London correspondent of online urban travel guide, providing mappable guides - 2007-08. (Gawker Media). Fashion posts were cross-posted on A selection of the 24 published articles can be read below.

Getting Serviced in London 

London is a great city for having fun in. But sometimes, after a night of debauchery, you may find yourself in the position of needing something: a rip, a stain, a broken heel, your dignity; cleaned or repaired. In many cities, such as New York, there are a range of services the average person might need helpfully distributed around every block. Not so in London. You’d probably assume that you’d be able to entrust your favorite dress to the nearest dry cleaner without them handing it back creased and smelling of mould - but no. In a non service oriented culture you have to seek out the experts to get a job done well. That often means crossing the city to find someone with the skills not to ruin your stuff further - and then ask you to pay for it. Here’s a list of well respected places found by trial and error. They may not be the kind of addresses you anticipated being given before a messed up night on the town; but you’ll thank me in the morning.

Celebrity Dry Cleaners

All the West End theatres use Celebrity – hence the name. If they can clean a fiddly pantomime dame’s costume, with padding, boning, layers and multiple fabrics used in one piece of clothing; they’re more than capable of getting your designer gowns pristine and sparkling. To clean a two piece suit starts at £10.90; it costs £18.50 to clean an evening dress depending on the work involved. Since Celebrity Cleaners is located right in the heart of Soho, they’ve seen it all and won’t judge you even if you do like to dress like a pantomime dame sometimes.  

Chalfont Dyers

Chalfont Dyers and Cleaners is the only place I know of in London that offers a dyeing service for wedding dresses. Most people choose black – but other colors include navy, bottle green, chocolate brown and red. This is obviously the perfect solution for jilted brides who’ve lost the groom but can’t bear to part with the dress. They will re-dye anything made of natural fabric, as man made fabrics (including stitching) will not absorb the dye. Always call beforehand as Chalfont has erratic opening hours. Prices start at £125 and you should expect to wait from six to eight weeks.

Designer Alterations

Designer Alterations in Battersea have built up a solid reputation for excellence. Their client list reads like the guest list of a charity event hosted by Elton John. They will expertly alter or re-model your clothes and they specialize in tricky cases others won’t attempt. But they also offer a service where they’ll collect your excess clothes, clean and repair them, then pack them in tissue and store them until you want them back. If you suddenly want one item it can be retrieved immediately and sent by taxi. Storage costs 50p per item, per week. Collection and delivery costs £6 each way.

British Invisible Mending Service

As the British Invisible Mending Service will tell you; if anyone else claims they do invisible mending they are either one of the 1,000 dry cleaners sending the work to them, or they are lying. “Proper” invisible mending involves taking threads from an inconspicuous area of a garment and reweaving them over a damaged area so that the repair is invisible to the eye. The BIMS has been attending to the invisible mending needs of the U.K. for ninety years. Repairs are priced individually and are either dealt with at their Marylebone HQ or sent to their factory in Wales.

Zafash Pharmacy

If it’s you that needs to be repaired, there are a few pharmacies open late, but surprisingly Zafash Pharmacy is the only pharmacy in the whole of London to offer a 24 hour non stop service. Why this should be I have no idea, but if you can get yourself over to Earl’s Court you will never find their door closed, 365 days a year.  For serious ailments that can’t be dealt with by a pharmacist there’s a 24-hour surgery next door. 

KG Shoe Repairs

This family run business has been going since 1954. KG shoes are the cobblers of choice for Gucci as well as most of the other top designers and department stores. Despite this, they are reasonably priced and offer a fully insured postal service. They can also repair anything made of leather such as luggage and jackets. As a former shoe maker, George at KG can work wonders with anything from boots that are too tight or too baggy, to restoring worn out shoes to their original condition. Even Christian Louboutin sends his famous red soles there for repainting.

Andrew R. Ullmann Jewelry Repair and Alterations

If you have a piece of jewelry that needs repairing or remodelling, the area to head for is Hatton Garden, the hub of London’s diamond and jewelry trade. Andrew R. Ullmann will undertake remodelling of antique jewelry and it is one of the only places in London willing to work on very delicate, antique pieces. Whether you want a link removed from a too large bracelet and made into a pendant, or an earring made into a ring, they will take the work on after talking you through what you want - and won’t charge you the earth for the service.

14 December 2007

Heel Me: London’s Brightest Stars in Shoe Design 

The world’s most revered shoe designer Manolo Blahnik came to London in 1971, where he started making shoes for Ossie Clark. And the rest is history. International shoe porn purveyors Jimmy Choo and Gina are also based here; but there are plenty of other shoe designers making waves who haven’t been namedropped in Sex & the City. Focusing on the hottest names in shoe design, we’ll tell you a bit about them and where to buy their shoes in London.

