Saturday 14th March 2015 sees the grand opening of not only London’s latest shopping centre but it is Europe’s first purpose-built boutique Asian shopping centre, East Shopping Centre, based in Green Street, London E7 – not far from West Ham’s football ground and Newham’s other recently built shopping centre, Westfield Stratford. Following its successful soft launch on January 24th 2015, East Shopping Centre has generated around 200 jobs for the local area as well as injecting much needed enthusiasm for shopping locally. Built on the one acre site of the former bus depot, the centre has retained its original facade but has incorporated the latest eco friendly touches such as solar panels, water flow restrictors, and carefully resourced building materials – protecting resources and saving money too. Green Street has always had an important trade and cultural heritage – my own mother bought her wedding dress from a Green Street dressmaker back in 1962 – and East Shopping Centre hope to build upon and become part of that heritage too.
So, what’s inside the shopping centre? Major Asian fashion outlets are represented including Zarkan of London, Andaaz Fashion, Memsaab, Imaani London…plus other non fashion companies including Urban Chocolatier and Coffee Republic too. There is a “souk” comprising of smaller, local stores selling everything from costume jewellery to mobile phones – menswear, shoes, bags…
Overlooking the shopping centre is a spectacular food court where you’ll find food delights such as Piri Piri Chicken from the Roosters chain, desserts and mocktails galore from Lost Asia, American-style burgers from Brioche Burgers… getting hungry?
Being indoors, the centre is ideal as an all year round shopping venue and with its late night closing time, your shopping pleasure is not hurried.
So, as I was saying, Saturday 14th March is the official opening day and from 12pm West Ham MP Lyn Brown will be cutting the ribbon. There will be lots going on – the centre will be creating a mela atmosphere with music, dhol players, face painting and much more. East Shopping Centre is also offering raffle tickets giving one lucky winner the chance to win a luxury weekend holiday for two in Dubai, £1000 gift voucher to spend at East Shopping Centre and two iPad Mini 3’s. The first 100 people to arrive on Saturday will receive vouchers to the food court worth £10. All proceeds raised from the raffle will be donated to Masoom, a locally based charity that supports vulnerable women and children around the world.
East Shopping Centre can be found at 232-236 Green Street, London E7 8LE.
For more information, you can follow East Shopping Centre via their website – www.eastshoppingcentre.com – or via Twitter @EastShopping; Facebook: East Shopping Centre; Instagram: EastShopping
Hope to see you all there! Happy Shopping!
All photos have been published with kind permission from Puja Vedi
Buying smart, well made, comfortable and trendy shoes is a nightmare if you are a lady with an uncommon shoe size. Designer Monica Kusinska for years squeezed her feet into shoes that were too small because her size wasn’t available, resulting in foot problems that required surgery – so being a US size 12 shoe size wearer herself and as part of her search to find comfortable, well made shoes that fit, Monica created Autograf New York. Without further ado, please welcome onto the blog this lovely, bubbly lady …Hi Monica!
Hi, I am Monika Kusinska, a New York Shoe Designer. I devoted my life to fashion ever since I graduated from Middlesex University in 1998. Shoes is my passion.
As a small girl, did you always want to design footwear?
My fashion dreams started at the age of 7. I adored Barbie dolls and endlessly made clothes. Then over the years I taught myself how to stitch and make my own clothes. By 18 I wanted to be a professional designer. My passion for shoes grew over the years because of my experience with shoes and not finding my size and eventually moving to the shoe industry.
Your latest shoe range is looking to cater for women who wear uncommon large shoe sizes – from US sizes 10 through to 15 (UK 8 – 15; European 41 to 49; Japanese 27-34). You yourself are a size US12 so that must have been the inspiration for starting your own brand! How difficult was it for you to find shoes to fit and how difficult is it to produce a shoe for the larger foot?
When I turned 17 my foot grew to size 41. The biggest size available in Poland in late 1980s was size 40. I tested my body and wore high heel pointy shoes for 2 or more years. This fraction of time was long enough to injure my bones permanently. I guess this painful event led my career into the footwear industry and in 2000 I attended Parson School of Design in New York to learn about shoe making.
You graduated from Middlesex University in London with a BA in fashion and first class honours. In 1998 you won Best Women’s collection at the BHS Graduate Fashion Week, selling your entire collection within a week of launching. How did you feel being awarded that accolade in front of around 2000 London Fashion editors?
It felt incredible and fulfilling. My education was sky-high expensive for my parents working in Poland to support me. It made all the hard efforts so worth it. I wish my father could have seen it. Unfortunately he passed away 6 weeks before I graduated and I was not able to see his face happy with pride. It was a very difficult time for me and I dedicated my graduate collection and the award to him. This also sealed my commitment to my profession. I knew from that point on that no matter what, I am married to my so dreamed-about occupation. Today even when I struggle as a mature designer, mother and a talented individual – I remember my own private vows from 1998. That surreal moment of me walking down the catwalk in front of 2000+ people, cameras, photographers cheering and clapping hands was the biggest crowning I could have received at the age of 26.
In 2000, you moved to the USA doing couture beading and then in the embellishment division at Ann Taylor until 2004. You also attended the Parsons School of Design concentrating on footwear. Was it a difficult transition from fashionwear to designing shoes?
