The Girl in the Green Dress

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She gets on the northbound High Barnet train at Euston. Tall, tanned and lithe, she’s the kind of girl you look up from your newspaper at. Her green dress is beautiful; a simple summer shift with a pretty floral pattern. She sits down a couple of seats away. I go back to half-reading the paper; Syria’s chemical arms; Colorado kidnapper hanged in cell; GQ awards; half-counting down the stations until I can get off.

The next station is Mornington Crescent. I know exactly where I’m going but I’m re-tracing old steps, checking off each stop as a matter of course. I’ve done this journey almost every day for the past five years, except for the last few weeks. Now, on my way back to the old flat, I feel like someone else. The next station is Camden Town.

The midriff is in. Daisy Lowe, Rita Ora, Jessie J – they’re all doing it. I look down at my own soft tummy and add ‘Get fit enough to bare midriff a la Daisy Lowe’ to my imaginary ‘things to do now I’m single’ list. I wonder if the girl in the green dress has heard my internal monologue as she’s now looking over my shoulder at the crop top feature. The next station is Kentish Town. She’s probably planning her own midriff-baring outfit. She doesn’t need to get fit.

The woman sat opposite me is wearing a fluorescent yellow top that looks garish under the lights of the tube. Her friend has long fake acrylic nails that remind me of the plastic witch fingers I would always insist on wearing for Halloween. They chat about their day ahead, their northern accents audible over the noise of the train. The next station is Tufnell Park.

The girl in the green dress gets up. Backpack slung over her shoulder and paperback in hand she hops off the train, her green dress fluttering in the underground gust of air. I wonder briefly where she’s headed before my attention turns back to the women opposite. The next station is Archway. 

As we leave the station I start to think about the next part of my journey. The thought of the old flat brings up unwanted tears. I breathe them away. Highgate East Finchley and Finchley Central come and go along with my Northern travelling companions. Finally, I get to the last little bit of the journey. The next station is West Finchley. As I step off the train all I can think of is the moment I first arrived at this suburban spot of North London. The sun was shining then too.

•••••

After leaving the flat I can’t even get to the end of the road without the tears coming up. When they do I don’t even try and wipe them away. They don’t even sting. I let them wash the makeup off my face and as I walk to the station the warm sun dries my cheeks. When I get on the train I sit in the end seat and rest my head against the glass. I wish I could fast forward the next 20 minutes.

As the doors open at Tufnell Park I look up and see her. It’s the girl in the green dress. As she walks past to an empty seat on the other side of the carriage she looks over for a second and I wonder if she recognizes me. What a coincidence. I’m used to seeing the same commuters on the same train of a morning, but seeing the same girl in the middle of the day on two random trains seems uncanny.

Suddenly I’m sobbing again. I don’t even know what I’m crying for. I try and wipe the tears away as soon as they spill out so that no one feels obliged to say anything. I can see the girl in the green dress looking over at me. I try to avoid eye contact. The tears are now running down my neck and one drops off my chin onto my chiffon top making a midnight blue spot. I see her once again glancing over at me from behind a page of her book. It’s funny though; I can see she’s genuinely concerned, not just gawping at my sadness.

As we leave Camden Town the girl in the green dress puts her book away and starts looking for something in her backpack. Through flickering glances I can see her hands doing something under the cover of her bag. I’m not quite sure what, but I know at this moment, and it’s so clear to me, that she’s going to give me something. Her face is so serene, so open and honest.

The train pulls into Euston and she gets up, pausing for just a second in front of me. She holds out her hand and in it is a small square of folded paper. She looks at me with eyes that say, “Take it”. I reach out, take the paper from her fingers and unfold it slowly. On this torn square of thick notebook paper she’s scribbled a heart surrounded by a cloud in blue biro. It’s so childlike, done in the spur of the moment, yet so thoughtful. I can’t help but smile. Before I can look up and thank her, she’s gone.

