. If the Chambers rumours turn out to be true, with the BFC & British Vogue in his pocket, Tillman would just about have the British fashion industry all sewn up. Certainly shows would show what throwing money at a project could achieve.
Photo: Jaeger London SS08. www.jaeger.co.uk
(Very dodgy look book styling - she looks like she has a pot belly.)
I wrote this review for a publication back in November but, owing to matters beyond my control, it got pushed. This is a more personal version than wld have been printed.
It’s late November, it’s cold, it’s windy, I’m wearing vertiginous heels, and there’s a pan handler eyeing me thoughtfully from his doorway perch on a deserted corner of Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The sole reason I’m down here on a grim Monday night is that Allen & Delancey is the new gig of Gordon Ramsey-empire exile Neil Ferguson.
He was famously ejected from the Ramsey ego project at The London NYC Hotel in Manhattan by the irascible Gordon after a series of lukewarm reviews, but there were rumblings that he had been hard done by. Certainly his skill as a chef has never been in question: more his judgement of the requirements of the Manhattan fine dining scene.
I'm having problems finding Allen & Delancey, until I spot the discreet lettering at the bottom of the curtained window, and then see my parents looking lost, and eminently muggable, on the opposite side of the dual carriageway, their cab driver having failed to locate it.
My glamorous mother doesn’t do what she perceives as slumming, not ever. Even getting her down to my East Village apartment from her rococo Midtown hotel is a stretch. If I want to know if Ferguson’s culinary reach and reputation is going to extend up beyond 14th street then my mother's experience will provide the perfect litmus test.
Things don’t start well after her first trip to the bathroom. “It smells of wee, and it’s so dark in there I couldn’t see to reapply my lipstick”. Great. We are apparently to have a bi-level dining experience: Michelin worthy, we hope, in the dining room, and LES dive bar in the loos.
An elegant and dimly lit, narrow bar leads to the windowless two roomed dining room proper, with the prettiest flowers I’ve seen in a restaurant either side of the Atlantic: old fashioned, blowsy roses. The calm and cool jewel box of a dining room at the Royal London has given way to the warmth of bare brick walls, adorned with shelves of sub-pub tat, dodgy paintings and exceptionally comfy banquettes. It’s a clever room with no bad tables, and a sense of occasion about it, even given the downbeat decoration.
It’s just a shame that it’s so dark we can barely read the menus. We grab the church candle from the shelf behind us to illuminate our table, but it barely penetrates the Stygian gloom. Someone seems to have forgotten that the enjoyment of good food requires all five senses: whilst I love The Smiths, the music is way too loud: we have to stretch to hear each other.
Although the barman didn't know how to make an Old Fashioned, the wine list is compact but beguiling, with clever choices including a delicious Gruner Veltliner by the glass. We waver over a very well-priced $100 Amarone, but settle on a $66 Ayres Pinot Noir from Oregon. Ten out of ten for offering tap or bottled water, but we are less impressed to discover that the sparking water is the overly fizzy imported Hildon Water.
Eating in restaurants is tricky as a vegetarian. As a fully paid up member of the awkward squad, (no to fish or meat, yes to dairy & eggs) my diet is a source of derision to many chefs. I certainly know that I am unwelcome in Bourdain’s Les Halles and, although I like and admire Fergus Henderson enormously, I’m not beating a path to St John.
If I check out the carte on-line and there is no vegetarian option then I always ring in advance. At Allen & Delancey I am assured that vegetarianism is no bar to entry: speak up, and “Chef will prepare you something off menu. It’s really no problem at all for both courses.”
I am expecting something quite special now. Not least because before he took the Ramsey shilling, Ferguson did a stage at Alain Passard’s thoroughly amazing L’Arpège in Paris, which has brought the humblest of vegetables to the forefront of modern French cooking, earning three Michelin stars in the process.
Sea scallops, celery root cream, braised cipollini onions, verjus and Raviolo of sweetbreads, bolognese, parslied carrots, savoy cabbage arrive. My parents start to look longingly at their cooling plates, as my place remains empty. I call over the waiter who looks bemused: she hasn’t ordered me a first course, explaining that the vegetable plate is ‘very large’. I look at her like she is insane: maybe she is. But hell, I’m English: I eat my way through menus, vegetarianism not withstanding.
The parents are happily troughing away, liking the contrasts of consistency and taste that chime together on their plates. I eventually get leeks vinaigrette with truffled fingerling potatoes, minus the listed proscuitto garnish. It is good, the baby leeks providing a textural balance to the smooth potatoes, whilst the dressing is just the right side of sharp. Unfortunately, the lack of lighting is such that I actually fail to spot the truffle puree at the side of the plate until I have eaten everything else. I call for more of the delicious warm bread, swish it around the plate, and lick my fingers. Although I had to fight to get fed, it’s an admirable start.
