From seventeen paying punters at Port Eliot’s first ever edition back in 2003, the festival has grown exponentially.  You felt that growth at this year’s festival, which returned after a one year hiatus to give the grounds of Port Eliot in St Germans, Cornwall a rest.  There seemed to be “more” of everything – more tents, more bustle, more words to hear, more drinks a-flowing, more things to eat, more vintage stalls to rummage through.  Or perhaps the “more” was extra exacerbated with the weekend coinciding with an ultra hot heatwave wafting through this part of the world.

Still, that “moreness” didn’t diminish the feeling that you can still find somewhere to escape to in the extensive grounds, depending on your interest.  On top of the big spiky tents like The Bowling Green, Park Stage and Caught by the River where the “big” acts were on, the bustling Wardrobe Department where there were queues aplenty to get your face/hair did, I love that there are smaller pockets that are more tucked away – The Badger’s Sett for kidult crafting, Ways with Weird and Dovegrey Reader for more intimate talks and then if you don’t want to hear anyone speak, feel free to lie on the lush lands/woods, watching the trains go past on the viaduct and take the a restorative nap or two.

Actually, for the most part of the weekend, I wished I could be in more than two places at once as the timetable had quite a few clashes of talks/words/demonstrations that I wanted to see.  The last thing you want to feel though is stress at a festival that is supposed to be something of a restorative experience for the mind and body.  So I didn’t get to see everything I wanted to… I’ve still taken away an extensive to see/read/do list to ensure the Port Eliot spirit carries on beyond the weekend.

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0E5A4648I have no idea what these tea-dress ladies were doing in front of the house but it looks like fun…

IMG_4548The Orangery was “poshed” up with Fortnum and Mason’s coming onboard as a sponsor and Mark Hix doing a feasting menu.  Renowned set designer Michael Howells as always has given it his magic touch…

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0E5A5425Under my favourite tree on the grounds which is split in the middle – wearing Loewe sunglasses, Zandra Rhodes jacket and top, Tsumori Chisato top and Prism espadrilles

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0E5A4984Caught by the river – wearing vintage dragon embroidered top and Chinese robe around waist, Phenomenon shorts, Suno pumps, Ray Ban sunglasses

It was good to once again be ensconced in the Wardrobe Department within the walled gardens as Sarah Mower had once again put together a stellar line-up to entertain, entice and charm even the hardiest of fashion naysayers.

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Louise Gray may have put her own label on hold for the time being but she was certainly welcomed with open arms at Port Eliot as she and her ex-assistant current Central Saint Martins MA student James Theseus Buck lit up the MAC make-up tent with prints, pigment and freehand body painting that made most people clap/smile with glee.  Abstract trickles, dots, Haring-like strokes – Gray and Bovan did it all.  I went from van Gogh-esque strokes on my left arm to Yayoi Kusama-type dots on my left leg in one weekend.  It was a real shame to wet-wipe the lot of it off…

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For the face, MAC and a few of their core make-up artists tentatively felt their way into the festival for the first time this year.  Their work was more meticulous and precise with delicate dots and fine brushstrokes around the eyes.

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The lovely Rachel did a colourful Penelope Tree-inspired bottom lash and dotty thing on my eyes this year…

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0E5A4961 Wearing Luke Brooks tree t-shirt, & Other Stories cardigan worn as skirt, Ray Ban sunglasses

For all matters of the head, Stephen Jones teamed up with Bumble & Bumble to hat/hair the more than-willing ladies of Port Eliot.  No wonder people left chuffed.  Jones literally bought boxes of his hats, veils and headdresses to place on people’s heads, according to their personality/look… and they get to keep them.  Erm… I hope people treasure the millinery magic that they experienced with Stephen.

 

 

 

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I didn’t need an extensive consultation with Stephen.  He just instinctively clipped a sparkly black veil on my head and I was done.  Later he revealed that the veil was in fact a first toile/prototype for Raf Simons’ first ever haute couture show for Dior (they went with coloured veils sans sparkles in the actual show).  I had to run away and do a mini-scream.  That’s how chuffed I was.

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Bumble and Bumble peeps were on hand to plait, style and stencil people’s hair with pastel powders.  Here’s blogger Zoe London and her dip-dyed hair plaited up.

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In a rainbow hair-extension festooned teepee, the girls from Bleach London were back, bigger with their own line of extensive products to demo on festival-goers and an anything-goes hair spirit that resonated with most of the tweens/teens present at the festival.  They’ve just recently launched a line of hair crayons which – HUZZAH – do work on my stubbornly temporary dye-resistant dark dark hair (still not plucked up the courage to errr… bleach my hair).  The lovely Bleach girls were on hand to demonstrate how to apply the semi-permanent crayon colours, which I kind of want to talk-up separately once I’ve done a bit of experimentation on my own.

