Wednesday, 5 October 2016

WearItWednesday's THE BIG REVIEW in the ESPspotlight: International Jewellery London 2016, 6 September

When my Carer and I first arrived at Kensington Olympia, I was enthralled by all the glistening beauty surrounding me. Sparkling in every direction, it was hard to pick which way to go when all looked so inviting. Remembering my manners, I was intent on finding my kind host, the lovely Suzanna Hammond of Hammond PR, but there was only 10 minutes to go before the second catwalk of the day took place, and I was keen not to miss it. Vowing to find my kind host straight afterward, we were a literal blur amongst the aisles as we searched for the stage. Managing to find it just as the show began, I got some quick help with setting the camera up as my osteoarthritic hands chose the occasion to begin seizing and making life difficult.

A video posted by Erica Sharlette (@esinthep) on

I managed to find an angle in which to hold the camera that would at least allow me to press the shutter button if nothing else. Focusing on holding the camera steady (no pun intended), I watched what seemed like a breathtaking catwalk routine through my viewfinder. Led by a male model that was positively delectable, a swarm of ladies paraded around him in trinkets and baubles that I could swear made my jewellery boxes cry out in wronged pain all the way from home. The wardrobe the ladies sported was as sharp as the diamonds they wore, that I'm sure could have cut glass - and that was just the crease in a well-tailored trouser leg

The Alpha and my competition - darn their size 6 waists...

Entertaining and well-choreographed, you could get lost in reveries of what it would be like to own some of the luxurious pieces on show. The bridal portion was a childhood dream of dress up, come to life. Diamonds, gold, platinum and pearls draped upon the ears, necks, chests, and wrists of the four female models, all cooing around the distinctly alpha male. At its sophisticated end, I kept my vow and began making my way to the Press Office. Noticing a woman with a makeup bag flitting around in a hurry, I recognised the show's makeup assistant, and cornered her on her travels. Offering to find the chief makeup artist for me instead, I agreed to wait whilst she went and located her for a brief, impromptu chat.

I met the lovely Shari, Head of Hair and Makeup at the show and asked her a few quick questions:

How were you able to come up with the inspiration for hair and makeup that matched each look within the show?

"Well I wanted something that was elegant, and expensive looking, but that would also last well with all of the constant changes; that would also be quite feminine, but with a little bit of edge."

How did you get the looks together when they came to your mind's eye?

One of the stunning catwalk models

"In my mind I wanted it to look quite Parisian; you know that wonderful femininity, and elegance that you see on the Paris streets. That lovely kind of clean hairline, but with a slight edge; so the plaits are quite textured, and quite knotted, so I thought that gave it more of a fashion edge, but nice and clean."

Is this your typical type of show? What sort of look do you put together when you're working with models everyday?

"I think I'm quite lucky because every job I do is quite different; I do an equal amount of advertising, tv shows, fashion shoots, and fashion shows - everything is different, it all depends who the client is. The understanding of what the client needs is also quite important. I've actually designed London Edge at the same time, so I've got a team over there now, and that look is very sort of, big quiffs, and slick sides, with long, slick straight bits. So that look is sort of younger, and much more 'fashiony'. So it's just about chatting to the client really, and seeing what they want."

Which do you feel plays to your strengths more - is this sort of event not more restrictive in what you're able to play around with usually?

"I think because of the nature of the show, I can't push it as much, it does have to be a bit more feminine, and sleeker; I couldn't get away with the frizz, and the bolder colours which is a bit more for the teenage crowd, it does have to be a bit more classic. But I just love doing everything, so it's nice that I can do that over there and do this here."

What's your next job?

"I'm at ITV's This Morning tomorrow, then I'm doing a commercial next week, and I'm doing a shoot in Berlin this weekend, so nice and busy!"

After kindly thanking Shari for her time, and giving her my information, I got back to my plan and made my way to the Press Office, but not without being sidetracked by some astounding beauty along the way. R.M. Shah made my eyes shine like beacons over their raw stones, particularly as Mrs Shah was nice enough to explain the mining and polishing process to me.

The Shahs Shiny Pretty Things...

Ilona Biggins was next; her necklaces were absolutely stunning, and I wanted everything, in duplicate. Feeling like Dorothy on the way to the literal Emerald City, I refused to be deterred by any more poppies. Spotting the sign for the lift, I kept my eyes glued to it, and powered my wheelchair at full speed in its direction.

