Welcome to the Ex-Official Blog of Writer, Presenter & Crafts Expert Momtaz Begum-Hossain which stopped being active on 31st August 2016.

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Wednesday 26 October 2011

Meeting my hero: Alexander McCall Smith

The literary legend

Sometimes one has to write a blog post immediately: everything else can be put on hold (even watching the new episode of Fresh Meat which is about to start!) And despite being exhausted and hungry, I can’t concentrate on anything else other than sharing how excited and buzzing I am! This evening I very unexpectedly met my hero; the author Alexander McCall Smith.
A week ago I found out he was giving a reading at Foyles bookstore but that it was ‘sold out.’ Not one to give up, I turned up anyway. When I arrived and my name wasn’t on the list I was looked at suspiciously (I think they knew I was lying when I said my name was Momtaz and I had booked!), but was then told there was a couple of spare seats at the back.

I took my place, and seconds later he entered the room, wearing the biggest and warmest smile a gentleman could ever have. He laughed from the moment he arrived to the moment he left. And so began a most fascinating hour where he was interviewed about the characters in his books, all of whom he gave insights and tales about; from Precious Ramotswe, the star of 12 No.1 Ladies Detective Agency Books, Bertie, the six year old Italian boy from the 44 Scotland Street series and amateur sleuth Isabel Dalhousie from The Sunday Philosophy club, revealing a few secrets on what’s in store for them (but I’m keeping zipped about those!)
He threw in anecdotes from trips abroad including people he’d met in Bali and Australia, tales of olive oil and sausage dogs as well as his early career in children’s fiction and previous career as a medical lawyer.
But what I will remember most, is that he had the most incredible presence. The only way I can describe it, is like the man who appears in Mary Poppins, who floats to the ceiling every time he laughs. He was the kind of grandpa everyone wants; so full of wit and stories and interested in people.
He is one of the greatest writers of our times, yet so down to earth and likeable. What I admired most was hearing him talk about how much he liked his characters. He takes so much pride in the lives he has created, and as a reader it makes his work feel so much more special knowing that.
After the interview he took questions from the floor, but I was too stunned to think of any. Then we were told he would sign books! And to top it off, it wasn’t the usual ‘only one thing can be signed, it must the latest book, no photos and the author is strictly here for 30 minutes’; it was like him, very welcoming. We could browse his books before buying them and take our time as ‘he was here for a while’…such a nice thing to hear!

The Perfect Hamburger sprung to mind. It was my favourite book when I was a child. It's  about a boy who discovers a very old, strange jar of spice. He adds it to a burger recipe and discovers he has cooked the tastiest hamburger in the world ever; trouble is, how can he recreate it? The spice jar doesn’t say what it was! When I was at school, I read this book continuously and kept getting it out from the library. Sadly I never owned it so I raced downstairs to get it but alas, it wasn’t in stock. I did however find ‘Precious and the monkeys’, which is the first in a set of  children’s books about Precious Ramotse growing up. (A bit like the No.1 Girls Detective Agency.)
The queue moved swiftly even though he spoke to every single person. When it was my turn, I explained about my love for The Perfect Hamburger and he seemed very touched, explaining he doesn’t normally get that as a comment.
To be in the presence of someone you have utter respect for and it turns out they have utter respect for you too is an amazing experience. I don’t know this man, or much about him. I’ve just grown up reading his books. They’ve fuelled my imagination and I think in some way, shaped the person I am. 
Today was a most inspiring day and I won’t forget it in a long time : )

