With the countdown to Africa Fashion Week London 2019 well underway, I thought this would be a good opportunity to invite you to visit my Pinterest board – Africa Fashion Week London 2019.
This collection of 100s of photographs has been especially collated for this year’s show, with more added each day. With a wealth of ideas, influences and imagery, it will surely get you in the mood to strut your stuff, ready for this Summer’s event.
So why not visit the AFWL board and maybe share some of your own fashion images too.
Today, I’m moving away from black based teas and tying out a more fruity and floral number. Twist Teas Strawberry and Rose tea is today’s subject tea for review.
Strawberry and Rose contains a list of delicious sounding ingredients – Chinese White tea, apple pieces, rose hip, hibiscus, freeze dried strawberry, elderflower, orange blossom, rose petals and orange peel.
This is a tea to be served without milk, but can be cold brewed as well as make a hot beverage.
Out the pack, the tea has a lovely aroma, and when hot brewed develops into a beautiful pink hue. I would serve this at an afternoon tea as an alternative to black tea.
Cold brewed ‘Strawberry and Rose’ makes a light and refreshing drink, ideal for a summer time soiree. I reckon made with sparkling water, with sliced fresh strawberries and a slice of lemon, it would make a great non-alcoholic drink.
With all the wonderful ingredients, I was surprised that I couldn’t detect any rose or strawberry during the taste test. It was more of a general fruity flavour, pleasant as it was, rather than a strawberry or floral blast.
Yesterday, I tested the first of the Twist Teas tasting menu, ‘Afternoon Perks’. Today, it’s the turn of ‘Breakfast Boost’.
Like ‘Afternoon Perks’, ‘Breakfast Boost’ includes Sri Lankan black tea, as well as Indian Assam Black tea, Yerba Mate (1) and Siberian Ginseng (2). The tea can be enjoyed with or without milk.
(1) Yerba mate is used to make a beverage known as mate. When served cold, the drink is called tereré in Guaraní. It is traditionally consumed in central and southern regions of South America, primarily in Paraguay, as well as in Argentina, Uruguay, southern and central-western Brazil, the Chaco region of Bolivia and southern Chile. It is also popular in the Druze community in Syria and Lebanon, where it is imported from Argentina. Yerba mate was first cultivated and used by the indigenous Guaraní people and in some Tupí communities in southern Brazil, prior to European colonization. Yerba mate can be found in various energy drinks on the market, as well as being sold as a bottled or canned iced tea.
Yerba mate has been claimed to have various effects on human health and these effects have been attributed to the high quantity of polyphenols found in mate tea. Research has found that yerba mate may improve allergy symptoms and reduce the risk of diabetes mellitus and high blood sugar in mice.
Mate also contains compounds that act as an appetite suppressant and possible weight loss tool, increases mental energy and focus, improves mood, and promotes deeper sleep; however, sleep may be negatively affected in people who are sensitive to caffeine.
Before 2011, there were no double-blind, randomized prospective clinical trials of yerba mate consumption with respect to chronic disease. However, many studies have been conducted since then, pointing to at least some probable benefits from some claims, such as reduction of fat cells, inflammation and cholesterol, although more research is needed. Some non-blinded studies have found mate consumption to be effective in lipid lowering. Another study determined that mate reduces progression of artheriosclerosis in rabbits but did not decrease serum cholesterol or aorticTBARS and antioxidantenzymes.
(2) Some people use Siberian ginseng to improve athletic performance and the ability to do work. They also use it to treat sleep problems (insomnia) and the symptoms of infections caused by herpes simplex type 2. It is also used to boost the immune system, prevent colds, and increase appetite.
Perhaps it’s the high caffeine content, that this tea reminds me of a builder’s tea, only posher. In terms of flavour it packs a punch. The black teas provide a strong, yet pleasant taste, and is ideal, I imagine, served with a wide range of breakfast styles, from traditional full English to Swiss muesli to pancakes with fresh fruit and yogurt, or on its own to set you up for the day ahead.
Personally, I would drink this tea with milk, although if you like strong black teas, or require it for baking, the Breakfast Boost should work well.
I really enjoyed ‘Breakfast Boost’, and would be keen to conduct cooking experiments with it. I think it could add a unique flavour profile to, for instance, tea breads or cakes.
Yesterday (Sunday 21st April 2019) was Easter Sunday and National Tea Day. A double celebration for those who, like me, love tea.
Today, I kick off a new blog series, called The Tea Twist Taste Test, where I taste and review a number of teas from new and established brands. Most of the brands I will feature, I discovered, or in some cases rediscovered, at the recent FesTeaVal event run by National Tea Day. The first brand in this series is Twist Teas (love the brand name already!), which has been producing a wide range of teas for 3 years. The first tea I’m taste testing is ‘Afternoon Perks’, from their Whole Leaf Tasting Menu.
Made with Indian Darjeeling and Sri Lankan black teas and Gotu Kola, ‘Afternoon Perks’ can be drunk with for without milk.
Gotu Kola is used for fatigue, anxiety, depression, psychiatric disorders, Alzheimer’s disease, and improving memory and intelligence. Other uses include wound healing, trauma, and circulation problems (venous insufficiency) including varicose veins, and blood clots in the legs.
I found the tea refreshing in both formats, although I slightly prefer the tea black, with maybe a lemon slice. Just as the ‘twisting notes’ on the tasting menu pack claimed, the tea was energy boosting, after a busy morning in the garden.
I like the idea of including Gotu Kola in the blend, as I feel it helped with my fatigue. I wonder, with prolonged use, if it would prove to be a good memory boosting aid. Regardless, the tea tastes lovely, and is ideal as a post- noon pick me up. I will certainly be adding this to my collection.
Was the Caribbean Food Week Festival 2018 about authentic Caribbean food, or just Jamaican Jerk?
