Cupcaking Crazy

Cupcaking Crazy

I needn’t head to the Hummingbird cafe to know I would take an instant disliking to it, it is not the Hummingbird cafe so much that irks me, more so I would say it’s women that talk about cupcakes as though they have special powers, an ability to change the world or eradicate famine in East Africa – the women who have bought into this Suzy Homemaker cupcakeing affair and the whole designer cupcake phenomena. Of course, I would proudly hold my hands up and say that my love affair with shoes is somewhat uncontrollable and would no doubt irritate a more sensible woman and any heterosexual man. But, I’ve always loved shoes, whether they be from Gucci or Miu Miu, Aldo or Office and anywhere in between – a sexy shoe is just a sexy shoe, it isn’t necessary that gimmicks be employed to remind me of my love for them. Vivienne Westwood most certainly couldn’t trick me into thinking that full grown women should be wearing Jellies, no matter how much I miss my youth, they are in fact a complete and utter waste of money and quite frankly would look ridiculous on any female foot above the age of sixteen. I know it’s the western world all over, get some hot advertising, some cute packaging, create a unique experience and  get a hot celeb endorsement and the masses will soon follow and we, being the masses, so often do – But cupcakes?  Designer Cupcakes? Fashionable Cupcakes? -Come on. Since seeing Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw and Miranda Hobbs eating cupcakes outside of the Magnolia Bakery in New York, the cupcake crazy has surged. Does it honestly look like Carrie eats cupcakes? Or even SJP herself. Manolo’s and Judith Leiber clutches I can understand, I can even understand look alikes for half the price, but cupcakes – I just can’t seem to get on board.

Whether it’s the sugary sweet frosting, the primary coloured icing, the hundreds and thousands in the shapes of stars, the penny sweets and marzipan figured toppings or the sheer bliss of customising cupcakes…surely it shouldn’t take the sickly sweet, powder pinks and mint green, nursery looking, candy factory decor of the Hummingbird cafe, Candy Cakes and the thousands of other cupcake kitchens to stir up the love of cake amongst fully grown women. I understand that in most cases, the cupcake experience is like the recapture of youth, the nostalgia of being a little girl, playing with her china tea set and offering cupcakes to her collection of Care Bears, knowing they’d never say yes. But having been a witness to cupcaking far more than I would have liked, this sickeningly sweet, femininely frilly, cupcake consumption has truly started to fascinate me.

Greggs have been baking cakes for seventy years and no doubt if you have a local bakery, they too bake cupcakes, yet neither have enthused the woman to cupcake on the scale that she is cupcaking now. This is the designer cupcake era, quality and reputation suddenly isn’t enough to do it for this supposed cupcake connoisseur- like they were buying shoes or handbags, they want the whole experience. It’s bewildering to see young stylish women winding down at the end of the day, holding conversation over garish coloured cupcakes in girlishly sweet cafes, as opposed to a good bottle of full bodied red wine in a trendy London bar. Recently, lunching in South East London’s gastro pub, The Talbot, a friend excuses herself from post meal chit chat to attend a tea and cupcake party – no kids were expected to attend this party, nor was anyone over the age of seventy. Women are collectively baking cupcakes together, cooking their way through the Hummingbird recipe book – apparently this is called a cupcake party and apparently this is supposed to be fun.

With all this cupcaking craziness, these cakes most certainly have to be mouth-wateringly delectable beyond their trinkets and accessories, and their charming marketing and branding antics. Fortunately, I never had to pay for my first sample of designer cake; a friend’s boyfriend recently demonstrated his affection for her with a big chunk of Hummingbird’s Red Velvet and she kindly offered to share the calories with me. At Hummingbird, Red Velvet can be bought sliced or as a cupcake. It is classic American sponge layer cake, lined with butter cream and topped with creamy white icing. The sponge is flavoured with cocoa and vanilla and is dark in colour, with a reddish tinge to it. The sponge gets its colour from red food colouring, which during the food rationing of the Second World War was replaced with beetroot juice. My friend, like a child high on sugar, sang and danced about her Hummingbird, Red Velvet cake, ‘Omigod, this is too good.’ Not so good that she wouldn’t share it with me, not that she had to sacrifice much of her beloved cake. A fork full was more than enough. It wasn’t that the cake tasted horrible, it was more the fact that it tasted of nothing, well nothing but disappointment – overrated and definitely not worth my calories. Considering the whole cupcake kafuffle I was expecting something more Alice and Wonderland like, out of this world and if not devilishly moreish then decadently rich.

I had pre-empted that the gimmicks and the delightful charm would far outweigh the cupcakes themselves. Firstly, as far as I’m concerned, good food is good food and needs no gimmicks – (Gordon Ramsay will verify that), secondly, strangely, I am dubious of the fully grown woman that has fallen for the complete cupcake experience. The cupcake is the quintessence of the woman who wears sunflower yellow dresses and polka dot twin sets, small pearls and flat Mary Jane’s, she’s always cheery and just like a cupcake, she’s sweet, innocent and naive to the harshness of the big bad world.

