Last week, I had the pleasure of meeting a talented Ecuadorian designer Liz Cardenas. Liz is the sister of my close friend Susana, whose stylish outfits (many of them created by Liz) I’ve admired since the day I met her. Having been a fan of Liz’s work for years, I finally got a chance to meet her in person and chat to her about style and how to have more of it.
Liz is one of Latin America’s most recognised and respected contemporary fashion designers and currently lives in Egypt. The combination of these two very vibrant cultures creates a unique design vision. Liz creates colourful feminine clothes from luxurious natural fabrics such as handmade silk and cotton and makes beautiful jewellery from tagua nut (also known as ‘vegetable ivory’) and semi-precious stones.
So here are the tips I took away from my conversation with Liz:
Style is about expressing your personality, how you present yourself to the world. It has little to do with following the latest trends.
To create a stylish look you need to mix things up: wear a luxury designer piece with something from high street, mix a romantic look with rock chic elements, for example something in leather.
Colour is extremely important. Don’t be afraid to add colour to your outfit and to create your own colour combinations. Experiment. Sometimes the colours we think should not work, will work together beautifully.
Shoes and handbag can make or break an outfit.
So can a necklace! It can make or completely change your outfit. Accessories are very important ‘tools’ in style if you don’t overuse them.
It’s not only about your clothes and accessories. Hair and make up are very important too. Make sure your haircut, make up and outfit are age appropriate. Wear make up, but don’t over do it. A good haircut is essential, especially as we get older. Flat long hair, for example, can lengthen the face and make a woman look older.
Present the best version of yourself will make a difference to you and to others. It does no matter who you dress for (women, men, yourself…), the most important thing is to love your reflection in the mirror and be happy with how you look.
This conversation inspired me to get a new haircut with softer layers around the face (pictures coming soon), invest in a couple of statement necklaces and go through my collection of bags and shoes and get rid of the ones that do not make an outfit any more. I hope you find these inspiring too!
Liz’s jewellery will be available online in the UK in the near future. Watch this space for further news.
Winter is definitely on its way. As days get shorter and shorter, the grayness of the cloud-covered sky merges with darkness of trees and buildings, extra effort is required to stay in a good mood. Very often I find that on a gloomy morning, my mood tends to be a little gloomy too, especially if I have an early start. It does not help that most people are dressed in black and gray, adding to the natural grayness and darkness of the season.
Of course, there is nothing I can do about the weather or the current season, but I can add more colour to my life during this time to uplift my mood.
There are many ways to add colour. For me this always starts with my outfit. I believe wearing colour not only significantly affects our mood and state but also it influences how we are perceived by others and therefore can influence the quality of our communication and interaction with people around us.
Recently, I have been working with a friend, who has changed her career from a tired corporate employee to entrepreneur . She decided to change her wardrobe, previously made up of black and grey staples, and is no longer scared to add colour to her outfits, sending message to the outside world that she is inspired and confident. Another friend was wondering why people rarely approach her. The answer was her all black outfits (which by the way were draining for her light complexion) were saying: “I am not open to communication”. When I encouraged her to wear a lighter, brighter colour, not only did her mood change, but she could not stop admiring herself in the mirror and got a spark in her eyes, which was impossible not to notice.
Colour can change, enhance, hide, transform. Every morning I start with choosing a main colour or several complimentary or clashing colours for my outfit, depending on my mood, tasks that lie ahead, occasion and how I want to be seen. I highly recommend experimenting with colour in your outfits and observing how it influences your mood and even interactions with others.
Wearing colour can be scary if you are used to wearing neutrals, such as black or gray. Some people complain that finding colour in winter collections is challenging. But as with anything, once you start consciously paying attention to something, you will start noticing it everywhere. All you need is a desire and willingness to experiment. I hope these tips will be a helpful starting point.
1. The most obvious way to add colour to your winter look is to invest in a bright-coloured coat.
A friend from Spain recently complimented me on my coat in a bold colour and confessed that all her winter coats are dark, reflecting her “winter mood”. No wonder our mood worsens in winter. Not only is there less sunlight, but also we eliminate colour from our wardrobe.
I am a big fan of bright coats and encourage investing in a coat that is not black. We are often told that coat is an investment piece and should be as versatile and long-lasting as possible. I agree that coat is an investment piece, but black is not always the best answer, not to mention it does not suit everyone. My recommendation is to have several options in different colours, one of them neutral, either light grey, brown, navy, beige, camel or black (if it suits you) and another one in a brighter, lighter colour. If you consider that in many countries we wear coats for at least 4-5 months every year, doesn’t it make sense to invest in several different ones?
For example, I have a blue, a red, a purple coat and a coat in a black and white pattern.
There is a fantastic choice of coats in all shapes and colours this season. This is a very helpful feature from Never Underdressed, where the editorial team has selected the best coats online for us. My favourites include (click on an image for further details):
2. Bright accessories
If a coat in a bold colour is not for you or you worry you may get tired or bored of one colour, then think about accessories – scarves, gloves, hats, even belts to wear with your coat. This is the easiest way to add colour and style to your winter outfit and to personalise your winter look.
3. Wear coloured denim
The trend for bright coloured denim has been around for a couple of seasons. There is a great choice of jeans in non-traditional colours: electric blue, turquoise, red, purple or orange. Choose the one that works best with your winter sweaters and coats. Or, if you can, wear your summer jeans with warmer tops and scarves. Another alternative is a statement skirt.