I look around expecting others to be watching, also amazed at this random act of kindness. But it seems that in those few seconds London is back to its usual aloof, uninterested best, and the other faces on the tube carriage are oblivious. I wonder whether to dash out in pursuit of the girl in the green dress to thank her, but quickly decide against it. To acknowledge it would spoil the sweet and kind simplicity of the gesture.

Coming up from underground I walk out of the station into the bright September sunshine. I take the paper heart token out of the zipped pocket of my bag and hold it out in front of me just to check I haven’t imagined it. Looking down at it I think of her kind face, and all I can see on this little square is the light reflecting back from the sun.

So long, London

Standing on the South Bank looking down river towards St Paul’s it looks as if the sky has closed down for the evening. An expanse of grey hangs over the skyline. But from where I’m standing looking across Waterloo Bridge and over towards the Houses of Parliament, there’s still a small slice of sky left under the clouds. It’s no Waterloo Sunset, but still, this clean strip of pink is holding out for the last minutes of an early August evening. As the usual crowds mill busily over the bridge walking in time to the jaunty rhythm of the Romanian accordion player, I can’t help but think that it’s the prettiest pink I’ve ever seen London wear.

I begin to walk east along the bank under the hood of grey sky. Two cyclists weave in and out of the crowds almost knocking over a smartly dressed theatre-goer as they dart past. Her husband tries to reprimand one of them with a half-shout and flick of his arm, but the hooded rider continues on regardless. Above, the post-work crowd are drinking on the terrace of the Royal Festival Hall, while in front of me ambling tourists stop and take pictures of the long-haired boys in the skate park.

Picking up my pace I start to feel a sense of separation from the crowd. I’m in a bubble and my mind starts to wander. As my gaze drifts on and off the Thames I think of Melvin Sokolsky’s trompe l’oiel images of models in giant plastic spheres on the Seine in Paris. Surrounded by the beautiful cityscape they appear to be floating effortlessly on the river; their couture outfits protected from the city’s grimy reality.

Approaching the National Theatre I remember a moment, it must be almost 5 years ago to the day, standing on one of its balconies with friends. The viewpoint was almost the same as the one I have now. I had just moved to London. Looking out on to the twinkling lights of the city, I remember feeling the excitement of possibility, of real freedom. The cliche makes me smile even now.

As I continue along the South Bank thinking of the old times I feel a pang of regret. I’m not ready to leave this mecca. The memories roll past with the river; the second hand book market where I bought a battered copy of Great Expectations, the evening we set off on a bike ride through the city, Christmas carols being sung by smiling faces, boozy evenings, bright mornings, long afternoons filled with cheese and wine bought from Borough Market. It’s all there, written into the landmarks and hidden spots.

Later on a glass of wine with a friend turns into my goodbye drink with London. We lean against the railing of a busy bankside pub. Looking back up the river across London Bridge to where I started, I can see the tiniest square of pinkish orange left in the sky. It’s stuck there like a piece of gold sweet wrapper glistening on a dirty pavement. I want to reach up and peel it off then put it in my pocket for safekeeping until I collect enough pieces to put them all back together again and make a bright burning sky.

I made a promise to myself there and then that I would hold onto that little square of light as a reminder of everything I love about this city. As the last flecks of light disappear from the sky and my bright beacon becomes swallowed up by the grey mass I raise a silent toast. So long, London. I’ll see you soon.

Seeing Red

Passion, love, anger, fear – red is a symbol for some of our strongest emotions. So it’s no surprise that when we wear this colour it can have a powerful visceral effect. There’s something about putting on a red dress that can instantly lift our mood, our outlook, the way we see – and indeed, the way we are seen by others. Get the right shade for your skin tone and it can quite simply transform you from forgettable, to majestic.

For AW12 red was a key shade on the catwalk, promising to bring a much needed injection of warmth and colour our wardrobes for the cooler months. But this season, red was not ubiquitous; it was used sparingly – and with great dramatic effect.

At Jil Sander, a handful of looks in pigment-rich red peppered an otherwise neutral palette, adding a kick of vibrant, yet considered colour to this exquisitely elegant collection.

