Stitched up for an Embroidery Class

When it comes to crafts, I am bad. I may want to be amazing, a master of creativity and manual abilities, but it would appear that will power is not everything.

Little treasures I found in Laura Lees' studio.

Little treasures I found in Laura Lees’ studio.

I was ecstatic when I received a sewing machine for my birthday last year. I put my friend Carina through guiding me while I was making my first top from a pattern – she had to finish the sleeves and put the zip in. I decided to shorten my faux-leather trousers – my boyfriend’s mum eventually had to sew them after I “tacked” them (a sewing attempt gone very wrong). She’s so nice; she said it wasn’t my fault: I “just didn’t have the right foot”. I believed her. Hence, you can imagine my surprise/happiness/panic/fear to fail when she gave me a voucher for an embroidery class. It was just my cup of tea… in my ideal world.

Threads.

Threads.

Off I went, one a very chilly, dark evening, to meet Laura Lees at her studio The Mighty Stitch in Kentish Town, completely unaware of what was expecting me. Needless to say, Ms Lees is a very, very talented lady. As I stepped into the large, cold room with huge factory windows, a great pile of fabric scraps greeted me. Behind it, Laura was in a cheery mood, walking around and swearing like a sailor having a good time. My fellow attendees were only two to begin with, but trickled in and it the end there were five of us.

A pair of denim shorts embroidered by me... ehm! I mean: Laura.

A pair of denim shorts embroidered by me… ehm! I mean: Laura.

The studio was an exciting melting pot of half-finished jobs, threads and embroidered designs hanging off the walls everywhere. We started by choosing some paper patterns to cut our fabrics on – skulls, stars or butterflies. Then we decided what we wanted to work on. Some of us created a brooch, some others an Oyster card holder, others reinvented a scarf. Laura showed us briefly how to use the embroidery machine and that was it – we were on our own, thrown into the deep end. Those are scary, sturdy, mean machines! They can sew through seemingly everything.

The inspiration wall.

The inspiration wall.

Laura was always present, helping with technical hiccups, giving advice when asked, but generally, the future of our creations was in our hands. Which is probably where my problem lied.

Laying out our work at the beginning.

Laying out our work at the beginning.

By the end of it I felt: happy I didn’t have to do this again; sad I wasn’t pleased with my creation; fascinated to find out how these gorgeous pieces of embroidery (Laura’s) are created and a little jealous that I just wasn’t able to make something as amazing. But am I glad I went? Definitely. It was great fun to make such a mess, I felt like a child baking their first cake with mum.

The final results of our hard work.

The final results of our hard work.

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J.Crew Previews New Collection ahead of its Upcoming UK Opening

I am a great fan of J.Crew, so as soon as I heard that they were having a flash pop-up store event in London on the 24 and 25 May, I immediately put it in my diary. J.Crew’s highly anticipated opening in the UK in autumn 2013 was made even more exciting by the subtle but nonetheless definite hype of this event, which took place at the Western Transit Shed, an eclectically dressed urban warehouse conversion just a stone’s throw from King’s Cross Station,  to sample J.Crew’s new range, take a few snaps and generally be a bit nosey.JCrew 003JCrew 006JCrew 012JCrew 011

On display were a dozen or so key looks from the upcoming Fall/Winter collection. The most prominent new trends were woolly print-on-prints, beautifully intricate gem-filled jewellery, Aztec prints, embroidery on clean-cut heavy-weight blazers, and brocade and geometric patterns. The exquisite wool and cashmere pieces modelled clean and simple lines, and were well complemented by the busy Central American prints. For men, there were work boots, puff coats and furry hoodies.JCrew 010JCrew 001JCrew 002JCrew 009

The only pieces actually available for sale were their classic cashmeres – in a small selection of colours.  They also provided personalised monogramming, which won’t be available on the UK website, and customised, handmade collars to be worn on t-shirts. Sadly, they had run out of my size in the navy cashmere, but I’ll make sure to buy it online and perhaps try my luck and have it monogrammed at the Regent Street shop once it opens in the autumn.JCrew 007JCrew 004JCrew 005JCrew 008

My Trip to New York 2

Part 2 – The Fashion

In New York I had a great time finding shops I had previously heard about as well as stumbling into new places and walking in just to take a look and find unique pieces. Of course, I visited a huge amount of shops, but for the purposes of this blog I’ll try and keep my count down to the best four.

Catbird

This is a lovely, dinky, homely jewellery shop in Williamsburg. Here I finally found a pinky ring that wouldn’t make me look like Del Boy from Only Fools and Horses. They have an incredible selection of once-in-a-lifetime pieces that will leave you marvelling at their cases and windows. With designers and brands such as Jacquie Aiche, Dream Collective and Marian Maurer, they sell an array of delicate objects, ranging from jewellery to beauty products, home ornaments, cards and cosmetics. Here’s what I bought:

My pinky ring.

