I spy with my little eye... a coffee with designer Sandra Mansour.

Lebanese designer Sandra Mansour studied arts in Geneva before returning to Lebanon to work with Elie Saab. With him, she learned the difference between ready-to-wear and couture and got used to playing with materials, volumes, cuts, and colours. After passing by Paris and the Instituto Marangoni for a master's degree in fashion design, Sandra came back to Beirut where she establish her brand.
Her style is simple and elegant. She plays with fabrics and transparence more than volume and structure, it is wearable and discreet, very European.
Have a look at her collections here.

HOB: If you could live in a painting, which one would it be?
S.M.: Anywhere in the Sistine chapel's ceiling, by Michel-Angelo.

HOB: If you could live in a different era, which one would you pick and why?
S.M.: I would have loved to live in the Golden Era of the 50's, for all its beauty and prosperity.

HOB: What piece of clothing reminds you of your mother?
S.M.: An elegant pair of retro pumps.

HOB: What scent takes you right back to your childhood?
S.M.: The scent of nature after the rain reminds me of our family house in the mountains.

HOB: When do you feel on holiday?
S.M.: Everytime I feel the sun on my cheeks.

HOB: What designer would you take with you on a camel ride?
S.M.: Georgio Armani I guess, just to ask him how he manages to create and monitor all of his businesses!

HOB: Your favourite recipe to make?
S.M.: Consistent salads that are quick and easy to make.

HOB: Best piece of advice you were ever given?
S.M.: "Be the change you want to see in the world".

HOB: What book changed your life?
S.M.: Not any yet!

HOB: The movie you've watched already 30 times but might watch again tonight?
S.M.: The sound of music.

HOB: Your 3 favourite spots in Beirut?
S.M.: 1- The "Raouche" seaside
2- the old port of "Jbeil"
3- the charming streets of our old Beirut

I spy with my little eye... creative writing courses in Dubai.

I often feel like Dubai is a safe city. In terms of security, which is great, but also in terms of creativity, not so great. So when I heard about Hayley Doyle creative writing courses, I instantly wanted to attend. I did, and I am happy to report there is hope for all budding writers in the UAE! Hayley is a writer and an actress, she studied creative writing in Liverpool and is sharing all her tricks to exercise the mind and the pen to think, imagine, but also deliver quality writing. Her advice is sharp, precise, practical and useful. She is down-to-earth, humble, cheerful, full of energy, gentle and stuck in the 60's, I could not not talk about her and the work she does. 
So if you feel like training that pen of yours and finally writing that book you've been thinking about for so long now, you can contact her at: creativewritingdubai@gmail.com
She charges 700aed for four 90min sessions. 
I have a feeling you might hear from her again on HOB...

I spy with my little eye... Vintage Yves Saint Laurent.

When Bottega Veneta launches a local monogram service in Dubai, I show up with my Yves Saint Laurent vintage and may I add colourful dress! I like the idea of a monogram, it's always a nice touch, especially for men who don't get to accessorise as much as we, ladies, do. Between Eid and soon Christmas, it's the perfect timing to try this novelty! And the little plus? The pieces are ready for collection within 24h! Simple and efficient.

I spy with my little eye... a tribute to Olga.

Who's Olga? She was my great grandmother and proud owner of this fantastic 1930's black lace dress I was lucky enough to inherit. Olga was chic, sexy, and smoked like a chimney. She was known for lining up 3 cigarettes on the edge of a table before she started painting her nails so that she would be able to pick them up without smudging the fresh nailpolish. That's how much of a nicotine addict she was. So apologies in advance, I do not smoke and do not encourage this habit but I had to involve a cigarette in this photoshoot, if only to respect Olga's memory, and to show you this little treasure I found in the south of France this summer: a 1920's cigarette holder with the integrated lighter.
Now you will spot a little one in these pictures: meet 3 months old Thatcher. He stayed with me for one week only and needs a home in Dubai. For those wondering, he didn't damage my lace dress, he is actually very gentle and loves cuddling. If you want to know more about little Thatch, leave a comment or send me an email.

Back to the 1930's.

Introducing Thatcher!

My new cigarette holder (Yes, I do not smoke. Yes I had no rational reason to buy it.)


