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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…
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!
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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…
All photos have been published with kind permission from Karina IK
Jeunesse Global’s latest powerful anti-wrinkle microcream, Instantly Ageless, has taken both sides of the Atlantic by storm. Using stem cell technology to reverse the signs of ageing, Instantly Ageless, revives the skin, minimises the appearance of fine lines and pores for a flawless finish. Sounds too good to be true? I talk to ex model Faye Stevenson about her love of the product and why she became a representative for Instantly Ageless….. welcome Faye…
Hi! My name is Faye Stevenson I am a 30 year old former professional model. I ran my own modelling, events and promotions agency for 4 years alongside working on government funded programmes to support individuals to start their own businesses.
What made you decide to become a representative for Jeunesse Instantly Ageless?
I came across a link someone posted online which lead to a 2 minute video. The video showed a woman using the product and within three minutes her wrinkles and dark circles had disappeared. As a former model I am image conscious and want to maintain my looks. I was curious so I got hold of a sample. When I posted my own video on my Facebook profile I had over 50 people contact me wanting to buy the product. At that point I decided to sign up as a distributor.
Have you always wanted to be in the make up /skincare/ beauty industry?
I have been in the modelling industry now for 12 years however I suffer from really sensitive skin and have had a nightmare in the past finding beauty products that don’t cause me to have an allergic reaction. I have to prepare myself every time I have a photo shoot that the make up is likely to cause me to have an outbreak. I generally use mineral makeup because it is more friendly for my sensitive skin. I have been approached to endorse other product ranges in the past but have had to refuse because of the reaction. That’s why I love Instantly Ageless – it’s one of the few products that I can use that doesn’t irritate my skin.
So, in a nutshell, what is Instantly Ageless?
Instantly Ageless is being referred to as Botox in a bottle or the 2 minute facelift. Instantly Ageless™ is a powerful anti-wrinkle microcream that works quickly and effectively to diminish the visible signs of aging. The revolutionary ingredient is argireline: a peptide that works like Botox—without the needles. Instantly Ageless™ revives the skin and minimizes the appearance of fine lines and pores for a flawless finish. Instantly Ageless is much more cost effect than Botox and one vial which costs £4.99 from my website will last for 2-3 uses depending on the area you are looking to cover.
Watch the video below to see my own personal video of the product:
What results after using have impressed you personally?
I found using it on myself it did make a difference to my under eye area but the most significant difference was on my forehead. I have had frown lines for as long as I can remember. I tried Botox around a year ago and I found it really unpleasant. I had a constant tension headache for the first two weeks and I felt like I had the famous caveman brow. My head felt heavy and I couldn’t wait for it to wear off. With Instantly Ageless there was none of this. I felt my skin tighten up but my muscles underneath weren’t affected so there was no headache. The product wore off after around 10 hours and there were no long-lasting side effects.
Is there a preferred way to purchase from you – online, through personal consultation,via home parties?
I am happy to visit people in their homes and do parties however I am based in Nottinghamshire so it is pretty restrictive. Products can be purchased from my website www.instantlyagelessofficial.co.uk I am also looking for distributors to sell my products and salons to stock them.
What advice would you give to somebody looking at perhaps joining Instantly Ageless as a representative/consultant?
If anyone wants to join they should email me. I initially found the process difficult because I signed up two weeks before the UK launch and my sponsor was based in the USA. I have become an expert in the product range and ensuring I understand the commission structure, with this knowledge along with my past experience of running businesses and supporting start-up business I can help anyone to be successful. I run weekly Skype meetings on a Monday at 9pm for distributors to answer questions and offer support and the company do weekly webinar training sessions on a Wednesday. They will need minimum around 8-10 hours free per week. This business is like anything, the more you put into it the more you get out. You can realistically look to earn between £400 – £600 part time and around £2000+ per month full-time. You can become a distributor and just sell to your friends and family or if you’re really proactive you can attend beauty shows, wedding fayres etc and sell your products, book appointments with hair salons and beauticians and sign them up as a distributors. Doing this you will earn a commission from all of their sales along with commission from anyone they may sign up to distribute the products on their behalf. I have all the marketing material you will need to promote to a wide range of audiences in the shop section of my website.
