We're thinking there's some sort of special effects team working up in the skies of Beijing because I've thus far been here for two days with day one beginning like this.. intensely BLUE to the point where you can just about see Forbidden City from my hotel room…

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Then I woke up on day two to find this… smog-infested beyond belief.    

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I guess I won't be putting these new sunnies to good use then until I get back to London.  Finding out about sunglasses brands weren't really on my agenda or radar for this Asia trip but I found not one but two brands that are finding their own eyewear niche either within their own domestic market or on an international level.  ChairEYES is a Shanghai-based brand, designed by Yuan Chow, an ex-stylist who has been collecting vintage eyewear for years.  In search of the highest quality materials and eyewear craftsmenship, he began to create ChairEYES in Japan but has recently shifted production to Shanghai where he has found the right factories to show that Made in China (well, specifically Shanghai) can be as prestigious as Made in Italy/France/Japan).  The merit of a good pair of sunnies for me is normally in the weight, the feel of the acetate and the screw fixtures – all of which come up top notch in this pair of glasses called "Lance".  The finishing touches such as the embossed logo on the lens and the lovely curvaceous box seal the deal for me.  At just under RMB1000 (about ¬£100), ChairEYES doesn't break the bank but of course in his own home turf, he comes up against stiff competition with all the glossiness of the big brands.  However Yuan feels that the younger generation of customers are starting to get a feel for locally-made, homegrown brands, hence why ChairEYES is in a good number of stores in Shanghai and Beijing.  ChairEYES is most definitely eyeing up ambitiously on being the first Chinese-grown designer sunglasses brand to break through internationally and it will be interesting to see how quickly that happens.  

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Moo Piyasombatkul is a mouthful but her glasses are certainly memorable, having already caused waves by having Lady Gaga as a patron.  Having graduated in jewellery from Central Saint Martins, Bangkok-born Moo embarked on her signature style of casting ceramic mouldings and applying them to vintage or deadstock styles of eyeglasses, making many of her sunglasses styles limited in quantity and physicaly precious because of the fragile nature of the mouldings.  I met up with her in Bangkok for a lovely afternoon tea, which is incidentally what partially inspired those delicate mouldings adorning her eyewear.  Opening Ceremony and Browns are already fans of Moo's work and she's also getting personal orders through her Facebook page.  A pair of Moo piyasombatkul glasses is quite an investment but then again, her eyewear isn't the throwaway, shove-it-in-a-soft-case type.  Even the velveted and cushioned case indicates that her eyewear is more like an ornate piece of jewellery.  I'll be wearing them with care…   

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Being a one trick pony ain't such a bad thing when that trick is particularly good and completely distinctive.  Hope von Joel and Liam Motyer came together with her styling eye and his wood working skills and have steadily been building up their designs for Eye of the World, experimenting in their Peckham workshop with acrylic and wood to come up with statement belt accoutrements that immediately draw the eye directly to the waist.  Even with my now-properly-fattened up tum tum (there's not been a single day since the beginning of May during which some form of pork fat has passed through my lips), I wouldn't hesitate in donning an EOTW creation.  Neither a belt buckle or a clasp, rather they're objects that float on the body, becoming the centre of attention of any outfit. 

Their one sole trick however has just gotten a big upgrade.  For their new A/W 12-3 collection, it just got a whole lot more interesting as Liam and Hope have be busy expanding their use of different kinds of woods and different colours of acrylics, cutting up smaller sections, so that the designs are infinitely more intricate.  The name "Mayan Collection" is pretty self-explanatory as to where the collection was derived from and knowing that Hope and Liam have travelled extensively, they're unlikely to have picked on the theme in an arbitrary manner.   Hope and Liam bought their new collection over to my house for a cup of tea, so that I could marvel at each piece, holding them up to the light (one thing that my apartment isn't short of) to look at the way the different colours glisten against the different shades of wood.  The floating belt objects have become bigger, growing into large flat pyramid or semi-spherical centrepieces that require not one but two belt straps to wear on the waist.  As for Eye of the World's smaller jigsaw belt pieces that can be mixed and matched on the clear PVC belt, the patterns have become crazier as Liam plays with more diagonal lines, triangular sections and more bits of acrylic embedded against the wood.

