A global field guide to shopping, style and hidden gems
est. 2007

Archive: Oct 2012

  1. Don’t miss: Maggie Alderson


    Australians all, let us rejoice, for the marvellous Maggie Alderson is in town. She’s here to launch her latest book, Everything Changes But You, which is her seventh novel to date.

    Like so many others, the ladies in my family are devoted Maggie fans, and I can recall many conversations over the past decade that have started with, ‘did you read Maggie Alderson on the weekend?’

    So what’s so good about Maggie? For starters, she’s an absolute authority on fashion and style, and Maggie brings a wealth of experience, maturity, education and – most importantly – good humour to the topic. This is no small achievement, given that so much of what appears in our fashion mags is either pithy, uninformed commentary that takes itself too seriously, or lacks any sense of expertise or knowledge of fashion history.

    Maggie also knows how to tell a good yarn, the kind of story that’s filled with familiar characters and local settings, such as the “high maintenance” women that populate Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs who “seemed to get their hair and nails done every day”, swim at Nielsen Park and live in “absolute waterfront” properties.

    I remember reading Pants on Fire, a story about an English magazine editor living in Sydney’s Elizabeth Bay and working at the major publishing house in town at the same time that I was also living in Elizabeth Bay and a magazine editor at a very similar-sounding major publishing house in town. Apart from snorting at the Sydney in-jokes, fashion references and descriptions of local haunts, it was a compelling love story and utterly hilarious.

    I also appreciate Maggie’s attention to detail, right down to her English decorator’s “droopy pastel-coloured Ghost skirts and cardigans” in Mad About the Boy (2002) which were “all spot-on in London” but seemed glaringly out of place in Sydney’s glitzy social circles. And I loved the sound of Antonia’s motley yellow jug collection, which she imagined “would make a wonderful group on a table, sitting on the old linen tablecloth, hand-embroidered with primroses, that I had found the day before in a charity shop in Bondi Junction.” Sounds pretty good to me.

    I haven’t read her latest novel but it sounds right up my alley. Read the press blurb and you’ll now exactly what I mean:

    Everything Changes But You tells the story of three women: Hannah, in her thirties, is happily married to Matt and living the cool life in London’s East End but struggling to reconcile motherhood and her glamorous job as a beauty editor. Her mother, Marguerite, patiently copes with an alcoholic, abusive husband and wonders if this is all her life has to offer. While Matt’s young cousin, Ali, is starting to feel lost looking for love in a strange city.

    Things start to unravel when Hannah becomes certain they’d be much better off down in the English countryside with her family – and Matt’s mum needs them with her, back in Sydney, 17,000km away. All of them have unsettling secrets and while some are better shared, others might be best left unspoken. The problem is knowing which are which.

    In this very modern story of three women’s search for a place to call home, Maggie Alderson, in her most sophisticated novel yet, crosses continents and generations to explore how we find happiness – and whether love can survive betrayal.

    Can’t wait to get my un-manicured hands on it! If you want to catch Maggie on her Australian book tour, you can find her on these following dates:

    Brisbane – Thursday 25 October, 6.15pm
    Mary Ryan, 40 Park Road, Milton
    Ticket $5, includes refreshments.
    To book, please call 07 3510 5000

    Melbourne – Tuesday 30 October, 7.00pm
    Matilda’s Books, 15 Hamilton Place, Mount Waverley
    Event is free, but bookings essential on 03 9888 1433

    Melbourne – Wednesday 31 October, 6.30pm
    Readings Hawthorn, 701 Glenferrie Rd, Hawthorn
    This event is free, but you must book on 03 9819 1917

    Canberra – Thursday 1 November, 6.00pm
    Paperchain, 34 Franklin Street, Manuka
    This is a free event, but please book on 02 6295 6723

    Bowral – Friday 2 November 10.30am
    Bookshop at Bowral, at The Gibraltar Hotel, Cnr Centennial Rd & Boronia St, Bowral
    $20 per person, includes morning tea. To book, call 02 4862 1634

    You can also follow Maggie on Twitter @MaggieA.

  2. Wee finds: the best tea sets for kids


    As you may already suspect, we rather like having tea parties at our place. Here’s Harry showing his teddy how it’s done. I loved playing with my tea set when I was little, so there was no way that Harry was going to miss out. I picked up this little wooden set from Aldi, and it came complete with miniature wooden tea bags, wooden donuts and sliceable wooden tea cake. Swish!