Saturday 22 October 2011

My So Called Life...episode 1

When I started writing this blog almost two years the plan was to focus on the 'craft loving' side of my life, but over the last 10 months things changed and I turned it into my diary. I write about things I do, people I meet, where I go, my experiences, thoughts and reactions to things, even the random bits of advice that go through my head…all the things that make my life what it is. While I manage to write a couple of posts a week about specific highlights, there are still lots of other things I get up to that I don’t have a chance to mention. So I’ve decided that every few weeks I’m going to stock pile such events and post them under different episodes named after my favourite TV programme; My So Called Life. I’ve been catching up with the box set recently, every bit of it affects me like it did when I watched is back in the mid-90s. It follows the life of a 15-year-old girl called Angela Chase; the alternative girl at an American High School. At the time I was the 15-year-old alternative girl at a UK comprehensive. The show deserves it’s own blog post so the topic is To Be Continued. In the meantime….this has been my so called life of late:
The return of PULP:
The vast % of the population first heard of Pulp when Common People was released in 1995. Yet I first heard of Pulp in the late 1980s and was one of their earliest fans! At one point I was the youngest member of their fanclub, Pulp People, and I used to get really exciting post from a librarian called Alex who ran the club with Mark Webber (who later joined the band as a guitarist.) When I started secondary school in 1992 I had a Pulp schoolbag (homemade) and no one knew what it meant. For three years I was ridiculed by NKOTB and Take That fans, until that fateful day when Common People was released and overnight I became popular.
The day Pulp split I vowed I would be there on their return gig, as I knew they would reform.
When they made their comeback (finally!) this summer, I realised that actually I wasn’t prepared to pay £55 to see them at Hyde Park. Then they announced two special gigs at Brixton Academy and my head and my heart told me I had to be there. So on September 1st I went to see them. It was overwhelming and emotional, the highlight being when they played an old track called Sheffield Sex City from an early album. It was a track that only a handful of people in the audience could connect with, and it’s a gig moment I will never forget.  

Brighton Beautiful:
Another trip down memory lane was seizing some of the late summer weather and taking a friend of mine who had never been there, to my other home; Brighton. I call it that because I lived there for four years and left a bit of me there, which I don’t think will ever follow me to London. But whenever I do go back I’m instantly at ease because of the familiarity. I went to all my favourite places; the pier for a chocolate and coconut waffle and a go on Dolphin Derby, all my favourite vintage and retro shops in North Laine (where I picked up this lovely flamenco shawl) and of course had a nap on the sunny beach. I don’t think I would live there again but I’m extremely lucky that I had the opportunity to.

Rosie & Harriet of TD
Drink Shop Do:
Back in London town and back on the craft scene I’ve been hanging out at one of the capitals loveliest bar venues; Drink Shop Do - a crafter’s heaven based in Kings Cross. It’s a craft shop, cafĂ©, bar, afternoon tea venue and has an event calendar filled with free crafty events, workshops and book launches like ‘How to Make Jewellery’ with Tatty Devine. TD are known for designing quirky, kitschy jewellery with character and while I was there I made a rosette from a tape measure; a project in the book. I was aided by one of the friendliest girls I have ever met…I think she was called Emily. She works in the Tatty Devine shop in Brick Lane. Apparently she always gives a cup of tea to whoever pops in, so if you are ever passing by, please say hi to her. 
At the launch I sat opposite Lady Velo, a cycling fashionista who is now one of my Twitter friends.
Rocking at The Royal Albert Hall
Bollywood beats:
Bollywood wise I’ve watched two excellent films recently Bodyguard and Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara but one of the highlights of my entire year to date was watching a live performance by India’s biggest musical directors Shankar Ehsaan Loy. They are three gentleman whom despite having written the biggest Bollywood blockbuster songs ever, have never performed in the UK. It was a really special occasion and totally sold out. The set list was incredible. They played so many of their popular songs that I was speechless for most of the night.

Film Fayre:
More recently I went to the launch of the Native Spirit Foundation’s annual film festival which celebrates films about indigenous cultures. The event was held at Rudolf Steiner House and started with a spiritual procession and incense lighting ritual and included a remarkable set by international ethnic folk star Kouame Sereba who played some very unusual instruments.

Dinner with Delwar:
Then last weekend I attended a dinner party to celebrate one of my best friends completing his PhD at Cambridge University. I met Delwar when I was 13, we appeared on a TV show together and since then our paths have continued to cross in the most peculiar of ways. We have a joke between us that we will probably end up living in the same old people’s home. But before that we have other paths to follow. I felt so proud of him, knowing  he’s completed his labour of love. And so I joined him in burning his notes!!!

