Benefit Cosmetics’ Curls Best Friend Pop Up

Nestled in the heart of Theatreland, Benefit’s Curl’s Best Friend pop up parlour is a warm, welcome respite from the grey wintery weather outside.

benefit curls best friendThis isn’t the first pop up venture that Benefit have launched in London…I was devastated to be moving to London just a couple of weeks after their world cup bar closed its doors. So this time, I booked myself a table as soon as I saw it on Twitter. Gladrags on, I hopped on a tube straight back to the 1950s.

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I took a bunch of serious versions of this picture, but liked this accidental shot better. Some girls just aren’t meant to pout.

I got that skirt for £2 in an Oxfam shop. Can we just take a second to appreciate that? And our awesome Six Nations setup, of course. Paired with my Kate Bush t-shirt and the patterned tights I bought for the Gossip Girl party.

Benefit have dolled up their pitch on Greek Street in full 1950s glamour, with pink tables and plush sofas straight out of Grease, hairdryer themed lights and a big, bright bar serving all manner of delights.

benefit cosmetics curls best friend benefit cosmetics curls best friend benefit cosmetics curls best friendWith staff as bubbly as the drinks, Francesca and I immediately made ourselves at home and set about sampling everything the menu had to offer.

benefit cosmetics curls best friend benefit cosmetics curls best friendHow gorgeous are those cocktails? Now refusing to drink anything that doesn’t come in a milk bottle with a stripy straw. Also, they serve popcorn as a bar snack along with the drinks. I might ask if I can move in.

After a few hours putting the world to rights over many glasses of bubbles and even more jars of popcorn, we were whisked away by the gorgeous Rachel, who was playing the role of Benefit’s Honest Leah for the evening.

benefit cosmetics curls best friendTo be honest (Leah), if I looked like that, I’d dress like that all the time. Just doing my shopping in Tesco in a sequinned Jessica Rabbit ballgown.

Anyway.

The pop up is actually in honour of Benefit Cosmetics’ new mascara, Rollerlash. Ohmygod, if you haven’t tried this yet, get on it. It is genuinely life changing. I’ve got a mascara post coming up in the next few days and you can bet your ass it’s playing a starring role. So, in honour of the new mascara, the second floor of the parlour is dedicated to heaven.

Sorry, did I say heaven? Slip of the tongue. I meant Benefit makeup.

benefit cosmetics curls best friendThe beauty parlour offers a range of treatments, including brow shaping, makeovers, faux blowdrys, fabulous discounts on Benefit products (yes, including Rollerlash. Get on it) and a photobooth to enjoy the fruits of the team’s very hard work. This tiny pink room is what dreams are made of. I may have shed a silent tear.

After gawping at the parlour for a good ten minutes, we headed back downstairs for a final glass of champagne to toast Francesca’s birthday. And Rachel confirmed her status as national hero by bringing us some cupcakes for the birthday girl.

benefit cosmetics curls best friendBasically, go here. Get a cupcake. Try both cocktails. Take a selfie with the Rollerlash sign. I command it.

I had an absolutely amazing time at the bar, it was the perfect way to while away a very rainy Saturday afternoon. In fact, I’ve already booked a table to try out the late night third floor Noir Bar…

benefit cosmetics curls best friend noir bar

Bloggers Love London Fashion Week

This week, Bloggers Love hosted a fashion week event based on the cattiest, glitziest TV show that I know…xoxo.

As was fitting of a Gossip Girl themed event, there were people everywhere who looked like they’d stepped off the pages of a catalogue, dressed in the most entirely glorious outfits. And as anyone who has taken a look at Twitter afterwards will know, there was enough scandal, gossip and backbiting to satisfy Georgina Sparks.

Let’s rewind a little. For the night, I decided to step out of my ordinary girl shoes, and try walking a mile in the skyscraper heels of the Upper East Side’s least likeable princess, Blair Waldorf.

Dress, tights and socks, all from Forever 21.

Dress, tights and socks, all from Forever 21.

Details.

Details.

Practising my resting bitchface.

Practising my resting bitchface.

Headband and cynical smirk firmly in place, I headed to Hoxton to check out the wares on offer. Upon stepping into the art gallery, the first problem with the event was hard to ignore…it was so full that it was actually hard to move around. The ladies and I decided to leave the brands until it quietened down a little, and got in the queue for the very much in demand fashion illustrator, Willa Gebbie. In fact, she was so in demand that we spent the vast majority of our evening in that queue. But getting to the front was well worth the wait. Not only did it turn out that she was from Prestwick (crappy West Coast Scottish towns represent!), she was utterly awesome, and produced a likeness of me that is probably the coolest I’ll ever look.