Thatch, enjoying the lace.

I spy with my little eye... a coffee with fashion photographer Jonathan Bookallil.

I met Jonathan Bookallil on his first trip to the Middle East, during Fashion Forward, he was giving a talk on Fashion Photography. Born and raised in Australia, he spent his childhood running from studio to studio with his mother who was a fashion editor. He decided around the age of 16 that he wanted to capture women beauty for a living and moved to London at 19 to gain experience and build a portfolio. He quickly started shooting for magazines like Elle, Sky, Marie-Claire, Cosmopolitan, and relocated in the 90's in New York. Working mostly on woman ready-to-wear, he works works for brands, magazines, celebrities like the Beckhams, Elizabeth Hurley, Heid Klum etc... His style is classical, with an edge, a mix of all his influences: childhood, London, NYC, Australia. His favourite spot to shoot? The beach. His worst souvenir? An outdoor photoshoot, he was fixing the camera on quite high on the tripod when a wave of Japanese tourist flooded him and his team, causing the camera to slip through his fingers: "I can still see this over expensive camera falling on the ground in slow motion and smashing through smithereens, worst nightmare ever!".
I was lucky enough to catch him on his Dubai tour and take him (and his patience) through the HOB interview. "Wow, you're digging!", yes, yes I am, I love torturing fashion photographers. Jonathan, thank you for taking the time!
If you want to collaborate with Jonthan, contact Capital D Studio.

HOB: If you could live in a painting, which one would it be?
J.B.: Pass!

HOB: If you could live in a different era?
J.B.: the late 60's, that's when everything started. The music was fantastic, such an inspiration!

HOB: What piece of clothing reminds you of your mother?
J.B.: It's not one piece, it's the bags of clothes I used to carry with her from one photoshoot to an other.

HOB: What scent takes you right back to your childhood?
J.B.: Oatmeal porridge with brown sugar, it's my childhood breakfast. Freshly cut grass and the beach are also great olfactory memories.

HOB: When do you feel on holiday?
J.B.: On the beach.

HOB: What designer would you take on a camel ride with you?
J.B.: definitively Tom Ford! I met him and he is fantastic!

HOB: Your favourite recipe to make?
J.B.: Roast chicken. I'm very good at BBQs.

HOB: Best piece of advice you were ever given?
J.B.: "Trust your instincts."

HOB: What book changed your life? 
J.B.: "Shogun" by James Clavell.

HOB: The movie you've watched already 30 times but might watch again tonight?
J.B.: The Godfather 2.

HOB: Your 3 favourite spots in NYC?
J.B.: 1- The roof top at Soho House.
2- The Chinese restaurant Nom Wah.
3- Montreal

I spy with my little eye... Essa flowers and lingerie.

The second show I'd like to share with you is Essa's. General impression: classic Dubai. Floaty dresses, soft colours, no surprise on the volumes or patterns. If you follow me you know I am rarely harsh and would rather encourage than just criticise for the sake of it but I think this season I was disappointed by the general lack of audacity. And when I say audacity I mean creativity: turning a ready-to-wear collection into a lingerie show isn't bold, it's just easy and it's been done already (like the nailpolish on the male models. A tribute to Marc Jacobs?). Come on Middle East, wake up!

I spy with my little eye... Ezra's misunderstanding.

I cannot talk about the shows I didn't attend so I will share my impressions with you on 2 collections starting today with Ezra. I'm sorry to say that I didn't get his show. I didn't understand the themes, they were all entangled, I got confused by the constant mix of inspirations, some of the models could barely walk, I just didn't get the structure of the collection nor the mise-en-scene.
Now talking about the pieces, I loved the bold shoulders, I thought there was a real effort of volumes and I want to salute that. The fabrics were interesting, quite flowing (very very middle eastern style), the absence of pleats was nice and refreshing. 
But I thought the patterns were quite oldish and I definitively don't encourage the use of fringes (nobody's been wearing them since the 70's and there's a reason to that). I can't say I was surprised by that collection, but I did appreciate the volume on the following pieces:

I spy with my little eye... Fashion Forward and backwards.

