Take home the classic British sentiment of retaining a stiff upper lip at all times with this World War II reproduction from the V&A Museum shop (incidentally, one of my favourite London shopping destinations).
Had your fill of high-street goodness at Oxford Circus’ Topshop? Want something cool and edgy to add to your ensemble? Then run, don’t walk, to Beyond the Valley, just a hop, skip and a jump away over on Newburgh Street, just behind Carnaby Street. This beyond-hip store is a London shopping highlight, with an energetic fusion of fashion, homewares, accessories, jewellery, books, zines and art. With a gallery space in one of the front rooms, the store holds regular exhibitions that showcase the work of young and upcoming designers and artists. In fact, the owners of Beyond the Valley are all Central St Martins graduates themselves, so they’re in a good position to foster and nurture new talent.
From the recent Fabrications exhibition.
The store features loads of fun and innovative wares, which come together in a dazzling display that gives you a massive shot of inspiration and product-lust. The Autumn/Winter fashion line-up includes Icelandic funky knitwear label Mundi Designs, as well as other indie labels including Makin Jan Mar, Starstyling, Vita Vass, Celia Sorenson and Alexandra Groover. Beyond the Valley regulars Yuko Yoshitake and Australian label Life with Bird are a welcome inclusion to the range, as well as their own house label which combines edgy and affordability, with prices starting at £35.
For those with a love for quirky-‘n’-cool jewellery, there’s Miss Bibi’s covetable (but pricey) tiny gold stiletto earrings (£208), chandelier necklace (£188) and ornate gold frame brooch (£144). At the other end of the price scale, there’s a delightful glazed porcelain thunder cloud brooch from Me Me Me for £28. Don’t miss Zoe Morgan’s playful perspex jewellery and Bow Belle’s adorable bow brooch and necklace.
But there are other surprises in stores, such as Lucy May Schofield's endearing notelet range, which includes old-school typewritten notes that take flirting and courtship to a whole new level. These tiny bound perforated notes feature phrases that are simple and sweet, without the Hallmark sap, such as “You make me handsomely happy”. Pop it in your partner’s lunchbox for a little extra non-SMS, non-Facebook sweetness. And flirt with ease with notes from the “Pulling” series, with phrases such as “I like your smile”. Genius.
Best buys include Beyond the Valley’s gorgeous laser-cut mirrors, including a unicorn (from £45) and magpie (from £28). The recycled leather slippers in beige and grey from Unu are also a good buy at £24. I’m also loving the excellent range of printed packaging tapes, with prices starting at £6 (brilliant on brown paper parcels!). Equally impressive is their line-up of original wallpapers, such as a gorgeous handprinted swallow paper for £140. And make sure you check out Matt Smith’s playful and elegant porcelain range, such as the rutting stag dishes (two for £25) and the deer cup and saucer for £50.
And I’ve got a big soft spot for this black cat tea cosy for £50:
An oldie but a goodie. And heading into a dreary old October in London, this “essence of Spring” will do well to remind me of walking in the Devon countryside in April and stumbling upon a heavenly carpet of bluebells.
In Ruby Country, Devon. April, 2007.
The Bluebell bath oil is Penhaligon’s number one cult beauty product. For the ultimate bluebell experience, layer with the delicate floral eau de toilette. I love the old-fashioned glass bottle and matching wee ribbon.
Penhaligon's Bluebell Eau de Toilette Spray 50ml, £50.
Penhaligon’s has been around since 1891, and in this time it has earned itself a couple of royal warrants. One of its oldest fragrances is the citrus-y Blenheim Bouquet for blokes – apparently Winston Churchill was a fan.
Penhaligon’s Blenheim Eau de Toilette Spray, 50ml, £45.
There's been a steady stream of visitors to my part of the world recently, and it's got me thinking about the perfect London souvenir.
Now, there's much debate about what makes the perfect souvenir. Of course, the issue is entirely subjective and whether you're after a whimsical snow-dome London Eye fridge magnet or a quality, locally-produced woollen scarf from a remote island in the outer Hebrides is mostly a matter of taste (and budget). And it's not really a debate I wish to enter (although I have been known to indulge in both types of souvenirs, which I think is all the more fun).
So over the course of this blog, I'm going to start posting about some stuff that takes my fancy. I'd like to think that all of them are locally-produced, using locally-sourced raw materials, but sometimes your eye catches stuff that's, well, not. It's a sorry sign of the world that even the most classic, traditional products from a destination aren't as "local" or "authentic" as you'd like them to be. (But hopefully, I'll find some products that tick both boxes!). And you just might spot the odd tea-towel.
Anyway, without further ado, step away from that high-street souvenir tat stall, and put down that khaki vinyl Harrods shoppper … here's what to take home.
#1 Paddington Bear I've seen quite few knock-offs of this lovely little marmalade-eating fellow, but you really can't beat the charm of the authentic version (ahem, official licensed product) from London's premier toy store, Hamleys.
Traditional Paddington Bear, £44.99, Hamleys.
Isn't he just the smartest wee chap in his duffle coat and shiny red wellies? I know, you can buy versions of (arguably) London's most famous resident all over the world now, but Hamleys do have an impressive line-up of Paddingtons, starting at £5.99 for a keychain or a clip-on. Alternatively, head to Paddington kiosk at Paddington station in London for more bear fun.
I love this Paddington's furry face and standing at a stately 46cm tall, he's just the thing for a nursery bookshelf.