Category Archives: Lifestyle

VISUAL MERCHANDISING : Aesthetically Pleasing Food Offer @ Starbucks

I admit to being quite partial to my daily latte from Starbucks, but never have I been tempted by their food offer – cheap and nasty looking pastries in a soulless and uninspiring counter display.  How many people have I seen grab their morning coffee from Starbucks only to choose their breakfast treat from the Paul’s nearby (where the displays are beautiful and product authentic). 

But now Starbucks have done a re-haul with their food.  The Live Well range is a healthier and more wholesome affair with new products and better ingredients…but what’s interesting is how appealing and stylish it looks thanks to a chic but really simple black design theme – which includes the pack, marketing material and cleverly, the black ‘boards’ which the products sit on.  It’s so effective that I catch myself staring at the food and contemplating a purchase.  On the occasions that I’ve visited, the counters have been pretty empty so I’m wondering if I’m not alone with these thoughts!

Starbucks display

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EYE : Best of Top Drawer

I had a whizz around Top Drawer at the weekend and these suppliers caught my eye :

Cable and Cotton lights.  Eye-catching, colourful, well-priced and appeals to a broad range of customers – grown-ups and kids.  Very commercial. 

Lulu and Nat home and lifestyle range.  I love the pattern and colours of everything in this collection which is handcrafted and made in India.  I can see this brand becoming quite cultish.

Curious Chocolate.  The original styling of this stand caught my eye as did the lovely packaging. 

Somerville Scarves.  Love the cool and funky designs.  Wear them or frame them. 

 

Top Drawer

TREND : Londoners and Ice Cream

Ice cream bars are popping up all over London.   Much like the gourmet chocolate and cupcake stores/cafes trend of the last few years * ice cream dine n’ retail seems to be where it’s at now. 

Some examples west-side include upscale gelataria Gelato Mio on Holland Park Road which has opened another branch at Notting Hill Gate, the recently opened (and very nice) Ca’puccino cafe at Westfields which offers a big range of delicious home made ice creams, and pop up shop Icecreamists opens today in Selfridges offering a wild and fabulous range of flavours. 

*  …btw – new cupcake store opening on Kensington Park Road soon….

Ice cream

PRODUCT WATCH : MILK : Italy

Trends in milk:

1 – Functional milk – milk with clear health benefits seem to be popular in Italy.

Milk Italy

INSIGHT : 4 Random questions for my 26 year old intern

Intern lifestyle

My name is Gail, I’m 26 and I live in West London. This week I am doing work experience for Jess at FashionBarn, and she has asked me to write a bit about my life.  She gave me a list of random lifestyle questions to choose from, and here are the four which I chose to answer.

What do I do in my spare time?

I work fulltime in a fairly stressful media environment so my spare time is very precious to me.  In my spare time in the evenings through the week, I like to come home to the house I share with my boyfriend and I like to cook a nice healthy dinner.  I find cooking extremely relaxing and rewarding and I like to treat my boyfriend to having dinner ready every evening when he comes home.  He works very hard also and he is a very grateful recipient!  This sounds old fashioned of me, but it’s not that I see it as ‘my role’ at all, it’s just that I love everything to do with cooking; the food shopping (I love supermarkets and food markets!), the recipe research and preparation and the cooking and sharing of the meal itself.

Through the week I also enjoy meeting my friends in town to go and see new bands (I have a lot of friends who do A&R for record labels which is fab!), or I will meet one of my girlfriends for a alcohol-free dinner in Itsu or somewhere similar to catch up after work.  I rarely drink through the week unless it’s a special occasion.

At the weekend I like having groups of friends around for lunch or dinner which I will cook and really enjoy preparing and researching interesting menus to try out on them.  On a Saturday my boyfriend and I have a routine where one of us will go to Starbucks to grab some coffees to bring back to the other in bed in the morning to kick start the day.  If we don’t have friends over to our house for dinner we will tend to meet friends in a restaurant and eat out in a group.  I used to go to lots more bars and nightclubs when I was younger but now I much prefer going out for a nice long dinner with friends and having a few cocktails somewhere locally after.  Alternatively we’ll go to our local cinema.

I really like escaping London and going for walks outdoors so on a Sunday I enjoy finding new countryside areas to explore (sometimes just nice London parks or if the weather is good we head as far out to countryside as we can commute to from London!)  We have a car so we plan a route to drive to places like Oxford or Kent and stop for lunch somewhere pretty on the way.  It’s nice to get out the city and breathe in fresh air and have some peace and quiet just the two of us.

I also like shopping and can spend a lot of time on weekends or days off on main shopping streets like Oxford Street browsing my favourite stores.  It’s also fun to go to large malls like the newly opened Westfield where you can lunch, see a film and shop all under one roof. I also enjoy visiting some of London’s oldest and finest luxury department stores like Harrods or Selfridges.  I find I go there more for the experiential enjoyment or browsing the food halls and enjoying the dramatic, lavish window displays and make-up counters – to browse and people watch rather than to buy.   My boyfriend is also quite up for shopping and interested in fashion which is great as we can browse around together and help pick out things for one-another.