In your opinion, how does Instantly Ageless differ from other skincare brands?
Like I said before the main thing for me is that it actually is hypoallergenic, many products claim to be but I still seem to have a reaction. Also I am not aware of any other anti ageing product which has instant results.
Although you are based in the UK, can you give further details for those non-UK readers who wish to try Instantly Ageless?
The brand is worldwide. It was established in 2009 in the USA. This year Jeunesse have promoted a global launch. The products can be delivered worldwide. Each distributor is given a website and a mobile marketing app to support them to do sales. The website will be customised to your country’s currency when you sign up.
Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?
Stilettos, skinny jeans, vest top or if it’s a night out Lipsy Dresses, Jane Norman. I love the high street!
Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?
Missguided, BooHoo, River Island
What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?
I want some stylish shades for the summer, I hate my nose though so always have difficulty picking glasses that suit my face.
Boots or Shoes?
Stiletto court shoes. Because they make my legs look even longer!
Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog can order from you and/or read up on Instantly Ageless
Follow this link and click Join in the top right corner to sign up as a distributor
Thank you Faye for chatting to us about Instantly Ageless ! So ladies, would you resort to botox or plastic surgery or anti ageing creams like Instantly Ageless or just grow old gracefully and accept all your wrinkles? Do let me know your thoughts !
All photos and video published with kind permission of Faye Stevenson.
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
ASOS Embellished Heeled Sandals
Toms Classic Lace Espadrilles
Schutz Ankle Boots
MM6 By Maison Martin Margiela Ankle Boots
Jil Sander Navy Blue Court Shoe
Paul Smith Dark Navy Polka Dot Silk “Lori” Shoe
Charlotte Olympia “Debbie” Navy Blue Suede Shoe
Chiara Ferragni Flirting Glitter Slippers
Jeffrey Campbell Delaisy Wedge Pump In Navy Suede
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.
Photo Credits: All photographs have been published with kind permission from Lyst.
There are so many gorgeous necklaces available on the market of various lengths, thicknesses and styles that it can be a minefield to pick what would look right with certain outfits. Like hairstyles and clothes, necklaces to a certain extent, need to suit your face and neck shape too. The different chain lengths can also be baffling – where should a 32″ chain finish on the chest as opposed to a 20″ for example. So here’s a nice, simple and invaluable necklace guide to help make choosing that necklace easier:
New Delhi, Mumbai, Hong Kong …. and now East Shopping Centre in London – Anjalee & Arjun Kapoor is one of India’s leading couture brands and since opening their first UK boutique in London in June 2015 they have been looking forward to introducing fashion straight from the catwalks in India to the British Asian Market. Not only is it their first UK boutique, but Anjalee & Arjun Kapoor are the first couturiers from India to have a stand alone store in the UK. Anjalee & Arjun Kapoor regularly dress A-list Bollywood celebrities like Bipasha Basu, Anushka Sharma, Kangana Ranaut, Katrina Kaif, Hema Malin, Mallika Sherawat, Lara Dutta – as well as some of India’s elite socialites. I caught up with the lovely Anjalee to find out more about her brand and her hopes for the brand’s influence in the UK.
Hi! I’m Anjalee. I am a perfectionist in everything I put my hands on. You probably won’t know this but…I love to paint (canvas) and Arjun has a great flare for interiors. Had he not been a designer for clothes, he would be designing homes. He is extremely houseproud and the little details in our house are his magical touch.
What inspired you to enter the world of fashion?
Because I was passionate about it, I have been creatively inclined since my childhood. I paint as well. I believe creativity cannot be restricted only to one medium. For me, designing clothes is like nurturing my child; step by step and putting in my best. Playing with colours comes naturally to me, and putting a mix and match in and styling the silhouettes gives me a lot of creative satisfaction.