Continuing with Caribbean Food Month on Champagne Twist, last Saturday, I visited the Caribbean Food Week Festival at the new venue, Bernie Spain Gardens, on the Thames’ South Bank.
If you love Jerk Chicken, Curried Goat or Rice and Peas, the Caribbean Food Week Festival was a celebration of these 3 dishes, but if you wanted to learn about authentic Caribbean Cuisine, the menu was disappointing.
The Bernie Spain Gardens on the South Bank of the River Thames hosted the 2-day weekend food festival, just ahead of the London Carnival. Sadly, the opportunity to showcase the regions vast cuisines was missed and gave a poor overall impression of Caribbean Food.
In the age of plant-based diets, I was extremely disappointed not to see much of the fresh fruit and vegetables the Caribbean has to offer. Worse of all, the event was billed as a colourful celebration of Caribbean food, yet the main colours showcased, green, black and yellow, were that of the Jamaican flag.
It is now clear to me why so many people in the UK believe that Jamaica is the Caribbean and the Caribbean is Jamaica. The confusion is not helped when only 3 dishes from 1 island seemed to be ‘celebrated’, and the opportunity to sell fresh Caribbean fruit and veg was missed.
Officials from the Voice newspaper stall gave away an African and Caribbean restaurant guide, which was a great idea. I was also given a bag of free literature, including a newspaper from June and a magazine celebrating African heritage from October 2016. A two-year old magazine which didn’t even reference Caribbean food. I was also informed that they had run out of literature to give to patrons, shocking as the show started at 11am and before noon, they had run out. This hardly gave a positive impression.
Reading the phrase “Caribbean food’, I had expected examples of cuisine from each or at least the majority of the countries within the Caribbean. So when 95% of the available food was Jamaican based, of which 80% consisted of Jerk chicken, Curry goat and Rice and Peas, it did nothing to counteract the image of Caribbean food being limited.
There seems to be a sense of ‘protectionism’ over this cuisine, while understandable due to the historical exploitation of the region, the time has come for the Caribbean to promote its own food in an age when Western cultures are crying out for organic, pure food and drinks. Gone are the days when sugar was the cash crop. Coconut is now the superfood of choice, yet the majority of coconut products, despite the abundance, doesn’t come from the Caribbean.
I have often wondered, with its huge variety, and abundant fruit and vegetables, unique meat and world famous seafood, why Caribbean food isn’t that well known in the UK. This event goes some way to answering that question.
Referencing a tiny selection of Jamaican cuisine as representative of Caribbean cuisine not only limits people expectations of Jamaica food, it limits and potentially damages the reputation of all the countries within the region.
For vegetarians, it was almost impossible to find anything suitable to eat. I ended up with a dish consisting of Halloumi, fries and jerk sauce. While it was lovely, it was hardly a showcase of Caribbean food, especially when only 1 element of the dish, the jerk sauce, could be attributed to the region. Good luck to you if you’re a vegan! There were tofu sausages available on one stall, but not all vegetarians or vegans like or eat tofu.
I also hoped to listen to experts discussing Caribbean food and drink in relation to health, particularly in the wake of Dr Karin’s speech remarking the coconut oil is ‘pure poison’. Although, I was pleased that Grace Foods, the event’s hosts had provided a number of recipe leaflets, which included drinks and some plant-based recipes.
The cooking demonstrations were also interesting and proved to be the highlight of the festival, but again more should and could have been made of this. Over the weekend there are 2 different chefs, I attended the last day so was treated to 3 of the 4 live demos lead by Chef Solomon Smith. Unfortunately, the demos were meat or fish based and not vegetarian recipes. Samples were plentiful, but none were solely plant-based, which limited the number of people who could enjoy the samples.
The 3 picnic benches were beautifully painted, to encourage people to actually sit down and eat, but more benches should have been provided. A few large parasols wouldn’t have gone amiss, providing shade from the sun, or the rain, yet still keeping visitors in the area and providing relatively low-cost advertising.
In the middle of the space was a large grey vehicle, which many thought was a delivery van. Naturally many thought it should have been moved prior to the start of the festival. As it turns out, the van was there to help promote the Brixton Soup Kitchen, a charity which feeds and assists homeless people in the area. I am curious as to why there was no signage, or anyone standing by the van to explain the vehicle or the charity. It was only when I attended the cooking demos, that the situation was made somewhat clearer. More of this in a later post.
Travel companies missed a trick by not taking advantage of holiday seekers. There was one stall for people wishing to purchase or hire overseas property, but only for Jamaica, yet again, limiting choice.
The festival is now in its 3rd year, so still in its infancy. Previously held in Brixton, the move to the Bernie Spain Gardens was a stroke of genius, as the location is more central, making it more accessible for patrons, and taking advantage of a beautiful wide open space, flanked by the Thames, and a beautiful floral oasis, with multicultural art galleries, restaurants and shopping in the form of the OXO Tower and the Gabriel’s Wharf.
It usually takes at least 5 years or so for such events to become established, so I still have high hopes. A little fine tuning supported by the services from a good PR company, actively promoting all or least as many of the countries within the Caribbean, more emphasis on fresh produce, and celebrating the health benefits of the product, the festival could the late summer fixture, and the essential prelude to the Notting Hill Carnival.
Heck, all they need to bring on the colour is a flag display from all the countries in the region and maybe a few poster maps, establish a few fun and educational games (other than just a big Connect 4 and a few bean bags) for the kids, some fresh produce stalls and you have a true celebratory family-oriented festival. More live music wouldn’t go amiss, the obligatory steel pan band imagery is getting a little stale.
