Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Ultimate style statement?

Where do you store your memories? Do you have a box of old photographs in your attic, or is your life uploaded for all to see on Facebook? Have you ever written a diary? Do you have a secret place where you stash away the most treasured keepsakes from your past? If not, each of these beautiful ceramic sculptures by Fabienne Auzolle, available at ShopCurious, has a hidden compartment for mementos and cherished pieces of personal history.

You've probably heard enough of my memories, but before I introduce a new theme, I’d just like to take a brief look at a huge topic with so many avenues and permutations I can feel the wires in my brain starting to fizz.

Everyone is different and we each have our own contribution to make to life on planet earth. We all like to have our individual say and to consider ourselves unique in terms of our style, clothing, personal taste and preferences. However, there are so many of us that we usually fall into certain categories in terms of our likes and dislikes. Some of us prefer rock music, others jazz, or classical; Some of us are vegetarian, whilst others are rampant carnivores, or suckers for seafood; Some of us choose to shop at chain stores, others buy only original vintage accessories, or nothing but the latest designer handbags … and so on.

The one thing that’s different about each of us, is the eclectic mix of tastes and experiences that goes towards creating our own unique set of memories. Whether you jot things down in a notebook, write your memoirs, or squirrel souvenirs away in a special hiding place, the person your memories have most significance to is you. That being said, these days there’s a trend towards sharing everything – memories included. The proof of this is in the sheer volume of celebrity autobiographies, photo-caching, video broadcasting and the like.

Could this be part of a major revolution, not just in the way we choose to express ourselves, but also in the way we wish to be remembered by future generations? Modern innovations such as ‘digital time capsules’, like Diary of Mankind, the one I set up a few years ago, are seen to be ways of preserving our thoughts, wishes and memories for posterity. But will evidence of our mass online collaboration, our creative efforts and our achievements outlast us, let alone immortalize us for centuries to come? And, if so, what about the mistakes we made, will they be there for all to see as well?

Our current fascination with family history, ancestry, antiques, old photos, curiosities and all things retro reflects our appreciation of the memories, style, taste and contributions of previous generations. As for our own legacy, well, what do you wish to be remembered for …

the children you gave life to, or brought up, the work you did for charity, the money you left behind, the cars you owned, your final blog post, the book you wrote, your favourite celebrities, your sporting achievements, the pupils you educated, the parties you went to, the best film you ever made, the people you helped, the bands you liked, your fashion sense, the extraordinary things you invented, the meals you prepared, your size 8 figure, your creativity, your charm, your uniquely eccentric approach to life, your inimitable style, the huge stone angel at your graveside?

What sort of statement will you make with your life?

Please do send your thoughts and comments.

Will you?

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Fashion in mourning

We thought we'd seen the back of it, but could there be a deep and meaningful reason why we’re suddenly feeling the need to wear black? I'd like to suggest it’s not just the recession that’s making us seriously sombre, but that a big trend is gaining momentum - a curious fascination with all things to do with death and dying.

I spotted this a few years ago when, in 2006, I wrote a book - ‘Trends Beyond Life: In Search of Immortality’. I said that that Victorians’ obsession with death would return – “Ornate headstones, ornaments and all sorts of vintage paraphernalia will appear alongside graves, in crematoria and remembrance parks.” I also mentioned that old scents and “smells that remind us of our forebears will gain renewed popularity. Sepia photographs, domed displays of waxed flowers, ornamental urns and treasure boxes of our memories will reappear…”

The Victorians knew how to make the most of their mourning rituals, with strict codes of behaviour and dress that also made good economic sense for businesses specializing in areas as diverse as funerals and fashion. The elaborate Victorian commemoration of death disappeared with the onset of two World Wars – mass death in such tragic circumstances hardly provides great cause for celebrating the lives of the departed.

More recently, our curious concern with fame, fortune and everlasting youth are once again putting the spotlight on mortality: Michael Jackson’s life and death certainly captured all of these obsessions… and an untimely death is always a reminder that this is something which happens to us all.

