Slow British Fashion – A Showcase of Luxury, Artisan Fashion at the Ventnor Botanic Garden
Once Upon a Time… A writer lived in her imagination, and dreamt of the perfect, Alison-in-Wonderland afternoon Tea Party of Beautiful Ideas – an artisan British fashion show and a talk by the organic beauty doctor, Dr Mariano Spiezia, who would offer spellbinding ways to be beautiful inside and out.
By the time I reached the very formative age of twelve and three quarters, I already had three highly developed passions in life: Firstly, devouring novels, especially Jane Eyre over and over again with my bedroom door locked, so that I could safely bask in the feverish, girlish fantasy of imagining myself married to the bewildering yet impossibly magnetic Mr Rochester!
To that you can add an extraordinary love of beauty and dressing up not down – I even had my own little museum of costume in my Wendy House – and last but not least, eating food that tasted thoroughly real and delicious, as opposed to plastic, artificial and fake.
Not surprisingly, when I grew up I became a journalist and fashion director, and for the next fifteen years – I dreamt up Flights of Fantasy interviews and fashion stories for The Times Magazine, You and Mirror Group. My subjects were the cultural icons of the day – up and coming actresses, female adventurers, super models and film icons such as: Kiera Knightley, Sienna Miller, Iman, Helena Christiansen, Naomi Watts and Clive Owen. I loved storytelling and carried out each assignment with a quiet determination and dash of make believe and English Eccentric whimsy.
At the same time, driven by my taste buds, I learnt to cook, discovered real food, as opposed to food that tasted of glue and sawdust and increasingly, I began to seek out ways to live an authentic life, shopping in farmers’ markets and signing up to a local box scheme.
All these passions are intertwined in the fabric of my everyday life, and they form the inspiration for the First Ethical Hedonist Tea Party, which took place in England’s hottest garden, The Ventnor Botanic Garden. This lush, sub tropical exclamation mark of a garden, nestles in the Victorian Undercliff, perched on the edge of England, as it falls away to The English Channel.
The Tea Party idea is beautifully simple. I wanted to take my world, the world of Ethical Hedonist, out into the wider world, invite some lovely women to tea (and men too) and share my vision for The Ethical Hedonist Magazine. My magazine is a startup magazine about culture and sustainability – with all the fun, inspiration and pleasure left in – because I am not a hair shirt sort of girl!
The afternoon began with an exquisite afternoon tea experience, fit for a modern Alice. Martyn Cutler, the chef at the Ventnor Botanic Garden learnt the craft of artisan baking in western France, and he shares my passion for championing, organic, local and wild-crafted ingredients at the garden’s new restaurant Edulis, which rather promisingly means fruitful in Latin. I asked Martyn to come up with an afternoon tea party where deliciousness and healthy decadence would rule the roost and enchant my guests.
The results were so amazing, even I felt like my seven-year-old self, as if handed the keys to the most magnificent cake shop. Martyn had stayed up most of the night before the party, giving free reign to his imagination with cakes, savories and luscious gateaux that were as colourful curious and inventive, as they were delicious. Anyone for edamame cake with roasted carrot miso, re-invented walnut cake with walnut oil and island yoghurt? Or the most heavenly macaroons jam packed with rhubarb vanilla cream – which would make a dreamy shade for a summer dress!
I love cake and making time for the civilized ritual of afternoon tea. It is positively life enhancing. I also like my cakes to be as guilt- free as possible!
As tea was served, the room became perfumed with the fragrant, aromatic aromas of Pukka’s magnificent tea selection, and everyone wanted to try their latest star on the tea galaxy – ‘Gorgeous Grey’ with a hint of lavender. This extraordinary new tea was formulated by Pukka’s tea maestro, Sebastian Pole – as a homage to Earl Grey, reinvented for a 21st Century audience. The tea is so smooth, and well balanced without a trace of bitterness. This exquisite new tea is destined to become the nation’s favourite afternoon tipple!
So, the stage was set, for The First Ethical Hedonist, Artisan Stars of London Fashion Week Catwalk Show – featuring Natalie, Erin and Tessa – all, just turned seventeen, pale, luminous-skinned island girls; and Becca, a stunning 6ft Amazonian beauty, from Liphook, in Hampshire.
With Rosemin, my brilliant trainee journalist and show production whiz at the helm – out came each girl wearing fluttering, artisan couture confections – all walnut wisp swirls and clouds of organza, tulle, satin and reinvented army camouflage. Then came the only rainwear you will want to be seen in this season and forever, made from umbrellas lost or found on The London Underground. How thoroughly ingenious is that?
