London.  Back to wet leaves mingling with the smell of bacon sardines, market stall holders shouting “Everything must go for a paaaaaaand!” and shrill announcements from TFL.  If that sounds vaguely like amateur poetry, that’s when you know I’m glad to be back.

For one thing, I can properly “hang out” in my own city.  And hang out is what I intend to do this weekend with a multitude of flat whites, a chow down at the latest Korean/Vietnamese/Texan fusion hole and a visit to stores like Goodhood, which opened up a new two floor MEGA-store on the beginning of Curtain Road.  Founders Kyle Stewart and Jo Sindle had outgrown their Coronet Street location which is still their office, and luckily found a site a stone throw’s away for their ever expanding buy of menswear, womenswear, homewards as well as kidswear and beauty to flourish.  How odd to walk into Goodhood now and for there to be a Floor Guide as if it’s a mini department store of the East.  It even has a cafe now, run in collaboration with Brett Redman from the delish Pavilion Cafe in Victoria Park.

The expansion of Goodhood from cult boutique to bona fide lifestyle was inevitable in some ways.  Especially when it started going deep into homewards and adding their “Lifestore” to their old Coronet Street location.  Now they have 3,000 sq feet to play with and the result is a proper lifestyle store, something that I find sometimes lacking in London where clothes, books, food and home merge with one another on a cohesive taste level.  The truth is there are few stores that can afford the square footage to carry through such a concept.  When I was in L.A. I loved how there were so many stores such as Piece Collective and General Store, which had these incredible spaces to allow pottery to mingle with homespun scarves dotted amongst books.  Goodhood, with the added bonus of having figured out a fashion buy that works for their customer, can now fully explore their other departments too with this mega space.  I love all their selection of Scandi interior stalwarts like Hay, Studio Arhoj and Ferm Living.

As for the clothes, their selection has always been to serve someone that isn’t “fashion-fashion” – labels that have appeal to a wider cross section of people that aren’t slaves to keeping up with the catwalks.  That doesn’t mean the clothes are basic but that you don’t need to be rabidly into fashion to “get” them.  Wood Wood, Perks and Mini and Surface to Air have long been Goodhood staples for both guys and girls.  Likewise you can always rely on Goodhood for Junya Watanabe mens and Norse Projects.  Goodhood remains one of the few (if not only?) places to find pretty pretty lingerie by Lonely (their Sabel cut out bra – the only bra I can tolerate…).  Newer label additions though expand Goodhood’s remit and taps into their own tagline which is that the store is for “Weirdos, Stylers, Punks and Outsiders.”  For instance, Sofia Prantera and Fergus Purcell’s co-designed skate-influenced Aries label and Gosha Rubchinsky menswear represent Goodhood widening their design eye.  There’s TBA footwear for chunky heeled-fetishists like myself.  And Building Block – the LA based accessories label that does utilitarian bags in line with an anti-IT bag wave.  It’s also good to see they’ve picked up LF Markey, who has now condensed her label into well made wardrobe staples.  

In a city where you can easily reel of independent fashion stores off your ten fingers, as places come and go, it’s good to know that people like Goodhood are expanding and building a mini empire on their own.

0E5A9250

0E5A9257

0E5A9248

0E5A9212

0E5A9243

 

0E5A9173

0E5A9231

0E5A9226

0E5A9204

0E5A9233

0E5A9236

0E5A9203

0E5A9207

 

0E5A9252

0E5A9210

0E5A9198

0E5A9184

0E5A9192

0E5A9188

0E5A9218

0E5A9170

0E5A9136

0E5A9152

0E5A9137

0E5A9155

0E5A9134

0E5A9127

0E5A9142

0E5A9147

0E5A9129

0E5A9162

0E5A9193

10467917_242596119262782_1886810974_nSammy and Val fusing all of the elements that have make Fruition, the store an interesting concept

Fruition.  I’m pretty sure that’s one of my top ten most overused words in speech and in writing.  It is after all an uplifting word that neatly sums up the process of design, development and final product and in on this occasion, I finally got to see the “Fruition” of Sammy Jo Alonso, Val Julian and business partner Chris Julian’s eponymous store that is coming up to its ten year anniversary.  The trio started Fruition in their beloved hometown of Las Vegas because they wanted to shake things up in sin city.  Sammy has been reflecting on her close-to-a-decade Fruition journey on Instagram and had this to say: “To many of you, Las Vegas may seem like a barren desert.  But to me, Las Vegas is a city with boundless untouched treasures.  Treasures and undeveloped talents found within myself these past 9 years.”  

