Beyond the Pale


Love Is Boutique: Bloggers & Press Day

A veritable Tardis of designer goodies, Love Is Boutique has always been a must-visit destination for the bargain-hunting fashionista, but there have been subtle changes afoot since I last visited and now I had heard it’s EVEN BETTER. Along with a few other invited bloggers and press peeps, I sashayed along to see just how this could be so.
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If you are on heart medication of any kind, you may want to dose yourself up before walking through the doors of Love Is Boutique, as every rail, each shelf and cabinet the eye rests on is bulging with temptation in the form of DESIGNER BARGAINS.

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Be still my rapidly beating heart. Hopefully not literally.

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“Umm… Is that a Phillip Lim evening dress sparkling on the wall? Can that be a Chloe Paddington bag hanging up there?” your brain asks your eyes. “Just next to the several immaculate Louis Vuitton bags and adjacent to the cabinet of handmade couture Manolo Blahnik shoes…” your eyes nonchalantly reply.

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At this point, your palpitations are going to kick in, so it’s really handy if you have remembered that medication or have your inhaler to hand. Or a hip flask of gin, whatever gets you through. Yup, it’s all true, this place is piled up with the kind of high-end designer merchandise normally only sighed over in the glossy pages of Vogue, Harpers and their ilk. Only at VASTLY reduced prices.

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Paula Fry, the owner of this treasure trove, invited me, along with several other bloggers and members of the press, to come and see the changes Love Is has undergone. It’s always been good – the kind of Best Kept Secret you only tell your best girlfriend. And maybe not even then – so how could things get even better?

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“We’ve got a lot more picky about what we accept to sell for customers, now.” Paula explained. Love Is works as a dress agency, with clients gaining a percentage of whatever the boutique sells the items for. “We can afford to be really choosy because our reputation has spread, and the stuff people bring in for us to look at is unbelievable! One lady came in with her collection of Louis Vuitton bags. ELEVEN of them, all real!”

Paula has become something if an expert at sniffing out fakes “Most of them you can spot a mile off, because the shape or size is wrong, the stitching isn’t right. Some are a bit more difficult, but there are experts you can refer to, and the big brands are all very happy to verify their own merchandise if you’re really not sure.”

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Having built up their name, hosted hugely successful events and fashion shows, and been featured in Vogue magazine as a “must visit” destination, Love Is now boasts a celebrity clientele – “Top Secret, I absolutely cannot name names!” – who buy and sell their designer swag here. “Often the chauffeur comes and drops stuff off,” Paula whispers, “and oh my GOD it’s such amazing stuff…”

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Perhaps the most noticeable change is the fact there’s far less vintage stock in the boutique these days. It’s getting harder and harder to get top quality vintage to sell, and people put a ‘vintage’ tag on any old thing and expect it to be desirable, so I think this is a clever move on their part. Plus, in a wealthy area and with celebrities emptying their wardrobes, you may as well focus on the goodies surrounding you!

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The vintage pieces are still to be found: really cute little fifties fur collars, dinky enamelled bug brooches and incredible unique handbags from all eras, along with select clothes, but here the designer investment pieces now jostle with the very best high-end High-street items, so there really is something for every budget.

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It’s really interesting to note that real classics like the Mulberry Bayswater bags are flying out the door – “We just can’t get enough of them, as soon as we have them through the door, they leave again on someone else’s arm!” Iconic designer pieces such as Alexander McQueen scarves and tailcoats are also in high demand, as customers invest in designer stand-out pieces which won’t date, mixing these with far cheaper high street trend items.

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On this visit, I was quite selfless and restrained, buying an unusual necklace for a friend’s Christmas present, though I took rather a shine to the Bally, sheepskin lined ankle boots on the back shelf here, and may have to pop back in to, um, visit them. Yes. That’s it. *cough*

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I also have a massive regret that I didn’t get the beautiful enamelled ladybird brooch purchased by fellow bargain-snaffler, Bettina, AKA Mrs Anke (of Ladybits blog fame: she has a gin cocktail named after her, and that’s a REAL measure of fame, my friends). Que Sera, as Doris Day was wont to warble!

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Adored this darling little bobble-trimmed dress, too. Oh, and the cosy hooded cloak and the bauble charm bracelet and about five coats upstairs and… Uh, no, I mean it’s all awful and you wouldn’t like it at all so don’t go before I’ve got my mitts on all the goodies I saw, there’s nothing there. Yup. Convincing, eh?

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As the Champagne was quaffed and more people arrived to gawp and gossip (three of my favourite things to do, right there: quaffing, gawping & gossiping) I had to grab my purchase and get a wriggle on, sadly. Having ogled their latest wares, I shall be back again very soon. They have all manner of gorgeousness arriving every single day, so there’s always a good reason to pop in again.

Just to look. Obviously…

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UPDATE: I have now been back and purchased the Bally boots. Quite by accident.

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Stuff & Good Sense: Vintage Soiree

Stuff & Good Sense is a little treasure trove of a boutique, nestled away in that sacred heart of Tunbridge Wells: the picturesque Pantiles. This historic area of the town has always drawn tourists but previously became written-off as being perhaps a bit Cream Tea Twee (though I love a good ol’ cream tea, me).


