Wednesday, 26 May 2010

FRANCOPHILIA: La Maison LV c'est chic!

The brand sparkling new Louis Vuitton Maison in London will be open to le public this Friday and following last night's epic sounding opening party - Anjelica Huston and Donna Summer in the same room! - today was a chance for press to be given le grand tour (oh oui, the mock french will go on and on). The space is incredible, vast, full of merchandise, art and trinkets to look at and yet light and intimate, all thanks to Mr Marino, of course. Think of it as walk through a friend's beautiful apartment or more precisely your friend Marc Jacob's apartment. I have a lovely book full of info on the store but as I can't wait to post some images it will have to wait. I think these speak for themselves. Oh, and pardon for the small size, in typical Kiki fashion my camera's battery ran out before the first shot was taken so these come courtesy of le Blackberry. Prepare for a Louis Vuitton image marathon!

Louis Vuitton 17-20 New Bond Street, London

I HEART: Bionda Castana for AW10!

I love it when 'things happen'! When circumstances bring people together, create exciting collaborations or simply people/groups/companies get to help each other out. Earlier this year, I was lending Sasha a helping hand getting together a last-minute wardrobe for her various press events. There I was trying to find some make-everyone-stop-and-pay-attention shoes for her when I remembered a lovely email I'd received the day before from Natalia Barbieri introducing me to her gorgeous label Biona Castana (yes, I do live in a parallel universe and had never heard of the it before!) It was perfect! Chic yet not boring or bland, high heels that are actually comfortable - Natala later told me they cut the ankle length a bit higher to provide extra support! - and stunning enough to take S from photo shoot to Fashion Week and London to Copenhagen. A match made in heaven!

I also got to have a sneaky preview at their AW10 collection and needless to say, I love it! Here are some of my favourite pieces along with a quick Q&A with Natalia on setting up the label with her friend and business partner Jennifer Portman, ensuring that covetable 'Made in Italy' stamp and collaborating with some of London Fashion Week's most exciting names! Enjoy.

Natalia, how did Bionda Castana start? I know that Jennifer and yourself met at University, studying a subject unlikely to lead to luxury shoe design!

We have both loved shoes since we can remember – and always high heels. We studied Business degrees at University, so although not a fashion course, we learnt the basics of how to set up our own business so we chose shoe design! We had always dreamt of creating a shoe brand whose designs were wearable, elegant and consist of classic shapes with a modern edge. We both knew we had designs and concepts that needed to be unleashed to the public and that was first and foremost the drive to set up the label.

Quality seems to be a key part of the label's DNA and all shoes are made in Italy.

One of our core values is premium quality and the “Made in Italy” stamp is of great importance to us as it reaffirms the quality, care and authenticity of manufacture as a pledge to our customers.

You're known for your timeless designs and high heels. Is this something you're keen to continue as part of your signature or will you play around with new shapes and will we see a Bionda Castana flat?

Funny you should ask me that as for next spring we’ll be introducing flats to our collection. We feel it’s the next step for the brand as effectively we do want to design shoes for everyone…and not everyone wears high heels.

I love the AW10 collection! It seems to have more edge than previous seasons, especially with all the studs/rivets and cut-out shapes. What were your thoughts while designing it?

AW10 was really all about experimentation, staying feminine, a lot of intricate detailing and breathing life into classic fabrics. We wanted this collection to really make a statement all the while remaining true to our to our distinctive brand identity. As with our other collections, we aim to produce utterly desirable pieces that last well beyond one season but I think the introduction of the platform and 12cm heel made the feel of the collection edgier in itself.

You're also collaborating with a few different designers, like David Koma. Is that exciting and what's next for the brand?

It’s a great feeling to work with Ready-To-Wear designers that you hold in such high regard, and it’s even nicer when you have the same vision of what is required by them. We also collaborated with Jenny Packham and Gabriele Colangelo, which showed how diverse our designs can be and how they can cross over. We’re looking forward to our SS11 collaborations….but you’ll have to watch this space. I can’t reveal anything as of yet!

Can't wait!

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

BLOG BLESS AMERICA: Still dreaming about Gallo!

