Jack Wills and Wonsuponatime Parties

(Or, don’t drink and blog)

As you all know, I’ve been having a massive Jack Wills love-in lately, as evidenced here. I was delighted to be invited along to one of their ‘Unmissable Parties’, in the Covent Garden store. If you haven’t been in, it’s a gorgeous space set over three floors packed full of precisely folded clothes and charming staff. Obviously the first stop, though, was to the drinks table for elderflower presse and bubbly. Mostly bubbly.

London wc 28th Oct 003

As with all Jack Wills stores, this one feels sort of homely and sort of like school, which I very much enjoy.

London wc 28th Oct 006

London wc 28th Oct 007

DJing among the jumpers…

London wc 28th Oct 008

London wc 28th Oct 012

London wc 28th Oct 013

The place was buzzing with activity – including face and nail painting, a lot of balloon-popping, and…more drinking. I’m not going to lie to you, readers. We went for cocktails at Cellar Door beforehand, and by this point in the evening I was somewhat spiffed at this point, and very much on the train to Drunkville.

London wc 28th Oct 015

London wc 28th Oct 016

When did candy floss get so difficult to eat? My companion and I attempted it, got candy floss beards, and discarded it in fury.

London wc 28th Oct 018

London wc 28th Oct 019

London wc 28th Oct 026

Ultimately, in the rather tricky area of ‘in store parties’, Jack Wills manage to pull it off. The staff were charming as always, and there was a fun, laid back vibe. A bit like a house party but where you could buy things. Heaps of discounts and freebies if you wanted to shop, but equally accommodating if you were there for the candy floss and the atmosphere. We headed on (me in a slight haze) towards The Penthouse, Leicester Square, for my friend Sarah Betty’s party for her jewellery brand Wonsuponatime. The Penthouse isn’t the most prepossessing building from the outside, but LOOK AT THE VIEWS.

London wc 28th Oct 027

Here’s the awesome Zoe Hellewell, aka The London Lipgloss, doing an absolutely smashing DJ set.

London wc 28th Oct 030

SBA is one of the very coolest people I know. She’s down to earth and yet whimsical, and she’s created a jewellery company with such cohesive vision. A very hard-working young lady, and always a source of inspiration to me.

London wc 28th Oct 040

Honestly, readers. I realise this is a very scant blog post but by this stage in the evening I was completely lamped on gin & tonics. I didn’t manage to get a single decent photo of the jewellery, but I’ll write another post to amend that. Urgh. Maybe they should rename it ‘blogger’s ruin’ instead.

Awful behaviour. But look at these pretty flower arrangements!

Blog fail.

London wc 28th Oct 033

Jack Wills Store Launch

I had an invitation to pop up to the new Jack Wills store in Bluewater for a store tour and to find out about the collections, so on a rainy Friday morning I headed out into the depths of Kent.

I hadn’t been to Bluewater for years, and I have to say, it’s not my dream shopping destination. Much as I enjoy clothes, I sort of hate the act of finding them. I’ve moved on from the Primark sieges of my callow youth, sitting on a bed piled high with cheap tat, feeling jittery and that I’d just wasted my money. These days, I employ military precision to minimise my time in, you know, actual shops, preferring a computer screen to shield me.

996614_920898367140_321030182_n

But I digress, and while Bluewater is never going to be to my taste, I appreciated two things: the abundance of my favourite eateries (Leon, Pinkberry, Cote and Lola’s Cupcakes) and the Jack Wills store itself. The store follows the Jack Wills aesthetic – cosy and quirky, with Persian rugs, striped lampshades and overstuffed armchairs tucked into corners, and shelves crammed full of dusty travel books and shining trophies. JW pulls off the ‘lifestyle brand’ concept extremely well, creating a series of rather charming, comfortable spaces with lovely staff (more on that later) and extremely wearable collections. The Bluewater store is a perfect addition – I was greeted by two delightful chaps, and staff around the store were all chatty and helpful. Each one I spoke to was beaming from ear to ear, talking about how excited they were to be working there, and how they ‘already felt like a family’.

