Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life

Half a dozen critically-acclaimed books spanning fiction, non-fiction and autobiography. Stints at titles including the Observer, the Telegraph and Vogue. Editor-in-Chief of Harper’s Bazaar and Town & Country. A Lifetime Achievement Award from British luxury nonprofit, Walpole. Justine Picardie is becoming almost as iconic as the subject of her latest book, Coco Chanel.

The latest? Picardie’s definitive opus on Chanel’s life was first published in 2010, but ever the journalist, the updated version offers an even franker, more intimate view of the French designer. Whether you’ve read Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life V.1, seen the film, or neither, you may be aware that Chanel’s life was an incredible web of half-truths, myths and fables conjured up by none other than Coco herself. Like examining a beautifully-constructed garment, cleverly-sewn to conceal faults and cover up flaws, Picardie unpicks Coco’s stories one by one.

“Sleek. Chic. Notoriously guarded. Welcome to the secret world of Gabrielle Chanel,” – the book’s opener hints at Chanel’s enigmatic existence. Almost 350 pages long, Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life is both a read to dip in and out of, or a solid bedside table choice. Packed with family photos, fashion drawings, magazine spreads and letters, it’s a fascinating account of Chanel – the woman and the brand – to keep you enthralled and guessing until the end. And best of all – still wondering just a little more.. We asked Justine Picardie to reveal her own secrets…

Why did you decide to revisit Chanel?

I’ve continued to be fascinated by Coco Chanel, even after the first edition of my biography was published — and new pieces of the puzzle about her life were emerging, particularly when I started looking in the Harper’s Bazaar archive. It felt important to ensure that my book was as complete and definitive as is possible.

Do you think someone like Chanel could exist today?

Definitely — creativity and ambition remains as powerful today as in Chanel’s era. But perhaps a present-day Chanel would be working as an artist, given the ways in which art and fashion have to inhabit a shared landscape in this epoch.

What has made Chanel so iconic?

She never tried to look like anyone else — her expression of personal style was an authentic mirroring of herself, so she introduced a different idea of femininity. At a time when women were still wearing corsets and elaborate hats and floor-length gowns, she introduced trousers and soft tailoring for women, which bestowed upon them a sartorial dignity which had hitherto only been available to men. She was the definitive embodiment of her own brand — in other words, she was entirely true to herself.

Chanel: the consummate entrepreneur?

She was definitely entrepreneurial, but at certain key moments, she also needed the financial investment provided by men — after all, it was the love of her life, Boy Capel, who gave her the money to set up her business in 1910. But she was swift to pay him back, and financial independence was key to her sense of herself as an independent woman.

Chanel: the feminist?

She certainly sought to define herself as her own woman — and to escape the control of men — but she was also conflicted at times, and suffered periods of intense loneliness and grief, when she said that she wished she had married and had a family.

Tell us about 31, Rue Cambon

It’s a magical place — one of those rare spaces where the veil between the living and the dead, the past and the present, seems to become translucent. I wrote some of my book sitting at Chanel’s own desk in her private apartment on Rue Cambon — which was incredibly inspiring. The marks of her pen are still visible on the leather surface of the desk — and late at night, when everyone else had left the building, I occasionally felt as if I might catch a glimpse of her reflection, if I only turned around fast enough, in one of the silvery smoked-glass mirrors that hang on the walls of her apartment.

Do you think Chanel would have been quite so iconic without her comeback?

I think it took her comeback in the early 50s to introduce her to a post-war generation of women — and for her designs of soft tweed jackets and perfect little black dresses to become relevant and desirable all over again.

Do you feel like you ever really got to the bottom of the mysteries of Chanel?

I’ll never stop being intrigued by her mysteries — and that is what makes her so alluring, even now.

Published by Harper Collins, Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life is available to buy online here.

Startup Star

Netflix for jewellery? It’s here, and you’re going to love it. Jewellery is so personal, isn’t it – so the idea of refreshing your jewellery collection once a month might sound like something that goes against all your best instincts. But that’s because you haven’t tried Glitzbox. Imagine having a personal stylist who picks out a collection of unique pieces just for you, meaning that you can try out some new styles that you might not have considered, not to mention discovering exciting new independent jewellery designers… At the end of the month? Return the pieces you don’t want, keep the ones you do – with a discount on any purchases.

Launched in April this year, Glitzbox has won numerous awards, garnered fans amongst press, bloggers and the public, hosted pop-up stores and events, and generally disrupted the marketplace. Founder Tamsin Ivy is inspiration personified. Always on, always smiling and always charming, she’s someone eats, sleeps and breathes her brand – her baby. There’s no doubting Ivy’s genuine passion for not only her company, but also jewellery and sustainability. We’re delighted to speak to her about Glitzbox, women in business and the challenges of running a startup – read on for instant #inspo…

Why did you launch your own business?

I firstly had the idea through working with independent designers at my previous job. I saw a gap in the market to help promote them and make the jewellery discovery experience more exciting. The idea sat at the back of my mind until I didn’t get a promotion at work and felt my career wasn’t progressing or challenging me as much as I wanted. I decided there was no better time than the present to give it a go. I have no mortgage or children so didn’t feel there was a huge amount of risk especially as I decided to continue freelancing to pay my rent and bills. I felt really passionately about the concept behind Glitzbox and knew I’d be gutted if someone else ended up inevitably starting something similar because I was too scared to try!

