Month: July 2015

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Please Stand By….

You may have noticed a drop off in posts recently and there’s a very frustrating reason for that….

On July 9th I left the wonderful and amazing TalkTalk to move to the not wonderful or amazing BT for broadband, TV and regular phonecalls.  I’ll be honest, it’s a pretty short story, I’m still waiting for broadband 21 days later.

So dear Voyeurs, BT is crippling me and I’m feeling both the pain and the strain (and the hit on my Chanel purse after the fourth Engineer left screws all over my drive puncturing two runflat tyres).  But….. I’m assured that the BT Engineer visiting on Monday will rectify the issue, after all, he’s only the eighth Engineer to attend about the problem…..

I’ll keep you posted*…..

Pixie x

* Assuming my broadband is working Grrrr!

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Will McQueen be on the new £20 note?

The short answer is - it’s a distinct possibility.

In May this year, the Bank of England began its first two month consultation period with the public in order to determine which historical cultural visionary will be immortalised on the next twenty pound note.

 “I am delighted with the number of nominations we have received, and appreciative of the public’s engagement in this new initiative. The fact that so many visual artists have been put forward underlines the extent of British achievement in the visual arts and reinforces why this field deserves to be recognised on the next £20 note.” - Victoria Cleland, Chief Cashier, Bank of England.

Public voting opened in late May this year with McQueen amongst the favourites to win at 8-1 in a poll conducted by Ladbrokes.  With voting having closed at midnight on July 19th, the ultimate deciding vote is now in the hands of Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England.

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The chosen character will be announced in spring 2016, alongside a concept image showing the portrait as it will appear on the note. The new £20 note is expected to enter circulation in 2020 - which would mark ten years since the designer’s untimely death.

“Banknotes are the principal way the Bank of England engages with the British public, these sparse pieces of paper from the 17th century have developed over the years to become the small works of art that are in everyone’s wallets. There are a wealth of individuals within the field of visual arts whose work shaped British thought, innovation, leadership, values and society and who continue to inspire people today. I greatly look forward to hearing from the public who they would like to celebrate.” - Mark Carney, Governor, Bank of England.
Now all we have to do is sit and wait, with the result announced in Spring 2016, it may be that we’re looking at a new era of McQueen and with so many iconic moments in fashion history, isn’t it about time?
Pixie x
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Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars - The Sequel

Anyone worth their stripes has at least one pair of Converse Chuck Taylor All Star’s in their arsenal  - and if you’re anything like me, that figure could reach the high 20’s.  It’s a simple formula that hasn’t gone out of fashion with everyone from Kendall Jenner to Madonna adopting them as their off duty go to.

Since 1917 the basic Chuck Taylor sneaker has remained true to its original design and the manufacturing method has remained largely the same - until now.

“Since its debut in 1917, the Chuck Taylor All Star has become one of the world’s most celebrated sneakers, with fans, artists and musicians adopting the brand as a badge of creativity and self-expression,” said  Converse. “The Chuck Taylor All Star II is designed to meet the demands of the creative lifestyle and is built for the next generation of self-expression.”

Nike - who bought the brand in 2003, have given the classic All Star line a comfort overhaul without compromising the original design.

A sole liner has been added to cushion the wearer’s feet and provide arch support using Nike’s Lunarlon foam material, which has been a key feature in a number of its most successful recent basketball shoe designs, padding has been added to the collar and a perforated alcantara lining has been added to wick away sweat - so far so good.

“The Chuck Taylor All Star is one of the most legendary and iconic sneakers of all time.  The launch of Chuck II is a ground-breaking moment for Converse as we continue to move the brand forward through creativity and innovation, ushering in not just a new sneaker, but a completely new way of thinking.” - Jim Calhoun, President & CEO, Converse.

As a firm favourite on the street style circuit, recent years have seen Converse collaborating with Missoni, Maison Margiela and Oscar Niemeyer for their take on the classic sneaker, all snapped up by the Style Brigade and displayed in all their Valencia washed glory on Instagram.  Now with Nike taking control of the comfort arena, it seems you can have your cake and eat it folks - and by that, I obviously mean you can wear your All Stars without a stack of Compeed on standby.