What attracted you to designing wedding outfits?
My mindset was always fascinated on effective artwork. I love to choose different article themes every season and interpreting them my way on the garments. Rich ornamentation, vibrant colour mixes, mix and match of fabrics, styling the garments – all leads to creating one of a kind couture garment. I love playing with the details that are present in every outfit of ours. So I guess our style mantra is more inclined towards occasion dressing.
Where do you get your inspiration from for your collections?
Season to season I look for different inspirations which I could incorporate into the collection. The Spring/Summer collection influence has been from the Persian architecture and culture. I have incorporated rich motive grids combined with a lot of layering techniques. My previous themes have been jamavar aria, Mughal Opera, Phantom of the Opera, etc.
Who is the Anjalee and Arjun Kapoor customer?
The typical AAK girl is a glamorous girl with great body language, great carriage and the right attitude. She is flamboyant and wants to wear an impactful statement piece for the most important day of her life.
What is your definition of style?
Being glamorous and making our AAK girl stand out. Our garments have a strong signature look which we have followed. Since we started the label it has that zing factor which is a complete transformation when one wears it. We aspire to give that feel good factor to every AAK girl and guy.
What do you consider is the perfect outfit?
We style a variety of outfits giving options to our clients and tailoring each look. Each outfit looks different on different body types, but as long as the outfit brings out the best in you, I would consider that particular ensemble as the perfect outfit.
When grooms and brides visit your studio in London, what would they find?
Stylish ensembles that create a strong statement when worn. Glamorous outfits with a lot of oomph!
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
Our standalone stores in different parts of the world. We are planning for more flagship stores in the coming future in other countries as well.
What is your dream for the future?
I would like the AAK brand to become a sought after global brand with stores all around the world.
What will your next fashion challenge be?
To set up a western global couture line and have it available all around the world.
What do you predict would be the bridal look for the next season?
Lots of interesting drapes over their lehengas, (skirts) fusion concepts for pre-wedding functions, lots of floral ideas in ornamentations, layered styles in anarkalis, mughale styles for the grooms on the wedding day.
What difference do you find in brides overseas for example, UK and Indian brides?
The Indian Brides in India are more experimental in the silhouettes, colours and concepts. They are willing to try newer looks. The Brides in UK are more traditional in their dressing and love to stick to conventional colours for their wedding day.
You can find the Anjalee & Arjun Kapoor studio in London’s East Shopping Centre, Green Street, London E7.
You can also follow Anjalee & Arjun Kapoor on Twitter :
For details of East Shopping Centre, check out my blogpost HERE.
Thank you for chatting to me Anjalee and those dresses are absolutely exquisite. A friend of mine got married a few years ago in a gorgeous red taffeta and black lace wedding dress – she looked stunning. Did you get married or are you getting married in a dress/outfit that isn’t in the conventional colours? Do tell & share your stories…
All photos published with kind permission from Anjalee & Arjun Kapoor.
“Real Clothes For Real Ladies” is the mantra of my guest this week. Penny owns Boutique 11, a store located in a busy suburb of Nottingham. Apart from her obvious passion for fashion, Penny makes sure that her mantra is always adhered to and with fortnightly stock change, regular ladies nights/instore events and a monthly customer prize draw – this little store is making big waves. I caught up with the lovely Penny to find out more….
Hi! I’m Penny Britton..I have as long as I can remember LOVED fashion! Looking at it in magazines feeling and touching it and of course wearing it.
What inspired you to open a boutique?
I have been in the fashion industry on and off for about 15 years. I think I really began to realise that I had a real flare for connecting with other ladies when I was the fashion advisor at John Lewis in Nottingham. Ladies would make an appointment to see me for either that special outfit, an everyday outfit or just fed up of their wardrobes or their look – they were looking for inspiration.
What do you like best about having a boutique?
