Thursday 24 February 2011

british style

Side note form Colleen: I just wanted to say a huge congratulations to Evie Kemp on getting shortlisted for The NZ Post Children’s Book Awards (read more here), may this be the start of many great things to come (but hopefully she wont get too busy and have to give up writing these fashion posts:)

Fashion Friday by Evie Kemp

Over Christmas I read 'Luella's Guide to English Style'. It's not my usual choice of book (I'm mostly a fiction-only reader) but I found myself riveted and reading it cover to cover. It's charming, pretty and surprisingly informative. Fashion theory is fascinating and somehow it manages to justify all manner of style misdemeanours.

'Luella's Guide to English Style' was a real eye opener for me. It defines British style so perfectly and all the movements and various strains behind and within it. To quote Luella, "My aim is simply to dig up the roots of and, more importantly, show my unerring appreciation and devotion to those contrived subtleties and that blatant contrariness that makes British women so staggeringly adept in the art of expression through style".

What is evident is that true British style can not be bought from a catalogue as it is a culmination of so many things. Critically is an ever present nod to the great British countryside - a pair of wellies or an anorak (or Barbour). A liberal dose of the old and woolly. Some great tights. An apparent disregard for matching. A total regard for comfort. An ageless style that would look both right on an 8 year old girl and your 80 year old Grandma. Various dalliances with multiple movements and scenes.

In a way real British style is both indefinable and yet totally recognisable. It celebrates the individual and is absolutely charming.

It's hard to do it full justice in a blog post. So, consider this part book review and do the extended reading for fun.

Tuesday 22 February 2011

and did those feet in ancient time!

Union Jack Tapestry Cushion Cover

Today I want to write a post about England, because as any reader of this blog will know I'm going back soon.

However as I’m in New Zealand I can’t really write anything without a mention of the devastating earthquake that hit Christchurch yesterday. I don’t want to harp on, clearly the news is very sad. I have not personally been affected but people around me have. It’s been a pretty horrible 24 hours and I can’t imagine what those caught up in it must be going through. On a totally selfish note I had one of those strange moments of clarity, that if the earthquake had hit in the same way at the same time in Wellington I’m pretty sure I would have been dead. I find it liberating those rare occasions that I truly except I’m mortal it makes me less scared of life and more scared of not living.

Anyway back to England where I am unlikely to encounter an earthquake- no, we just have friendly old terrorists. Beyond obviously family and friends, here’s a brief list of things I love about my native land

Accents, we have loads of them all different and rich, how I miss those long vowels and lazy consonants or my own Somerset accent. Nothing in this world says home to me like hearing my Dad on the phone swearing like a farmer.

BBC Radio Four, I miss you every single day. I’m so so dyslexic it’s the easiest way for me to keep updated on news, learn about history and generally sound like an all round know-it-all.

Manners. I truly love that very English trait of walking into a lamppost and apologizing.

The Key To My Heart Forgives - Rob Ryan

Feeling like the centre of everything wonderful. Great music, art, fashion, design. This is a big one for my business as I'm slowly finding myself on the same role call as my hero designers. (Every time I visit to dry for’s site and see my work along side Rob Ryan my heart does a little pitter patter.)

But the really big thing I miss is living round history. My family home is set in the quintessential rural idyll, our house it’s self is so old that the stone steps have all been worn down in the middle from thousand or foot steps over hundreds of years. It makes me feel part of the pass and part of the future all at once and I love that feeling.

So, really going home isn’t all bad, in fact it’s a lot of good and I have many lovely events to look forward to including a friends wedding and for once I have the outfit sorted including a fine pair of gold heels. Tickets to see Rufus Wainwright at the royal opera house two nights in a row – am I a crazy stalker fan? Finally a trip to Paris so I can visit my spiritual home land Colette I can almost hear the angels sing when I say the name.

Thursday 17 February 2011

party frocks

Fashion friday by Evie Kemp
As this week marks the one year anniversary of Dear Colleen (congratulations!) it only seems appropriate to get in to the celebratory spirit and admire some lovely party frocks.

I'm a firm advocate of dressing up properly (even if i don't do it often enough) and a staunch opposer to going out for an evening wrapped in a small amount of lycra and/or mesh. When I first started going out (to underage discos) it was the time of the most awful fashion crime otherwise known as the trouser-skirt - a pair of bootleg trousers with a matching miniskirt attached to the top (I'm not willing to bring this blog down with it's image). Anyway, it's no surprise that nowadays I love the opportunity to wear a proper, lovely dress.

