sneak preview: holly

Okay... just one. Backstage, at Holly Fulton. More to come.

trick or treat

Woke on this dark gloomy morning and had planned to post something bright and cheery - something with aqua in it, like either some of my shots from the David Koma show, or Holly Fulton - and then I remembered today is Halloween. So dug up this one from a few years back: a friend asked me to take her daughter trick or treating, while she worked. Her daughter had decided I should go as a black cat, and she did my make-up, and my hat.

It's kind of a weird holiday here in London: there is, or was, an enclave of 'Americans', as the locals called them. A few houses, in leafy Kensington, that were all done up for Halloween. All the yummy mummies in greater London would drive their kids over and wait while they hit up those houses for candy. In all the years we've lived here, our doorbell hasn't rung once. True story.

Musing, tho, on Halloween costumes past. For fashion bloggers, this is such a great concept: dressing up. I remember one year, my concept was 'JAP (Jewish American Princess) on holiday'. Because I'm a)from Long Island and b)Jewish on my mother's side - which makes me Jewish - I thought, well this is simply self depreciating humour. I wore a pair of ironic jeans, with high heels - a look I NEVER wore back then - and even took the time to wrap cardboard with tinfoil, for a three way suntan reflector. Carried a little camera.. at the party, once I'd put the sun reflector and the camera down, everyone was asking me why I didn't wear a costume.

Lesson learned: subtlety, and irony, have no place on Halloween. Go for the big getures.Hope you all have fun today, and get lots of candy.


sixties icon

Met Victoria, who was visiting from Edinburgh, near home around South Kensington. I love her colour sense - the textures, that flash of aqua on her nails. It's funny, with me - I don't wear red, but I love when people can use red with this kind of sophisticated.

Everything's vintage - all the Sixties. She loves the Sixties, and I can see why. I wonder if she lived in that period, in a past life.


aqua nueva: new wave

Some girls, when they are young, want to be ballerinas when they grow up (I was one of those girls). I also wanted to be Paul McCartney's girlfriend. That was a goal. We used to play 'Beatles' with our Barbie dolls, and I'd always go for Paul (my sister loved George).

The other thing I wanted to be when I grew up was a food critic.

So when I was offered to do a review of AQUA NUEVA's special Sunday brunch - having been to the sister restaurant, AQUA KYOTO, next door - I was excited beyond belief.

And then, just before the Sunday, I got struck down with that Bad Bug going round. So we had to reschedule, and it happened to fall on my husband's birthday.

And it was just beyond amazing. We took it really seriously - I took notes - and there were two wonderful musicians playing, very Woody Allenesque jazz tunes, and the food and atmosphere and service were just so excellent that at one point he said to me 'But you have to be a real critic. You have to be.. critical.'

So here goes: the octopus, shown on top, was perfectly executed. Simple, soft, pure protein. I felt like a fish, eating another fish, in the sea. Octopus can get tough very easily, but this felt silky, like eating sushi. If I have to be critical, I'll say that I wish it had been on an outdoor grill, to have that smokey, BBQ flavour, but we were not at a BBQ on the beach. Although, for a dark London day, this experience felt as sunshiney as if we were actually in Spain.

Part of that is because the chef, Alberto Hernandez, trained under Ferran Adria, creator/chef of El Bulli. The famous - infamous - three Michelin starred restaurant near Barcelona. Which is no more. And that was another of my life goals: to eat there. We had friends who booked it a year in advance, flew to Barcelona just for dinner. We can never do that. But we can go to Soho, and eat at Aqua Nueva, and that is as close to heaven, culinistically (that, I've discovered, is not a word) as we're bound to get.

So: the food. It was beautiful. Sculptural. You choose and serve yourself, like a buffet, and for the hot dishes, you select, and they put hot plates together for you. The prawn, shown here, with 'ali-oli', was just one sweet tiny morsel of seafood, poached so gently that it seemed still alive, just blissed out, in a little porcelain bathtub that when I asked the waitress what it was made of, she said 'oh, just pastry.' But perfectly crisp. The 'ali-oli' itself was light as air, and tasted of raw garlic essence. The combination of textures and flavours - sweet, garlic, salty, savoury - was just heaven.

But everything was like that. It was just sensation after sensation, with all the champagne, wine, drinks of any kind, that you could consume. I stuck to a non-alcoholic cocktail with a rose in it, which was delightfully girly. Not too sweet, but pretty and pink.

