What you need to know about laser hair removal

What beauty regime?

I’ve never had a beauty ritual, nor regular treatments. Occasionally I double cleanse, but I’m just as likely to hit the sack with a full face of make-up if it’s been a late night. Since my last facial, my skin has felt great (thank you Luxskinclinic) and I’ve been kinder to it. Hair removal, however, is a treatment that has nothing of the treat about it.

Laser hair removal: Research

I’d been thinking about laser hair removal for a long time and finally decided to do some proper research and find answers to my questions, such as: Where should I get it done? How much will it cost? Does it work? Does it hurt? Is it safe? And, does it hurt? (Again). After a fruitless internet search which left me more confused than ever, I walked into EF Medispa in St John’s Wood to speak to a human and (over)shared my hair removal history, which I am about to share with you.

EF Medispa reception, St John’s Wood

Hell is a Brazilian

When I was 25 I had a Brazilian wax by the woman famed for bringing it to the UK – Otylia Roberts. Whatever has possessed me to do this, I thought, when I was on all fours and it was too late to back out. When the torturous treatment was over and I had been plucked like a chicken, I suddenly became cold and shivery from the shock (or perhaps the humiliation). I did discover what pubes are for, though – they gather to a little point which directs your pee into the loo in a nice, tidy stream. Without them, well, it’s a bit of a mess.

(You do not need to see photos of this).

The patch test

After that I tried modest waxing but still found it unbearably painful and ended up with ingrowing hairs, so skip to 2018 and my laser hair removal patch test at EF Medispa. I was convinced it would hurt too much for me to sign up for a full session and that would be the end of that.

Goggles are worn to protect the eyes from the laser

The SopranoIce machine – the daddy of lasers

But lo! As I was donning the goggles to protect my eyes from the laser, apologising for being jumpy and scared, the nice lady put some cool aloe vera gel under my armpit and rolled a little plastic gun around on my skin for a few seconds until I heard a beep, which meant it was over. No pain. I laughed. The relief!

She did the same to one of my legs and then my bikini line. My patch test was a success.  I was actually giddy. I proceeded to sign up for a course and have never looked back.

What you need to know

The treatment room

  1. You could be in a room staring at the picture of this lady’s perfect bottom for quite some time.
  2. I’m not a hairy girl. If you have shaved your entire life and have stubborn hairs, the treatment might feel more sensitive and prickly.
  3. Make sure your clinic has the a state of the art machine. Laser hair removal has been around for a long time and there are some old machines out there (= pain). You want the SopranoIce machine that’s the price of a Lamborghini.
  4. Menstruation can make your skin more sensitive. As I found out.
  5. You’ll need to shave the area(s) 24 hours before your session (not immediately before, as it makes your skin sensitive. I found this out too).
  6. Certain medications and skin conditions conflict with treatment so discuss this with your therapist.
  7. If you want a completely hair-free bikini/undercarriage, you’ll have to lie on your stomach and spread your butt cheeks (sorry, but I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t give you the full picture).
  8. The recommended number of treatments is 6-8, but after just three sessions I remain smooth. A few strays have started to appear so I will have a top-up eventually, but I don’t think anyone would notice.
  9. Don’t go with a tan – your skin needs to have been out of the sun for several weeks (before and after treatment), so winter could be the perfect time to get started.
  10. The pain will be the payment – up to £2000, depending on the areas you want to treat and how many times you need to go.

The result

My greatest disappointment came when I realised the treatment had worked. I thought  – what if it’s cool to be really hairy again, someday, like the eyebrow thing? What if everyone is flaunting a big bushy triangle and I won’t be able to grow mine back? (Which is surely the whole point). Be prepared to mourn your bush.

The humiliation factor

The staff are incredibly calm and professional at all times – they have seen a lot of bottoms (see point 7, above) – so we managed to maintain bright and breezy chat throughout. However, my clinician seemed quite taken by the fact that my skin is darker in that area and suggested I might like to try anal bleaching. I think I’ll pass on that, actually, but if I were thinking about it she’d be my girl.

EF Medispa, 69 St John’s Wood High Street, NW8 7NL. Branches elsewhere.

