An inspiring evening with Ilene Steele, jewellery designer

Last week, I was privileged to be invited to a “Meet the Maker” evening with the jewellery designer, Ilene Steele, organised by the fab people at Thinkers PR. The evening was an intimate gathering of bloggers and writers, offering a unique opportunity to introduce the fabulous new collection and to meet the lady herself in her studios and workshop in London’s jewellery capital of Hatton Garden. I was excited to attend, having seen pictures of some stunning jewellery and some really different designs on Ilene’s website, so was thrilled to travel across London with my fellow blogger friend to see where it all happens, to meet Ilene and her delightful daughter, the Thinkers team and a group of lovely like-minded bloggers.

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IMG_2150On muggy, sunny, evening, it was a little too hot to sit down and chat over a cup of tea (or coffee, being Ilene’s hot drink of choice!) but I did get the chance to try on and view Ilene’s beautiful latest jewellery collections and to natter with her and other guests over an ice-cold drink and some amazing home-made Guacamole (made by the designer herself, naturally)!

Originally hailing from New York, (one of my favourite cities – more on that later!) Ilene lives in East London and loves the creative, vibrant atmosphere of Dalston and the surrounding areas, which remind her of parts of the Big Apple! Ilene told us that the hustle and bustle of city life is one of the key inspirations for Ilene’s work, reflecting the ‘sea of life’ that is experienced in a busy metropolis, “I draw inspiration from the urban environment: the architecture, the swarms of people, the pace of life…” I can completely identify with that as a source of energy and inspiration, particularly the buzz that you get from New York, and I’m not even a native New Yorker (though often wish I was)! I am also always inspired by water and the sea in particular, so this collection certainly struck a chord with me.

My favourite piece from Ilene’s Wave Collection is this blue ring, in 18-Carat White Gold with an emerald-cut stone and strikingly different band. The ‘wave’ effect is created using a cuttlefish, bringing togetheIMG_2155r inspiration from the sea and modern life in one stunning piece of jewellery. It reminds me of waves on the sand, and Ilene mentioned that it is one of her favourite pieces, too!

Ilene’s work is genuinely different in that the sparkling precious stones in the jewellery actually face the wearer – implying special meaning or significance for the wearer themselves. It’s also a cheering sight to see a little bit of sparkle on a gloomy day! This makes it so much more appealing than mass-produced items, and means you can have a piece of jewellery that is really unique to you, and you alone. This also particularly appealed to me, as each and every piece of jewellery I own or have owned has always held special meaning for me in some way, and reminds me of specific life events, people, or thoughts.

IMG_2163Bringing together all this creativity into such high-quality pieces of jewellery is clearly no mean feat – it’s very hard to believe that Ilene has only been designing jewellery for four years! “I’ve never thought of myself as a particularly practical or creative person,” laughed Ilene, “I come from a very academic background. But I find designing and shaping the pieces therapeutic – always learning as I go, and in turn learning from each mistake! I discover new techniques, styles and inspiration along the way.”

IMG_2165I found it a truly inspiring evening, and was delighted to meet Ilene and find out more about her work and what makes her tick in an informal and intimate setting.

Ilene will feature again in my New York/London piece soon, but in the meantime, I am jotting down a few of her styles on my wish list! There’s still my wedding anniversary and Christmas left for not-so-subtle hints this year, so who knows?! 😉

Keep sparkling! X

Bloggers Love – Bloggers Fashion Week

Bloggers Fashion Week

Photo credit: Yi Ling Huang

Last week, I was lucky enough to attend the Bloggers Love Bloggers Fashion Week with my  fellow blogger at the Penthouse in London’s Leicester Square.  A packed room with a live DJ greeted us – a wonderland of fashion finds and shiny, sparkly goodies!

My friend and I started the evening with a Bloggers Love inspired cocktail each, a Bloggertini!  The fetching shade of bright pink matched rather well with my pink-tinged outfit, all in keeping with the “Summer Garden Party Chic” theme.

