Category Archives: Shoes

A Christmas Message

 

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This year, the 25th December falls on a Friday and so this week’s blogpost is more of a Christmas message wishing all my readers around the world a Happy and Peaceful day!

Looking back over 2015,  here are my fun awards:

My Favourite Colour of The Year:  Navy has predominated my wardrobe  all year round!

My Favourite Clothing of The Year:  My silver grey cotton waterfall cardigan from La Redoute –  looks fab worn with my navy dresses.

My Favourite Shop of the Year – Online:  I’ve been impressed with BooHoo lately for both male & female clothing.

My Favourite Shop Of The Year:  Sainsburys Superstore at Weymouth, Dorset –  loved the shop layout in the clothing section and their summer sale was excellent.

My Favourite Boutique Of The Year:  Jeffrey West Store in London.

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My Favourite Shoe of The Year:  Red canvas pumps from Next and my black lace ballerinas – a snip at £5 from Everything £5 website.

My Favourite Skincare Products:  This year I couldn’t live without the English Rose Cosmetics Eye Cream,  Garnier Moisture Protect Moisturiser, W7 Clear primer and Leichner Hint of Beige Foundation.

My Favourite Make Up Products:  Arbonne Black Mascara; my eyeshadow brushes.

My Favourite Discovery:  Jeffrey West now do ladies cowboy boots – not ordinary ones – these are truly exquisite!

Thank you all for reading my blog posts this year – your support has been fabulous!  I have a great jam packed year of interesting interviews waiting for you in 2016.   Looking forward to meeting with you all on Friday 1st January 2016 – I’m chatting to Shaman John Norseman – so please join us!

Linda x

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An Interview With Tiannia Barnes Shoes

It has been a while since we’ve talked shoes on the blog, so I have great pleasure in welcoming American footwear designer Tiannia Barnes to chat footwear.  Mentored by esteemed London-trained shoe designer/maker, Sissy Puccio,  Tiannia has now got together her own snazzy shoe designs that she hopes inspires sexiness, timelessness and boldness.  Without further ado, let’s meet the lady herself ….

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Hi, my name is Tiannia Barnes. I am a shoe designer and CEO of Tiannia LLC, the TB – Tiannia Barnes Brand. I am a mother of an awesome 11 year son. I enjoy fashion, designing, traveling and spending time with close friends/family. I’m always up for an adventure!!! Live.Love.Laugh…I try my best to wake up every day with these 3 words in mind to kickstart my day.

As a small girl, did you always want to design footwear or did you have other career aspirations?

My educational and career background is not in fashion. I studied mathematics and industrial engineering in undergraduate school. I also have an MBA. My career started off in engineering for a global company. After a few years of engineering, I moved into technology. I’ve worked in the Insurance sector for many years of my career as an IT Program/Project Manager. I knew that I always loved fashion and business but subsequently didn’t study either until later in life. As a kid, I never wanted to go into a particular field. I just happened to do well in a few subjects that required thinking and creating solutions. I’ve always had a vision of me as a powerhouse…not any particular ‘job’ association.

What do you like best about being a shoe designer?

It’s liberating and creative. You take an idea, then a sketch and manifest it into a piece of art that you create and people love. Great feeling!

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Your first collection, for Autumn/Winter 2015/16, is stunning and the shoes certainly inspire sexiness, timelessness and boldness. What was the inspiration behind your shoe collection?

My inspiration for my “Inspire” collection are all things that have inspired me on this journey of finding my passion and pursuing my dreams. I’m inspired by color, travel and culture, fashion and anyone living their “truth”. Hence, my collection of F/W 15’ women’s luxury shoes are all named after women who have encouraged, supported, loved and inspired me…my Mother – Jackie (RIP), both of my grandmother’s names are Pearl, my Sister – Regin, myself and my friends style and personalities can all be characterized as Jazzy; and my sandal/bootie is named Misty, after Misty Copeland. She’s AMAZING!!! I’m inspired by her story…you must look her up!

If you could visit any place in the world to get inspiration for a shoe collection, which place would occupy your top spot?

Any place vivid and full of culture. Barcelona, Spain is definitely on my short list.

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I LOVE the look of the Jackie heels – the spicy shade of mustard, the fringing and the very sexy metallic heel. Have you got a favorite out of all the shoes you’ve designed?

As a designer, all are my faves, however the first shoe that I had ever sketched was the Jackie, plus it’s my mother’s namesake so if I had to choose that would be it. However, my clients seem to love the Regin!!!

Looking ahead to Spring/Summer 2016, what colours, inspiration and styles will you be featuring in your next collection?

I’ve designed a wedge for the summer and an espadrille that I love. My color palette includes colors of the sunset and hues of oceans in the Caribbean.

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Hypothetically speaking, which famous lady do you feel would be the ideal “face”of your brand?