In the last year it has definitely become apparent The Pantiles is quietly booming & actually quite a (whisper it) funky/alternative location for locals AND tourists to shop, eat, drink and generally parade themselves about.

A plethora of really interesting independent shops abound and I cannot overstate how refreshing it is to wander around an area free of big chains and the corporate big boys: a shopping experience that’s becomming distressingly rare these days, it seems.


I love supporting local, hand-made and independent shops, so when I received an invitation to attend a Vintage Soiree including PINK FIZZ, delicious food, retro furnishings, vintage designer gowns & all manner of fabulous nick-nackery… It would be rude not to go along and show one’s support, wouldn’t it? Quite.

Knowing full well that friend & colleague in crime, Sallie the Sausage Queen (see below), would be up for a bit of fizz sipping while shopping, we’d hot-footed it to the Soiree straight after work.


Stuff & Good Sense is tucked behind the inimitable Trevor Mottram’s – a veritable maze of a shop containing every cooking impliment known to man. And many unknown to man or, indeed, his dog. As we arrived the party was already in full swing, with the laughter and chatter bursting out of the open door to greet us.


Plunging forth, we made straight for the makeover area with the utterly charming makeup artist from Powder & Glow (I think it was Caroline herself, but do forgive me if I remember incorrectly!) giving good lip (I was complimented on my pillarbox red lipstick, which was pleasing) & Sallie’s pout was painted, too. Just before she applied herself to some refreshments.


The makeover area just happened to be right next to the table of alcohol and an extremely tasty selection of nibbles, kindly provided by The Bijou Bakery. Imagine: Sallie & I plonked next to a table of plonk. Oops, what a coincidence!

We were particularly fond of the Sticky Sausages (indeed, I imagine there are very few times either Sallie or I would willingly turn down a sticky sausage). We could quite easily have polished off the whole plate, and very nearly did.

A few glasses of PINK FIZZ saw us glowing rosily (well, Sallie had just the one, as she was driving, so I drank her share. It seemed the right and proper thing to do).

No vintage event seems complete without a pretty stand of cupcakes, but the ones here were truly, gobsmackingly gorgeous.


Look at them. LOOK at them!

We looked at them for several minutes before deciding that no, they weren’t ‘too good to eat’ and cramming them into our mouths. They were meltingly light and the frosting wasn’t too sweet – the downfall of many a cupcake, in my opinion. Some look nice but you find you’re left with a mouthful of what is basically pure sugar, with your eyes spinning in their sockets and the onset of diabetes. These were simply cupcake perfection, and you, too, may experience their delights at Vintage Rose Cupcakes. HIGHLY recommended!

The Stuff & Good Sense soiree was such fun, a really friendly atmosphere of celebration and larking about. It was really quite uplifting to the spirits, seeing the lovely laydeeees of Tunbridge Wells all quaffing, laughing, scoffing and browsing.

Shop owner, Gaynor, has amassed a fantastic collection of desirable goods, from mid-century furniture to Liberty patterned dog collars – with pure, handmade soaps, & cosmetics, retro crockery, quirky jewellery, art and all manner of Perfect Gift type pieces in between.

I really liked a lot of the prints they had hanging in the shop – but am always drawn to things like this, being a bit of a font nerd of old.

Knowing a good thing thing when they see it, the fabulous frock purveyors Gently Worn Vintagewww.gentlywornvintage.co.uk now have a tempting closet of gorgeous vintage clothes & accessories within Stuff & Good Sense.

We all spent quite a long time cooing over various glamourous hats bedecked with pearls or overlaid with peacock feathers.

So glamourous! People should wear hats more often, I think.

Sallie tried virtually all of them on while I sipped another glass of pink fizz, so that she didn’t have to. I’m SO NICE like that. Here’s Sallie hiding in a corner while Cath (independent tour guide who runs Discover Southeast England & is a general font of local knowledge) looks slightly alarmed.

The conversation ranged from hidden wells (not a euphemism, get your mind out of the gutter, dear), and the history of various local buildings; to mad aunts, fur-lined gloves (also not a euphemism) and a Fashion Tour that Cath’s hoping to arrange in the near future. Also, lots of dressing up (them) and drinking fizz (mostly me). It was all rather marvellous.

My eye was taken with a stunning brocade evening coat, while Sallie fell head-over-heels for this perfect condition patent leather vanity case/handbag complete with original contents. Lined in watered pink silk and with dinky little bottles & pots for ones lotions & potions to be decanted into, it was pure Mad Men! Sallie put it by in order to purchase for her birthday. I think many of us are quite green with envy. 😉

For those of you who didn’t make this special event (or weren’t important enough to be invited. JOKE! ;p) you will be very glad to hear that future soirees are planned – in fact, one is happening this very week, on Wednesday 26th of October, 7-10pm.

Cocktails, decadent treats and music from a bygone era are promised along with the chance to learn the secrets of the art of couture. Which can’t be bad.

