Wednesday, 30 May 2012

TOMS One for One- From my Inbox

Earlier this month I received an email about a new pop-up store at Covent Garden in London. 
Today Seven Dials welcomes footwear brand TOMS who are hosting their first ever UK stand-alone store in the area just in time for summer. The Seven Dials pop-up store will be showcasing their latest Spring/Summer 2012 shoe collection and their recently launched 'eyewear' range. In true TOMS fashion, for every pair of shoes or sunglasses sold, TOMS will donate a pair to a person in need as part of their ‘One for One’ philosophy. Throughout their residency in Seven Dials, TOMS will also be playing host to an exclusive series of events, including a debut 'contemporary exhibition', TOMS Community Fair and a live acoustic session.

TOMS pop-up store will be open from 3rd May to 28th June at 69 Neal Street.

I've been wanting to buy a pair for a while and wasn't sure where to find a good enough selection to choose from, so this was the best opportunity. 

TOMS One for One pop-up store, 69 Neal Street
TOMS One for One concept was developed by Blake Mycoskie, an American who, during his travels in Argentina, found that there were children who didn't have any shoes. So he started TOMS Shoes, a company that donates one pair of shoes for every pair bought. TOMS has a network of humanitarian organizations that helps distribute the donated pairs, mainly to countries in Africa, South America and Asia.
The shoes are basic fabric shoes, with the bulk of the collection in Classics or Switchouts- a simple plimsole with a light rubber sole - that are good for light walking. The Seven Dials pop-up store is the first of its kind, which aims to really promote the One for One concept as a cause rather than a platform to sell the shoes, which can be found at many shoe retailers.  The store also carries the newly-launched eyewear range, which also follows the One for One concept, so if you buy a pair, another pair is donated to someone in need.   

A selection of TOMS shoes, for men and women

TOMS One for One eyewear
TOMS also makes "Tinies", a collection of shoes for younger people

Prices: I bought the Spring Classic for £40, and a tiny Youth Classic for £28. 

Where to buy: The pop-up store is only scheduled to be open till the end of June, but shoe retailers in the US and the UK stock limited selections of TOMS shoes. 

Information: To learn more about the TOMS One for One movement, check out TOMS, or follow on twitter @TOMS or on facebook.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Vintage Bags by Wilbur and Gussie

It's all in the detail and when it comes to Spanish-made Wilbur and Gussie's handbags and clutches, the brooch clasp is what makes the bag.  

Specialising in vintage-inspired bags, this company's signature style is characterized by the shiny (mostly) reptile brooches that are the centerpiece of the bag.  With bright colors in the most gorgeous fabrics, these are perfect for evening cocktail parties and can really make the outfit. 

A selection of Wilbur and Gussie bags on display at Fenwicks of Bond Street
They may seem flashy with their deep, vibrant colors but because they are small and quite slim they are really elegant.  They come with a wrist-strap so are both easy and light to wear. 
An elephant brooch on a silk navy clutch
There are three main sizes of the envelope-style clutch, including long slim baguette clutches which can be worn tucked under your arm. My favorite size is the larger size (26.5 x 15.5cm) because it can carry more than the other ones. 

It would be nice if these bags came with the option of substituting or buying additional brooches, as you can sometimes like a color or fabric of the bag but not the brooch.  And if you could change the brooch, the bag would be a different bag each time...

Price: Average prices are around £150, depending on size.

Where to buy: the bags can be found at selected retailers in the UK, including Fenwick.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Sweet Treats at Hummingbird Bakery

For cupcake fans, the international gold standard of cupcakes is usually either Magnolia or Hummingbird. Perhaps best known for its red velvet, Hummingbird boasts long queues for its sought-after cupcakes.  During a recent trip to London, I headed to Portobello Road to try a few of their offerings and see what the fuss is about. 

For a Saturday morning, it wasn't as crowded as I expected it to be.  

I got the carrot, vanilla and chocolate cupcakes, as well as the flavor of the day, the Eton Mess.  

The Hummingbird Bakery in Portobello Road

The Eton Mess is a sponge cake with custard creme topped with fresh strawberry pieces. It wasn't too sweet and I liked the icing.  However, the cake wasn't as moist as I would have liked. Both the vanilla and the chocolate also lacked the moistness, and the chocolate tasted a bit powdery, more like cocoa than chocolate. Again, I liked the icing, which was hardened and the rainbow sprinkles reminded me of birthday parties when I was a kid. 