In fairness, for a free event, it’s not bad and such food festivals should be encouraged. There are a number of fundamental changes that need to be made over the next 2 years, if the festival has any chance of creating a movement that sustains and actively promotes the food of the Caribbean. Granted, the organiser of the festival is a Jamaican based company, so naturally, they are going to promote their country of origin. But that should not be at the near total expense of the other Caribbean countries, especially when the festival is called ‘Caribbean Food’. If they continue down this path, they are just shooting themselves in the foot and risk bringing down the entire region with them.
There is more to the Caribbean than Jamaica and Jerk seasoning, it’s about time people were made aware.
Traditionally enjoyed over the Christmas season in the West Indies, sorrel, fresh homemade sorrel that is, is a wonderful surprisingly fruity, spiced drink that is as refreshing as it is pretty in colour. Fill a glass with ice, pour the drink in, sit back and enjoy.
Which is why Semaj’s DIY pack version is such a disappointment. Firstly, the substitution of whole cloves, an essential ingredient in for sorrel, with fennel seeds is inexcusable. If you can’t trust the ingredients list printed on the packaging, it will be difficult to trust the end product. Fennel seeds also tend to be cheaper than cloves, so it also makes me question the ‘value’ of the value pack.
That said, the product was easy to make, and adding cloves from my own spice cupboard, as well as other flavours made a difference. But having to source the spices defeats the object of buying this product.
As a quick introduction to sorrel, this drink had potential as a mixer. However as a stand-alone product, especially with the errors in the ingredients list, this drink cannot be described as authentic and in no way compares favourably with the real sorrel drink.
As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, coconut milk lends itself to a multitude of cuisines, sweet and savoury dishes and everything in between. Following are a few simple recipe ideas featuring coconut milk.
Elle’s coconut rice
1 cup of rice
1 1/4 cups of water or coconut water
3/4 coconut milk
2 sprigs of thyme
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp chilli flakes
1 medium sized onion, thinly sliced
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp pink Himalayan salt (optional)
After washing the rice, place it in a large saucepan, with the water or coconut water and coconut milk.
Add rest of the ingredients then bring to the boil and allow to simmer until the rice is cooked.
Serve immediately. You can also use as a base for rice salad or as a side.
For day 3 of Caribbean Food Month, it’s time for a review. Coconut milk is one of the stables when it comes to Caribbean cookery. This versatile ingredient can be used in sweet and savoury dishes and lends itself to a multitude of international culinary treats. It also serves as an alternative to dairy.
Dunn’s River Coconut Milk has a thick, smooth texture with a light coconut flavour, meaning that it will work well with tea and coffee. It doesn’t have that sometimes clawy aftertaste when sampled on its own, although it does have a tendency to separate. But a quick stir with a spoon soon resolves that issue.
As a product in its own right, I can’t find much to fault it. As the saying goes, it say’s exactly what it is on the tin. As an ingredient, it works well without any problems, responding to heat well. It’s a great product to have in your pantry.
Rating 4.5 out of 5
Tomorrow’s blog includes recipe ideas featuring Dunn’s River Coconut Milk. Please return to find out more. Thanks for reading and if you’re in the UK or Spain – try to stay cool. I adore the sun, but 38 degrees is my limit. The thought of having to work in potentially 48 degree heat, makes the mind boggle. Best of luck!
Hello, happy 1st of August and happy Caribbean Food Month here on ChampagneTwist.com!
We’re deep into summer now and the heatwave we’re currently enjoying in the UK is akin to the summers enjoyed in the Caribbean. All that’s needed is a golden sandy beach, a bowl of rum punch and a tropical music soundtrack.
Well, I can’t provide the beach or the soundtrack, but I may be able to produce a few food and drink ideas for the Champagne Twist, Caribbean Food Month.
Kicking off this month’s culinary extravaganza is Jerk Seasoned Roasted Vegetables. Jerk seasoning is fairly well known as a Jamaican herb and spice blend used to season meat, particularly chicken. But in this recipe, I thought how could vegetarians get in on the act?
This is an easy, flexible recipe staple which allows for a quick exit from the kitchen – let’s face it, who wants to spend hours in a hot kitchen in 32-degree heat? Make a large batch and portion up for healthier frozen meals or barbeque side dishes. The vegetables are cut into different shapes, of roughly the same size to provide visual interest and to ensure even cooking.
In a large mixing bowl add all the ingredients and ensure all the vegetables are completely coated with the coconut oil and jerk seasoning. Set aside for 10 minutes.
Place the contents of the bowl into a large roasting tin. Roast for about 45-60 minutes until the vegetables are roasted.
Allow to cool slightly before transferring into a serving dish. Enjoy with plain white or coconut rice. You could also create a rice salad by simply mixing the seasoned veg with the rice. Try substituting with brown rice for a nuttier flavour.
Remember with Jerk seasoning, a little goes a long way. Err on the side of caution, use a scant 1/4 tsp of Jerk seasoning if you prefer a mild flavour. Don’t be too heavy-handed, it will taste great, but it will feel like your mouth is on fire. Use the wet mix, not the dry spice blend.
August is Caribbean Food Month, on Champagne Twist
August. The 8th month of the year, the summer holidays are in full swing and the temperatures, for once, rival that of many a West Indian island.
So, in celebration of the new month, summer and the relaunch of the Champagne Twist website, August has been designated Caribbean Food Month.
Caribbean Cuisine despite its popularity amongst holidaymakers, has been omitted from the fashionable culinary radar in the UK. Elements have on occasion had it’s 15 minutes of fame, such as ‘Jerk Chicken’, ‘Jerk Pork’ and ‘Jerk just about everything else’, but it hardly matches the success of other culinary greats such as Italian, Chinese, Japanese or Indian food.
When attempts have been made to delve into the genre of Caribbean food, the results have been misleading at best. Adding coconut or pineapple to fish and chips doesn’t make a dish traditional West Indian fare. Nor does eating rice and peas with everything constitute Caribbean style.
So in an attempt to put this right, over the next few weeks there will be new recipes, product reviews and a few surprises, in celebration of this undervalued cuisine.