I love what Oprah stands for and her business savvy. All around the TB woman that would be able to wear every shoe in my collection effortlessly is Queen Bey – Beyonce. I have created a line strongly targeted towards fashionably conscious women on the go. I envision the TB – Tiannia Barnes women as a go-getter, confident, chic, timeless and empowered. Whether she works in corporate, owns her own business, philanthropy, stays at home and occasionally likes to hit the town, etc….she has a TB shoe that matches her attitude – bold, fearless with a little edge!

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Your luxury leather and suede shoes are constructed in Italy although designed by yourself in the USA. Being based in the USA, are you able to ship overseas?

Yes, my global logistics carrier is actually headquartered in Italy, but has US based network of warehouses/operations in New York, Miami, and LA.

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

My everyday go to shoe is the Pearl. Mainly because it’s a flat and it goes with everything. I do a lot of running around during the week so I need comfort for on-the-go. You will find me in business casual attire for most of the week, but I feel most at peace and comfort in some combination of a nice pair of jeans, blazer, and sweater, cute shirt using accessories and my shoes as my pop. I also love elegant events where I can really “dress up” and be adorned with a gorgeous gown, shoes, and jewels.

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Do you have any favorite shops or online sites? (Apart from your own!)

Yes, aside from my own I like Nordstrom, Bloomingdales, Anthropology, Free People…I like personality, uniqueness, variety and quality, all things I find at these stores and others. I also love visiting cities that have independent boutiques. You find the best pieces at boutiques.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

I’m excited about the shoe new line that I’m designing. With fashion week ongoing globally I’ve seen a few really chic jackets out this season that are hot.

Boots or Shoes?

Sandals are my favorite…maybe because I love the seasons in which you would wear them. I think designers get more creative when it comes to sandals so there are lots of variety in styles to choose from in the SS seasons.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc. so that my readers can learn more about Tiannia Barnes.

Website: tianniabarnes.com/shoes
Facebook: facebook/tianniabarnes
Twitter: @tianniabarnes
Instagram: @tianniabarnes

Thank you for coming onto the blog Tiannia and I wish you all the best in 2016! To end the year, I like to ask you dear readers the same question as I ask my interviewees – boots or shoes? Do tell, I’d love to know!

Linda x

Photo Credits: Tiannia Barnes 

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An Interview With 7ven Crystals

Despite the spookiness and darkness of Halloween, I think it’s now “time to shine” as I introduce onto the blog Luis of London based 7ven Crystals, whose company makes items into works of art by using the finest Swarovski Crystals.  Everything from jewellery to clothing can be crystal customised and I caught up with Luis recently to shine a light on his sparkly business ….image

Hello my name is Luis Moreira, I’m 28 years old and I am a Portuguese crystals designer. I attended a school in arts but, to be honest, all my life has been connected with arts somehow.  Over the last five years I’ve become more and more experienced in working with this kind of material. I moved to London three years ago because the market is way more open to luxury items than in Portugal. The crystals that we use are from one of the most famous crystal brands – Swarovski.

What inspired you to launch your business venture, 7ven Crystals?

Ever since I was 18/19 I always wanted to start my own business, but at that time I had no idea of what kind of business it would be. Then one day I was watching a fashion show on tv and they were talking about this big brand of crystals called Swarovski. The programme covered everything from how it was made to the designs that they did, and I’ve became obsessed with the idea! I did some research and around three years or so later, I was starting to make some small designs. From that point to starting my own business, I knew that it was only going to be just a matter of time!

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When did you start to get a passion for fashion and art?

The passion for art was first – my grandmother used to draw incredibly well and my uncle from my mother’s side was very talented in arts as well – so I guess that was already in my blood!

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Early days yet I know, but what products are proving popular amongst your customers so far this season for embellishing with Swarovski Crystals?

Oh that’s easy, it’s definitely the high heels and lingerie! There is a slogan that says ” diamonds are a girl’s best friend” – I would like to change that to ” crystals are a girl’s best friend” – simply because diamonds are very expensive and not everybody can afford them, but crystals are luxurious and glamorous but still much more affordable for any lady. It’s not only for ladies –  we make items for gents as well, watches for example.

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Out of all the products you’ve decorated, do you have a favourite item?

Probably a pink and white crystal bracelet and a black watch I did for an international celebrity. The bracelet was my first big design.

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What has been the most unusual item you’ve decorated with the crystals?

The most unusual request was from a lady that asked me to glue a crystal onto her leg – for obvious reasons I didn’t do it! The most unusual item that I’ve done was probably a trash can – the lady loved crystal items and asked me if it was possible to do it. Of course I said yes, because any item is doable. One of the things I really liked was the fact that this lady understood our brand message.  I would like to make it very clear, that we can make any item not only from our collection but from your own house as well. Basically you can become the designer – just let us know your idea and we will make it happen. Remember the old shoes that you don’t wear anymore because they are old and ugly? We can make them look even better than they were new.

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How long does it take to embellish a standard pair of heels?