It was a natural transition for me. When you dream deeply about something and have been trained to draw and paint since the age of 16, and all your life revolved around art, composition, colors and design – you can then apply your passion into any creative venue. Education helps, but persistence and personal believe that this is our own path are the keys of a successful journey. In a way you need to train yourself, dream big then relax if you can and immerse yourself in a trade of a kind. I did that in 2004 when I accepted a lower position of Associate Designer just to break in the industry. But it has been such a fascinating journey and I am so fortunate to be able to walk my chosen path and I am acutely aware of my luck. Luck of knowing what I want to do, knowing my talents, knowing my mission. But it took all my life to be comfortable about it and to be able to call myself today a New York Designer. I earned it dearly. I worked over 10 years in a corporate environment from New York, Dallas and all the way to El Paso, Texas. I worked in a huge office overseeing Bryant Park off Times Square, then in the middle of a factory in El Paso in a windowless office shaking from all the machines and heavy duty equipment making 700+ western boots! Ask me which one made me happy?! El Paso of course! I mean if you could just see the happy faces of the Mexican workers who after 30-40 years in the industry are artisans in their own trade.
I simply love the smell and feel of handcrafted authentic footwear.
Since 2004 you have worked in the footwear industry, travelling to places like India, China, Brazil and Italy. Where was the most unusual place you’ve visited? Which country inspired you the most?
I think I already answered that. Definitely El Paso in Texas. I had a secret crush on Western Boots. Don’t ask me how I got it. I just wanted to design western boots ever since I can remember. My dream came true in 2009 when I was at the time working in Fossil, launching a new women’s footwear line. I was approached by a New York headhunter to move to the legendary Boot Company in El Paso. At first I was not interested but after flying in for an interview I was totally sold. For the next 3 years I would commute by plane once a week to El Paso and work in the factory in the middle of the desert. I was also influenced by INDIA. I loved the colors and the deep heritage of the country. It is somewhat difficult to swallow the beauty surrounded by social divisions of the class system in India. It blows your mind to see homeless people wondering amongst dirt and holy cows on the streets of the big cities and then walking into 5 star hotels with food and luxury, dripping with wealth. I guess this is what is most dear to me, after working with the beading houses, knowing what goes into handcrafted beading or block-printing. It supports families and villages specializing in this rare craft. I would love to be involved in creating workshops which would provide income and education for young girls. I believe in education as the only way to change the world to be a better place. Women are also genetically equipped to protect, nurture and provide shelter. We need to get the power to protect this planet and secure a clean environment for future generations.
Personally, I LOVE all your shoes and boots from your winter range but I have a soft spot for the Regina Italian Handcrafted Denim Cashmere Suede Flats. Have you got a favourite out of all the shoes you’ve designed?
I love them all. I also wear all my collection to test and so far have not had one complaint in my head. I am very critical and having had foot surgery at age 23 it has made me acutely sensitive to shoe-related pain. I will rather take shoes off than suffer. My favorite right now is Massima and Cara. I love the SOLES. Unit soles made out of hi-tech PORON material makes these unbeatable in comfort. When you pick up the boot, your first impression is shocking. It is feather light! It looks heavy but it is super light. Comfort beyond belief! My hair stylist recently broke her ankle and can’t wear much fashion due to the pins still holding her ankle in place. I introduced her to Massima and she was literally shocked at how comfortable and light this construction was. She owns now a few pairs and is my advocate at Vidal Sassoon on 56St and 5th Avenue. I will try to win my consumers with comfort and reliability. Once your wear my shoes you will come back for more because I personally test each style and think about my consumer first before fashion. Fashion is only a tool to make an otherwise functional product more attractive.
What shoe or boot style was the most popular this winter with your clients?
Definitely SIMONA in Cognac. Immediately this classic riding boot has became a favorite. It is very simple and effortless. Well made and durable and will last many years. I found that women are happy that the boot is plain and classic – a few complained that the boots today are overdesigned and that they have been looking for a simple riding boot that will hold the look and value. Once they saw Simona they wanted it. ZARAH also blew everyone’s expectations. It is a fully stretchy shaft boot and the secret is in the Fit-All-Calf! It hugs a skinny calf and will stretch twice its width to accommodate a wider calf. I intend to carry this boot for a few seasons. Once on the foot there is no need to market, women will fall head over heels for this style.
Angelina Jolie. I appreciate her ultra classic and sublime chic style. Her effortless style enhances her natural stunning beauty. It would be such an honor to have her wear Autograf New York classic styles.
You’re launching new products for Holiday & Spring 2015 – what designs and colours look to dominate from your point of view?
I have been playing with masculine inspiration for years. I made a chukka boot in mirror GOLD – this is literally a show-stopper! I revealed a few pictures from the photo shoot via Instagram and was blown away with immediate requests and love. I think this style, SIENA and flat Mary Jane in the same Mirror metallic gold will be a hit. I also brought light turquoise and Laventini – a color I called after my favorite drink, Lavender Martini.
What are your goals for 2015? Any plans in the pipeline?