Bloggertinis

Photo credit: Yi Ling Huang

Jara Wine halterneck dress

Photo credit: Yi Ling Huang

My eye was first drawn to some beautiful silky dresses in pastel-hued patterns.  The lovely Jara Wine uses top-quality French fabric to create her light, floaty, and incredibly feminine dresses and tops.  Each stunning pattern lends itself to two distinct designs of dress, one halter neck and one with a round neck and short sleeves.  I have my eye on the lovely peachy-pink French bicycle-patterned dress, but can’t decide between the two styles.  Could I justify both, I wonder?!Jara Wine short sleeve bicycle print dress

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cako Cocktail T-shirt

Photo credit: Yi Ling Huang

Next we spotted some suitably summery T-shirts and vest tops, but with a difference!  Cako’s ingenious designs appear black and white at first glance, but when exposed to UV Light, come alive with colour!  We couldn’t see the magic happen at night, but were amazed to see the transformation demonstrated on their website.  And if you don’t fancy rainbow brights, a luxe monochrome look can be achieved with their equally striking sparkly designs in both black and white cotton.  My personal favourite is the Audrey Hepburn design – a true fashion icon and my favourite actress of all time.  Unsurprisingly, this popular design had sold out on the night!  I’m putting my order in online, in time for my girly holiday to Paris in a few weeks!

Tutti Rouge brasMore pretty pink glistened at me from the corner of my eye – this time in the guise of a stunning silky bra from Tutti Rouge.  I’m an absolute sucker for beautiful lingerie, and was delighted that this range comes in an enormous range of sizes.  Being fairly amply-busted, I will definitely be making the most of their special offer so I can stock up on delicate matching sets for Spring and Summer – and something sultry for my upcoming special anniversary! 😉

Thinking about packing beautiful things to wear for my forthcoming trips, I stumbled across eskay W – named after the fabulous Mr S K Wong and his extraordinary reversible outfits!  I’ve never been one to pack light, but think I could be converted by these impressive little numbers.  It was a pleasure to meet a designer with such a passion for his art – he really exudes joy when talking about his collections, of which he should rightfully be proud!  And thinking forward to Autumn/Winter, eskay W were proudly launching their suitably-titled Darker Hues collection.Eskay W

While chatting to the delightful Mr Wong, more shiny loveliness glinted at me from the corner – shimmering silk scarves from Guirado Design, hanging from a beautiful antique screen.  Here was another explosion of colour and artistic expression, like paint splashed with abandon across a canvas.  The reason for this is all this is a wonderful story about how this fashion business came into being.  Dani Choyen of Thinkers HQ explained to us that the scarves were designed to bring to life the inspirational artwork of the artist Juan Antonio Guirado, who began his career as a mural painter in Madrid and sadly died in 2010.  After her father passed away, his daughter, Catalina Guirado, inherited Juan Antonio’s artwork and embarked on a journey to discover more about her father’s life and body of work, and to share his collections with art critics and a global audience.  In support of his work, Catalina founded Guirado Design in 2013, a unique collection of luxury silk scarves featuring a select number of her father’s paintings, chosen for their distinct embodiment of Guirado’s signature style, from the years shortly before his death.

Guirado Design scarvesSilk is the ideal medium to display Guirado’s art, and the Autumn/Winter collections are also available in luxurious and toasty-warm cashmere.  Photographs don’t really do justice to the intricate designs on these scarves, but the kaleidoscope colours are here for all to see!

Still not having bought anything, I spotted some more beauties at the lovely blogger-turned-boutique-owner Melanie Grunshaw’s pop-up boutique for I Want Your Clothes – and this time, I just had to buy, there and then!  I have been following Melanie’s blog for some time, so was both surprised and delighted to learn that she has set up her own clothing business.

Tour EiffelI bought two springlike pieces, both perfect for my visit to Paris after Easter!  The first was a silky, fine knit with a delicate rose print.  I love blouse/jumper combinations like this, and it matches most of my existing wardrobe!  Yet more sparkle caught my eye here, with a cute Eiffel Tower sweatshirt, made out of really unusual textured fabric.  I will wear this with pride on the Eurostar!

IWYC rose sweaterNext, I made a beeline for Nadia Minkoff – what an honour for her to be here, meeting bloggers and talking about her collections!  She very generously gave me some dainty, sparkly earrings when I instantly fell for – yes, you’ve guessed it – a gold handbag!  The subtle gold envelope clutch is just the right size, in butter-soft leather (oh, the smell!) and will be perfect for when I attend the prestigious UKFT Awards next month, paired with my gladiator-style Jimmy Choo heels.  Planning my outfit already…

Nadia Minkoff bags

Photo credit: Yi Ling Huang

Nadia Minkoff bag and jewellery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was even more excited (think whoops of joy!) when I opened my parcel to find a little envelope with a tea-time design in pink(!) nestled inside – and found the most perfect “Tea with Rachael” necklace, complete with a tiny blue teapot and cute little cupcake!  I put it on straightaway for my afternoon tea and visit to Kew Gardens with family!

