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Monday, 31 May 2010

Hot on the Highstreet Week 1

My mum suggested this weekly post advertising a hip, fashion forward highstreet buy. So here goes Week 1 - Nails Inc's HAYMARKET nail varnish.

You may have noticed the Sold Out Chanel Nouvelle Vague being flashed on lucky nails around the city. This Chanel Limited Edition Nail varnish pictured below (centre) was sold out within hours of hitting the shops, and at £17, it's not cheap.

I have tried both the Chanel and Nails Inc's alternative, and if anything the Nails Inc version is more glossy, and only requires one coat. Nails Inc also have great offers on their products - in Harvey Nichols at the moment they are selling 3 nail varnishes for £20. So instead of queuing for hours for the Chanel pricey option buy Nails Inc HAYMARKET for a fraction of the price from the comfort of your own home, get it on the website here for £9.45.

Fashion Fixes

My bank holiday weekend was all about fashion - SATC2, Alexander McQueen sample sale and the Grace Kelly exhibition at the V&A.

The wait was finally over on Friday when the second Sex and the City film came to cinemas across London. I was lucky enough to have a complimentary ticket from a friend who won a set of 4 tickets in a competition. The cinema was filled with giggly excited girls, there was not a man in sight, which is exactly as it should be.

The film was slow moving and not as memorable as the first. However I still loved it, as I'm sure any true SATC fan would. The friendship, the fashion and the fun were all there in abundance which is what this foursome are all about.

My cousin, model Lily Donaldson wearing a McQueen creation.

The great Alexander (Lee) McQueen will be remembered for his genius, wacky creations, often impractical but always beautiful. My talented friend, Elena, worked with him and continues to work for the label, see her blog here: She invited me to the sample sale so that I could pick up my own little piece of McQueen. It wasn't as busy as I expected, but I did hear that Daisy Lowe had been there for most of the day before. It was a treasure trove of fashion, I tried on many wonderful items and eventually came out with an amazing scarf and t-shirt.

Grace Kelly really was royalty, even before she became a princess. The V&A is currently showing a range of her outfits in their exhibition, Grace Kelly: Style Icon. The small but compact show has clothes from throughout her life and also displays a few interesting film clips of her. This is an exhibition for a fashionista, there is little information about her work, just about the designers she wore, which I was a little disappointed about. You can also see her hats, sunglasses and magical jewellery, as well as some of the original film posters. If you manage to get a ticket, go and see Princess Grace, I guarantee you'll turn green with envy at the sight of her wardrobe!

One of the more extravagant Grace Kelly dresses.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Lulu and the Lampshades

I love Lulu and the Lampshades, and I cannot believe I have only just discovered them.

The Lampshades were recommended to me by a friend and I am yet to see them live, although I have watched numerous YouTube videos of them and had a good chuckle to myself. Fun is at the heart of their music - they play with all kinds of strange and wonderful objects and makeshift instruments, bashing, hitting and clapping. The amazing thing is, they make it sound really good. The two singers in the Lampshades team - Luisa and Heloise have whimsical voices that melt together in harmony, impressive considering their music is often so close to being a cappella.

This music is pop-folk at its most inventive. Their influences seem to come from all over the place, at times they sound similar to the chirpy Puppini Sisters and often quite like Peggy Sue. They sing about all things, weird and wacky and apparently the majority of their songs Luisa writes while cycling.

There are so many great songs to choose from (all on YouTube). Their first single, 'Feet to the Sky' comes with an adorably quaint video. My favourite though is the simpler 'You're gonna miss me when I'm gone' featuring just Luisa and Heloise, oh, and they trusty cups of course. I found myself humming the tune all day.(Learn the cups here:

Lulu and the Lampshades play on Friday 11th June at LOOK STRANGER! on Brick Lane. My intention was to write about them after the gig, but I'm hoping that my pre-review will encourage a few more people to go along.

Check them out on:

Thursday, 27 May 2010

London's Elephant Parade

Three elephants, including a design by Lulu Guinness

Elephants are stomping throughout London. How many have you spotted? Working in Hyde Park Corner means I am greeted by them every day on my way to and from work, and then there is the whole family of them living in the park itself.

The public exhibition is known as an Elephant Parade, and similar events have previously taken place all over the world. It raises awareness and money for an important cause - the crisis faced by the endangered Asian elephant. Those art lovers who are especially keen can start their trail for the elephants (of which there are over 250) at The Scoop on the South Bank, where many of the elephants are displayed.

