New Blog, Shop, Facebook: Little Observationist

In April, I started Little Observationist, a new blog where I can explore topics that go beyond the boundaries of London that confine LLO. I’ll be interviewing creative and inspiring people all over the world and posting more about travel experiences, some recipes and general lifestyle posts. LLO will stick around, of course, for as long as I live in London, but check out the new blog when you get a chance.

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Some of the highlights so far are:

To keep everything on the same page, I also closed my old Etsy photography shop and opened a new one called Little Observationist which will hopefully help me make a bit of money to put toward my wedding next year!

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And of course a new blog calls for a new Facebook page so hop over and follow me there if you like:

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Follows, links back, likes, shares, etc would be fabulous and highly appreciated to help me get the word out about these new sites! Thanks guys!! I’ll have some colourful Holi Festival photos on LLO for you tomorrow or the next day.

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London’s Best Independent Shops

I wrote this originally for TownFish, but I wanted to share a slightly modified version with you featuring some of my favourite independent shops in London. Though it may seem like every other shop in London is a Zara, Tesco or Starbucks, there are still many eccentric, vibrant independent shops thriving among the high street mega-brands. This is not an extensive list, just a taste. Quite frankly, I’m not very inspired by the high street shops at the moment so tell me your own favourites in the comments and lead me out of my London shopping rut!

Aria

Barnsbury Hall, Barnsbury Street, London N1 1PN

An Islington lifestyle and design shop housed in the spacious Barnsbury Hall where you’ll find furniture, headphones, recipe books, jewellery and everything in between. Brands include Paul Smith, Cowshed, Jonathan Adler, Vivienne Westwood and many others. Many of the staff are designers themselves and love to talk about their products.

Photo from Aria’s website

Artwords Bookshop

20-22 Broadway Market, London E8 4QJ

Wouldn’t you agree that despite the wonders of technology, there’s something to be said about flipping the pages of a real book or magazine? East London’s Artwords has a great selection of art books and those hard-to-find independent fashion magazines galore that cater to the creative local community.

Photo from Shop Ikon

Daunt

83 Marylebone High Street, London W1U 4QW

Hands down my favourite bookshop in London, this independent gem is housed in an old Edwardian building with oak columns and skylights with two floors of books arranged by country or area in which they are set. They not only have travel guides but plenty of fiction, non fiction and those wonderful, beautiful, photography-filled coffee table style books (which, I keep trying to remind myself) are a bad obsession to have when you know you won’t be living in the same house forever…)

Photo from Urban75

Drink, Shop & Do

9 Caledonian Road,  London N1 9DX

Tucked away in an old Victorian bathhouse in King’s Cross, this is a hidden gem where you can indulge in an afternoon of tea and crumpets while playing board games and shopping from the collections of local designers. They play host to a variety of quirky activity nights where you can create Lego robots, get a pin-up girl makeover or learn the official dance to MC Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This”.

Photo from MyCityVenue

Fernandez & Wells

43 Lexington Street,  London W1F 9AL

Those who stumble upon Soho’s coffee heaven that is Fernandez & Wells speak of it fondly and nearly always return. Rustic wooden floors, a relaxed vibe, giant picture windows for people watching and, of course, fresh and delicious food makes the original shop a favourite central London lunchtime haunt. There are now five branches in London including a brand new addition recently opened in South Kensington.

Photo from You Should Go Here

Jessie Chorley & Buddog

58 Columbia Road, London E2 7RG

Originally a stall in Broadway Market, Jessie & Buddug was transformed into a beautiful, creative shop on Columbia Road in 2008. The two friends / artists from Snowdonia dig back to their Welsh roots to create beautiful handmade pieces like greeting cards, decoupage picture frames and photo albums, engraved jewellery and embellished vintage clothing. There is enormous attention to details and the girls are wonderfully inviting.

Photo from Bird In The House

Jimmie Martin

77 Kensington Church St, London W8 4BG

Described as “furniture combining the decadent and quirky with the nostalgic and urban”, this Kensington Church Street shop is full of one-off chairs with sausage dogs, graffiti covered wardrobes and other items for the home designed in bold colours and pop-culture imagery. With a celeb following, designers Jimmie Karlsson and Martin Nihlmar have created pieces for Kelly Osbourne, Pete Townshend, Kylie Minogue and Madonna among others.

Photo from Creative Mapping

Le Grenier

146 Bethnal Green Road, London E2 6DG

That’s French for “attic”, a great description of this treasure trove of vintage goodies. For the last four years, husband and wife team Jean-Louis and Yuko have scoured markets and antique fairs in the UK and France for pieces of furniture, kitchenware, jewellery and other knick-knacks they are proud to sell. They even have a lease service if you’re after a prop for a special event.

