Surviving Christmas By Candlelight

christmas by candlelight

Picture the scene. It’s Christmas Eve Eve, my family and I are gathered around the kitchen table chatting about the next three days. Oh the crumpets we’ll toast, the mince pies we’ll make, Christmas specials we’ll watch and Playstation games I’ll trounce my brother at. It goes without saying that throughout this merriment, there’ll be hot water a’plenty, a cosy Aga to hug and WiFi for when conversing with one’s nearest and dearest becomes unbearable. Then BAM! Lights out. Just as we’re tucking in to the first of many long, jovial feasts. At first it’s all rather novel, dinner by candlelight, what fun! So we all get fairly drunk and stumble off to bed, clutching hot water bottles to keep toasty in a house growing colder by the second. We awake the next morn (sorry, this tale telling thing is making me come over all olde worlde) expecting to fire up the Espresso maker and all have a good LOL over the previous evening’s drama. But the power does not return. At all. For the next four days and nights. Christmas by candlelight may sound dead romantic in a Tudor banquet, back-to-basics kind of way but pretty soon you’ll be tearing your unbrushed, greasy hair out and climbing trees in an attempt to get phone signal. In case any of you ever find yourselves in this dire predicament, here are a few pointers to help your and your family get out in one piece.

1) Do avoid physical exertion of any sort. And I don’t mean jumping jacks or jogging, that goes without saying. I’m talking heavy lifting (Christmas cake, turkeys, excessively large stacks of crumpets…), high speed present unwrapping, competitive board games, really anything that risks breaking out in a sweat. Unless you’re impervious to ice water, showering is a no go so by day four your family home runs the risk of smelling like a men’s locker room, before the invention of Lynx. Urgh.

2) Don’t attempt to remedy the situation by getting blind drunk. It will seem like a hilarious and ingenious idea at first but when your grandmother’s prizing your Sophia Webster stilettos from your feet so your father can drag you up the very dark stairs, muttering even more darkly about how you’re “not a bloody teenager anymore” the whole thing just gets embarrassing. I speak from experience here.

3) Do keep everyone entertained with a rousing rendition of All I Want For Christmas complete with Mariah style warbling. Some may complain at first but trust me, they love it really.

4) Don’t be the first person to get up in the morning. If you are, then you’ll get stuck doing the mountains of washing up it was “too dark” to do after supper. Remember, no electricity means no dishwasher… Quelle horror!

5) Do embrace hats indoors. Firstly, it will be cold enough to make this more of a necessity than a slightly wanky fashion statement. Secondly, no amount of dry shampoo and backcombing can disguise days worth of turkey grease, chocolate and glitter quite like a good old bobble hat.

6) Do GO TO TOWN on the Christmas grub, chocolates, mince pies and anything else you can lay your hands on. No one can see if you unbutton your J Brands or slip into something elasticated… Result.

7) Do not, under any circumstances use the words “it’s like Christmas didn’t even happen” in reference to your inability to Instagram every single second of it. The fact this is totally true won’t stop you getting mocked. Certain family members may even threaten to throw your beloved iPhone out of a window. #justsaying

8) Do still get your gladrags on. Ok, so no one will be able to see your fancy frock but wearing the same, stained pyjamas for days on end will depress you even more than the aforementioned lack of Instagram. Applying make up is a whole different story. Attempting vampy berry lipstick in the dark won’t end well, trust me.

9) If, by some miracle, you manage to cook something vaguely resembling Christmas Dinner do not grab a handful of brussels sprouts and chestnuts straight out of the pan and swallow it whole. Doing so will burn your entire oesophagus rendering those roast potatoes you’d been so looking forward to a painful ordeal. Obviously this also applies if you have light, but at least in a blackout you can pass greed/stupidity off as darkness induced confusion.

10) Do… Enjoy it. As much as I’ve whinged and moaned about the whole thing to anyone who’ll listen since escaping back to London it was actually pretty awesome being totally disconnected from the world for a few days of eating, drinking and chilling en famille. Admittedly it would have been better with heat, light and the ability to clean oneself but hey, you can’t have everything.

Love Ella. X

Posted on by Ella Catliff in Fashion Leave a comment

Louis Vuitton SS14

Louis Vuitton

Generally speaking, I try not to get into the habit of posting ad campaigns. Don’t get me wrong, a lot are so utterly inspired I could ramble on about them for hours. But of course, I can’t post every single one and doing some but not others can get a bit awks. However, there are some campaigns so utterly spectacular it would be a crime not to share them, regardless of the fact you’ve probably seen them already. One such campaign, or rather triumphant work of fabulousness, is Louis Vuitton SS14 or, as I like to think of it, Marc’s Showgirls.