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Bleach co-founder and all-round hair maestro-mistress Alex Brownsell was feeling a bit under the weather but still showed up at Port Eliot to trial her new hair tapestry.  Now I don’t want to inaccurately call it “first” without knowing for sure but it’s definitely the first time I’ve ever seen this done.  Alex developed this especially for Port Eliot to fuse the crafting fads of yesteryear’s friendship bracelets and current craze loom bands with hair.  She made a loom out of a picture frame, carving up notches to separate strands of hair to create the “warp” as it were.  Then she would use a special needle to thread cotton through the hair as the “weft”, creating sections of hair tapestry that she could then embroider over to extra embellishment.  It was a fascinating process to watch as Alex trialled it on fellow hair stylist Lou Teasdale.  The end result is pretty ace, especially in the fading summer sunlight, and you could definitely see girls cementing their friendships and sisterhoods with this hair craft.

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The most popular area in the Wardrobe Department was Haughty Culture where Piers Atkinson was once again on hand to collect up flowers and foliage from the grounds of Port Eliot to turn into festival appropriate head wreaths.  I did fear for flower headband making exhaustion on behalf of Piers and his tireless team and was shocked to hear that people were being a bit pushy and rude when queuing up to have their head kitted out.  Not cool and not very Port Eliot.

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I loved the addition of the seed paper logos which Piers added to the wreaths this year.  Apparently you can plant the paper and the embedded seeds will flower eventually.  I’m very sloooooowly turning green-fingered as my patch of garden at home is now fully planted up and so I took extra interest in Port Eliot’s abundance of greenery and flowers this year.

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By the end of Saturday, my head had been triple decorated with Piers Atkinson’s blooms, Stephen Jones’ veil and Alex Brownsell of Bleach’s multi-coloured hair tapestry.  More is always more at Port Eliot.

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Port Eliot is really a lovely place to encourage young ones to get their creative juices pumping and Port Eliot long-timer Barbara Hulanicki was on hand to teach little peeps a spot of fashion illustration, hanging out Tweeny Fashionista Uni badges and awards in the process to the most promising artists.  I learnt that Hulanicki has just started a new illustrated clothing line Icon Club.

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Scarf designer Emma J Shipley, who designed the poster of Port Eliot  was a newcomer to the Wardrobe Department with her bandana print making workshop.

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Jewellery designer Vicki Sarge also returned to create pretty things out of tin foil and once again turn trash into treasure.

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Jenny Dyson aka Mrs Rubbish and her Pencil Agency crew are pretty much a permanent Wardrobe Department fixture with their Pencil Atelier, teaching kids to do neon potato prints and sew up simple dresses for the culminating Pencil Fashion Show.  Cath Kidston also teamed up with Jenny to lend a hand in crafting these ensembles.

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In other crafting areas, you could create head dresses and do beginner’s crochet in Ros Badger and Christine Leach’s Badger’s Sett.

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The ever-popular workshops in Anthropologie’s tent included mask decoration with illustrator Florence Balducci, jewellery making with Catherine Zoraida and fabric taxidermy with Mister Finch.  Once again, as branded activities go at Port Eliot, the approach is always gently does it.  When they lull you with impressive interior styling and Buddy Holly tunes on the record player, it doesn’t feel like they’re trying to ram Anthropologie down your throat.

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The Flower show got a new location inside the basement of the house near the kitchen and there was an added Fodder (food) category too for judges to peruse.  The categories are as ever wildly imaginative – my favourite was “He can take it, but can’t dish it” where flowers, vomit and over-indulgent meals came together and Mrs Peacock in the Library where one entrant created an amazing homage to Great Expectation’s Miss Havisham.

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The Wardrobe Department talks were hefty this year, with Sarah Mower conducting her “If Clothes Could Speak” series.  I’ve already talked up the one with Suzy Menkes, where I learnt a life lesson or two.  The next day, Mower spoke to legendary model Penelope Tree about the Betsey Johnson double-slit dress she wore to Truman Capote’s Black and White ball in 1966.  Tree really entertained the crowd with the minutiae about this incredible night as well as imparting nuggets about her own extraordinary upbringing and life as a model.  There’s an autobiography in the making here.

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I loved that fashion seeped its way out of the walled gardens and on to the larger stages.  At The Bowling Green, fashion historian NJ Stevenson and Mark Butterfield, owner of the infamous C20 Vintage Fashion resource in Devon paired up talk about groovy 1970s knitwear.  Or not so groovy, depending on when you were born.  In lieu of the forthcoming exhibition about fashion knitwear at the Fashion and Textile Museum in London, Stevenson and Butterfield focused on 70s knitwear, modelled by teensy tinsy Port Eliot goers.  It was comprehensive for fashion enthusiasts and at the same time and engaging for non-fashion-y people.  More please!