There are elephants for the fashionistas too - and with designers like Lulu Guinness designing for the cause there are some pretty groovy creatures out there. Outside Waterstone's in Notting Hill there is even a literary themed elephant, appropriately covered completely in words.

The real deal: a baby elephant

Our elephants are only with us until the 29th June when they go on sale at Sotheby's, so enjoy this chance to see these rare animals.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Going to Work in style...

What is your favourite day of the week? I would normally answer Friday, without hesitation...however, I'm beginning to change my mind. I find myself looking forward to Wednesday - the day that I excitedly retrieve my free Stylist magazine from the kind man at Hammersmith station.

Stylist magazine, now on its 31st issue, tackles a variety of topics, but is definitely geared more towards London's ladies. Fashion, food, beauty, politics and more are all discussed. Often they include interesting interviews and stories too. My favourite part is the double page 'Style List' at the front of the magazine, picturing 30 little gems, that are hot this week. In fact, this week I spotted a pretty gold necklace (worn by Carrie in SATC2!) and immediately went on the website to purchase one myself.

I came into work this morning (avec Stylist), and soon discovered that none of the girls in my office knew anything of this wonderful magazine. So, if nothing else I hope this blog post raises awareness and reminds you all to look out for Stylist magazine next Wednesday morning - you're sure to find it by the man screaming 'Stylist' at your nearest tube station!

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Is Kate still cool?

Kate modelling in her newest Topshop range

Kate Moss has been in the public eye more than any other, primarily as a model, but now as a designer too. She continues to hold iconic status, but does she still deserve to be the centre of our attention?

May marks the introduction of her latest Topshop range - S/S '10. The collection harks back to the 1970s with a strong vintage vibe. Floral shirts and floaty maxi dresses dominate the range. Supposedly everything you need to look and feel like Kate Moss.

I went to check out the new Moss garments in Knightsbridge's very own Topshop store last week. I was disappointed (and thank God I was, I cannot afford any more clothes!) Nearly everything is made from synthetic materials - quite unpleasant for summer attire. I picked a few dresses to try on - although there weren't many under £80, and most were over £100, ridiculous considering the quality of the material.

The dresses failed to impress in the changing room too - they clung to my skin and were completely unflattering. Realisation hit - I would not be walking out of Topshop looking like Kate Moss today.

Kate Moss holds a lot of power with her name and image - it's a shame if young girls waste their money on this collection, it certainly isn't worth it.


Ha - Ha!, letterpress print, 11.75 x 11.75 inches

The artist John Furnival will appeal to many: his works are intelligent, witty and aesthetically very satisfying.

England & Co Gallery on Westbourne Grove is a wonderful space to display art. The high white walls provide an ideal background for the great variety of work they show, contemporary and modern, paintings, constructions, installations and performance art. John Furnival's work looks beautiful on the walls, even more stylish than the dresses for sale in the trendy clothes shops that surround the gallery.

Never Mind - Doesn't Matter, letterpress print, 11.75 x 11.75 inches

This exhibition has a strong 60s pop vibe. You could imagine seeing one of Furnival's prints as an album cover. Indeed Peter Blake (who did the Beatles' psychedelic Sergeant Pepper's album cover) is a contemporary of Furnival, and similarities can definitely be seen between both artists' prints. Many of the works on display are text related, and use repetition obsessively. A favourite of mine is 'Never Mind - Doesn't Matter', a letterpress print, where the green and black compacted words produce a striking design - with a statement we should all be reminded of once in a while!

Eiffel Tower, silkscreen print, 30 x 22.25 inches

England & Co display John Furnival only until 5 June, but don't fear if you miss out on this exhibition there is sure to be another eclectic mixed show on, so pop in for your art fix.

England & Co, 216 Westbourne Grove, W11 2RH.

Open Monday-Saturday 11-6 pm. Free Entrance.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Something Simple

There is nothing simple about this band's music. The songs they energetically perform are mostly their own creations and are a fusion of diverse influences from Bob Marley to Pendulum. Infectious melodies are entwined with bold bass lines and hearty brass parts. Occasionally audiences are also lucky enough to witness genius covers of classic favourites as part of their set.

