Monday, 27 May 2013

My Last Cent

Many of us have been or are in the position where we are starting full time employment for the first time, I like to call it, becoming a grown up. The problem is, becoming a grown up is hard and most of us are ill prepared for it. Suddenly, for the first time, bills need to be paid on time, the loans from a credit card are unlike the loans from your parents because Visa actually demand their money back and the reasoning between buying new shoes and having money for food isn't always sound. I often found myself near penniless but with some beautiful new thing in my life.
My career began in London where I had little to no support network and big dreams. After being settled for six months my brother came to visit and while he stayed with me, he bought the most glorious Lemon Curd from Harvey Nichols.

After he returned to Australia and reported to all about how well I was doing I began filling my emotional hole of homesickness with things, any thing. Often, left near penniless, I would go to Harvey Nichols, buy the Lemon Curd and then go to Tesco for cheap, white, fluff bread and would live off the two for my last remaining week before pay day.
Some years later, when I had become more adept at filling my pantry and my bank account, I would often look to see if I had enough food in the pantry, fridge and freezer and then happily go off and spend my last dollars on flowers. I had decided that the feeding of my aesthetic senses was far more important than the feeding of my stomach. I would (and will) buy anything in masses. I love roses, tulips, hydrangea and ranunculus. The are few colours or flowers I dislike (although I do hate sunflowers). Great clumps of cottage-y flowers are often strewn around my home in any room. I love the lift that flowers give a room and they make the rooms inhabitants happier too.

It is important to remember sometimes that true luxury is not derived from great expense, but from the very small things that are a struggle to afford but enhance our life nonetheless. How you spend your hard earned money is your decision, my only financial advice is to buy what makes you happy.

Please note: These images are the creative work of other, very talented people and I do not claim them as my own.
If you would like to see more of me you can follow me on Instagram. I am chicexchange.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Fitting in Versus Standing out

Many years ago, when I was starting school, I wanted (as all teenagers do) to fit in. My all girls catholic school had a lovely uniform (which has since sadly, been changed) and you would be forgiven for thinking that this would make it easy to look the same.

Unfortunately for me, my mother refused to buy the expensive woollen, ribbed tights the school uniform shop offered and instead bought me opaque stockings from a regular store. I hated everything about these stockings, they were brown not fawn, they were smooth not ribbed, they were far too big and had to be rolled at the top, they did not have the lovely teddy-bear coziness of the woollen tights and (worst of all) they were bought on sale to save money.

Oh, how I suffered in those tights! I felt so conspicuous in something different from everyone else. It was never commented on by anyone but I felt it in my bones that people knew we couldn't afford the expensive woollen tights and worse that these had been on sale when we bought them. Later, in my schooling I got the teddy bear tights and loved them however, the fact that I was now the same as everyone else similarly went unnoticed by everyone much to my dismay.

Two big things have changed since then. I no longer wish to fit in and seek out bespoke, one off items to make me a unique individual. My work place is not known for its sartorial finesse but I make a point of dressing differently to everyone else and it often gets noticed. And secondly, I love a sale in fact, I love a bargain and will often bore friends with tales of one.

I still see this today, hordes of teenagers on the weekend, huddled in groups, all dressed the same. They don't care if the current trend suites them or not. they simply want to fit in and so when the appointed alpha makes a fashion decision it is quickly adopted by the rest of the group. I can just imagine all the Facebook messages casually enquiring what she was going to wear and then the frenzy of activity trying to assemble a suitable approximation of this.

Why is it as adults we stop doing this? I would never think to ask a friend what she will be wearing when next we meet. I love the surprise of seeing them and enjoying the creativity and flair they display. It is as much about our outward selves as it is our inner. We eventually figure out who we are and feel comfortable enough expressing that thus the need to appear the same disappears. I wish I could tell the 12 year old me not to worry but the best I can do is dress for myself and express myself every day.

Find inspiration in your freedom and express who you really are the next time you get the opportunity.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Now Put Your Hands Up... But only if they look good

Hands are a very quick and easy sign to tell a persons true age. It is so important to take care of them your entire life and the same must be said for nails.