Pixie x

The redesigned Chuck Taylor All Stars II launched today in black, red, blue and white. Head to Office to shop the low-tops, £55, and hi-tops, £60.

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The Plough, Alnwick

With its cool calming colour scheme and hunting lodge detailing, it’s hard not to feel relaxed and comfortable in the newly refurbished Plough in Alnwick.  With £150k ploughed in to the renovation (see what I did there?!) everything from the contemporary decor right down to the staff and their uniforms, has been carefully selected in order to create a real luxury boutique brand identity.

From its ample parking concealed behind a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ recessed archway, to the carefully planned bedrooms and suites, this boutique hotel is a thoughtful home away from home, and a real destination.  I whisked Sparky for a pre-birthday getaway in the gorgeous town of Alnwick and The Plough was to be our lodgings for the night - we arrived on a bright sunny day and after a brief stop off at fab bookstore Barter Books, we checked in and were shown to our hunting lodge themed room on the first floor.

The first thing that strikes you in each of the rooms at The Plough is the thoughtful home comforts, the standard of presentation and the cleanliness - A slate tray of brownies or cookies is laid out in each room on arrival, along with locally produced crisps, soft drinks and bottled water.  There’s a Nespresso coffee machine with a variety of coffee blends and a plug in fan just in case.  We’re also informed there’s an iron and ironing board should we need it (we don’t, I barely iron at home let alone when I’m on vacation).

Staff at The Plough are friendly, helpful and very pre-emptive.  Before I’ve even had the chance to verbalise my thoughts of dinner, I’ve been booked into the restaurant and I’m starting to wonder whether they might be trained in mind reading.  Uniforms take their cue from twenties era New York paperboys and it works, the shirt, tie and tweed waistcoat combo looks super cute.

Once we’re sorted we head down to the bar to sample some of the amazing drinks on offer, the back bar is a smorgasbord of gins and spirits and once we’re settled with a (locally distilled) gin and tonic and a beer, we chat to the barman who tells us stories about how The Plough has changed over the years and how he genuinely loves working there.

After a quick change, we head out to the first floor dining room for dinner where we spent far too much time cooing over the amazingly rich, decadent menu and being indecisive, the thought of local North East produce being a real draw.  Taking it’s cue from the hunting lodge theme, there’s something here to suit all tastes, from sea bass with pak choi to lamb with sautéed sweet breads and the presentation is divine, it’s almost too pretty to eat and near enough all of it is sourced in the glorious North East.

The food served at The Plough is soul food.  It’s a well put together menu and although we were left completely satisfied, we still found ourselves oohing and aahing over other peoples dishes.

Following in the vein of most boutique hotels, The Plough also offers a bar menu for casual dining, an Afternoon Tea menu (natch) and an a la carte menu. Interestingly, we discovered that there is also a huge and pretty well hidden room available for weddings and functions; as we were guided through the myriad of corridors we arrived at a huge, luminescent Aladdin’s Cave with a mezzanine floor and gallery staircase - a great alternative venue for parties.

After our evening meal we took a walk around Alnwick and were surprised to find just how close The Plough is to both Alnwick Castle and Alnwick Garden, with less than five minutes walk to each, The Plough is perfectly placed to facilitate a short break just miles out of the city centre of Newcastle.  There are also some quirky boutiques in the town centre, Hotspur 1364 menswear is a hidden gem and well worth a visit.

When it came to settling down for the evening, we sunk into a mass of pillows and feathers as we lay in the super comfortable (but a little short) bed and had sweet dreams until morning.  Breakfast is included with each stay at The Plough and it’s not to be missed - the cooked breakfast menu is supplemented with a selection of serve yourself cereals, fruit, yoghurts and juices and everything else is cooked to order.  I went for my all time favourite breakfast: Eggs Benedict (reminds me of my days in Miami) and Sparky chose a Full English, coupled with freshly prepared breakfast smoothies and coffee, what we ate made for the perfect breakfast.  Credit where it’s due, the Eggs Benedict at The Plough is without doubt the best I’ve ever eaten and I’ve lived in the States so that’s really saying something.