    I rounded up the top 12 tea sets for kids over on Kidspot. Here are some of my favourites:

    Clockwise from top: Children’s retro rose floral tea set, $41.91 from Not on the High Street; Schylling traditional tin tea set, $24.95 from Peanut Gallery; Bear tin tea set, $57 from Down That Little Lane; Belle & Boo Dollies tea set, $59.95 from Lark; and Nathalie Lete Vilac tea set US$50 from Opening Ceremony.

    Read the full round-up over on Kidspot here.

    * Thanks to Eeni Meeni Miini Moh for gifting Harry this very smart shirt and shorts, and to Scruffy Dog for gifting him these adorable red sandals. Loving these two Aussie fashion labels for kids.

  3. My Secret London with Dan Jones


    Freelance writer Dan Jones has lived in London for years – and he’s got around: Shoreditch, Herne Hill, Hackney, Victoria Park, Stoke Newington and now Clapton. He’s written for i-D Magazine as shopping editor, ASOS.com as senior men’s ed, is media consultant to fashion brand Antipodium, and was Time Out London’s Shopping & Style editor for four years (where he was also my mentor and boss), covering everything from LFW to funeral parlours – so he’s acquired a big list of London’s best/weirdest bits.

    You can follow Dan on his shiny new blog dedicated to London stores and style, JONESTOWN,  and on Twitter @jonessecret. In the meantime, here is Dan’s Secret London. Enjoy!

    Best shop in London for atmosphere?
    My mum is a bit of a witch. When I was a kid she’d take me to her favourite New Age shop, Mysteries, on our day trips into London. Being a young cynic, I’d roll my eyes at the dreamcatchers and chakra candles, but when I rediscovered the shop a few years ago, I finally saw how special it is – especially if you suspend all irony. Fancy an amethyst geode as big as your head? Done. Books on faeries and spells? Smudge sticks? Angel cards? Got it. In the market for a polished crystal that looks a bit like Gandalf’s dildo? You’ve come to the right place. Hidden at the back of the shop is a slightly slimy-looking grotto with a babbling water feature, encrusted with crystals and icons, and upstairs you can get your fortune told by Mysteries’ psychic staff and Tarot readers. Magic.

    Best in London for vintage?
    Princess May Car Boot Sale
    Just north of Dalston, opposite Beyond Retro’s huge Stoke Newington High Street store, is one of London’s best car boot sales. The mix of sellers is intriguing – from local trendies selling off their Topshop Unique cast-offs, to seasoned car booters (who tend to drive a hard bargain) selling knick knacks. It all makes for a great breadth of tat to pick through. On a hot summer’s weekend the sale is packed with browsers and sellers who cram themselves creatively into every corner of the grounds, selling from trestle tables and blankets.

    Scoring a great car boot bargain is one of my greatest turn ons and Princess May rarely disappoints. On my last visit I picked up a Death Row Records cap, a Florida Gators sweatshirt, an old leather Camel cigarettes wallet – and possibly my best ever car boot find – a large ceramic bust of Arnold Schwartzenegger as The Terminator for £8. I didn’t even haggle. As I walked away from the stall the seller said, in a creepy Austrian accent, “you’ll be back.” No shit.

    Best shop in London for gifts?
    Donlon Books
    Navigating Broadway Market on a Saturday is sometimes a bit overwhelming – you might not always be in the mood for the crowds and gluten-free cakes, squeezing through the shoppers and poseurs, squinting so your eye isn’t poked out by a chocolate eclair. Donlon Books makes it all worth it.

    At the north end of the market and usually manned by Conor Donlon, you can browse an excellent selection of art, fashion and culture books (new and old), and magazines, fanzines and cards. It’s great for gifts. I always find something that’s relevant to a friend’s dubious obsession, whether it’s a book on 1970s Australian drag artists or film ephemera from the collection of John Waters himself – Cry Baby tissues or a Serial Mom baseball cap.

    Best shop in London for food?
    Lina Stores
    It’s not much of a secret – Lina Stores has held its own in Soho’s red light district since the ‘30s – but the Italian deli just keeps getting better. The small shop had a bit of a makeover a couple of years back – and achieved the impossible: updating the place to feel thoroughly contemporary but preserving its traditional quirks.

    You can have a quick snack or a coffee at the standing tables or buy up big from the impressive stock at the fresh counter (cheeses, charcuterie, etc) or the shelves (biscotti, Venchi treats). The homemade bits are best: pumpkin and sage or veal tortellini, pesto. The fresh pork and fennel sausages usually make the shelves in the early afternoon (amazing rolled up into meatballs at home).