Something Simple are an impressively large 8-piece band, with a sound that has gradually evolved as new members have joined. I knew the band when they first started out five years ago, producing a very different sound to now. Something Simple are unique on stage. Lead singer, Callum Monaghan has a phenomenal voice and great stage presence. Regular solos from each band member show the real depth of their talent - Olly Lowe on drums, Fabio De Oliveira on percussion, Lester Salmins bass and vocals, Greg Sanders guitar and vocals and Tom Shirm jumps between keyboard, guitar and vocals. Improvised solos from Leo Aarons-Richardson on sax and Alaric Taylor on Trumpet are particularly spine-tingling. Individually they are brilliant but the real magic is produced when you put them all together.

I have seen them a few times at The Good Ship in Kilburn. It’s quite a workout trying to battle your way to the front, to dance and sing with the band - the whole place grooving to their soulful sound. It is clear that they love to play, but don't believe me, go and see them for yourself.


Cambridge University St John's May Ball - June 15th

Glastonbury, Field of Avalon - Thursday June 24th 12-1am and Saturday June 26th 9-10 pm

The Good Ship, Kilburn - July 2nd


or watch them -

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Qcumber's yummy jumpers

Qcumber are the sassy new brand of sweatshirts from two forward-thinking graduates. The idea formed after a messy food fight, and soon fot off the ground because their vision neatly fitted into a gap in the market. They already have a keen following and were recently featured in Grazia daily-

Available in a plethora of colours, Qcumber's take on the standard sweatshirt is fun and quirky, and will definitely make you stand out from the crowd. I can see them being particularly hip as this years festival fashion staple, teamed with wellies.

My personal favourite is the pale pink and pineapple combination, although the cucumber option is also strangely appetising. Currently available with strawberry, pineapple and cucumber but I hear on the grapevine that other fruity delights are soon to be added to the collection. Get yours, before everyone else does at: and make a Qcumber jumper one of your five-a-day.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Thoroughly wet Milly... my X-factor experience!

My saintly friend and I were up and out the door by 6.30 am and on our way to the Excel Centre for this season's X-factor auditions. As a singer it is an ordeal I felt I should go through once!

Sunday morning tubes are bad at the best of times, and then of course we had numerous track closures to avoid. Lukewarm tea in hand, we had to dodge the increasingly heavy rainfall, sans umbrella. Not fun. After our trek on the DLR line (basically a little railway train) we arrived at the Excel centre, and were greeted by crowds of thousands, all huddled together under a sea of brollies. Our spirits were lifted by the excitement of it all, although this euphoria faded as we got wetter and wetter. Soon even our makeshift plastic bag hats were blown away and I can honestly say I have never been as cold in my entire life. We waited from 8 am til 11.30 outside, screaming occasionally for a nearby Dermot O'Leary. We befriended a lovely group of music theatre graduates in front of us in the queue - they kindly donated an umbrella to us.

Inside it was almost as cold, although hot food was available here. Thank God. The sheer quantity of applicants became evident as we sat inside. There was certainly a buzz, and soon enough people began gently humming and running through their songs. I have to say I was slightly disappointed at the lack of freaks; at this stage everyone looks surprisingly normal! Around 2.30 we were taken through to the arena, a huge hall where thousands of hopefuls sat, armed with their X-factor stickers, I was number 197,058! The auditions were happening at the front of the hall in 18 small cubicles. Those who were successful came bounding out with a yellow slip of paper - this meant they were through to the next round. Now the freaks appeared. Michael Jackson and Nelson Mandela look-a-likes both came out with yellow slips! The familiar screams and tears filled the massive auditorium, the more athletic victors came out doing back flips and air punches (hugely embarrassing!)

Eventually, at 6 pm (ten hours after arriving) I got my turn. I waited in line and went into my allotted cubicle, still a little damp. I was singing Songbird, best known from Eva Cassidy's rendition. I stood in front of two female producers and was allowed to sing my whole song, which apparently is quite unusual. I wasn't nervous, but felt a mixture of relief and exhaustion. Unfortunately the verdict was a no; I wasn't going through to the next round. My lovely friend was waiting for me at the other side, prepared for my failure and saying all the right things. We gathered our things and began the trek home, smiling at the prospect of a hot bath. Despite the result it really was an unforgettably hilarious experience and a day I will never forget!!

Check out x-factor here:

Friday, 7 May 2010

The Bead Hive

Most teenagers have a hobby that they obsess over. Mine was beads and making jewellery. I'd spend all my pocket money on the newest, shiniest beads and collect them meticulously.