Those oblivious to the Dubai fashion scene will probably have no clue what I'm talking about here but those living in fashionistaland as I like to call it, are well aware that last week the sandpit hosted the 2nd season of Fashion Forward aka Dubai Fashion Week. The first session I thought was interesting, I loved the talks, the fact that all the shows were on the same location, the logistics were pretty easy and efficient, sparing the fashion community a few sprained ankles (I sometimes think you should get a licence to wear over 5cm heels, after all there is a test to take for every other transport). So what was the 2nd edition like?
Well the only noticeable change was the Garden, an indoor space dedicated to accessories. Now as much as I appreciate the initiative, I deplore a lack of creativity in that area in the Middle East. I feel that if you are not into neon, studs or teeny tiny strings of gold, there's nothing for you. What about gems, what about goth inspiration, what about vintage, flowers, geometric... there is still so much to do!
I thought the installation in the corridor was good on an aesthetical point of view but wasn't the best way to showcase the pieces since the only one you could properly see was the first one (out of 10).
I have a special request to the Fashion Forward team: next season, can we have better catering? I really don't mind the small menu but the quality of the sandwiches is not fantastic. It does the trick between 2 talks but feeling bloated isn't really fashionable.
Now on the bright side, the team is always as smiley and helpful and that is a huge plus. It's easy to get into the shows if you have the proper invite (pitchouns, I'm sorry but it's your responsibility to show up with your invite) and the quality of the talks was even better than last season.
Again, this is just my humble opinion.

The corridor installation. Pretty but not the best showcase if you ask me.

One of my favourite features of fashion week: the wall of phtographers!

Jewellery with matches, I say yay for creativity!

The gorgeous Dumye dolls.

I spy with my little eye... Verdi in Dubai.

Last week end, I was invited by Montegrappa to a gala celebrating Verdi's bicentennial at Raffles Hotel. The Italian luxury writing instruments will be teaming up with the Emirates Opera Projects, and Mohamad Hammami and Martyn Bagnall' Al Sharq Orchestra to perform Verdi's most famous operas such as " La donna รจ mobile" from Rigoletto, "Libiamo ne' lieti calici" from La Traviata, "Grand march" from Aida... Despite the acoustics not being ideal, I absolutely loved the opportunity to hear live classical music. I thought the way they highlighted emblematic pieces of each opera and played for 10 to 15 minutes between each course of the dinner was a good balance and worked well for the singers, the orchestra and the audience. I had forgotten how much I missed the opera and how easy it is to daydream when listenning to classical music (and yes, even if nobody will admit it, it's also easy to fall asleep, I will never forget that russian opera in Vienna... I woke up when the king died, but still have no idea why he was killed).  It was a real treat!

I spy with my little eye... the small dipper in my back.

You know that HOB is all about details. When a family member asked me if I ever noticed I had the small dipper in my back, I kept it in a corner of my mind for a while... In the 17th and 18th centuries, the courtesans use to create beauty spots in order to accentuate the paleness of their skin tone, but also to hide tiny imperfections such as spots herpes etc... These fake spots were usually made of black muslin and depending on where they were located on the body (that is to say if you had no flaws to hide), they had a special meaning. If placed near the eye, the beauty spot was called "The Passionate", placed in the corner of the lip it was called "The Kisser", under the lip was "The Cheeky", on the nose it was "The Sharpie", on the forehead "The Magnificent", on the cheek "The Courteous", on the breast "The Generous" etc... Nowadays, beauty spots are considered health threatening, they are practically the antichamber of skin cancer. Well I like mine: they tell a story. And in my back, they reflect the stars, I'm not going to complain about that.

I spy with my little eye... Gourmet sushis in Dubai.

When I heard that Sushi Art was opening in Dubai, I couldn't wait to see if it was as good as the French original restaurant! Sushi Art is a gourmet japanese delivery service that I used to treat myself to once or twice a month in Paris. I love how creative they are, there is always something new on the menu, like the foie gras sushis for example. It won't  appeal to everybody but I'm curious and I like the idea of something new and innovative in my plate. And if on top of that it looks pretty, I am won over!
Have a look at their Facebook page for updates.

I spy with my little eye... a 1940's look.

Souvenir from Roger Vivier's Virgule collection with Ushi. Polka dots and red lipstick, my favourite everyday look!

