Saturday, 29 May 2010

Nature's rare accessories

The tree of knowledge, eh? At Chelsea Flower Show a wicker sculpture (the sort of thing you might see festooned with tempting floral treats in a department store), formed the centerpiece of a ‘biodiversity display’. The aim: to seduce the public into doing anything and everything to encourage insects and birds to visit their gardens. However, only certain plants and flowers appeal to butterflies and bees... and possibly not the likes of this strangely inventive creation.

These days, all ‘great ideas’ seem to require celebrity endorsement. The tree of knowledge was no exception, with luvvies like Jeremy Irons and Greg Wise offering their penny’s worth. Mr Wise even penned a rather luvverly poem, imploring us to ‘be less tidy’, ‘let things rot’ and ‘embrace decay’. Cheers, Greg!

My favourite gardens are invariably where the wild things are. A stunning entry at the show was L’Occitane's Provencal garden with its luxurious lavender beds – great for bees… plus wonderfully gnarled olive trees and ruggedly unadulterated rocky terraces. M&G's traditional English garden was nice, and, I suppose, guaranteed to be a winner – being the show's official sponsor and all of that.

And Leeds City Council's garden, sponsored by Hesco Bastion, was awesomely overgrown, with the rather contrived addition of a model canal lock (I can’t imagine that was entirely cast from eco-friendly materials?)

Anyway, seeing these delightfully unkempt plots reminded me that the winged insect I haven’t seen much of in recent years (despite living by the river) is the dragonfly. Dragonflies apparently gobble up all manner of curious bugs, okay they eat some butterflies and bees too - but also mosquitoes, which could come in handy with global warming. They’re curiously colourful as well, and imbued with symbolism and cultural significance in many parts of the world.

At ShopCurious, we’ve been promoting the benefits of naturally beautiful things for ages, which is why we’ve got plenty of nature inspired jewellery and accessories on offer - this unique Art Nouveau style dragonfly brooch being the perfect example.

Knowledge may be a dangerous thing, but birds and bees are a safe bet any day. I reckon seeing a few more dragonflies might be good news for biodiversity too.

Do you?

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Chelsea's traditional Summer charm

The Chelsea Flower Show has to be one of the ultimate occasions of the Summer season. Although it’s very much an international event, attracting landscape gardeners, growers and sponsors from all over the world, the setting and style of the show are quintessentially British.

The Royal Hospital, home to the Chelsea Pensioners, is as full of character and charm as its curiously colourful occupants, whose bright red jackets vie for attention with the exotic floral displays. Of course, they’re always on hand to give directions, perform on the bandstand, or simply have a little chat about whatever takes their fancy - which often seems to be a pretty young girl!

The State Apartments make the perfect venue for an authentic English afternoon tea, where ladies in hats find it hard to resist the temptation of pastries that look as magnificent as the works of art adorning the walls.

The traditional English country garden, with a slightly wild and overgrown feel about it, is the variety I often find the most appealing – and there are plenty on display this year. Incidentally, you can vote for your favourite garden design on the Royal Horticultural Society website.

There seems to be an even larger selection of merchandise on sale too, from a multitude of specialist retailers. You can buy all sorts of products, from packets of seeds and gardening gloves to garden furniture and rather impressive looking tractor type things.

However, of all the gadgets I saw, the one I most coveted was this chap’s mobility bike… perfect for getting about the sprawling site - and for carrying all those heavy information packs.

Most of the clothing stands at the show are geared towards outdoor types: there’s an abundance of brown and green accessories like wellies, oilskins and cloth caps. This contrasts with the stylish dress of many of the visitors.

Anyway, if you’re looking for something that’s appropriately understated, yet still rather unique, to jazz up an outfit for a Summer garden event, I can recommend this vintage polished natural stone brooch from ShopCurious.

By the way, someone left their specs behind - I was wondering if anyone happens to know who these belong to…

Do you?

Monday, 24 May 2010

Cupid's accessory of desire

Call him Cupid or Eros, this little devil often strikes when the weather hots up. With temperatures reaching at least 30 degrees centigrade in London today, and people strolling around town semi-naked, Cupid’s probably working overtime with his bow and arrow.

As sunbathers take to the parks, the fashion conscious are probably looking for unique accessories to give added allure to skimpy beach attire. Earrings are a popular choice, as they don’t interfere with the sun-tanning process.

