Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Francophilia: Charles and Valentine.

The collaboration between Charles Anastase and Valentine Fillol Cordier is more than just a suitable work arrangement. You do get the feeling these two London-based French expats have a close relationship, understanding each other deeper than 'this season's look'. Or at least, I do and this adds that extra little touch to how I view Charle's collections. Valentine, I love; her personal style, that effortless manner that breaths a chic practicality to her looks only Parisian girls seem to get just-right but combined with a touch of London attitude. These are some images from the Charles Anastase Resort '11 collection that she has styled, as shot by Jessy Adams. I love the patent black raincoat, the white shirt, the ankle length black trousers and high-waist washed jeans and yes, the shiny, sparkly gold jacket! In fact, these images even make me want crazy curly curls and this is how whatever Charles and Valentine do gets in my head!

All images by Jessy Adams for Charles Anastase.

FOR FOOD'S SAKE: River. Cafe. Lunch. Simply. Perfect.

The food at The River Café really has the power to reduce your thoughts and feelings about it to single words. Not because it's bland or uninteresting but because it's so good. Long, rambling and eloquent descriptions of each plate go so far and beyond the point they miss it completely. Hence the title to this post, it was simply perfect! My first visit there was for T's birthday lunch earlier this month. Here's what we had. Few ingredients of sublime quality on each plate so simply presented it dared you to search for faults. I resisted, enjoyed every mouthful and if you're wondering there were none. I guess the sign of a well enjoyed meal is finding yourself thinking back to it longingly days and weeks and months later. This was one of those.

My starter of Prosciutto di Parma with Turkish figs that had just arrived. It did exactly what it should; the prosciutto melted in my mouth and those figs were deliciously succulent and honey-sweet.

T started with the chargrilled squid with fresh chili and rocket. The smokiness from the grill enhanced the flavour of what is officially the softest and most tender squid T has eaten so far.

For my main, I chose what is probably one of my favourite plates ever - and there are quite a few! Linguine con vongole and white wine. The sea in a bowl.

T chose the red mullet with potatoes, tomatoes and olives and although he really enjoyed the fish itself he could not get over how incredible the potatoes were. I tried them. He was right, I don't know how far you can take the humble potato taste-wise but these were there!

Dessert time and for Birthday Boy the irresistible Summer Pudding with Valpolicella & Crème Fraiche.

And for me, one of the most delicious little bowls of sublime taste that's ever been placed in front of me; a simple affogato. You may think I'm going too far but so what? I enjoyed each spoonful of some of the best vanilla ice-cream soaking in hot espresso so much it's the one dish I'm still thinking about. Simplicity. You can't beat it.

Friday, 20 August 2010

I HEART: L'Agence du cool!

I will forever be partial to labels designed with a clear purpose in mind, especially when they have a woman at the helm and she tells me things like, "I throw everything in the washing machine. Even my stretch suede, I don't have the time nor do I like the chemicals used in dry cleaning and I don't like everything perfectly pressed anyway!" So, when it comes to L'Agence I'm partial like a cat is to a soft, cuddly, squeaky toy stuffed with catnip.

Pre Fall 10 collection

That woman is Margaret Maldonado and she heads the eponymous West Coast super-agency that represents some of the most sought-after stylists in Hollywood and worldwide; Andrea Lieberman, Marjan Malakpour, Jen Rade, Christina Ehrlich, Tiina Laakkonen. In 2008, she created L'Agence, firstly with a line of the softest, finest tees and simple tank dresses I've seen so far. She has since, slowly and thoughtfully expanded each collection to include some fantastic evening dresses - the kind you only need to throw on with a pair of heels and you're ready, butter-soft suede jackets and shorts, jersey and cotton trousers and the perfect maxi fishtail skirt. Of course, the line has been worn by everyone in Hollywood but it's also captured the attention of women elsewhere, looking for those key pieces they can always rely on. When I first wrote about the label for Harper's Bazaar in 2009, my then commissioning editor at the title, Sara Buys, and I went to their London showroom for a closer look and were both in awe of the simplest pieces; a tee here, a long tank top there, we wanted it all and we called it all in! Days later, some items found their way to a different shoot with Ali Hewson, the founder of Edun and co-founder of Nude cosmetics who is also married to a certain Mr Bono. She loved the jersey fishtail skirt and was photographed for the magazine wearing it!

I wrote about the label again for Vogue this year and I'm impressed at how the latest collections have evolved. I imagine Margaret as a super-cool mad scientist, at her Hollywood house, throwing different samples in the wash, wearing them, testing them and then coming up with some of the best fabric names I've come across; ultra-jersey, stretch-suede, power-mesh ("an amazing fabric that I use in lining to help achieve a better fit"). Here are some images from the Pre-fall and AW10 collections. Needless to say, I want it all!

