Living in London is living a dream for me. It is fun, stimulating and exciting. Culture, aesthetics, architecture, people are only a few reasons why London is such an amazing city. But I wouldn’t be honest if I told you that living here is 100% perfect. Like any big city, London living comes with stress, constant speed, which nobody seems to control, and constant pressure to do something, see someone or be somewhere. While I love experiencing all that London has to offer, I won’t pretend it is not tiring. London more than any other European city seems to embrace the “doing” approach of living and “result-orientedness” that defines modern western culture.
Most recently, having spent two weeks in a non-stop doing mode – work, networking, workshops, business travel – I woke up after a 9 hour sleep still feeling exhausted. Doing my morning pages, a very effective journaling tool I learned from the creativity guru Julia Cameron, I realised that deep inside I am tired of always having a fully booked diary and pressure of “doing” that comes with it. I knew that no amount of sleep would fix that. So I decided to do something radical by my standards: ignore my to do list, reschedule/cancel all appointments, put work on hold and go about my day without a plan (those who know me will know this does not mean watching TV while lying on my sofa all day). I didn’t know what I wanted to do but I new I wanted to enjoy myself and be completely spontaneous.
While doing my morning ritual of thinking about my day and sipping on hot water with lemon, I began to get ideas about what I desired to do and get really excited. I dressed up for the occasion – light greys and pastels to celebrate the arrival of spring – and walked out of the door without the usual rush.
My first stop was Ottolenghi in Islington, one of London’s most exciting residential areas, where I am very lucky to live. They do great breakfast and I simply love their style – I highly recommend it (but do book in advance if coming on weekends). My shakshuka was delicious and my yellow chair was a perfect reflection of my mood.
Next, I remembered that I received an email about a birthday gift waiting for me at Space.NK and decided to pick it up. It turned out to be a beautiful facial rosewater mist. What a lovely treat!
On my way to Space.NK I decided to stop by a lovely local boutique called Diverse. It stocks on stylish brands, such as Acne, Marlene Birger, Isabel Marant and Maison Scotch. I simply love shopping at independent boutiques without the stress of being on a busy high street. In fact, I love popping into boutiques just to see what they have without always needing to buy something. This time, I could not resist the opportunity to update my spring wardrobe.
New shirt in dusty pink – perfect for spring
Something to add to my spring wish list
Lovely interior design at Diverse
After satisfying my food, style and beauty requirements, I felt like going for a walk. Another advantage of living in Islington is being close to the Regent’s Canal, one of London’s best kept secrets. It is my favourite place for walks.
Walking by the canal and spending time in nature can seem like such a luxury in London. And yet it is one of the simplest ways to instantly add some calm and pleasure to our day.
I suddenly felt called to visit an art gallery for some creative stimulation. I have to confess it had been a while since I visited a gallery. Parasol Unit in Wharf road had a very interesting exhibition of works by Turkish artist Canan Tolon. Her style, using a variety of media, and unusual, at times seemingly random technique really drew me in.
Next door to Parasol unit is the Victoria Miro gallery, one of the top commercial galleries in London. Here, I saw another stimulating exhibition – a video installation by London-based artist and filmmaker Isaac Julien. It runs until 1 March and I highly recommend stopping by if you have time.
On my way back home I noticed a book that caught my attention in a shop. It was about Paris. I saw it as a sign that it’s time to visit the city of lights and went in to get it in preparation for my trip.
I decided to end my afternoon with a beautiful cup of tea and a snack at my local cafe and allow all the ideas, positive emotions and inspiration from this beautiful day to sink in.
Even though all these activities are very simple, I was surprised how much fun I had. The interesting thing is: I enjoyed all these activities because they were not on my to-do list, there was no obligation to do anything, I was treating myself out of inspiration rather than because I thought I had to. This subtle difference creates a very different experience.
The most surprising part, however, was how energised and invigorated I felt all day. Often when we are overwhelmed by too many things on our to-do list, work and personal commitments, leaving it all and simply having some fun seems like the least sensible thing to do. But this is precisely what works. Try it for yourself and see how much energy, motivation and inspiration you will have as a result. Sorry to mention result again, this is my Londoner speaking. Forget the result, take a break and do whatever you feel like with only one purpose – to enjoy.
What do you think of this approach? Please share your own suggestions.
One of the reasons I started this blog is because I love sharing new discoveries, be it travel destinations, restaurants, boutiques, designers or cafes serving good coffee. Recently, I have made a new exciting discovery: a designer brand whose philosophy resonates with my view of fashion – DEPLOY demi-couture.
On my way to DEPLOY’s event at Home House in London last week I had no expectations and intended to only stay for under an hour. But the story about independent sustainable fashion business I heard and the stylish, feminine and, what inspired me most, customisable clothes I saw that night left me very curious. Keen to learn more, I arranged to speak with DEPLOY’s designer and creator, Bernice Pan at her boutique near the fashionable Marylebone High Street in London. This small elegant boutique is filled beautiful clothes that flatter a female figure, made from luxurious natural fabrics, that are sourced from certified ethical suppliers. I felt like I travelled back in time to the pre-mass consumption period in history when clothes were tailored for the customer and the service was very personal.
Bernice, who has a PhD in Fashion Design Innovation and a background in architecture brings a new, multi-disciplinary approach to fashion. She founded DEPLOY in 2005 creating a fashion brand that revives the golden-era couture and at the same time embraces innovation and puts the concept of ethical consumption and sustainability at the core of the business model. The name “DePLOY” signifies action for Bernice, it means applying the ethos of responsible, sustainable high quality style throughout the whole supply chain. But also, according to Bernice, “trends can become a ‘ploy’ to increase consumption”. And while she understands that it is natural for a business to want to increase sales, she is concerned with the amount of waste we create as a result of such consumption. So DEPLOY wants to offer a new form of consumption to “de-ploy” obsolescence. This is why the clothes she designs are not for throwing away every season. They are made specifically with a person or function, not a trend, in mind.