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Back at Five Dials on Sunday, Sarah Mower interviewed Simone Rocha about her rise as a designer in London Fashion Week.  Rocha was endearing and candid when talking about growing up with fashion in her family, her Chirish roots (she’s half Irish, half Chinese) and going from art school in Ireland to studying fashion at Central Saint Martins with the late Louise Wilson.  I loved that Mower got across the special way in which Rocha has created a highly personal “universe” in her brand – in the attitude of her girls and in the types of references which Rocha looks at.  The Warren Sisters – the unofficial go-tomodels of Port Eliot – looked incredible in their various seasons and shades of Rocha.

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What does a fashion show need?  Lots of gin, 6pm summer sunshine and Damian Lewis as a guest host.  The Pencil Atelier fashion show had all those things as all those aforementioned neon-printed frocks were paraded along a haybale catwalk in the Wardrobe Department.  Christopher Kane has nothing to worry about yet but those neon gradiated gingham dresses did look mighty fetching.

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The fashion show was followed by the inaugural Port Eliot Prom, organised by Sarah Mower.  No left out nerds and jock n’ cheerleader couples here.  Just whoever turned up in their glad rags and wanted to be entered in the prom parade to be in with a chance of being crowned with three beautiful resin crowns, made by Fashion East’s latest addition to their line-up Ed Marler.

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My favourite outfit was number 26.  Just saying.

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There are no winners or losers of course in the spirit of Port Eliot but three lucky girls got to wear and keep these elaborate crowns.  Not that I’m errr… jealous of a six year old or anything…

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I’ve got to say a big thumbs up to my first “glamping” experience thanks to the kind folks at Yurtel.  Electrical plugs inside the yurt, a lockable wooden door (still had the laptop with me…) and a heart-embedded skylight were the touches I loved.

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It was great to discover a new vintage source in Dolly Blue, owned by Lily Walford, who happens to be the wife of catwalk show production expert John Walford.  Lily has a love of Victorian/Edwardian cotton undies and petticoats and she also turns French linen into dresses and jackets.  I bought a sweet Hungarian-embroidered blouse from Lily and hope to see her soon for all my Victorian whites needs.

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On the picture front, I had to end with a trio of rainbow goodness.  Port Eliot really is bursting with colour and it seems to create an environment where people feel it’s safe to express themselves with colour, whether it’s dressing up in silly wigs and hippy dippy clothes or going all out in the Wardrobe Department.  You wonder why that sense of inhibited freedom can’t be felt outside of the grounds of Port Eliot in day to day life.  Apparently real life, normal jobs and judgemental peers all get in the way.

0E5A4483Loved how kids were selling their self-made loom bands as an enterprising business at the festival… this kid was charging 50p a band.  I did say he should charge £1.  

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IMG_4558Easy to picture stalk this girl in her LED lit-up dress…

So we come back to reality.  And back in real land, I’ll be ploughing through a list inspired by Port Eliot’s non-fashion events, which I’ve rounded up here.

To eat…

- I was tempted by Cloud Nine’s marshmallows because I kept hearing people raving about them every time I passed their stall at Port Eliot.  One bite into their strawberry/champagne marshies and I was smitten.  Even veggies who didn’t realise they were eating gelatine were swooning.  Must buy more.

- Port Eliot definitely upped its food game this year with even more choices to indulge in.  My personal faves were The Cornish Fishmonger‘s samphire and seabass, Rum and Crab Shack‘s soft shelled crab burger and everything from The Bowler’s Meatball.  Food trucks/entities that are worth waiting for.

- I missed quite a few of the food talks but now have a foodie book list to get into including the Hemsley sisters’ first tome on The Art of Eating Well and Seb Emina’s Breakfast Bible.

To see/read…

- As I mentioned, Andy Miller’s The Year of Reading Dangerously sounds like a riot as he recounts his experience of reading fifty great books.  Sounds odd to read a book about reading but since I have gradually lost the time to read to “real life stuff”, I think I need this to kickstart my habits.

- Christopher Simon Sykes was incredibly entertaining when reading excerpts from his definitive biography of David Hockney, focusing on his early career at the RCA.  Sykes’ accurate accents and expressive way of reading brought the book to life but this biography looks like a good kindle on-the-tube read.

- I finally got to see my hero Martin Parr, who is a Port Eliot regular, who along with his authoress wife Susie, talked about their book The Non-Conformists.  In the 1970s they had photographed and observed the close-knit methodist community in Hebden Bridge and it’s a chance to see Parr’s lesser known and altogether “quieter” black and white work published in this book.  I will also have to try and catch Parr’s first ever documentary Tinsel and Turkey, which follows a group of coach holidaymakers in the Black Country, as I missed BOTH screenings of it at Port Eliot.  Boo.

