Saturday, February 28, 2009

Kathy Griffin hits MSG

Having been in a state of dormouse-like hibernation since I returned to Manhattan from London, I decided last Saturday to ramp it up a few gears. After the horror show date the night before, my sanity preservers, Y&GG, abandoned their Bassett hound to whisk in from the outer burbs of Jersey in their super-macho SUV with tickets for Kathy Griffin at Madison Square Gardens.

A KG show is the perfect antidote to hideous dating: not a lot of straight men in that audience. She’s a fierce & funny performer, although to the English ear a woman using the C word isn’t exactly ground breaking or even provocative, but her American audience obviously find her incredibly transgressive, given the gales of laughter & approval that meet her every swear word. She reminds me of an over-pepped, Hello or US Weekly-reading housewife: her two hour set is like being in the company of an over-excited friend who’s just hung out with some celebrities and has to tell you every detail of the encounter.

I was super grateful to les gars for perking me up no end. I do adore them both: they are old friends from London, and it’s beyond blissful to have people here who know me well. It’s the friendship equivalent of a long, hot bath. Although hanging out with them always makes me extremely cross.

They’ve been together for umpteen years, married several years ago, share their lives, house & hound, yet because the American Federal Government refuses to accept civil partnerships contracted outside of the US, Y has no spousal status here. RIDICULOUS. They are more committed than most straight couples I know.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Through the Looking Glass: The Horror of the Milan Shows…. From a publicist's perspective

My series of posts about the reality behind Milan Fashion Week has prompted a huge response from my friends in the industry, including an email that had me hooting with laughter - and wincing with recognition. It was so good, so spot-on, that I persuaded her to let me post it here. She agreed - if I promised never to reveal her identity.

So, LLG presents the second in her series of guest blogs, a deep throat riposte to her fashion editor's view of Milan Fashion Week from X, her absolutely favourite London publicist.

Much as with Senior Editor jobs, the life of an upscale fashion label PR looks just faaaaabuolus from the outside, parties, free stuff, behind-the scenes access, international jet setting, etc. But the Milan shows are more of an endurance trial for the average fashion flack than a hotly anticipated jaunt. There are a number of absolute certainties:

1. Your client will spend the absolute minimum on your presence in Milan, which means 5am flights (yup, that’s 4am check-in), strictly cattle class. Not only will you be in full body shock at the fact you had to get up at 3am and get dressed in the PR uniform of smart black clothes, but when you get to the airport, you will instantly run into around 25 other PRs, editors, models and maybe a sprinkling of your own clients. Etiquette demands hello-nodding and polite chit chat in the coffee line. It is 4.30am.

You will then purchase the following for the 1 hour plane trip: 4-6 heavy glossy magazines, 1L bottle water, industrial quantities gum. On boarding, you will go to sleep immediately and then have to schlep this stuff around for the rest of your trip. If you are spectacularly unlucky you may end up next to an editor of one of the magazines you are reading. You will then spend the following hour making enthusiastic noises about the contents of said magazine at the hypersensitive editor with a degree of diplomacy that would impress Kofi Annan. It is not yet 5am.

2. There will not be a car and driver waiting for you. On landing, you will negotiate a 1,000,000,000 person line for cabs, replete with a surprising number of snappily dressed Italian gents who will shoulder their way into the queue in front of you. Practice saying no politely. Milan is a company town and they probably work for your client, or the show producer or any of the three million other people who can make life hell for the unwary PR.

Surmount almost impossible odds and get a taxi. Your driver will be either super surly, or chatty. Practice saying ‘Guarda la strada!’ (‘keep your eyes on the road!’) to these second sort, who will be turning around in their seats to talk to you. This type will also probably try and ask you to go to a discotheque with them. It is now about 9.30am.

At this point your office will start emailing you to tell you about all the editors who are complaining that they do not have their invitations/do not like their seats. Use the trip into town to get busy with this or feel the near-biblical wrath of both your client and the editor at some not-too distant point. You will also now start cheerily emailing and texting your way through an enormous list of editors – just to check they are coming/have their tickets/know you are on their case. Some people might think this is stalking – really it’s more like preventative insurance against getting sacked the minute you meet your client and they start interrogating you about who is coming in a way that would have made Himmler proud

3. Off to your hotel? Ha haha hahahhahahaha. Don’t be silly, you need to go straight to headquarters for the international meeting of all the PRs from around the world. Arrive at your client, find them closeted with the other countries PRs. It is a fact that however you try to reduce times on your trip, you will always be the last one into this meeting. Put your suitcase in the corner and try to look professional and worth your fee. Remember to say noteworthy things about the important editors you have had texts from in the car from the airport, whilst kissing your clients hello.

4. You will then enter the Endless Meeting, during which you will simultaneously try to look interested at the numerous statistics about page space and comparisons with money spent on PR and money spent on ads that your client will be explaining, and deal with several million more emails and text messages about show tickets and seating plans. Do a bit more email and text stalking. All the other countries PRs will be doing this too, occasionally having to leave the room to deal with a particularly shouty fashion assistant (presumably standing next to their editor, whose seating allocation they will be calling to complain about but who is waaaay too grand to speak to the PR themselves).


Dasha Khukova to edit POP

Have just woken up unfeasibly early to a clutch of emails from colleagues & friends in London & Milan, all alerting me to art & fashion dilettante Dasha Zhukova's appointment as editor in Chief at POP. All I could find in my extensive vocabulary to reply was Sweet Mother of God.

With Ms Grand's departure for LOVE it was obvious that just appointing one of London's pool of editors was never going to work. A statement needed to be made so that POP would continue to make headlines, justify its hefty £5 cover price and, most important, sell copies.

With her Russian oligarch father (Alexander Zhukov) behind her, Zhukova has already cut a swathe through the contemporary art world. I'm wondering how much the new POP will veer towards art from fashion under her direction. Traditionally art magazines have had tiny circulations, however prestigious and beautifully designed: the readership and advertising just isn't there. So, Zhukova's challenge will undoubtedly be to mesh her arts biased coverage with lucrative fashion advertising, whilst keeping & adding readers. Tricky.

However, I've worked on a couple of magazines that have had an E-i-C who knows bugger all about magazines and they are scary places. The underpaid and overworked proper staff end up taking up all the slack, whilst the E-i-C swans around looking delicious, spends all her time out of the office and, when she is there, has editorial flights of fancy that cannot possibly be met on existing editorial budgets.

So, one has to presume Zhukova is taking a fiscal stake in the venture, and will be adding some of her oligarch father's money to the editorial budget. British Grazia reports that POP will be launching a new website, a new London office, an installation space in Berlin and a partnership with The Saatchi Gallery in London. In the current fiscal climate at best that is brave, at worst suicidal.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Milan Fashion Week: The Inside track

Think fashion shows are all relentless glamour and fun? Think again my friends. Relentless they certainly are, but fun is in short supply at the top.

Milan Fashion Week kicks off today, and to celebrate I went through my archive to bring you the Milan shows from the perspective of a senior editor at a national glossy magazine.

Part One: The background
Part Two: How it works
Part Three: Getting around
Part Four: What we actually do
Part Five: Where we stay & eat, & who attends
Part Six: The horror of the Milan shows - & why we love them.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Lenten Fast: Day One

Breakfast: 1 tbsp basmati rice. One 2 inch rectangle tofu & chili paste. 6 spears steamed asparagus. Soy sauce.
(That’s all there was in the fridge. Eat or starve.)

Diet resolution no.1: Always make sure you go shopping the day before you start a healthy eating regimen.

Actual weight: 145lbs or ten stone 5lbs or 66kg
Goal weight: 135lbs or nine stone 9lbs or 61kg

At 5'6" tall, I think this is a realistic goal weight. When I was 16, I weighed 55kg or 121 lbs. I played sport four times a week and looked like a toothpick. At my age I certainly don't aspire to the body of an adolescent, I want to look like a woman with curves. Just not as many as I have right now: my chest is the bane of my life & if I can shrink it, well, hurrah.

