IsabelleOC a fashion blog - Part 2

Sophia Webster for J Crew

Being in sunny fashion paradise does have its drawbacks, I missed the launch last night for Sophia Webster‘s collaboration with J Crew. A designer who cut her teeth at Nicholas Kirkwood before quickly making a name for herself with fun, colourful but very chic heels that have the same joyful spirit as J Crew. The collection launches soon, early May online and in selected stores.

For a while she’s been bubbling under the radar as a bit of a fashion secret, this new collaboration is therefore perfectly timed and positioned to introduce Sophia to a new audience. Her designs, filtered through J Crew’s preppy lens look sublime as ultra sharp, neat court and summer sandals. With a new standalone store in the pipeline for 2015 it looks like fashion is embracing Sophia’s bright and lively world.

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Tour Diary: Stockholm

Stockholm seems a million miles away as I type this in my sunny room in Hyeres. I can barely believe paying five pounds for a half of ESB in a Sodermalm pub (I did, it was delicious) and the cold, northern blue light seems like a camera fault rather than a simple locational fact.

After an emotional jazz brunch with mac n cheese and pulled pork sliders -emotional because it was amazing- at Sodra Teatern, the venue for that evening I wandered out with a few of the band lads into the Sodermalm sunshine to cross the water and explore Gamla Stan, the old town, oh and also to pull some great tourist moves.

Stockholm if you don’t know, is a series of islands, I regret not having the time to see them by boat as apparently that’s one of the nicest ways to see the city. It definitely has a different vibe to Gothenburg, which is isn’t without its charms but lacks the streamlined cool and buzz of a capital city like Stockholm. I took off on my own to wander the ins and outs of Gamla Stan, the little cobbled streets and palace views. Through the tourist trap area and then onto another island, the smaller Riddarholmen, which is quiet and fairly empty, bar the amazing church.

Back in Sodermalm, where I had my £5 half, I had a look round some really lovely streets as everything was shutting up for the evening. I’d love to revisit with a few days to take it all in, I really enjoyed the atmosphere of the place. I was also filled with anticipation as the next morning we were going to take the ferry to Helsinki, which I’d been told was a magical journey. Oh and how did I forget to include this lolsome picture? All yours.

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Monday Sundries: vintage vids and spring pastels

This post was all ready to go yesterday and I plain forgot! Oops, well it is a bank holiday… British Pathé recently uploaded a ton of videos from their archive to their You Tube channel. There’s loads of stuff to see, including this amusing ’60s demo of a haircut based on the Twist and the frankly weird compilation of rough cuts from an 1998 Evening Standard advert. Perfect for whiling away a lazy bank holiday afternoon!

The media attention on Britain and more particularly London’s housing crisis has only recently reached a tipping point, but James Meek in London Review of Books a few months ago was on the money with this article which explores the reasons behind the shortage in housing.

On a slightly less serious note, I’m loving Miss Moss’ feature on Gift Shop Brooklyn’s totes and accessories, the dreamy pastel colour palette is perfect for spring and early summer. Just need it to heat up now dammit!

The lovely Fiona who I hung with in Gothenburg has penned (keyed?) a brilliant letter to her 17-year old self. Got me thinking what I would say to Past Times me.

Tour Diary: Gothenburg

Gothenburg was another exciting chance to catch up with and Internet Friend, namely the amazing Fiona who had just made the move over a few weeks ago. Some people I’ve met through blogging have become IRL friends and Fiona is one of those people, a total meeting of moron minds, she’s so lovely and has an awesome sense of humour. We spent the couple of days I had here brunching and snacking, having laughs and seeing the town. I met her lovely new work pals and she showed me some mega things like the place to get best doughnuts, a really big branch of Cos and an amazing shop called Grandpa. Oh and I made a gif of her awesome moves, naturally.

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A sorta kinda detox

I tried pretty hard, but on tour it was difficult to eat the right things all the time. Venue catering, with the exception of some really top notch places like Munich (thanks for the celeriac and turnip crudités!) consisted of a baseline of cold cuts and cheese. That’s what’s on the rider so that’s what they’re going to put out, but things like salad, sushi or guacamole are often an afterthought and when you’re tired (often) hungover (often) or just lazy (always) it’s a damn old sandwich that you throw down your throat.

Now that I’m at home and master of my own fridge destiny I’m going on a sorta kinda detox. Named because I don’t really believe in quick fixes or diets, but a sorta kinda detox is more of a kick start to healthy eating. I’m giving up cheese and meat and trying to steer clear of fish most of the time. You know, sorta kinda.