Photo from Twenty Something London

Liberty

Regent Street, London W1B 5AH

Who doesn’t know of London’s famous Liberty? I’ve included it mainly becuase they stock French clothing brand Sessùn which I love. Also the old tudor building is stunning and, having been around since 1875, a piece of British heritage and an emporium housing some of the world’s most luxurious brands.

Photo from Liberty’s website

Lumiere

88 Chatsworth Road, London E5 0LS

A magical place of oddities with under floor lighting, fake flickering candles and a disco ball, stop by for delicious smoothies, original cocktails (one, for example, made with water from bags of mozzarella cheese) and French film nights. Be sure to venture downstairs and make sure you pop into the memorable loo.

Photo from Scout London

Radio Days

87 Lower Marsh Street, London SE1 7AB

Step into Radio Days and walk through multiple eras of vintage clothing, accessories like glittering broaches, bullet bras, stacks of old magazines and home decor from the 1920s to the 1980s amid a nostalgic soundtrack that takes you back in time. Staff are knowledgeable and welcoming.

Photo by LLO

Scootercaffe

132 Lower Marsh Street, London SE1 7AE

A tiny unassuming gem hidden behind Southbank on Lower Marsh Street, walk inside and you’re hit with the aroma of ground coffee beans. They could also possibly have the best hot chocolate in London. But the real charm is in the mismatched décor with its vintage sign and odds and ends as well as the resident cat who is normally curled up on a chair but is quite happy to receive attention. Head to the basement to settle in with free wi-fi and old school jazz.

Photo from Fluid London

Stumper & Fielding

107 Portobello Road, London W11 2QB

Think country chic tweeds, classic union jacks, riding coats, tea towels embellished with bicycles, brogues and wellies. Quality style for the gentleman is this tiny shop’s main focus but there’s plenty for the ladies as well. Stop by to visit on Portobello Road. They don’t have a website yet.

Photo from Stumper & Fielding Facebook page

The Bridge Coffee Shop

5 Kingsland Road, London, E2 8AA

While the coffee and cakes are great, it’s the sensory overload here that’s the real draw. This Dickensian-style coffee shop is nestled under the bridge on Shoreditch High Street and contains a fascinating array of décor from Tiffany lamps to vintage fluorescent signs to old photographs and gilt mirrors. Upstairs, on creaky wooden floorboard sit quirky fuchsia pink chairs where you can sit and chat with friends for hours.

the bridge cafe shoreditchPhoto by LLO

The Make Lounge

3-4 Waterloo Gardens, Barnsbury Street, London N1 1TY

Not only is this a shop which stocks all sorts of lovely craft supplies, the Make Lounge also holds regular workshops where you can learn to make homemade jam, a bespoke lampshade or even a pair of knickers. With wine and biscuits at hand, socializing while learning a new craft is highly encouraged!

Photo from The Make Lounge

Unpackaged

97 Richmond Road, London E8 3NJ

This one does what it says on the tin in that it sells unpackaged food to avoid so much unnecessary waste being sent to the landfills. It started back in 2006, but in 2012 relocated to a larger space in Hackney. On your first shop, your containers will be weighed and given an official unpackaged sticker. There is also a café, but remember to bring your own cup!

Photo from Singaporean in London

Also worth a quick mention, though there are many more, pop in to The Last Tuesday Society for the underworld of taxidermy, Tatty Devine to pick up a colourful and witty Perspex necklace or The Merchant for second hand high end designer clothes.

Street Style at London Fashion Week AW 2013

Following yesterday’s post, photographer Frederique Rapier has kindly offered to let me share some of her street style images from this last week’s A/W 13 London Fashion Week. All of the photos in this entry, along with caption, are hers. Here we go!

Street Style at London Fashion Week A/W 2013
Photo: Green light, red light – Somerset House

Street Style at London Fashion Week A/W 2013
Photo: Bold colours against dark skin – a delight. – Somerset House

Street Style at London Fashion Week A/W 2013
Photo: Oh the luxury – Somerset House

Street Style at London Fashion Week A/W 2013
Photo: Clean and classic – Somerset House

Street Style at London Fashion Week A/W 2013
Photo: Vintage and granny chic – Somerset House

Street Style at London Fashion Week A/W 2013
Photo: In a league of its own – Somerset House

Street Style at London Fashion Week A/W 2013
Photo: There were some glorious beards and finely dressed gentlemen on display at Somerset House

Street Style at London Fashion Week A/W 2013
Photo: Pops of colours and textures to brighten up the winter at Somerset House

Street Style at London Fashion Week A/W 2013
Photo: Geek chic and fab hair – Somerset House

Street Style at London Fashion Week A/W 2013
Photo: Glamour and opulence is to be expected – Somerset House

Fantastic, aren’t they? Such a great time of year for people watching in London!