It depends! If we are talking about a pair of heels with just the heel in crystals then maybe around one hour.  If the customer asks for a pair of shoes all covered with crystals it will take approximately one to two days, but if it’s urgent it is possible to make them in seven hours.

Looking ahead – are you hoping to expand your collection of ready embellished items or will you be concentrating on doing bespoke items?

For me the biggest priority is to get 7ven Crystals known by as many people as I can! In terms of collection, yes, I am preparing a new collection to be released after my planned photoshoot. But I love it when a customer comes along with his own ideas for the items.

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As you are based in the UK, do you offer embellished products or services overseas too?

Yes, we can ship items anywhere in the world. That is one of the reasons that we are doing a photo shoot – to get ourselves known worldwide! I was very lucky that I’ve got a brilliant, gorgeous model (Cat Voysey) and the only thing I can say is that this shoot is going to be out of this world – so stay tuned everybody! Well, our slogan is Time To Shine!

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Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

Always  jeans – I love jeans – and probably a white shirt, leather jacket, and  a nice watch. I have a passion for watches! In terms of footwear, probably Christian Louboutin trainers. (And, of course, some crystal item!)

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Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Yes, The 7Ven Crystals ahahaha! I have – probably the essentialone.com for new daddies and mummies.

What’s next on your clothes/shoes wishlist?

Buscemi Trainers – I am in love with them, and a MCM backpack.

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Boots or Shoes?

It depends on the weather!  When it comes to the ladies, I think a high heel shoe will always look prettier than a pair of boots.

Links you would like to share:

Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Seven-Crystals/1488583511369929?ref=hl

Twitter: @7venCrystals

Website:http://wallett7777.wix.com/the7vencrystals

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Thank you for dazzling us with your beautiful crystal products!  I have had a phone case crystallised and many of my friends have had their shoes crystallised with stunning results.  A crystallised bra top would be really fab to own (although not sure if I would be brave enough to strut my stuff in one…. well, I might need a glass or two of wine beforehand!) Tell me, dear readers, have you had anything crystallised? What would you love to have embellished with gorgeous crystals?  Do tell!

Linda x

All photos have been published with kind permission from 7ven Crystals.

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An Interview With Karina IK

This week I’m in my element – I’m a “boots” girl interviewing Karina Oikonomidou-Ikonomova, designer and creative director of luxury brand Karina IK who specialise in drop dead gorgeous knee high boots, uber trendy ankle boots and sky high heeled shoes.  The boots make me go weak at the knees and it is a real pleasure to have Karina and her designs on the blog .. welcome Karina…image

Hi! I’m Karina Ikonomova-Oikonomidou – most people call me Kaya. I love to talk about shoes and the quality of things. I like beauty, I am in love with leather, the process of leather tanning and shoe-making.

As a small girl did you always want to design footwear?

Not always, it all started during my foundation degree at Chelsea College of Art and Design (UAL). There I pursued my passion for leather and developed interest in working in 3D and the most relevant choice seemed to be footwear at that time. I have thought about it and came to realise that footwear is the key to how we look and feel wherever we go and whatever we do. Shoes are so important and can really tell a lot about the lifestyle, and personal traits of the person wearing the shoes. So I embarked on learning how to make the best shoes, and learn about construction and comfort.

What do you like best about the process of being a shoe designer?

The process of sourcing, product development – when the 2D idea turns into a 3d object. I love that my work required me to travel a lot and meet with different people for all over the world. I get inspired by the process of developing a new shoe/ range itself and its like a viscous circle. I realise that I’m lucky to have found the job that make me happy as its a day to day activity and even in my dreams I am always connected to the work I’m doing, I get a lot of inspirational dreams!

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Your first collection for Autumn/Winter 2015/16 is entitled ‘The Opus Magnum Collection’ and consisting of 10 styles in 13 colours. What was the inspiration behind your shoe collection and collection title?

Opus Magnum in translation from Latin means the Great Work. It is usually referred to an art work. I called my first range The Opus Magnum Collection as it hasn’t been just another range of a new fashion brand. I have given a lot of thought to creating this range and building the brand’s philosophy. It has been years of study and research throughout my university degree and postgraduate study and finally I have come to bring it to light and share it with people. I hope people not only like and wear the shoes I have created but also get inspired by the idea behind the range and brand. The inspiration comes from geometry and sacred geometry- the principles of life. A lot of architectural references have inspired me a lot and the attention to detail that is key for all the architects is the core for Karina IK creations as well. I want to give this kind of exclusivity to my clients. Personal involvement and personal touch on every creation at Karina IK.

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If you could visit any place in the world to get inspiration for a shoe collection, which place would occupy your top spot (and why?)