Next update in a week.

Lenten Fast. Otherwise known as Get Fit for California

My primary indulgence, the one I think about every single day, is food. I love cooking & eating. It’s my passion, my greatest pleasure, so my Lenten penance is to cut out some of the foods that I adore the most. I don’t really have a sweet tooth, but I love fried food and I adore Mexican cooking – which isn’t exactly known for its health benefits, so this Lent, (which starts today, Ash Wednesday), they are forbidden. The side effect: I am going to get healthy and lose some of my avoirdupois before I head to California at the beginning of April.

I will be following a low GI (glycaemic index) plan as well as co-opting a few other nutrition tricks. This means that I can eat some carbs, but they have to be good ones (generally not the white or over-processed ones as these convert into sugar more rapidly, affecting our blood glucose levels, & increasing hunger pangs). Low GI carbs don’t cause these sugar rushes and reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes.

I’m apple-shaped, meaning I store fat around my middle, increasing substantially my exposure to these diseases, compared to women who store fat around their bottoms and hips (the traditional pear shape), and so this diet is aimed at shifting some of this dangerous fat for health as well as vanity reasons.

My plan is this: minimal carbs, (mainly mid GI basmati rice & no alcohol, potatoes, sugar, biscuits/cookies, cakes or doughnuts). A lot of protein (beans, whole eggs, tofu, a little cheese), soup, low fat yoghurt for calcium, and fruit & vegetables in such abundance that I may turn green. It’s been proved that hot liquids increase satiety or fullness, so I’m going to be adding vegetable stock based sauces to all cooked vegetables too. There will be a lot of chewing involved: not only this better for my digestion, but al dente & chunky vegetables are lower GI, as the more processed a food (whether pureed, mashed or over cooked), the quicker it breaks down into sugar in your bloodstream.

I’m not going to be calorie counting, but I will be keeping an eye on portion size. Doing Weightwatchers successfully a few years ago shows me just how small a sensible portion of food really is. No protein portions larger than a pack of playing cards, only a few tablespoons of rice, and as many vegetables as I can eat.

Fortunately my preference is for healthy foods – I never, ever buy processed ingredients, preferring to cook everything from scratch (bar baked beans obviously), I don’t drink sodas & fizzy drinks or that much alcohol, eat crisps, buy crap very often, or eat that unhealthily at home. My problems are with portion size, butter (oh god, butter I love you), take out & restaurants where I always eat exactly what I want, when I want (if you don't cook it, it doesn't count has always been my rule), & rewarding myself with snacks like doughnuts when I am feeling down.

NO more.

The Last Supper

Ah. Shake Shack. Pretty high up on my last list of great New York eating places, this stand-alone, low key hut from restaurateur Danny Meyer (Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern, The Modern), is situated in Madison Square Park & surrounded by skyscrapers.

All year round it serves burgers in greaseproof paper bags, hot dogs, trays of fries & ice cream sundaes in soda cups. And a Pooch-Ini, of course (vanilla ice-cream, peanut butter & dog biscuits). That's it. All immaculately sourced, perfectly composed in their simplicity and delicious beyond words.

So, of course, that's where I headed tonight in minus temperatures to order my last calorie-laden to-go bag of supper before I start my Lenten fast tomorrow.

The Shroom Burger is a deep fried and breaded portabello mushroom filled with an inch of molten muenster & cheddar cheeses, enclosed with tomato & lettuce in the freshest, softest griddled potato bun. (The first time I bit into one I thought I was getting a bog standard vegeburger. Upon hitting the crispy, mushroom-y, cheesy heaven I actually groaned aloud in pleasure.)

French fries are crinkle cut for extra fluffy insides & perfectly crispy exteriors. I may also have added the ludicrous Shack Attack to my order: dense frozen chocolate custard blended with Valhrona chocolate pieces, fudge chunks, truffle cookie dough and chocolate sprinkles. There are no words.

Lent: here I come in style.

The only drawback to Shake Shack is the wait outside for your hand-held order buzzer to start vibrating when your food is ready to go. In midwinter it takes about five minutes, plenty long enough to stop feeling your toes. In summer it takes so long (at least thirty minutes) to queue & to order that you are drenched in sweat by the time your food comes.
Shake Shack - with no queues. A sight so rare it had to be recorded.

(Click on images to enlarge)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

My dating life. Your opinions, please

My oh so charming companion of Friday night has SMS’d asking to see me again this week. I usually never do this, working on the theory that if I don’t fancy them and am pretty sure I don’t like them, then what would be the point?


Continually unattracted to the men I meet, I write off every single first date I go on. My mother keeps banging on at me about always going on a second date if asked.("Darling they might have nice friends, they may just have been really nervous or maybe they are good work contacts".) And maybe she has a point. Perhaps I should just go on second dates, if asked, as a general policy, instead of always skating briefly across the surface of people's lives.

On the flip side, I hate the idea of leading on anyone who is vulnerable. I wouldn't want it done to me.

But are second dates, rather than the initial blind meeting, where the real decisions to move forward are made? And so therefore no one would be that annoyed if I then decided they weren't a runner? Growing up in a country where dating doesn't really exist means this whole game is still pretty confusing to me.

Therefore, although I’m convinced of his complete unsuitability, I am kind of tempted to meet him again to initiate a new policy of always going on second dates.

What do you think?

Friday Night Dating

I do date here. Not with any real hope of it leading to anything but because if I don’t it seems like a cop out. And I rather like the ritual of dressing up – and you really can dress up here & look totally congruous, as opposed to London, where if I turned up to the Lansdowne or the Engineer in a cocktail frock, my date would run a mile.

This brings me to Friday night’s date. Blind, of course, as I am still signed up to my on-line dating service. I arranged to meet him at Soho House. Really, truly, comprehensively lazy of me: it’s a mere two blocks from my front door. Thing is the date called, catching me on the hop and, as I’ve just moved to this bit of town, I can never think of bars in which to meet. I just blurted SH out as a last resort.

He had only had a couple of pictures posted, and his main profile picture was him in Wayfarers, a leather cowboy hat and a gingham shirt. He was 38, had dark auburn hair, stubble and reminded me a bit of Damien Hirst (in a good way). His emails were quite funny, he knew England well and there was enough to risk a drink.

When I arrived I couldn’t find him.

There was however a middle aged man with stringy wavy pale ginger hair, a crap suit and a skew-whiff tie loosely knotted around his neck in the manner of a sales manager after a few after-work drinks. Yup, that was my date. He was so far from what I was expecting that I just plumped myself down, flustered. I’ve been on a lot of blind dates and he is the first on either side of the Atlantic that has been so markedly different from his images.

In my head I was meeting a downtown type (from his photos, & because his profile said that’s where he liked to hang). In reality he was an Uptown type who liked slumming it Downtown. Not the same thing At All. He wasn’t unpleasant, just rather brayingly entitled, reeking of trust fund-ery*, and it grated.

As I sat, I noticed he had both a large glass of red wine and what I thought was a glass of water in front of him. It turned out to be vodka. In under an hour he put away two double vodkas and the wine. Even by lax English drinking standards, I think that’s excessive. By American standards that makes him an alcoholic.

I was supposed to be meeting JK there at 745 for supper before the movies but I could tell that he was the type who would just end up trying to join us, and I’m too English/repressed to successfuly wriggle out of that. So I started to get my stuff together, expecting him to call for the check. He just sat and sat. As he was quite trad, I presumed he was waiting for me to leave, so he could call for the check and then leave himself.

I said goodbye, planning to go to the loo, and then sneak back in again. Peeking through the glass wall ten minutes later, I was horrified to see him that he had moved seats to face the room, was ordering more drinks and settling in for the night. What a feckin cheek: it’s a private member’s club – as my guest he must have known he was expected to leave with me, but he was so bloody entitled he just decided to stay, spread out on the banquette like the King of the World whilst he had the opportunity. Sabotaging my evening. Grr.