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11007982_1419502598349148_1963952462_nPictures lovingly cradled in hand, we just had time for a whistlestop tour of the brands who hadn’t packed up yet.

DSCF0786 DSCF0787There has been a lot of talk about the event, so let’s set a few things straight.

I didn’t pay for a ticket to the dinner, but I can understand why people who did were angry at shelling out £28 for what eventually amounted to pizza. But some of the vitriol being hurled at Bloggers Love on Twitter has been pretty upsetting. Sure, make complaints when they’re justified, but I’ve seen people claiming that they got food poisoning…from pizza.

The venue was way too small. There isn’t any avoiding that. There were over 200 bloggers crammed into a tiny art gallery, all trying to speak to about ten brands. But I still had a lovely night. I got to meet some amazing bloggers, including Abi from Abi Street, who was so completely aces that I’m genuinely sad she lives in Cardiff. I got my portrait drawn by a fashion illustrator, which I can now totally show off to everyone and pretend that I’m awesome. And thanks to the theme of the party, I got to step well outside my comfort zone, beauty wise. See, for a part-time beauty blogger, I tend to rely on the looks that I know work for me. But the Upper East Side doesn’t exactly comply to the just-rolled-out-of-bed beauty look, so I had to try something new. And I liked what I found. I found out that I actually really like bright pink, shiny lips. I found out that maybe my headband shouldn’t be relegated to the bathroom cabinet unless I’m washing my face. And I found out that knee socks are awesome. Wait, actually, I already knew that one.

So maybe the evening wasn’t the event that a lot of us planned for. But that doesn’t mean that I didn’t have fun.

XOXO. Fiona.

Inspiring Women with GAP and Glamour

It was a grey and rainy Tuesday. One of those mornings where I’d picked an extra ten minutes in bed over putting a single scrap of makeup on my face. The dress I was wearing was at least three years old. But folks, when your friend texts you asking if you want to go to a woman empowering event hosted by GAP and Glamour Magazine, there’s nothing to do but say yes.

A sneaky lunchtime trip to Boots and a quick swipe of lipstick in the work bathrooms, and off we set. I shouldn’t really have worried about having no makeup on because the freezing, blustery walk ensured that I arrived with that nice “frozen snotter” look that’s so hot on the catwalks right now.

I feel like real beauty bloggers don’t use phrases like “frozen snotter”.

Fortunately, GAP was filled with waiters carrying around trays of cocktails, mini hotdogs, burgers and cupcakes that had me warmed up in no time. I think I ate about 17 hot dogs. You can take the girl out of Glasgow…

The event saw Glamour editor and general badass Jo Elvin chat to some seriously inspiring women about what keeps them going, what makes them successful and what advice they would give to other women. The panel included journalist and TV presenter Jane Moore, director of GAP’s P.A.C.E. education programme Dotti Hatcher, DJ Annie Mac and founder of the charity Kids Company Camila Batmanghelidjh. That her name contains the word “Batman” goes a little way towards describing how excellent she is.

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Photos by the wonderful Suzie Jay Photography.

Camila founded Kids Company in 1996, to help provide practical, emotional and educational support to children and young people throughout the UK. Love and compassion shine out of every single pore in her body, and when she speaks, she can’t hide her passion for helping young people to achieve their potential. She didn’t patronise or victimise, she inspired, and I could well believe that she could help these young people, who have often been through multiple horrifying traumas, to see the chink of light in their lives and to stand tall and seize it with both hands.

I’ve lived an incredibly charmed life, with every bump along the way serving only to make me who I am today (yes, yes, I know, but cliches are sometimes cliches for a reason). I can’t imagine what some of these children have gone through, but what wouldn’t I have done for a Camila in my life when I was 14. When asked what advice she would give to her younger self, she responded “To be mad sooner. It’s such fun.”

I genuinely sleep better at night knowing that there is a multicoloured superhero of a woman telling kids that they don’t need to live up or down to anyone’s expectations of them.

Dotti was equally amazing, exuding absolute warmth and gentleness. She is a woman who has dedicated her life to improving the situations of other women who were born with less resources and luck than the rest of us. She opened the presentation with a video showing a young woman’s journey through the PACE programme, from working in one of GAP’s garment factories to dreaming of starting her own headscarf business. I broke out in goosebumps as she uttered those awful words:

“I didn’t realise women had the right to have rights”.

In a world where women are still silenced and stepped on, often violently, we need Dottis to shake us up and say that no, you don’t have to accept your lot. You can be so much more than what you are supposed to be.

Self confidence was a running theme throughout the night, with both Jane and Annie also touching on self belief as one of the most valuable qualities that a woman can have. But this was tempered with a great big dose of perspective. When asked how they manage to do everything that they’ve done, and how they keep going in the face of adversity, the answer was simple:

They just get on with it.