The regular flavors: red velvet, black bottom and carrot cupcakes
Vanilla and chocolate cupcakes
The star of the show was by far the carrot cupcake.  This was very moist, and contained small carrot shreds.  Best of all, it was quite spicy, with strong hints of nutmeg that went beautifully with the cream cheese icing.  The icing was a bit on the sweet side but overall what a delicious combo. 
Deliciously moist and spicy: the carrot cupcake
They didn't have this on the day, but I have previously tried their raspberry trifle cupcake which melts in your mouth and is a taste of what heaven must feel like.  Maybe I was comparing the Eton Mess to that, which is why it didn't measure up. 

Prices: Cupcakes range from £2- 2.75 depending on flavor.  Whole cakes can also be ordered, starting at £22.95 for a 6-inch vanilla cake. 

Contact: For locations, menus, etc, contact Hummingbird Bakery.  You can also follow on twitter @hummingbirdbakery or facebook.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Loving Louboutin's 20 Years Exhibition

20 years of red soles and millions of shoe addicts later, the Louboutin exhibition at London Design Museum marks a rite of passage for anyone who owns a pair, has ever coveted a pair, or doesnt know how much they need a pair.

Featuring around 200 of his shoes, including several limited edition pairs, the exhibition celebrates 20 years of creativity and design revolving around a signature red sole element that was inspired by a sign Louboutin saw at the African and Oceanic Art Museum in 1975. The sign was of a pointy heel with a red line drawn across it. It was intended to mean that high heels weren't allowed to be worn as they would damage the floor. Who could have predicted how it would have evolved into what it symbolizes now?!
Image by Luke Hayes

The exhibition has a main room that holds the main collection. Paying tribute to Louboutin's professional roots, where he first worked at the famous music hall Crazy Horse in Paris in 1981, the exhibition is designed like a backstage dressing room, with big dressing-mirror bulb lights as the main lighting. I didn't realize that his first work was designing shoes for the showgirls who danced at the Crazy Horse; looking at the shoe designs I can now understand the inspiration behind them.
n the center of this main room there is a screen which every 15 minutes projects a 3D holographic performance by Dita Von Teese, which was specially created for the exhibition. Morphing from a glittery shoe, Dita appears in a very glittery 3 minute burlesque performance before she morphs back into the shoe. For people who have not seen hologram technology before, this is definitely something worth seeing! For a preview, check out the video below on the making of the hologram.

The entrance to the exhibition

Image by Luke Hayes
Dita Von Teese's holographic show, image taken from Hello! magazine
Other parts of the exhibition include a small theater, a Fetish Room with some highly erotic shoes and an installation that reflects Louboutin's studio. The studio is really nicely set up, with a plexiglass display in the center featuring items that Louboutin has collected throughout his travels. Most interestingly there is a trapeze bar, which apparently he uses when he wants to take a break from designing! Displayed in the studio are also several Barbie dolls, in outfits designed by him, including a Cat Burglar Barbie wearing a black latex suit.

Some of the noteworthy shoes that caught my attention included the Salopina Strasse (Spring Summer 2008) made of red satin, strasse and peacock feathers, the Maralena boot (AW 2010/11) which was very sparkly and fiery, the Alta Dentelle (SS 2012), a knee high open-toe boot made of fishnet and calfskin, the Lady Max (SS 2012), a sandal with two layers of metallic spikes and strasse, the Black Tie (SS 2003), which is an open-tie sandal with a black strasse-y strap, and the Cancan (AW 2008/09) made of satin with a burst of pink ribbon and feathers. One of the main novelty items in the exhibition is a pair of white leather cowboy pants that extend into boots (all attached). I wish I could put up photos of all of these but no photography was allowed inside the exhibition :(
The main gallery of the exhibition, with the 3D stage

The Fetish Room -- though inappropriate for sensitive visitors-- has some of the most mind-boggling shoes anyone could ever NOT imagine... a ballet shoe with a pointy curved red heel and a transparent sole with studs around the edges, Siamaise (2007), which is two shoes stuck together at the heel at a 180° angle (in other words, you can't walk in them unless you jump and land in the same position!!) and 8 inch high patent leather shoes.... this collection is really bold and not for the faint-hearted!

Other shoes on display are a shoe that Louboutin describes as the most difficult show to walk in. This is basically a sandal that has a diamond-shaped thong hold for your toe and a strap around the ankle. According to Louboutin, this symbolizes 'shoes whose primary function is not walking but the sexual charge they contain. As everyone knows, footwear can be highly erotic'.

There is also a section that features limited edition shoes whose materials or designs are not possible to reproduce in mass. These include shoes made of horsehide, a pair with an amethyst buckle, and other shoes made of rare fabrics and leathers.

The exhibition truly conveys what Louboutin, in his own words, has said as "I have no sense of minimal".

It is not possible to do justice to this exhibition in a review. You must go and see it for yourself. It is on until July 9th; if you live in the UK, please go and if you don't, I suggest you fly there for the occasion!

