Behind the Scenes at Liberty of London

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I finally watched the TV programme about Liberty of London last night. It aired on Monday here in the UK but these days I hardly watch any TV in ‘real time’! I found it fascinating (and moving in parts, the scenes with the 70-year-old Shukla who has worked at Liberty for 40 years almost brought a tear to my eye) especially as I interviewed the MD, Ed Burstell, last year about his vision for Liberty and the need for retail theatre on the high street.

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Liberty has always been one of my favourite London stores. Founded in 1875, the magnificent Tudor building itself is such a treat to wander around, even it there weren’t delectable products on every shelf and rail. Easier to navigate than the vast retail emporiums that are Selfridges and Harrods, it may lack the uber-cool of Harvey Nichols but the atmosphere seems somehow warmer and more inviting. Its carefully edited beauty, lingerie and footwear (the Manolo Blahnik collaboration was pure genius) departments are arguably the best you’ll find anywhere in London and I love that  Liberty has held onto its history as a leading textile design house and has not been swayed to ditch the more traditional elements of the store, such as its haberdashery department.

The highlight of the first installment of the three-part series for me was without a doubt Grayson Perry proclaiming that Liberty is the store “for people who find John Lewis too beige”.

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The Beauty Edit: (Re) Verso the Years

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I still remember the first time I went up to a beauty counter in search of an anti-aging cream. I was 23 years old and luckily the lady at the Clarins counter took a no nonsense approach and steered me away from the wrinkle-busting potions, instead persuading me to buy a pot of their Gentle Day Cream which I carried on using for many years.
I am extra grateful that she didn’t indulge my worries about my non-existent wrinkles after reading an article in The Sunday Times In Style magazine which warns against starting to use harsh anti-aging products too early, saying that they can irritate the skin and even cause it to age prematurely (take heed all you 20 somethings out there!)

Fast forward a few years and while I’m quite happy to grow old (er) gracefully without Botox, fillers or more invasive treaments, my skin is in need of a helping hand to stave off the signs of aging. The irony is that I probably spent both more money and time on my skincare regime when I was in my 20s than I do these days. Instead of the Clarins or Lancome products that I used to favour, I have been buying my face creams on the high street, or worse,  relying on samples from magazines, which are not necessarily adapted for my skin type (Big slap on the wrist for me!).

In the summer holidays I read about a new Swedish skincare brand called Verso which uses a formula called Retinol 8 to stimulate the skin’s own production of collagen and hyaluronic acid in order to reduce the signs of aging (read more about the science behind the products here). It’s not the cheapest option around but this month I decided to bite the bullet and invest in the serum and day cream (the range also includes a cleanser, eye cream and night cream). As the products only arrived yesterday I haven’t yet been able to gauge if they live up to their promises but watch this space for a more comprehensive review…

{Verso skincare is available from Selfridges in the UK. For a full list of international stockists click here.}

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Oxford Street Brings LFW to the Masses

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Oxford Street has never been my favourite shopping destination – too noisy, too crowded and too touristy. Its only saving grace is Selfridges but it’s been years since I ventured further east than the iconic yellow signs of the largest department store on the 1.5 mile long shopping street.

But this month Oxford Street is hosting the most influential fashion campaign of its 150 year history and it may be just the thing to tempt me back. In celebration of London Fashion Week, Oxford Street has teamed up with the British Fashion Council to give shoppers an insider glimpse into the fashion industry. Over 15 of the street’s most internationally recognizable fashion emporiums, from Selfridges, Topshop and River Island to John Lewis, House of Fraser, H&M and Gap have provided a range of exclusive experiences such as fashion forums, guest star interviews, makeovers, blogging workshops, celebrity pop-up DJs, in-store styling sessions and fashion career mentoring.

Even if you can’t get there in person you can still be part of the experience, as shoppers from across the globe will be able to get their fashion fix 24/7 with the launch of Oxford Street TV and real time store updates via social media. In addition, Oxford Street has collaborated with London Fashion Week designers, including House of Holland and Alice Temperley, to dress the street with 75 fashion flags, each illustrating the very best of the British fashion industry.

“This season we have taken fashion week to the streets of London and rallied support from the whole capital by making London Fashion Week much more inclusive,” British Fashion Council Chairman Natalie Massenet said in an opening speech on Friday. “Anyone, all of us are free to come down and join.”

Personally, I think that anything which gets people interested in fashion and supporting the industry, including events such as LFW,  is a good thing. What do you think? Do you welcome the democratization of designer fashion or do you think it’s wrong that the high street is ‘cashing in’ on London Fashion Week?

The Beauty Edit: Estelle & Thild

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I was thrilled to discover this week that Swedish organic skincare brand Estelle & Thild is now available in the UK. I have to admit that when I first came across the products in a shop in Stockholm last month I was initially drawn to the pretty packaging. After reading up about the brand’s organic credentials, however, I am convinced that it is exactly what my dry and over-sensitive skin needs.

Founder Pernilla Rönnberg came up with the idea for Estelle & Thild (named after her two daughters) when she struggled to find organic products to use on her own children. The range, which was developed in consultation with dermatologists and toxicologists, has taken Scandinavia by storm thanks to its unique, gentle and effective formulas that can be used on the most sensitive of skins. All the products carry the Ecosert seal of approval and are based on vitamin-rich oils and plant extracts that are good for skin vitality. They are suitable for both young and old skin and can also be used during pregnancy. The latest addition to the product line up is the Violet Body Sculpting Series which consists of a body scrub, slimming oil and firming lotion.

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Estelle & Thild is available from Harrods’ Urban Retreat  and Selfridges.

You can read an interview with Pernilla on The Formula Blog and find out which products she uses for her own skincare routine.

Currently Coveting # 5

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I’m a complete sucker for anything ‘limited edition’ or ‘exclusive’, and if it’s for a good cause then so much the better. This beauty bag designed by make-up maestro Charlotte Tilbury features lipstick kisses by, among others, Kate Moss, Sienna Miller and Stella McCartney. Sold exclusively at Selfridges, it’s a steal at £15 and all profits go to the charity Kids Company which supports vulnerable children in London.

And, of course, while I was on the Selfridges website I couldn’t resist having a little click-around (although I did restrict myself to the beauty section). I’m a big fan of Laura Mercier’s make-up range and I’ve been using her tinted moisturiser for over 15 years now, while more recent additions to my beauty arsenal include the cream blusher, Secret Camouflage concealer and Caviar eyeliner. Her new Dark Spell Collection has just launched  (again, exclusively at Selfridges) and I love the limited edition nail polishes in Bewitched – a deep forest green with flecks of golden shimmer, which (dare I say it) will be spot on for autumn – and Forbidden, a silky silver taupe suitable for all occasions. The Spellbound face illuminator – a fine milled powder with a soft rose gold shimmer that is perfect for highlighting – also caught my eye and, after reading a few online reviews, I think it could easily become a ‘Can’t Live Without’ beauty staple.

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