Not a press visit – I paid for my treatment.



Will a facial with LED therapy give me renewed, radiant skin?

Chantal Sharpstone was always going to have her work cut out with me and my dehydrated skin. I have an underactive thyroid which makes my skin feel like hide, plus I’d been sick for a week. Maybe someone could only make me look better.

Chantal Sharpstone, owner and founder of LUX skin clinic

I had met Chantal years ago when our kids were small, without realising she was a make-up artist. We were ‘just’ mums. Years on, these mums now have kids at school and are embarking on wonderful careers – Whitney Bromberg Hawkings has launched Flowerbx, Lizzie King has a whole food empire called lizzieloveshealthy, Tamara Rothstein has developed her own athleisure brand, Laain and now Chantal has launched Lux skin clinic.

Chantal and me, post-facial, at LUX.

The bad news is LUX is in NW11, so unless you live on the northern end of the Northern Line you probably won’t have a clue where it is. I hadn’t. But of course I was going to go and give her a try. I will always support sisters doing it for themselves.

That’s the only bad news. The rest is all good. More than.

Chantal has always been pretty (this is relevant). I have often remarked on her skin. With age, she has developed hyper pigmentation and is very relaxed about the way she looks, which is refreshing. Instead of wanting to ‘fix’ me (with injectibles or whatever) she’s encouraging, realistic and kind. She wouldn’t do micro needling on me, because of sensitivity – but she does this a lot and is about to adopt the finest 0.3mm needle which is the least invasive yet. Under the lamp/magnifier she found pigmentation that hadn’t surfaced yet ‘but probably would, in years to come’. Right, thanks for that. But I didn’t feel depressed about it. She told me it was fine, nothing to fret about – plus I already have some pigmentation that’s visible. One day a school mum asked me if I had been punched in the face…because I had a mark on my cheek…I said no, that’s just my skin. RUDE.

As it turns out, hyper pigmentation is linked to oestrogen so the hormonal link is strong (peri-menopause, the contraceptive pill) and of course sunlight is the aggravator. She just said to keep using sunscreen. She gave me a sample of a day-cream by Heliocare with an SPF50 that has no chalkiness whatsoever and a light coverage (they do a mineral version too). I like ‘natural’ sunscreens but they make me look ghostly, so I figure better to use a less-natural product than nothing at all. This one looks and feels great.

Apparently a peel would also help me (Chantal did one on herself and the brown, pigmented skin literally rubbed off on her hands) and I was told that peels are not stripping and lethal but simply lift off the gnarly layer that becomes slow to shed, as we age.

I had a treatment of LED light therapy which is very healing (I’ll do anything if someone tells me it’s healing. Healing what? Who cares). It basically penetrates the skin to fight acne-causing bacteria while plumping skin and reducing wrinkles. It’s also mood enhancing.

I can’t actually tell you what else she did except that it felt quite wonderful and that for probably the first time since I hit my forties I feel completely happy without a scrap of make-up.

Who knew NW11 would hold such treasures?

I’ve subsequently seen on their website that they do something called ‘v-shape jowls and submental’ which takes 45 minutes and costs £120. I’ve no idea what it is but I want it.

I’m going back. Book me in. Self-care is the new me.


Thank you to LUX skin clinic for the facial. Prices from £80 for a 60-minute bespoke facial. £120 with LED light therapy.

LUX, 21 The Market Place, Falloden Way, NW11 6JY. Nearest tube Golders Green or East Finchley. 15-min walk from the tube. Barely any parking restrictions. I’ll be driving next time.

Tel: 020 8701 6336. www.luxskincare.co.uk instagram @luxskinclinic

Very few parking restrictions in East Finchley.

Pen On The Run fashion pop-up SALE

This is going to be a quick post, as I am buried under large mountains of clothes and if I don’t move them soon I won’t be able to get to the fridge/bed/loo.

poster by Sonia Alcon, artist & illustrator

Fashion pop-up sale

The reason for me being surrounded by even more clothes than usual is that I am having a sale on Wednesday in Camden Town and all of these lovely things need to be priced, steamed and put on hangers before they go on sale.

