Saturday, 31 January 2009

Vintage girly gifts

To celebrate Barbie’s imminent 50th birthday, a group of French fashion designers created designs for new dolls, some of them incorporating tattoos and skull adorned head-dresses, worn alongside traditionally feminine and sophisticated clothing and hairstyles. Perhaps tattooed Barbie took her inspiration from Angelina Jolie, or Posh Spice … the one with the skull in her hair bore a curious likeness to Daphne Guinness (see below). I’m sure that no representation was intended, but it’s interesting how those in the public eye become role models whose styles filter through to everyday fashions. At least there wasn’t a version of Barbie that looked like Amy Winehouse – a drug-taking, self-harming Barbie may not be so cool.

Last week there was lots of talk in the media about feminism and the changing role of women in society. When I looked up the word ‘feminine’, the alternatives offered by an online Thesaurus included ladylike, womanly, delicate, soft, gentle, girlish and pretty – not the sort of terms we usually associate with the 21st century female. I rather like a bit of good old-fashioned femininity myself, so I thought I’d pick out a few original vintage girly gifts that are currently available at ShopCurious. If nothing else, they might give you a few gift ideas for Valentine’s Day.

Vintage powder compacts make a great unusual gift. We’ve got a selection, including a darling romantic enamelled 1950s original with a handpainted picture of the Eiffel Tower. Even if you don’t use face powder, these unique accessories look so pretty when you take them out of your designer vintage handbag – and they’re useful for the mirror alone. What’s more, they're very reasonably priced and well made compared to the nasty-plastic-cased modern day equivalents.

If you’re looking for something girly to wear, or perhaps as a Valentine gift for yourself, how about this luxurious Chinese silk and Mongolian lamb jacket? Perfect for chilly winter evenings out. Or what about a totally individual hot pink and orange embroidered vintage Voyage skirt – go on, be bold.

By the way, how would you define femininity? I bumped into the very girly looking neon-clad Pudding (click on the pic to enlarge) as she was about to board a train for London … she looks curiously cute, but are those clompy platform shoes, nose and multiple chin studs really feminine?

I'd love to hear your opinion, so do leave your comments.

Will you?

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Vintage Valentine kimonos

If you're looking for something authentic and different to buy as a unique and unusual Valentine gift, a vintage Japanese kimono might be just the thing.

To us Westerners, kimonos are exotic and alluring enough for all manner of occasions and can serve as anything from original evening dress through to seductive nightwear - they are ideal as a romantic gift and have timeless appeal.

The funniest thing is that in Japan - a country of great tradition, where apparently the majority of marriages are still arranged - many Japanese brides are choosing to wear a modern Western-style wedding dress rather than the conventional kimono. Is this just a fashion fad? Surely the traditional silk kimono is far more steeped in history and romance than your average Berketex bridal number ... and is likely to be handcrafted from natural fibres too?

Take a look at the selection of stylish vintage silk kimonos at ShopCurious - if you're feeling really soppy, there's even one that's fittingly called 'bloom of love'.

And we've some delightfully quirky obi-style belts as well: truly unique accessories and curiously useful for kimono and non-kimono wearers alike.

According to my nose, there's been more than a hint of the Orient in international style trends so far this decade, but I wonder if the strongest whiff of the East is yet to come...

Do you?

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Love is in the air

It's that time of year when 'lurve' is in the air and restaurants all over town (probably all over the world) are looking forward to upping their prices for that one special night - when most of us will be sitting indoors wishing we were out enjoying ourselves with the partner of our dreams and the rest will be arguing over the bill for dinner, or something far more trivial.

Meantime, to airline crew, 'love is in the air' isn't just a song by John Paul Young, but a rather appropriately named dating website. What fun - unlike the St Valentine's Day Massacre - a nasty gangland conflict in Chicago during the Prohibition Era in 1929 (and nothing to do with Ronald Reagan's first major film role in the 1937 feature, Love is in the Air).

