My Secret London in Summer – Top 10

Hello my lovely readers! I am spending part of my summer in London and I thought I’d blog about my favourite things to do.

In a way, it’s my secret London, those special spots and places that not all Londoner have visited and few tourists might know about. They are less crowded and give a sense of living here, rather than just visiting. You can access most on a low budget and I would even say that these activities are low-impact for the environment, cause no harm to others and are culturally, intellectually or ethically infused. However, they are also leisurely and relaxed. After all, who wants to have a stressful summer?

If you get a chance, do try my top 10s too and if you know any other cool secrets, please share!


1. Holland Park

This park must be my favourite! With Peacocks waddling around, a small Japanese garden and an adventure playground it is a perfect leafy retreat from the summer heat (and interesting for your children,too). Walking in the park as well as the romantic streets surrounding it is my secret retreat on a summer’s day.

The beau of the Kyoto Gardens
For a historical and cultural boost, try reading up on the history of the Holland Park, its mews and surrounding area.

2. Charity Shops

They are everywhere! But if you happen to be walking to or from Holland Park, you can access them on High Street Kensington easily. There are other areas in London with similar clusters of charity shops such as Octavia Foundation, Oxfam, Cancer Research or The British Heart Foundation. Some of the clothes are brand new and designer pieces. This is my secret to sustainable consumption! Look at the Paule Ka dress which I found in Knightsbridge, never worn and the perfect size for me! For my friends, I even take orders and try to find unusual items which I send to them around the world.

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Ethical fashion consumption? Yes, in charity shops.

3. Daunt Books

There are a few of them scattered around London, but the one that I love is in Marylebone. Its full of character and just a beautiful architectural gem. Not to mention the most inspiring books of many genres. I promise you, you will not want to leave empty handed. Whenever I visit Daunt Books I feel that it is a curated environment and each section or pile of books has been carefully and thoughtfully selected by the staff, presented to our discerning eyes and intellectual curiosity.

The one and only Daunt bookshop!
Joking around in Daunt Books’ travel section.

4. Aubaine Marylebone

Just around the corner from Daunt books (that’s No5 below) is Aubaine, a café and restaurant. It’s a bit hidden from the main highstreet, so look out for it on Moxon Street. In the summer you can sit outside and enjoy coffee or food, overlooking a unique cheese shop La Fromagerie and the Marylebone Tup. The Tup used to be a famous hang-out for students of now Regent’s University and luckily the walls do not talk…! In fact, all three venues are worth a try and Marylebone High Street is a wonderful street and on days off, summer or any other season, where I love to spend time. In close proximity there is Regents Park to the North and The Wallace Collection to the South which are lovely!

Aubaine just off Marylebone High Street


5. Cleopatra’s Needle

In a different part of town, near Embankement Station (also accessible from Temple station) is the Thames with a historic and mystical obelisk, nearly 3500 years old. This ancient gift from Egypt is guarded by two Sphinx and lets you decend to a viewpoint over the river. It took me many years until I visited it and now I am so glad that I did. It’s not just Place de la Concorde in Paris, no, we have one of our own in London!

According to the blogger Memoires of a Metro Girl, the name Cleopatra’s Needle is shared between three Egyptian obelisks – the London one’s twin in New York City and a third in Paris – which came from a completely different site in Egypt. The London and New York pair are made of red granite from the quarries of Aswan, weighing a hefty 224 tons each. Standing tall at 68ft (21 metres), they were originally erected in ancient Egyptian city of Heliopolis by Pharaoh Thutmose III (1481-1425BC) around 1450BC. Rameses II (1300s-1213BC) added the hieroglyphs around 200 years later to commemorate his military victories. However, in the early 19th century, Egypt’s ruler Muhammad Ali (1769-1849) was happy to give away a piece of antiquity. Following the victories of Lord Nelson and Sir Ralph Abercromby in the Battle of the Nile and the Battle of Alexandra in 1798 and 1801 respectively, Ali gave one of the obelisks to the United Kingdom as a thank you gift in 1819.

The 2 sphinx to either side of the needle though, are only from the late 19th Century.

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This image via

6. The Transport Museum

About a slow 15 minute walk from the river towards Covent Garden is the way to reach the Transport Museum. But first I suggest to walk through Carting Lane. Carting Lane has a rare example of Victorian engineering with its Webb Patent Sewer Gas Lamp which was a sewer gas destructor lamp. You can read more about this mad thing here.