Louis Vuitton

Edie Campbell

louis vuitton

Catherine Deneuve

As you may remember, this season I attended my first ever Paris Fashion Week including the inevitably breathtaking, fashion month grande finale that is the Louis Vuitton show. The experience was one I will never forget. Despite being basically the only person on planet fashion not to have heard the rumours of Marc Jacob’s imminent departure from Maison Vuitton, I sensed something was afoot the moment I entered the venue. Iconic pieces from the sets of Marc’s most memorable shows, including the station clock, carousel, escalators and hotel corridor, had been re-imagined in black; a glamourously gothic take on the designer’s “greatest hits” if you will. The press release exquisitely packaged on our seats (mine was labelled “Mademoiselle Ella Catliff”, I nearly fainted) was equally poignant with a personal note from Monsieur Jacobs dedicating the collection to his muses and “the showgirl in all of us.” As for the show that followed, well, just click here if you need a reminder. But enough nostalgia, let’s talk campaign. Staging your swansong show for an iconic heritage brand you’ve turned into one of the hottest fashion labels around must be tricky. If, as Marc did, you manage to go above and beyond leaving even the most RBF (resting bitch face) afflicted among us practically weeping then concocting an equally incredible advertising campaign must be practically impossible. Or so one might think, anyway.

Louis Vuitton

Sophia Coppola

louis vuitton

Caroline De Maigret

How best to represent a collection in homage to the iconic, powerful females who have inspired the work of one of the most influential designers of our time? By featuring them, of course. As you can see, the Louis Vuitton Spring/Summer 2014 advertising campaign is devoted to a series of portraits of the Marc Jacobs’ personal muses. Catherine Deneuve, Sofia Coppola, Gisele Bündchen, Fan Bingbing, Caroline de Maigret and Edie Campbell, the model hand-picked by Marc Jacobs to open his final runway show naked save for a theatrical headdress and LV graffiti. Shot by Steven Meisel in the same noir palette as the SS14 show and featuring this season’s variations on the iconic Noé bag in feathered or studded alligator, Sprouse sequins, or Monogram canvas trimmed with black leather.

louis vuitton

Fan Bing Bing

louis vuitton

Gisele Bündchen

There’s something both hauntingly beautiful and powerfully striking about this campaign. In short, c’est magnifique. It seems a fitting tribute to Marc Jacobs’ 16 years at the helm of Louis Vuitton. Nicholas Ghesquire, bring it on.

Love Ella. X

Posted on by Ella Catliff in Fashion 4 Comments

Designers & Makers Christmas Market

Happy Saturday one and all! As you can probably tell, I’m in a festive mood. God knows anyone who took a peep at my Instagram feed these past couple of weeks will know that I’m desperately trying to embrace all things Christmassy… Especially those of the novelty variety. Anyway, the subject of today’s post isn’t exactly novelty per se but it’s certainly novel, in a great way. For anyone who’ll be in London next week, or who might need an excuse to hit the capital before December 25th madness well and truly descends, I have the perfect seasonal yet chic destination for you. Every year the Southbank is transformed into a glittering, bauble strewn wonderland of Winter treats with exhibitions at the Hayward Gallery (this year’s Ana Mendieta: Traces and Dayanita Singh: Go away closer are meant to be fantastic), cafes, restaurants, bars, spectacles and, as is the subject of this post, Christmas markets galore. While wine, cheese and chocolate are undeniably three of the greatest things ever, it’s the Designers & Makers market that’s really got me excited about the Southbank Centre Winter Festival.

Designer Makers at Southbank Flyer joint-3

This year the festival is bigger, better and more innovative than ever with over 50, carefully selected UK based independent designers bringing their wares to the bank of the Thames for one week, and one week only. I admit, I’m maybe a teensy bit biased because my mum will be showcasing her brand, Anne Bowes Jewellery there. But in all honesty, even if we weren’t related I’d still be banging on about her stuff because it is really and truly gorgeous. Vintage charms sources from all over the world, some of which inspire the pieces and others used in them to create totally one off designs you wont find anywhere else. She uses precious and semi precious elements to concoct unique, delicate necklaces, bracelets and rings all handmade at our house in Sussex. Naturally I’ve managed to pilfer a fair few Anne Bowes Jewellery pieces (well, wouldn’t you?) over the years and am rarely seen without one on. Over the past year I’ve worn them to shoots for Miss Vogue, Company Magazine and others besides and on every occasion, the stylist has insisted on featuring them.

Anne Bowes Jewellery Vintage Gold Swan & Crystals Necklace

Anne Bowes Jewellery christmas

Anne Bowes Jewellery Love Birds Necklace

Sharing her stand will be Lee Renée, another incredibly talented up-and-coming jewellery designer whose playful, contemporary creations have popped up in the pages of Vogue, InStyle, Glamour and adorning countless famous females. And if jewellery’s not your bag then fear not, the Designers & Makers Christmas Market will also have everything from ceramics to textiles, prints and homewares.