Against the fabulous retro backdrop of the shop, guests will be transformed with a personal makeup consultation and given a face chart to take home (estimated value of this service is £75, so worth the ticket price alone!) and a professional photographer will be present to capture the new look. In addition, guests will also be given an exciting goody bag, with a specially selected vintage gift in each one.

My goody bag from the soiree was full to brimming with exciting stuff, and I loved my vintage jade green silk scarf and twinkling hair clip – so cute!

Tickets for this event are £30: If the forthcoming soirée is even half as much fun as the one we attended, then it’s worth twice as much as that! Hopefully some are still available if you’re interested; contact Carole on 07827 960389 to reserve a place, or pop in to Stuff & Good Sense itself.

Stuff & Good Sense
29 The Pantiles,
Tunbridge Wells,
Kent
TN2 5TD

Thank you so much to the lovely Gaynor, all the hard work that everyone put into the event and to all the lovely ladies we met that night. It was a huge success and created a real buzz – and that wasn’t just the alcohol! I’m just sorry it took me so long to finally upload this post – a perfect storm of work pressures, illness and NO TIME AT ALL for ANYTHING (the usual) kept me from getting it up as soon as I’d have liked. Oooh, Matron.

I do hope you have enjoyed reading about our adventures at the vintage soiree. You must go and visit Stuff & Good Sense yourself, it’s a real gem and we’re lucky to have such quirkily interesting shops as this on our doorstep.

 



Bolongaro Trevor – Dark Beauty
September 13, 2011, 10:17 pm
Filed under: Fashion | Tags: , , , , , ,

Yesterday I warbled on at some length about a new favourite design label, Bolongaro Trevor, and promised I would show you the plum picks of their brand new Autumn collection and tell you more about the designers behind the label. I also left you with a bit of teaser, asking if you recognised the style of the clothes, the bizarrely beautiful prints, the overall vibe of the label…

Kait Bolongaro & Stuart Trevor from an Independent article about their swanky pad.

It makes sense as soon as you know, for the designers behind Bolongaro Trevor – Kait Bolongaro and Stuart Trevor – are the husband and wife team who founded and previously designed for the phenomenally successful All Saints brand. Aha! Yes, the lightbulb clicked on for me, too.

Poloma Lace Jacket by Bolongaro Trevor: £260

This jacket is just beyond gorgeous, and I think really adaptable. You could just as easily wear this with jeans and a little white vest top as a sharp pencil skirt & silk blouse for work.

Back detail of Poloma Lace Jacket - Just as pretty as the front!

You probably all know how much I love modern takes on Victoriana, and this showcases exactly the look I love.

Bolongaro Trevor press release

I’ve long been a fan of the All Saints clothes and accessories, though many of them I’ve admired from afar as some of their styles truthfully belong on a far younger (or braver) person than me!

Amadeus Dress by Bolongaro Trevor: £155

The Amadeus Dress has adjustable straps at certain points, so you can hitch it up for a saucy wench look. Love it!

I was very interested to read an interview with Stuart Trevor in which he described the main differences between the two labels, and he described the Bolongaro Trevor customer as a bit older, more sophisticated and wanting a practicality from her wardrobe that younger gals just couldn’t give two hoots about.

I think that’s a fair description and certainly I can relate to the ‘older’ bit, with pretensions toward the ‘more sophisticated’ bit!

Talulah Dress by Bolongaro Trevor: £165

This dress in the new collection shows that duality of cheekiness and wearability very well, I think. It could really be worn by women of many ages and for lots of occasions, something that I don’t think you could truthfully say about the All Saints range. That’s not to say All Saints is entirely about Bright Young Things, but I do believe the emphasis of their more recent collections has been on casual wear for the younger crowd.

Inside the new Bolongaro shop at 123 Bethnal Green Road, London E2 7DG

Bolongaro Trevor fulfill the need for quirky, individual looking clothes for the ladies who’d feel ridiculous in torn denim hotpants and don’t desperately try to kid themselves that they’re ‘just like Kate Mosse’. The tailoring may have the sophisticated edge, but the little details and surreal prints in which they delight, really set this label apart from the drab mainstream.

Flat Liner Overdyed Black/Blue Men's Trousers by Bolongaro Trevor: £135

The menswear, too, has so many interestingly elements, they play heavily on military influenced looks and that swoonsome “Oh, Mr Darcy!” appeal.

Mason Trimmed Men's Jacket by Bolongaro Trevor: £325

I am fully aware that many British men shy away from anything too ‘different’, but I know many gals who love that rakish look and we can only hope that it becomes widely popular, even among the less brave! And yes, some of the pieces are expensive, but they tend to be the more classic items in the finest fabrics that should, with care, last a lifetime. And they have amazing sales. 😉

This is just the first hit of the new collection, with much more to come. I can’t wait to see it all!

 

 



Love Your Inner Magpie: Pantiles Vintage Fair & Flea Market

Boxes of treasure twinkling in the sunshine, the rustle of vintage fabrics in the afternoon breeze, stallholders carefully setting out their wares on velvet cushions…and my beady little eyes roving over everything, wondering if I could fit it all into my flat.