2015 is super important. I realized that over the past 90 + days since I launched my website that actually my 15+ years experience in fashion is golden but I need to think outside the box. I tried to apply everything I have learned but what is different in the market today is CONNECTIVE ECONOMY. I think few people realize how it will revolutionize the way we live and think. It is a positive shift in human mentality to open up and make friendships and business with people we can’t touch. But it connects us through our passion and common hobbies and dreams. Once I realized that, I decided to improve and push my social media presence. I can only reach a handful of women today but I have been growing steady followers on Instagram and FB and Twitter. Recently I left my SHOEBOX (literally a shoe closet turned into a tiny office) and started walking the streets of New York to get my product in front of consumers. I have been welcomed by Brooklyn boutiques and I realized the power of the Indie and fashion undercurrent. I belong in the underground. I have been always striving to provide unique, original and authentic footwear and the mass department stores do not support that ideology. Williamsburg is my next home. I have placed Autograf New York products in a few boutiques and we are working on the Summer 2015 collection. I realized this unique potential. In a way I will become their private designer manicuring mini collections for their needs. The beauty of working with Italian factories is that the orders can be super small compared with Asia. I will be able to target each venue differently offering unique colors and themes. I am thrilled about this perspective of 2015!
I am a mother of 2 young children so my life is constantly on the run. I get up early and do some work before they get up and then run all day between schools, daycare and Williamsburg or Soho boutiques. I am also 5ft10 so I wear flats and flat boots. I have a collection of boots dating back to my days at El Paso so most likely you will find me in BOOTS of all kinds, form western to riding to traditional rain boots (Aigle not Hunter). I respect legacy and what each brand offers. I do not like to wear brands without a story behind it. I like to think that there is or was a great idea behind each company making a statement.
A friend recently called me Bootress! I think that name fits me.
I have respect for Net-a-Porter and AGL. I have been following Net-a-Porter for few years now and I like that they made luxury on-line shopping accessible. I like that they keep an unique fashion profile. AGL shoes is my favorite shoe brand apart from my own. I appreciate their flair and Italian dedication to modern design. The three sisters are also branding themselves now and it is good to see real faces behind a great fashion brand. This motivated me to expose my face behind Autograf New York. After talking to a few Brooklyn boutique owners it was clear that people want to see the face and hear the story. It will make the icebreaking purchase easier and it will motivate to stay loyal supporting a local New York designer. This is what I intend to do on branding going forward.
What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?
Nicolas Ghesquiere Spring 15 LV bag. I have not invested any pennies in a good bag recently and I admire Nicolas so it makes sense to own one of his pieces. I like the fact that fashion is turning the spotlight on designers again. What value is it to just buy a mass-produced LV handbag without a great brain and creator behind it? Fashion became polluted with famous names scoring license deals with big houses. Luckily on a street-mass level. Not on a serious designer level. But it did open the door of all kind of wannabe-followers to buy a name on a cheaply made accessible product. I can’t identify with this mentality and I want to invest in important pieces. This collection of LV Spring 15 is important.
Boots or Shoes?
BOOTS! Boots have an unique history. Two main categories of boots, English and Western are both Riding Boots. Both genres have a lot in common: to protect the rider, be well made and durable and have legacy of culture and lifestyle. By default it is lifestyle of privileged classes, those who own horses. But what a boot gives you that the high stiletto shoe does not, is the SWAGGER! When a woman wears boots, she walks like a man, she is the equal. When a woman tip-toes in high heels she is vulnerable, can’t run and becomes an object of admiration and fantasy. I like to own my life and feel equal. I am not an object. I respect when the high heel wearing becomes an asset of a wise woman in power. But I disagree with the otherwise sexual attachment to high heels and how it portrays a woman in a men’s world. I like to dress to manifest my personal beliefs and boots represent my life mantra.
Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc so that my readers can learn more about Autograf New York
FB >> https://www.facebook.com/monika.kusinskapaez
Twitter >> https://twitter.com/AutografNY
Instagram >> http://instagram.com/autografny/
Google+ >> http://goo.gl/GM200d
Pinterest >> http://www.pinterest.com/AUTOGRAFNY/
Fantastic to know that you are a fellow boot lover!! Thank you so much for chatting to us tonight and I wish you and your business continued success in 2015 and beyond. Now, dear readers, you have no excuse if your feet are on the large size – Monica has come to the rescue! Have you got a favourite style? Do tell!
All photos have been published with kind permission from Autograf New York (Monica Kusinska)
It’s that time of year again…Halloween….when things go bump in the night, pumpkins light the way, kids fill their pockets with treats, shopkeepers hide the eggs and flour from the shelves…and out of the shadows emerges the seductive gothic vamp….
There’s something uniquely sexy about the vintage goth vamp/temptress…. gothic literature written in the 18th and 19th centuries talk of hauntingly beautiful ladies, whose white ghostly skins contrasted spectacularly with the colours of their dresses…in black,purple,forest green and deep red. Their hair tumbled down onto their shoulders, dark or blonde makes no difference, but they all had pearly white teeth and voluptuous ruby red lips. Although in the novels, such as Bram Stoker’s 1897 bestseller Dracula, only the facial features and the colours were described in detail of the three vampire temptresses …. the style of clothing worn was left to the imagination of designers when vampire films hit the screens in the 20th century.
In 2014, alongside the traditional goth colours of black, purple and red … we have the sumptuous midnight blue making a comeback … check out the deadly gorgeous lace tops, dresses and skirts …and team with black fishnets ..
This week I’m interviewing one of the internet’s fab gothic online boutiques that showcase the very best of gothic fashions and footwear that not only grace the wardrobes of goths but also the wardrobes of many other ladies who appreciate the uniqueness, style, material and quality that the gothic fashion designers provide. I am a big fan so, a big warm welcome to John of Gothic Angel Clothing:
Hi, my name is John co owner of Gothic Angel Clothing
What inspired you start up Gothic Angel Clothing?
