29 October, 2013

Topsy Turvy

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So remember this post, about the plaid shirt-skirt? Well that day I was feeling pretty creative and I decided to swap the outfit around, using a top for a skirt once again! I've been meaning to upload the photos for a while but just haven't got round to it (apologies for being a bit lax lately) so here you go, finally. I love the idea of sewing up the sleeves of a t-shirt like this and turning them into permanent skirt pockets; maybe that's something I'll look into for  DIY!

In other news, I'm heading off to Beirut tomorrow for a long weekend so stay tuned for lots of travel posts (yes, they're my favourite kind as well)!

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Plaid shirt: Zara, NYC T-shirt (worn as skirt): Forever 21, Suede bag: Vintage, Heels: River Island, Necklace: H&M, Sunglasses: Monki.

21 October, 2013

Alserkal Avenue

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Last week I spent a delightful Saturday morning browsing the galleries in Alserkal Avenue, which is something I really don't do often enough. It's very easy to forget that art actually exists in Dubai, possibly because, like with everything else in this city, you have to physically seek the venues out - you're never going to just walk past street art or stumble across a great gallery.

Even so, Alserkal is a rough little gem, in the industrial Al Quoz area, and spending the morning there thoroughly cleaned out my cultural cobwebs and has revitalised my artistic enthusiasm. (The divine slice of carrot cake at Lime Tree Cafe afterwards wasn't too bad either!)

Anyway, here are some of my Instagram snaps from the various exhibitions...

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My favourite by far, though, was Khosh Bosh! by Hatty Pedder, at Mojo Gallery. The standout pieces for me was her collection of neon, layered, multimedia works (two pictured below). The artist's sense of humour shines through her talented ink drawings, depicting Beirut street scenes and portraying the city as vibrant, absurd and complex. This complexity is reflected in the multi-media approach that she takes (sequins, paint, photos, paper are all sandwiched between sheets of neon PVC plastic) but the focus always remains on the people in each image, who effectively characterise the city's confused identity and enigmatic juxtapositions.

"She is full of contradictions. At once sophisticated and charming, violent, complex and confusing. she is expressive and self absorbed. Consistently unpredictable she lures and repels in equal measure; with a capacity to disillusion and exhilarate she fills you with all manner of frustrations but never fails to envelop you in her unique embrace. She is Beirut."

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Now I'm just even more excited about visiting Beirut for the first time next week! 

But seriously, if you're looking for something different to do in Dubai, I thoroughly recommend going to Alserkal, walking into Mojo and getting up close to these blindingly bright and beautiful pieces by Hatty Pedder.

Some other for the diary: Art Night on 10th November, Quoz Happens on 23rd November.

14 October, 2013

A chat with Joanna and Tatiana // Vanina Design

As promised, although slightly later than intended, here is my interview with the founders and designers of Vanina fashion brand. I sat and got to know these girls over a coffee and fresh juice last week, just before their exhibit at Vogue Fashion Dubai Experience, in Dubai Mall. Here is what they had to say...

Image Des "I let Joanne do the talking, she is better in english than me! We agree on everything so she can speak and I will agree."

How did Vanina come about? Where did it start?
It started in Beirut when we were 19 but, even before that, we were childhood friends and we always used to create things together and share ideas. Where Vanina really took off, though, was with coins. After the war in Lebanon, the currency went downhill and so the coins were practically worthless and we started making jewellery with them [this resulted in their first line, Coined]! The necklaces were just for our friends at first but it became very successful all of a sudden. People started to ask "where did you buy that?", so we decided to set it up as a company. 

How have you found that transition - from being two young girls making jewellery at home to running a business?
We still like to focus on the creative process and quality of the products, rather than the commercialisation of the brand. At the moment, we are both designers and directors but, because of our nature, it is the design and identity of the brand that we like to focus on - it just comes more naturally to us!

Your jewellery lines are so varied and creative - where do you get your inspiration from?
Yes, at the moment we have six lines and they are all very different. Every idea that comes to the table we explore it, because sometimes it is the very basic or crazy idea that we thought didn't have potential at the beginning, which turns out to be the most interesting.

We get inspired by very different things and not necessarily in the field of fashion - sometimes a movie or a certain social situation will spark a new idea. What we love about fashion and design is that it is a field that really allows you to create a lot and be innovative. This is especially true with jewellery because, jewellery, you wear it and its supposed to be beautiful but it is also an opportunity for a statement. So, for example, one of the lines that we're showing now, called 'Unlocked', it uses keys.

