Chinese New Year Chat

CNY

Happy Chinese New Year!

Lent has begun, and so has the auspicious year of the Ram/Goat!

🐑🐑🐑🐑

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The turning 23 consolation party is over, as is the Valentine’s chocolate binge-ing cry-fest, and all I have left are several empty, depressingly essay-less Word documents and a flabby post Christmas body. Seems to me like this horrible mixture of Lent and CNY is as good a time as any to make some resolutions to knuckle down and to work hard.

Have a good year folks.

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Dinner Party / Food Coma

ON THE MENUTaiwanese Dinner Yum

Just yesterday I caught myself starting a sentence with the phrase:
“When I was a teenager…”

😱 Cue internal screaming.

It’s probably because last Friday I turned the kind-of gross age of twenty-three that this feels particularly terrifying. Turning twenty-three is not an achievement. I’m not a sassy, Taylor Swift twenty-two anymore, and I don’t really want to celebrate the fact that I am now closer to twenty-five than my wild (not) teenage years.

The good news is, turning a new leaf and beginning my twenty-third year on the planet seems as good a reason as any to celebrate with a little dinner party with my lovely flatmates. Seeing as I’ve been thinking of heading back to Taipei this year, and I Iove any excuse to eat unholy amounts of Taiwanese food, we had a Saturday night feast of some of the easiest and nommiest Taiwanese dishes that you can whack together with a wok, minimal culinary skill, and a whole load of sticky rice.

Dishes 1-6

Taiwanese Dishes

One // Sticky Korean Sushi Rice
Two // Soy Sauce & Shiitake Mushroom Chicken
Three // Mangetout & Ginger Seafood (Kingshrimp + Scallops)
Four // Taiwanese Tomato+Egg
Five // TW BBQ Sauce Vegetables
Six // Stir-fry Broccoli

 I felt very mature and grown-up kicking my old age off with a dinner party (even if we voluntarily opted to have wine and red Schloer instead of wine). If you wanna make something like this, my cooking time in total was around 1&1/2 – 2 hours for a group of five guests, but boy is the result i.e. a mountain of steaming, delicious food, so totally worth it. Needless to say, if you live in a flat with said dinner guests, its almost impossible not to get help drafted in from all quarters.

Thank God.

PUDDING

Taiwanese Sago

I had the time to whip up a classic, super-easy Taiwanese dessert in the shape of Coconut Sago and Sweet Potato soup. It just requires a saucepan and those three ingredients – plus a healthy dose of sugar – which, according to my flatmates, is an exotic approximation of English rice pudding…. Though, if I’m honest, it wasn’t a real hit with the English.

But, I absolutely love this stuff. I think it’s even better after a night to stew to a thick porridge consistency, and the sweet potato has a lighter taste. I grew up with the stuff; folks you don’t know what you’re missing out on.

And, yes, I did eat it again for breakfast.

Nom.

TWENTY-THREE

How does it feel?
Different, actually.

I can feel the heady, impending threat and freedom of graduation just around the corner (yes, I’m one of those multiple gap/study abroad year oldies).  I know that real life, in all its delicious unemployment and assignmentlessness, calls with the summer sunshine.

Yes, I’m gut-wrenchingly sad that I think I’ll finally have to stop pretending be a hip (haha), baby-faced early twenty-something with a student loan… But maybe that means I get to level-up to a trendy, cool encroaching-on-my-mid-twenties-something who gets on with their parents and relishes the thought of starting a career.

But, I guess you’ll just have to watch this space and see how it turns out.

In the meantime,

Where’s that leftover dessert?

Signature

Interview: The Life of a Banana, PP Wong

The Life of a Banana

‘PP Wong has blazed a trail for future British Chinese novelists. The Life of a Banana is bursting with original and exciting flavours.’ – Ben Chu, The Independent

‘Life Of A Banana is so refreshingly distinct. Read it, and you will soon find yourself wanting more.’ – The Daily Mail

‘Revealing in its exploration of cultural and generational conflicts and moving in its optimism.’ – The Guardian

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This week I’ve caught up with acclaimed début author PP Wong, the first British Chinese author in the U.K. to secure a publishing deal, with Legend Press, for her novel The Life of a Banana. If you’ve not heard of it already, the question is why not! The book is a fierce and moving story of the life of a British Chinese childhood in London told by twelve year old protagonist, Xing Li.

I asked PP 5 questions about about her novel.