    Your number one London shopping secret?
    Casa Mexico
    I discovered Casa Mexico last year – although I’d walked past it lots of times on my way to the Antipodium studio in Bethnal Green. A few earthenware pots at the entrance had always made me think the place was a ceramic store, something to do with tiles or garden furniture – a bit boring. Still, I decided to try it out one day and it’s good I did.

    Inside it’s all Day of the Dead dolls, handwoven rugs, pinata and paper fiesta decorations, bottled sodas and beers, fresh tortilla – and those ceramic garden pots. The Casa team have opened a Mexican pastry counter next door that’ll be selling tacos come September. In the main store, check out the genuine Caballeros cowboy boots, shirts and hats and Lucha Libre wrestling masks, or pick up some religious candles (£4.50 for Jesus) and proper Mexican sweets. Steer clear of the hot salted tamarind candies though – the packaging’s great but they taste like death.

    The London trend you’re loving right now?
    The Grill
    Okay, it may not be the best news for the nervous eater, or those prone to bouts of heartburn or animal welfare, but this past summer in London was all about the grill. Dirty burgers, chunks of bone marrow, pulled pork, barbecued ribs… Alongside the stars of the BBQ scene – Meat Liquor, Meat Market and Pit Cue Co. – there are a few relative newcomers that are worth checking out: Burnt Enz at the Climpson Roastery (currently closed for winter) is less about classic BBQ sauces and more about using the grill to cook posh things like scallops, quail and more traditional stuff like lamb ribs with mint or beef brisket. Elliot’s Cafe at Borough Market collaborated with Raw – Borough’s wine fair – in the form of a pop-up burger stand selling aged beef patties with beer-braised onions, Comte and a brioche bun… it’s totally dirty – in a good way.

    Thanks Dan!

    Click here for a Wee Birdy map of Dan’s Secret London, complete with all the addresses and contact details.
    Click here for more Secret London posts

    Image sources: Mysteries; Donlon Books; Lina Stores; Lina Stores.

  4. Birdy pick of the month: SHAG

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    Californian artist SHAG (aka JoSH AGle) has always had a thing for beautiful birds – of the feathered variety, naturally – although come to think of it, there are very few of his works that haven’t portrayed some lovely lounging ladies of the bouffant hair and bikini variety, either. As a long-time fan of SHAG’s inimitable ’60s-style work (his glorious depiction of Sydney’s Rose Seidler House hangs above me as I type), I’m rather excited about his upcoming Australian exhibition and the book launch of Supersonic Swingers Revisited.

    ‘Original Owner’, SHAG.

    For those unfamiliar with SHAG’s work, imagine a darkly glamorous ’60s world inhabited by women in wiggle dresses, cocktails in hand, batting their lashes at the sharply-dressed men reclining on the lounge. Long before Mad Men brought us the likes of Joan, Don and Betty, SHAG was creating anonymous but no less complicated characters in his colour-saturated, detail-rich, mid-century landscapes, and he’s attracted a cult global following.

    ‘Kookaburra’s Roost’, SHAG.

    His upcoming Australian exhibition is hosted by the fabulous Outre Gallery in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth and his devoted fans will be thrilled to learn that there are loads of new works for sale. You can also meet the man himself at the Saturday book signings in each city. Naturally, I’m sold on his new combined print/sculpture work, appropriately titled ‘Pecking Order’ (see top), which is a very low edition of only 100 world-wide, and is approximately $1350 for the sculpture set and framed print. For more information, contact Outre Gallery.

    Don’t miss SHAG’S Australian exhibition, Outbound with the In-Crowd:

    Outre Gallery
    249 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne
    3-­16 November 2012
    Book Signing: Saturday 3 November from 12 noon (all welcome)

    Outre Gallery
    260 William Street, Northbridge
    10-­23 November 2012
    Book Signing: Saturday 10 November from 12 noon (all welcome)

    Outre Gallery
    Shop 7, 285a Crown Street, Surry Hills

    17-­30 November 2012
    Book Signing: Saturday 17 Nov from 12 noon (all welcome)

  5. A week of tea: The top 20 tea pots


    Here’s something I’ve been working on for a little while: the Wee Birdy buyer’s guide to the 20 best tea pots. The value of a good tea pot should never be underrated, especially if they pack in as much charm and good looks as these little beauties. From chintzy rose buds and polka dots to a modern interpretation of the classic Willow pattern, these little pots do more than brew a good cuppa – they add a splash of personality, colour and good design to the diurnal grind. Essential qualities, really.

