Monday, 31 May 2010

Oliver Goldsmith - How cool do you want your sunglasses to be!

Founded in 1926 by Oliver Goldsmith, the company is still family run today by his great grand-daughter Claire who is injecting new blood and energy into its fabulous collections and heritage.
Early on, Oliver Goldsmith then Charles who joined in 1935 had the foresight to introduce new materials for frames that used to be made of expensive tortoiseshell or clunky metal. Using colourful acetates, Oliver Goldsmith was able to produce a wild and wonderful variety of frames that captured the mood of each decade. 
 Most of all, the company were able to recognise that glasses, especially sunglasses could be fashion accessories and make a style statement.  The extensive archive kept on the shop's premises gives a glimpse into years of creativity and success with the rich, famous and beautiful.
Some of the frames have become iconic and were named after the stars who wore them such as Audrey Hepburn and Sophia Loren for the frames shown below.
Every season Claire Goldsmith chooses 5 to 10 frames out of the hundreds available in the archive and re-edits them in a variety of colours (prices between £200-250). Oliver Goldsmith also run a bespoke service allowing you to choose your frame and your acetate and have you own special pair made (from £350). Bespoke frames are manufactured in the UK, whilst the ready-to-wear collection is manufactured in Italy.
Claire has also launched a collection of optical frames that she creates with her design team.
The shop is located on All Saints road and you are invited to a Pimm's party on 19th June to discover the new designs and re-edited frames for the summer. The 10% discount offered on the day on selected items might also come in handy!
The shop is at 15 All Saints road, London W11 1HA.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Carolyn Cowan - Devotion

Carolyn Cowan is a fascinating woman. An assertive and statuesque beauty who does not baulk at taking risks or putting herself forward, she projects authority and strength. Her work spans different fields and her multi-faceted life can seem hard to pin down but all converge into the notion that individuality deserves to be expressed and celebrated.
 Locating her Camberwell base takes you on a journey. The initial reason to go and visit her with my friend Alex was to see the clothes that she designs under her Devotion label. Finding the blue gate to her fabulous house turned into a bit of an adventure in a foreign land of derelict housing and one-way streets - we'll blame my poor navigation skills. Once we finally got there, it soon became clear that designing clothes is but one of many aspects of Carolyn Cowan's life.
A woman of many talents, Carolyn Cowan is currently exhibiting her photography at the crypt, Saint Pancras' church as part of group exhibition Lingering Whispers. A gifted and adventurous photographer who spent months sleeping rough in Gujarat to photograph nomads, she is a portrait photographer with a particular interest in images of maternity.  Her portrait photography activity is recorded in her Mooncycles website.
Whilst body-painting - another field that she has explored in depth has taken a secondary place in her life,  yoga teaching remains important. Until recently, her Kundalini yoga DVDs, her teaching and workshops represented the lion's share of her activity but her clothing line has now taken over. She designs and produces her collection from her converted coach house, an extraordinary island of beauty and energy in an otherwise pretty rough area of South London.
With her living quarters on one side of the courtyard, the shop occupies another side whilst the garden takes up the rest of the space. Bric a brac and creative recycling abound.

Carolyn Cowan started her clothing line in India because "she could not conceive it any other way". India suits her esthetics and seemed a good choice as Carolyn felt she did not know enough about manufacturing in the UK. However, she rapidly found that local manufacturers had "no long-term concept of fulfillment" - another designer than philosophically inclined Carolyn Cowan would probably talk of being ripped off and of lousy quality. Sipping delicious cups of tea and munching on homemade flapjacks brought by her lovely assistants, we discussed the "insanity trap" that she describes as "to repeat an action and expect another result".  Keen to avoid such insanity, she moved her manufacturing activity to the triangle of Balham, Camberwell and Elephant and Castle. Forever creative, she managed to recruit her expert Bangladeshi and Sikh master tailors at the local dry cleaners.
Design philosophy
Whilst Carolyn's original motivation was to design clothes that suited her size 16-18, she describes her approach as respectful dressing. Familiar with the body through her yoga practice and teaching, her body painting activities and her photography, Carolyn knows everything there is to know about female curves, the existence of boobs and the issues related to the aging process.  She wants women to be conscious of their individual beauty and to respect the shape and form of their bodies.
Confident in the skills of her tailors whose couture-stitching ensures a perfect finish, Carolyn often adapts her design to the idiosyncrasy of her clients - a client with a 42DD bosom required a special pattern whilst another might just require slight alterations to sleeve length.  She sources her fabric with care, from Lithuanian linen to hand-stitched Kantar recycled saris such as those used for the reversible "swagger coat" below (£295).
To my rather pat comment that her prices are high for "ethnic" clothes, Carolyn responds that quality, a London based production, the lasting nature of her precise design and the possibility of a perfect fit through alterations are justification enough.
To know more about Carolyn Cowan's activities, log onto her website:

I have no connection with Carolyn Cowan other than my interest in her work and personality. The pictures are mine apart from the (beautiful) pictures of Carolyn modeling her clothes, which are taken from her website.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Lisa Borgnes - cross-stiching through life's crises

My friend S. put me on to Los Angeles artist Lisa Borgnes who documents her life and emotions in deceptively pretty cross-stitch. Her current exhibition at the ACME gallery, Stitching up the Noughties ploughs the fertile ground of women's aging and conflicting priorities.

