Monday, 29 December 2008

Saleing into the sunset

Have you been to the sales yet? I’ve viewed scenes of crowded stores on the TV news, but prefer to keep well away from them myself. However, in a mad moment of nostalgia, when walking past a local branch of Woolworths the other day, I decided to pop in and take a look at what was on offer.

There weren’t that many customers about, though there were quite a lot of very glum looking staff, including an extremely unfriendly security guard, who insisted that I stop taking photographs and threatened to throw away my camera. All very odd, I thought, for a shop that was just about to be closed down – and hence the rather hurriedly taken and blurred photos in this blog…

There was still quite a lot on the shelves and most of the stock seemed only to have been marked down by 10% - including such ‘wonders’ as Cliff Richard's autobiography, a toy replica long range rifle, something called Partini – ‘the party game with a delicious twist’ and pale pink and blue raffia umbrellas (perfect for mid-Winter).

The clothing section was a little busier: the floor strewn with the remnants of rummaging shoppers. The fashions on show were decidedly lacking in taste – like this deep-pile-style stripey zip up cardie in a toe curlingly eclectic array of cerise, dark lilac and white..

If you’re not tempted by the Wonder of Woolies or other department store sales, why not take a look for bargains on the internet. You won’t have to go out in the cold, or battle with the crowds and you might even find things with timeless style that aren’t instantly identifiable as last season’s stock.

At ShopCurious, we’ve up to 40% off stylish fashion, jewellery and unique accessories like this unusual vintage bug bangle (left) reduced from £230 to £149.50. We’ve also designer vintage bargains and some highly wearable contemporary clothing that will keep you warm year after year too – like a simple, but stunning black suede waistcoat by Madame a Paris, reduced from £386 to £250.90.

It’s actually very sad that Woolies will be closing down, especially for the employees at this difficult time. When you see the fixtures and fittings being sold off (if anyone wants them), like plastic shopping baskets at a pound a pop, it brings home the finality of the situation.

It’s even sadder that the buyers at Woolworths weren’t curious enough to find things with a little more style.

Are you?

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Coming home for Christmas

Merry Christmas!
Where are you spending this Christmas holiday? I have to admit I’m a stickler for staying at home for the festive celebrations, as joining the queues on motorways or at the check-in desk of an airport simply doesn’t appeal. This is also the time of year when baggage handling staff can suddenly decide to go on strike, when railway timetables seem to become irrelevant and and cars curiously fail to start. Thankfully, most of my family and friends live close to home.

One of my favourite films to watch at Christmas (in fact any time) is Planes, Trains and Automobiles. The film is set two days before Thanksgiving and stars Steve Martin as marketing consultant Neal Page, who literally bumps into shower curtain ring salesman Del Griffith, played by the late great John Candy - on a trip to Chicago, that is beset by severe winter weather conditions - causing delays, detours and many comically disastrous scenarios.

I bet you’ve exchanged stories with friends about your travels over the years: about times when you’ve been at the mercy of unpredictable circumstances, means of transport, or perhaps just an unusually circuitous-route-taking Sat-Nav device? I remember getting a train back home to London from a trip to Cornwall one Friday afternoon. The train was due to arrive at 7.00 pm at Paddington Station, but due to a series of strangely quirky events – including a herd of cows on the line outside Bristol – I actually arrived back at around midnight. The whole experience was made a lot worse by the fact that half the train, including the buffet car, was uncoupled from the rest of the train and left behind soon after the start of the journey – leaving passengers without food or drink for the duration.

Of course, many people also like to fly away (usually to warmer climes) for a Winter break in the sun. According to Guy Debord, the ‘where’ and ‘why’ you travel in your life, are reflected in your own personal ‘psychogeographie’. French fashion designer, Karim Bonnet, has used this concept as the inspiration for an iconic collection of clothing under his Impasse de la Defense label, available in the UK exclusively at ShopCurious.