- Louise Gray and James Buck emerged from Viv Albertine’s talk at Caught by the River with tears in their eyes.  A sure sign that Albertine’s memoir Clothes…Music… Boys…  must be read.

- I watched Paul Kelly and Saint Etienne’s wonderful film collaged out of BFI archive footage of London, How We Used to Live in rapture.  I hope it gets released online somewhere as it’s really a trip and a half, traversing through the 50s through to the 70s in London and yet feeling like nothing really has changed in modern city life.

- Give me a book about the Russian Romanovs and I’ll devour it rapidly.  Helena Rappaport has written a new one - Four Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Grand Duchess Romanov - one to add to my extensive historical biography collection.

- I’ll take any excuse to re-read Elizabeth Jane Howard but Port Eliot celebrated the celebrated novelist’s life and work with an appreciative talk this year at The Bowling Green and now I’ll be out buying up old EJH paperbacks where possible.

This week has been a bit spare with the posts because from my trip to LA, I’ve segued straight into Port Eliot Festival, which kicked off yesterday, after a one year hiatus (to give the beautiful grounds a rest apparently).  One full, hot and sweaty day done and instead of waiting until the end of the weekend to round-up the whole shebang, a pressing thought struck me at the conversation between Suzy Menkes and Sarah Mower today.

Menkes was there to talk about her treasured item of clothing as part of a series that Mower is conducting here called “If Clothes Could Speak” for Port Eliot’s Wardrobe Department programme.  Her piece of choice was an ultramarine blue Zandra Rhodes 70s dress, tasselled and printed with seashells like an ode to The Little Mermaid, modelled here by Menkes’ own granddaughter.  We were treated to a Zandra Rhodes greatest hits show with prime examples of her delicate and whimsical prints on diamond pointed chiffon dresses, modelled by the Warren sisters (a Wardrobe Department fixture) and borrowed from the Fashion and Textile Museum.

It’s always great of course to shine a light on vintage Zandra Rhodes, especially when you see her relevance popping up today.  Menkes even had her other granddaughter wear a Rhodes “inspired” current season Kate Moss for Topshop dress, to hammer home her point.

But that wasn’t my main take away from the talk.  Menkes talked about her time when she was working at the Evening Standard and had to file her reports on the telephone.  In this pre-mobile phone age, Menkes had to be canny to get her story in.  At a Dior show, she clocked another reporter near the exit, where outside there was one singular phonebook in the vicinity.  Menkes then engineered a move to divert the other journalist so that she could race out to the phone to file her story.

In another anecdote, Menkes recalls not having an invitation to the Chloe show, when Karl Lagerfeld was the designer there and “king of ready to wear” at the time.  So Menkes and her colleague decided to buy some cleaning garb and uniform from a shop and dress up as cleaners to get into the show at 5am, hours before the show.  The hid underneath the podium and snuck out just as the show was about to begin.

These two stories spoke volumes about Menkes’ work ethic and attitude.  It isn’t just her vast knowledge and experience of show-going and the collections that make her so highly respected.  It’s her tenacity, her willingness to graft and her unstoppable quest for “the story” that also makes her a great journalist.  She’s the only one on the frow that will take out her laptop in-between shows (I do it sometimes too but in truth, I’m only aping Menkes… and err…there really is too much time wasted waiting for shows to start).  She’s the first one backstage after every show to speak to a designer (how DOES she get there so fast…?)  She always files super fast and in volume, knocking up huge word counts for individual show reports.

She really is the real deal and frankly, as much as I stand for a newguard digital wave (which Menkes is in full support of in her new role as Vogue’s international editor), it’s hard to see how many people still and will operate the way Menkes does with her high level of tireless dedication to fashion reporting.  I wonder too  whether the showiness and surface of the fashion world (and the exacerbated speed of fashion coverage today) can often mask what is actually important – proper hard work.  Journos continue to hash out lazy cliches about generation y/z Instagramming/captioning their way to the top and in fashion, that accusation is ongoing.  That’s too simplistic a statement.  But at the same time, I can count on my one hand, the people my age or younger who go the sort of distance that Menkes had demonstrated.

With these thoughts in mind, I dashed over to author Andy Miller’s talk in the Bowling Green after Menkes had been crowned as “Queen of Fashion” with Stephen Jones and Jenny Dyson‘s collectively made crown.  Miller was talking about his ten point guide to reading books better, based on his humorous tome The Year of Reading Dangerously.  The general gist of the talk was to encourage people to really engage with their books, read them properly, finish them and don’t pretend you’ve read something just because culture vultures prescribe that you MUST have read a certain book.

