Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Lady Grey Jewellery

Photograph courtesy of Kabiri.
Once the mark of an eccentric spirit, skulls have proliferated recently: they are on jewellery, clothes, scarves, shoes, everything really. Which is shame, because I love a good, old fashioned memento mori. However, if you want to stand out from the crowd a bit, and, if you love eccentric, just this side of gothic, jewellery you might want to consider the new range Lady Grey.

Lady Grey is based in Brooklyn but is available in various locations including Kabiri in the UK and through the Kabiri online store. The jewellery is unusual, using unconventional motifs or conventional motifs in unusual ways. The aesthetic is somewhat stark, but, to my mind, effective. Some pieces have to be looked at a couple of times to work out exactly what they are. Unusual techniques and materials are also used, such as oxidized silver. All this adds up to a line which is definitely worth considering if you like the more unconventional, less widely available things in life.
See and for more.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Just Another Man - ic Monday: The Secret Of Stylish Dressing

Photograph courtesy of Burton.
I'm going to let you in to a little secret. Dressing stylishly is not that hard. You just need to follow three little rules:

1. be true to yourself
2. be comfortable in what you are wearing (this doesn't mean tracksuits at all times, it means don't wear something you feel like an idiot in)
3. if you don't have a huge budget, buy cheaper clothes and more expensive accessories (except suits, buy the best suit you can afford)

Luckily, just like with womenswear, the menswear market is rapidly expanding. This means that there are better, cheaper ranges out there. One good example is the recently launched Burton Black Label, a capsule of collection of 35 key pieces in neutral colors. This means that items can be mixed and matched, both with other items in this collection and clothes you already own. The collection is very competitively priced. I would suggest, however, in order to prevent too much uniformity, that you put your own spin on items: a bright belt, interesting shoes, something which shows your personality. for details

Name To Watch....Alexandra Vidal

Photograph courtesy of Alexandra Vidal.
A contestant on the first series of Project Runway, Alexandra Vidal now has a burgeoning, eponymous fashion line. At the moment, it is only available in New York and Miami. However, we are predicting that her company is going to grow and grow and we suggest you keep your eye open for her name in the future.

The current collection, inspired by the macaroons and gateaux of famed Parisian patisserie Laduree, is a wonderful selection of delicate yet striking cocktail and evening looks. The palate is muted, with an emphasis on exceptional surface detail. It is no wonder than Vidal's designs are starting to be seen on some of New York's top social figures. Vidal also provides a custom ordering service.
See for more details.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Modern Classic - Un Jardin Sur Le Nil

Launched with much fanfare in 2005, this discreet Hermes scent is both modern and timeless. I have a personal dislike of overly floral or musky scents, which makes this an absolute winner for me. Un Jardin Sur Le Nil is a clean, citrus-sy scent with base notes of sycamore and frankincense and top notes of grapefruit and green mango. The scent was created by Hermes' legendary "nose", Jean-Claude Ellena and immediately transports the wearer on a journey to the Nile. Another winning feature of this perfume is its elegant bottle - tall, stately, tinged with subtle gradations of green. The perfume is designed to be unisex but, unlike the majority of unisex perfumes, it does not feel too heavy for a woman to wear. It remains a modern classic amidst an increasingly crowded perfume field. One reason for this is that Hermes perfumes are characterized by their use of the best possible ingredients, resulting in a more natural smell.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Beauty Blast - Nails Inc Treatment Pack 4

Photograph courtesy of Nails Inc.
In my experience, manicures in London can be fair to middling, for the most part. This is most strongly illustrated when one goes to New York and gets a magnificent, long-lasting manicure complete with complimentary shoulder massage for about $10 (that is £5, give or take). No wonder New York women have a reputation for being more groomed. Often in London, a manicure can leave you wondering why you bothered spending all the money - especially when it starts to chip the very next day. An exception is Nails Inc. These nail bars offer great service and good value for money. One manicure lasted a record seven days and this period included a trip abroad with its associated lifting of suitcases (usually such a guaranteed nail chipper that I don't even bother with a manicure). Nails Inc also offer a wonderful range of take home products for keeping your nails looking great all the time. My favorite pack is "treatment pack 4" which contains all the bits and bobs needed to help hard to grow nails: lotus oil slick pen, nail buffer, strengthening treatment, top coat and express remover wipe. The pack is well designed, practical and produces real results.
See for more details on products and locations.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Just Another Man - ic Monday: Tretorn Hockeyboot Paninari

Photograph courtesy of Tretorn.
Welcome to the inaugural edition of "Just Another Man - ic Monday". From now on, Monday posts will be dedicated to the world of men's fashion and accessories. Some of my male readers have been pestering me to do this for a while. So, enjoy, and excuse the pun!

