Friday, 30 March 2012

Gudrun Sjoden opens London shop

Today's post was a toss up between British Design and Scandinavian Style. Can you guess which one won? That eye-catching combination of colour and print should be a dead giveaway. And no, it's not Zandra Rhodes' house. Cult Swedish designer Gudrun Sjoden has just opened a store in London - and I figured you've probably reached your threshold of Great British Style posts this week, anyway. So, time to give the blog a boost with some Scandinavian Pinkness. And, as we're off to New York this afternoon, I don't have the time to analyse the V&A's latest exhibition: British Design 1948-2012, let alone blog, or pack a suitcase. (Digested review: as a gallery-going Londoner, I've  seen a lot of the work before. It's a bit patchy but worth seeing if you're visiting London or looking for a neatly packaged summary of post-war design). Here's Gudrun:

Now, this is maybe something of a generalisation but I'd say we Brits are pretty reserved when it comes to clashing brights and vibrant tones. We leave that kind of thing to much braver women, like Yayoi Kusama and Gudrun Sjoden So, I'm inclined to agree with the lovely Rossana Mariano (below), over from Stockholm for the shop launch last night, who whispered to me, ' When you get older, it's important to wear clothes you feel comfortable in. I probably shouldn't say this but...don't throw on too much colour. For me, a scarf or simple top is enough.'

Rossana Mariano keeps it simple.

And that would be my advice too. Throw a jaunty scarf over neutral basics or team a colourful jacket with jeans and brogues - and if all else fails, stick to striking homewares.

Gudrun Sjoden's UK flagship store opens today at 65-67 Monmouth Street, London WC2.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

How to wear a white shirt (part two)

Still haven't worn my white shirt with the crazy floral pants but I'm working on it. Right? In the meantime, another inspirational woman who gives good shirt is Michelle Obama. Sometimes keeping it simple with Capri pants or a pencil skirt, on other occasions having fun with a signature belted cardigan or sweater - but always providing a masterclass in grown-up style.

So, as promised here's a selection of some the best white shirts around:

One of my favourites is this dolman sleeve shirt from Gap.

Boy. By Band of Outsiders from Net-a-Porter.
If only I could afford the ultimate white silk shirt from Equipment.

Michelle Obama is not afraid of a ruffle.

 Get the look at Comptoir des Cotonniers.

Michelle Obama photos: Huffington Post, AP and Daily Mail.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Clarks High Heel Society

That's me giving a talk on British Style at the Clarks High Heel Society event in London, last week. I rarely post pictures of myself on this blog - I'm shy and wrinkly and don't like having my photo taken. But I soon started to relax when my self-imposed, two drink curfew fell by the wayside. I've got about as much willpower as a Tory party co-treasurer being offered a large donation. Anyhow. I think I was blathering on a bit, though the crowd seemed to love it - remember, they didn't have any alcohol restrictions. I discussed the timeless appeal of British brands and why they make good fashion sense, mentioned all my favourite icons like: Tilda Swinton, Vivienne Westwood, Dame Judi Dench, Kate Moss, Helena Bonham Carter,  Dame Helen Mirren and gave highlights of the spring/summer shoe collection. Finishing off with some of expert tips on style at any age. As you can imagine, copious amounts of free bubbly, fabulous shoes, gorgeous women and a great location - the inaugural Clarks High Heel Society event was a rip-roaring success.

L-R: George from, Emily from Fashion Foie Gras, TNMA and at the front, with two shoes, Amy from Clarks.

Some of the lovely Clarks' customers showing off their favourite shoes.

Bright ballet pumps, perfect for summer.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Brilliantly British: Liberty Print Sunglasses

What with the Olympics, the Queen's Jubilee and a generous splattering of Great British art, London is beyond exciting at the moment. I'm feeling proud to be British. Which is strange, as I've never felt the least bit patriotic in my life. I'm the person who sniggers when the England football team inevitably get knocked out of the World Cup, who grew up listening to the Sex Pistols and squirms at the Last Night of the Proms. But, hey, this does feel like a special moment. So, let's forget about the Granny Tax, pre-loading and the Leveson Inquiry - it's a glorious, spring day, here's a pair of lovely Liberty print sunglasses.

Have a good weekend.

PS The sunglasses are actually by retrosuperfuture an Italian brand but they're decorated with an archive Elysian print and sold exclusively at Liberty.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

That is my age: quality bed linen

One of my friends recently confessed to having reached the age when, if there's a sex scene in a movie, she ignores the bedroom Olympics and homes in on the quality of the sheets. And I can relate to that. My latest obsession is not a fancy handbag or the latest Isabel Marant wedge hi-top but luxury bed linen from Toast. We have two sets already, but I need more. We mid-lifers may not have the energy to count sheep - I'm asleep as soon as my head hits that Egyptian cotton pillow - but counting threads per square inch, now, that I can stay awake for.

These days it's the quality of the sheets not what goes on between them that matters.