From Miller’s talk and Menkes’ stories, I could draw parallels and glean some old fashioned advice – be the real McCoy, don’t think you can fake it and make it, worked hard and you’ll reap rewards, take the long route and not the shortcut… if I think of any more cliched nuggets, I’ll add them here.  It is only day one after all…

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0E5A4807Stephen Jones crowning Menkes as Queen of Fashion with a sweet crochet crown of mini Menkes

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0E5A4830Menkes’ two grand-daughters wearing Kate Moss for Topshop dress on the left and a Zandra Rhodes original on the right…

0E5A4832Andy Miller telling it as it is…

We had a loose rule on our second trip to Los Angeles to try and do things that we hadn’t done before on our first trip, which included not repeating food spots and accommodation. In fact we stayed at five different places on our six day trip just to mix things up a bit (there was a meticulous packing methodology). We have still come away feeling like we’re not quite sated and there’s still an arm-long to-do/see list, which means it’s more than likely that we’ll come back for more. LA, we really do heart you. A lot.

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- Trust my British self to moan about the weather on the first day of our holiday. But only because I did feel a bit peeved that for the first few days, it was actually hotter in London than it was in Los Angeles. We had booked ourselves into Shutters on the Beach to spend a lush first night in Santa Monica and woke up to this…

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- In fairness, it did brighten up so that it looked like the above about four hours later so my initial gripes were completely unfounded. Plus Santa Monica/Venice Beach is still awesome regardless of the colour of the sky.

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20140716_081434Breakfast of healthy/not so healthy at Shutters

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IMG_0074Wearing Vika Gazinsakay x & Other Stories dress, Bernstock Speirs visor, Kenzo bag, Tabitha Simmons x Toms shoes, Ray Ban sunglasses

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- As expected LA treated us good food-wise.  Following our rule about not repeating food spots twice we also tried to go for things that are basically hard to find in London.  Our eats included an awesome boat noodle soup at Pa Ord, interesting bacon-imbued and pork-fat-rendered flavour combinations at Animal, ceviche tostadas at El Sietes Mares, sorrel lemonade at Sky’s Gourmet Tacos and a nom nom undressed lobster roll at Blue Plate Oysterette.

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- I really wanted to check out Heritage Square Museum because I had seen pictures of their annual Vintage Fashion Show and Tea online.  Eight historic structures mostly constructed during the Victorian era were saved and reconstructed here by Montecito Heights.  There are more “real” examples of this kind of architecture elsewhere in the city but I loved the odd juxtaposition and assembly of houses right by a busy freeway.

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- Something ultra cheesy had to be on the agenda.  The Dearly Departed tours were all booked up so we headed to the Hollywood Museum in the old Maxfactor Building.  If you’re errr.. into pan-cake style make-up on dusty pink dressing tables and Daryl Hannah narrating a ye olde documentary on the history of Maxfactor, this is the place for you.  I’m a sucker for old Hollywood memorabilia though so I kind of loved it.

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- Unlike London, Los Angeles has a lot of distinctly themed areas dedicated to the many ethnicities that make up the city.  Olvera Street is the oldest part of downtown Los Angeles with Spanish settlers founding the city in 1781.  Today, it’s an ode to its past as a Spanish/Mexican outpost with a ton of tourist-y kitschy market stalls.  Always up for getting any sort of fix of Mexico of course, however cliched.  Nearby, is Chinatown, which isn’t really where LA’s Chinese community live (need to make it to San Gabriel Valley for the good Chinese eats…) but again is a kitschy reminder of the past when it was actually bustling and the centre of the Chinese community.  It feels more like a hammed up Hollywood set than a real functioning Chinatown but it definitely has its charm.  I love that Ooga Booga, an interesting and conceptual zine/book/gift store is nestled in the middle of plaza.

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IMG_0226 Wearing Suno hat, 3.1 Phillip Lim vest, Topshop skirt, Linda Farrow sunglasses and Salvatore Ferragamo slip-ons

- Steve and I kept on lusting after home and garden decorations as stores along Abbot Kinney and Lincoln Blvd were tempting us to overdo it with our luggage allowance (we only bought a few things but still had to plead with the airline to let us go over our limit).  On Abbot Kinney, The Piece Collective, A Plus R, Tortoise General Store and Chariots of Fire were full of lovely things.  General Store on Lincoln Blvd is also fantastic.