I’m not sure if the eclectic mix of arrows, signposts and maps featured on some of the designs would help you to find your way anywhere, but they look really stylish and cool. What’s more, graffiti-style designs are going to be big for the coming season – and these are more original than most.

Have you had any curious or crazy journeys home for Christmas? Do let us know …it might even be rather insightful if you want to learn more about your own unique psychogeography.

Do you?

Friday, 19 December 2008

Season of goodwill?

I haven’t had much time to prepare for Christmas this year. My tree’s still nakedly awaiting decoration and I’ve only just managed to send out a few cards – it’s all a bit last minute. The manic rush to get ready in time for Christmas has begun.

I noticed it today when I embarked upon the great annual Vacherin hunt. For the uninitiated, Vacherin is a rather runny and very smelly (some might agree with me that it’s also delicious) Swiss or French cheese. Every year I have a lunch with some friends and I take along a couple of Vacherins. However, when I left home this morning thinking I’d be back in twenty minutes with my curiously stinking fromages, I was sadly mistaken.

After 10 minutes of waiting in a queue for the Waitrose (known stockist of said cheese) car park, I decided to venture further afield to a very large branch of Sainsburys, where I eventually managed to find a space for my car. 15 minutes later, which is about the time it took me to find the cheese department, I discovered they had just about every cheese under the sun except Vacherin. Not wishing to stray into the congestion charge zone, I wracked my brains to think of a local deli that might sell such a delicacy – but as they're all Italian, I thought it probably unlikely. I decided to return to scope out the Waitrose traffic for a final attempt.

It was then I encountered the combined full-on force of Christmas shoppers, white van men making their final deliveries and holiday goers in London's dreaded Wandsworth one-way system. The lack of goodwill was astounding. Never before have I been so stunned by the sheer aggression, reckless regard for safety and the overarching urgency to get from A to B, no matter how dangerous the manoeuvres involved. Perhaps they were all flocking to the new Westfield centre in Shepherds Bush in search of discounted luxury designer goods, which is probably as near to shepherds and their flocks that most people will ever get these days.

My day hadn’t started that well either – as I got into the lift, an unusual smell wafted up – which soon became uncomfortably hideous and then unmistakably identifiable as the aftermath of a relatively recent barf. Unfortunately, it’s the time of year when, if you’re not shopping till you drop, you’re probably drinking till you pass out. Sadly, this is what 'celebrating' Christmas seems to have been reduced to.

We’re all stressed out, haring around like lunatics trying to find the latest 'must have' fashion accessories and queue-scuffling as we grab up trashy gifts because it’s the ‘season of giving’, we're drinking ourselves into an alcoholic stupor in the name of the ‘party season’ – in fact we're simply behaving like a bunch of animals. Whatever happened to the season of goodwill?

At ShopCurious, we’re proponents of the slow approach to life and the appreciation of timeless beauty, rather than disposable style. We suggest it might be apposite to give due consideration and pay a little more respect to others at this time of year – not just the guy in the car in front, or the woman ahead in the queue at the checkout, but also our friends and neighbours who are old, unwell, or in difficulty - like those who are newly unemployed. Whatever your nationality and whatever your faith, let’s keep this holiday season special for the right reasons - how about truth, beauty, peace and love for starters.

I’ll resume my search for cheese tomorrow.

Will you?

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Curious Christmas clothing

More on the perils of Christmas dressing – of trying to look festive and keep warm at the same time, whilst still maintaining a modicum of style. We faced this problem last weekend at London's Belgravia Christmas Sunday, where we spent the day outside Waitrose in sub-zero temperatures, with freezing feet.

The Snow Queen and her Snow Queen in Waiting (left) seemed perfectly happy – I guess they are used to being out in the cold. Curiously, the Snow Queen bore more than a passing resemblance to fellow Belgravia boutique owner and fashion designer, Maria Grachvogel – don’t you think? A juggling Swampy-on-rollerblades (right) was also present to entertain us in eco-friendly style and there was delicious hot Pimms to bring feeling to our fingers and colour to our cold, damp noses.

