Shoes made for walkin’. My top 5 flats for winter.

As I write this, the rain is pounding on my window and shows no sign of letting up. I have been in denial about the onset of autumn and steadfastly wearing my sneakers. Digging my heels in, as it were. It’s still warm, so I’m not giving up on bare legs just yet, but the time has come to trade my summer shoes for something more sturdy. So off my red satin Manolo flats go to the menders (or should I say miracle-workers, in the case of KG Shoes on Eversholt Street in Camden) for a new sole, a new heel and some tlc. I do this with all my summer shoes so they are good as new when I unpack them next spring.

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Image courtesy of Who What Wear

Anyway, back to rainy October. I’ve lived through 42 British winters (save for a few years in Paris and Vancouver, but it rained there too) so you’d think I’d be ready for it. But no. It always takes me by surprise and somehow leaves me wondering what on earth I wore this time last year.

It could have been my cherished, beaten up pair of python cowboy boots, bought from R Soles on the King’s Road some fifteen years ago. They are great with most things, but the water seeps into the leather sole so they’re definite dry-day shoes. Or my Le Chameau fleece-lined wellies, a lovely gift from my husband who got fed up of me moaning about cold, wet feet. They certainly do the job, but more for the Welsh mountains than a meeting at a silk-carpeted designer boutique. I do have other options, so of course I can make do. But if I were to upgrade, here’s where I’d go.

My selection of top 5 flats for winter.

1. Francesco Russo box leather loafers (below), £595. matchesfashion.com 

Even as recently as last year, the only places you could get your hands on a pair of Francesco Russo‘s shoes was at his boutique in Paris or Bergdorf Goodman in New York. He’s best-known known for his incredibly glamourous, sexy heels, so imagine my surprise – and delight – at finding these sturdy, elegant, winter flats. They are gorgeous with a bare foot (I know, not for long), a sock or thick tights. They give a modern edge to pretty dresses too.

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Francesco Russo boutique, Paris. Image courtesy of Francesco Russo

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Francesco Russo box shoes. Image courtesy of matches fashion.com

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Francesco Russo box shoes. Image courtesy of Matchesfashion.com

2. Dries Van Noten Flatform oxford shoes (below), £495. Selfridges

I really, really dislike platform soles. But with these I’m eating my words. Ok, so they’re only 1.5″ high but they have a definite platform sole and are the first pair of big bad guys that I would actually wear. I have always liked chunky shoes on other people, but on me they feel ridiculous. These, however, feel quite swish (the leather is shiny, not quite patent) and the extended sole has the effect of making the foot seem more slender, so they’re not like wearing bricks. They’re lightweight, super-comfy, with a practical rubber sole. Playful, grown-up fashion.

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Dries Van Noten Flatform shoes. Image courtesy of Selfridges.com

3. Saint Laurent signature jodhpur ankle boot (below), £620. Selfridges

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Saint Laurent signature jodhpur ankle boot. Image courtesy of modesens.com

Just enough heel, not too much. Just enough point, not too much. How does Saint Laurent do it every season? (I know how…but her name is sacred…and she’s wanted by all of the top fashion houses, unsurprisingly). I’d style these with any old jean and any old jumper, because that’s all you’d need.

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Not Saint Laurent boots. But they’d work well with this look. Image courtesy of girlsinspo

4. Spice by C Doux – 7201 (below). £249. Spice Shoes

If you like the Saint Laurent look but your shoe budget won’t stretch that far, these are a fine alternative. The last is really good, so they’re flattering and comfy. The leather is beautiful (the photo doesn’t do them justice). These are available at Spice’s lovely little boutique in Primrose Hill – where I have been going for years, specifically for C Doux (their own line). Now available online too.

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5. Prada lace-ups in orchid pink (below), £730. Prada

How I love to end a post on something pink. Not only pink, but orchid pink, if you please. And patent. With colour-matched laces. And an illustration of a daffodil on the toe. They might take a bit more thought on the styling front, but if these don’t put a smile on your face, I don’t know what will.

