Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Collectable curiosities

A present shouldn't just be for Christmas ... think of the recipient's regard for you, think of the memories that would be associated with something really special, think of the future investment potential and the lasting value of an heirloom for generations to come ... a Christmas gift should be for life.

Okay, now we're done with the marketing spiel, here are some ideas of collectable curiosities you might like to bestow upon your loved ones to help them remember you forever:

How about this original 1960s Swoboda pendant (above right) with semi precious stones? It's one of a kind and it's also kinda cool, don't you think? We've also got an iconic vintage Fiorucci Minnie Mouse sweatshirt at ShopCurious that might need taking out to celebrate boyfriend Mickey's recent 80th birthday. What's more, we're offering this rare retro rediscovery at a special recession conscious price.

If your friends are into designer names and unique accessories, we've some ultra-desirable vintage Versace shades - that's sunglasses to us Brits - in two separate shades (sorry, am I repeating myself?) and these are also supplied with their original cases.

Other stateside curiosities include an exotic selection of bags from Timmy Woods of Beverly Hills - including a stylish and somewhat surrealist telephone bag - and a masterfully minimalist version of the Eiffel Tower (held by Carrie Bradshaw, left) ... I guess that's how big the famous French monument looks to Americans?

If you're not buying for a handbag-worshipper, you could always settle for a limited edition sculpture, expertly carved by Hacene Sadoune. Or perhaps you'd prefer a more classically inspired piece, in which case we've just the thing.

Finally, if you know any fashionistas who are trying to quell their portable property habit in these financially strained times, why not consider investing in the fashion of art in the form of a limited edition signed sketch by legendary British fashion designer, Bill Gibb. You won't be able to wear it, but at least it's not going to be consumed by moths in your wardrobe and one day it could be worth a lot more than you paid for it. We have some tips on how to look after your clothes by the way, of which more later ...

Just a few ideas. I hope you are at least mildly curious?

Are you?

Monday, 24 November 2008

The art of giving

I remember being in a class at school - I must have been around 10 years old, if that - and our group reading book was Animal Farm. I still recall the impact and the extraordinary revelation of the words: 'All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others' ... I was thinking about that as I heard a trailer for Channel 4's recent documentary - Special Needs Pets. Please tell me, what is the world coming to?

It's very sad when one of the truly 'more equal' dies at such a young age , as happened yesterday with the untimely departing of the hugely talented, vibrant and big-hearted Richard Hickox. I last saw Richard on Friday 14th November, when he was conducting the City of London Sinfonia in a wonderfully moving concert that included Purcell's extraordinarily serene and almost over-indulgently slow Funeral Music for Queen Mary, together with a highly charged first London performance of Tavener's enlightened Requiem - containing sections from the Roman Catholic Requiem Mass, lines from the Koran and Sufi texts and Hindu words from the Upanishads and other sources.

John Tavener wrote the following about his work:
"The essence of this Requiem is contained in the words 'Our glory lies where we cease to exist'. That is, when one's false self is extinguished, the true self shines forth, and we have, in a way, become one with God. But this realisation is beyond most human beings, which is why religion exists, and why the perennial truth of all the great religious traditions centres on this concept. The absolute freedom that results from this oneness can only belong to the being that, liberated from the conditions of manifested existence, has become absolutely one with its principal and its origin ... Today, the different religions are often in conflict with each other, but inwardly every religion is the doctrine of the self and its earthly manifestations. That is to say there is only One Being: minerals, animals, plants and human beings are all part of that self ... The purpose of our existence in this world is precisely to understand the true nature of what we are."

This blog is dedicated to musical genius - such things should be valued and treasured - and the ability to appreciate should be passed on to future generations. However, as life is so short and precious, I'd also like to draw your attention to some of the collectable curiosities on offer at ShopCurious:

If you love beautiful sounds and want to invest in a unique gift, or something that's got a bit of provenance and might also be appreciated in years to come, why not consider this rare recording of two amazing pieces of music with timeless appeal by the Modern Jazz Quartet? This 1950s EP is presented in its rather arty and stylish original cover too.

I hope you're not going to say that you'd prefer a designer handbag ...

Are you?

Friday, 21 November 2008

Bespoke bus party

If you spotted an old London bus parked in a backstreet in Soho last night, you weren’t hallucinating. Inside were guests celebrating the launch of the stylish new Sir Tom Baker shop.