Shan’t be seeing him again.

*I'm not engaged in hunting down a meal ticket, now or for life, so this is not a plus in my book.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Mistress of efficiency - when I get around to it

Procrastination, as you know, is a trait I wish I didn't have. After I finished styling Francoise Olivas’ show for NYFW on Tuesday evening, I hibernated indoors until Friday lunchtime when I had a concerted energy rush so strong I practically leapt from my fifth floor apartment to the street below. (I'd hoped I'd get going on Thursday but it didn't happen.)

I hot footed it to the East Village from my new place in the West to tie up the loose ends of my life over there, fuelling up at Crif Dogs on the way with a veggie hotdog, lashings of ketchup and a portion of Tater Tots so large I thought my tum would explode.

In a few hours I whirled around the Village, depositing cheques, mailing parcels, & buying groceries, lugged random bags of detritus, portfolios & huge fashion tomes down four flights of seemingly vertical stairs, (I dream of living in an elevator building), & hopped the free shuttle service to my Chelsea storage unit from my old East Village apartment to take it all away.

After cramming all my junk into the container (bottom against straining metal door as I tried to padlock it), I sprinted (as well as you can in MBT trainers) back home from Chelsea to fling frocks around & get dressed in ten minutes for a pre-dinner drink at Soho House with a date, followed by delicious Thai bento boxes with JK at mirror balled & disco'd up Pad Thai (actually much better than the reviews) on 8th Ave and a showing of Frost/Nixon (excellent, highly recommend) on 42nd Street. Home by 1230am.

Let no one say I can’t get things done when I put my mind to it.

2007 and all that

2007 was a bonkers year for me. Stuck in the depths of the never-ending winter here, I've decided to skip down memory lane and present my (very) edited highlights.

I started blogging from Manhattan in March 2007. London. New York... Plus ca change...But some things are different
It wasn't all fashion parties. There were book launches too. And supper at Elaine's. And gigs
I bought my first NY bike. And promptly fell off it. Ouch.
I flew home for a wedding.
As it got hotter, working from home turned into sunbathing here, & I changed my wardrobe. And goodness, I seemed to have done a lot of partying.
I discovered blogging memes
Had my first date with a New Yorker, and discovered that what I wear passes many people by.
Fed my inner geek, and realised that I was staying in Manhattan permanently.
Started to discover that some people do think differently over here, and began to work out this dating thing
Played Sartorialist at Lollapalooza in Chicago with lovely L, & experienced my first gifting suite
Learned to wear wellies in Manhattan, & flashed my knickers in a BBCTV studio.
Spent September attempting to dispel a few myths about fashion people, went on location here, and played non-bridesmaid for Miss P.
Dating went from bad to worse & I discovered that going out here is not like Sex & the City.
Kissed a boy. Turned into a stalker, and gave up on dating.
My birthday party was utterly bloody brilliant and I ate my weight the next week before celebrating Christmas early by painting Manhattan red .
I returned to London for an operation, and completed my guide to Manhattan restaurants.

And finished the year, conveniently, by writing what would be my favourite blog post so far, reminiscing about my eccentric grandmother.

2007 was a good year & I rounded it up here.

Thank you for your support

Blogging is a labour of love: it doesn’t pay and it requires daily commitment. The rewards are the vibrant community that you join, the people that you meet on-line, the (often arcane) knowledge that you gain – and, of course, the opportunity to say whatever one chooses without let or hindrance – otherwise known as editors in my world.

Anything else is unexpected, so being included in The Sunday Times Guide to the 100 Best Blogs yesterday really was the cherry perched high on my iced blogging cupcake.

So I’m saying thank you: to everyone on both sides of the Atlantic who has supported me & my blog over the past year or so, to the exceptional PRs & publicists who understand that the blogosphere can be a friend not an enemy, providing a different but often equally valid voice amongst the media clamour*, to my friends who put up with me using our activities as blog fodder and, above all to my readers. Without readers’ comments and interaction, blogs wither and die.

Thank you for keeping me going.

* I’ve said it before, and I’m saying it again: Still astonished by just how few fashion PRs & publicists engage with the online world, (& not just blogs). So incredibly short-sighted. And that's not puffed up vanity on my part, but common sense. On line reach can be intensely targeted to a particular market and produce an ROI way, way ahead of traditional print markets.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Oscars Red Carpet - initial thoughts...

Apart from the frocks, the thing that has amused me most so far about this year’s Oscars red carpet is how the actresses were holding themselves. With so many strapless dresses and so many reassuringly untoned upper arms, nearly all the women adopted a special bent elbow, arms held away from the body red carpet pose, often with hands clasped, in order to add muscle tone. They looked slightly strange, as though they were about to break into song.

Main culprits included Amy Adams (appeared to be on the cusp of doing an Enchanted number for the duration of her Tim Gunn interview), Anne Hathaway, Angelina and Meryl (who really didn’t need to worry, since she was wearing an eminently practical sleeved number.)

The Sunday Times Guide to the 100 Best Blogs

Well, whaddya know? The London Sunday Times has posted the second part of its Top 100 Blogs in the World. And I am in it! And sod not being blasé. I am thrilled. For a blog this tiny to be included with all those heavyweights is, to me, extraordinarily gratifying.

Equally thrilling is that three of my great blog-friends are on the list. Belgian Waffling, Mrs Trefusis & I spend way too much time every day Twittering at each other*, and I love that Wee Birdy, who explores London with such enthusiasm, & who has been so supportive of this blog, is included too.

Extract from the piece.

Rather like having your own — real — version of The Devil Wears Prada as a blog. An anonymous twentysomething Brit working as the fashion director of a New York-based glossy gives the lowdown on what her glamorous life is really like. Both self-deprecating and outspoken, it’s a tonic if you suspect Sex and the City is all a big lie.

NB: I actually resigned from my job in December but hey, still true-ish
Written by “Jaywalker”, who describes herself as a Eurozombie, slattern and unfit mother of two sons, this is a drily witty peek into the home life of a 34-year-old Brit trying to make sense of life in Brussels with her French “life partner”, CFO (who is, yes, a chief financial officer and tortoise-lover).
Mrs Trefusis Takes a Taxi (“because she eschews sensible shoes”) is by a London woman with a passion for modish footwear and Mr Trefusis (Manolo-Man). Urbane thoughts from one whose brow is considerably higher than her subject matter suggests.
Sometimes it takes outsider eyes to refocus your surroundings for you. Here is a native of Sydney whose blog registers all things good/unknown about her new home, London. Wee Birdy pokes around the back streets of the city for the best shops and sights, so you don’t have to.

*(sign up for our Twitter feeds on the right)


It’s nearly two years since I moved to New York. My anniversary is 05 March – if you discount that my first sublet here actually started at the beginning of February. It was so cold (-20C) that the moment NYFW had finished, JD & I hopped it back over the Atlantic, her to prep for a shoot in LA and me to prep for a campaign in South Africa.

So, having neatly avoided the worst of the winter weather, we re-appeared in March just as spring hit New York. Just for three months, I said, packing a single case & firmly believing I would be back in London for the summer. Thing is, I fell hard for America and when I came back to London for a wedding six weeks later, I found a long-term tenant for my Hampstead flat and I moved my life pretty much for good to New York.

And here I am, four apartments later, two years older and, generally, happier than I’ve ever been. Sure I get homesick, but I don’t think I could ever tire of living in the middle of this city. After eight years of living in a residential part of North London, needing to get in a car, bus or on a bike to go to a supermarket or the West End, living within walking distance of anything I could every want to do , buy or experience is, for me, extraordinary.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


Today is resolution day. I read my beloved Belgian Waffling’s blog entry this morning about her lassitude when it comes to life organization. It didn’t just strike a chord, it hit a resounding bloody row of timpani. And, reading her comments, I found it oddly reassuring that it isn't just me that has a problem with facing up to the dull quotidian tasks.