Who helped you out?

I’m a solo founder, but I’ve also had amazing support from ex-colleagues, friends of friends in the industry, and companies I used to work for. Most of all my family have been invaluable too! I’ve also been lucky enough to take part in a couple of incubator programmes, like the Huckletree Alpha Programme which has really helped. Being surrounded by other startups and speaking to so many people with different experience has been amazing.

Best business advice you’ve been given along the way?

My boyfriend is in sales and has a fountain of one-liners for whenever I’m having a crappy day or feel like I should give up. One of my favourites is from Steve Jobs: “People say you have a lot of passion for what you’re doing, and it’s totally true and the reason is because it’s so hard that if you don’t, any rational person would give up”. I try to remember that most of the statistics on businesses failing are because people give up so part of making something a success is just keeping going and not giving up when any “rational” person would.

What problems have you faced along the way?

I don’t think we have time to discuss them all! I’ve felt like I’ve been taking a PhD in running a business, but with no one to let me know if I’m doing things right or not! So many elements are trial and error and it’s hard not having a bigger team around me – I’m well aware of where my knowledge or skill gaps are and it’s frustrating when things take so much longer than necessary. Saying that, it’s been great to learn so much over such a short time. It’s also amazing how many other people and businesses are in the same boat. Some brands look huge from the outside, but are often made up of a relatively-small team making it up as they go along!

How do you feel about women in business today?

I think there is still a long way to go until powerful, successful women are seen in the same way as men. There are still lots of stigmas and stereotypes which I think need to be crushed, but it’s an amazing time to be a woman starting out in business today. There are so many organizations supporting and pioneering women. Safe spaces and communities like Blooming Founders or Natwest Women In Business that are making steps towards making it a more even playing field. It’s exciting to be part of that moving forward and meeting so many amazing inspiring females in business makes me feel so empowered.

Favourite startups?

I have so many! To name just a few, The Workbench – jeweller best friends Katie and Kirstie co-founded their business running ring carving workshops and they are amazing. Such lovely people to be around and every single workshop they bring amazing energy and knowledge, ensuring every attendee feel special and come out with a one-of-a-kind ring. They recently also launched their Workbench Box so you can enjoy some ring carving from home!

HANX – Sarah and Farrah are the co-founders of HANX, the first male condom designed with women in mind, and I’m so so impressed with their concept and execution. They are more than just a condom brand (premium, discreet packaging and sold in places intuitive to women) but also creating a movement encouraging women to take care of their sexual health without shame or embarrassment. I’m so proud of what these startups are achieving and that they are founded by young female entrepreneurs is super inspiring.

Women in business who truly inspire you?

I’m obsessed with podcasts at the moment like How I Built This and a few of the stories I have been most inspired by are Jenn Hyman (Rent The Runway), Katia Beauchamp (Birchbox), Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg (love her book Lean In), Sharmadean Read (WAH Nails/Future GirlCorp) and Carmen Busquets (Net-a-Porter). I could go on and on! Once you start researching there are so many inspiring women to learn from.

Tell us about your work life balance?

I’ve been absolutely terrible in finding a balance in my first year of running Glitzbox. Initially I worked from home – when I joined a co-working space, it helped making me get dressed and go somewhere outside of my flat! This meant I created a little structure initially, but after a while I just ended up staying there late most evenings and working again once I got home. I’ve missed so many social events and birthdays I feel guilty just thinking about it. I’ve thrown myself into every aspect of the business often going to networking events, pitches or pop-up events in evenings rather than seeing friends.

I also still work freelance three days a week, which means I have very little down time. I’ve been very aware in the last few weeks how off the balance is and that it’s not an efficient use of my energy to not take a proper break. My resolution for 2018 is to really nail down a working schedule and force myself to disconnect from everything regularly.

What do you do to relax/when you’re stressed?

Speak to people. I spend a lot of time working alone and over-thinking things in my own head. So if I’m really feeling overwhelmed I try and chat things through with friends or family. People often bring in other perspectives or thoughts that make me feel calmer. I also write lots of to-do lists, breaking each task down into tiny bits and prioritising really clearly.

What are you proudest of and why?

I’m proud to have won the Virgin Startup Voom Pitching Competition in Winchester. I had never pitched before starting Glitzbox, so I forced myself to sign up to as many pitches as possible in order to practice. It was just amazing and unexpected to be acknowledged in that way by a panel of expert judges. It’s easy to feel disheartened when not everything is going exactly to plan and as supportive friends and family can be they obviously tell you what you want to hear.

Can you run in heels?

I can’t run full stop! But as I always seem to be late these days, I have perfected the “power walk” – best not in heels though!

For more information on Glitzbox, check out their site, or follow @Glitzbox.

Let It Sloe!

It’s been quite the year for gin. Craft distilleries have been popping up in neighbourhoods across the country, making small batches to secret family recipes with quirky names and beautiful packaging. Well-established brands have been breaking out from decades of tradition with interesting new flavours, and all manner of gourmet tonic water now lines the supermarket shelves. It would appears that Mother’s Ruin has become Millennials’ sup du jour.