And then, after a lengthy wait (bear in mind it’s a quiet-ish Monday night), our entrees are plonked down. I get a vegetable medley: someone in the kitchen has had fun in the various stations, raking over the mise en place, picking out the vegetable garnishes and cobbling them together over an excellent smear of cauliflower purée.
Peering through the crepuscular murk, I start the name game: I spot trompette des mortes and some fat porcini; a tatty sliver of preserved lemon lurks alongside an olive, an artichoke heart, a piece of parsnip, and a little squash. There are some more of those fingerling potatoes, carrots, and rather too many onions, - pearl and cipollini are my best guess – but it’s just too dark for a serious identification parade.
There isn’t a cohesive note on the plate. (Maybe he should be taking a note from Rowley Leigh’s new Café des Anglais in London whose vegetable plate is a thoughtful selection of roast beets, squash, onions, radicchio di Treviso and a little polenta cake, dribbled with sauce vierge.)
It is also not ‘very large’ but rather small, and I polish it off in a few minutes. Still hungry, I remonstrate with the waiter who hops it to the kitchen and returns with an offer of ‘Chef’s risotto’.
Whilst I wait, the parents engage variously with their main courses: slow roasted pork belly, pickled pear, parsnips, fenugreek syrup for my mother and Beef, cabbage, onions for my father, which he ordered purely because it sounded so unprepossessing. What arrives is a roundel of aged beef; a savoy cabbage parcel contains chopped beef shoulder, and a cabbage wrapped onion. He makes small groaning noises which are slightly disconcerting coming from a parent, but apparently indicate extreme appreciation. The beef is cooked perfectly and, what sounded like heavy peasant food, is actually refined and hearty all at the same time.
The autumnal risotto is sensational, similar to one I had back in March at the Royal London Bar, and certainly one of the best I have eaten. There are various schools of thought where risotto is concerned: some prefer it in the Venetian manner, all’onda, or wavy, where the dish is slightly soupy, rippling when you attack it with a spoon.
This is a stiffer version, with a perfect bite and the lack of soupiness works well with the vegetables. It is studded with chunks of butternut squash, topped with sautéed chestnuts and hen of the woods mushrooms, with a creamy truffled foam around the edges. I try to ask the server about the foam’s composition; she nods and says truffles. I give up, and bury my head in my plate, stopping only to emit small squeaks of pleasure as I shovel it in. I stupidly press some of the delicious mushrooms on my parents. We fall silent in homage. I wonder if anyone will notice if I lick my plate clean.
Just as we have perked up considerably, buoyed by the Pinot and the thoroughly excellent first two courses, our puddings arrive. The menu had read well, with an unusual (for a Manhattan carte), and welcome emphasis on fruit, but the orange plate is a heavy mess: a million miles from the implied elegant assembly.
The one tiny tangerine segment is flavourless, with no evidence of the promised caramelisation. The clementine has been peeled, sawn in half and presented as a charmless hunk of tasteless fruit, the ice cream has crystals in it, and the two sliced chunks of financier, (an almond flour, ingot shaped cake) although with the traditional crisp crust, are too dry and crumbly to work with the fruit. Maybe a self-contained Madeleine with its lemon hint would have worked better. Paradoxically, the element requiring the most skill, the orange blossom sabayon, is immaculate: delicately scented, and moreish.
My mother’s sautéed fall fruits, hibiscus, Catalan cream, saffron pistils has several large chunks of unpeeled apple and pear with shards of core left in. We take turns in nicking bits from my father’s choice, whilst he tries to stab our fingers with his fork. It's a clever take on apple pie a la mode: a whole Gala apple wrapped in excellent puff pastry with a caramel sauce and rum & raison ice cream on the side: Scrumptious.
Service is charming, chatty and well-meaning - but stuck at café level. The smooth service that usually comes with food of this standard is notably absent here: the busboys don’t know who is eating which plate of food, we have to request fresh glasses for our second bottle of wine, and there are long delays. Empty glasses and side plates are left lurking on the table.
If Ferguson has pretensions to make Allen & Delancey a ‘top dining destination’ then he needs to ratchet up the quality of the elements surrounding his food. A firm hand front of house would make all the difference. At the moment this truly inspired cooking deserves much, much more.