Say the name ‘Jack Wills’ and you’ll often be faced with tuts and furrowed brows. The brand has long been associated with a very specific English stereotype, largely due to the proliferation of branded hoodies and sweatpants they (quite literally) made their name with. This is unfair and no longer apt for the company – look around any store and you’ll be greeted with the sight of cable knit lambswool jumpers, tweedy jackets, excellent quality shirts, and a soothing colour palette of damson, mustard and navy.  Without a doubt, the brand has grown up significantly in the past few years, absorbing a lot of the aesthetic from sadly defunct sister brand Aubin and Wills. As various staff told me, a lot of the clothing doesn’t carry a huge amount of branding anymore, and is much more subtle.

1377124_920898511850_1196244108_n

29629_920903796260_372749313_n

1375814_920901610640_1626952529_n

Which brings me neatly to the Autumn/Winter collection. Again, JW never used to create very…inspiring collections. What wasn’t a branded hoodie or trackpant tended to fall into the ‘tasteful and inoffensive’ category. Bland, if you were being a little more cutting. Now, though, pieces are well-conceived, beautifully made, and hugely wearable. As ever, the collections aren’t trend based, meaning you’ll be able to wear them for years. It’s a tactile collection, everything feels fantastic and looks expensive. Which of course brings us onto the question of price points. Another criticism of JW has been the cry of ‘but it’s SO over-priced!’ and sure, items may be a little more expensive than a standard high street store, but that’s purely reflective of the quality of the garment. We’re talking £70ish for a 100% lambswool sweater, £50 for a 100% cotton dress, £140 for a proper waxed jacket with ludicrously warm lining. While not all of JW is produced within the UK at the moment, they collaborate with classic Brit brands such as Christy’s and Fox Brothers where possible. They aim to move production within the UK and currently sponsor their own flock of sheep.

I was very kindly given a gift card on Friday, and actually ended up spending it Saturday on a Winter coat after wandering into the JW in Tunbridge Wells. I don’t know whether it’s a result of great staff training or them only hiring a certain type of person, but every single member of staff I’ve spoken to has been absolutely delightful. They’re helpful but not pushy, ready to leave you to it if you want, or willing to engage in chat if you are. For a shop-hater, it made a very compelling argument for why internet shopping just doesn’t quite cut it. All in all, I’ve been bowled over by the brand. The clothes look great: fantastic quality, classic pieces. But most of all, the staff make it a truly wonderful brand. They’re the lifeblood of Jack Wills, and they’re what will keep me loyal to the store, shunning my computer in favour of buying lovely clothes from truly lovely people.

1376478_920905108630_955823116_n

If you’ve been one of those vocal anti-JW types, I’d say forget what you thought you knew and give them a chance. You’ll probably be surprised.

1391918_920899734400_1739305617_n

1393092_920898456960_991819952_n

1385089_920900966930_873952157_n

1384341_920898960950_425026322_n

1381681_920899604660_14214173_n

1381639_920904784280_509475511_n

1381290_920900288290_1107599196_n

1380145_920899040790_670153677_n

1379937_920902982890_45820869_n

1379566_920902249360_1430029625_n

1377244_920903307240_1182506413_n

734158_920902798260_936930827_n

1385728_920901316230_1984514227_n

1385610_920904499850_1521188450_n

1377154_920900178510_527216247_n

1394110_920902698460_230271_n

Disco at Kingly Court

HEY!

So, I’ve been on a blogging hiatus since June, because quite frankly, I couldn’t find the time. And I was having too much fun. I’m going to attempt to catch up a little bit, and let’s start here, with a club review.

Absolutely ages ago in the Summer (remember THAT guy?!), I piled along to a new concept club called ‘Disco‘ at Kingly Court, just off Carnaby Street. It’s the newest creation of the hugely innovative Charlie Gilkes and Duncan Stirling (also responsible for Maggie’s), and it’s one of those fantastic places where every single detail has been carefully considered. On arriving, you’re greeted by Pan Am uniform-clad staff, all perky smiles and pencil skirts. It’s fun – you’re given a boarding pass to enter, and the rather tiny club is a delightful tangle of rollerskates, neon and disco balls.

Disco 035

The drinks selection is glorious and…I’m trying to skirt around using the words ‘kitsch’ or ‘retro’, so I’ll just say: very apt for the theme. Cocktails heavily feature Midori, grenadine and orange juice, and spirits can be ordered with a mixer of Cream Soda or R. White’s lemonade. If you’re getting down on it, opt for the twinkly jewel in the ‘Sharer’ crown: a hollowed out disco ball packed full of black raspberry vodka, Moet, Malibu, Midori, pineapple and passionfruit.

