Category Archives: Travel

Writing on my frequent travels to Catania, Sicily

Inspired by my Marrakech Wardrobe!

Inspired by my Marrakech Wardrobe, the SS2012 trends, Carrie Bradshaw  and the Sex and the City 2 wardrobe…

Easy Breezy...

Up until three or four blog posts ago I had been slightly reluctant to post photos of myself on Charms of a Dandizette – I suppose because this blog isn’t really about what I look like. Having said that, as well as being concerned about fashion,  Charms of a Dandizette is also about my personal style. So, I thought my next Marrakech inspired post, this one,  should be about my wardrobe approach to my week in the Moroccan city.

I set myself a little fashion task for my trip, which was to implement as many of the season’s trends into my holiday wardrobe as financially, physically and tastefully possible. So neatly packed away in my powder pink Marrakech suitcase was a white Broderie Anglaise top, of course inspired by Marc Jacobs’ sweetly designed spring summer 2012 Louis Vuitton collection. Bravely I purchased three bra-lets, borrowed from the midriff baring trend that filtered across the catwalk’s of Italian fashion houses, from Dolce and Gabbana and Prada, to Versace and Miu Miu. I say ‘bravely’, because I didn’t do not even one sit up or even attempt to decrease my calorie consumption in preparation for midrif baring – but c’est la vie! My bra-lets were cleverly selected to nod towards several trends; a mint green bra-let  lends itself toward the sherbet pastel colours currently being donned all over the high street, most commonly in the form of skinny jeans. And a scarf print bra-let, the pattern taking inspiration from the ancestral Versace patterns, which D and G also took inspiration from for their ss2012 collection, which saw tiny skirts and makeshift bra tops appear very 90s Versace.

I did a significant amount of research into appropriate dress for a Marrakech visit, to find out what was suitable to wear in this particular Muslim country. Of course, a lot of the information I found online was conflicting – some sites advised to cover shoulders, others said cover legs and others said you could wear whatever you liked. I thought best to cover my legs – I suppose because of my belief that legs are a far more overtly sexual than arms.

I took most of my inspiration from Carrie Bradshaw’s wardrobe in Sex and the City 2 and invested in lots of jewellery, even more eyeliner and lots of long flowing skirts and dresses in beautiful materials. The wonderful thing about billowing floor length dresses and skirts is, I felt no pressure whatsoever to wear heels and therefore I never – not once – the entire holiday. I stress this, because this is somewhat of a revelation for me! I packed two pairs of heels and didn’t remove either of them from their shoe bags. The other wonderful thing about length is, when worn in beautiful materials, it’s instantly glamorous! So with the glamour volume turned up, heels probably would have been overkill! Yes, me, the queen of bling can even identify overkill!

So for my discovery of overkill, for my week in flat shoes, for my courage to don a bra-let and for my time in Marrakech  I feel proud!

So, here’s some snaps of the Marrakech wardrobe!

AZAR in Marrakech

At Azar in Marrakech, wearing a black open back strappy top from Zara and patterned skirt from River Island

At the Palais Charhamane Marrakech

At the Palais Charhamane Marrakech wearing black Miss Selfridge skirt and medallion scarf print crop top from Topshop

Le Jardin Majorelle - YSL Love Post Cards Marrakech

At Le Jardin Majorelle in Marrakech wearing my mum’s Broderie Anglais button back top from Next (this top is 30 years old!) Floral shorts from H and M

Atlas Medina Resort and Spa Marrakech

At the Atlas Medina Resort and Spa Marrakech, wearing pleated Primark maxi dress, woven clutch bag from Primark and earrings from Primark too! (Good old Primark!)

Atlas Medina Resort and Spa Marrakech

At the Atlas Medina Resort and Spa Marrakech, wearing royal blue Topshop dress and enamel peacock chain from H and M.

Sahara at Atlas Medina Resort and Spa Marrakech

I am sure my sister won’t want to be on my blog..but she looks so nice I had to put this pic in. She’s wearing peach sheer trousers from Forever 21, bangle from H and M and watch by  Michael Kors Watch

Gueliz Marrakech

Wearing royal blue dress from Topshop in Gueliz. This is a great picture! I love the striking blue and the whimsicality of the dress against the city…

Make everything in life inspirational! Be charmed, stay inspired! x

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Inspired by: YSL and Le Jardin Majorelle

Yves Saint Laurent and Le Jardin Majorelle

Set right in the heart of this Moroccan city is an aperture where a secret garden lives and breathes. Painted azure blue walls and pillars are luminous, peering between the greenness of vegetation, the greenness of a giant pond where lily pads float heavenly and evoke a sense of serenity and calm. The only threat posed in Le Jardin Majorelle, if any, is the frightful size of the immense cactus needles.