They never underestimate the power that they hold (that sounds a bit more magical than intended), but they are aware that they are not the biggest or most important person in the world. That might sound a bit depressing, but actually, it’s the most freeing thing. If you make a mistake, who cares? It’s really not the end of the world. Realising that you’re small takes away the fear of messing everything up, and ironically, ends up pushing you to do something much bigger than you ever would have if you thought you were the centre of the universe.

Jane was an absolute woman of steel, and I mean that as the utmost compliment, not in a scary Maggie Thatcher kind of way. Everything she said was steeped in the biting humour that has seen her become such a successful journalist. She was the perfect example of how being strong doesn’t necessarily mean being cold, or hard, citing her children as her greatest achievement and saying that all that life really comes down to is the people who love you. So maybe steel wasn’t a good metaphor. Pat on the head for someone who can name me a substance that is strong, but not cold or hard.

Listening to Annie speak was like talking to an old friend, which is of course why she has made such a brilliant DJ. She blew the idea that successful women have to fit a certain mould straight out of the water, confessing to a lot of bumps along the way, including a tragically shortened acting career, a very dramatic haircut and more recently, overwhelmed tears in a meeting. I was lucky enough to get chatting to her after the presentation ended, and I think I might have gushed at her a bit. Must learn how to be cool and aloof.

Me being not at all cool and aloof. Photo by Suzie Jay Photography.

Me being not at all cool and aloof. Photo by Suzie Jay Photography.

So what did I take from the event? Well, really rather a lot. Let’s do a rundown. Love a rundown.

  1. You don’t have to be anything but yourself. Your “imperfections” are your greatest strength, because they set you apart from everyone else. If people can’t see how wonderful you are, that’s on them. Ignore them, and get on with being excellent.
  2. You are not the most important person in the world. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to do great things. It means you have to. When you don’t have laurels to rest on, you need to get off your ass and create something.
  3. Don’t overestimate yourself, but don’t underestimate yourself either. You have the power to really shake things up. Sometimes changing the world isn’t about fanfare and applause and massive progress. Taking a scared little hand in yours. Telling a woman you believe in her. Being an inspiration to others. Don’t tell me that these things don’t change the world.
  4. Don’t let anyone else define what your success is. I learned this one the hard way. I allowed myself to be miserable, because I thought that as long as no one knew that I was hurting, I would still be A Success. Success is happiness. Big or small, it doesn’t matter. No one gets to judge your happiness and you don’t get to judge anyone else’s. Do what makes you happy. Create a great career, if that’s what you want. Work nine to five and build and amazing life outside of that. Do both. Do neither. Happiness is all that matters in the end, everything else is just filler.

I feel so very grateful to have seen these women speak, GAP and Glamour – thank you so much for having me!

Me and the fabulous Kelly...you'll be seeing more of her! Photo by Suzie Jay Photography.

Me and the fabulous Kelly…you’ll be seeing more of her!
Photo by Suzie Jay Photography.

Click to donate to Kids Company and P.A.C.E.

Shine Bright Like A Diamond

Guys, this is getting seriously out of hand. I actually don’t know how I keep getting invited to these things. This week, in a shocking escalation, I was invited to have a sneak peek at the newest Vashi diamonds collection. Widely recognised as one the leading diamond experts, Vashi Dominguez creates jewellery for a suitably sparkling client list including…as if you are reading this and haven’t immediately scrolled down to check out the diamonds. I could say anything I wanted. Marmalade. Goldfish. I think Paul Bettany is sexy. Sometimes I have cake for breakfast. Phew, feels good to get that out in the open.

And so, to the diamonds. Oh my christ they were beautiful. When Niall texted me to ask how it was going, I think I just responded with variations on the word “sparkly”, all in capital letters, in case he wasn’t quite grasping the sparkle. I do not doubt Vashi Diamonds’ commitment to Sparkle Motion for a second. I decided to try basically every ring on, for science, of course. These are the sacrifices I make for you guys.

vashi diamonds

 

vashi diamondsLook at that sparkle. This was definitely one of my favourites. Made with platinum and boasting no less than 19 diamonds, this gorgeous engagement ring still managed to look delicate and feminine. In fact, this was a running theme through the whole collection. Even the biggest stones still managed to avoid looking tacky. It was all sparkle, no bling. I tried on this ring about 15 times and definitely eyed up the security guard to see if I could take him. I probably couldn’t have.

vashi diamondsThis was my other favourite. With a cool 37 diamonds, this ring was literally hypnotising. It would actually be dangerous for me to own this because I would just spend all of my time gazing at it and walking into things.