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Prada lace-ups in orchid pink. Image courtesy of Prada.com

 

Why I love pre-loved

I realised this week that some of the things in my wardrobe I wear the most, cost the least. Not all (take my eye-wateringly expensive Louis Vuitton heels, the price of a small car), but a lot. And these items weren’t cheap because they’re cheaply made or mass-produced – far from it. They were cheap because (while I’m on the car theme) they’d had one or more previous owners.

As a stylist I am always on the job – in constant scanning mode – hunting out interesting, cool pieces for my clients and occasionally for myself. I’ve bought some absolute gems from Buy My Wardrobe over the years, with such success that the cost per wear of these items is now in the pennies rather than the pounds.

Buy My Wardrobe is a friendly London boutique where fashion lovers sell and buy designer clothing. Some of the items have never been worn – and those that have are immaculate (they won’t sell anything tarnished or dated). They currently have a cute, corner pop-up site in Notting Hill’s Portobello Road, where I picked out my favourite pieces and took to the streets.

Here’s what I found and loved…

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Valentino Red black prom dress, £160. (Pictured above and below, with Alaia wool biker jacket, £495). An evening dress where your armpits can breathe is so useful. Plus it will last longer, since dry cleaning doesn’t always remove odour or deodorant marks. These things are important! This cute lbd feels so free & easy. It gives good shape. The taffeta is swishy and fun. At 40 plus, it’s sometimes nice to feel girly again.

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Valentino Red dress, Alaia biker jacket (over arm), from Buy My Wardrobe. Rupert Sanderson heels and Celine sunglasses, my own.

Chanel scallop-edge cardigan, £650. (Pictured below, with Sophie Hulme nude oversized clutch, £195). One hundred percent delicious, luxury cashmere, with a scooped hem, like a tail coat. This is my definition of lounge-luxury. Crawl out of bed, add any jeans, any t-shirt, any shoes – and this. A sumptuous, easy throwover piece that you will never want to take off.

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Both pictures: Chanel cardi-coat, Sophie Hulme clutch, from Buy My Wardrobe. Uniqlo jeans, Rupert Sanderson shoes and Celine sunglasses, my own.

Alaia knitted top and skirt set, £400. Acne silver shoes, £150. Saint Laurent jacket, £895. Chanel bag, £690. (Pictured below). First time around this outfit would have cost just shy of £5k. Each piece is as good as new – and can be styled individually as well as worn together. Wear the silver shoes with jeans, the lace jacket with smart crepe evening trousers, and of course the Chanel bag with everything.

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Saint Laurent jacket, Alaia skirt and top, Acne shoes, Chanel bag, all from Buy My Wardrobe. Celine sunglasses, my own.

Valentino dress, £1495. (Pictured below). More Valentino, this time from the mainline collection. What a dress this is. If I owned it I would be going out all the time. It ticks all my boxes – it shows just the right amount of flesh, it’s classic but unusual, looks elegant and sophisticated and feels AMAZING to wear. Most of the photos are of this dress because I didn’t want to take it off. Who cares if it’s not my size?

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Chanel jacket, £1150. (Pictured below). I sometimes wonder how people buy Chanel first time around when you can go on an exotic holiday for the price of a jacket. (But that’s only my current mood. Usually I’d go for the jacket). This one has the soft, relaxed feel of slipping on an old cardigan with the structure of something more serious. I love the cut of this. It has removable sleeves so can be worn as a gilet too, though I’m not sure I ever would. But if you would, you’re getting two jackets in one. With almost enough left over for a holiday.

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Chanel jacket, from Buy My Wardrobe. Uniqlo jeans and Celine sunglasses, my own.

Ralph Lauren silk chiffon blouse, £60. Celine bag, £550. Chanel jacket, £895. (Pictured below). More Chanel. A cute and easy black jacket with nude-pink fringe detail. A really good, simple piece with just enough detail. I’ve put it with a silk chiffon blouse here, a bargain by Ralph Lauren at £60 (with a camisole to go underneath), but I’d also wear it with an plain white t-shirt, jeans and sneakers.