.. And, never mind the arrows, we’ve got Cupid’s earrings of desire at ShopCurious. This one-off vintage pair of curiously cute clip-on Cupids will set your heart on fire, without burning a hole in your wallet.

May I also suggest something suitable to read in the park: If you’ve a passion for poetry, Aphra Behn’s The Willing Mistriss seems rather appropriate.

Are you?

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Sporty Summer giveaway

I’ve been waiting for an opportune moment to mention the Reebok giveaway* at ShopCurious and, now that Summer (or at least a spot of sunshine) seems to have arrived, I think the time has come..

I was recently asked to participate in a trial of the new EasyTone shoes by Reebok – the ones that are supposed to give you a work out just by walking in them. When nature intervened, my plans for everything were interrupted by volcanic ash from Iceland, and I ended up testing out said shoes in the sunny Caribbean.

I usually shun mainstream brands, but the fitness market is somewhat limited in terms of the range of practical-yet-stylish clothing on offer. Moreover, my curiosity was aroused by the unique design of the EasyTone Curve Trainers– and claims that just stepping out in a pair of these specially engineered shoes could help tone up the legs. Hmmm..

Reebok rather generously sent me a complete outfit, along with the curious looking footwear. In terms of styling, the whole ensemble was a little more ‘pensioners playground’ (described by the Evening Standard as ‘definitely not the place to wear Lycra, ‘feel the burn’ or consume energy drinks) than dance studio cool. The bootleg exercise pants were curiously slimming, though the bottoms were a little strangely cut (to fit over shoes?);

The top was comfortable enough, but I couldn’t be doing with the weird little toggles that get caught up if you wave your hands about (as I do when aerobically challenged); The sleeveless ‘jerkin’ (a word that time forgot, but the only appropriate one I could find to describe it), was an oversized hip-hop style oddity; Even the shoes were curiously clunky looking - but hey, if they help to firm up those leg muscles, who’s to complain...

Anyway, I certainly put the trainers through their paces. I’d say they’re damned difficult to do a regular high impact exercise class in – and jogging is pretty hard going too (especially at 30C degrees). They feel peculiarly imbalanced to wear as well, but that’s why they’re supposed to be so effective:

The pads (or pods) on the bottom of the shoe are designed to cause instability, similar to the effect of walking along a beach. No surprise then, that a walk along a real beach in these shoes is like doing a triple strength work out. They make a great sand print too. The only problem is that sand gets stuck in the holes in the top of the shoe (guess they weren’t intended for beachwear).

Easytone trainers are perfect for walking though, better still speed-walking, as well as posing in front of Giorgio Armani’s stylish Caribbean villa. And they say that walking burns almost as many calories as jogging, plus it’s better for the joints too. So there you go... and the overall rating I give them is:

Style 6/10 (a matter of personal taste, of course)
Comfort 8/10
Fit 9/10
Performance 8/10 (it's the sand factor!)

Now for the giveaway. Just comment on this blog, and you’ll be entered into the prize draw for a natty black Reebok gym bag (left). Whether or not you’re inspired by the fashion for fitness, this is a decent sized (approx 60 cm across), sturdily made holdall.

*Simply add a comment to this post before the closing date of Friday 28th May to be included in the draw for a free Reebok gym bag.

Will you?

PS Congratulations to Jan from Race of Style, the winner of our Grace Kelly book giveaway.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Wedding butterflies

Whether or not you have butterflies in your stomach at your wedding, you can pay to have butterflies released on your big day. This unusual gesture is becoming increasingly common -

rather like releasing doves, (although they probably know where to return home to later).

Curiously, both are deemed suitable and are also available for release at funerals and memorial services too.

Anyway, I suppose this fanciful style statement is a little less messy than rice or confetti, and relatively eco-friendly to boot… However, in this day and age, should we not be concerned about the welfare of the poor butterflies? Supposing they get lost, let alone disorientated, after being shaken up and let loose in a strange place. Won’t being trapped in a container or basket make them traumatized? Never mind the couple getting married, spare a thought for the poor innocent victims etc.

If you’re looking for a more humane lepidopteran alternative, how about this 1950s vintage Bakelite butterfly bag from ShopCurious? I think this could be the perfect accessory for the social (and socially aware) butterfly – suitable for bride and guest alike.

Do you?

Friday, 14 May 2010

Pre-wedding butterflies?