Something I could NEVER do to my own. I still have my secondary school exercise books even of the subjects I couldn’t stand….I just can’t part with them. And here were pages of recent handwritten research. I guess I should take this as inspiration to de-clutter my belongings?

I could open a shop with this lot!
Finally: work:
I don’t write much about my work….but these last three months have been spent writing my second book….which I can reveal has a working title of ‘101+ Things to do with glitter’. It is due to be published Autumn 2012 by Vivays Publishing. It’s been sooooooooo hard not talking about it because I so want to share the projects I’ve been making but they are under wraps for now! However I can reveal that my entire flat is currently one giant glitter ball. Here on my bed are all the sample glitters I was sent by PRs…over 150 varieties. The book is due for completion very shortly and then I am not sure what adventures I will be embarking on next…

Tuesday 18 October 2011

Book review: Stitch London

(Note the amazing cupcake!)

Confession time. I only knit one thing a year. For 2011 I’ve been working on a red robot for a friends baby that was born in August…suffice to say I have not yet visited it, as I don’t want to go empty handed : ( Feeling guilty is not a strong enough word. So to drown my bad knitter sins I popping along to the launch of this most momentous book that celebrates a city so dear to my heart…Londinium.
Written by a fellow associate of the rainbow hair society and a founding member of Stitch London, the mammoth knitting network (it has a tremendous 10,000 members!) Lauren O’Farrell, it's a book that shows you how to knit things inspired by the Big Smoke, like the residents:
One does love to walk one's corgis

Good day ma’am.

And its most spectacular of landmarks…(even the underrated ones like Tower Bridge.)

If you have never ventured to this fine capital city, you will certainly want to after feasting your eyes on this somewhat addictive read. (I’m referring to the bits inbetween the pattern instructions.)

To prevent one buying this book to add to their ‘craft porn’ collection (another near guilty confession)…the manual comes with FREE yarn and needles so you can get clicking straight away and make your own feathered pigeon.

Though cute as they are, I’m more interested in owning this sewer rat, it’s just soooooooo pesky : )
Lovely Lauren with an adoring fan!

So, that’s all the fluff, but is this book any good and should you buy it?
Well here is what I like about it:

You don’t have to be good at knitting
There’s a passage where Lauren encourages ‘messing’ with her patterns. To grab, shake, twist and change them as you want. One of the reasons I hardly knit is because patterns scare me. I prefer knitting random pieces and stitching them together. For years I thought a pro like Lauren would sneer at me for this but it turns out she’s on my side. I can’t explain (yes I know I’m a writer but allow me this once) how happy this makes me feel : )

It teaches you things…
like London lingo and even me, a born and bread Londoner has learnt a thing or to from this cultural manual like that ‘not really cricket’ translates as ‘not a very nice thing to do’ though thankfully I knew what a battenburg cake is. 
User friendly ratings
Complex projects are referred to as ‘Black Cab Drivers’ because they are the brains of the city and the more simple ones are called ‘Tourists’ since they are newbies.

The photos
These are taken in situ around town which is a nice touch, especially after hearing about the weather traumas they had to put up with during shoots.

Easy reading
The whole book is written in a really pleasant, engaging way, it’s nice to read and craft books aren’t normally bought for reading so in this sense Lauren has moved the genre on and hopefully it will pave the way for more ‘interesting’ future titles. 

And here’s what I don’t like about it:

This title is terrific. Do you like knitting? Are you wondering about it? Thinking about it? Want to own something knitted and scared of scouring the ever-growing collection of knitting books at your local bookshop? Well this is a good place to start And if you do use your kit to make your owned winged Cooey then upload the evidence to www.knitthepigeon.com for the world to see.

Just keep it away from Plarchie, Lauren’s squid who is partial to eating humans and most probably considers a pigeon as some kind of vou-le-vant.