vashi diamondsThis blue sapphire will probably look familiar to a lot of you, being based on the infamous Princess Diana engagement ring. I always thought I didn’t really like coloured stones, and then I put this on my finger and never ever wanted to take it off.

vashi diamondsI just couldn’t resist. I challenge you to spend all night in a room full of diamond engagement rings and not stick one of them on that finger, even just for a photograph to give your boyfriend a heart attack.

vashi diamondsBecause you can never have too many diamonds. Modelled by the gorgeous Maria who was beyond lovely and awesome, and I am now fully rocking a girl crush on.

vashi diamondsMe, wearing about a year’s rent on my hands. Sigh. Can we skip to the bit where Niall is making buttloads of money?

vashi diamondsI wish that I could guarantee that “Can I take a photo of your hands?” was the creepiest thing I said all night, but my brain was definitely affected by the sparkle, so I can’t say for sure that it was. Ladies, if you’re reading, I apologise. Give me a wave!

And because a photo was never going to do the sheer sparkle any kind of justice, check this out:

diamondsEven on a truly dreadful iPhone video camera, I dare you not to stare at those babies for a worryingly long time. Only be careful you don’t stare too long, I’m pretty sure the sparkle seeps into your mind. On my way home, I got on a bus travelling the wrong way, and paid £1.45 to ride one stop in the opposite direction I intended to. And then I had to pretend that I got a phone call because I was too embarrassed to just get up and get off. I’m pretty sure the guy beside me was totally onto me. Be careful, with great sparkle comes great responsibility.

Which was your favourite from the collection? Please tell me I’m not the only blogger who feels like I’m constantly punching above me weight? Get in touch in the comments or at @EscapologistGl.

The Escapologist’s Daughter is up for two UK Blog Awards! You can vote in the Lifestyle category here and the Young Person’s Recognition category here. I’m not above bribery and I make really delicious cakes.

The Lyndsey Loves Launch

Last week saw a brand new pretty things company launch onto the scene, and it was celebrated with a suitably pretty and glitzy launch at Chloe’s Beauty Bar in Essex. We passed through the velvet ropes and across the red carpet into a veritable wonderland of balloons and bubbles.

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There was glitter everywhere, the champagne was plentiful and in true Essex fashion, the girls looked like they’d been photoshopped. A table at the back showcased the best bits from Lyndsey’s fab collection.

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Everything was beautiful, and I could have scooped everything off the table into my handbag and gone home happy, but here are a few of my favourites:

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Everything was seriously girly and pretty, with enough quirk and edge to stop it becoming twee. I was seriously trying to come up with reasons that I would need a dinosaur lunch box in my life, beyond “I just want it”. And I really do. A lot. As well as the quirky novelty pieces, there was plenty of stylish homeware, including some of the most delicious candles I’ve come across in a while. In fact, I might ask for one in my Christmas stocking this year, if Santa is listening.

The event also gave me the chance to catch up with the utterly wonderful Tara from Headline Beauty Blog and Vicky from Rambling Makeup, as well as bumping into a whole host of new blogging faces who I hope to see again soon. I had such a lovely night that I stayed far too long and had to run for my train in my completely unsensible shoes. Thanks for having me Lyndsey – I had a ball!

Can you think of a reason I would need a dinosaur lunchbox? This is important guys. Get in touch in the comments or @EscapologistGl.

The Escapologist’s Daughter is up for two UK Blog Awards! You can vote in the Lifestyle category here and the Young Person’s Recognition category here. I’m not above bribery and I make really delicious cakes.

The Bloggers Love Hub

Apologies that this post has taken a week to get up, I had a very important young man’s 90th birthday to attend. Tonight is the last of four Bloggers Love Hubs, and I was lucky enough to go along to last week’s.

bloggers event london

London’s Kanaloa club buzzed with bloggers and brands, the air was filled with the clicking of cameras, the clinking of glasses and chatter. Impossibly beautiful men and women haunted every corner of the club, sampling the latest goodies from up and coming companies. For the first time, I felt a little bit of a Mean Girls atmosphere, which I haven’t experienced before in the blogging community. The other bloggers were nice, but in the kind of way you’d be nice to your friends uncool little sister. Now I know that I don’t look, speak or act like a lot of bloggers, so this definitely, absolutely might be me projecting my insecurities onto other people. I’m very good at self confidence on paper, less so when I have to do it for real. But I’m definitely going to keep going to events and working on it…someday I’ll feel comfortable walking in these blogger shoes!

Okay, pep talk over, let’s get to the good bits.