With its eclectic mix of glam-rock style bespoke tailoring, funky ties and quirky fashion accessories, together with more traditional and wearable classics, Tom Baker’s style fits in perfectly with the ShopCurious ethos of providing beautiful, well made and handcrafted products that are unusual and unique, but also timeless in their design. Just as well, since in the New Year, ShopCurious will become the exclusive UK online stockist of selected pieces from the Sir Tom Baker range.

I thought you might like to have a take a peek inside the shop with me and meet some of the party guests:

The interior is scattered with vintage accessories, as well as handmade and retro furnishings and collectables - can you identify the iconic looking curly haired gent on this hat - is it Oliver Cromwell, or Noddy Holder perhaps?

There’s an Archie Eyebrows (aka Terry de Havilland inspired and advised) shoe salon to the rear, with hot hot Cuban heeled boots and shoes for men.

Terry was there in person too - the man with the silver gun (spot the natty vintage brooch) and striking black and white vintage t-shirt.

There were other glamorous guests who looked vaguely familiar, but I’m not a celebrity spotter, so do let me know if you recognize anyone.

The customers were both individual and charming, though some were more adventurous dressers than others – like poet and performance artist Phil, left, whose silver jacket spoke for itself (I had white lights in front of my eyes after taking that one).

Then there were the girls: the delectable Veera, the effervescent Gemma (below left), who has a Terry de Havilland shoe named in her honour, and this rather chic 1940s looking lady.

And the musicians, who jammed on a variety of instruments, including this versatile step-cum-drum (right). I’ve got one of those in my cupboard too, so I’ll have to ask for a pair of drumsticks for Christmas.

Mayor MCCA was a particularly cool and curious dude.

Finally, to the talented tailor himself, pictured here and (right) with a friend. I didn’t like to ask how they were all getting home as the bus didn’t look in great shape.

Maybe they’ll keep it there for a few days and carry on celebrating – Prince Charles might even be tempted to use his new bus pass to come and buy a jacket or two.

Will you?

Monday, 17 November 2008

Christmas curiosities

Perfumes have been around for as long as humans and it's thought that smell is the oldest sense in living organisms. According to the American Society of Perfumers, the word ‘perfume’ derives from the Latin ‘per-fumum’ meaning ‘through smoke’, alluding to the early practice of releasing pleasant odours from fragrant materials such as the wood of trees through heat or burning. Ancients believed that, as the smoke rose skywards, they were making a path for the gods. In ancient Egypt scents were used by everyone, even on their horses, saddles, and in food and drink. In those days perfumes were handled by priests, sorcerers and alchemists.

Today, most perfumes are mass produced from an eclectic mix of synthetic chemicals and additives. That's why many of us recoil in shock when blasted with an unsolicited spray of the latest designer duty free offering. Of course, there are beautiful smells too - many of which are the keys to memories of cherished relatives, lovers or poignant experiences. I was fortunate enough to attend a dinner where Professeur de Parfums, Roja Dove, was speaking. He brought along some of a rare perfume called kypi - known as the scent of antiquity, which it is also said was the scent of the Pharaohs. To me, this had an indescribable sugary sweet spicy fragrance of time immemorial - not a smell I remember, just one I somehow know... I also rubbed some raw white frankincense into my hands - that reminded me of the woody smell of the resin I used on my violin bow as a child.

Did you know that we smell not with our noses, but via our olfactory nerve, which is acutally a part of the brain? If you have style with brains and absolutely adore naturally beautiful smells, as well as sophisticated and stylish perfumes, you'll love the heavenly scented curiosity candles, available from ShopCurious.

Made by Mad et Len, these beautifully presented luxury coffrets, each containing two bougies de curiosite, are made in rural France exclusively for ShopCurious. Mad et Len produce everything by hand so that each piece is unique - even the packaging is made and folded by hand. The blends of soy wax, jojoba oil and beeswax, together with perfume essences are left to mature, providing for a rich and unforgettable aroma.

When the curiosity candles are burned together, they create a divinely unique scent, marrying contrasting and complementary tones of original distilled perfume from flore, wood or aromate. The six exquisite and unusual combinations on offer at ShopCurious include vibrant, primitive black pepper with sensual, deep fruity ylang-ylang; exotic and mysterious oriental patchouli with aromatic floral gardenia and hot spicy nutmeg (muscade) with fresh citrus based verveine. The cotton toile lined boxes are individually made and really pretty too - the curiosity candle coffret would make an original and very special Christmas gift.