Jil Sander AW12 Red Looks

Elsewhere, at Alexander McQueen, we saw series of exclusively red looks, one after another, creating a pocket of high impact colour. It was a fantastical explosion of deep pinkish-reds within a collection that was made up of shades of cream and ivory, punctuated with black.

Alexander McQueen AW12 Red Looks

By it’s loud, unapologetic nature, red tends to lend itself to saying, ‘take notice, sit up and look at me.’ In fact, there is something a little bit sinister about certain shades of red, and this was certainly tangible at Christopher Kane’s AW12 show. Kane himself compared the red he used to “a vial of blood”, and it was this bright blood red, manifested in sheer panels with floral flock, that really stood out.

Christopher Kane AW12 Red

At Christian Dior, there was only a single red look, long sleeved, elegantly waisted and with a pleated full tulle skirt. A deceptively simple outfit, it flounced effortlessly down the catwalk with every step the model took. Its isolated appearance in the show served to make this one of the standout looks of the collection; a single red rose within a bed of equally beautiful, but by their shade alone, less memorable creations.

Christian Dior AW12

Colour was a central theme at Lanvin, which opened with a clutch of figure-shaping looks in intense, rich shades. Alongside teal, mustard and plum, red had its moment in powerful shades of tomato and scarlet. As the collection developed, Elbaz paired these delicious shades with black lace details and ornate jewel accessories for a truly opulent feel.

Lanvin AW12 Red

The discussion of this ravishing shade would not be complete of course, without mentioning the master of the red dress, Valentino. Due to be the focus of an exhibition at Somerset House this November, Valentino: Master of Couture will be a retrospective showcasing over 130 couture designs made by the house. Valentino’s mastery was apparent on the AW12 catwalk, with look after look of elegant designs, including a scalloped edge dress and an intricate cut out style, both in the house’s signature shade.

Valentino AW12 Red Looks

So what is it about this alluring shade that makes it so enduring? Diana Vreeland, one of fashion’s most revered figures and fashion editors puts it well:

“Red is the great clarifier – bright, cleansing, revealing. It makes all colors beautiful. I can’t imagine being bored with it – it would be like becoming tired of the person you love. ”

Red is the great master of reinvention. It’s a shade that can be both dangerous and alluring, represent love and hate – it can be two extremes. Red is all-powerful.

How does wearing red make you feel?

The Housewife Trend SS12: 3 Ladies of Leisure to Love

The housewife has become SS12’s unlikely heroine. From Prada’s immaculately dressed mid-century Mrs. to Jonathan Saunders’ paisley-clad lady of leisure, this season fashion has fallen for the glamorous housewife.

Many designers looked back to the middle of the last century for their inspiration, with collections that were influenced by classic 1950s shapes and styles. But this trend  isn’t necessarily about perfecting the classic fifties housewife get-up,  it’s more about creating a look with a sense of ‘put-togetherness.’ It’s an outfit that says, ‘I have all the time in the world to apply my daily moisturising lotion, pick out the perfect outfit and then sashay around the house all day with a G+T’ – even if in reality you’re battling commuters, running around the office and downing shots of esspresso.

So for a little bit of alternative inspiration, I’ve picked three of popular culture’s most stylish housewives – with very different looks – who really had the housewife look polished off.

The Reluctant Housewife: Mrs Robinson

SS12 Housewife Trend: Mrs Robinson

In the classic film The Graduate, bored housewife Mrs. Robinson embarks on an affair with young student Benjamin Braddock. Poised, elegant and immaculately turned out, Mrs Robinson epitomises the glamorous older woman. Diane Von Furstenberg’s neatly beehived women perfectly captured Mrs’s Robinson’s essence of grown up sexuality. For Mrs. Robinson’s signature animal print, look no further than Michael Kors where exotic was the mood of the moment.Prada’s silk embroidered jacket, belted neatly yet nonchalantly at the waist is demure yet chic. Worn over a thigh revealing one-piece, the sexy flash of leg brings to mind the iconic image of Anne Bancroft’s  stocking-clad leg that adorned the poster of the movie. Mrs Robinson, are you trying to seduce us?