I've postponed this post for over two weeks because I want to truly do this wonderful place justice. And also, because of everything breaking in my life, falling apart, being put back together, seeing film star crushes, as recounted in my previous post, Gorgeous George. I don't know about you, but I'm one of those failed perfectionists. But I suppose that's what perfectionism is all about. I get my one opportunity to reach my goal, to be a bona fide food critic, and then I sit on it. And I can't fit all my photos and stories into one post, so I'll just have to do it in stages. Just like we did with eating the food. Baby steps: you eat some more. You wait. You get up, and try again.

Even something as simple as a 'classic tortilla' was just the most yummy thing I've ever eaten. You have never eaten a classic potato tortilla until you've tried this one: creamy, like a perfect Pommes Anna, light as a souffle. It has forever spoiled potato tortillas for me: nothing will ever live up to this.

Two sweet, stylish girls at a table near us, when the waiter came with more food, begged to him 'no more food!' We couldn't eat everything they had heated for us. We couldn't take it home. As the waitress said, 'let it go.' It wasn't easy. I didn't realise until later, I hadn't even tried the duck.

We went home in a kind of sensory overload stupor. My husband, having drank a glass or two each of excellent sherry, champagne, and red wine, fell into a deep sleep. I checked at one point to see if he was breathing. He was perhaps in a coma, and that's even with a double espresso at the end.

I haven't even shown you any of the meats, or told you about the desserts.. can I do another post please?

AQUA NUEVA is in the old Dickens and Jones building, on the top, and, weather permitting, dining is on the terrace outside. Sunday brunch includes wonderful live music. It is a special occasion kind of place. I saw two sisters with their mum, or gran, and a large table with gifts. It's a dress up kind of place. Be prepared, tho: you're not going to be able to move for a few days afterwards, but you'll be happy as a clam. Or Larry, whoever he is.

Thank you to the lovely people who arranged this, (you know who you are) and especially to Jess, for your infinite patience and general loveliness.


karolina on the koma katwalk

After the David Koma show - my last, and perhaps favourite, of all of this season's London Fashion Week, at the Topshop Waterloo Station venue - I had the privilege of going backstage, to interview David Koma, who was lovely.

That post - and posts - will have to wait. Because I've waited long enough to start posting some of the delightful models I met backstage. The first was Karolina: she emailed me right away, saying this:

Hello, Jill!
Im that active girl with to an e-mail from you, in David Koma show and really cant wait to see all the pictures!!! :}}

I asked her a few questions, and her reply was so delightfully effervescent - so like her nature - that I have to quote it for you, in its entirety. I did the same thing when I started this blog - a model named Frida Gustavsson ('form follows function') and I predict the same level of stardom for Karolina.

"Yes, Im back now to my high school in Lithuania.
Well, I like school, there heppends most funny things (haha)
I like languages. English, Russian and lithuanian too. Really like history and maths too. I dont know i kind of like all of the subjects, they all are interesting and new :))
Last year I finished music school. Im singing, dancing, playing with piano, doing music stuff with notes, if you now what I mean..
Now im still singing there and going to festivals, contests other events :) and now started playing with violin, so its kind of bussy ;D
I love reading especially classic books, now its Ana Karenina, amazing book!!! Ofcourse I loove travelling, speeking with peoples, meet to ones, beeing out in nature, going out with tents, doing few days festivals, waching movies, eating delicious cookies/chocolate and that kind nice food. I should say that I love that eating process, its feels so good, thats why im eating too much ;DD
Im with Supermodels in Lithuania. I dont know, I love doing shows, its so active and cool, I love it :)
That dress is from Mango, haha ;DD

I think thats it :))

Not quite: what I love about this 'active girl' was her generosity of spirit. In these shots, for example. What was going on was, she was hugging the stylist for the show, Kim Howells, who was too modest to want to be photographed. Karolina kept urging her on. It was so sweet. My grandmother - my mother's mother - was born in Lithuania, near where Karolina is going to school now - and my grandfather was born near Kiev, not far away. So I feel a special kinship with this Active Girl, and admire the way she has the same enthusiasm for her life as a schoolgirl, as doing the catwalks.

Okay, that's it - for now. But next time, I want to show you the other models, and talk about the show!


gorgeous george

Juxtaposition: George Clooney at the BFI premiere of The Ideas of March, Leicester Square, 7:38 p.m., 19 October, 2011, and Danny Boyle shooting Trance, On Location, near our home, SW7, 6:23, 19 October, 2011.