The Transport Museum, even for a Londoner, can be a valuable history lesson, looking at (and sitting inside!) real steam locomotives and the first Tubes that traversed London under ground or the Double-Decker buses with open back doors which are sadly out of service now. (It was my favourite bus by far where you could jump on and jump off any time but thanks to Boris Johnson this was scrapped.) It’s an ecological way of dealing with transport, as you are not contributing to any emissions while you ride the vehicles.

Carting Lane is also to the side of the Savoy hotel.


Image result for london transport museum
On the red London bus, take an immobile ride, or pretend to be the driver! The doors at the back of a Routemaster bus will now remain firmly shut after 300 conductors were axed as part of cost-cutting measures from Transport for London. The system as we know it today (or knew it) has been part of London life since 1956. The job losses have drawn sharp criticisms from the unions who said conductors were being treated as ‘scapegoats’. From


7. Ichiba Food Hall

This is a new branch of the Japan Centre and is located at Westfield Shepherd’s Bush. The Westfield shopping centre keeps expanding and now claims to be the largest in Europe. There is lots to see and buy in Westfield, but I personally do not enjoy the hustle and bustle so if I go, I don’t browse but steer towards a specific target. In this case, it was Ichiba, a Japanese food and small goods heaven! It is the next venue in West London, opened by the original “Japan Centre” which is located in Panton Street near Piccadilly. This Ichiba branch has its unique vibe and offers everything from Matcha to sushi to Japanese comfort food to fresh ingredients (including entire Wasabi for a heart-breaking GBP 20).

All your Matcha dreams will come true here!

8. The 5th View

Close to Piccadilly Circus, there is a huge and multi-story Waterstones shop. Of course, the book store itself is wonderful (reportedly with over 200000 titles), but my secret spot is the restaurant on the 5th floor. You get beautiful views over London which is a rare treat. The food is excellent, too, including my junk-food treat: Large chips with ketchup and mayo. I recommend walking either up or down the stairs, depending on your level of fitness, to experience the Art-Deco building.




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The 5th view is spectacular yet cosy and casual. It is inside London’s largest book shop, as the Londonist reported.


A chunky chip treat at the 5th View – delicious.

9. Minamoto Kitchoan

If you are a Japanophile like me, you will absolutely love this. But if you are not familiar with Japanese sweets, it is still worth visiting to learn something new and see all things beautiful. This store which is easily missed on Piccadilly due to its low-profile signage, has authentic Japanese “Wagashi” which you can usually only find in Japan. In fact, the original store is located in the fancy Ginza district in Tokyo! Mitziemee reports, “Minamoto Kitchoan is a luxury wagashi chain and the branch in Ginza is the flagship store. The wagashi is made daily from the finest ingredients, and the tastes and textures are so subtle and delicate that each bite will blow your mind. You can either buy pre-packed gift boxes with wagashi or pick and choose among individually wrapped items.”



Japanese “Wagashi” at its best: There are goldfish swimming inside water! (But actually it is sweet in transparent jelly.)



Peach or mango sorbet with a touch of alcohol., I was told.

10. Layers London

Situated on South Molton Street which veers off right in the middle of Oxford Street, this shop is a fashion oracle. I my humble opinion, everyone should visit and I frequently send my fashion students there!

It is more a museum for me and an inspiration when I want to see what conceptual designers like Margiela, Rick Owens, Aganovich, Forme D’Expression, Masnada or Werkstatt Muenchen are creating. These pieces are often one-off and hand-made, at an appropriately high price which is “slow fashion” in a way.

I love their ethical approach to fashion: ”

The vision for our store is to start with a product of purity: something that achieves a balance between old craft and a modern approach to design. We feel the need to provide products that challenge the ideas of tradition and push them forward for the current times. To find designers who are doing something of their own, who are not motivated by commercial success, but want to better themselves by achieving critical recognition for their work. It is one of our aims to promote new and young talent. To offer them a platform on which to showcase their work, both on our website and in store. We feel it is time to have a new outlook towards fashion. Forgetting products valued on status but instead appreciate those products where the time and thought was put into their development. We plan to close the gap between art and fashion, focusing on those who truly are modern day artisans. Consequently, challenging the customers approach to garments.”

Maison Margiela shoes at their best.
With the head buyer of Layers London. We studied at Central Saint Martins together many years ago!






The Brooklyn Museum is talking to Kansai Yamamoto about David Bowie – May 17th!

How exciting!

Kansai Yamamoto is one of my favourite designers who I have previously reported on when I discovered a cool sweater in London’s Hammersmith! And now the Brooklyn Museum is hosting Kansai Yamamoto in person, who will be speaking to Vanessa Friedman, fashion director and chief fashion critic for the New York Times.