I find inspiration in the most ordinary places, and to feel inspired I need to be relaxed. I like travelling in general, but to feel relaxed I need to be “in the zone”- that’s probably a warm country, better a small town by the sea. I like Italy so I would say a place like Portofino, or Marche area where the footwear district is with all the concentration of the leathers and newest technologies for shoe production – that would be my number one place for inspiration. I like discovering new places too, and I have never been to Asia yet, I have many friends there so I would love to see it for myself and I think that it could well be my next spot for finding inspiration! It’s a whole part of the world that I haven’t yet discovered and I have to go.

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Personally I LOVE the look of the new collection. Have you got a favourite out of all the shoes you have designed?

Thank you! This is such a great feeling – to hear when people admire what I have created, to know it’s not just me, and my friends that like it haha! My favourite one is NIN the full alligator thigh high boots made from 3 alligators. How can you not like it? It is so classic and powerful. It is feminine but at the same time conveys such power that nobody will wanna mess with you!:)

Looking ahead to spring/summer2016, what colours and styles will you be featuring in your next collection?

The Spring/Summer 16 range will be more vibrant than the Fall/Winter16 and will consist of luxury skins as always, such as alligator and python but this time will be combined with contrasting nylon net and textile fabric. The range will be completed in earthy colours with some vibrant colour of a sea wave and apricot. The collection is inspired by geometry as a sequel to Opus Magnum, but this time the direction is more focused on simple geometry.

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The Karina IK woman need exclusivity in her life, as she has seen the world and appreciates quality and rarity. Hypothetically speaking, which female lady do you feel would be the ideal ‘face’ of your brand?

Anna Wintour

Your luxury leather and reptile skin shoes are handcrafted by artisans in Italy and I adore your attention to detail. They are extremely stylish and covetable as your brand is exclusive and not commercially oriented. Although based in London, are you able to ship overseas?

Thank you, yes indeed we ship worldwide as we have customers all around the world. Women need exclusivity, as each woman is unique. Karina IK creates products but also offers service for its customers. We can ship overseas and the customers can also give us their shoes back if anything needs to be fixed – we offer a service to rejuvenate the shoes in other words to fix anything that needs to be fixed, we offer a guarantee for lifetime.

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Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

I am a moody person and it all depends on my state of mind. To work I like to be well dressed, I usually wear the custom made IK flats that I have designed few years ago but these days I like to wear YER pumps from the AW16 collection, as wearing heels is very stimulating – makes me more focused.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ? (apart from your own!)

I love to go Dover St Market, as I find many great new designers and its very open atmosphere there, I like the people in the shop, both the sales assistants and the customers. I also love Matches, I think they always have great selections. For online, I guess it would be Moda Operandi and Net-a-Porter.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

The Opus Magnum Spring 16 (OMS16) sandals are on top of my list!! you will know what I mean when you see them:) But aside from my obsession- I need to get one of Olympia Le-Tan clutches with the Disney film posters. I love them!

Boots or Shoes? 

Can’t choose!! But if I have to – shoes. If the shoes are good you can have one pair that will go with everything!

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc so that my readers can learn more about Karina IK Shoes.

https://www.facebook.com/karinaikofficial

https://instagram.com/karina__ik/

https://twitter.com/karina_i_k

Thanks for the chat Karina… I’m so looking forward to seeing the Spring collection too – the colours sound as though it’ll be an amazing collection. As far as those alligator thigh high boots go…

Linda x

All photos have been published with kind permission from Karina IK

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10 Navy Shoe Gems

It’s that time of year – I’m still loving the sandals, pumps and espadrilles …but I have now got my beady eye on boots for when it gets colder!  There’s some great colours out at the moment that are “all season” and navy is one of them.  Looking to trend this Autumn/Winter in a big way, navy looks set to vie black and burgundy as the colour to be seen in. So here’s a selection of my 10 favourite navy blue footwear that I have seen recently on the High Street and online:

H & M Blue Satin Loafers

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ASOS Embellished Heeled Sandals

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Toms Classic Lace Espadrilles

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Schutz Ankle Boots

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MM6 By Maison Martin Margiela Ankle Boots

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Jil Sander Navy Blue Court Shoe

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Paul Smith Dark Navy Polka Dot Silk “Lori” Shoe

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Charlotte Olympia “Debbie” Navy Blue Suede Shoe

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Chiara Ferragni Flirting Glitter Slippers

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Jeffrey Campbell Delaisy Wedge Pump In Navy Suede

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Go on, add a touch of navy to your shoe collection this Autumn… All shoes available via Lyst (USA & UK)  as well as via shoe stockists and the individual brand websites. 

Linda x

Photo Credits: All photographs have been published with kind permission from Lyst.

