Saturday, August 29, 2009

Give a gnome a home

Ever wondered what happens to the shop props you see in window displays? Well, White Stuff has come up with a novel idea: give them to the public once they're finished with in exchange for a donation to charity. Which is how I found myself adopting a gnome last weekend. Yes, you heard right.

White Stuff's latest window display of garden gnomes will make you smile. Their 'adopted' tags, hanging around their necks like sold signs, will make you intrigued. While the 'Give a gnome a home' poster will tug at your heart strings and make you want to snap up every last gnome that hasn't already been taken.

The deal is, for a minimum donation of £5, you get an adoption certificate that allows you to take your gnome home once the window display is removed at the end of the autumn. Now, that's what I call a fab find for a fiver!

I've noticed that White Stuff is very proactive in charitable deeds and this one has got to the most fun yet. With the money going to each store's chosen local charity, the company estimates that if every gnome gets adopted, it will raise at least £12,500 for good causes. So, what are you waiting for? Give a gnome a home!

As for my gnome (it's the blue one at the centre, front), watch this space...

Friday, August 28, 2009

Holding out for a hero

When I'm shopping for bargains, £50 is my cut-off point. Anything over that requires due thought and consideration. There are plenty of times when I've spend way and above that, but it's a general rule I try to stick by.

Unless, of course, I spot a real treasure that unreservedly deserves its higher price point. Such as this Topshop Unique jacket.

Right now, it's all about the 'hero' or 'trophy' jacket - a show-stopper piece that's heavy on the beading/bling/embellishment; the one item that singlehandedly transforms your look from wallflower to I-want-to-be-her.

This jacket is a trophy you'll want to parade. It's an investment piece. One that will see you through season after season. OK, it's a hefty £125, but you do get a large quantity of beadwork and sequins for your money. Heck, it's almost a couture piece for the amount of labour that went into making it.

And, if that weren't enough, it weighs in at an impressive 787g - that's over three-quarters of a bag of sugar or nearly eight large bars of Green & Blacks chocolate!

Sure, it's glitzy and glam, but it's extremely versatile, too. My favourite look is to team it with skinny blue jeans and a long slouchy white tee or vest top. It dresses up everyday basics with zero effort, while eveningwear is transformed from sophisticated to stand-out sexy. The trick is to ensure the jacket is your statement piece, so stick to neutrals all-round except for the hero in your wardrobe.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Web of desire

I've got one word to say about these tights: Rodarte. OK, that was a fib! At the very least, I need to let you know they're £7.99 from H&M.

A little bit punk, a little bit goth, they really do rock the Rodarte vibe (the Mulleavy sisters first sent romantically ripped yarns and hosiery down the New York runway for their a/w 2008 collection). I love the cobweb design and the fact that they're not as delicate as they seem. But what really seals the deal is that they look edgy with very little effort at all. Thrown together with my American Vintage sweater dress and a pair of ankle boots and I'm set for autumn.

The cute mouse T-shirt is by Giles, circa December 2007. Part of Gap's (Product) RED collection, curated by Katie Grand, it came in pink and grey. I plumped for pink - to make the boys wink!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Where the wild things are

This giraffe tee by Emma Cook for Topshop made me smile. It's a little more than I'd spend on a T-shirt at £40, but it is a cashmere blend and as silky soft as can be. Plus, it's right in tune with the plethora of animal prints making a strong style statement right now. Generous in sizing, you'll probably want to buy a size smaller, too - which is always a good feeling, no?

Markus Lupfer, meanwhile, has created his trademark oversized jumpers for Topshop. Continuing with the animal theme, two of his sweaters sport massive sequinned hearts in bold graffiti-style leopard print that would make Stephen Sprouse proud. Take your pick from red sequins on grey marl or white on charcoal. There's also a glitzy pineapple design that's reminiscent of Stella McCartney's s/s 2001 collection for Chloé, which featured the fruit strategically placed on swimwear.

Lupfer's cotton jumpers are a steep £85, but if you consider that both he and Cook are part of the Designers at Topshop collaborative, you're actually getting a piece of edgy London talent for the fraction of what their own-line labels sell for. And, as you know, I'm a huge fan of designer/high-street collaborations. In fact, hanging in my wardrobe is a Topshop collaboration with Sophia Kokosalaki from way back in 2006. It's a simple grey jersey dress cut to fall with her beautiful Grecian-style draping and was a bargain at £60 - especially as the designer is now celebrating her 10th anniversary this year with a collection of 10 dresses with four-figure price tags.

