17 March 2019

Kalissi AW19

Kalissi AW19

Vibrant and playful are two such words I'd associate with womenswear label Kalissi after watching the AW19 collection sashay along the Fashion Scout runway. Loud colours and patterns dominate the quirky and extrovert designs by Christina Hrdlicka, complemented by fun and fanciful details like frilled cuffs, satin headscarves, and pearl embellishment.

In keeping with Kalissi's extroverted character, two of my favourite styles from the "Roial" collection appear in deep antithesis with each other, yet share a likeness in their vivid hues. The first, pictured immediately above, boasts a distinctly tropical flair in its floral print and palette of pink, orange and teal; more suited perhaps to a winter close to the equator. Whereas the second style, pictured beneath, is ostensibly Russian in its woolly coat and faux-fur cossack, albeit this particular ensemble would never go unnoticed on the streets of St Petersburg with its clownish partnership of bright pink and blue.

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11 March 2019

Sherlock & Sons Gin

Sherlock & Sons Gin

Nestled in the heart of Surrey, the charming village of Ripley straddles the old Portsmouth Road, formerly a principal route between London and the Royal Navy's main port. As you take a leisurely stroll across its green, pass by picturesque cottages, or pop in for a drink at one of its nautically named pubs, little would you suspect it was also home to an award-winning gin.

But it is precisely Ripley's historic connection with the Royal Navy that makes the village such a fitting location for Distillers of Surrey, the family-run business of Head Distiller Simon Sherlock and partner Lianne. In the 1700s, gin was widely believed to fight off various illnesses, and thus legislation was passed that all naval vessels had to take on board a specific quantity of this much loved spirit. To ensure the officers received gin of genuine quality, its strength was measured by soaking gunpowder - should the gunpowder fail to light, it was evidence the gin was diluted and did not meet the required 114 proof / 57% ABV, hence the term "Navy Strength" gin.

The Nautical Edition of Sherlock & Sons Gin, dressed in a navy blue label, was one of two gins that Distillers of Surrey launched with in summer of 2018. "In Ripley itself, you've got The Talbot Inn, where [Admiral] Nelson stayed," says Simon Sherlock. "You've got The Anchor, The Jovial Sailor, The Ship - all of the pubs have a nautical theme. So we had to launch a Navy Strength."

Ripley, Surrey Sherlock & Sons Gin

The other was the Solstice Edition at a less potent 42% ABV, distuinguishable by its pink label. Although initially produced as a limited batch alongside its Nautical sibling, its unexpected popularity earnt this gin a permanent place in the Sherlock & Sons repertoire. "We've got some elderflower, we've got pink grapefruit; it's light, slightly floral, really easy drinking, super smooth," describes Simon. "We set out to create all the gins as really smooth for sipping, you can drink them on the rocks."

Prior to my interview with Simon at the Ripley Farmers' Market, I had sampled the Solstice Edition over ice at Camouflage Bar in nearby West Byfleet. Understandably, drinking gin sans tonic water isn't to everyone's taste, but sometimes there are flavours one might miss after adding the traditional tonic, which I curiously discovered with this particular gin. As Simon himself explains, "There is kind of a background spice to it on its own, but there is no spice in the gin. It's confusing. The second you open it up with tonic, it just goes really smooth and you pick up more on the floral."

Sherlock & Sons Gin Ripley, Surrey Ripley, Surrey

Distillers of Surrey launched 9th June 2018 on World Gin Day, but within a matter of months the company was releasing its third product, the Aromatic Edition, dressed in a sage green label that not only communicates the gin's herbal palate, but equally mirrors the numerous examples of pale green seen throughout Ripley Village. This is my personal favourite among the three Sherlock & Sons editions, its herbal botanicals bringing a fresh and distinctive flavour to a chilled gin and tonic. The World Gin Awards seem to agree, having received Gold in the London Dry Gin category.

Besides the taste, however, the best part of this gin is its conscientious approach to local ingredients, hence the brand's tagline, "Quintessentially English". Simon humorously describes the Aromatic Edition as "Brexit-proof", because none of its botanicals are sourced abroad. "Again, that's at 42% ABV," continues Simon, "but we've got in there rosemary from Priory Farm [outside Redhill], we've got bay leaf from The Clock House Restaurant in Ripley, we've got olives grown in Sussex, and we've got tea from Tregothnan in Cornwall. A real push on British ingredients."

Recently, Distillers of Surrey released a limited Valentine's Edition, a colour-changing variation of the already popular Solstice gin, dyed with butterfly peas and enjoying nuances of rose and Parma Violets. But this is the last of the company's product range for now, with sights set on building on the early success of the family business, including branded glasses and a deal with a major supermarket.

Sherlock & Sons Gin Ripley, Surrey Ripley, Surrey

But while there are hundreds of gins fighting for our lips, Simon, who was previously the Head Distiller for Silent Pool Gin, doesn't fear the competition. "There are over four hundred [gins] in the UK at the moment," he says. "Since our launch, there have been another three in Surrey. But everyone's platform is unique. Our big focus is on English ingredients, if we can. We're all about local, so we try to support local. We're based in Ripley, we're obviously at the Farmers' Market here, we're at Milford and Godalming Farmers' Markets, we just signed off to Kew Farmers' Market, and we're trying to go to as many local festivals as we can."

With plans to install a bigger still to accommodate the expanding business, the Sherlock family have much to look forward to in 2019. And although I am amazed by the level of success Distillers of Surrey have achieved in less than a year, it is very well-deserved for what I can confidently describe as a smooth and delicious product. If you fancy a sample yourself, you can find Simon or Lianne at your local Surrey farmers' market, or if my review has been enough to get your gin juices flowing, you can purchase a bottle online or at selected stockists.

Sherlock & Sons Gin

5 March 2019

Simon Mo AW19

Simon Mo AW19

The set of Simon Mo's AW19 presentation reminded me somewhat of my secondary school's science department; plain walls converging on an interactive whiteboard, yellow laboratory stools, enough potted plants to fill a small greenhouse, and desks cluttered with science journals and plastic measuring cylinders. All that was missing was the accidental scorch mark on the ceiling, courtesy of my Year 7 chemistry teacher.

But there are no school uniforms or white lab coats to be seen among Mo's "Crazy Herbalist" collection. Instead we are presented with smart winterwear and sports-luxe in shades of red, mint green, beige and dusty pink. Velvet tops and metallic dresses provide a drop of shimmer, but it's the oversized check and dogtooth patterns that really draw the eye, occasionally supplemented by a large pom-pom perched atop a likewise oversized hat.

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1 March 2019

Hellavagirl AW19

Hellavagirl AW19

Hellavagirl is the avant-garde label of Helen Woollams, whose AW19 runway at Fashion Scout opened with an expressive performance layered with religious imagery - a dancer, adorned with a golden crown embellished in jewels and red roses, casts away her blue velvet cloak at the sound of chiming bells to expose her vulnerable figure; modesty barely granted by red jewelled nipple pasties shaped like the Christian cross.

Following then this curious introduction, the "Wolves In The Walls" collection advances confidently through the Vestibule of Freemasons Hall, flaunting Woollam's opulent designs. Glitter and sequins bring sparkle to rich colours, while structural silhouettes are decorated with feathers and flowers. The collection is a far cry from the familiarity - and perhaps mediocrity - of commercial fashion, but isn't that precisely the point of avant-garde design? With exaggerated forms and theatrical nature at the heart of Woollam's brand, Hellavagirl represents eccentric fashion and its finest.

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© Joseph Kent / www.unlimitedbyjk.com

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