LeeRenee christmas

Lee Renée Starcrossed Lovers Collection

The Designers & Makers Christmas Market will run from 11am to 8pm every day from Monday 16th December to Sunday 22nd. Click here for more information.

Love Ella. X

Ps) For anyone who won’t be in London next week but likes the look of these can shop Anne Bowes Jewellery here and Lee Renée here.

Posted on by Ella Catliff in Fashion 1 Comment

Buon Compleanno Pollini

pollini 2

Hands up WHO LOVES SHOES? You’re not alone, obviously not. Even I, a committed bag-a-holic, lose my mind over a pair of spectacular stilettos or batch of brilliant boots. Today I’m going to wax lyrical about the latest creations from a company that’s been beloved of high heel addicts since the the 1950s, Pollini. Masterminded by the footwear extraordinaire that is Nicholas Kirkwood since 2010, the label is well and truly on fire right now and their SS14 collection is a true testament to the power of a heritage brand revamped. What with frost on the ground and Christmas on our minds, it seems a little crazy to be thinking about next Summer already. But that’s fashion for you dahhhling. TBH most designers are probably almost done thinking about SS15 (!!) but I’m not going to boggle my own brain by even contemplating that. Instead let us contemplate the marvels that are these Pollini designs, after all they’ll start arriving in the early months of next year.

pollini 1

Pollini 3

In my opinion, one never needs an excuse to ogle really fab shoes (or bags… or coats… or clothes in general really) but in case you do, listen up. This isn’t just a collection, it’s the Pollini 60th Anniversary collection. Ok, that would have sounded infinitely more dramatic had M&S not used the phrase in one of it’s kinda-cringe-yet-seriously-enticing adverts but still, you get my drift. And it’s a milestone well worth celebrating. Spending the past two and a bit years studying Fashion History and Theory at Central Saint Martins has taught me many things. The technical terms for each part of a Tudor Nobleman’s dress for one (although I’ve forgotten that now), how to use the Harvard Referencing System (well, ish) for another. An area I’ve found particularly fascinating is that of traditional artisan craftsmanship and how some of these original, pre LVMH luxury brands have managed to adapt their legacy of time tested techniques and in-house production to the 21st century. In an age of faster than fast fashion, live streaming, pre ordering and pre collections it seems almost impossible to conceive that the bespoke, handmade approach that clothed and shod the Olivia Palermos and Mira Dumas or yore could possibly still exist, let alone remain a viable business model. But, somehow and sometimes they do, Pollini is a prime example. Fusing the artisanal skill, flawless quality materials and painstaking attention to detail that brought about the company’s success in the 50s and 60s with the bold, boundary pushing style of Nicholas Kirkwood has resulted in this Italian heritage brand being one of the most coveted in fashion right now.

pollini 6

pollini 4

Every pair of Pollinis is manufactured in Italy but with a hearty dose of devil may care London experimentation, making for a heady blend of luxury and innovation that’s quite frankly impossible to resist. Take the aforementioned SS14 collection; Nicholas Kirkwood looked to iconic British figures from the seventies to give his designs an androgynous, retro allure. We all know retro can get boring but Kirkwood deftly sidestepped the dull factor by keeping things fresher-than0fresh with fruity hues ranging from ice whites and Klein blues to eye popping shades of coral, peach, lilac and primary yellow all paired back with pearl and lacquer finishes as well the brands signature metal detailing. As previously mentioned, craftsmanship and quality are integral to the Pollini DNA and the relevance of these time tested values today are clear to see in this collections masterful use of exquisite materials. Patent leathers, coloured python and printed calf are combined with plasticised woven fabrics, manipulated into leather fringing or panelled together to concoct bewitching textures you can’t held but want to touch.

This juxtaposition of old and new, tradition and fearless modernity, impeccable taste and in-your-face is what makes me fall in love with fashion all over again… In fact, it just did.