The Suburban Goddess: Margo Leadbetter

SS12 Housewife Trend: Margo Leadbetter

1970s housewife Margo Leadbetter of British sit-com The Good Life is one stylish suburbanite. Social climber and staunch conservative, Margo’s flamboyant outfits are anything but. Think flowing maxi dresses and one-pieces in jewel-toned giant florals,  accessorised with headscarves, pearly painted nails and a cigarette in hand. This season, Temperly London captures Margo’s easy elegance with their floor length floral print silk maxi and kimono style shawl.  At Diane Von Furstenberg, Margo’s penchant for flower power comes into play with a green oversized Marimekko print, while at Emilo Pucci the paisley print silk one-piece was surely made for Margo?

The Magic Mum: Samantha Stephens

SS12 Housewife Trend: Samantha Bewitched

A glamorous witch with a beguiling twitch, Samantha Stephens marries a mortal and attempts to lead her life as a typical suburban housewife. Aside from her magical ways it was Samantha’s sense of style – and in particular her love of paisley prints – that made Bewitched an unlikely source of fashion inspiration. Jonathan Saunders presented his own take on the stylish housewife for SS12, but his emerald green paisley mini dress wouldn’t look out of place on a perfectly coiffed Samantha. The colourful paisley print at Jil Sander is a sleek and modern take on the trend, while Stella McCartney’s cord embroidered mini dress delivers a dose of youthful sexiness. Samantha, we’re bewitched.

It’s a Shoe-In: The Christian Louboutin Exhibition at Design Museum

christian-louboutin-retrospective-showcases-20-years-of-design

With their distinctive red soles, leg-lengthening abilities and irresistibly curvaceous shape, the Louboutin is instantly recognisable. From bejewelled showgirl heels to his classic black pumps, Christian Louboutin has created a brand that epitomises female glamour, elegance and power – and every girl wants to own a piece of that.

In just over 1 week the Christian Louboutin exhibition will open at the Design Museum in London. After reaching the 20 year milestone in his career last year, the exhibition will celebrate his work to date, charting the inspiration, artistry and theatre of his designs.

I first remember becoming aware of Louboutin when I was around 15. Every weekend I would visit the huge bookstore in the city centre and leaf through the pages of ‘Burlesque and the Art of the Teese’ by Dita Von Teese. I would open the book and be transported to this glamorous world of curvy corset cuties, martini glass routines and the scandal of tights.

When I was finally bought the book (for a birthday as far as I can remember) I devoured every page and was dazzled by Dita’s glamorous costumes – many of them Jean Paul Gaultier, Dolce and Gabbana, Thierry Mugler, Louis Vuitton – but  even more so by her shoes. What were these creations with the shocking red sole? I soon discovered that they were the work of shoe designer, Christian Louboutin, and that Dita and he shared a close collaborative relationship – a shared love of high heels.

There’s a great quote in her book that for me, really sums up a woman’s relationship with her heels:

“…these shoes are physically transformative. Walk across the room and feel the muscles up and down your legs flex and tense, your bum bump into the air, your hips swerve with each step. Your foot too looks lovely and tiny, but it’s more than that. You are sex on heels.” Dita Von Teese The Art of the Teese.

christian_louboutin_dita_cabaret_crystal_encrusted_t-bar

‘Dita’ Cabaret crystal encrusted T-bar. Image taken from Les 20 Ans book, Christian Louboutin.

Looking back over this quote it got me thinking about my own relationship with shoes. I love the theatricality of Dita’s description, but anyone who has ever spent an evening in 5 inch heels or more knows that it can often be less than glamorous.  But despite the possible discomfort of cramming your toes into a skyscraper heel, there’s no doubt that they can transform the way you feel, as well as the way you look. It’s pretty straightforward, a good pair of shoes can give you a magic dose of confidence.

Shoes have to be one of my biggest ‘impulse buys.’ Like most women I have a collection that is well into double figures, and most of these have been of-the-moment, must-have, snap-them-up-now purchases. More than say, clothes, makeup or – dare I say it – even handbags, there’s a rush that comes with buying a pair of shoes that just doesn’t compare.