All starting from tomorrow, here on Champagne Twist.
Apple juice. It’s sharp, tart and tongue-twistingly sweet. Coupled with the often odd, unnatural looking colourisation, which let’s be honest can be mistaken for something else, apple juice is usually best avoided where possible. Or so I thought until I tried the cold pressed Golden Delicious apple juice from Coldpress.
As it’s namesake suggests, the apples are cold pressed rather than heat treated to extract their juice resulting in a clean, fresh, refreshingly enjoyable drink.
The ingredient list is reassuringly short, just apple juice and added vitamin C. An added bonus, the usual saccharin sweet flavour associated with some apple juice drinks, has been usurped by a true apple taste that can only come from apples, in particular, the Golden Delicious variety.
Instantly impressive it is clear to see how the cold-pressed process has enhanced this juice, to produce a product that can be regarded as a healthy alternative to sugary soft drinks.
Straight out of the fridge cold is the best way I believe to enjoy this apple juice, and beyond the obvious thirst quenching qualities, as an ingredient, this drink could prove ideal for cooking and baking recipes, such as smoothies, apple pies, cocktails and apple bread. At around £1.40 for a 250ml bottle, the price isn’t bad either.
Being the best apple juice I’ve tried since I can’t remember when, the only fair score I can give this drink is a full 10 out of 10.
Allergy and Free From Show / Just V Show / Love Natural, Love You Show / Eat Smart Show|Champagne Twist
Day 1 – Friday 6th July 2018
With 4 shows under 1 roof, Olympia is the place to be if you’re a foodie.
Last year I felt overwhelmed by the vast number of stalls, the bags of free food, the number of talks and demos. So this year I planned ahead. I downloaded the show map, exhibitor list, and timetables yesterday, studied which talks I wanted to attend and the quickest routes to take to get from 1 talk to another.
Friday, I’m guessing, is the least busiest day, due to work and school commitments, and major events such as Wimbledon, Grand Prix, World Cup and Hampton Court Palace Flower Show. Plus, with this unusually prolonged summer heat wave, where we actually have sunshine and the associated hosepipe bans to contend with, who wants to be cooped up in a huge building contending with massive crowds?
I also noticed this year that more people have followed my lead and brought their trolleys, suitcases and wheelie bags. I’m such a trend setter!
Personally, I find it funny that I have attended a health show and purchased various chocolate puddings and cakes, with plans to purchase more. But I do this for 2 important reasons – 1, to review the produce purchased and in the case Freaks of Nature puds, to stock up.
I’m going again tomorrow and on the final day of the 3-day event – which I didn’t manage to do last year, mostly because I found the whole event overwhelming.
No sooner had I posted my predictions for Spring food trends 2018, Meghan and Harry announced that their wedding cake was going to be made with lemon and elderflower!
So not only am I going to call it and say that Champagne Twist is the social media network to get accurate predictions in regards to anything food, arts and crafts, I’m now going to reveal my version of the wedding cake. Enjoy!
Lemon and Elderflower Cake (aka the Sussex Violet Cake)
For the cake
8oz butter, softened
8oz golden caster sugar
4 large eggs
8oz self-raising flour, sifted
zest of 2 unwaxed lemons
For the glaze
1 tbsp elderflower syrup or cordial (I used Ikea but would also recommend Belvior)
juice of 1 lemon
3 tbsp granulated sugar (reserving 1 tbsp for decoration)
plus fresh edible flowers such as violets, roses, elderflowers, for decoration.
I used violets in tribute to Violets Cakes and the creator of the original Royal Wedding cake for Meghan and Harry, now the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. In a nod to the wedding couple, I also renamed my version of the cake the Sussex Violet cake.
For the cake –
Preheat the oven to gas mark 4.
Line a 20cm round tin with parchment paper.
With a food mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until pale in colour, and light and fluffy in texture.
Add the eggs one at a time, beating in the sugar-butter mix in between.
Fold in the flour and lemon zest until well incorporated.
Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin, and place on the middle shelf of the video.
Bake for 45-55 mins. To test if the cake is baked, use a skewer and poke it through the middle of the cake. It should come out clean when removed.
When baked, remove from the oven and set aside. Add the glaze at this point (instructions below) still in the tin.
Carefully remove the cake from the tin and place on a wire cake rack to cool completely.
For the glaze –
While the cake is still hot, mix the syrup, granulated sugar and lemon juice together in a small bowl.
Poke a few holes at random intervals through the top of the cake, with a skewer.
With a teaspoon ‘feed’ the cake with the glaze, making sure to cover the entire top of the cake. The glaze should soak through quickly and will leave a sugary crust. Leave the cake in the tin for about 10 mins.
Carefully remove the cake from the tin and place on a wire rack to cool completely.
When the cake has completely cooled, sprinkle the reserved granulated sugar on top, and scatter violets or your edible flowers of choice on top. Serve with a cup of tea, perhaps Wedding Blend from Fortnums or Clipper’s mint and green tea.
Can you believe it’s that time of year already? Yes, National Tea Day is coming up this Saturday and as, for me at least, it’s one of the most important days of the year, I collated a tea quotes video for your enjoyment.
More tea-related treats coming up this week, but for now, grab yourself a cup of your favourite brew and indulge in some tea wisdom. Enjoy!
Well, what do you know? No sooner had I posted my article about the top 5 food and drink trends for 2018, it was announced that a London bakery was picked to make the wedding cake of the year. Meghan Markle and Henry Wales on the day they exchange vows, will be cutting their wedding cake flavoured with lemon and wait for it … elderflowers!
Yes, as I predicted, floral flavours are set to be one of the major food and drink trends this year.
I may have to wander to Hackney and sample the baked delights Violet Bakery has to offer. Well, someone has to make sure the cake is perfect for the Royal Wedding.