PP Wong

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INTERVIEW

1. When did The Life of A Banana begin for you? Was there a moment of inspiration for the novel itself?

When I was a child, I would max out my library card and have a stack of books next to my bed. I was a quiet nerd – so curling up with a good book was my idea of fun. It still is my idea of fun! I guess the only difference between me now and then is that now I don’t have such a bad haircut! I don’t remember reading any stories about Chinese kids when I was young. I did not have any Asian role models to look up to and in my imaginary games I would pretend to be blonde and white. I suppose The Life of A Banana was a story that I always had at the back of my mind. I had a deep longing to read a book about a British Chinese family – to have characters that I could call my own. I don’t think I had a specific moment of inspiration. It was more of a gradual process. The Life of a Banana was a story that was in my heart for many years. I suppose I hoped one day I would be brave enough to write it.

2. The Life of a Banana speaks candidly about modern-day racism in Britain towards ethnic minorities, what made you use a children’s novel, and Xing Li’s character in particular, as a way to approach the topic?

Even though the protagonist Xing Li is 12 years old, the novel was initially targeted at adults. However, the topics of bullying and prejudices are something many young people identify with too. My novel now comes under the “crossover” genre which means it’s for both adults and children. It has been wonderful seeing the positive impact The Life of a Banana has on readers both young and old.

I’ve spent my life moving between London and Singapore and am a mish-mash of two cultures. In this sense, my book is a mish-mash of opposites. I wanted to play around with darkness and light, humour and tears. The novel covers dark topics like mental illness and racist bullying but the light hearted and innocent approach Xing Li has balances the novel out. I like it that even though Xing Li goes through a number of horrible circumstances, she still retains her youthful, inquisitive nature.

3. You’re also the Editor-in-Chief for the website bananawriters.com, brilliant site! How/when did the site form, and did it coincide with your own experience of trying to get The Life of a Banana published?

It was difficult to get a UK publishing deal. After I signed with a publisher, I thought to myself, “There must be other Asian writers who are going through the same struggles that I’ve gone through. Maybe I should start a website?”

I did not know whether Bananawriters.com would be successful. But I felt that I could at least give it my best – even if I helped to encourage just one or two people it would be worth it. After the first couple of issues (and with many famous Asian authors being so supportive) Bananawriters.com started to explode.

4. Gudrun Jobst designed the cover for The Life of a Banana, did you have a say in the design, and what is your favourite aspect?

My wonderful UK publisher Legend Press included me in the publishing process every step of the way. They always asked for my feedback and were open to new ideas. Something I made clear was that I did not want my novel to have the generic cover that many Asian novels possess. For some reason, the cover of many Asian novels are red with Chinese symbols, cherry blossom or beautiful women with black, flowing hair. All that does is categorize all Asian authors in an “Asian genre” despite what topic or style the novel is written in.

I am glad that my publisher got where I was coming from. The cover Gudrun produced reflects what The Life of a Banana is – contemporary, dark, funny and quirky. My favourite aspect is actually on the back of the book where the tortoise is sitting on the ISBN number. Every time I see that, it makes me smile. I think the cover is like marmite – you either hate it or love it. But at least, the cover has an “opinion” and is not boring.

5. Finally, I hear Xing Li is your favourite character; Grandma is mine. What do you think Grandma would make of you?

She’d probably tell me off for not being too tidy and for my terrible Chinese with the British accent.

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I have to thank PP so much for featuring on Lose & Find,  The Life of a Banana is out in all good book stores and can be purchased for Kindle and Paperback:

Waterstones / Amazon / WH SmithBarnes & Noble

And of course, read more about PP on her website ppwongauthor.com.

But ’til next time folks, it’s bye from me

Charlotte xx

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Here Comes the Cold: AW Campaign Inspiration

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Puff Winter Parka Illustration

I’ve been in Shanghai for three weeks while late September blisters in the low thirties, but from Wujiaochang to Xiantiandi malls there’s a worrying trend decking the shelves, rails and mannequins: winter warms.

I’m talking tweed, heavy woollen jumpers and puffy parkas fit for the arctic – that promise to do nothing for my chubby cheeks. It’s hard to believe that the city who’s pavements were literally searing meat in high summer are about to plunge into the single digits and below, but the locals seems to think so, and I’m going by the old saying that it’s better to be prepared than look like an ice Popsicle… Or something along those lines.