How long will it be before baby boomers are regularly gathering around a coffin in the living room to show off their most stylish mourning gear? If so, we’ve got just the thing at ShopCurious - some wonderful black beaded and jet embellished vintage dresses, along with a selection of ultra-dramatic embroidered velvet capes.

Rare, old fashioned clothing that’s in limited supply is going to be much sought after, as we become more acutely conscious of our own unique part and place in history. I’d suggest you snap up as many of these collectable items as you can now, to pass on as heirlooms - or you might be gone before they are.

Will you?

Friday, 9 October 2009

Memories of maharajas

If you’re in London this weekend and looking for something worthwhile to do, you might find it difficult to choose between the gazillions of things on offer. However, if you can get in, I’d recommend the new exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum: Maharaja - The Splendour of India’s Royal Courts.

Maharaja means ‘great king’ - and the curiosities on display certainly show the wealth, power, and cultural influence of this stylish, princely ruling class – as well as their observance of ‘rajadharma’: the duties and behaviour appropriate to a king. Apparently, the vision of a king in all his splendour is believed to be auspicious – there's even a term, 'darshan', the propitious act of seeing and being seen by a superior being.

Some of the highlights on display include a procession scene that includes a life-sized elephant, complete with ornamental chair … plus the elephant sports its own ultra-dangly stylish silver earring. Another centerpiece is an original Rolls Royce 'Phantom I' car that is stunningly huge, with magnificent sweeping lines – a veritable style icon, and suitably fit for a maharaja.

There is also the gloriously glittering patiala necklace, a ceremonial piece that was re-set by Cartier for the Maharaja Bupindha Singh and would have even Mr Graff drooling. There are several quite extraordinary saris belonging to maharanis (maharajas' wives), including one in divine satin with spider-like coral sequin detail - bang on trend, though almost a century old … And there's a fabulous Art-Deco mirrored men’s Cartier dressing table set that’s to die for. The vintage fans with peacock feathers and exquisitely enamelled handles are awesome. By the way, the peacock is the national bird and is thought to provide a watchful eye over the people of India.

The exhibition covers the life of the maharajas during a period from the end of Moghul rule in the early 18th century up to the partition of India in 1947. There is plenty of evidence of the generous patronage provided by the maharajas, including some curiously contemporary modernist pieces of furniture by Eckart Muthesius, the architect of the most recent palace, commissioned by the Maharaja of Indore in 1930 – along with portraits by the French artist, Bernard Boutet de Monvel.

Although their cultural heritage and traditions are still appreciated to this day, due to escalating costs and dwindling incomes, most of the Indian princes have sold off their assets, transformed their palaces into hotels, or even opened their own museums.

We’re not suggesting that you attempt to follow in their footsteps, but, if on visiting the V&A, you acquire something of a fondness for elephants and jewels, we’re sure you’ll like this rather charming and totally unique Indian silver lucky elephant charm necklace with semi-precious stones that’s available at ShopCurious.

Do you?

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Timeless trends - poetry

Did you know that it's National Poetry Day in the UK - and the theme for for this year's Poetry Day is heroes and heroines. I thought it might be appropriate to communicate in words, rather than pictures, today.

In my previous life as a City girl, I wrote poetry to alleviate the boredom of my daily commute into work. I'd like to dedicate one of my curious scribblings from yesteryear to the heroes and heroines of poetry around the world...

here goes (blush):

Poems of the lonely
In a moment far away
Written on an envelope
Remembered for a day

Poems in the Underground
Obscure and misconstrued
Posted up above our heads
And daubed with something rude

Poems of our warriors
Steeped in history
In their blood-stained volumes
Preserved for you and me

Poems made by lovers
Secretly at night
Folds of scented parchment
Fade in candlelight

Poems of the inner-self
Rhythms of our time
Mankind’s epic epitaph
Written line by line.

With apologies to any professional poets and those of you who were expecting a blog about fashion, style, or the sort of unique and unusual things you'll find at ShopCurious.

By the way, have you got any poems from the past that you'd like to share?

Do you?