Procrastination, sticking of head in the teapot dormouse style, is my besetting sin. I am incapable of facing up to the things I have to do, be it sorting my finances, paying bills, pitching stories, posting my eBay purchases, depositing cheques, filing my taxes, doing laundry and the other hundred and one things on my lists. Half the time it’s not that I am actively ignoring what I have to do, these tasks just seem to get wiped from my brain.

It drives my little sister crazy that I can promise to do something one day and, by the next, it will just slip off into the ether to be forgotten about for a few weeks, maybe months.

Often I ignore the big tasks I have to face because I have so many small ones to do first that I can’t decide which to tackle first – and then I end up doing none of them. And I get irrationally scared of facing up to things, of dealing with official people too.

Anyway, today I’ve decided this has to change. I have two cheques to deposit, my stuff to move from the East Village place still, ten eBay packages to mail, three magazines to invoice and a slew of birthday and get well soon cards to send. Let’s see if I can accomplish this today. Then maybe I can get around to pitching the dozen or so stories I have waiting to go.

Stylist's Prop Kit

I really hate shopping. For clothes, that is. Shopping for books. Shopping for food. Shopping for kitchen supplies. Now that's fun.

Most fun of all is shopping for organising stuff. I've already described The Container Store as crack for the thirty-something female, but Manhattan Wardrobe Supply is even better. They sell everything stylists, make-up artists, costume designers & dressers need to do their jobs.

In my case I was replacing the few bits and bobs from my stylist's prop kit that I would need backstage at F's Fashion Week show last night, as mine is back in London where most of my styling work is based. (In New York I mainly write or edit for magazines.)

A prop kit is essentially all the bits & pieces we need to make a shoot work. Tit tape, gaffer tape, fishing wire, cosmetic stain remover, dress shields, chicken fillets (silicone breast enhancers) in a couple of different skin tones, nipple petals, shoe inserts of every kind, shoe horn, seam rippers, thread nippers, sewing kit, scissors, tape measure, lint rollers, Static Guard, Wrinkle Free spray, first aid kit, binder & bulldog clips, lots of underwear in different sizes and skin tones - these are the absolute basics.

I also have hand warmers for freezing cold outdoor shoots, a large portable steamer, dozens of lightweight suit carriers, a folding salesman's rolling rack, some very large suitcases and a mini hand-held steamer. And a sewing machine for costume design jobs.

I barely scraped the tip off the iceberg yesterday at the supply store but at least I have my bare necessities until I go back to England and dig out my kit. Although it was hard restraining myself as the store has everything you could possibly need for styling & wardrobe work. And it's a lot, lot cheaper: my dispenser of 30 feet of tit tape was $5.99 compared to $10 or so for a few strips in stores like Victoria's Secret.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Four great food books

Lying in bed the night before I moved out of the East Village apartment, I glanced over at my left hand bedside table (nightstand), and was suddenly struck by the titles piled up there. No devotional reading, light bedtime novels, or volumes of bien pensees for me. No, I had a stack of books about food.

Since I discovered the cookery book section at Strand, my book spending habits have been out of control. Since Union Square is on the way to just about everything, I convince myself at least twice weekly that Strand, just a couple of blocks south, is equally en route.

Just a leeetle look, I mumble to myself, already pushing through the doors.

Thing is, not only do they seem to stock just about everything (Strand buys thousands of books every day, so the stock is continually changing), they also have great discounts on list prices (often cheaper than Amazon) and, in addition to the largest rare books collection in New York City, they also buy/sell secondhand books so there are treasures to be unearthed.

And, of course, I'm all about supporting independent book stores. Yup, that's why I spend so much money in Strand. Nothing to do with my verging on uncontrollable book addiction.

That pile next to my bed:
Cooking for Kings: The Life of Antonin Careme, the First Celebrity Chef by Ian Kelly.: Tales Near the Runway gave me this when she stayed over for last season's NYFW. Wonderful insight into the beginnings of the cult of the chef in the 18th & 19th centuries.

American Food Writing: An Anthology: With Classic Recipes by Molly O'Neill. At $40 I lusted after this book for months, stroking its covers and dipping into the essays whilst lurking in Strand's corners, before finally giving in. From Meriwether Lewis's pioneer treks across the country to Michael Pollan's food missionary zeal, this book runs the gamut of the American way of eating. Extraordinary.

Alice Waters and Chez Panisse: The Romantic, Impractical, Often Eccentric, Ultimately Brilliant Making of a Food Revolution by Thomas McNamee. Extremely thorough & fascinating biography of a curiously unlikeable woman, which illustrates how this visionary overruled normal boundaries of common sense, politesse and feasibility to achieve her ends.

Secret Ingredients: The New Yorker Book of Food and Drink by David Remnick. Ranging across memoirs, short stories, poems and essays from the life span of The New Yorker, this is a wonderful dip-in anthology from writers from all fields.(M.F.K. Fisher, Roald Dahl, Julian Barnes, Joseph Mitchell, Calvin Trillin & Adam Gopnik all make an appearance.)

Olivia Morris sample sale

Delicious shoes. Almost worth getting on a plane/breaking my shopping moratorium.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

My mother

Sixty-three! Can you believe my mother, is sixty-three? Every day I stare in the bathroom mirror hoping I have inherited her preternatural youthful looks.

This photograph was taken in the West Village after her epic blow dry at Dlala a few weeks ago.(Some of you asked for photographic evidence.) I am coveting her Oliver Peoples Vanadis. (she also has immaculate taste) I've lost mine yet again. It's bizarre - I have a lot of sunglasses, yet the only ones I ever lose are my Vanadis. And that's it now: after three pairs I cannot justify replacing them again.

Lovely Lola's Manhattan baby shower

One of the pluses of moving to Manhattan was escaping the proliferation of infants amongst my friends. With the recent birth of Violet (congratulations Liv & Blakey), there's hardly one amongst us who isn't a parent in some way, and it's difficult being a single girl in London when your friends, quite rightly, are involved in bringing up their children. (Of course I adore my friend's offspring, and worship my godchildren). Speaking of which, this is my beloved Edward showing a proper interest in my shoes at Christmas.

And this is my adorable Amelia who is quite obviously going to be a fiend for fashion):
However I must admit that the lack of children amongst my friends here makes a baby shower in Manhattan a fun novelty. Last weekend was Lovely L's chic affair on the Upper West Side. She & her mother had filled the sun-drenched apartment with treats for the shower-ettes that played up L's Russian and American sides. We played present bingo, gossiped and ate a tea of breathtaking deliciousness, from Mariage Freres teas via caviar snacks to addictively scrumptious macaroons from Bouley Bakery.

The palm for most genius presents goes jointly to the ravishingly beautiful & insanely talented Royle sisters. Actress Abby

knitted a lovely white baby blanket with the baby's name appliqued across in blue, and artist Dorothy painted this exquisite picture for the baby's room.

I do think that hand-made gifts are quite the nicest.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The day I gave up style...

Having sworn I wasn’t going within fifty feet of a fashion show this season, I have relented in the case of a designer friend. She’s asked me to help style and do the run through of her first runway collection with her. (She’s showing with a group of young designers.)

I am about to leave for the run through wearing these on my feet.

This is how I know I have crossed the rubicon. Five years, heck, a year ago, I would have stuck pins in my eyes rather than leave the house wearing such remedial-looking footwear. And in the vicinity of fashion week! Looking like Gerry Halliwell in her Buffalo trainer-wearing days.

But my desire to wear a bikini when I hit LA is stronger and so I am now cruising around Manhattan in these monstrosities. Ladies ( and gentleman): I give you the Masai Barefoot Trainer.

