Monthly Archives: March 2015

Thea Porter 70s Bohemian Chic Exhibition

Thea Porter Retrospective at the Fashion and Textile Museum

“Both fashion and interior decoration require that you take the most beautiful fabrics in the world and cover the body seductively”

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Thea Porter (1927 – 2000)

 

Thea Porter was a painter, interior designer and fashion designer.  She was passionate about textiles and has been described as the pioneer of hippy chic in the 60s and 70s.  The first retrospective of her work, at the Fashion and Textile Museum in London, gives a real insight into the designer, her life and her work, aided by her scrapbooks of letters, drawings and press clippings, which formed part of her unpublished memoir, Thea Porter’s Scrapbook.

Porter grew up in the Middle East in Jerusalem and Syria and her upbringing heavily influenced her interior and fashion designs.  After a period as an embassy wife in Beirut Thea moved to London in the mid 60s and  set up shop in Greek Street, Soho, selling furniture, homewares, textiles and clothing from Syria.  Visitors to the shop loved her textiles and asked her to make clothing and she  started designing menswear and then womenswear.  The abaya and the kaftan, both in luxurious fabrics, were two of Thea’s signature styles.

Her designs were snapped up by the jet set and Hollywood stars.  Liz Taylor and Barbara Streisand were both fans.  It is said that Barbara Streisand asked her to design a dress for every room in her Malibu home.  The Beatles purchased her interior accessories and Pink Floyd wore Thea’s clothes on the cover of their 1967 album the Piper Gates of Dawn.

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A recreation of Thea’s Mayfair flat with Suzani covered floor cushions, peacock upholstery,one of Thea’s designs front right and just seen a gold trimmed abaya in the background.

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One of Thea’s exotic coats displayed in a recreation of her Greek Street shop.  The coat is made from an Iraqi Samawa carpet cleverly cut to show the human figures and  animals typical of these carpets along the opening.

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Djellaba style tunic top from African batik and Chazara jackets featuring gold brocade and velvet.

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Left: One of Thea’s sketches with fabric she commissioned.  Right.  A gypsy style dress from Ikat fabric.

 

Thea Porter’s designs are now sought after collectors items and her legacy is clearly apparent in the 70s fashion revival today yet she isn’t as well-known as her contemporaries.  Her designs were popular amongst the rich and famous and were regularly featured in Vogue but she was a true creative and struggled with the business side of things, often consulting astrologers for business advice, so she didn’t have the financial success she deserved.  This carefully curated exhibition, featuring over 80 of her designs, her sketches and press clippings and a documentary on her life, gives her the recognition she deserves and is a must see for textile lovers.

You can see Thea Porter’s designs featured in Vogue photo shoots here.

To find out more about the exhibition, opening times, location etc. click here.

Mother’s Day Gift Ideas

 

Handcrafted Gifts With A Global Twist For Mother’s Day

Choose from a range of light radiating, hand beaten, copper ware from India, beautiful hand woven woollen blankets from Morocco and cushion covers hand woven by Mayan weavers using techniques handed down from mother to daughter over generations.

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Clockwise from top left: Sunflower Copper Tea Light Holder £19  |  San Andres Brocade hand woven cushion cover in lime and white £85  |  Copper and Brass Trinket Box £22  |  Hand woven Moroccan Pom Pom blanket in natural from £149  |  Sunflower Copper Tea Light Holder as above |  Oxchuc stripe cushion cover Kal £65  |  San Andres Brocade hand woven cushion cover in grey and taupe £85  |  Small Sea Urchin Vase White £22.

A Namibian Road Trip

One of my most memorable holidays was a three week road trip around Namibia in a slightly battered open back Hyundai truck.  Namibia is a vast country, the fifth largest in Africa, with a tiny population of 2.4 million, so you can drive for days and not see anyone just spectacular scenery, endless blue skies and an abundance of wildlife.  It’s the perfect place to unwind and enjoy the drive.  The highlights of my trip were:

 

Watching the sun rise over the sand dunes at Sossusvlei

Sossusvlei in the Namib desert, a landscape of contrasts with glowing orange dunes, piercing blue sky and white parched earth below. We climbed the Big Mama dune and looked down at the blistered landscape of the Dead Vlei valley.

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 Big Mama, a paw print in the cracked earth of Dead Vlei (valley) and the blackened skeletons of ancient camel thorn trees.

 

Seeing the ancient rock art at Twyfelfontein

Twyfelfontein is  a UNESCO World Heritage site, in the Kunene region in north-west Namibia, famous for its petroglyphs etched into the red sandstone by the San people over 2,000 years ago.

Twyfelfontein-Maud-interiorsAbove, the Lion Man, an animal with human toes, a kink in its tail and a hand at the tip said to be a human who has turned into a lion whilst in the spirit world.

 

Exploring the Skeleton Coast

We had to abandon our truck and fly to this remote region, part of the Namib desert and the least inhabited in Namibia.  It was worth the trip.  It’s a strangely beautiful coastline littered with shipwrecks and the bones of whales and seals.  We saw desert adapted elephants in the Hoanib river, went on walking safaris and met with some of the Himba people, Namibia’s last semi nomadic tribe.

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Top: endless dunes, the coast littered with driftwood, shipwrecks and whale bones, lunar landscapes.  Bottom left: a tiny (slightly larger than the end of a pair of sunglasses) but deadly scorpion in the sand.

Bottom right: desert adapted elephants

 

The wildlife

Driving through the countryside we spotted ostriches, baboons, antelope, oryx and camels.  We spent a few days at Etosha, one of Africa’s largest game parks and went on several self-drive game drives stopping at various waterholes and waiting and waiting and waiting until finally the animals started coming in to drink.

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Above: seals and dolphins surrounded our kayaks in Walvis Bay

 The people we met along the way

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We stopped and chatted to Sussie and her daughter selling Herero dolls in a makeshift wooden shack miles, from the nearest village, en route to Twyfelfontein.   They looked so cool and elegant in the sweltering midday sun and were very keen to have their photographs taken together and to be sent copies.

The ladies are dressed in the traditional dress of the Herero tribe; long hand sewn dresses padded out with petticoats based on the clothing worn by German settlers in the 1900s. This was a period of intense conflict and tens of thousands of Hereros lost their lives. The remaining women were forced to wear this style of dress to work in the households of the German settlers and have since adopted it as their own. The voluminous gowns are accompanied by a flat headdress which is designed to represent the horns of cattle as the Herereo are a pastoral cattle herding tribe.

 

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Our Himba guide at the Hoanib River camp near the Skeleton Coast took us to meet some Himba nearby.  We took maize meal as a gift and were welcomed into the homestead and given an insight into the culture and traditions of the Himba people.  This elderly lady showed us how to make Ofjizu, the red paste which the Himba cover themselves in to protect against the sun.  Above she is grinding the ochre stone which is then mixed with fat and aromatic herbs to create a paste which is applied daily.

The Himba, fed up with being misrepresented, have made their own film about their lives”The Himbas are Shooting”.  You can see a trailer for the film, which is based on traditional storytelling, here.

The cushions

This is where, nine years ago, I discovered these exotic hand painted and hand printed cushions.  I bought a couple for my kitchen, which I still have, and decided that when I opened my shop I would stock them.  You can view the collection here and read the story behind the collection here.

 

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Where to stay

We stayed at camps run by Wilderness Safaris, an eco travel operator committed to conserving wildlife and investing in local communities and would recommend them.