Wednesday, 26 January 2011

I HEART: Twirling, Swirling and Jumping for Whistles!

A lot of you seemed to love the Whistles SS11 preview. That doesn't surprise me, of course!

Today started with yet another moody London sky and a light drizzle that was enough to make me desperate for summer and bucket-loads of sunshine. Are we there yet? Nope but I'm patiently waiting for the morning when I get up and notice that something is different; the day is brighter, warmer but in a reassuring here-to-stay way, the plants outside seem to have a sparkle, a hyper bee or two start appearing at my window...and the thought enters my head; spring is finally here!

Until then I will make do with looking at more beautiful summer collections, making a wish-list of what to get and how to throw things together (square-cut men's jumpers with girly skirts a new obsession of mine) and daydreaming about floaty, light dresses with bare legs. This just-released video preview of Whistles' SS11 collection has managed to lift my spirits even though the moment I saw the girl turn, twirl and swirl in the halterneck white dress (00:54 secs in) I actually gasped. So pretty, so summery, so perfect!

Whistles Spring / Summer 2011 from WHISTLES on Vimeo.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

BLOG BLESS: My-Wardrobe makes me pine for summer days.

There is something quite cruel about attending Spring-Summer press days in the middle of a freezing cold winter. Something about the act of rushing through the front door, soaking wet from the rain, just-walked-through-a-hurricane hair in place only to be greeted by a couple of lovely looking PRs, wearing something short-sleeved that would dissolve the second they step outside, not a single hair flying in any undesirable direction. You're thinking, "Yes, I really am 'press' and yes, I really have been invited to this" and, "No, I am not a lost tourist cursing the day I decided a weekend break in London in the middle of November is a great idea." They're thinking, "Now, be kind to this poor deranged person, you never know who they might end up being" and "6 more hours to go!" Sure, there is such a thing about arriving in style, in a car/black cab but let's get back to reality, shall we?

I could therefore harbour feelings of animosity towards My-Wardrobe whose press event I attended a couple of months ago in exactly the manner described above but they are so lovely I can't. And really, they're very good at what they do but I don't think they can control the weather. Not yet, anyway but things, they are a-changing! And only now, in mid-Jan do I feel that it's appropriate to start discussing summer and all that's good and comes with it.

The e-tailer is relaunching for Spring-Summer '11 with an edited Designer Room featuring collections from designers and labels like Preen's new diffusion line Preen Line, Mulberry, Milly, Phillip Lim and Rag & Bone. A Holiday Shop will also offer swim and beachwear from DVF, Phillip Lim and Zimmerman. My brain cannot actually comprehend wearing a bikini yet so let's move on. A Shoe Room will also launch featuring new names to My-Wardrobe like Camilla Skovsgaard, Bionda Castana and Pour La Victoire, a label that Carine Roitfeld has described as "S&M Rock n''Roll Chic" and when Carine says that you know it's going to be good!

So, what caught my eye?

Light knitwear and shirts from Rag & Bone's Knit and Shirt lines. I am in love with the striped number hanging at the front and have already constructed several outfits in my head - most involving navy shorts, espadrilles and a straw hat. And me lying on green grass in a London park eating caramel ice-cream. I am precise that way. The collection should arrive at the end of February.

Lovely silky delicates from 3.1 Phillip Lim that are just perfect enough to wear on their own with a fine knit (to balance the flimsiness). It's summer, who cares? These are already available here.

I think I gasped when I saw this skirt by Milly. It's beautiful and it should be mine. Enough said. The pre-collection is available now with the second delivery coming soon.

Too cool for school boots from Beau Coops (it rhymes!) The light blue ones are mine as are the black ones. Short boots, bare legs, a floaty skirt/dress...yes, I really do miss summer! They should become available in February and I hear their prices are very reasonable too.

This was the first time I heard of the label Kite & Butterfly and even though 'boho' isn't really my thing I think I fell a little bit in love with these pieces. These should arrive in late February, early March.

Big hats from Eugenia Kim and Anya Hindmarch. I love Eugenia Kim's label and the story behind it. One bad haircut and one shaved head covered in a cloche made in millinery class led to being spotted by Soho boutiques and a label was born! Talking about making lemonade out of life's lemons! In stock by March.

And finally, a large bag by Moschino for the throw to sit on, the food for the picnic, the books and magazines. I. Love. Summer.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

BLOG BLESS AMERICA: New Year, New Direction.

