Yes, this seriously happened. Only in the world of fashion could something as banal as an Easter Bonnet translate into a riotous, hilarious champagne fuelled extravaganza. Last Tuesday the swanky Sanderson Hotel played host to a madcap catwalk fash-off hosted by milliner and accessory designer, Fred Butler. Despite living only a short stroll up the road, Char and I arrived at The Sanderson a good hour late thanks to my having to try on six different outfits. Generally speaking, I take about 5 minutes to get ready but the extreme(-y annoying) weather conditions have been messing with my new season mojo. In the end I settled on my trusty lace tee and black silk jaquared from Whistles. Adorable though these pieces may be, I definitely chose the wrong ensemble. The party took place in the courtyard garden area and I was absolutely bloody freezing.
By the time we arrived the place was already packed but luckily my fellow blogger and perennial party pal Millie had arrived on time and bagged a corner table. No sooner had we taken our first sip of Champagne, legendary drag Queen Jonny Woo took to the stage sporting a majestic head dress (and little else) to announce that the competition was about to begin. In case the post title didn’t give it away, the point of the event was an Easter Bonnet Parade, which would see entrants including Piers Atkinson, Antipodium, Tatty Devine and Margot Bowman compete for the title of “bonnet master”. Led by Fred, Vogue Style Editor Emma Elwick-Bates, LOVE Magazine Editor Alex Fury and stylists Margaret Crow and Kim Howells would be judging the designs right in front of us. First up was Antipodium and having absolutely adored their show, I was pretty excited to see what Easter-tastic dream Creative Director, Geoffrey J. Finch would dream up. Showcasing their AMAZING bonnet on a mini skirt clad drag queen who shimmied and strutted down the catwalk, Antipodium got the parade off to a suitably spectacular start and received well-deserved high scores from all of the judges.
As for the designs that followed, well, I think it’s safe to say you’ve never seen bonnets like these before! Ranging from real flowers to black gauze veils, the whole thing had an X Factor meets Alice in Wonderland feel and us non-artistic types (i.e me) were utterly in awe of what we saw on the catwalk. That is, when we weren’t lolling at Jonny Woo’s running commentary and banter with the judges. But of course it was a competition, and there could only be one winner. After much deliberation, aided by more champagne natch, the judges chose Piers Atkinson who’s “Double Yoker Easter Egg Surprise” was nothing short of brilliant… Then again, he is a renowned professional milliner. Antipodium also got a special mention, which made me and no doubt many other attendees happy.
With the competition over and plenty more fun to be had we hit the bar for a mingle before relocating en masse to Soho House and indulging in rather more cocktails than is strictly advisable on a Tuesday. There were certainly a few bleary eyes at press days the next morning, a sure sign of a successful party!
Love Ella. X
To anyone unfortunate enough to have been following me on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram last Thursday, I apologise for the endless stream of food snaps and commentary. I know full well how annoying Foodstagram and tweets like “omg best dinner ever AND I’m sitting next to the Editor of such-and-such” can be. But, much like selfies, emoticons and excessive abbreviations, sharing ones over excitement with the unsuspecting (and often uninterested) world is a pitfall of social media… Plus, on this occasion I really was having a #totesamaze evening. Continuing on from the other week’s wild Studio Africa launch party, Diesel decided to further celebrate their collaboration with ethical fashion brand EDUN by teaming up with Grazia Magazine to host an intimite dinner.
The dinner was held in the brand’s pop up store, “Diesel Village”, a fantastic African inspired set up on the top floor of their Regents Street flagship. The label have held a few get togethers in the space over the past few weeks but on this occasion it looked cooler than I’ve ever seen it. One area had been transformed into a private Ghanaian Restaurant called The Chop Bar with a beautifully laid table laden with mouthwatering appetizers awaiting our arrival. Having absolutely frozen while waiting for my car outside the Atelier-to-Go event at The Sanderson (tough life lol) fellow blogger, I’d never been more in need of a stiff drink. Luckily cocktail gurus, Soul Shakers had installed their own wooden hut bar in another part of the store so I didn’t need to wait long for my wish to be granted. I’d been promised an “intimate” dinner, which often means 30 + guests but on this occasion they certainly weren’t exaggerating. Besides me and the Diesel team there were barely ten others, including Grazia Editors Lily Russo and Hannah Almassi. After half an hour or so’s mingling we were ushered to our seats and the evening’s chef, Zoe came appeared to tell us about her cooking and pass around traditional Ghanaian wine, drunk communally from a hollowed out coconut.