Tretorn Hockeyboot Paninari
I would like to bring your attention to a stylish alternative to Converse high-tops. Not that I am saying there is anything wrong with Converse, quite the contrary. However, there is nothing wrong with a little variety.
Tretorn, a little known Swedish company, is slowly building a well-deserved following further afield. Whilst Tretorn also produces apparel, its sneaker line is especially successful. I am told that they are extremely comfortable. This model, the "Hockeyboot Paninari" is new for this season and features a padded, quilted-look upper which is a reference to the "Paninari" movement (apparently) which inspired the boot.
The boot is available in several colors and with either leather or polyester upper. Depending on how brave you are, you can pick anything from utilitarian black to bold orange. These sneakers are distinguished from the rest of the field by their discreet yet quirky design features married to innate practicality.
Tretorn also stock apparel, womens footwear and accessories.
Stockists worldwide.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Milan Fashion Week Special - Profile Of Gucci Designer Frida Giannini

Photograph courtesy of Gucci.
Gucci's spring/summer 08 show at Milan Fashion week was a mix of tempered femininity, elegance and wearability. Nonetheless, the show has managed to split the critics. Gucci's vision is driven by Frida Giannini, creative director for the label. Giannini made her first steps in high fashion at Fendi where she worked both in ready-to-wear and then in leather accessories. She continued to work with accessories, in particular handbags, when she transferred to Gucci in 2002 as "Handbag Design Director". Successively more high-profile roles have been added: creative director of accessories, creative director of women's ready to wear and then, finally, in 2006, she was named sole creative director of the label.

During her tenure in accessories at Gucci, Giannini was responsible for the reissue and reinterpretation of several of the label's key historical designs. "Flora" the delicate floral pattern favored by Grace Kelly, amongst others, proved popular all over again and was used on bags, scarves and shoes. The other historical designs and their modern counterparts have made Gucci a driving force in the accessories market. Of course, Giannini has built on the earlier success of the legendary Tom Ford, who can be held largely responsible for the reinvigoration of Gucci in the 90s (along with Domenico de Sole, former CEO). Indeed, Ford's shoes have been large ones to fill. His vision for "Gucci" woman was so definite and well-thought out: a vision of overt sexuality. The slinky white dress with the cut out hip embellished by a curvaceous gold buckle was an iconic fashion moment, as was Ford's sexy, for-women interpretation of male eveningwear (tailored, body-hugging pants, with a vibrant, but not crass, satin shirt tucked in).

Nonetheless, Giannini seems to have her own vision of the Gucci woman and it is proving to be successful, both aesthetically and commercially. She designs with the modern woman clearly in mind: sexy yes, but in a more restrained way; feminine, but not saccharine; wearable, but chic. Following on from the impressive, lush, noir-inspired fall/winter range which is currently in stores, the new spring/summer range is a celebration of this "Gucci woman". Working with a mainly monochrome palette (a bold idea for spring/summer), enlivened by splashes of egg-yolk yellow and blush pink, Giannini produced a neat collection of easy-to-wear elegance.

Some critics did not give this collection quite such a warm reception, criticizing a lack of "coherence". Admittedly, some of the checked pieces were perhaps weaker than the rest of the collection. However, no-one is likely to buy every single piece from the runway and then wear each item in exactly the same way as was done on the runway. Nonetheless, pieces would work well mixed and matched with other brands and with other Gucci pieces. The jackets on display were particularly strong: either loose and unstructured or tiny and fitted. Short evening dresses were elegant and whimsical at the same time. Giannini's designs are for the modern woman who knows her own mind.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Information Is Power

Image courtesy of the Helen Bamber Foundation.
Here at Quis Sum? we believe that the best thing is to be as informed as possible about the world around us. Sadly, there are lots of dirty little secrets which are being swept under the collective carpet. We would like to direct our readers to the current campaign to raise awareness about the subject of sex trafficking. There is currently a large art installation in London's Trafalgar Square which seeks to raise awareness of some of the many issues surrounding this complex, little-discussed topic. The work takes the form of seven large shipping containers which chart the stages in one individual's journey from their homeland into sex slavery.
The installation is backed by the Helen Bamber foundation.
Please see for more details. A petition can also be signed.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Spotlight on.....Dover Street Market.

Photograph copyright Louisa McKenzie.
Dover Street Market is a neat, multi-level boutique on Dover Street in London. It is favoured by fashion insiders due to its range of highly-sought after but hard-to-find designers, for example L'Wren Scott, Charles Anastase and, of course, Comme des Garcons (the store was the brainchild of the founder of that firm). Accessories, especially those by Pierre Hardy, are especially sought after. In addition to clothes, shoes and bags, there is jewellery, a vintage section, watches, perfumes, collectibles and much, much more. I could recommend specific items, but Dover Street Market is such an Aladdin's Cave, stocked with items to suit all tastes, that it is far better for you to explore it for yourself. Men's and women's ranges are equally well represented. There is a wonderful cafe, Rose Bakery, on the top floor. Dover Street Market also has an e-shop selling limited edition items and originals.
Dover Street Market 17-18 Dover Street, London, W1S 4LT.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Spotlight on.....Brocca.

Photograph copyright Louisa McKenzie.
Brocca is a wonderful jewel of a shop, to be found on the main shopping street in Venice, Italy. It is a small, yet incredibly well-stocked knitwear shop, which nearly groans with floor to ceiling shelving and has a huge amount of choice. It stocks both mens and womenswear, particularly jumpers, cardigans and scarves. Well-known ranges such as Missoni are present, as are other equally stunning but more unusual (and certainly cheaper) Italian ranges. The staff are very helpful and speak English if required. A "must" if you are ever in Venice.
Mercerie San Marco 4858
Tel. 041 522 6605.

Quick Tip.....Fresh Sugar Lip Gloss

Photograph copyright Louisa McKenzie.
This is a new addition to Fresh's make-up range, and it is a very welcome one at that. I am not usually a fan of lip gloss: I find it sticky and nasty. However, this example from Fresh has totally changed my mind and I am completely converted. It does not have the usual texture of a lip gloss. Indeed, based on Fresh's best-selling Sugar Lip Balm, it is more like a tinted lip balm than anything else. Lips are left feeling nourished and soothed. The gloss comes in 10 different colors, from the subtle to the bold. "Sugar Fairy" is great from imparting a natural, healthy color and shine.