The featured fashion houses are all small, British ateliers and include: Ecoluxe – a couture collective of incendiary London Fashion Week stars including – By Stamo, a twinkling magpie’s soul of a designer. Stamo dreams up gowns inspired by classical couture techniques and then cleverly reworks them with a sustainable twist that would make a forties housewife sigh with admiration.
The highlights included: A sheer camouflage gown that hugged the contours of the body, and boasted a wonderful Elizabethan ruff and puddle train. I couldn’t help thinking that this was a dress made for a curvaceous goddess, such as Beyonce or Angelina Jolie. The next moment, everyone was lost in admiration for the paint box red, patchwork mac, with iconic scenes of London. While a few sighs were heard, when Becca stepped out in the mini mouse bow, bubble LBD, which was just ridiculously cute and full of ladylike charm.
I knew too, that my audience would love the story behind Makepiece, an artisan knitwear label, based in Hebden Bridge. Beate Kubitz and ?Nicola Sherlock have their own flock of sheep and conjure up the most alluring, sensuous, gossamer dresses, capes and the piece de resistance – a paneled black and white fishtail, form-fitting skirt, which was straight out of Cecil Beaton’s wonderfully theatrical wardrobe for Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady – and divinely flattering and wearable.
To add an element of surprise, I also chose to feature some eye-catching sustainable T-shirts in organic cotton and bamboo by the Princes of Eco Surf chic – Rapanui. John, who should soon be modeling on the catwalks of London, Milan and New York – looked extraordinary, and was beautiful man, inside and out. He was aided and abetted by his good friend, the extraordinary Alex. It was Alex who gallantly stepped in at the last minute to help with social media, the music for the show, and kept our spirits up when we were tired, and soon revealed a great, natural gift for stand up. No doubt, we will soon be watching him entertain us.
The show closed with the peerless, ravishing wedding gowns of Atelier Tammam – one of the hottest, up and coming bridal fashion houses in London, based in literary Bloomsbury. My favourite gown was the Veronica. This was a haute couture work of art, with its crisp, defined tulip shape skirt, side panels and demure, hand embellished lace bodice. The designer, Lucy Tammam tells me that this fairytale dress was inspired by the timeless elegance of the celebrated wedding gown worn by Grace Kelly to wed her prince in 1956.
After a short interval, it was time for the finale. This was a talk by Dr Mariano Spiezia MD, the charismatic founder of Inlight Organic Skincare in Cornwall. This remarkable A&E doctor from Sorrento, in Italy, came to Cornwall on holiday with his family, fell in love, with its wild, natural beauty and never left. Instead he stayed on, and the native wild flowers, herbs and plants inspired him to make his remarkable artisan, active beauty elixirs, certified 100% organic by the Soil Association. At last the organic beauty revolution had begun.
Dr Spiezia kept us utterly spellbound as he wove a magic carpet ride journey through Culpepper, the kingdom of plants, quantum mechanics and finally some wonderful tips on how you cannot divorce beauty or happiness from health and wellbeing, what your eat, or how you feel inside. When the afternoon came to and end, the audience rose to their feet and gave me a standing ovation and it was then that I knew that all the daydreaming, the planning, the hard work and ideals had found an audience – and that is what makes it all worthwhile. This is just the beginning of a very magnificent adventure.
Now, I hope you enjoy the experience online, and I will have exciting news of more Ethical Hedonist events in London and elsewhere very soon.
Alison Jane – Founder and Editor-in-Chief, The Ethical Hedonist.
Tea Party Fashion and Beauty Credits, Stockists & SPECIAL OFFERS for EH Readers.
Conceived and Created By Alison Jane Reid – Feature Writer and Editor-in-Chief – The Ethical Hedonist Magazine. Alison Jane’s Journalist trainee and show production assistant, Rosemin Anderson. Fashion Reportage Photography:
By Jo Monck www.jo-monck-phototography.co.uk All rights reserved. Copyright Jo Monck/Alison Jane Reid. Hair and makeup designed by Vicki Ellis: email email@example.com, assisted by Fern, using organic beauty elixirs By Inlight-online.co.uk and Faerie Organic Makeup from – www.faerieorganic.com SPECIAL OFFER – Quote Ethical 13 for a 10% discount on this pristine, gorgeous range of organic, vegan makeup.
Thanks to models: Becca, Erin, Tess, Natalie, (also known as Isabelle L’Amour www. and to Natalie’s mum Carol for helping out backstage ) Plus John and Alex our male models. Music, social media and general problem solver: Alex Watts. Thanks to London interns: Maria Roisin. Location: The Ventnor Botanic Garden, Isle of Wight, www.botanic.co.uk
Delicious life-enhancing organic teas by www.pukkaherbs.com
Thanks also to Red Funnel: www.redfunnel.co.uk for supporting the first Ethical Hedonist Magazine Fashion Tea Party.