Mad et Len's workshop (above) is located in the Haute-Provence village of Saint Julien du Verdon, where Alexandre and Sandra, a husband and wife team, create personalised and limited edition perfumes for the bath, body and home in the tradition of old style apothecaries. The name Mad et Len is based on a quirky reference to Proust's remembrance of things past (madeleine). Quoting from Du Cote de Chez Swann: "The smell and taste of things remain poised a long time, like souls, ready to remind us, waiting and hoping for their moment, amid the ruins of all the rest; and bear unfaltering, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the vast structure of recollection".

Do you?

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Hot dish

I'm not at all interested in the antics of so called celebrities (nor their media-clogging diet regimes), so not sure if I dare admit that I just happened to be watching Celebrity Come Dine with Me earlier this evening ... But it was funny to see Jimmy Osmond looking like one of his much older brothers - was it Wayne? Yes, I know it was way back when having 'celebrity' status still required a modicum of talent, charm and professionalism.

How wonderful to see that Jimmy is still as charming as ever and still demonstrating a healthily human approach to eating - as well as paying ongoing attention to his spiritual well-being: he certainly appeared to be emotionally better adjusted than some other of the eclectic mix of guests.

I noticed that fellow diner, Nicky Clarke, was wearing one of those ultra-stylish scarves, though his penchant for colourful trousers was rather curious. Perhaps he chose them to match his face after a liberal application of chilli pepper? Judging by his gravity-defying hair, he must rub chilli into that too... look out for a new secret recipe spicy formula shampoo on the shelves of your local supermarket soon.

Talking of the fashion for red ingredients, I read something in a newspaper today about lypocene – the substance that makes tomatoes red and gives some other vegetables their rich colour. Did you know that storing red-coloured fruit like tomatoes at room temperature rather than in the fridge doubles the level of beta-carotene and boosts the food’s content of cancer-fighting lypocene by 20%? Apparently, at Ohio State University in Columbus, they even created a unique orange coloured ‘tangerine tomato’ that allows one to absorb more than twice the level of lypocene than from standard plum tomatoes. Oh, and it's said that cooked tomatoes provide for a better absorption rate of lypocene than when eaten raw...

Which brings me on to the subject of the rather original hot tomato dish available from ShopCurious… a quirky, ripe-red retro piece, (probably around the same vintage as Jimmy O), that would certainly make for an unusual gift. You could always use it to serve up crudités and seasonal nibbles at your pre-Christmas drinks party – just fill with saucy lypocene-packed salsa and so long as the guests don’t eat too much, their faces shouldn’t turn orange.

Will you?

Friday, 7 November 2008

Affordable little luxuries

I’ve already mentioned the ‘lipstick factor’ – the theory that when times get tough, many seek comfort in small purchases. Now here’s my list of affordable little luxuries from ShopCurious ... At £15.00 or less, these are perfect Christmas gift ideas, but also great to simply brighten up the gloomy winter days:

This mini coffret with cushion and room spray (right) by Catherine Masson contains a scented parcel for your wardrobe, together with a leafy green fragranced refreshing room spray.

Ideal as an unusual gift to take along to your neighbours’ Christmas drinks party.

Give this lipstick pouch with pen as a quirky stocking filler that’s useful too, or cash in on the ‘lipstick factor’ by buying three individual colour Colorsport lipstains for the special Christmas offer price of only £13.50 – (a veritable bargain as the rrp of each lipstick is currently £5.25).

These scented wardrobe sachets with a cute white flower smell divine. They’re already packed in a stylish black and gold gift box that arrives ready to pop under the tree. Alternatively, spice up your home with these sachets topped with a seasonal Christmas red rose.

If there’s someone special in your life, why not treat them to a luxurious First Kiss lined notebook, or if they’re ‘just a good friend’ how about a Green Bridge journal?

Your best friend might like some jewellery. How about an Aventure retro bangle (left) – available in a variety of unique designs. Or for a fashion conscious male friend, what about a leather and shell men’s bracelet? Then you can borrow it to wear around your ankle - perfect for beach holidays!

Finally, why not dress up your festive table with a pair of luxury rose bud napkin rings, adorned with ripe blue berries and pretty foliage. They’d also make a unique token of appreciation for your host if you’re not dining at home this Christmas.

I have a curious feeling that you’re itching to treat yourself to a little something right now…

Are you?