Great New Bags For Fall - Tods' Pashmy Range

Photograph copyright Louisa McKenzie.
Sometimes a bag needs to be practical as well as stylish, especially if it is expensive. However, this is often like trying find the Holy Grail. This season, however, Tods have produced just such a range of bags which ticks both these boxes: the Pashmy range. The bags are made from "technical fabric", not leather and trimmed with patent edging and eye-catching, yet chic, gold hardware. The fabric is water-resistant (something which was well tested on a recent vaporetto ride in Venice) making the bags an excellent option for fall to winter. There are several different styles in the range, and several different colours. However, somewhat arbitrarily, all Tods stores don't stock all models. All models have comfortable carrying handles, good-sized external pockets and are lightweight. An excellent addition to any wardrobe.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Name To Watch From New York.....Jeremy Laing

It is always interesting to try to pick the next success story from amidst the up-and-coming designers at the shows. Jeremy Laing may very well prove to be the "next big thing" emanating from the NY shows. The Canadian designer announced himself at his third NY showing with a subtle collection featuring fluid drape, exquisite tailoring and magnificent surface effects. He is sure to find a market amongst women who like fashion to be simple and subtle, yet unusual and fresh.
Photographs courtesy of

Monday, August 06, 2007

Spotlight on.....Origins' Modern Friction

Photograph copyright Louisa McKenzie.
Modern Friction and Modern Friction For Body are great naturally based microdermabrasion solutions from Origins. Containing natural ingredients such as rice starch, it provides a gentle, yet effective alternative to off-the-shelf or in spa chemical treatments. The cream is thick and has the consistency of spreadable marshmallow. The cream is applied to dry skin (or damp if the skin is sensitive) and massaged in. Then, water is added. You should massage again and then thoroughly rinse. The skin is left feeling smooth and sleek. Care really must be taken not to get any product in your eyes, especially when you are rinsing your face, as this can be quite painful. However, the smooth result is well worth it.

JASON Natural Toiletries

Photograph copyright Louisa McKenzie.
In today's world people are always looking for new ways to make their lives even more ecologically friendly. Natural and organic toiletries can be one option: not only are they good for the planet, but they are usually a lot better for humans too. However, all too often, natural ranges are simply not as effective as traditional, chemically based products. This is especially true of cosmetics, although there are some new ranges in the US which purport to be as effective. Toiletries are another matter. JASON, a range started in 1959, using the purest natural products is very impressive. Their products are delicate, with pleasing scents. Most of all, they are very effective. A particularly good example is their body powder. This is talc free, so is safe for babies and a good alternative for adults. It has a silky texture, comes in two great scents and is cheaper than similar talc free options. Indeed, the JASON range is competitively priced, thereby answering the objection that natural products can be prohibitively expensive. Furthermore, the range is stocked in a fairly wide range of places, including selected chemists and some supermarkets (in the UK). This range is really well worth making the swap from your usual brands.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Keeping Dry Feet During A British Summer

Photograph copyright Louisa McKenzie.
Clearly, to say that the weather in the UK has not been very good so far this summer is to do a disservice to those parts of the country which have been submerged. The weather has been awful. The news is full of reports of an upturn in wellie and umbrella sales. These days there are quite a few types of wellies on the market, from the expensive (Hunter) to the cheap and cheerful (Office). However, if you like to wear something a little more unusual on your feet, I suggest you try wellies by Ana Designs limited, a small UK based company. These wellies are feminine, yet practical, and come in three colours/designs: burgundy meadow flower print, baby blue dash print and hot pink daisy print. The designs, inspired by summer scenes, are delicately abstract. Each pair of wellies comes with a handy free bootbag.

Wellington boots £49 with free bootbag.
See for details.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Paris Special: The Restaurants Of Thiou

Paris offers many wonderful restaurants. Sometimes it is interesting to take a tip from the Parisians themselves. They have been flocking to the three restaurants run by Thai chef Thiou: Thiou and Le Petit Thiou on the Left Bank and Comptoir de Thiou on the Right. Indeed, President Sarkozy is said to have taken Tony Blair to dinner at Thiou. The cuisine is Thai and Thai-fusion. Meals are delicious and light, which can prove to be a refreshing change. The decor is different in each restaurant but shares a restrained and chic ethos throughout. The ambiance is relaxed and the staff are exceptionally friendly and welcoming. Comptoir de Thiou especially is an oasis of calm for a relaxed yet chic meal.
Thiou 49, quai d'Orsay Tel: 0140629650 Le Petit Thiou 3, rue surcouf Tel:0140629670 Comptoir de Thiou 12, avenue George V Tel: 0147208956

Paris Special: Spotlight on.....Reciproque

Nestled on a quiet street in the 16th arrondissement of Paris, far from the main tourist thoroughfares, is a shop called Reciproque. I say "a shop" but in reality, it totals about six different storefronts dotted from 88 to 101 rue de la Pompe. Each little shop deals with a different genre of items i.e. womenswear, menswear, gifts, handbags and accessories. Reciproque is a "vintage" shop. All the stock is second-hand, but some items have only been worn once or twice in fashion shows or magazine shoots. Reciproque is a veritable treasure-trove, an Aladdin's cave stocked to the brim with rails, racks and bins. Items are divided by either designer or size. The presentation can seem a little chaotic, but digging around for a bargain is part of the fun. I found a Loro Piana handbag under a pile of other bags on the floor. It was slashed in price and seemingly forgotten. Some of the clothing can seem a little dated but there is a magnificent selection of furs. The handbag and accessories shop is wonderful and has a rail of vintage Hermes scarves. The revolving stock and lower prices make Reciproque a gem of a shop. However, be prepared to take a discerning eye and sharp elbows.
Reciproque, 88-101 rue de la Pompe, Paris 16eme. Metro Rue de la Pompe, line 9.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Happy 60th Birthday Dior!