This has been a funny old week.

Not just for me: others have said the same. Everything has either broken, or gone kind of nuts. I even checked to see if Mercury was retrograde (it's not). But for us, this week we've been without, in no particular order: Internet. My laptop (no power). Running water.

Also, my favourite living British director, Danny Boyle, was shooting his latest film, Trance, on location on both sides of our home, and feeding the cast & crew in our garden square. As secretary for said square, there were arrangements to be made. There were cables, and electricity, and stuff, including fake smoke, or fog, and to this day we have no idea if this is connected to everything breaking.

Even so, I got to see two of my greatest grown girl crushes - James McAvoy, and Vincent Cassel - at work, being actors, shooting on the street where we live. And, in an added bit of surrealism, as I shot this On Location shot, I was running to the tube, to catch up with my good friend, a shoe designer who shall remain anonymous as she doesn't have a blog at the GORGEOUS newly re-opened Arts Club, on Dover Street, where she is a member.

We were meeting to go to see George Clooney at the premiere of his new film, The Ides of March. But to add to the Mercury/retrograde theme, said Anonymous Friend had flown to Bologna the previous night, for just one night, for a leather conference. She was at the airport in Italy, about to fly back to London, and was about to hit send, texting me to say 'meet me at the Arts Club at -' when her phone went dead. So she borrowed someone's phone, called her assistant in London - because she no longer had my contact details - and she was desperately trying to email me. But of course, with only a working phone, and no email sent to my phone (because I get too many, because of the blog, so I don't have it set up that way) - said assistant was unable to find me.

But - like in the movies - it all worked out just in the nick of time. We met, ran - literally ran - to Leicester Square, where - OF COURSE - there was construction in the middle of the square. Which meant we had to run - in heels - the long way. Which meant, in the ultimate act of surrealism, we ended up literally running, alone, just the two of us, down the red carpet, to get to the film in time.

Just as we were running, she said 'Isn't that George Clooney?'

Sure enough: he was the only one besides us on the red carpet. He was talking to fans, and - I swear, it's true, it's not a cliche - signing autographs. She ran to the loo, I ran to our seats - third row centre - and next thing I knew, there was George, being George. And introducing Beau Willimon, who wrote the play the film is based on (George also co-wrote the screenplay, along with Grant Heslov), and Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Evan Rachel Wood, both of whom, along with Paul Giamatti and Ryan Gosling, were absolutely BRILLIANT.

It is a stunning film.

Because I hate reading reviews before I see a film, I will not tell you anything that will spoil it for you, except go see it. Then, we'll talk.

The rest of our night was pure magic. Shared heavenly Thai dishes at the communal table at BUSABA on Wardour street, then walked through the streets of Soho, remarking on how much we love London, back to the Arts Club, which Gwyneth Paltrow, one of the members, has done up so beautifully (is this the most name dropping post or WHAT?) The club is so exclusive, and filled with such beautiful, stylish people that I wish I could have photographed it, but it's the kind of magical setting that you just sink into, like a warm scented bubble bath, and don't emerge from til it's way past your bedtime.

And while I'm still writing my novel, it was a nice break to not be able to do anything computerised for a while. Weirdly, all this started for me - my MacBook Pro power adapter cord going wonky - right after Steve Jobs died. Yes, all this hoo hah for a bit of wire. But God Bless the 'geniuses' (that's what they're called, I swear) at the Regent Street Apple Store, because they sorted me out. All this time, all the calls and visits and experts, and it took a lovely girl at Apple named Jo Anita to realise it was all because of the lack of a Surge Protector. Three trips to the Apple Store, second Netgear router, God knows how many calls to our IT guys in Devon, not to mention BT, THIRD Power Adaptor, and man oh man have I learned my lesson.

One last thing. The experience of seeing George Clooney in the flesh, I must say, was oddly ordinary. He is charming beyond words. He is everything you'd expect him to be from his films, and from ER. More so. But - maybe it's because he reminds me so much of my dad - or maybe it's because he's just so wonderful - but when you see him in person, it's like, no big deal. Or that's how it felt to me. He just seems like someone I've known all my life.

Which leads me to something I had heard once, a quote from Cary Grant:
"Everyone wants to be Cary Grant. Even I want to be Cary Grant."