    1. Oranges and Lemons hand-painted tea pot, £75 from Tobyboo’s Etsy shop.
    2. Camellia tea pot, £35 from Pierrot et Coco.
    3. White lace hand-painted tea pot, US$58 from Clayful Impressions’ Etsy shop.
    4. Mr Jones tea pot by Polly George, AU$84 from Everything Begins.
    5. Lace tea pot by We Love Kaoru, AU$105 from Everything Begins.

    6. Vintage enamel mid-century tea pot, US$85 from Hindsvik’s Etsy shop.
    7. Salt and Pepper green tea pot with infuser by Salt and Pepper. Click here for your nearest stockist.
    8. My Teapot’ in yellow with an anthracite lid by Anouk Jansen, £45 from Howkapow.
    9. The New English x TNE Studios Benday cobalt tea pot, £122 from Culture Label.
    10. London Willow tea pot by We Love Kaoru (features Big Ben, London Eye and the BT Tower), AU$96 from Everything Begins and £60 from Culture Label.

    11. Gordon Ramsay Maze by Royal Doulton blue tea pot, AU$39.95 from Royal Doulton.
    12. Provence rose tea pot, £18 from Cath Kidston.
    13. Blossom tea pot by Swedish designer Camilla Engdahl, £30 from Howkapow.
    14. Cupcakes tea pot by Poppy Treffry, made from fine bone china in Stoke on Trent, £24 from The Green Apple.
    15. Blodwen white enamel Caernarfon tea pot, £35 from Liberty.

    16. Wedgwood Polka Dots teaware tea pot, AU$89.95 from Wedgwood.
    17. Royal Albert Polka Rose Vintage tea pot, AU$199 from Royal Albert.
    18. Miss Etoile Gold polka dot ceramic tea pot, US$63.04 from Oliver Bonas.
    19. Limogues pink tea pot, price on enquiry from The Bay Tree.
    20. Wedgwood Butterfly Bloom Teaware tea pot, AU$125 from Wedgwood.

    It’s A Week of Tea on Wee Birdy. WIN a stunning Twinings wooden tea chest packed with Twinings tea – click here to enter now!

    You might like to also read about:

    I’m curious. Which tea pot is your favourite? Tell me in the comments below.

  6. Frock on Friday: the perfect Tea Dress

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    How are you liking A Week of Tea so far? (I’ve got loads more tea finds to share with you, so it might end up being a slightly extended “week”.) I thought I’d round up the working week with a return to Frock on Friday, and my pick of the perfect tea dresses.

    Now, before the pedants leap on the “comments” button, I realise the dress above is not strictly a “tea dress”, which according to Emily Post in 1922,

    “is a hybrid between a wrapper and a ball dress. It has always a train and usually long flowing sleeves; is made of rather gorgeous materials and goes on easily, and its chief use is not for wear at the tea-table so much as for dinner alone with one’s family.”

    Right. So far, so confusing. Especially since designers and high-street brands have a tendency to slap any old floral-print frock that falls below the knee with the “tea dress” label. And “ditzy”. But I’ve always interpreted it as a frock that falls somewhere between the knee and lower-calf with 1940s-style shirting, sleeves and prints – and this super-lovely pink silk tea dress by Sessun, £195 from Liberty (above) pretty much fits the bill.

    Here are some of my other favourite tea dresses:

    1. NW3 Mr Duck Dress, £169 from Hobbs.
    2. Summer bloom tea dress, US$150 by Soho Mode on Etsy.
    3. NW3 Winter Leaves dress, £149 from Hobbs.
    4. Custom tea dress in yellow lila, US$184 from Soho Mode on Etsy.
    5. Tea Shoppe Dress, US$397.99 from ModCloth.
    6. Vintage landscape tea dress, US$150 by Soho Mode on Etsy.
    7. Cute as a Fox wool crepe tea dress, £345 from Orla Kiely.
    8. ASOS bird print 40s tea dress, reduced to AU$33.91, from ASOS.
    9. ASOS tea dress in floral print with twist front, AU$67.82 from ASOS.
    10. Bluebird midi dress, US$158 from Anthropologie.
    11. NW3 Dandelion Dress, £169 from Hobbs.

    And if you’re after some stellar advice on how to wear a tea dress minus the victory rolls and T-bar shoes (though I rather like them, too!), read this excellent piece by the Guardian‘s Jess Cartner-Morley.

    It’s A Week of Tea on Wee Birdy! You might like to also read about:

    Don’t forget to enter my competition to win a stunning wooden chest of Twinings Tea!