Well, it isn't quite a birthday: after all, Christian Dior himself was born in 1905. However, this year marks the 60th anniversary of the foundation of the fashion house which bears his name. To celebrate this milestone, current designer John Galliano produced a 60th anniversary collection to remember during this season's Paris couture week. Held in the magnificent setting of L'Orangerie at Versailles, it certainly was an event to remember. Not only did the show reunite some of the most iconic models of the last couple of decades (Linda Evangelista, Shalom Harlow, Helena Christensen alongside the likes of Lily Cole and Doutzen Kroes)it served as a kind of visual memorial of the work of Christian Dior himself and of the late Steven Robinson, Galliano's right-hand man. However, as always, it was the clothes themselves that were the stars of the show. Following on from his triumphant Japanese inspired Spring collection, Galliano has once more produced a formidable, breath-taking display of his mastery of cut, tailoring and style.
This collection was seemingly inspired by both the signature "New Look" of early Dior and by the works of painters and other visual artists. Cinched waists and "Noir-ish" details (small hats, vertiginous heels, jet-black beading) abounded in reference to the former. The influence of the latter was present in the spectacular array of evening gowns. References to artists such as Renoir and Goya, and even Cecil Beaton, were obvious. However, there were also less direct allusions: a white dress whose front is wound into a slash of red, recalling a smear of pigment on the palette, combined with a hat in the shape of a palette. As with his previous couture collection, Galliano's strength here lies in his ability to transform inspirations which might seem easy to spot or well-known, into something new and unusual. Use of bold colour, unusual mixes of fabrics and adventurous surface details plays a huge part in this. For me, stand-out items include: this wonderful eggshell blue gown and jacket (below),

a form-fitting black dress and white evening coat with over-sized sleeves and graphic detailing

a wonderfully tailored, exquisitely detailed emerald green gown

and this killer outfit.

The stuff that dreams are made of!

Monday, June 25, 2007

How To Sale Shop - 5 Easy Rules

Sale season is upon us once more in London. With Quis Sum's easy to follow rules, you are sure to find a great bargain:

1. shop in off-peak hours - this means that the shops will be less crowded. If you have to shop on a Saturday, make sure you get there early.

2. grab first, think later - as you go round, pick up anything that catches your eye. When you have finished, sort through items and systematically discard those in which you are no longer interested.

3. go with your gut - if you have ANY doubts about the item, DO NOT buy it. You WILL regret it.

4. buy investment pieces - these are the best pieces to buy in a sale. It is worth paying more if you know that you will get years of wear out of it.

5. be determined - have a goal in mind (a certain item, a certain designer) and keep at it

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

You Heard It Here First!

If you didn't believe me about fans, have a look at this recent picture of Cameron Diaz.

See, Quis Sum is always ahead of the trends!
(Click on image for enlargement.)

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Keeping Cool In The Summer Heat

Loewe fan. Photograph copyright Louisa McKenzie.
With the onset of global warming, cities in the summer are hotter and more humid than ever before. This can be a particular problem if you live in London, or a city in another country which has thus far been used to mild, rainy summer weather. There is a lack of adequate air-conditioning the shops, offices and homes. There is no accustomed siesta (although perhaps that is a bit much to expect!). There are also precious few ways of keeping cool when the thermometer rises. One way, however, is a fan. I don't mean the faintly annoying, buzzy portable electrical fans which M&S likes to sell in the summer months. I mean a traditional, old-fashioned fan. These are perhaps not the easiest of objects to find. A trip to Brussels, Bruge or Gent can yield a fine, lace version. However, these can be expensive and are more decorative than practical. The place to buy practical, chic fans in a variety of colours and styles is in Loewe boutiques and concessions. More famous for its leather goods and silk, the legendary Spanish house nonetheless produces an incomparable range of fans. Some of the items are collectables. However, the vast majority are easily affordable, durable and practical. A fan is an invaluable addition to our new balmy summers. Boutiques and concessions worldwide.

Affordable vs. Expensive....Make-Up Bags

Catseye bag. Photograph copyright Louisa McKenzie.
Make-up bags decorated with photographs have been popular for a while now, mainly thanks to the designs of Anya Hindmarch. This range, with cheeky, amusing photographs, features several different bag sizes, one of which is a make-up bag. The bags are made from printed satin and feature a signature Anya Hindmarch zip pull.
However, a new contender has come on to the market. Catseye make-up bags feature cute photographs of farmyard animals and are waterproof inside and out.
Whether you choose the more expensive version (Anya Hindmarch) or the more affordable style (Catseye) a whimsically decorated make-up bag can brighten any day!
Catseye bags available from Fenwick in the UK.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Five Great Jackets

A jacket is a very useful wardrobe item. It can instantly smarten any outfit, or keep you warm, or protect you from the sun. Here are five great examples of different types to look out for. They range from cheap to expensive, proving that there is something out there for every budget:

Uniqlo. Photograph copyright Louisa McKenzie.
A crop-sleeved jacket with a relaxed cut which is perfect for a summer outfit.