When I was at university, a small budget and interest in nutrition heralded what my friends jokingly refer to as ‘the Buckwheat Years’. Boy did I eat healthily, kind of like a hippy monk – I remember the time my sister and her friend visited and I made them this weird purple red cabbage and you guessed it, buckwheat soup. I also drank like a fish fairly frequently, but this is a no shame zone so whatever. It was mostly veggie, a lot of wholegrains including buckwheat obviously and a ton of herbs to flavour rather than salt or stocks.

I may have gotten a bit waylaid since, but I want to reclaim some of the Buckwheat Years. It was all about simple, healthy, tasty food that kept you filled up, I never felt like I was deprived of anything. Hope you enjoy some of the recipes I’m going to be concocting, I haven’t really cooked for two months so this will be exciting!

Here’s a healthy recipe to kickstart this sorta kinda detox. I made it up with what was in my cupboards and happily, it turned out really nice. It’s a super quick, crunchy, tasty bowl of noodles that you serve warm, perfect for tentative spring days. The silken tofu adds a lovely creaminess but if it makes you ralph you can leave it out, although the mix of textures makes it more palatable for Western appetites. Chopping the kale finely means you get the green flavour with none of the curly mischief, it’s not a terrible thing but sometimes you don’t want curly mischief in your mouth.

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Soba noodle bowl with omelette, tofu, kale and sichuan peppercorns.

Ingredients (for two)
two bunches of soba noodles
one egg
half a packet of silken tofu
two handfuls of kale, chopped finely
two carrots, peeled and grated
spring onions
sesame seeds
tablespoon of sichuan peppercorns
fish sauce
soy sauce
sirarcha
sesame oil

Put water on to boil and start chopping the kale finely and grating your carrot. Put the soba noodles in a pan of your boiled water and set to a gentle rolling boil. Quickly beat the egg and pour into a saucepan to make a very fine omelette, you want this to be well cooked so you have a slight crispness to it. Once that is done remove and roll up on your chopping board. At this point you’ll want to chuck the kale into the noodles for a minute before draining the whole lot. Soba noodles can be tricky but if you make sure to rinse in cold water once cooked they’re usually fairly accommodating.

Slice the rolled omelette into thin strips and then along the length so you get half-strips. Diagonally chop a couple of spring onions and fry in the omelette pan with sichuan peppercorns and sesame seeds. Return the soba noodles and kale to the pan and gently heat with sesame oil, fish sauce and soy sauce. When warmed through stir in the grated carrot and split into two bowls. Add the tofu and egg and then the hot spring onions. Drizzle on some Sriracha to taste and enjoy!

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Btw I am totally human so if I cave and eat a burger don’t get mad. No shame zone, remember.

Ferris Bueller-ing a day off at Kew Gardens

One of the perks of being a freelancer, last Friday I downed my laptop like it was the weekend and headed west to Kew Gardens. It’s one of those London things that unless you’re a tourist you wouldn’t bother doing, but it’s a totally life-affirming thing. It came up as a ‘what’s a lovely thing we can do?’ idea. I was really busy and I considered postponing, but then you can always end up putting off the good stuff while life passes you by.

It was a lovely sunny day with a few spring clouds, but definitely warm enough for ice cream. The spring blossom is out in full effect, it was so beautiful I nearly cried because I’m that much of a baby. Honestly at this time of year when everything is just coming back to life and nature is waking up, it’s enough to make Ross Kemp feel emotional. There was lots of amazing things to see, like the awesome tropical flowers in Palm House and the slightly terrifying rooftop walk, but the best by far was a peacock just bossing it out round by the Temperate House. If you ever need to see a perfect example of a catwalk strut look at a peacock, they just ooze Naomi Campbell cool. Nature, man!

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Henri Matisse the Cut-outs at the Tate Modern

Some art is like a bit of research, or it’s like getting an idea or a concept and then some art is just very simply great. The new Matisse Cut-out exhibition coming to the Tate Modern this weekend is just that, a joyful and expert celebration of colour and shape. Starting off as a way of mapping paintings, his cut-out collages ended up as works in themselves, some of his most famous pieces like the Snail and the Sheaf aren’t paintings but assembled bits of paper. It’s so much more than that though, through the eyes of an artist known for his use of colour and composition these collages really show what a trained eye can accomplish with something very humble.

It’s a great lesson to anyone that creativity doesn’t have to mean gold leaf or the most expensive fabrics. In a way, the sketches and collages are more interesting to me than the paintings, perhaps it’s like how I might sometimes prefer a designer’s pre-fall collection to their Fall one, without the pressure there’s room for happy accidents and bits of humanity slipping through the creative cracks.