If Alnwick is the heart of the Northumberland countryside, then The Plough is surely the heart of Alnwick - with friendly, proactive staff who are well learned in the products they’re serving, comfortable surroundings and a relaxed atmosphere, The Plough should be on your list of things to do this Summer.  Whether you pop in for dinner or afternoon tea or do as we did and have a sleepover, I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed and this day and age that’s a rarity.  The Plough is a hidden gem that deserves to be discovered and once you do, you’ll be back again and again, this is one place that truly lives up to its admirable four star rating.

Pixie x

We stayed in Room 1 at The Plough, for more information and for hotel and restaurant bookings

The Plough, 24 Bondgate Without, Alnwick, Northumberland NE66 1PN

Tel: 01665 602395
Email: info@theploughalnwick.co.uk

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Balmain’s Supermodel Sister Squad

If there’s one thing you can count on from a Balmain campaign, it’s that it’ll be packed to the rafters with bombshells and the Fall / winter 2015 offering is testament to that.  Olivier Rousteing has upped his game and packed twice the punch into this latest offering by turning his Balmain Army into a family affair, yep, it’s official, the Balmain Supermodel Sister Squad is here. Tapping up Gigi and Bella Hadid, Joan and Erika Smalls, and Kendall and Kylie Jenner for the latest campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti, the campaign is bold and colourful with gem coloured hues and sultry make up - everything we’ve come to love and expect from Rousteing and his Creative Team. For the latest visuals, Rousteing stayed true to that aesthetic by opting for dark smoky eyes on each set of siblings maintaining that the girls should look powerful and sultry in the spirit of Helmut Newton.

“This season’s Balmain campaign was inspired by a brief, key moment that happened while we were shooting our last campaign.  While I watched Mario capture a kiss last fall, I was struck by the love and emotion that I was witnessing in front of me. Starting with a determination to once again focus on the beauty of an intimate connection, my team and I quickly concluded that a celebration of the unique unconditional love of sibling is a natural progression from the spirit of last season.” - Olivier Rousteing, Creative Director, Balmain.

Also featuring in the campaign are Armando and Fernando Cabral with Rousteing saying “They represent the fresh, diverse and open spirit of a new generation of fashion”.  High praise indeed coming from the much applauded Creative Director.  Rousting also teased that Kendall Jenner may front his collaboration with H&M later this year saying that she’s one of his favourite models. balmain8 If this has made you all the more eager to join the Balmain Army, then don’t forget, the Balmain x H&M collection drops November 5th, start sharpening your elbows now… Pixie x

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Sam Smith for Balenciaga

Since Sam Smith announced he would be the new face of Balenciaga’s Fall / Winter campaign a few weeks back, we’ve all been waiting to see images.  What with Smith’s turbulent year he needed a break and now that the campaign is here, he might just have it as his fashion credentials look pretty slick…

The campaign, shot by Josh Olins, is in moody black and white and Smith wears monochrome.  We all know that Alexander Wang is a big fan of Smith’s, so a collaboration was always more a case of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’.

“Ladies and gentlemen. The time has come for my first ever collaboration with a fashion house. You ready?  So honoured and ecstatic to announce my collaboration with @BALENCIAGA on the upcoming autumn/winter menswear collection! You’ll be able to see my full campaign very soon. So happy.” - Sam Smith via Instagram.

If you think the star looks different in the images, there’s a reason for that -  drastically overhauling his lifestyle in advance of the shoot, Smith lost around a stone in just two weeks claiming he’s never felt healthier.  Don’t panic though, the singer’s appearance hasn’t altered too much, he still has his trademark quiff.