Something for everyone

There are some fierce women out there, doing amazing things. They have created brands like Laain (athleisure, i.e. posh workout gear), Georgina Goodman (footwear, including the universally comfy and stylish babouche slipper-shoe), Zoe & Morgan (clever jewellers who sell, among other things, big earrings – my weakness), Eki Orleans (whose African prints are so striking on silk), Aloe (more silk…I own the hammered silk PJ’s and they are heavenly) and Tamara Salman (think printed bags, from the Goyard factory, no less). Viola, a treasure trove of a boutique on Connaught Street in London, has beautiful and wearable brands like Masscob and Raquel Allegra to tempt you.

The girls from Primrose Hill Candles will be there too, so we’ll smell good.

I almost forgot the reason I’m doing this. I started off having sales in my home, with pre-loved designer and vintage clothes from my own wardrobe and my clients’ wardrobes (lovely Celine, Louis Vuitton, Acne, Saint Laurent, Romeo Gigli, etc) but I’ve outgrown the space. So I’ve hired a castle.

Pop-up sale info

Pen On The Run pop-up sale: Wednesday 23rd May 2018, 9am to 7pm.

Venue: The Pirate Castle, 33 Oval Road, Camden Town, London NW1 7DL.

Samples, current and past-season stock, new and pre-loved, designer labels, clothing and accessories. Luxury brands.

Prices from £10 to £400. Cash or card.


Winning style – fashion on the tennis court

Rita Hayworth photographed by Peter Stackpole, 1941.Check out the nails!

My problem with tennis is that I can’t just watch a little bit. It’s like Melrose & Mortgage’s cherry madeira cake and not being able to stop at one slice. Watching tennis might be better for me than eating cake, but playing tennis is even better.  I am rubbish, but I love it. You will not see a more eager beaver on the court on a summer’s day. I look exactly like this.

I’ll get to the sartorial bit in a minute, but first I have to tell you that a drop-in session at Will To Win at the Regent’s Park Tennis Club will be the best £10 you’ve spent in London. An hour’s (group) coaching, followed by an hour’s doubles, a coffee and a bloody good laugh.

Maybe I’ll see you there, sporting one of these.

Top tennis looks

1. 70’s cool

Nobody rocked a tennis outfit quite like Farrah Fawcett. An oversized shirt or polo shirt (long sleeved) tucked into a simple skirt or skort and a 70’s blow dry is what you need.

Or just wear your old kit with towelling sweat bands and a bandana tied around your neck in that oh so casual way.

You’ll have to hunt for the good ones, but Ebay and Etsy have original tennis dresses and t-shirts – look for Adidas, Lacoste or Fred Perry.

Fred Perry vintage tennis dress. Image courtesy of Ebay.co.uk

2. Classic white

I love whites for sport and this is where new beats vintage. This skort by Sweaty Betty gets my vote for being feminine, cute and functional. They sell out fast, which is how I ended up having to settle for the grey/peach version last year. The built in shorts are just the right length and the skirt fulfils my ra-ra skirt fantasy a bit too. The ball pocket is a nice surprise and makes you feel like a pro.

Sweaty Betty white tennis skort

Me in Sweaty Betty tennis skort. I did warn you about the grin.

3. One-piece

The ‘I have really got my shit together’ tennis dress comes courtesy of Stella McCartney for Adidas at Matchesfashion.com. Throw this on and in doing so you’re also wearing a sports bra and shorts. A clever person would wear this.

Tennis dress by Stella McCartney. Image courtesy of matchesfashion.com

4. Make your own

For something really original, find an old pattern and get out your sewing machine.

5. Cool feet

Tennis shoes need to have more ankle support than your average trainer. Stan Smiths won’t cut it. Beware also, that some courts insist upon white-soled shoes. These New Balance court shoes are just about perfect.

New Balance 1296v2 tennis shoes

6. New brands, please.

Personally, I am waiting for Laain (my athleisure brand of choice) to do a killer tennis outfit – or if Zimmermann decided to make tennis gear we would all be wearing exceptionally pretty pieces like this.

In the meantime, I hope you have a good weekend. I will mostly not be playing tennis and not moving from my spot in front of the TV, which I will be screaming at. Enjoy Wimbledon.




