Wednesday, 27 October 2010

City Girl Reports: Fashion News (Rigby & Peller)

In what has been a difficult recessionary run for luxury lingerie brands, Rigby & Peller is the latest to admit that sales are slipping. The Evening Standard reported that the retailer had incurred a pre-tax loss of £214,000 in the 12 months to the end of January 2010. Despite the opening of a new store, sales slipped by 1%. Rival brand, Agent Provocateur, also made a substantial pre-tax loss of £1.1million in the year to March 2009. Rigby & Peller said it would continue to train staff and look for store opening opportunities, believing it would be "well positioned to benefit from an upturn in the overall economy".

Rigby & Peller are a family-owned business, famous for the luxurious quality of their lingerie, wide ranging products and service to include advice for women and men and specific guidance for mothers-to-be and brides. They also have a bespoke lingerie service. Celebrities and royals from home and abroad are known to be fans. Rigby & Peller have also held the Royal Warrant of Appointment as Corsetieres to H.M. Queen Elizabeth since 1960. The retailer still occupies its South Molton street site in London, which first opened its doors in 1939.

Rigby and Peller glamour

Monday, 25 October 2010

A Chocolate Dress = Contented Me

Recently, my lovely friend, the writer and blogger of The Contented? Maybe came to stay*. I have been glued to Amy's blog for the past months, as she has documented her pregnancy with honesty, warmth, humour, sensitivity and eloquence. For someone who is not pregnant, nor has ever been, I felt that I could strangely relate to the ups and downs of her nine-month journey. This is credit to her skilful writing and voice that is both personal but welcoming for her readers. Whether posts are written for her baby, for others or for herself, each forms part of a beautiful and captivating story and even if, like me, you have no personal experience of the subject, you could rewind to the beginning now and enjoy playing catch-up. There are some stunning illustrations throughout (see top image) and a wonderful 'About Me' section which make her blog even more appealing. And, when you have checked it out, you can join me in my excitement as Amy now awaits the birth of her baby.

*Alongside Amy's writing skills, I had to mention her exquisite baking talents (her domestic goddess status will surely make for one very happy child!). With only a few weeks to go at the time of her visit, an incredible amount of effort, thought and culinary artistry had been whisked together to create delectable personalised biscuits for us. Mine, below, was immensely enjoyed (!) but I had to take a picture to share its beauty and professional presentation with you! The perfect present for a fashion-loving, chocolate-eating city girl.

Explore The Contented? Maybe here, go directly to The Contented? Maybe blog and read the lovely 'About Me' page. You can also read articles by Amy on Family Vie (she is the Expert Novice).

Wedding Belle: At The National Wedding Show, Not on the High

Wedding dress, Naomi Neoh
Naomi Neoh

I have been meaning to talk weddings for some time. For those of you who are married, have enjoyed recent celebrations or await soon-to-be-here special days, you'll understand why. Weddings provide the perfect occasion to dress up (the unbeatable excuse for a new outfit), share a happy day with family and friends and/or potential additions to both groups, and marvel at the many ways a wedding can unfold. Religiously, aesthetically, romantically, strategically, no two weddings are the same and, as someone who enjoys writing about this sizeable subject, I'm pleased they're not. As brides (and grooms) prepare for their weddings this Autumn, Winter, new year and beyond, I hope to talk weddings from time-to-time, under the label: Wedding Belle. It doesn't matter if you're not a wedding fan, any posts will include a non-bridal element too. For me, that's one of the most appealing aspects of weddings: from dresses and shoes to hen night cocktail bars, weddings have the potential for more cross-over appeal than ever before.

Wedding cupcake tower, The Hummingbird Bakery
The Hummingbird Bakery
A couple of weeks ago, I attended the National Wedding Show, excited to discover eclectic exhibits, catwalk shows, cupcakes and generous goody bags. It was a lovely day made lovelier by our 'VIP' status, generously acquired by my sister, a.k.a the beautiful bride-to-be. To avoid the predictable rush of eager brides, bridesmaids and mothers of the bride, it's worth paying for 'VIP' tickets, if you're planning on visiting the next show (18th - 20th February 2011, Earls Court). Along with the designated 'VIP area' where you can sit back, relax and enjoy champagne on arrival, you'll receive the afore-mentioned goody bag overflowing with chocolate, beauty products, ideas and more chocolate. Oh, and prime catwalk-side seats.  Exhibits are diverse, showcasing dresses, photographers, stationery, musicians and cakes (visit the Hummingbird Bakery to taste mini-versions!). A melting-pot of nuptial ideas, shops and brands with any possible wedding connection are out in-force. The event is therefore a useful source of inspiration and a fun way to start your wedding planning, even if you don't leave with your perfect gown. From the many dresses on display, my favourites were from The Bespoke Wardrobe, Naomi Neoh (top image) & Candy Anthony (I would just love a gown from here for any occasion!)