Monday, 5 October 2009

Fruits of the fall

Judging from the title of this blog, you may be thinking that you’re in for a religious treatise about forbidden fruit and the fall of man. Well, sorry to disappoint you, I was thinking more along the lines of the sort of things you might see at a harvest festival celebration – a time when we remember the cycle of nature and enjoy the past season's fruits of the earth.

What I especially want to mention, though, are the curiosities that I stumbled upon at The London Design Festival – the fruits of long hours of labour, lots of creativity and presumably a fair amount of love too.

The event held at a venue called The Dock, a canalside basin tucked away in deepest Kilburn, was especially original and authentic. I visited on a beautifully sunny late summer afternoon, when the sun was low in the sky and there was a slight chill in the air.

The natural environment, a somewhat industrial setting, was put to good use - with the canal basin itself being used for an arty display of giant cups, together with a solitary cupcake.

Man-made and natural elements were also combined in Dominic Wilcox’s unusual installation called ‘Field’. Wilcox used 400 ethically produced shoes, their laces rising up like blades of grass, to “make a connection between the products we consume and the natural world to which they ultimately return.”

As well as Tom Dixon’s showroom and an exhibition of the works of up and coming designers, there was a curiously quirky ‘art car boot sale’. I had such fun wandering around and chatting to the eccentric characters who were selling their wares.

One couple came up with the inventive idea of selling off stretches of the River Thames, as part of a unique piece of design art. Actually, they were badges of pieces of the Ordnance Survey map of London – but only the areas along the river.

Of course, I felt compelled to buy my bit of land (and river), which was duly made into a badge on the spot. Not so sure of the investment value of this one though.

Another stand offered the ‘lost and found tombola’, where for £2, you could win recycled products made by ethical designers.

I must be lucky as my ticket was a winner and I was presented with this lovely basket of ‘natural treasures’, which seemed curiously appropriate.

At ShopCurious, we’ve our own handmade, eco-friendly treasures, like this uniquely stylish papier-mache ladybird bag (left) – which reminds me, I spotted a ladybird just the other day…very curious, as I’m sure it’s not at all the right time of year?

Perhaps global warming is tipping the cycle of nature upside down, in which case Patrick Morris has come up with a nifty solution for turning gardening on its head. These 'sky planters' are probably a great way of making your fruits fall to the ground as soon as they're ripe, but if the climate’s getting hotter, I just wonder how the plants are going to get watered...

Do you?

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Memories of China

What does the phrase ‘Memories of China’ mean to you, apart from possibly reminding you of the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of one of Ken Lo’s famous restaurants?

Perhaps your memories stretch back to the days when Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou were offbeat expatriate outposts that sounded extremely exotic and exciting to the average man in the street.

Thanks to the internet and modern air travel, the world is now a much smaller place and many more of us have travelled to far flung parts of the Far East.

The upshot of recent, rapid change means that, as well as high quality natural products like jade and silk, China is now known for its innovative, high technology fabrics and advanced fashion manufacturing industry. Of course, it’s also recognised as being a part of the world that has a certain philosophical depth – think Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism.

Hardly suprising then, that we’ve found a Far East based accessories designer who cleverly combines the best of Chinese style – both old and new – in a range of exquisitely made faux skin and hand-carved jade clutch handbags... which are now available outside the Far East, exclusively at ShopCurious.

Designer, Desti Saint, has lived in Asia most of her life, previously in Hong Kong and, since 2008, in Singapore. She’s inspired by the colours, culture and people of the region and says that she loves contemporary Asian design, but is also influenced by the traditional icons and symbols of the past.

Desti’s designs, sold under the Dee label, are especially known for their use of unusual fabrics. The faux python skin bags are made from a unique cotton mix that’s curiously soft to the touch – people simply love to hold them! Desti also works hard to find exactly the ‘right’ colours for her bags, but she explains that “it’s not just how they look, I’m pretty practical and grounded – the bags have to work as part of everyday life. They have to fit women’s lives and be enjoyable.”

Even if you’ve never been to China, these beautifully made and reasonably priced envelope bags are definitely worth remembering.

Will you?