I went to the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Orchid Show & Plant Fair last week and it was a good antidote to a pang of homesickness. The past couple of weeks had been so gloomy and I was clearly pining for bright and sunny days. Continue reading “Exotic Orchids from Across the Globe”→
This is a great coffee table book — really fun and interesting read! It’s a birthday present from a good friend of mine, and although I’ve briefly looked at the photos when I first got it months ago, it’s been sitting on my book shelf and haven’t read it until yesterday.
It was written by the Queen’s dresser, Angela Kelly, who gives the reader a fascinating insights into the detailed work that goes into designing, sewing, cataloguing, and caring for all the outfits and accessories worn by Queen Elizabeth.
There’s plenty of photographs of Her Majesty’s impressive collection of accessories such as brooches, hats, bags, shoes, gloves, silk scarves, etc. (not to mention a huge collections of ‘see-through’ plastic umbrellas in every colour imaginable!) There’s also photos of different ensemble she wore to important events, including the jubilee celebrations — Thames river pageant, concert, the Olympics opening ceremony film and appearance. The outfits she wore are discussed in detail with original sketches, photos of the fabrics, etc. Ms Kelly shares the story in detail how she directly worked with Danny Boyle’s team to create the perfect outfit for the complicated Olympics opening ceremony. Two outfits were made for Her Maj and the stuntman who amazed the world when he parachuted into the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony dressed as the Queen.
For jewel lovers, the book offers quite a unique behind-the-scenes look at the jewellery that are worn regularly by the Queen — the diamonds give us information about their provenance and how they’re actually used today. There are photos of the Queen’s precious jewels — rubies, aquamarines, pearls, sapphires and diamond tiaras and their matching necklaces.
We also get to see the way that these precious jewels are presented to HM — on a tray with a lace that once belonged to her grandmother, Queen Mary, hand-sewn by the late Queen with her initial ‘M’. The Queen then can choose from the tray the specific pieces she wants to wear. This is my absolute favourite section of the entire book! It was lovely to see the way those jewels are put to use and not just sitting in the royal vaults.
Although the complicated issues with the Queen’s jewels are left to the crown jeweller, Ms Kelly is also responsible for the day-to-day maintenance of HM’s jewellery collections such as basic cleaning before and after they are worn by Her Maj. A series of photographs show how Ms Kelly works with the Vladimir tiara (photos above) — she’s swapping out the tiara’s pearls for the set of emeralds, and the images show how the individual pearls and emeralds are stored — every piece is numbered and put in pouches before they are returned to the vaults for safekeeping.
Two fascinating thing I learned is that the Queen’s dresser pick very striking colours to make sure she stands out, and that the seamstress always place discreet weights in the hemlines of the Queen’s outfits to avoid any possible royal embarrassment (think of The Duchess of Cambridge’s dress being lifted up by a sudden gust of wind — photos below from The Mirror newspaper).
Interestingly, the Philippines was mentioned in the book (please see first photo above) because the Queen’s hats are made of ‘Sinamay’ straw(banana leaves fiber).
This is a nice addition to my royal biography collection (although it’s not a biography). I am just fascinated with royal jewels after I’ve watched a documentary about the history of the tiaras and precious jewels of the European royal houses. This book provides a unique perspective on the everyday use of The Queen’s jewelries, and it will be one of the books on top of my coffee table someday, when I finally have a nice coffee table to put it on!
London is brimming with old historic shops and is home to some of the world-famous department stores such as Selfridges, Harrods, etc. Liberty of London is one of them and it is my all-time favourite shop in the city. It may not be as massive as Selfridges or Harrods but the imposing Tudor style structure is very unique; of all the buildings in Regent Street it truly stands out and is quite attractive.
The shop opened in 1875 by its original owner, Arthur Lasenby Liberty, with only £2,000 (the equivalent of about £200,000 in today’s money) capital borrowed from his future father-in-law. The store was a huge success that within a year and a half he paid off his loan (much to the delight of his fiancée and future father-in law) and he decided to buy the neighbouring properties to expand the shop floor.