Candy Anthony wedding dress, The National Wedding Show
Candy Anthony (Audrey Hepburn in 'Funny Face'-inspired?)
Dresses aside, my highlight was visiting the lovely Not on the High team. A long-time personal favourite for hours lost roaming the internet, this online store is an entrepreneurial success story and consistently inspirational, beautiful and all-embracing. Perfect for gifts, home decorations and personal indulgences (seek out stunning clothing and jewellery), Not on the High was created to support independent businesses while maintaining high standards of quality, style and originality. They stock items from over 1,600 British designers and manufacturers and write a blog, run competitions and feature highly creative content. Here are some of my favourite finds, which I believe represent the ethos of friendly founders Holly and Sophie:

Hammock, Not on the High Street
Fairtrade hammock (Garden Boutique)
Sakura blossom wall sticker, Not on the High Street
Sakura blossom wall sticker (Spin Collective)
Anusha maxi-dress, Not on the High Street
Gabrielle maxi-dress (Anusha)
Posh Totty personalised necklace, Not on the High Street
Personalised necklace (Posh Totty)
Bob by Post sports frames, Not on the High Street
Sports photo frames (Bob by Post)
In addition to this deluxe database of gifts and goodies, Not on the High provides a wedding list service. As with their online store, all extras have been considered. Brides don't merely receive a tick-box list and arrange delivery. Charming and personal from the start, the company provides prospective couples with a personal consultant, wedding planning guide, devoted wedding section on their website brim-full with ideas and where you can also find bridal jewellery, venue decorations, invites, thank you cards, favours and more! 

Each bride/bride and groom receives a wedding pack:

Wedding pack, Not on the High Street

And chooses from the 30,000+ products online for their list or day itself:

Linda Bloomfield tiered cake stand, Not on the High Street
Tiered cake stand (Linda Bloomfield)
Sophiei silk rose and veiling cocktail hat, Not on the High Street
Silk rose hat (sophiei)
Josephine Interior Accessories and gifts card holder, Not on the High Street
Card holder (Josephine Interior Accessories and Gifts)
Amanda Hancocks personalised Hen book, Not on the High Street
Personalised hen-night book (Amanda Hancocks)
Happy browsing! Request your Not on the High wedding information pack here and visit their wedding homepage. See here for the National Wedding Show with news/photos from the most recent shows.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Kanchan Couture: The Story so far...

Kanchan Couture business card
Kanch's business card
Kanchan Panjabi has a story to tell. As she proudly opens a ribbon-tied case and a leather book which exudes history, I am her captivated audience. Unveiling images from her Couture and recently released Kanch by KC (RTW) collection, it's impossible not to be mesmerized by the vibrancy, detail and individuality of her eponymous label, Kanchan Couture. "Kanch" (as she prefers to be known) is both talented fashion designer and award-winning entrepreneur who, until three months ago, was dong "everything", but has since employed sales/marketing expert Annie Das, my friendly contact prior to our meeting. For those new to Kanch, it's her combination of classic shapes from a romantic bygone era, opulent Indian textiles (often silk) and modern edge, which capture both the attention and imagination of her fans. But, to fully understand Kanchan Couture, is to first understand Kanch's story.

Kanch Panjabi, Kanchan Couture
"Kanch" Panjabi

Kanch dreamed of a career in jewellery as a child, longing to design pieces which her father (a jewellery manufacturer) could then create. It was his job that led the family to Hong Kong from India, when Kanch was 5 years old. Growing up in a culture "very much into fabrics and colours and the way people wear things", Kanch and fashion were interlinked from the start. But, as ever, the girl "from a traditional family" contemplated her future sensibly, studying French and Economics in New York, despite a flirtation with fashion for one semester. Perhaps it was this brief window which led Kanch from a place of uncertainty to a pivotal internship, then full-time role at Amanda Wakeley in London. Yielding to what "really was [her] path" and the adventurous side now so evident in her designs, Kanch soon returned to Hong Kong to open her own shop. Situated in Hong Kong's central Wellington Street, Kanchan Couture's popular HQ is now 'by appointment only'. This, Kanch's journey, is central to the label and to her infectious determination and desire to succeed. Now, Kanch (with Annie's help) is cementing her reputation on home soil, via high-profile collaborations, celebrity endorsements, in-shop events and a tiring recent schedule of one fashion show per month. 