My favourite for summer: the Aegean collection. In organic cotton.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Jimmy Choo: Inspired by Iris Apfel

When 91-year-old Iris Apfel appears in the Bill Cunningham movie, at a society event in New York, the photographer exclaims, 'Iris, thank god you're here, everyone else looks so boring.' And he's right. Apfel has a singular style and a cult following in the fashion world: the Metropolitan Museum held an exhibition of her clothes in 2005, more recently she's designed jewellery and glasses and inspired a range of MAC make-up. Now Jimmy Choo have created 'the ultimate homage to the grande dame of idiosyncratic fashion.'  And here it is:

Don't know about you but when I look at this staggeringly high, woven leather sandal, I don't immediately think 'Iris Apfel.'  Whilst creative directors Sandra Choi and Simon Holloway 'took inspiration from Apfel's maximalist style and bold layering of tribal and ethnic jewellery,' they obviously didn't look at her feet. I doubt the nonagenarian has worn heels this high for, ooh, ever. Or the last 60 years, at least. Often photographed at home in her Upper East Side apartment, feet up in comfy shoes, Apfel has said, 'Those big platforms and insanely high heels. They look like an orthopedist's delight. I don't see anything beautiful about them....there's nothing that beats a classic pump.'

But fortunately, there's a flat version too. Anyone interested in developing a range of Apfel-inspired slippers, you know where to find me.

Iris Apfel photos: Chester Higgins & Martha Camarillo.
Quote: Daily Mail.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Quote of the week: Bill Cunningham

I cried at the Bill Cunningham New York movie (which opened in London this weekend). Here's a gentleman - and Cunningham is a real gent - who's been riding up and down the streets of New York for over half a century. On a rickety old bike. Snapping pictures of ordinary folk. Actually, Cunningham is onto his 29th bike, the other 28 have been stolen. It's the clothes he loves, not the celebrities and their 'cookie cutter' sameness. 'He who seeks beauty shall find it,' points out the 81-year-old New York Times photographer,  'I could never be a paparazzi, to torment people and chase them. I do it discreetly.'

Cunningham lives a very simple life. The original street style photographer doesn't take favours and is not remotely interested in money. Home is a small apartment in Carnegie Hall (though the documentary deals with the rehousing of tenants from the building): no kitchen and a bathroom down the hall, a very basic camp bed surrounded by rows of filing cabinets containing all his negatives. Bill has modest taste. Eschewing fancy food for a three dollar breakfast at a local cafe saying, ' I eat with my eyes,' and rejecting fancy clothes for a street sweeper's jacket that's become a Cunningham trademark.

Anyhow. I know I'm going on a bit - but I found BCNY deeply moving - here's one of my favourite quotes:

'The wider world perceives fashion as frivolity that should be done away with. The point is that fashion is the armour to survive the reality of everyday life. I don't think you can do away with it. It would be like doing away with civilization.'

This film puts life into perspective and highlights the soulless artifice of phoney/corporate fashion and modern-day celebrity. Bill Cunningham's discerning eye sees through, and beyond, all that.

Photo: Esquire

Friday, 16 March 2012

Mothers and daughters: Ark Skincare

Proving that a decent beauty routine and classic white shirt work wonders, whatever your age, it's Shula Starkey, founder of Ark Skincare (centre) with her mum and younger sister. Starkey has spent over five years developing a range of age-appropriate natural beauty products, with the help of Dr Penny Kendall-Reed.  Designed to support the physiological changes the skin undergoes as we get older, Ark products are made in the UK and split into three categories: Age Prepare (teens to early 30s), Age Maintain (mid-30s-50) and Age Repair (50+). That's Not My Age had a quick chat with her.

TNMA: I like the fact that your products are called Age Maintain/Repair rather than anti-ageing, how do you feel about the constant pressure on women to look younger? And the increasing use of surgery and Botox? Have you ever tried Botox?

SS: I would never try Botox! I think there is an awful lot of pressure on women to look young and it's not healthy. Ageing is inevitable but that's not to say that you can't be beautiful, whatever your age. The focus should be on creating and maintaining healthy skin. Our products allow you to have healthy, radiant skin, and to protect against negative environmental and lifestyle factors.

TNMA: What role do your mother and sister play within the company? And is it stressful working with your family? I could never work with mine!

SS: Comparing the differing needs of my mother's skin to my own and to my younger sister's, exemplifies the need for age-aware skincare. My mother, Jenny, is the face of our Age Repair range and my sister Sally is the face of Age Prepare. They were thrilled to be involved and helped out with the initial testing phases. Now they act as brand ambassadors. It is lovely working with family: Peter is my husband and business partner and Penny Kendall-Reed is a close friend. ARK is a family business and as we grow it is like extending my family, which makes it all the more worthwhile.

TNMA: What's your advice for keeping skin looking the best it possibly can in mid-life?

SS: Keeping stress levels to a minimum is very important, always find time for yourself and do something relaxing - have a massage or do some yoga. Drink lots of water and if you can swap coffee for green tea then you'll see a big difference. Reduce sugar and alcohol intake which both create puffiness, lines and uneven skin tone. A dietary supplement is a good idea to make sure your skin is getting all the essential vitamins it needs. Of course, a good daily skincare routine will make a big difference.