One particularly delicious case in point is Greenall’s Sloe Gin – a new release from Britain’s ‘first and original London Dry Gin’ – Greenall’s. It’s made using their award-winning London Dry Gin (a recipe so closely guarded, only seven Master Distillers have been au fait to its ingredients in 250 years). This ruby-coloured number is hand-mixed with plump sloe berries and other natural botanicals and ingredients, including almond, cassia bark, liquorice root, coriander seeds and angelica, and left to macerate for eight weeks.

Twist off the cap and you’re hit with the sweet scent of marzipan. A sip reveals brambly sloe berries and cherry, a hint of citrus, and a wonderfully seasonal warmth. A double measure poured over ice is nothing short of delicious. So, quite why sloe gin is considered an ‘old people’s drink’, conjuring up images of Christmas Day with the grandfolks, I’m not too sure. Perhaps we associate it with Christmas because it’s when those homemade batches, created the year before, are finally ready to pull from the back of the cupboard and cracked open. For the last couple of years, I’ve made my own. More for the enjoyment of going out and plucking the berries from spiky hedgerows than anything, and the joy of transforming a plain Jane dry gin into a fruity little people pleaser. I recommend you do the same in prep for next year, for posterity’s sake.

That said, Greenall’s Sloe Gin is so good, perhaps don’t bother… It’s quite a versatile liqueur, as I discovered during a recent tasting event, working well in short and long cocktails. The hot toddy was a highlight; one I’ll be whipping up in a flask for a Boxing Day walk. There’s also a fizz to get the party started; another with thyme, that coincidentally takes seconds to make; and a practically medicinal one with honey and lemon you can use your favourite gin for. And because tee-totallers deserve more than a glass of squash when they come round, there are a couple with twists to make them alcohol-free. Chin-chin to a jolly good winter!

Sloe Thymes


50ml Greenall’s Sloe Gin
150ml cloudy lemonade (or lemon tonic)
Sprig thyme       Lemon slice

Fill a tall glass with ice, pour in Greenhall’s sloe gin. Slowly pour in the cloudy lemonade or lemon tonic. Garnish with the thyme and lemon slice. Teetotal twist: skip the gin, up the lemonade, and muddle the thyme with the ice to release more flavour.

1761 Royale


25ml Greenall’s Sloe Gin
50ml Prosecco           Sprig of rosemary          Blackberry to garnish

Pour the sparkling wine in a coupe glass. Lightly bruise the rosemary then drop into the glass. Slowly pour the gin so it sinks to the bottom. Pop in the blackberry et voila!

Emperor’s New Cloves


50ml of gin (I particularly like Monkey 47 or Gin Mare for this)
Four medium-sized orange wedges
Two tsp golden caster sugar
1 tsp cinnamon           Tonic water           Two cloves

Mix the sugar and cinnamon together on a plate. Rub one of the orange wedges around the edge of a tumbler. Rub the edge of the glass into the cinnamon sugar mix so it has an even coat. Put three of the wedges into the glass and muddle. Mix through a few ice cubes. Stud the rind of the remaining orange wedge with the cloves and add to the glass. Add a pinch of the cinnamon sugar and stir through. Pour over the gin. You can add a splash of tonic water to make it a longer drink. Mezcal or Bourbon are very good substitutes for the gin if you fancy something different.

Honey, I Drank the Gin


25ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp of honey          1 x egg white          50ml gin
Small sprig of lemon thyme
Lemon thyme leaves to garnish
Nutmeg (optional extra)

Half fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Pour in the egg white and give it a few shakes. Remove the lid, add the lemon juice, honey, thyme and gin. Shake until the outside of the shaker starts getting icy (about 30 seconds). Pour into a martini or coupe glass. Garnish with the thyme leaves and any other edible flora you might have to hand. For a dash of spice, grate over some nutmeg.

Take it Sloe Toddy


50ml Greenall’s Sloe Gin          100ml cloudy apple juice
50ml orange juice          Cinnamon stick
Orange slice to garnish          2 cloves

Pour sloe gin into a mug or glass. Warm the juices gently in a pan with the cinnamon and cloves for 5-6 minutes until infused. Pour the liquid into the mug/glass with the gin. Garnish with the orange slice and cinnamon stick. Teetotal twist: skip the gin. Add to the warming liquid, 50 ml of cherry or pomegranate juice and almond essence to taste.

All recipes are for one, so you can easily multiple your ingredients for additional people.

Life & Work

“One of the most influential make-up artists of her time”. A quote from Vogue Paris – and one which is like to continue to follow Ellis Faas around for some time yet. From London and Paris to Amsterdam, the Dutch make-up artist – and founder of eponymous beauty brand – is what you might call a living legend. Name-dropping – from Inez van Lamsweerde and Mario Testino, to Fendi, Chanel, Armani and any other fashion label you’d care to name, Faas has worked with them. The logical next step? Founding her own beauty brand back in 2009.

ELLIS FAAS beauty products are “only tested on supermodels,” and inspired by a natural colour palette: “the colours that exist naturally in our bodies are complex and rich, but they’re also universal, shared by each and every one of us.” The result? Beautifully wearable, flattering colours designed to complement all skin tones – making you the very best version of you, whatever your age, ethnicity or style. The brand’s Make Up Not War campaign regularly raises both money and awareness for War Child: “We can’t just look into the mirror and hide behind our make up,” explains Faas. A living legend, a modern heroine – here’s what makes Ellis Faas tick.

Motivation for me is all about…

The need to build or create something. Whether it is making a new product, taking a picture, doing make up, building a house, planting a garden; the urge to make something is the motivation.