Kanchan Couture fashion show with Belvedere, Hong Kong 2009
A fashion show with Belvedere, Hong Kong 2009
And now, the next chapter? Kanch hungers for international recognition. After all, "the whole idea behind [the label] is, eventually, to go to Paris." With equal measures of worldly ambition and personal history, creativity and business acumen, Kanch surely won't be waiting for long. Although, 'waiting' doesn't seem a word rightly associated with Kanch, who playfully calls herself "fashion's femme fatale". Kanch is merely awaiting the most logical time (working ferociously in the background) when Kanchan Couture is "ready" for the fashion shows and trade fairs. This suggests that the label has not quite caught up with Kanch's ambition. However, that's no bad thing for a designer who has the world set in her sights and a label that's only been around for 2 1/2 years, yet has already achieved so much. 

Kanchan Couture Bridal range
Kanchan Couture Bridal

Kanchan Couture comprises three ongoing collections, not including the sumptuous Kanchan Couture Bridal, with its own website (above). Smiling knowingly, Kanch explains how busy life gets and I feel both in awe of, and bewildered by her ability to build her brand in such a multi-faceted, speedy and successful way. For Kanch, powerful branding is the key to success; she believes "somebody amazing" has made Lady Gaga the "marketing machine" that she is and exclaims excitedly: "Oh, Prada. I think their branding is incredible". As I'm telling Kanch that I find her branding beautifully unique (below), I realise how much I'm enjoying her company; despite such an astute business mind, she is relaxed, warm and animated.

Kanchan Couture marketing

Alongside business activities already mentioned (including collaborations with Mini Cooper, Tatler and HSBC), Kanch is present in-store as much as possible, meets every couture and bridal client several times, mentors upcoming designers and is the sole designer for Kanchan Couture. Good thing then, that "the idea behind [each] collection and the collection itself being drawn up, usually takes a day." More difficult is the longer process thereafter: narrowing down designs from 100-200 pieces, sampling in China and fabric-sourcing in India. It's the fabric that takes Kanch (and us) back to her family, "the key root which starts the designs". Throughout her three non-bridal collections (CoutureDemi Couture and Ready-to-Wear), Kanch injects personal history via photographs of her parents/grandparents/family heirlooms. Turned into prints, such images appear dramatic and enchanting on a RTW t-shirt, impressive on a wrap-around Demi Couture collar and lavishly luxurious on one of the many "secret" layers beneath a Couture skirt. The story of Kanchan Couture lies in these images, particularly in that of Kanch's mother on a bicycle during the 1960''s: "It portrays who I really am; my Indian roots, yet a child of the hybrid world." The initial inspiration for Kanch's brand, this image now adorns the back of her business card (top image).

Kanchan Couture Untitled Stories, Demi Couture
Untitled Stories (Demi Couture)
Kanchan Couture Distant Pasts, Demi Couture
Distant Pasts (Demi Couture)
Kanchan Couture Nostalgic Beauty, Couture
Nostalgic Beauty (Couture)

While traditional feminine silhouettes of full-skirts, defined waists and regal-like collars are alluring and elegant, so too are garments given a modern twist: low-backs, shorter skirts and funky t-shirts. Does Kanch have a typical client? "Definitely. There's the young banking executive who's fun and goes out a lot... there's the woman who's maybe older but who can't wear some of the Demi Couture as it's too short or too fitting, so she'll get something made. And then you've got the younger audience, who like the Ready-to-Wear."

Kanch by KC, Ready to Wear
Kanch by KC (Ready-to-Wear)

Kanchan Couture Distant Pasts, Demi Couture
Distant Pasts (Demi Couture)
Kanchan Couture, Traditional Legacy, Demi Couture
Traditional Legacy (Demi Couture)

And where does Kanch herself fit in? Today wearing an outfit that's comfortable and warm (Kanch left London for Hong Kong, because it was "too cold"), she's pleased her "skin can go with a lot of colours. I definitely take advantage of that." After all, you can't imagine that someone would design or style with such vibrant colours (Kanch styles all photo-shoots herself) and not yearn to wear them. I suggested we meet at London's BFI, amongst colourful sofas and film posters, partly because I was struck by the cinematic quality of Kanchan Couture: in the drama and history behind the clothes, expressive make-up (à la Lagerfeld) and a Tarantino-inspired video recently posted on the website. Each collection's name also references a history that Kanch is eager to incorporate, such as Unforgettable Maharanis and Nostalgic Beauty

