Category Archives: Elle Tea life

Asian Inspired

I’m just back from a wonderful trip to South-East Asia, visiting my family for Chinese New Year celebrations in Singapore and then heading to Vietnam for some relaxation and exploration.

Chinese New Year is an amazing time to experience Asia. It’s like a concentrated version of its already vibrant self, with brightly coloured decorations filling every street and an even more enthusiastic than usual focus on feasting.

I didn’t realise how much the Chinese influence would also be felt in Hoi An, the town where we stayed in Vietnam. There is a large ethnically Chinese population and so they fully embrace Chinese New Year too, adorning the whole town with paper lanterns for the entire Lunar New Year period. Even the tailors, where my mum and I got some dresses made, spoke my dad’s family dialect – very useful for bargaining power.

From a style perspective, I discovered a new bond with my grandmother over our appreciation of printed trousers. We can’t really communicate as she doesn’t speak English but we can point and smile at each other. There was a lot of pointing and gesturing over the fact that my Topshop printed trousers were almost identical to her traditional Chinese silk pyjamas.

My grandmother has her ‘look ‘down to a tee. She wears the same style of outfit (see below) every day, simply changing the fabric and pattern to suit the occasion. She carries it off with a grace and elegance that belies her 95 years of age. I’ve got a lot to learn from her. It’s the ultimate capsule wardrobe.

My Chinese grandmother with her on-trend printed trousers

My Chinese grandmother with her on-trend printed trousers

She doesn’t know it but my grandmother is so on-trend right now. It makes sense –  as the shift in world economic and cultural power heads East – that Asian style should be influencing the catwalks of the world’s fashion hubs. It doesn’t take a trained eye to see that the shows from the recent London, Paris and Milan fashion weeks were filled with Asian-inspired silhouettes, fabrics and prints.

Even the most French of the fashion houses, such as Balenciaga, are explicitly looking East. Their recent appointment of the Chinese American Alexander Wang is no coincidence. As the Guardian recently pointed out, ” Wang, who speaks Mandarin, has a high profile in China where his own-label already has a Beijing flagship. There seems little doubt this is part of his appeal to PPR.”

And indeed, Wang’s debut show for the label, had a much more structured, Asian feeling to the silhouette – a significant departure from the slouchy, New York style of his own label.

Balenciaga, A/W 2013 (image from

Balenciaga, A/W 2013 (image from

Other labels such as Kenzo also have designers of Asian descent at the helm (the amazing Carol Lim and Humberto Leon) and although they don’t take it too literally, there is no denying the influence of Asia on their collections. Their Paris show earlier this week had some pieces that wouldn’t go amiss in my grandmother’s wardrobe.  I love the polka dot blouse and skirt combination below that feels ever so subtly oriental but also very modern and fresh.

Kenzo A/W 2013 Paris fashion week (image from

Kenzo A/W 2013 Paris fashion week (image from

In addition to European labels experimenting with Asian influences, there’s also the home-grown Asian brands gaining global recognition. Singapore label Raoul got a hit of publicity when the Duchess of Cambridge chose one of their dresses for her Asia trip, but it’s been gathering a legitimate fashion fan base for a few years now.

I made a lunchtime dash to one of their stores in Singapore and picked up a lovely silk blouse. If I’d had more time, I would have tried on practically everything in store. The silk printed trousers below are so muted and lovely.

Raoul silk trousers and top

Raoul silk trousers and top

Being back in frosty London, it feels like there aren’t many opportunities to embrace all these lovely, light printed silks and bright colours. But Spring is just around the corner and I’m determined to get out of navy and black as soon as possible. Watch this space.


Work Out Life

I’m ashamed to confess that up until now, my yoga outfit (if you can even call it that) consisted of old black leggings and a worn out Gap pyjama vest. In my head this was wholly justified, as waking up on a dark morning to do yoga was effort enough.

My strategy for the morning commute to yoga class was to throw my trench coat over the top of this mismatched get up and hope not to be seen by anyone I knew. This strategy has served me well as there are not many critical hipster eyes on the East London line before 7am.