In a way, shoes are a lot like underwear. They make up a relatively small part of your outfit, and can even sometimes remain unseen, but the right pair of shoes, just like a well fitting bra – can literally transform the way you look, and feel.

I can have a lazy outfit day – jeans, blouse and blazer – but the simple addition of my favourite electric blue suede ankle boots and I’m walking tall, shoulders back, a swing in my hips, and all from the power at my feet. Yes, it may be silly that I have to put on a pair of shoes to give me confidence that I should probably have anyway, but hey – it works.

My-too-good-to-wear-shoes

My very own ‘too-good-to-wear’ shoes

There is one interesting thing to consider however. My most favourite pair of shoes are the ones I rarely wear – if at all. Bought for me as a gift, although chosen my me, I keep them safely tucked away at the bottom of my wardrobe, bringing them out only occasionally as if to check that they are still there and haven’t disappeared though lack of wear.  When I do take them out I often find myself trying them on only to decide that they are almost ‘too good’ to wear and should be admired instead.

Aside from being one of the most successful and famous shoe designers around, I think that, for many, the opportunity to see Louboutin’s designs and creations up close is going to be one of biggest draws of the up-coming exhibition. His shoes are the ultimate ‘too good to wear’ shoes, and the chance to spend an afternoon looking at and admiring them is an opportunity that’s just too good to miss.

Christian Louboutin, Design Museum, London. 1st May – 9th July 2012. 

Who Said Florals are Feminine? The Floral Trend SS12

We’re currently in the midst of one of the most ultra-girly fashion seasons there’s been for a long time. Delicate lace, giant broderie anglaise, ice cream shades and shapely peplums, yet – maybe surprisingly – designers still found room for an abundance of florals on the catwalk.

The trend for floral has tended to become synonymous with the idea of ‘feminine’, a word which is pretty double edged when it comes to describing fashion – or anything else for that matter. We use it to convey soft, pretty, girlish styles, but clearly being feminine as a trait involves so much more.

You’d think pastel shades and pretty lace would be just enough ‘girl ‘ for one season? Apparently not. The catwalks were in bloom with all manner of floral prints. But on closer inspection, SS12’s florals are far from girly, in fact the trend that in any other season would be referred to as ‘the feminine one’ actually gets to act as an alternative to the icy sugar plum pastels that are owning the girly look for spring/summer. Yes, this season, florals got fierce.

Mary Katrantzou SS12

At Mary Katrantzou, colour-fuelled florals were digitally printed onto structured architectural shapes and interspersed with contrasting patterns to create the ultimate powerhouse pieces. These looks had an instant hit of edgy chic that promised to blow sugared almond shades out of the water. And although Christopher Kane opted for a slightly more subtle look, translating his floral vision via metallic brocades and crafted paintbox coloured appliqué, his take on florals veered towards  the ironic and playful, rather than looking like something that could be described as genuinely girly.

In New York, Alexander Wang gave urban sportswear a coating of monochrome florals that were so dense they almost looked graffiti-like. Against black leather and mesh panels, his sport-infused boiler suit shapes gave floral a whole new feel.

Alexander Wang SS12

Alexander Wang SS12

Even at Dolce and Gabbana where Mediterranean looking women sashayed down the catwalk in hot-house floral prints, there was an edge. Not so much a cutting edge, but a fire and a strength coming through those carnival-esque prints. Just look at the SS11 campaign images – the younger female, legs positioned apart, frame broadened into a masculine pose – and Monica Belluci, the matriarch in black, these women command the attention in the picture. These are typical Italian females, powerful, strong and sexy.

Dolce-Gabanna-SS12

Dolce and Gabbana SS12 Campaign

Then there was Miuccia Prada, who delivered her own magical brand of grown up chic with retro florals that, in her hands, felt anything but twee. Teamed with the runaway heel of the season, the unbelievably cool Hot Rods, her mid-century-inspired shapes and crafted rosebud embroidery felt cartoon-like, a parody of the 1950s housewife. After all, this Prada girl’s got fire at her heels.