Topshop. Photograph copyright Louisa McKenzie.

A double breasted jacket in neutral beige would be perfect with many different types of trousers.

Paul and Joe. Photograph copyright Louisa McKenzie.
A pinstripe jacket with a slightly masculine cut adds edge and hardness to an outfit.

Smythe. Photograph copyright Louisa McKenzie.

An unusual, bolero-style evening jacket made from quilted velvet. It is exceptionally versatile and can be worn over dresses as well as trousers.

Chloe. Photograph copyright Louisa McKenzie.
For Autumn
A pre-fall gem from Chloe, this tweed funnel neck jacket will be indispensible in chillier weather.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Are Pajars The New Uggs?

Photograph copyright Louisa McKenzie.
For several years now the Ugg boot, in its many forms, has held our collective imagination, so much so that it has become a new noun, a shorthand expression. Imitators and opponents have come and gone but the Uggs have always survived. As soon as the days start to grow colder (and for some, even when the days are warmer, though that is another story!), out come the Uggs. Rightly so, I can't really remember what I did before the warm, comfortable cocoons came into my life. My feet were cold, I suppose. Uggs are a true winter staple, all I have just said and stylish too (well, if you stick to traditional colours and don't go overboard on the accessories). There are two problems with the traditional style: the boots are not waterproof and there is no style with heels. Water-resistant they may be, but I have yet to find them stand up entirely to an English downpour. Of course, you might mention the leather version of the Ugg here. True, this is probably more waterproof, but it is not as comfortable nor as easy to pull on.
This may be where Pajars come in. An established Canadian brand, these boots are designed for even tougher weather than Uggs (well, perhaps not the heavy duty Uggs you can buy from the Ugg website) and some models are waterproof, some have heels or wedges. There are multiple styles and colours. Admittedly, some are not as stylish as others and none can probably achieve the popularity of the traditional, ubiquitous Ugg. However, Pajars would make a very useful addition to anyone's winter wardrobe. The "Bravo" could be a breakout hit.
Like Ugg, Pajar also produce a range of slippers. It is here that they really excel. There are several different styles. My favourite is the moccasin. Lined with fluffy white sheepskin and decorated with discreet beading on the top, these slippers are both practical and stylish. Nothing will keep you feet warmer.
The only problem with Pajars is that they are not that widely available outside of Canada. It remains to be seen if Harrods stock any of the boots nearer the winter: the slippers are currently available there.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Trend - watch - fall/winter at a glance

Whilst it might seem a little precocious to consider what we will be wearing in winter when it isn't even summer yet, it is never too early to plan ahead. Indeed, a capsule of the Balenciaga collection was already available as a trunk-show in Barneys in New York in March. Here are a few predictions for what to expect. As always, its a good idea to mix and match and pick your favourites from amongst these "trends".

Dior by John Galliano

1. color - there was a tussle between kaleidoscopic color and neutrals for the soul of the catwalk this season. Pink was a particularly popular color, with hues ranging from pastel to acid bright (as spearheaded by John Galliano at Dior, in a nod to the haute couture collection). Also, there were splashes of blue and red (notably at Chanel and Marc Jacobs, but elsewhere too) and the odd green. Neutrals remain popular, particularly tan to brown and grey to black, sometimes brightened with color, otherwise a statement in their own right.

Balenciaga (left) and Alexander McQueen.

2. body-aware detailing - this is the season for details on clothes which reflect the shape of the body beneath them, from the bold: Dolce and Gabbana's sequined collar bone and breasts shirt (not recommended for the faint of heart), Maison Martin Margiela's super wide shoulders and Alexander McQueen's moulded breastplates to the more subtle: waists cinched tight with belts on many catwalks, beaded and tailored details emphasising busts and waists at Roberto Cavalli.


3. luxe dressing - luxe details and fabrics abounded on this season's catwalks: fur, embroidery, sequins, chiffon overlays, shimmering evening wear, leopard print. The key is not to overload your day look with luxe items. Take a hint from Gucci and wear fur trimmed items with simpler basics such as tweed. Mix leopard print with basic black. Evening wear allows you to be more adventurous.

Louis Vuitton

4. headgear - many different styles were evident on the catwalks, from fringed creations at Dior to oversized soft berets at Louis Vuitton and flamenco style hats at Kenzo and many more. Capes which extend to head scarfs were also very popular.

Friday, April 27, 2007

I'm Also Not A Plastic Bag!

Photograph copyright Louisa McKenzie.