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Dispatches From The Kabul Cafe

This week I’m so excited to be talking to Canadian journalist & foreign correspondent, Heidi Kingstone… about her work, life, shoe passion and her fab book about her encounters when based in Kabul in 2007/2008 – “Dispatches From The Kabul Cafe”.  Hi Heidi…image

Hi!  My name is Heidi, and I’ve been a journalist all my life.  I have finally written my first book, Dispatches from the Kabul Cafe, which is about expat life in Kabul, a place known as the ‘Kabubble’. I like to think of it as the Afghan version of the TV series Indian Summers. I spent 18-months living and working there and discovered an amazing world. The country is fantastically beautiful, and life is complex and difficult, a place where so many people have felt drawn in order to help, and Dispatches is about the adrenalin-fuelled excitement of living on the edge of someone else’s war. You don’t have to like politics, be interested in war or even Afghanistan. Dispatches is a series of stories, based fairly accurately on real-life, on things that happened to me or my friends, where you can find answers to questions like: Where can you buy 913 Kalashnikovs? How do you tell a friend her expat love is never coming back?What’s it like to date a mercenary?

Your book, Dispatches From The Kabul Cafe, published by Advance Editions, was launched in May 2015. It is based on your encounters and interviews with idealists, gunrunners, warlords, generals, power-brokers, fashionistas and ordinary women over a period of 4 years from 2007 when you lived and worked in Afghanistan. Described by many to be a travel book written in the style of traditional 19th/20th travel writers like Fielding, Sterne, Morris, Thesiger and Kinglake – and I agree, it is an armchair traveller’s literature delight! What or who inspired you to write your experiences in this way?

As usual, it was a series of events, triggered by my father, a psychiatrist, who suggested I write about daily life in Afghanistan. By this point, the world was suffering from information overload on the military and political front and on the tragedy of women’s lives, but there were still other aspects that I felt hadn’t been covered. Daily life in the ‘Kabubble’ fascinated me and rounded out the picture. As a result, the book grew organically into what it is, which is a series of vignettes based fairly accurately on real life. I wanted to write something atmospheric that gave the reader a sense of what it was like to be in this adrenalin-fuelled world where truth is stranger than fiction. Even though my book is nothing like his, I loved Graham Greene’s The Quiet American, which was about Vietnam during the French Indochina War in the 50s. It was a turbulent and historic period, and the louche expat scene of foreign correspondents, women, drugs and diplomacy was my inspiration. In The Karen Woo Story, you get some sense of that.

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During those years, you have witnessed women as heroines, as victims, as freeloaders, as rivals. The cast of characters in the book include Hasina, the revolutionary in Gucci sunglasses; and Ariana, who was desperate to leave Kabul and had high hopes that Brian could help her! I loved meeting these people via your book and didn’t envy your role at times (especially in Ariana’s case). Which person or incident proved most challenging or disturbed you the most?

It’s a tough call, but on balance I would say, Hasina, the girl with Gucci glasses. I liked her from the moment I met her, and she never ceased to impress me. I loved her unbound spirit and her intelligence, her openness, fearlessness, passion and honesty, her love of life and her commitment to making her country a better place, particularly for women. Violence against women is endemic in Afghanistan, and women lead tough lives and challenging the system is a Herculean task. But she confounded all the stereotypes we have of Afghan women or certainly the view I had that all women were meek and mild and victimised. I loved the stories Hasina would share with me about her family and experiences, she opened a window onto another Afghanistan. She is part of that exciting new generation of Afghans who are educated, modern and worldly, who are impressive people, and would be wherever they were. I was sorry to lose touch with her, and I think of her often, especially the times we would sit at Flower Street Cafe together drinking coffee, which we both loved. We also talked under the pomegranate tree in the garden of the house I rented about life and love and curtains, and, of course, her Gucci glasses.

One reviewer said “only Heidi would wander around Kabul in stilettos and lip-gloss”. I like your style but I’m sure it was a case of head covering and baggy clothes for most of the time. Despite the hardships, rules and nature of Afghanistan – what are your fondest memories of the place?

That was a quote from my brilliant friend Kate Fox, who wrote Watching the English, and she’s right. I did wear baggy clothes and cover my head, wear lip-gloss and stilettos. Another friend nicknamed me Heidi High Heels because of my steely determination to wear nice shoes despite the mud and potholes and the virtually impossible task of walking in anything but flat, sturdy shoes. I have so many fantastic memories, and it was one of the reasons I wrote the book, to preserve and share them. Like most women, I covered my head, but the scarf was almost always loosely wrapped, and luckily there were beautiful scarves made by Afghan women, which I still have and cherish. I went to the north of the country and saw women, who were involved in a silk project, do everything from nurturing the worms to spinning the silk.

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I was blown away by how beautiful Afghanistan is, it is incredible, and one of the most breath-taking places I have ever seen was Lake Band-e-Amir, the blue colour of the water, the jagged landscape, and walking through the ice-cold water which froze my bare feet. Particularly in the spring and summer, I would love to hear the sound of the ice cream man as he rang the bell and pushed his cart through the streets. And just like everywhere else, little kids would run out to buy ice lollies. I also loved to see the balloon sellers walking the streets. On one of the many times I went to Chicken Street, the main shopping drag in the capital, I sat with a carpet seller, who brought out a jar of raisins and nuts that had been marinated in a jar. He dug a spoon into the mixture and fed me a mouthful, it was delicious, unexpected, and I have to say, a little unnerving.