Still, I was beginning to regret my lazy approach since other girls at yoga seem to be able to get up early AND throw on a pair of snazzy printed leggings and somehow make their messy bun look artfully stylish rather simply unbrushed and unwashed (like mine).

Thank goodness then, that earlier this week I was invited to a yoga class run by the new label Work Out Life. And in return for getting up early and attending the class, the lovely ladies at Work Out Life have kitted me out with a gorgeous yoga kit. With matching pieces and everything.

Hurray! My road to early morning style recovery has now begun.

Work Out Life is all about fusing performance wear with fashion and mixing work out pieces with more casual fashion pieces, so you can move seamlessly from one activity to another and still look presentable.

Sounds ideal to me! Perhaps a little too ideal as I don’t quite have the lifestyle that involves gliding from yoga to coffee and back to yoga again. But still, beyond the PR speak, the pieces are really lovely.

Work Out Life ‘Perky’ top and printed trousers

The ‘super chic long sleeve top’ and ‘super fly’ leggings I was given not only look great and have some really nice detail on them, but they were super comfy to do yoga in. In particular, the top was long enough not to ride up when being all bendy and upside down and stuff. You can tell the pieces have been designed by someone who actually does yoga and knows an exposed stomach isn’t something most girls want to have to grapple with first thing in the morning.

Work Out Life ‘Activate Life’ racer back top & ‘No 1 Ass Pant’

It won’t be a surprise that these pieces don’t come cheap, but they are comparable in price to labels like Sweaty Betty and in my opinion, much more unique and better quality. I’ll have to see how they wash but so far so good. Also, 40% of the range is made using organic cotton and the production methods are all socially and environmentally responsible where possible. So big tick there.

I’ll be keeping an eye of this label and seeing how it develops. And in the meantime, I’ll be enjoying the fact I don’t need to look quite so shame faced if someone sees me on route to morning yoga.

Found! The perfect backpack

Following my post a few months back re: my difficulty in finding the perfect rucksack, I’m pleased to report the mission is now complete.

A lovely, roomy, Scandinavian backpack has been found, bought and used for all manner of activities and outings. It has also had the seal of approval from the boys at work (not an easy crowd).

It is by the Swedish brand Sandqvist, who by the way, have all sorts of lovely Scando-style accessories on offer. Check them out.

Here I am on backpack’s first outing a few weeks back when I was feeling pretty summery and carefree.  Let’s see how it fares with the more challenging climes of the rainy British autumn.

Sandqvist backpack

Turkish summertime

Just back from another wonderful holiday in Turkey – can’t recommend it highly enough as a place to go to recharge – staying at the beautiful Deniz Feneri Lighthouse hotel, near a little town called Kas. It was a week of pure relaxation:  swimming in the azure blue sea, eating copious amounts of delicious mezze, kayaking over a sunken city, and doing some waterside yoga.

Inspired by Louis Vuitton’s Art of Packing,  I tried to rely on a minimal and multi-tasking holiday wardrobe:

2 x borrowed sundresses

Usefully, I’m the same dress size as my mum so I borrowed two of her sundresses and they proved perfect for the hot weather. One was a white, light cotton wrap dress and the other, a bright royal blue linen shift dress. Chic but comfortable and roomy enough to eat lots of delicious Turkish food in. Yes.

Borrowed dress (thanks mum)

1 x Miu Miu sunglasses

Ok, so I don’t actually own these particular fabulously feline miu miu glasses but my more conservative (and I think more flattering) miu mius seldom left my eyes in the bright Turkish sun.

Miu Miu sunglasses (image from

1 x plain black swimsuit

My faithful M&S black swimsuit (cost approx £9.50) worked very hard on this holiday, doubling up as a morning yoga kit, a leotard with denim shorts, and of course, a very practical yet chic enough piece for some power swimming in the open sea.