Prada SS12

Prada Ss12

Hot Rods aside, this isn’t the kind of treatment we’re used to seeing with floral; these are not the flouncy blooms of Stella McCartney’s SS08 collection, nor are they the painterly florals we’ve become accustomed to in recent years from the likes of Brit designer Erdem. SS12’s floral story is packing much more of a punch.

This season florals have got an edge, so often are they resigned to being ‘wedding wear’ and ‘garden party chic’, finally the time has come for florals to take centre stage as something different. Thanks to Louis Vuitton’s fairground candy floss shades and laser cut lace, and other designers’ use of ultra pretty fashion taking up the ‘feminine’ quota for the season, florals are being given space to breathe.

This season designers have given us high power florals, that represent a new kind of feminine; bold, powerful, complex and beautiful, they’re anything you want them to be.

Festive Film: Happy 2012 from Lanvin’s Christmas Window, Paris

Following Steven Meisel’s irreverent and witty AW11 campaign video for Lanvin, which featured models such as Raquel Zimmerman and Karen Elson dancing to Pitbull’s ‘I know you want me’, you’ll be pleased to hear that the French fashion house has followed up with an equally fabulous Christmas campaign video.

Set in the window of Lanvin 22 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore, Paris, the video follows  the action as the mannequins are being dressed; the finishing touches are added, and the exciting transformation is completed as the scene changes from day to night. Featuring a collection of suitably gorgeous characters, including sleek fashionistas, a pretty little girl and an incredibly dapper gentleman, the video wouldn’t be complete without a cameo appearance from Alber Elbaz himself.

So for an alternative take on the festive campaign and some more Lanvin-esque dancing, take a look at the Lanvin Christmas window video here:

Pretty damn fabulous, wouldn’t you agree? A special mention has to go to those large spot polka dot tights that are featured in the video. Stylish and so easy to wear, this fun leg-wear will be essential for party dressing this festive season.

Top of the polka dot tights list are Wolford’s Bonny Dots Tights, £32

Wolford Bonny Dot Tights

Or for a snip at half the price, I’m loving Marks and Spencer’s Limited Collection Sheer Spot Tights, £12.

So be inspired by Lanvin’s Happy 2012 Parisian Christmas window campaign and show off your pins in this season’s hottest polka dot tights.

Save the Children Bag to Save a Life Auction ends today…

Olivia Fisher Bag to Save a Life Auction

Last week I was invited to Save the Children’s event for their Bag to Save a Life auction, where I got the chance to see the entire collection of donated handbags before they went to auction on ebay.

A handful of celebrities and designers, including Samantha Cameron, Sienna Miller, Christopher Kane and Jason Wu all donated a handbag in aid of the event to be auctioned off to raise money for Save the Children. Hosted at Mary Portas’s Living and Giving shop in Westbourne Grove, the event gave guests the opportunity to take a closer look at the handbags before they went to auction.

Many of the most fabulous bags were on display in the window,  hanging alongside an Erin O’Connor-esque mannequin. The poster girl for the Bag to Save a Life campaign, Erin was unfortunately unable to attend the event – so we made do with the plastic version instead. In between small talk with faux Erin,  I spotted my favourite bag of the evening; donated by actress Tilda Swinton, I just had to get a photo with the oversized Chanel Bow Satin Clutch (above).

Save the Children Bag to Save a Life Window Display

As well as my dream Chanel number, there were some other gorgeous bags on display, including an all-over glitter Miu Miu bag donated by Julia Restoin Roitfeld, currently going for £541.00 on ebay;

Miu Miu bag donated by Julia Restoin Roitfeld

A Christan Louboutin shoulder bag, donated by the man himself, featuring a large velvet bow strap detail – going for a strong £530.00 so far;

Christian Louboutin Bag at Bag to Save a Life Event

And this season’s must-have fashion bag, the Christopher Kane gel clutch, currently a snip at just £122.75 – definitely worth a last minute bid.

Christopher Kane Gel Clutch at Bag to Save a Life Event

Music fans may want to place their bid on Florence Welch’s vintage box-style handbag, £175.00 on ebay at last glance.