You have written for Britain’s leading publications covering assignments to do with disease & poverty from Mali to Sierra Leone; life in Darfur; and water wars between Palestine and Israel. You have written extensively about your travels in Iraq & Kurdistan, and you were commissioned by Canada’s National Post to write a 4 post series on the “Worst Places In The World”. Out of all the places you’ve visited, where was the worst place? And what place really surprised you and was better/ nicer than you had previously thought?

I only spent a few days in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but it was magnificent. They say about the country that God gave it everything, diamonds, beauty, water, natural resources and more, but never peace.I fell in love with African masks in Rwanda and the DRC. DRC has a long and bloody history, yet it is such a beautiful country, with so much potential, which always seems to be the case – beauty and brutality. I remember wanting to photograph a woman who balanced a plastic container of odd shoes on her head. Her face had a hardness to it, and she turned away, making it clear she wanted me to stop. I understood her reaction, I would feel the same. Life is hard in places like Goma, and people are ingenious in finding ways to survive. I never forget how lucky I am to live in the UK and come from Canada. Certainly, our countries are far from perfect, but easier in terms of health care, education, standard of living, freedom, equality, tolerance – and peace and security.

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Growing up had you always had in mind to be a journalist/author/foreign correspondent or did you fantasise about being somebody completely different?

I started off wanting to be an archeologist as I have always been fascinated by different people and far off lands. Being a journalist combined my passion for telling stories about people and places, but it happened by pure serendipity. I went to see the editor of a magazine in Toronto about something totally unrelated and she asked me to write an article – on accessories – and I knew from the first word I wrote that I had found what I wanted to do. Over time, my career moved in the direction I had hoped it would.

What sort of book genre do you like reading? Favourite books or authors?

So many! Except for science fiction of which I am not a fan, I have fairly catholic tastes. I love novels because you can just get lost in them, but also read a lot of non-fiction. In both Donna Tart’s The Goldfinch and Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy, I have finished the books wanting more and feeling as if I had made new friends. In a Suitable Boy I felt like I could just knock on the door of one of those houses and join in the with family. That was the effect I wanted with Dispatches from the Kabul Cafe, that when you read it, you would feel as if you were living those experiences. I have been going through a long Indian writers phase, the books are incredibly powerful. It started with Indian-born Canadian writer Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance, and subsequently Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland and The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga. They are tragic, profound, and beautiful, and show how corrupt and evil people and governments can be.I also read a lot of books about Afghanistan – some of my favourites have been Frank Ledwidge’s Losing Small Wars, Rodric Braithwaite’s Afghansty and Sherard Cowper-Coles Cables from Kabul. I loved The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein too. I can thank my mother who is excellent at recommending books for me to read.

Although you’ve been to quite a few places in the world – what place/country holds the top position on your bucket list now as the place you most would like to visit, either for work or pleasure? What has been your favourite destination visited so far?

I would hop on a plane to travel just about anywhere. I have always wanted to go to Antartica. I find its serene beauty compelling – and I love penguins. And the South Pacific, inspired by Paul Gaugin’s paintings. When I was growing up I always wanted to visit Burkino Faso, and attend the Ouagadougou film festival. Oscar Niemeyer is one of my favourite architects so Brasilia is on my list, too. Every time I go to a new country, I think I need to move there immediately. But Africa as a continent is where my heart is and southern Africa in particular. Out in the bush in Botswana, Namibia or South Africa would come top of my list. Being immersed in the landscape and watching the animals makes me happy and is possibly where I am most at peace. I’m not a very spiritual person but I feel something profound when I am there. My first trip was a remarkable five-day bush walk with my then boyfriend, who was South African, through the Umfolozi, led by Ian Player. He was a great conservationist who helped save the white rhino, and his trekker Mqubo. 

What are your 5 beauty, fashion or footwear essentials that you always pack with you from the UK when travelling to your assignments?

Flip flops are an essential, I never go anywhere without them. I am addicted to Havaianas. A pair of sunglasses because you never know when you are going to need to add that air of mystery or hide behind shades. They are always glamorous – and useful. I have learned to travel with jeans just in case the weather suddenly shifted. You can dress they up or down. I also bought a silk sleeping bag case in Vietnam that rolls up into a small ball. It’s light and came in very handy when I was in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Either a pashmina or large cotton scarf. 

One reviewer quoted that you had “an eye for beauty and fashion in the most unlikely places”. In your travels, what has surprised you most in beauty and fashion terms when compared to the UK/Canada?

In India, it is of course the colours, the jewellery and the architecture, which are extraordinary. The legendary editor of Vogue, Diana Vreeland, said ‘pink is the navy blue of India’, and when you are there your eyes drown in colour and you get lost in the vibrancy and the mixture of patterns that surround you….and there is no black. In southern Africa, it’s just the opposite. The earth tones calm me. I love the mud cloths and colours that blend into the landscape, and the geometric designs. 