If you happen to be there on Thursday, May 17, 2018 from 7–9 pm do go to the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Auditorium, 3rd Floor.

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The Brooklyn Museum


Friedman and Yamamoto-san will be discussing his sartorial collaborations with David Bowie, including creating the iconic “Space Samurai” jumpsuit for the 1972 Ziggy Stardust tour and several of the objects featured in David Bowie is.

The Fashion Network reports: “The discussion is part of the “David Bowie is” exhibition currently being hosted at the Brooklyn Museum, which is the exhibition’s last stop after five years touring the globe. Many of the pieces that Yamamoto created for Bowie are among the over 400 objects on display, which include Bowie’s original costumes, handwritten lyrics, photographs and videos, and have been sourced primarily from the David Bowie Archive.

The exhibition, which is organized by London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, is described in a release as “an immersive, multimedia installation” and seeks to track Bowie’s creative journey throughout his life, exploring how the original artist’s legacy has shaped contemporary culture and society.”

Image source here.

The evening with Yamamoto-san is part of an exhibition on David Bowie which launches on March 2. In New York, it was organized by the institution’s Senior Curator of Fashion and Material Culture Matthew Yokobosky together with the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, where the exhibition debuted in 2013 and reportedly became the most-visited exhibition in the gallery’s history.

THE CUT writes that “at the heart of the exhibition are hand-written lyric sheets, drawings, paintings, music videos, television clips, and costumes by the late British designer Freddie Burretti alongside seven costumes that Yamamoto designed for Bowie during his “Ziggy Stardust” and “Aladdin Sane” tours.”

If you would like to read up on this topic, I can recommend this article by THE CUT entitled: Dressing David Bowie As ‘Ziggy Stardust’ who ahead of the Brooklyn Museum opening, spoke with Yamamoto about his memories of Bowie and the Japanese theater techniques that inspired the singer’s legendary performances.


Junko Watanabe’s interactive textile designs reaching disabled children

Today, I would like to repost this report which recently appeared on NHK World (Japan) about Junko Watanabe and her cloth books. Not to be confused with the famous fashion designer Junya Watanabe, Junka has been using textile design in a way which reaches the youngest members of our society. Children with disabilities or difficulties have seen benefits from cloth books over the last 30 years.

Watanabe’s work reminded me of my “cut & paste project” which I came up with during my first year at Central St. Martins. The idea was to let children and adults take control of the final design by making interactive clothes. There were playful parts which could be removed and reattached, coloured with fabric markers. Here are a few images of the prototypes.

This t-shirt sends a message about pollution. You can manipulate the tree leaves. Put them up if they are healthy, push them down if your tree got too polluted.
This t-shirt sends a message about pollution. You can manipulate the tree leaves. Put them up if they are healthy, push them down if your tree got too polluted.
This skirt prototype has velcro elements. You can change their position and customize the elements, for example with fabric crayons from pentel.


My professors were not very enthusiastic of my idea and wondered who would ever want to purchase this. However, over the last 10 years more and more interactive  design items have come onto the market! I am happy to see that more designers are thinking the same way.Back then I never considered that children with disabilities could be the end-consumers who’d benefit the most from such products.

Junko Watanabe’s interactive cloth books are not a commercial product but rather a humanistic gift. What an inspiring woman!

Please have a look at NHK’s story about Mrs Watanabe.


NHK WORLD – Culture & Sports

Nov. 17, 2014

The Fabric of Education

A Japanese artisan has a unique take on the classic picture book. She crafts each one by hand from fabrics, adding a personal touch that seems to connect with readers. And now her creations are reaching children around the world. NHK WORLD’s Mikiko Suzuki has the story.

Image source here.

This is a classroom at a school for disabled children and their parents in Tokyo. Students with disabilities get the chance to experience something new here.

Junko Watanabe created the special books they are exploring. She has been making them for 35 years as a way to give disabled children opportunities to earn.

Watanabe uses felt, kimono material and other fabrics.

Details include embroidery… buttons…and string. Children can practice tying and untying, buttoning and unbuttoning while touching the books. These exercises can foster independence.

Image source here.


“Sometimes a mother calls me to let me know a cloth book inspired her child’s first words. That makes me so happy it brings tears to my eyes.”

Watanabe has assembled a group of volunteers who help make the books and donate them to libraries around Japan.

