Saturday, 29 January 2011

BBC London radio show 29th January

Hello! It was fun to broadcast on a Saturday again. A trillion times more relaxed. I interviewed Jane from Shelf, the shop that feels a bit like an old regular on the show - Robert and I have been mentioning it for about five years now, at regular intervals; nooked away in little old Cheshire Street just off Brick Lane, it was one of a kind, and raised the standard for independent shops, as well as flying the flag and other mixed metaphors. It's sad they're closing. BUT they're off to exciting times, and the sale is very worth going to - plus, you don't have to feel bad about buying up all the stock on the shop floor, because while they're breaking free of the four walls, they're still going to exist, in a new incarnation, online. So you'll ACTUALLY be doing them a favour.

 kissing bye bye to Shelf, alas...

Talking about Shelf made me think about Caravan, another staple of alternative shopping. 

Run by Emily Chalmers, a creative force, it has been an inspiring place to visit in all its has an excellent online shop, but has been a physical presence in Cheshire Street, then Spitalfields, (and then the council made the rent exhorbitant) to the current address at Redchurch Street. The final move turned out to be an excellent one - soon after Terence Conran built his Boundary hotel and restaurant, plus the Albion cafe, right on the same street. That helped for more passing trade, people who could peer through the windows at these lovely things:

Brass ring cast from vintage original, £29

  Pineapple (you must have guessed that) wall sconce, £89

these silver metal flowers are beautiful in real life. I gave mine away altruistically and secretly regret it, £39

 concrete light bulbs, £49

Many more things to buy, many more. But Caravan is the kind of place you go to buy something beautiful, have it wrapped in a lovely way, and to have a conversation with the owner or one of the genuinely nice shop assistants. It's a good place to visit (and then to Albion Caff - sic - for delicious things to eat, if you need an energy boost. The brownies are worth it.)


Then on to a very different kind of event, where chatting amiably is not the point. Sharp elbows are the only accessory you need, and a discerning eye. DSUK (Designer Sales UK) are having another sample sale on Friday 4th March. I don't need to tell you any more, because it's so far ahead, but there will be lots of bargains and you should put it in your diary. Noon - 8pm, Chelsea Town Hall. More details will follow, but expect many designer names...


Here's a good thing: The Outnet is an exponent of what they call 'Chiconomics'. Why not? A sister brand to Net-A-Porter, it's essentially a fashion outlet store, online, selling discounted designer clothes and accessories. Its connection to Net-A-Porter means that the brands are authentic, and you can be guaranteed that you're getting a genuine bargain. It doesn't mean of course that "bargains" will always be cheap per se...ahem! But you can be sure they're cheaper, so in effect you're spaving money. There are over 200 brands and here are some recent sale items (they may have sold by now): Pringle leather skirt reduced from £400 to £160; Marc Jacobs shoes down from £255 to £128; Converse shoes were £35 reduced to £19; Givenchy shoes reduced from £745 to £298.


Then, for some real-life shopping, the RCA International Art Fair. This year it's on 17th - 21st February (now that I'm doing this slot every three weeks, I have to think ahead a bit...), and promises 80 stands. Most of the work for sale is contemporary, but there will be art from Matisse, Picasso, and Chagal - even if you (I) can't afford to buy, it's a feast for the eyes. At £6 entry, it's not a bad afternoon out  being arty, either. 


Also: the haircare brand Naked has teamed up with Oxfam. On the ranges with the Oxfam sticker, 25p will go to the charity (and £1 of every Oxfam shopper sold online will also go back).


On the charity shopping theme, there's a Frock Swap on Wednesday which is definitely worth a visit. Called 'swishing' nowadays, it's what you might - back there in the dark ages - call a 'swap shop'. How it works: bring up to four (good) items of clothing, and take the same amount back! The swishing/swapping is free, but it's in aid of London's Air Ambulance, so they ask for a £10 donation. It's at The Great Hall, Barts Hospital, West Smithfield, EC1A 7BE - doors open 6.30pm, swishing from 7pm.


MORE swishing (now you know what it means), today at The Hammerswish. It's not for charity, so completely free (but it is founded in ethical and recyclingish principles, so you can still feel smug); bring up to five items. You'll find it at The Stonemason's Arms, 54 Cambridge Grove, W6 OLA, from 2-5pm. More information about swishing here.