Two main reasons.
1) I hate working for other people and have always wanted to start something for myself and my partner.
2) I love fashion although I’m not a Goth or a girl, the Gothic scene has a lot more character to it than mainstream fashion. My partner persuaded me to sell women’s clothing.
When choosing stock/styles/colours of shoes, bags and accessories etc for your website,do you go by popular styles, customer requests, fashion trends, your own personal taste, their uniqueness or bits of all those?
All of the above with the exception of my own personal taste. If I chose items based on what I thought would sell I’m not sure we would be very successful. Trends are important because if you don’t stock what people want then they will go elsewhere. In terms of the precise items I leave that to the guys we have working for us who know the scene much better than I do. As we get bigger I would love to start stocking smaller more individual designs that you might find on etsy.
The brands you stock include established gothic brands such as New Rock, Demonia, Spin Doctor, Hell Bunny and Iron Fist; as well as new up-and-coming gothic designers. What brand has been most popular amongst your customers this season?
We mainly stock boots and shoes. The most successful brand by far is Demonia.
You do a fab range of boots, and I’m a real boot girl- I love the “New Rock” range of boots, although with my skinny jeans/trousers the Demonia Gravel boots are my constant companions! On my Facebook group (Boots, Shoes et Al), Iron Fist shoes are a definite favourite amongst members. What footwear has been the most popular this season?
We don’t stock the full range of Iron Fist footwear currently but when we do put them on the website they tend to sell fast. Because of our range in store, Demonia have always been our biggest sellers.
Apart from selling very swanky shoes – I love your range of dresses especially the Zebra Print Wiggle Dress and if I was a lot younger, the Iron Fist Manslayer Slash Back Dress would’ve definitely had a place in my wardrobe! What dresses or tops have proved popular so far?
We are better known for footwear and we don’t get many visitors looking for clothing at the moment. Therefore we dont stock too many items of clothing. However Hell Bunny dresses go quick and I think the biggest seller of all time was the Hell Bunny Tartan Dress (sorry sold out I’m afraid!)
You love finding up and coming gothic brands – have you plans to introduce any new brands to your website in 2015? What brand should we be looking out for this season?
We are approached everyday by new designers and well known brands but we simply dont have time to decide what to buy and list all items on the site. We don’t have plans to expand the brands just yet but of course as we get bigger there are many brands on our radar such as Spin Doctor and Lip Service.
I love the fact that UK goths don’t just wear black – I’m thinking of the Iron Fist range of clothes and footwear with snatches of red and purple, for example. What colour, apart from black, seem to be popular with your customers?
Bright colours and patterns are very popular. Iron fist leggings are normally very artistic in their design which are usually a success.
Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?
I’m afraid I would be considered very boring compared to most of our customer base. I am mostly found in pyjamas (I mostly work at home) but if I do happen to be going out I am partial to some skinny jeans.
Yes. Although they are competitors, I love Blue Banana.
What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?
Same as my christmas list – pyjamas! 🙂
Boots or Shoes?
Boots….eeer ….and shoes. Help! I can’t decide – they are both important to me 🙂
Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc so that readers can find out more about Gothic Angel Clothing.
Our Store – http://www.gothicangelclothing.co.uk/
Our Blog – http://www.blog.gothicangelclothing.co.uk/
Facebook Page – https://www.facebook.com/pages/Gothic-Angel-Clothing/122747081138167
Thanks John! So lovely ladies (and gentlemen) have I persuaded you to let out the inner goth in you?! With the party season fast approaching the “gothic” look is certainly a style that shouldn’t be dismissed. I’d love to know what secret “goth” buys you’ve made this year…
All photos have been published with kind permission from Gothic Angel Clothing Ltd.
I’m talking shoes this week with my guest, the vivacious Chantal Pilon, whose shoe collection has been wonderfully inspired by architecture, movies and clothing; as well as being born and raised into the shoe industry, with 3 generations of shoe retailers in Canada…. welcome Chantal…
Hi! I’m Chantal Pilon aka Chanii B. Full of energy, I never stop. Slightly crazy too… you have to be – it’s part of being artistic and a designer. I need to be to keep the inspiration flowing!
You were born and raised into the shoe industry, with 3 generations of shoe retailers in Canada, having studied at Cordwainer’s College and having worked for over 11 years at Clarks, England and Kenneth Cole in New York; there’s a passion for shoes in your blood. However, as a young child did you have the same desire to enter the shoe industry or did you have other ambitions?
I always wanted to be a biologist or an archaeologist and studied towards this as I grew up, but my creative side was overwhelming; I wanted to create and invent something. I was working with my family in their shoe shops as a teen and tried hard to separate from the shoe business and explore other areas. Until one day I met another designer at a trade show and we talked about how I had a love for art and design and loved shoes. He told me I must go to London and study footwear design. It was like a light switched in my head and I’ve never looked back, I knew I would be able to fulfil my creative mind with something I knew and loved. So off I was as soon as possible to study at Cordwainers!
Travelling around the world for inspiration then drawing what is in my head, then amending it, then seeing my final creation come to life. Every shoe, boot, handbag or accessory is a piece of my passion and love for what I do. All my passion and hard work goes into everything I make. I tell my customers every style I make has a story, so they are all close to me. Some styles I have worked on for 2 years until they were just right. So once I see them in the shop and sell them to my customer I am proud of the journey they took to make someone happy. I also love seeing my customers come look in awe and excitement when they see the collection… I bring smiles to people.