We can thank the clever people in the design world for always being two seasons ahead of the rest of the world. In light of their forward thinking, I’m taking a quick nip around this years AW campaigns that were released this Spring to jog the old noodle for some parka palettes and insulating inspiration for the coming cold.

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MIU MIU

Photographers: Inez Van Lamsweerde & Vinoodh Matadin 
Models: 
Hind Sahli & Marina Nery; Adrianna Lima, Anne Verhert

MIU MIU AW 2013MIU MIU AW 2013

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So the shiny polyester-look puff coats may look daunting for any regularly sized person to pull off, but it’s also one of the biggest trends I’ve seen in the shops here in Shanghai. True, I’ve never spent a winter here, and have yet to see if these luminously painted items ever grace the streets (and if the ladies here have the chutzpah to do so), still – don’t knock what you don’t know! Certainly there’s a lot here in Miu Miu that’s prevalent across 2013’s AW campaigns: the below the knee hemline, long winter coats over short jackets, and the tendency towards traditional shapes and 1950s retro styles.

I adore the arts-scene background to this campaign, the girls high-ankle boots, chinched waist coats and neck-scarves are like the indulgent piece on a stage. Bringing back tights, and rich dark colours in one fell swoop.

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DKNY  

Photographer: Mikael Jansson
Model: Cara Delevigne

DKNY Cara Delevigne AW 2013DKNY Cara Delevigne AW 2013

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Who hasn’t seen the face of the goddess that is Cara Delevigne this year? Even those purposefully shunning the fashion world in some cave must have seen the dozens of campaigns this twenty year old wonder booked this year, not to mention the runways she’s been gracing of Fashion Weeks worldwide. Sigh…

It’s sepia warms for DKNY’s AW campaign. They’ve taken to the street trend and championed it full force for the winter, sticking to hipster chic (and big names) and stomping all over Urban Outfitters with the sheer expensiveness of what they can produce. From layered knits to concealed heel kickers, the practicality of the pieces get a big thumbs up here while I’m looking for winter inspiration. Thinking the dark olive and grey palletes are so versatile (I LOVE GREY), while chunky wool and leggings? What’s not to love?

The skateboard in this campaign does make me laugh though, I can only imagine someone seriously thinking: what’s more hipster than a skateboard in a fashion campaign? … I’m thinking maybe they should have tried a short board.

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ROBERTO CAVALLI

Photographer: Mario Testino

Roberto Cavalli AW 2013

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Roberto Cavalli’s AW campaign is so sharp it looks dangerous. From mixed sheen of leather and thick tweed, to the slick sweep of eyeliner their AW style is seriously cool. I’m thinking tweed has already made a huge come-back but it’s the jagged patterns, long coats and boy-cut lapels that are shaping up this winter. I love the ankle stopped trousers and boyish suits in Cavalli’s collection. Think the pleather is going to have to make an outing too…

There’s something I’ll always love about the blatantness of asian, african and white girls modelling together. Of course, I love seeing Asian girls modelling anything for big brands, considering how unrepresentented they are in the Fashion world. They sure are on the up.

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DOLCE & GABBANA

Photographer: Domenico Dolce
Models: Bianca Balti, Monica Bellucci, Kate King and Andreea Diaconu

Dolce and Gabbana AW 2013Dolce and Gabbana AW 2013

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Ah.

What is it about this campaign that makes it so beautiful?

There’s rich colours, laced and intricate patterns and the smart Oxford-meets-Spain style to the collection simply feels wonderful. There’s retro here, but it’s in a period-piece kind of feel, and true to form it’s reflected in the location of the shoot – not to mention the trimmed stubble male accessories in these shots.

The long winter length makes a re-appearance here, as well as a wider, high-scooped neck. It’s just shimmering with class, from the elegance of the updos, to the deep red lip. Tweed, of course makes it’s appearance, but I feel like a classy coat might take precedence over puff parka after this…

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GIVENCHY

Photographers: Mert & Marcus
Models:
Carine Roitfeld and Julia Restoin Roitfeld; Amanda Seyfried

Givenchy AW 2013

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Ow. The prints in the Givenchy AW campaign are just off hurting my eyes, but it’s so that I can’t look away. The Roitfield family’s mother/daughter combo of multi-clashing print is a little agonizing for the print-shy, but it’ certainly as beautiful as it is confusing.