Success means…

Being able to do what you love every day.

I couldn’t have got there without…

The trust and support from my parents when I was young. And my brother and business partner Thijs; we fill each other’s gaps.

I always start my day with…

Lemon water and yin yoga.

When I don’t feel inspired I…

I try to turn off my mind and let my hands do the work. Sometimes it works wonders, sometimes it is rubbish. In all parts of life I guess it is the best way to just start doing things without worrying too much about inspiration or the outcome.

The landscape for women in business today looks like…

I have no idea – my business is my business and I can not compare. I never think twice about the fact that I am a woman. I don’t think it should make a difference, and I guess that if I start segregating myself as a woman, so will other people.

The trait I most deplore in others is…

Not taking responsibility for one’s own actions or for the situation. Blaming others without thinking about one’s own behaviour.

I’d like to be remembered for…

Being unconventional and being humane.

What makes me happiest is…

To see my loved ones laughing.

Can I run in heels?

I guess so…. I never run. Walking is fine though!

For more information on ELLIS FAAS, see the brand’s website. You can also follow ELLIS FAAS on Instagram, or see the latest news on Facebook or Twitter.

[show_shopthepost_widget id=”2832256″]

Switzerland: The Insider’s Guide

Finding role models in life can be tricky – in my experience, people just don’t live up to the hype. But Anton Mosimann is truly the real deal. From humble beginnings, grit, talent and hard-graft have seen him earn two Michelin stars, receive an OBE for his contribution to British food and inspire a whole generation of chefs. There’s also little he doesn’t know about the wonders of his home country.

‘Driving through Switzerland is just so special in so many ways’, Mosimann tells me. ‘It’s so versatile. You’ve got routes across mountain ranges and through valleys, roads along expansive mirror-like lakes. It’s a country of four different languages and cultures. A country of hospitality and quality, rustic food’. The renowned chef has also completed many rallies including the Peking to Paris Motor Challenge – which stretches over 8,500 miles.

We start the Grand Tour in the medieval town of Neuchatel, at the elegant Beau Rivage Hotel which sits right on the lake. It’s the ideal base from which to head into the Val-de-Travers valley and visit Fleurier (famous for Swiss watchmaking), Rousseau’s home in Motiers and also Couvet, where the bright green Post-Impressionist fuel – absinthe – was first distilled.

It’s the food from this region too that gets Anton animated: ‘big fillets of perch fresh from the lake’, ‘traditional boulangeries’, ‘local sausages’ and rich, Vacherin Mont d’Or – ‘a very well-respected cheese’. You’ll find a bounty of such local food at Hotel Baren in Twann; at 15, Anton did an apprenticeship here, and ironically it’s where his famously calm style was forged in the heat of the kitchen. ‘My head chef was a real gentleman but his number two was shouting and screaming all the time. I learnt how to do it and how not to do it and was lucky to experience both of them at a very young age’.

We follow the Grand Tour to Gruyere: a picture-perfect town complete with castle on the hill, but not before making a pitstop at Broc, home to the chocolate factory, Maison Cailler. The Swiss invented milk chocolate and Cailler was the first to use condensed milk rather than milk powder for a creamier texture. The quirky museum outlines the history and you can make chocolate bars too with Head Chocolatier, Geraldine Maras, (a world champion and one of Mosimann’s proteges).

Boot loaded with cheese and chocolate, we drive onwards to the Gstaad Palace. Famously popular with celebrities, the five-star hotel sits way above the treetops, with magical views from each romantic balcony. Mosimann worked here as a Commis Pastry Chef, despite having earned the coveted Chef de Cuisine Diploma which qualifies you to run a whole kitchen. ‘People thought I was mad’, he admits. ‘But most head chefs have a weakness and that’s the pastry. I wanted to be fully qualified in each section’.

The epic route snakes north towards Bern, taking in Interlaken, a town between two lakes and presided over by three mighty mountains. It’s a destination for hang gliding where the uninitiated (like me!) can do this in tandem, or simply watch from the terrace of the Victoria-Jungfrau Grand Hotel. Mosimann’s wife, Kathryn, was once Head Housekeeper here and he’d drive over to see her in his ‘69 VW Beetle. ‘I’d throw stones at her window, then climb up on a ladder’. ‘Just for a kiss!, laughs Kathryn.

‘I love Bern by the way, so much tradition and history’, says Mosimann as we arrive and settle in for lunch at his choice of restaurant, Schwellenmatteli, by the turquoise Aare river. Switzerland’s capital city is famous for hearty food such as the Berner Platte (pork belly, beef tongue, saukerkraut and potato), and Mandelbarli, almond cakes made in the shape of the city’s emblem, the bear. It’s also known for being laid back; ‘The Swiss have watches but we have time’, the Bernese like to say, and Anton recommends the UNESCO World Heritage Old Town for a wander ‘whatever the weather’, thanks to the covered promenades.

It’s up in the nearby hills of the Emmental region though, where Mosimann once had a home, that your mind settles into a lake-like stillness. ‘It’s wonderful. So calming. So relaxing’, Anton promises, and advises us, ‘don’t drive too fast’, so we take it all in. Even the famous show dairy has a quaint village character, and as we explore the grounds, we’re accompanied by the soothing sound of alp horns, playing in the courtyard. Hotel Ludernalp is the best place to stay in Anton’s book. He’s celebrated many family occasions here and it’s stripped-back style makes you feel even more connected to the panoramic landscape. In the evening, all you hear is the distant chiming of cowbells.