Christ. I can't believe I am doing this. I blame the press office who sent them to me. At least I won't have to worry about brushing my hair or looking soignée. No one's going to be street-style photographing me today.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

McQ by Alexander McQueen for Target

McQ by Alexander McQueen for Target; Alexander McQueen; Target; McQ
Please God no one in London dresses like this. Whatever. I thought the whole line was hideous. In my last job I attended a fair few of La Force + Stevens' Target press presentations. Being able to see the entire collections (rather than what was left on a shop floor) made it simple to judge the success or otherwise of a line. I generally thought the Target designer collaborations were excellent distillations of a label's sensibility with the mass market in mind. (Bar Alice Temperley's execrable effort.)

Jonathan Saunders' work for Target springs to mind, not because I admire his runway work and very much like the man but because it kept his signature and looked desirable. And the upcoming Erikson Beamon jewellery collaboration is beyond excellent. (Basically, if Vicky Sarge & Karen Beamon hadn't been standing next to me at the press view I would have been tempted to scoop the whole lot into my handbag.)

But this offering from McQueen said nothing to me whatsoever. (Apart from run, run in the opposite direction.) It felt cheap, ugly and tacky. The prints in particular are actively awful. Exhibit (a):

The cuffed & studded denim short shorts looked okay (for anyone under 20) and there was one high necked black coated cotton poplin mac which had some hanger appeal, but worn looked like something Nurse Ratched would have worn on her day off. Otherwise, there was a proliferation of thin, cheap-feeling jersey pieces (see exhibit a), and unflattering tailoring. Most regrettably, it fails in the scope of its ambition: this collection is unlikely to entice those new to McQueen to spend money on the real McQ pieces.

Visions of doing re-see appointments in the Alexander McQueen mainline showroom in Paris during the pret a porter shows kept flashing across my mind, and I found it hard to believe that a man who can produce such exquisite beauty could be responsible for overseeing such wholesale tackiness. Granted McQ is his casual jeans line & he obviously doesn't design it himself, but there's just no excuse for putting his name to such a lacklustre effort.

Last season's pop-up Target Bodega in Midtown was set up somewhat shortsightedly in a room about the size of my apartment. It was so popular it became the scene of some rather undignified fashion roadkill, a distinct contrast to this weekend's McQ pop-up shop in a vast concrete floored warehouse Downtown, obviously set up for an invasion of McQueen loving shoppers.

I understand that the preview on Friday night was rammed, but it was a ghost town today: I half expected to see tumbleweeds rolling across the floor. Exhibit (b): unmanned cashier desks:
Often these shopping preview events can be rather frustrating as all the good stuff gets snapped up at the beginning and by the last day there is nothing left. The shelves were rammed today, so I hope for both Alexander McQueen & Target's sake that this is because they over-stocked on purpose, rather than because shoppers were so turned off by the clothes.

Why the LA diet's not going so well...

apple fritter; apple doughnut; apple donut
This, my friends, is an apple fritter. A delicious twistage of fried dough, with cinnamon-y apple-y-yumminess oozing through it and an icing sugar/water frosting over all the whole thing. Do not be deceived by the small picture. It is bigger than my fist. And I inhaled it in about thirty seconds. I don't even have a sweet tooth.

Why, oh why is there a shop called The Donut Pub by our apartment?

Pixies that steal my possessions when I'm not looking

I’m trying to distract myself from the knowledge that there is a still a pile of stuff waiting to be moved in the corner of my old apartment in the East Village to my storage container in Chelsea. I’ve already shifted my day to day essentials, so the odds and sods there don’t seem to have any urgency about being moved, especially now that I’ve found my missing software and cheque and my beloved leather jacket turned up at CA’s lovely West Village place where I have occasionally been working during the day whilst she’s been in London. (How could I have left without wearing it? Am fool.) Although I would very much like to know where the hell my camera cable is.

Somehow I always thought that once I was a grown up I’d stop misplacing things and my life would come together. Sadly that doesn’t seem to be the case. Last week I managed to leave my Blackberry at JM’s and then, when I returned to collect it, managed to leave it behind again. Moron.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Television: yes, I do watch it.

My name is LLG, and I am addicted to American television. There. I’ve said it. I’m fed up with pretending to agree when people get all highbrow, telling me they don’t own a television, and aren’t interested in TV.

I say bollocks to all that. I just don’t believe them. As I have recently discovered, rather a lot of people without TV sets are happily (& stealthily) watching telly on their laptops. What they really mean is that they don’t make a date with the TV schedule, and they don’t watch all the crap.

And I’m with them there: I have never watched daytime TV, soaps leave me cold (sod off Dot), TV news makes me wince, and reality TV induces nausea but give me a good drama (historical or procedural) and I’m hooked. As are the TV naysayers who think their dirty little viewing habits don’t count if the shows they watch are released on DVD.

We can’t get the BBC iPlayer over here, but NBC, ABC, FOX & CBS all have their own free on-demand versions on-line. Frankly, there’s nothing better when you can’t sleep late at night than curling up under the duvet and playing catch up with your favourite shows. I just wish there weren’t quite so many.

My especial addictions: Life (starring RSC alumni Damian Lewis as an ex-felon Californian cop- bizarre, I know), Bones (FBI, forensic pathology and a healthy sprinkling of cheese), & CSI: NY (More crime scene action – & it’s set in NYC – what’s not to like?). But hell, I also watch CSI: Miami, CSI itself, Entourage, The Mentalist, NCIS, Cold Case, Without a Trace, House, and my new absolute favourite: Lie To Me, (starring a wry & dry Tim Roth as a facial recognition expert who solves crimes – he’s curiously sexy when he’s not playing psychotics).

I also have to admit to discovering the CW’s on-line player. Which means I also watch Privileged (I know, I know – it really is dreadful), the new 90210 and, of course, Gossip Girl. Always.

I may have a problem.

Friday, February 13, 2009

New York Fashion Week starts today...

New York Fashion Week for Fall 2009 kicked off this morning. And that’s pretty much all you’re going to hear from me on the subject. After working twenty hour days last season, belting around Manhattan covering nearly every big show, hot young designer appointment and the major advertisers’ parties & presentations, spending a day in hospital with an eye infection caused by overwork and getting drenched to the skin five times when my car got delayed, with the misery compounded by a disengaged editor and an inexperienced, inefficient and out of his depth assistant, I am actively engaging with not engaging with the whole kerfuffle this time round.

My inbox has been inundated with invitations but, as a freelancer, attending the shows is a waste of time. I’m old enough not to be given the traditional freelancer’s nosebleed seat behind a pillar, but I still wouldn’t get a great view (the first four or five rows are reserved exclusively for magazines and buyers). Frankly I’d see it all better on

And there’s little point in networking when there’s a hiring freeze across the board, and the whole affair seems like a wake for the fashion industry as we know it. Attending Fashion Week is stressful, time-consuming & expensive and if I’m not being paid to be there to report on it all or be nice to advertisers, I’d rather see the clothes on appointment later in the season. Because, after all, it is the clothes that are the point of it all.

How I'm avoiding Valentine's Day

So. Dating. As I explained a few weeks ago, I’m still not entirely sure if I’m into the whole relationship thing. Of course this could just be because it’s so long since I met anyone for whom I felt even the vaguest spark of well, anything at all. Maybe if I was continually meeting men who interested me physically I’d be all over dating.

Still, I persevere. At the very least it’s amusing. At best I’m meeting people with whom I like hanging out. The night Mrs. Mad rolled into town I took her for an early supper in the West Village (we went to The Other Place as everywhere else we tried was full – it was Not Good At All), tucked her up in bed, and hopped it to a blind date down the road at 930pm, promising I’d be back in an hour or so.