I am not the type to wear flat Mary Jane’s, nor am I likely to ever be the kind of woman who cupcakes. Possessing a somewhat rich pallet, there is nothing sweet and light about my cake consumption – I like my cakes rich, moist, devilishly chocolaty and like the heels on my shoes, my cake needs to be absolutely huge to satisfy me. I am going to be cliché and relate this cupcake crazy to the gloom and doom of the recession – the sprinkles and cupcake frosting is like the rose tinted light at the end of the murky tunnel, unfortunately for me, life has been more than successful at letting cynicism colonise the little girl that I once was. The woman that can find delight in cupcaking, from the baubles and sweeties, to the marzipan paraphernalia, the baby pink walls of the cafes and the beautiful smells of baking in the home is not only a truly refreshing woman, but an incredibly lucky one. Cupcakes, designer or not, just won’t cut it for me – if I can’t afford shoes, I will always revert to drinks in town for my mood lifter.

 And, if I have to eat cake, it won’t wear more accessories or brighter ornamentation than I do.

Lanvin SS2010

Lanvin SS2010

Seriously Hot

Intensely provocative, seriously sexy or femininely flirtatious, Alber Elbaz has created something enchantingly clever and aesthetically magnificent for every woman, wherever she spends the hotter months of the year. Inspired by strong and stylish Argentine women, lunching in a cafe in Argentina, the culmination of love, lust and life come together to create an anthology of ensembles perfect for the real woman.

The show opened up with a black dress, slick hair pulled back in a hard pony tail, eyes dark and rocky in smokey black, the face bare and framed by a projecting structured, saucer like collar. The silhouette continuously transformed itself, from tailored a Le Smoking, leg o mutton, one shouldered, puffed sleeved, harem, tulip and bubble hemmed dresses and all-in-ones in a selection of jet blacks, powder and fuchsia pinks, soft peaches worn against nude and cappuccino colours. Draped and voluminous dresses billowed and fluttered, taking on a life of their own as the models breezed dreamily down the runway. Elbaz reiterated the intricacy and difficulty constructing this collection, but they breathed an air of comfort, of ease and that heavenly feeling of luxury when cool materials brush against hot skin.

Mlanvin spring summer 2010, peplum dress, spiral dress, red dress, fashion 2010otifs of spiralling and tumbling ruffles, waterfalls of soft pleats and supple folds fell to perfection. Svelte dresses were embellished with exaggerated tousles of material that snaked their way across the entire length of the dress, working its way across the body, titivating the peplum dress.

V necks, collapsing plunging necklines and sleeves purposely falling off the shoulder in asymmetry bought the décolletage to the focal point. Gold tribal antic chokers, necklaces and chains embellished with pink and green lacquer piled up around the model’s necks and chandelier earrings cascaded from their ears in a beautiful overkill.  Leather ankle strapped court shoes in nude, black and ivory ornamented with shackle like chains forming t-bars or ankle chains accompanied the dresses, occasionally worn with a single long black leather glove, ruched down the wrist adding a tough edge to the ensemble.

As if there wadrape, harem, black, lanvin, alber elbazsn’t enough mouth watering extravagance overwhelming the audience, the final part of the parade, models left behind the subtle colours and lit up the catwalk with dazzling emerald greens, flaming reds and burnt oranges. Bullions of gold beads, sequins and studs reminiscent of the flapper girls’ dress spilt down mushroom brown polyester. Black leather as soft and supple as lame made fluid cocktail dresses.

The collection was as exciting as a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel; a hint of magic, a Latin zing and just enough reality to create a completely hypnotic experience.  Young, modern, yet completely classic – the show worked entirely to my taste, the feminine wasn’t too girly, the sexy wasn’t too suggestive and the rich colours weren’t too bright. Hail stones and snow haven’t prevented me from feeling the heat from this work of art, this summer I will Tango dressed up in Lanvin. XRed lanvin dress, alber elbaz, draoed, red dress, spring summer fashion 2010Green dress, lanvin, alber elbaz, spring 2010, fashion 2010

Bag, Borrow or Steal

The handbag has become an essential accessory for women since the 1920’s, there’s something extremely powerful about this exclusively female relationship with her luggage.