Anyway, enough curious facts: I've decided to devote a few blogs to the universally celebrated institution that is Valentine's Day. I'd like to start by mentioning that ShopCurious is the perfect place to find a truly unique Valentine gift for the love of your life - in fact we've got some very romantic gift ideas in store for you over the next week or so.

To wet your appetite, here are a couple of items of jewellery that you might like to request as a special present for being so nice - or even to present to yourself for being so special:

These stylish vintage 1960s dangly clip on earrings are adorably cute and would work really well with any outfit from jeans to a jumpsuit to a little black cocktail number. They'd make an unusual gift too - and you can even create a little heart shape by putting them together as shown in this pic (ahhhh, how sweet!)

Or add a dash of romance to your life with this quirky-but-classic sterling silver lucky elephant charm necklace. It's incredibly wearable, yet also something of a collectors' item that will never cease to stun with its eclectic colour combination of beautiful semi-precious gemstones.

You might just decide to forget about the meal for two in future and invest in timeless and unique accessories instead.

Will you?

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Slow forward

Damn, I missed Obama’s inaugural speech – but have heard plenty of snippets played over and over and over and over and over on the radio and TV and will they ever stop?

Still, Barack Obama certainly seems like he has ‘style with brains’ – let’s just hope that he does. There’s no doubt he’s an awesome orator and a very charismatic guy – oh, and as Mica Paris so delicately(!) pointed out on Tuesday night’s LBC News, when asked why she thought Obama had won: “He’s a cool guy” who “appeals to the young” and “walks in a really cool kind of way” … Thanks Mica, you’ve got a great voice and a very big heart and you’re a lovely lady (and you forgot to mention President Obama's very fine set of teeth).

A few months ago, all we were hearing is that it was ‘time for change’ and now we're getting the already strong message that ‘change has come’. I must say that I’m totally fed up with change. In my relatively short lifetime it seems like things have speeded up to a frantic pace, especially in the past few years. Everyone wants everything, everywhere, now. Obama seems like a genuinely nice and well intentioned guy, but even with huge global resources at his fingertips, he can’t change the world for the better overnight.

And unfortunately we’re stuck in rather a bad place - A place where ‘change’ means a new face in charge, (preferably one that’s relatively symmetrical and pleasing on the eye); a place where curiously unbecoming behaviour and lack of consideration for others is often glossed over by PR; a place where things have to be reduced to a monetary equivalent and where celebrity endorsement counts for much more than educated reason and hard-earned experience; a place where authentic values and simple pleasures seem to mean very little.

I really do hope that things will change for the better because I’ve occasionally thought that I’d like to stop the world and get off. And I hope that in future, the change will happen less quickly - so we don’t get all tangled up in the moral, social and economic dilemmas that we find ourselves challenged with today.

Aside from all this, though possibly related, I’m so pleased to see that Google has been promoting the U-tube Symphony Orchestra on their homepage – seems somehow more worthy than The X-factor.

Which brings me on to the serious subjects of fashion and taste. Style isn’t about appearance and price (or net worth). There's a clever art to finding things that are unique and have real style – and it's all the more rewarding if you have a limited budget. Whatever your spending power, why not save up for a while and get something really special? Do you actually want to purchase a garment (whether it be a cheap and poorly made chain store rip off, or a costly designer gown) that everyone knows the price of? How about something truly original, beautifully made and timeless in its appeal? Feel no compulsion to buy from ShopCurious – why not simply indulge your curiosity and have a good look around...

Will you?

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Lounging around

The global recession means that most of us will be slowing down naturally, as well as of our own volition. It’s going to be a time when people will stay indoors more and enjoy themselves with friends and family – there’ll be less emphasis on material things.

I already mentioned a major trend is that we’ll be dressing up more, but there are two sides to this. On the one hand, we’ll be wanting to look our best to impress in the workplace, or to stand out from the crowd if we’re being interviewed for a new job: hence the sudden resurgence of 1980s power dressing.