The London Design Museum overlooking the Thames

Verdict: 2 thumz up!

Information: The exhibition was curated by Donna Loveday.  The HD 3D holographic video projection was produced by Musion and Al Mahdavi was the Art Director.
For timings and directions, contact the London Design Museum. Basic tickets for adults are priced at£10. Make sure to book before you go!

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Karak is King - Boost Budaiya Business

I don't drink it often but when I want it I normally go to Karak Time in Bukuwara to get it.  I live just off Saar so when I came across King Karak Cafeteria on Budaiya Highway it was a relief that we had something closer. 

It is a real hole in the wall with a stove in a tiny kitchen behind a counter.  Through its tiny window, you can see the ancient kettle used to hold the tea, sitting next to a large pot where the tea is boiled. 

A pot, a kettle ...

We tried the malaki tea which is a thick custard tea - it tastes like hot custard and is calorie-galore delicious. Although I like the malaki at Karak Time more (it's not as dense so is relatively lighter), this tasted good and the serving size was more generous than at its counterparts.  It's also served a bit fancier, with a lid (!!) and in a winged paper cup so that it's not as hot and you can hold it from the handles.  I'm not claiming that's great presentation, but compared to others where you get a boiling hot beverage in a paper cup and sent off on your way, this is by far better!

... and a delicious cup of malaki tea

King Karak Cafeteria has the whole range of drinks you would normally find at karak shops, including horlicks and hot chocolate. A small sized malaki tea costs 400 fils. 

Location: Just opposite Motorox cafe on Budaiya Highway.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Revolutionizing ballet: Ballet Revolucion

What a party this show is!! More of a dance revolution than a ballet, with contemporary pop hits by JLo, Beyonce, Usher, Shakira, Enrique Iglesias... only the Cubans would turn ballet into something this energetic!

Don't get me wrong.. it is definitely ballet, but not in the conventional sense.  Extreme ballet may be a more accurate way to describe it. With a mixture of ballet, hiphop and contemporary dance, Ballet Revolucion strikes the right balance between the elegance of ballet and the fun of disco. In the midst of colorful costumes, leaps and spins, sensual pas de deux (duets) and a live soundtrack by the MOST AMAZING band and two of the best vocalists I have ever heard at any such performance (he raps; she does a perfect JLo, Shakira and Beyonce...) the one question that constantly was on my mind was: how do the dancers have the discipline to stick to the routines when the buzz makes you just want to let loose and dance freestyle!
A routine with classical ballet dancers against a backdrop of contemporary dance
A sensual duet 
Hailing from Cuba, the dancers transport you from the classic ballet stages to the inner streets of Cuba where competitive street dance is the name of the game. Choreographed to fluidly fuse dance with costume design, Ballet Revolucion had the audience on its feet for two standing ovations after almost two hours of high-energy intensity by a troupe of over 20 dancers, whose skill was evident not only in their physical strength but also in the fierceness of their expressions, and in the case of the three dreadlocked men, the synchronization of their head movements!

It is often easy at performances that are this rich in visual cues to overlook the 'background music' but in Ballet Revolucion the live band is what makes the show. During a band performance, the drummer did a solo frenzy which had us whooping with delight; this was a musician who got so caught up in his music that his hands could literally not stop.  And the singers...Who do you know who can perfectly mimic the very different voices of JLo, Beyonce and Shakira??
Perfect lines and tremendous power displayed in Ballet Revolucion

An explosion of energy and fun by dancers who clearly love what they do!
The soundtrack includes: No Woman No Cry (Bob Marley), Forget You (Cee Low Green), DJ Got Us Falling In Love Again (Usher Ft Pitbull), On the Floor (JLo), All the Single Ladies (Beyonce) and more. 

The show is sensational and is jam-packed with entertainment.. the self-described 'ballet with attitude' is seriously nothing short of revolutionary...

The flyer for the show
If you are in London, act NOW to buy your tickets; it is running until the 19th of May only.  And if you have not been able to see this show, lobby NOW with whoever arranges events in your country to get this group booked to come soon to a theater near you! Spring of Culture 2013, anyone?

Verdict: Both my thumz have been up since May 13th when I saw it :)

Information:  Ballet Revolucion is choreographed by Aaron Cash and Roclan Gonzalez Chavez. Cash is a classically trained dancer and Gonzalez Chavez is one of Cuba's most talented choreographers. 

Contact: Ballet Revolucion is playing at the Sadler's Wells Peacock Theater till 19th May. Tickets start at £15 and go up to £48.

Images credit: BB Promotion, courtesy of Sadler's Wells.
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