Arthur Liberty was knighted in 1913, and by the time of his death in 1917 he had already amassed a great fortune and owned several properties including a manor house and an estate in Buckinghamshire.
The magnificent mock-Tudor building that houses the store today was built in 1924. It was designed by Edwin T. Hall and his son Edwin S. Hall using solid oak and teak timbers from HMS Hindustan and HMS Impregnable — two old British warships from the Royal Navy. The building rises to the same height and length as HMS Impregnable. They used authentic and original Tudor techniques to make the structure look like a real Tudor-era building. Above the main entrance of the department store is the weathervane of the Mayflower. It is the exact replica of the historic ship Mayflower, which took 102 English pilgrims to New England, in 1620. From the ground floor, as visitors enter the main atrium, they would easily notice the four floors supported by wooden beams towering above their heads.
I took this photo looking down from the fourth floor balustrade into the central atrium, and below photo looking up to the ceiling — this will give you an idea of the lovely architecture.
So it’s not just the exterior that is ornate but the interior as well. Unlike Harrods and Selfridges where every corner, every tiny space is practically occupied by different companies, mostly on concession, Liberty does not operate that way. It is a spacious shop and has a homely atmosphere; not bursting with astonishing range of merchandise.
The interior design is simple yet elegant; each floor is immaculately organised into a beautiful space that makes shopping (or in my case, window shopping) more pleasurable. Having an experience with the fashion industry (mainly with distribution, price control and merchandising), I couldn’t help but think every time I am at Liberty that there are a lot of empty space that could be used to promote more products. But I always remind myself that it’s not like Harrods. Liberty always try to maintain a homely, more like a family run-business unlike other department stores in the city. And in my humble opinion, this is what makes Liberty stand out. I took innumerable visiting Japanese friends (many of them are ‘licensees’ or those who have license to manufacture European goods in Japan) here to show them how they should try to imitate Liberty; that the feeling they get being there should be the type of experience they should give to their customers when they visit their shops back in Japan.
The fabrics and haberdashery section occupies almost a third of the entire second floor and it is my number one favourite corner in the whole building. I only come here when I am taking visiting family and friends but now that I have started sewing my own clothes, I will be coming to check out their new fabrics collection every season. During their summer sale a couple of months ago, I was able to buy some really cheap remnant fabrics — 3 metres of Tana Cotton Lawn fabrics for only £20, regular price is £22.50 (US$30) per metre.I love Liberty fabrics especially Tana Cotton Lawn which has a silky texture and really the finest cotton fabric available in the market. (Btw, I only buy Liberty fabrics when they’re on offer, at least 50% or more discount. If I have deep pockets I would not even consider buying a cotton fabric for a full price. I’d always wait for the end of season sale. Their silk fabrics are a dream — costs US$70 a metre!)
Liberty prides itself in being the home of small floral prints fabrics — the epitome of Englishness.
Aside from the fabrics, my other favourite part of the store is the Interiors Emporium. I particularly like the Oriental objet d’art and the exotic indoor plants.
I also like the designer vintage section. There are loads of Chanel, Valentino, Hermes and other top designers’ vintage outfits and accessories.
I also love visiting the stationery section.
And of course, there’s Café Liberty — a great place to go for afternoon tea!
Over a month ago, Adiben and I went to the café after a couple of hours of window shopping; didn’t have the full afternoon tea but just a cup of herbal tea and a few sweets.
The flower shop is also a little corner I like to visit when I come here. I usually stop for a minute just to admire the gorgeous flowers.
Sometimes the florists are around making some of the most beautiful floral arrangements anyone can see.
Almost every corner of the shop is dotted with all types of historic figures reminiscent of the Tudor era like the shields of Shakespeare, Henry VIII’s six wives and many others. And of course, the famous clock’s inscription is a great reminder to us all — a wise word indeed — “No minute gone comes ever back again, take heed and see ye nothing do in vain.”
Liberty has some of the most classy garments, jewellery, textiles, home furnishings and other objects — all very luxurious merchandise, and it is indeed a fashion cognoscenti’s haven. I always tell my visiting family and friends that Liberty of London is an absolute must-visit while they’re in town.