For those in the know, this isn’t Smith’s first brush with fashion, he appeared as the star of Vogue magazine’s #TodayImWearing feature earlier this year and loved it.  So, turns out this guy is a Sam of all trades, who knew?!

Pixie x

Watch the full Balenciaga Fall / Winter 2015 campaign video:

 

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Quayside Seaside…. with a Twist

The Summer Holidays are finally here and to celebrate, Metro Radio, NE1’s Quayside Seaside and Malmaison Newcastle are bringing ‘BBQ on the Beach’ to Newcastle’s annual Quayside Seaside.

On Monday July 20th, Brian Moore will be broadcasting his Metro Radio show live from the Quayside 11am - 2pm and to top it off, the first 100 visitors will receive a free burger cooked to order on the BBQ by the Mal’s chef.

You’ll need to tune into Metro Radio as a (not so) secret code word will be announced on air between 10am and 12pm and you’ll need this to nab your free burger.  Food will be served at BBQ on the Beach from 12pm and with NE1 deckchairs, golden sand, palm trees and this years late addition of striped beach huts, you’ll be forgiven for thinking you’re in the Med!

All we need now is some sun….*

Pixie x

*Fear not folks, in the case of rain or some other variety of crazy weather, this event will be held on Tuesday July 21st.

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NewGen unveils its Designers for 2016

Every year the British Fashion Council unveils a new crop of design talent to receive sponsorship and support from NewGen, the foundation in partnership with Topshop.

For the Spring 2016 season, nine experimental young brands will show their collections at London Fashion Week (held September 18th - 22nd) with either a Runway, Presentation or Exhibition (static) sponsorship.  The NewGen nine will also unveil a range of limited edition exclusive tees for Topshop later in the year.

“We are proud that TOPSHOP continues to play an integral part in nurturing the very best of our young design talent. NEWGEN has been instrumental in introducing home-grown designers to a global stage and the support it offers to fledgling designers, both commercially and creatively, is invaluable to their future success in the industry.” - Mary Homer, Managing Director of Topshop

If you think this line up looks familiar, it’s because it’s pretty damn close to the NewGen bill for Fall 2015 and the BFC have backed up their choices by saying that they’re committed to helping young Designers to launch successful and sustainable UK businesses.  A ploy that seems to be proving successful, some of these designers are now stocked at Net-a-Porter for online sales and another at Selfridges.

“The NewGen initiative has an unrivalled reputation as the scheme which has seen countless designers through to London Fashion Week and success in selling globally. The panel and I are always stunned to be able to meet designers and discover what they have to say at an early stage, and, with our teamwork, and Topshop’s sponsorship, to help fast-track their business savvy as well as their talent for design. Everyone who wants a window on the future shouldn’t be missing what our NEWGEN cohort has to say this season - they are as individualistic as London designers are, but also characterised by their collective pure enjoyment of clothes, innovation, artistry and a playful sense of fun. My only criticism is the dearth of accessory designers applying to NEWGEN. We want to see more! So please take this is a call-out for next season’s talent!”- Sarah Mower, Ambassador for emerging Talent, BFC.

Since it began in 1993, the NewGen initiative has acted as a promotional launch pad for young designers, attracting media profile, orders and investment from buyers all over the globe.  Previous NEWGEN winners include Alexander McQueen, Christopher Kane, Erdem, Jonathan Saunders, J.W. Anderson, Marques’Almeida, Mary Katrantzou, Nicholas Kirkwood, Roksanda Ilincic and Simone Rocha.

Here’s the Spring 2016 NewGen line up and a taster of what to expect from this fresh crop of design talent.

Pixie x

 

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intu Eldon Square Retailer Awards 2015

The annual intu Eldon Square Retailer Awards aim to recognise the very best stores and staff across the Newcastle city centre shopping mall.  This year, YOU get to have a say in who the winners are.

There are eleven categories you can vote in; from Best Menswear / Womenswear Store, through to Best Food and Drink Retailer and the coveted Best Customer Service Award, it’s all online so it’s never been easier.  The best bit?  Just by taking the time to vote, you could win an intu Eldon Square gift card loaded with £250.