Top 5 rugs to make your house a home – and up to 75% off at The Rug Company Sample Sale


Alexander McQueen rug, image courtesy of The Rug Company

An invitation from The Rug Company popped into my inbox and I thought I’d share it with you. A short & sweet blog post. But it seems I am incapable of short & sweet. Thanks to their email, I am now in full rug mode. Which goes to show that unsolicited marketing does work.

At my house we are fully rugged up – I have no business surfing for prospective purchases. But I love rugs, since they are to a home what shoes are to an outfit – they can make or break it.  So as my blog is an excuse to share my many aesthetic obsessions, here I am with my top 5 rugs to make your house a home.


My prized Kelly Wearstler ‘Tracery’ rug. Image Penelope Meredith

Tracery by Kelly Wearstler, The Rug Company

No prizes for innovative naming but The Rug Company does what it says on the tin. Check out the ‘gallery’ on their website for amazing room inspiration. They will bring rugs to your home so you can live with them before you buy. Rightly so – it’s a big investment. But a great service nonetheless, so make sure you ask for it.

The Tracery is the one we have in our lounge at home, hand-knotted from Tibetan cream wool and olive-coloured silk. Yep, totally impractical. My children have been programmed (I mean programmed) to walk around it (I do know how ridiculous this is) and it’s the sole reason for us not having a dog.

Tracery rug by Kelly Wearstler at The Rug Company, from £1,170 per square metre. Shop it here.

paris rug

Flat Iron building on Manhattan rug by Luke Irwin. Image courtesy of Luke Irwin

Luke Irwin’s Manhattan rug

I love all of Luke Irwin‘s rugs because they are so damn luxurious. To feel silk underfoot is pure heaven. My favourite is the Manhattan rug (above) and there’s a Paris version. Beautiful & romantic photographic depictions of two of my favourite cities.

Luke Irwin Manhattan rug, made to order, price on application. Shop it here

HAY rug richard diebenkornwoven ground


If modernism is more your thing, you can’t go wrong with the HAY range of rugs in pure New Zealand wool. I love this brand – and these rugs remind me of Richard Diebenkorn’s ‘Ocean Park’ series of paintings which he painted in Venice, California. The rugs will lend a bright, breezy feel to your home for a fraction of the price of a painting, though the painting’s probably a better investment.

Colour by Design rug by HAY. From £619 at Nest. Shop it here

Scion Fox rug. Image courtesy of John Lewis.

Scion Fox Rug

A great bet for kids rugs – this range by Scion is more graphic and subtle than sickly pinks and spots.  Mr Fox makes a nice change from fairies & cars – and I think even the little people would choose it.

Mr Fox rug by Scion from John Lewis,  from £180. Shop it here.

Ikea stockholm rug


How could I not mention the Ikea Stockholm rug? Its modern, sharp, black & white design makes it an undeniable winner. Coupled with a Mies Van Der Rohe chair and a nice mid-century cabinet it will look a million dollars.

Ikea Stockholm rug, £100. Shop it here.

Sample Sale

Savings of up to 75% at The Rug Company Sample Sale, from 10am-6pm until 8th March, at Carousel Next Door, 35 Baker Street, London W1U 8EN. Tel: 020 3141 3040.

Not for dogs or children.



How to get the formidable style of Loulou de la Falaise

Inspiration can strike me anytime, anywhere (the inside of a piece of fruit, a building, a feeling) but also there can be no doubt of the influence certain women have had on my style over the years – those I have been fortunate enough to meet and those I haven’t, like Louise Vava Lucia Henriette Le Bailly de la Falaise. (I know!).

Loulou photographed by Eric Malanga in 1971

A style icon

Loulou was probably best known as Yves Saint Laurent’s muse. Such was her influence that people would speak of ‘Yves Saint Loulou’, when discussing his latter collections for the fashion house. Loulou shone – with an interesting mix of French elegance, bohemian eccentricity and worldly exoticism. She was a true original, with a playfulness and humour that explains how she maintained a style that was whimsical and youthful, even in her later years. She died in 2011, aged 63, but her style still speaks to me and I’m seeing her in fashion everywhere right now.