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IMG_0105Inside Piece Collective

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IMG_0107Pots at A Plus R

- In particular, we got quite obsessed with cool ceramics and little plant pots.  Since we didn’t bring that many back, I’ve been tirelessly searching Etsy for alternatives.  South Willard had an intriguing exhibition on local pottery artists Michael and Magdalena Suarez Frimkess.  Alchemy Works in Arts District and Fifth Floor in Chinatown also had a few names for us to take note of.

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20140718_125141Bits and bobs inside Fifth Floor

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- There seems to be a lot of love for Craig Green in LA which is great to see!  People instantly recognised and ID-ed his tie-dye shorts from SS14, which I was wearing and there was a healthy amount of his stuff at the store 12345.  Go Craig!!!

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- We’re currently in the process of re-doing our garden and a cactus corner is a must because of all the cool cacti we saw out in LA.  It won’t look as cool in our flat grey light but will definitely be a reminder of our trips.

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- Every area in LA seemed to have one of these Apolis Local + Global market bags, which originated in LA-based socially motivated lifestyle brand Apolis’ arts district store and have slowly branched out to partner with stores all over the world.  I love the new Koreatown version sold in Poketo inside The Line hotel.  They’re made by a group of women in Bangladesh and as this harrowing BBC2 documentary on the Rana Plaza disaster attests, any initiative to ensure Bangladeshi women get to earn a fair living under safe conditions is definitely worthy of attention.

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- The ridiculous reason why I wanted to go to Las Vegas for a day was because I needed the air miles to top up my account.  The sensible reason was that I’d never been.  Perhaps less than 24 hours wasn’t really enough time to devote to the city of sin but I have to be honest… Las Vegas basically felt like Leicester Square and Macau x 100 rolled together with the added downside of searingly hot temperatures (walking around outside at night was like having a hot fan heater blowing in your face the whole time).  We don’t gamble and we didn’t really know how (yes, I know I’m betraying my Chinese roots here but my dad abhors gambling and likewise instilled that in me) and spent a while just watching people do it.  Then we went to strip club for the “fun” of it and found it to be an utterly depressing experience, watching girls in mismatched bras and panties sidling up to men for dances (I say dance loosely – they were just bouncing up and down to get dudes turned on).  But…

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IMG_0235View from our room at the Bellagio

IMG_0233Dale Chihuly ceiling in the lobby of the Bellagio

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…I really did love driving further up the strip towards downtown to see the shotgun wedding chapels at night even if we did have to pay an extortionate fare to a cab driver to get him to drive us up and down the strip.

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IMG_0250Wearing Ray-Ban sunglasses, vintage Vivienne Westwood swimsuit, Marni shorts, Christopher Kane sandals

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- On a food note, the Bacchanal buffet at Caesars Palace defeated me.  One starter plate, one main plate and a few of the desserts were all I had.  I brought shame to my expert buffet eating family.  Thumbs up to the truffle layered potatoes, the clams in chorizo sauce and the dipped strawberries.

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- Back in LA, we opted to spend our last night in a new-ish hotel called The Line in Koreatown.  It had a fab view of Hollywood Hills and the interiors designed by Knibb Design were pretty ace (especially loved the plastered white t-shirt ceilings) but not everything was open yet – looking forward to coming back to check out the Commissary cafe, which is housed in a greenhouse by the pool.  It was handy to be near all the Korean eats though and it was great to eat a really decent tasting funked-up congee for brekkie.  Didn’t get to sample Roy Choi’s food at the restaurant hotel Pot but like I said, this place is definitely one to revisit.

IMG_4471View from The Line

- Downtown LA is still a pretty interesting area to comb through.  This time we checked out Bradbury Building aka where they filmed Blade Runner in.  It’s an incredible mishmash of architecture inside with Parisian-derived apartment iron fretwork coupled with Mexican tiles and Italian marble, with a central skylight allowing light to flood in.  Across the road, Million Dollar Theatre and Grand Central Market are also worth snooping around.  Especially in the latter, where we tried Salvadorean pupusas.  Plus there’s an eatery called Eggslut.  Yup, Eggslut.

IMG_4482Inside the Bradbury Building

IMG_4484Million Dollar Theater

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- In a shop called Round2, the owner described downtown as “kind of like New York in the 80s… things are just getting started around here.”  Not sure if the analogy is entirely true but DLTA definitely has its own vibe, that’s very separate from shopping in Hollywood or out in Silver Lake/Echo Park.  Round2 felt like an LA version of Cyber Dog and I found great plastic fantasic pieces by local designer Michelle Uberreste (apparently an ex Project Runway contestant).  I also loved The Last bookstore, quite possibly the largest and most well-organised second hand bookstore I’ve been to.  I didn’t get to check out Please do Not Enter, a newish concept store downtown but again, leaving one for next time.