Twenty years had passed since the tragic death of Princess Diana but to this day she remains a highly disputed figure. Hers was a life shrouded in mystery and controversy, and of a charmed stroke of serendipity, as well as significant tragedies. She is as popular today as she was during her lifetime; the media is continually digging into whatever skeleton in the cupboard they can get about her, and people just can’t seem to stop talking about her.
I’d choose not to make any unfavourable remark about her life; I’d rather talk about her fashion story — the distinguished style she crafted after she married The Prince of Wales.
The current exhibit at Kensington Palace Museum explores a collection of Diana’s most famous outfits; how her style evolved from a very shy teenager to a glamorous woman who used her image to influence people around the world. As soon you enter the gallery, you’ll see a set of framed photographs as well as sketches of the couture looks commissioned by Princess Diana.
The world of designer fashion, couture or fashionable made to measure clothes was new to the young Lady Diana Spencer before she married The Prince of Wales. She was unfamiliar with the latest trend that her entire wardrobe was borrowed from friends except for a single dress, a shirt and one smart pair of shoes.
After her engagement, she started to meet with a handful of fashion designers she liked, to help her create a working wardrobe. Many of the designers, both local and international, were charmed by her shy public demeanour and those that she recruited to help her craft her image became some of her closest and loyal friends. Her style popularised the romantic fashion movement of the 1980s with light, lacy and flowing fabrics like the gowns in above photo.
A Welsh fashion designer named David Emanuel made Lady Di’s blouse for a feature on Vogue magazine in 1981 (see top left photo) and it coincided with her engagement announcement that the same style blouse sold out on the high street all over the country as soon as the magazine was released. That was the instantaneous response from the public that from then on women were buying whatever style clothes she was wearing. She became influential in the world of fashion and was the most photographed woman in the world. The other photo above is her ‘country outfit’ designed by Bill Pashley; she wore it in Scotland when she and Charles were on their honeymoon. The weed fabric is in keeping with traditional English country dress.
Catherine Walker is one of Diana’s favourite designers. They met barely three months after she got married to the prince and their friendship lasted a lifetime. Ms Walker was commissioned to design many of the famous outfits that Princess Diana wore to various official functions.
As she became more confident and sophisticated, her style changed and she wore clothes that convey whatever message she was trying to communicate to the world. After her divorce with Prince Charles she started wearing a more modern, fashionable clothes sometimes showing her cleavage, or her knees, and she seemed more at ease not having to conform to whatever expectations the royal family had on her.
Undeniably, she was very glamorous and whatever outfits she wore, it was not only the clothing that stood out but rather her caring and compassionate demeanour.
In 1997 Prince William suggested to his mother to auction her iconic gowns to raise funds for humanitarian causes, and Diana took her son’s advise and sold 79 of her most famous dresses in June of that year.
The sale at Christie’s in New York raised £3.4 million for AIDS and cancer charities.
The press reported that the auction was quite a symbolic event — Diana was closing a chapter of her royal life and focusing on charitable work. Sadly, she died barely two months after that remarkable auction.
Inevitably, the exhibit includes a few outfits she wore while attending official functions with Prince Charles, and there were photos of her and The Prince of Wales together. A few of her suits were also on display but there’s only one outfit at the gallery that she didn’t wear to an official event.
This shift dress she wore for shopping to Bond Street is such a classic and I love it. (I am in the process of trying to find a similar fabric for my next sewing project. ) Just like Grace Kelly, she became a style icon. Her influence is extraordinary. No one knows what her life would be had she lived longer. People still talk what she’d look like if she’s still around and the type of influence she’d have on her grandchildren. Her legacy remains today through her children, the charities she supported, and the people whose lives she deeply touched. A few weeks ago I blogged about the documentary that her sons recently made in her honour — DIANA, OUR MOTHER: HER LIFE AND LEGACY
Even if you’re not a big fan of the late princess, I’d highly recommend you visit Kensington Palace Museum — the birthplace and childhood home of Queen Victoria. Although the highlight of their exhibit this year is Princess Diana’s outfits, there’s other things to see — clothing, furnitures, etc., that once belonged to Queen Victoria and other royals who once inhabited Kensington Palace. (FYI, it’s worth getting an HRP membership that allows you unlimited free access to the museum and special events at Kensington Palace and other historic royal palaces.)