From Fruition’s seemingly in-the-middle-of-nowhere LV locale, they’ve expanded to Los Angeles with a store in Echo Park as well as collaborating left, right and centre with brands, like Nike, along the way to spread not just the Fruition gospel but Sammy and Val’s own mantras of living life to the full (see this post for motivating words that will make you get off your arse and well… just do it!).  On my trip to Los Angeles which also included a one day reccie to Las Vegas last month, seeing Fruition in both cities was on my agenda, just so that I could see this store that I talked up on the basis of their look book styling, which popped off the computer screen.  Hearing Virgil Abloh talk about these “Celine and Supreme” modern times, where one can mix and match street, high-end and other sources all together; it made me think of the aesthetic of Fruition.  Back in 2005, they were already recontextualising vintage to mix up authentically crafted “ethnic” pieces from all over the world, with vintage Chanel and Versace and then both new and deadstock streetwear and sportswear.  Back then, that mix would have been a zany one.  Now, we almost take mixing up style genres for granted.  Case in point, I came away from the Los Angeles store with a destroyed and ripped Chinese robe (no ridic London prices here – I paid USD30) and a Phoebe Philo concert tour t-shirt by the brand Modern Man Paris.  I’m not sure how Ms. Philo will feel about her image cut ‘n’ pasted this way but this t-shirt is certainly representative of the way designers are probably a bit uneasy about the way consumer mixes their collections up, styling and restyling until it is very far removed from the original catwalk context.  It’s why brands and houses instruct editors and stylists to showcase head-to-toe looks in magazines.  The very idea of designers ceding control so that “people” can remix brands in their own way is what makes stores like Fruition so refreshing.  They point out the roots of brands with their themed displays of military jackets, bleached-out denim and 80s windbreakers and pair them up with brand new streetwear or designers that link up to these references.  In the background of the LA store in particular, glitched up images of Celine and Margiela collections are spliced with their own references and we’re invited to “surf” the store and “instamoment” a selfie.  Fruition reflects the same kind of glitched up present, whilst recognising the weight of the fruitful past where so many of the clothes in the store come from.  But what of the future?

We live in a google generation.  A microwave culture where we’ve been conditioned to expect instant results and instant solutions. We’re led by bottom line expectations to produce, coupled with our internal pressure to succeed.  These circumstances can easily take the life out of living if not pursued with balance and meaning.  With patience and discipline, we can learn to run the race we have been called to run.  Life is meant to be enjoyed, not endured. I promise you, we will surpass our own expectations and set the pace towards our best days ahead.”  From Sammy’s Instagram

IMG_0276

IMG_0274

IMG_0259

IMG_0261

IMG_0262

IMG_0273

IMG_0264

IMG_0271

IMG_0272

IMG_0269

IMG_0260

IMG_0266

IMG_0150

IMG_0151

IMG_0144

IMG_0136

IMG_0140

IMG_0138

IMG_0141

IMG_0137

IMG_0162

IMG_0164

IMG_0160

IMG_0154

IMG_0156

IMG_0147

IMG_0157

IMG_0165

We had a loose rule on our second trip to Los Angeles to try and do things that we hadn’t done before on our first trip, which included not repeating food spots and accommodation. In fact we stayed at five different places on our six day trip just to mix things up a bit (there was a meticulous packing methodology). We have still come away feeling like we’re not quite sated and there’s still an arm-long to-do/see list, which means it’s more than likely that we’ll come back for more. LA, we really do heart you. A lot.

20140716_100856

– Trust my British self to moan about the weather on the first day of our holiday. But only because I did feel a bit peeved that for the first few days, it was actually hotter in London than it was in Los Angeles. We had booked ourselves into Shutters on the Beach to spend a lush first night in Santa Monica and woke up to this…

IMG_0059

– In fairness, it did brighten up so that it looked like the above about four hours later so my initial gripes were completely unfounded. Plus Santa Monica/Venice Beach is still awesome regardless of the colour of the sky.