‘In life you go from one extreme to the other very often’ and true to Anton’s words, we leave this hush for the hair-pin bends and rocky heights of the Grimselpass. Breathtaking is an overused word, but I mean it literally – even if you don’t have vertigo, you’ll be holding the steering wheel tight. Everywhere you look mountains rise up to the sky, and at the heart of it all sits the historic Grimsel Hospiz, where we fortify ourselves for the journey down. Mosimann orders Flammekueche, Alsace’s answer to pizza – thin and crisp.

Roads lead south through Leukerbad, where we rejoin the Grand Tour at Sion and drive alongside the sun-kissed, vineyards of the Valais, a region known for wine and Walliser Trockenfleisch, tasty air-dried beef. Switzerland only exports around 2% of its wine – it’s said the Swiss keep it for themselves! – so it’s worth stopping for a glass of cold Fendant and hot fondue, which Anton eats ‘cuisine naturelle’ style with blanched broccoli and mushrooms, rather than bread. Eventually, you’ll come to the shores of Lake Geneva in Bouveret, home to the Cesar Ritz Colleges and The Mosimann Collection.

‘It’s unusual to have a museum dedicated to you while you’re still alive’, Anton jokes, but visiting is strangely moving. It’s the result of a lifetime of work, showcasing menus for the royal family and politicians past, 270 black and white photographs of Mosimann with greats such as Mohammed Ali, even a collection of Swiss art. ‘Ooh la la!’ Anton’s eyes sparkle when I ask him what his highlight is and, modestly, doesn’t pick anything attributed to him. ‘There are some very old books, from the 1400s, 1500s’, he muses. ‘Even a cookbook that belonged to the Pope’s chef from 1570 – things you just don’t see anymore’.

But it’s Montreux where we end our journey, which Mosimann describes as ‘one of the nicest places in the whole world’. Home to the Chateau de Chillon, ‘the floating palace’ that’s inspired Delacroix to Byron, and a vibrant jazz festival each July, it’s the lasting vistas of the vineyards, snow mountains and (amazingly) palm trees that make it unique. Mosimann sums it up simply: ‘Every night the sunset’s different, and seeing that makes you feel good’.

They’ll be no sunset on Mosimann’s career as he continues to tirelessly inspire. And his legacy is more lasting, not only because of the extent of his achievements but also the style in which he’s made them: without bolsh, without swagger, or even a raised voice. I see him in all the landscapes we passed through – his calm exterior belies a monumental love and commitment to his art, like a placid lake against a tremendous mountain-ridged sky. Mosimann may well have shown us a way through Switzerland, but it’s also a fine way through life.

THE GRAND TOUR OF SWITZERLAND links Switzerland’s cultural and scenic highlights over a distance of more than 1,600 kilometres. The route leads over 5 Alpine passes, along 22 lakes and to 12 UNESCO World Heritage properties. The international access points are Basel, Geneva and Lugano; within Switzerland, motorists can begin the tour at any chosen point.

How To Read More

“I wish I had more time to read”. “I should read more”. Either of these sentences sound familiar? With all our productivity apps, domestic gadgets and on-demand service providers, we should have more time than ever for reading, but somehow… And yet there really is nothing better than getting lost in an amazing book – whether it’s a novel that you fall in love with, or perhaps the latest prize-winner that actually challenges you and makes you think. Not to mention the benefits of reading – it’s proven to reduce stress, improve long- and short-term memory and increase focus… So how to read more?

Be Mindful

Sigh. We get it. Everything from dog food to dating seems to involve mindfulness these days. But when it comes to reading more, being mindful really does make sense. You want to read more? Think about WHY you want to read more. To relax? Because you actually enjoy reading even though you’ve been doing it less often? Work out the reason you’d like to read more – and keep reminding yourself of that. You can be mindful anywhere, any time – so keep consciously choosing to make reading a priority in your life.

Join Reading in Heels

A shameless plug, oh yes – for something we’ve just launched. Reading in Heels is a monthly subscription service and digital book club for intelligent, stylish modern women, letting you discover the latest in contemporary literary fiction alongside our Expert Edit of beauty and lifestyle treats.  Each month, our editor handpicks a book we know you’ll love – think modern, literary fiction; fantastic novels you won’t want to put down and the latest books that everyone’s going to be talking about. You’ll receive a beautiful box containing your brand new book, along with a few extra surprises too – think the very best beauty and lifestyle treats to enjoy while you’re reading. And there’s also a digital book club where you can discuss what you’ve been reading with other members. Inspired! Join Reading in Heels here.

Put The Tech Down

Those ten minutes spent getting lost in an Instagram hole? That’s a whole chapter! And that episode of that trashy TV show on Netflix? Not that memorable – and if you’re watching the whole series, that’s probably an entire book. Rather than checking Facebook on your commute or scanning the headlines, get stuck in your book instead. Social media feels like it’s only a minute here or there, but it adds up quickly. And it’s nowhere NEAR as satisfying as reading a good book.