The luxury handbag possesses a hypnotic force that has the ability to turn the most average, sane and grounded woman into an embarrassingly obnoxious victim of capitalism, so far she will go as to rent a handbag as she would her home. It was in Sex and The City when I first became aware of the borrowing of luxury handbags; Jennifer Hudson, playing Louise from St Louis carried about her rented Vuitton denim patchwork bowling bag and seemed just as excited about this bag she was paying rent for as if she’d worked blood, sweat and tears for it and it were hers to keep.
Admittedly, luxury is not available to us all and we may possibly never afford an Hermes Croc Kelly, let’s be brutally honest here, most of us won’t ever afford an Hermes bag period, let alone any crocodile, python or ostrich skin bag – regardless of the designer. We can dream, we can aspire and we can admire, there’s honestly nothing wrong with that – but when we begin to fool ourselves and the world with ‘Bag Borrowing,’ do we need to aspire or dream anymore? Luxury is no longer a lifestyle, but a borrowed experience. Avelle, the online luxury rental site Louise rents her patchwork Vuitton from, prides itself on opening up the gate to luxury fashion, “It gives customers greater access to a vast inventory of luxury accessories and the opportunity to indulge in more, more often,” says Lynn Ridenour, senior vice president of marketing.
Economist, Veblen theorised that the increase in accessibility and availability of a product eventually diminishes its desirability. Isn’t the whole point of the luxury handbag its rarity and expensiveness, the fantasy and the great sense of pleasure we feel when we finally get to have a slice of that luxuriously fantastical pie? We love the luxury handbag for its longevity, the stories it will tell when it’s thirty years old, the new life it will have when we hand it down to our daughters and the sheer ownership of a piece of art and fashion history. The luxury handbag doesn’t seem so whimsical or substantial when we have to hand it back at the end of the lease, hundreds of pounds poorer. In actual fact, all this bag rental phenomenon does is kill the luxury for everyone – the borrower, the luxury bag owner and the bag itself. Of course there’s one link in the chain that strengthens and that is of course, the bag lord or lady.
I adore luxury handbags and spend hours figuring out how I can alter my lifestyle temporarily, in order to save for a beautifully crafted, calf’s skin handbag with cold, gold hardware. I have to compromise the Gucci tribute bags or the Judith Leiber bejewelled clutches for bags that are timeless and suitable for most occasions, but I always feel good about making and owning my purchase. Louise from St Louis waltzed around New York City, unemployed, with a rental, gimmicky Vuitton bag in tow.
In my opinion, a penny spent on this kind of bag, rental or bought, is an ultimate waste – fashion theorists believe the exhibition of waste and uselessness is an occurrence familiar to the wealthy or those that wish to appear so. Maybe this is the beauty of Avelle, the opportunity to display wealth and luxury with the woman’s most significant and indicative item of dress, without ever having to be too pragmatic about the purchase. However I’d always rather commit to just the one bag, that will dent my bank balance and reduce my social life – a bag that I can be proud of because it’s a luxury, it’s expensive and it’s mine.

Vagina Boots – The ‘V’ Word in Boot Camp

All hail this season’s supreme and essential boot for the winter rain or feline predator, coined the V boot by fashion bloggers, the V indeed refers to the woman’s genitalia. Could the vagina be any more à la mode?

Propped on the top of perforated, studded, patterned, matt faux or real leather, Stella McCartney, Roberto Cavalli and Gucci models strutted down the runway with their legs wrapped in black, oil slick leather climbing way up their legs. Over the knee boots are so last season, winter 2009 the new boot is Vagina high and proud. With our second Christmas in the recession, 7.8% of the work force unemployed and no prediction of employment increasing anytime soon, the nation’s strength and confidence is vulnerable. Designers kick the recession in the teeth with these strategically powerful boots, although the Gucci V boot is priced at £1560 these boots will definitely pay for themselves – over and over again.
Last year the high streets saw a surge of flat over the knee boots, it was protocol on Oxford Street to do your Christmas shopping donning these, at that moment markedly long boots. But as if that boot wasn’t ferocious enough, the V boot has upped the ante; the heel significantly higher, the leather tighter and the boot longer. Dress would have it that the more flesh the woman reveals the more sexual she appears, this would suggest the more she covers up the more modestly dressed she is. Strangely, this rule doesn’t seem to apply when women adorn their pins in boots – women’s boots hit the top of the sexual radar the closer they edge to the Vagina. Let’s be fair, this boot personifies sex, they’re definitely not for the faint hearted or coy. The V boot is for the woman who has no qualms displaying female sexual power.
Beyonce, Rihanna and Lady Gaga, perhaps the most influential of the dress and music world today have already been seen executing sexy moves in the V boot. The masses may not have submitted themselves to the sexual prowess of this boot just yet, but it’s not a long time coming. There’s always a distinctive ripple in the fashion ocean when a certain Spice Girl is papped wearing a catwalk key item and like clockwork Victoria Beckham, dressed for a night on the town replaced her uniform YSL court shoes for a pair of the towering boots.Unafraid of the force of these boots, Topshop, Aldo and Asos have taken them from the catwalk and bought them to the high street. The uptake appears to be slow, maybe these epic boots don’t belong on the streets for the average woman, but in the wardrobe of Trinity from Matrix or in the bedroom of a dominatrix herself.
However, the only accessory needed this season is the confidence to be overtly sexy. Commanding? The V boot most certainly is, but designers have it that sexy no longer discredits sophistication. This winter is a special one where women can be sexy, classy and most importantly empowered – employed or not.