In the interests of full disclosure I should note that my risotto was comped as were the puddings, a very generous gesture.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Harold Tillman has been appointed as the new chairman of the BFC (British Fashion Council). I'm not sure I approve: Sir Stuart Rose (M&S) was one thing, but Tillman owns Jaeger which seems to me to hint at a conflict of interest. Mind you, the post is no sinecure, and it's paid risibly, so who else would take it on, bar a rich man in retail's inner circle?
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
I'm a huge aficianado of fake eyelashes. I love the way they give my eyes an almond shaped sexiness, helping them look huge in photographs. I'm a dab hand at putting them on, and recommend Eylure's style 101 lashes for a look so natural that no one can spot them. You also need a steady hand, clear glue in a proper tube (not the ickle glass phials that come with lashes), and those small travel size tweezers that let you get in close when you are positioning them.
Unfortunately they should only really be worn by women who are meticulous about their appearance, and who are fond of taking furtive peeps in their hand looking-glasses*. Whilst I will spend maybe fifteen minutes applying slap, once I'm out of the house I rarely check my face in a mirror.
This is a mistake. Twice now a strip of fake lashes has parted company with my eyelid in a public place, and I have failed to notice. The first time I had cycled madly down Greenwich Avenue to Employees Only (a proper old-school cocktail haunt) for a blind date. I chained up my wheels round the corner, whipped my heels out of the bike basket, applied some lipstick blind, and sauntered gracefully over to my date who was leaning against a tree outside the entrance. We shook hands. He then stared at me, hard. Great, I thought. He's overcome by my flushed cheeks and radiant beauty. But no. One of my false lashes was hanging by a fibre from the corner of my eye.
But at least he told me.
Second time I was fooling around, fully dressed, in bed with a preppy New Yorker. After a while, I de-suctioned myself, as I felt something brush against my cheek. Yup. My lash was dangling from my eyelid again. Oh yes, preppy banker said, that's been like that for a while.
* Apologies to Nancy Mitford
Across the Universe Albert Wolsky
Atonement Jacqueline Durran
Elizabeth: The Golden Age Alexandra Byrne
La Vie en Rose” Marit Allen
Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street Colleen Atwood
For this dress alone, the perfect example of how a costume can work seamlessly with a script, I hope Jacqueline Durran wins for Atonement.
Monday, January 21, 2008
It's a sign of the times that when a fashion house shows a new collection, the first act of the in-house press office is to email journalists images of the celebrity attendees in hope of making the next day's papers. Forget the clothes, or the models in the clothes. Those pictures are no longer enough to sell newspapers. Mr Armani showed his Privé Collection as part of the Paris Couture this evening, with a celeb filled front row to ensure him some press coverage. Armani stalwarts Claudia Cardinale & Sophia Lauren were joined by Hilary Swank, Ellen Pompeo and Dita von Teese. Given that the Golden Globes were cancelled, and award season has been somewhat muted so far due to the writers' strike, I would have expected a higher celeb count. So often, Armani's ladies look somewhat trussed up in over elaborate, over embroidered, over brocaded numbers, which are often far too old for them (Katie Holmes springs to mind), but when these pictures from the Armani press office in Milan tipped up in my inbox this evening, I was struck by the relative elegance & simplicity of the outfits. I think I am going to pin up this picture of Mss Loren & Cardinale as an expemplar of soignée aging. Bellissima. (Britney et al take note.)
Photos: Courtesy of Armani Press Office, Milano
Sunday, January 20, 2008
To Ken High Street for fashion photographer Matthew Eades’ birthday drinks. It’s a good thing I like him, (as opposed to just liking his excellent work) as it took three buses to get there in the absence of working trains on the District & Circle Line. One & a half hours in the pub, over three hours to get there & back from Kentish Town. I miss the very small island of Manhattan.
I have scored big time in the sales this month. These pretty studded nubuck flats from Office, with a fantastic, winter busting hidden rubber sole, cost just £5 from £29, and I have them in black too. They are perfect for scrunching up in the bottom of my handbag for changing into to walk home after supper in Manhattan. (They are incredibly lightweight too, and water marks just disappear when they dry.)
After weeks of debating, I bought the Kurt Geiger ankle boots, and they look just fine. I also picked up two Whistles jackets. The first, a brilliant black, long line, tuxedo jacket with satin revers was reduced from £180 to £50, and a black fitted, curvy gaberdine jacket/blazer with navy blue grosgrain trimming a la Balenciaga was £80 from £180 - but I hesitated so long before buying it that it was reduced another £35 by the time I bought it.
I also wanted to mention the amazing service in Whistles. If they don't have your item in stock, they will ring around the other branches and, if it's in stock elsewhere, will post it Special Delivery to you for a mere £4. Given the price of London transport, schlepping round to another branch would cost more than this! Plus Special Delivery actually costs £6, so this really is an extraordinary service. I bought both jackets this way and in each case they arrived the next morning.