Morning yoga in the M&S one piece

1 x clutch/iPad case

This super-soft leather iPad case from Capulet served as a clutch in the evenings, a pouch for valuables in my beach bag and as a case for my iPad on the move. A multi-tasking holiday wonder piece!

Capulet’s Fleur iPad case

1 x denim shorts

A well-worn pair of vintage cut off Levis I’ve had for years. Perfect to throw on over swimsuit and potter about it.

1 x day to night sandals

Topshop sandals

I picked up these sandals from Topshop in a rush one day but they’ve turned out to be a staple this summer. The gold chain and gold heel make them dressy enough for the evening but they are also incredibly comfortable for walking around in the daytime. I find sandals never really last more than one summer so it’s not worth spending much.

So it’s time to pack away the holiday wardrobe for another year now. Boo!

The perfect rucksack

I’ve been on the hunt for a stylish yet practical rucksack, that will allow me to carry my gym kit around but also turn up to work meetings without looking like a teenager on a French exchange. It’s proving tricky.

I’ve been close to purchasing at Herschel a number of times – but they are still just a bit too sporty for my needs and are also becoming a little ubiquitous around East London.

Which brings me to this near perfect YMC number. It is everything I wanted my backpack to be – sleek, simple, roomy, feminine and a perfect neutral colour -except for the price. Something in me cannot justify a price tag of £175 for a backpack that isn’t even made of leather. So for now, I continue my search. If any of you see anything similar out there, please do send your recommendations this way!

YMC Rucksack (from


An introduction to swimwear

I had my first introduction to the art of swimwear this Friday, over a Shoreditch breakfast with the lovely Ruth from Olga Olsson and my two Digit fashion buddies – Alexis and Nomfundo.

For such a small piece of clothing, an awful lot of care and time goes into creating a swimsuit. In fact, probably almost as much time and anxiety as it takes the average girl to find a swimsuit that she feels comfortable in.

We’d probably all save a bit of time (and pain) if we were able to take Ruth along with us to the annual swimwear shopping trip. After years of helping customers find the perfect swimsuit for their shape, it only takes her a matter of seconds to recommend what would suit us girls, despite the fact we are clad in multiple layers of clothing.

It helps that her collection of luxury swimwear is full of highly desirable pieces with designs to suit all body shapes and style preferences. My favourite piece was the Marilyn sweetheart ruched one piece whilst Alexis had her eye on the lovely high-waisted Lara bikini.

Marilyn one piece from Olga Olsson

Lara bikini from Olga Olsson

It is true that these pieces will set you back more than your average M&S cossie – my current swimsuit did only cost me £15 after all – but alongside making you feel more confident, the Olga Olsson pieces are made with environmentally responsible materials and techniques where possible.

May inspiration

A few bits of inspiration from May so far…

1. Amazing India

I’m just back from a trip to India to visit my friend Jo – of Under an Indian Sky – and it is hard to capture the experience in words without resorting to cliche. So instead, two pictures:

Of course the first has to be tea-themed. Here’s a scene we were rewarded with  after a long, humid walk through the tea plantations near Munnar in Kerala.

Tea picking near Munnar, Kerala, India

And the second is an amazing sight that strolled past my sun lounger on Cherai beach, again in Kerala. I love this eldery lady’s style and elegant windswept look. Her beautiful colours, prints and draping made me feel quite ridiculous in my bikini.

Sunday morning beach walk, Kerala, India

2. A magical telling of Snow White

Last night I went to see Preljocaj’s Snow White at Sadler’s Wells. It was a magical show, not least due to the stunning costumes by Jean Paul Gaultier. I was lucky enough to be in the third row from the front, so close I could appreciate the intricacies of the outfits. JPG really knows how to tell a story through clothes.

The final wedding outfit was an incredible hooped dress with fringing that moved like a dance of its own on the beautiful Snow White.

Snow White with costumes by Jean-Paul Gaultier (image from

And the dominatrix-style get up of the wicked Queen couldn’t have been more appropriate and theatrical with the blood-stained cape and the cruel corsetry. Wow.

The wicked queen (image from