Megs and Harry, you can both thank me later. I’m still waiting for my invite, btw!
Hope you are all well this on March chilly day. Spring is around the corner, so I thought it would be a good time to post a video about some of the culinary treats to look forward to when the weather finally warms up.
The Beast from the East may be making a snowy return, but that shouldn’t stop you from looking forward to the super hot summer weather* and the delicious foodie treats that will be heading their merry way to an eatery near you.
*May not be strictly true, but we can dream.
As diners steer more and more from alcoholic drinks and seek healthier alternatives to sugar-laden soft drinks, mocktails are fast becoming the trendsetter in the drinks industry. Using colourful and unusual fruits and vegetables as the base, drinks are set to be not only healthy but fun too.
2 Caribbean cuisine.
There are been so many dawns and false starts with this culinary masterpiece, but 2018 is set to be the year, finally, for West Indian food and drink. This oft-overlooked cuisine is making a mark this year as the food to look out for. And it’s not all coconut-based either.
Yes, of course, I was going to add this one, it’s my favourite after all. But tea as we know it is going to have a serious makeover in 2018 and not before time too. Herbal teas, fruit tea and even iced tea will all be on trend this summer.
4 Plant-based food.
The trend for Vegan and Vegetarian food shows no sign of abating, as increasing numbers are seeking alternatives to meat-based diets. Who would have thought 10 years ago that beige food would be referred to meat pie!
5 Floral flavours.
Elderflower, lavender, rose, chive blossoms, violet, hibiscus and pansy. Prepare to see these floral favourites and more, everywhere, from cakes to teas, from cocktails to salads.
So excited to finally reveal which country I visited. Take a look at the video below to find out. Did you guess correctly?
Also, the series preview will be posted on Tuesday followed by a weekly video series, featuring travel hints and tips, food, culture, history and a little adventure thrown in. Stay tuned to find out more.
It’s been a while since I posted, but there was a reason. A good reason. I had been given the opportunity to do a little traveling and I thought I would blog about it. The location will be revealed soon, but here are a few promo videos to give you a taste of what is to come.
A brand new YouTube series with corresponding blog posts will be published soon, so please stay tuned to make sure you don’t miss out.
Wednesday Thinking: Are the Big 4 sewing pattern companies off trend?
As many of you know, I love sewing, I adore sewing. I’m not a fan of clothes shopping per se because I find it difficult to find clothes in styles that fit and suit me. Hence, one of the many reasons why I love sewing.
But there is one hurdle when it comes to creating my own fashions. While the indie pattern industry is growing, the big four, long established and market dominating sewing pattern brands are slowly dying a death. It may seem a good thing at first, but in the long run, if these major pattern companies – McCalls, Butterick, Vogue and Simplicity – don’t change soon, it could spell the end of the sewing pattern industry as we know it.
When I heard about the possibility of making a cocktail party dress, showcasing my outfit at the Knitting and Stitching Show and following my favourite home seamstresses creating their unique versions, I was so excited, until I saw the patterns.
With a heavy heart I say this – but there simply wasn’t anything I felt passionate enough to make from the selection of patterns available for the challenge. Some of the styles seemed born out of 1980 – and not in a good way. Only one pair of trousers, a jacket with a pointed back hem and dresses that my grandmother said she wouldn’t wear, let alone spend time money and effort creating.
I felt all the more guilty because the idea behind the event is to raise money for the Eve Charity (click here for details). But, I couldn’t justify making a dress just for the event, that I knew I wouldn’t enjoy making or wearing, and would never wear again. This hardly encourages new-to-sewing folks to pick up a needle and thread.
Another major issue I had with the collection of patterns, was the non-existence of patterns for men. Last time I checked a) men wear clothes and b) men attend cocktail parties. This was a golden opportunity missed, to encourage the growing number of males who are taking up the hobby. It was as if there was a huge sign saying, “Boys Not Allowed”.
I also got the impression that these patterns were chosen in an attempt to boost sales, rather than to welcome newbies to a new skill set, or encourage more established sewists to stretch their skills. Some of the styles were 20-30 years behind the times and lacked modernity. When I look at the fashion magazines and Pinterest boards, I don’t see my style favourite reflected in patterns offered by the Big 4.
The most popular styles seem to be the classics created during the 1940s through to the 1960s. Thanks to films and television shows such as Down With Love, Ad Men, etc. Shirt dress patterns, the Walk Away dress, the Mondrian dress are just 3 examples of styles that have sold successfully in recent years.
There is also still a severe lack of patterns for wheelchair users or those with physical disabilities. All the patterns, in fact, were styled towards slim, average height, able-bodied women.
I normally buy PDF patterns from indie pattern designers because they are usually up to date trend-wise, and are easily adaptable to my height and shape. My last pattern purchase from the big 4 was actually a classic style shirt dress. Even when there are 50% savings, I find it impossible to buy more than 2 patterns. The dated designs just are not that appealing to me, and to spend upwards of £15 for a single pattern that I would spend more money, time and effort to adjust, just takes away the joy of sewing.
I have hinted about a special announcement for a little while, and I finally received confirmation yesterday afternoon, so now I’m able to share with you that I have 3 pairs of free tickets to giveaway for the forthcoming Knitting and Stitching Show.
All you have to do to be in with a chance to win 1 of 3 pairs of tickets –
Follow me on this website (champagnetwist.com) and
Subscribe to my YouTube channel or follow my Instagram account.
Then, to let me know you want a chance to win a pair of tickets, leave the following message in the comment box below:
“Dear Champagne Twist – I would like to go to the #knitnstitchshow @ Ally Pally”
There isn’t long, you only have until 6pm tonight.