Love Ella. X

Posted on by Ella Catliff in Fashion 1 Comment

3 Ways To Wear It: PVC Pencil Skirt

Once again I find myself having to apologise for being a rubbish blogger and making promises that I just have not delivered. Some time in the Spring I made a big song and dance about the return of 3 Ways To Wear It. I managed, ironically enough, just three; a leather skirt, classic J Brand drainpipes and neon jeans then failed to do another for a good six months. Well this time when I say it’s coming back, I mean it! In future I’m also going to focus on more trend led, stand out pieces. After all, swapping ballet flats for stilettos with the same pair of dark blue skinnies is a bit dullsville. A pink, PVC pencil skirt on the other hand, is a lot more fun.

topshop pink PVC pencil skirt

Topshop PVC pencil skirt, black, navy and camel versions still available here

As I’m sure you all know sexy chic made a glorious return to the runway for AW13 (I did a post on it here). PVC, leather, latex, peek-a-boo detailing and other saucy styles appeared on the catwalks of Jonathan Saunders, ANTIPODIUM, Prabal Gurung and Jason Wu to name just a handful. Hell, even Burberry got in on the act with Christopher Bailey channeling sixties seductress, Christine Keller. Despite my penchant for all things blousey, bow trimmed and otherwise manrepelling I couldn’t wait to try a little fetish fash for myself. It was merely a matter of when, how and what the hell would I wear it with. Part of the answer to this conundrum presented itself in August. I was both completely broke and hopelessly late for a meeting when I saw this baby in the window of Topshop and stopped in my tracks. I first wore the skirt at the Belstaff bash during London Fashion Week and, while I adore it, haven’t managed to give it another outing since. You see, a pink PVC pencil skirt is pretty eye catching. It’s a conversation starter, but you don’t want it starting the same conversation with the same people at a bunch of different events. So I challenged myself to make it work 3 distinctly different ways, in the hope that my much loved (if seriously bloody uncomfortable) shiny pink number could have life in it yet.


pvc pencil skirt

PVC pencil skirt

PVC pencil skirt

PVC pencil skirt

Worn with Chinti and Parker cashmere sweater (similar here), Whistles satchel (similar here) & Russell & Bromley Vixen pumps (available here)

Firstly I just have to clarify that my “casual” doesn’t usually look much like this. If I’m working at home, hitting the library or under the weather (read: hungover) then no make up, skinny jeans, breton tee is my can’t-be-bothered recipe. I probably won’t be swapping this fail safe formula for squeaky PVC anytime soon but I wanted to prove that it is possible to make such a garment vaguely daytime appropriate even if actually attempting to run around town in it would be a frustrating experience to say the least. I initially attempted operation dress down with the addition of my Kenzo cloud print sweatshirt and leopard print slip ons. Then I realised I was quite literally a walking (well, shuffling), talking, tweeting parody of a fashion blogger and decided to change toute suite. Instead I went for my beloved Chinti and Parker heart sweater with co-ordinated grey tights and a mini satchel. The pony tail was meant to make up for the fact those Russell & Bromley pumps are totally not casual… Kind of works, I think.


PVC Pencil skirt

PVC Pencil skirt

PVC Pencil skirt

PVC Pencil skirt

Worn with Le Monde D’Ines blouse (similar here), Anne Bowes Jewellery necklace (available here), L.K. Bennett pumps (available here), Wilbur & Gussie clutch (available here), Accessorize ring & hairband (similar here

It’s official, I’ve found my calling in life, to make potentially sexy clothes deeply unsexy. Somehow I’ve managed to transform a wiggle-tastic, pink, PVC pencil skirt into a bottom half cover-up that your average Sunday school teacher would consider tame. Am I embarrassed for having turned a garment consisting of a fabric predominantly worn by strippers into the kind of get up one might reserve for meeting the boyfriends conservative and elderly parents? Hell no! If anything I feel this particular prep-over is among my greatest sartorial achievements to date. Whether boys actually find pink, PVC pencil skirts appealing or they’d prefer their lass in jeans and a fitted, V neck sweater is a whole other story but 99.9% of the men in my life don’t swing that way so I’m probably not qualified to comment. With Peter Pan collar and pumps in place I decided to really push the prep factor with the addition of a hair band. PG13 transformation complete.

After Dark

PVC Pencil skirt

PVC Pencil skirt

PVC Pencil skirt

PVC Pencil skirt

Worn with Whistles embellished blouse (similar here), Swarovski snake ring (similar here), Anya Hindmarch clutch (available here) & Kurt Geiger stilettos (available here)

I suspect my after dark take on the PVC pencil skirt could technically come under the preppy category but the elements of black chiffon and sparkle make it, I hope, the most late night of the three. I bought this top in Whistles at least two winters ago and on a cost-per-wear basis it’s paid for itself at least ten times over since. The shoes too have proved hard workers, pulverising my toes during London and Paris fashion weeks and at countless parties since. The Stephen Webster for Swarovski snake ring is possibly a little too badass for the rest of the ensemble and possibly me in general but it’s so glittery and generally cool that I couldn’t resist. I’ll definitely be working this look over the Christmas period, possibly even for New Years Eve…

I hope you’ve enjoyed the return of 3 Ways To Wear It! Which look would you pick?

Love Ella. X

Images by Lea Salomone

Posted on by Ella Catliff in Fashion 5 Comments