Sponsoring the Retailer Awards are Phoenix Taxis, a family run driver service based in Blyth who primarily cover Newcastle and surrounding areas.  Focusing on safety and transparency, Phoenix uses an advanced live app called DRIVR which allows users to book, track and pay for taxis and also see a photo of their driver, the cars registration plate and get a live ETA in advance of their car arriving.

Download the app DRIVR from the Apple / Google App Store and use the code CBDFMC5 to get a fantastic £15 credit for your first journey.

Another proud North East business supporting the event is Future Energy; a brand new energy supplier based right here in the North East.  Going live in August this year, Future Energy are pre-registering new customers now and pride themselves on transparent, easy to understand pricing and supporting local North East charities with a share of their profits.

Voting is open now and the Retailer Award winners will be announced in October 2015 and the results will be shared in the shopping mall itself and on social media, if you want to get involved then head over to Twitter or Instagram and share your experiences using #RetailerAwards.

Pixie x

 

 

 

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YSL: Style Is Eternal Exhibition

“If Chanel gave women their freedom, it was Saint Laurent who empowered them.” Pierre Bergé

Two years in the making, months of planning and an iconic dress restored to its former glory just in the nick of time.  - Of course I’m talking about the arrival of the hotly anticipated Yves Saint Laurent: Style is Eternal exhibition to The Bowes Museum.

Business Partner and one time life partner of Saint Laurent, Pierre Bergé arrived in County Durham on Wednesday ahead of the exhibition’s launch accompanied by staff from his Fondation Pierre Bergé - Yves Saint Laurent, and long standing friend of the pair, Baroness Helene Ludinghausen.

At 89, Bergé is still very much the lifeblood of the Fondation he so painstakingly created in order to preserve the legacy of Saint Laurent.  He admits that still now, he is surprised when he comes across something in the archives that he had forgotten about and how Saint Laurent’s genius is apparent in everything he ever created.

Bergé had a reputation for being cold and hard in the days of the Yves Saint Laurent house of couture, and when Saint Laurent died in 2008 this appeared to soften him.  At the press conference for Style is Eternal, Bergé was surprisingly open and frank in sharing his love for Saint Laurent.

“(Saint Laurent) was very, very nice. Very nice.  He loved people, his family and his staff were important to him and he loved them.  It’s difficult to understand. He was a fascinating man, very, very bright. And as you can see very talented.” - Pierre Bergé, President Le Fondation Pierre Bergé - Yves Saint Laurent.

Saint Laurent is largely credited with bringing the discussion of gender in fashion to the table, cutting the first trouser suit for women which ultimately lead to the launch of Le Smoking, the now infamous women tuxedo, recognisable the world over.  The designer was a perfectionist, and Bergé smiles when talking about this, “I’ve known him ask people to unpick a dress and start from scratch all for a millimetre.”

When asked about the perfect relationship between business and fashion, Bergé is resolute, “When Yves was sick in hospital, after he was dismissed by the house of Christian Dior and I went to see him, he said you know what we need to do?  Create a house of haute couture.” and from there the house of Yves Saint Laurent was born.  “I didn’t want to be a business man. Absolutely not.  So, of course, I became a business man.” laughs Bergé.  He says that their success together was down to one thing, their respect for each others role.  “I decided to respect the creation above the business. Creation comes first and business after.” Talking frankly, Bergé claims that although there are certainly talented designers around today, fashion is now all about marketing and not about the metier.

 “When we started, Yves and I, marketing meant nothing to us. That’s not a language I understand.”

Some of the most iconic pieces in fashion history have been created by the house of Yves Saint Laurent.  From the safari jacket to the Mondrian dress, each is instantly recognisable.  Described as a fashion maverick, in 1966 , he opened the first prêt-à-porter boutique to bear a couturier’s name, Saint Laurent Rive Gauche and it’s there that he worked to create the modern woman’s wardrobe looking to art and history for inspiration.