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Both pictures: Chanel jacket, Ralph Lauren blouse, Celine bag, all from Buy My Wardrobe. Uniqlo jeans, Rupert Sanderson shoes and Celine sunglasses, my own.

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Be quick – the Buy My Wardrobe pop-up store is at 199 Portobello Road until Saturday 4th October 2015. After that you can visit them at their usual residence on Seymour Place, W1.

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You’ll also find find them – and me (selling my wares) – at the Roof Gardens designer sale on 17 October 2015. It’s a ticket-only event. I’ll post more info next week. Hope to see you there!

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Inside the Buy My Wardrobe pop-up shop, 199 Portobello Rd

Buy My Wardrobe, 17 Seymour Place, London W1H 5BF. Tel: +44 (0)20 7258 7548

www.buymywardrobe.com

 

Photography: All photographs by Catherine Naylor-Leyland unless stated otherwise.

Please note: I take no responsibility for availability of any of the items featured or the prices quoted. I am always interested to hear your views on my selections and suggestions. If you like what you see here, please feel free to share it and credit me as the source. Thank you!

Love thy neighbourhood – PRESS of Primrose Hill

There is much to love about Primrose Hill. It has exquisite, battenberg coloured houses, beautiful green spaces and endless street cafés – plus it’s a cheap cab ride into town if you can’t be bothered to walk across the magnificent Regent’s Park to get there. But what I love most is the fact that the high street doesn’t (yet) look like every other high street in the country. Here you can find some genuinely independent, interesting boutiques with passionate owners who remain at the heart of this rather special neighbourhood.

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Chalcot Square, NW1. Image courtesy of relocatemagazine.com

One such place is PRESS, a small but perfectly formed womenswear store run by Melanie Press, who cleverly combines ultra-wearable basics with new designers and vintage finds. It was here, 8 years ago, that I bought my first high-waisted jeans (by Nobody…I have yet to find a pair I like better), here that I discovered R13 (the most I have ever spent on a t-shirt…and the most-worn item in my wardrobe) and where I recently stumbled across NLST (more about that later).

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Melanie Press outside her Primrose Hill boutique

This lady has her eye on the ball and her team are great (don’t let the buzzer at the door put you off – just ring the bell and a friendly face will let you in). Melanie, Amelia, Charlie and Laura all have their own distinct style which means they can all give you a different intepretation on a piece. The people I shop for are all different, but I can find something for each of them here.

This week I went to PRESS to see their autumn-winter collections. Here’s what I found…

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Wearing R13 wax joggers, Mr Start shirt and vintage bag, all from PRESS. Nike trainers, my own.

R13 skinny boy jogger. £319 (above and below). I’ve always loved the R13 brand for its lived-in, cool vibe and these luxury joggers do not disappoint. They’re subtly waxed to look a little bit like an old pair of leather trousers, they’re warm, slouchy and narrow on the leg so the shape is refined enough to wear with heels. They have a non-bulky drawstring waist, great for hiding winter comfort food. And since I have yet to find any interesting jeans this season, these will be a great substitute.

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R13 wax joggers, Mr Start shirt and vintage bag, all at PRESS. Nike trainers, my own.

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Mr Start belle pique shirt. £149. (Above). A terrific cut. Oversized but flattering, in crisp,  white poplin. The most perfect white shirt.

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Gat Rimon navy sweater. £120. (Above and below). Unless you want to spend a small fortune on a Proenza or Barrie knit, winter woollies are usually pretty dull. So I was thrilled to find this chic sweater which happens to be a great basic with a bit of detail. It’s 100% merino wool (the soft type, not the itchy type), it’s washable (by hand) and the sleeves are lovely and long to cover part of the hand when you’re hugging that hot mug of tea. It’s fitted enough to tuck into a midi-skirt, loose enough to wear over jeans. Also available in grey and black.

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NLST sleeveless coat and navy Gat Rimon sweater at PRESS. Golden Goose jeans and white Gianvito Rossi stilettos, my own.