Look out for the next drop of designer threads at Topshop with Christopher Kane's collection which hits stores on 18th September. I'll keep you posted.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Primark's £4 statement necklace

While I'd love to take credit for discovering this bargain bib necklace - a steal at just £4.00 - I can't. I spotted it on a colleague this week, who let me in on the secret of its source: Primarni (aka Primark)! So the least I can do is share this bargain find with you all.

Now, as I may have already mentioned, statement necklaces are set to, well, make a statement next season. And wow, what a statement: the paste stones place this necklace in costume jewellery territory, while the felt bib and beading prevent it from becoming too ostentatious.

This is the perfect day accessory to give your look a sophisticated finish. If you wear it with a plain black round-necked dress or top, the necklace looks like actual embellishment to the garment rather than a piece of jewellery - which I like. After all, in all regards it is quite bling, yet it has the ability to offer understated style, too. While for full-on glamour at night, just bare your shoulders with a strapless LBD and this necklace will get all the attention it deserves.

Btw, if you're liking the fabric, it's from The Art Collection at Liberty. The store has collaborated with six British artists (Grayson Perry, Paul Morrison, Mike McInnerney, Michael Angove, Anj Smith and Simon Hart) to give its Liberty Art Fabric range an injection of contemporary creativity.

So my fabric of choice? It's the Cranford print, £19.95 per m, by Turner Prize-winner Grayson Perry (best know for his studio ceramics - and his alter ego, Claire), so-named after the TV series it was inspired by. I'd hazard a guess that his design is influenced by the bonnets in this Elizabeth Gaskell period drama, set in the 1840s.

I'm loving Perry's silk Cranford scarf for Liberty (below), too, where he's used the colour scheme to fuse pairs of ghoulish faces together to create heart motifs. But alas, it's £110!

A little less expensive (well, free in fact!) is Liberty's Print Charming exhibition - on until 2nd September. A room full of Liberty prints? Heaven. Plus, the store exterior is dressed in Betsy print. So cute!

Monday, August 17, 2009

This week I'm rocking...

...this sunhat from Gap. With straw hats a-plenty on the high street, finding a nice cloth version is a tricky task - until I spotted this one. With its washed-out navy ticking stripes it instantly conjures up the seaside, and at £5.99 in Gap's seasonal clearance (instead of £12.50) it's a small spend for something that's going to get a good dose of sunscreen and sea salt over the summer - and, unlike straw, it's washable, too.

Plus, it fulfils my three-point check list:
1. Broad brim? Tick.
2. Lightweight? Tick.
3. Fits in my suitcase? Tick, tick and tick because, unlike more rigid hats, this beauty folds away to virtually nothing, making it a dream to pack.

I love its boho floppy style - great for the garden as well as the beach.

It looks good on Egg the Owl, too! (I added this pic so you could see the hat in true technicolour.) I source vintage/retro toys for my friend Kirsty's card company, Umpen Editions, so if Egg looks vaguely familiar you may just have seen him on the front of a greetings card.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

My 50p find

I bought this vintage clutch bag in a charity shop for 50p today. I'm not convinced it's made of leather, but the inside is sweet - all peach-coloured ticking stripes with a little pocket for a mirror. There are metal loops where a strap used to be attached, but sadly that was missing. Still, I think it functions better as a clutch. It's roomy enough for more than just the essentials and it gives a satisfying snap when it clicks shut.

I love rummaging around in charity shops - you never know what you're going to find. Often, I won't find anything, but it makes the moments when I do strike treasure just that little bit more special. Plus, it's really satisfying to give something old or discarded a new lease of life. That's part of my ethos as a bargainista fashionista: remake, renew, revive.

PS. The book's a good read, too. It's Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Heart to heart

I just wanted to give you the head's up on some more heart tights. Remember the Tabio ones I blogged about back in May? Well, Topshop has now got in on the act. I spotted their version (on left) today and the shop assistant told me they'd just come in. The hearts aren't so dinky dainty as the Tabio ones - no, we're talking bold, big-hearted tights here (but only slightly so).

At £8 a pop, you may not think that's an amazing bargain, but consider it this way: it's a cheap investment to give an outfit a whole new spin and far more thrifty than buying a piece of clothing. So remember this smart shopping tip: accessories are the economical way to update your look - fast.