Yes, dears, it must be admitted: I am a magpie.

There were likeminded magpies galore at the first day of the inaugural Pantiles Vintage Fair and Flea Market – with something for everyone lined up throughout both days.

Programme of Events:

  • 11.30 – 12.30: The Swinging Little Big Band (Sat)
  • 11.30 – 12.30: Downtown Meltdown DJs ‘Sunday Morning Fry Up’ (Sun)
  • 1pm: Vintage Fashion Show – organised by Gently Worn Vintage (Sat and Sun)
  • 1.30pm: Gypsy John’s Cinque Ports Lindy Hoppers (Sat and Sun)
  • 2pm: Vintage Fashion Show – organised by Gently Worn Vintage (Sat and Sun)
  • 2.30pm: Gypsy John’s Cinque Ports Lindy Hoppers (Sat and Sun)
  • 3pm: Vintage Fashion Show – organised by Gently Worn Vintage (Sat and Sun)
  • 3.30pm: Gypsy John’s Cinque Ports Lindy Hoppers (Sat and Sun)

The Swinging Little Big Band

Forgive my dreadful pictures – these were all taken on the hop on my mobile phone, in bright sunshine most of the time, so that I couldn’t even see what I was looking at! Hopefully they will give you some idea of the atmosphere, though. 🙂

The Swinging Little Big Band were really, really good. Sorry if you missed them. This is the sort of band I’d like playing at my wedding – they were fantastic at doing covers of the old classics, like Mack The Knife, but equally brilliant at rendering Pulp’s Common People or Radiohead’s Creep in a retro swing way, with a great deal of swagger and charm. They really got the crowd moving, with people spontaneously dancing and the rest all clapping along.

The Lindy Hoppers were excellent, too, and dealt very well with a music system that unfortunately kept failing them.

You had to love the fashion shows, organised by Gently Worn Vintage and with some truly gorgeous pieces being show. It was heart-warming to see such a mix of ages in the crowds watching them – I wondered if many of the older ladies and gentlemen were remembering parties they went to in similar outfits. They certainly all seemed to be lapping it up.

The model, above, is wearing my favourite piece of the show – a stunning 1950’s Belville Sassoon Couture silk dress, available from Gently Worn Vintage’s collection.

Belville Sassoon Couture dress at Gently Worn Vintage

It appears on their website, but is even more stunning in real life – the colour and condition is amazing.

There was a competition for the best-dressed people wearing vintage outfits at the fair, and my favourites were the couple (were they an actual couple or had they just been dancing together all afternoon?) immaculately dressed in 40’s fashions. Just darling.

My esteemed colleague, and good friend, Sallie and I met for a girlie day of browsing, lunch and general gossiping – something we almost never get to do, as we’re usually working on the same day (or Sallie’s covering my day off). Here she is, attempting to look serious whilst stroking an old coat.

And again, foraging for bargains among the crowds…

I loved this book of photographs – I used to collect vintage photos and spend hours wondering who they were, what their lives were like, if they were in love when that picture was taken or wishing they could be with someone else. Ha, ever the whimsy-filled romantic old fool! 🙂

I think part of the joy of vintage is holding onto a tangible piece of history, it sort of anchors you in the world, don’t you think? It’s all to do with that reaching back through the years and shaking hands with someone you never met, finding out that, actually, we’re not so different. I also love the idea of rescuing things and having them feel loved & wanted again. Told you I was a soppy fool!

Yes, yes, don’t worry – I’ll stop whittering on for a bit and get on with describing things again. For a bit.

I was particularly taken with Lady Butterworth’s stall of pretty vintage crockery and shoe lasts. I have always wanted a shoe last – they are such pleasing, tactile objects – and saw theirs used as bookends. Immediately taken with the idea, I purchased one, and am utterly thrilled with it. I love the story behind them, too…

My vintage shoe last from Lady Butterworth's

“You are now the owner of a unique piece of Northamptonshire history. These lasts were made by craftsmen as the first step in the manufacture of boots and shoes in a shoe factory in Northamptonshire. Only right-handed patterns were made, from which as many pairs as required would be turned into a copy lathe. These lasts were rescued when the shoe factory closed, just two hours before the building was to be demolished.”

Ladies at Lady Butterworth's stall

The two lovely ladies running the stall gave Sallie & I FREE CUPCAKES, which we stuffed ourselves with in a most unladylike fashion, after eating our lunch. Complete piggy-wigs that we are. Lady Butterworth’s had some truly gorgeous vintage plates and the sweetest little cups, I could quite happily have taken the whole stall home with me.

Luckily, they are specialists in hiring out crockery and assorted vintage props & oddities, for weddings, tea parties and the like. Definitely worth remembering! Just have a look in their gorgeous Crockery Cupboard.

Lady Butterworth's Crockery Cupboard

As with the Food Festival I wrote about it May, it was great to see the Pantiles buzzing with crowds enjoying the sunshine, supporting local businesses and perhaps buying something that isn’t mass-made or readily available anymore.

