Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Ketchup & Mustard

 Nope, contrary to what it looks like this post is not about condiments but the two colours this season of which I have yet to get bored.

 On a dreary November morning when I would normally pull on head-to-toe black I find myself being drawn, like a magpie toward something shiny, to a splash of ketchup & mustard. Eye-catching hues on their own, they are also weird yet wonderful together.

 Still not convinced? Here are a few of my favorite things. Come on I defy you not to be instantly cheered by this colour combo or at least start to feel a little toasty.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Cycle Helmets Can Be Cool

Cycling seems to be being talked about everywhere at the moment, from the Barclays cycle hire scheme (I refuse to call them Boris Bikes when they were actually Ken's idea) to the seemingly endless fashion shoots featuring winsome girls in floaty floral frocks astride Dutch bikes. Of course I'd love to be the sort of person who just hops on my vintage bike and arrives at my destination looking tousled and gorgeous but the reality of my six mile commute in the the wind and rain means it's a good day if I get to work without mascara running down my face.

Although my London cycling attire tends toward the practical rather than the fashionable there is one part of my look that I'm very happy with and that's my cycle helmet. I don't feel comfortable riding in town without some protection for my bonce but wearing my traditional old helmet really made me feel like a dork. But since buying my Yakkay last year all that has changed.

Designed in Denmark, the home of chic cycling, these ingenious head-protectors feature a basic helmet, available in 3 sizes, and a whole array of covers that fit over the top. When put together the finished item looks more like a hat than a traditional helmet and more than anything I just think they are great fun.

Sadly they're not cheap, retailing at around £60 for the helmet and £35 for the covers, but although that might seem like a lot to pay I can honestly say I don't regret the outlay one little bit. Riding along feeling like a normal human being who uses a bike to get around rather than a Chris Hoy wannabee means that for me it was money well spent.

I have two covers, the Paris Black Oilskin which has the air of a horse riding helmet (a look I rather love); and the Tokyo Pink Jazz which is the kind of thing I like to think Coco Chanel might have chosen to wear if she was fighting her way past double deckers and aggressive black cabs on her bike. Having said all that, I have to be honest: I don't like to think of myself as a fair-weather cyclist but when that icy wind is really biting it takes all my willpower to get on my bike in the morning. But there's good news: Yakkay also have a rather snuggly looking pair of ear warmers that attach to the strap of the base helmet meaning they can be worn with any of the covers. And at around £20 they seem like a little extravagance I can allow myself.

Go on, admit it, you didn't believe me when I said bike helmets could be cool. But try out a Yakkay for yourself and I think you'll come around to my way of thinking.

[Images 1-4 Yakkay; images 5-6 Cyclechic.co.uk (where you can also buy Yakkay helmets & accessories)]

Friday, 5 November 2010

1001 prints | Celia Birtwell

Ossie Clarke and Celia Birtwell are synonymous with the spirit of Swinging London in the sixties. The then husband and wife team's floaty diaphanous clothes - the cut designed by Ossie, the whimsical print and pattern by Celia - had Twiggy, Bianca et al banging on their King's Road door demanding to wear them. Although I wasn't around in the sixties, I have a real fondness for Celia Birtwell's romantic prints and her signature colour palette of red, cream, charcoal, soft pink, green and blue - inspired, she says, by the paintings of Matisse and Picasso, the costumes of the Ballets Russes and the gardens of Vita Sackville-West.

Forty years on, the woman sometimes referred to as 'the face that launched a thousand prints' has just created her own website, offering all manner of homewares and accessories all adorned with her designs. I particularly love the vintage clothing section where you can buy and sell Ossie Clark/Celia Birtwell originals - each with a certificate of authentication and sketch of the garment by Celia herself. I also like that you can buy her prints in the form of fabric or wallpaper. All in all, I think the homewares and accessories on offer - ranging from notebooks and greetings cards through to mugs, plates and gardening paraphernalia including a cute pair of gardening gloves - are pretty, sweet and playful.

But although I like the new accessories, it's the frocks which always do it for me. Some of you may remember the great stampede at Topshop a couple of years ago for Celia's gorgeous printed tea dresses and blouses based on her own vintage designs. For those of you like me who did not have the patience or the elbows to see one in the flesh, let alone grab one, you still have a chance. This summer, Celia created a capsule collection of clothes, bags and homewares, exclusively for British high street stalwart John Lewis. The collection includes some lovely billowy sleeved dresses and blouses and I have my eye on this little number (below), a Rock Print Silk Dress and... well I'm going to need a lovely green, tasselled, leather drawstring pouch to go with that.

However, the other day I spied a less successful Birtwell collaboration currently selling in Boots. A bizarre mish-mash of cosmetic purses, socks and make-up brushes - Celia Birtwell eyelash curlers anyone? I can see she is probably trying to appeal to a younger generation in the same way she did when she worked with Millets a couple of years ago by creating a range of festival-chic camping gear. But for me, I think the beauty and timelessness of her prints lend themselves best where she ultimately began - clothing.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Industrious in the Kitchen

I love those little coincidences that the blogosphere throws up. A few months ago one of the Berlin blogs that I like to read posted about the Pomeranza Design Ranch which happens to be co-owned by a friend of mine. As well as being pleased that she was getting a positive write-up about her venture, I was also interested to find out about one of their products I hadn't spotted before: Grubent├╝cher. These cotton/linen towels were apparently used by miners in Germany's industrial Ruhr area to clean themselves up after a hard day down't pit. Their absorbency and robust design means they are now finding a new popularity in the kitchen. I made a mental note to check them out next time I went into the shop and then promptly forgot all about them.

Fast forward four months to last Friday where I find myself clutching a beautifully wrapped birthday present from my Pomeranza friend & her partner, and when I open it what do I find but a lovely Grubentuch. Now if that isn't the universe telling me I needed one of these babies in my life then I don't know what's going on.

Certainly, anything that makes drying up more fun (and I'm reliably informed they do that job remarkably well) is just fine by me. Hurrah for beautiful fabrics with a bit of history thrown in (and industrial history too, my favourite), and hurrah for thoughtful friends who know just the right presents to get you for your birthday.
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