Set A Goal

Choose a goal and make yourself accountable. Perhaps there’s a particular author whose work you’ve always been meaning to read. Or you’d like to get to know French poetry better. Or you’d like to catch up on the prize-winners of the past few years – and curated lists are a good place to start too. Be reasonable – find 5-10 books and commit to working your way through them, one by one. If you’re someone who likes lists, write them down and tick them off! Deciding on a goal and a specific set of books means you’re not going to be wondering what you’re going to read next – and eliminates the possibility to falling off the wagon.

Join A Book Club

Not only is joining a book club a way to read more, it’s often a way to meet some new people too – and that’s never a bad thing. Engaging in debate and talking about writing are probably not part of your professional or personal life either. Regular book club meetings mean that every month or couple of months, you’ll be reading something new – and no one wants to turn up to the meeting without having finished the book. The shame. To avoid disappointment, take a look at some of the titles that the book club has read previously – there’s no point joining with aims of conquering War and Peace, only to find that your chosen book club are mainly reading chick lit.

Ask Your Friends

We’ve all got at least one bookworm friend who has always got about five books on the go. Ask them what they’ve been reading of late and would really recommend. You can even tell them that you’re consciously trying to read more – booky people usually want everyone to love books as much as they do!


London’s must-visit destination for movie buffs? It’s not one of the city’s many historic landmarks and it’s certainly not anywhere remotely connected with Harry Potter-themed experiences. No – the place any real movie lover needs to visit is actually the Shangri-La Hotel. And more specifically GONG: the five-star hotel’s cocktail bar, which you’ll find perched up high – on the 52nd floor of the Shard. But we’re not here for the views – although they are sublime – the real reason for your visit is the Director’s Cut: a cocktail menu paying tribute to the great and the good of the movie world.

And the rationale behind this menu? “Cinema is a unique art that provides direct, instant access to emotions and encounters we might not otherwise experience – opening our minds and making us think afresh. What’s more, it’s a collaborative form that brings together many disparate elements to be fully successful. In this, it resembles a spectacular cocktail, in its fusion of skills, ingredients and imagination…. Each drink is a tale that needs to be told. We provide the outline and the clues; you plot the rest of the whole picture.”

16 cocktails and four non-alcholic sips make up the cinema-themed list. Forget about what type of cocktail you generally drink – this menu flips that idea on its head, dividing the drinks up into genres: Thriller/Drama, Crime/Action, Romantic/Sci-Fi, Adventure/Fantasy and Animation/Superhero. What kind of movie do you fancy this evening? Each cocktail is inspired by an acclaimed director, and there’s lots of names you’ll know: Spielberg and Scorsese, Kubrick and both Ford Coppolas are here, along with Baz, Woody and the inimitable Mr Hitchcock.

More broadly, the Director’s Cut genres correspond to different flavours and styles – whether you prefer something strong (crime, obvs), light & refreshing (fantasy/adventure) or with a sweet-sour finish (thrillers and dramas). Each cocktail is named after one of the director’s celluloid masterpieces, with a list of ingredients giving you clues to what it might be like plus a couple of hints as to the flavour style. “Leather, smoky, punchy, nightcap” or “earthy notes, forest flavours”, for example. The menu also shows images of the glasses the cocktails are served in – as some of them are quite unusual, this is key!

And so, after such an intense, complex, intriguing intro, what are the Director’s Cut cocktails actually like? As varied and exciting as the directors themselves. Baz Luhrmann’s Tea With Daisy is presented in a pretty art deco-inspired illuminated box, lined with velvet, while Francis Ford Coppola’s Bulletproof comes in a glass part-pierced with an actual bullet. So far, so Instagram-worthy. There’s also a Clockwork Orange cocktail which is based on milk – the drink which the movie’s protagonist and his cronies drink before embarking on their vicious attacks. You’re also provided with an iPod (curiously old-fashioned now!) so you can listen to Beethoven’s Symphony 9 – the music which soundtracks the film’s more violent scenes. And the most curious cocktail of all? Feel The Force, which is served in a special Star Wars-themed levitating glass. Men who profess not to like cocktails? Converted.

Visually, it’s an Oscar for Best Cinematography. Flavour-wise? Another win. The menu actually took over a year of preparation, research and careful tasting, and the cocktails include many homemade ingredients, such as a sherbet made with pineapple skin, a yuzu and umeshu cordial, and passion fruit and chai tea foam. Distinctive flavours to delight the palate, and if there was a Michelin star for cocktail making, we’re fairly sure the Shangri La’s Director’s Cut menu would get four of ’em. At £18 a pop, you’re probably not going to be stumbling into the lift at the end of the evening, but with Gong’s breath-taking views and a inspired menu which makes cocktails into a real scene-stealing experience, it’s an adventure you’ll remember until well after the credits have finished rolling.

For more information and to book a table, see GONG at the Shangri-La’s website, or call +(44) 0207 234 8208.


Life & Work

Not one but two successful beauty brands. Countless celebrity fans. Award-winning makeup and skincare products. Since Maria Hatzistefanis launched Rodial back in 1999, her company has gone from strength to strength – so publishing a book entitled How To Be An Overnight Success? “I always turn to stories of strong, successful women and I am inspired by their journeys, so I would like to try to inspire you too – show you the way and share with you how I overcame obstacles and challenges,” explains Hatzistefanis.