Ilona Biggins and her Stones of Wonder...

Ever the gracious, welcoming hosts, I met Suzanna and her colleague Jennifer Hall-Thompson as I arrived at the door. I must take this opportunity to let you know that throughout my entire hiatus over the past few years, Suzanna and Jennifer were the only ones to keep in touch with me and find out how I was doing. For that I am eternally grateful and indebted for their kindness. Hence my determination to make the final day of the event at least, despite how rough I was feeling. Recognising me instantly without so much as the usual blink that I have received by every former colleague or contact that I have met who knew me before I got sicker; they welcomed me with kind, open arms, and took the time out of their busy schedules to check in with me and find out how I've really been. Their sweet, welcoming kindness will never be forgotten.

Venturing back out onto the floor after a glass of something grapey, I allowed myself to revel in the beauty surrounding me. Keeping my eyes on the time, because I wanted to catch the final catwalk one more time so that I could view him...I mean it more thoroughly this time, with Shari's aesthetic in mind. On the way back, I was mesmerised by the Bogarta stand. Regal, and fit for stately affairs, only the sight of a familiar face could tear me away, and I jumped at the lifeline. Saying hello to Lucy Quartermaine, she informed me that one of my friends was exhibiting a few stands down and, I promised to return and find her after I saw to my needs. Having to make my way back downstairs (after encountering a Security Guard who suggested I use the stairs when asked for directions); I found the disabled toilets and cannot write this piece without mentioning the most inconvenient stall I have ever encountered in my life - and for once, that's not an exaggeration.

At the point of entry into what also doubles as a mother and baby changing unit, there was some type of strange, hard plastic assemblage exactly head and body height with me in my chair, right at the door to the small toilet. Now, aside from the fact that there is room for one and one only when some disabled users (like myself) need a second person inside with them; this entity at the door made it almost impossible to actually get inside the room, because it blocked the entry. It is placed in the most ridiculous position and can only have been done by an able-bodied person who only thought (and I use that term loosely) from the perspective of someone who doesn't have to consider obstructions in their everyday life.

Back on the main floor, we made our way back upstairs, and went in search of my beautiful friend Maria of Maree London. Interrupting her showing her lovely Mum around the stand, we had a brilliant catch up, before she introduced me to her gorgeous new 'Ether' collection:

My beautiful friend Maria and her gorgeous baubles

After chatting about what's been happening with her work since we heard from one another last, and her recommending I read the compelling book The Secret, which I am currently entranced by; we were forced to say our goodbyes. The venue was due to close soon, and I still had an infinite list of brands that I wanted to see after the final catwalk, which we would miss if we didn't hurry back downstairs immediately. Down on the ground floor, we were almost in front of the catwalk space when I noticed an adorable little girl sitting on a bench in floods of tears. My conscience refusing to allow me to go further without checking if she was alright, I stopped and asked her if she was okay, to which she replied that she had lost her Mummy. Springing into responsible Aunty mode, I asked her and her mother's names, whilst my Carer noticed a security guard ahead of us, about to turn a corner

Speeding after him as fast as my chair would allow, I left the little beauty with my Carer whilst I got his attention. Explaining the situation to him, he hurried back with me to give a report to his colleagues. On our return, little cutie indicated that she was wearing a wristband with her mother's name and phone number. Working as an impromptu team whilst the catwalk began behind me, the security guard continued on his radio, whilst I began calling the number on her wristband. After the sixth call with no answer, I finally got a brusque callback that changed to grateful once I explained that I had found her daughter. Directing her to where we were, I informed the sweet, pretty young thing that her Mummy was on the way, and the weighty teardrops halted almost immediately.

Trying to distract her until her mother arrived, we discussed the books in her hands. She informed us that her Mummy had her sit there with them to occupy her whilst she went to look at stands! Shocked that a mother would actually leave her gorgeous young daughter of 8 years old alone in such a huge, packed out venue, just so she could look at some gems! Keeping my flabbergasted reaction to my eyes only, they met my Carer's over her head and mirrored what my own must have been saying. The security guard asked her how long her mother had been gone; after mulling the question over in her little mind for a few moments, she came back with "Mmmm...About...three minutes." With a look of intense contemplation on her face. The severity of the situation prevented the laughter that wanted to follow such an innocent faux pas.