Yves Saint Laurentand Pierre Berge, once Yves’ partner, friend, business partner and co-founder of the Yves Saint Laurent Couture House, purchased and restored the Jardin Majorelle in 1980. The land was initially acquired by french painter Jacques Majorelle, who settled in Morocco and opened up the garden to the public in 1947. Jacques Majorelle was in an unfortunate car accident which led to him returning back to France. The garden grew unkempt and overgrown, however Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge began a long process which would nurture it back to life.

The designer asked that he have his ashes scattered at Le Jardin Majorelle on his passing. Yves passed on the 6th June 2008 and as requested his ashes reside in Le Jardin Majorelle. After visiting the garden, I can understand why the designer loved it so much.

Yves Saint Laurent and the Love Post Cards

I am particularly aware of how long  it’s been since I’ve written anything particularly fashion concerned, so I thought it would be best to begin the recollection of my holiday in Marrakech with photos of the Jardin Majorelle…Fashionistas might refer to this magnificent garden as the Yves Saint Laurent memorial gardens.

Admittedly I was completely ignorant to this garden and its connection to the fashion designer whom I personally adore  for his championing of the sultry Le Smoking tuxedo jacket for women in the sixties and his androgynous designs.

My sister, an illustrator, and I felt as though we had stumbled upon a treasure hidden in the thick of towering cacti of the Jardin Majorelle when we found the significant collection of Love post cards illustrated by Yves Saint Laurent himself being showcased right here in the gardens!

What followed was a frenzy of both of us trying to take as many photos as possible of the illustrated posters. Unfortunately I had left my trusty bridge camera back home in London so I was very much dependent on my iPhone for picture taking.

Yves Saint Laurent would send his personally illustrated Love post cards out to his close friends and clients of the fashion house every year as a New Years greeting.

A small shop just opposite where the Yves Saint Laurent post cards are showcased sells copies of the cards for you to purchase, amongst some great YSL coffee table books and magazines featuring the designer. I purchased two of the Love post cards for my fashion illustration feature wall which I have been building on for the past year or so. Once the post cards are framed I will proudly add them to my wall!

Here’s to spreading the love at Le Jardin Majorelle…

More Marrakech photos on the way…

Be charmed Stay Inspired! x

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Inspired by Paris…J’adore Paris

J’adore Paris

Inspired by a recent visit to Paris…

It’s been a while Dandies and I am feeling somewhat guilty for the length of time that I have been away from my much loved and treasured blog. In my absence I have celebrated my birthday, been to Paris, started reading a new book, which has managed to crawl beneath my skin and has claimed me entirely (indeed I am reading Fifty Shades of Grey), have begun to write my own novel with more urgency than I have the past few years that I have been writing it (yes, I said years!) and have just returned from Marrakech Morrocco!

So, I suppose I should start with Paris…

There are so many reasons that I adore Paris. I generally tend to love cities, but there’s something about this beautiful city that agrees with me so well. The first time I went to Paris I met a French woman at the Cuban Compagnie Cafe in Bastille, she spent a while talking to me and my friends about Paris and London. She said there is something very special about the relationship and connection between Paris and London…this was around the time that Marie Claire had coined those with dual lives split between Paris and London, ever so aptly, the Par – Dons. Paris is a very feminine city and London, its counterpart, is male, she said. Now looking back on her observation and having visited Paris twice since then with her notion in mind,  it seems that her observation explains my affection to Paris so accurately.

Paris, romantic, whimsical and introspective seems to speak to the writer within me…that is me and that I aspire to be. It paints pictures of Fitzgerald, Hemmingway and the expatriate art set that flocked to the city to seek romance, escapism and material for their novels. It illustrates the many fantastic articles I have read about Azzedine Alaia (his clothes I am still not rich enough to afford) and his rise to success ( a tale I can imagine would make a beautiful film) and his unique atelier on the rue du Moussy in Paris. Possibly the only piece of architecture I have ever really looked at and found breathtakingly beautiful resides in Paris…the looming presence of the Notre Dame. The thought of talking hours away in a tiny cafe facing the street and watching the passersby is such a simple yet fruitful pastime and the chicness I could admire forever.  I love Paris for its civility, it’s sophistication, its simplicity, its style –  it’s overall voyeuristic nature and henceforth, its understanding of humanity.