I wonder if George feels the same way. And does that guy know how to wear a suit, or what.


romance was born

I met Anna Plunkett, the designer of the Australian brand Romance Was Born, with Luke Sales, who I believe is the business side (I wonder if that's his real name!), just as I was leaving Somerset House, on the Thames, at the end of Day Four.

Even the first line of the story on their website says it best: 'A love of kitsch Australiana, crafty construction and fine tailoring help Australia's sentimental favourites Romance Was Born to turn the dreaded cultural cringe on its head.'

I mean, what else can I add, really?

Not everything Anna is wearing is designed and made by her: the black dress over the white dress, I recognised from one of the first Mark Fast shows I saw, and the green bag is Chanel, but most of it is Anna's. When I saw how Sabine styled herself - with her own knitting and DIY - in her lovely post the other day ('cluck cluck'), it reminded me that I'd held out on this long enough. It's time to let you see this, Dear Reader. Romance Was Born.


after fast

So many photos I want to show you! So little time. Life goes by so fast, you know?

After Fast - the Mark Fast show - which I really want to show you photos of - it was wonderful. I saw a lovely post on my sweet, beautiful friend Ediot's blog, and realised she was shooting these girls while I was shooting them, so I want to get this one up. Fast. While cooking dinner. More to come.

Is it just me, or is life getting really interesting these days? How's your mood a the moment? Are you having one of those days where you feel that anything is possible? I hope so. Because, it is.

And if you're feeling blue, and need some perking up, turn up the volume, and sing this oldie but goodie out loud.


what happiness wore

Chimwemwe means Happiness, in Malawian. It's also the name of the dummy that Lucie & Lachlan, along with their dog, Bow Wow, travel with in their VAGABOND VAN: round the world, sourcing amazing clothes and accessories, some of which I shot in their Camden Stall. Which ends this weekend. Altho frankly, Chimwemwe looks too fierce, and fab, to be a dummy. She kind of reminds me of Naomi Campbell, actually. And I love the way they dress her up differently all the time. It's worth the trip to Camden, just to see what Chimwemwe's wearing today.

But even if you have other plans this weekend - or don't live in London - you can still buy stuff online, or now, better yet, at ASOS MARKETPLACE. I wish I could be in two places at once this weekend, because I am so craving going over to Proud Camden, upstairs, next to 631 Ramp, and buying one of these fabulous colourful Meilie bags. I desperately need a new bag - my old Coach ones are too small, and I can't bear to spend a mint on a bag, but I don't want some kind of cheap fake leather thing. I want - I'm not kidding, I can't stop thinking about it - I want these bags of colourful happiness. Even if everything else I'm wearing this fall is neutral and muted, I want to wear a bag that makes me smile.

I really wanted to embed this video of James Brown singing Papa's got a brand new bag live, but I can't. So click here, & turn up the volume. This is so the roots of.. well, everything that's come since. Ain't no drag. But I really want a MIELIE VAGABOND VAN BAG!

p.s. I didn't even say the most important part (besides that these bags - and everything they sell - is so inexpensive) - it's also made by African women, at home so they can take care of their children.. actually Lucie says it so much better, herself:

"Thank you, Jill! This is fab! Chimwemwe is thrilled!! Please, anyone who would like to experience Vagabond Van and meet Chimwemwe - email me (team@vagabondvan.com). We are going to be based in Notting Hill, pop by and have a trying on session and a cuppa! And those bags are seriously amazing - each one is a work of art - but they don't just look good, they do good. They're made using recycled t-shirt material by women who are paid fairly and can work at home and look after their little ones. Ethical and individual! xx "

The Vagabond Van is also now at ASOS MARKETPLACE">ASOS Marketplace.


pearls of birthday wisdom

Pearl, of Fashion Pearls of Wisdom, was my friend, first, virtually.

Then I met her.

In real life, she is more beautiful, more kind, and more wise, than I had expected. And I expected a lot.

Happy Birthday, Pearl! xoxo


dots & dashes

This juxtaposition was one day apart: day after I wore dots with checks, saw this girl at Gail's Artisan, which I've only just discovered was downstairs at Somerset House - specifically for fashion week! Great minds think alike, I guess.

I wore this as an homage to my mom, who only gave me one rule, growing up: you can't mix prints, because they clash. But as both my parents always taught me: creativity is a life force. We must always keep pushing our own boundaries, and breaking our own rules.

Thank you - BLESS YOU - to Jennifer, aka Style East - Otherwise I'd have no record I was even at fashion week.

Must dash. Have a lovely day, kittens! xoxo