For many years I was a nail biter; an awful, unsanitary, nervous habit I developed. As a result my nails flaked and chipped and cracked constantly. I have tried many different hardeners over the years, most of which simply come off with nail polish remover and leave your nails no better off. That is until I found Herome. If you have weak nails you must get this. It is the absolute best. I swear to you my nails actually feel thicker and stronger. They grow so well now I have to actually have to cut and shape them for the first time in my adult life. I know someone who used Herome for a year and has never looked back, she has hard nails all the time now.

As for the hands, it has to be Estee Lauder Renutriv hand cream. I got turned on to this by a woman with cancer who had the hardest, driest hands you ever saw as a result of her chemotherapy. this cream worked for her and it works for me. I use it last thing in the morning before I walk out the door so it has time to sink in and last thing at night so it's there all night and my hands look great. It has given me an even skin tone without any blemishes or marks and leaves my hands looking healthy and feeling moist.

These two simple products have really helped my hands so, who knows, maybe they will help yours too!

A side note. I also, ALWAYS put sunscreen on my hands, every day, all year round. Sun damage in the worst!

a side, side note. I had started noticing that my summer tan on my shoulders and decolletage was taking longer than it used to fade and was worried about permanent skin damage. The last time I bought my hand cream Estee Lauder gave me a sample of the renutriv face cream and as I have very sensitive skin I used it on my shoulders and decolletage rather than my face. It was remarkable the difference it made so, I also recommend it as a product.

If you would like to see more of my pics please, follow me on Instagram. I am chichexchange

Thursday, 23 May 2013

The Classics

Winter has hit Melbourne like a prizefighter this week. It has been cold, wet and miserable and I have been caught sartorially off guard. I have struggled with what to wear all week and have oscillated between cold arms, cold legs or cold feet the whole time. It got me thinking, about what my go to pieces are for any season and any occasion; so, here they are and how to wear them...the Classics

1. The trench coat
If you have to leave the house and are not totally happy with your outfit, you can pull this on and cover everything else up. An instant outfit facelift.

2. The white shirt
Wear yours 100 different ways this winter. Under jumpers, with a tiny vest on its own with a great scarf. Just wear it. Every time you see a new one that works for your shape, buy it.

3. The flared jean
These work on every. single. body. shape. It doesn't matter if you have a little extra junk in your trunk or you're a gym junkie. These work every time (and leather is fabulous).

4. The pencil skirt
Any work day this should be a go to. I can't think of a workplace where a pencil skirt wouldn't look chic. Keeping it just above the knee is key to this one. As far as the top goes, the world is your oyster.

5. The Pump
 A great pump works with trousers and skirts and will make your legs look great. Don't let them get too chunky so your legs stay slim.

6. The flat
When your feet are tired you really must give yourself the time off the heels. Ballets flats are gorgeous but not every girl feels they're for her and that's where the loafer has been a great alternative. They're a bit more manly but good cuts are still fine enough they don't look masculine.

7. The men's watch
A chunky watch is so cool on a woman. It has that 'I just borrowed this from my man' carefree vibe to it and speaks of a certain confidence in the wearer. He might get mad that you took it for a day, but he'll get over it. Try it on for size.

Please note: These images are the creative work of other very talented people and I do not claim them as my own.
If you would like to see more of me you can follow me on Instagram. I am chicexchange.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

A brief word on...The Met Ball

A lot has already been said about this years Met Ball Gala. So I am just going to give you my short list of hits. Given that the theme was a bit tricky (Punk: Chaos to Couture) I really think those who did well deserve this honourable mention...
Nicole Richie: She died her hair grey and rocked a serious gold ear cuff. I love it.

SJP. Her look has gotten a bit tired of late but on this occasion, with a Phillip Treacy gold mohawk hairpiece she really is a highlight.

Please note: These images are the creative work of other very talented people and I do not claim them as my own.
If you would like to see more of me you can follow me on Instagram. I am chicexchange.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

The Enemy

So, growing your hair is not easy. And to make it worse, there are always little wispy fly-away's that prevent a smooth, sleek look when you are growing it. I have been growing and straightening my hair for some time and these fly-away's are the most irritating part of my morning. Turns out, there is a simple reason for them and an easy solution to preventing them.