Sniffy Wiffy

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Sniffy Wiffy was definitely my brand of the evening. Created by the lovely Sarah and her husband, their product is a line of delicious body lotions with a twist. After hearing that breast exams were best performed on slightly slippery skin, Sarah launched her collection of lotions, each labelled with detailed instructions on how to check your breasts for abnormalities.

blogger events london

They have a brilliant range of scents, with sweet, floral and fruity notes to suit every taste. I was particularly fond of the Kiwi and Lime and the Orange Blossom, and took home a little tub of Mango. They also have body scrubs, massage oils and hand creams with the same fabulous scents, as well as a new line for men with instructions on how to check your testicles. As if that wasn’t amazing enough, a portion of the profits from Sniffy Wiffy are donated to the cancer charity Coppafeel. I absolutely loved chatting to these guys, and loved their products just as much. Everyone I know is so getting one of these moisturisers for Christmas.

Colour Chase Lipsticks

blogger events london

Colour Chase does exactly what it says on the tin – they have a line of gorgeous, colourful makeup in crazy unusual colours. The look of these lipstick is pretty editorial, but with purple, orange and yes, even blue, becoming a common sight on the streets of London, it could only be a matter of time before lipstick moves past the reds and pinks we’re all so used to.

blogger blue lipstick

I haven’t actually had the guts to wear mine out yet, mainly because I don’t think it’s exactly office appropriate, but I gotta admit I like it. I don’t quite have the lipstick skillz yet to build up properly opaque coverage with such a bright colour, but I’m sure I’ll get there with a bit of practice. The formula feels lovely, moisturising and smooth and not chalky at all. I haven’t had the chance to test how it wears, but I’d imagine that a colour like this will probably be pretty high maintenance. I’m not sure how the paler colours would work on my skin tone, but I like the look of the purples and even that teal in the top left is looking pretty tempting.

Hifas da Terra

blogger event london

I love beauty, and I’ve read more about it than is really advisable for a single person. So it’s always fun to discover something completely new. Hifas da Terra is a brand entirely based around the benefits of mushrooms. I know. Mushrooms. Mushroom skincare, mushroom candles, mushroom chocolate. Each chocolate has a different health benefit, provided by a different type of mushroom. I sampled all of them, of course, for science purposes. Needless to say, they don’t taste of mushrooms. In fact the pieces of mushroom felt like crunchy pieces of biscuit or wafer within the chocolate. I felt your toes collectively curl at that, but trust me, they’re delicious. I’ve got a little tester of one of their skincare soaps which I haven’t had a chance to try yet, but I’ll be sure to keep you updated over on Twitter. I’m also dying to try out their massage candle, which smelled incredible.

The Charcoal Spa

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Charcoal is one of the hottest ingredients of the moment, in fact I’ve been having loads of fun trying out a black charcoal toothpaste. Activated charcoal is heated to create inner space, or pores, which can suck out and trap impurities from your skin. Chulo Naturals have created a skincare line based around this magic ingredient. I’m hoping to get my hands on their face mask at some point soon, see how it does with my super fussy princess skin.

Matthew Calvin

blogger event londonMatthew Calvin has designed an absolutely beautiful line of jewellery. Each piece is hand crafted and bears that unusual touch of Matthew’s designs. I’ve never been much of a ring person, but his pendants were so beautiful that I stood at their table gazing at them for far, far too long. In a world of chunky jewellery, I love the look of tiny pendants. They’re dainty, they’re ladylike, and you can wear a bunch of them at the same time if you can’t pick your favourite. His latest collection is based around meteorites, which made me feel pretty damn smart when, by chance, I commented that the pendant looked like a little asteroid. A stunning silver meteorite on a sparkling diamond cut chain…this is a man who knows his way to a geeky girls heart.

Have you ever been to any blogger events? How do you guys keep your nerve in a room full of beautiful people? What’s the weirdest beauty brand you’ve ever come across? Get in touch in the comments or at @EscapologistGl.

The Escapologist’s Daughter is up for two UK Blog Awards! You can vote in the Lifestyle category here and the Young Person’s Recognition category here. I’m not above bribery and I make really delicious cakes.

Nine.Six.One Boutique Launch

I walk past the door at first, looking for a sign. You can tell I’m still getting used to this London life. After a couple of steps I stop and backpedal. I look again at the open door, black paint bubbling and peeling, stairs leading down a scarlet corridor inside. I check the address. I’m in the right place.