Later in the week at the British Council, I encountered an eclectic mix of arguably more stylish clothing. I loved Hughie’s boldly patterned coat (right) - I think he said it was made of sack-cloth, a fabric that could become popular during the recession. It reminded me of Karim Bonnet's iconic hand painted tartan number for Impasse de la Defense (left), which is available in the UK exclusively from ShopCurious.

Others, like the fittingly flirtatious events and celebrity photographer Deanne (right), stuck to traditional Christmas red – this outfit looks very cosy too. I was very tempted to wear one of Impasse de la Defense’s stunning and original hand painted designs: this curiously alternative long purple dress (left) with a smidgen of red, for instance...though it's not ideal for cold weather, unless you’re wearing thermal underwear, or happen to find yourself in a public library, a maternity ward, or anywhere else (probably Government funded) where they seem to conspicuously ignore fuel costs.

Then I had the novel idea of adapting this intriguingly designed Impasse de la Defense shirt. The beautifully handmade vintage style crocheted lace collar is long enough to hitch up either side of your ears and will definitely keep them warm.

Not only does this put Widow Twanky to shame, but it's also the perfect foil if you’re being followed by the paparazzi …

Anyway, if you happen to see or be seen wearing any curious or noteworthy clothing this Christmas, just send your photos to and we’ll show the most original shots on our ShopCurious blog.

Will you?

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

In the red

If you live in the UK, you might think that the phrase 'in the red' has something to do with the Labour Party, but in fact it's said to originate from the practise of using red ink to denote debt, or losses, on financial balance sheets and was first used in the mid-1920s. Fast-forwarding to today, apparently a person is declared bankrupt or insolvent every 4.8 minutes. I don’t know a huge amount about financial economics, but I found this statistic on a UK-based charity called Credit Action’s website. They also say that average household debt is £59,630, the overall daily increase in UK debt is £175 million and that we’re paying a combined total of £262 million in interest every day.

These scary figures may make your personal indebtedness pale into insignificance … but every little helps and small economies can add up to large savings in the long term.: So I suggest that, instead of spending a fortune on this season’s fly-by-night fashion trends, you look in your wardrobe to see what’s lurking at the back of the cupboard – when sometimes being ‘in the red’ can pay off.

Red clothing is appropriately seasonal at this time of year – and if you look after your things, you can bring out your favourite Christmas clothes and unique accessories year after year. Almost anything red gives a touch of warmth and a festive flavour to your outfit, even it it’s just a pair of old shoes (though these, by Vivienne Westwood, are rather special!)

Alternatively, you could help to save our environment from added carbon emissions by investing in some recycled vintage red, like this this timeless Vivienne Westwood moiré silk bustier from ShopCurious. If you’ve a grand occasion and want a luxury vintage look that’s got classic style, why not team this up with a dramatic floral quilted long skirt by Martin Kidman – though Queen Viv’s bustier is such a versatile piece you could even wear it with jeans.

Take a look at these roaring red numbers – also guaranteed to add uplifiting colour to your Christmas.

I was certainly uplifted by the extraordinary voice and the warmth and professionalism of Oleta Adams, who was wearing a deliciously deep red silk and satin evening dress, in a very Christmassy concert at the Barbican on Sunday night. If you want to defy the financial analysts’ doom and gloom, but you’re totally strapped for cash, then I don’t suggest you rush out to buy something similar – why not simply dye one of your old dresses red – or listen to the inspiring words of Oleta’s songs and you may find all the positive energy you need to propel you through these testing times ...

Will you?

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Luxury stocking fillers

There’s no better time than the beginning of December to start fretting about your Christmas wardrobe. This usually involves quite a few changes of dress and heaps of clothing strewn all over the place as you rush around at the last minute deciding what to wear to endless drinks parties, the office bash, at Christmas lunch, on Boxing Day and on the odd occasion you might possibly even be asked to don fancy dress … heaven forbid! Beyond that, there are probably travels all over the place to visit relatives, stay with friends, perhaps to go on holiday and, of course, to celebrate New Year’s Eve.