Contrary to popular opinion, I abhor shopping. Don't get me wrong, I love new clothes, it's just the process of getting them that I can't stand. I've already seen everything months before at press days and, most of all, as I have an unusual figure, about 1% of any shop's stock actually looks good on me.(Huge bosom, tiny back, no waist, great legs.)
I'm also no good at impulse buying: I need to try something on, go away, think about it, and then maybe go back to do another trying on session. Preferably with my sister who can cut through my pretensions with a few well chosen words. It's a truism that stylists aren't very good at dressing themselves.
I also detest shopping with other people: I can scan a shop's entire stock in seconds for pieces that work. Everyone else faffs around, prodding and sighing and stroking for what seems like hours. It drives me bonkers.
I don't mind taking someone else shopping if they'll just sit in a chair, let me pick out suitable pieces and then escort them to the changing room. After all, I AM a fashion editor, and can generally be relied on to make other people look great.
I've just started up a sideline business called Wardrobe Wisdom, where I go round to people's houses, blitz their wardrobe, put together new outfits, and then email them a list of what they need to buy (& where) to pull together their existing pieces. Email me for details & references from some very happy clients if you are interested at email@example.com (I'm not cheap, but I am very good!)
With one client last week, we gave three bin bags of clothing to her cleaner, made a pile of designer labels for her to eBay and, even with so much pruning, she only needed to buy four or five pieces (mainly long sleeve T shirts) to bring her wardrobe together. I'm continually amazed at the ease with which people can forget what is actually in their wardrobes, wearing the same few pieces day in, day out.
Most pleasing of all, she has had lovely compliments on how glowing and pretty she looks each day since. But no one has commented on her clothes. Which is exactly how it should be for a size UK14 (US10) mother of two in her mid-thirties: her clothes should enhance her, not the other way round. (It's not about me inflcting what is new & trendy on my clients, or turning them into mini-mes, but making them look like a better version of themselves.)
Saturday, January 19, 2008
Thursday, January 17, 2008
I was absolutely astonished on my trawl through the West End with Miss P last week to see that Marks & Spencers have substantially lowered their pricing. Where a pair of black lace knickers used to cost £12, with the matching bar chiming in at a painful £30, I picked up some very cute undies for a mere £5 for the knicks and £9.50 for the bra. Whilst I am the first to complain against overly cheap clothing, I have to say that I have never understood how knickers could be so very expensive for a mere sliver of fabric. Of course it doesn't help that I am a 32G (eek!) so I do need some underpinning, but still...I can only assume that with Primark lowering the price bar so successfully, that M&S have had no choice but to follow. Maybe this in some way explains M&S's less than stellar Christmas trading figures.
I also bought this dress for £39.50 after much humming & hawing. It seems so spot on trend for this SS08 season. If I was living in the UK, I wouldn't have touched it with a barge pole - I have no desire to wear such an instantly recognisable dress out & about, but I reckon in the US there's zero chance of bumping into anyone else in it.
Well, I had to take a rain check on the drink with the boy on Tuesday night. Instead I had a three line whip for The Sunday Times Travel section's 20th birthday cocktail, so I hotfooted it to Theo Randall at the Inter-Continental on Park Lane.
An absolute pleasure to attend a party that was actually for writers & editors, rather than countless PRs, blaggers, and sycophants, as is the norm in the fashion world. The venue was a little strange though - I feel for poor Mr Randall. His eponymous restaurant is one of the most dispiriting spaces I think I've had the misfortune to hang out in. Windowless, over-lit & corporate. A shame because, if the canapés were anything to go by, the food is delicious. (And the Prosecco is even better.)
I was stumped as to what I should wear. My editor knows me well and requested no 'fashion-y wierd stuff', but as he hasn't a clue, that could just have meant no bright colours and frilly pieces. In the end I plumped for a 1950's style LBD in stretch wool with a cross over V neckline, cap sleeves, and a curving silhouette to the knee, black Wolfords and my new bronze dancing shoes. A slash of fuchsia lipstick and Veronica Lake waves. I carried my big black Janet Collin bag, as an evening bag would have felt too 'in from the burbs for a Big Night Out'. This way I felt like I was in very smart editrix day wear.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
As a journalist I know better than to slag off people unless I have facts to back my opinion up, (I’ve no time for blogs that rant and rave without a purpose), so you’ll never read anything negative on this blog unless I truly believe in what I have to say, be it a show review, complaint about an inefficient press office (Topshop anyone?) or a completely objective (hmm) whinge about an ex-boyfriend.