IMG_0097

IMG_0070

20140716_081434Breakfast of healthy/not so healthy at Shutters

IMG_0077

IMG_0089

IMG_0098

IMG_0074Wearing Vika Gazinsakay x & Other Stories dress, Bernstock Speirs visor, Kenzo bag, Tabitha Simmons x Toms shoes, Ray Ban sunglasses

IMG_0102

IMG_0100

– As expected LA treated us good food-wise.  Following our rule about not repeating food spots twice we also tried to go for things that are basically hard to find in London.  Our eats included an awesome boat noodle soup at Pa Ord, interesting bacon-imbued and pork-fat-rendered flavour combinations at Animal, ceviche tostadas at El Sietes Mares, sorrel lemonade at Sky’s Gourmet Tacos and a nom nom undressed lobster roll at Blue Plate Oysterette.

20140718_135229

– I really wanted to check out Heritage Square Museum because I had seen pictures of their annual Vintage Fashion Show and Tea online.  Eight historic structures mostly constructed during the Victorian era were saved and reconstructed here by Montecito Heights.  There are more “real” examples of this kind of architecture elsewhere in the city but I loved the odd juxtaposition and assembly of houses right by a busy freeway.

IMG_0195

IMG_0189

IMG_0204

– Something ultra cheesy had to be on the agenda.  The Dearly Departed tours were all booked up so we headed to the Hollywood Museum in the old Maxfactor Building.  If you’re errr.. into pan-cake style make-up on dusty pink dressing tables and Daryl Hannah narrating a ye olde documentary on the history of Maxfactor, this is the place for you.  I’m a sucker for old Hollywood memorabilia though so I kind of loved it.

IMG_0117

IMG_0120

IMG_0121

IMG_0124Wearing Clio Peppiatt t-shirt, ASOS Salon dress, tweed slip-ons from Japan, Loewe sunglasses, Loewe bag

IMG_0128

IMG_0129

IMG_0131

– Unlike London, Los Angeles has a lot of distinctly themed areas dedicated to the many ethnicities that make up the city.  Olvera Street is the oldest part of downtown Los Angeles with Spanish settlers founding the city in 1781.  Today, it’s an ode to its past as a Spanish/Mexican outpost with a ton of tourist-y kitschy market stalls.  Always up for getting any sort of fix of Mexico of course, however cliched.  Nearby, is Chinatown, which isn’t really where LA’s Chinese community live (need to make it to San Gabriel Valley for the good Chinese eats…) but again is a kitschy reminder of the past when it was actually bustling and the centre of the Chinese community.  It feels more like a hammed up Hollywood set than a real functioning Chinatown but it definitely has its charm.  I love that Ooga Booga, an interesting and conceptual zine/book/gift store is nestled in the middle of plaza.

IMG_0168

IMG_0171

IMG_0176

IMG_0185

IMG_0134

 

IMG_0175

IMG_0215

IMG_0222

IMG_0226 Wearing Suno hat, 3.1 Phillip Lim vest, Topshop skirt, Linda Farrow sunglasses and Salvatore Ferragamo slip-ons

– Steve and I kept on lusting after home and garden decorations as stores along Abbot Kinney and Lincoln Blvd were tempting us to overdo it with our luggage allowance (we only bought a few things but still had to plead with the airline to let us go over our limit).  On Abbot Kinney, The Piece Collective, A Plus R, Tortoise General Store and Chariots of Fire were full of lovely things.  General Store on Lincoln Blvd is also fantastic.

IMG_0104

IMG_0105Inside Piece Collective

20140716_183335

IMG_0107Pots at A Plus R

– In particular, we got quite obsessed with cool ceramics and little plant pots.  Since we didn’t bring that many back, I’ve been tirelessly searching Etsy for alternatives.  South Willard had an intriguing exhibition on local pottery artists Michael and Magdalena Suarez Frimkess.  Alchemy Works in Arts District and Fifth Floor in Chinatown also had a few names for us to take note of.

20140718_125243

20140718_125141Bits and bobs inside Fifth Floor

IMG_0110

– There seems to be a lot of love for Craig Green in LA which is great to see!  People instantly recognised and ID-ed his tie-dye shorts from SS14, which I was wearing and there was a healthy amount of his stuff at the store 12345.  Go Craig!!!