By absolute contrast, Amanda Seyfried is looking a slouchy kind of hot (and yes, that’s totally possible) in a very clean interpretation of a London-esque grunge. From the baggy sweater to the plush frills and rose vs. bambi cartoon print, it’s a girl power trip that benefits from a striking dark lip and the blessing of black and white. It’s another move into a slightly androgynous, loose fitting look that seems to be echoed in the boy-cut long coats around these campaigns. And while you’re going to have hard work convincing this stubborn twenty something into any print, Givency, Amanda has me sold on some pretty grunge.

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MULBERRY

Photographer: Tim Walker
Model:
Cara Delevingne

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There’s so much to love about Tim Walker’s work with Mulberry; it’s put the designer on the map for me like nothing else possibly could have this year. I mean, Cara, owls and a little pretend tree? Who thinks up this kind of magic?!

Middle parting here is so chic, and the straight-lacedness of it all definitely fits the gorgeous coats in this feature. From the wonder open button and lapelled camel (which I have something shockingly similar of from Primark – £30 hush hush), to the off the shoulders black and clinical white pockets – there’s a classical palette of coats for every occasion. Button up collars, high necks and granddad collar, there’s an emphasis on layers and covering up here, and it comes across super slick as well as practical. There’s no cheeky short-skirt and wool tights+tall boots this winter…

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EMPORIO ARMANI

Photographer: Craig McDean

Models: Jacquelyn Jablonsky, Ruby Aldridge and Esther Heesc

Emporio Armani Jacquelyn Jablonski, Ruby Aldridge and Esther Heesch AW 2013Emporio Armani Jacquelyn Jablonski, Ruby Aldridge and Esther Heesch AW 2013Emporio Armani Jacquelyn Jablonski, Ruby Aldridge and Esther Heesch AW 2013

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There’s a reason there are three shots of Armani’s campaign to this post, and it’s 100% because there is just so much fashion inspiration, creation and beauty to appreciate for the coming season. From the period look, to the high class, and the elements of the totally steal-it-off-the-model-and-wear-right-now – I think these shots are absolutely to die for. As if this shoot wasn’t sensual enough, did you ever think it could be done with NO hair, ONLY hats, and MINIMAL skin?

I adore the pantaloon-esue billowing trousers which look oh so comfy, the lightness of the pale and pretty sweaters, the length to the trousers, skirts, and coats, the shimmer of brogues, and the deep, detailed prints. The work here is so classic, and high-fashion that it makes me shiver with how wearable and alive these 1930s reminiscent pieces are. If only I looked so good in a hat like that. Let alone a drop waist.

SO WHAT’S THE VERDICT?

I’m thinking of these things: long coats in above the knee with period-costume-esque loose but clean cut, thick knits, ankle-length skirts and trousers, printed grunge sweaters and fuffy jumpers, rich colours and pastels, (p)leather, concealed heels sneakers, messy updos and some drop earrings.

Hopefully you find some winter inspiration amongst this AW campaign round up! I know I’ve got some shopping ideas in mind…

Happy Shopping!

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Charlotte xx

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Statement Shoes: China

razz china shoes

It has to be in for when?!

When I came back from China last summer and got a plea for the editors of Razz My Berries to submit something for their summer edition ‘Style and Drift’, I hadn’t picked up a 2B pencil, let alone a paintbrush for about two years. Still, I knew I wanted to draw something. But I was also terrified that two years of artistic hibernation would have killed all my paint-soaked brain cells. The article was written. The equipment was hauled out dusty and mouldering from my cupboard. I had a blank page in front of me, and I had to do something with it.

Razz Shoe 2 Cycling Beijing paint edit
Razz Shoe 3 - Great Wall paint edit

Razz Shoe 1 - Emei Mountain 3099m Paint edit

And OK, so it’s not some of my best work; I was clearly out of practice and evidently, I hadn’t worked up the knowledge of post-editing (which the wonderful digital age has provided us with) quite yet. Those lines were dragged out, kicking and screaming, by the stress of a looming deadline. But as a rough and ready, quick blast illustration of some genuine fashion articles from the streets, mountains and walls of China? I’m fairly pleased, actually! To top it all off, the magazine gave me the OK and took my work off to be formatted and edited.

Clearly the ability to draw doesn’t die, it just sleeps quietly for a little while, and is, understandably, cranky when you wake it.

Don’t let your creativity hibernate.

Get in there and poke it with a stick.

I promise the results will be interesting, if nothing else.

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(I hope the bemused ladies who let me photograph their scandalous shoes are proud too.)

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Article written for Razz My Berries Magazine |Issue 12. Words and illustrations my own.