We’ll also be needing the odd show-stopping outfit for special events when we do get to go out and seriously party. On these occasions, recycled vintage clothing, tasteful and timeless glamour will increasingly become more acceptable than flashy, one-season designer label.

On the other hand, a lot of the time, we’ll be aiming for comfort with style. Lounge pants – loose pyjama style trousers - have been popularized in recent years by college and university students the world over. Now they’re appearing more and more and have become something of an iconic fashion item.

The word ‘pyjama’ originally comes from the Persian word ‘payjama’ meaning ‘leg garment’. However, it was first incorporated into English from the Hindustani language. British men during the seventeenth century wore pyjamas as casual attire while relaxing. It was during the colonial era that the pyjama first became popular in the west as sleepwear. A Pyjama or a Pajama can be worn by either a man or a woman and usually means loose and comfortable drawstring pants, made of light fabrics. The sleeping suit variety of pyjama, as worn in the west, consists of a loose front-buttoned jacket and a trouser. However, these days, pajamas or pjs signify anything, from flamboyant beach trousers and funky catsuits to airy boxers.

At ShopCurious, we’ve some original harem style trousers that are really cool and stylish. They’re perfect for lounging around at home, but you could also wear them on holiday, or even to an informal dinner party - if you want to appear curiously exotic. They might also come in handy if you want to go into hibernation for the winter months, or at least for tomorrow – officially the most depressing day of the year.

Do you?

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Curious trends for 2009

My first blogs of 2009 have already featured two of the curious trends for the coming year:

- dressing up despite the recession ...

It's not just the influence of the forthcoming 'Hats - An Anthology by Stephen Jones' exhibition at the V&A that’s got us all excited about hats. Aside from the decidedly unanticipated (global warming and all that) cold snap and the need to keep our brains from freezing up, hats are going to make rather a comeback.

Hats are an expression of our personality, they’re an art form that adds to our character, and hats are also a symbol for what we've all been missing for quite a long time – namely, rules and formality. However, just as the fffffascinator has become de rigueur at Royal Ascot within the space of a year or so, this is formality as we’ve never known it before … now there's a whole new 'hatiquette'. Take a peek at some of the extraordinary sculpted hats available at ShopCurious if you're looking for inspiration.

- a new way of thinking is emerging:

Amidst all the confusion caused by changing social structures and moral codes, let alone the prospect of a global depression, we might just be beginning to rediscover values that aren’t based purely on fame and fortune (as depicted in the film Slumdog Millionaire – a testament to the power of positive thinking, despite the stronghold of a manipulative, all-encompassing media machine).

Linked to this is one of the other main trends that’s going to hit us hard - the big move from fast forward to...

- slow forward:

We’re all going to spend more time considering our future, reassessing our lives and thinking about what really matters. We’ll appreciate local produce and authentic luxuries - things that are handmade, unusual, unique and vintage artefacts will all have a special value.

True artistic merit is worth much more than money alone and this year many of us are likely to consider fashion and style beyond the context of their celebrity status and material value for the first time ever. Perhaps we don't need to be naked, transformed by faddy diets or plastic surgery (note Armando Iannucci's new satirical operetta Skin Deep) to look good after all? Perhaps there's more to being stylish than size 0 and designer logos on handbags?

I must say that this is what I’m most looking forward to.

Are you?

Friday, 9 January 2009

Curiouser and Curiouser

No, I ain't forgotten how to speak proper ... but I was referring to the Mad Hatter's tea party. I'm sure we can all identify with a bit of good old-fashioned lunacy, especially if it has to do with hats. A curious fact is that the term 'mad as a hatter' originated beacuse milliners used mercury to bind felt fibres. Over time, as the fumes were inhaled, the mercury made some milliners go insane. Apparently, the art of millinery has existed in Britain since 1700 and comes from the travelling Italian salesmen - Milanners.

