Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Gift Guide 2014 - Books

I love books.

Funnily enough, I wasn't a massive reader until I was around eight and then it was like a switch flipped in my head. Progressively, I began to read more and more. And when I hit my teens and decided I no longer liked being sociable or exercise, I spent my summers reading indoors - I still blame this period of my life for the fact that I no longer tan very well.

During college, my desire to read dipped and spiked at different times. Studying Arts is called "reading" for a degree and it involves plenty of just that. On days I had power-read tens of books, I had no desire to look at any more writing when I got home. During the long holidays, I devoured literature once more.

Christmas, however is a consistent reading-heavy time in my life. I love getting a pile of new books and reading after dinner while the rest of my family snooze in front of the fire. I love loosing myself to new stories. I love the smell of books. I love finding them places on my shelf.

It's kind of an epic love story, really.

And, though perhaps everyone doesn't have quite the same intense relationship with books, I do think they make rather good gifts. So, here are my ten picks for books this Christmas. There's a range of sorts - art books, fiction, fashion books, novelty books, cook books, music books and non-fiction, And the real beauty here is that these would suit as gifts for a wide variety of people.

Books

Beginning at the top left-hand corner, this book is a collection of interconnected short stories by multi-award winning Japanese writer, Yoko Ogawa. I randomly picked it up in a shop knowing nothing of her or her work but, though we're told not to, sometimes you can judge a book by it's cover. It was scary and disturbing at times yet eerily beautiful and often quite touching. At times, ideas or descriptions made me so uncomfortable or affected me so much, I thought I'd put the book down and never finish it. But I kept being drawn back to it and utterly devoured it in hours in the end. It's also a good intro to her work and short stories are lovely to read on commutes or if you're too busy and tired to take on a giant tome.

Next along the top is a collection of John Keats' letters and poems to Fanny Brawne. I kind of hate movie covers but this collection is dedicated to his writing related specifically to and for Brawne (which is quite hard to find) and that's what I wanted. I'm crazy about Keats at the moment and I'm obsessed with their love story. This would be quite a good gift for a poetry lover, aspiring writer or a partner who is particularly romantic. Maybe I'm a complete loser but the idea of sharing poetry with a love is majorly dreamy.

The envelope-shaped book is an activity book where you write letters to your future self and this is the kind of present the sentimentalist in your life would love. Maybe buy it and add a letter of your own to their future self?

For the music-lover, David Byrne's How Music Works. I've been meaning to get my hands on this for a while and only hear great things about it. Maybe a future present to myself? Plus, I'mma want anything that man is attached to.

Wild Irish Women is another book I'm sticking on this list purely because I want it but it's also another multi-tasking gift - it'd suit for history buffs, feminists and Irish-things enthusiasts.

On the bottom row, we begin with Men In This Town. I follow the tumblr blog this comes from and it's great. These sorts of books are great coffee-table books and the fact that it's menswear means it might interest fashion loving women in your life or your friend trying to grow up his style or your dad who's decided to try new things.

Cake is another of my great loves and who wouldn't appreciate the The Cake Cafe Bake Book? The recipes are made super-easy to follow, it looks gorgeous (like a piece of art in its own right), it's from an Irish brand and it allows you to enjoy The Cake Cafe's cakes no matter where in the world you are.

Know a massive Buffy fan who has yet to discover Season 8? Yes, there are new seasons of BtVS but not on tv. The show has been continued for several years now in comic-book form. As graphic novels can be pricey, this is better value than buying smaller bundles of issues and is a great way to get someone's teeth (heh) into the continuation of the Scooby Gang's adventures.

I wanted to have an art book in here and what could be better than one tied to an ongoing exhibition? Especially a really interesting one. Lines of Vision at the National Gallery of Ireland is a collaboration between Irish writers and the gallery wherein the writers have each chosen a work to respond to. The book gathers together reproductions of the works alongside the words. An idea might be to buy an art and literature-lover the book and arrange to bring it along to the gallery for the full experience. The combination of gift and outing makes for a really thoughtful present.