Oh and if you are in a bookshop tracking the aforementioned title down, then I urge you to swing by the children’s picture book section too. Whilst in Foyles for the launch I spied this most inspiring of titles with really wonderful illustrations. Perhaps I should just give up on the robot and turn up at my friend’s place with my head no longer hanging in shame with this instead?
Stitch London: 20 kooky ways to knit the city and more by Lauren O’Farrell is out now published by David & Charles, priced £14.99. A percentage of which is donated to Leukaemia & Lymphoma research.

Sunday 16 October 2011

Sunday Bath Ritual

Whatever my Sunday consists of; preferably a lie in, listening to my favourite Bollywood radio show, enjoying a roast dinner with friends, rummaging through car boot sales or more often or not, working: the evenings have a theme to them…they always end in a relaxing candlelit bath. The ritual is not new, when I was growing up we didn’t have a shower, we just had a bath tub and to save money we only had baths once a week (bucket and jug wash downs in the week.) I know it sounds like I grew up in the 1940s’ but for some reason my parents waited until I had left for university before they installed luxuries like a shower and washing machine.
 Anyway I have terrifying memories of Sunday nights; home work complete, spelling tests done, uniform laid out and my mum scrubbing at my skin until the dead skin cells peeled off (people pay for this kind of treatment at exotic hammams) and shampoo foaming in my eyes.
  These days the routine is much more civilised. There’s no ironing for a start – I never iron my clothes, but thankfully in 2011 most fabrics don’t need it and I’m not the smart cotton shirt wearing type. I get home from the gym at 7pm, spend a couple of hours getting my flat in order for the week, tidying up, washing up, putting the rubbish and recycling out and preparing dinner so that come 9 o’clock I can leave the stresses and strains of the week behind me and look forward to a clean, new start.
 We’re not talking a quick in and out and towel dry, but a blissful indulgent hour of ‘me time’ with the door tightly locked and no distracting noises or glare of artificial lights.
 And is what I have planned for tonight!
My giant rubber duckie and me will be bathing with a polar bear bath fizzer, the delicious Kenneth Turner candles I recently got, two new 'after-bath' products I’ve been testing recently; Elemis Spa Home Pro-Collagen Body Cream and Celestial Spa Authentic Clarity Cooling Foot Cream and not forgetting my faithful burger bath sponge.

To put it into context I collect burger memorabilia. Here is some of the collection: my hambag, CD case, two portable mirror and a burger bento box.

Yes you read that correctly and here it is in its full glory. It was a present from my brother in law. I knew he was going on a work trip to China (where they are made) so I put in a request but he returned home empty handed claiming that while quirky, kitsch plastic things are made in China you can’t buy them there. Then later in the year whilst working in Costa Rica he found one!

(And to prove the mirrors work, here’s the evidence!)
Any now onto the two newest beauty products I’m the proud owner of. First up, luxury brand Elemis's new Pro-Collagen Body Cream (£49). The only other Elemis products I’ve owned have been travel sized toiletries I’ve swiped from hotel bathrooms and earlier this year I had a lovely foot treatment at the Elemis Day Spa in London so it’s nice to finally have one in my collection and being a complete cream obsessive I’m in a good position to review it!

No one wants wobbly bits but we haven’t all got time to get them toned through exercise and even if we did, a little help is always welcomed. Body firming creams are a much nicer way to de-wobble then getting sweaty (well I think so and I’m a gym bunny but would still much rather swap the hard work it entails for a massage!)
 With it’s silky soufflĂ© texture and magnolia colouring it reminds me of a yummy vanilla dessert, thankfully without the calories. It feels softening from the first application and has anti-ageing properties too so it's extra moisturising and makes your skin look fresher. It has certainly smoothed out my thighs and made the skin tone look more even (I’m convinced I am not imagining this….I apply cream daily so I can spot a change easily!) Because of its price tag (it contains some pretty impressive exotic oils and marine extracts), it’s not one I use too liberally, it’s a definite ‘one of the Sunday bath list’ but if you can’t get along to a real spa the next best thing is to own some products that are spa treatment quality and this is one of them!