Here in New Zealand girls are forgetting what it's like to really dress up and a casual dress code has become acceptable anytime and anywhere. It's a terrible shame and I hope current trends and shows like Mad Men can bring dressing up back. Wearing a pretty dress with simple hair & makeup and flats in the daytime looks just as great as a full evening get up.

Here are some of my favourite 'proper' dresses and shoes of the moment. Aren't they pretty?

1. Eliza J belted cotton party dress $193.28 2. ASOS peep toe perspex heel £65 3. Karen Walker Patio dress $250NZ 4. Miss KG Eve platform shoe £75 5. Warehouse embellished yoke prom dress £85 6. Topshop Scarlett Blue suede platforms £68

Sunday 13 February 2011

one year and counting...

*Competition now closed - thanks so much for the birthday stories they are all charming:)*

Well a year ago today I did something very simple and very life changing, I listed a few prints on etsy. I remember thinking at the time, if I can just make 100 sales in a year that would be great. If I'm honest it seemed like an impossible dream. I've had a great year, made up of a great deal of good fortune, luck and support. This little mile stone marks a real turning point for me from hobby business, to full time job. I enter my second year of trading without a clue of where I'll be in another twelve months time but very excited to give all my time and energy to building whatever it's going to be.

Well everyone knows you can't have a birthday without cake! So I nipped into floriditas for a lemon cup cake and a hot chocolate. nom nom nom...
...and what sort of birthday would it be without gifts. So today you can win one of my 'Dishes I'd rather be doing' tea towels and a copy of Frankie Sweet Treats (I some how ended up with three copies!).
All you have to do to enter is tell me what your favourite birthday was. You can leave a story or just an age. Mine was my twentieth, when a group of friends and I when to bingo, it was such a giggle and we were all hopeless it's much harder that it looks. Please leave your comment below or on my facebook 'fan' page. I'll pick a winner midday on friday.

first dibs

As you might have already read on here, I'm leaving Wellington in 9 week and I'm slowly getting around to sorting out my worldly goods. I spoke about this with the girls at Craft Up last tuesday night and they asked if I would give them first dips before putting my stuff up on Trade Me. So if you're interested email by 12 noon tomorrow.
1. Above. Turn of the century wooden tool box. Bought at auction last year it measures 47cm high - 70cm long - 25cm deep. It's a bit bashed and a bit rusty (it was bought that way) and has a notable crack in the wood on the front but it's total vintage lovelyness. When you open it up you'll find two draws and that the inside has been pained a aqua green. I've been using it in my bedroom to hold all my art materials and will be very sad to say goodbye. I'm asking for $40.
2. Three vintage suitcases all old and a little bashed but still in working order. A brown leather with a charming envelope style sticking on the front and back. One powder blue and very light blue early 60s very sturdy truck style case and a dapper brown and white striped suitcase with plastic wrap round buckles also 50s or 60s. I'm asking for $30 for all three.
3. Two vintage suitcases, I guessing both of these are pre 50's. One is black leather with hand painted monogram on the front and the other is a canvas truck style case covered in lots of old travel stickers. Again they are vintage so bashed and rusty. I'm asking for $10 for the pair or you can buy all five suitcase for $35. They are great props for photo shoots.
4. I'm a bit heart broken to part with this, it's my 'Mad Men' style 60's chrome floor light. It makes a perfect evening reading lamp. I bought it at auction (after a bit of a fight with another lady:) it was PAC tested by the auction house before they sold it, which was only six months ago so it should be in good working order and safe. It's 125cm tall. I'm asking $40 for it, which is less than I paid.
5. Mixed Craft materials, a real bargain all un-used bought for a project I never found time to start. there is around $140 worth of jewelry wire, crimps, jump rings and tools. On flicker you can see the price tags and the wire alone retails at over $100. I'm asking $55 for the lot.
6. Last up is my lovely bike. I'm still not 100% I want to sell. I bough it less then 5 months ago and just cycle at weekends, it's the best bike I have ever owned. It's a boy 'Giant Cypress' bike in black and cost $830 new plus I've added lights, a lock and a mudguard so it's well kitted out. It has a couple of tiny tiny bit's of rust, nothing to worry about (I cycle by the sea alot) and the tyres need to be pumped up but apart from than it's like new. I'm asking $470.

Thursday 10 February 2011

One piece wonder

Fashion Friday by Evie Kemp

Here in New Zealand, summer is at its hottest and I figured those of you in the northern hemisphere are probably starting to dream of warmer days too, so I thought I'd share my picks for a great swimsuit. Or more specifically, a great one-piece.

There was a time, not so long ago, that the one-piece was banished from cool beach wear by its little sister Bikini, and resigned to swimming laps at the community pool. Now however, the one-piece is back looking great, and as someone who would rather swim through a million jellyfish than show my midriff, I'm very happy about it.I've tried to choose togs that could suit almost everyone and that make you look and feel good. There are a few obvious tricks that make a flattering swimsuit.