Me & my good intentions. After two margaritas with a most amusing Scottish gentleman, I rocked up back home at midnight. Next day I got an email suggesting hanging out in the future. Fine by me: There was no romance a-burning from what I cld deduce. Most importantly, I have been so successful in my American integration that I have precisely two British friends left in Manhattan and I need to replenish stocks. (It’s important to have people in one’s life who understand phrases like ‘bun fight’, ‘dog’s dinner’ or ‘mad as a box of frogs’.)

So it’s Fight Night tomorrow and we have what I would describe as an anti-date. We are avoiding all places that are pink cupid strewn, and/or dark & romantic and heading to a cellar to drink sake instead. I’ve made him promise to hoick me back up if I fall off my bar stool in a sake stupor and he has vaguely threatened to pin a pink bow in my hair when I’m not looking.

Upon resuming my life

So my mother has been complaining that my blog is way too downbeat. I’m not sure I entirely agree, but I do know that my exploits have barely been exploits so far this year, more daily blah…After all, house moving and dull, dull, fiscal restraint do not make LLG full of fun and frolics. But hurrah! The sun is shining, (it was 55F on Wednesday. F&&k you snowy London), and I am turning over a new leaf.

Henceforward I will be social! Upbeat! Perky! Hmm. Perhaps not. I am not, never have been perky. But I am going to engage with a little more than my apartment. And I’m off to a rollicking start. Last night JM celebrated her, erm, 24th birthday a day early – it would be way too hellish to go out tonight and battle the bridge and tunnel crowds for our cocktails. (Happy Birthday my dear).

Given that in the two years I have lived in the East Village, I can count on my fingers the amount of times I have been into a bar there, (too many people/excessive drunkenness/fighting for seats. Think Shoreditch on a Friday night) I found a slight irony that JM’s drinks were in Alphabet City, a mere two avenues over from my old apartment, two days after I officially moved out.

Anyway, even given that we were drinking in student land, I dressed up good and proper. Well, I had to mark the fact that, apart from a few dates, it’s the first time I’ve been in a bar with friends this year. Quite pleased with general effect of super short black stretchy cap sleeved dress, these boots, my black wool cape, black elbow gloves and yards of black cashmere scarf shawl thing. And dangly earrings. Of course. (Look, it’s the depths of winter - colour is for summer and perky people.) I can’t really tell yet, but I think I may have lost some of the excess blubber, thanks to the Going To LA regimen minceur.

Anyway, a splendid evening at Rue B. I will draw a veil over JK and I troughing our way through cheese/artichoke/spinach dip and chips and the (very very small)9” pizza we shared, and focus instead on the remarkably restorative effect of vodka when mixed with blood oranges and gomme syrup.( I do like to take some vitamins down with my alcohol. It feels more virtuous.)

Tonight we celebrate JM’s birthday in style: we are hunkering down in her shiny new apartment, ordering in, watching movies and, maybe, doing some light wine drinking. I really wish I had one of these for the evening, but will content myself with my cashmere blanket instead. Oh for a whippet or a dachshund to stuff under the blanket.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


I do love new tech toys. I’ve always, always been an early adopter – had an iPod way before any of the boys, let alone any of the girls I know bought one - and, as a lazy perfectionist, I’m always convinced that new toys will make my life simpler, more streamlined. Hah!

And I love on-line toys too. Plaxo is attached to my Outlook, my photos are on Snapfish, I signed up for LinkedIn, use iBackup, download new apps for my Crackberry. MySpace was addictive – played with my page, looked up bands – but then the novelty wore off when I realised only about three of my Friends were actually Proper Friends in the real world. But Facebook (which I wrote off back in 2006 as pour les enfants), suddenly became indispensible and yup, I’ve just signed up for Twitter. *

My better side knows that it would be unbearably solipsistic to Tweet as me (surely no one cares that much about my movements), but I think it’s a great adjunct to the blog. Although I have blogged remotely, I love that I can quickly post sidebars that are relevant to LLG in bite size pieces, and that it acts as Instant Messaging for the blog too) If you want to follow my tweets as Liberty London Girl, click on the link to the right.

* Twitter is a real-time micro-blogging site that users can post (tweet) to remotely (or fron the Twitter site), and follow other users' tweets.

Nearly done...

Well, I’m nearly, nearly moved. There’s still a big sack of laundry, two bags for The Salvation Army and one more load of random junk for the storage facility piled into a corner of the East Village apt which I should have moved out yesterday. But I lost the will to engage and spent the day crashed out in my new place, rearranging my knicker drawer and failing to get dressed until hunger drove me out the house at 730pm.

My excuse is that I have done the entire move on my own, up and down four flights of steep stairs in each place, and back and forth from each side of the island to the other over three days and by yesterday I had Had Enough.

I still do not understand where all this stuff has come from. Maybe it breeds. I don’t have any furniture here, bar three lamps and a mirror, and my kitchen equipment is limited to a Wusthof knife, three Globals and some cake tins. Everything else is supposed to be back in England awaiting the day I either move back or can afford to ship it all over.

Four huge black expandable nylon bags on wheels from one of the random shops on 14th street for $50 seemed like plenty. One was for clothes, one was shoes and bags (Holy crap – how can I have that many shoes?) one was the result of my addiction to The Container Store, and the last was for all the random shit I scooped up from around the flat. So far, so good.

But then there’s all the stuff I didn’t think about: duvet, blankets & pillows, piles of towels & bedlinen, paperwork, my portfolio, the printer, bottles of Champagne, Wellies, my case of summer clothes stashed in the hall cupboard, and on and on and on… and it all weighs a ton.

Although my container is about to start bulging like a gone-off baked bean can, if I do ever need to move away from New York, maybe half the contents can be given away or sold.

[When I left the apartment I was just going to leave all my storage behind, but then I thought, sod it, I have the space to store hundreds of coat hangers, shelving units, blah ,blah, & I’ll only have to replace it all eventually when I do find a new place on my return from LA. so all that good stuff is in there too].

And, I’m selling as much as I can right now in my great purge of unnecessary possessions. (I seem to head to the Post Office daily to post stuff to Amazon and eBay buyers.) That feels extremely good. Life Laundry here I come…

Off shortly to engage with laundry/bank/errands/charity shop. I think I'll leave carting the junk 'till tomorrow morning.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Sixes and sevens and eights...

I'm right in the middle of house moving right now, stuck in a hamster wheel of horror between my current place in the East Village, my new-but-temporary sub-let in the West Village and my new storage container facility by Chelsea Piers.

Pluses of moving in several stages over two days: I've got to be burning some serious calories. Minuses: Having to carry everything downstairs on my own from my fourth floor walk up is bloody exhausting. (I can't justify hiring movers when I have no furniture, & all I'm moving are clothes and books. (And beauty stuff. And magazines. And more clothes. And boxes of costume jewellery. Etc etc.))

Normal blogging will resume when I'm done, or when I'm collapsed with fatigue. Whichever comes sooner...

Friday, February 06, 2009


God the blogosphere is mutable. One of my top blogs, Definitely Stopping At Two, has been deleted. I know she has been wresting with the problem that, as too many people close to her knew her identity, her ability to be forthright about matters important to her had started to be seriously trammelled. So, sniff, bye love.

Her disappearance does raise questions about anonymity on the web. I've written about this before, but I'm really not that fussed. After all, if you work in fashion it's pretty easy to work out who I am, and I've told enough people I write it. I just fear complete strangers rootling through my life via Google. Although I was a little taken aback yesterday to receive a (lovely) email from a rather senior editor asking if I was LLG, after she had seen her name on my blog. It was a salutory reminder that if you name people, they WILL find & read it, whether by accident or by design.

As this is a blogosphere post, I wanted to mention my two newest, absolutely favourite-est blogs, which started up in my break from blogging last year. Belgian Waffling, by Jaywalker is astonishingly open about the life of an Englishwoman, who happens to live in Brussels with a whippet puppy, two sons and her husband, in that order, it would seem. Although frankly, I suspect she could re-write the phonebook and make it sound interesting, such is her turn of phrase and facility with language.