London’s huge wealth and variety of design talent is in many ways thanks to the breeding incubators of Central St. Martins and The Royal College of Art. But where shoe design is concerned, the highly respected Cordwainers College produces all but a few of the best. It’s the combination of crazy beautiful ideas with the best materials and production that makes these designers stand out.

The quality is high, the prices eye watering, even more so due to the strong British pound. Yes, we are potentially talking about the thousand dollar shoe here. The silver lining comes in the form of frequent sample sales (check websites) and diffusion lines for British high street retailers, where you can bag a bit of shoe sculpture from as little as £50. We’ve also thoughtfully provided the addresses of some shoe emporiums that won’t break the bank, but still have interesting, desirable shoes.

1: Rupert Sanderson

Rupert Sanderson trained at Cordwainers and set up shop in a Mayfair mews in 2001. The shoes are made in Bologna, Italy at a factory he spends four months of the year at and owns a controlling interest in. The opposite of faddy but never boring, some styles are carried through from season to season in new colours and finishes. The 55mm heel – perfect for running around town in and still looking glamorous is a favourite of fashionistas and er, us. Prices reflect the craftsmanship (around £350) but never fear - there are often sample sales where last season’s styles can be found for as little as £50.

2:Jonathan Kelsey

One of the newest names to watch, Jonathan Kelsey has made shoes for Giles Deacon and Luella Bartley and is the cousin of Mulberry’s (soon to be ex) creative director Stuart Vevers. It all sounds a bit incestuous, but his shoes are being talked about because they’ve got the balance right between wearable and edgy. The current collection features two tone patent and suede pumps with high cone heels. After studying fashion design at St. Martins he designed shoes for Jimmy Choo and Gina before setting up on his own. This season’s collection has been snapped up by Harvey Nichols.

3: Nicholas Kirkwood

Another Cordwainers graduate (after the obligatory St. Martins stint) Nicholas Kirkwood is an innovative designer who makes shoes that are sharp and sculptural. He almost looks at shoes as an architect would at a building. Using a small factory in Bologna, he sits with the pattern cutter to get the lines exactly as he wants them. Much of the shoe is hand stitched and put together using traditional techniques. This in combination with such modern design, makes buying a pair of Nicholas Kirkwood shoes (in our twisted shoe frenzied minds at least) like buying a work of art: completely justifiable.

4: Georgina Goodman

Accessory designer of the year nominee Georgina was tipped by Mr. Blahnik himself as “the future of footwear.” She gained recognition for use of a distinctive striped wooden heel and natural leather. All the shoes are branded with Made in Love. But these are no hippie clogs: Goodman has a brilliant aesthetic sense developed during her former years as a stylist, before she returned to college (Cordwainers of course) to train in shoe design. The Mayfair shop sells ready to wear and bespoke to fans like actress Thandie Newton. Mortals can also check out Georgina’s line for plus size retailer Evans, from £45. 

5: Olivia Morris

After, yep, Cordwainers, Olivia launched her company in 2000 to instant acclaim. Known for her imaginative treatment of leather such as tattooing and piercing, she then came up with the blank canvas shoe made of artists’ canvas and sold with a DIY paint kit. For autumn/winter ’07, traditional tattoo drawings (stars, flowers) are embossed into leather; there are graphic prints on belle de jour style pumps with bows and a take on the shoe boot done as a black and white brogue. Olivia Morris boots will set you back £515, but a pair from the fantastic diffusion line for Faith are £125.

6: Beatrix Ong

Everything from the shoe boxes covered in butterfly illustrations by Natasha Law, to the soft leather and curved lines of her shoes speaks to Beatrix Ong’s love of nature and gentle eastern inspired sensibility. Known as “the new Choo” (who she also designed for) Ong returned to her home town of London to train at Cordwainers after F.I.T and interning at Harper’s Bazaar in New York. Since setting upon her own she’s shod the feet of the Primrose Hill set from her store there for the past three years. A brand new flagship store will open in Mayfair’s Burlington Arcade on Monday 8 October.

7: Terry de Havilland

Old school rock and roll shoe maestro Terry de Havilland started making shoes in the ‘50s - it was the family business. By the seventies he had a shop on the Kings Road that was actually called “Cobblers to the World.” His customers were Anita Pallenberg, Bianca Jagger, Cher, and David Bowie, who strutted around in gold snakeskin three tier platforms designed by him. When fashions changed, Terry survived for years by making goth and fetish shoes to commission. But in 2004 he rose again, making shoes for the FrostFrench catwalk show that were such a hit they propelled him back into business.

8: Poste Mistress

Have you fainted from the prices yet? Here’s a bit of respite in the form of Poste Mistress, the upmarket arm of Office and sister store to Poste.

