Saturday, 26 February 2011

Unique charms of cycling in London

Looking for something to do this weekend? If you’re feeling very brave and don’t mind getting wet, why not take one of the new Barclays Boris bikes for a spin around London?

You could visit a museum – not the British Cycling Museum, as that’s in Cornwall, which would be a bit of a trek.

Better still, could park your bike at a docking station and pop in to one of the many arty events going on in London this weekend. I’d suggest Ceramic Art London at the Royal College of Art.

Here you’ll find handcrafted pottery, ceramic sculptures and all sorts of quirky pieces from a range of accomplished professional designers. I particularly like Kate McBride’s Olympics inspired tableware. Her collectable hand painted Velodrome bowl has cyclists racing around the circuit as spectators look on.

I’ve heard there’s an art to cycling in London: You probably have to be very careful – and wear something suitably protective. How about this Guiding Light curiosity charm necklace by Cartography40N74W at ShopCurious? It comes with a Jesus charm, helpful prayer (inside a miniature pair of binoculars) and a handy pen knife, just in case you get a puncture or need to carry out any emergency repairs.

Alternatively, you could stay at home, safe and out of the rain, and do something curiously creative - like upcycling some old clothes, or designing your own London bicycle – see my latest post at The Dabbler for further details and inspiration.

Will you?

Friday, 25 February 2011

Carnival magic and fairground fun

With the carnival season upon us, and Mardi Gras coming up in a week or so, I thought I'd take a look at some of the curious carnival inspired creations appearing in fashion, art and design.

The FAS Contemporary Gallery will present the Trinidad Carnival inspired work of artists Che Lovelace and Zak Ove at the cutting edge Volta art show in New York from 3rd – 6th March.

Theatrical styling, influenced by street celebrations, circus clowns and magicians is very much in evidence in contemporary interior design. However, retro fairground memorabilia, puppets and old fashioned circus ephemera are also highly collectable as items of ‘modern’design art.

Surreal, carnivalesque costumes in bold, primary colours are also appearing on the catwalks, along with masks and other magical accessories.

Talking of which, we’ve a pristine pair of vintage hallmarked silver cufflinks at ShopCurious, featuring suits of cards…

I can't guarantee they'll bring you luck at the poker table, but they're great for adding a touch of magical fun to your attire.

Will you?

Monday, 21 February 2011

Skyscraper heels at LFW

Contrary to popular belief, trudging around fashion trade fairs, hiking across town to showrooms and standing in queues at fashion shows is far from glamorous. It’s also pretty demanding on the feet – especially if, like me, you’re partial to shoes of the high-heeled variety.

Whilst I’ve a weakness for arty and unusual shoes, I’ve noticed that heels seem to be getting higher and higher. When I saw the unique shoe designs by Joanne Stoker at London Fashion Week, I thought she was trying to cash in on this trend with her new ‘Empire States’ collection.

Inspired by Art Deco architecture, the handcrafted Plexiglass heels of Joanne’s shoes are designed to replicate masterpieces from the New York skyline. (Thankfully, no one's tried to base a shoe design on London's Shard of Glass).

Anyway, Joanne informed me that, although her ‘skyscraper heels’ give the impression of being high, they’ve been made with comfort and wearability in mind - and the method of construction means they’re actually only medium-high...

The angular shapes and mosaic style decorations are curiously creative and original, but however easy they are to walk in, the tower block shoes look rather more clunky than, say, the elegantly aerodynamic, space age designs of Chau Har Lee.

When I first saw Chau Har Lee’s designs last year I forgot to mention that we’ve some similar perspex wedges at ShopCurious. Ours are from one of Tom Ford’s early collections for Gucci in the 1990s and feature an angular silver ‘G’ buckle.

I think it’s great when shoes double up as collectable works of design art.

Do you?

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Birds of a feather flock to LFW

Designers at London Fashion Week no longer seem desperate to shock. Obscurely arty fashion statements are gradually being eclipsed by timelessly wearable clothing and accessories. However, if Lady Gaga is one of your clients, I suppose it's advisable to err on the side of eccentricity - like Charlie le Mindu, who’s responsible for the curious mannequin creation gracing the alternative, On/Off show space.

Meantime, at Somerset House yesterday, I shared a bird-watching hut with the British Fashion Council’s lovely Marits Roberts. We did a bit of twitching together, admiring Orla Kiely’s charming showcase, complete with trees, taxidermy and books on British birds. Marits - who by the way, has the most beautiful voice - kindly informed me that the Turtle Dove has recently been seen in the UK, for the first time in years.

I spotted quite few avian inspired accessories at the exhibition, along with the influence of other native animals, like the fox - as featured on the Mulberrry sponsored canvas bag - and the squirrel (this is beginning to sound like the name of a pub).

There were also plenty of friendly faces, like Desiree Mejer of Fake London, whose uniquely English designs are available at ShopCurious.

What I didn’t find were freaky fashions, or the media circus I’d expected... But you can read more about those sort of things in today's post on my weekly style column over at The Dabbler.

Will you?

Friday, 18 February 2011

The London buzz...

I’ve been such a busy bee with work this week, though I managed to fit in a few fun things. The other day I went to see a curiously named musical comedy at the Donmar Warehouse. The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee was originally produced on Broadway. It involves audience participation and is hilariously funny, as well as being rather odd. The characters are decidedly quirky in a way that forces you to consider your own eccentricities.

The costumes in the show are retro American preppy style and reflect the uniqueness of each of the performers. Individuality is something ShopCurious will be looking out for today at London Fashion Week. Is London still buzzing with creativity?

I’m curious to find out if, in this economic environment, London fashions have become more conventional and commercial, and less cutting-edge.

Are you?