NLST sleeveless peacoat. £989. (Above and below). I can already hear you saying ‘I’d at least want sleeves for that price’, but the beauty of this is that you can throw it on over anything in your wardrobe and feel instantly cool. The heavy Japanese wool makes it warm (honestly) and snug, it has muff-type pockets lined in ultra soft corduroy and it’s got slits at the side so you can get in and out of the car without it all bunching up. I never want to see a cardigan again.

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NLST sleeveless coat and Gat Rimon navy sweater at PRESS.

NLST stripy T-shirt. £140. (Below). My NLST obsession continues with this t-shirt. It’s relaxed and oversized but you still wear it rather than it wearing you. It feels light and soft (the fabric is a cashmere blend, hence the hefty price tag) and it’s just so easy.

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NLST stripy t-shirt and Vanessa Bruno leather skirt, both at PRESS. Worn with Louis Vuitton shoes, my own.

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Vanessa Bruno danaid black leather skirt. £380. (Above). Squidgy-soft leather, with pockets (another obsession of mine) and endless possibilities for styling: A chunky aran sweater, tights and ankle boots – a sexy silk blouse, bare legs and heels – or a simple vest and flip flops in summer. Plus, the elasticated waist means it can be worn on the waist or the hips, depending on how much leg you want to reveal.

Speaking of revealing a bit of leg…

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Gat Rimon kimono and vintage leather belt at PRESS. Balenciaga shoes, my own.

Gat Rimon Ruth kimono. £195. (Above). Sex this up by turning it into a dress (belt at the waist, add heels and you have the quickest, easiest evening outfit of all time). It’s short but the fringing adds just enough length and stops it looking like a dressing-gown. It could also be worn dressed-down, to liven up a pair of skinny jeans and a simple white t-shirt, with scruffy old Converse or some cute flats. Christmas party? Summer festival? A year-round, throw-on party piece that comes in solid colours too, if the print is a bit much for you.

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Citizens of Humanity jumpsuit at PRESS. Saint Laurent shoes, my own.

Citizens of Humanity stereo jumpsuit. £365. (Above and below). I am still not bored of onesies and boiler suits. This one is soft, slouchy and feminine. It has buttons at the back so you can adjust the boy-fit and the fabric is lovely and light with just the right amount of distressing. I like that it can be worn with sandals in summer or layered over a polo-neck for warmth in winter. Another year-round piece. If you’re indecisive, this is your outfit. One cool item, add shoes. You’re done.

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Citizens of Humanity jumpsuit at PRESS. Saint Laurent shoes, my own.

A final word about neighbourhood shopping in general. Remember these are smaller stores that don’t carry vast amounts of stock, so if you find your size in something you like you gotta be quick!

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Image courtesy of modemusthaves.com

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Sweet things at PRESS. 3 Erskine Road, London NW3 3AG.

+44 (0)20 7449 0081

www.pressprimrosehill.com

 

 

Photography: All photographs by Catherine Naylor-Leyland unless stated otherwise.

Please note: I take no responsibility for availability of any of the items featured or the prices quoted. I am always interested to hear your views on my selections and suggestions. If you like what you see here, please feel free to share it and credit me as the source. Thank you!

 

Beauty as nature intended

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When it comes to beauty, I’ve learned that good skin is more about what goes into my body than what goes onto it. No amount of anti-wrinkle cream is going to help my lines if I don’t drink enough water and nothing will hide the dark circles if I am deprived of sleep.

I don’t always practice what I preach, but the one thing I try to maintain is a bathroom cabinet of chemical-free, ‘safe’ products for me and my family. Because whatever we put on our skin is absorbed into our body and our bloodstream. Scarily so.

Fortunately, safe doesn’t have to mean boring. Being Content is a little apothecary of holistic beauty and skincare products in Marylebone, London, with cult, cool beauty brands that are all free of synthetic chemicals. It’s so much more inspiring than going to a big department store beauty counter – and I feel reassured by their strict criteria concerning what goes into the products they stock (read their list of what is deemed to be toxic here).