Everywhere… I travel the world and see all kinds of architecture, furniture, clothes, people on the streets, vintage… I get a real buzz and can’t wait to put pen to paper to get the idea in motion.
When designing your shoe collections, do you go for on trend colours/styles; your favourite colours/designs; colours/designs requested or that have proved popular in the past with your clientele; or a bit of each?
It’s a bit of each; what trends are happening and what I feel would be really new- but I also think of a few customers that each have a fit or style I follow…so really I think they are my muse.
Not only do you sell your shoes online but you have a fab shoe shop in Bath where you showcase all your designs as well as having your shoes sold in over 35 shops worldwide. Which shoes are currently proving popular with customers visiting your shop in Bath? Your website?
Best shoes are the Tresor and Coco as they’re very iconic Chanii B. The pony handbags (called Deux Visione) are huge sellers as well as they are part of the limited editions, where only a very select amount are made.
As your shoes are stocked worldwide, is there a marked difference between what is popular in UK and what is popular with your worldwide stockists?
No the client is the same all over. The Chanii B customer, whether she is from the UK or overseas, wants to find something different but also likes the idea of buying something you will not find everywhere, and has a real person behind the brand. This is why I have customers emailing me from all over the world asking for shoes that are sold out in the shops where they are…
Personally, I love all your shoes but I have a soft spot for the Bebe heels in both fuchsia and royal blue ( I think it’s the stripy heel that first caught my attention!) And, being a boots addict, I couldn’t ignore the gorgeous zipp boot – I adore all 3 colours in that style too! Have you got a favourite out of all the shoes you’ve designed?
I have the Bebe in green and wear them a lot as they are really comfortable. I just introduced this season the royal blue which is amazing, teamed with all white and natural colours, and especially jeans. Plus I have the Zipp boot in grey, which are hot with all my new spring clothes. But my most favourite shoes as my customers know is my Coco pony hair shoes in fuchsia. The most comfortable shoe I have ever owned, with a heel! It is like wearing nothing on your feet. I have a regular customer that owns 8 pairs in different colours! I do have many other favourites though, as when I design them I get very excited and when they arrive, it’s as if I have given life to a new creation.
Your range also includes some delightful shoes ideal for weddings – I particularly adore the chablis shoe in ivory – it is so pretty and elegant and with a heel just the right size to elongate the leg but sturdy and comfortable to boot! Just what you need when you are on your feet all day and all night! What shoe style seems to be the most popular this season with your bridal clients?
The most popular is the Tresor for all weddings with the ruffle on the back; it is elegant and creative looking on the foot. You know you will not bump into anyone wearing this piece of art… with a comfortable heel height. The other best sellers are the Soliel t-strap, which is very vintage looking but has a flexible cork foot bed. I made them in many colours this year with weddings in mind. You could dance all night in them after a long day and still be comfortable.
Any woman with style and a sense of individuality of course! Like Katy Perry, Holly Willoughby, Patty Boyd, Lily Allen, Emma Bunting, Rachael Bilson…
You wanted to achieve a brand that expresses the individual in all of us by incorporating limited editions, wearable heights, colour and creative pieces of art – I think you’ve achieved that aim! So, what can we look forward to this summer and what have you got up your sleeve for autumn/winter too?
This spring was all about soft colours or monochrome. Mirror heels are very Italian and in vogue, so I have the highest quality Italian units with the mirror heels in shop. Like the Valour zebra pony hair wedges, Aloof snake print wedges, and the Voici low wedge in natural or white snake print. Very chic and very comfortable with a raised elevation while not being very high. But for dress wear I am really excited about the high platform rainbow unicorn heels – Mag, my limited editions for this season with only 18 pairs made globally. And I have a pair! My plan is to make a low flatter version of this pony as it is incredible and so individual. AW line is of course finished and I’m already looking forward to them coming in (but let’s not push summer away too soon!) I am feeling teal, red, and black with gold. I have some amazing flat boots with velvet trim and mini studs coming and I can’t wait to have a pair! Also coming in are my new cork foot bed dress shoes, which are cushioned foot beds with textured leather prints and mirror trims… fashionable and practical with comfort. Plus my new flat, up the knee boots in distressed suede and also in patent with mirror trims, will be arriving. These flew off shelves overseas as they were so unique from all other brands trending them for next season.
I love Custo Barcelona, well until it becomes too mainstream, I’m a fan. Shoes are always my fuchsia coco they are my favourite Chanii B. I’m also super excited to be the first to be showcase a new line of clothing made from 100% alpaca wool from local designer Lucy Cox in my shop in Milsom Place, Bath.
Custo, but I must go to the shop to try everything on… I am in heaven…online ASOS for that impulse buy, but with all my travels I prefer to buy in shop and be part of the moment and experience of being in a shop and feeling the product.
What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?
A colourful summer dress, I’m always in need of a new one. Plus the perfect leather jacket and maybe even a leather dress to wear in the fall!
Hmm that’s hard… I love my dress shoes as I like to not lose the identity of being a woman. But boots are for when I need to throw some attitude around and not be so dressy and feminine. But being feminine is always important to my mantra!