I spy with my little eye... more French cuisine in Dubai!

Last week I had dinner at La Serre for the first time. Located on Shaikh Mohammed Bin Rachid Boulevard, La Serre is La Petite Maison's chef own restaurant, which means: French Cuisine. The setting is simple, elegant and pristine, everything I like. The service is very attentive but not overwhelming and rather effective: the waiters actually know the menu, wine list, and I didn't spend half of the dinner trying to get their attention, which also mean I avoided the well known "restaurant stiff neck". Now I did get lost in the menu that is too extensive for me. I don't usually need more than 5 min to figure out what I want but I will be honest: I couldn't even read the whole thing, I was too hungry for that. So I went with a tuna carpaccio and a cep risotto. Both of them very fresh, tasty and quite light (I hate it when French chefs feel like they need to double the amount of butter and cream). The portions were french too: I actually managed to finish my plates for the first time since I came back to Dubai in September! Last but not least, I found the prices reasonable compared to La Petite Maison. 
All in all a very good spot for a date or a proper one-on-one catch up!

I spy with my little eye... Benetton through my vintage eye.

This week Ushi and I played with Benetton last collection, here's a sneak preview of the photoshoot. High waist, Mary-Janes, vintage hats and red lips, that's just me... 

I spy with my little eye... Latin America on a plate.

Last week I got invited by the Conrad Hotel to try their soon to open South American restaurant Izel. True to Latin America, it was an unexpected, spontaneous and very generous evening! The place is huge and offers a variety of ambiances: lounge, bar, terrace, cigar lounge, restaurant, and even a dance-floor with live Latin bands... The art on the walls is as eclectic as the cuisines on the plate: a little bit of Argentina, a hint of Colombia, a spread of Brazil, and a splash of mojito! My tiny stomach wasn't able to do justice to Izel's generosity. I enjoyed every bite of empanada, ceviche, steak and chocolate mousse but wasn't able to finish my plates, so Izel, I will certainly have to be back to finish what I, so enthusiastically started!
If you feel like a South American evening, follow Izel's facebook page for updates.

I spy with my little eye... a Benetton give-away.

Benetton and HOB are happy to team up for a competition for UAE residents only. 
To grab a 500 AED worth Benetton voucher and get a chance to freshen up your wardrobe, you need to:
1- like HOB's Facebook page.
2- like Benetton UAE's Facebook page.
3- Leave a comment on that post with your name, email address and tell me what Autumn piece you would invest on.
The winner will be announced on Monday 14th October.

Good luck pitchouns!

EDIT: The lucky winner of the Benetton voucher is Ayeth Thionghoy! Well done you, hope you will find the perfect sweater!

I spy with my little eye... Mary Katrantzou's 2014 Resort collection.

A few days ago I was invited to the presentation of Mary Katrantzou's new collection and I will admit I was blown away by the delicacy of the patterns. The colours are subtle, they reminded me of the early morning shades. The architecture of the pieces is simple but effective: as expected in Mary Katrantzou collections, the motifs, almost paintings, are key. The fabrics are strong enough to maintain a classic bearing, most of the outfits are knee-length and high waist based, my favourite combination, very 50's. It is a beautiful collection. 

I spy with my little eye... a night at the circus.

This week-end zebras, bearded women, tamers and lions gathered at DOSC for a birthday party. I'm not really used to fancy dressing but when you realise you have the whole outfit to play the tightrope walker in your closet, you might as well go for it. So my vintage 1920's hat, Peter Pan collar shirt, tutu and high heels got to boogie this week-end!

I spy with my little eye... Roger Vivier's commas.

Roger Vivier's new collection focuses on heels and punctuation: this season they innovate with the comma heel: reasonably high and conveniently comfortable. I like heels, I like punctuation, therefore I like this new collection. Remember: "Let's eat Grandpa" is not quite the same as "Let's eat, Grandpa". Punctuation can save lives.
I liked the emerald, pastel and gold palette, with a splash of embroidery, giving it a hint of baroque style. These are statement shoes that I can easily picture with a vintage black lace dress. Well done Roger Vivier!

Presenting the comma heel...

Ushi's cap smiling along with my polka dots.

Bringing baroque back!

Pastel sweetness.

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