Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Global village

So are we all now part of a global village? At the moment, it’s a bit curious that we’ve got Westernized nations wanting to introduce more regulation and newly emerging economies wanting to exert their newfound freedom of expression in more creative ways - it’s almost like the world’s turned upside down rather than meeting in the middle. However, we’re all part of the human tribe, so hopefully we’ll muddle through these confusing times and agree on how to make the world a better place for all of us.

We’re almost at the end of our month long tour of global tribal style, apart from one very important addition: ShopCurious has just become the exclusive UK and online stockist of clothing from the exotic cosmopolitan design duo, Bezemymailan.

This talented double act, that simply oozes style with brains, consists of Bezem - who’s of Togolese and Russian descent (right) - and French Vietnamese Mai Lan (left). The girls have known each other since childhood and, inspired by their multi-cultural backgrounds, have mastered traditional handicraft skills from Asia and Africa and combined their talents to create unique clothing with a strong ethnic influence.

Whilst studying historical costumes at university, Bezem and Mai Lan started creating unusual outfits for feature films, plays, musicals and carnivals. Their own fashion shows now feature dance, music and song – much like StyleCurious featured designer Mike Sylla of Baifall Dream and the Human Tribe.

Bezemymailan’s stylish handmade garments draw upon their cultural heritage, as well as influences from modern society. They try to use natural materials and authentic techniques as much as possible and are proud of the fact that their designs hark back to an era when clothing was an art form instead of an industrial scale manufacturing-based activity. Ultimately, they think it’s possible for the global fashion industry and local artisan-led tribal crafts to become compatible with each other.

Bezemymailan also believe their approach will enhance the international appreciation of handcrafted textiles, which it seems are underestimated, even in the developing world. They’re trying to stimulate new interest, which won't just be eco-friendly – it will also create a positive social impact.

All very sound and ethical stuff…however, the best bit of all is that Bezemymailan’s dresses and jackets not only look amazing, they’re also incredibly comfortable and easy to wear too. If you like to look different, you’ll absolutely love these beautiful creations – and you’ll appreciate that everyone in the global village is unique and can express their personal style and taste through their individual choice of clothing.

Do you?

Friday, 27 March 2009

Easter curiosities

With many schools starting their Easter break today, I’m sure there are lots of eggs being bought and eaten. I had scrambled eggs for breakfast yesterday and one of the two eggs I cracked open had a double yoke – I’m sure this must be a lucky omen?

Did you know that the tradition of giving real, coloured and decorated eggs dates back over 2000 years? Eggs of the chocolate variety are a relatively recent phenomenon – in fact Cadburys produced their first chocolate egg less than 150 years ago in 1875.

In Ancient China, Greece and Persia, the egg was a symbol of new life and eggs were exchanged at a festival in celebration of the rites of spring. The goddess of spring, who rose from her winter sleep to fill the earth with new life was known as Eostre by the Anglo-Saxons and that’s where the word Easter originates from.

Eggs are often associated with birth – in France, brides still break an egg over the threshold of their new home to bring them good luck and healthy babies. To Christians, the egg became a symbol of Christ’s resurrection – or re-birth.

From the 14th century onwards, there are accounts of eggs being dyed and even covered with gold leaf for the royal household of Edward I. Later, eggs were handmade by specialist craftsmen using silver, gold, ivory and porcelain. Some were even encrusted with jewels – like the luxury Faberge eggs, the most opulent of which was sold in 1994 for $5.6 million. By the 18th century, papier-mache eggs were available as containers for small gifts and by the 19th century cardboard eggs became the fashion. These were covered with silk, lace, stylish velvet bows and ribbons.

If you’re curious to find some quirky and unusual gifts this Easter, ShopCurious is definitely the place to look for eggs. We’ve a seriously cute and highly individual hatching egg that’s an antique carved ivory curiosity from the Far East. Of course, you don’t have to be a Christian to celebrate the Easter holiday, or even be religious for that matter, but if you are we’ve also got a vintage ormolu-embellished mother of pearl ‘Souvenir de Lourdes’ containing a delicate mother of pearl and silver rosary.

These unique eggs are timeless in their appeal, as well as being collectable – they’d make a great investment and a much healthier option for an Easter gift than the common calorific variety. They’re certainly more original, though I don’t think Easter would be quite the same without a little bit of chocolate…

Do you?

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Tribal village

When I go travelling, I like to meet the locals. Tourists often find themselves subject to traditional dances by ‘locals’ who dress up especially for the occasion, or displays of handicrafts that are shipped in from far flung places. If you’re lucky, you get to see the real thing, as I did in Zambia a couple of years ago.

You’ll note there are no electricity cables in the main part of this village (above), they’re just along the roadside where they lead to the main part of the town. Villagers line the road with stalls selling their wares.

The reason I mention this is that the beautiful earthy colours and unusual design of one of the unique hand painted pendants available at ShopCurious remind me of the Zambian tribal village I visited.

I think this stylish necklace is so original. The painting style has more than a hint of Picasso about it and there’s only one of these – it’s a mini work of art in its own right. What’s more it’s eco-friendly too, as the pendant’s made from recycled wood. This would make an unusual gift for someone with a love of unique accessories, or who’s into timeless and collectable curiosities.

If you’re still curious to see an authentic tribal village at first hand, I just found Kawaza Village on the internet. Looks perfect for adventurous types with desire to experience an alternative natural lifestyle.

Do you?

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Mother Earth

It’s not just because it’s Mothers' Day in the UK, but ever since the human tribe has existed on this planet, we’ve revered mother figures – and most tribes, cultures and religions have worshipped their own mother ‘goddesses’. There are many symbols and artistic representations of Mother Earth, as well as personifications throughout history.