But the reason that I anony-blog isn’t because I want a licence to say rude things about people with no comeuppance, swirling my cloak of anonymity El Zorro-like around me, but rather because I fear the mighty Google.
Pop my real world name into Google and page after page of relevant entries appear. (The only other person with my name is a female sportswoman from the other side of the world). Even though my Facebook is on maximum privacy, if you scroll through Google you can find immediately articles I’ve written as far back as 2000, my cell number and even hear my voice, talking on in a radio interview syndicated from the BBC World Service. I find this ready access to such minutiae disconcerting.
When I internet date, I use a blind email address, and never, ever divulge my surname before meeting. If the date goes badly or I’m not interested, I want to walk away with my privacy intact, rather than leave my life wide open to Mr Random. I've also found that men have been intimidated by my real-world job, and I don't want to be pre-judged by what I do to earn a living.
Can you imagine if my blog was under my real name? One quick Google search and my personal & professional life over the past year would be unfurled before anyone who cared enough to search in the first place, whether potential datee, employer or would-be psycho . No thank you.
And a coda: whilst I FERVENTLY admire Susie for putting herself out there, I fear I am just too old for that style of personal blogging. So, I wanted to add to all the lovely commentators who have asked for pics of me in outfits: sorry my feet
are about as far as I'm going on that tip!
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
If I were to find myself in a position where glamorous Valentine's day presents were a possibility, then this pretty ring from Ritz Fine Jewellery would be a very welcome gesture of affection.
However, given the perpetually diastrous state of my affaires, I suspect the only person to be buying me jewellery will be, well, me. Which makes this pink sapphire and diamond bow ring, at £2,500, rather out of my personal spending range. Back to Ernest Jones with me then.
Monday, January 14, 2008
I’ve been tagged to show the contents of my handbag by the lovely Buttons and Stars. So, here goes: My bag at the moment is the black leather Vivienne by Janet Collin. Janet v kindly emailed me back in December to ask if I was interested in her private, end of season sample sale. Was I? Oh yes! I love her bags. They last for ever, have great outside pockets for my phone & Oyster Card and a little mirror in a leather case swinging from the handle. Genius. (And, best of all, it’s totally unrecognisable: no flash logos here)
And inside: US Blackberry & UK mobile. Red leather wallet for cards & notes. Shanghai Tang coin purse from Hong Kong. Muji notebook for To Do Lists. Black Moleskin for story ideas & interview notes. Broken pink plastic pig key ring/torch which squeaks.
Battered old FrostFrench for No17 makeup bag (freebie) with essential warpaint: Bobbi Brown Nude & Revlon Bright Pink lipsticks. Kiehls SPF lipbalm.Lancome liquid eyeliner in dark grey. Mac eyeliner brush. Shiseido cream blusher. Cheapo black mascara. Clear mascara for eyebrows. Smints. Purell hand sanitizer.
Vita Sackville West novel for journeys. Antibiotic eye drops. CK Calvin Klein sunglasses (US press day freebie). Memory stick. Trace free rubber(eraser) from Il Papiro in Florence. Black leather, silk lined elbow gloves from Bendel’s.
Dog breath mints (Sorry rat, but yr breath needs desperate measures). Dachsie key ring (thank you Clare!) with keys for London, NY & parents. NY & London subway passes. Random hair pin & hairband. Mason Pearson hairbrush. Pretty gold & garnet ring from an antique shop on Bleecker in NY.
Not pictured: iPod Nano, Purdey corded dog lead, dog poo bags (you so don’t need to see those) & ripped up bits of tissues, manky cough sweets, & a hundred receipts swirling around at the bottom of my bag.
Now I'd like to see what Mrs Fashion , Tales Near The Runway & Nonsense on Stilettos have been toting around.
When I first tried RMK’s Creamy Foundation. I didn’t hear a heavenly choir, or bells peal when I opened the pot, but after a week of it staying put in Manhattan’s August humidity, I could have happily provided the soundtrack myself.
Let me explain. I had perfect, English rose skin until I was twenty-six, when an onset of painful hot flushes and bumpy, scaly skin was diagnosed as rosacea and seborrheic dematitis, rather than the result of an allergy or environmental damage as I had presumed.
After four years of battling my skin, including a course of micro-dermabrasion facials with the excellent Vaishaly Patel, and the discovery of residue-free cleansing waters such as Lancôme’s Eau de Bienfait and Bioderma’s Créaline H20 (only available in France, or online), Pevonia Rosacea facials, and La Roche Posay SPF moisturiser, my skin is pretty much back to English Rose condition, bar a tendency to go bright red when I drink and the odd allergic reaction – blueberries set me off last week, causing me to spend an afternoon with my burning cheeks pressed to the freezer door.