If you’re into zinc counter tops and slate walls, this place is not for you. Only take your fun friends, those who have a healthy taste for gold hotpants and Donna Summer. While it’s obviously supremely gimmicky, it’s so well-conceived that you can’t help but be charmed by it. All in all, I absolutely adored it. To get in, you either need to become members (it costs £35 a month after a £100 joining fee which includes free entry for two, discounts on private hire and priority booking on tables) or you can get on the “limited” guest list on the website and pay £20 for entry. Possibly not the most budget-friendly of places, but you’re  guaranteed a wonderful night.

Disco 007

Disco 015

Disco 018

Disco 019 Disco 020

Disco 024

This very lovely bouncer asked to pose for a photo….

Disco 055

…and then was worried he didn’t look tough enough, so he did a ‘security guard’ pose…

Disco 060

Take a Different Route Home

When I was a fresh-faced yoof undertaking my first proper daily commute to London, I was determined to stay wide eyed and interested in the world around me. I didn’t want to become a typical commuter, slumped in my seat on the train, head down as I tramped the city streets, never looking up.

That was 7 weeks ago.

Even in that short time, I find myself getting into bad habits. I doze on the train where initially I read ‘improving’ books. My healthy juices have been swapped for cloying lattes. I tut and sigh at anyone who gets in my way or irritates me, whereas my attitude used to be ‘at least I’ll never see that commuter again, look on the bright side’.

In an attempt to remedy my morning and evening ennui, I decided to go from a different station (Victoria instead of Charing) and ended up on a glorious walk that sliced me through Piccadilly, Mayfair and St James’s park. I enjoyed it hugely. Give it a shot, take a diversion, find something different.

walk in the park 001

walk in the park 012

walk in the park 014

walk in the park 016

walk in the park 018

When Mac Met Cheese at The Endurance

Hello! A massive lack of posts lately, but let’s go straight back in with a food review. Since working in Soho, I find myself making quite a lot of ‘what to eat in Soho for lunch’ inquiries into Google. The problem is, there’s almost too much choice, and I’m attempting to avoid chains and explore somewhere different most days. I’m planning on writing posts based around my lunchtime escapades, in the hope that it might help out someone else similarly stuck for where to eat! Anyway, mission statement dispensed with, let’s go to the food:

macmetcheese 085

When Mac Met Cheese: The Concept

Virtually underneath our office is a rather glum pub aptly named The Endurance. It’s nearly empty and appears to play host to a variety of pop-up ventures, including When Mac Met Cheese. When I saw the posters, I nearly passed out with excitement. Mac and cheese is one of the most truly perfect foods in existence, and a dining experience solely devoted to it sounded wonderful. I’m a big fan of the new wave of restaurants offering just one choice of food in a couple of incarnations (Honest Burgers, Burger & Lobster, Bubbledogs). I read up on previous reviews of WMMC as a food stand, and set my hopes to: ludicrously high.

macmetcheese 089 macmetcheese 106

The Food

Three options for the pasta, optional extras (bacon lardons, chicken, rocket, tomato, broccoli); a side of coleslaw; deep fried Oreos. Absolute simplicity, which made me think that the food was duty bound to be excellent. I mean, if you’re only serving one thing, you’ve got to do it right, haven’t you? I opted for one option with a ghastly name: the ‘cheesy green afro’. Because, you know, who DOESN’T love thinking about a hairstyle with a hygiene problem while eating? Anyway, with stilton, mozzarella and broccoli, it ticked quite a few boxes.

On first mouthful, I was happy. Rich, extremely cheesy and supremely comforting, this was like the Richard Madeley of foodstuffs. It came to us in cardboard boxes, and let’s just say that mac and cheese is never going to win any beauty contests, so visually it wasn’t much. I started flagging at around the halfway point. It was lukewarm on arrival and cooling rapidly, and each mouthful tasted exactly the same. My companions struggled  – this, from one of the boys: ‘I think I’m going to go to Leon after this to get a wrap’.