Wednesday 11th October – 10am – 5.30pm
Thursday 12th October (evening only) 3pm – 7pm
Friday 13th October – 10am – 5.30pm
Sunday 14th October – 10am – 5pm
Terms and Conditions
The contest is open from Sunday 8th October 2017, 13.00hrs GMT, until Sunday 8th October 2017, 18.00hrs GMT.
Once the contest is closed, 3 separate winners will be randomly chosen.
I will contact the winners, requesting names and addresses.
The winners’ details will be passed to the show organisers, and arrangements made for the winners to collect their tickets from the box office, at Alexandra Palace.
Sorry, this giveaway is only open to UK residents. However, there will be other giveaways soon.
BEST OF LUCK!
For more information about The Knitting and Stitching Show, please check out the following links:
If you are subscribed to my YouTube channel, you may have noticed a few new videos. Well, please stay tuned, as I upload more footage from the Great British Sewing Bee Live event, held at London’s ExCeL.
As a taster, here are 2 recently published videos.
There are more videos on the way, which will be published over the next couple of days, if my over worked computer can keep up!
Plus, I have a very special announcement to make over the next few days, so please subscribe, so that you don’t miss out on all the latest form Champagne Twist.
Thanks for reading and to all my new subscribers, a very warm welcome, hope you like it here in this little corner of the interweb 🙂
This is a short post about the items I purchased at the Great British Sewing Bee Live event at London’s ExCeL.
Simply Fabrics / The Textile Centre – Stand G14
My first purchase was this amazing sequenced number – just over 1m for £10. I think I was influenced by the sparkly dresses showcased at the Vogue patterns fashion show, but hey, you can never have too many sequins, right?
I also purchased 2 lining fabrics, one to go with the sequins. Both for an amazing £2 per m.
Next came the this rather frivolous purchase, a vintage piece from the bargain bucket for £6. It’s about half a meter, so a little on the pricy side, but I’m thinking of making a head scarf or maybe a neck tie much like my Ghislaine Chelsea scarf a made a while back. If you have a better idea, please let me know 🙂
Now for the essentials, which I think were a real bargain – all this for just £2. A metal thimble, to help protect my little digits while I hand sew, and a selection needles for various sewing tasks. Each bundle costs 50p! Even my bank manager couldn’t argue with that.
My last purchase wasn’t much sewing related, but will prove to be a rather useful and stylish tool – a tweed hand bag and matching purse combo. The bag fits an A4 folder, has a number of roomy pockets, both external and internal. The purse has plenty of space for credit cards, notes and separate zipped compartment for coins. Total cost £30. The bag is sold online for £39 and the purse for £25. At the GBSB Live event, the purse was given free with purchase of the bag. They had a fairly wide selection, so if you’re in the market for a new bag or purse, you could do a lot worse than visit this stall.
Is Fenty Beauty the new business model we should all follow?
Fenty Beauty, for those not in the know, is a new celebrity beauty brand by singer Rhianna. The music industry no longer commands the great revenue from album sales for popular musicians as it once did. World tours have become too much of an expensive risk for record companies to finance bands. So to supplement their income, and to boost their social profile, many artists have branched into other creative and business ventures, including the world of fashion and beauty. Examples include Beyonce’s Ivy Park, Robbie William’s Farrell, Gwen Stefani’s L.A.M.B., Pharell Williams’ Billionaire Boys Club, Madonna’s Material Girl, Liam Gallagher’s Pretty Green and Victoria Beckham with her eponymous label, to name just a few.
Many of the artists have applied their business savvy to their new ventures, with varying degrees of success. Of the above, only Beckham has made the most successful transition from popstar to fashion icon. However she has faced severe criticism for her ultra exclusivity in terms of product pricing, and the lack of models of colour for her catwalk shows and advertising. Beckham’s newest venture into makeup, a collaboration with Estée Lauder, whilst highly successful, again fails to cover the full range of skin tones.
So when news of yet another singer launching a new beauty range, I didn’t have much hope.
Then came the news that the range included no less than 40 shades of foundation, with reportedly more on the way.
Question – if a singer, who isn’t yet 30, with self admitted limited professional background in beauty, let alone the beauty industry, can somehow manage to produce a makeup range that includes 40 foundation shades, how come other beauty companies, some boasting over 100 years in existence, with a host of scientists, experts, managers, marketing specialists and beauticians, with millions if not billions of dollars in revenue at their disposal couldn’t manage it?
The instant success and sell out of the new Fenty Beauty range suggests that the big companies didn’t want to cater to people of colour. It has been proven that Black women for instance, spend a higher percentage of their income on beauty products than women from other ethnicities. This despite the fact that they are statistically paid less than women of other skin colours. Further, products which are specifically designed and marketed for this demographic statistically cost more than the equivalent in the top brand ranges.
One tried and tired excuse was the belief there wasn’t a sustainable market for Black makeup. Another popular excuse, that it was too expensive to develop a specialist beauty range for people of colour.
Fenty in less than 1 week of launch has shown up the big beauty brands, in their product development, marketing and advertising. Their attitude towards certain consumer groups has left a huge gap in the market for Rhianna to exploit, and I hope she keeps doing so. In fact, I would even suggest – ditch the music career and concentrate on beauty!
Rhianna’s brand has proved once and for all that catering to one minor section of the world’s population can only continue for so long. While there is a huge need to develop products and services for people of colour who have been for decades deliberately left out of the loop, my argument is there are only ever be 2 outcomes for Black Owned Businesses (BOB) in a market dominated by those, who for various reasons, don’t want to see BOBs flourish;
1) The BOBs fail as they run into financing issues because they can’t expand quick enough to accommodate the market, or
2) The dominate businesses find some way, legitimate or otherwise, to prevent the continued growth of BOBs, such as promising to use their resources to expand the brand, but after the takeover, they cash in on the Black Dollar and slowly run the original product or service down to the ground.