This redness means I need a foundation that can match my underlying yellow skin tone, whilst masking the pink flush, as well as being moisturising enough to cope with the dryness on my cheeks, but not so oily that it slides off my forehead and chin.
In my past life, I was also a beauty editor, so there’s pretty much nothing out there that I haven’t tried. Compact foundations are too powdery and fluid ones don’t give enough coverage. Trial and error has taught me that creamy foundations in a pot are best. (Bobbi Brown’s Smooth Skin cream foundation is truly the worst base I have tried: it separates into an oily film in the jar, and leaves a powdery mess on my cheeks. Useless.)
Which brings me back to make-up artist Rumiko’s range RMK. It’s no secret that much of the most advanced skin care in the word comes out of Japan. But apart from Shiseido, Kanebo and Shu Uemura, Japanese make up ranges aren’t so widely known in the West. It doesn’t help that RMK, for example, has a tiny stand tucked away by the stationery department in Selfridges, rather than in the main beauty hall. But I beg you to seek it out. Staffed by a charming Slovenian makeup artist, it sells some of the best make up I’ve tried in years. The Creamy Foundation has an extremely good moisture retaining quality, thanks to its water holding formula which means my cheeks became progessively more plump, creamy and smooth after a couple of weeks; and, as I discovered, it stays picture perfect for hours, whether in humidity, or New York’s savage winter. It also has an all-important SPF of 15.
It’s no secret that if you buy products from a makeup artist’s personal range then those products will have been honed and refined through the artist’s years of experience working with women’s faces. This is especially true of Rumiko, whose résumé includes not just the obligatory roster of A list celebrities (Uma Thurman, Demi Moore, Drew Barrymore, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Milla Jovovich ) but the covers of all the major Vogues, and collaborations with some of the pre-eminent photographers of our time: from Mario Testino to Richard Avedon, Steven Meisel to Irving Penn. But in this case, the technical perfection of her products is amongst the best I’ve ever tried.
Although she is repped by Jed Root in New York, Rumiko has no plans as yet to sell RMK in the US. It’s a great shame as her fabulous products seems well suited to the make up mavens of the United States.
RMK is available in Selfridges in London & in Manchester, House of Fraser in Glasgow, and in Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Korea, Thailand, Malaysia & Japan.
Photographs: Vogue Nippon | Makeup Artist: Rumiko | Photographer: Koichiro Doi
Saturday, January 12, 2008
What a week! I have been to-ing & fro-ing from hospital as though I had a homing-in device implanted during my operation before Christmas. My surgeon saw me on Weds, & I am healing well, but won't sign me off for a fortnight to fly back to New York. And then today I was diagnosed with an ulcer in my right eye. I have to wake up every hour through the night to put in drops. It would seem that my immune system is seriously compromised. Am knocking back vitamins like Smarties...
Anyway, I actually feel ok-ish - apart from being scared to look in the mirror at my rabbit-y eye. I am supposed to be going out for the first time this year (and with a boy too) on Tuesday. I just hope I look less white rabbit-y and more Jessica Rabbit-y by then.
Thursday, January 10, 2008
Thrift is to be my watchword this year. And I have the best of good intentions. It’s just that I do wish that New Year’s Resolutions didn’t coincide with the winning combination of a new season and the sales. Especially when I’m in London with all these lovely fast fashion shops that don't exist in New York.
Because, believe me, whilst America excels at fashion in the £100-£350 bracket (just take a look at the Intermix and shopbop websites if you don’t believe me), it truly sucketh in the below £100 category. There’s Forever 21 (New Look on acid. It gives me a headache), Banana Republic for office-y staidness/suburban housewife gear, and then the ubiquitous international chains (Hennes, Zara & Mango, which has just landed) if you want to look just like everyone else. The slightly more upmarket British High Street stores are starting to make an impression: French Connection, Sharon Millen and Reiss all have a strong presence in Manhattan but are the same price or more expensive than they are in London, which makes no sense at all with a 2:1 dollar/pound.
There is no equivalent of Topshop (which I think is over rated, but still), Miss Selfridge, New Look, River Island, Wallis, Warehouse, Principles, Oasis, Dorothy Perkins, or M&S Limited Collection: the stores where a savvy shopper can pick up interesting pieces to perk up her designer & vintage-filled wardrobe, and experiment with new looks.
