Monday, 28 September 2009

Fashion Weeks

So it looks like it's going to be a sugary, girly, pastel summer next year. At least, that's what seemed to jump out for me from the rundowns of New York and London Fashion Weeks, and from the first few days at Milan (right, at Versace). I'm not really a fan of pastels - they look horrid against my skintone, by and large, and when paired with a feminine style, they can be far too sickly.

However, I was really taken with the Luella show. Here, pastels were broken up with brights, prints and mink/black polka dots. I have to make a particular mention of mink/black polka dots - a couple of years back I had this ridiculously specific vision of a cardigan that featured a mink background and fine black polka dots. I thought that this would be both grownup and cute, and a perfect way to break up a plain black outfit. This cardigan did materialise - in River Island of all places - but the fabric was horribly itchy, alas, and I did not buy. I've been on the lookout since, and really hope it is produced on the back of this Luella show in a nicer fabric!

So I really liked the use of mink/black with pale blue and red. Substitute the blue for pistachio, and it is one of my favourite colour/print combinations, bringing to mind one of my favourite films, Pleasantville, and its sepia tones with hyperreal Technicolour details. Pistachio is one of the few pastel shades I can and do wear (I love it with red, burnt orange and plum) and I noticed that it featured several times on the S/S catwalks. If pastels materialise on the high street, I dearly hope for rich, complex interpretations like pistachio, blush, and mauve rather than the flat shades of light green, light pink and peach (yuck!) that are usually opted for. Well, one can dream...

It's really the one show that stuck out for me, but I also liked hotly-tipped Erdem's collection. Though florals for summer are perhaps going the way of nautical, yawningly ubiquitous, I will always like a prettily executed floral print!

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

The Book of Lost Things, John Connolly

I finished this book yesterday. It was another serendipitous charity shop find, and I confess that I was initially attracted to it because of its Rob Ryan-illustrated cover (one of my favourite graphic artists). But on further inspection, it turned out that the book including its charming, quirky cover and graphics could have had "For the Postcolonial Rabbit" written all over it in Rob Ryan's lovely handwriting. An adult fairytale about childhood grief, featuring a dark, often terrifying fantasy world that draws heavily on Grimm's Fairytales, Angela Carter and Hans Christian Andersen, this was just my cup of tea.

Actually, in parts, it was too scary for me and I had several nightmares during the course of reading. (I am a wuss when it comes to horror and scary stuff in general and probably shouldn't have read it so late at night just before sleeping). Yesterday, in the final pages, Bartimaeus called me and I jumped out of my skin!

I did enjoy it though - and I suppose I'm starting to understand why some modes of terror can be pleasurable (I've never been able to understand that, until Pan's Labyrinth came along. I've always refused to watch scary films but I can't resist its dark, tragic beauty, and it is one of my favourite films). Anyway, The Book of Lost Things is in a similar vein, and I think it would make an incredible Guillermo del Toro film. There were some episodes in this novel that I think would make for fantastic cinema.

But it's the episodic, quest-orientated nature of the novel that I also found somewhat wanting. The story follows David, a boy grieving for his mother in WW2 England, into a dark alternate world, where he has to complete a quest to find the Book of Lost Things, and find his way home. On his way, David meets both friends and horrific, terrifying foes. I think the strongest part of the novel were the fairytales that David stumbles into, which were wonderfully realised. Whilst the overarching narrative structure was weak (I didn't feel that David's journey was particularly urgent, and the connection between the two worlds was laboured rather than executed with the panache exhibited by China Mieville in Un Lun Dun) the fairytales had a tightness of form that made me wonder if the novel had been produced from a series of short stories strung somewhat clumsily together. In addition, the prose, striving to be pared and simplistic, is often merely workmanlike, and this renders what could have been truly wondrous merely a fun ride. Connolly is no Carter. While there's darkness a-plenty, the magic is scant.

As a result, although the novel is about coming to terms with the death of a parent, I didn't feel as moved as I think I should have done (particularly given I've lived through this experience recently). In fact, I think Rowling renders grief and the process of living with it, with more emotional clarity. But for the grownup fairy stories, and the illustrations, overall, I would recommend this to fans of fantasy fiction. Connolly's is a dark, nightmarish world that is interesting to visit, even if one isn't compelled to remain.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009


So NY Fashion Week is on at the moment, and all fashion heads are turning to next summer's trends. But the air here is developing a distinct chill, and I'm dreaming autumnal dreams.

My vision for this autumn is to accessorise, accessorise, accessorise. Whilst I love interesting, original prints, these are hard to come by at the best of times, and I think they're going to be particularly thin on the ground this year. In the absence of prints, it is left to accessories to lift and add texture, dimension and character to plain outfits.

