Lust-List Monday

  • My summer holidays are nearing an end, which means I’m moving back to London this week (*sigh of relief*). Every year, I start afresh with my wall decorations and this year I’m coveting these type maps by Bold & Noble, a design collective founded by Jane Tobitt and David Wardle. Much more sophisticated than the posters that usually adorn students’ bedroom walls, I can see myself being distracted from assignments reading all the road names (I’m easily amused). The designs are printed on 100% recycled card, so your eco-warrior conscience can breathe easy. Type map of London, £43 (inc. postage), Bold & Noble.
  • My physiotherapist has prescribed sensible shoes. Are these Giambattista Valli loafers (£505 at Net-A-Porter) sensible enough? Probably, but the price tag isn’t. I shall have to make do with inferior models like these ASOS loafers until my funds are in a healthier (wealthier) state.
  • As you’ve probably already heard, J. Crew now ships to the U. K (with free postage until 31st October). This wool/alpaca/acrylic fisherman sweater (£85.55) is perfect for the increasingly more frequent chilly Autumn days.
  • I’ve accepted that the beautiful Mulberry Polly Push Lock from last week’s Lust-List isn’t going to happen in the near future. It’s time to move on. Sigh. This pewter satchel by Zatchels (prices starting at £99) is much more purse-friendly, and the 14.5″ version (£109) is just right for all my university essentials. Polly Push Lock, our time will come ♥
  • Boring old jumper + sparkly collar = less boring old jumper. Sequin collar, £25 at ASOS.
Apparently, metallics are my friends. Go forth and sparkle, my friends!

The Mid-Degree Crisis

Credit: o5

So you’re trudging along through life, everything is going fairly swimmingly. You’ve been getting good grades throughout your academic career. You have a lovely group of friends, and you crystallise that friendship by going out every now and then and drunkenly saying things you will regret. You spend more money that you should, but it’s okay because the things you’re buying are every day essentials. You know: shoes, clothes, facials.

Then, one day, you realise that actually you aren’t that passionate about your degree. You sort of only did it because it was the best choice after your A Levels. And when I say ‘best’, I mean the most academic, least time-wasting choice.

On the same day, you find out that an acquaintance has received a job offer following an internship at a bank. You meant to apply for an internship, but you never got around to it because you could never quite figure out what it was that you were passionate about. Oscar Wilde said,

“Anybody can sympathise with the sufferings of a friend, but it requires a very fine nature to sympathise with a friend’s success.” 

You have neither a fine nature, nor is she a friend. Facebook friends that you haven’t actually spoken to can’t really be considered friends, can they? Needless to say, you are jealous. How dare she work hard and get a job, whilst you laze about and get nothing?!

Cue tears, sleepless nights and ‘I don’t know what I’m doing with my life’ conversations with The Parents. “It will all be fine,” they say, “we just want you to be happy.” If only you knew what would make you happy. Money or passion? Decisions, decisions.

To be continued…maybe…

Oh and, obviously, none of this is about me.

The V&A (& Me)

Living in South Kensington, I’m lucky to be a mere ten-minute walk away from the Natural History, Science, and Victoria & Albert Museums. The irony is that I visited them more when I lived an hour’s drive from London, than in my last two years living in SK. In fact, until a couple of weeks ago, the only time I had been to any of these museums since I moved to London was almost a year ago, on a lunch date at the V&A. The date wasn’t a success, but I did fall in love with the V&A café.

Photo: V&A Chandeliers

The designers have cleverly juxtaposed these huge contemporary mesh chandeliers with the opulent surroundings. The combination works surprisingly well, and makes for a really sumptuous, but not pretentious, setting for lunch or afternoon tea.

Photo: V&A Chandelier

The variety and quality of food is also impressive for a museum, with a good choice of hot and cold dishes, sandwiches and wraps, and, my favourite, lots and lots of cakes and desserts (including enormous meringues the size of a teapot, which I wouldn’t know how to eat without making a huge mess).

I finally made some time to make another visit to the V&A and, more importantly, to its café, after my exams finished at the end of June. This time, instead of heading straight for the food, I wandered around the vast space for a couple of hours. It always surprises me how much bigger these places feel on the inside compared to how they look on the outside. On the day I was there, a large section of the museum was closed due to a workers’ strike so, fortunately, I didn’t feel obliged to take in the entire museum in one day. Even so, there was a LOT to see, and I think I probably only took in about 20% of what I saw.

Photo: Giles Deacon DressDress from SS09 Giles by Giles Deacon collection. Given to the V&A by Giles Deacon. The dress behind it is by Alexander McQueen, for SS10, his final full collection before his death in 2010.