I spent the whole of Monday in the West End with Miss P, helping her fill her new season wardrobe gaps and I was so super-restrained. But it killed me. There was a delicious fitted black blazer for £80 (reduced from £180) in Whistles, edged in navy blue grosgrain which I really, really want. But, all I bought was a pair of on-sale dancing shoes in New Look. They were £10/$20, so I think I can be forgiven?
To lunch in Highgate Village today for baskets of dim sum and pots of jasmine tea with the magnificent James Scott Linville, who flew in from New York last night. His latest project is the screenplay for the feature film of Hemingway's The Garden of Eden. Starring Mena Suvari, Jack Huston, Matthew Modine, Richard E Grant, Caterina Murino & Carmen Maura it'll be hitting the festival circuit this year, before going on general release.
I hear that the costumes are fantastic (the film is set in the 1920s), although there are no images available to press yet. Definitely one to watch out for later on this year. Linville also hosts a writer's blog at The Main Point where poems, essays, short stories and the like from himself, Elizabeth Wurtzel, Janine di Giovanni and more are posted regularly. Highly recommended - and not just because Mr Linville & I are friends.
The car used in Garden of Eden
William Styron, The Paris Review co-founder George Plimpton, and James Scott Linville celebrating the magazine's anniversary
Tuesday, January 08, 2008
So, Nicole Kidman is pregnant: that'll explain why she did an entire indoors press junket at the over-heated Waldorf Astoria back in late November, wrapped in an enormous black wool winter coat. I was sitting inches away from her as she promoted her new flick Margot at the Wedding and, eejit that I am, it never occurred to me that she might be hiding a baby bump from the eagle eyes of the world's press. If anything, I presumed she was hiding her rather skinny bod, fed up with hacks commenting that she was too thin...
A toxic commentator has joyously left me a charming billet doux. My riposte is in the comments section.
I'm a hack. Of course being a brilliant one, I try not to make factual errors. But generally, if I do, they get weeded out by my editors. If they miss them, then subs fact check rigorously, & then make squiggly marks all over the page proofs to highlight my idiocy. And, even if something misses their eagle eyes, then there are dummies & page proofs & chromalins & all the myriad versons of a mag that float around the office being read by editorial & art & production before it goes to print.
So someone please explain to me why no one at British Vogue noticed that, in the January 08 issue, American designer Geren Ford is described as being male? She can't be too chuffed that they have decided that fashion designers had better just be men...
Sunday, January 06, 2008
I’ve written three Who to Watch in 2008 designer profiles for various publications this afternoon, so naturally my thoughts have turned again to food after flicking through a pile of look books featuring wafer-thin models.
Tonight I steamed asparagus (out of season, I know, but my sister bought it – blame her), to toss in a frying pan with fresh long garlic shoots and Paris mushrooms, then served it all with a beurre blanc as a contrast to our Indian soup yesterday.
I love making beurre blanc: it’s amazing how such a simple recipe (butter, shallots, tarragon, white wine) produces this ethereal, yet artery-blocking emulsion. Still, it’s only a tablespoon each, so the damage shouldn’t be too long-lasting. I highly recommend this dish: it reminds me of Spring in the depths of Winter. (Oddly enough, it goes quite well with mashed potatoes if you require some filling carb action, altho it would mean an OD on the butter front.)
I usually avoid the sales like the plague. Way too many sweaty bodies and grabby hands, mixed with ankle bashing pushchairs and over-heated stores. No thank you. Of course this just means that I troll the interweb instead looking for bargains when I should be filing copy. T turned up to give me a lift to A's baby shower last weekend wearing the most perfect black Whistles (of all unlikely places) ankle boots with opaque Wolfords and a tiny dress, and I lusted badly for her look. Hers have sold out now, but these Kurt Geiger ones are just £99 reduced from £180. I like the dip in the front as this always makes your ankles look thinner & your legs longer. Only problem is that I am on an economy drive and unfort my KG press discount card only works on full-price merchandise. Yah boo sucks. I must stop torturing myself.
Saturday, January 05, 2008
This is why I should not let my sister buy me these glorious chocolate pieces of heaven from the organic bakery market stall. Not only are they in direct contravention of my New Year's Resolutions, but the miniature dachshund has proved herself capable of mountaineering up the back of the sofa to gaze fixedly at the paper bag in which they are hiding.
Part of the quid pro quo of bed hopping is that I do cooking for my hosts. Fortunately I have been dossing down in Highbury, where Miss P (a trained chef), has a kitchen full of the toys with which this cook loves to play. No blunt knives or bashed up saucepans here.