As I've said previously, iridescence in nature is of continued fascination to me. I love the magic of the fact that the complete spectrum of colours is contained within (for the same reason, I also love rainbows),that this quality can turn up in the most unlikely of places: puddles by the pavement, upon beetle casings, magpies' feathers. I love that it is also so elusive, and hard to describe or pin down. What "colour" is iridescence? All, and none...

This quality means it really does come into its own on accessories - the lightplay dazzles the eye, and sparks the imagination, adding magic to what could otherwise be a dull outfit (incidentally I always imagine the Philosopher's Stone to be iridescent). In rainbows, the colours shine pure and bright, but in iridescence, the rich, bejewelled shades of the spectrum are emphasised. Whilst rainbows are fun to draw upon as colour inspiration in summer, the engima of iridescence means it is perfect for winter.

I love the creepily beautiful collection Christopher Kane has come up with for Swarovski, which perfectly demonstrates this. I think it would look magnificent with a raggedy black silk gown, Serafina-Pekkala style:
Perusing this month's In Style, it appears that Gucci are also clearly taken with iridescence this season (the patent finish makes it a bit tacky, which is a shame, but it does really magnify the colours!):

Now, I can't hope to afford CK Atelier or a raggedly black silk dress, but I've already incorporated iridescence into my autumn wardrobe in three ways.

Black pearls are one of nature's prettiest glistening gifts, and freshwater black pearls are actually surprisingly inexpensive.

Feathered hairbands, such as the one I got recently from Accessorize, often feature peacock feathers and really glam up simple outfits. This one is by itsthelittlethingsut at

It's also fun to try to come up with iridescent effects in makeup. I've had this image stored on my desktop for sometime, and came up with something similar using MAC Delft Paint Pot, with hints of pistachio green Shu Uemura shadow in the corners. Although I only wear creme nail polishes, I think the idea of an ultra-glossy black iridescent polish is kinda wonderful, too.

Finally, to my favourite form of iridescence: peacock feathers. This is a fan that's displayed in my bedroom that I acquired at the Bangladeshi Mela in Brick Lane one year. Decadent, proud, beautiful.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Tagged: Ten Random Things

This has been doing the rounds in various forms - I've previously written a 25 Random Things as a Facebook note, but have decided to try to come up with ten new ones (I'm a pretty random kinda gal so it's not that difficult!)

I was fast-tracked as an emergency orthodontic case and had braces for 7 years.

Despite being very talkative in person, I don't like chatting on the phone to people outside my inner circle. I get disconcerted by the lack of eye-contact.

I only wear creme nail polishes.

I'm obsessed with my teeth and clean them at least three times a day, but never in front of anyone apart from my sister. Watching people brush their teeth on tv makes me feel sick.

I am fuelled by tea and can sputter out visibly without it. But I don't drink coffee.

At the age of 30, I'm finally learning to drive.

Long, quiet train journeys and baths are where I do my best thinking.

I started dyeing my hair this year - both my parents went grey early, and I decided It Was Time.

My PhD is in English Literature but all the texts I studied for it were in Bengali.

Even though I'm less than 5 foot 1, I'm happiest and most me in flats.

So there you go. I think most people have already completed one version of this - so I tag anyone who hasn't done it yet!

Sunday, 6 September 2009


In 24 hours from now, The Rabbit will be fidgeting with her hair nervously at the Arrivals gate of a London airport, awaiting Bartimaeus's imminent return from Bombay, alternately switching her gaze from the board that'll tell her when his flight has landed, when he's collecting his baggage etc., and the automatic doors. She'll be doing silent battle with the other waitees to secure the best spot and keep it, and will be weighing up in her mind just how close she feels she can get to the line that says "Do Not Cross" without a) causing an international incident b) feeling like she's Breaking A Rule. (The latter is of much greater concern to the Hermione-like Rabbit). She'll keep checking her Clinique compact to make sure her makeup's perfect, and she'll spritz herself with her little 20ml bottle of Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb, which Bartimaeus loves.

It's been six weeks since he left, and I've missed him like mad. I've amused myself with lots of quality time with friends, but it's still felt like I've been treading water. There's just much more colour and laughter in the world when he's about.

I've really agonised over what to wear - last time he was away it was April and I wore my favourite Russian paisley silk dress from Warehouse. This time, I've opted for the pretty printed circle skirt I'm wearing here, because it matches a necklace and earrings he bought me on his last trip.

I'm feeling giddy. My heart's racing. And I have no idea how I'm going to concentrate at work tomorrow!

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Peacocky Outfit

I don't usually do "outfit of the day" posts, mainly because my mirror's rubbish (as you can see), and because my outfits are fairly repetitive at work, but I was pleased with my outfit yesterday, as I think it perfectly encapsulated my vision for the coming season: feathers, jewel colours, and metallics. I'm continually intrigued and mesmerised by iridescence in nature: peacock feathers, petrol on water, beetle wings. I'm going to post a longer entry on it as a theme, but this was my take on it yesterday. The dress is Holly Willoughby at Littlewoods (I tend to shy away from "celebrity" fashion lines, particularly the more tenuous ones, but I couldn't resist the deep plum colour, my favourite shade of all).