More information on the ACME gallery:
To read Lisa Borgnes' own blog:

Friday, 21 May 2010

Tracey Neuls - a designer's designer!

Located at the corner of Marylebone lane, Tracey Neuls' shop catches the eye and transports you into a charming if slightly disturbed world. Her shop currently features Danish artist Nina Saunders' creations, using Sanderson fabrics that Tracey Neuls also uses for some of her shoes. The traditional floral theme of the fabric used for the chaise longue is subverted by its impossible shape whilst the silver birch conjure fairy tale forests and mysterious creatures. Hanging from the ceiling, the shoes can be seen from all angles, a more accurate way of displaying shoes according to Tracey Neuls, than on the usual shop shelf.
The decor sets the tone for the shoes which are conceived from a design, not a fashion perspective. The shoes are quirky and make a statement but also follow the anatomy of the foot and are rooted (forgive the pun) in solid cordwainer's principles. Tracey Neuls likes to use unusual materials for her shoes such as rubber and treats traditional materials in unusual ways - printing lace patterns on leather for instance. Despite the quirkiness, she also wants the shoes to be comfortable and wearable. I think Tracey Neuls' shoes are sometimes more interesting than truly beautiful, with a slight orthopedic look to some models. However, I very much respect her desire to expand the bounderies of shoe making and the unique look that she creates. The shoes could happily feature in a 40+ shoe closet and add their cool designer touch to a hip wardrobe.
From the TN_29 collection, inspired by vintage golf shoe, £395

Starting ten years ago with TN_29, Tracey Neuls launched her signature line 3 years ago.
From the Tracey Neuls collection, "Turban shoe", £395 in Sanderson fabric.

I was happy to see that Tracey Neuls also produces a cheaper line, Homage, which retails between £175 and £210.
 From the Homage collection, £195, inspired by nurses' shoes.

From the Homage collection, £195.

For Clerkenwell design week (25-27 May), she is involved in another design collaboration, with fabric company Moroso and its designers' Tord Boontje and Patricia Urquiola - see one of the models below.

If you want to know more about Tracey Neuls, log on to her cool website:

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Unhappy Hipsters

Courtesy of TN 29 (Tracey Neuls' shoe company - article to follow), I would like to recommend this very funny blog. Adding subversive captions to pictures from Dwell magazine, Unhappy Hipsters sends up "├╝ber cool" lifestyle.

She’d perfected the post-breakup stoic stride.
(Photo: Dave Lauridsen; Dwell)

Monday, 17 May 2010

The perfect dress: Samantha Sung at KJs Laundry

Cycling around Marylebone, I stopped in Marylebone Lane, home to a clump of lovely shops. At number 108, Biggles, the sausage king, provide meat only sausages (suitable for gluten free diets) in a great variety of flavours. Less meaty but still delicious is Paul Rothe &Sons at number 35, where you can buy a sandwich, a cup of tea or a jar of pickle to bring home.

In truth, my detour to this lovely street was motivated by the memory of Tracy Neuls' intriguing shoe shop - more on this later. The promise of a sale "forced" me into KJs Laundry - one of Vogue's Britain best boutiques 2010 whose sales assistants have the right mix of friendliness, honesty and cool.
Nothing in the sale really worked for me, but, amidst jackets from Fillipa K (Jackie stretch cotton jacket at £135 down from £195) or dresses fromYMC (£130 down from £175 for the tulip dress), I could not resist inspecting the amazing S Sung dresses that I had already drooled over last year and which were on display in the window.  Samantha Sung is an American Korean designer, based in Honolulu - how cool is that! The prints that she designs combine East and West in techniques (batik, tie-die...) and colours. Mostly, her Audrey dress is perfect. Its feminine cut is flattering, the V neck elongates the figure whilst the 3/4 sleeves hide the less attractive part of the arm. The model I tried last year did not work on me,  but this time... it suited me and felt just right. I suspect the addition of some stretchy material in the fabric explains the change in fit or could I have lost a pound in the right place? Considering my current chocolate consumption, I doubt it! In any event, it looked really good, even if I say so myself.
I have to come to the painful bit now. The Audrey dress costs £395...
To know more about Samantha Sung:
To know more about KJ's Laundry:

Sunday, 16 May 2010


Congratulations to all Moonwalkers who raised awareness and money against breast cancer last night in London! I came across the exhausted and colorful cortege this morning as I took my Sunday run in Hyde Park. I was in awe of their dedication and display of solidarity whilst I panted pathetically around the Serpentine.  I had forgotten to take a camera and document the event so here is an internet sourced picture.
For more information on the Playtex Moonwalk:

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Chocolate!!! Louise Thomas.