IMG_4496Michelle Uberreste vest at Round 2

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- Outside In ‘n’ Out near the airport (our only repeat eating experience because well… it’s In ‘n’ Out!), where a girl yelped my name and repeatedly screamed/hugged me and then ran away without saying anything.  I kind of loved her.  Please make yourself be known if you are reading!

I’m currently typing this up in a Starbucks by LAX airport and holiday blues have already set in.  Me thinks someone up there knew we were about to depart because today has been a non-starter of a day involving, traffic woes, fluffed-up shop/sights opening hours and GPS nightmares.  Perhaps it’s some kind of karmic payback after the utterly beautiful day we had yesterday (one day out in this part of the world and I’m already using the word “karmic”)  After our early evening trip-out into Joshua Tree, we knew we had to come back for more weird and wonderful sights.  We were hooked by the loud cricket noises, the hot desert air blowing in our faces and the drive along Twentynine Palms Highway.  I promise this isn’t all strictly tourist mumbo-jumbo.  There’s some fash-un to be found.  Well, I say some.  In fact, there’s actually a surprising amount of unique vintage wares to be found along this stretch of road.  First off though, some inspiration fodder that will feed the eye…

The number one thing on our bucket list was Salvation Mountain in Niland, past the eerie lake of Salton Sea.  It’s about an hour and a half’s drive from Palm Springs and well worth the trek if you have a car.  This is probably one of the most famous and spectacular examples of “outsider” art, created by Leonard Knight, who sadly passed away earlier this year.  Apparently he would have often been on-site to talk people through this psychedelic mound, made out of adobe clay and painted with uplifting murals and Bible verses.  It was Knight’s tribute to God but moreover, to love, to wonderment and to beauty.  Surrounding it are further caravans, tractors and cars painted in s similar fashion.  Collectively it’s an awe-inspiring sight, made even more profound by its far-out and relatively impoverished location.  The harsh late morning sun was beating down on us but those rays and the intense blue sky did cast Salvation Mountain in the most breathtaking light.  We couldn’t tear ourselves away even though the heat was physically hurting our heads.  And not to diminish the meaning of Knight’s masterpiece but obviously, aesthetically speaking, the colour scheme and I were sort of on the same wavelength…

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0E5A4270Not going to lie, Luke Brooks’ special “Tree Shirt” was a bit of a strategic outfit choice for Salvation Mountain.  Worn with Mother of Pearl skirt, Loewe sunglasses, Lucy Folk necklace and Prism espadrilles. 

0E5A4273Steve’s Craig Green shirt was also an appropriate bit of kit to soak up the Salvation Mountain vibes…

On the way back from Salvation Mountain, we stopped by a deserted stretch along the curious lake of Salton Sea.  It’s beautiful from afar but kind of depressing when you get closer as you see thousands of dead fish washed up on the stone-filled shores.  Moody Top of the Lake vibes aplenty here (please watch this series if you can!)

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After refuelling back at our Palm Springs base, we made our second trip up to Yucca Valley and Joshua Tree to try and eke out another layer beneath the obvious Joshua Tree National Park.  Our primary reference was this High Deserts Test Sites map, provided by a non-profit organisation which supports and curates site-based art around this area.  One of the founders is artist Andrea Zittel, whose home and work space A-Z-West was also on my hit list but sadly it wasn’t available to see.  If we had more time, I would have driven around hunting down all of the sites on the map but in the end wee settled for one  and it was definitely special enough.  The journey was an experience in itself.  You drive past the vaguely theme park-esque Pioneertown and on to a winding dirt track road, which leads you to a curiously named path called God’s Way Love.   Up this rocky path in the high desert nestled in amongst wind-blasted rock formations is Boulder Gardens, the eco-sanctuary and retreat founded and kept by Garth Bowles.  This sanctuary is Bowles’ “act of giving” – you’re free to stay here with a voluntary donation.  People are also allowed to go up there and take a look and so we roamed around, looking in all the nooks and crannies of this breath-taking retreat, lovingly adorned with crystal-scattered spiritual niches.  It’s got all you need really when you’re this high up and far out (in spirit and in altitude) – a sauna, a cool pool, a meditation garden, a tranquil pond, chicken coops built into caves and a picture perfect teepee.  The desert planting all around Boulder Gardens was inspiration enough for Steve and I.  Trying to take a little piece of Garth’s retreat back to N15 with us will be a tough tough task.