Florence Welch's vintage Handbag at Bag to Save a Life Auction

So with just a few hours left to go on most of the bags, now’s the time to pick your favourite, or favourites, and place your bids. It’s really a no-brainer: you give lots of money to a truly fabulous cause, and you get a designer or celebrity’s handbag in return – win win. It also means that instead of that guilty feeling you might get after spending £300.00 on the high street, you get a lovely warm fuzzy feeling inside knowing you’ve saved a life.

Fingers at the ready….I know which one I’ll be bidding on.

Save the Children Bag to Save a Life Auction ends today. Find out more on the Save the Children UK ebay page

Dita Von Teese hosts Cocktail Masterclass at Cointreau Prive

The very fabulous Dita Von Teese with Olivia Fisher

Jeff Spicer/Cointreau Dita Von Teese

Dita Von Teese is hosting a cocktail making masterclass to celebrate the launch of her new cocktail lounge, Cointreau Prive, would you like to attend? Hmm. Yes please.

Tuesday evening may have been the official launch of the Cointreau Prive at 215 Picadilly,  but Thursday saw Dita Von Teese and a handful of bloggers take part in an exclusive cocktail making masterclass, lead by none other than Ms. Teese herself.  Guests at the launch may have been treated to one of Dita’s famed burlesque acts, but we got her up close and personal – and her tips on making the perfect cocktail – Cointreau based of course.

Wearing  Dolce and Gabanna, Louboutins and her signature red lip, Dita made an understated entrance; her petite frame held with perfect posture and poise. Quietly but assuredly spoken, Dita gave us a brief introduction to her involvement with Cointreau and a history on the classic drink. She also apologised on account of her jet lag, joking “I just get out of bed looking like this.”

Assisted by Cointreau’s master mixologist, we lined up at the bar while Dita showed us the perfect way to make the Citrus and Spice, the Cointreau Prive’s signature drink. A pinch of grated ginger, a generous measure of Cointreau, fresh orange juice – (it totes has to be fresh), a squeeze of lemon (don’t get it in your eye – or on Dita’s dress) then an obligatory shake over ice. For the finishing touch, our mixologist added a  a waft of orange oil over the top and a slick around the rim. Dita’s cocktail was served, and after taking a sip what was her verdict? “Well I don’t like to drink alone,”

This was our cue to try and re-create the cocktail, and in a scene that felt mildly Generation Game-esque (not a bad thing) we were served the essential ingredients in our own miniature cocktail shakers. Instructed to hold both ends – we wouldn’t want Cointreau Citrus and Spice showers now would we – we were told to shake it, so shake it we did. Holding it over my shoulder I gave it my best  cocktail waitress impression, alternating from side to side for added pizazz. At one point I  got so carried away I think it was even above my head – then I remembered I was in the presence of Dita Von Teese and I was attempting to appear somewhat refined.

Tasting cocktails at the Cointreau Prive Cocktail Lounge

Thankfully my fingers had gone numb from the ice, which meant it was time to pour the drink and stop shaking. In to the signature Dita Von Teese glass it went, and it was time to taste. My verdict: very very nice, and pleasingly strong. As you can tell, my cocktail critique is somewhat limited. Let’s put it this way, after a couple of sips I decided to stop drinking until I’d spoken to Dita, as trying to form complete sentences with numb lips can be quite difficult.

It was time to have my moment with Dita. With a line that went some way to making my evening, the photographer asked, ‘are you ready for your close up?’ Ha! In a word, no. I’m ever so slightly flustered, glowing from alcohol, have semi-numb lips and I’m about to stand next to one of the world’s most glamorous women. But, thank you for asking.

Stepping up to the wall of Cointreau to meet Dita, I tried to conceal the distinct liqueur whiff emanating from my lips. We posed for a photo and from the results it appears that we both went for the ‘hand on hip’ approach, albeit with very different results.