I have a great hairdresser, I trust her with my hair which is like saying I trust her with my mental stability. I know that my thick, curly, unmanageable hair will come away from time with her looking gorgeous. She listens to me, and I listen to her. I visit Tamara only four times a year; I know, not often enough but I'm growing my hair out and I'm busy. the last time I saw her at the fantastic Lou Salon on Greville St Prahran she told me a little secret...

Hair ties, even cotton coated break your hair. Hearing this in summer would be a disaster but in winter it's kind of good news for us all. Long hair keeps you warm and looks great draped over the collar of a coat. So prevent breakages and leave your hair out this winter.

If you absolutely must put your hair up (and I must in the shower) get a butterfly clip and hold it up that way. I feel about butterfly clips the way Carrie Bradshaw thought about scrunchies, they should not be seen outside. Save it for the bathroom and you'll be fine.

Most importantly, wear your hair out - that's what you're growing it for after all.

Contact Lou Salon on 9529 7818

Please note: These images are the creative work of other very talented people and I do not claim them as my own.
If you would like to see more of me you can follow me on Instagram. I am chicexchange.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Thank you...notes

We all love to hear 'Thank you' and a 'Thank you' note is the very best way to receive it. I often have (or rather find) occasion to write a letter of thanks and I really love doing so.

I remember distinctly as a child, being forced, after each birthday, to sit down and write 'Thank you' notes to all the lovely friends and family who sent me birthday wishes. It started at a time when I was still too young to write in straight lines and so began with me ruling up some cards, composing a practise piece on scrap paper and then showing it to my mother for her approval. I know at the time I would have much preferred to be playing with my gifts than writing notes about them but now, as an adult, I kind of love writing them.

Firstly, they are a reason for lovely stationery. On a recent trip to the U.S. I found many great cards in Target of all places. Plain inside but, bright and colourful and tasteful on the out. I was using them before I even got them home to Australia. I also love a postcard 'Thank you' as this way you can choose an image suitable specifically to the recipient.

Secondly, I know when writing a note that the recipient will always be pleased to get it. I will write a thank you to a person who's job was well done, from a colleague, to a sales assistant to a trades-person. My motto is: Just because it's a job doesn't mean it should be thankless. Many people in my workplace do things that impact directly on me and my job so when they work, I work and I like to acknowledge that.

I sent out 'Thank you' notes this week to someone who lent me a Myki, a wonderful woman who got me great tickets to the theatre and to a teenager who's words inspired me. When did you last send one? Maybe now would be a good time to make someones day...

A Little trip to Hermes

Like most fashion fanatics I love Hermes; it's a mecca of fashion and a birkin is the holy grail. For now, I have had to settle for the gorgeous enamel bracelets and my sweet leather cuff.

Sadly, my leather cuff lost its pin and I had to take it back to Hermes for a little TLC. Never one to need an excuse to take a trip to the store, I had no problem making my way to the Paris end of Collins st. in Melbourne for a visit.

Any visit to Hermes is going to be a pleasure. The staff are kind and courteous and this trip was no exception. As soon as I showed the sales assistant my problem she happily exchanged my broken item for a receipt (hand written, carbon copied and given to me in a scented, embossed envelop). I was informed that my cuff would be sent firstly to Sydney to be assessed as to whether it could be repaired there, and if not, it would be sent on to France where it would be repaired.

I walked out leaving my cuff behind safe in the knowledge my it was in good hands. Part of me wanted my cuff back soon and hoped it would be fixed in Sydney but another part of me, a more romantic part of me, loved the idea of my little cuff being sent back to France, to a sweet little man, in a sweet little room, high up in the city of Paris who would return from his lunch of baguette and coffee one spring afternoon, put on his leather apron and set to work replacing a small pin in my leather cuff.

Now, I don't know about the workroom, the apron, the lunch or even the silver haired, slightly balding craftsman (yes, my imagination is that detailed), what I do know is, six weeks later, my cuff was back; repaired and like new for me again. Whenever I wear it now, I think of its little holiday to France and imagine it like a naughty character from a childrens book off on an adventure unsupervised.