Links you would like to share e.g. Website/facebook etc. So that my readers can learn more about Chanii b shoes
You’ve got a fabulous collection of shoes, Chantal, and I’m looking forward to seeing your Autumn collection too ! Thank you for stopping by for a chat and I expect many readers in the south west will be popping along to Bath and your shop to experience the shoe collection at first hand… if so, let me know what you buy !
Photo Credits: All photos have been published with kind permission of Chantal Pilon & Chanii B Shoes.
I adore Northampton Shoe Museum – it is a place worth visiting for both its shoe collection (2nd largest collection in the world, the largest being in Canada) and the attached art gallery is just as fine! So, this week I’m delighted to be chatting to Councillor Brandon Eldred who is not only the councillor responsible for this gorgeous place, but an avid fan of the Museum too …so, welcome Brandon, please introduce yourself:
I am Brandon Eldred, Northampton Borough Council cabinet member for community engagement. Optimising the reach and appeal of the museum service falls within my remit.
Northampton Shoe Museum is totally awesome – I was blown away when I visited – caring for the largest collection of objects charting the history of shoes in the world is a big responsibility! Your staff have oodles of enthusiasm for their job. What was the inspiration behind the creation of the Shoe Collection?
The museum staff do indeed have oodles of enthusiasm and a real pride in what they do. Northampton Museum and Art Gallery was founded on in 1865. The footwear collection was started in 1873 by Moses Philip Manfield, a Northampton shoe manufacturer, so that local workers could see specimens of boots and shoes made elsewhere in the world. Since then the collection has grown to include many examples of Northamptonshire’s shoe industry. We are still collecting today from all over the world. The collection also represents the best of British. The best of British includes current footwear manufactured in Northampton and the county, which we are immensely proud of.
What exhibition or showcase has been the most popular?
Our exhibitions appeal to a wide audience and there is always something going on to suit all tastes and interests. One of our most recent popular exhibitions was ‘If We Could Be Heroes’, which celebrated the 25th anniversary of the iconic Northampton based company Jeffery-West. Jeffery-West is creating some of the most exciting men’s footwear today, and the exhibition featured a selection of their shoes alongside quirky and beautiful objects from the museum’s social history, archaeology, geology and art collections – all chosen and arranged by the designer half of Jeffery-West, Guy West. It was a visual feast for the eyes.
I caught the Jeffery-West exhibition too and my husband started a love affair with Jeffery-West shoes ever since!! Have you got a favourite out of all the exhibitions/showcases?
I have to say I have real interest in the sports shoes. Through the generosity of external funding we have built up our sports footwear and sneaker collection over the last three years. Today we have over 800 examples, which make the Northampton sneaker collection the finest in the public domain. My particular favourites are a pair of signed David Beckham boots from early on in his career, a pair of motor racing shoes worn by Emerson Fittipaldi and the running spikes worn by Christopher Chataway. He wore these spikes when taking part in the four minute mile at Iffley Road in Oxford on 6 May 1954. The race included Chris Brasher, Roger Bannister and Chris Chataway and it was during this race that Bannister became the first athlete to break the four-minute barrier for the mile in a time of three minutes 59.4 seconds.
The facilities at the Museum are fantastic – it’s a valuable source of reference for budding shoe designers, a great place for modern shoe designers to showcase their talents, a history lesson for Northampton’s schoolchildren and it is a shrine for those who have a deep love for footwear – what do you feel is the Museum’s main purpose?
The museum’s vision is to generate and increase cultural awareness and aspiration in Northampton. Its mission is to provide the lead and be the principal focus for heritage, artistic and cultural interest for all citizens and visitors to Northampton. The overall purpose of the museum service is to provide high quality museum facilities, activities and opportunities that meet the needs of our diverse communities now and in the future. Caring for the town’s many fine collections, including the boot and shoe collection, engaging with communities through education and hosting an ever-changing array of exhibition and events are our three main drivers. We promote participation, innovation and life-long learning through the direct provision of services and by working in partnership with others. The museum is also one of Northampton’s key cultural attractions that draws visitors from far and wide
When my children were young they always wanted to look at the elephant boot whenever we visited the museum. Even now I never resist the opportunity to see it when I pop in. A boot for an elephant is quite something to see. The Elephant Boot is one of four boots made by Lotus for the British Alpine Hannibal Expedition. The expedition aimed to recreate and track Hannibal’s route during his invasion of Italy in the 3rd Century BC. Although often disputed by historians, chroniclers reported that Hannibal crossed the Alps with 37 surviving elephants to take into battle.
The British Alpine Hannibal Exhibition asked the question: Can an elephant cross the Alps? Turin Zoo was generous enough to provide the non-geological materials. Her name was Jumbo. Jumbo traveled 150 miles in 10 days from France to Susa in Italy. The result of the expedition’s experiment suggested that elephants can indeed cross the Alps. To protect Jumbo from the weather she had a canvas coat and trunk cover and made and a set of canvas and leather boots to protect her feet. These boots were made by craftsmen at Lotus Ltd using the patterns supplied. To find out the size of her feet the elephant stood on a large sheet of paper and someone drew round her feet. Unfortunately Jumbo was unable to finish the last eight kilometres of the expedition, as the track was considered unsafe.
Is there any footwear missing from the Shoe Collection that the Museum would love to add?