It's a brand new year so what better than fresh new fashion from bright young designers (I'm hesitant to describe designers that have already established their names and aesthetics as young but compared to fashion megaminds like Uncle Karl, young seems right enough). This spread from V magazine's new issue, hitting newsstands on Jan the 13th, and appropriately called New Direction (shot by Peter Funch and styled by Cathering Newell-Hanson) instantly caught my eye. Oooh, I spot a Mary Katrantzou and a Holly Fulton, is that Meadham Kirchhoff and look, there's a J.W. Anderson. I can't help but feel proud when I see so many London-based designers in international spreads. It even makes me get excited for the next round of shows in February. Quite but not there yet!

All images by Peter Funch for V magazine.

FOR FOOD'S SAKE: Hanoi, Vietnam via Broadway Market.

There are these magical moments when you're travelling, where you find yourself in a place you've never visited before, read and heard very little about, have no known connection to and just so, at first sight/smell/sound/handshake/smile, you fall in love with it. You may start thinking about previous lives, kindred spirits or fate because you instantly feel at home, comfortable in your surroundings, excited by the food, people, landscape in a way that you know will last longer than a quick holiday and I don't think you'd be so wrong to do so. To me, it's proof that we're 'world beings', the whole world's citizens and not just a single country's. Suddenly, you're stopped in your tracks by the sight of a familiar face on a stranger; a neighbour you haven't seen since you moved house, an old friend at school, the lady that owns your local shop. You know it's not them, they're miles away, but something about this person makes you think of them and again, you feel at ease, like you are where you want to be.

From 2005 to 2006 I went on a round-the-world trip with T that lasted seven months (cut short by a few months for a mere two week's spending in Japan! Yes, it was worth it) and I feel lucky enough to have experienced such moments a few times. Siem Reap, Camdodia was one - the strongest yet. Hanoi, Vietnam was another and it's this place that Banh Mi 11 took me back to when I first read about it in Bee Wilson's wonderful food column in the Sunday Telegraph's Stella magazine and on my first, of many, subsequent visits at Hackney's Broadway Market.

Ling, Anh Vu, myself and Van Tran at their stall in Broadway Market.

But first; what is Banh Mi? A Vietnamese baguette to rule all baguettes, it is primarily filled with delicious pork, fresh cucumber and aromatic coriander. From this simple base - that's perfect in its own right - you add and build on and create a fantasia of flavours. Combined with a proper Vietnamese iced coffee, with condensed milk, it may well be one of your best meals ever! In the south of the country spring onions and a sweeter, spicier taste is traditionally preferred, something Anh assured me you would never come across further north!

Banh Mi 11 - and forgive me, Vietnamese buddies, for abandoning the correct accents out of laziness! - is the culinary venture of Anh Vu and Van Tran who alongside other friends, like Ling who was there helping out when I visited for this story, set up their food stall in Broadway Market and have been at their current location since July this year (walk straight through the market towards Regent's Canal at the back and it's there on your left. Or better, follow your nose!). As Anh told me, a particularly enthusiastic fan once drove there all the way from Leicester!

Anh told me - impressively while preparing for a full day's work ahead - on a cold but sunny Saturday morning how they all missed the banh mi they had back at home in Vietnam (both Anh and Van are from Hanoi but met as exchange students in London) and since it was the type of street food you picked up on your way to school they'd never learnt how to make it. This nostalgia combined with the very simple fact that banh mi is delicious and if you too lived in a city that didn't offer it you'd soon start making it yourself, pushed Anh and Van to start their weekly market stall - while working at their jobs all week! Now, that's dedication. They're trying to update traditional food and flavours for a younger generation and after all, Anh herself admits that she couldn't make it just like her mum's anyway!

The process is not simple and a lot of care is taken in getting the best quality ingredients possible. Everything is prepared during the week; they make the regular trip to Smithfield's market for the best quality pork from their trusted butcher - at 3 and 4 o'clock in the morning, mind you! Then, in a slow food method, the meat is minced, cut, and cooked not once but twice as well as being marinated. All this takes place from Wednesday so that everything is ready and fresh for Saturday morning. So, there is pork ham, roast pork and chicken marinated with ginger, coriander and lime. There's a home-made chili sauce, the traditional cucumber and pickles and something marvellous called 'cotton pork' or 'pork floss', which is basically a very thinly shredded twice dried pork that's also added to the baguette. And then, the magical pork pâté that's perhaps the key ingredient and whose recipe comes directly from none other than mum!

For Anh and the girls this is about food not taken for granted. It's about working with something interesting and mastering different techniques. It's about not following a recipe but thinking and going by taste. But above all, it's personal and frankly, isn't that what really good food is all about?

This is one very happy customer!

With huge thanks to the Banh Mi 11 gang! Counting down the days till February when you're all back from Hanoi and I can't wait to try the new addition to the menu - Pho Bo!

All images by T.


Here's to a good one, kids!

Image and design by Frank Chimero.