Kanchan Couture Unforgettable Maharanis, Demi Couture
Unforgettable Maharanis (Demi Couture)
History aside, what inspires Kanch? "My inspiration is from everywhere. I like the theatrical pieces because for me, if I'm going to an event, I want everyone to go 'Wow, look at that dress'". Significantly, prints of the past are intertwined with an additional influence each season; these have included Bauhaus and Chinese pottery. Kanch also looks to Christian Dior, traditional Indian garments like the sari, Jill SanderMartin Margiela and Alexander McQueen. And has the rise of designers like Jason WuAlexander Wang and Richard Chai helped increase Asia's presence on the fashion map? "I think it's great, but a lot of these designers didn't start out in Asia. They started in New York or London. Sure, they're Asian designers, but if you start a brand in Hong Kong or China, it's a little harder to go the other way." However, in a Chinese "bubble" where "people are spending more and going out more", Kanch could be in the perfect place from a financial perspective. Which, as the business-minded Kanch explains, is what success is all about: "It's great if you can design things but if no one's wearing them, then why are you designing them?" As Kanch states pragmatically, "the actuality is that you have to sell, you have to survive and you have to have a cashflow." Constantly seeking new opportunities, Kanch also designs accessories, including these cuffs which she brought along:

Kanchan Couture jewellery, cuff

Believing that "educating the consumer is the most important," Kanch regularly teaches young people how a collection is made and how a price is formulated. She admits: "When I was a consumer, I was like 'Ok, what's the big deal? It's a t-shirt, why does it cost me £80?'" On the subject of money, Kanchan Couture spans various price points, according to the collection and target customer. Couture is one-off and subject to individual specifications, bridal dresses are approximately the equivalent of £2-£3,000, Demi-couture: £100 - £1,000 and Kanch by KC: £10 - £200. Fans worldwide can now purchase a selection of items online. With expansion evident via stockists in Brussels and Antwerp, here's hoping we'll see Kanchan Couture in British boutiques soon. Then, if the journey of "fashion's femme fatale" unfolds as planned, Paris better watch out.

Images) Thank you to "Kanch" Panjabi, designer and founder of Kanchan Couture.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Guillaume Canet: The Beach and Beyond...

Guillaume Canet, Rivals, 2008
Rivals (2008)

Despite his rising stardom, you might best know Guillaume Canet from his role as Étienne in The Beach (2006), where he starred alongside The Army of Crime's Virginie Ledoyen and Leonardo Di Caprio. A smaller part than he's now used to, Canet nonetheless showed unmistakable talent and the world took notice. You may have seen the actor's next well-known film: Love me if you dare with his real-life girlfriend Marion Cotillard (2003). And, you may be aware that he directed and wrote Tell No One (2006), becoming the youngest director to win a César award for the film (it's one of my favourite recent French thrillers). For Canet's career is now an exciting mix of acting, directing, writing and producing and it's no wonder that his latest film, Little White Lies, is showing at the BFI London Film Festival, which has just begun this week. Luckily, there's still time to book a seat and watch the film at the festival. Little White Lies is showing on Monday 18th October, at midday (a great excuse to have a day off!) at the Vue cinema in Leicester Square. Written and directed by Guillaume Canet, the film again stars Marion Cotillard and is an ensemble drama, questioning friendship, identity and the 'little white lies' we tell to others and ourselves. Definitely one to watch.

Little White Lies film poster, 2010
Little White Lies (2010)

Amidst all the buzz that will surely accompany Guillaume Canet at the festival and beyond, CINEMOI is presenting a season dedicated to, in their words,"France's hottest movie talent both in front of and behind the camera". The season showcases four diversely fascinating films. Mon Idole (2002) stars Canet (he also directed and wrote the film) alongside his former wife Diane Kruger. The other three films feature Canet as actor, again sharing the screen with renowned French talent. Retro cop-drama Rivals (2008) kicks off the season tonight at 9pm (starring François Cluzet from Tell No One), followed by The Key (2007) at 10.45pm, with Vanessa Paradis. Finally, Fidelity (2000) with Sophie Marceau, to be shown next Monday 22nd October, before Mon Idole. Here is a trailer of the Guillaume Canet season on CINEMOI (here's a link to the on-site trailer, for a fuller view):

Did I forget to mention that Guillaume Canet is quite the French heart-throb? That aside, I'm certain he will continue to elicit international attention for his films (as actor or director). In fact, his latest film, Last Night (2010) was premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September (UK release date, tbc). I'd love to hear your thoughts on Guillaume Canet and the season on CINEMOI (Sky channel 343). Click here to subscribe to CINEMOI.

