Thursday, September 27, 2012


Long lost cousins? Clue is in the moustache...

Eating out in Indian restaurants in London is something I said goodbye to a long time ago. My family are such geniuses with a curry (and samosas, idlis, dosas....) that it seems madness to hand over cash for food that's just so-so. And it's not just the food. Trading the old maroon flocked-wallpaper of the traditional curry houses for the bland contemporary styling of the new breed of pricy Indian restaurants doesn't fill me with joy either.

Then Dishoom burst on the scene. Based in London's Covent Garden but styled as a vintage Bombay cafe, it pays homage to an era when Iranian immigrants to Mumbai opened up cafes dishing out chilli cheese toast (spicy, melty bits of breaded goodness), red-hot chai, minty lamb chops and kulfi for dessert. These cafes are fast fading to become a mere footnote in Bombay's history, replaced by temples to American fast food like pizza and fried chicken. But the old cafes weren't just memorable for the food, but for a distinctive air that inside, time stood still. Fans whirred slowly overhead, people hung out for ages over a single cup of tea, and all around was quiet vintage decoration.

Dishoom Shoreditch (I'm desperate for one of those chairs)

Dishoom's attempt to preserve some of the old Bombay charm has gone down such a storm in London, it's opening a new branch in Shoreditch, East London in October. Dishoom's kitchens produce some phenomenally tasty food but it's not just that - they do everything with a big fat sense of humour. Whether it's serving a gin and tonic with a drop of angostura bitters in a vintage brown glass "medicine bottle", sepia portraits on the pale blue walls, or the retro Indian cosmetics in the loos.

The 'rulebook' at Dishoom Shoreditch

Air-con at Dishoom Shoreditch

Dishoom Chowpatty Beach, the summer pop-up on London's South Bank

On its own, this styling would feel like a cunning marketing ploy to tap into our current love affair with all things retro driven by a nostalgic yearning for anything vintage. But Dishoom is full of celebration - whether it's Holi (the Indian festival of colour) or its own tongue-in-cheek take on Valentine's day (Velan-Times Day).  When good design is infused with integrity - now that's when it really flies. Whatever the Dishoom-wallahs do, they seem to do with love. For food, for India, and for immigrants everywhere. 

Tastes every bit as good as it looks...

I've got a lovely bunch of coconuts. Dishoom, Covent Garden

All photo credits: Dishoom

Thursday, September 20, 2012


This has been a month of catching up on movies I didn't have time to see in the cinema, and this week was a Snow White extravaganza of back-to-back Mirror Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman. Not even the luscious Chris Hemsworth (of Thor fame) could save Snow White and the Huntsman for me, but Mirror Mirror on the other hand, was genius.

Throughout,  the uber-bling costumes and set design gave me the sneaky suspicion I was watching a Hollywood take on a Bollywood film, and the film just let rip at the end with a mad Bollywood-styled musical number sung by Snow White herself (played by Lily Collins, daughter of Phil). The lush set design is the work of Eiko Ishioka, a Japanese designer, who has collaborated with Mirror Mirror director Indian-American Tarsem Singh, on visually delicious films like The Cell.

What I love about the Mirror Mirror set design is that the Indian detail is a subtle influence, like the red peacock dress that Julia Roberts wears, and, as my sister's eagle eye spotted, the peacock feather detailing on the palace wall.

Ishioka herself died earlier this year, just before Mirror Mirror was released, but what a legacy she's left behind.

Here's J-Lo in the surreally genius The Cell:

 Bram Stoker's Dracula                                           Grace Jones

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


When I'm bored (by which I mean, when I'm on deadline), I like to try and work out the plot of old Bollywood movies just from the poster. This one is making me lose my grip on sanity. Why is there a tiny midget yanking on a bell? Why is that dude's face green? And why is sour-puss getting a pink rose? Send me your best caption and I'll send you a prize!


These posters aren't the most subtle, but they're brilliant because they each radiate personality (even if that personality is one that you would cross the street to avoid). Just as the distinctive glamour of old Hollywood (the sexy sizzle of Marilyn and the gamine quirkiness of Audrey) has been replaced by a homogenous army of stick-thin chicks with trout pouts, new Bollywood is populated by an identikit array of girls and boys with vaguely Western features and a 'wheatish complexion' (read an Indian matrimonial advert to know what that means).