Also today: the Buy My Wardrobe event, where lots of knowledgeable fashion people are selling their designer garbs at a discount. There will be Chanel, Gucci, Preen et al, all up to 75% off. All the details are here, but it's at Adam Street Members' Club, 9 Adam Street, WC2N 6AA, from noon to 4pm. Cost: £5


Window shopping at Heal's this week: the Tottenham Court Road store will have installations and arty displays, thanks to the UCL Slade School of Fine Art. It's called Heal's Artists in Residence 2011 and the students will be let loose! Walk past at least once - it's free, woohoo. (Monday 31st January to Sunday 6th February).


Saturday, 8 January 2011

first Saturday show! BBC London 8th January

Happy new year! First Saturday show - very good fun. We kicked off with Nicola Beauman, the owner of Persephone Books. PB is a little bookshop (and office, Nicola hastens to add - London is an expensive place) that gathers up lots of neglected works (often by women, all 20th Century), reprints and sells them. In this case, you can judge a book by its cover, because all of PB's books look the same from the outside - plain grey jackets, cream label for the title and author. Only inside will reveal the fabric-design endpaper, specially chosen to match the feel of the context at time of writing. For short stories, diaries, cookery books, and novels that you won't necessarily see elsewhere, and would make a great present (if you're not sick of present shopping). If you want to see the real thing, they're tucked away on Lambs Conduit Street; or they have an excellent online ordering service (80% of their business comes this way).


Didn't have time to mention this, but if you haven't bought a diary yet, try We Are What We Do: not the obvious choice for stationary, but it's an organization that believes lots of small acts add up to make a difference. And as part of that, they're involved with lots of projects to encourage people to ascribe to their philosophy (in a fun way). They're the people who Anya Hindmarsh worked with when she was designing her now ubiquitous 'I'm Not A Plastic Bag', and if you went to Bestival, WAWWD were responsible for that huge dragon lurking in the field (Jacques le Trash, a recycling dragon).

So here's their Action Diary 2011:

Startlingly, it's only £2. Which is cheaper than I paid for my week-to-view diary, page of notes on the side. And the actions they suggest aren't too difficult (Valentine's Day: Give Lots of Compliments). They get you to log your good action online when you do it - so far, 4,822,058.


If you're in Highbury / Finsbury Park area today, take a jaunt past  Bennet and Brown, a place to buy Interesting Things. One of an interesting row of shops on Mountgrove Road, just off the Blackstock road, it's run by a couple of furniture restorers (another service they offer) who know their stuff. Stock changes all the time - currently you can see a couple of things in store online: enamel factory lamp shades from the Thirties (large, £52, small £34), and a set of four Arts and Crafts dining chairs (fully restored, oak with rush work seats, £495).

Also - plastic cowboys for £1! Whooo-hooo!

Warning: they have eccentric opening times, as is their right as an independent shop, so check their timetable before you go.

(They're next to the Sylvanian Families shop, but I'm not going into that any further...) 


Lots of sales, too:

Ede and Ravenscroft (London's oldest tailor, founded 1689) for suits reduced from £550 to £395, cotton shirts down from £75 to £35, silk ties from £55 to £25. A proper, old-fashioned, sale.

Jaeger have an up-to-70% off sale - clothes and bags starting from £99. 

Paul Smith has an online sale of up to 50% off their autumn/winter collection. AND they're not adding VAT this year, which is good news. 

Lee has up to 30% off in their flagship store, Carnaby Street.

SCP furniture has up to 60% discounts on end of line and ex-display items.

Cath Kidson's sale is still online - up to 50% off clothes, bedding, accessories.


And, finally, the London Vintage Fashion Textiles and Accesories Fair. Not a pithy title, but then who needs pith when you're trying to describe a lavish affair of over 100 vintage fashion clothing dealers. The shoes, hats, handbags, linen, jewellery, dresses are dated from 1800 to 1980, and you'll probably be mingling with lots of In The Know fashion people who come here for inspiration. It's this Sunday, at Hammersmith Town Hall, 8am-5pm (£10 entry 8am-10am, £5 thereafter).

That's it! I'll be back in three weeks. Keep in touch.