When I think of Hermes I can't help but think of all the craftspeople and artisans they employ who create the pieces that we covet. They are uniquely talented and they are part of a tradition of excellence beyond compare and I thank them. In a world where everything is so readily available they make things that we must wait for.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Books, books, books - non-fiction books

If you're not reading Paula Joye's blog, Lifestyled, you should be. Last week she ran a piece about a decorator friend, Megan Morton. Morton clearly has great style but what stood out to me in the piece was the number of books we have in common. I have made many a friend via the contents of their bookshelves and coffee tables and I just know Morton and I would be friends based on what's on hers. Here are some recent favourites of mine, some of which Morton and I have in common...

1. Grace: A Memoir by Grace Coddington
Coddington became super famous after her appearance in The September Issue. She is the much admired fashion editor of U.S. Vogue and she has a fantastic story to tell of a life well lived here in her memoir. Many responses I have read of this book have been negative and I think it is because many readers have not understood her Welsh-ness. She is not American born and thus does not have a compulsion to romanticize life. She tells her fabulous story as it fabulously was and seems to do it all with a shrug of the shoulders and a philosophy of 'What's done, is done.' and it certainly is. She gives a lot of herself in this and that's what makes it so interesting

2. The Beautiful Fall by Alicia Drake
This biography moves from chapter to chapter between the lives of Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld. It explores their careers as well as their personal lives as well as the social context surrounding their work and varied philosophies. Neither man seems easy to have lived with but the talent of both is undeniable. Ultimately, Drake allows her reader to decide to whom the spoils go. Offering a diplomatic telling of these intertwined tales.

3. The Vogue Factor by Kirstie Clements
When Clements was suddenly no longer the editor of Vogue Australia it left many readers wondering what happened. Suddenly, one month, readers had a new look Vogue, an obvious new direction to the magazine and no explanation as to why. This book finally gives the readers that explanation for the one person fit to offer one. Not just that, Clements also writes openly about her time at Vogue and the long and wonderful journey she had with the magazine. This is not a salacious tell-all from a disgruntled employee; it is a celebration of a woman, a career and vogue.

4. Blow by Blow by Detmar Blow
I found this book difficult to read at first. I found Blow's widow harsh and clinical especially in opening with and discussing her death. Later in the novel, I began to suspect that he was the only person to truly understand her. He saw her for the person she was without her facade, when she was fragile, weak and had let her veneer off. He writes openly about her financial concerns, her mental health issues, her reproductive health and the betrayal she experienced throughout her life. He has revealed a new side to Blow here, one that was not present in her eulogy and one I suspect few ever got to meet.

5. Isabella Blow: A Life in Fashion by Lauren Goldstein Crowe
This biography gives us the Issie we all saw and knew. The one in the fabulous hats who could give a sound bite better than a shock jock dj on the radio. This has been thoroughly researched with multiple sources quoted. Most notably, Goldstein makes her reader feel close to Blow, so much so that when I finished reading this book I felt like I had lost a friend. There is a familiarity in the tone that makes you feel that you are not reading a book about Blow instead, you are getting a chance to spend time with her. The world is a little less fabulous without her, she is missed.

6. Infinite Variety by Scot D. Ryersson and Michael Orlando Yaccarino
I was never a reader of non-fiction. I found any fidelity to real life passe and lacking until, I read this book. This woman's (the Marchesa Casati) life is so fantastic is has to be read to be believed. She lived her life in such over the top ways that one would be forgiven for thinking this is a work of fiction. I have not checked, but I believe every word is true. From having a slave painted entirely in gold leaf to walking her big cats at night through the streets of Venice with bejewelled collars on them. When the first most depicted woman in art gave birth to her child while still a virgin it is little wonder Casati is the second most depicted woman as the manner in which she lived her life is just as fantastical.

Please note: These images are the creative work of other very talented people and I do not claim them as my own.
If you would like to see more of me you can follow me on Instagram. I am chicexchange.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Sometimes Make Up

A lady never reveals her age, but I will say that I no longer think of myself when I hear talk of 'young people' and at least some of me gives a sigh that that is the case. My skin, however, does not, rather, it is simply beginning to sigh. For this reason, a few years ago I began wearing make up daily and am now committed to the trend.