I read a lot also, novels and fashion magazines like Vogue, Elle and Grazia.

Who do I admire and not admire?

I don’t feel that I have that many ‘hero’ icons anymore that I look up to like I did when I was younger with movie stars, etc.  I admire people’s style – ie Kate Moss as she is my style icon, but I do not necessarily admire the way she conducts her lifestyle (her childcare/love-life, etc).  I think I probably admire successful young fashion designers like Marc Jacobs and Stella McCartney for what they have achieved for themselves and for the beautiful products and brands that they create.

I do think however, that there is a difference between admiration and respect.  I admire stylish models and designers around the world and could list endless glamorous men and women whose style I wish I could emulate but I don’t necessarily respect them and I feel that’s much more important.

I respect musicians like Annie Lennox and Bob Geldof who are genuine, not manufactured artists, who have risen to fame through true hard work and real musical talent and now give back financially and personally, protesting and heightening public awareness around the world for hugely important causes and issues that a lot of us choose to ignore.  They can handle their fame in the public eye without disrespecting themselves or their family’s reputations. I think they are the kind of role models young people should look up to.

What brands do you like and desire?

A lot of the brands I like and desire are fashion brands.  I love Stella McCartney, Chloe, Marc Jacobs, Matthew Williamson, Miu Miu and Burberry.

I think these brands have incredibly beautiful products as well as gorgeous branding and advertising.  I also think the designers behind them have great reputations and all seem to be very intriguing and interesting people.

I like other design brands as well like Emeco (chairs by Philippe Starck) and Simple Human kitchen/household-wares.

If I gave you £100 to deck out your fridge, what would you fill it with?

Firstly I would head straight to Whole Foods on High Street Kensington (with a big grin on my face)!

I would buy some beautiful fresh fish and shellfish, mussels and langoustines and nice fish like monkfish or bream perhaps so I could make a yummy seafood feast.. these are pretty expensive products and not what I would normally afford myself to buy!

I would buy some of the nicest cheeses I could find, some strong Roquefort, Manchego, Camembert, Brie and Apple Smoked cheddars to create a cheeseboard to quaff with good red wine.

I would buy some lovely Italian Prosseco and some delicious cuts of meat cold cuts to create a Spanish charcuterie board from… some Parma ham, chorizo slices, morcilla and Serrano ham slithers which I would accompany with spicy chutneys and relishes … mmmmm!!!

I don’t have a particularly sweet tooth but if I had some money left over I would buy a big punnet of fresh organic strawberries and raspberries and some Cornish clotted cream… heaven!

This wouldn’t all be for one meal of course, but what a decadent fridge-full of food.

Oh, and I think I may also need to add one or two bottles of Pepto-Bismol too, for our tummies following our consumption of all of the above!

BEAUTY : Happy Campers

Camping Beauty

CITY REPORT : Cape Town

David Jennings

I’ve been in Cape Town this last week and true to Jessie style I’ve been spending a lot of time in supermarkets, markets, stores and malls looking at product and design.  As for scene-soaking and people-watching, I made the most of the cafes, restaurants and bars of the city..it was a tough job.

My observations 

Design

Interior homes / restaurants / hotels / spas etc (excluding retail) – Super impressed by the good taste and quality of decor of nearly everywhere visited. ‘Cape Town Chic’ is kind of smart whites and neutrals with a beachy theme. 

Some examples of Cape Town Chic

Some examples of Cape Town Chic

Architecture – Jaw dropping in areas such as Camps Bay and Llandudno beach (think uber modern / glass/ concrete beach houses set into cliffs looking over a bay… the type of properties that you’ll never ever own).  I noticed that the whole city is under a lot of construction, with the new builds (flats or houses) all displaying a similar, very striking, very modern look.  

Fashion – I was warned not to get excited about clothes shopping in South Africa but I wasn’t put off since I love the challenge of discovering things that no-one else does.  But was I challenged!  The merchandise on offer reminded me of the stuff we used to buy pre-Top Shop going cool.  The stores are trying to be trendy but in a trashy and young way.  My only joy (and it was a real joy) was discovering Urban Degree (website not up and running yet as seems to be the case with a lot of business in SA).  This store is gorgeous – beautiful simple clothing for men and women offered in neutral and pastel colorways.  The interior is fresh and neutral and I loved the display for the shoes and jewellery – really girly and pretty.  I purchased some fab sandals for about £20 – if my boyfriend wasn’t looking quite so bored I would have bought the gold version too…plus I would have tried on the funky canvas ballet slippers which came in a range of pastel colours.  I really liked the floral print on them – nice design detail.

urban-degree

Nice display at Urban Degree

A special mention goes to Jenni Button – a higher-end store for women – which I visited whilst in the Canal Walk mall.  I really liked the wood detail on one side of the store : floor to ceiling reclaimed planks in a darkish grey colour which had been washed with what seemed like a very pale silver.  It doesn’t sound like much but the slightly shimmering effect of silver over the rough, old planks is really effective (unfortunately no piccs of this).