Monday, 14 February 2011

Bags of junk for Valentine's Day?

Happy Valentine’s Day! Some think it’s a commercial conspiracy to force unwitting consumers to purchase trashy Valentine gifts…but that rather depends on the type of trash we’re talking about. In one of the most curious new trends, discarded litter and old junk are being upcycled to create collectable clothing, arty accessories and works of design art.

These stunning ‘art bags’ by acclaimed designer, Annie Sherburne, at ShopCurious, are an example of what can be created using found objects. Annie sources high quality vintage handbags, which she embellishes individually, using carefully chosen pieces of everyday junk, worked into painterly collages. As well as bits of vintage jewellery, Annie often uses old watch faces and straps, parts from retro dolls and toys, and quirky tourist memorabilia to decorate her bags.

Incidentally, discarded waste and the filth around us form the subject matter of the Wellcome Collection’s forthcoming major exhibiton, which runs from 24th March until 31st August. Dirt: the Filthy Reality of Everyday Life ‘travels across centuries and continents to explore our ambivalent relationship with dirt’ via photography, cultural ephemera, art, scientific artefacts, film and literature.

Apparently, over half the world’s inhabitants now live in urban areas, and are exposed to the overcrowding, inadequate sanitation and industrial nature of modern life. Dirt poses a significant risk to our health, but is also vital to our existence. The exhibition aims to ‘reveal the fascinating world of filth that remains one of the very last taboos.’

Hmmm, perhaps this wasn’t such a romantic topic to bring up on Valentine’s Day. But then I’m not sure how much fun romance would be without the dirty bits…

Are you?

PS Read more on the messy business of romance in my latest post at The Dabbler.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Period elegance and Valentine vanity in Paris

I was wandering around the backstreets of Paris doing a spot of window shopping, when I accidentally stumbled upon the Hotel Caron de Beaumarchais. This charming and romantic little treasure of a hotel looks absolutely perfect for a Valentine weekend in the city of love.

‘A rare piano forte from 1792, a card table, a fireplace, candles and chandeliers recreate the charm of a private town house in the Marais at the time of Beaumarchais and Mozart.’

The building is steeped in history, and named after the boisterous 18th century playwright, Beaumarchais, who lived nearby, and wrote The Marriage of Figaro in 1778 (adapted into the opera by Mozart in 1786).

Apparently, this is also where, in 1776, he founded the trading house from which George Washington was supplied with ships and gundpowder during the American Revolution until Independence in 1782.

The rooms are decorated in ‘fine fabrics in the style of the 18th century,’ and decked out with ‘antiques and period documents.’

What's more, the Marais is close to Notre-Dame and is a great area for quirky little shops, as well as some amazing museums. There’s a Louis Vuitton exhibition on until 27th February at the Musee Carnavalet, where some exceptionally luxurious luggage from the past two and a half centuries is on show. Included in this are some fabulous vanity cases with individually monogrammed pieces of dressing table ware.

Vintage dressing table sets have become very collectable and would make a lovely gift for Valentine’s Day (or any day for that matter).

Take a look at the selection available at ShopCurious. In fact, you could take this set (right) along to the Hotel Caron de Beaumarchais and it wouldn’t look at all out of place. Though you may prefer to simply powder your wig.

Do you?

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Swanning around in ballet bling

In the fast moving world of fashion, black swans are already passé. But ballet inspired clothing and accessories are still very much in evidence.

In a new twist on an old idea, Annie Sherburne has created these fabulous ballerina brooches. Their elegant classic swan-style ballet dresses have been upcycled from scraps of original vintage jewellery. The brooches are available from ShopCurious in a range of colours and each brooch is totally unique.

Meantime, here’s some inspiration for later in the year: Ballet dancers not so much swanning as sailing down the catwalk - with balloons as rigging, and billowing, acid bright chiffon dresses as flapping sails...

Dancing en pointe looks a rather precarious business to me… I think it’s curiously clever that none of the girls got into a nasty tangle.

PS Check out the crazy new fashion in headwear at my latest Curious Trends post.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Retro toys and dolls in fashion

Have you noticed how dolls and other toys are appearing everywhere from art galleries to fashion boutiques, and on everything from clothing and accessories to furniture and walls? Here are some photos of the sort of thing I mean. You can see many more in my latest ShopCurious trends post.

Meantime, over at The Dabbler I take a look at some retro toys and games, like Spirograph and Mouse Trap. Which were your favourites - and are games today an improvement on those of yesteryear? And why are adults suddenly turning to toys to express their creativity? You’re very welcome to join in the discussion.

Will you?

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Ancient style: found and upcycled

As fate would have it, ancient Egyptian style accessories are all the rage this season. And, if you’re after original Egyptian inspired jewellery, then look no further than ShopCurious. We’ve some lovely pieces that would be perfect for Valentine’s Day and won’t break the bank. What’s more, they’re also curiously collectable, and might even turn into family heirlooms. You never know...

Anyway, these stunningly unusual Nefertiti necklaces have been handmade by acclaimed designer, Annie Sherburne, by upcycling ‘found’ scraps of old jewellery to create an arty mosaic effect. You may not have heard of her, but Annie designed and made jewellery and accessories for Jean Muir for nearly 20 years. A pioneer of contemproary feltmaking, examples of her patterned felt hats can be seen at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the Musee Des Modes in the Louvre in Paris.

Oh, and if you’re searching high and low for a Valentine gift for the man in your life, we’ve some unique vintage silver and turquoise scarab beetle cufflinks too. The scarab was used extensively on jewellery in ancient Egypt, as a good luck charm to ward off evil - it was seen as a symbol of hope and the restoration of life...

Let's hope that a peaceful resolution to the current unrest in Egypt is achievable.

Will you?