• Structure - this includes panels, possible tummy control, underwired or padded cups to keep everything in place.

• Boy leg shorts or a longer body that covers the very top of the thighs.

• Ruched detailing over the tummy area.

• and/or a belt to emphasis your figure. This is something you can make easily and cheaply to add to an existing one-piece to make it more Bond girl.


1 Birdie Togs NZ$140 handmade by Swanwear 2 Twist top padded bandeau swimsuit £30 from ASOS

3 Sailor swimsuit US$98 handmade by Fables by Barrie 4 Retro plaid swimsuit US$64 handmade by The Red Dolly 5 Lepel verona moulded suit with control panel £35 from ASOS 6 Navy vintage floral one piece £30 from Topshop

Nowhere is it truer than at the beach that if you are comfortable and feel good, you'll look good. So when you don't want to bear it all, cover up with a lightweight maxi dress, kaftan or pull on some loose shorts or culottes.

Just don't forget the sunscreen and the ice cream (the important bits!).

Tuesday 8 February 2011

procrastinators: leaders of tomorrow

Ok apologies up front, this is a personal post and I don’t mean in an interesting way before I get your hopes up. It’s just that I find myself in a bit of a rut, which among other things is affecting this blog. I’m sorry it’s been so sadly neglected of late. I have so many half written posts kicking around but I just can’t fine the focus to finish them. Focus seems to be my big problem this year, I quite often wonder if I have attention deficit disorder but always end up doing something else before I can find out.
image from threadless

The worst thing about my current lack of focus is that I have designers block, this wouldn’t be so bad if my mind wasn’t still ticking away coming up with concepts, the problems really starts when I sit down and try and turn those ideas into anything visual.

I suspect this creative dry spell is down to a couple of factors. Firstly I only really do my best work when I’m down to the wire. I really haven’t been faced with any deadline lately consequently all of my work has been a bit lacklustre. Secondly I’ve finally booked tickets to travel back to the other side of the world. I leave New Zealand for Sydney Australia on the 17 April and after five days as a tourist I fly all the way home to the UK. Of course in the nine weeks I have left in New Zealand I have a million things to do.

I leave my day job in five weeks and my flat in six. I’m going to Melbourne on a business research trip the day after I move out of my home. I need to sort out the shipping of my chairs (and the answer is still no to all those who have asked, sorry). I have to organize all the aspects of the part of my business that I leave in New Zealand (that’s a biggie). I need to reduce all my worldly possessions so I only leave with what I can fit in a backpack. And most importantly of all I want to arrange a kick ass leaving do/ladies like afternoon tea party. I guess it doesn’t sound like that much put into a paragraph but this isn’t even the start, these are just the small niggles I fill my head with to put off thinking about what the hell I’ll do when I’m back in the UK just myself and my small etsy shop to keep me afloat. I know it’ll be ok and I know that really in the big scheme of things I always have a loving family who will look after me but at the moment, if I’m honest, I’m really scared.

Thursday 3 February 2011

geek chic...

fashion friday by Evie Kemp

Chances are if you're reading this you're a bit of a geek. I mean that in the nicest possible way of course. It's a compliment really. Because deep down we all want to be a geek. It's all part of a romantic notion to exist in a world where a bright mind outshines a sparkly dress. The truth is that really isn't true at all and modern geek is as much a matter of appearance as it is a lifestyle.

So let's assume you already have a whole bunch of obscure film quotes up your sleeve and an unhealthy obsession with collecting pencils (nothing wrong with that) but you want to make sure you look the part too. Fortunately geek chic is a simple look to perfect.

The most important thing is to look as though you pretend to not care for your appearance (though obviously we all know you do). Hair should be very low maintenance, a messy top knot for long hair or a scruffy, unbrushed bob for short. Don't dye it, or if you do, keep it dull.

Clothes should always tend towards the boyish and everything should be a bit too big. In a charming way. Jeans, mens cardigans and sweatshirts are staples.

Remember you're an intellectual so express an opinion. Use badges or a (preferably vintage) t-shirt.

The satchel is the only real bag option. The more battered the better. This should house your modern geek equipment - phones, ipods, ipads.

Shoes should be masculine. Leather brogues, lace up boots, Chucks or basic old fashioned sandals.

Note: The geek is a little dishevelled but ultimately not a total scruff bag. You should still be able to gain employment at the library or art shop and should smell like paint, tea, roses or old leather (satchel) not B.O.

Finally, don't forget your glasses, charm and wit, nor your library card. Or your thermos if required.