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Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

I absolutely love the fashion this year, and amongst other things I am addicted to are jumpsuits – I have three – one in denim by Diesel, which I think is quite sexy as it’s fitted, a silk one by Joie that I bought in Dubai that is casual and elegant, and a more sophisticated one also by Joie, which is more grown up and good for day or evening. This winter I lived in Stuart Weiztman’s over the knee suede boots and McQueen’s high heeled ankle boots. My nude colour Louboutins see me through just about everything.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

I love mixing and matching from high-end to high street, which means that there are endless and enormous opportunities! I seem to go in phases and I love Joie, they seem to cut for my shape, which makes all the difference. There are a couple of shops locally that I go to, and then of course Selfridge’s as it’s sadly not too far from where I live. And so many more!

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

Every day I make the same vow: No more shopping. But it doesn’t last, and London is possibly the best place in the world to shop, good if you have discipline, not so good if you are a shopaholic. I bought a pair of mukluks a few years ago back in Toronto to wear in the winter and navigate the ice and snow. When I put them on I remember the sensation of such cosiness and luxury, I never realised shoes could be comfortable! There was a pair of black shoes that I saw a few times on celebrities in various magazines this season. They had an elegant high heel, a pointy toe, and three sexy straps that wrapped around the foot and ankle, and I absolutely loved them. As I was determined, with dubious success, to curtail my footwear intake I didn’t seek them out but I did make a mental pact with myself: If I ever saw them I would buy them. Like so many promises that we make to ourselves, it was hardly written In stone. So there I was in Vienna in June, taking in the sites between stops for Sacher Torte, Wiener Schnitzel and coffee with whipped cream, when I decided I needed some respite and I detoured into a side street near the famous Viennese landmark, St Stephen’s cathedral, where lo and behold there was a pretty unprepossessing shoe shop. With temperatures soaring above 30C degrees, and unable to resist temptation, I opened the shop door to a blast of cool air, and there, displayed on a plinth right in front of me, were the Gianvito Rossi shoes that I had lusted after. And, of course, not someone to break a promise, even if it was to myself, I tried them on. They were a perfect fit, possibly even comfortable, more fabulous in real life than on the pages of a glossy magazine, and in a moment Cinderella transformed into a princess.

Boots or Shoes? 

As I look in my cupboard and see all the boots and shoes that I love, it’s a tough choice. Boots can be incredibly sexy but if I had to choose I think it would have to be shoes. I’m a sucker for stilettos. 

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog can learn more about you and your book.

www.HeidiKingstone.com

my Facebook page is Heidi Kingstone

Twitter @superlotuslane

instagram @superlotuslane

Thanks Heidi and I so love those new Gianvito Rossi shoes! Don’t know if I’d brave heels along pot holed streets but I certainly would rock the sunglasses and lipgloss look! Readers, where’s the strangest/unusual place you’ve worn heels? Do tell!

Linda x

Photo Credits:  Heidi Kingstone; Mina Sharif 

 

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An Interview With Mad4Tools & Scruffs Womenswear

imageLadies, if you work in an office or a similar environment where smart clothing is de rigeur, finding suitable work clothes is fairly easy.  If you work in an industry where your work clothes need to be tough, waterproof and safety orientated, your choice is limited – often resulting in wearing menswear or unisex that isn’t always flattering or comfortable.  Mad4Tools – a shop renowned for its quality tools and workwear, has just expanded into womenswear launching a new range of high quality workwear that is not only stylish and feminine, but has paid attention to the cut of the garment as well as featuring safety requirements of the highest standard.  I spoke to Mad4Tools director, Paul Swain, to find out more … welcome Paul…

Hi! I am Paul Swain, director of Mad4tools.com; passionate about providing an online one stop shop for quality tools, equipment and workwear for all.

Mad4Tools are an online tools and equipment store launched in 2012. What gave you the idea to expand into women’s workwear for 2015?

When we first launched our website we did offer some standard workwear and safety boots for women although it was largely just men’s clothing described as womens (not by us, I’d hasten to add). Though we did receive interest in the womenswear we felt that, after having had several conversations with regular customers and contacts in the industry, there is a gap in the market place for more stylish and fitting workwear much like what is available for men. After speaking with our suppliers about this last year, it was confirmed that for winter 2014/15, Scruffs would launch a brand new stylish and fitted range of safety boots and clothing as a starter into the womens market.

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Your womenswear collection is supplied & designed by Scruffs who are known for providing innovative safety footwear & clothing for tradesmen. What did you feel was so special about adding their ladieswear collection to your repertoire?

