Monthly Archives: June 2011

A day away… and home in time for the Ballet.

A few posts ago, I wrote about my BFF (s) coming to visit. Well, they came and it was fabulous to have them here (am trying to convince them to move to Melbourne)! In a bid to showcase Melbourne further, I organised a little trip to Daylesford/Hepburn region. I heart Daylesford. Only 90 minutes outside of Melbourne, yet it provides an environment where one can forget about the city.

Hepburn Bathhouse and Spa

The Hepburn Bathhouse has been open to the public since 1895 though, I have only been going since 1998. The Bathhouse consists of ‘traditional’ communal baths in warmed mineral water pools, with a range of hydrotherapies including spa couches (surprisingly relaxing, despite looking like a torture chamber chair), aroma steam room and salt therapy pool.

This is my first time back since its renovation in 2008 and on first entry, it’s definitely a lot swankier now. There are a couple of other changes, such as breaking up the Bathhouse into 2 separate sections: The Bathhouse (relaxation and spa pools) and The Sanctuary (all the other stuff, such as salt therapy pool, spa couches, Relaxation Deck (wasted space in my opinion)), which means it costs more to enter both sections. The change rooms are a lot more functional than previously, though they are co-educational, which takes a bit of getting use to. The aroma steam room was lovely and had a relaxing scent.

However, the renovations seemed to have diluted some of the services. For example the water in the relaxation spa just wasn’t hot enough. I love entering a hot spa where the body is forced to relax and you can only sit for ten minutes or so before it gets too hot. Also, the salt therapy pool just wasn’t salty enough! I remember it being so salty the body would float on its own and scratches would sting. This time it was rather like… beach water and not the dead sea water.

I remembered the place quite differently, funny thing about memory… Nevertheless! It was wonderful to just float around catching up with my BFF. The views from the pools and the spa couches are just soothing with beautiful trees, plants and other nature stuff.

Surprisingly, we spent a long time at the Bathhouse including feasting on some tea and scones. Wandered the shops back in Daylesford, and still made it home in time for a costume change just before the ballet…barely. But that’s a story for another day.

What are your favourite spots within Daylesford/Hepburn?

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Settling Sunday

I have a love / hate relationship with Sundays. I love that Sunday usually means relaxing, pottering and doing nothing in particular. I hate that Sundays also mark the end of the weekend and the dreaded working week will begin again. Though I’m sure if there was no dreaded working week ahead, maybe I won’t love Sundays as much… Nahhhhhhh.

Last Sunday, a stroll was taken to the National Gallery of Victoria (International), not to see the Melbourne Winter Masterpieces Vienna: Art & Design that is on till 9 October 2011, but to see the free stuff, which to me, was quite impressive.

ManStyle on level 2, presents a broad survey of menswear from around 1740 to the present. I enjoyed checking out the punk style era and the creations of Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren. I also liked some of the interviews with the likes of Mat Preston (from MasterChef) and Grant Pearce (Editor of GQ and former Creative Director of LMFF) about their sense of style.

A pit stop at the Gallery Kitchen was needed for some fuel.

Back upstairs, where we stumbled upon Deep Water, a photographic exhibition about… water. Water has presented an endlessly fascinating subject for photographers and obviously viewers alike.

My favourite bit? The contemporary collection of chairs on level 3. If you’re a regular reader, you may have noticed I gravitate towards chairs (you can read about them here and here) and this exhibition was… just awesome! The only thing that would have made it better was if I could touch and sit on the actual chairs and if they had an Egg chair by Arne Jacobsen. But amazing to see most of the iconic chairs in one spot, including Marc Newson’s Lockheed Lounge once used in a Madonna’s video and launched his career internationally. It was sold in May 2009 for a cool £1.1 million, an auction record for a piece of contemporary design art.

Left: Lockheed Lounge | Right: Still from the videoclip Rain, by Madonna

Have you been to see some free art lately? Or the National Gallery of Victoria? What did you think?
images: Man of the house; mydeco blog

Designer… Real Estate?

I guess I am not terribly surprised as international designers have been associated with real estate for a while now. There is the Armani apartment/hotel in Dubai or the Bulgari hotel in Milan and Bali and the Palazzo Versace in the Gold Coast.

Armani Hotel in Milan - Fountain Suite - At a bargin US$870 a night.

So it really shouldn’t be a surprise that Australia’s own design institution, has created in partnership with Chrome Property Group, the Alex Perry Residential building in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley.

An impression of the lobby

Alex Perry Residential is said to be “inspired by the urban village environments in cities like New York, Paris, Athens and Barcelona… with a Miami feel to it”. Alex further adds that, “When I designed the apartments, I wanted them to have a personality. My influence was gathered from a number of places – Miami, the Greek Islands and hotel foyer’s found in New York and India”.

An impression of the interior

Prices start from $375,000 to $3 million for a 1, 2 or 3 bedroom unit. Personally, it sounds like a bit of a mismatch of architectural styles and influences and really, just because you design clothing, should you be designing residents? I don’t know. Give me a Robyn Boyd designed home any day. Yes, a good designer understands line, space and texture. But an architect works with the environment to design a house. And that’s the thing about fashion designers foray into architecture, the building can be plonked in any landscape available rather than working with the surroundings to create something special. An architect like Robyn Boyd clearly worked with the landscape and the environment. His Frankston designed house has a rural getaway feel to it (well, it was back in 1968!), while the South Yarra designed house has an urban feel to it, looks perfect for a party or two.