So far, the group has given more than 20 thousand books to around 500 libraries. This library in a Tokyo suburb has 300 of them.

Eiko Naito and her 8-year-old son Daisuke live nearby. Daisuke was diagnosed with Down Syndrome at birth.

When he was a year and a half old, he started coming to the library with his mother to borrow cloth books. A book introducing musical notes really caught his eye.

Image source here.

Image source here.

“We also borrow regular books. But he is really drawn to the cloth ones. If I bring a big bag of them home, he’ll say, ‘I want to see one of those!'”
Eiko Naito / mother

Now Daisuke can play the piano. It’s a simple song, but it requires both hands.

Image source Image source here.

“The cloth books have broadened his world. He learned how to read from them. And he got interested in knowing more about the things around him.”
Eiko Naito / mother

It is tough for Daisuke to interpret the notes, move his fingers and listen to the music all at the same time, but he keeps trying.

Now Watanabe and her team are sending the cloth books to children around the world…especially those living in poverty or without access to education.

Some books were sent to an orphanage in Myanmar that takes care of 200 kids. Many had lost their parents in ethnic conflicts, or were abandoned due to poverty.

Other books were sent to students in Africa. They reflected cultural differences, like the way people there count with their fingers.

Image source here.

“People learn their own country’s language and think and act in that language. Just one cloth picture book is something people can explore and learn from. That’s why I want to pass them on to future generations around the world.”
Junko Watanabe

Watanabe believes all children, regardless of their circumstances, can learn something from her picture books. And she hopes this seed of an idea takes root around the world.

Maude. White. Doves. Tomoko. Shioyasu.

Papercutting, not paper cuts, is what this post is about:

Here is someone who Ron Orp found first, and which I would like to pass on:

Beautiful creations by artist Maude White who cuts paper into…well…white doves! (And other birds, too.) Maude White's bird
Maude White’s bird

And here is what Maude writes on her artist page:

“I am currently working on an exhibition to be shown in Buffalo, NY in September. Also in September I will be offering framed work online for purchase. At this time I’m still figuring my online presence out. I have some small unframed pieces available on my etsy shop BraveBird, but y’all have been so wonderful to me that I am almost out! I need to start cutting again! The larger, framed pieces that I have completed are a bit of a challenge to ship, hence the September availability. I am learning! My email is:

Maude White Bird Art
Maude White Bird Art

I come from a family of visual storytellers. I have always believed that our vision is as important as our hearing when we communicate. Very rarely do we rely on words alone. It is what we see, and how our brains interpret what we see that shapes our perceptions and actions. I began cutting paper with that understanding. I want my art to communicate to the observer what my words cannot do effectively.

When I was a child I thought a great deal about hidden spaces. The intimacy, the hushed secrecy – I was always looking underneath objects, or through them. I have always believed that if you look hard enough, you will see something precious and new, or, perhaps, something incredibly ancient and sacred. ”

You can visit her page here:


But as a lover of all things Japanese, I absolutely have to include Japanese paper artist Tomoko Shioyasu.

Shioyasu-san makes amazing and huge papercut tapestries:

A tapestry b Shioyasu-san
A tapestry b Shioyasu-san


“I express the rhythm of life flowing through the world. We can’t see it but we are part of the flow.” Says Shioyasu-san.

The press release (from 2011) says, “Shioyasu has continued to develop a vocabulary of organic structure that refers back to primordial forms of nature.” Asked about what she regarded as content in her work, Shioyasu said, “Simply nature itself, particularly that which has existed over an extended period of time — rocks, trees, water channels, cells. I want to look into the essence and roots of life, making works that focus on these basic forms.”

If you would like to find out more about what inspires her, do have a look at this video interview:

Berlin: fashion, cafés and sparrows + INLAND pop-up fashion store report



Around Spittelmarkt
Around Spittelmarkt


Yes! I went to Berlin for a meeting and got to explore “Mitte”. What I found on Brunnenstraße was a very cool pop-up store called “INLAND” featuring Scandinavian fashion from Finland.



Inland shop front


Inland designs



Furthermore, there were reversible kiss-n-tell pillowcases …

Kiss n Tell Pillows


By some talented designers:

Some of the designers featured in INLAND
Some of the designers featured in INLAND


And a very amazing fridge, housing vitamin drinks and beauty products by “Lumene” which is a range vitamin-C infused cremes.

The fridge!

Vitamin madness

Thank you for my vitamin boost, to the fantastic staff of INLAND who will be there until the end of August and then move on to a yet undisclosed location! Let me know if you find their next pop-up store please.