Rhianna has done something, which I am convinced could be the biggest change to business models since Adam Smith’sEconomies of Scale. Unlike other celebrity brands, Fenty Beauty did not simply follow established business norms, but challenged them, then bettered them. By focusing on diversity, individuality and inclusivity in terms of skin tone, Fenty Beauty has in a single stoke exploited the gaps unfilled by not only the beauty industry, but possibly every industry.
The beauty brands, particularly the luxury sector, justify their high prices by their exclusivity. In fact exclusivity is often a key marketing tool, as it implies quality, luxury, scarcity. The result of course excluding the vast majority of the population based on their income, and indirectly contributing to racism, sexism, homophobia and even xenophobia.
Naturally, a makeup brand is never going to significantly contribute to world peace – but it can go some way to level the playing field. Fenty Beauty is by no means perfect. 40 foundation shades isn’t nearly enough to accommodate all skin shades. The current adverts features teens and 20 somethings, able bodied women, with a western cultural background. However, it’s important to remember that this is a brand in it’s infancy and can never hope to atone for everything that the major manufacturers have failed to do in just a week. That said, Fenty Beauty has smashed through many barriers and it will be interesting to see where it goes from here.
Exclusion is not the aspiration of Millennials. They want to be catered for as valued individuals in their own right regardless of income, social background, and of course skin colour. The sooner the big brands react to this the better, because if Fenty Beauty becomes the bench-mark business model, many of today’s top brands will lose a huge chuck of their current market share. Some may even think – serve them right.
What are your thoughts on the Fenty Beauty and it’s brand ethos? What do you think about the marketing strategy? Do you think this brand will stay the course, or will it go the way of so may other celebrity brands? Please like and comment below.
If you’re a fashionista, a perfume enthusiast or just love anything to do with Chanel, by now you would have heard about Espace Gabrielle Chanel on Old Bond Street, in London’s rather smart Mayfair.
If you’re studying Marketing, Business, Branding, Photography, Design, Styling, Fashion or any realted fields, you should make the time and effort to attend before it closes on 24th of September. I will publish all the tips I’ve learnt in a separate post later this week.
Espace Gabrielle Chanel, is a remarkable feat of marketing, and you are sure to pick up tips, not just olfactory tips – and yes I admit I had to google that word! – how a brand works. I have been fortunate enough to attend the space a few times, and eery time I’ve attended, I have learnt something new. Read my review of my first trip to the Espace here.
I have been able to practice my limited light photography, improved my video skills, learnt about the basics of olfactory and even about Gabrielle Chanel herself. While the jury is still out about the new perfume, the marketing has been nothing short of spectacular and if you’re wise, and happen to be in London, you should check out the Old Bond Street venue and enjoy a couple of hours of free education and entertainment. Oh, by the way, did I mention that it’s all free? Opportunities like these, the chance to learn some of the tricks of the trade from a high end, global luxury brand only comes around a very few times, and rarely ever free – so make the most of it while you can.
Try to book a place on the Sensorial Discovery experience, (again it’s free) here, to learn more about the craft of perfume making and the background of the founder of the house of Chanel.
But in case you can’t make it, here’s a couple of video montages I made to give you an idea of the experience.
Event: – Health Bloggers Community: Photography for Bloggers Workshop
Venue: – SHOT, Bride Lane, London
Date: – 15th September 2017
The event was billed as a,
‘…mix of theory and practical tasks, you will learn to take drool-worthy pictures and still-life shots with personality to truly master the art of taking photos for your blog and Instagram feed.’
So impressed with this statement, I signed up, and looked forward to a 3 hour long food photography class.
“Our partner SHOT.London will be providing you with their real, organic whole food treats to style, prop and experiment with… and of course, eat! We’ll have lots of food, props, and backgrounds for you to play with, so you’ll leave a pro photographer.”
Wow, we get to play with the food too? and then eat it? Plus there are props, backgrounds and I’m going to leave a pro photographer!!!
***Alert!*** – there is no way anyone, no matter how gifted you are, can start a class at 3pm and leave at 6pm a professional. And this class proved it, as I will explain later. The remainder of the ad continued …
“EVER WONDERED HOW YOU GET THAT INSTAGRAM PHOTO? HOW TO CREATE THE PERFECT PHOTO POST OF YOUR TRIP TO BRIGHTON?
OR A PROFESSIONAL HEADSHOT FOR YOUR ABOUT PAGE? YOU KNOW, THE ONE WITH THE PERFECT ANGLE, THE BEST LIGHTING AND JUST THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF FILTER?
Wonder no more, as we have all the answers to your photography related questions. A few of the things you’ll learn in this workshop:
the basics of creating outstanding photos
how to find the right props
how to make the most of the lighting, and tools to help you
filters, editing and basic tricks to find your style
This is one workshop NOT to miss. So grab your ticket, dig out your camera and we’ll see you there!
About our Teacher:
Anna is a photographer with a passion for the health and fitness industry, this can include food, products or any sports that increase the heart rate generally making people healthier and happier.”
Disclaimer: the session was due to start at 3pm but due to various public transport issues (it was the day of the Parsons Green station bomb), I was unable to get to the class until 3.30pm.
I arrived at the venue, SHOT. London, which is a small cafe style restaurant near Fleet Street, in East Central London. There were around 25 people at the class, in a space that ideally could comfortably seat no more than about 15 at best. The teacher, Anna, presented behind the counter, with the aid of a small laptop, which was difficult of those at the back of the class to see.
At around 3.50pm the attendees were invited to cross over the road to St. Bride’s Church, to take pictures of the food in the outdoor natural light.
The food was pre-packed in logoed plastic containers. It wasn’t made clear whilst I was there, if we could open the packaging or eat the contents later. The packages were not labelled, so I wasn’t certain if any of the food there was vegan or vegetarian.