In a departure from the blog's theme of fashion for women over 40, this post is about chocolate and more specifically about Louise Thomas, a chocolate consultant whom I very much enjoyed meeting and interviewing recently at coffee heaven, Kaffeine where the fashionable "flat white" is frothed to perfection. I can safely say that I don't know many women over 40 who do not like chocolate. I know a few but I hope that the majority of this blog's readers will enjoy the opportunity of learning more about one of life's great pleasures and the consultant who ambitions to bring chocolate appreciation to a higher level.
British born Louise Thomas is far from 40 but we forgive her!  Despite her youth, she exudes determination and expertise. Her background is varied and intriguing. She started with photography at the tender age of 16 in New York where her family lived, freelancing for Tatoo magazines and charity OCD Action . Back in the UK, a part-time job as a commis chef to support her photography studies, became a full time commitment to good food with photography taking a back seat. Faced with the daunting immensity of the field of cooking, she got "scared of tomatoes" and she decided to narrow down the discipline to baking - fewer ingredients! One ingredient in particular captured her imagination,  Valrhona chocolate, widely used in good restaurants, and a whole new world opened. Working for the likes of  Pied a Terre, The Wolseley, or Tom Aikens ,  she honed her skill as a pastry chef.  Piqued and energised by the challenge offered by a chef who did not like her arguing with him on what chocolate to use to cover lollipops, she launched her own business after a stint at Artisan du Chocolat and Melt.

Why become a chocolate consultant?
I became frustrated because there are places where you could go and learn about chocolate but only if you already know about chocolate and it wasn't easy to understand. I wanted somewhere where people could come and learn about chocolate.

What does a chocolate consultant do?
Primarily I do tastings and talks, how to taste chocolate and I can do more advanced tastings too. Then I do pairings, chocolate with tea, coffee, cocktails, etc. for corporate clients - corporate evenings, networking events and I offer it to places like Soho house, Southbank Centre for instance. And then I do consultancy for retail and hospitality. With retail, it is finding the chocolate product that they can sell in their shops. I worked with with Tsuru , the Japanese restaurant and they wanted a Japanese inspired chocolate. So I pointed them to William Curley who has a Japanese wife and understands Japanese ingredients such as wasabi. Then I work in the hospitality industry with chefs to develop chocolate recipes, to find the right chocolate for the right recipe and to complement the flavours of the dish. It is probably my favourite thing! And also, I do consultancy within the chocolate industry. People who are working on their chocolate bars will send them to me at different stages of the development so I can critique and give them my feedback on how I think they should improve it. It's really exciting to see the product evolve.

How to choose chocolate - in particular, how to choose "ethical" chocolate?
One rule about chocolate, it has to have no vegetable fat, only cocoa butter and real vanilla, no vanillin or other chemicals.
There are a lot of issues with Fairtrade or Rainforest Alliance and organic - it is a step in the right direction but it's not enough. There is so much corruption within the chocolate industry, even within the sugar industry. The only people that I believe in are  people who I can see are sourcing really close to their suppliers.Once the beans travel to the cooperative, it is very hard to trace them back to the farm. So, because of that, it is very hard to trace who is working on the farm. They can only trust when the farmer says: "I am not employing children". So it is just learning about the brands - just send them an email and most companies will be proud of how they are sourcing their beans and they'll talk about it a lot on their website. Louise mentions The Grenada Chocolate Company ,  Askinosie  who have a picture of the farmer on the bar,
or Amano who regularly travels to the plantations (I tasted the Madagascar single origin bar and LOVED it).
Other chocolatiers that Louise rates highly are the Italian Amadei and The Grenada chocolate company The Grenada chocolate company/
I would like to plug a new British chocolatier, recommended by Louise, who has just launched his product at The Real Food show in London last weekend: Red Star chocolate by Duffy Sheardown producing single origin bars. As one of the few "bean to bar" producer, with impeccable ethical credentials, I think that they deserve our support.
Is chocolate good for you?
Chocolate was imported mostly by the monks who used it for medicinal properties and health benefits. Earlier this morning, I was looking at a study that says that consuming cocoa butter may protect the brain from damage during strokes. Then I suppose in terms of anti-aging properties, it is full of antioxydants, cacao has the highest content of flavonoids