IMG_4475Inside 1,2,3,4,5

– We’re currently in the process of re-doing our garden and a cactus corner is a must because of all the cool cacti we saw out in LA.  It won’t look as cool in our flat grey light but will definitely be a reminder of our trips.

IMG_0183At Olvera Street

IMG_0173

– Every area in LA seemed to have one of these Apolis Local + Global market bags, which originated in LA-based socially motivated lifestyle brand Apolis’ arts district store and have slowly branched out to partner with stores all over the world.  I love the new Koreatown version sold in Poketo inside The Line hotel.  They’re made by a group of women in Bangladesh and as this harrowing BBC2 documentary on the Rana Plaza disaster attests, any initiative to ensure Bangladeshi women get to earn a fair living under safe conditions is definitely worthy of attention.

new-neighbors-warby-parker-blacktop-coffee-00

– The ridiculous reason why I wanted to go to Las Vegas for a day was because I needed the air miles to top up my account.  The sensible reason was that I’d never been.  Perhaps less than 24 hours wasn’t really enough time to devote to the city of sin but I have to be honest… Las Vegas basically felt like Leicester Square and Macau x 100 rolled together with the added downside of searingly hot temperatures (walking around outside at night was like having a hot fan heater blowing in your face the whole time).  We don’t gamble and we didn’t really know how (yes, I know I’m betraying my Chinese roots here but my dad abhors gambling and likewise instilled that in me) and spent a while just watching people do it.  Then we went to strip club for the “fun” of it and found it to be an utterly depressing experience, watching girls in mismatched bras and panties sidling up to men for dances (I say dance loosely – they were just bouncing up and down to get dudes turned on).  But…

IMG_0243

IMG_0235View from our room at the Bellagio

IMG_0233Dale Chihuly ceiling in the lobby of the Bellagio

IMG_0242

IMG_0246

…I really did love driving further up the strip towards downtown to see the shotgun wedding chapels at night even if we did have to pay an extortionate fare to a cab driver to get him to drive us up and down the strip.

IMG_0248

IMG_0250Wearing Ray-Ban sunglasses, vintage Vivienne Westwood swimsuit, Marni shorts, Christopher Kane sandals

IMG_0256

– On a food note, the Bacchanal buffet at Caesars Palace defeated me.  One starter plate, one main plate and a few of the desserts were all I had.  I brought shame to my expert buffet eating family.  Thumbs up to the truffle layered potatoes, the clams in chorizo sauce and the dipped strawberries.

IMG_0240

– Back in LA, we opted to spend our last night in a new-ish hotel called The Line in Koreatown.  It had a fab view of Hollywood Hills and the interiors designed by Knibb Design were pretty ace (especially loved the plastered white t-shirt ceilings) but not everything was open yet – looking forward to coming back to check out the Commissary cafe, which is housed in a greenhouse by the pool.  It was handy to be near all the Korean eats though and it was great to eat a really decent tasting funked-up congee for brekkie.  Didn’t get to sample Roy Choi’s food at the restaurant hotel Pot but like I said, this place is definitely one to revisit.

IMG_4471View from The Line

– Downtown LA is still a pretty interesting area to comb through.  This time we checked out Bradbury Building aka where they filmed Blade Runner in.  It’s an incredible mishmash of architecture inside with Parisian-derived apartment iron fretwork coupled with Mexican tiles and Italian marble, with a central skylight allowing light to flood in.  Across the road, Million Dollar Theatre and Grand Central Market are also worth snooping around.  Especially in the latter, where we tried Salvadorean pupusas.  Plus there’s an eatery called Eggslut.  Yup, Eggslut.

IMG_4482Inside the Bradbury Building

IMG_4484Million Dollar Theater

IMG_4486

IMG_4490

IMG_4495

– In a shop called Round2, the owner described downtown as “kind of like New York in the 80s… things are just getting started around here.”  Not sure if the analogy is entirely true but DLTA definitely has its own vibe, that’s very separate from shopping in Hollywood or out in Silver Lake/Echo Park.  Round2 felt like an LA version of Cyber Dog and I found great plastic fantasic pieces by local designer Michelle Uberreste (apparently an ex Project Runway contestant).  I also loved The Last bookstore, quite possibly the largest and most well-organised second hand bookstore I’ve been to.  I didn’t get to check out Please do Not Enter, a newish concept store downtown but again, leaving one for next time.