There's also still time to catch The Army of Crime and Frankie, which I've written about recently. Keep your eyes peeled to 'CINEMOI's What's On'.

Images: 1) CINEMOI, 2) The 54th BFI London Film Festival.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Style Spy (Library): Beautiful Bottoms

Ever since I visited their exhibit area at London Fashion Week, I have wanted to spread the word about Beautiful Bottoms. Yes, it's a brand. One which I believe all female readers should know, if they don't already. There may well be a few interested male readers too; it's not far too early to start thinking about Christmas, boys. Particularly because, Beautiful Bottoms lingerie looks just as good as it sounds: special, but not unwearable; flirty, but not scandalous; delicately feminine but not too flimsy. And it's not quite like the rest of the lingerie market. The utterly lovely 22-year old designers behind Beautiful Bottoms are Poppy Sexton-Wainwright and Lauren Skeritt. Inspired by European vintage prints from the past two centuries, each item feels like it's imbued with a romantic history and you daydream that no one else will own the same piece. 

The designers hope that fans will wear a different print, depending on the mood or place they are in. Yes, this is lingerie that you will not want to keep to yourself. That could simply mean (as per Poppy and Lauren's advice) the glimpse of a coloured strap or floral bow, under a sheer blouse. Forget the structured silhouettes of 'Mad Men' fitted dresses and clinched-in waists, this is an ethereal, graceful femininity that's just as playful and sexy, but in a more relaxed and less-overt way. French boudoir meets Hollywood starlet meets English Rose.

Tapping into our love for all-things-vintage and the increasing celebration of women's bodies and curves (which these are surely meant to show off), it's highly surprising to see such a competitive price point offered. Most bras retail at £30 - £38 and knickers, from £22 - £28. If you consider other lingerie brands known for their luxurious femininity, such as Agent Provocateur, Myla or La Perla, you'd be paying considerably (often, staggeringly) more. Beautiful Bottoms have a, naturally, beautiful site, where you can browse, buy, subscribe to news and follow their blog. Perfect for gifts, each set arrives in a matching silk pouch and branded gift box. 

I'll certainly be keeping my eyes on the Beautiful Bottoms brand, anticipating an exciting future.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Me, myself and CINEMOI

I recently told you about the Sky channel CINEMOI (343), dedicated to French film. I was extremely excited about the discovery, partly because I have always been a huge film fan; I studied film at UCLA film school, wrote university newspaper reviews, worked in film PR and was lucky enough to enjoy a childhood where films were celebrated and the topic of many lively dinner-table discussions. I owe much of my enthusiasm to my parents, whose knowledge of cinema is far-reaching across diverse eras, genres and continents. It was my Dad's passion for the Western genre, that fuelled my inspiration to write my final-year dissertation on 'Women in the Western'. Meanwhile, my sister and I enjoyed nothing more than a trip to the local 'video shop', poring for hours over the latest releases and deciding on the sweet-treats to go alongside. 
My Mum and I shared many wonderful afternoons at Picturehouse* and other independent cinemas, as she introduced me to the world of 'art-house' flicks, my first 15-certificated film and, of course, the magic of French cinema. From our eclectic viewings and animated walks home, I discovered the importance of looking beyond the 'headline' Hollywood movie, becoming immersed in different cultures and experiences, and learning to question and articulate an opinion, after viewing. French cinema soon became a favourite. Therefore, when I received the opportunity to write for CINEMOI, I was ecstatic. Here are my pieces on the gripping World War II thriller, 'The Army of Crime': some background on the director, Robert Guédiguian and an article on 'The Army of Crime' itself.

CINEMOI is showing their interview with Robert Guédiguian, at 8.45pm tonight. 'The Army of Crime' follows at 9pm. I thoroughly recommend this fascinating, brilliantly-acted and riveting film. Here's a sneak preview:

If you are not currently subscribed to CINEMOI, visit here to find out how to subscribe. You can view all current CINEMOI showings here and visit CINEMOI on Facebook. There are also some great celebrity endorsements of CINEMOI, including an interview with Charlotte Gainsbourg.

*Picturehouse cinemas cinemas are a partner of CINEMOI.

(Image of popcorn: Waitrose).

Friday, 8 October 2010

Déjà vu: Part B (23/09/10 - 08/10/10)

Firstly, I'd like to say a BIG thank you to everyone who's 'following' me, writing comments and sending messages! It's wonderful to have your support. Here's a chance to revisit some of my recent posts:

I'd love to hear from you - which posts do you like best? x
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