Champagne on the Eurostar

First glass of champagne on the Eurostar

Ayesha Charles headed to Paris

Enroute to Paris wearing my favourite shirt of the minute from Zara

Gare du Nord Paris

Gare du Nord from the hotel balcony

Gare du Nord Paris

Rue De Saint Quentin Paris

Rue De Saint Quentin Paris

Rue De Saint Quentin Paris from the hotel balcony

Notre Dame Cathedral Paris

Notre Dame Cathedral Paris

The Notre Dame de Paris
*sigh* The city of love….Love Birds at the Notre Dame de Paris

The flower gardens surrounding the Notre Dame de Paris

So proud of myself for taking this pic of Gemma at the flower gardens surrounding the Notre Dame de Paris!

Notre Dame Cathedral Paris
Notre Dame Cathedral Paris

Ayesha at the Notre Dame Cathedral Paris

It’s ME at the Notre Dame de Paris..

Mmmmm…C’est si bon!

(more Paris pics on the way)

…Paris J’adore! x

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J’adore Paris…Part 2

Le Moulin Rouge

The next time I visit Paris it will be to watch the Moulin Rouge show!

Pigalle Paris

Pigalle ParisPigalle Paris

A Bus stop on La Rue de Clichy

Moulin Rouge Quartier Pigalle

Moulin Rouge Quartier Pigalle

Pigalle Paris

Bastille Paris

Bastille Paris – My favourite spot!

A rainy night in Paris, taken from the hotel balcony

From the hotel balcony again – I loved it out here!

There’s no such thing as a weekend without cocktails…

Till next time Paris! x

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Marella Ferrera – Sicilian Treasure

Marella Ferrera is possibly one of Sicily’s most influential and inspirational fashion designers still living and working in Sicily. Sicily always at the heart of her artistic endeavours, Marella Ferrera has provided the island not only with its very own claim to high fashion, but possibly one of the most imaginative and intelligent fashion designers to date.

Sicilian fashion designer Marella FerreraMarella Ferrera is an acclaimed Haute Couturier and Prêt a Porter designer who began her career in 1974 after attending the Accademia di Costume e di Moda (Academy of Costume and Fashion, Rome). She has won numerous awards across Europe that have crowned her ‘Best Couturier’ and given her recognition globally. The precious works of Marella Ferrera are not only the proud possessions of Sicilian art and fashion, but are the treasures of Sicilian culture, history and geography.

It is in the creations of Marella Ferrera that one can truly begin to decipher the distinction of Sicilian fashion from Italian, ‘true Sicilian style is not related to the clichés of “mafia, coppola (1) and lupara (2)”, but it is the unique and elegant melange of tradition, heritage; all the conquerors that signed the identity of this land,’ she explains. Using materials that are rustic, raw materials that are geologically Sicilian and materials that may not necessarily be associated with fashion design at all gives Marella her distinctiveness. A Marella Ferrera creation not only acts as an emblem of Sicilian fashion and art, but gives her designs an unmatched exceptionality. The core of a Marella Ferrera design, beyond its sicilianita’ is her desire to create, ‘garments unlike anything you would normally see,’ she says.

A Marella Ferrera dress might be embroidered with terracotta or embellished with thin clay flowers. She incorporates lava rock, rock crystal, copper wire, papyrus, textile paper, cork and palm roots, to name just a few, into her designs. ‘For my professional fulfilment I have always trusted in the potential of my birth land. I have never cut the cord that ties me to Sicily, Sicily is my creative limb.’
Italian Sicilian Catanese Fashion designerThe bodice of a Marella Ferrera dress can take up to one month to be created, she describes the process of making a terracotta dress, ‘it must be painted, then it is broken, pierced with holes, and crocheted together like a piece of embroidery.’ The final result is a dress that one might assume to be heavy or stiff due to the materials used to create it. Surprisingly a terracotta dress weighs only a hundred grams. Using science and geography to create pieces without a mind that continuously seeks knowledge and takes on experimentation might seem impossible, but Marella persists to take on challenges to make new discoveries and push physical boundaries. The advances in technology are paramount to her designs, as this provides her with the tools that allow her to reinvent and present the innate materials of Sicily in original ways.

Her creations have a sensitivity about them that evokes her spirit and her sentiment. Her work is poetic and picturesque, whilst remaining romantic and sensual. Marella’s designs can transform any woman in to a goddess, so much so she designed the wedding gown of Princess Elvira Grimaldi di Nixima, the cousin of Princess Carolina of Monaco and frequently sells her creations to Arab princesses. Her designs are favoured as wedding dresses and ceremonial events. A Marella Ferrera dress is for the occasion that is to be memorable, worn by women who want their garments to have significance and discourse.