The primary issue for me was how I felt afterwards. A truly great eating experience leaves you full but happy. I’m not just referring to restaurants – just down the road from The Endurance are Freebird Burritos and Jerusalem Felafels, both of which leave me full and happy, whereas WMMC left me feeling like more sluggish than a slug that had just taken part in a marathon slug battle and had also found out its’ slug wife had left it. That’s how sluggish I felt. The general table consensus was indeed: ‘I feel full. Not the good kind of full’.

macmetcheese 091 macmetcheese 103

The Atmosphere

Curious. We were served by a waitress AND someone who appeared to be from The Endurance itself. Things rapidly descended into a Fawlty Towers-esque situation with one waitress coming from the right, another from the left, asking us the same questions. The person serving us from The Endurance came across as slightly brisk, telling us she had ‘nothing to do with the pop up’, she was ‘just helping out’. Taking orders was a bit of a faff: ‘they get it all mixed up in the kitchen’. Mm.

I’m going to touch on decor here too, for a minute. A stripped out ghost pub; tables clung to the walls like kids at their first school disco. Stuffed animal heads on the walls and wallpaper that reminded you of those strange country hotels where you feel slightly uneasy but can’t really put your finger on it. And dark, it was so dark. Dimness doesn’t equal atmosphere, lighting concept designers.

macmetcheese 086

Overall

Some street foods translate perfectly from pavement to plate. After all, you never expect street food to be that hot or that pretty but it still kicks ass (kinda like Mickey Rourke). But when you’re served that same lukewarm, messy dish with plastic cutlery in an actual  restaurant, it’s a different matter. Come on, would it kill you to give us some proper cutlery? Even wooden cutlery would do. Anything. A rough hewn tool from wire and rocks. Just not plastic.

For me, this entire experience demonstrated the sticky problems with pop ups. What exactly constitutes a pop up? What service do we expect? Should the food come in takeaway boxes or should it be properly plated up? To give it the benefit of the doubt, I think I’d have been a lot happier with this if I’d been eating it while wandering around Camden Market, which is where it usually stands. But as it is, I’m confused, I’m underwhelmed, and I still feel full. And not the good kind of full.

macmetcheese 097 macmetcheese 108 macmetcheese 087

My week in pictures

I don’t usually do these kind of posts as I think they’re a bit of a cop out, but things have been absolutely crazy the past week and a half. After coming back from holiday, things went into hyperdrive and I went from being a freelancer to working full time in a London entertainment PR agency. I’m enjoying every minute of it. It’s one of those jobs where you can’t wait to get started in the mornings, and I couldn’t be happier about working there.

But awesome job aside, I’ve barely had a minute to sit down and blog. So to fill the gap, here’s a selection of pictures of what I’ve been up to (spoiler alert: mostly eating). To sum up, I did the following: went to an open air screening at London Zoo (more on that soon), ate, went to a hen do, rehearsed for a musical in a gun room, accidentally attended an ‘Ibiza Pizza Party’ in a tiny village pub in Surrey, drank cocktails with pipettes in, wore an oversized cricket jumper, and ate some more. Not pictures are the pheasant impressions I did with friends at the end of the night. Don’t ask.

8zlP8jgPk78unM0RKoN_KUJG36qxGzN4WGChEW4GHRo 422063_10151621886401944_1958144318_n b8KE67b-H3r6tbcKwUEeh0hdrL2jT1Mn_khGHPrUAUg AN5TRKfz1rOOjJgfQx9TYDjy00styg8bUmpv6w-VRoM A3uXJY5pdA9zP3SE1w7AT28KL4DO4z2T-FBn1aWwW5g 941372_862976093840_1778063436_n f6ORMUYEwfoINcOzEHuIo7cXuUoPBxoX-aqNrBPjQNU jAVA1PVsykD3Qhb599omcxQh05VjclVGs3sHJfVX6B4 OCZIQmcnRp0uCkEhnPqwIbaA1NVX2NRGYm4m9PGQC_EERZP_tAQxXBa4NAdm_uO5VCaN5ZEj7MLDfAS7eLPDWs JmYKLVzdqK3beYzniLhkv1YJHrwmcrP5jm627P5CviMnlieHn2HCcqFuiw0eqHxIl9Hi88otCcFqwtgortZvDQ JXQrFBhMlZmz9DuoWFStS1Ltm02b7oB5AzenaIHXhOU s_24hJxpHgHn2qKF-PZbPLtvczkwRv9w69GbylwWmaY s6XnPkanNCjNYRLaoSU_8to4YrY-8lAvSavEybZ58rU oQf5TRb3JCb1A9obG89q_peUmmxw6hffitSK_OovBis UpDKhqxMqDlgCwNXkrOfImCnz48OK4CFEy7ZBgqA-fQ XbnAhU76vAn0csyYzAeGumb_cj8q9UbAeBzaBRVoCSc UljbGLUOYKUw2MRx2UHYnvqmn-nWCPLyFSqQkw9Sm9w Y8YgqYiYyi5vOOYBEvJ9FK0JrCKq85oAKDjClEVTMmQ yR9N2sZmxGVojUm6FUQiDQju8-DMW45mUaQfw0EVKS0 Yrrle1BQ-qoy4JJ3_YiHR0qWFDP-5dztrpk-a1sojUc 8tRwbpvmrEk8XCfxdHXQQF__RzSDR3JHtIV87CG_A_U 0gtnEFILC2R3zlFifGgFWbGpa04AWSBYRQNAJoAn-Eg 2v-abfb1XfUUoZWj0iALaIcckRH31Zcq65qVxBE3Z9M 7RTzLhmj_3CK2KytKfw4pP4n7Pooaa-bMiwPF_9Wg3A