Next steps:
Louise's plans for the future include redeveloping her website to make it the best chocolate encyclopedia available as well as an online shop to source her favourite artisan chocolate. Further down the line, she would like to buy a cocoa plantation, develop it in a "fair" way and make her own chocolate - pretty impressive plans for a woman under 30!
In the meantime, get in touch with Louise who can organise corporate or private tastings - events are bespoke so ask her for prices.
To learn more about Louise Thomas, check-out her website for contact details (the website is in development and will launch in the Autumn): The chocolate consultant/

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

How not to look old

The book by the perfectly named Charla Krupp was recommended to my friend S. by her best friend who swears by it.
Appearing regularly on Oprah, Charla Krupp has taken the US by storm since publication in March 2008. She has since tackled another taboo with How Never To Look Fat Again. Should we expect How Not To Look Poor soon to complete the series? Not one for "ageing gracefully" - ie accepting lines and sagging skin as a proud sign of experience, her stance on ageing is unapologetic: "ageing sucks"! She deals with "age management" and promotes the notion that appearance is what counts, not the feminist fight against age discrimination nor the notion that with age comes the confidence to truly be who we are.
In any event, she dispenses her tips with unbeatable energy and a confident prescriptive tone. I have not yet read the book but her tips seem very practical and sensible and she is fun to listen to. I would take her advice as foundation to build on: how to avoid certain fashion or beauty pitfalls but without forgetting one's personality and individuality.
He rather manic video on YouTube is quite entertaining.

Coming from a very different perspective, Anne Kreamer decided to let her hair go grey and enjoyed the consequences: a more authentic self-image, an affirmation of the woman she had become. I think she might also have found a new, much hipper hairdresser along the way!
Photo by Chris Fanning
Read the article in More magazine on Anne Kreamer's experience:

Friday, 7 May 2010

Eloise Grey - summer collection

I am very happy to report Eloise Grey's summer collection, following up on an earlier article published on the blog on her winter coats - January article on ethical tweeds  

Eloise Grey's mostly works with tweed, ethical and organic tweed from the Isle of Mull weavers, Ardalanish. Naturally, anything to do with sheep wool was bound to appeal to the mutton in me and Eloise Grey's tweed coats and jackets are truly irresistible. For her summer collection, launched last night at the The Hepsibah Gallery in London, Eloise Grey has broadened her choice of fabric to include hemp from Romania, Belgian linen and hand loom cotton from India without sacrificing her exacting quality standards. Presented in a lovely corner of London, Brackenbury village, the collection exudes the timeless charm of the English countryside, made relevant for today through sharp tailoring and smart details. The gallery featuring Hepsibah's colourful paintings and extraordinary hats provides the perfect setup for the collection.
The collection is on show until Wednesday 12/05 in London.
The piece de resistance of the show is the Vita Gardening Coat, a 1930s inspired piece in natural hemp colour, beautifully finished and detailed - bound seams, pretty blue piping, hand made ceramic button and clever pockets, including a sneaky one at the back. It feels and wears beautifully and sells for £490.

Also for the summer, the Delafield blouse comes in off-white unbleached linen and retails for £155 and in hand-block printed cotton at £145.
 The Mansfield blouse comes in hand woven and hand-block printed cotton at £155 or in off-white linen at £165. The blouse ties at the front with a ruched effect.
The Vita breeches in Belgian linen (£180) and a simple linen skirt (£140) complement the collection.
The exhibition also comprises amazing tweed slip-on shoes that are hand made by CarreDucker and can be made to order for £275.

The aptly named Aeneas MacKay who runs Ardalanish in the Isle of Mull attended the launch of the new collection and showed the fascinating variety of tweed produced by the Isle of Mull Weavers, all in natural sheep colour. He was particularly proud of the tweed made from their local dark Hebridean sheep's with a stripe of rust colour produced using local lichen.Working with Eloise Grey since her beginnings, he also produced the organic tweed used by Jigsaw with great success. The two winter coats shown in the gallery with the summer collection display new tweeds from Ardalanish to great effect. The Elisabeth I has a ruched collar and the Elisabeth II a straight collar - both retail around £899 - investment pieces to wear with pleasure and style for years. The coats will be available for sale at Few and Far, Priscilla Carluccio's eclectic shop in London's Brompton road.

Visit The Hepsibah Gallery, 112 Brackenbury road, London W6 0B: 10:00am to 5:00pm (except Sunday)

Visit Few and Far's website: and shop at 242 Brompton road, London SW3 2BB

To learn more about Eloise Grey and order from her website:
To learn more about Ardalanish, Isle of Mull Weavers:

I have no connection with the designers featured on the blog, other than the fact that I like what they create!