The second is Mrs Trefusis Takes a Taxi which I read for reasons more than our shared love of Nancy Mitford, toasted teacakes & Wellington boots. She proves yet again that it doesn't matter what you write on a blog, as long it is written beautifully.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Temporary break

Slight hiatus in blogging as have spent today being ill-ish. Not really ill, just ill & crampy enough to go back to bed every couple of hours for a codeine-induced*, hot water bottle cosseted nap. I think it’s partly a reaction to sitting at my desk for nine straight hours yesterday, bar loo breaks, whilst I bashed out, sorry honed some copy for a last minute deadline. Anyway I have exciting news for tomorrow. I just can’t keep my eyes open long enough to type it. Good night loves.

*Can you believe you can't buy codeine in this country over the counter? Thank god for Boots at Heathrow & its handy supply of Solpadeine Max


Oh God. I've just realised that I have precisely two months to lose 15lbs before I leave for Los Angeles. There is NO WAY I am putting my winter body into a swimming costume, let alone a bikini. NO WAY JOSÉ.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

California Dreaming

I’ve given up on apartment hunting. It’s just too soul destroying. There’s nothing suitable out there and rents seem to be falling weekly. I’m better off waiting a couple of months and getting a better deal. I’ve decided instead to put my stuff into storage, (which is super cheap here compared to London), sublet something just for March and bugger off to California for the whole of April, more or less.

I blame Tales Near the Runway. After she persuaded me to go to Coachella with her through the simple device of offering to buy me a ticket, and I then realised that a cross country plane ticket costs about the same as a bog-standard Eurostar London-Paris seat, I thought sod it. I can afford a month away if I avoid paying rent in NYC for that month. So, no committing to a new apartment quite yet.

I plan to hire a car and go visit all my friends on the West Coast and do some sight-seeing. (I really, really want to go to Disneyland for starters.)I intend to pick up a few commissions from my UK editors and, at worst, I should break even. This plan is so cunning I could put a tail on it and call it a weasel.

Hero beauty products

Yes, you may have noticed that this is not a blog where consistency is the writer’s watchword. One day you get a blog where I talk about my depressing experiences flat hunting in Manhattan, the next a rant about gourmet food overpricing. Today you get some beauty hackery. Ah yes. Variety is the spice of life.

I’ve been on the receiving end of big fat packages of beauty products to trial and to write about since I was twenty-four, and I still remember my astonishment after my first external beauty launch. L’Oréal had sent a car to Vague House and, as my magazine hadn’t yet appointed a Fashion & Beauty director, I was paired up for the journey with the then frankly terrifying veteran Vague Beauty Director, Kathy Philips. Boy, was the neophyte editorial assistant out of her depth.

We were whisked off to a floating Chinese restaurant in Regent’s Park for dim sum followed by an interminable presentation (yup the range was Chinoiserie-themed. Nothing like the imaginative powers of the beauty company PR) and, on the way out, I was handed what can only be described as a bucket of beauty.

Inside was the entire Winter colour range – every single item from maybe twenty eyeshadows right through to more lipsticks than I could count, plus two beautiful plain black lacquer boxes (which I still have on my desk here in New York). That’s the moment when I realised that if I stayed in magazines, I was never going to have to buy make-up , or skin care ever again.

Of course it hasn’t quite worked out like that. Sometimes I get given a product that is so good that I actually replace it by spending real money in a real store. These products are very few and far between as very little really impresses me. This entry here was pretty comprehensive on my hero skincare products. My hero colour cosmetics are Bobbi Brown’s Nude lipstick and RMK foundation. I added Lancome’s Oscillating mascara to the list last year. That’s it. Everything else is inter-changeable.

What I will add to my buy them myself skin care list are beauty serums. I'd been sent so many over the years and always gave them away. Then a couple of years ago I decided that prevention was better than cure for my thirty-something skin. The truly stand out ones I've tried so far are philosophy’s anti-oxidant when hope is not enough, Boots No7 Refine & Rewind Intense Perfecting Serum and Ole Henrikson's Truth Serum Collagen Booster, which is chock full of anti-oxidants & Vitamin C. And I'm actually considering stocking up on the philosophy product right now.

They all need moisturiser on top for proper hydration but they seem to make my skin glow the next morning. The Boots serum in particular actually makes my skin look softer & plumped out eight hours later. Extraordinary.

The September Issue

Of course, I shall go to see documentary The September Issue directed by RJ Cutler, about the run up to US Vogue's biggest issue of the year, which just showed in competition at Sundance. Just because I've been a magazine editor for years, and a Conde Nast one for a large part of my twenties, doesn't mean I'm not fascinated by how other publications work.

I'm also of the theory that La Wintour's decision to participate in this film means that her departure is imminent. The whole project has the air of a swansong about it. There's a sneak peak of her making an editor squirm here on

And, speaking of the bobbed one, I was Googling her last night for something else. Her Wiki entry makes fascinating reading: I hadn't realised how well, normal, her early career was & how contrastingly meteoric her rise was once that happened. Rather reassuring I thought for all of us with ADD resumes.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Who will edit Tatler?

Tales of the Runway & I love nothing more than a good industry gossip and we have been debating today who will take over from Geordie Greig at Tatler now that he’s been officially announced as the new editor of London’s prestigious daily, The Evening Standard. Of course, it’s been common knowledge in the media that this move was happening and his possible successors will have been jockeying for position for weeks.

It’s a difficult seat to fill: Tatler may often be derided for being the reading matter of society fluff, but as one of England’s oldest magazines, founded in the 18th Century, it often sets an interesting agenda: Tina Brown & then the glorious Mark Boxer made it a must read in the 80s, ex editor Jane Proctor recommended Liz Hurley to Estee Lauder and both Michael Roberts & Izzy Blow were fashion directors there. The writing often leaves a lot to be desired, (an old friend who subbed (copy edited) there told me that Tatler contributors were the worst writers she had ever had the misfortune with which to work - and the most precious), but it’s still surprisingly influential.

Names being bandied about for the position include:
Frontrunner: Emily Sheffield, current deputy editor of Vogue. Apart from the obvious advantages, she is David Cameron’s sister in law.

Sarah Bailey, ex. editor of British Elle, who was deputy editor at US Harper’s before moving to British Harper’s as Lucy Yeoman’s number two. Positives: widely liked, strong fashion - and therefore advertising - contacts, transatlantic kudos and CN MD Nicholas Coleridge loves to poach NatMags staff.

Given Coleridge’s liking of newspaper people, Catherine Ostler of The Evening Standard’s ES magazine & Michele Lavery of The Saturday Telegraph Magazine must also be in the frame. (The Sunday Times Style's Tiffany Darke is heading off on maternity leave imminently.)

Sarah Miller, current editor of British Condé Nast Traveller. Launched CNT in 1997, so due for a change by now.

Outsiders could include Giles Hattersley, ex Arena editor, now back at The Sunday Times, and British ex Tatler deputy editor Tina Gaudoin, now in New York at The Wall Street Journal’s WSJ.

Then again, Coleridge does like to appoint the unusual. Miller was an untested magazine editor in chief (she was features editor at The Saturday Telegraph magazine before CNT), as was Geordie Grieg who was a newspaper man through and through before heading to Tatler, albeit one who went to Eton & to Oxford.

What is certain is that in this market he can’t afford any mistakes. With advertising revenues for traditional media plunging through the floor by the month, he needs someone whom advertisers trust to keep both the content relevant and circulation figures steady.

Blessing counting

There is one blessing I am counting right now, through my waves of misery & torpor. My younger cousin S gave birth safely to baby Matilda on Sunday, the first infant of our generation. When I was attic rummaging at home, I dug out the wonderful flowery cotton sundresses with smocked fronts that our shared grandmother made for me when I was a baby, and who S never met. I had been saving them for my, hmm, mythical baby, but I'd much rather Matilda wore them. After all, I can always reclaim them if and when.

