Archive: Mar 2008

  1. Top Bird loves: Stephanie Simek jewellery


    Back in the fledgling days of Wee Birdy, I came across jewellery designer Stephanie Simek and her delicately playful sterling silver eyelash necklaces. I especially loved the sweet single eyelash with the freshwater pearl tears (US$35).

    Stephanie has since added to her collection with a seemingly fragile speckled quail egg pendant, lined with 23k gold leaf (US$125).

    Her latest piece is this rather sweetly subversive powder necklace (below), which features a pearlized Turbo Cinereus shell filled with a sparkling mineral powder (US$95). The idea is that you tap the shell whenever you want to dust your decolletage with a light sprinkle of shimmer powder. A sterling silver funnel is also attached to the clasp for decoration and refilling. (It's a kinda innocent spin on the "secret stash" vial necklace worn by Sarah Michelle Gellar's character in Cruel Intentions, don't you think?)

    You can also customise the necklace by re-filling it with your favourite shimmer powder. (I like Becca's Loose Shimmer Powder in Angel or Nymph.)

  2. Design Museum: Designs of the Year

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    Two new things I learnt about London over the weekend:
    1. It snows in spring, not winter; and
    2. Marks & Spencer Hot Cross Buns and Cadbury Crème Eggs are key items for holiday survival.

    Fighting the urge to hibernate under the duvet, I headed over to the Design Museum with some friends on Easter Sunday to look at the 100 works nominated for the Brit Insurance Designs of the Year. This year’s decision to change the title from “Designer of the Year” to “Designs of the Year” was inspired as it really opened up the competition to new and innovative design from all disciplines.

    Amongst the iPhone, Nintendo Wii, and a cheap and energy-efficient laptop for children in developing countries (Yves Behar’s One Laptop Per Child was the winning design), I was particularly (and predictably) taken by the Hussein Chalayan LED dress from his a/w 2007 Airborne collection. Encrusted with Swarovski crystals and 15,600 LEDs, multi-coloured patterns flickered across the fabric as if lit by psychedelic fireflies. Quite beautiful.

    Also up for nomination in the fashion category are Pierre Hardy’s fashion accessories from s/s 2008; Giles Deacon’s s/s 2008 collection; Uniqlo’s cashmere project with Pantone; Issey Miyake’s innovative Dyson vacuum cleaner dress (complete with male and female parts) and Osman Yousefzada’s a/w 07/08 collection.

    My other favourites include Anthony Dicken's clever interpretation of the classic Anglepoise Fifty lamp, Marigold’s genius (and nomadic-friendly) Make/Shift shelving, and the Penguin Classics Deluxe Editions (for dazzling new illustrated covers like a comic-strip version of Lady Chatterley's Lover).

    The museum's shop is a must-see (and worthy of its own post), especially if you fancy design-led products and books. In fact, some of nominated products are available to purchase in the shop (as well as online), including the Anglepoise Fifty lamp (£39.50), Penguin Classics Deluxe Editions (£12.99), Make/Shift shelves (£120 for a set of two), and Naoto Fukasawa's calculator (£25.95).

    Design Museum
    Shad Thames
    London SE1 2YD
    Tel. 0870 833 9955

    Click here for a Wee Birdy map.

    Tickets: Adults £8.50; Concessions £6.50; Students £5; Under 12s free

    Opening hours:
    10am – 5.45pm daily (last admission 5.15pm)

    Nearest tube: London Bridge

  3. What to take home Wednesday: Claridge’s candles

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    If the ultimate souvenir serves to remind your senses of an authentic (and specific) sense of place, then you’d be hard pressed to do better than Claridge’s eponymous Black & White collection.

    In fact, in The Goddess Guide (a Wee Birdy favourite), author Giselle Scanlon says she “can’t leave Mayfair without visiting Claridge’s to pick up a bottle of their signature musky bath oil – in its elegant Art Deco bottle, with the lid shaped like the hotel’s bathroom taps.”

    The collection’s black and white packaging reflects the classic glamour of this historic London institution, as well as the foyer’s grand marble floor.

    I especially love the candle’s evocative floral top notes of Turkish rose and Indian jasmine, with warm, woody-Oriental undertones of Russian wild coriander and agarwood bark. The entire Black & White collection is available exclusively from Claridge’s Flowers & Gifts stall (just inside the Ballroom entrance).

    Claridge’s Black & White Candle, £32 (250g)
    Claridge’s Travel candle set, £18.50 (2 x 50g)

    Brook Street
    London W1K 4HR
    Tel: 020 7629 1508

    Click here for a Wee Birdy map.

    Nearest tube: Bond Street

    (p.s. for the ultimate in bathroom luxury, make sure you check out the Ladies just to the right of the front entrance.)

    Photography by Paul Raeside, courtesy of Claridge's.

  4. Update: Kate Moss for Topshop


    Is it possible to publish a retraction on your own blog?

    So … I just stopped by Topshop at Oxford Circus today for a quick look around, and (surprise, surprise) the latest Kate Moss stuff wasn't exactly impressive. In fact, it was kinda shockingly bad. And uh, really overpriced. Why was I so optimistic, considering all the cold, hard facts?

    It just took a 10 second dash around the racks to confirm the worst. (I still quite like the idea of the little tunic, but not at £60. It looked like something you wouldn't mind paying five quid for at Primark. Maybe.) 'Nuff said.