This week saw uber cool Mayfair haunt Cafe Kaizen throw open its doors for the launch of pop up fashion boutique Nine.Six.One. I enter the venue through the heavy door at the foot of the stairs and am met with a strange and wonderful sight. The room is dimly lit, the fairy lights strewn around picking patches of colour from the bright walls. The roof is a knotted mass of exposed piping. An enormous blossom tree stands in the centre of the room, clothes and jewellery hanging from it like fruit. A bar stands to my right, laden with cupcakes and cocktails. And all around, I’m surrounded by beautiful clothing, jewellery and accessories.

cafe kaizen mayfair

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Nine.Six.One aims to showcase a unique and eclectic collection of work from exciting up and coming designers, and do they deliver. From the stunning fusion handchains of Trousseau Jewels, to the incredible boxy handbags from Peau Feroce, there is enough on show to please the palate of any discerning fashionista…as well as the imposters like me, of course. But there is one designer who knocks my little socks off: Nour Najem. Nour is one of those women who is almost too beautiful to look at. I finally understand what Carly Rae Jepsen was on about. And if it sounds like I’m fangirling, it’s because I am.

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Nour was born and raised in Beirut, Lebanon, and uses this cultural identity as inspiration for her designs. In an industry absolutely rife with cultural appropriation, it is amazing to see a culture being represented in such a subtle, authentic way, inviting us to share in and appreciate it. Nour’s whole ethos is about preserving and celebrating her local heritage. In fact, she has set up an NGO, Kenzah, which aims to make sure that traditional artisanal crafting skills are passed down through generations of women in Lebanon. Where these skills were traditionally honed by men, Nour is inspiring marginalised women to develop them, and using their skills to add accent and heritage to her collection. And what a collection it is. Both the colours and the fabrics clash and contradict beautifully. Rough wool is layered over fine satin layered over pretty chiffon. Burnished gold lattices and details lift the inky tones of the clothes. They are wonderfully unusual and oh so gorgeous.

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This is my absolute favourite piece from the collection – I’m pretty sure it’s the dress that Nour herself is wearing at the launch event. It’s basically perfect in every way, and I am devastated at my Broke Girl status, which sadly puts it well out of my price range. Some day. Some day.

As a bonafide angry feminist, I love to see women empowering and supporting other women…and when that support results in clothes this beautiful, you better believe I’m on board. I’m still amazed that I’m being invited to events like this…I keep expecting someone to turn around and be like “Hey, are you lost?”. But everyone is so unbelievably lovely, and I leave with a handbag full of business cards and a head full of pretty pictures. Thanks for having me, folks.

Did any of you make it to the Nine.Six.One event? What was your favourite thing from the night? Get in touch in the comments or at @EscapologistGl.

Twitter for Success With Antonia Mariconda*

Having worked in social media for a year, I consider myself to be pretty Twitter savvy. I know my #ffs from my #tbt, and I’ve got retweeting totally down. I also know a little bit about how to build a following and what kind of content to be posting.

But I have got nothing, NOTHING on Miss Antonia Mariconda.

(I hope you all have I Have Nothing by Whitney Houston stuck in your head now, because I certainly do.)

I met Antonia at her Build A Beauty Blog workshop last month and she was lovely enough to ask me to come review her Twitter for Success workshop.

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Note to self: learn how to pose to avoid enormous moonface.

Stop licking your screens, I’m not giving you her mobile number.

Say what you like about Antonia (although it better be nice or I’ll fight you), but she puts on one heck of a spread.

antonia mariconda twitter workshop

I arrived at half past nine to a table laden with baked goods, colourful fruit and delicious raw juices. Take note everyone, feed me and I might get out of bed for you too. The room quickly filled up with people and chatter, everyone excited to hear the holy grail of social media marketing revealed.

antonia mariconda twitter workshop

The workshop soon got underway and the three hours absolutely flew past. Ranging from hilarious anecdotes to tips that we could immediately put into practise, Antonia’s presentation was a whirlwind tour of everything you ever needed to know about Twitter. We found out how to grow an audience, how to post 100 tweets a day, why you should never get involved in Twitter mudslinging and so, so much more. Despite having a massively diverse audience in terms of Twitter experience and ability, she catered to every single one of us and managed not to alienate anyone. Whether you were trying to get your head around retweeting or trying to get more engagement from your ten thousand followers, her advice was relevant, useful and instantly implementable. Sadly, this was Antonia’s last workshop of the year, but a little bird told me that she has very exciting plans for the New Year and I’m hoping to be learning more from her again soon.

*Mushy music*

On a personal level, I am so, so grateful that somebody as successful as Antonia is taking the time to care about a little startup blog like mine, just because she likes the way I write. She knew a huge number of the workshop attendees by name, greeted all of us like old friends and repeatedly stressed how happy she was to offer help and be used as a resource. Technical wizard Mark and PR guru Jenny were equally awesome and forthcoming, and Mark has been extremely lovely despite receiving an email from me regarding self hosting that essentially amounted to “I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I’M DOING OH GOD HELP ME”. Instead of casually issuing a restraining order, he has taken the time to help. Seriously, the world needs more people like that and I feel really lucky to have met them.