What I like best….the look that my customers have on their faces when they have found something they look lovely in..(sounds corny doesn’t it? but I really mean it).I love choosing and buying all my own stock.When I go buying I am like a child in a candy store every time!
When picking stock for your boutique, do you go by the latest trends/colours, customer requests, popular styles, your own tastes or bits of all those?
I have a great variety of labelled fashion and stock fashion which I get directly from Italy/France. Personally I love colour and in the spring & summer months when I can buy colour, I certainly do. It makes me happy when ladies come into Boutique 11 and comment on how pretty all the lovely colours are that they have to choose from .I always pride myself on the fact that neither age nor size is an issue in Boutique 11 – my size and price range is fab..
When a customer visits your boutique, what would they experience?
My advertising line is “real clothes for real ladies”. My customers really do range from size 6 to 26 and ages early 30 to 90. I have been told that “I have funked up the ladies in my area”! The secret I think, is to buy the correct shape for you, of course, in a colour which suits your colouring but most importantly, when you look in that changing room mirror that you are smiling. Another thing we at Boutique 11 pride ourselves on is honesty.No one will go out of my boutique with anything which does not look FABULOUS on them. I am also being told over and over again ..we love coming here Penny, because you will always say if it’s not quite right and never try and sell us something for the sake of making a sale.
What famous lady would you like to see visit your boutique?
Mary Portas of course..she doesn’t need any fashion advice from us but I know I would be very proud of the service she would have received and gone away with smile.
Where did you get the inspiration for Ladies evenings from?
Well it’s just an excuse for a girlie night really..I fill the boutique with FABULOUS stock, offer my ladies something else – makeup artist, facials, nails done – anything ladylike really and of course, get in some bubbly…what else does a lady need? They are very successful and getting busier each time.
You hold regular monthly prize draws for your customers spending £100 or more at your boutique. How has that been received by your customers?
My latest competition is going very well, it encourages the ladies to spend while giving something lovely back. It’s a great talking point.
Anything else planned for this year?
I have been invited to put on fashion shows at two ladies charity lunches, one was in July and one in November. A ladies “afternoon tea party with fashion” in August. I have Summer, Autumn, Winter open evenings in Boutique 11 in the diary for the rest of the year!
Have you any favourite shops/online sites?
My favourite shop is Boutique 11 for sure… I love Mint Velvet label and James Lakeland fashion. Anything a little quirky really. I tend to shop in other small boutiques selling something a little different from the high street.
I really don’t have a favourite. You will find every single colour out there in my wardrobe from bright blue to acid green to the palest pink and lots of white linen for the summer. I think I do have a bit of a linen fetish!
Thanks very much for chatting to me Penny – I’ll be sure to pop in when I’m next in Nottingham. Although I love shopping online, boutiques like Boutique 11 make it fun to spend an hour or two looking through stock, hunting out those gems and what a fab way to spend a girly night out at a ladies shopping and pamper night! Do you agree readers? What are your likes/dislikes about shopping in boutiques as opposed to online? Do tell!
Photo Credits: All photographs have been published with kind permission from Boutique 11.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
my Facebook page is Heidi Kingstone
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!
Photo Credits: Heidi Kingstone; Mina Sharif
Preston, UK – the town may not be known as the centre of film making but this year a collaborative, independent feature film is being not only filmed in Preston, but it is based in Preston using creative and enthusiastic people from that area. Called “The Blackout”, the film centres around 6 characters going about their everyday lives when there is a total power blackout…. a modern-day apocalypse almost…it sounds intriguing anyway! I caught up with the lovely Su Moffat, who is heading The Blackout Project, to find out more…
Hi! My name is Su Moffat and I’m a freelance screenwriter based in Preston, Lancashire. I’m currently working on a feature film project here in Preston, The Blackout.
What was the inspiration behind the project?