My makeup, featuring MAC Delft paint point with touches of shimmery pistachio Shu Uemura P Green 450 in the corners to make it "iridescent", and my recently acquired Accessorize hairband:

My products

Copied from RandomLondonGirl

: Was V05 Soothe & Shine before it was discontinued, now on the hunt for a reasonably priced SLS free non-drying replacement. Pout

Conditioner: Trilogy Smooth & Shine. Pricey, but an HG.

Styling products: L'Oreal Liss Control Frizz Control Cream

Shower Gel: Imperial Leather Shower Lotion with Shea Butter

Body moisturiser: Palmer's AHA Cocoa Butter Lotion

Deodorant: Sure 4hhr stick

Fake Tan: Don’t use it, funnily enough!

Cleanser: Liz Earle Cleanse and Polish

Exfoliator: Olay's Thermal Regenerating Scrub

Eyeshadow Primer: Either MAC Paint in Bamboom or UD Primer Potion if I'm wearing shadow

Foundation: MAC Mineralise Skinfinish Powder in Dark

Foundation Brush: MAC 182 brush

Concealer: MAC Select Moisturecover in NC43

Powder: MAC MSF as above.

Blusher: Either MAC Breezy, or Shu Uemura Glow On Pearl P Red 19D

Bronzer: Don't use!

Highlighter: Clinique compact my friend bought me. Or MAC Cream Colour Base in Shell

Eyeshadows: My faves are MAC Expensive Pink, Woodwinked, All That Glitters, Shimmermoss (can you see I'm a fan of the Veluxe Pearls?), and Shu Uemura P Green 450.

: GOSH for pencils, Bobbi Brown or L'Oreal HiP for gels.

Curler: Shiseido

Mascara: YSL Faux Cils

Lipstick: MAC So There Scarlet or Kirsch. Boy did I heart that Cult of Cherry collection...

Lipgloss: NARS Rose Birman, NARS Metis or MAC Cremesheen Looks Like Sin. Berries all the way

Nail Colour: Always creme, either deep reds, plums, purples, violet, lavender or black. Especially: OPI Parlez Vous OPI (lavender) and a violet creme cheapie from M&S.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Animal's People, Indra Sinha

My first postcolonial post!

I finished this a couple of days ago, and whilst I mostly had my "fun" reading hat on whilst reading it, I also kept straying into thinking about it in terms of work.

First off, it's fantastic and I heartily recommend it. Animal's People is based vaguely upon the Bhopal chemical disaster, for which the multinational Union Carbide has evaded charges of corporate manslaughter for over 25 years. In spite of the subject matter it is caustically funny, engaging and also, in parts, affecting. It has some sharply satirical, politicised teeth. And I'm tempted, now, to write about it.

Particularly in conjunction with the project I start work on in October. The project is based at Kent, led by Caroline Rooney and called Radical Distrust:Radical Distrust: A Cultural Analysis of the Emotional, Psychological and Linguistic Formations of Religious and Political Extremism. The project aims to examine the breakdown in trust between citizen/state in the postcolonial period, arguing that this breakdown results in a rise in extremism, oppression and violence from both sides. Regions to be looked at include: Southern Africa, Israel/Palestine and Egypt. It's a fascinating premise and I'm excited to be part of it as Research Associate.

I was thinking about the project vaguely whilst reading Animal's People, and another text - Mohsin Hamid's The Reluctant Fundamentalist. In tone, the two novels are very different. But they both develop a similar narrative conceit, positioning the reader very self-consciously as the "Western" "Other" and both, to me, seem to address this notion of radical distrust (the way the narrative technique specifically works to explore this idea is something I'd like to explore in detail). Except, what's striking is that in both texts, the "state," is a noticeable absence. Rather, the confrontation at the heart of both novels is between the very local and the giant multinational (the big US corporation that the narrator works for in RF, the Kampani in AP). In both, the "nation-state" is seen as remote, out of touch with local needs and impotent against the force of global capital.

This doesn't necessarily contradict the argument of the project - in fact, the nation-state's apparent remoteness may confirm that a near-irreparable breakdown in trust has taken place, to the point where it hardly figures at all in its citizens' lives (but I'm hesitant to really assert this due to my own ideological leanings). But I think it does call for a closer examination of how the flows of global capital have impacted upon the relationship of trust that exists between citizen and state. If the state makes promises to its citizens, only for these to be dashed by multinationals, where is the frustration and violence that is provoked directed? If multinationals exert pressure on the state to control its citizens' behaviour, can the state protect its citizens' freedoms, or must it yield?

Stuff for further thought...