Loulou and Yves Saint Laurent. Le Monde

8 top tips for getting the Loulou look

Loulou would have loved the folkloric essence of Dodo Bar Or and Vita Kin, the bold cottons at Fendi and interesting, crisp shirting at Palmer Harding. These are my picks though:

1. White and oversized.

For the elegant, easy Riviera vibe that Loulou did so well, you can’t beat a white dress. My favourite of the spring summer 2017 collections is this one by Rochas, coming soon to Matchesfashion.com.

Rochas backless dress. Image courtesy of matchesfashion.com

Your whites don’t have to be new. Vintage cotton has a wonderful, starchy feel that looks even better with a bit of a crumple. Grab a man’s vintage dress shirt (I’ve found good ones at The Old Electric Shop in Hay On Wye, the Es Canar market in Ibiza…you might even get lucky in Oxfam). Wear over a bikini for a cool alternative to a floaty cover-up.

Loulou at sea. Image courtesy of NY Times.

2. Scarves

An old french bed sheet, torn (not cut) into a large strip, looks great. Refer to Liberty’s handy box of scarf styling cards to help you perfect your headscarf tying (below, £15. A great gift). Of course, the look works all the better for being on a yacht in the Med.

3. Get your folk on

Loulou outside the original Rive Gauche boutique, Elle Magazine.

For one, fun, folky piece look to Vita Kin, who has made traditional Ukraine style a fashion statement. Her influence has filtered down onto the high street but the real deal is beautifully embroidered and worth every penny.

Pandora Sykes wearing Vita Kin. Image courtesy of pandorasykes.com

Vita Kin dress, around £1100 at Farfetch.com. Image courtesy of The Sunday Times

Dodo Bar Or‘s collection has the same bohemian feel, slightly cheaper and made from ultra soft cotton.

Nathaniel top by Dodo Bar Or. Around £250. Image courtesy of Nawo.com

4. Colour burst.

MSGM has made me happy this season with a brilliant, machine washable top in the perfect shade of red. For something more slinky, Stella McCartney has an orange silk shirt (£395, at net-a-porter). For both, just add jeans.

MSGM top, £240 at matchesfashion.com.

5. Vintage denim vibe.

Speaking of jeans, I can’t think of anyone who would have rocked these better than Loulou. A high waist, a 70’s leg and a vintage wash. How fitting that they are from the new Saint Laurent collection. £420 at Matchesfashion.com

Saint Laurent mid-rise flared jeans. Image courtesy of matchesfashion.com

6. Load up on gems.

Loulou de La Falaise was famed for her accessories. For Loulou-inspired bling, check out Vestiaire or Re-See, where you can find exceptional vintage pieces from prestigious brands. It’s also worth scouring antique markets (such as Alfie’s in London). Don’t save big, bold jewellery for special occasions.

Loulou at home in Paris. Image by Pascal Chevalier, courtesy of Vogue Espana.

Chanel purple resin bangle set, 250 euros at Re-See.com

Christian Lacroix vintage couture necklace, 590 euros at Re-See.com

7. Clutch

How about a bistrot-chair turned clutch bag to perk up your summer look? This one gets my vote, not just because you can practically wash sticky fingers and sand off it. Balenciaga woven bistrot clutch, £765 at Browns.

Balenciaga clutch, £765 at brownsfashion.com

8. Loulou on a budget

The headscarf again – this time look on Ebay for a lungi dhoti sarong. Mirrored shades can be found at Camden Market for around £5. Add Nars lipstick in Niagara for a perfect, peachy lip – it’s the coral that suits everyone.

Loulou photographed by Eric Bowman, 1972.

If I haven’t given you enough, you can read/see more in this book. I admit I bought it for the cover (I’m a sucker for anything by Rizzoli) but it’s as readable as it is beautiful.

My well-thumbed book, published by Rizzoli

In the meantime, I’m off to Lanzarote. To channel Loulou. See you next week.


The secret to finding a bra that fits: Hire an expert

I don’t cry often, but one thing that’s guaranteed to bring me to tears is bra shopping.