It is clear to see that she is a couturier at heart. Placing a Marella Ferrera design in the middle of a room transcends its purpose, from protection and functionality to a piece of art ornamenting a space – a memento of her dreams, her childhood, her travels and her origin. She creates designs with such intricacy and attention to detail that she is any fashion technicians dream. Her fashion design and creative process is just as intriguing and inventive as that of the wondrous Karl Lagerfeld or the talented and late Alexander McQueen. One might indeed find a likeness comparing the work of Marella Ferrera to an artist or a sculptor and this is what makes both her and her work so unique and enchanting. Marella’s designs are a castle in the air, a wonderland or a fairy tale that have been miraculously brought to reality. The utilisation of outstanding technique and an approach to fashion design that is out of this world creates designs that are literally like no other, thus far. Marella Ferrera truly is a Sicilian treasure.

Visit Marrella Ferrera’s multi-functional Museum come Artelier in Sicily Catania. Read more about Sicily in Platform Magazine.

Sicilian cap

1) Sicilian Coppola Cap2) Lupara, sawn down shot gun

 

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Dolce and Gabbana Catwalk Report: Sicilianita’

It is impossible to speak with the Sicilian artist about their work without them slip into a profound nostalgia of their land and its spirit in their creations. Their devotion is thrilling, poignant and undeniably powerful, all the core ingredients that created Dolce and Gabbana’s collection this season.

The two Italians managed to communicate an affectionate homage to Sicily and the fashion house’s core essence by creating classic Dolce and Gabbana; perfect tailoring and seductive femininity. The show was entitled ‘Sicilianita’, translating Sicilian-ness, the quintessence of Sicily.

Amidst the minimal chic humdrum, it had seemed that the woman had been robbed of her real meaning. Thankfully, Dolce and Gabbana served up a beautiful myriad of dresses, made from Sicilian lace, velvet and satin that brought sexy back. The dresses were breathtaking to the eye, made from materials that were sumptuous to the touch.  Knee length fitted leopard print and polka dotted dresses, form fitting and to the knee were extraordinary.  Underwear as outerwear appeared in an array of sensuous 1950’s inspired body suits. Bustiers and French knickers peaked out beneath tailored jackets and caramel coloured corsets were decorated with contrasting black lace. The theme here was not minimal, but intense and dreamy, just as rich and alluring as Italian ice cream.

There was a constant dance between logic and emotion, romance and reality. Whether the Dolce and Gabbana woman wore the classic tailored short suit, or played on the under wear as outer wear, in feminine lace and sheer materials, there was a sense of the strong Sicilian woman in every ensemble.

The Italian Sicilian duo redefined and distinguished, with total clarity all that is exquisite about the continent, the island and the woman. It was an assemblage that set apart the Dolce and Gabbana woman from any other woman this season and presented her with what it truly means to be a woman’s woman; sexy, sensuous, classy and elegant.

The collection kept its strength, it remained Sicilian, it remained classic and extremely ‘sexy woman.’ If there was ever a moment for the Sicilian to be proud, now would be as good as any.

With Miss Campbell taking respite from her diamond debacle on the island, Sicily is only seconds away from becoming the next destination a la moda.

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Sono Arrivata – I Have Arrived!

(Sorry people – this is a rough and first draft entry. I am working on the Sicilian’s sister’s computer and have limited time on here. It will be edited when i am back home, just wanted to get this online in the moment – enjoy!!)