If you are in the UK, you have to have been living under a rock for the past few days, or at least had something very time consuming to do, if you haven't heard about Anya Hindmarch/Sainsbury's "eco-friendly" non-plastic carrier bag. It has received extensive media coverage (print, TV and radio). Here is a swift recap for the uninitated: the bag cost £5, it has been produced in limited number, it has been photographed on the arm of several trendy celebrities (none of whom had to join the 3am queues for the bag, I should imagine), it is now sold out. The bag was designed by Anya Hindmarch and was first available in her shops, in the aforementioned limited number. There were long queues and many disappointed people. The "£5 bag" is now changing hands for ever increasing sums on eBay (over £200 at the last count). A second consignment of the bags was available, in limited number, in Sainsburys stores. There were long queues starting a 3am etc, etc.
Now, the sentiment which produced this bag is more than admirable. Of course we should be thinking about reducing our impact on this earth by using fewer plastic carrier bags. Some shops are already swapping to eco-friendly, recyclable and bio-degrable paper: Selfridges and Primark (now is not the time to discuss the ethics of the latter) are two examples. However, the furore surrounding this particular bag shows that whilst some of its buyers might be environmentally friendly, the majority just want to have the latest fashion accessory. Anya Hindmarch's chic design of course adds to the popularity. I'm sure no-one would have bought an "ugly" eco-friendly bag. It also has to be argued that those who are environmentally conscious have already been using shopping bags made from eco-friendly materials. They don't need a "special" bag to make them do it. Neither should you. Don't buy into the hype. Pick one of any number of eco-friendly cloth bags and take them out with you when you shop. Decline offers of plastic bags from retailers and pop your purchases in the one bag. This way you can be different - pick a bag which has a slogan or picture which appeals to you. There is no fun in following the herd. Often exhibitions are a good place to find these bags. Museums usually produce at least one example for every major exhibition. The one pictured above is produced by the V&A in association with their magnificient Surrealism exhibition. I use it as an example because it is roughly comparable in size to "the bag". There are many great examples to be found in all sorts of places. There are also plenty of companies able to put your own photos on bags.
Of course, the media furore does at least mean that the need for eco-friendly bags is broadcast to a wider spectrum of the public. I hope that "the bag" succeeds in bringing public awareness to this topic. In particular, there is a lack of adequate shopping trolleys available in this country. You wouldn't be able to carry many groceries from the weekly shop in one little bag. City dwellers, those without cars, or those who seek to reduce their carbon-footprint by walking to and from the shops really need to pull their groceries, rather than stagger along with very heavy, shoulder-wrenching bags. English shopping trolleys are hopeless - either old fashioned or impractical and not very strong. Cross over the Channel and the French have applied their typical je ne sais pas to the matter. There you can find elegant, pretty trolleys, adorned with large photos of flowers, or with cartoons, or just in plain, bright colours. They are strong and perfect. I have two and they are invaluable.
Therefore, if you really want to make a difference to the environment, you don't have to rush out and buy the latest bag, just find one you like for yourself and use that instead!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Quick Tip - Tory Burch

Photography copyright Louisa McKenzie
Tory Burch's line has become the toast of Manhattan. A trip to her Soho shop (above) makes it easy to see why. Her clothes are chic and elegant without being showy. They combine the right about of retro detail with a modern feel. Most importantly, they are designed to be practical, not look practical. It is with accessories, however, that Tory Burch has really taken off. Her signature Reva ballet flat is immensely popular and available in a wide range of colours and prints. These shoes can be seen all over Manhattan and are easily affordable. Despite some of the collection being available in Harvey Nichols, in England the shoes, sadly are not. If you happen to be in New York, stock up.
Tory Burch, 257 Elizabeth Street.
212- 334-3000

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Department Store Wars!

One thing which New York does not lack is department stores. Depending on how flexible a definition is used, the total is at the very least five or six. The cream of the crop are the 3 Bs - Bloomingdales, Barneys and Bergdorf Goodman. These are all enviably situated within striking distance of each other.
Bloomingdales offers both the widest range and the biggest floor space of the three (unless you count Bergdorf's menswear shop with the womenswear shop). It would take several trips to fully explore. Items range from cheaper, diffusion lines and youth brands to the most expensive designer items. Bloomingdales is best for basics, such as magnificent hosiery and lingerie departments and t-shirts and casual wear. Also of note is the plus size department. This will be a revelation for larger ladies used to shopping in England: not only is there more choice and everything is cheaper but you'll find you take a smaller size too. Visit Bloomingales Soho branch for an easier shopping experience. This store is smaller and combines the best of Bloomingdales's younger, trendier lines.
The trendiest of the New York department stores, Barneys was always being menitoned on Sex And The City, for good reason. Barneys' buyers have sought out the most cutting edge designers and hard to find lines, for example Trovata as well as more established name. The shop is well fitted - huge white spaces which make the clothes the stars. Furthermore, Barneys, if not small, is compact. You can get through the whole place easily. The shoe department is renowned and indeed offers a magnificent selection. However, for me, it is a close call with Bergdorf Goodman. Barney's shoe department offers a wider range and, in keeping with the shop's ethos, more cutting edge designers. Also of note at Barneys is the restaurant, Fred's. London department store dining has nothing on either Barneys or Bergdorf's eateries. Fred's is a place to see and be seen buit also offers and wide ranging, extremely resonable menu in chic surroundings.
Bergdorf Goodman
Magnificent architecturally, Bergdorf Goodman exudes old fashioned elegance. The emphasis here is on the higher end designers, although there is a floor of "younger designs" for more affordable collections. This is a place which has a whole section devoted to evening dresses of the highest order. The shoe department is sublime, with masses of Louboutins, Alaias and a dedicated Blahnik department. Accessories on the ground floor (floor 1 American) is also well worth a visit, with a great range and some unusual items (Zac Posen handbags). The restaurant, BG, offers sublime views of the park and manageable, delicious portions.