Rachel Black hats and fascinators

Photo credit: Yi Ling Huang

I also treated myself to more sparkle in the form of some dainty hair decorations from a fellow Rachel and fantastic milliner, Rachel Black – perfect for the upcoming Twenties-themed Secret Tea Society Annual Tea at Byfleet Manor (the Dowager Countess’s House from Downton, don’t you know?!)

Phew!  My inner magpie has officially taken flight and soared off to feather my nest with all these beautiful things!  Must be time for a cup of tea – and a lovely pink cupcake!

think pink

Have a sparkling evening!

Rachael X

Library corner – Curl up with a great book and a cup of tea

I have a lovely big stack of books just waiting for me to dive into! I love to curl up with a good book and a nice cup of tea, come rain or come shine, and think the two go together hand in hand!  In the good weather, there’s nothing better than enjoying a great book in the sunshine and fresh air.  When it’s cold, there’s such comfort to be found in retreating to a cosy corner with a steaming cup of hot tea and a book, whether new or re-discovered.

books tea time

I have been working my way through the pile of fab books I got as Christmas gifts, and have also been bought some more beauties for my birthday.  Add to that the fact that I can never go shopping without buying at least one book, and the pile is ever-growing!

Over Christmas, I channeled a vintage vibe by reading Nancy Mitford’s “Christmas Pudding” – a fun, festive, vintage read!  And I particularly like the cover, featuring some fabulous vintage clothes and cloche hats!

One of my very good friends, of course, knowing my love of books, bought me “Ex Libris” for Christmas, a book for true book lovers!  It was just the right book for curling up with in the cold and reading all in one go!

I absolutely love Mr Selfridge and am delighted that it’s part of my Sunday evening routine once more!  While I was eagerly awaiting the launch of the second series, I got in the mood by reading the book that inspired the TV series, “Seduction, Shopping and Mr. Selfridge”!  I love the historical context, the pioneering nature of Selfridge’s store – like them being the first British store to have cosmetics at the very front counter for all to see and try – and the historical and vintage references, from the costumes, to the replica advertising, to the Guerlain perfume and Yardley face cream!  I have to say, it has replaced Downton in my affections these days…

Another fashion and shopping-themed book, about a topic close to my heart, is “Green is the new black”. I have always felt passionate about recycling clothes, whether re-using and up-cycling your own wardrobe, or buying quality vintage and charity shop finds. I have always mixed in my wardrobe a combination of high street and charity shop bargains, good quality vintage and favourite designer classics. I think they all complement one another and I like to dress to feel good about myself. This book covers so many elements of this, from…

With this in mind, I picked up the beautifully-bound “How to tie a scarf: 33 styles”, which looks like its cover has been bound with a luxury silk scarf. I have just had a complete sort-out of my wardrobe, including accessories, and found I have so many lovely scarves in all the colours of the rainbow and an array of fabrics.  I really must find new ways to style and wear these scarves, so this book should come in very handy!

On the subject of style and fashion, I received the gorgeous “Parisian Chic” by Ines de la Fressange as part of my birthday goody bag from one of my best friends.  This is just the kind of book I like to curl up with and dip in and out of while taking a tea break at home! Fashion, style and shopping tips always inspire me, and I like books that you can always refer back to.  The same friend and I are also planning a girly trip to Paris soon, so it’s both a practical and pretty book in planning for our trip!

Novel-wise, I’m also savouring every word of Joanne Harris’ “Peaches for Monsieur Le Curé”, the next sequel to “Chocolat” after “The Lollipop Shoes”.  I loved both “Chocolat” and its first sequel – the colourful, cleverly-drawn characters and the strong sense of sight and smell that Harris conjures up in her books really transport you into the world that she’s writing about, and I always find myself glued to her novels from start to finish!  Knowing I will soon finish this fabulous book, I also recently bought her collection of short stories, “A Cat, a Hat, and a Piece of String”.  It was when buying this book in Bath when I visited a few weeks ago that I discovered I’d just missed the author popping into the local Waterstones, by a day!  Such a shame!  I will have to keep my eyes peeled for her next book tour…

Also on the reading list is Philippa Gregory’s “The White Princess”.  I loved the whole Wars of the Roses trilogy: “The Red Queen”, “The White Queen” and “The Kingmaker’s Daughter”, and also really enjoyed the BBC TV series inspired by these books, so I am looking forward to delving back into that turbulent period of history and the magical, yet realistic world that Gregory creates in her books.