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Warm smiles and a wealth of knowledge at Being Content

Here are 5 products I can’t live without, all found at Being Content:

1. Soapwalla Deodorant Cream. £14. Rub a small amount of this dry paste under your armpits, stay fresh and clean all day. It works a treat and lasts forever. Prepare to be amazed.

2. RMS Beauty Lipshine in Sacred. £22. Quite possibly the freshest, prettiest red on the planet. As seen on Miranda Kerr. I love everything Rose-Marie Swift does (special RMS blog post coming soon).

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Miranda Kerr wears RMS Beauty

3. MV gentle cream cleanser. £34.50. So soft, I can’t believe it lifts all the debris so well. For blissfully clean, soothed, non-squeaky skin. And a rose scent that’s good for the soul.

4. Dr Alkalitis organic enzyme exfoliating mask. £47.75. I have angry skin, so the word exfoliate terrifies me. This is made from oats and is so pure you could eat it.

5. Therapie Roques O’Neill Joie Uplifting Bath Infusion. £44. I used to visit Michelle Roques-O’Neill for aromatherapy massage and was thrilled to see her products on their shelves. This one has magic in it, I swear.

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Sadly, I have yet to find a match for my Armani foundation and I’m too vain to give it up. But I remain hopeful, and willing to down a few extra gallons of water to help my organs process the rubbish in it. Cheers.

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image courtesy of watermakesbeauty.com

BANK HOLIDAY OFFER: Being Content is offering 15% off – enter HOLIDAY at checkout – ends midnight 26th May (GMT).

Being Content: 14 Bulstrode St, Marylebone, London, W1U 2JG
+44(0)20 3075 1006
www.beingcontent.com

 

Feldenkrais for an easier life

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I had intended to write about giving your wardrobe an overhaul, since this time of year is particularly great for a purge – letting go of what’s not working and creating space for the new. But yesterday I went to a Feldenkrais class and I am adamant that this miraculous method is more effective at cleansing and shifting than anything else I have ever come across. And it just so happens to be International Feldenkrais Awareness Week, so the least I can do is spread the word.

Feldenkrais

Feldenkrais (ah the beauty of the written word…I can’t pronounce it…) is a form of movement. The class starts with something simple like turning the head from side to side, then through a series of variations that become quite strange (think lots of rocking) every limb and organ and tissue joins in and after 90 minutes you are rolling around and your body is doing the most amazing things, deeply and effortlessly – and loving you for it.

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If you’re a Barry’s Boot Camp addict you’ll probably hate it. No sweat, no struggle and most of the class is spent lying down (brilliant!), but for all its subtlety and ease the result is ridiculously powerful.

I left feeling light, tall, strong and a bit giddy – with the teacher’s words ringing in my ears: “Do only what feels good. Don’t over-think it. We start with small, easy movements and build up to bigger ones because then the big stuff will be easy too.”

In a world where we (I) make life difficult, by over-thinking, over-reacting and over-complicating, Feldenkrais reminds us to take the easy route.

So today is about small steps. The wardrobe overhaul can wait till next week. Start by getting rid of one item of clothing that doesn’t make you feel good. Then try a Feldenkrais class. Now give yourself a pat on the back.

Further reading;

www.staceypelinka.com/movewelllivewell.html

www.feldenkrais.co.uk

www.triyoga.co.uk

 

Style on the Slopes – here’s how

To look stylish and effortless on the slopes takes a bit of planning. There’s nothing worse than looking like you’ve tried too hard – we’ve all seen people in their four or five-figure ultra-fancy outfits, really bad at skiing or refusing to try, preferring to hog the best sun-spot and not move an inch. Their more hardcore counterparts, meanwhile, are head to toe in neon, or eighties onesies, tearing down the mountain making perfect turns. Good for them. I know which I’d rather be.