There wasn’t enough interaction or guidance between the teacher and some of the attendees. I didn’t feel particularly welcome and observed that Anna approached some of the attendees more readily than others. Whether this was due to shyness on her part, I don’t know, however I didn’t feel as if we were all given the same amount of individual help.
This part of the class took about 45 mins to an hour. Followed by short review of a couple of the students work. Then came a flurry of tips on a broad rage of subjects, from selfies, portrait photography to Instagram and editing programs.
The class was meant to be a 3 hour long session, and had it not been for the intervention of the host, the teacher would have ended the class 30 minutes early.
There were no props provided as stated in the advert (see above text in blue), other than about 6 pre-packed plastic food boxes to share with 25 or so people in a confined space. There were no “backgrounds to play with” either, unless they counted the church.
Value for Money?
For just under £25, the price seemed like a bargain for a 3 hour session on food photography by an “experienced photographer”. In reality, it offered nothing more little from that advertised. Trying to see examples on a tiny laptop from a distance was impractiable, and 1 practical session where only a few were granted guidance from the teacher, frankly, unacceptable. I certainly did not feel like a professional photographer at the end.
As for being a workshop “not to miss”, I wish my train wasn’t delayed, but cancelled, as my afternoon would have been more productive. It’s with a heavy heart when I say, if this is an example of the type of classes run by H.B.C., I would strongly suggest you save your time, energy and money and avoid. This is the first of a new series of events hosted by H.B.C., so here’s hoping that this is a blip, rather than a pattern.
The session over promised in a number of areas and under delivered in so many ways. The venue was nice, but there were too many people in a confined area. Instead of a laptop, A4 sized pictures should have been handed round, so attendees could have a good look, and wouldn’t have to strain to see such a small screen from a distance.
It would have been a great move if handouts were provided, with ideas of how to progress afterwards. The interaction between the teacher and the attendees seemed uneven, which for me, added to the general negativity of the session.
For the rating, I thought long and hard about giving the class a zero out of 5. But in fairness, I did learn a couple of new things, such a a new photo location and not to use the zoom feature on camera phones – just move closer to the subject. But these ‘tips’ simply didn’t warrant the ticket price or matched what turned out to be the over hyped and misleading advert.
I thought I would leave the class inspired. I left the class annoyed, disappointed, and a little hangry,
I have like most fashionistas been stalking the online sales and discovered a couple of cool, straw hats from a famous, high end, high street fashion store. (I have chosen not to name and shame this store … for now.) I purchased 1 immediately, and waited until funds were available to purchase the other.
Sadly by the time I saved up, the 2nd hat was sold out.
Then a couple of weeks later, to my joy, the particular hat came back in stock. I wasted little time in ordering that baby.
A couple of days later, my second hat arrived. I opened it the box and low and behold, the hat was not new. How did I know? Because there was a very long blonde hair in lodged inside hat.
I am not blonde. Well not today anyway.
I was straight on the phone to the shop customer care line, to explain my disappointment and disgust. I was asked to send photographic proof, which I did. I was given the usual corporate talk and was assured that this sort of thing doesn’t happen and that I would be offered a discount off the hat.
2 days later, after I emailed the photo, and after I made a 2nd phone call to customer services, I was offered the cost of postage refund – and that was it.
I decided that I couldn’t wear a hat that was a) sold as new when it clearly wasn’t and b) worn by some unknown person. I returned the hat, and received a full refund including postage costs.
The hat is back on the website, for sale as new! Some poor unsuspecting customer will purchase that hat unaware that it has been sent to at least 2 other people and worn by at least 1 other person.
Needless to say I will never purchase anything from that store again, but I’m pretty horrified that this item is being sold as new, when it obviously isn’t. Unlike clothes, you can’t put a straw hat in the washing machine, or easily clean it without considerable further expense.
Do you think this situation is ok, or should stores inform their customers that some items have been sold and returned, and cost the item accordingly? Do you think stores should be allowed to sell these items as new or should such items be sold as seconds?
When I tried the perfume on my skin, I found the instant hit was very floral, with the orange blossom coming through as the most dominant scent.
The dry down scent is beautifully light and delicate, with the jasmine and tuberose overtaking the orange blossom, with a back note of ylang ylang. I would suggest that this fragrance covers a wide age range – teenagers could wear this scent, alongside their mothers and grandmothers. I think this fragrance would work well for brides wanting a light, romantic fragrance for the ceremony, yet it would work equally well for the office. I would say you could wear Gabrielle as an every day fragrance, or for early evening events, but I don’t think it’s ‘strong’ enough to be worn for a very special evening event.
There are no warm or spicy notes in Gabrielle which I can detect, so I would say this was more of a Spring Summer fragrance as opposed to an Autumn Winter scent. It is also very feminine, with a powdery finish.
As for longevity, after than less than an hour of wear the scent had virtually disappeared, which I found disappointing. The price point at £79 for 50ml and £112 for 100ml is extremely high for this product, even if it is Chanel.
Much has been made of the specially designed bottle, which is lovely to hold with it’s smooth glass texture and angular lines. The colour of the perfume, the box it is packaged in, and the stopper are all a pretty soft gold, ideal for gifting. But as much as I like the packaging and the overall ‘look’, for me it is what’s inside that counts. I’m afraid to find out the environmental costs of manufacturing the packaging.
Meant to represent Gabrielle before she became Coco, on that score the theme of new fragrance works. It has a great, flowery, airy scent, but for all the glamorous advertising, the longevity of the Eau de Parfum, simply doesn’t quite live up to expectation or the hype. Many have complained that the scent is un traditional. un-Chanel like. But this is the point – the perfume is Chanel before she became Coco, hence the name Gabrielle. This is the striped back, unassuming, innocent version of Chanel, not yet the power house she was later to become.
Many have found the scent generic, uninspiring and not that aspirational – style over substance. On those points, I tend to agree.