Next the Celestial Spa Authentic foot cream (£18.50). Because my Sunday bath takes place post-gym, my feet are generally feeling knackered and this is the perfect remedy. I’m not big on foot lotions, the runniness just doesn’t work with the thick skin on feet, but this is a product that’s very different.
 There are two ranges in the collection, Comfort and Clarity which contain different mineral and gem combinations. The Clarity Cooling Foot Treatment contains Gemstone Malachite, a protective Gem that helps to detoxify and cleanse the skin of impurities.

It has the consistency of clay, a bit like a clay face mask but is extremely soft, melting into the skins with ease. It has a surprise fragrance too, it doesn’t look like it, but it has a citrus aroma that’s uplifting and refreshing thanks to essential oils of Bergamot and Orange Flower, Sicilian Lemon, Sandalwood and Galbanum. I’ve been using the cream for over three weeks now, not just after my Sunday bath but after every trip to the gym, before bed and it’s a real pleasure. After cleaning them my feet feel irritable and dry then once this pampering cream goes on they are the happiest feet in the world! I am not looking forward to it running out!
  My top 10 recommendations for the ultimate Sunday bath
Before I start my preparations for tonight’s regime, here’s some tips to help you get started on yours:
     * Plenty of hot water: If you live in a shared house where hot water runs out, then give it a chance to refill before running the water, there’s nothing more disappointing than dipping your toes in to find it’s cold.
    * Candles: Light these around your bath room and turn out the main light. You’ll instantly feel like you are in a private spa cabin.
    * Music: Ipods loaded with your favourite music plugged into battery operated speakers are ideal.
    * Pampering products: On my Sunday bath I use different beauty products to the ones I use during the week. For general showers I have ordinary face wash and shower gel but when it comes to my Sunday bath I use a more expensive shower cream, take time to rub in a nice body scrub and even use a face mask…it’s what makes the ‘Sunday bath’ more special.
    * Glass of water to hand: When the doors are closed behind you it can sometime get a bit steamy and you don’t actually want to fall asleep so sip on water whilst in the bath to keep you revived.
     * Rubber duckie: No explanation needed, a bath is not the same without a duck swimming past!
    * Bubbles: Whether they are created by the bath foam or you blow them from a bottle, every bath should be full of popping bubbles.
    * No clocks allowed: Never set your alarm or take a watch with you and if you do have a bathroom clock cover it up! As soon as you think about the time you will loose the relaxing vibe and there is no room for stress when you’re bathing.
    * Clean fluffy dressing gown on standby: After a bath the last thing you want to do it put on restricting clothes (especially a bra!) so wrap yourself up in a dressing gown instead just as you would if you were on a spa retreat
    * After-bath goodies: Once you’re dry it’s time to massage in some lovely body cream, lotion or oil to keep your skin moisturised. If you’ve got someone to help you with this stage, even better…but if not, don’t worry. You’ll be feeling fresh, content and happy, ready to contend with whatever next week has to bring.
 Happy bathing!
 Elemis products are available from www.timetospa.co.uk in spas and salons and  selected John Lewis, Debenhams and Harvey Nichols stores.
  To view the full Celestial Spa Authentic brochure of products and treatments go to www.celestialspa.co.uk/brochure or buy them online at http://shop.nirvanaspa.co.uk

Friday 14 October 2011

London's First Renegade Craft Fair

Designs by Tee & Toast
I’m desperate to go to America…for crafting purposes. It’s home to huge mega craft stores, houses oddles of indie crafters, craft celebrities (Martha Stewart, Crafty Chica) and new crazes and products you can’t get over here. When I first saw images of the Maker Fair in Craft magazine (one of the fabulous US craft mags that is distributed in good book stores on these shores) I was amazed by the standard and originality of the work being sold. Then a couple of years ago I was first in the queue when Bust magazine came over and hosted their first ever Craftacular (another great American craft fair.) It was held inside York Hall, Bethnal Green and was HUGE!
The renengade queen

This Autumn (last weekend) it was the turn of Renegade to visit us and bring their quirky indie craft vibe to bustling Brick Lane, east Londen where crafters from around the globe gathered to sell their wares. I was so excited, I visited (and shopped) both days!! Pictured is one of the organisers who insisted on looking anonymous. Renegade started back in 2003 in Chicago and focuses on DIY craft culture of the highest standards. Any old crafter, can’t just pitch up a stall, they have to prove their work is original, unusual, and carries with it the full DIY ethos. The selection of work is balanced offering prints, textiles, fashion, jewellery, interiors and papercrafts.