I had been itching to make a spinach-y, meal in a bowl soup, the kind of food that keeps you warm from the inside out. Cruising the aisles in my local independent supermarket on Queens Crescent for interesting ingredients, I hovered indecisively over the Bangladeshi, Somali, & Chinese sections before filling my basket with a bag of fresh cubed paneer (Indian cheese), frozen spinach (fine for soup), chick peas, naan, and fresh curry pastes, whilst the Halal corner shop furnished me with long, budded mild green garlic shoots,(known as suen sum or suantai in China).* What I came up with by trial & error was inspired partly by a random magazine recipe, and partly by, well, hunger. It's healthy, utterly delicious & very filling, with a kick of chili to aid the central heating effect. I'm not very good at exact proportions, but the soup goes something like this:
Sweat a chopped or sliced onion in oil for about ten minutes 'til translucent & golden. Add & fry off for a minute or so a couple of tablespoons of curry paste (I used one with a lot of coriander & cumin). Pour in a can of full fat coconut milk (the light stuff is a waste of time & taste) and double the amount of vegetable stock - I use Marigold bouillon powder. Add a tin of drained chickpeas. Simmer for five minutes. Whilst simmering, take a frying pan & fry tiny cubes of paneer in vegetable oil until browned. (You can use haloumi in place of paneer - delicious!)
Then add about 300gms/half a pound of frozen spinach to the coconut milk pan and cook till fully heated through. Then add pre-fried paneer. In a separate pan fry thin slices of the garlic shoots. Use to garnish as the slightly crunchy texture adds a fabulous contrast to the silky smooth soup, with its nuggets of melty, chewy cheese and meaty chick peas. Serve with warmed naan bread, brushed with melted butter. Feeds four people. Even nicer if eaten next day. (Add more water or stock as it thickens overnight.)
Kattebelletje's food blog has more on garlic shoots for food obsessed people like me
Picture: By me.
Friday, January 04, 2008
I'm still not enormously better, (thank you dear readers for all your lovely get well soon messages), but have returned to London and am bed-hopping around the city. Goodness that sounds much more exciting than the reality. Which is not a different man each night but rather that if I turn up for supper, I take a little bag with my nightie, cashmere blanket, industrial moisturiser, hot water bottle & dressings - the glamour!- and my friends get to put me up for the night, as there is a limit to how much I can abuse my little sister's hospitality. I am itching to return to Manhattan but the punitive cost of US healthcare means that I am stuck in London 'till I have healed.
I was supposed to go prop up the bar at the Groucho this evening (a la recherche du temps perdu) but CA has the dreaded Novo-Virus, so rather thankfully I am staying in. (My slow recuperation means that socialising isn't a great idea.) Still, cutting down on the going out means I have plenty of time for writing, doing my endless tax return and making New Year's Resolutions. Nothing extraordinary there: more thrift, less laziness, never ever going into Primark again, writing even more, maybe investigating having a Proper Job instead of my gadfly freelance existence.
Thursday, January 03, 2008
The BFC have published AW08's show schedule. The shows run from Sunday 10 - Friday 15 February, opening with the solid commercial worthy-ness of Paul Costello and ending with Julien Macdonald's star-spangled journey to the land that taste forgot.
As I noted last season, for the first time in my memory (I've been doing this for way too long), the BFC have finally decided to run schedules that makes sense geographically so we aren't pinging across London like elastic bands (when we aren't stuck in traffic jams.) There are still a few crazy back & forths between the Topshop venue (Marylebone Campus of University of Westminster) & the BFC tent (Natural History Museum), but they are mainly in the evening - or at least they will be once the shows start running as late as normal.
I understand that with the dearth of decent models doing the London season, the shows are always going t run late as designers wait for the frantic girls to zip between consecutive shows, but I am consistently gobsmacked that designers showing first on the schedule run 20-40 minute late. (I was so innured to this that the first time I covered the New York shows I actually missed a couple as they all ran ON TIME - extraordinary!)
Wednesday, January 02, 2008
Why thank you darling Susannah of Le Style Sauvage firstly for tagging me with a Thinking Blogger Award, secondly, for saying the most delicious blush-making things about my blog and, thirdly, for alerting me to some rather good blogs. I first got tagged in June by my adored Mrs Fashion, and several times since: I do like the way it lets blogs connect to each other.
This time around I would like to tag Wee Birdy, for keeping me so stylishly up to date with London, Nonsense on Stilettos for proving categorically that girls who live in India are just so thoroughly ON it, The Glam Guide for being such a good blogosphere friend, Queens Michelle & Marie of Kingdom of Style who not only enagage with great design in an intelligent and amusing manner, but quite obviously have the best wardrobes in Scotland, and a return-the-compliment tag to Style...A Work in Progress for being a blogger who writes beautifully, and who always surprises me with her take on life.