Newly opened vintage fashion sellers Vintage Child had a lovely stall, full of bright colours and very wearable styles from various eras (they have only just launched, and I don’t believe their website it up yet, but I’ll link to it when it’s live).

Fabulous local style gurus Love Is Boutique were proudly displaying their wares to all and sundry again, along with many stallholders new to me, who I’ll definitely go and seek out again. Long live originality, viva independent style I say!

Original Annie's new Pantiles boutique

Wandering down the historic little shopping area I so love, on the way to work the other day, I squealed slightly as my eye came to rest on on a colourful, retro-style waxed cotton dress in the window of a previously sadly empty shop space. “That looks suspiciously like an Original Annie dress” I thought to myself, and lo and behold, so it was. I wrote about their shop opening in Camden Road a little while ago, and now they have moved to the Pantiles where, I am sure, this great fashion label will go from strength to strength. Walking past their stylish boutique today it was absolutely heaving with people inside, which makes me very glad indeed.

Next, we ambled into the equally stylish new Stuff & Good Sense – recently opened concept shop that’s full to brimming with lust-worthy vintage furniture, crockery and homewares.

Their stall in the flea market was just as well set out as their shop – I like they way they use their space, it manages to be both warm and welcoming but without looking too cluttered.

Stuff and Good Sense (just behind the Tourist Information Centre) is a fantastic place to indulge in nostalgia – the shop is full of people sighing wistfully “Oh! Granny had that tea service!” or “My mum had that vase!” – find the finishing touch to a room or buy a perfect and unusual gift.

You absolutely must read about Mrs Anke’s trip around the new Pantiles boutiques for an overview of what you can find, but I highly recommend you come down here yourself for a good browse – the Pantiles is really coming into its own, now, and is something to be truly proud of.

Many towns have touristy bits that are twee and with nothing to offer anyone under 70, but the Pantiles seems to have really balanced the comfortingly antique with the excitingly new, now – it’s almost like a having a mini Covent Garden on our doorstep, and it’s wonderful to see.

There is a forthcoming Pantiles Fashion Market to look forward to, organised by local blogger and fashionista at large, Lady M Presents (August 13th & 14th) in which local independent designers and boutiques are gathering together to celebrate their diversity. Along with the Electric Lantern Festival (September 3rd -11th) celebrating film, photography, art, sculpture, comedy performances, dance, theatre and much more – and with the regular Thursday night Jazz and live bands, these festivals are drawing increasing numbers of people down to this (far more salubrious, dahlings) end of town.

Read more abut forthcoming Pantiles events on the Tunbridge Wells People website.

In a time of economic uncertainty and with only major chains and sprawling, faceless malls seemingly taking over many areas today, it’s more vital than ever to support local and independent businesses who are brave enough to stick their necks above the parapet. Jolly good show all round!



Wild Embroidery
July 10, 2011, 1:33 pm
Filed under: Embroidery, Etsy, Jewellery | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

In a lazy Sunday morning browse, I came across a recently opened shop called Wild Embroidery, based in London and run by a very talented lady called Lu, who embroiders beautiful designs onto pendants, making them wearable little pieces of art.

Wild Flower Hand-embroidered necklace by Wild Embroidery: £15

There is something very pleasing about their simplicity, and also for the fact you are wearing a little picture that someone has hand stitched, I think.

Fern embroidered necklace by Wild Embroidery: £18

Pretty but not at all twee, the embroidered pieces are made to order and presented in chunky vintage-toned bronze frames and fob-like chains.

Daisy embroidered necklace by Wild Embroidery: £12

I must admit to hankering after the daisy…I love daisies – and they happen to relate strongly to one of my favourite books ever: The Hounds of the Morrigan by Pat O’Shea. Oh! And the dandelion one, too. Daisies and dandelions represent two of the characters, and it calms me to see them. You can only really understand this if you have read the book. Sorry. 😉

Dandelion embroidered necklace by Wild Embroidery: £16

Of course I also have a special liking for the Nightingale necklace, too (for obvious reasons). 🙂

“the nightingale is in love with the plum blossoms
she sings for them every night.
she can only peck once in a while, but never touch…
such is her punishment.”

Nightingale & plum blossom embroidered necklace: £16

Until next time, my lovelies,

Miss Nightingale

x



Original Annie: Strength and Beauty in a Homegrown New Fashion Label
May 14, 2011, 11:40 am
Filed under: Fashion | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I thought it was about time I celebrated some true home-grown talent, and with that in mind I was overjoyed to hear that a brand new fashion label called Original Annie was opening in my hometown of Tunbridge Wells. Intrigued, I hot-footed it to their showroom to view select pieces of their collection and discover Original Annie’s Raison d’Être.

Original Annie's Camden Road shop front. Photo by Oliver Lee-Haswell

Approaching their intimate showroom in the now thriving, artsy area of Camden Road (number 121, for those of you itching to see it), there was a throng of people already inside, excitedly chattering about the clothes and the prospect of a new designer in town, and that genuine buzz of eager anticipation among the crowd. I took along fellow fashionista and gal-about-town (who also happens to be a colleague of mine in my fashion day-job), Sallie Gibson, and together we took the plunge into the crowds of people admiring the clothes from this brand new fashion label.