And, frankly, Little Sister & I are extremely grateful to S for taking off the pressure with Muv who has been known to warble about the lack of grandchildren. She is itching to get stuck in with Matilda.

Although Muv hasn't quite lost hope: I don't think it any mistake that the two English newspapers that she left behind last week both contained huge flagship features on How To Meet A Man. I wouldn't have minded quite so much if the articles weren't about dating when over FORTY. A birthday I assure you, gentle reader, that is quite some way off.

Eli Zabar and his astounding food mark ups

One of the benefits of riding out the credit crunch has been remembering that I can cook, rather than speed dial the Mexican taqueria. So, apart from the odd day like Sunday when I looked up from reading the papers and inexplicably found myself sitting at the counter of the Murray Hill Diner inhaling the Garden Burger Deluxe platter and an ice cream sundae and, um, Monday when I was so fucking miserable that I went and sobbed over the $6.50 lunch special at Thailand Café, I pretty much cook from scratch both lunch & supper.

I’ve learnt to avoid Whole Foods, and shop mainly in Chinatown, at the veg stalls staffed by the Indian guys in the street and at places like the East Village Cheese Shop where a huge slice of triple crème brie is $1.50 and a bag of pita is a dollar. Although, really, I've always shopped like this. I love bargains and do think that the amount we are asked to pay for food in the supermarkets is jaw droppingly high. Especially because I do cook, so I know just how much those meals cost and what the margins are on prepared food.

Soup is the most hilarious. A pint of minestrone is $6.99 at the fancy food store on Eight Avenue. I can make that for less than 50 cents in under twenty minutes.

This brings me to Eli Zabar, who owns several foodie destinations including The Vinegar Factory, & E.A.T. on the Upper East Side, where I had an shockingly inedible lunch with Muv last week; (that review is to come.) In the interim I wanted to bring to your attention a shameless, slobbering interview with Mr. Zabar in The New York Times which really plumbed the lows of journalism, where he tried and failed to justify the cost of the food he served.

“He has established himself as a master of recycling, giving unsold products new life by reinventing them as prepared foods. Focaccia becomes Parmesan toast…On the day after Christmas, I met Mr. Zabar at Eli’s Manhattan, where he charges $24.99 for eight ounces of that Parmesan toast…Talking to Mr. Zabar about his prices feels like confronting a teenager coming in past curfew: his cornered tone hovers between “How dare you” and “How am I going to get out of this.”

“That Crunch is 70 percent Parmesan cheese,” Mr. Zabar said, “which is $14 or $15 a pound. You couldn’t buy it and make it for that money.”

Okay Mr. Zabar: here’s my maths:

Parmesan toast $24.99 for eight ounces equals $49.98 for 1lb
Parmesan is $14 per lb, 70% of 1lb = $11.20.
Therefore his parmesan costs are $11.20 of $ 49.98

Which means the customer is paying $38.78 for already budgeted leftover bread plus packaging & labour/restaurant costs.

“You couldn’t buy it and make it for that money.” Really, Mr. Zabar. REALLY?

Monday, February 02, 2009

Craigslist amusement

Okay. I’m feeling a little, just a little chirpier now. The studio I wanted so much turned out to have been rented before I even saw it.(Grr.)Somehow, having the decision taken out of my hands has calmed me down. Then the apartment viewing I had in Chelsea at 645pm turned out to be with a charming & lovely designer (and a fabulously fat & squishy pug called Ollie) who, although I think I can’t afford his immaculate, boutique hotel-worthy room, restored my faith that there are normal people out there looking for roommates for normal apartments.

One of the reasons the whole rental process here is so aggravating for me is because it works completely differently to London. Whereas in London the only person paying agent/broker fees is the owner of the property, here the tenant has to fork out a LOT of money, sometimes even six month’s rent as a finder’s fee to the broker. The tenant is also required to undergo a through credit check and often provide evidence of regular annual income at least 40x the monthly rental.

When you think that it’s difficult to find anything live-able in for less than $1400 a month per room, you can see the inherent problems for a freelancer trying to find a home. The only other alternative is to get a friend or parent to stand guarantor – and that requires them to file evidence of their fiscal standing for the past two or three years from mortgage to pay slips. Which is hardly an option.

Hence the sub-letting rental market that has sprung up on Craigslist where people post details of fee-free room shares & sub-lets literally by the minute, sorted by geographical location. It’s also quite common here to sub-let a place fully-furnished by the day, week or month - which comes in equally handy for people who travel a lot and for tourists visiting the city, who can stay in a proper home for a fifth of the price of a hotel.

But god, trawling through the entries is a full time job in itself. 90% seem to be in Harlem, which is miles away from the area I want to be in Downtown, many require first & last month & a month’s security deposit upfront which is too much cash for me to have tied up, and an unfeasible amount have crappy loft beds hacked together out of random lengths of timber or are partitioned off living rooms masquerading as bedrooms. (Hello credit crunch.)

And then there are those with, hmm, unusual requirements. I came across this today:
“The market rent for my apartment is $4,500 per month. Your share of the rent is only $485.00. including all utilities. We will share the apartment including the master bedroom.”

And this one is quite special:
“I got this idea from an article in Time Out New York that I read a while ago… I live alone in the East Village, and have an empty bedroom and a lot of space. I am offering the empty room w/private bathroom for only $130 a month. Here is the catch...of course there is a catch. I'm a white late 20's guy that works in finance. I work A LOT and therefore my social life has become nonexistent. So, I want to add a little bit of excitement to my life. I would like to rent the room to a woman between the ages of 18-27... I would like you to be a slim attractive girl who is OK with occasionally walking around or hanging out in her underwear <---yes...that would be the slightly crazy part.”

Shall I? Hmm. Perhaps not.

Apartment hunting

I am so thoroughly and comprehensively fed up with the horror of trying to find a new place to live. My not small single person's budget goes precisely nowhere in Manhattan, unless I wish particularly to live with those whom no one else wants in a grubby six floor walk up with a concrete floored shower. Even places out in Brooklyn: Park Slope, Fort Greene and the like aren't much cheaper and the odd taxi I'd need to take home would soon swallow up any fiscal difference - and I'd still be stuck out in Nappy Valley. I think people sometimes forget just how much more complicated everything is when you are on your own: the expense - no splitting of cab fares or rent, and the having to live with room mates. Gah.

LK hasn’t been getting many responses to his ad for my current sub-let and there is no future tenant in sight. I am fed up with paying for a room I don’t need any more – I gave a month’s notice on the 22nd Jan, but apparently that means I am liable for rent not until 22nd Feb, but until 1st March. Who knew? – and I want to move asap. Most annoying of all is that this morning I found the perfect place to live, a stupidly cheap studio that would change my quality of life here enormously, but I can’t take it before LK finds a roommate or 1st March comes around, so I'm pretty sure I'll miss that boat.

As I have got older my living environment has become the single thing that keeps me rooted, happy & sane. When that is in flux, I tend to go a little loopy. I am generally fairly Pollyanna-ish about life, a cup half full person, and so I am not enormously good at picking myself up when I get low. Right now I can’t seem to stop feeling really bloody miserable. I know I should count my blessings la la la, but I can’t and I don’t want to. So there.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Marc Jacobs billboard, West Village

Marc Jacobs commissions a new painted mural each season at the junction of Seventh & Greenwich Avenues in the West Village. On the way to view an apartment this afternoon I caught sight of these two guys hauling themselves up the outside of the building to finish off the top.

Manhattan's media freefall

Friends in England don't seem to take me seriously when I say that the media industry over here is in freefall. Stories like this in Gawker showing the risible amount of ads in the most recent New Yorker illustrate just how bad it is (not that the New Yorker has ever been stuffed with ads, but still...) Not to mention Domino folding this week, 600 layoffs at Time Inc., and Page Six magazine going from weekly to four times a year with the loss of 23 staff.