Just like the last workshop, I left feeling excited, energised and with a to do list as long as my arm. If you get the chance to see Antonia speak, please, please do go along. It’s not even an exaggeration to say that in two workshops, she might have changed my life.

antonia mariconda twitter workshop

Have you been to one of Antonia’s workshops? Who inspires your blogging? Get in touch in the comments or at @EscapologistGl.

*I was gifted a ticket to this event for the purposes of review. All opinions are completely my own and completely truthful – promise!

London Cocktail Week 2014

When I found out that this week was London Cocktail Week, I cleared my schedule. Or, I would have done if my schedule actually had anything on it. I figured it’d be a pretty awesome way to find fun new places in the city, and let’s be honest, I love a good cocktail. Armed with the Cocktail Week guide and a complete lack of knowledge about London, I mapped out my attack on the city.

Les Femmes du Bar Aperitif of Happiness

My first event was a party thrown in honour of the St Germain ladies at Happiness Forgets, a trendy underground bar in Hoxton. I know, an underground bar. I get to pretend like I’m cool. Anyone who has ever been for cocktails with me will know that I’m a sucker for elderflower anything, so this seemed like a good choice to start the week right.

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It only took me one and a half circuits of the square to find the right set of stairs, and I’m pretty sure it would have taken less time had I not been trying to play it cool and pretend I knew exactly where the secret bar was. My playing it cool was ruined anyway, when I nearly took the event photographer off his feet on the way down the stairs. And I don’t mean in a struck-by-lightning-be-my-new-muse kind of way, more in a bison-colliding-with-a-barn-door kind of way. Mr photographer, if you’re reading, my sincerest apologies.

Happiness Forgets is a seriously cool little place, just a few candelit tables tucked away, surrounded by dark wood, stripped furnishings and the inescapable feeling that you should be plotting something riotous. I pulled out my camera, ready to capture this wonderful ambience, only to find that it had switched itself on in my bag and run its battery to death. I was fairly miffed, seeing as how I’d carted it through two rush hour tube commutes and it weighs roughly as much as a small baby, but my nerves were soon soothed by the arrival of a complimentary St Germain cocktail.

london cocktail week st germain

The cocktail was sharp, sweet and refreshing, and the gorgeous St Germain elderflower was everything I hoped it would be. Refills were decidedly pricey, at £8 per cocktail, but I suppose that’s the Glasgow girl still getting used to London prices. I allowed myself to sample one more and then headed for home – it was a school night after all.

Art & Cocktails at Canvas Bar

Canvas is the kind of place that could really only exist in Shoreditch. Delicious cocktails served against a backdrop of smooth, old-school music and live art located just ten minutes from Shoreditch High Street station. The boyfriend was headed to a course all evening, so after a quick change and a swipe of lipstick in the work bathrooms (because I’m a classy lady), I pulled myself up a stool for the evening.

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london cocktail week canvas

The barman struck up a conversation immediately, and was happy to recommend cocktails for the uninitiated. I went for a fruity rum one to start with, and grabbed a seat at one of the high tables to watch the strange and beautiful creatures of Shoreditch go by. The barman having slightly overpoured, my cocktail came accompanied with a little refill, which immediately earns Canvas approximately a billion brownie points.

london cocktail week canvas

I sipped away happily for an hour or so, watching the canvases for the live art being set up.

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The canvases were themed “The Story So Far” and “If I Could Time Travel”, and pens were left scattered in front for artistically inclined punters to use. I ordered myself another cocktail, going for what basically amounted to a very, very alcoholic chocolate milkshake. It came served with a Ferrero Rocher. Another billion brownie points for Canvas.

london cocktail week canvas bar

Again, as it was a school night, I checked out pretty early, the bravery afforded by two cocktails possessing me to add my own doodle to the “If I Could Time Travel” canvas.

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Photos of the blunt fringe to be provided on request.

If anyone has any photos of the canvases at the end of the night, I’d love to see them! Canvas was a fab little place, and I’d imagine it hotted up considerably as the night grew later, with live music, art and evermore cocktails being served. I’ll definitely be back on a non-school night.

Champagne Cocktails in the Sky

This, right here, shows how powerful a motivator having a blog is. I love people, and I love new things, but this is tempered by a hardwired shyness and anxiety that I’ve never been able to fully shake. I’ve been known to bail on events simply because I was too scared to go, and you’d better believe that going to an exclusive champagne tasting on your own, in a brand new city is pretty damn scary. If I wasn’t writing this up for the blog, I probably would never have bought a ticket for this.