So where better to start the proceedings than with curious Christmas stockings – or in this case, tights. At ShopCurious, we’ve got the ultimate luxury stocking filler in the form of Bebaroque’s divine hand-embroidered tights. Not only are these velvety soft to the touch, but they’re so hot that you’ll have people falling over themselves to get them off you: Lust, envy and covetousness all come to mind – so I guess these are perfect for the office party and as the Christmas gift you’re going to buy for yourself and ask a kindly Great Aunt to pay for.

I wore some of Bebaroque’s unique and stylish tights to a rather stupendous lunch (shame about Claridges clashing and rather naff carpet) held by the Fragrance Foundation to honour Vivienne Westwood as winner of their annual Circle of Champions award - an initiative set up by the US Fragrance Foundation to pay tribute to individuals who have made a notable and newsworthy contribution to the fragrance industry.

I have to say that I do massively admire Vivienne as a fashion designer – she’s simply the bees knees. I totally adore the utter femininity of her designs, her originality and style - though I have to admit that I’m not entirely sold on her Boudoir perfume, as it’s a bit too heady and floral for me, but each to their own.

Another thing I really admire about Vivienne is her ability to be herself, no matter what anyone else thinks, which often comes across as quirky eccentricity. It was amazing to hear her wonderfully wacky speech in praise of Prince Charles and his support for global efforts to save the rainforest. It’s great that she gave that speech though, because it made me think … and it does actually make a lot of sense to strike at the root (excuse the pun) of our worldwide dilemma: I guess that, in the scheme of things, the devastating effects of deforestation on our climate, environment and air quality - and ultimately, the prospect of eventually running out of air to breathe - are even more significant than impending global economic depression?

But I bet you’re still going to buy a Christmas tree - perhaps even one that’s been sustainably grown at eco-friendly Highgrove...

Are you?

Monday, 1 December 2008

Joyous jewellery

The weather at this time of year can be so miserable – like today, when it rained virtually all day long in London … and it gets dark so early too. What’s lovely about Christmas time is that, all across town, people add sparkle to the season of gloom by decorating windows, buildings, trees and lamposts with twinkling lights, tinsel and other festive fripperies.

Much the same applies to the way people dress at Christmas. Out come all the beaded evening gowns, glittering red cocktail dresses and hitherto hidden away fashion accessories like Father Christmas adorned ties and curious Christmas tree earrings that light up, or play Christmas carol jingles.

At ShopCurious, we’ve some timeless and unique accessories that you won’t want to shove into the back of a drawer come the New Year. What’s more, if you’re looking for something suitably beaded and bejewelled to offer as a Christmas gift, these are ideal.

Designer Jianhui of Aventure has created some pieces that will not only add some glitz and glam to your party frock, but they’re also the sort of things you can wear to jazz up a casual outfit like jeans and a vest top. If you’re looking to buy some bling, but are also mindful of the recession, they’re very reasonably priced too. This versatile multi-strand charm necklace with stars and hearts (right) can also be worn as a belt (left) – so you’re immediately getting double the value for your money.

If you’re looking for a gift that will be treasured, we’ve a selection of stylish mother of pearl cameo and crystal bracelets and necklaces, each a mini-work of art that is a lovely keepsake.

Cameos also make rather a romantic gift with their beautiful carved images. In Italian, the word ‘cameo’ means ‘to engrave’ and is thought to have come from the ancient Hebrew/Arabic word ‘kamea’, meaning charm or amulet. According to folklore, cameos have a mystic ability to attract health and good fortune.

By the way, if you want to enjoy some fabulously flickering lights, as well as a sparkling array of Christmas goodies, festive food, drink and entertainment, why not visit ShopCurious on 7th December at Belgravia Christmas Sunday? We’ll be located in Motcomb Street, London SW1 between 11.00 am and 4.00 pm.

Will you?