She’s achieved many things – but overnight success? No – it’s taken 18 years. As Hatzistefanis explains over the course of How To Be An Overnight Successit’s taken hard work, determination and a lot of grit and self-belief. “Fasten your seatbelt and enjoy the journey” suggests the beauty entrepreneur in her book’s introduction. And as she tells her stories and dispenses advice on everything from the work-life balance, hiring staff and taking risks to Instagram, collaborations and creating a personal brand, it sounds like Hatzistefanis has become the consummate traveller. Instant #inspo guaranteed.

Success means…

Being able to achieve the ‘here and now goals’, and setting new ones for the future. Being able to look back and see how you have succeeded is very fulfilling. I look back at when I first created Rodial and I realise how far I have come, but I still have so far to go!

Motivation for me is all about…

Waking up every day focused to achieve the impossible!

Success means…

Being able to achieve the ‘here and now goals’, and setting new ones for the future. Being able to look back and see how you have succeeded is very fulfilling. I look back at when I first created Rodial and I realise how far I have come, but I still have so far to go!

I couldn’t have got there without…

People. Whether that be my family, or my team or my customers. Without people to inspire you, motivate you or help you can’t get anywhere.

I always start my day with…

An espresso and normally an exercise class. I like to wake up early and get a jump start on the day while everyone is still sleeping. I also like to meditate in the morning, I use the app Headspace which helps to relax my find for the day ahead.

When I don’t feel inspired I…

Check Instagram. I get so much inspiration from Instagram and it is my go-to for new ideas. I am really inspired by fashion so checking out fashion bloggers always gets me feeling creative. I also check out any questions that my account @mrsrodial has received, I like to answer everyone and read feedback, which is really inspiring.

The landscape for women in business today looks like…

A world of opportunity. I feel that in this day and age, women are out there being leaders in business – there is nothing we can’t do.

The trait I most deplore in others is…

Laziness. I always surround myself with people that are ambitious and go the extra mile, so I cannot stand people that just do the bare minimum and can’t be bothered to work hard.

I’d like to be remembered for…

Empowering women through my journey of creating Rodial and NIP+FAB and through my book How to be an Overnight Success.

What makes me happiest is…

Watching Rodial grow and establishing new achievements from new counters, new bestselling products, more celebrity fans. I put so much work into my brand and there no better feeling then watching your business grow.

Can I run in heels?

As long as they are Prada!

How To Be An Overnight Success: Making It In Business by Maria Hatzistefanis is published by Virgin Books and available to buy online here.

Startup Star

From a career in corporate HR to founding a successful food brand might not seem like the most natural transition, but two years after launching Raw Halo, Meg Haggar certainly hasn’t looked back. Stockists including Harrods and Planet Organic, a dedicated social following and absolutely smashing a round of crowdfunding – the days when Raw Halo’s founder was making chocolate at home in West London must seem like centuries ago! Organic, vegan, gluten-free and dairy-free, the brand’s delicious – and award-winning raw chocolate offers a healthier alternative to everyone’s favourite sweet treat – it’s made with coconut sugar, nut butters and antioxidant-rich raw cacao. Hell, it’s almost good for you! Here’s to be a true startup star…

Why did you launch your own business?

Whilst I loved my career in HR, and since university that’s all I had hoped for, I started to realise it didn’t fulfill me on a creative level – something so important for me personally. The idea of launching my own business gave me a real sense of excitement. Before launching my business I’d completely given up refined sugar, which meant I really struggled to find chocolate that tasted nice but without sugar. After experimenting in my kitchen at home I quickly realised it was possible to make healthier chocolate that tasted great, using coconut sugar. It’s at that point I launched Raw Halo and I’ve never really looked back.

Who helped you out?

In researching other startup brands in the food and drink sector, it seemed almost all founders had an advisor or mentor, and whilst this may have benefited me, I just didn’t end up meeting a specific person who I felt would add huge value to the business. So the main support I received in the beginning was from my family, friends, and of course other brand owners who became close friends. It was in the second year of the business when my partner Jonathan joined Raw Halo, and that enabled us to grow the business further by relocating back to Derbyshire and setting up a micro factory.

Best business advice you’ve been given along the way ?

Whilst not strictly business advice, it’s definitely something I apply – and that’s persistence. My mum drove that into me from a young age. If there’s something you want, somewhere you’re trying to get to, don’t give up. This has been such an important piece of advice and it’d be the same thing I’d tell any new start-up founder. With Raw Halo initially I hit many closed doors, but the key was to keep on knocking.

What problems have you faced along the way?

A successful business will certainly face many problems along the way. I try to view them as hurdles, which can be overcome, and it’s a certainty that more will be waiting around the next corner. The majority of hurdles in the first couple of years of the business were around production, in that scaling from a few hundred bars to 20,000 per month was a huge challenge. To scale up so quickly required investment, and that’s where we turned to crowdfunding to help take the business to the next level. We found great success there, and that’s massively changed the business from an operations perspective.

How do you feel about women in business today?

There are so many amazing women who are disrupting many traditionally male-dominated sectors, and that has to be hugely positive for the next generation especially. When I look around at the food and drink industry in particular, there are as many inspiring women as men running hugely successful brands, so I hope that inspires the next wave of women thinking about launching their own businesses.

Favourite startups?

Some of my favourite startups include Too Wordy, run by the talented Maeve Brooks. She creates the most delightful greetings card and prints, so much so her business is growing very quickly. I also love a brand called Lani who produce natural and vegan friendly beauty products in the most beautiful packaging.