I mean, how hard can it be? I’m fairly in proportion and, after a multitude of disasters – not very fussy. But I don’t have much meat on my ribs and so under-wires dig in and non-wired bras ride up and practically fly off into the distance, without any weight of breast to keep them in place.

I tend to throw money at the equation (La Perla, Myla) but even then there’s no guarantee I’ll find anything that works. And the older I get, the harder it becomes.

Lingerie at Keturah Brown – image Penelope Meredith

The expert

Lingerie stylist and ‘fit expert’ Monica Harrington has been a life-changer for me. Her credentials are impressive – she’s been in the lingerie business for over 30 years, working for major brands in product development, fitting and training, styling lingerie on shoots for prestigious campaigns and helping breast cancer patients, post surgery. She has private clients too. I wanted to find out what she could do for me.

Let’s just say that this lady has not only transformed my underwear drawer but also my approach to dressing. So I am writing about her. She should not be a secret.

Monica Harrington. Image Alex Taibel

The underwear edit

Monica arrived at my home with a selection of underwear, Irish warmth…and a sense of humour, which helped, given the sad state of my boobs (Monica says it’s common for women to lose the fullness in the top half of the cup after breastfeeding). She guessed my size immediately then declared my bras too big across the back and too flimsy to give any real form.

The lingerie selection. Image Alex Taibel

Getting the perfect shape

I’ve always favoured quite racy bras (what I lack in boob I like to think I make up for in style) but Monica also showed me that t-shirt bras don’t have to be bulky and boring. I’m probably the only woman on the planet who doesn’t own a t-shirt bra. It’s a big moment for me.

Fitting the Triumph Amourette. Image Alex Taibel

The Triumph Amourette spotlight underwire bra she brought along was not only a perfect fit but a snip at £32 and so comfortable I now have to force myself to wear anything else. My boobs are so good in t-shirts that I keep asking my friends to have a feel. I bet everyone who’s been Monica’d does this.

The right underwear for the right outfit

Another predicament is matching the right underwear for each piece of clothing. I quickly realise that Monica has this down to a fine art. First up – my off the shoulder dress by Saloni that I wear without a bra. I didn’t think I minded going bra-less, until I was helped into a Simone Perele plunge bra and saw the dress take on a different shape altogether.

Monica explained that when the boobs are lifted properly it creates more length in the body and thus more definition to the waist. I saw the difference immediately. And I’m not sure how I lived without this bra, which is a secure, seamless fit, with ‘lotion touch’ microfibre and straps that can be worn 8 different ways (or not at all). It is absolutely perfect for the current one-shoulder/off-shoulder trend. Priced at £56.

Some Spanx high waisted shorts (shapewear, as Monica calls it) were 100% invisible under the bottom half of the dress and also rescued my Adam Lippes cream jumpsuit – a beautiful piece of clothing in a notoriously unforgiving colour and the only unworn item in my wardrobe (due to the underwear/knickerline dilemma).

I suspect he designed this jumpsuit for someone with a cleavage, but Monica quickly gave me one, thanks to a Triumph magic boost bra and a bit of hoisting and tweaking. My breasts looked majestic, but not over the top (I’m not sure they ever could). A Triumph indeed.

Shopping for lingerie

We ventured out – to Keturah Brown, a little independent boutique in Primrose Hill. It’s an aladdin’s cave, bursting at the seams with every conceivable lingerie item you could wish for. I wouldn’t have known where to start, but Monica got stuck in and by the time we’d finished I had bought four different sets of beautiful lingerie, with some altered to fit.

Monica in action at Keturah Brown. Image Penelope Meredith

Keturah Brown’s owner will literally cut a chunk out of the back of your bra (eek) and re-position the fastening, for a closer fit. It’s reassuring that she’s a lingerie maker by trade but still you’ll be glad it’s over before you can blink or indeed question whether you actually want someone to take scissors to your new expensive bra.

Bra alterations at Keturah Brown. Image Penelope Meredith

It’s an amazing alteration service. Hashtag shop local. You don’t get that in a department store.