Tree decorations

Speaking of history, I really enjoyed Susanna Lipscombe’s Channel 5 series on Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn.  I have always been fascinated and inspired by Anne Boleyn and the Tudor period in general. I am planning a trip to Hever Castle, Anne’s family home, at Easter, and can’t wait!  I also really want to stay at the stunning Thornbury Castle in Gloucestershire, where Henry and Anne stayed in happier times and which features on the programme.  Understandably, this stunning hotel books up pretty quickly, so I will have to plan that well in advance for another special occasion!

Right, I’m off to have a pot of tea and settle down with another good book…

Personal Shopper – add a rainbow to your wardrobe

The sun was shining today – hooray!  

Despite a big thunderstorm this afternoon, I really enjoyed having some time off in the (intermittent) sunshine and made the most of a full day of shopping!

Bringing another little ray of sunshine to your life at the moment, there are plenty of lovely, colourful clothes in the shops.  Here’s my edit of what I think are the nicest splashes of colour on the high street, ready to update your wardrobe for Spring/Summer 2012:

Yellow – conjuring up thoughts of sunshine, sunflowers, lemons, the Mediterranean…

There are lovely bags, both large and small to be found in LK Bennett (in shades of green and other bright colours as well as yellow), H&M, Boden, to name but just a few…  

The picture below is of a lovely big tote in the LK Bennett window in Kingston, Surrey:

(Note the cute LK Bennett pastel slingback shoes in the window too – pastels are of course another big trend, to be explored in another post!)

They also have some shiny patent belts in yellow (and the red version is in the sale!)  

Boden has a lovely sunflower-yellow bag and a “must-have bag” in a range of colours, including tomato red (which we’ll come on to later…)

H&M currently has some nice satchel-style bags – I saw a bag in a lovely lemony shade of yellow today for £24.99 and there’s a zingy orange messenger bag available online – a vibrant, citrus-like shade.

Which brings me on to the next sunny colour – orange…

There are lots of bright orange clothes and accessories about too – I particularly like the Next orange cotton jacket, which is also available in Petite sizes for petite people like me!   Would look great with black trousers or skirt, or jeans.

And the tuxedo-style jacket in Miss Selfridge is fun and affordable – would look great with some slim black trousers and a black vest top.

And for a special occasion (perfect for weddings, Christenings and other summery events), I am completely in love with this beautiful orange lace pleated dress (called “Butterfly” – how appropriate!) from Reiss.   

Red – traditionally the colour of power, confidence, and my favourite food – tomatoes!

Boden has some great choices in red too, depending on your chosen shade and size of bag – there are more traditional satchel styles and I also really like the Classic Colourful Tote.

Vivienne Westwood, as always, has some fantastic red bags like this beauty I was eyeing up today, and I fell head over heels (pun intended!) in love with a far less practical but oh-so fabulous pair of shoes today – Melissa for Vivienne Westwood Anglomania Skyscraper – 5-inch round-toed heels in beautiful, bright red!  Ah, trying not to drool into my tea…!

For high street bargains, head to New Look – they have a lovely 20s-inspired clutch (ticking the boxes for yet another trend…) for only £6.99 (yes, you did read that correctly!), and even that all-important iPad case by Fiorelli (available online). 

Please don’t step on my blue suede shoes…

Electric blue and turquoise are my favourite colours – have been ever since my teens – and I already have a lot of clothes and accessories in varying shades.  

There are lots of electric blue jeans, blouses etc on the high street, so you’re really spoiled for choice is this is your chosen colour.  Gap, TopShop and Warehouse all have good ranges and there’s something to suit all styles, shapes and sizes.  It’s a colour that pretty much suits everyone, too.

I used to love my electric blue patent leather Kurt Geiger court shoes that lasted for many years, and haven’t yet found a pair I like as much to buy as a replacement.  At long last, I spotted these blue suede shoes on ASOS that may well fit the bill…

Happy shopping everyone! 

Rachael XX