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Kate Moss on the slopes. Image courtesy of pandathroughthelookingglass

Fortunately though, there’s also a middle ground. Being both a stylist and a rubbish skier causes me some angst but also puts me in the perfect position to advise. It pains me that my peers ski with style and finesse, while I’m awkward, over-thinking my moves, and I’m chicken. I broke my leg the first time on skis so I reckon I have an excuse for my fear, but since I wasn’t actually skiing at the time I’m not sure that counts.

Next month, my Rescue Remedy and I are returning to the slopes of Serre Chevalier. There’s no doubt that feeling good in what you’re wearing goes a long way, and if I’m going to tackle the reds and not be shown up by my kids, then here’s what I’d like to be wearing:

1. Lacroix Megeve ski pants and Cortina coat, at Matches. White is always chic and feminine, as long as it’s with one other colour only (preferably navy blue or black). With this set you get warmth without bulk.

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Lacroix Megeve ski pants. Image courtesy of Matchesfashion

 

2. Oakley Unisex Splice Goggle at Snow & Rock. You can go a bit wild on the goggles if you stick with block colours for your clothes. These would look great with white, above, or with all-black. They are super-comfortable and won’t mist up.

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Oakley Splice Goggles. Image courtesy of Snow & Rock

 

3. Bern Macon Hard Hat at Absolute SnowI’ll be wearing a helmet. This one’s great because it’s matt (should I be talking about it’s performance?). It’s one of the least-bulky ones too, so you won’t look like you’re about to get on a motorbike.

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Bern helmet. Image courtesy of Absolute Snow.

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4. Inverni Fox Fur Hat at Browns. If you’re opting for a soft hat and trying to perfect the Kate Moss look, this one’s for you. Its simple, elegant shape works on and off the slopes, year on year.  

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Inverni Fox Fur Hat. Image courtesy of Browns.

 

5. Ultra-light down jacket at Uniqlo. Here’s a great liner to go under any jacket and perfect on its own if you get a warm, sunny day on the slopes. Comes in a variety of colours – the inky blue is best for softening an all-black outfit and looks great with any skin tone. Underneath, you’ll need thermals. I like Icebreaker‘s base layers.

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Ultra light down jacket. Image courtesy of Uniqlo

6. Sorel Winter Carnival Boot at Snow & Rock. Elle MacPherson has been papped in her Joan of Arctic ones (around £165), but did you know you can get a thoroughly decent, basic Sorel boot for £85? For off-piste warmth you really can’t beat these.

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Sorel Winter Carnival Boot. Image courtesy of Snow & Rock

 

7. Vintage one-piece ski-suits, available on Etsy and Ebay. I’m not joking. Some of these are quite brilliant, if – here’s the rub – you can ski well enough to carry them off. Admittedly, I’ve picked this one because it is truly dodgy, but if I do see you in it, whizzing past, you’ll forgive a rusty skier for asking you for tips.

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Image courtesy of F is for Fresh on Etsy

If I may have the last word, it has to be about après-ski. Remember, off the slopes it’s a level playing field. My post-ski look is quite another thing. I may have my moment yet.

 

Seduced by the Sales

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Don’t shop the sales! Is what I normally tell people. But every rule has its exception and here’s mine. Shopping online at the very end of the sales can work. Sure, there’s not a great deal left and sizes are few and far between but that just makes it quicker and easier to sift through the dregs. In my case it also happens to be a nice distraction from doing my tax return.

Pick your top 3 websites (I’ve given suggestions at the end of this post), sort by size and see what comes up – you might just find a gem.

Here’s what I’d buy:

Isabel Marant Elmira sequin wrap skirt, now £774 at Matches (was £1,290). If your legs are your best asset, this is a winner. Worn as shown here, or with stilettos and a simple oversized knit, it’s a head-turner, dressed up or down. Note: because the waist is a wrap, it’s adjustable and comes up quite big so you can opt for a size smaller.

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Image courtesy of matchesfashion.com

Ann Demeulemeester Drawstring Top, from Browns, now £70 (was £170). I can’t resist a black basic. My spring uniform is black leggings, worn with Lanvin patent flats or Nicholas Kirkwood pointy ones, with a slouchy top. This one’s great – long enough to cover the essentials, with a drawstring to make it more than a t-shirt and a boat-neck that’s kinda sexy. Easy, chic comfort.