Now it’s a perfect fit. Image Alex Taibel

Here’s what I learned

  1. How to put on a bra. No, you do not fasten it in front of you and then twist it around. (This was the only time I heard Monica get cross). Arms go in first, then bend over and shimmy yourself into the cups before you fasten behind you. It is not something I am going to show you a photo of.
  2. Every size has a sister size. So my 30B is also the equivalent to a 32C. Me! A C cup!
  3. The lifespan of a bra is 6 months, if you wear it often. Oops.
  4. My right boob is my fuller boob – apparently we all have one side bigger than the other. Compensate for this by adjusting one strap slightly looser (on the ‘full boob’ side) than the other.
  5. Lingerie shopping can be fun.
  6. Bras can be comfortable.
  7. Triumph is not an old lady brand.
  8. The right underwear can transform an outfit.
  9. I am not a freak.
  10. Hire an expert.


Visit Monica Harrington’s website for more information or to book a private visit.

All photography by Alex Taibel unless otherwise stated. With thanks.


For great style, you need great hair

There’s nothing quite like a good haircut. You can literally feel the magic happen. You bounce out of the salon and glide down the street, feeling quite marvellous and unstoppable. Everything you try on looks good. Your boring old clothes suddenly look super-stylish. You want to go out for lunch, dinner, drinks, more drinks…oh to never have to go home and sleep on it.


Darren and I in NYC.

There are few people who can work that magic. Darren Smalley is one of them. I met him at Fourth Floor and went to him for years until he abandoned me to go and live in New York, where I continued to go for my haircuts – ridiculous, perhaps, but such is the Darren effect.

One time, after a new cut, we went for cocktails in the East Village (Darren is also a dear friend and bloody good company) and our server kept raving about my hair. I laughed along, assuming they knew each other, but after a night of her begging for my hairdresser’s number I came to realise she had no idea he was sitting next to me. She genuinely thought my hair was fantastic. It was.

You need to know that I don’t have easy hair. It’s curly (when it chooses to be), frizzy, untameable, uncool. Anyone can give it a trim and use tongs to make it look pretty, but I hate the tonged, one-look-fits-all and I’m certainly not going to spend more than about 3 minutes on it, post-salon. So I need someone who can really cut. Darren has given me short crops, long waves, heavy fringes (bangs, depending on where you come from). I’ve loved them all. Everyone I’ve sent to him has fallen for him too.

So onto the main reason for my post. Darren is coming to town. He might as well be Santa Claus. Call him. See him. Let him do whatever he wants to do to you. Trust me (and him).


Darren is coming to London

I have to credit my other hair stylist here, who I see in Darren’s long absences (he now lives in San Francisco, sees clients in New York every so often, and LA too, but it’s not easy for us to coincide). So, “j’ai deux amours…par eux toujours, mon coeur est ravi” as the song goes. The other man is Billi Currie, who owns a super-friendly urban salon of the same name in Chiltern Street. He has innate talent and years of expertise (25 years at Vidal Sassoon). I begged for his number from a stranger I spotted with great hair. She warned me that he was expensive, but worth every penny.

billi currie 2

Billi Currie on Chiltern Street, Marylebone

Think of a good haircut in cost-per-wear terms (it makes it an absolute bargain). Go see one of my boys – and then tell me you don’t feel like your christmases have all come at once.

Darren Smalley, in London now – until 10th August 2016. For appointments tel (UK) 07842 821052 or (USA) 646 670 0660. email darsmalley@me.com

Billi Currie, 47 Chiltern Street, W1U 6LX. Tel 020 7486 9016. www.billicurrie.com



Stylish luggage for special travels

I’m sure I’m not the only person who is thinking of escaping to sunnier climes right now. I’m daydreaming about travel, and remembering my trips away with my eldest daughter. We go away together for one weekend every year – just the two of us. I like to think these little trips expand her mind and cement our bond but I think for her it’s more about the shopping.

Pen & Mabel

Me with my daughter Mabel. Photo: Patrick Cadell

Once we were shopping at Merci in Paris, where she found a little old-fashioned suitcase in a pretty Liberty print. She then spotted one with cartoon shapes to colour in, at which point all her dreams came true. Virgo mum, on the other hand, began to panic about how awful it would look when she took a felt-tip to it. But years later, in spite of her allowing anyone to have a go, or perhaps because of that, it has become the perfect little piece of nostalgia that sparks luggage envy, even in me.