IMG_4496Michelle Uberreste vest at Round 2

IMG_4500

IMG_4503

– Outside In ‘n’ Out near the airport (our only repeat eating experience because well… it’s In ‘n’ Out!), a girl yelped my name and repeatedly screamed/hugged me and then ran away without saying anything.  I kind of loved her.  Please make yourself be known if you are reading!

bicester

Ooops.  That would be the word.  Or make it a Bicester Ooops.  That happens pretty much every time I am up at Bicester Village.  To be fair, the majority of contents in those shopping bags are for other people but still, it is a bit of an ooops.  It’s that time of year again when British Designer’s Collective is back for another round at Bicester Village.  It’s the fifth time British designers have been gathered up to pop-up at Bicester Village to add into the mix of impressive label roster and this year, the theme has been to combine the worlds of art and fashion together.  A pre-event launch at Keeper’s House, Royal Academy’s new-ish art lover social space set the tone.  And then on an early morning train with other giddy fashion journos, we went up to Bicester Village to see what Yasmin Sewell and her retail magic team have conjured up.  A striking blue studded exterior that carries through to the inside houses a real snapshot of where British fashion is today.  Sure we’re talking past seasons here but it’s the range that is impressive.  Up above on the walls you have pieces by artists and Royal Academicians like Gary Hume and Grayson Perry to compliment the rails as well as adding an art dimension that hasn’t really been seen before at Bicester.

Designer wise, you have your established folk – Roksanda Ilincic, Mary Katrantzou, Peter Pilotto, Jonathan Saunders, Richard Nicoll and House of Holland – all wildly different and coming together in an eclectic pot.  Nicholas Kirkwood is a big draw on the shoe front.  They’re names that are reaching household status.  You then have  your new establishment or whatever you want to call this middling category with J.W. Anderson, J J.S. Lee, Michael van der Ham and Holly Fulton, again representing very different aesthetic strands.  Finally you have your very very new new designers in Marques Almeida, Claire Barrow and Ryan Lo, designers, who aren’t necessarily easy to find on rails in London.  That in itself is worth the short train ride up to Bicester.  On the day I was full-on dressed up in Team Ryan lace and glitter (I think I may have left a trail of iridescent glitter behind me on the Chiltern Railways train – that’s another “Ooops!”).  By the end of the day, I had procured a beautiful painted Claire Barrow white leather biker jacket, conjured up from her imagination.  These pieces sell themselves without needing instantly recognisable names as a draw.  New visitors to this year’s edition of BDC are definitely in for a treat.

P.S. If you’ve seen me tagging #BDCSelfie on social posts, that’s because I’m helping BDC to pick out creative selfies to win four £250 vouchers (and I promise that goes a long way at a place like Bicester – £40 Prada earrings anyone?).  Just follow @BicesterVillage on Twitter or Instagram and post a creative selfie, tagging them with #BDCSelfie to go into the competition pot.

IMG_0199

IMG_0195

IMG_0275

IMG_0289

IMG_0265From left to right: Jackie Lee, Natalia Barbieri (designer of Bionda Castana), Desiree Bollier (CEO of Value Retail), Ellie Goulding, Yasmin Sewell, Claire Barrow, Ryan Lo

IMG_0243

IMG_0258Selfie machine

IMG_0237

IMG_0214Mary Katrantzou stamps and currency

IMG_0208Peter Pilotto dress

IMG_0239J.W. Anderson ensemble

IMG_0251House of Holland

IMG_0213House of Holland sunnies

IMG_0292Jonathan Saunders and Peter Pilotto are the star draws of BDC

IMG_0254Dreamscape pieces by Mary McCartney for Lulu & Co

IMG_0286Collage prints by Michael van der Ham

IMG_0222Holly Fulton gets lippy

IMG_0234Great workhorse pieces by J J.S. Lee

IMG_0206Lovely knits by Lucas Nascimento

IMG_0217

IMG_0241I heart Ryan Lo – duh!

IMG_0288One-off painted leather jacket by Claire Barrow

IMG_0274Claire Barrow’s painted bag

IMG_0287Frayed denim pieces by Marques Almeida

IMG_0224Geometric goodies by Nicholas Kirkwood

IMG_0216Bionda Castana powder blue beauties