The hand-painted posters and billboards of vintage Bollywood are as unique as its film stars were, and the images are now cherished for their kitschy cool. Indian graphics company Indian Hippy makes goodies like bags and pillows with the images on, but they've gone one better. They'll put your face on a vintage poster, and bob's your uncle, you're a Bollywood star!
You could, for instance, take a picture of you and your lover in a cab, slightly mashed, on the way home from a party (just guesswork here from looking at the photo), and transform yourselves into star-crossed lovers from the Moghul era:

Or what about a Bollywood-style memento of a wedding?

Personally, I'd pick this one. Feathered head-dress, chimpanzee-looking guy, weird nude on the floor. What more would I want from an evening in Paris?

Saturday, June 9, 2012


I should really call this post "What I Do When I'm Procrastinating". Just 24 hours to go until an intensive 3-week-long work trip to Indonesia, and instead of checking I've got my notebooks and dictaphone, I'm rearranging my bathroom shelf.

I have an excuse though - I just picked up these two blue saucers from Portobello market and they seem pretty happy holding my jingly jangly gold Indian-style jewellery. The ceramic saucers are European by design, but the saucer in the top left corner looked Rajasthani to me as I walked past the stall, even though it's apparently over a hundred years old, and hung out in some old English dude's manor house until recently. Oh and those cute silver circle earrings just about visible in the top right corner were made by my lovely flatmate and jewellery-maker extraordinaire. The earrings are mine but you can buy her other gorgeous stuff here.

Ok bathroom re-organised. Back to my packing. Sob.

Monday, June 4, 2012


The riotous colours of Bollywood are inherently kitsch, but mixing the two requires serious skillz. The mad colours, dazzling sequins, and general over-the-topness of Indian movies mean that if you get it wrong, the results will be so heinously tacky that you'll want to chuck it on the bonfire faster than you can scream "my eyes! my eyes!".

Item Number is a label that definitely gets it right, and though I only own a little clutch bag so far, I covet their entire range of accessories including clutch and tote bags, cushion covers, mugs, and notebooks. They've just brought out this new cotton and faux leather cummerband that would look pretty kickass on a white shirt.

Check out these babies...

Oscar-winning dialogue right here. On the left, the angry dude's saying "Bitch! Bastard! I'm going to drink your blood!!! She replies, "Listen, today don't drink blood, drink tea!" Make sense? It doesn't have to! It's Bollywood!

This is my one. Snazzy no? She lives on my bedroom shelf.

This smouldering lady is Rekha, legendary Bollywood goddess

Monday, May 14, 2012


Meditate, levitate, animate. Brilliant advice for a grey Monday morning (Hello London, this is summer? really?). I spotted this painting over on Prash's blog and almost want to use it as a happy little screensaver. Prash's art is always gorgeously intricate yet never overwhelming - there's something super-calming about his style. He sketches extensively throughout his travels around the world, stopping here and there to illustrate children's books or design murals for hippy dippy restaurants in Goa.


Prash also exhibits at a brilliant Bangalore store called the Plantation House (I'll post more on that lovely fashion/art/homeware store soon), and these images are from a previous exhibition called The Blue Matchbox.

Thursday, May 10, 2012


Bonkers Indian fashion label Sofake (created by Mumbai-based chicks Sukriti Grover and Sapna Bhavnani) showed a style during Lakme Fashion Week last month called Kathorian - which stamps the mask-like make up of a traditional Indian dance called Kathakali with the frou-frou frills and extravagant shapes of the Victorian era (I love the mish-mash of styles so much I've used a tiny snapshot in this blog's logo). Their runway stuff may be a little hard to wear when you pop to the shops for a pint of milk, but the Spring/Summer 2012 collection is black-and-white magic. 

And by a happy coinkidink, Kiran, who models the Spring/Summer stuff below, also did a brilliant job of dyeing my hair deep purple last year, as she works in Bhavnani's fab Mumbai hair salon called Mad or Wot.