Tell us about your work life balance?

My work life balance is much closer to ideal than it has been over the past few years. Since we outsourced our production earlier this year, I’ve been able to take back control and make a more conscious effort to take me-time. Most importantly I’m able to run the business in the hours that most make sense to me, so that might be working at weekends and evenings if I’m busy during the week. Sometimes it feels like I’m on a different time zone, but luckily my partner works similar hours so generally works.

What do you do to relax/when you’re stressed?

I always turn to yoga when in need of some relaxation. When in London I’m a regular at Fierce Grace (I love their classes), so I enjoy getting in some practice at home. Other than that I’m definitely guilty of turning to our Pure Dark bars in times of need!

What are you proudest of and why?

The proudest moment was to see Raw Halo becoming stocked in Whole Foods Market. Visiting their flagship store on Kensington High Street was my absolute favourite weekend activity and to see a huge display of our chocolate bars in there during my last visit was a true highlight. Certainly a reminder that all of the hard work and effort is worthwhile.

Can you run in heels?

Definitely, there might be the odd stumble here or there, but I’ll always pick myself up again!

Raw Halo is available to buy online at You can also follow the brand on Instagram @RawHalo, catch up with Raw Halo on Facebook and see the latest news on Twitter

RIH Eats

Lope Ariyo. It’s a name you’re going to want to remember. And if you’re even slightly into food, Ariyo’s debut title – Hibiscus – is a book you’re going to want to buy. “Hibiscus may change the way we see African food in Britain,” opine the knowledgeable foodies over at The Observer. And we’re inclined to agree. The UK is a true melting pot when it comes to food; Indian, Turkish, Italian, Chinese have all become part of our culinary vocabulary in a little more than a generation. But African? Sure, you might have tried a tagine or jollof pot, but food from Africa – or even inspired by – the mother continent is surprisingly rare and certainly not mainstream, even in the bigger cities.

And that’s a real shame. A bold, eye-opening take on Nigerian cuisine, Hibiscus shows all the rich colours, flavours and vibrancy that Africa has to offer. Sure, there are some ingredients you might not have encountered regularly – baobab, egusi seeds and efirin probably aren’t on sale in your local supermarket. But if Sainsbury’s are stocking sumac and tahini these days, that’s undoubtedly thanks in part to Mr Ottolenghi. Featuring simple, delicious recipes packed with flavour, Hibiscus is remarkably accessible, with recipes like Nigerian roasted veg, traditional Puff Puff doughnuts, rich meat stews and curries and spicy salads and soups. Read this and you’re going to want to find out more about Nigerian cuisine. To get you started, try your hand at Ariyo’s Hibiscus & Coconut Cake: possibly the perfect summery cake to make (and eat) right now…

Hibiscus is a really flavourful ingredient and is very fragrant when cooked, which makes it great for experimenting with. Rather than using almonds for the base of this cake, I’ve gone for egusi seeds, which are eaten much more regularly in Nigerian culture. Although it doesn’t happen often, when I do have time to make cakes, I try to create a real showstopper to share with friends, and this is no exception. Although hibiscus can be eaten all year round, I do think of this as a summer cake to enjoy in the garden.

180g plain flour  //  60g ground egusi seeds or ground almonds
80g fine-cut dried hibiscus petals  //  1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp baking powder  //  1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp salt  //  90g coconut oil, softened
60ml groundnut oil, plus extra for greasing  //  100g caster sugar
80g light brown sugar  //  3 large eggs
½ x 400ml tin coconut milk  //  2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice  //  desiccated coconut, to decorate
hibiscus petals, to decorate


120g icing sugar  //  4 tbsp coconut milk
½ tsp coconut extract  //  ½ tsp vanilla extract


300g cream cheese  //  2 tbsp coconut milk 
80g icing sugar  // 1 tbsp fine-cut dried hibiscus petals

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/Gas 4. Grease two round 20cm cake tins then line them with baking paper. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, ground egusi seeds or ground almonds, hibiscus petals, ground cloves, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda and salt.

In another large bowl, cream the coconut oil, groundnut oil and sugars together. One by one, add the eggs until well combined. Add half of the dry ingredients to the bowl, followed by half of the coconut milk and mix with an electric hand whisk or stand mixer until well combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Repeat to add the remaining dry ingredients and coconut milk and mix to thoroughly combine. Finally, add the vanilla extract and lemon juice, folding in gently.

Transfer the batter into a large measuring jug and evenly distribute it between the two cake tins. If you prefer less washing up, then roughly measure by eye. Bake the cakes for about 30 minutes. When they’re ready, a skewer inserted into the centre of the cakes should come out clean. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tins for 10 minutes, then turn the cakes out of the tins on to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.

To make the drizzle, mix the icing sugar with the coconut milk to get a thick drizzle, then add the coconut and vanilla extracts. Trickle over both layers of the cooled hibiscus cake.  For the frosting, whisk all the ingredients together to create a fluffy purple cloud. Make sure the colour is consistent throughout. Spread half the frosting over one of the cakes and place the second on top. Spread what’s left of the frosting over the top layer and sprinkle over the desiccated coconut and hibiscus petals to decorate.

Published by Harper Collins, Lope Ariyo’s Hibiscus is available to buy online here.