It’s always worth a look, whatever style of shoe you’re looking for.

The store in Covent Garden looks like a burlesque dancer’s boudoir, with red velvet and rococo flourishes. Inside you’ll find own brand shoes alongside brands from Converse to Camilla Staerk and Dries Van Noten. You may also find, as we did, Amy Winehouse trying on pink satin ballet slippers which we later saw bloodstained on the front page of the newspaper. 

9: b Store

b Store is the Savile Row mecca for those on the search for niche designers, the roster of which includes Bless, Bi-La-Li and Roksanda Ilincic. But it’s b Store’s own range of quirky shoes that do it for us. They also carry shoes by Peter Jensen for b Store, Bernard Willhelm and Opening Ceremony. Whatever shoe trend is happening in London, b Store will have it first. The prices are not too steep either, compared to other places we’ve mentioned – expect to pay about £150. 

 15 October 2007

How To Stay Chic on the Cheap

The thing about London is that, as everyone always says, you need a lot of money to have a good time here. A taxi will cost more than you had hoped to pay for dinner; a night out could cost more than a month’s rent. Frankly, people on seriously healthy salaries struggle to maintain a decent standard of living. So what’s the budding urban sophisticate to do? Stay home watching TV? Turn to crime? Move? Insist on only frequenting cheap scummy locales? Well not quite. There is free stuff to be had in this city, and ways and means of gaining access to a more luxurious way of life. We don’t recommend stooping so low as crashing a film premiere party and stuffing your clutch bag with hors-d’oeuvres (at least we’ll pretend we didn’t see you doing that). But there are lots of (legal) ways to enjoy the gratis and discounted events and services available. Some require a certain level of cheekiness and confidence, but with your dazzling smile and charm, we’re sure you’ll be fine.

Sample Sales

There are major sample sales in London every month or so. Sometimes they charge £1 or £2 for entry but they are often free. You can unearth a gem if you’re lucky but if you go at any time other than the morning of the first day you’ll be stuck with everyone else’s rejects, as the larger sales are heavily promoted. Oh, and some of the mind boggling list of designer brands they claim to stock prove to be imaginary in reality. Upcoming sales include Secret Sample Sale 1st – 4th Nov and DWS (Designer Warehouse Sale) Nov 30th – Dec 2nd £2 entry.

Hair Model

You know when you’re walking down Oxford Street and someone comes up and says, “Can I ask you a question about your hair?” and they’re a student from a salon wanting you as their next victim? This is not what I’m suggesting. At the Toni & Guy Academy you sign up as a hair model for one of their courses – try to get Contemporary Classics if you don’t want ironic hipster hair. Your hair will be cut by an artistic director of Toni & Guy – you just need to be ok about sitting in front of a class of people staring at you for an hour.

Beauty School

Beauty therapists have to learn their trade somewhere and the London Esthetique Student Salon is right in the centre of the west end. It might sound a bit risky to put your face in the hands of a trainee but this place comes highly recommended. All treatments are supervised by a teacher – they offer every treatment you’d expect at very reasonable prices – though personally I’d pass on getting a bikini wax. The cheapest facial is £12 and the most expensive is £23 for a non surgical lifting facial. A full pedicure will cost you £10 (the usual price in London is £35).

Go to Space NK and Benefit for Make Up

Look, we’ve all done it. You’re on your way out and you just pop into a beauty boutique such as Space NK or Pout to “have a browse”. After a bit of surreptitious dabbling with the testers you’re ready for your night out. That’s fine, but if you go into Benefit and admit what you’re up to they will literally drag you onto a stool and gleefully give you a full makeover as per your instructions. The only problem comes when you really want that shiny powder they used under your eyes to make them all sparkly.

Eat Vol au Vonts and Drink Free Champagne at Gallery Openings

What is the point of gallery openings except to drink champagne and eat small nibbly concoctions served by handsome waiters? With all the crowds and Elton John over there in the corner, it’s not as if you can really see the art anyway. Usually a walk around the gallery hub of the Dover Street/Cork Street area at around 7pm will magic up a glass or two of wine; the openings are almost always open to the public. But the big hitters are worth a visit: Martin Kobe, Behind True Symmetry opens at White Cube Hoxton Square on 26 October.

Get on the Guest List

There are ways and means of getting onto guest lists at London clubs: email them to ask to be on it. I tend to agree with the philosophy of “any club that would have me” (isn’t one I’d join) so I’m a bit suspicious of this; especially when the guest list queue is often longer than the ordinary one. Far more democratic are the host of free club nights around town. Brand spanking newly re-opened, the Amersham Arms in New Cross has been taken over by the folks from the Lock Tavern in Camden. It’s gorgeous, there’s a brilliant line up - and it’s free on Sundays. 

26 October 2007