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Image courtesy of brownsfashion.com

Tabitha Simmons Byron suede ankle boots, now £372.50 at Net A Porter. I have these in black leather and hardly take them off. If I could justify having two pairs, I’d get these as well – in soft, grey suede, to wear in spring with a simple white t-shirt and old faded skinny jeans.

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Image courtesy of Styloko

Bizarrely, my accounts didn’t do themselves while I was browsing. So I have to sign off. But I’ll leave you with these websites. Go forth and conquer.

www.matchesfashion.com

www.brownsfashion.com

www.avenue32.com

www.farfetch.com

www.netaporter.com

Ila Spa Kundalini for a natural high

The Ila Spa Kundalini back treatment is what has led me to write this post in a zombie-like state, so it seems fitting that I share my experience. I was going to write about shopping in the sales, but after an hour of being stroked and cupped and goodness knows what (I fell asleep) I can’t even recognise myself, let alone transport my mind back to work and retail.

After the usual over-indulging at Christmas and New Year my family and I sought refuge and detoxification (in the form of yet more indulgence) at the Chewton Glen Hotel & Spa in Hampshire. It’s had a lot of press lately, thanks to celebrities staying in the tree houses which are nestled in the woodland with outdoor hot tubs.

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Outside one of the Treehouse suites at Chewton Glen

The hotel is an easy trek from London (around 2 hours by car) and just a few minutes walk from the sea (20, with two small children in tow). The main hotel is vast, traditional and the interior quite bizarre (Fornasetti wallpaper with lilac banquettes and rich red carpet) but the welcome is warm, the food sensational and the spa treatments pure heaven.

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Chewton Glen spa pool. Image courtesy of Relais & Chateaux

I love Ila Spa products. The ingredients are really, really pure and harvested to capture vibrational energies. Even if you don’t go for that kind of thing (which I do), they smell divine and work like a dream. I was keen to experience their treatments, to say the least.

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Image courtesy of Ila-Spa.com

The Kundalini back treatment in fact starts at the feet, with a scrub ‘for grounding’. Then there’s a gentle massage which, rather than kneading and pummelling is more of a light sweep along the spine. The lightness of touch leads you into extreme relaxation, which is what the energy-based treatment is designed to do. The seven chakras are cupped, to flush away blockages, before warm herbal compresses are placed along the spine and I can’t really remember much else.

Except that my husband said I looked ‘wasted’ when I got back to our room and promptly booked one for himself.

We booked our stay via Mr and Mrs Smith. Kundalini Back Treatment by Ila Spa at Chewton Glen, £99 (1 hour).

www.chewtonglen.com

www.ila-spa.com

www.mrandmrssmith.com

 

Christmas Shopping on Christmas Eve

Forgive the brevity of this post but it’s 10pm on Christmas Eve and I have sprouts to prep and gifts to wrap. For any truly last-minute folk who have avoided the shops and need good gifts in the nick of time, here are five grand gestures that could be written into a card – to show love, thought and effort.

1. A London-Paris-Venice trip on the Orient Express. Romantic, elegant, refined travel in Art Deco luxury. From £1990 per person. www.belmond.com/venice-simplon-orient-express

NOV_Orient Express-2_700

Photographs by Max Cardelli for Marie Claire UK

2. Tranquility at The Aman Spa at The Connaught, London. The North America Signature Treatment lasts 2hrs 30 mins and consists of ‘a sage & cedar wood smudging and hot river stone massage, used to turn over a new leaf’. £280. www.the-connaught.co.uk/aman-spa

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Image courtesy of The Connaught

3. Fresh flowers to your door, every month, from Bloom & Wild. The gift that keeps on giving. You’ll be remembered every month – not just at Christmas. From £50 for 3 months of flowers.  www.bloomandwild.com