Also well worth a look is the tiny Henri Bendel on 5th, which is distinguished by the Frederic Fekkai salon it houses, a collection of own label jumpers in many colors and styles, and an innovative jewellery section.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Spotlight on.....La Goulue

Photograph copyright Louisa McKenzie
It is testament to how expensive London has become that I found a restaurant which is known as one of New York's finest to be more than reasonable. Indeed, in London, you could almost pay the same amount for a meal at a mid-range restaurant as my dining companion and I paid for a fantastic meal with wine at La Goulue.
La Goulue is a little slice of France in New York city. Decorated like a Parisian bistro, with dark woodwork and low lights it has a menu full of typically French influenced favorites which keep customers returning again and again. Personal favorites were the lamb with barley risotto (delicate flavours) and the divine steak. Changing specials are equally inventive and impressive. I sampled a wonderful rabbit dish. If you visit La Goulue (and I highly recommend it) make sure you leave room for a desert. The vacherin and the crepes suzette, in particular, are worth waiting for.
The restaurant, or rather its clientele, can have a bit of a reputation for being snobby. However, I found nothing to be further from the truth. The staff are friendly and accommodating. Having visited on several occasions, with different dining companions, I found the staff able to suit even the most demanding of palettes. Nothing was too much trouble for them.
Personal service and remembering customers after a first visit ensure that returning visitors are treated more like old friends than customers. Furthermore, although the restaurant is popular, you are not expected to hurry your meal and the atmosphere is very relaxed.
A New York must!
La Goulue Restaurant
746 Madison Avenue, New York City

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Spotlight on.....By Terry

Photograph copyright Louisa McKenzie.
My new favourite make-up range, By Terry, is the brainchild of Terry de Gunzburg. Formerly of Yves Saint Laurent (Touche Eclat was a key product), Terry's eponymous make-up line has been available in France for several years but has recently been lauched in the UK and the USA. By Terry products are distinguished by their usability, range of colors and light texture. You never feel like you are wearing make-up, just that your skin has been improved.
The bedrock of the range is its wonderful choice of foundations. Echoes of Touche Eclat can be seen the newest product - Light Expert. This is a chubby foundation pen with a large brush. This makes application very easy. The foundation itself is extremely blendable and, as its name would suggest, light reflective. My other favourite products are the eye shadows, which I find extremely long lasting and to have an excellent, wearable colour palette and the mascara. The innovative shape of mascara wand allows the mascara to coat the lashes exactly where it is needed (more at the outer corners). Lashes are left looking natural, but fabulous.
By Terry products are innovative and well designed. Their practicality makes them perfect for the woman who does not have hours to spend on her make-up every day.

Beauty Burst - Shiseido The Skincare

Photograph copyright Louisa McKenzie.
It has always been my opinion that prevention is better than cure, especially when it comes to good skincare. However, it seems that everyday there is a new skincare range vying for attention. Over the years, in the name of science (and because I have difficult skin) I have tried many of these ranges, from cheap to expensive. I have just discovered a recently reformulated range which is perfect for my skin - Shisedio The Skincare. Ok, "So just because it suits your skin doesn't mean it will suit my skin" you might say. I would agree. However, the beauty of the Shiseido range is that it has three different levels: light, normal and enriched, so that you can be advised of the right level for your specific skin type. I use the "light" end of the spectrum because I have sensitive, oil-prone skin.
The innovative formula has replaced the "toner" stage of a normal skincare routine with a "skin softener". This is a viscous, clear lotion which plumps the skin and allows you to use less moisturiser afterwards. After using the routine for a month, my skin is glowing, and it hasn't been glowing for years.
A word of warning - if looking to buy the product in the UK, make sure to check that you are buying the updated range, some counters haven't replaced the old stock yet.

Friday, March 23, 2007

A Quick Message From Quis Sum?

Hello all!

Never fear, there will be new posts soon. Sorry for the delay - have been away. However, you can expect some goodies over the coming weeks, including: destination and shopping reviews for New York City, some very useful beauty ideas and much more.


Quis Sum?

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Four Key New York Shows

Oscar de la Renta
New York fashion week is always a barometer for the rest of fashion. Many new designers start their careers here - to varying degrees of success. This season provided some interesting contrasts. However, there were four key shows, which are sure to be influential.
Proenza Schouler -
providing plenty to think about, Proenza Schouler sent all its models down the runway wearing cloche hats. The influence of the early twenties was not restricted to millinery. Many of the silhouettes seemed influenced by this time-period, from flapper dresses to slouchy double breasted coats. However, much like the Dior haute-couture collection, the Proenza Schouler show mixed historical influences with a modern sensibility - here, daring mixes of fabrics and textures. These fabrics were often extremely luxurious. Nonetheless, expect many of the themes to be replicated (to a degree, with less luxurious fabrics!) on the high street next season.
Zac Posen - as can be expected with Zac Posen, impeccable tailoring, opulent fabrics and a generous helping of subdued glitz ruled the day. There were plenty of reliable cocktail looks to please even the most social of butterflies. Coats provided an area of experimentation, both in fabric and style. There were also some key evening gowns, illustrating Posen's flair for the dramatic.
Marc Jacobs -
hats were also greatly in evidence at the Marc Jacobs show - expect Fall 2007 to be the season of the hat. Here shapes and colors were far more diverse than at Proenza Schouler and matched Jacobs' varied, sophisticated palette. Silhouettes were sleek, lean and pared down. Fabrics mainly matched the sleek outlines - embellishment mainly found expression in tailored details (pin-tucks, folds, belts) and color combinations, except for a few sequinned examples.
Oscar de la Renta -
the supreme embodiment of Upper East chic, Oscar de la Renta knows exactly what to do and how to do it. Key details were fur (collars, hems, cuffs, edges), rich colors (burgundy, midnight blue, imperial purple and gunmetal) and embellished evening wear. A versatile, luxe collection, it contained enough varied looks to please those of wildly differing sensibilities. Exaggerated hips shared space with twinkling cocktail wear. Plain, pared down evening wear shared space with fabrics rich in surface detail.