Food and drink

It appears that Capetonians are really health minded.  Seemingly popular chains such as Kauai  and Soma offer juices, smoothies, salads, wraps etc.  I was especially impressed with the drink offer at Kauai such as the ‘floo fighter’ drink which includes fresh ginger, lemon, mint tea, honey and cayenne pepper or how about ‘Appledesiac’ – which contains hot apple, honey and ginger.  On the food side, at Sumo you can choose anchovy or mozzarella as a spread for your morning toast along with more ‘normal’ choices such as jam, honey and marmite.

Other healthy fare I spotted on menus was butternut squash (roasted, and featuring heavily in salads), grilled line fish, sushi, chai, roobois (obviously), and lots of low fat Bulgarian yoghurt (must look up why Bulgarian).  I also noticed that supermarket milk is labelled as rBST-hormone free. 

Less healthy but equally yummy….I saw a lot of hot or iced chocolate on offer in cafes – nearly always made with Lindt chocolate. I wonder why Lindt has the monopoly in Cape Town?

My favourite supermarket had to be Woolworths.  It’s basically a South African M&S – smart, chic, high quality with loads of food and products you just want to coo over.  I did some research and discovered that Woolworths have or have had had a link with M&S for the last 6 decades -which explains a lot.  Despite some shameless similarities in both packaging and product I noticed that in the South African chain, the offer is far more health-related  with products displaying clear health benefits on packaging.  Take a look at the bread choice in the picture below, could you imagine seeing this in every M&S in the UK? What would us Brits would make of Selenium bread? The other functional breads in the range are more commercial and could be successful in our market. I’d certainly buy all of these…although I am a health nut!  Other notable ‘health’ categories include cereals (‘hi-energy variants’, sports imagery on packs), dried fruit (suphur dioxide free) and yoghurts (big on probiotics) etc.

bread

Healthy bread choice at Woolworths

 

And despite the healthiness and some pioneering food offerings some quirks surprised me : At Vida e Caffe, the super funky coffee chain which is soon to be opening in London’s Regent Street (yay!), they don’t offer fat free milk.  In fact what they call ‘skinny’ is our semi-skimmed milk.  This was the case pretty much everywhere.  I ended up buying my own carton of fat-free milk and asking the baristas to make me up latte with it – they found this hysterical and a completely alien concept!  I wonder if they will be offering skinny in their London branches.  A few extra details worth mentioning from this cool outpost….Firstly, the lattes were never luke warm as they can be with Starbucks sometimes.  The reason? They steam the inside of the cup with water before pouring in the milk.  I never once had to ask for my latte ‘extra hot’. On an eco note, I noticed they used milk bags instead of those giant plastic milk cartons commonly used in the coffee chains in this country. And finally, they serve alcohol! I’ve always longed to mix coffee and alcohol together – a concept which gets away from English pub-ing but still promotes ‘going for a drink’ ie. you can catch up with a girl-friend and one of you has a beer / cocktail and the other a coffee. Far more cosmopolitan I think.

And what about the food in Cape Town? Menus were strong on fish – a real bonus as it’s my favourite food but what’s with all the heavy sauces, or worst still  -Cajun spices?  I have Italian roots and I really believe that this kind of food is best served simply – olive oil, maybe lemon, rosemary, herbs etc.  I hate to be the difficult customer, but I found myself having to alter and hold everything with so many meals.  

The food and drinks scene is buzzing, and the choice is far superior to what we have in London. You get the sense that Capetonians are very proud of their produce and restaurants and I applaud that passion. Maybe I had bad luck with my restaurant choices, but what I would say is that if  the food was as good as the decor, location and vibe of their establishments, Cape Town would be up there with the best places in the world to eat.

On a final food note, I would like to give a special mention to a little bakery chain called ‘Knead’ – particularly the Muizenburg branch – which I felt was one of the most impressive eating concepts I experienced.  The menu is centred around their bakery bread which is completely yummy and wholesome. You can make your own breadboards or choose between sandwiches and salads but what stood out were the thin crust pizzas which come with crushed garlic and chilli sauces on the side.  So light and tasty. 

London could do with a place like this.

Knead pizza

Knead pizza - check out the garlic and chili detail. Nice.

 

My final comments concern one of my favourite things in Cape Town – the Neighbourgoods Market which takes place every Saturday in the Woodstock area. It’s a complete foodies delight of beautiful farmer’s produce,  gourmand/ artisan and healthy goods such as shitake bread, olive oils, nut honeys, cupcakes, coffee,  smoothies etc  If you’re feeling extravagant feast on oysters and champagne from the chic little stalls or buy a creation from the award-winning chef from winelands restaurant, La Colombe .  There are also fashion areas, as well as several boutiques selling decor bits that you just so want to take home with you (notably Plush Bazaar). This is a truly awesome example of a farmers and food market and just what I’ve always visualized markets of this kind to be like – full of  passion and creativity.  I find our home grown affairs or even so called trendy markets such as Portobello generally disappointing.

neighbourgoods

A selection of images from the Neighbourgoods Market. Photos courtesy of the Neighbourgoods Market

David Jennings