My phone rang again, and it was the mother saying that she couldn't find us, despite my directions and her daughter's quite right refusal to move from where her Mummy left her, when suddenly, up little cutie jumps and hurtles at full speed over to a young, beautiful woman, hugging her for dear life. Mother and daughter reunited, good deed done for the day and on we went to watch the remainder of the show, right after pretty young thing ran back over to me, all huge smiles, eyes shining bright, with a bounce in her step, to thank me - I couldn't help but smile.

Back to my own mission, and I moved into place to catch what was left of the catwalk on camera:

After waving a mental farewell to my 13-minute, imaginary boyfriend, it was time to take in the stands for the rest of the show's opening time, if I could make it that long. The ugly pains and evil wooziness had begun to creep back in, and not just because I had to pass rather large gems that I couldn't take home with me. Remembering that there was a designer I had promised to come back to, we headed back upstairs to the stand for John Moore Jewellery, one of the Editor's Choice Winners. I had been borderline hypnotised by the most architecturally interesting piece of jewellery that I think I have ever seen, and I just had to learn more about it. Hoping not to offend, I told Moore that his piece reminded me of a slinky, the childhood toy that so many of us without stairs in our homes failed to take in the simple joy afforded by it; only to be told that that was part of the initial inspiration! I felt like I had just won a game of Blockbusters...

John Moore's neck slinky...if you can get it down that far

Insistent that I try the necklace on, I ran out of excuses of why I shouldn't touch the object that saw replicas start at around £5,000 - Mama didn't raise no fool, I learned from the jewellery atelier visit in Amsterdam she took me on when I was 7 years old; where the salesman let me hold what was then, the world's biggest diamond, which I promptly dropped on the glass case by accident, and had everyone in the room on the verge of a heart attack, not least my poor Mother, who instantly began going grey. Placing the necklace over my head and guiding it downward, it got as far as my mouth in the front, and the back of my skull, when the elasticity got as forgiving as it was going to be, and Moore promptly said: "I underestimated how big your hair was in the back..." on my particularly flat hair day...

Now returned from the Ladies room, my Carer had to help the eager designer detangle it from my hair and subsequently my personage. Still conversing all the while, she could hold her tongue no longer and simply had to butt in to remove the plum-coloured pinstripes that began at my lips and rose to my hairline, further proving just how stuck the necklace got around me. Stating: "Oh yes, I had noticed that," Moore was saved only by his immense talents...and the fact that there was a heavy security presence in the building. Too nice not to be forgiven, we conversed some more, and I talked being a part of my planned new feature, to which he readily agreed - so look out for that in the coming months.

Before we knew it, the announcement came that the venue was now closed, show over, and I had yet to snap the stand of my favourite nominee for the National Association of Jeweller's Designer of the Year 2016 as promised. Whizzing back to Lucy Quartermaine's stand, I got my fill of wonderment, including her 'Icicle' collection included in IJL's Designer Brands for 2016, among other breathtaking creations. Having a quick catch up with the blonde beauty as she and her staff packed up, I learned that she was shortly headed overseas for another show, but we agreed to talk future coverage on her return, so I'll be dropping her a line soon.

Lucy Q proved why she's a nominee for the NAJ Designer of the Year 2016...

With that I saw a burly, and hungry-looking security guard headed my way. Not one to keep a man from his evening tea...and because I was slightly frightened, I sped in the opposite direction and found myself at the lift before he caught up with us. About to break my camera down, I came across the shiny Sokolov stand and just had to grab a few snaps from there before I did.

Sokolov Filigree to die for...

Before I could be overruled by anymore of my magpie tendencies, the aforementioned pain returned, particularly in my legs, and reminded me that it was really time to get on my way.

That's all for this year folx, but be sure to check out the event photo album which will be up on the ESintheP Facebook Page this weekend. I had aimed to have it for you today, but having only just gotten my new computer sorted, I only just learned that my usual editing software has been discontinued (there were screams), so I shall get to grips with my new one and have a plethora of albums (well, 3 hopefully) for you to look through by then. PLEASE Forgive me, but I am only one humble human!

On that note, I shall be back later with the first part of my London Fashion Week series - WearItWednesday it NOT over!

Until the next...

All photos courtesy of EricaSharlette of EricaSharlette Promotions Ltd.