Lastly, we have a book I'm getting (and can't wait to read!) from my siblings. Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell's The Sleeper and The Spindle combines two great minds to produce something wonderfully beautiful. Great for Gaiman or art fans alike.

So, what do you make of my selections? Would you be happy to receive them as gifts?

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Look what we've Dunnes and how far we've come

Dunnes is changing.

It's been a gradual process that's begun to speed up. Introducing designer collaborations over time and lines such as Savida and Gallery updated a value-friendly old stalwart of Irish design and shopping. The grannyish vibe is dying out. And it's being replaced by something still reasonably priced but infinitely more interesting and a hell of a lot cooler.

In fact, it's probably the most effective use of designer collaborations that I've seen. Instead of having a one-off or annual model of inviting new designers to design collections, Dunnes have taken on regular collaborators who design new collections across homeware and clothing (and now food) each season. They've tied well-respected names to their brand and have given them the room and time to cultivate their brand within the brand. The collections only grow and increase in strength, making Dunnes stores almost unrecognisable.

The homeware unit for Dunnes in my local, the Swan Centre in Rathmines, was renovated over the summer and it looks amazing now. (It's kind of dangerous, actually, too much temptation.) I want to shop there. Being inside the store is like being in much higher-end d├ęcor and furniture shops, it's all much more considered, thought out. From the layout to the products. And the concept store on George's Street always make Savida and Gallery pieces feel like you're shopping in a boutique.

The whole thing just makes me weirdly...proud? Like, I've always liked the brand and I love to support Irish design and companies. To see the improvements and growth and energy in such an old and established brand is really inspirational.

PSA: This is how you do the designer collab. And do it right.
















































So, are y'all feeling the new Dunnes as much as me? And for readers not located in Ireland, you've added it to the list of things to do when you visit, right?

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Hedi over heels yet again...

Controversial as his leadership of (Yves) Saint Laurent has been to some, there's no denying that he takes a good photo and has a talent for spotting melancholic, moody beauties. Black and white, against simple backdrops and without any real fan-fare and, yet, captivating. An immediately discernible aesthetic. I, for one, am a major fan of what he's doing for that grand house. I think infusing it with youth and the energy of artists and musicians does fantastic things for everyone involved and I think few could fuse rock and roll and luxury so seamlessly, in a manner that miraculously doesn't seem contrived. The politics of access and revolution or invention are a debate for another place and head space because tonight all I want to do is adoringly gaze over the latest images for the Psych Rock collection in awe. Boho's never been my thing...but damn am I starting to wonder if there's an old school rock and roll hippy in me yet.

(My inner punk is weeping)

The PSYCH ROCK collection from Saint Laurent by Hedi Slimane

The PSYCH ROCK collection from Saint Laurent by Hedi Slimane

The PSYCH ROCK collection from Saint Laurent by Hedi Slimane

The PSYCH ROCK collection from Saint Laurent by Hedi Slimane

The PSYCH ROCK collection from Saint Laurent by Hedi Slimane

The PSYCH ROCK collection from Saint Laurent by Hedi Slimane

The PSYCH ROCK collection from Saint Laurent by Hedi Slimane

The PSYCH ROCK collection from Saint Laurent by Hedi Slimane

The PSYCH ROCK collection from Saint Laurent by Hedi Slimane

The PSYCH ROCK collection from Saint Laurent by Hedi Slimane

The PSYCH ROCK collection from Saint Laurent by Hedi Slimane

The PSYCH ROCK collection from Saint Laurent by Hedi Slimane

The PSYCH ROCK collection from Saint Laurent by Hedi Slimane

The PSYCH ROCK collection from Saint Laurent by Hedi Slimane

The PSYCH ROCK collection from Saint Laurent by Hedi Slimane

The PSYCH ROCK collection from Saint Laurent by Hedi Slimane

The PSYCH ROCK collection from Saint Laurent by Hedi Slimane

The PSYCH ROCK collection from Saint Laurent by Hedi Slimane

(Images via vogue.fr via ysl.com by Hedi Slimane of Grace Hartzel)

GORGEOUSNESS OVERLOAD.

PLUS: I really want a fringe now again.