AW10 collection
All images by L'Agence.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

BLOG BLESS: My Selfridges shoe story.

A little while ago Selfridges asked me to contribute my own 'shoe story' to an ongoing project creating excitement for the upcoming launch of, what is officially, the biggest shoe department in the world. The new Shoe Galleries space will comprise of six galleries, eleven boutiques and - if you felt something was missing in this sentence here it is - one hanging garden! It didn't take long for me to decide which pair of shoes to write about. My relatively new Church's and I have been having an affair of late and although my Martin Margiela pumps (that actually made it into Grazia!) were the best gift I could give myself and make me feel all grown-up, my brogues make my inner tomboy really happy and at the end of the day, that's what I am! Here's a little pic and below is the full text, just in case you want to read about me kicking boys in the shins - when I was little, of course! I told you, I'm all grown up now.

My inner tomboy - the one that climbed trees, sulked when made to wear a skirt and kicked boys in the shins to show them who's the boss - has always wanted a 'proper' pair of men's brogues. After all, imagine the kick they'd give! As a somewhat grown-up version of that little girl, the feeling has not subsided. In fact, I recently found its quintessence in a, if I may say so, kick-ass pair of white leather brogues from Church's. Church's make 'proper' men's shoes and although mine are from the women's line - a small concession had to be made for fit and appearance's sake - I'm in love with them. I bought them recently as a gift to myself and I smile at them each time I walk past. I wear them with ankle-length trousers, rolled-up jeans but also skirts (boo!) and dresses. I want to strut in them, run in them, go on adventures in them. And while I love high heels - an equally recent and precious Martin Margiela purchase is a whole other story - my brogues represent the closest my childhood self and current self have come, sartorially-speaking. So, although they feature in no big story at the moment, they undoubtedly will. Boys, beware!

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Francophilia: The day a café saved my life!

Tying-in smoothly with the last Paris-focused post, this is a big Thank You! to the lovely Tommy, the proprietor of Mamie Gateaux, his delicious fig tart and the blog world in general and if you think I've gone and lost my mind, well, you've never really known me after all!

This lovely café did save my life - or at least my day! - when I made my way to it after another of those long, tiring days when I think Paris is a postcard and not a modern city, and walk and wander and get lost to the point of exhaustion. Throwing myself on one of its outside chairs and immediately falling in love with the floral print cover on the table in front of me (one that my grandmother probably has) I sent a mental thank you to Tommy whose lovely posts about Mamie Gateaux inspired me to visit. The owner was lovely, the little menu he handed me even lovelier and the crumbly and sticky slice of fig tart I chose (not really a choice as I'm programmed to opt for whatever is on the menu with the word fig next to it) was, you guessed it...divine! A tasse de café gave me energy and a few pages of my book later (can you guess which one it was?) I was off, walking and wandering and getting lost all over again!

Francophilia: Merci Paris!

I've promised to not do the whole 'I haven't posted anything in ages, lazy Kiki, bad Kiki' thing so I won't. A promise is a promise and all that but still, forgive me readers for I have sinned! I went to Paris and the Versailles and took hundreds of pics and yet I posted...none, nothing, rien. I went to the Maison Martin Margiela exhibition still on show at Somerset House here in too-hot-to-handle London and took dozens of illegal pics (photography is not allowed) and yet I posted...a big fat nada. I've had delicious tea and cake at Lanka with lovely friends and took...well, no pics whatsoever as I greedily ate it all far too quickly to even consider snapping them for your viewing pleasure so no post there. You get the point.

So, expect to see posts on all the above and more soon. At the moment, I'm at a Le Pain Quotidien, lunching on a crab and avocado tartine and an iced cappuccino determined to get a few of these babies out there to you. Don't hold your breaths!

On that visit to Paris, while T and his buddies holed themselves up at some digital animation/short film/blah blah/geeks-rule (and they do and I love them for it!) conference I finally got to see the retail wonder that is Merci. I had read so much about it I probably expected to find The Missing Link but what was there certainly did not disappoint. Far from it. I was impressed with the space itself, the easy nature of the whole place, the interesting selection of product and - well, are you surprised? - the buzzy café downstairs. As the girl that loves nothing more than a walk through the kitchen department of John Lewis on a spare day, I spent more time at the equivalent space at Merci than the fashion area and happily snapped away until I realised I had to be somewhere else, reluctantly left, promised to come back and have at least a coffee at the café and walked outside, yet again managing to get lost in the backstreets of Paris!

Although if you did follow one of these bags out of the store and through the 3rd arrondissement's streets I doubt you'd end up to The Famous Columbia Rd. Flower Market. But still, funny to see them on sale here!