4. Footwear does not have to be black
I’ll admit, most of my winter boots are black, but I am adding new colours too: burgundy, light grey, beige.
My new Bobbies ankle boots in burgundy. Beige ones are lovely too.
Final words on adding more colour to your life in winter…
If you are going to wear black, make sure it suits your complextion. If it is too harsh or draning, go for grey (lighter shade), navy, beige or camel, depending on your skin tone.
Think about your favorite colour and find ways to add more of it to your wardrobe, even if it’s only a small accessory.
There are other ways to enjoy a more colourful life in winter.
Have a coffee or lunch in somewhere where you can enjoy the interior design and colours you like.
Add different colours to your meal, not only will you get more vitamins this way, but the eating experience will be more enjoyable.
Buy yourself a bouquet of flowers.
Further reading: designer Roksanda Ilincic has great tips on adding colour to your wardrobe.
The most frequent question I am asked is recently is: “Where are you travelling these days?”. But at the moment, I am not travelling because it so happens that several of my closest friends decided to visit London at the same time and I have the pleasure of hosting them here. While I am enjoying spending time in London with my wonderful friends, a little part of me is missing travel.
As I go out for Spanish food third time in the past four days, I can’t help thinking it may be time to go for a weekend break in Spain. My last trip to Spain was in summer (seems like a very long time ago), when I visited the Basque Country, but for some reason I only got round to organisimg my photos from this trip last weekend. This brought back a lot of beautiful and tasty memories. I decided to share these on my blog.
For those who don’t know it, the Basque Country is very different to the rest of Spain. To begin with, the climate reminds me of mild, foggy and ever changing British weather, even in summer. The language is very different too; although Spanish is widely spoken, the official Basque language has no resemblance to Spanish.
While sunny weather may not be the main reason to go to the Basque Country, there are many other reasons to visit this part of Spain. And the good thing is the Basque Country has a lot to offer all year round.
Art and architecture is definitely one reason to visit the region. You will have heard about the Guggenheim in Bilbao. This should be enough to convince anyone the city is worth of a visit. But Bilbao also has many other beautiful examples of modern architecture – I particularly like the bridges that connect the city’s two parts, divided by the river. Bilbao has an equally impressive old town. It is a city with a lot of character and a great architectural variety.
For those who prefer art nouvea architecture, I definitely recommend San Sebastian, a nearby seaside resort town, perhaps the Basque Country’s most famous attraction. I had fallen in love with this town even before I visited it for the first time after reading Ernest Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises”. This book was recommended to me by my friend Ashlea before our first trip to San Sebastian many year ago. It beautifully captures the town’s 1920s atmosphere – one of my favorite periods in history.
But the main reason to visit this part of the world is food, in my opinion. And I am not alone in thinking this; many claim the Basque cuisine is one of the best in Europe. The region is known for one of the highest concentrations of Michelin-star restaurants per person in Europe. From traditional pintxos (Basque version of tapas) to experimental dining – the Basque Country is a gastronomic paradise.
Visitors and locals are spoilt for choice. Practically everywhere you will find tasty local food. The biggest challenge is making a choice. I think a good place to start is to decide whether you want traditional food or nouvelle cuisine. It is worth noting that the Basques eat later than many other European countries; you are unlikely to find a restaurant that is even open between 3pm and 8pm.
San Sebastian has a certain elegance to it but the vibe is fun and relaxed. I love taking a walk along the sea during the day, especially on Paseo Nuevo, and walking around the old town, going in and out of pintxos bars, at night. Here I captured some of my favorite places in San Sebastian.
Stylish design at Atari Gastroteka on Calle Mayor
To taste some of the best ‘experimental’ pintxos, go to Atari Gastroteka, on Calle Mayor
Traditional cod pintxos served in a modern way. If you are feeling adventurous, try cod cheeks, a traditional Basque dish
New-wave pintxos at A Fuego Negro on Calle 31 Augosto – very interesting ingredient combinations and stylish presentation
Three-Michelin-star restaurant Azrak is an experience every foodie needs to treat themselves to. Difficult to describe in words. I will only say I the tuna I had there was the best I’ve ever had.
Sunset at Playa de la Concha, one of the best city beaches in Europe
Wine is cheaper than soft drinks in some pintxos bars. Red wine is served chilled in San Sebastian.
Traditional pintxos bar La Cepa on Calle 31 Augosto is always busy. Definitely worth a visit.
Zurriola, surfers’ beach
Go on a walk along the coast to discover sculptures by the famous Basque artist Eduardo Chillida
Bilbao has an equally impressive food scene. It is a bigger city, distances are longer and people look busier, but there is still a friendly vibe to it despite the industrial exterior. There is an ample choice of stylishly designed restaurants serving new Basque cuisine.
Porrue, modern Basque cuisine from local ingredients in stylish setting, Alameda Rekalde 4
Food at Porrue is not only a tasting but also a visual experience
Delicious food and great value for money at Bitoque de Albia, Mazarredo Aldapa, 6
Bitoque de Albia serves ‘creative’ and very tasty pintxos, all day, unlike most other place
Hesperia Bilbao, design hotel with colourful windows and central location near the Guggenheim
The Guggenheim – a must-see for anyone visiting Bilbao
Casco Viejo (the old town) with its narrow pedestrians medieval alleys
Zubizuri (‘White’) Bridge
Walk along the riverfront to see the bridges, each of them is different and unique
Traditional pintxos at Café Iruña, centrally located on 4 Berastegui Kalea. The place has a very local feel.