We already supply Scruffs safety boots and clothing and since 2003, it has become the largest workwear brand in this industry. This is because the clothes are generally of high quality, very well thought out from a functionality point of view and look great as well with some bold designs and styles. The range that has been released is the tip of the iceberg also as this is just an initial range to see what works and is popular. On top of this Scruffs are known for doing things properly by not cutting corners and providing good details on what makes each garment or boot better or different from the next.

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I must admit I do love the Goliath Cleo Pink Ladies Waterproof Safety Boots – very trendy & fine looking yet exude high safety requirements including being oil and slip resistant. What ladieswear or footwear seems to be going down well with your lady customers?

Yes, the Cleo safety boots have always been popular. They were with us from our initial range of womens workwear and safety boots. These have been supplied to customers all over the world.  Of the new Scruffs range, the Edens have been significantly more popular. Two of our most popular items of womens clothing currently are the Scruffs Women’s Executive Jacket and the Scruffs Women’s Worker Plus Black Trousers.

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When it comes to workwear – what item seems to be most popular bought by your male customers?

Safety boots always out sell work clothing. For us, the most popular currently being the Switch Back Safety Boots available in brown, tan and black finish and second to safety boots are our Trade Work Trousers. Currently the standard trade trousers are being phased out for a new breed of trousers regarded as a 3D Trade trousers as the trousers are cleverly made so that the trousers better fits the shape of your leg and that pockets and knee pads are off set so that when the user is wearing them, the pockets are angled in such a way that things do not fall out of them or dig into the side of your leg; also the knee pad area is at a slightly different angle also so that it stays in position when in the crouched/kneeling position. That on top of the standard high quality reinforced stitching in high pressure areas and other great rip resistant materials, it makes for a great new type of trouser.

Scruffs design their workwear to provide fashion inspired trousers, tops, base layers, shirts and rain suits made from active performance materials. Have you had any unusual stock requests from customers though?

We had a customer in Singapore that wanted the Cleo safety boots to confirm that the ones we were selling were legitimate Goliath safety boots as there were some counterfeit ones on the market in Singapore and they did not meet the high safety standards that are delivered in the Goliath safety boot range. Obviously we reassured her that we only deal with the manufacturers so all our products are legitimate.

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You offer worldwide delivery. What work safety clothing/footwear is most popular overseas?

We have a customer in the Philippines who buys a lot of Acid Safety wellington boots from us as well as chemical safety suits – these are arguably the most popular products for us internationally currently.

What work clothing/footwear can we look forward to seeing online for Summer 2015?

We have a range of professional trade work shorts coming out in the Summer and a new range of men’s Scruffs safety boots. We also have a new Active Wear T-Shirt with 50+ SPF protection as well as being light weight and moisture wicking.

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Hypothetically speaking, what famous person would you love to have as the “face” of Mad4Tools/Scruffs?

Lee Evans,  because he is the sort of guy you could imagine running on stage with a chainsaw in his hand much like our mascot Madly. However, we wouldn’t want Madly to feel second best, so we might have to have Lee Evans in a Madly suit. 😉

Being in the tools/equipment industry for over 30 years, what was the best piece of business advice you ever received? And dare I say it, the worst (in respect that you followed the advice but it didn’t work out as you hoped)?

This advice is not necessarily just business, but the best piece of advice I had was to not give up, you don’t get anything worth having without hard work. Worst advice, this is a hard one for me, even something that goes badly based on a suggestion I don’t necessarily believe it was bad as I always take something away from the situation, though one was that we should get a large stock of one particular heater into stock this winter as they sold out last winter and we still have a lot of them now!

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Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

It’s fair to say that I don’t go shopping enough or as much as I would like. I tend to wear Diesel brown leather shoes, jeans, a polo shirt and a thin but warm coloured jumper. I have been know to wear the odd floral shirt also.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

I don’t necessarily favour any particular sites, in fact I’d prefer to shop somewhere a bit off the beaten track so sometimes you can get some great different stuff through eBay and Amazon from international retailers. Delivery times are somewhat extended although you do end up with something you don’t see on the high street every day. I do, however, buy a few things from ASOS.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

I could really do with some casual trainers and a gilet. 

Boots or Shoes? 

Boots. I’m not sure if it’s because I played a lot of basketball when I was younger or what, but I prefer the feel of a boot. Although saying that, for the office, where I spend most of my days, a shoe.

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Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog can learn more about Mad 4 Tools and Scruffs.

You can find us on Facebook by searching for Mad4Tools.com and you can follow us @mad4toolscom. Our website is mad4tools.com.

Thank you very much for speaking with us Paul.  It’s an area of womenswear I never really considered before but there was definitely a gap in the market for decent workwear for women in industries that are not office based and I’m so pleased that Scruffs have stepped up to the challenge.  What do you ladies think? Do let me know!

Linda x

Photo Credits : Published with kind permission of Mad4Tools.com/ Scruffs Womenswear

 

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Spotlight on East Shopping Centre

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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.

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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…

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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!

Linda x

All photos have been published with kind permission from Puja Vedi

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