Do you have a favourite house or a favourite place to stay?

images: MidCentArc; The Vine; Armani Hotels

Australian fashion swimming overseas.

Yes, yes I will be writing about Zara, when the storm calms down a bit. Though you can read my previous posts about Zara here and here.

There is no doubt, many Australian fashionistas who know lots about international fashion. I too, have from time to time posted fashion trends from overseas. But how does Australian fashion fair overseas?

Imran Amed, editor of the Business of Fashion attempts to answer my question. He was a guest of IMG at Rosemount Australian Fashion Week.

Australian fashion has an image problem. When I mentioned to friends that I was thinking of attending Rosemount Australian Fashion Week in Sydney, the reaction ranged from raised eyebrows to incredulous laughter. Others quipped that the sum total of Australia’s contribution to global fashion could be distilled down to Ugg boots and swimwear.

Gwyneth Paltrow in her Uggs

Is this true? Yes Australia designs awesome swimwear and practical wear (Ugg boots should never been seen outside the comforts of your home, I’m looking at you Gwyneth Paltrow), but we also have great designers such as Martin Grant or Collette Dinnigan. They might not work at established Fashion Houses, or be at cutting edge of fashion, such as Christopher Kane but Martin and Collette create beautiful, timeless pieces made from luxurious fabrics.

Martin Grant - AW11 - Look 11

In multiple ways, it seems the cards are stacked against the Australian fashion industry. Apart from the fact that Sydney is more than 20 hours away by plane from all of the major fashion capitals, the value of the Australian dollar has increased by over 100 percent in the last ten years, from 53 to 106 Australian cents to the US dollar. This has made products exported from Australia very expensive, though raw materials and services from abroad have also therefore become much cheaper, an important consideration in a country where local apparel manufacturing is scarce.

This is very true, don’t you think? It would be very difficult to compete in a market that is over saturated. For example a Camilla & Marc retails on net-a-porter in the same price range as 3.1 Philip Lim, Zac Posen, Stella McCartney and Missoni where labels have brand recognition for style and quality.

Imran further discusses the arrival of fast fashion and the online disconnect, adding that “Australia is now the third or fourth most important market for many international fashion e-tailers, a ranking that is disproportionate to the country’s relatively small population. [Yet] Australian retailers have been very slow to move online, citing complications with logistics and complaining about the unfair tax advantages… If Shopbop can get the goods all the way from America to Australia without issue, it’s surprising that local retailers cannot even organise themselves to deliver domestically”. Overall, a very balanced post that raises some good points.

What is being done to promote and support our fashion industry and in turn, what is the industry planning to do to compete with the arrival of international fast fashion labels and the growth of online shopping? Should we be tapping into China? China is a new market that has the potential to embrace new brands.  There is a lot at stake given that the broader textile, clothing and footwear (TCF) industries in Australia provide over 48,000 jobs, generate exports worth $1.6 billion, and contribute $2.8 billion to our economy each year.*

Do you have any ideas? What do you think about the business-ey side of fashion?

images: Kitmeout; Martin Grant; Net-a-porter
*Statistics obtained from a Media Release by Senator Kim Carr dated 19 September 2008. Politicians are known for their accuracy in figures, right?

Winter headwear

Winter has well and truly arrived. It’s cold. Maybe not as cold as places where snow falls, but it’s still pretty cold, especially when that wind from the South brings in an extra chill, ensuring that you’re F R E E Z I N G!

So to warm up, I’m sure you have been told to “put a hat on” cos somebody, somewhere, told someone, who told you, that human individuals lose most of our body heat through the head. Well, apparently this is a myth!

Yes, the face, head and chest are more sensitive to changes in temperature than the rest of the body, making it feel as if covering them up does more to prevent heat loss. However, covering one part of the body has as much effect as covering any other.

Rachel Vreeman and Aaron Carroll debunked the myth in the British Medical Journal. They traced the origins of the hat-wearing advice back to an US army survival manual from 1970 which strongly recommended covering the head when it is cold, since “40 to 45 percent of body heat” is lost from the head.

The myth is thought to have arisen through a flawed interpretation of a vaguely scientific experiment by the US military in the 1950s. In those studies, volunteers were dressed in Arctic survival suits and exposed to bitterly cold conditions. Because it was the only part of their bodies left uncovered, most of their heat was lost through their heads.

Nevertheless, keeping warm is a good thing. But the question remains, can winter headwear be stylish as well as warm?

Check out Rihanna looking cool in a very warm looking hat. But could mere mortals like us wear a hat like that without looking plain ridiculous?

Warm factor: 10/10
Style factor: 6/10

Now is this a stylish winter look or what?! I wish we could wear stuff like this in Australia without looking ridiculous.