“Fashions fade, style is eternal.” - Yves Saint Laurent

So, why The Bowes Museum and not London?  Given the success of Savage Beauty at the V&A some would say that Bergé has missed a trick hosting the first ever YSL retrospective in the North of England in a small market town of 5000 people; “Because they asked” says Bergé, “It’s so very like France, I could be in Paris in this beautiful museum in such a beautiful part of the country, it’s perfect and the weather is also beautiful.”  A 17th century style French chateau in sprawling English countryside - it couldn’t be more perfect for one of the last real couturiers to allow the public to breathe in his work.

The Bowes Museum, already filled with predominantly French objets d’art, has cleared its existing fashion and textiles hall to make way for the exhibition comprising fifty iconic pieces from the YSL archives including the famous Zephirine dress, created by Saint Laurent during his time at Christian Dior and modelled by his favourite model Victoire Doutreleau in 1958 at Blenheim Palace.  The dress was recently rediscovered in storage in the Palais Galliera in Paris and painstakingly restored for this very exhibition - A real coup for both The Bowes and the North East region.  There are over 1000 YSL accessories on display too, from hats to earrings and headdresses as well as swatches and buttons.

The exhibition is delivered over three rooms on the first floor; room 2 is where Joanna Hashagen, Fashion Curator at The Bowes Museum has used existing items from The Bowes’ fashion and textiles exhibition, to marry YSL’s most recognisable pieces with their historical influences.  With the YSL creation as the headline piece in each of the five themed glass boxes, this room in the exhibition is heavily supplemented with period pieces.

Room 3 is where the magic happens.  In a similar vein to Claire Wilcox with Savage Beauty, Hashagen has created five main themes: Art, Spectaculaire, Transparency, Masculin / Feminin and The Alchemy of Style.  The pieces on display in this room are all showstoppers.  Put simply, this is the best of Saint Laurent and it’s right here in the glorious North East.

From the sheer pieces on display in Transparency, which Bergé says were “truly shocking” to people when first unveiled, to the striking tributes to artists Piet Mondrian and Picasso in Art, each piece has its own place in history and the craftsmanship is undeniable.  With embroidery, paillette layering and harlequin patching taking centerstage, it’s hard not to be blown away by the magnitude and importance of this small but perfectly formed exhibition.

“We are honoured to host the first exhibition in the UK of Yves Saint Laurent, one of the most influential designers of all time.  We are thrilled to work alongside the Fondation Pierre Bergé - Yves Saint Laurent, on an innovative display that introduces a dialogue between the designers’ body of work and The Bowes Museum’s collection.” - Joanna Hashagen

There are previously unseen sketches, collection boards, toiles, hat blocks and of course, Saint Laurent’s beloved paper dolls on display throughout the exhibition.  The dolls were cut from his mother magazines in his teens and he would design outfits for them using paper, giving us a small glimpse at his early genius.

I attended the press launch in advance of the exhibition opening and had a chance to chat with Helene Ludinghausen, former Head of Couture for Yves Saint Laurent who told me that “The Bowes museum is absolutely the right place for this retrospective and Yves would have loved it, everything about it.”  And I agree, whilst it’s an unexpected choice for an exhibition of this stature, it’s aesthetically and culturally perfect.  she also told me that she loved my Chanel boots and McQueen frock but let’s keep it Saint Laurent…..

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Bergé’s parting statement about Saint Laurent is poignant; “You have to understand he was a very shy person, a beautiful, shy person.  Shy people are always the strong, tough people.”

With the exhibition opening to the public on Saturday, it’s an absolute must for fashion lovers everywhere and for anyone who understands the cultural importance of Saint Laurent in fashion.  Go, soak it up and then go again, it’s probably the only chance you’ll ever get to be around such iconic master pieces and it’s well worth it.

Pixie x

Yves Saint Laurent: Style is Eternal is at The Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle, County Durham and will run July 11th to October 25th.  Tickets can be booked here.

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