Bloom & Wild

Image courtesy of www.theguardian.com

4. A literary gift box from Heywood Hill, Mayfair’s magical bookstore where Nancy Mitford worked in World War II. Buy a one-off box for Christmas – or four elegantly packaged and expertly sourced packages of books throughout the year. Choose from collections such as The Cool Classics (£100), The Discerning Gentleman (£270) or tell them a bit about the recipient and go bespoke. www.heywoodhill.com

heywood hill

Image courtesy of Heywood Hill

5. Letterpress stationery delivered to your door. Hand-picked, letterpress cards sent to your recipient each month. For stationery junkies everywhere. From $40 for 2 months. You might even get a written thank you. www.nicelynoted.com

letterpress

Of course you could always buy them a wardrobe detox or a shopping trip to remember – www.penelopemeredith.com.

Whatever you give or receive I send you blessings and good wishes for a wonderful Christmas. See you next year…

 

 

My Top 6 Luxury Gifts For Christmas

In my teens, my Christmas list read as follows: Compilation cassette, hair crimpers, anything from Miss Selfridge and a No7 lipstick (Twilight Teaser).

Nowadays, my tastes are a little more sophisticated but there’s nothing I really need. I’m lucky to have a lovely home, full of things I treasure. And since clutter makes me crazy, it has to be something pretty special to fight for a place on my list – and in my house.

But here it is – my top 6 for Christmas – priced low to high (£10 to £5000). All useful or beautiful, (some both) and most work for guys too.

1. Socks. Yes, really. Ten fine pounds will buy a pair of Falke Sensitive London socks. Soft cotton, gentle cuff, smooth seams and shaped so they don’t bunch up inside your footwear. Of course, you have to put them on the correct foot, but the L and R indicators should eliminate confusion. A sock for anal Virgos (and yes I am one).

socks

2. Anything smelly by (Madame) Micheline Arcier, specifically her Harmonie bath oil (£40-60). For boys, Elan Vital bath oil serves to ‘ease aching limbs, muscular pains and the strains of everyday life’. A potent dose of heaven in a bottle. Available at Les Senteurs, which is worth a trip in itself.

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Les Senteurs, W1. Image courtesy of The Portman Estate

3. £50-350. A candle. The most boring gift turns into the most delightful when it comes from Cire Trudon, Le Labo or Astier de Villatte. You get a beautifully scented home and a stylish vessel (Cire Trudon’s dark green glass is hand blown, Astier de Villatte’s white ceramic pots are beautiful for pencils/brushes – and Le Labo’s glass candles make fine G&T tumblers post-burn). All are made from ‘safe’ wax (free of paraffin and petrochemicals), so they tick that box too. My favourite scent of them all is Odalisque by Cire Trudon. They burn it in Céline.

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All wrapped up at Cire Trudon, Chiltern Street W1

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Astier de Villatte ceramic candles. Image courtesy of WGSN.

le labo

4. Ercolano Jewellery Box. Bold, graphic designs in interesting colours – a little showcase of Italian craftsmanship. Great in any home, traditional or modern. I would never tire of looking at this. Functional and beautiful. £300-600. From The Conran Shop and Barneys.

ercolano

Ercolano Jewellery Box. Image courtesy of Elle Decor

5. The ultimate white shirt from Charvet, French master shirt-maker. Over the years, Charvet has boasted a client list of fashion royalty, kings and heads of state. Coco Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent and John F Kennedy can’t be wrong. Their website doesn’t appear to be working today, but you can visit them in Paris at 25 Place Vendôme. Around £300 for ready to wear, £1000 for bespoke. Some pieces available online at Mr Porter.

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Sophia Coppola wearing Charvet. Image courtesy of iwanttobeacoppola.com

6. The Vitra ES104 Lobby Office Chair by Charles and Ray Eames. Originally designed for the Rockefeller Centre in New York. Iconic and ergonomic, if not economic. A beauty. £4808 at The Conran Shop.

Lobby Chair ES 104

Lobby Chair ES104. Image courtesy of Vitra

Next week’s post – buying at the eleventh hour – gift ideas for the disorganised shopper.

I also offer a gift sourcing service. Please contact me for more information.