The project is the brainchild of our Coordinating Director Alan Livesey. Alan has a great deal of experience in short film making, but was keen to move into feature films. Features, however, are notoriously huge beasts to wrangle and incredibly costly, so The Blackout Film Project is Alan’s way to approach this challenge. By building several production crews, each responsible for producing a short story within The Blackout, we are sharing the workload and producing our feature film in a fraction of the time, and for a fraction of the cost, of an ordinary independent feature film.
What is the goal of the project?
The goal of the project is to produce a multi-narrative (think Love Actually) feature film, from scratch, in 12 months. We’re relying on our crew and cast to contribute their time and we’re pulling resources from our wider community.
It is quite a costly and time-consuming challenge – how do you hope to achieve your goal?
Our writers and crew have given their time for free to get us to this point in pre-production. We’re raising funds to pay towards transport, locations and catering for our actors by holding monthly film screenings here in Preston (check out Facebook or Twitter for details BlackoutFilmProject, @FilmBlackout). This gives us a small monthly income without which we would have no budget at all.
Can you tell us a little bit about the film, The Blackout?
The story of The Blackout revolves around the first 12 hours of a complete power blackout; no electricity; no motorized transport; no telephones, and how the people of a small city will cope without the luxuries of modern living. The film concentrates on six individual stories and shows us how dependent we’ve become on technology and how little we’re prepared to live without them.
Any particular reason why the film and project are based around Preston? Has the support you’ve received so far exceeded your expectation?
The film itself is located around Preston because this is where most of the crew live and where most of our resources are. We set out to show that this kind of film doesn’t need to be all ‘government conspiracy and military intervention’ – if The Blackout happened in real life, people in smaller areas will simply have to get on with it alone. And that’s where we think the more interesting stories lie. We’ve had an overwhelming response from our community towards this project. We’ve had offers of help from junior football teams, scout troops, dancers, catering companies… the list goes on… and it’s really humbling to hear so many people excited to get involved. We’ve had tremendous support from local bloggers, ‘Blog Preston’, coverage in the Lancashire Evening Post and radio coverage from BBC Radio Lancashire and Preston FM. It’s an amazing project to be involved in and I’m so pleased I got involved at the beginning!
When do you hope the film will be finished & released?
We’re shooting the film in sections over June and July, then the post-production editing will happen over the summer. We’ll then be holding a red-carpet preview screening in November in Preston before the film heads over to the film festival circuit.
Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?
Hmm, outfits and shoes… I’d love to throw some designer names around, but I’m a jeans and Uggs/Converse girl really. I do like Radley bags though and I once bought a pair of Kurt Geiger boots that I love but have never worn!
When you get a chance, what genre of films do you like to watch? Any favourites?
I don’t think I have a specific genre of film that I enjoy. As a writer I’m all about the story, but I’m learning to appreciate film from an aesthetic point of view now too. I don’t honestly think I could choose a favourite but we recently watched ‘Birdman’ – at our first fundraising evening – it’s fabulously bonkers, I love the dialogue and it’s beautiful to look at, so that’s probably one I’d recommend.
Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?
Despite living in Preston we regularly go shopping in Newcastle and my favourite department store up there is Fenwicks. They have an outstanding selection of everything, from shoes to food! It’s shopping heaven! I also like Hollister, even though it’s too dark to see anything, but it smells great!
What’s next on your clothes/shoes/bag wishlist?
I’m after a pair of white Converse for the summer and I’m expanding my skirts wardrobe – I really like that maxi length skirts are back in. I also need another cross-body bag from Radley – anything in blue – hint, hint!
Boots Or Shoes?
Boots September – April, shoes/bare feet May-August. Why? ‘Cos I always have done?!
For further information:
Thanks so much Su for taking time out to talk to us and I look forward to seeing the film once it’s released. It’s quite exciting watching a film being made – the BBC filmed the opening scenes of their TV film Great Expectations around my village and surrounding marshes. It was great fun sitting on the sea wall watching the film being acted then watching it evolve months later as a finished film on TV. Have any readers got any film stories they’d like to share? Do tell!
All photos have been published with kind permission from Su Moffat and The Blackout Project.