Original Annie sign and reflections. Photo by Oliver Lee-Haswell

The first thing that struck me was the delicious simplicity of the designs on show. I don’t mean that to sound derrogatory – far from it, for as anyone involved in fashion will tell you, the more simple the garment, the less it has to hide behind, so the more perfect it has to be. If that supposedly simple looking piece isn’t exquisitely finished from top to toe, it rapidly becomes apparent, and these pieces are just wonderful for a modern woman to slip into her wardrobe and accessorise however she wishes – to put YOUR very own stamp on an outfit, rather than a designer dictate every aspect of your outfit.

Original Annie side snap sack dress: £99 - A late 1960's inspired sack dress with side snaps in dry waxed cotton with luxury taffeta lining in contrast colour.

The second thing I noticed when viewing the SS11 collection was the highly original fabrics used. The majority of garments on show were made from a thick, waxed cotton in bold, block candy colours – very striking to look at, but utterly divine to the touch. I do so wish you could reach your hand through your computer monitor and stroke the pictures of these clothes, as I stroked them lovingly in person. It was quite amusing, actually, to glance around the boutique and see so many people doing exactly the same thing – reaching out and touching them as my colleague Sallie and I were! It’s impossible not to do, they are soft but with a definite structure. Quite addictive!

Original Annie Bronx Hudson coat: £129 - Washable dry wax paper like cotton. Water and windproof, fitted, gorgeous - THE jacket for 2011

I fell madly in love with a modern take on the waxed jacket – the Bronx Hudson – streamlined and simple, again, with a touch of military styling about it. Completely fantastic and adaptable to so many looks and ages – as are most of the pieces I saw. Sallie fell for a sample of a stunning baby-soft wool shift dress in powder blue with a creamy micro polka-dot running through the fabric. Yes, there are very flirty short dresses, but one could easily wear them as tunic over leggings or thicker tights and boots on colder days, or with jeans and Converse pumps for a dress-down casual look. I could see a number of people I know in many of the designs, ranging from teenage gals about town through sophisticated fashionistas of my age (30’s. Beyond that, not saying ;p) and well beyond. It’s all about the styling, dahlings.

So, buoyed up with enthusiasm (and not just because of the retro Babyshams we were drinking!) and having seen the pieces up close and personal, we discovered a bit more about the team behind this new fashion label.

Oliver Lee-Haswell”]Oliver Lee-Haswell “]Colin Cleaver is the head of design and came up with the concept behind Original Annie. Although Colin’s roots were based in architecture – indeed, he originally trained as an architect at the Architects Association, London – it isn’t such an unusual start for a fashion designer as you may think. The streamlined designs, which are continually re-worked until he is 100% happy with every aspect, are very architectural themselves, in that nothing is there without a purpose.

De-nuded of the frills and furbelows some designers use to trick the eye, with an Original Annie garment what you see is what you get – no seam is extraneous, and this beautiful simplicity underpins their very ethos: Strength and Beauty.

Orignial Annie Bronx Shift Dress: £99 - Architectural fitted and gorgeous shift in black dry waxed cotton - what more could we want?

The Orignial Annie team are fortunate to count among their number one of the very finest pattern-cutters in the business, Jefferey Witkin. On his rather prestigious CV, Jefferey can list Vivienne Westwood, Gucci and Valentino to name-dop a few of the houses he’s been involved with.

Original Annie Patch Dress: £99 - # An A-line fitted shift with a contrast patch - a true Annie Original in dry wax cotton and taffeta lining.

Multi-tasking superwoman, the incredibly glamorous Laura Duret, is one of those effortless-looking plate-spinning types who manages Original Annie’s PR whilst also running the boutique showroom and being in charge of styling. Oh, and she models some of the clothes, and runs about 100 other projects simultaneously! Laura also harks back to Colin’s design roots, explaining to a fellow blogger (the wonderful Lady M Presents, who showcases and models a number of the designs on her own blog piece about Original Annie, which you can read here), that the pieces Colin wanted to make are like “…architecture for the body, to make women look beautiful”.

Original Annie Tricolour Shift Dress: £99 - # Dry wax cotton, taffeta lined, simple shift with that wow factor - limited edition of 50 pieces.

From what will surely become their trademark shift dresses, through to tailored jackets and flowing fesitval capes, we found that Original Annie maintain their design standards throughout the range, whilst managing to encompass a huge number of potential ‘looks’ or the types of women who would wear them – something quite rare in these days when many design houses take that element of fun out of playing with clothes, accessorising and dressing up or down depending on what mood you’re in that day or how confident you feel.

Original Annie Festival Cape: £149 - Dry wax cotton cape, taffeta lined, 12 black snap high collar - festival heaven...