Brunnenstrasse graffitti

Brunnenstrasse Graffitti 2

Brunnenstrasse also has some cool carpets (Jan Kath designer carpets, to be precise), graffitti and Kaviar Gauche, the fancy fashion label which has become a synonym for Berlin.

Jan Kath designer carpats

Here are the most beautiful carpets by textile artist Jan Kath, whose magic carpets I have fallen in love with!

Jan Kath designer carpets 2

…posing in the tiny door which leads into KAVIAR GAUCHE….


Outside Caviar Gauche

Finally, we sat down for a well deserved coffee and French tartelettes….

opposite "Gorki Park" café
opposite “Gorki Park” café

We also had some fluffy guests join our table:

fluffy guests on my plate
fluffy guests on my plate



Street Shots from St. Petersburg – a city of exquisite architecture mixed with modern elements


St.Petersburg – what a city! I’ve just returned from a 2-week stay in this beautiful town and I’d like to share some impressions with you.

There is the exquisite architecture – which makes the street’s facades like a museum. I spent hours twisting my neck in the weirdest positions, just to have a look at the mesmerizing houses.

But of course, this city has all the modernity you’d expect from a cosmopolitain town! I’ve stumbled upon Cartier (an entire Cartier house, actually) and Karl, too! Yes, Karl Lagerfeld is about to open a boutique on Bolshoi Prospekt, just a stone’s throw away from my apartment. 🙂 I am looking forward to checking out what Karl will offer next time I go back.

What I liked best is that people really make an effort to look good when out and about. Women gracefully walk on the highest of high heels and don’t wobble even when crossing the zebra crossing means decending by a foot from the ultra-high side walk.

You can have a look at the photos, I think they speak for themselves!



Near the Neva River and Petropavlovskaya Krepost, stands my new absolute fave: A pistaccio building:



An hour later, near the same building a wedding party arrived in their ride:


This antiques shop on Zverinskaya Ulica shows a beautiful reflection of the surrounding architecture – as if time stood still.



A very typical St. Petersburg apartment block.




Let me zoom in……


This is how we ride:


Or like this, with spray imagery on the cars. Very interesting, in Russia quite a few cars are decorated with various motifs on the outside. It is legal and makes for a nice change in the daily traffic!


Or like this, oldskool style:


A view of Church of the Savior on Blood:


And for all fashion designers:  just at the next corner – the famous Singer Building! Yes, Singer, just like the sewing machines.

“The building was designed by architect Pavel Suzor for the Russian branch of the Singer Sewing Machine Company. The management of the Singer Company initially intended to construct a skyscraper, similar to the Singer Building, the company headquarters being built at that time in New York, but the Saint Petersburg building code did not allow structures taller than the Winter Palace, residence of the emperor. The architect found an elegant solution to the limit of 23.5 meters: the six-storey Art Nouveau building is crowned with a glass tower, which in turn is topped by a glass globe sculpture created by the Estonian artist Amandus Adamson.” After the Revolution, Singer was changed. Now it is the largest book store in town.


The Cartier building:


Armani has just moved into the building near my flat:Image


A Tony and Guy is hiding in this cracked building:


A view from inside the Hermitage, as it “swims” along the Neva for ever…..


The Hermitage from the outside:Image


Some street shots outsie the Hermitage:


The Soviet-style ribbons in the hair are very nostalgice, especially for Russians! Wonder why this girl decided to wear it like this?




Lavender coat:




Lavender coat too!



Fashionable Karl will sort it all out!


UPDATE: Cyborg Neil Harbisson appointed MA Material Futures Designer in Residence!



I am very pleased to find this on my former university’s website. The very cool Neil Harbisson who I wrote about in my last blog post has been appointed as designer in residence at St Martins – in my old department! How cool is that? Very interesting, that we think along the same lines, the MA course and I..

From the website:

MA Material Futures is honored to announce the appointment of Cyborg Neil Harbisson  as MA MF Designer in Residence !

Neil Harbisson is a Catalan-raised, British-born contemporary artist, musician, and cyborg activist best known for his self-extended ability to hear colours and to perceive colours outside the ability of human vision.[9] In 2004 he became the first person in the world to wear an eyeborg.[10] The inclusion of the eyeborg on his passport photo has been claimed by some to be official recognition of Harbisson as a cyborg.[11] Colour and the use of technology as an extension of the performer are the central themes in Harbisson’s work. In 2010, he founded the Cyborg Foundation, an international organisation to help humans become cyborgs.