I don't think young women should wear make up, nothing should disguise the beauty that is youth and there is no make up in the world that can enhance it. I know young women will continue to wear make up needlessly out of a sense of sophistication but my advice is don't; wait until your age tells you you need it.

Having said that there are grown women who don't wear make up and I respect that but, you must have excellent genes or a superb dermatologist. I have neither (cursed with un-even skin tone) and so I wear it whilst congratulating  those who abstain and I am pleased that there are some of us who do so.

As I wear make up routinely, I also wash my face routinely. I use a fresh face washer each day, sanitised and with tepid water only. I am fastidious about these things and immovable on each point. My Year 10 science teacher would be pleased (and shocked) to know that I did learn something about cells in her biology classes and so I know that none of the products we put on our skin and then wash off again gets absorbed into our skin. It's a simple fact that nothing but water gets absorbed into our skin cells and so all I can ever really do is drink as much water as I can on any given day. This varies but I always do my best to drink my most.

In terms of make up I am, as always inconsistent. Today for example, I was already on the tram before I realised I was wearing just foundation and mascara. No blush, no powder, no eyeliner and yet, I survived the day. not a single horseman of the apocalypse rode past my window and so I do think it is important to be flexible, to change your look and to vary the amount, type and style you wear your make up. Most importantly, wear it because YOU want to, not because you think you should or have to.

Please note: These images are the creative work of other very talented people and I do not claim them as my own.
If you would like to see more of me you can follow me on Instagram. I am chicexchange.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Auspicious Audrey

I have always loved Audrey Hepburn. She is an icon of old Hollywood and had a sensuality at a time when most actresses in Hollywood had sexuality. There was something in her eyes that told the viewer there ws more to her characters which came from the fact that there was more to Hepburn herself.
In last months issue of Vanity Fair she had the cover and not one but two articles on her, one, b her youngest son Luca Dotti who is publishing a book on his mother. In the other article there was a quote from Hepburn which I had never seen before. She says 'I have a big nose, and big feet, I am too skinny and have not enough breast. I don't understand why people see me as beautiful. I must have a good mixture of defects.'
This floored me; not even Hepburn could see she was beautiful. It makes me think that the notion of beauty must be so deeply internalised that no amount of adultaion, admiration or distinction can affect the way we see ourselves. There is simply nothing to it but accept and love ourselves for the way we look now and forever.

You are beautiful
Please note: These images are the creative work of other very talented people and I do not claim them as my own.
If you would like to see more of me you can follow me on Instagram. I am chicexchange.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Crazy about Cayman

Last week I was lucky enough to visit heaven-on-earth also know as Grand Cayman Island. This place is divine; you can see fish swimming in the water as you walk along the shore the water is so clear. You step from perfect white sand into blue-green seas and then from sea to tropical island bar.
Not knowing where to focus my stay I headed out early for a coffee (it’s not an Melbourne coffee, I warn you) and asked my barista which beach to go to. He happily gave me his secret location AND how to use the local buses to get me there. Amazing. Some places I have been to people guide information on good beaches like it’s their grandmother’s jewels.
Just like the people, the beaches gave up their secrets too, openly offering up stretches of beach just for me, palm trees to lie under, fish to swim with and iguana to grin at. The water was perfect, the food delicious and the drinks fruity. I was never once surprised by the loveliness of the locals. Most people have an afro-Caribbean background but there are plenty of Brit expats as it is a British colony. Of course, there are plenty of Americans too due to proximity and the greenback being accepted as well as the Cayman Island dollar.
During my time on the island I got to thinking about all the ‘essentials’ for the beach. And so, here is my list of the real essentials for a day of fun in the sun.

1. Sunscreen – Obviously, I don’t care who you are or where you are, you need sunscreen. My dermatologist recommends Neutrogena. Now, I know the sun is different in Australia and you will burn on a beach here but sun damage, no matter where you are, will leave you looking like a Louis Vuitton handbag later in life. A tan, gained through sunscreen is fine. A burn and turn style tan is never good.