Milliner Janine Basil
I was soooo happy to meet Janine Basil in person, she is a milliner extraordinaire who’s Batman inspired work I discovered in her Etsy and Folksy stores. As regular readers of my blog will know, I am Batman obsessed and I treated myself to a beautiful glitter Bat hat from her stall. Image to follow when I wear it out. (Someone invite me to a Halloween party please!!). Check out her work online, it’s fabulous!
Art collector Matt

In tow I had Art collector Matt who is always on the look out to extend his ever growing collection of fine art and prints (he nearly owns enough to fill a gallery and has been known to queue for 'buying' at 4am in the morning on more than one occasion.) Completely overwhelmed by the standard of the work, he was super excited but found it hard to decide. In the end he opted for three pieces. The first one is to remind him he should buy a dog one day.

Artist Katie Mac
Then it was on to another wonderful print stall where Katie Mac’s colourful creations including one about fidgeting, were on his list.
Artist Todd Stewart
Finally he bought a screen-printed poster (the Man Man one) designed by Todd Stewart. I suspect he would have bought plenty more if he’d brought extra money!
Illustrator Kate Sutton
Inspired by the feeling that maybe I should own more ‘art’ and not just crafts, I bought this adorable hedgehog picture by Kate Sutton. Oh my! Her work was outstanding, I wanted to buy everything! If someone wants to buy me a present, you can get me anything she has designed. (Thanks!)
My free alpaca bag!

Kate was very sweet and gave me a free alpaca tote bag to carry it home in.
The Make Lounge crafternoon
London’s crafty hub The Make Lounge were one of the stalls running free workshops where  needle felted woodland animals were the order of the weekend.
Janine felting an Ecuadorian bird

My craft pal Janine and I couldn’t get into the British 'woodland' mood (she had just returned from Ecuador so her mind was filled with tropical images) and I was drawn to bright pink felt so she made a jungle bird and I felted a flamingo.

Huge blooms decorated the walls

For such a huge space, the fair was smaller than I expected (not on the same scale as the Bust Craftacular) but this had it’s benefits that you could properly focus on each stall. It certainly set the bar for craft markets in the UK to measure up to, it really was ‘high end’ DIY crafting yet extremely well priced. 

Renegade: you're welcome back
Until Renegade come back and see us in the UK again you can either attend one of their fairs in the states or shop for art and craft by their favourite designers in their online store
Thank you for visiting the UK! 

Tuesday 11 October 2011

My 'Smooth You' Makeover

Recently I did a post about How to Get Ready for a Big Night Out but the one piece of advice I forget is letting someone else do the hard work for you! I had a taste of these pleasures a couple of weeks ago when I had a glamorous makeover at Smooth U, a stylish new hair and beauty salon in Islington. It opened this summer and since then has attracted a huge celebrity fan base and it's not surprising because the service here is nothing short of being treated like Hollywood royalty. Especially as all the treatments take place in privacy. There's no being swivelled around in fake leather chairs and paraded in the windows for passer-by’s to give you off putting stares. Instead you enter into a welcoming product filled reception behind which is a bright, modern hair studio. Then follow the steps downstairs to a variety of treatment rooms for manicures, pedicures, massages and best of all, a private pampering parlour for make-up application.

Andrew adding some much needed body to my locks

My beauty adventure started upstairs with Principle Stylist Andrew Cruickshank. I only wash my hair once a week (it's the way I preserve the colour) so by the time Andrew got his mitts into it; he was dealing with a greasy, flat mess. Thankfully he understood my infrequent washing ways and managed to add shine and body to my mop by applying some Smooth U secret ingredients. Hair is an important part of the ethos here. The salon is run by a Brazilian hair expert called Luma who aims to bring her Latin Locks experience to the capital. If you're looking to swap a tight, straight bob for luscious body filled waves, then this is the place to come. There is a big emphasis on hair extensions, a treatment that can take all day. But luckily if you do come here for one of the longer sessions, you'll be given an ipad to occupy you and be kept refreshed with complimentary wine, herbal tea or champagne. This is no ordinary salon!