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Lanson champagne were holding a champagne masterclass, complete with tasting, at the spectacular Altitude champagne bar in Millbank Tower. Infuriatingly, the weather turned before this event, so my photographs of the genuinely breathtaking views were marred by the smirry rain and fog.

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These don’t even begin to do it justice, so I guess you’ll all just have to go see for yourself.

We were given a quick history of champagne cocktails, and of Lanson itself, before being presented with three beautiful, but very different, cocktails to try.

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Being on my own, I was immediately adopted by everyone else sharing the sofa, and made some amazing new friends. Champagne glasses were clinked, entirely inappropriate jokes were sniggered at and names and email addresses were scrawled in the back of our champagne handbooks. In short, these people were nothing like the snooty, terrifying people I had expected to bump into at a champagne tasting.

We headed to the bar to sample each of the three champagnes on their own, and I now feel very fancy indeed to be able to say that Lanson Black Label Brut is my favourite champagne. It goes down far too easily, mind you.

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The service here was amazing, everyone was so friendly, the champagne was far too delicious and the views were just the cherry on an absolutely spectacular evening. This was exactly what I wanted from London Cocktail Week – something a little bit special, a bit out of the ordinary.

Unfortunately, after this evening, I caught a touch of the lurgy, which I fully blame on the man who spent the full 9 minutes between Highbury Islington and Euston spluttering and wheezing directly in my face, so I wasn’t able to make the second half of my Cocktail Week. Instead of drunken crazy golf (no really, this is a thing, and I am fully rescheduling) and bloody mary soaked brunches, I spent the second half of this week catching up on Bakeoff and watching Star Wars with the boyfriend.

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Not gonna lie, I like this as much as I like cocktail gallivanting. While I was slightly gutted to be missing some great events, it does mean that I have a few places still to visit, starting with Swingers cocktail and crazy golf club. Niall and I are currently tied on the crazy golf stakes, so I think it’s time to revive that old rivalry. Pass me that putter…and a daiquiri.

The Cake and Bake Show

Guys. I don’t know what to do now that the Bakeoff is over. I’m just not sure I can make it through a week without some sweet toothed, gingham laced, sexual punnery. And Richard. My lovely Richard, I’m still awaiting confirmation of when I can move in with you.

But fortunately, my appetite for stunning feats of cake and icing were quenched for a little while this week while I took in the delights of the London Cake and Bake show. If you’re already sitting in your living room surrounded by scones, weeping with Bakeoff withdrawal, feast your eyes on these beauties.

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I’m slightly worried that I might have jumped the shark by putting this one first, but really, there’s nowhere else to put it, is there? Behold Mary Berry riding a unicorn, eating a cupcake and being worshipped by Paul Hollywood. Because why the hell not? Just LOOK AT IT. A work of art indeed. As someone whose bakes always taste fab, but leave a little to be desired on the presentation front, some of the cakes on show left my jaw literally hanging open.

They ranged from the cute…

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Imagine being a kind coming downstairs to this on your birthday.

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Or this.

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OR THIS.

To the quirky…

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I’m sorry, but if you don’t love hidden troll cake, we can’t be friends.

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To the just plain terrifying…

scary cake decorating

scary cake decorating

Honestly, I’m not sure at what point in your career you go “Yes, I need to make a horrifying zombie mermaid cake”, but it’s happened.

And every single thing was made out of cake. Except for the enormous Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, who was made out of white chocolate. And Fiona the Frog. She was made out of icing.

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Froggies <3

The show had loads of different goodies on offer, and had I been a bit more financially stable, I’d probably have come home with as many cakes, cookies, fudges, loaves, brownies and pastries as my little arms could carry. It was an absolute Aladdin’s cave of sweeties…perfect for a sweet tooth like me. And when I say sweet tooth, I mean likes-to-eat-spoonfuls-of-lyle’s-golden-syrup-sweet-tooth. Glorious. The only downside was that the stalls became pretty damn mobbed as the day went on, partly due to assholes like me elbowing people out of the way to take photos with their enormous cameras. When it hit lunchtime, everything became a bit Sauchiehall Street at 3am. But we’d arrived nice and early, so by the time the crowds got really bad, we’d made our rounds and visited everyone. Smashing. It was a lovely day out, and definitely hit me hard with the baking bug again. I’m definitely going back next year, and this time…I’m taking my pocket money.

How are you coping with the loss of the Bakeoff? Do you think the right person won? Have you ever attempted a horrifying mermaid zombie cake? Chat with me in the comments, or at @EscapologistGl.

Oh, and if you fancy getting your apron on this weekend, why not give my scones , my pancakes or my pecan pie a go? I promise, they’re bloody delicious.