Category Archives: Travel

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 Vogue.co.uk)

Balenciaga, A/W 2013 (image from Vogue.co.uk)

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 vogue.co.uk)

Kenzo A/W 2013 Paris fashion week (image from vogue.co.uk)

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.

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 miumiu.com)

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!