TNMA: Oh and finally, why the name Ark? Does it signify something?

SS: We originally chose the name ARK as it is in both mine and Peter's surnames (Starkey and Clarke) however it also stands for Acts of Random Kindness, which is the ARK ethos.

So,  there you go. To improve my complexion, I need to relax and ditch the coffee and red wine diet. Still in the Age Maintain category (just about), That's Not My Age has been testing Ark's Age Aware Serum which contains algae and cucumber extract and smells gorgeous. My skin has been feeling pretty dry, dull and sun-damaged of late and the serum definitely makes it look brighter and adds a much-needed healthy glow. And I know that my pal Disney Roller Girl has been using the Ark lip balm and says it's brilliant. 

Ark sent me this serum to review.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Being Bold: Sam Cam and Michelle Obama

Whilst I don't really give a fig about the First Lady Fashion-Off - nobody's comparing their husband's black sports jackets and open neck shirts (are they?!) - this photo has perked me right up. Like a double Berocca Boost or a visit to the David Hockney exhibition, it's really uplifting. I never thought I'd find a photograph of Samantha Cameron edifying, but life is full of surprises. So, here she is looking chic in Roksanda Illincic fuchsia top and navy Joseph pants, with Michelle Obama - who is the best advert for cardigans, ever. This one's by L'Wren Scott.

When it comes to wearing colour, it's all about balance. Brights look best when paired with easy-to-wear neutrals. Not that I mind colour-blocking...on other people. It's just that brilliant hues don't look that brilliant next to my pasty complexion, so I tend to keep the top half toned down and opt for hot pants instead. I'll take my navy and pink combination this way round:

Caroline Seiber at Paris Fashion Week

As I've told you before, my wardrobe is permanently stuck in neutral. That means lots of navy, khaki, camel and charcoal, with the odd highlight. And I'm happy with that. Another woman who knows how to get the balance just right is Advanced Style cover star, Gitte Lee:

How about you? Are you more courageous with colour?

Michelle Obama & Sam Cam: Getty Images
Caroline Sieber: Vogue
Gitte Lee: Advanced Style

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Older Models: Penelope Tree

Good to see Barneys' spring campaign features sixties model - now in her sixties - Penelope Tree. I'm particularly fond of the Haider Ackerman outfit (above). Grown-up model. Elegant outfit. They're barking up the right Tree.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

I want to be like Hockney

Isn't David Hockney brilliant? I'm so pleased that, in his eighth decade, he's still churning out Big Pictures. As well as being a talented artist - and a very dapper man - Hockney's productivity is impressive. Wish I had his energy. Right now. Haven't blogged much over the last week or so because of the old work/life/blog conundrum. Got loads to say, not enough time to say it. I'm sure you know the feeling.

Today's The Shrink & The Sage (A guide to modern dilemmas) feature in the FT Weekend asks, 'Is it good to be idle?' My immediate response is, 'Most definitely, yes.' When the balance tilts in the direction of work, it's good to have a breather. Take time out, give the brain a rest and, hopefully, boost creativity. Though obviously, long-term idleness due to unemployment or illness is a different matter. Which is why I want to be like this 74-year-old chain-smoking painter. To have the time and energy to work on the things I love, well into my dotage. As Hockney says:

'Frankly if I'm not busy, I'm hopeless. A lot of artist's get very active as they get older, I don't want to slow down, I want to keep it going.'

And, as The Shrink points out, 'Doing nothing means squandering what little time we have on earth.'

The Royal Academy exhibition is fantastic, by the way. Really uplifting. Does anyone know how you do those iPad pictures? Is it like Etch-a-Sketch?

Have a productive/idle weekend!

Photo: Geological Society

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Patrick Cox collaborates with Geox

Another day, another fabulous fashion collaboration. Sorry it's not Marni for H&M but at my age queuing in a shop doorway overnight has about as much appeal as a free visit to Vladimir Putin's plastic surgeon. No. British shoe designer Patrick Cox has pushed his cupcakes aside for a partnership with Italian comfy footwear brand Geox. I can't decide between the indigo suede wedge with super-sized tassels or the stonewashed denim number. Which do you prefer?

And I was going to show you a pair of original Patrick Cox Wannabe loafers but doubted you'd be that interested in looking at my 20-year-old shoes. Maybe next week.

Geox (020 7833 4895)

Friday, 2 March 2012

DVF Hearts Current/Elliott

One thing I'll be doing when we hit New York later this month is checking out Diane von Furstenberg's fantastic collaboration with Current/Elliott. Some pairings - like roast potatoes and rosemary - are just so right. DVF says she's always wanted to design jeans for women, and this range looks pretty damn good to me. Though I'd be sticking to a single floral arrangement. I'm thinking the vintage print skirt with a royal blue cashmere sweater or the aqua jeans with a classic white shirt. Remember, as with spuds and herbs, the plain: pattern ratio has to be just right.