The shoe collection is extensive and consists of:
- Footwear – more than 12,000 items ranging from ancient Egyptian to contemporary design
- Accessories – including buckles, laces, shoe horns, trees, spats, leggings and polish
- Shoemaking tools, machines and components – including lasts
- Retail trade material – including shop furniture, fittings and advertising material
- Archive material – including trade journals, company catalogues, books and photographs
- Fine and decorative art – including paintings and prints depicting shoes and shoemaking
- Index of shoemakers and shoemaking firms – from the Roman period onwards
- Index of concealed shoes – hidden in buildings to bring good luck
- Specialist reference library
As you can see the collection is really extensive, but having spoken to the museum staff, I can tell you that we still have gaps we would like to fill. We are particularly keen to hear from anyone who would like to gift or donate the following:
- Shoes with stories – shoes that you worked in, met the love of your life in, wore on a holiday or took part in an extraordinary challenge in. The shoes might reflect exceptional or everyday stories
- Designer shoes – in particular Vivienne Westwood, Gucci, Chanel, Alexander McQueen, Jimmy Choo, Roger Vivier, André Courrèges or early Salvatore Ferragamo
- Celebrity shoes – shoes that have belonged to famous or significant people
- Shoe catalogues, non-designer contemporary footwear, footwear from South America and items relating to shoe retail
Are the shoes/footwear donations or are they bought for the purpose of adding to the shoe collection or a bit of both?
We acquire items in many different ways, including donations, purchases and bequests. Not a week goes by without a member of the public bringing something into the museum or contacting us to offer an item or items for the shoe collection. We have also benefited from the generosity of local shoe manufacturers and national designers in donating examples of their current designs. Recent donations include footwear from Jeffery-West, Hotter and Prada.
We have a varied and interesting choice of future exhibitions for visitors to come and see this year. Our main gallery and shoe lounge are devoted to showcasing an ever-changing array of shoe exhibitions. We have an exciting exhibition on at the moment that features Norman Walsh English Sports Footwear. Norman Walsh started out as an apprentice shoemaker in 1945 for J.W Foster & Sons. His outstanding shoemaking skills were soon recognised and he made the running spikes for the British Athletics team at the 1948 London Olympics including those worn by the winner of the 100m Alistair McCorquedale. In 1961 Norman founded the Walsh business on his own and became a specialist in making footwear for Rugby League and fell running. Coming up in July we have an exhibition on Mod culture that explores all things Mod – the history, music and style. The exhibition ties neatly in with a concert by Paul Weller in July staged in the beautiful grounds of Delapre Abbey in Northampton. In October we will be presenting Strictly Northampton, which will look at all things dance orientated in the town.
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Thank you for the interesting insight into the Museum … I can’t wait to revisit very soon!!!
I like to welcome onto the blog this week a lady who oozes sophistication, coolness, glamour and quite a lot of business savvy !!! She is the delightful Celia Sawyer from the Channel 4 TV Programme Four Rooms, airing in the UK every Friday at 8pm …. make a note in your diary, electronic or otherwise ( yep, I still use my faithful filofax!). A big, warm welcome Celia … tell us about yourself :
Hi, I’m Celia Sawyer, a self made multi millionaire business woman who has various businesses including luxury interior design, property developing, film investment, dealing in antiques and collectibles and TV star of Channel 4’s Four Rooms . I am also a mother of 2.
How did you first get involved with the TV series “Four Rooms”?
I have an interior design business, and had seen the show as I also deal in collectables for my clients, so I saw an advertisement for the show asking for images of interesting objects, so I sent a photo of myself and said “How about me as one of your dealers?”
Great approach, Celia!
It is strange when you look at items like Hitler’s toilet, you just cannot believe people have these items in their possession! Some of the dealers get quite competitive and the atmosphere gets a bit strained at times with everyone after one item, and we sometimes don’t speak for a day or so.
During the series, have you come across any designs that have made an impression on you? Have you “pinched” any ideas for your own home?
The series is more about items, as opposed to designs, however I do get inspired by some of the more beautiful items brought on to the show and they give me ideas for my schemes. I have the Road Kill Couture in my home on display!
What do you like best about being a TV host?
It’s nice that people, who have seen the show, come to me for advice… I like to help if I can!
Mmmmm… an interesting question, but probably a role on TV that is inspirational and can give the public help to realise that “you can do it too”
Any future plans in the pipeline that you can share?
Things in the pipeline that have to stay there for now I’m afraid, but you will be seeing more of me I hope!
Oooh… Sounds good!… So, personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?
Normally bodycon outfits… I like Donna Karan dresses and suits, Alexander McQueen jewellery, Burberry metallic macs. I train hard fitness wise, so I like to wear things to show my hard work off! Burberry boots, Louboutins and strappy sandles are my favourites, high and glitzy!
Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?
I love going to Harvey Nichols with the personal shopping team. They rush around for me and grab all sorts that I would never be able to find. I often look at Net-a-Porter online, but I really like trying on clothes first as I’m very fussy, so it’s often just for ideas!
For someone to make me something outstanding for my next TV debut – sexy with some great long boots to match!
Boots or Shoes?
I love both. Firstly, winter time I live in boots, either Burberry long ones with very high heels, my vintage 60s platforms (10 quid!) or my Louboutin ankle boots. In the summer I love strappy platforms, something unusual like my new Gianvito Rossi sandals which change colour in different light.
Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc,so that readers can find out more information about you!