If you’re planning to get married in the near future, you’re highly likely to suffer from pre-wedding nerves – often referred to as 'butterflies in the stomach'. Butterflies are symbolically associated with romance, and this strange ‘all of a flutter’ feeling is one you might also experience when you first fall in love.

Looks like Kylie Minogue is head over heels (in love) in the recent photo shoot by David Slijper for Elle magazine. On the cover of this June’s Elle, Kylie has literally got butterflies on her stomach… Okay, they’re acutally beautifully hand painted and embroidered onto the unique, vintage silk obi belt from ShopCurious that she’s wearing in the photograph.

Kylie now has “more than 22 years of pop stardom under her belt”, and many are wondering if she’ll ever settle down. Elle’s Kerry Potter asks Kylie if choosing a wedding dress is something that might eventually happen and, if so, who would she want to design it. Check out the article if you’re curious to know her answer to this and other fashion related questions, such as her favourite designers, costumes and style preferences.

I’m more curious to know what’s triggered the current trend for butterfly inspired accessories..

Are you?

Thursday, 13 May 2010

The future, written in stone?

Yesterday, I happened to be attending a lunch at The National Liberal Club, where I noticed this magnificent marble bust of 19th century Prime Minister, Gladstone, at the entrance. Innocent looking enough as a decorative work of art…

Busts are a great way of being immortalized for posterity, as well as adding a touch of gravitas to any interior. We’ve got some curiously colourful, contemporary examples, based on classical sculptures by Hacene Sadoune at ShopCurious. (If you’d like a bust made in your image, or that of a loved one, this can also be arranged).

Anyway, when my eyes wandered down to the text inscribed on the plinth below the bust, I was genuinely surprised to read Gladstone’s words from a speech at Chester:

“The principle of Toryism is mistrust of the people, qualified by fear: the principle of Liberalism is trust in the people qualified by prudence.”

How curious that the Liberals now share power with the Tories, holding office for the first time in over half a century. And extraordinary that partial control of the Government is in the hands of this minority party, which actually lost seats in the recent election. Does this indicate how far the parties have progressed to overcome their differences – or should these words act as a warning for the future of this historic coalition?

What do you think?

Do you?

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

New blue vintage style?

I wasn’t expecting to be writing a blog post, so forgive me if this rushed affair is full of typos and strange sentences you wouldn’t normally expect me to utter.

I’d imagine my sentiments - probably yours too - are much akin to those the political parties are having to deal with at this very moment. For some it’s a feeling of bereavement, for others a marriage (made in heaven or hell, who knows..) For the majority it’s whole new image – and what on earth will that look like?

Whatever, it’s a change. Just let the voter beware. And leave the marketing men to grapple with the coalition logo… let alone the curious colour combo (suggestion below).

I must say I found Gordon’s dress sense as dour as his personality (photo above courtesy of Personnel Today). As for his children, (sadly roped in), I thought the choice of clothing for their final farewell was totally inappropriate. Who on earth would dress their kids in baggy, rapper style jeans with shirts hanging out to address the whole world, when the very quintessence of British style is surely what's called for on such occasions? Smacks of the Beckhamisation of politics to me...

On this day, when the Evening Standard’s ‘Fashion, Style and Sex’ section featured ‘Blue Sky Dressing’ (aka ‘double denim’), I say, please, no more dumbing down! We deserve and need something a little more formal. So, how about this vintage blue Mrs T style number from ShopCurious? Should make ‘sex outside’ curiously thrilling.

Of course, I’m looking forward to more responsible times. And more appropriate dress.

Are you?

With congratulations to David Cameron (and Nick Clegg I suppose?)

Monday, 10 May 2010

Bottom drawer prize draw giveaway

Grace à

Okay, the times they are a changing - and today things ain't looking so good in the UK. I suggest you take a moment out to comment on this post - you may even win a copy of the 112 page hardback book, Grace Kelly Style.**

If you're going to be swayed by the media, why not escape into a fantasy world of free stuff that's fabulous, frivolous and fun? For the moment at least.

Grace Kelly was a fashion icon long before her marriage to Prince Rainier of Monaco, so it’s hardly surprising there was such a lot of interest in her wedding trousseau and bridal wear. By the way, the word ‘trousseau’ derives from an old French word for ‘bundle’, though it’s a term familiar to many cultures. Throughout the ages, the trousseau has traditionally comprised of the articles assembled in preparation for a wedding, honeymoon and the initial months as a newlywed – things like clothing, accessories, jewellery, beautifying lotions, potions, bed-linen and so on.