As a die hard sushi and steak fan, I was slightly dubious about how I’d take to a menu that included black eyen bean terrine, stewed lamb and various spicy sauces. Finding that my preconceptions are completely wrong isn’t exactly a rare occurence and it turned out that Ghanaian cuisine is just about the yummiest thing ever. Two rib ticklingly, belly warmingly delectable courses and God-knows-how-many cocktails later it was time for a spot of pre-pudding entertainment courtesy of musician, Jessica Fitoussi. It’s a true testament to the sultry songstress’ talent that her melodious tones made us stop our, ok my, incessant chatter but she managed it.
All too soon Jessica’s performance drew to a close but our disappointment was soon alleviated by the arrival of incredible peanut brittle served with vanilla ice cream and rich Kenyan coffee. Despite my proclamation some 15 minutes earlier that I “couldn’t physically eat another thing”, the dish was so scrumptious I was tempted to ask for seconds. Our final treat was a shot of mystery liquor which caused many an eye to water and several of us to make the perhaps foolish decision to continue the party in Soho. All in all, it was a fantastic night and a big, BIG thank you to Diesel and Grazia for including me.
Love Ella. X
Picking up where we left off last Tuesday evening, after a brief glass of bubbly and bite to eat at the Salt Resortwear x Saloni soiree, my party pal Charlie May and I braved the unseasonable chill to make for event number two, the Max Mara Art Prize for Women Private View at The Whitechapel Gallery. With a will of steel (and a wallet of small change only) I resisted the temptation to leap in the nearest cab, a decision both of us regretted when we somehow managed not only to get off a tube stop too early but then walk for ten minutes in precisely the wrong direction. Once again, my sense of direction had failed me (despite having made the exact same journey just five days before) so I deferred to the far superior navigating skills of Google Maps and we made it. I’m not an art expert by any stretch of the imagination but I do adore visiting exhibitions, with
fine free wine and fabulous company thrown into the mix it’s one of my favourite pastimes. As East London’s mekka of cultural cool, any event at The Whitechapel Gallery attracts a stellar crowd. With this year’s Max Mara prize winner, Laure Prouvoust being one of the most critically acclaimed contemporary artists around, last Tuesday place was packed fit to burst with the city’s artistic elite.
Me wearing Whistles & Anne Bowes Jewellery
After dumping our many, many layers and trying to make ourselves look slightly less windswept we made our way into the exhibition space where Laure had created a vast, cylindrical installation. The inner walls were covered with kalaidescopic collages and monitors displaying mesmerizing moving images. Once we’d passed through the installation (no mean feat given the number of guests ogling the artwork) we emerged the other side to be confronted by a vast screen displaying the second part of Prouvoust’s installation, a film featuring fragments of footage ranging from birds and fish devouring fruit to women bathing in idyllic waterfalls. Prouvoust cited the “aesthetic and sensual pleasures of Italy” as her inspiration and these influences came through both subtly and clearly in the exhibition.
The two part installation felt both seductive and innocent and the experience of entering it was immersive without being overwhelming. A air of dreamlike exoticism came by way of brightly coloured tropical fruit, background birdsong and the way in which we were directed from one slightly surreal, often out-of-focus shot to another. On one level, Laure Provoust Swallow was an inspired and imaginative feat of contemporary art, on another it was a welcome if all-too-brief escape from the bitter London weather.
The exhibition runs until April 7th, admission is free and I’d definitely recommend going to see it!
Love Ella. X
Whoever said fashion was dangerous for the health wasn’t lying. The number of opportunities to over indulge, behave badly and generally exhaust yourself are unreal. “Party season” lasts all year round with brands, stores and individuals toasting the launch of anything and everything with a champagne fuelled celebrating. This is not me complaining by the way, as you’ve no doubt realised, I adore every second of it. Spending your evenings mincing, dancing and cocktail drinking… What’s not to love? This week brought another round of rendez vous starting with the Salt Resortwear and Saloni soiree on Tuesday.