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Back down on Twentynine Palms Highway out of all the numerous vintage spots dotted along this road, The End in Yucca Valley was a must-see for me, not least because the lovely Jazzi McG gave it a thumbs up.  I didn’t realise the connection until I got there but it turns out owner Kime Buzzelli is a former fellow Typepad blogger (as in blogger generation 1.0), whose blog The Moldy Doily was on my blog feed back in the day.  Kime was working in TV styling and also owned the concept boutique Show Pony in Los Angeles but decided a few years ago to up sticks and move out to Yucca Valley permanently to open up The End.  Here she’s free to concentrate on her beautiful illustration work – seen dotted around the store – and live what seems to be something of the good life.  You’ll spot the distinct murals painted on the outside by Elena Stonaker from a mile off (Stonaker’s wearable pieces are quite something too…).  Inside, it’s a treasure trove of desert-appropriate wafting around prettiness and hippie finds in the true and good definition of the h word.  I picked up a leather bag dripping with paint, created by a couple who live out in Palm Springs.  If I had time, I’d really look into this seemingly sprawling coven of “folk-based” artists and craftsmen from around these parts as everything from ceramics to jewellery to clothing seem to have this … yes, I’ll say it… RAD… aesthetic that I’m drawn to.  I also loved that in the middle of the high desert seemingly in the middle of nowhere, weirdly I managed to make a stray blogger connection.

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10384676_581410168635805_3979975435337962556_nWearing Marques Almeida top, Balenciaga shorts, Birkenstocks, Thomas Tait sunglasses and the bag I bought from The End

A ten minute drive away from The End, right outside the entrance to Joshua Tree National Park, was another spot on my to-see list.  Why, it’s the World Famous Crochet Museum, created by artist Shari Elf, which sits in the Art Queen Gallery.  Nobody was at home but we just let ourselves in, unlocked the door to this green pod of awesomeness and marvelled at the shelves of crochet cuties.  Right next door, there’s also Trailer Court Shops, a mini-warren of vintage and oddities sellers.  By the time we looked to have a poke around, they had already closed.  I like that I’ve left quite a few stones unturned.  It gives me an excuse to come back and I definitely will.  That’s a promise.

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On the way to Palm Springs at Cabazon, you can’t miss Ms. Rex and Ms. Dinny aka The World’s Biggest Dinosaurs aka the best roadside stop off ever where we filled up the car, sampled all manners of meat jerky and got a cheesy snap in the process as well.  I promise my wearing the Julien David “Dinosaur” vest was mere coincidence.

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IMG_0281Wearing Julien David vest, vintage slip dress, Kitty Joseph socks, Salvatore Ferragamo slip-ons

One final note on our accommodation out in this part of the world, in between exploring Joshua Tree and Salvation Mountain, we opted to stay the night at the Ace in Palm Springs.  From what people told me, I was a little bit skeptical about this “hipster” bolthole of choice and no.1 hangout during Coachella, but I found the Ace to be pretty chill.  As in, not the frat boy/hen do madfest I was expecting it to be on the weekends.  There were shibori dyeing and collage making classes going on in the clubhouse and the pool was nicely filled out as opposed to super rammed.  And when all is said and done, I am officially an ageing “hipster” for want of a better word… so ermmmm…

… PEACE OUT…

… until I get back to London.  I will then strike-through that sentence and start moaning about the weather, TFL and BT Broadband.

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IMG_4379Wearing Auria swimsuit, Karen Walker sunglasses

P.S. Unlike Instagram, hopefully this is a safe haven from the fat-hating comments I get (exclusively from peeps from China/Hong Kong it would seem… ) but just in case some people can’t resist, I may as well rebut now and say yes, I’m in a swimsuit, and no, it ain’t a perfect sight because I like food.  And drink.  And lots of it at that.

>> My brain is currently emptied of smart, sassy things to say about fashion and nor have I been finding funky fresh shops to blog up here on my very short one week trip to Los Angeles/Las Vegas/Palm Springs.  Therefore, the blog is looking a bit barren, my Instagram feed will clue you in as to why.  I did want to check in though with one entirely gratuitous post in ode to Joshua Tree, one of the most magnificent places I have seen on Earth.  There is no snazzy outfit to accompany it.  There is no beautifully composed picture with hair artfully blowing in the wind.  There isn’t even an insightful travel perspective to bring to this post, other than… please go if you ever get the chance.  All I’ve got for you are wide-armed cheesy smiles, moments of pure magic when you feel like you’re on the edge of the world and the shifting light of a sunset cast across acres of 100 million years-old mysterious rock formations and of course the thousands of spindly spiky headed Joshua trees, which become seductively sinister at night.  Why?

Well… just because.  When I interviewed Luella Bartley recently, she made a comment about there being no time these days just to do things for the sake of doing them – for fun, for larks, for pure joy.  Everything had to have a mechanical reason behind it.  I’m entitled to have a cheesy and cliched mini-epiphany inside this much-visited and famed national park because it felt brilliant for me at that very moment and ultimately, that will feed whatever I do when I get back to the real world.  Reason enough?

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