Liberty print case. Image courtesy of Merci, Paris.


Mabel’s case.

I recently came across the grown-up case to rival my daughter’s. It might have been the pop of pink that caught my eye, but all of the Steamline Luggage colours are heavenly – and not all of them are sickly sweet. These vintage style cases are handcrafted, with the latest functionality (silent wheels, extendable handles) and give a lot of style for your money (the carry-on starts at around £300).

bel air luggage

Steamline Luggage. Image courtesy of SteamlineLuggage.com


Steamline luggage. Image courtesy of cashandrocket.com


REISS X Steamline Luggage. Image courtesy of anouska.net

If money is no object, my luggage of choice would be Goyard, a French house with exquisite craftsmanship that dates back to the 1800s. A Goyard trunk will become an heirloom – it looks better with wear and age (how great is that) and looks just as good in the home, when not in use.

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Vintage Goyard trunk. Image courtesy of plinth.com

The ‘personalisation’ section of the Goyard website is a wonderful way to waste time – enter your initials and select your colours from the endless combinations. They will hand-paint them onto your purchase, the same way they did more than 160 years ago for the aristocracy. My coated canvas Goyard bag has proved to be a fantastic chuck-everything-in travel bag, and the fact that it is emblazoned with my initials makes me think that nobody will ever steal it.


In France, with my girls and my Goyard

The pieces I have talked about here are all extravagant, but they’re classic. And if your budget doesn’t stretch that far, you could try Vestiaire (for pre-owned Goyard that you can be sure is authentic), or Ebay and Etsy – for antique travel trunks. Either way, a great piece of luggage makes a perfect gift. What special god-son or daughter wouldn’t love something that comes with style and the promise of adventure?


Image courtesy of Steamlineluggage.com

I will probably have to keep carrying my little grey Eastpack for the time being, especially as I wouldn’t trust any of these pieces near the hold of a sleazyjet flight, but one day I will take great delight in handing my Goyard suitcase to my gloved driver who will place it carefully in the back of my yellow e-Type and drive me to the South of France.

Travel is the stuff that dreams are made of, after all.

3.8 E-Type Roadster (1961-1964)

3.8 E-Type Jaguar. Image courtesy of hemmings.com


Steamline Luggage is based in New York and Dublin and ships internationally. www.steamlineluggage.com

Merci is a concept & lifestyle store in Paris that donates all its profits to charity. 111 Boulevard Beaumarchais, 75003 Paris. www.merci-merci.com.

Goyard, ‘malletier’ (maker of luggage and suitcases), is a French company based at 233 and 352 Rue St Honoré, 75001 Paris. www.goyard.com


Buy My Wardrobe blitz


Image by Andrew Morrell

A quick post to celebrate the fact that in two days’ time my home will be tidy and my cupboards bare.

Well, not quite, but I am clearing out my closet. I do it for my clients – help them to get rid of the things that once worked beautifully but don’t anymore – and now it’s my turn.

I invest in clothes for the long-term, so my cherished pieces are things I bought many seasons (or decades) ago. I hope to still be wearing those in my old age, if my girls haven’t wrestled them from me (they are already deciding who gets what when I die). However, I also own lots of random things I was given when I was working as a stylist on shoots. Add to that designer samples, vintage pieces that I buy for research and things I’ve bought to ‘beef up’ my wardrobe each year – and it amounts to a mountain of quite wonderful stuff – that I am selling this Saturday (17th October 2015) at the Buy My Wardrobe event at The Roof Gardens in Kensington.

It’s a ticket-only event (tickets available from www.buymywardrobe.com). There are lots of lovely sellers with lovely things and a percentage of the money generated goes to the Syrian Refugees.

On my stand you’ll find brands including Acne, Isabel Marant, Christopher Kane, Preen, Theory, J Brand, Marni and Manolo Blahnik, along with me – blindfolded and tied to my seat so I don’t buy someone else’s wardrobe.

Hope to see you there,