Previously stored in chests of drawers, sometimes known as ‘hope chests’, the Victorians even created an event called the ‘trousseau tea’, where they showed off the crate loads of china, linens and silks that had been collected for the wedding party. (No such preparation for any potential union of UK political parties, of course).

By 1956, when Kelly became Princess Grace of Monaco, trousseaux were generally much less extravagant. However, Grace Kelly’s wedding trousseau was certainly fit for a Princess, consisting of around forty day and evening outfits, including two Helen Rose-designed wedding gowns, and a dozen High Society film costumes, donated by MGM.

One doesn't often hear the ‘t’ word mentioned these days, (unless it stands for thong, perhaps), as pre-wedding shopping is more likely to mean sexy lingerie, stockings, suspenders and frilly garters. Nowadays, you can purchase these sorts of items online too: If you’re in search of unusual pieces for a wedding trousseau, ShopCurious has some curiously original accessories, though we prefer the more natural, old fashioned variety of wedding attire - and gifts with provenance, as well as purpose.

…And what about men? Isn’t the whole concept of the trousseau a tad sexist? I’d love to hear your thoughts, ideas for unique pre-wedding gifts and examples of things you’ve purchased, or stashed away in anticipation of your impending nuptials. I reckon there must be some huge bottom drawers out there, full of curious bits and bobs that have been hoarded up, but never used.

Do you?

Win a copy of the book, pictured right.

Comment on this post within the next week or so, (with a link to your blog or profile so we can contact you if you win), to be entered into a prize draw for a copy of the book, Grace Kelly Style:

Published by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, to accompany the Grace Kelly Style Icon exhibition, this book, written by H Kristina Haughland, with an introduction by the curator, Jenny Lister is full of fabulous photographs of Grace Kelly as ‘The Actress’, ‘The Bride’ and ‘The Princess’.

(Closing date for entries Tuesday 18th May)

Monday, 3 May 2010

Beyond love

What lies Beyond Love?
For Love never dies.
Love lasts forever.
Love transforms.
Love multiplies.
In the Lover’s eye,
transcending mortality.
In the dance of the butterflies,
an ethereal coronation,
the perfect union.

Described by L’Officiel magazine as “one of the most original jewellery designers of her generation”, London based Brazilian, Marcelle Lawson-Smith is also something of a poet. Her verse, as well as her latest collection of digitally printed leather cuffs, are inspired by love’s power to transcend mortality.

Marcelle’s wedding to her English husband, twelve years ago, was an “unusual and elaborate celebration, with pairs of butterflies as its central theme – to represent eternal love.” One wall was covered by two thousand butterflies and Marcelle’s dress, the invitation and the wedding cake were all covered with pairs of butterflies.

Marcelle was also influenced by the symbolism of Victorian mourning jewellery when creating the vibrantly coloured pieces in her new range, which are available online, exclusively at ShopCurious.

In Victorian times, secret messages were sometimes hidden in small accessories. Butterflies, symbolizing resurrection (as in the metamorphosis from a chrysalis), were often depicted in sculptures and on cemetery headstones in Victorian graveyards.

Lover’s eyes were also popular as pieces of mourning jewellery, but some debate surrounds the details of their initial introduction to the UK. It is thought that they were originally used by secret lovers in the late 18th century – the Prince of Wales and Mrs Fitzherbert being widely cited. A unique collection of antique Regency curios, including lover’s eyes can be viewed on the romantic novelist, Candice Hern’s website.

Marcelle Lawson-Smith’s lover’s eyes are also based on William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 55:

“Not marble, nor the gilded monuments
Of princes, shall outlive this powerful rhyme;
But you shall shine more bright in these contents
Than unswept stone, besmear'd with sluttish time.
When wasteful war shall statues overturn,
And broils root out the work of masonry,
Nor Mars his sword, nor war's quick fire shall burn
The living record of your memory.
'Gainst death, and all oblivious enmity
Shall you pace forth; your praise shall still find room
Even in the eyes of all posterity
That wear this world out to the ending doom.
So, till the judgment that yourself arise,
You live in this, and dwell in lovers' eyes.”

Will you?