KP’s Sunken Garden is another place I’d highly recommend you visit when you’re in the area. This summer they call it ‘The White Garden’, designed to showcase white roses, scented narcissi and a carpet of forget-me-nots with only a few red roses around the reflective pool, in commemoration of Princess Diana’s 20th death anniversary. The late princess apparently loved the garden and would often stop to admire the flowers and chat with the gardeners.
In the last couple of weeks many people have left flowers, photos, letters, and other tributes at the gates of her former home. Funnily enough, some loyal fans of the late princess still publicly show their contempt by hanging on the palace gate some very amusing photos of Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall.
During my early morning run (it always starts and ends at the gate of Kensington Palace), I’ve seen several tv crew, both local and international, filming around the palace ground.
When I saw Princess Diana’s outfits three weeks ago, I was reminded of The Duchess of Cambridge who is always being compared to her mother-in law.
May be someday Kate will ‘inherit’ (for lack of better word) Diana’s famous ‘People’s Princess’ title. But for now, Diana is, and remains ‘The People’s Princess.’
I must end this post with a special mention about my cousin, Emma Laoreno-Comelli, who visited London three weeks ago. All photos of Princess Diana’s outfits were taken when we visited KP together. It was one of the highlights of her trip. She and I are both big fans of the late princess and spent the day around KP.
We had a wonderful time together and ended our Kensington Palace tour with an afternoon tea at The Orangery.
Photos of Princess Diana wearing the pink suit and the white pearl beaded gown were both from Getty Images.
My background in the fashion industry made me appreciate fashion for what it is – subjective, fleeting and temporal. I have to admit, being a Christian has a lot to do with how I view fashion, and everything else for that matter. I don’t follow or keep up with the latest trend. I am more of a classic dresser and don’t dare try new vogue. I like softly draped dresses, frill skirts, silk tops — clean, feminine and uncomplicated clothing. I hardly buy clothes but I like to buy fabrics and take them to a dressmaker for made-to-measure clothes. Continue reading “Fashion & Aesthetic Revelry”→
I attended an event last week and saw some of the most magnificent fine jewellery recently presented in London. These extraordinary jewels were created by a friend of mine, Ines Aitken. The exhibit was held at Simon Dickinson Gallery on Jermyn Street, the most fashionable street in London back in the 17th-18th century. To this very day Jermyn Street is lined with old shops that hold ‘royal warrant’, and still cater to the desires and whims of the royals and members of the court, and of course, theold rich (members of the British aristocracy), and the nouveau riche (like the Beckhams, Mittals, et al). Continue reading “An Exhibition of Fine Jewellery, Diamonds and Precious Coloured Gemstones”→
I’ve lived in London for over sixteen years now, and in the last five years I have seen how some Filipinos are making waves in the UK, particularly in the creative and design industries. Since 2001 the British Council and the British Fashion Council (BFC) have chosen a number of emerging fashion designers from 25 countries including the Philippines to the International Fashion Showcase – London Fashion Week (IFS-LFW). The purpose of this programme is to showcase the work of new designers and to celebrate the universal relevance of fashion in contemporary culture. Most, if not all, of the Filipinos who were invited to the LFW over the years have been featured by Vogue and other international fashion magazines, and have made a name for themselves at home and/or abroad. Mitch Dulce, Ken Samudio, John Herrera, and others are some of the talents that were discovered by some fashion editors at the IFS-LFW, and their products are now being sold in the UK and other parts of Europe. Continue reading “Ann Ong: Filipino Fashion Accessory Designer”→
As a young girl I had reverence for Audrey Hepburn, and she has become one of my all-time favourite icons. Her image clutching a paper cup of coffee and a croissant staring into a shop window full of jewellery always comes to mind when I think of the word ‘chic.’ I’ve watched Breakfast at Tiffany’s numerous times and really thought, as a young girl, that no one can live up to Audrey’s level of chicness. Continue reading “Audrey Hepburn Exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery”→