Catbird.

Jewellery display.

Flying A

This SoHo store is the epitome of cool and Michael there was very kind, helpful and warm. What more could you want? Along with their own brand, they retail plenty of vintage piece and brands like American Vintage, Hope, Marimekko and Fjallraven, the result is an indie look with European names. Here I bought an amazing red vintage dress with a geometric little pattern that looks like polka dots from a distance. My dress was placed in a clever, red zip bag which I now use every single day to carry my packed lunch to the office.

Flying A.

A wonderful vintage dress with a floral upper half.

Assorted bracelets.

My dress.

The dress collar.

A gorgeous embroidered purse.

Scarves.

A big selection of men’s shirts.

Stella Dallas

Easily the best vintage shop I’ve ever visited. It is based on the edges of Greenwich Village retail ‘40s–‘60s clothing and, despite it being quite small, and with a dated décor of yellow walls and tatty shelves, I found four – 4! Different pieces here: a warm Norwegian jumper which I’ll have to defend against my boyfriend’s grubby mitts, a flattering dress, a beautiful burgundy beaded silk top and an amazing, gorgeous floor-length, ivory rayon bed dress that is bound to make history. It features rather wide, lacy shoulder straps which continue as a pattern in different inserts on the chest. Never seen such a charming, timeless piece of underwear like it, vintage or not. I had to have it!

Stella Dallas is a bit tucked away.

A delicate, beaded evening jacket.

A huge collection of fur coats.

Tokyo 7

I believe this is somewhat of an institution in the East Village. Tokyo 7 is a huge consignment store that sells all sorts of high-end designer names such as Emporio Armani, Prada and Marni, all at very sensible prices. I bought a near-to-new pair of black Vivienne Westwood ankle wellies, which I’ve already used three times since – I do live in London after all.

Two Manuelas Are Better than One

I recently discovered the designer Manuela Dack. I thought “with such a name, she can only be a winner”. Well, I was right (I don’t know if it’s down to the name, though).

Manuela Dack S/S '12

Manuela graduated from Middlesex University in 2010 and since then she has been a very prolific designer. Her first collection, Autumn/Winter ’11, was discovered at the London Concept store Machine-A and stocked at The Shop at Bluebird on King’s Road. Since then, Manuela received plenty of attention from the press and media, including Elle Japan, Grazia Magazine, Style.it, SHOWStudio, Vogue Italia, Style Bubble, W Magazine and recently The Independent and Fashion Editor at Large (Grazia’s fashion editor Melanie Rickey’s blog). And it’s easy to see why. This hot new talent’s signature elements are silk and leather layering, embellishment and texture. Her elegant style is clean despite including several intricate craft detailing, such as dreamlike hand-dyeing, embroidery and beaded fringing.

Manuela Dack S/S '12

Her Spring/Summer ’12 collection is astounding: cascading silk layers ripple ethereally like in her second film collaboration, a short video which was directed by artist Max Langlands and that focuses on the sculptural and shape aspects of clothing. British-made, delicate lace and digitally printed leather (cowhide is printed to look like stingray to keep things ethical) are juxtaposed in a natural and breezy colour palette to create a minimalistic and sophisticated collection.

The inspiration for this collection came from the designer’s childhood on the Caribbean Island of Grand Cayman. The sea, colours and textures of the Caribbean, along with the island’s traditional craft techniques, play a very strong role in influencing this collection. And the perfectionist obsession of the attention to detail, which sees beading and hand-dyeing all done in-house, the label’s production kept within the UK and the inclusion of British craft work, can only guarantee wonderfully high-quality product standards, which puts this young newcomer to the same level of high-end designers.

Manuela Dack S/S '12

Her Autumn/Winter ’12 sees the return of her inspiring outerwear, which features a powerful feminine silhouette with a focus on detail. This latest collection was inspired by a collection of carved and inlaid wooden boxes owned by the designer, which transpired in the design through cut-away leather and with an angular uniform silhouette in contrast to spring/summer’s relaxed vibe.

Manuela Dack A/W '12

Manuela won London and Paris Fashion Week Sponsorship for Autumn/ Winter 2012 from Vauxhall Fashion Scout and the Center of Fashion Enterprise and her new pieces from the S/S ’12 collection are being stocked by The Shop at Bluebird, where they seemed only too happy to take her design on board for a second time.

Manuela Dack A/W '12

Manuela Dack A/W '12