Although very much a homegrown talent, with the flagship store and showroom based in the Royal spa town of Tunbridge Wells, Kent; Original Annie have their eyes on the horizon, too, with a hope to eventually become an internationally renowned label which one could purchase in fashion capitals around the world. Original Annie isn’t only available to the lucky few who may pop in locally, however, so don’t despair! They are already up and running on the ASOS Marketplace website, so everyone can own their little piece of design-history in the making.

An Original Annie shift dress - a classic in the making, and a label to watch!

All photos of the Original Annie shop & launch event © Oliver Lee-Haswell (who is also busy designing their official website page – another of those plate-spinner types with so many projects on the go). All other photos © Original Annie Ltd.

Original Annie Boutique: 121 Camden Road, Tunbridge Wells, England, TN1 2QY.

Buy online: https://marketplace.asos.com/seller/originalannie/collection

Email: info@originalannie.com



The Crimson Petal and the White: BBC2, Episode 2 (Spoiler Free)

Last week I breathlessly began watching the BBC’s four-part adaptation of Michel Faber’s epic novel, The Crimson Petal and the White.

Vintage Shoe Pin Cushion: $20 from Sweet Love Vintage - There's something eerily beautiful about this pin cushion. I'd love to have it on my dressing table with 'To Do' lists secured to it with hatpins, or just to display brooches.

I had been concerned that, for want of a better expression, they would bugger it up, and wrote in my last post about the unique type of fear that ripples through you when you discover they’re filming a book you’ve really enjoyed. I know not everyone feels the same, but I happen to think they’ve made a pretty good stab at adapting a novel which mainly consists of richly detailed descriptive passages of narrative – surely a difficult task by anyone’s standards.

Let the Light In, photograph: $12 by 3 Lambs Design - This is just stunning, I love the way the photographer has captured the light on the petals of this peony, and the shocking splash of red at the heart of the white petals.

(By the way, if you missed the first episode of The Crimson Petal and the White, catch-up by watching it here)

In the first episode we spend more time at Mrs Castaway’s house of ill repute, learning about the inhabitants and their various vices. We meet Sugar, just as the narrator introduces us to the cast of characters in the novel, and we know just as surely we’re in the wrong side of town.

Burlesque Red Hat: $155 by Order Abandon - People don't wear hats enough these days, do they? I think this is just darling and would make a welcome change to the usual creations one sees at weddings, Ascot and so forth. Great photo, too!

In my previous post, I squealed about how gorgeous the pictures of the costumes and sets were; having watched the first two episodes, I’m here to tell you the pictures don’t do them justice. I could gaze for simply ages at the way the sets have been dressed, that overarching Gothic gloom that shrouds both the worlds of the velvet-clad upper classes and the ghastly wretches in tatters.

Victorian Drawstring Bag: $12 by Giddy Now - This is an original Victorian bag, with the cutest little button bottom. Perfect for the next Gin & Whores event (see earlier posts!) or just as a unique evening bag. I love wondering who owned objects like these; how often they used them, what happened in their lives...

Even the filth and mire of the notorious St. Giles Rookery area of Victorian London is lovingly realised, with the raucous dens of iniquity thrown into sharp relief against the lusciously opulent interiors of the upper echelons of society.

Private Collection Victorian Tile & Pearls Bracelet: $75 by Wickedly Good - This is from the artist's private collection, unique items not previously available to the public. I always enjoy pieces which celebrate beauty and decay, and this bracelet perfectly encapsulates that theme

In the second episode we see the two worlds colliding, the velvet besmirched as the rot sets in. It’s wonderfully vivid stuff and, despite critics’ fears (hopes?) that it would be wall-to-wall rumpy pumpy; it’s really not that filthy, considering the subject matter and how salaciously titillating it could well have been!

Hand Blown Glass Perfume Bottle: $165 by Kiva Ford - There are so many utterly stunning hand blown bottles & glass objects in Kiva Ford's shop that I hardly knew where to begin. This one really caught my eye, though. I think it's those vivd splashes of red against the white background. Sinister and beautiful.

I think Romola Garai makes a wonderful Sugar – I especially liked the way she kept her facial expressions entirely free of emotion – except perhaps of sheer boredom – as she, um, welcomed her clients. So to speak. Until she knew they could see her face again, at which point it lit up like an overly decorated Christmas tree.

Oriana Ruffled Victorian Shrug: $165 by Countessa - Utterly delectable in every way, this shrug/jacket is just the sort off thing I'd like to have in my own wardrobe. Adore the rich colour and just the right amount of ruffles - pretty without being too frou-frou to wear in reality without feeling like the Sugar Plum Fairy.

All of this is nectar to me, as you may imagine, and very inspiring. Even before the first episode, I began building a collection of seedy Victorian items for use in an Etsy Treasury. The layout of that treasury may be seen at the start of this post.

Infatuation Antique Repurposed Tintype Necklace: $36 by Luminoddities - Old photographs are always engaging, aren't they? I wonder who this handsome chap was, if he was in love when this picture was taken, if his heart had been broken, or if he was a disreputable cad. Luminoddities has some wonderfully imaginative pieces, I love their style.

I hadn’t had time to finish that before posting previously, but it’s now been published (linked above), and I thought I’d share its contents with you here.