Complicating the designs however, has not lessened the finish of every piece.  Like I said, holding each piece feels like a warmed up eroded pebble or a really lovely smooth marble in your hand.  The smoothness and flush edges feel incredibly satisfying.  If I was with Liam in D.T. (design and technology) class at school, I'd be a little green-eyed at his ability to get the final product pitch-perfect.   

Eye of the World have also expanded on belts to try and create neckpieces, which had yet to get the final finished fixtures and chains, when I saw them.  They're ambitious in size, with their giant U-shaped and slanted hexagonal breastplates that are again designed to draw the eye into their maze-like patterns.

They've taken their one trick and run away with it to the point where you start getting ambitious on their behalf, thoughts that have been with me ever since I saw their studio and workshop back in December.  Hope and Liam can certainly take their eye of the world and apply it to other areas, seeing things their way, should they want to.  

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>> The Diamond Jubilee, the Olympics and all this ra-ra-ra-London stuff all seems terribly alien to me.  Having been out of London for well over a month, I haven't a clue what's going on, to the point where I had to check up on Google to see what bank holidays we had.  Turns out I had been completely oblivious to the fact that I'll be coming home to a FOUR day weekend.  That's reason enough for an animated GIF using ASOS' download n' cut-out crowns created by designers House of Holland, Danielle Scutt and Preen as well as illustrator Julie Verhoeven.  I'm not yet sure what exactly it is I'm coming home to but I can reassure myself that Heathrow will indeed be one big giant mess and that something kitsch and pretty will adorn my head.  

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>> After this month, I better shut up for a while as I seem to have spent an awful lot of time talking about blogging and not getting on with the act of blogging.  First up were the Portable talks.  I better not show my face in Australia for a while for fear of people going "Oh it's you again…" *roll eye roll eye*.  Now I'm about to leave Shanghai for Beijing to participate in Armani's first volume of #ArmaniTweetTalks which coincides with Giorgio Armani's "One Night Only" event.

The subject is a bit more specific though as we discuss China as the new fashion superpower, a subject that's been grazed about but I've yet to see an indepth discussion about it all.  I may not be able to pass proper comment on the issue at hand but the other panelists will certainly be able to, as I'll be joined by Angelica Cheung, editor in chief of Vogue China, Federico Marchetti, CEO of Yoox Group, Hung Huang, CEO of China Interatctive media Group and blogger, fashion critic for Fashion Wire Daily and editor Godfrey Deeny and Tommy Ton of Jak & Jil.  The talk will be moderated by journalist and head of Show Media creative agency Peter Howarth

The talk will unfold on Armani's Tweetwall here on 1st June at 14.00 CET and in addition to the discussion, we're all taking questions from everyone about our specific fields of *cough* expertise. Naturally, I'm taking questions on blogging, as if you haven't heard enough from me about that subject.  

Here's the full run down of twitter handles and designated subjects…

@angelica_cheung on Editorial

@F_Marchetti on E-Tailing

@hunghuang on Fashion Media

@godfredonia on Fashion Journalism

@jakandjilblog on Streetstyle

@susiebubble on Blogging

All questions can be directed via Twitter with the hashtag #ArmaniTweetTalks or submitted on Armani's Tweet Talks site.

I expect all the subject crossovers and curiosity will create a minefield of questions hopefully.  I've never really done a Twitter chat on this scale before and of course, with a frighteningly impressive list of panelists.  I'm hoping I don't go into awkward too-scared-to-raise-hand-in-class mode.  

On a social media in China note, I'm now on WEIBO, the mammoth Chinese equivalent of Twitter/Facebook/Instagram/Tumblr all rolled into one.  I'm rather enjoying some of the nifty features of it but that doesn't meant I've abandoned my scary list of social media outlets.  I'm just being lazy and copying tweets/blogs/posts across all of them but this does mean I also get to practise my reading of Chinese.  I'll upgrade to writing in Chinese on Weibo soon enough…

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