This is the perfect post-winter exhibition, the dancing shapes and colours are so animated. There’s a real sense of joy in these cut-outs, the stubborn happiness of someone whose youth is behind them. Anyone who has ever been interested in print, pattern or colour would definitely benefit from the rush of blood and inspiration.

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Tour Diary: Hamburg, Altona and Blankenese

Hamburg was the day that I really went for broke with the sightseeing; Silke, the lovely German promoter, sent me a whole list of things to see in her hometown. I was really getting into the rhythm of the tour, cannily taking a shower in the venue after the gig, so I could be clean(ish) enough for a wander as soon as we arrived our next destination the following day. After a quick nibble at the catering in the dressing room, I walked over to the train station and headed to Blankese, a beautiful small town by the sea near Hamburg. It’s a dream place for a holiday, with lots of cute little houses dotted around the hills. I walked along the seafront and then treated myself to an ice cream in the sun before the ascent back into town.

Then, feeling quite proud of my intrepid-ness, I hopped back on a train and then took the bus to Neumühlen, where the Altona Fishmarket is. It’s a lovely walk, Hamburg Port is just across the water with huge freight tankers and shipping containers, while on the Altona side it’s all quaint houses and little boats. It’s the perfect place to stop and have a fish roll and glass of something in the sun.

Apart from a bus ride through the wonderfully gaudy St Pauli district -with its sex shops that I can never believe are still going, haven’t these people heard of the internet?!- I didn’t see that much of Hamburg itself but it’s definitely one of the places I’d like to return to. The Altona area where our venue was situated had lods of little cobbled streets and cute shops that demand another visit.

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Sunday Sundries: the importance of art

matisse the sheaf tate cutoutSo this is the first Sunday Sundries since I went away on tour, I still miss my cosy little bunk but I’m glad to be back. Looking forward to many things, namely Matisse’s Cut Outs at the Tate and the Chris Marker retrospective at the Whitechapel -the director of La Jetée- as well as Play What’s Not There, at Raven Row -one of my favourite galleries. Closer to home is Welcome To Iraq, a restaging of the Venice Biennale’s National Pavilion of Iraq (which I missed when we visited the Biennale last year) at South London Gallery. Even though I work in a pretty unrelated field, I’m grateful for my Critical Fine Art Practice degree, a creative and visual training which still informs the work I do today.

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You can tell I’m building up to something can’t you? This week Michael Rosen wrote an open letter to our new Culture Minister. The poet talks about how ambivalent we are as a country about ‘culture’ and quite rightly asks what someone like Sajid Javid is doing in the role. It does seem strange that an ex-banker -and one who worked somewhere that was fined for rate-fixing- should now be heading up this position.

I guess one of the simplest things you can do as a person to show art and culture matters is keep going to exhibitions, keep being counted as a bum on a seat or feet in a gallery. There is a demand and more importantly a need for non-essential services like galleries, museums and when funding for the arts has been slashed it’s important to show your participation. The richness of a country cannot just be counted economically.

Tour Diary: Berlin

With Berlin, I had the luxury of a town that I’ve been to a few times, so I didn’t feel the need to tick off a load of tourist things. It’s also where Miggy lives, which gave me the chance to hang out with an internet pal and party like it was 2008. With some of the band and crew, we pushed down hangovers with a huge feed-up in the sun and went out separate ways to run errands. I ended up getting my eyebrows threaded and having a pretty decent conversation in pidgin German with my Turkish threader.

Later that day, I did the boring task of going into town and buying a computer lead from the Apple store. 60E lighter and with the sun setting, I looked up restaurants near our Prenzlauer Berg hotel and found Herr Rossi, a totally charming Italian. Sometimes eating on your own can be a bit depressing, but reading my book with an Aperol spritz and veal ragu in such a lovely setting I couldn’t have been happier.

The next morning after an enormous room service breakfast I met up with Miggy and we took a train east to Muggelsee, one of Berlin’s many lakes. This is where it gets magic, Miggy knows an amazing restaurant/bar on the lake, where you have to ring a bell so the owner can punt along on his raft and pick you up. We spent a few blissful hours at the top of this house on the lake, soaking up the sun and drinking beers. If you’re in Berlin I definitely recommend this hidden spot, it was a totally unforgettable experience. Thanks Miggy!

That evening before the gig a few of us sloped off for the lovely dinner you can see at the bottom, I can’t remember the name of the place which is just as well as the service was extraordinarily rude. An insignificant blip in a lovely few days.

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