As for the other pair of Topshop tights (on right), these were most definitely a steal: reduced in the sale from £8 to just £1. I love how the stocking-like 'seam' that goes up the back of the legs is made up of teeny tiny hearts. So cute. So sexy. And a great buy for next season. Team with a skirt suit by day to work the 1940s look, then swap for a LBD for night. Or even a LPD (little pink dress). Trust me, hot pink is a/w's big colour trend.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

This week I'm rocking...

...this ring by Alex Monroe. It was a gift from the Stickman last Christmas and, rediscovering it the other day, I realised I should be blogging about my bargains past, as well as present. After all, more often than not, there's a thrifty story behind each find.

This particular gem was bought at the Pullens Yards open studios event last December, where artisans and craftsmen in this historic pocket of south-east London open up their doors to sell their wares. And, it just so happens that one of my favourite jewellery designers, Alex Monroe, has his studio in SE17.

I love his delicate silver and gold designs, inspired by nature, so I was like a child in a sweet shop browsing through his samples and old-season stock, alongside his main collections. This dainty little ring was £40 - a fraction of what it would retail for in the shops. Mind you, based on cost per wear, it's easy to justify one of Alex's exquisite pieces... well, that's what I'll be telling the Stickman next time!

I'll keep you posted about the next Pullens Yards open studios event but, meanwhile, do check out Alex's designs. They're a timeless investment and that's what good quality jewellery is all about. Plus, his sneak preview of his spring/summer 2010 collection looks very exciting! Oh, and Sienna Miller's been sporting his creations Stateside while promoting her new film, G.I. Joe, adding to Alex's legion of A-list fans.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

More zips

Tell me to zip it, but zips really are everywhere on the high street right now. And Gap's new offering is the latest to catch my eye.

One of the key details to this sweet summer frock is the exposed zipper that runs down the front of the dress, giving a girlie number a little bit of rock'n'roll edge. It's perfect to see in the rest of the festival season. All for just £39.50.

H&M, meanwhile, is rocking the 1980s trend with a taupe sweater dress with unzippable sleeves for £29.99. While it's tempting to go sleeveless, it really doesn't work as there are no shoulder seams to hold the dress up! Still, exposed zips in lieu of seams definitely works an edgy look. I'm already picturing it with leggings and my Chie Mihara heels. Hmm, I feel another shopping trip coming on...

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Marmite effect

Animal print. It's like Marmite. You either love it or hate. Me, I fall in the latter camp. Too bold, too brass, too Bet Lynch. But, since the advent of Stephen Sprouse's graffiti leopard print for Louis Vuitton, my head has been slowly but surely turned.

It started with a pair of grey leopard-print socks from Topshop. A mere £3 step towards embracing a pattern, a print that previously I'd abhorred. The discreet flash of an ankle which revealed my animal-print tastes was enough for me. Plus, the socks were nice and thick, which is a bonus.

Yet still, I'm not brave enough to camouflage myself in animal print. Although I must admit, I am tempted by the patterned leggings around (having both seen an edgy Topshop pair worn by a colleague and a picture of the King of Pop in grey leopard-print skinnies - they were nice, ok!).

So, my next step? For now, it's this scarf from H&M. As you can see from the sale tag, it's a rather bargainous three quid (don't you just love the reductions at the end of the sales?). Reduced from £12.99, it's a cheap investment into a look I'm still finding my feet with. I mean, the purple's rather loud, rather wacky. But this 1.5m square of cloth does seem rather useful. I think its primary function is actually a sarong. It's large enough. And light enough to cover up from the sun. Ditto for wrapping it around your neck when it's cold. Yes, we'll see how we get on, this leopard-print scarf and I.

Free Paul & Joe Sister top

You know me, I love a good bargain. So listen up, because this Paul & Joe Sister top is just £3.60. Yep, you heard me right. Not £360. Not even £36, but £3.60.

The cool Parisian label (Paul & Joe's younger, sassier diffusion line) has collaborated with Elle magazine to offer this chic ruffle-front top with raw-edged seams free with the August issue (which is where the £3.60 price tag comes in). I love this soft-grey version, but you can take your pick from white, fuchsia pink and cobalt blue, too. But hurry, the issue's only on sale for a few more days now...


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