I have officially arrived in what i like to think of my home away from home, except here seems far more exciting and far more richer and warmer in all the elements of life that i love that little bit more than in London. On my arrival i was greeted by the Sicilian’s in laws, waiting with beaming faces and skin as dark as a golden desert. They wave to us through the glass windows while we await our baggage and once we meet them on the other side of the doors rapturous gestures, big hugs and kisses are exchanged. They show their affections to their son, the Sicilian. His mum looks at him with pride and happiness to have her son back home. Then they turn to me and bombard me with hugs, kisses and the italian language, which my mind is working over time to understand. The Sicilian’s father, a huge Sicilian masculine character in side a four foot something tiny body tells me my italian is improvng, “Now, let’s work on your Sicilian!” he jokes. He can only be joking.We step outside of the airport and are greeted with a still, intense humid heat, it’s nine o clock at night and the temperature is twenty nine degrees centigrade – the Sicilian’s father looks at me with all my London armour as though i am a crazy person, my new leopard print oversize scarf that i bought earlier this morning from Primark and my black blazer is most certainly NOT NEEDED HERE. As we walk to the car the in laws hustle me out of my excessive attire, leaving me with a vest, jeans and pumps on – it’s still ridiculously hot, there’s no breeze, the leaves on the trees stand as still as stone and the heat leaves sweat beads on the Sicilian’s face.In the car we have the inevitable important conversation and i am so glad that this conversation has come so soon, ‘Cosa mangiamao? – WHERE SHALL WE EAT?’ The options are Carne di Cavallo (Horse Meat) at Achilles, a trattoria specialising in horse meat which the Sicilian and i frequent with his family every Sunday for lunch or Pizza in the mountains – the Pizzeria is located on the drive towards Etna, the Sicilian tells me that during the summer the Catanese (people of Catania) and general city folk head to the mountains where it’s cooler to do their essentials for the day – which is of course eating dinner and eating ice cream.
So – eventually we decide to head to Achilles; Achilles is located in what you could call the ghetto, although amazingly picturesque with beautiful rustic terraced houses and a back drop of castles and cathederals, it is the urban part of Catania. People here are on the grind and doing what they can to make a living, most of which are making their living from food – so you can imagine how good the food is here. As we make our way up to Achille i am surprised at how many people there are simply hanging out, on every street corner there are people, Sicilian people from the age of two right through to eight years old – i am yet to see one foreigner or holiday maker. Every bar or restaurant or Carrozzoni (a food place in the style of a mini hut or mini van usually selling pannini’s and beers) has a gathering of people surrounding it. Achilles’s is set on a narrow main road, along this strip there are probably another twenty trattorias just like Achille. They have huge grills outside where they grill the horse meat, creating fumes and a smell of cooking meat in the hot air, due to the heat the trattorias have had to extend their outside space to accomodate their loyal customers, who want to site outside. So all the trattoria’s have placed their grills on the edges of the road, some have even placed some tables and chairs in the road just so they can get as many people outside. Cars and bikes struggle to pass down the now narrowed main road and of course abusive rhetoric is exchanged even more frequently from the drivers than usual. It is not long after our arrival in Achilles that the Polizia arrive and initiate some havok, telling all restauranteurs to set back their tables and chairs and get their grills out of the road. ‘You would have these tables bang in the middle of the road if you could,’ the police man continues, he cusses like a Jamaican -the Sicilian is known for their oral expressive nature. They are quick, witty and sharp tongued and they never miss a beat.Once we have finished watching the Polizia raid the trattoria’s we eat – for starter’s we head up to the buffet where me and the Sicilian load our plates with Parmagiana (an aubergine cake, layered with egg, parma ham and sometimes cheese), a spinach and cheese cake, red peppers with bread crumbs, Finochio (Fennel) and Crochette di patate. We order half a bottle of the local red wine, which is served in a jug cold, when Salvo (the waiter) brings our wine without any glasses the Sicilian’s mother yells, ‘Salvo!’ Here there are no airs or graces, if you want something just ask and if you can’t be heard, talk louder and if you can’t be seen then shout! So at Achilles this is how you dine and my meal is punctuated with the yells amongst the wiaters and customers calling out at each other, ‘Vanessa! Agata! Salvo!’ When you are a foreigner here it is so easy to take delight in the colorfulness of this culture and the Sicilian people and i always catch myself taking a moment, studying and falling more and more in love with this island. My thoughts are interrupted by my Polpetti di Cavallo (horse meatballs) which are placed in front of me, the rest of the table have a mixture of horse meat, which is cooked like a steak only cut thinly and Salsiccia condida (seasoned sausage), in the centre of the table a tomato, garlic, onion and cheese salad to accompany the meat. I tuck into my food, how i have missed these meatballs – ‘Ho!’ The Sicilian father says, (Ho is the equivalent to Oi), ‘Do you come here to see us or eat our food?’ He jokes. They joke about me arriving looking too skinny and tell me that they will take even more pride in fattening me up. Grazie!So after finishing at Achille only naturally we head to Quaranta, a gelateria (ice cream bar, it is completely packed – inside people push their way to the ice cream counter which features Mars, Forrero Roche, Kit Kat and Nutella flavoured ice cream as well as many many more. Outside there are wicker chairs and tables where we sit and enjoy our ice cream as we would enjoy a glass of wine in a bar in London…

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