In case you didn’t know, Salt Resortwear is a Chelsea boutique specialising in holiday ready attire by the likes of Matthew Williamson, SUNO, Sass & Bide, Mara Hoffman and of course, Saloni. Much as I’d like to be the kind of jet setter in need of bikini’s all year round, I’m not, but I imagine for those lucky so-and-so’s who do need to snap up a sarong in February Salt is an absolute godsend. Lately I’ve been fantasising about going to Morocco, partially because my parents wasted a trip on me aged twelve (I sulked the entire time) and because frankly, anywhere over 10 degrees would be amazing right now. Funnily enough Saloni’s SS13 collection was inspired by a trip there and the entire store had been transformed into a Moroccan inspired paradise of kalaidescopic colours and souk chicness, allowing me to ignore the fact it was practically snowing outside and imagine I was on holiday. My “date” for the evening was fab young designer, Charlie May who you may well have read about in Grazia, Vogue or any number of other “ones to watch” features. Charlie’s exquisite take on feminine minimalism has been making pretty major waves and I had to take a brief time out from mingling to obsess over her gorgeous white leather tee.
The idea of serving street food as a fashion party can sometimes be a bit missguided but on this occasion, having gourmet Moroccan cuisine casually whipped up before our eyes and served in what appeared to be giant leaves worked perfectly. After grabbing ourselves a delectable serving of undecipherable but utterly delicious nosh we took “a turn” around the room for a spot of people watching. Salt Resortwear is evidently (and unsurprisingly) a favourite among the Chelsea social circuit and I spotted Gemma Kidd, Olivia Inge and Jenny Halpern Prince not to mention the stunning Saloni Lodha looking resplendant in one of her own designs.
I was extremely tempted to grab another serving of street food and a mohjito, relax and avoid going back out into the cold until I absolutely had to. But the night was still young so we steeled ourselves, pulled on our wooly hats and headed in the direction of East London…
Love Ella. x
Last Wednesday I got my morning off to a great start by spending a very leisurely couple of hours brunching with the lovely ladies from London Boutiques at Dover Street fash pack haunt, Automat. Having ignored my iPhone for longer than 5 minutes (shock, horror!) by the time I forced myself to take a peek, the number of unread emails bleeping at me was mildly terrifying. Just as I was considering throwing the bloody thing down the nearest drain I spied a message inviting me to the Opera di Peroni that evening, naturally my love of technology was restored pretty quickly as I hastily replied saying YES!
Any why was I suddenly being whisked off for an evening of opera? Well, Italian beer giant, Peroni Nastro Azzuro had decided to re-magine Puccini’s La Rondine, staging it in a vast warehouse space in Shoredicth and promising an immersive performance we wouldn’t forget. The idea of spending an evening doing something non fashion related was fairly exciting, plus it was the Opera di Peroni VIP opening night show and I was playing “date” to the wonderful Nik Thakkar. As this was a modern reinterpretation of classic opera and held in an East London warehouse, I had been instructed to “dress normal” and leave my cocktail attire at home. Initially I was disappointed to hear this I do so love to get glammed up but let’s be honest, there’s never a lack of opportunities to wear frocks and, as expected, the venue was freezing. After a quick glass of wine and gossip session at a nearby bar Nik and I made our way down an illuminated blue carpet (totes the new red) into an expanse of exposed brick and general coolness that we hastily decided needed hiring for a joint party. The crowd was a mix of hip media, PR and music types with the odd fashion face thrown in. While making my second trip to the cloakroom in five minutes (way to chilly to brave just a jumper, albeit a exceedinly chunky knitted one) I spotted Brit actor, model and rumoured squeeze of Rhianna, Dudley O’Shaughnessy as well as Mr Hudson wandering around sipping Peronis and waiting for the show to begin. Eventually, it did and do you know what? I really, really enjoyed the whole experience.
Opera di Peroni was unlike anything I’d ever seen as the singers wore entirely contemporary clothing and moved around the venue with the audience following them. Admittedly Nik and I did spend some of the performance giggling like teenagers for no particular reason but we were constantly brought back from these blips of random hilarity by the sheer beauty of the music and talent of the singers. Watching a woman clad in thigh skimming, red lace bodycon belt out the most exquisite rendition of a Puccini classic in between swigs of beer is a slightly surreal experience but definitely one I won’t forget in a hurry!
When the show drew to a close, or rather reached a suitable dramatic, operatic finale we headed to Pizza East for a late night snack and a cocktail or two before heading home to hit the hay. Opera di Peroni’s next destination is the Paintworks venue in Bristol (Bath Road, BS4 3EH) on the 27th and 28th of March. Tickets are £10 each and can be booked online at www.operadiperoni.com… Any Bristol bound readers, I urge you to check it out!
Love Ella. X