See more photos from Frederique on her website.

London Fashion Week 2013

It felt like Spring today so I went for a wander, coat unbuttoned, down to Daunt on Fulham Road, then walked back, stopping for a tea and pain au chocolat at the Chelsea Quarter Cafe. I popped into a few shops along the King’s Road and found myself in front of a crowd outside of Saatchi Gallery. If I would have known it was the Vivienne Westwood Red Label AW 2013 show, I would have brought my camera.

There was a huge line up of people outside the gallery and a mob of photographers, all waiting for the London Fashion Week buses and posh cars to unload. I sat in the sunshine and joined in on the fun. The people watching was spectacular. The photographers had a great time running up to women with stick thin legs tottering by on massively high heels with quirky hats or neon lipstick. The men all wore super stylish clothes as well. It was pretty amazing to watch.

Since I didn’t have my camera, I scoped out a few fab shots from around London this week that were added to the Flickr pool:

Photog girls at London Fashion Week. Somerset House, London
Photo by bayek

London Fashion Week 2013 - Day 2, 16 February 2013
Photo by My Soul Insurance

London Fashion Week 2013 - Day 2, 16 February 2013
Photo by My Soul Insuranc

London Fashion Week 2013 - Day 2, 16 February 2013 Photo by My Soul Insurance

London Fashion Week 2013 - Day 2, 16 February 2013
Photo by My Soul Insurance

London Fashion Week 2013 - Day 2, 16 February 2013
Photo by My Soul Insurance

London Fashion Week 2013 - Day 2, 16 February 2013
Photo by My Soul Insurance

London Fashion Week 2013 - Day 2, 16 February 2013
Photo by My Soul Insurance

London Fashion Week 2013 - Day 2, 16 February 2013
Photo by My Soul Insurance

London Fashion Week 2013 - Day 1, 15 February 2013
Photo by My Soul Insurance

London Fashion Week 2013 - Day 1, 15 February 2013
Photo by My Soul Insurance

London Fashion Week 2013 - Day 2, 16 February 2013
Photo by My Soul Insurance

Fish&Chic_January 2013
Photo by Fish & Chic

Fish&Chic_January 2013
Photo by Fish & Chic

Fish&Chic_January 2013
Photo by Fish & Chic

Fish&Chic_January 2013
Photo by Fish & Chic

Fish&Chic_January 2013
Photo by Fish & Chic

Street Portrait
Photo by Becky Frances

The People of Soho: The Fashion Stylist
Photo by Pete Zelewski

Have you attended any events this week so far? Any favourite trends?

London Art Spot: Holly Somers

If you walk down Carnaby Street right now, you’ll see a wintery scene in the windows of the Deisel shop called “Paper vs. Scissors” with delicate paper cut-out trees and mannequins with blank faces and big white hair. This is the work of Holly Somers, a recent graduate of London College of Fashion and joint winner of the Nina De York Illustration Award 2010.

Her debut collection takes the simple practices of folding, pleating and layering to the next level with inspiration from Japanese origami in rich, earthy tones perfect for this time of year. There’s a selection of images below for this week’s London Art Spot and for a more expansive look at the origami collection, there’s a great blog post here.

Read on to hear about Holly’s favourite gold blazer, where her love of a great fabric leads her on days out in the shops around here and her thoughts that went into the design of the Deisel shop window display.

LLO: Give us an overview of your latest Japanese origami-inspired collection.
HS: Throughout my design career, I have always had an interest in and an admiration for Japanese design and in particular Japanese fashion. Working with initial origami maquettes, I was able to experiment with unusual shape construction on a small scale before transferring it on to the body. This quickly led to the development of manipulating a two dimensional form to create a three dimensional object, both in paper, but then more naturally in fabric and garment construction. I was fascinated with the juxtaposition of woven fabrics with stretch fabrics and the intrinsic properties of these opposing materials. This concept became integral to the design and success of the garments as fabric manipulation extended beyond simple folding, pleating and layering. Much of the silk was transformed through interfusing before the fabrics were even cut altering the nature of the fabric to suit the needs of each garment. This collection became an exploration.