So then I got the chance to ask Dita about the Cointreau Prive, and as we chatted she told me how pleased she was with how it had all turned out. But, as the club has been co-designed by Dita and based on her LA home, I wanted to know if she really lived in somewhere  as lavish as this? It seems that ‘inspired by’ is key to what they’ve produced in the cocktail lounge, although Dita did point out a pleated fabric ceiling, “I have that in my bedroom,” a vintage drinks cabinet, which is very similar to one she has at home, as well as an antique chinoiserie bed – Dita loves that French and Italian gothic look. Sounds pretty damn fabulous to me.

And with that Ms. Von Teese was whisked away, no doubt heading off to sprinkle some more of her distinctive old school glamour elsewhere. So with her elegant presence still there in spirit, we were left to enjoy the spoils of another, somewhat more potent spirit  in the surroundings of the Cointreau Prive. Ms. Von Teese, you sure know how to make a killer cocktail…

The Cointreau Prive Cocktail Lounge

Dita Von Teese's Costume at Cointreau Prive

Cointreau Citrus and Spice Cocktail

Cointreau Privé at 215 Piccadilly. The Cointreau Privé is guestlist only – to book a place go to www.cointreauprive.co.uk

Velvet Johnstone SS12 Preview: Some Velvet Morning

Velvet Johnstone Some Velvet Morning SS12

A few months ago I blogged about up-and-coming East London designer Velvet Johnstone and her stunning neo-noir AW11 collection, Chasing Dreams. Johnstone is a really exciting figure in the fashion design scene which is why I’m really pleased to be able to share a preview of her new collection for SS12, Some Velvet Morning.

The new collection takes classic Velvet Johnstone components – structure, luxurious and high-tech fabrics, masculine tailoring – and moves it forwards once again. This season the look is decidedly retro; inspired by West Coast America there’s a mix of 1950s styling, clean modern shapes, soft floating fabrics and the mainstay of Johnstone’s winning collections, super-short hot pants.

In preparation for next season, Johnstone has created a video to accompany the collection. Set in  a 1950s cream-walled loft apartment against two huge windows, the scene is all soft light and filmic slow motion. Featuring a blonde-locked heroine strutting seductively up and down, this dreamy sequence feels as though it could be something from a Tarantino film. This is helped somewhat by the soundtrack: the dark and moody ‘Some Velvet Morning’ by Lee Hazelwood and Nancy Sinatra. Like Tarantino’s leading women, Velvet Johnstone’s blonde is powerful and interesting, not just a pretty face. Take a look at the video below.

some velvet mornin.. velvet johnstone SS12 preview. from Anna Victoria Best on Vimeo.

This is one of the great things about Velvet Johnstone, her finger is so firmly on the pulse that she has a canny ability to sense what is going to be ‘hot’ months before, and translate this into her next collection.  There’s a real trend for 1950s Americana nostalgia at the moment. Take 2011’s most talked about newcomer, American singer-songwriter Lana Del Ray. Her atmospheric, troubled-soul debut single Video Games has a numbness to it that is deeply alluring. Johnstone’s SS12 video has this same attraction – you’re never quite sure what’s going on behind the blonde model’s eyes.

ohnstone Some Velvet Morning SS12

What’s really starting to emerge now from Johnstone’s collections is a really identifiable aesthetic. She creates collections that are soft and girlish at first look,  but that have a subtle undercurrent of darkness. Watching ‘Some Velvet Morning’ I find it hard not to imagine a dangerous subtext to this dreamy scene.

Some of the standout pieces from SS12 include a two-tone playsuit; a simple half-shirt, half-hot-pants combination, a candy pink crushed velvet cape, and a rather fabulous piece of embellished shoulder armoury. Sun-ray pleats feature strongly in this collection; from the Pierrot style cape to the front pleat-detail white shirt, but this effect really comes into its own with the floor length sheer-skirted white dress.

ohnstone Some Velvet Morning SS12

Velvet Johnstone SS12

ohnstone Some Velvet Morning SS12

ohnstone Some Velvet Morning SS12

Yet another stunning collection from this East London darling…and I can’t wait to see it in full bloom come next spring.

Visit Velvet Johnstone’s website here.