Yes I've seen those pieces, they're amazing! Tell me about the recycled materials that you use...
It actually started very spontaneously, with the coins, and we liked it so much that we decided to take the concept further. It highlights the potential that everyday objects have and it also gently makes people think about waste management in another way. We take advantage of the opportunity to send a message to society and talk about issues in an artistic and creative way. So, for example, one of our bijoux (jewellery) lines, called 'Cease-Fire', is created using matches is meant to prompt a message of peace, in these times of intense violence.

That has to be one of my favourite collections of all. As with all of your jewellery lines, the pieces look so intricate and hard to make, though! Tell me more about the processes you use to create your jewellery...
We try, if you like, to explore the local crafts that are traditional and inherited from generations ago but also to marry them with new and innovative ways and techniques of production, such as 3d printing, laser cutting, which give our products a new, modern edge.

What interests us most about fashion is the back side that you don't necessarily see. It is actually the relationship between the front and the back. There are so many people behind the scenes putting in effort - producing the line and thinking about the line - and we are so pleased to have such a great team working with us.

What has been the highlight of your journey so far?
We take most satisfaction in the small events that are so monumental to us. It can be the small things that make more of a difference. For instance, we are so happy and honoured by the popularity of our brand in Japan, a country that we think of as such a creative and exporting country itself. For us, from a small country like Lebanon, to be so well implemented there is something else and is an adventure in itself!

Incredible! And what are your plans for the future?
It is a big satisfaction for us to be able to export our brand and we see that there is a lot of potential to expand globally. At the same time, we want to explore the local stand that we have and that we think is very rich. Through this, we are discovering further opportunities in our own country and throughout the Middle East, and wonderful people who are wanting to collaborate with the brand, which is very exciting!

Finally, what advice would you give other people who are thinking of starting up their own fashion brand?
Oh wow, I think we would say just don't be scared, take the risk and follow your passion. Have fun with it, but it is also important to set goals and stay focused. Always stay focused.

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^^^ 'Cease-fire' by Vanina Design ^^^

Vanina products will be sold in Professionelle Boutique, Dubai Mall, for a month. They are also stocked in Sauce and Bloomingdales.

10 October, 2013

Vanina Design

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Yesterday I was invited to pop down to Dubai Mall and meet Tatiana and Joanne, the two lovely ladies who founded the "haute fantasie" fashion brand Vanina. Their stunning, quirky, up-cycled jewellery, bags and clothes are being sold at Professionelle Boutique's House Of Five pop-up event tonight at Vogue Fashion Dubai Experience. As you can imagine, their style was right up my street! I was lucky enough to be given the time to sit with the girls, have a coffe, and chat about their design inspiration, future dreams and advice to anyone else thinking of setting up their own fashion brand. That interview will go live on the blog tomorrow but, for now, here is a sneak peek of the lovely Vanina items that you'll find in the pop-up store tonight!

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Wonderful, right? Here are my top picks of their collection (it's going to be a serious test of my willpower to to buy them all at the event tonight!)

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1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Stay tuned to learn more about the brand tomorrow...

06 October, 2013

Floral masterclass at Vintage Bloom

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Last Wednesday I was lucky enough to attend a floristry masterclass at Vintage Bloom, the leading floral studio in the UAE. The Vintage Bloom studio is a haven of vintage-style decor and quaint little goodies - think lace, old books, photo frames and bird cages. The first thing that hits you when you first walk through the door, though, is the almost overwhelming smell of fresh flowers, which were piled into buckets, ready for our lesson. To top it all off, and make the setting even more perfect, was the offering of homemade lemonade, cupcakes, fruit and sandwiches (with no crusts!). As you can imagine, I was in absolute heaven - I honestly can't think of a better way to end a Wednesday!

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The lovely Nada Gokal, founder of the company and floral goddess, taught us how to make two arrangements: a classic hand bouquet and a ring arrangement. Never having done anything like this before, there are two aspects of floristry that surprised me: how heavy flowers are and how therapeutic it can be to just sit and create something so lovely. My arrangements turned out a little more wild than I had hoped (there is a serious art to getting all of the blooms to sit at the exact right level) but overall I couldn't have been happier with the outcome. I mean, please, how could flowers this beautiful not look good!

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I think I can safely say that everyone in our little group of journalists, bloggers and PR girls left feeling a whole lot happier after this delightful afternoon away from our laptops, and being able to take our gorgeous bouquets home was just the cherry on top. My messy desk has never looked so wonderful.