One of my favourite things was this dress from the Spring/Summer 09 Giles by Giles Deacon collection. The slightly stiff, classic, elegant silhouette is totally Kate Middleton, and also a shape that I always drift towards (cinched in at the waist and flared A-line skirt to hide my out-of-shape thighs). The Swarovski embellishment is genius (though probably not very Kate Middleton). Sparkly Pacman, ribcage and chunky chain all together – really, could you ask for any more? Not sure exactly where one would wear it…perhaps its sole purpose is to be admired on a mannequin? If so, I think it has succeeded.

Photo: Giles Deacon Dress

Another favourite was this Moschino bag (below) from 1996. I was five in 1996, so forgive me for being slightly slow on the uptake of 90s fashion trends. Similar to the Giles Deacon dress, I like the witty twist on something that is often quite serious. It’s refreshing when designers don’t take themselves too seriously although, of course, there’s a time and place for everything. This bag is apparently meant to represent a scoop of ice cream topped with chocolate, and is intended to be a play on the idea that the fashion world is obsessed with size. The other interpretation was that both fashion and chocolate are guilty pleasures…though I would argue that fashion isn’t really a guilty pleasure.

Photo: Moschino BagHandbag By Moschino, 1996…isn’t the smooth, sleek leather fabulous?

It may sound somewhat trivial to talk about ‘mere clothing’ (or accessories), when there is so much ‘real art’ on display but, for me, there’s something accessible and covetable about an item of clothing because we all wear it: it’s a common denominator of sorts. Having said that, I do also admire and appreciate painting and sculpture, and the sheer talent of many artists.

Photo: V&A GardenI had lunch (a houmous and falafel wrap) sitting outside by this water feature. Quiet and tranquil, you wouldn’t guess that you were in central London. And that’s one of London’s many wonders – there are so many sanctuaries and hide-aways from busy city life, where you can go to recharge and emerge feeling relaxed and de-stressed. In a day of doctors’ appointments, this little escape from reality worked wonders for my sanity. As contrived as that sounds, I think there’s a lot to be said for treating yourself to an over-priced lunch, and enjoying some time on your own with just your thoughts and imagination for company.

Maybe when I’m back in London in October, I’ll be able to conquer the Science and Natural History museums too. What’s your favourite London museum or gallery? Did anyone get a chance to see the Yohji Yamamoto exhibition at the V&A? I got a glimpse of the impressive exhibition space on my visit but, unfortunately, didn’t have time to get a proper look before I left London for the Summer 😦 Must plan better next time…

A Fickle Nose

I’ve never been the one-perfume kind of girl; I’m always searching for a new fragrance, which can convey how I’m feeling at that point in my life. Hours spent in various beauty halls over the years have even helped me to develop a rather unimpressive olfactory sense, which I test with every over-perfumed individual that passes by.

If the array of perfumes that one owns says anything about one’s personality, then one look at my dressing table would tell you that I’m rather indecisive. The little glass bottles contain a myriad of fruity, oriental, citrusy and floral scents, and I definitely couldn’t pick a favourite. My mood, outfit and plan for the day dictate my choice of fragrance; a choice which, contrary to my indecisive nature, takes only a split-second to make as there is always one scent that encapsulates my frame of mind better than the others.

Photo: A Few of My Favourite Scents

A Few of My Favourite Scents

However, for a while, there was one exception to my perfume dalliances. Several years ago, my mum and I paid a visit to Liberty on a trip to London. There, I found a fragrance by Creed, which is, in their own words “a discreet family-owned perfume house dedicated to the creation of highly original fragrances of extravagant quality”. Founded in London in 1760, it soon became a supplier to the royal household. Today, seven generations later and still essentially a family business, the House of Creed operates from its boutique in Paris’ 8th Arondissement, producing exclusive perfumes for its loyal clientele.

The scent that captivated my senses was Silver Mountain Water (SMW) by Creed – a scent that I thought really could be my signature scent. Hints of the fresh, luxurious fragrance lingered on my jacket for a week, and the impression was lasting. At over £80 for a 30ml bottle, and with no Creed stockists near us in Oxfordshire, the pleasure of SMW was confined to visits to London. For years, I fantasised about adding the simple white bottle to my dressing table and, when I moved to London, every visit to Peter Jones on Sloane Square was marked with a spritz of SMW.

The Creed Stand at Liberty

Just over a week ago, I decided to celebrate the end of my exams with a visit to Liberty to explore the new Assouline Literary Lounge (I read a lovely post about it by A Girl, A Style). I was even toying with the idea of cementing my enduring love affair with SMW by indulging a large proportion of my student bank balance on a certain small white bottle.