Natalie wears -Strapless silk marrocain Octopus gown, with contrast hot pink silk satin tail, £2,100, Made in England, to order, By Stamo at Ecoluxe London. Please call – 07765 292990 or email: www.stamo.co.uk Quote EH Allure for a 5% discount. Website and boutique coming soon.
Tessa wears a form-fitting, full length black and white, intricately constructed fishtail skirt, £449.00 and matching bustier top, £249.00; both by Makepiece. www.makepiece.co.uk
Erin wears – One of a kind raincoat, £380.00, by Supported by Rain, at Ecoluxe London, featuring iconic London Scenes. For more details or to buy – Tel 07765 292990, www.stamo.co.uk email firstname.lastname@example.org please quote EH Allure for a special 5% discount. This exquisite mac is made from recycled umbrellas collected from the London Underground by the Salvation Army. A donation is made to the charity to support their youth club activities. Once it is gone, it is gone! There is only one.
Tessa wears – 1Million Dollar Raincoat by Supported By Rain, at Ecoluxe, £380.00, featuring recycled umbrellas as before. Underneath she is wearing a full-length, sheer gown with ruff detail in hunting UK mainland camouflage, £820.00, By Stamo for Ecoluxe London. Tel 07765 292990, www.stamo.co.uk email email@example.com Quote EH Allure for a 5% discount. Shoes model’s own.
Natalie wears – The Veronica wedding gown, from £2,800, from Atelier Tammam, Erin wears a couture, hand-embellished peacocks and roses gown, £5,000.00; to order from Atelier Tammam: www.ateliertammam.co.uk Tessa wears fishtail skirt and bodice, as before by Makepiece : www.makepiece.co.uk
Tessa wears the one of a kind Million Dollar raincoat by Supported by Rain; over a Hunting Camouflage gown with Elizabethan ruff detail by Stamo; all from Ecoluxe London. www.stamo.co.uk
Becca wears – a handmade, one of a kind duster coat, POA, by Lu Flux, www.luxflux.com; shoes model’s own.
Becca wears – a cocktail dress to break hearts in wool crepe with an organza bubble, lined in silk, £850.00, Made in England, By Stamo at Ecoluxe, as before firstname.lastname@example.org email email@example.com Quote EH Allure for 5% discount.
Tessa wears – 1Million Dollar Raincoat by Supported By Rain, at Ecoluxe, £380.00, featuring recycled umbrellas as before. Underneath she is wearing a full-length, sheer gown with ruff detail in hunting UK mainland camouflage, £820.00, By Stamo for Ecoluxe London. Tel 07765 292990, email www.stamo.co.uk Quote EH Allure for a 5% discount. Shoes
Natalie wears a gossamer, form-fitting shift dress with contrast white piping in sheer Leicester wool by Makepiece – from The field to the hanger. www.makepiece.co.uk
John wears a bamboo and organic cotton T-shirt featuring alternative forms of energy symbols, £24.95, by Rapanui ; www.rapanuiclothing.co.uk
Alex wears an organic, Save Our Seas T-shirt, £24.95, by Rapanui : www.rapanuiclothing.co.uk
Natalie wears – The Veronica wedding gown, from £2,800, ready to wear or to order, at Atelier Tammam, London, www.ateliertammam.co.uk; This exquisite, fashion work of art is inspired by her Serene Highness, Prince Grace of Monaco’s 1956 wedding dress. The gown features a central heart shaped- skirt, train and form-fitting lace bodice. The gown is made in peace silk and features English lace. ***** Special offer to EH readers. Please quote Ethical Hedonist when ordering your gown to receive an exquisite peace silk peacock, heirloom scarf to keep, wear and treasure, worth £150.00. Please note all couture gowns require a fitting at the atelier.
Becca wears – a cocktail dress to break hearts in wool crepe with an organza bubble, lined in silk, £850.00, Made in England, By Stamo at Ecoluxe, as before: www.stamo.co.uk Quote EH Allure for 5% discount.
Team Picture – Alison Jane wears a vintage Aquascutum ‘New Look dress with the Million Dollar raincoat, By Supported By Rain, at Ecoluxe London, for details, www.stamo.co.uk quote EH Allure for 5% discount. Rosemin wears a cowl-necked sweater dress, £336.00, by Makepiece, www.makepiece.co.uk ; Quote EH4ewe for a 5% discount
Becca wears – Black wool tuxedo jacket with silk ruffle tail, £820, By Stamo at Ecoluxe London; www.stamo.co.uk
Erin wears – form-fitting marl grey and black braided cocktail dress in Leicester wool; £449.00, by Makepiece. Please quote EH4ewe for an exclusive 5% discount across the featured range: www.makepiece.co.uk, Tel 01706 815888 for more info or to order by phone.