Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Exploring Wales, Cardiff and the Valleys!

It is a little known secret that whilst I am a self proclaimed city girl through and through, I actually do love a good dose of the old country air from time to time. I also love the Welsh accent, though until now, I'd never been there. That's why when my good friend Andy said he was heading to Wales for a few days, I gratefully accepted the invitation to run around some castles, breathe in the valley air and check out the famous capital city and what it all had to offer.


Apparently, Cardiff was voted by Europeans last year as the best city to live in, and after spending just three days there, I can see why. Cardiff reminds me of a mixture of some of my favourite cities in the world. For me, a great capital city is not necessarily the biggest or most cosmopolitan, like London, Paris or New York. I'm comfortable being just a tourist in those places. I get the buzz out of being in a fast paced space and then at the end of it, retiring in a smaller pond, comfortable that I can walk outside and see people that I know. I'm happy in the medium of having the amenities of a city, yet still have that sense of familiarity and community.

That's the main reason I liked Cardiff. It's not often that you find a capital city where you can walk from one end to the other in a few hours, yet find so much going on in between. Exploring the city kind of made me feel like I was being hugged by an old friend. The beautiful architecture is reminiscent to me of Prague or Cambridge and it's archaic buildings, mixed up alongside new and innovative spaces. You get a balance of green spaces and nature, so you can run away to the hills, or be an urbanite in the centre, whatever takes your fancy. It's also really cheap living for a capital city. The shopping there seemed on a par to any other large cities, and the bars and restaurants were frequent and plentiful. Basically, Cardiff seems to have struck a perfect balance.

You can also tell a lot about a city by it's people. The friendly and warming nature of the people I met there reminded me quite a lot of the warm welcome I received in Dublin, where people will open their doors to you, buy you a drink, and take a real interest in who you are.

Despite my comparisons, Cardiff doesn't appear to be emulating anyone else's game, or following the lead of other places in order to generate a tourist trade. She seems confident in herself, with plenty of secrets and hidden spaces, and lots of imaginative and unique elements in the city design and the way she interacts with her people. By far my favourite space was Cardiff Bay, which transported me into a peaceful mood, where I could quite easily imagine myself sitting and contemplating life for hours.

View at night time of Cardiff Bay, the home of Dr Who 
We visited Andy's favourite bar there, Porters, twice in three days and I could sense why it felt like home to him. We saw a jazz band, I met some great new people, and explored the city centre in the rain. Not that the weather mattered, I was enamoured enough that I wouldn't have traded it for a day in the sun in a heartbeat.

We left on a big match day where everyone had come out to celebrate Wales vs Ireland in the Rugby. Everyone was in such high spirits!

The Valleys & Caerphilly 

We explored a few different areas in the valleys, which I found fascinating. Each one was a different size, and had a different personality. The view was also breath taking. I loved the thatched roof pubs with roaring fireplaces, the small village shops with quirky names (we found one called 'the nicest shop in the world' - i'm not making that up). We also witnessed a Welsh pub brawl between a landlady and her cook!

Lots of the villages have an interesting historic background, if you dig deep enough. Llangynwyd is known for the legend of Anne Maddocks, a young maid who fell in love with a man called Will Hopkin, but was forced to marry someone else. Her true love was sent away, and she died pining for him. Legend has it she requested to see him on her death bed, and when he arrived she died promptly in his arms. She was buried here, so we went on an adventure looking for her.

Caerphilly was probably one of my favourite highlights. It's stunningly beautiful and the town itself is wrapped around it's historic castle, which sits proudly as a centrepiece. I'm quite outdoorsy at heart, I used to love climbing on rocks and running around outside as a little girl, so exploring the castle was great fun. We learnt a bit about the history - of which spans hundreds of years, and many occupants. I found a spot overlooking the lake and just breathed in the valley air. It was one of those moments where everything just felt serene and beautiful, and nothing else really mattered too much. Taking the time to stop sometimes is really the best thing you can do.

Overall, Wales completely won my heart!

Alice x

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Highlights from Cambridge Style Week 2015!

I was really pleased to be invited back again this year to DJ for Cambridge Style Week!

CSW really celebrates the quirkiness of Cambridge, and all its shapes and styles. They have been gradually perfecting the formula of mixing up catwalks from bigger brands in the city, alongside carefully chosen talented emerging designers. This has really enabled CSW to carve out a strong identity, which sets it apart from other fashion events in its own right. This year we were treated to even more acts and performers in between collections, that fit alongside the themes of each show. This really helped to round each event off perfectly for me.

The location this year was at the Quy Mill Hotel, which is situated just outside of Cambridge city centre. First impressions certainly make a difference, and the Quy Mill Hotel really rose to this challenge. Visitors were greeted with fire lanterns lighting up the red carpet, as well as a champagne reception whilst they browsed pieces from local designers before and after each show.

Obviously being in the DJ booth, I had a fantastic view of the catwalk, though for this post I've used photos from the paparazzi present (credited of course) who were situated in the perfect position at the front of the catwalk to capture all the action.

I DJed for two out of the four shows this year. Here were my own personal highlights!

Opening Show:

Jose Hendo: Fresh off the catwalk at LFW, Jose Hendo was certainly the perfect choice for the opening of the first show this year. Jose Hendo's motto is 'reduce, reuse, recycle' which she certainly does in imaginative ways. As a big fan of sustainable fashion,  I absolutely loved the way that Jose Hendo took to the stage and talked us through the background and context to her work, explaining her innovative use of bark cloth in her collection. Jose uses off cuts in new and exciting ways, and works with unusual materials to play with texture and pattern. I particularly loved the dress below, the arms of which opened out in a crotcheted, billowing fashion. Jose Hendo's work is clearly inspired by the wider world, and her experiences come across in a very distinct way.