After a few years of making my beady creations I began selling my jewellery to family friends and eventually a few shops. I soon worked out what sold and what was popular. I branched out from using just beads and added other jewellery creations to my collections, incorporating all areas of my life into my jewellery making. At the age of fourteen I started working at the restaurant Tootsies. Back then all fizzy drinks had pretty bottle caps, all thrown away once removed for customers. An idea formed in my head, and every Saturday evening, after my shift, I would take home a bag of bottle caps from the days service. My psychedelic bottlecap earrings were born - almost free to make, and requiring very little labour (a compass was used to punch the hole, a bit of crafty wirework and voila...) I got my younger brother on board and we began a production line. The Young Enterprise company at my school then bought a large quantity of my product, and I made about £500 from them.

As I got older my jewellery tastes matured as I did. I began making button bracelets (stealing buttons from all over the house), Wish Bracelets, made from a collection of beads, buttons and other charms, supposedly each bead was there to represent a different aspect of life: dice = chance, heart = love, button = luck, and most importantly a letter bead for your name. These bracelets were followed by charm necklaces - a collection of six charms strung on ribbon or chain. Customers could choose the ribbon, chain and selection of charms. They became quite popular and soon I was making a small fortune from selling them in the common room at school.

I rarely have time to make jewellery now, but still have all the equipment to whip something up if an outfit is ever in need of a little something extra!

Photos taken by my phenomenally good photographer brother, Gabriel Kenny-Ryder.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

QUILTS 1700-2010

An installation by artist Tracey Emin at the V&A

For me quilts represent memory and history, of people, places, situations and relationships. The epic length of time that it takes to create a quilt gives the object its own history of its making and its own story. When I left for University, 4 years ago my mother vowed to start on a quilt for me... I think she managed about 6 squares, and that took her long enough. I still live in hope that she will complete it, one day!

The current exhibition at the V&A explores over 300 years of British quilting history - and includes private loans as well as many from the V&A's own collection. The show is vast and the variety on display is impressive, although I was slightly disappointed that the works were exclusively British, as there are, in particular, many wonderful American quilts. The older quilts, bed-hangings, and cushions seem to be preserved and restored immaculately, and show the luxury and wealth associated with this trade in the 18th Century. I particularly loved the quilts that celebrated the birth of a child, often white and tiny to fit the newborn babe, with the sweetest words sewn on as messages, they evoked a real poignancy.

The more contemporary pieces show the trends and fashions of today. A fantastic outrageous Union Jack quilt made from various Libertys floral prints was eye-catching to say the least. Influential artists, Grayson Perry and Tracey Emin's works reflect their own bedtime preoccupations and attitude to the culture of the quilt. The exhibition illustrates the power of the quilt and why it has remained so popular for many hundreds of years.

Quiltmaking is an activity that those in dreadful situations can turn to. There is a video showing the inmates of Wandsworth Prison and their quest to produce a quilt. It offers them a skill and gives them a quiet way to consider their situation and vent their frustration. The outcome is quite beautiful and moving as you see these men turn their anger to a creative, constructive focus - thoughts of freedom and despair weave through the carefully made artwork. Once again the gentle power of the quilt is evident.

Quilts 1700-2010 is on display until 4 July 2010 at the V&A:

Learn how to make a patchwork quilt yourself here:

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Busaba Eathai

Situated in the heart of Soho, Busaba Eathai is a canteen-style Thai fusion restaurant. I went prepared to queue, but was pleased to find that we could run straight in (it had begun pouring with rain). Expansive dark shiny wooden tables fill the fragrant space, we were ushered to a long communal table to join another group of eager diners.

We had a strict time schedule, and needed to be in and out within an hour, which was no problem for our friendly and efficient waiter. Choosing a selection of dishes between us seemed like the best plan, and I was particularly proud of my clever choices - Guava collins juice, Mussaman duck curry with jasmine rice and a side dish of Morning glory, all delicious and fresh. The Morning glory with yellow bean, Thai garlic and red chilli tasted far too yummy to be a vegetable, and was definitely my favourite of the day. I previously knew only of the plant that produces beautiful flowers in the morning, and bloom at my grandmother's house in the South of France. However this Morning glory (Ipomoea aquatica), known also as water spinach, water convolvulus, Ong-Choy, Kang-kung or swamp cabbage is quite different and is used in East and South east Asian cuisines. It's actually banned in the US! (See USDA weed factsheet)

The open front restaurant with floating candles had a lovely atmosphere, and was the perfect refuge from the bustling streets of Soho. Busaba is like a glorified Wagamama, and now boasts five branches across the capital. Thai food can be a challenging mix of flavours, but if you're after a reasonably priced, good feed Busaba is a delicious choice and will leave you feeling completely satisfied.