Hat rating
Warm factor: 6/10
Style factor: 9/10

Paired with the coat, leggings and heels: 10/10

Kylie Minogue looking stylishly warm. The hat is reminiscent of a turban. A petite lady able to carry off a chunky hat.

Warm factor: 9/10
Style factor: 8/10

Maybe Prince William’s bearskin hat is an option this winter? Though it does weigh 1.5 pounds (0.68 kilograms) and stands 18.5 inches high, which might make it cumbersome to wear out and about.

It would definitely be warm as it’s made from the fur of the Canadian black bear. However, an officer’s bearskin is made from the fur of the Canadian brown bear instead as the female brown bear has thicker, fuller fur, and is dyed black. An entire skin is used for each hat at a cost of approximately £650 each. If properly maintained, it can last for decades; some hats in use are reportedly more than 100 years old.

Warm factor: 10/10
Style factor: Priceless

Will you be wearing any of these hats to keep warm this Winter?

images: dukht.com; Vanessa Jackman; Rex; Getty | Sources: Guardian

All coffee, but does it include dining?

In my last post, I mentioned not getting out and about of late. So, when I did venture out I suddenly realised lots of new places to try. They all seem very Melbourne chic. Industrial, modern, yet warm and cosy and it seems interesting light fittings is the decorating theme of the day.

Pillar of Salt
541 Church St, Richmond 3121
Website: http://www.pillarofsalt.com.au/

I stumbled upon this place by accident, though I think it’s been around for a bit because you can read about it here and here. I went at an odd time (in between lunch and dinner) and wanted something light. The tart of the day was fantastic (based on a balanced filling and excellent pastry), served with a refreshing rocket salad, hit the spot. Great variety of food on the menu… Take a look at their use of colanders for light fittings, interesting… It’s wedged among all the furniture shops on Church St, which makes for a great pit stop when pondering decisions on sofas or carpet rugs.

Little Mule Company
19 Somerset Pl, Melbourne 3000
Website: http://www.thelittlemule.com/cafe/

I guess if Brother Baba Budan is too full for a sit down coffee (which is more often than not) head to Little Mule for equally good coffee, though the food is a bit average. Nevertheless, the coffee is good and the space is rather cosy, even if it’s shared with a bike shop, which makes for interesting decor. I think it’s more of a trendy bike shop rather than a serious bike shop as it doesn’t sell any lycra.

The League of Honest Coffee
8 Exploration Lane (corner of Little Lonsdale St), Melbourne 3000

A decent coffee place with a nice sit down atmosphere. They are a specialised coffee place that serve coffee in gadgets that usually belong in a chemistry class. However, if you’re like me and just order a straight up cap or latte than 65 Degrees around the corner on Exhibition St is still my favourite work coffee place. It has an old school cafe charm. No interesting lights here, just yee usual fluoro.

On my radar is Portello Rosso. It looks like a lovely Spanish tapas place tucked away in another laneway. The place looks warm and cosy with hearty meals.

Where are you dining this long weekend? Have you tried Portello Rosso or another place worth sharing?

images: Pillar of Salt; Milk Bar Mag; Broadsheet

Family Businesses

I haven’t been out and about of late, which makes inspiration for posts limited. I do stuff on the weekends, but I am positive you don’t want to read about the latest shower cleaner.

So for inspiration, I read about fashion, there are loads out there without having to leave… bed, which in the current weather is a fantastic plan. You may or may not know, a designer name is not necessarily owned by the said designer. For example, Stella McCartney does not actually own the label; she started the label in in a joint venture with the Gucci Group in 2001 (glad she stayed with Stella and not hybrid name like Stelcci). So it really should not be a surprise that Jimmy Choo shoes is now owned by Labelux, a company owned by Germany’s Reimann family.

Who? Exactly my question!

At the beginning, a man born Choo Yeang Keat, was born in Penang, Malaysia, into a family of shoemakers. His family name is Chow but was misspelled on his birth certificate as Choo (surprisingly a common occurrence). He attended Cordwainers Technical College in Hackney, England graduating in 1983 (the college is now part of the London College of Fashion).

Jimmy Choo opened a workshop in Hackney, North London in 1986. His craftsmanship and designs were soon noticed and he came to the verge of international notability when his creations were featured in a record eight pages in a 1988 issue of Vogue magazine. Patronage from Diana, Princess of Wales, soon followed from that further boosted his image.

Mr Choo and the last pair of shoes he designed for the late Princess of Wales

In 1996, Jimmy co-founded Jimmy Choo Ltd with British Vogue magazine accessories editor Tamara Mellon, but in April 2001, Choo sold his 50% stake in the company for £10 million. I’m sure there is more to that story… and since then, the company has been bought and sold a couple of times; most recently to Labelux for £500 million.

Labelux’s other investments include Bally, Derek Lam and a stake in Coty perfumery. However, despite the glamour, the company or its subsidiary made their substantial fortune from much less rarefied products such as, Mr Sheen and Windex.

And this takes me back to my original point. Cleaning products! Clearly they make a lot of money and who would have thought Jimmy Choo’s could be shipped out alongside Mr Sheen.

Are you part of a family business? Have you tried Mr Sheen or Jimmy Choo?

images: Clovertwo