LLO: You created the lovely Paper vs. Scissors display in the Female Diesel shop windows on Carnaby Street. What was your thought process when given the brief through deciding on your final designs?
HS: The Window Installation was a fantastic opportunity to step into the world of visual merchandising and with the paper theme I could build on ideas from my previous collection but move it away from the body.  Diesel wanted a white paper forest to appeal to the Christmas season, however, it had to keep the edge that the Diesel brand upholds. I researched back over many artists who had manipulated paper for art installations with a focus on paper cutting rather than folding as before. I began experimenting drawing over tree designs using Adobe Illustrator to create intricate, ambiguous tree stencils that could be laser cut for the window. Design ideas went from broken chairs to be stacked up like tree trunks, rotating lights casting stencil silhouettes on the walls to importing large quantities of branches and logs from the Cotswolds to act as support and structure for the installation; from 8ft wooden trees attached to the store facing to laser cut paper creepers pasted to the woodwork like vines encompassing the store in a tangled forest. The concept also had to translate to the Male Diesel store so we attached hundreds of laser cut scissors to trees there to convey the idea that the boy’s trees had cut up the paper girl’s trees. Despite a great deal of design development there was still an aspect of improvisation on the installation nights, especially to deal with the restraints that come from the location being first and foremost a working shop. Working alongside the team at StudioXag was a great: logistically, technically and creatively.

LLO: Where’s your favourite place in London for fashion inspiration – both in the shops and on the streets?
HS: London as a city is a fantastic source of inspiration in itself with the endless resources available to anyone who lives here. The markets, libraries and museums are  perfect places to contemplate design ideas; especially the Design Bookshop in the V&A. However, since  moving here, I find walking along the South Bank at night when the city is alight one of the most inspiring places to be.LLO: Give us a hint at some of the upcoming fashions in London for next season?
HS: London’s fashion strives to be new and exciting playing to a more youthful clientele where the idea of design and creativity is pushed to the limit when the factor of wearability often comes into play. I feel that next season London designers will continue in this way, however there is definitely starting to be a move to more accessible collections as individual designers’ stylistic tastes are becoming more refined and therefore subtler in their portrayal.

LLO: Which aspects of your designs make them uniquely yours?
HS: Detail. In everything that attracts me, inspires me or interests me it is always the detail that captures my attention. The cleverness of an idea or the way something has been cut. It does not have to be complex but it provokes thought. I want my work to engage people in this way; for them to see and to appreciate the detail and depth of an idea.

LLO: Who is the target audience for your work? Do your designs transfer easily from the catwalk to the streets?
HS: My work is aimed at women aged from mid-twenties to mid-thirties with an understanding and appreciation of fashion, fabric and cut who will find innovative creations in my work that augments their style and femininity. I feel my designs could be diffused from the catwalk to the streets especially as jersey is a very popular fabric to work with at the moment. However, my collection relied on using high end fabrics to create the desired effect. Replacements can be found to cater to the high street market and price-point though the results would still be different. The joy in designing for the catwalk is there is not always a mass market and a low cost budget to consider. As a designer you have more manoeuvrability.

LLO:  Which piece are you most proud of so far and why?
HS: The gold blazer from my collection. It was ironically one of the easier pieces to design as it seemed to design itself on the stand. After working on something for so many months I am often too close to my work to appreciate it, however for some reason I could still relate to this piece and enjoy wearing it myself. It is an example of an idea that remained strong from the initial sketch to its final fruition and therefore I am proud that it is mine.

LLO:What are your favourite materials to work with and the best places to buy them in London?
HS: For me, fabrics are of the utmost importance in a collection, so I take great pleasure in searching around fabric shops and showrooms to discover what is available. Shepherd’s Bush is a great place for toiling fabrics and there is a particular shop on Goldhawk Road which sells fantastic wools. There are a few showrooms along Great Titchfield Street that act as agents for factories and mills across the world. These places are ideal as you can touch and feel samples and quickly discover the vast range of fabrics that are on offer. I particularly love working with jersey and I actually sourced all of my silk jersey from Japan for my last collection.

LLO: You recently graduated from London College of Fashion and won the highly acclaimed Nina de York Illustration Award wowing people with your designs. What’s next for you?
HS: I want to keep experimenting in a range of Fashion Design disciplines. My loyalty will always remain with garment design and this is where I wish to build my career, however I feel that working in visual merchandising, buying and accessories, etc., all feeds my creativity and I hope to remain as creative a designer as possible. To study in Paris would be a fantastic opportunity and there are MBA courses that appeal to me greatly. However, I intend to gain further experience in the industry over the next few years before I embark on further education.

LLO: Any other up-and-coming London-based designers we should keep an eye on?
HS: Joanna Pritchard. I have known Jo throughout my time at London College of Fashion and she is a very talented, unassuming designer. Her minimalist style has a wide-ranging appeal but her detail attracts a closer scrutiny. Jo has just started an MA Womenswear Design course at Central St Martins and I cannot wait to see her move from strength to strength and produce an astounding collection.

Thanks Holly!

For more London Art Spot interviews, click here.