Five To Watch From New York Fashion Week

  1. Brian Reyes
  2. 3.1 Phillip Lim
  3. Tory Burch
  4. Rodarte
  5. Peter Som

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Spring 2007 Haute Couture At A Glance

Christian Dior.
In order to be truly haute-couture, a garment must be made in Paris. Each year, only a very select group of designers present haute-couture collections in Paris. These represent the zenith of the creative and practical arts of fashion. Haute-couture is an art-form in itself and the pieces produced are wearable artworks. Of course, as with most artworks, the garments come at a premium. Haute-couture is unattainable to all but a small elite group of buyers. However, some of the themes and ideas filter through to the ready-to-wear collections. In any case, the haute-couture shows are worth studying for the sheer vitality and creativity of the designs. Here is a quick guide to some of the shows:
Dior - the most breath-taking and stunning of all the shows in my opinion. The collection was inspired by Japan, particularly by the story of Madame Butterfly, and featured influences from the clothes of geishas, delicate Japanese art motifs and origami. Nothing new here, you might think. However, what made the collection so interesting was the way in which these influences had been viewed through the lens of the New Look designs of the 40s and 50s (an influence also viewed in the ready-to-wear collection from this house, although in a far more utilitarian way). A collection at once nostalgic and breath-takingly modern, particularly in colour palette (acid pink, vivid green, electric blue) and the architectural form of certain details (shoulder, hips etc). Garments featured bold shapes paired with oversized motifs popular is Japanese art - waves, blossoms. This collection truly showcased the technical wizadry which the haute-couture "petits-mains" can employ in realising a designer's creative vision.
Chanel - by complete contrast, Chanel's collection featured designs with clean lines and a short, neat silhouette with a rigorous colour palette - monochrome, with splashes of colour. Suits and day dresses were given a decidedly 60s twist - mini skirts, round necklines and evening dresses were either short or long, featuring innovative combinations of materials, particularly organza and feathers. This may sound simple, but the collection was anything but: Lagerfeld is all about the details and the construction. What looks young and spontaneous, has actually taken many hours and many hands to construct - a case in point the stunning dress below (210 hours). This is the genius and enduring popularity of Lagerfeld, making the complex seem young and insouciant. Other key details to emerge from this collection are feathers, bows, patent leather accents and fingerless gloves.
Christian Lacroix - this collection bore all the hallmarks of Lacroix: bold colours, exaggerated shapes and prints. Yellow and electric blue were big here, as at Dior. Daywear again had a mainly short silhouette, with skirts being wide this time instead of streamlined as at Chanel. Inspired by flowers, the collection is a joy to behold. Lacroix clothes are for those who are not afraid of making a statement. It was in evening wear that this collection really excelled. Lacroix showed a magnificent selection of evening gowns, in a variety of different shapes and styles but all bearing Lacroix' s trademark precise, yet somehow whimsical tailoring. Frills, layers, large flower accents, ruffles and exaggerated sleeves all in the most delicate and flowing of fabrics.
Armani Prive - a collection inspired by India, although the inspiration manifested itself more in the cut of the garments and the texture of the fabrics than the colour. Armani's palette was mostly neutral - black, grey, silver, white. This allowed the cut of the garments and the subtle embellishments on the garments to really reveal themselves. Metallic, textured fabrics were key - either draped fluidly, or tailored delicately. The influence of the sari became apparent in Armani's evening wear - flowing lines, one-shouldered garments, draping - although given a sleek, typically Armani treament.
Valentino - Valentino showed an all-white (well, nearly, there were some very subtle hints of pink and yellow) collection, which was light and airy in its construction. Rich in detail, embellished fabrics, daywear was young and frivolous. Valentino is, of course, master of the red carpet gown. There were several key gowns, which could well appear on a red-carpet soon.
Givenchy - Riccardo Tisci presented a pared back, almost macabre collection for Givenchy. This wasn't to all tastes, but there were certain flashes of genius. Key features were a monochrome colour palette punctuated with splashes of bright yellow; deconstructed yet tailored naval inspired jackets; details applied to Edwardian inspired dress like sea-shells, anemones and other marine flora clinging to rocks.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Trend-watch - the upcoming season, part 1

1. neon brights - this season, it is the brighter, the better colour-wise: electric blue, pink, yellow are very popular. This is not a look for the faint-hearted. A good idea is to stick to accessories, such as bags, belts and jewellery.

2. super-high or flat as a pancake - for the second season running, there isn't much hope if you are a fan of kitten heels. Designers have continued their love affair with super (and I mean super!) high heels in the 4inches+ range. There are some amazing, sexy, chic designs out there but that doesn't make them any easier to walk in - so start practising now. Either that, or choose to go to the other extreme and pick a dainty, elegant flat. Look out, in particular, for the round toe flats and for some very exciting Roman and Native American influenced sandals.

Gucci (above) and Balenciaga (below).
3. architectural pieces - designers like Hussein Chalayan and Dolce and Gabanna showed some amazing, structural pieces on the catwalk, like this example with panniered hips, which looks a lot like armour. Pick a slightly pared-down version of this trend (for one thing, it'll be easier to get through doorways!), such as this dress by Fendi.

Dolce and Gabbana (left) and Fendi (right).
4. metallics - a big trend this season, almost everyone showed something metallic. If the idea of Balenciaga's gold robot leggings frightens you, stick with one of Marc Jacobs metallised jackets.

Check back soon for part 2 and for a look at the New York shows.