Thanks for a fascinating interview … those Gianvito Rossi sandals sound awesome Celia! Don’t forget everybody, tune in Channel 4, Fridays at 8pm!
Photo Credits: The photographs have been published with kind permission from Celia Sawyer.
I am Maxine Day, unfortunately aged 48 years old, have been with my lovely husband Brian for 30 years, and am truly blessed with my beautiful family, Candy and Ryan.
What was the inspiration behind making your aprons?
Dolly Does Vintage is named after my dear nan, Dorothy May Cooper, who was referred to as Dolly by her friends. She is my inspiration, she had a hard life with 6 children, in which she brought up alone, however this did not break her spirit and she worked hard all her life, amongst many things she was a cook in a boarding school, and always seen with her pinny on. The idea was swirling around in my head, with my love of the 40s & 50s events, dressing up and enjoying the music, it seemed to be the right thing for me to do. Whilst I put it off through illness, I felt her on my shoulder always nagging me to get on with it and just do it, so I did!
At the moment I have just kept to aprons. Occasionally I get a family request for something else, however I want to keep within my limits to give the best service I can to people, unreliability is not an option! All are cut from an original vintage pattern adjusted to my designs. I use original vintage fabrics, along side modern quirky designer fabrics. I try to only use retired one off pieces to give that originality to each apron.
What has been your favourite item to date that you’ve created?
I love making the aprons, all are my favourite. Each time I finish one I say to myself I will keep this one, this one is mine, however I have to be strong and part with them, although I have kept a couple…
I want to make myself a 50s beach playsuit for my trip to Viva Vegas 50s convention next year, if I can squeeze it in with everything else.
Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?
I love all clothes, new or vintage, I love to dress vintage at events, and I mix vintage with new for everyday. Shoes are my weakness and have more pairs than I should. Around 100 pairs Tut tut…
Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?
I am an eBay addict; I search for hours to find my vintage fabrics, and one off remnant pieces. I love charity shops, with a mixture of a little bit of Zara.
My wish list is one thing and has been for a few years: A classic pair of black patent leather Christian Louboutin heels. One can only wish!
Boots or Shoes?
Boots and shoes – both are important. Whatever the outfit wear the correct shoe. Shoes can make or break an outfit, dirty & scruffy and the outfit is ruined, classic & classy gives you a fantastic look and makes you feel great. Boots are both practical and can be fun. I love my knee high suede black boots, classy practical heel and a sexy look.
This week I’m interviewing the totally awesome Aasen Stephenson – the fabulous tattooist/engraver whose talents grace the leather of the fabulous Jeffery-West shoes – ahead of the upcoming Jeffery West event at Selfridges in London (15 – 21 April) where Aasen will be showcasing his talents in store and if you pop in and buy a pair of the equally fabulous Jeffery – West shoes, he will engrave them for you there and then. How cool is that?! Aasen will be in the store from 12pm – 7pm from the 17 – 21 April. So, let’s meet this guy! Hi Aasen, welcome to the blog! Please introduce yourself:
I’m Claire Seville and I take pictures of wonderful ladies!!! I love retro, vintage, pinup, latex, chocolate, fast cars, and dancing till my feet hurt!
What made you want to pursue a career as a photographer?
I used to do a little modelling when I was younger and I kind of fell into to in naturally. I also enjoyed art and being creative and photography was the one outlet that got me hooked.
What has been the most unusual photoshoot request you’ve had ?
Recently I had a shoot with SINderella Rockafella and she wanted to create a cobweb bra out of liquid latex and I had to paint it on for her, that was a pretty unusual experience, I got right into it though and amazed myself that I actually did an ok job!
What has been your favourite photoshoot to date?
I absolutely adored shooting Masuimi Max, she’s such a doll and we had a real good giggle through out the shoot. I was a bit nervous to begin with as I had admired from when I was modelling myself, but she’s so lovely the nerves soon went. We’re getting together again next year and I can’t wait to work with her again.
I love your catchphrase ” Photography for Bad Girls ” – but, if you were given the chance, who would you love to photograph? Who would be your ultimate “Bad Girl”?
Madonna!!! She has such a great attitude, she doesn’t give a crap and loves to shock, she’d be amazing to shoot as I think she’d be up for pretty much anything. There’s loads of other models I’d like to shoot too, Bizarre did a shoot with Vivi Stirling and Fae Raven, they looked smocking hot together, I’d love to get my hands on the pair of them.
I’m hoping to do some erotic art next year, I have lots of ideas I want to try out. I rarely move far from the sexy stuff, it’s what excites me!
Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing ?
I’m a real chameleon to be honest, I wear dresses, shiny leggings, leather, denim, high heels, wedges, high tops, dr martens, creepers, always got a slight rock chic edge though. I wear a lot of black.
Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?
Topshop has been pretty good this season and suits my style. I’m not really a label kind of girl although I do have some beautiful Vivienne Westwood pieces. I recently brought some suspend leggings from Black Milk Clothing which were cool. Pinup Girl Clothing, Doll Chops Clothing, Kreepsville 666, Kissin Bombs Design all have some mega cool stuff and you can’t beat a bit of latex Psiclone make a lot of custom stuff for me.
What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?
I’d love a 80s classic rock style fringed leather jacket, haven’t found one I like yet though.
Do I have to choose? lol I wear a lot of boots but for the right occasion it’s got to be heels, providing I don’t have to do too much walking!
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Photo credits: Claire Seville