Charles Davis Photography

The catwalk also featured collections from Dogfish and Cloudberry shoes, Boudoir Femme (a firm favourite local boutique which dazzles the catwalk year after year)  John Lewis, Cambridge Market Traders, Kairee, and Triumph, a lingerie brand which certainly got everyones attention to say the least!

Triumph Lingerie UK

The show was also supported by singer Kez Miles, who warmed the crowd up beautifully.

I chose a few songs that I thought would compliment the designs, including some house hits like Mat Joe, Betoko, Oliver Heldens and Natema to ensure a strong beat on the catwalk.

For the more vintage inspired brands, like Boudoir Femme, I opted for artists such as Tube and Berger and the Gotan Project which had a slower, sexy beat.

CSW Catwalk Show, with the Ottoman Empire

The second show was unlike any other I'd ever been to before, with special guests including the Turkish Royal Family themselves! 

For the first half of the show, I chose upbeat house and dance songs like Max Manie, Imany and a Philip George remix of 'Dancin'  to match the individual colourful, bright designs.

I-Unique: I loved the range of jackets on display from I-Unique, each one tailored differently to suit different sizes, all of which absolutely oozed individual style, through the use of various textures and patterns.

Image taken from CSW 

Leigh Rawlins: I loved seeing Leigh's work on the catwalk, not least of all because I realised I'd met her four years before, when I organised a fashion show at The Junction in Cambridge, and we featured her work as an Anglia Ruskin fashion student! She was always one to push the boundaries then, and it seems her designs are even more bold and interesting than ever before.

Image taken from CSW Twitter
Image taken from CSW Blog

There was also fab jewellery on the catwalk in the form of KFD Jewellery.

The second half of the show was absolutely fascinating to watch. It featured the Fashion School of Turkey which had some absolutely incredible, intricate designs, which really emanated the exotic vibrancy of Turkey and it's colourful and artistic culture. The show opened with a Turkish dancer, who whirled and glided around the stage to Mercan Dede, so much so that I couldn't take my eyes off him. I nearly missed my cue! It was also
 accompanied with entertainment from various classical musicians.

We chose Turkish music to accompany the second part of the show with a slower beat, matching the solemnity of the designs whilst still being powered by a powerful drum, resonating and highlighting the bold patterns.

Patrick Anderson

Images taken from CSW website
By far my favourite catwalk of the evening was Yasemin Biricik, who as well as stunning the crowd with her highly intricate pieces, ended the show with a head turning wedding gown, accompanied with models holding candles. You could just hear everyones breath being taken away as the show culminated in its final carousel walk.

In terms of the catwalks themselves, the models were just on point this year. The backstage manager, Kim Able, and the rest of her team did a fantastic job of making things appear seamless (despite how crazy things must have been!)

I had a great time this year and can't wait for CSW 2016. The Director, Nicky Shepard, is absolutely clearly so passionate about what she does, and this comes across in all the hard work and attention to detail that goes into every show. In fact, it's not often you come across such a dedicated team of people in general, and CSW just delivers on this every single year. If you didn't go this year, put it in your diaries for next March! You honestly won't regret it.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

5 things I'm loving this St Patricks Day

Certain things strike me as amusing about living in England. We don't really celebrate St George's day, the patron saint of this Country, but when St Patricks day rolls round, we're all up in O'Neills in our silly hats which you can only earn the right to wear by drinking far too many pints of guinness. I'm half Irish though, so if you catch me in the pub later, I claim genuine patriotism.

My celtic roots are probably responsible for my being a redhead. Green is probably by far my favourite colour to wear as a result of this (especially since I'm pale as a ghost, so dark colours wash me out). In the spirit of this, I've compiled a few of my favourite Irish inspired items, some that I own, some I want to own. Mostly the latter. So haul up a chair and bring your Magners over with you! Here's 5 things I'm digging this week in the spirit of good old St Pat...

1. Symbol of Lucky in Love Bracelet, Pandora, £45.00

I used to love my charm bracelet, and collecting charms. This cute little bracelet from Pandora comes with a selection of hearts in a lucky clover shape. You can buy a number of other little charms on the website.

2. Lucille Lindy Bop 1950's Vintage Inspired Dress £34.99

This 50's style dress is basically too adorable. I usually like my green dresses, and I'm really liking the retro at the moment. I've been eying up a few bits over at Lindybop for a while.

3. ASOS Circle Skirt in Red Print - £11.00 (favourite thrifty buy!)

Is tartan traditionally an Irish or purely Scottish tradition? No one can seem to agree. Who cares, this skirt is pretty cool.

4. Anything from Carousel, in Dublin, but particularly this Floral Shift Dress - 79 euros / £56

I went to Dublin for my birthday two years ago, and stumbled across this little shop, and fell in love. Lots of their pieces are great, and I found what is still my favourite green dress in there (though the cat decided to jump up in the wardrobe and rip it to shreds, but that's a different story. It's still hanging there out of love). If you can't afford to fly to Dublin right now, luckily they have an online shop here, too.

5. Cast a spell on me 18k Hawthorn Necklace in Gold - 139 euros

Chupi is an Irish jewellery designer who is inspired by nature through her creations. This 18k gold hawthorn leaf necklace is cast from a real leaf stolen from a Hawthorn tree - legend says you must never cut or harm a hawthorn tree as they are fairy trees, so hopefully she's not in too much trouble! The website says that 'Chupi borrowed a single leaf from a beautiful old tree overlooking the Royal Canal in Dublin, which is cast in substantial solid sterling silver and plated in a thick layer of 18k gold, creating an eternal piece of glittering beauty'. It is hallmarked in Dublin's beautiful castle.

I would love to read your thoughts on these! 

Have a merry St Patricks Day! x