2. Bathers – I cannot be pinned down to either a one piece or two-piece. All I can tell you is, wear a different pair each day. This really helps with avoiding ugly tan lines. Wear some strapless, some teeny tiny and some big on the days you need to give your bod a rest.

3. Hat – Keep it simple. Make this a cap in any colour or pattern, just vary it and don’t go too matchy, matchy with your swimsuit, it doesn’t look cool. Right now, I am loving the leopard print cap from J Crew. Get one.

4. Sunnies – A classic is a classic for a reason. I am on my third pair of wayfarers from Ray Ban. I lost a pair, had a pair stolen and have lived in my third pair all summer. Love them. Wear them. Rock them.

5. Sarong – It’s a cover up, a wrap, a beach towel and a bandana for your hair. Mix it up with colours and prints and embrace your inner hippie chic.

6. Bag – I don’t know who came up with a straw bag for the beach but they were crazy. All those holes let sand in and on everything. Get a great leather bag, for me is has to be the Mulberry Dorset. This will carry everything above.

Leave all the other stuff in the room and relax, enjoying your day at the beach.

Please note: These images are the creative work of other very talented people and I do not claim them as my own.
If you would like to see more of me you can follow me on Instagram. I am chicexchange.

Bangarra - Blak

I was so blessed yesterday to witness the incredible indigenous dance company, Bangarra. they are currently touring their latest piece, Blak which is about contemporary and historical issues for indigenous people. It connects to idea of identity, culture, tongue, country men's and women's business and coming of age in an indigenous context. The performance was broken into three parts Scar, Yearning and Keepers. Each had its own distinct focus and highlighted the incredible talents of all the dancers.

The male dancers who performed in Scar moved like spirits; they were light and weightless as they traveled across the stage, so light at times that you couldn't hear the least foot-fall. Despite this, they were most certainly human, they had flesh and substance and most of all, depth.
This piece was so powerful and moving, At times I felt physically ill as I witnessed young men in urban environments challenge their world and be challenged by it. The dance was violent and painful and fierce proving that male dances have an inherent strength and masculinity that is undeniable.
On stage, Scar brought its audience issues of masculinity, initiation, ceremony and men's business. They drew us into a world that a female has not been privy to and offered the audience something real and powerful which good contemporary dance should do.

The women of the company performed Yearning; their dance was fluid and womanly without an overt sexuality and yet the contrast between the women and the men was so clearly illustrated. To see them dance as a group the audience could see that their moves were etherial but certainly of this earth, in fact, they drew from every part of the earth and at times the animals of our earth, our Australian earth.
Again, the performance haunted the viewer especially the dance of domestic violence; the audience was rendered even more powerless as this piece was performed simlutaneously on stage and a black and white TV. This sense of remoteness and powerlessness was overwhelming and you simply didn't know where to look as any given time. The female company also dealt with womens business and showed the roles within indgenous culture with great pathos.
This performance is so powerful and so moving, it is contemporary dance at its best.

Please note: These images are the creative work of other very talented people and I do not claim them as my own.
If you would like to see more of me you can follow me on Instagram. I am chicexchange.

Monday, 6 May 2013


Welcome to the new Chic Exchange blog. It is my hope that this blog will provide a platform for us to share ideas about all things chic.
I love fashion at every level from high end, luxury designers, to niche Australia and overseas brands emerging onto the market. I admire the work of all artisans and love textile prints and fabrication as well as accessories and jewellery.
My passion extends to all things visual and arts related. I love art and galleries, theater, ballet, dance, opera, music, furnishings, decoration, architecture, food and culture. I will read just about anything and draw inspiration from the books I read and those I read about.
I have no one style icon as I pick, rather like a bowerbird from everywhere and everything. I look to the past and present for my inspiration sources. To name just a few of those who inspire me I would mention:
Isabella Blow
Daphne Guinness
Diane Von Furstenberg
Machesa Casati
Carine Roitfeld
Lauren Hutton
Oodgeroo Noonuccal
Andre Leon Talley
Kristie Clements
Iris Apfel

As I blog about all my interests and more I hope you enjoy reading and fill me in on your lives as well.

Don't forget you can follow me on Instagram as well, I am chicexchange.