Adam & Albert

 

 

I’m currently writing this post from a wonderfully sunny St Ives in Cornwall, but before I go on to boast about the glorious weather, I’m going to rewind to last week, and a cold and faintly snowy London.

 

Last Thursday, India and I headed up to South Ken to see the event we’d been anticipating for months on end: Foals at the Albert Hall. We last saw them in the grubby, chilly, small Concorde 2 in Brighton, and were fascinated as to how they’d translate to such a different venue. If you’ve never seen the band live, I urge you to get tickets for whatever you can lay your hands on. Foals are phenomenal live, and I say that without the slightest bit of exaggeration.

 

After a rather pleasing support slot from Efterklang, the laser lighting kicked in, the smoke machine pumped up to full volume, and the band made their way on stage. Most of the set came from their new album, Holy Fire, interspersed with crowd-pleasers such as Total Life Forever and Spanish Sahara. When Foals play, something almost transcendental happens to the audience. I looked around the crowd, seeing people transported by the music, these huge guitar riffs and echoing vocals punching the walls of the Albert Hall.

 

After about half an hour, India and I grew frustrated at being in a seated area, and our attempts at chair dancing weren’t really cutting it, so we clambered down to the front of the tiered section in a haze of dance-driven urgency. We spent the rest of the gig waving about like idiots, watching the mosh pit from on high, and feeling the waves of sound on our faces. Due to our (over)enthusiasm, we got pulled aside at the end of the gig to give a short interview about Foals for the Albert Hall. After hoarsely repeating the word ‘epic’ several times, we were on our way to Soho.

 

In Soho, we picked up Frankie, who took us to a new discovery: The Soho Social Club. I almost don’t want to talk about it, because it was so ace that I don’t want anyone else to know it’s there, but what the heck. It’s essentially one room on the corner of a dark, tucked away Soho street, and contains a few small tables and one long banqueting table. The walls are stacked with books and framed black and white photos with a heavy S&M emphasis. The cocktail menu is brief but carefully curated, and the staff charming.

 

When we got there, Frankie was greeted heartily by an old dear in a fur hat and large earrings who perched, regally, at the very end of the long table. ‘Oh hello love’, she said, ‘it’s been ages since I saw you, hasn’t it?’ They chattered away for a little while, before Frankie turned to us and said she’d never seen the woman before in her life…But I’ve overlooked the very best part of TSSC: the dogs. Yes, dogs. Four squiggly balls of fluff scattered around the room, enjoying the attention of the delighted customers, and I took quite a shine to a sweet French bulldog called Modesty.

 

From there, we dashed to The Diner for stacked burgers, baskets of fries and Cherry Cokes before crossing the river to the BFI, just in time for my beloved Adam Buxton and the start of BUG. If you’ve never been, BUG is a bi-monthly (last time I checked) showcase for new and interesting music videos, which Adam hosts. Not only is it a fantastic way of discovering new bands, but Adam also reads out YouTube comments on the videos, and gives his own commentary, which is hugely entertaining.

 

Bit of a skim through Thursday, but I’ll be back soon with posts about Cornwall, and showing off about the sunshine. Ta ra for now.

Adam and Albert 001 Adam and Albert 005 Adam and Albert 006 Adam and Albert 008 Adam and Albert 009 Adam and Albert 010 Adam and Albert 012 Adam and Albert 015 Adam and Albert 014 Adam and Albert 027 Adam and Albert 017 Adam and Albert 019 Adam and Albert 021 Adam and Albert 023 Adam and Albert 025