I lived in Mumbai in 2010, which sounds cool except I was stuck in the not-so-cool northern suburb of Andheri. Bandra is where it's at. It's a tiny little area jam-packed with more shops, restaurants, and bars than you'd know what to do with and in most cafes in the middle of the day, you'd find a motley crew of musicians singing their latest compositions to each others, grumpy writers bashing on their laptops, and out-of-work actors gossiping about why Pinky made it into the latest Bollywood blockbuster and Bunty didn't. I love it. In my near-daily pilgrimage to Bandra, I almost always stopped at Attic, a teeny tiny store that has madly colourful mix of fashion, baubles, and home stuff.  

Check out this necklace they've just got in their store. I want it now!

ps: if you're ever in Bandra, have a drink and bite to eat in one of my favourite places ever - the Pali Village Cafe. It's all vintage greeny-blue inside, wrought iron, and sparkly lamps. I could seriously live there. 


Indians are geniuses at many things but being on time really isn't one of them. I could have read War and Peace a hundred times over in the time I've spent waiting for my brethren who run on what creative studio Hyphen calls Indian Stretchable Time

The ish watch with its off-kilter numbers brilliantly pokes fun at Indians' perennial lateness. Hyphen may only be a year old, and this is its first baby, but if co-founder and former advertising guru Prasanna Sankhe keeps inventing products like this, I can't wait to see what's next. Will the watch help anyone be on time for a change? We'll have to wait and see I guess.   

Monday, May 7, 2012


Nina Paley has got to be one of my favourite animators. I've been re-watching her brilliant mash-up of Hindu mythology and blues music called Sita Sings the Blues, based on the ancient Hindu story of Rama and Sita. 

It's an epic story but here's the crash course: he's a god, she's his queen; she gets kidnapped by a demon; he saves her but then tests their marriage by making her walk through fire to prove her innocence. (Not such a feminist, that Rama.) 

While travelling in India after her own marriage fell apart, Nina mixed slices of her own life with those of Rama and Sita's to create a genius modern take on an old story, with some moody blues music thrown in. 

Paley's animation style changes wildly throughout the film, from scratchy basic line drawings of her life in New York to sumptuous, intricate sketches when she cuts to Rama and Sita, but somehow it all hangs together. These are a couple of the gorgeous snapshots, but though the images are lush, the film's even better.


Sunday, May 6, 2012


WETHEPPL is the brainchild of a groovy group of Mumbai hipsters. They're sort of like a bunch of mad, creative scientists who experiment with ideas on fashion, music, and poetry, amongst other things. And their latest spin on Indian textiles is making me hyperventilate with its gorgeousness. First up, check out this buttery soft shirt called the 'Camiz'. 

It mixes up the group's "favourite elements of the lightest shirt, kurta, and sweatshirt." Depending on the style you want to rock, you could be The Doctor, the Architect, the Writer, the Professor, the Engineer, the Ninja - or if you want to work the dead celeb vibe, go for Che Guevara or Michael Jackson. 

That was just a taster. Now, one of WETHEPPL's fashion lines NorBlack NorWhite has just launched its spring line full of these heart-stopping pretties. So far, they've only been stocking their goodies in India, Japan and Canada, but world domination probably isn't too far away. 

Ok this next one's cheating because it was from Autumn-Winter 2011, but it's too lush to leave out. 


Friday, May 4, 2012


Tell me this pic doesn't make you want to slap a crazy circus hat on your pretty little head? Ok, I might be alone in wanting to parade around with a tutti-frutti cone on my noggin, but this designer chick, Masaba, twists Indian clothes into some mad hot shapes.

Anyone who can reinvent the sari (a design classic if there ever was one) is a freaking genius in my book. She's got Mumbai fashion types all hot and sweaty over her designs, and too right - check out more of her stuff below. 

(psst: a little red-hot gossip - she's also the daughter of West Indian cricketing superstar Viv Richards. If you don't know who he is, educate yourself, fools!)

Thursday, May 3, 2012



How's about some big love for our furry friends over at Chimp?

This Mumbai-based team come up with images that are totally bananas (lame pun fully intended) and slap them on t-shirts, mugs, and bags.

Their mix of comic-book kitsch and the trademark Indian love of puns rock my world.