I’m ashamed to admit I’ve just recently ended a year long addiction to acrylic nails. It started last November and I was hooked after one application, even though underneath I already had good nail beds to start with. Being ‘au natural’ has been tough so it was nice to get a manicure done on real nails for once! The nail technician did a brilliant job of disguising the acrylic residue that is still left behind on my nails. I opted for a subtle brown; very different to the vivid coloured airbrush designs I used to have. I miss the fact acrylics never chip but at least she got my talons into a good shape. As I waited for them to dry I was transferred to the private pamper parlour.

Sophie in the super comfy chair

It’s the kind of dream room they showcase on Cribs where they reveal mansions in the Hollywood Hills that have a walk-in wardrobe with an en-suite beauty salon. All I had to do was sit back on the comfiest seat ever and look into the ‘I want one of those’ light up mirrors while make-up artist and lashes expert Sophie Stafford created a vintage Bollywood vixen theme with flicked eyeliner and heavy eyeshadow. Unlike some make-up artists who only use one brand (there are far too many MAC obsessed ones) Sophie’s make-up chest is a treasure trove of different brands and shades. So whether she’s working on a celebrity, bride or just a girl like me who just fancies getting dolled up she has all the magical ingredients to hand. 

Decadent illustrations adorn the walls of the salon giving the interiors an air of sophistication.

Artist Emma

They’ve been designed by visual artist Emma Crammer who specialises in portraiture. When we were chatting she said she’s witnessed a big rise to people wanting murals in their homes, which is her current main interest and I wouldn’t be surprised if more people didn’t request them after seeing how great they look in the salon.

As a one stop beauty haven, there are a range of treatment rooms to experience other signature services like waxing and laser hair removal, facials and body firming massages.

Dream Team: Andrew, Georgina, Sophie & Katie

With so many beauty salons in London it’s hard knowing which one to go to, especially if you only go to them on special occasions. I've tried all sorts from cheap no-frills stands at market stalls where they don’t care about their customers to lavish spas inside luxury five star hotels, where all the attention is on you. For regular treatments most people stay local, but I recommend travelling to somewhere that will give you the best experience. The reason someone goes to a salon is because they think something could be better or needs improving so they should leave filled with confidence that they look gorgeous; otherwise there is no point in paying for the service.
Smooth You is aimed at a high-end clientele and a visit there is much more of a pampering treat then just popping by to get a quick pedicure done. It certainly offers a choice and change from the usual standard of a local salon. However the one thing for me that lets it down is the opening hours, they just aren’t open for long enough! Hours are 10am-6pm Monday to Saturday (until 8pm on Thursday) but in these crazy, busy times we live in, I don’t know anyone that could get away from work before 5pm to visit a hairdresser, especially if it’s for an evening do. I’ve noticed a lot more salons are open late (around 9pm) on most days now, so there must be a demand for it and there have been countless times I’ve needed a blow dry first thing in the morning, as I need to be in a meeting by 10am, but perhaps this will change as the salon gets more settled. 

Before I left I was presented with a lovely goody bag full of things I needed. It contained yummy chocolate, travel size make-up remover and hair gel, a night face serum by Murad (I’m pleased to report my face has been looking clearer in the mornings) and a delicious lavender and pear jam by their neighbour Food Lab…) I’m crazy about anything edible with lavender in it.)

Yes I know it was a school night but I was looking hot and there was no way I going to let my glamorous makeover go to waste. So I headed to the closing party of Pakistani Fashion week at No.5 Cavendish, an exclusive private members club where my favourite Bollywood Djs Raj & Pablo were on the decks and spent the night dancing and trying out the comfy selection of settees.

Smooth You, 70 Essex Road, Islington, London, N1 8LT
0207 704 1955 www.smoothyou.co.uk