London Fog Fine Art Photograph: $12 by Keri Bevan - Gorgeously murky colours, here, that sickly yellow and the violet tinging, like a bruised sunset.

Pictures from my treasury are scattered throughout this post, or click the link to go to the full-sized treasury list, and browse from there if you prefer.

Red Curled Feather Hairclip: $13 by Midnight Boudoir - Release your inner harlot and wear red feathers in your up-do, I say. Make sure a few curls are escaping and that you recently rumpled, or it could look too prissy. And we don't want that. This clip is gloriously decadent - don't just save it for weddings!

Anyway, yes. It’s right up my street (or St. Giles alleyway), really, this tickling of the seedy underbelly of Victorian London. A look right up the lacy petticoats at the seething moral dichotomy which Victorian society so loved to wrestle with. Wonderful stuff.

1880's Stranger's Guide to London: $8 from sandp1 - This antique guide looks fascinating, I wonder how many of these places still exist, if any?

If you read my previous post on The Crimson Petal and the White adaptation, you will have seen that some people got all hot under the collar, they felt it was “gaudily over-painted” and full of “Victorian Gothic Melodrama” – as though they’re BAD things. Well, anyone who thinks that would put me off obviously hasn’t cast an eye over the rest of this blog, and we doubtless wouldn’t see eye-to-eye. The gaudier and more melodramatic the better, if you ask me!

Antique Postcard Couple, by Old Tyme Notions: $3.00 - I have a small collection of hand-coloured vintage photographs, they're fabulously romantic and tacky, but in the good way. Yes, there is "good tacky".

I find it rather amusing that sniffy people peering over the tops of their glasses are declaring it rather declassé, and in doing so, have completely and utterly missed the point. The Victorian public adored high Gothic melodrama, and both the book and the television adaptation are tipping the wink to this era in the form of an affectionate pastiche. As for gaudy, well, the Victorians could hardly be called minimalist, and thank the Lord for that.

Antique Velvet Photo Album, by La Petite Abeille Ruche: $21 - Gorgeously faded cover, just waiting to be filled with photos and scraps from your own life. I think an empty photo album is very poignant, somehow. Lonely, forgotten, mysterious. I wonder what images it once held...

Indeed, you could say it’s the decadence and the “pantomime characters” that serve as an attraction for me, in this austere age of dowdy realism and dull, lifeless, clumsy ‘re-imaginings’ of novels. I dare say that if you loathed the novel, you wont enjoy the BBC adaptation – just as if you detest mandarins, you should probably steer clear of mandarin flavoured sorbet. My advice is: Go for the lemon, old bean! Don’t put yourself through hours of torture on anyone’s behalf. I loathe Hollyoaks. I watched it once and hated it, and decided never to watch it again as it wasn’t at all my thing, but I shouldn’t dream of saying it should be banned, or criticising others for liking it.

Red Geranium Petals, dried, by Pleasant Hedges: $6.00 - These would be heavenly scattered over a table as the finishing touch to a decadent dinner party. Or strewn on a bed, as a change from rose petals (yawn), if you like. I have no idea what you lot get up to in your spare time, and prefer to keep it that way. Even the description of these is blowsily romantic: "I grew these flowers in my garden, here on Larkspur Hill, and dried them to be preserved until your special day..." How lovely Larkspur Hill sounds! Let's all don straw hats and eat strawberries whilst running through the fields at Larkspur Hill! It could be an industrial estate for all I know, but it sounds beautiful so I don't care.

I am here to tell you that television producers very rarely have my taste in mind when they make programmes. They practically never consult me before spending millions on their latest project. But neither should they, because I do not consider my taste (or lack of) is more or less important than anyone else’s. If I dislike a programme I may give it another go, or I may choose to switch it off and never let it darken my life again.

Turkish Mocha Victorian Teardrop Soap, by Stockwell Cottage: $2.00 - I'm a huge fan of handmade soaps, particularly those with goat's milk in, as they seem kinder and more moisturising to my skin. I have always hankered after a huge conch shell filled with exotic soaps, but instead make do with a Victorian looking wrought-iron cakestand, on which I place soaps, perfume bottles and other assorted nick-nacks. Again, I should stress that I'm not generally in favour of mimimalism... 😉

One thing I will never do, is apologise for liking gaudy melodrama. Never. I’m really quite awfully proud of it, as you can possibly tell by the merest glance at the rest of my blog! I rather suspect that persons who are troubled by things being too over-the-top and showy will have found their entire (albeit fleeting) visit to my blog to have been jolly upsetting…

Early Victorian Skate Cape, from Petrune: $750 - Now, there are probably very rare occasions when you could wear an early Victorian skate cape (except perhaps in an early Victorian skating party, of which there are shockingly few), but this is so colourful and jolly, in a sort of toothpaste stripe way, that I just had to include it.

Nurse! The smelling salts!

I do hope you make a full recovery, dearhearts. Don’t forget to loosen a few stays, put your head between your knees and breathe deeply into a paper bag.

If all else fails, have some gin!

Until next time,poppets

Yours Gaudily,

Miss Nightingale

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