I, personally, loved two things about DEPLOY: the creative element that each piece of clothing carries and style aesthetics of the brand and the boutique: think old-style glamour, luxurious fabrics and textures, quality and attention to detail, and flattering ultra-feminine cuts.
The fact that the clothes are designed in a way that allows customers to be creative and wear one piece in many ways is what, in my view, sets DEPLOY apart. Dresses become skirts and blouses, jackets become vests, there are removable decorative details, such as additional folds of fabric or ruffles, on some jackets or dresses. Many of the detachable parts are interchangeable making the entire collection very interactive.
This definitely takes personalisation of fashion to a new level. “Designers are not the only people who are creative,” says Bernice, “creativity is for everyone”.
This approach to fashion – “less prescriptive and more liberal” – definitely speaks to me and many other women, I am sure.
The fact that all designs are inspired by real women and their needs really appeals to me too. “The starting point for me as designer is what the clothes can do for you,” says Bernice. Women and what they need to look comfortable and confident is what inspires her designs. My guess is this is why the clothes are of such high quality and the cuts are so flattering. Most pieces are designed to accentuate the waist and flatter (or help to create, as in my case) feminine curves. “Women walk out surprised at how feminine they can look,” shares Bernice.
I try on a jacket with detachable sleeves that helps to do exactly that – add womanly curves, something I always attempt to do with clothes for my straight up and down figure.
Other pieces I am shown promise to work like magic by creating shape and curves in all the “right” places and hide what us women are not so keen to show.
Ever keen to define what style is, I ask Bernice to share her thoughts. “Style is about the grace of the woman herself, people don’t need to try and be someone else,” she answers. I could not agree more.
If you don’t know DEPLOY already, I highly recommend visiting their website http://www.deployworkshop.com or stopping by the boutique in 34 Thayer street in the Marylebone area in London. I will be coming back before too long, having added one of DEPLOY’s dresses and a jacket to my A/W wish list.
Some of the photographs used here were provided by the DEPLOY team
Earlier this week I decided to do something crazy by my standards: take a day off from work and spend this day pampering myself at the Berkeley, a luxurious London hotel. As I really needed a break but was unable go on holiday, I wanted to spend a day enjoying the sun on a rooftop by a pool and the Berkeley hotel pool was the only one I could find in London that would make me feel like I am on holiday. It turns out, there aren’t many rooftop pools in London.
So what’s so crazy about that, you may ask. Here’s what it is. Firstly, I do not ‘waste’ my precious holiday days (those working in the corporate world will know what I mean) on spending time off in London when I can use this time to travel. But having realised that having a day off was a need rather than luxury, I accepted that spending a day by the pool at the Berkeley would be a worthy mini break. Then I faced my second problem: how can I justify spending in one day in London what I would pay for a flight to a European beach destination? I don’t do that. Surely that is not a sensible way to spend my hard-earned money. And what if it rains? This is London after all, nobody can guarantee a full day of sunshine. Will this mean my money is wasted?
I suspect a lot of us have similar thoughts when we think about pampering themselves. We find excuses and reasons not to do it. I know many women who can come up with a list of at least 10 reasons in under 5 minutes, myself included. Why is it so difficult to really give ourselves what we deserve? Is it because it is not sensible to spend so much money on something we don’t really need? But who defines ‘sensible’ and who says we don’t need it?
Hoping to find answers to these question I committed to having my day off at the Berkeley. And here is what I discovered.
A day of luxury away from work and domestic issues was exactly what I needed. I now feel more in control of my life, I am not blaming others or the world for challenges I encounter and I feel capable of dealing with them.
By prioritizing myself, I send a clear message to others: “I matter”. I have noticed how differently I am treated at work and by loved ones
Money, as I am discovering is like energy: it comes and goes. One needs to spend it to get more. On the morning of my day off when I committed to treating myself irregardless of the weather (that would make my spending more worthwhile to my logical mind), I received money unexpectedly.
Allowing my body to rest and giving it what it needed – a day of relaxation – helped me to avoid a burnout and improved my physical state.
Slowing down and reconnecting with myself does amazing things not only to my body but to mental and emotional state too. I feel calm, creative, joyful and grateful for all the wonderful people in my life, for my work and environment.
Spending a day in beautiful stylish environment in the calmness of lavender-scented roof terrace gave me a lot of style inspiration.
Having enjoyed this luxurious experience I no longer consider it extravagant. Giving myself a luxurious treat when I needed it is one of the most sensible things I have done in a long time.
My favourite thing to do in the morning on my way to work (but also during my lunch break and on the way back from work) is to admire stylish London women in the streets, on buses and on the underground. It makes my morning commute much more fun and often distracts me from thinking about my work emails and to-do lists. Plus, seeing beautifully put together outfits gives me inspiration and ideas for my personal style. It feeds my creativity. I feel so lucky to live in one of the most stylish cities in the world and have the opportunity to see first-hand ordinary people with a great sense of style that many street fashion photographers capture in their books and on websites, inspiring fashion trends. This is my alternative to fashion magazines, because as much as I like them, I do not always have the time to buy and read them.
Here is my attempt at street fashion photography. I hope these chic Londoners will inspire you as much as they inspire me.