Before we go further, I must tell you that the perfumery room at Liberty London is out of this world, housing an impressive range of niche and exclusive fragrances, which you wouldn’t find in the average department store (great if you want to find an individual scent that you won’t find your boss wearing). Sumptuous, opulent and intimate, it is one of the few beauty halls which makes the process of choosing your scent feel as important as I think it should. But, it was in this beautiful room that I found proof, if proof were needed, that my nose is as fickle as the British weather. Liberally spraying SMW on my scarf, it took me a few moments to notice that the scent failed to evoke the usual sense of effortless luxury. Once again, my dreams of a faithful perfume relationship were crushed.

The Perfumery Room at Liberty

All rather melodramatic, I know, but then I think the effect of perfume can itself be dramatic. It triggers the imagination, in an instant whisking you away to another world, a long-forgotten memory, a dream, a desire. Every so often I will recognise a scent from my childhood in the sea of smells that we’re exposed to every day, and suddenly I can be there in that moment again. Memories that I thought were deeply locked away in my past become crystal clear, but a perfume brings back more than just a time and a place. For me, perfumes (and smells in general) are intrinsically tied to emotions.

Although I don’t have a signature scent, many of my friends and family do, and I find huge comfort in embracing someone I haven’t seen for a while and breathing in their familiar scent, which wouldn’t seem right on anyone else. Whenever a whiff of a particular fragrance by Hugo Boss passes me by, I turn my head to inspect the man who’s wearing it. The scent instantly conjures up thoughts of my dad. My memories of him (he lives abroad) are so intertwined with this smell, that I can spray the scent on a tester card, close my eyes, and drift into the carefree summers that I spend with him. A holiday in a bottle.

On the other hand, I stopped using Calvin Klein Euphoria instantly, when I noticed that it was a favourite of my ex’s ex. And that is why I don’t think I will ever have a signature scent: my emotions are too emotionally tied to my nose. I couldn’t wear the same perfume in the throes of love and the depths of loneliness. In the same way that some women draw on a red lip for a boost of confidence, I know that a spritz of Rose Essentielle by Bulgari will make me walk a bit taller.

Photo: Rose Essentielle by Bulgari

Rose Essentielle by Bulgari

Perfume has punctuated the last ten years of my life, and my favourite perfumes are associated with particular periods in my life. Many of the bottles sit unused for months until I suddenly feel that they are ‘right’ again. A good example is Eau des Merveilles by Hermes. A gift from my mum, who bought it on a plane without smelling it, the little bottle was unused for about a year, until one night (after a breakup) I craved the strong, woody, masculine scent.

Now, having recently turned twenty, I feel like a whole new chapter of my life has been opened, and I look forward to punctuating the next ten years of my life with more scents, and the memories that will be associated with them. I’ve penciled in another trip to Liberty, and I can’t wait to meet The One. That is, until the next One comes along.

How about you? Do you have a signature scent, or does your fragrance of choice change with your mood? I’d love to hear about your favourite places to shop for fragrances!

Hello, you

Two years ago, I packed up all my worldly possessions to move to London, where I would study Physics at university by day, and explore the city that had captivated my dreams since the age of eight by night.

Being far more inclined to pick up a copy of Vogue than the New Scientist, I wasn’t convinced that Physics was the degree for me, but I couldn’t be more sure that London was where I wanted to study. Like in any city, there’s a sense that everyone is in a rush, always on their way somewhere and I couldn’t wait to be a part of this buzz.

After lectures, I would sit in little cafés with my laptop, a coffee in hand (I’m not a huge fan, but one can pretend…), and study (or people-watch). On my lecture-free mornings, I might wander down to Harvey Nichols and window shop on Sloane Street. I’d go for runs along the embankment, and, in the evenings, I would catch up with friends over cocktails.

Or so I thought. Study Physics I did, but London’s many charms were quickly forgotten as the assignments piled up, and the hours clocked up in bed went down. After my first year of student life, the summer vacation came as a relief from the constant string of deadlines, and any dreams of becoming London’s decidedly-poorer student-equivalent of Carrie Bradshaw were truly extinguished.

After three months of R&R at home in a small village with my family, I craved being back in London. I missed my independence, and I missed having the choice of more than one running route. This year, I told myself, I would make the most of London life. Surely it was all just a matter of time management?

If so, then I wasn’t very good at it.

Another sleepless year passed by as I did my best to stay atop of the assignments and other activities that I had signed up for.

Now, aged twenty, halfway through my four-year degree, and becoming progressively less literate with every equation that I squeeze into my head, I have decided that it’s time I stopped living from deadline to deadline and started living (full stop) – no more “coulda, woulda, shoulda”!

Join me as I search for inspiration, and document my thoughts on, well, whatever takes my fancy (as a guide, this is unlikely to include woodwork, gardening, or motor sports). Maybe, along the way, I’ll even get a better idea of the person that I am and what I really want to do with my life. I don’t have the legs to be Carrie Bradshaw, you see.