    Meanwhile, I headed downstairs to the indie designer section in the basement and spied some rather lovely summer frocks (at reasonable prices, too). Only problem is, a lot of the cuts were a bit on the wee side. One of my more petite friends picked up an incredibly sweet striped red shirt with puffy sleeves by Sahrei Lamar London.

    She also scored a rather Marni-esque frock across the road at Gap. With a heavy, almost utilitarian cotton drill fabric combined with fitted shoulders and an exposed zip at the back, it was a total steal at £39. Quite beautiful in its simplicity, and it totally kicked Kate's arse.

  5. Where to eat in London: Tom’s Deli


    Like most Londoners, I suffer from the worst case of decision fatigue. My notebooks are filled with long lists of shops, art galleries, exhibitions, restaurants, cafes, parks, museums and markets that I Simply. Must. Visit.

    So when B suggested we head to Tom’s Deli in Notting Hill for lunch last week, I was not only grateful for (a) her quick, decisive action, but (b) the opportunity to visit one of the top spots on my “to-do” list.

    I love Tom’s. It’s where disco meets old-fashioned deli, thanks to the mirrored disco ball hanging from the ceiling and nostalgic wooden display shelves crammed with beautifully packaged treats. Little wonder the visual merchandising gets full points, since Tom is Terrence Conran’s son.

    The buzzy café at the back is a cosy retreat from the bitter wind outside, and its full English breakfast is almost as legendary as the crowds and queues on the weekends. But it’s Thursday so it's relatively quiet, and the squish factor is minimal.

    Tom’s makes an ideal shopping pit-stop in the Westbourne Grove and Ledbury Road area, where you’ve got such gems as Twenty8Twelve, Nicole Farhi, Aime, Joseph, Smythson, Emma Hope, Comptoir des Cotonniers, L'Artisan Parfumeur, Mulberry, Paul & Joe, Diane von Furstenberg and Matches. And then there are the exclusive French children’s boutiques like Petite Bateau, Petit aimé, Bonpoint (where I spotted Claudia Schiffer shopping with her wee bebe), and Marie Chantal.

    The café’s changing menu features an impressive line-up of hearty salads, soups, pizzas and sandwiches. After devouring an artery-challenging but delicious breaded goat’s cheese and beetroot salad, I descended on the Easter goodies out the front. Amongst a selection of chocolates by the likes of Rococo and Prestat, there’s also a great range of European foil-wrapped chocolate chickens and bunnies.

    I like this delightful gingerbread family (with requisite cat), £4.50, and gingerbread chick & egg set, £1.95. A rather tempting alternative to chocolate, no?

    And if you’re just after tea and cake (a very pleasing combination for shopping pitstops), there’s a delectable selection of eat-in or takeaway cakes and pastries including hot cross buns, lemon crunch cake, carrot and pineapple cake, chocolate sponge, deep-filled treacle tarts, and Primrose Bakery cupcakes.

    Don’t forget to pop downstairs for traditional deli items, take-away dishes and sandwiches.

    Tom’s Deli
    226 Westbourne Grove
    London W11 2CH
    Tel. 020 7221 8818

    Click here for a Wee Birdy map.

    Opening hours:
    Monday to Friday 8am – 7.30pm
    Saturday and Sunday 9am – 6.30pm (check times for bank holidays)

    Nearest tube: Notting Hill Gate
    For more shops in Notting Hill, click here.

  6. Online shopping: Kate Moss for Topshop


    Clockwise from top left:
    Broderie Anglaise dress, £60.
    Embroidered Tunic Dress, £60.
    Daisy print tea dress, £60.
    Kate’s 50s-style dress, £45.

    Wait. What? Kate Moss for Topshop garments that I’d actually consider wearing?

    I’m quite mad for a good summer frock, and these little lovelies are perfectly wearable. Not sure that I’ll actually follow through to the check-out, though (but I do quite like the white tunic dress).

    The first (and last) time I considered La Moss involved some rather hot, sweaty and downright undignifying moments in the dressing room. (Hey! Not as dirty as it sounds! You know that manic hopping-on-the-spot-fight-dance you do when you’re stuck in a top that was clearly designed for a child, not a grown woman? That was me. I choreographed a new version. I like to think of it as a breakaway-pop pastiche.) Sigh.

    Of course, there's also the problem of it being so bleeding obvious.

    So, what say you? Can you be bothered?

    Topshop Oxford Circus
    216 Oxford Street
    London W1D 1LA

    Tel: 020 7636 7700

    Click here for a Wee Birdy map.

    Nearest tube: Oxford Circus

  7. Online shopping: Easter round-up

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    Is it just me or does Easter seem unseasonably early this year? (Either that or London's dismal and most un-Spring-like weather is getting the better of me.) Check out these super-cheery ideas for Sunday:

    Clockwise from top left:

    Easter crackers (well, why not?), £8 for a set of six, from John Lewis.
    German wooden racing rabbits, £15 for a set of three, from Thorsten Van Elten.
    Spring boxes template (download as a PDF), US$3.99, from A Little Hut.
    Easter chicken doorstop and Green & Blacks Fairtrade Easter egg (until stock runs out), £12.49, from Love Eco.

    Clockwise from top left:
    Gorgeous fabric Easter egg decorations, £3.50 each, from Not on the High Street.
    Biscuiteers Fluffy Bunnies Tin, £37.50, from Not on the High Street.
    Hand-made fresh Easter door wreath, with English foliage, herbs, moss, pussy willow, cotton tails, nests, and ribbons, £48, from Not on the High Street.
    Papilio Easter Egg Paper Lanterns, £4.50, from Not on the High Street.