Rest assured dear readers, the end is not nigh; please continue sipping your tea, eating your crumpet, reading something else much more interesting! Yes, the Earth keeps spinning and I haven't blogged for ages - again. Yet, despite the frightening fact the lunch I'm writing about here took place something close to two months ago (arghhh!!!) I'm still thinking about it and this may be the only reason required for blogging about anything!

Part of my California trip with Basso & Brooke for Grazia Daily (here and here) included a visit to one of the Gallo family's vineyards - the world's largest privately owned winery, a wine tasting session accompanied by Gina Gallo, granddaughter of Julio Gallo - who alongside his brother Ernest founded the company in 1933, and a taste-bud-exploding lunch so fresh we may as well have been sitting among the vines. As it turns out, we were in this beautiful room, the wine tasting session was fascinating, my first, but please do not expect any notes on the wines we tasted. They were all delicious and palette-enhancing but two months later I'm still thinking about the greener than green olives and Gallo olive oil we had. I intend to track it down.

Glass vases full of earth from the various family vineyards. See how their colours vary?

A lot of wine, professional tasting note printouts, a lovely pen and yet mine remained pretty blank!

A beautiful tiled large table set right outside our room overlooking the vineyard below. Sadly, the Sonoma Valley's sunshine hadn't burnt through the clouds yet so my pics don't make the stunning surroundings any justice!

Oh, the lunch! The Gallo ladies that joined us must have been worried we poor Londoners have no access to fresh fruit and vegetables because we ate those olives - sooooo green! - dunk fresh bread in olive oil so tasty and when our starter of gnocchi, cherry tomatoes and baby vegetables arrived we gasped with delight!

For main, we had beautifully roasted lamb with orzo pasta, asparagus and amazing bay leaf crisps!

By the time our dessert arrived, I was interrogating the Gallo ladies on how on Earth did they get to work in this beautiful place and eat this food and get to taste 300 million wines each day whilst remaining knowledgeable, composed and professional! I can't remember their answer - if there was one - because the orange sorbet and slice of yummy cake I had in front of me was calling me. All very Joan of Arc but with a much better ending!

And to finish this memorable lunch, great coffee in a fantastic rooster cup! Heaven.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

BLOG BLESS AMERICA: Hotel Healdsburg Forever!

I mentioned briefly in my previous post that Hotel Healdsburg happens to be one of my all-time favourite hotels. Sure, the fantastic time I had last time I stayed there for B and S's wedding is primarily to blame; a group of friends from around the world that just came together and enjoyed every last second of it so much so that the photograph of all of us standing in front of the hotel, taken on the morning of our departure, still makes me smile. So much so, in fact, that T and I came back to ye olde London and started making plans of moving to California. That is a good trip, my friends!

But, of course, even without those memories, Hotel Healdsburg ticks all the right boxes for me. It's located in a ridiculously picturesque setting, in the middle of Healdsburg town and amongst California's Wine County and Sonoma Valley. The morning's light mist/drizzle/overcast weather does not even come close to ruining your mood. It makes for a more impressive and rewarding experience when just before midday the sun burns through it and rises high.

The staff are friendly, the rooms stylish without screaming, with lovely colours that calm you the moment you walk in, and then there's the bed. BB turned his upside-down last time we stayed, trying to discover the make of their mattresses. He didn't succeed but confirmed that those beds are indeed the most comfortable you will ever sleep on. I, of course, told everyone in this trip, as we were crossing San Fran's Golden Gate Bridge and they weren't disappointed. There's a lovely swimming pool and small garden and an equally small but great spa for massages - this time I tried their wine wrap and still wish I didn't have to wash that delicious smell off of me!

The hotel's restaurant, Dry Creek Kitchen, is extraordinary in that uniquely American way where the setting is so relaxed you simply can't dress up for it but the food succeeds at being simply and heavenly mouthwatering. The chef is Charlie Palmer, whose story is one of those success-at-a-young-age/immense-talent-and-determination that leaves you slightly exhausted but so glad at least he made it and you get to savor his food! We had the Tasting Menu, every plate came with an accompanying wine, and this is what our table looked like by the last course.

And this is what my next morning looked like. Seems unfair not fall in love all over again, no?