At ShopCurious, we're offering a new range of beautifully handmade hats by a rather original designer called Sandra Bamminger. What I like is that she creates organic shapes, using natural materials - and the unique way they're designed makes them almost come to life. These are the sort of hats that look really funky and will work for any occasion, or none at all if you're just quirky and eccentric.

I bumped into some eccentric hat wearers over Christmas and took a few pics (as if I had nothing better to do ...) These hats are also very authentic and some look handmade too - though I have a feeling they're less Mad Hatter and more Mad March Hare. What d'you think? This one (left) reminded me of a curious question mark - and the one on the right is just plain silly.

One thing's for sure, hats are fun for people of all ages and they seem to give an added dimension to the personality - if not just a bit of extra height, which these very tall young ladies (right) didn't need at all. And there always has to be one show-off who wants to stand out from the crowd - this time it was Napoleon ... only joking Martin, you're a wonderful host and a great sport too (as well as being a curiously stylish dresser).

Have you seen any curious hats lately? If so, do send us your pictures, we'd love to see them. Just add a link to your comments at the end of this blog, or send to

Will you?

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Memories of Mumbai

One of the things we’d all like to see the back of this year is terrorism, along with other mindless acts of violence against our fellow human beings. It’s with this in mind that I’m dedicating this blog to the city of Mumbai and its residents, who have inspired us to have strength in the face of adversity – and to continue working towards a peaceful, successful and fulfilled life for our families, friends and neighbours.

I spent a week in Mumbai at the end of October. My enduring memories of my visit are of positive and happy people, working incredibly hard in a city that is the vibrant heart of the Indian economy. Everyone I met was kind, courteous and considerate – qualities that you can’t take for granted these days – and none more so than the exemplary staff at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, where I was staying.

The Palace wing of the hotel is a truly magnificent building, steeped in history and beautiful decorative details – not to mention the breath-taking array of Indian antiquities on display, some of which have hopefully survived the attack in November.

If you visit Mumbai, you'll experience a feast for the senses. The eclectic and exotic mix of sights, sounds and smells is quite unique. Yes, there are shanty towns – but I can honestly say that I didn’t directly encounter any more beggars than I've sometimes seen outside the Gare du Nord in Paris.

Like London, Mumbai is a true mélange of races, cultures and religions. This is reflected in the city’s rich architectural heritage – from the Haji Ali Mosque (left) to the Jain Temple (right).

Occasionally, you'll still see the odd cow wandering about in a busy street, amongst the myriad of motorized rickshaws.

If you’re planning a trip, it’s definitely worth visiting the museum that was once Mahatma Gandhi’s home.

If you like to shop or want to find unusual gifts for your friends, there's plenty to buy - from modern fashion clothing to jewellery, unique accessories, antiques and curiosities for the home. There are also some fabulous stores to see - like the huge emporia selling saris and traditional Indian fabrics (right). In fact, from next week, we’ll be offering a small selection of stylish Indian cruise and loungewear at ShopCurious.

The now notorious Victoria Terminus is another iconic building that I explored during my trip. The impressive gothic railway station is featured in Slumdog Millionaire, a new film to be released on Friday. In the light of the massacre that took place at the station, the film’s screenwriter, Simon Beaufoy (writer of the Full Monty) told the Times Online of his initial concerns about making a rather naïve film about the wonders of the city -“But then I started getting emails from the Indian film crew in Mumbai and they were fervent and full of spirit,” he said, “It’s absolutely right to feel the city is a place of hope and generosity.”

Love and romance, the hallmarks of Bollywood blockbusters, are central to this overriding sense of hope and optimism. Slumdog Millionaire is ultimately a love story and its Director, Danny Boyle, is “glad that there was irredeemable romance in that station.”

A popular feature of station concourses throughout India are ‘wheel of fortune’ style weighing machines – I photographed this one in Victoria Terminus. Perhaps you’ll join me in wishing that 2009 brings plenty of good fortune, health, happiness and prosperity to everyone in Mumbai – and to all hard working, kind hearted and caring people around the world.

Will you?

Happy New Year!