Isis was considered by the Egyptians to be the mother of the world and Gaia was a Greek goddess personifying the earth. To Christians, Eve is considered to be the ‘mother of all the living’ and for Hindus, Parvati is considered the supreme Divine Mother and the embodiment of the total energy in the universe. Above is an African symbol for Mother Earth and the Navajo, a Native American version, traditionally painted in turquoise is shown left. The marks on her body symbolize corn, pumpkin, tobacco and beans – all thought to be life-giving elements to the Navajo.

At ShopCurious, we’ve our own tribute to earth mothers in the form of hand painted ethnic-inspired clothing, unique tribal accessories, traditional artefacts and kitsch retro memorabilia depicting fertility icons and mother and child images. However, these are nothing compared to the extraordinary display in celebration of Mother Nature by the Surma nd Mursi tribes of East Africa’s Omo Valley.

Pictures by Hans Silvester, (from the book Natural Fashion: Tribal Decoration from Africa), show authentic and exotic tribal fashion at its best.

Unusual and distinctive headdresses and eco-friendly jewellery are made from natural materials like flowers, fruits, skins, shells and local vegetation from the borderlands of Ethiopia, Kenya and Sudan.

The handmade, raw and recycled outfits are breathtakingly beautiful in their design, colour and stylish simplicity.

We’re not suggesting that you go out and paint your face with clay, or wear snail shells around your neck, but this could give you all the inspiration you need to create a truly original tribal look for yourself.

Or perhaps you already have your own special way of showing your appreciation of Mother Earth?

Do you?

Friday, 20 March 2009

Authentic safari style

If you’re an animal lover, you should definitely visit an authentic African game reserve. I’m usually quite timid around animals, especially when confronted by those pesky little dogs that nip at your ankles when you’re out jogging in the park - but this completely blew my mind away (though thankfully not my body).

In October, I spent some time at Singita Lebombo lodge in South Africa, which is named after the Lebombo Euphorbia (slighty different from the Candelabra Euphorbia, as pictured in the previous blog).

The safaris were out of this world, though not for you if you don’t like an early start, as you’ll get a wake up call at around 4.30ish every morning. The best thing is that you’ll see big game animals from as close as a few feet away in an open-topped jeep, or even on foot if you’re ballsy enough to walk through the bush.

The rangers are certainly brave, but also very experienced and, if you follow their instructions carefully, you’re unlikely to be pounced upon by a wild animal that’s feeling overly territorial, hungry or hormonal (men, does this remind you of anyone?)

There’s luxury accommodation at the lodge and the rooms are really stylish with floor to ceiling windows. You can relax in the enormous bath and watch the hippos dancing in the river before you eat a superb meal in the comfortably laid back surroundings of the open air restaurant.

I wasn’t certain about sleeping on the bed that was beautifully made up outside on the terrace - just not quite sure what was lurking in the undergrowth, but the outdoor shower was certainly very refreshing and welcome.

Of course, the whole reserve is totally eco-friendly, right down to the natural products used in the bathrooms and the spa – and there are even a couple of chichi little boutiques selling safari-style fashion and exotic African curiosities for the home.

I was lucky enough to see all of the ‘big five’ game animals apart from the leopard – though we do have a unique hand painted leopard pendant at ShopCurious, along with other handmade safari-inspired pieces of jewellery, like this giraffe necklace and the rather original dangly zebra earrings (above).

One day we travelled about 100 miles out to get a view of some black rhino near the border with Mozambique, which was very dangerous for a number of reasons. I’ll definitely go back, especially as I’m curious to spot that damned elusive leopard, and I'll keep my eyes peeled for other rare flora and fauna too.

Will you?

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

South African flowers

Flowers make a timeless and classic gift for Mothers' Day. The only trouble is that floral arrangements and bouquets are so expensive these days and they usually only last for a few days – possibly a week at best. What’s more, most of them have come from far-flung and exotic locations around the world, so they’re not nearly as eco-friendly as they might appear.

At ShopCurious, we’ve some unusual gifts in the form of beautifully hand painted pendants made from natural materials such as wood and mother of pearl, featuring designs of vibrantly coloured South African flowers. These necklaces and chokers have been handmade and intricately painted much closer to home by micro-biologist Margherita Maggio, who certainly knows her flora.

I have to admit that I did add a little to my own carbon footprint last year when I flew to South Africa. The scenery was stunning with magnificent views - from the sandy bays of Cape Town, to the lush green hills of Franchoek in the winelands region and the quirky Candelabra Cacti of the Kruger National Park.

I’ve just been looking for photographs of some of the beautiful blooms I saw on my travels and it turns out that I didn’t take any shots of the flowers on these unique pieces, but I can tell you a little bit about them:

The Bird of Paradise flower is said to have originated in South Africa and evolved in Madagascar. It’s called this because its flower resembles a bird’s head - and you've probably seen this before as it’s very popular in tropical flower arrangements.

Apparently this one - the Protea - is the national flower of South Africa and its name comes from the Greek god, Proteus, who was capable of changing shape and assuming many different forms.

The other flowers featured on these original pendants look like Hibiscus (though not so easy to identify as there are around 5,000 hybrids of this five-petaled, bell-shaped flower) and the South African Geranium, of which there are also many varieties.

Anyway, there are four of these stylish necklaces to choose from and, at around £80 a pop, you’ll be getting great value for money – along with a collectable mini-work-of-art that can be worn and admired for many years to come. So, if you’re curious to find something a bit different for your mother, or for any other cherished person in your life, I suggest you invest in one of these - and, if you're in the UK, we promise to get it to you before the end of the week.

Will you?