Apr 192017

What is it?

Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion is the first ever UK exhibition exploring the work of Cristóbal Balenciaga and his continuing influence on modern fashion.  On display will be over 100 garments and 20 hats, many of which have never been on public display before. These will be accompanied by archive sketches, patterns, photographs, fabric samples and catwalk footage revealing Balenciaga’s uncompromising creativity. In addition x-rays, animated patterns and short films on couture-making processes will uncover the hidden details that made his work so exceptional. The exhibition will draw mostly on the V&A’s fashion holdings – the largest collection of Balenciaga in the UK. The collection was initiated for the Museum by Cecil Beaton in the 1970s.

Where is it?

At the V & A of course – where else?!

Why visit?

Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion will be the first of its kind to look at Balenciaga’s unique approach to making and will showcase pieces by his protégés and contemporary designers working in the same innovative way today. Sometimes, it’s best to see design in real life rather than via a social media lens.

When should I go there?

It opens on 27th May 2017 – 18th February 2018. Book a slot for early in the day to avoid the crowds.

Anything else?

The exhibition marks the centenary of the opening of Balenciaga’s first fashion house in San Sebastian and the 80th anniversary of the opening of his famous fashion house in Paris. It will feature iconic pieces from the V&A’s Balenciaga collections and trace the courturier’s influence on fashion designers working today, from Molly Goddard to Simone Rochca, J.W. Anderson and Demna Gvasalia, among others.

The exhibit will focus on the latter part of Balenciaga’s long career in the 1950s and 1960s, arguably one of his most creative periods. It was during these years that he not only dressed some of the most renowned women of the time, but also introduced revolutionary shapes including the tunic, the sack, ‘baby doll’ and shift dress – all of which remain style staples today. Highlights will include ensembles made by Balenciaga for Hollywood actress Ava Gardner, dresses and hats belonging to socialite and 1960s fashion icon Gloria Guinness, and pieces worn by one of the world’s wealthiest women, Mona von Bismarck, who commissioned everything from ball-gowns to gardening shorts from the couturier.

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Contributor:  Sue Lowry

Images Credits: Images with thanks to Victoria and Albert Museum:

  • Alberta Tiburzi in ‘envelope’ dress by Cristóbal Balenciaga, Harper’s Bazaar, June 1967 © Hiro 1967
  • ‘Baby doll’ cocktail dress, crêpe de chine, lace and satin, Cristóbal Balenciaga, Paris, 1958 © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
  • Bolero jacket, EISA, Spain, 1947 © Museo Cristóbal Balenciaga
  • Cristóbal Balenciaga at work, Paris, 1968. Photograph Henri Cartier-Bresson © Henri Cartier-Bresson, Magnum Photos
  • Dovima with Sacha, cloche and suit by Balenciaga, Café des Deux Magots, Paris, 1955. Photograph by Richard Avedon © The Richard Avedon Foundation
  • Evening dress, Cristóbal Balenciaga, Paris, 1962. Photograph by Cecil Beaton, 1971 © Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s
  • Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn wearing coat by Cristóbal Balenciaga, Paris, 1950. Photograph by Irving Penn © Condé Nast, Irving Penn Foundation
Jul 112016


The 18th May marked the start of the Engineering Season at the V&A and this auspicious occasion was marked with the unveiling of the new installation, Elytra Filament Pavilion. The pavilion is the outcome of four years of ground-breaking research on the integration of architecture, engineering and biomimicry principles. The project explores how biological fibre systems can be transferred to architecture. The 200m² pavilion structure is inspired by lightweight construction principles found in nature – the fibrous structures of the forewing shells of flying beetles known as elytra.

Elytra Filament Pavilion is one of the highlights of the V&A’s first ever Engineering Season, which is curated by Maria Nicanor and Zofia Trafas White of the Museum’s Design, Architecture and Digital department. The season is complemented by the exhibition Engineering the World: Ove Arup and the Philosophy of Total Design, which opens on 18th June, as well as a series of other displays, events and digital initiatives dedicated to global engineering design. The V&A Engineering Season highlights the importance of engineering in our daily lives and considers engineers as the ‘unsung heroes’ of design, who play a vital and creative role in the creation of our built environment.

The Elytra Filament Pavilion can be seen in the John Madejski Garden at the Victoria & Albert Museum until the 6th November 2016 and – best of all – it’s free!

Via Magellan PR, a boutique travel PR company.

Apr 192016


Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear is a new exhibition, which opens tomorrow 16th April at the V&A, and tells the story of underwear design from the 18th century to the present day, considering the practical and personal, sensory and fashionable and exploring underwear’s roles of protecting and enhancing the body.

On display are more than 200 examples of underwear for men and women, highlighting the enduring themes of innovation and luxury. This exhibition explores the intimate relationship between underwear and fashion and its role in moulding the body to a fashionable ideal. Underwear is sometimes controversial, sparking debates about health and hygiene, body image and stereotyping. Its cut, fit, fabric and decoration reflect changing attitudes to gender, sex and morality; shifting notions of public and private; and innovations in fabric technology and design.

Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear will be held at The Victoria and Albert Museum from 16th April 2016 – 12 March 2017.  Tickets are on sale now cost £12 with concessions available. V&A Members go free. Advance booking is advised – this can be done in person at the V&A; online at www.vam.ac.uk/undressed; or by calling 0800 912 6961 (booking fee applies).

Do check out the latest offers as Kensington House Hotel has some great weekend deals. You can sign up for special offer alerts here.

Via Magellan PR, a boutique travel PR company.

Contributor: Alexandra Pinhorn – Photographs by various photographers – credits as follows: Courtesy of the Hans Schleger Estate; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; The Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove; Sebastian Faena, Model: Eniko Mihalik;© Jennie Baptise.

Oct 282015

Even though it’s not December, Christmas really does start this month with the Christmas lights going on across town and the festive fun beginning. It’s not all about shopping so here are my recommendations for November in London.

Bonfire Night

With absolutely nothing to do with Christmas, my first recommendation is for the annual pyrotechnic entertainment that is Bonfire Night. As a way of remembering an attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament over 400 years ago we have fireworks on 5 November and the nearest weekend. You can make a night of it and go to one of the organised displays across London or just look up and enjoy the “oohs” and “ahhs”.


The Harrods Festival of Christmas

To really get you in the mood for the festivities ahead, Harrods has a weekend festival on 7 and 8 November. Father Christmas arrives to take up residence in the grotto and families are invited to join in the fun in Hans Crescent over the weekend and discover beautiful trees and decorations, festive characters and entertainment for the children. Peter Pumpernickel and his troupe of all-singing, all-dancing mice will be there and other special guests.

The Christmas windows will be unveiled too and the Once Upon a Christmas Fair theme means puppets and a stage in each window with lots of little extra treats to notice.

It can get really busy on Brompton Road during November and December when the store is open so if you’re not shopping I recommend going to see the windows late in the evening.

Ice Skating

The annual winter ice rinks open this month and two to consider are the Natural History Museum Ice Rink and Hampton Court Palace Ice Rink.

The Natural History Museum Ice Rink opens on 29 October so you can skate throughout the whole of November until 10pm each night. It’s a lovely venue when the museum is illuminated in the evening and hot chocolate or mulled wine in the cafe bar is a good way to warm up afterwards.

Over at Hampton Court Palace, the ice rink opens on 20 November and is another beautiful location.

ice skating

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland

There’s ice skating here but that’s not the half of it. There’s the giant observation wheel, Santa Land, the Bavarian Village and the Magical Ice Kingdom too. And my favourite is Zippos Circus which has popular daytime shows for the family and Cirque Berserk in the evening for the thrill seekers.

It’s free to visit Winter Wonderland and it’s open from 20 November.

Winter Wonderland

London Jazz Festival

It’s the 23rd EFG London Jazz Festival on 13 to 22 November. It’s held across various locations including the Royal Albert Hall, Cadogan Hall, Wigmore Hall, Barbican, Shakespeare’s Globe and Ronnie Scott’s.

There are over 300 gigs during the festival and the highlight for me is rapper and actor Ice-T with trumpeter Ron McCurdy in a 21st century realisation of Langston Hughes’ jazz poem Ask Your Mama: 12 Moods for Jazz.

There are also film screenings and special talks that take an in-depth look at different jazz styles and performers.

Spirit of Christmas Fair

If you’ve got to start the Christmas shopping this month this is a wonderful place to begin. The Spirit of Christmas Fair is at Olympia from 2 to 8 November.

The exhibitors cover stylish gifts for all of the family (and maybe a few for you as well). You can get everything you need to make your home elegant and welcoming over the winter season, plus plenty of tasty treats too.

Spirit of Christmas Fair

Christmas at Kew

Later this month Christmas at Kew brings us evening openings with seasonal illuminations. From 25 November (until 2 January) you can visit Kew after dark to experience the new winter trail.

The one-mile sparkling path winds its way through the world-famous botanic gardens with dancing illuminated fountains and glowing waterside reflections, a Choir of Holly Bushes, Tunnel of Lights and scented Fire Garden. Plus vintage rides, Christmas gifts and traditional festive fare.

Christmas at Kew

V&A Japanese Art Gallery

The Toshiba Gallery of Japanese Art is reopening on 4 November after a full redisplay and refurbishment.

The Victoria and Albert Museum has been collecting Japanese art since it was founded in 1852. The 400 pieces on display include Hello Kitty! kitchen pieces and an ensemble from Issey Miyake’s A/W 2015 collection. But it’s not all contemporary as the gallery illustrates the extraordinary craftsmanship and artistic wealth of Japan from about the 6th century up to the present day.

V&A Japanese Gallery

‘OO-IX’ Sculpture by Hayashi Shigeki (2013)
© Hayashi Shigeki and Yufuku Gallery. Photograph copyright Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The V&A also has some interesting evening events this month including internationally renowned shoe designer Manolo Blahnik in conversation with fashion writer Gianluca Longo on Friday 6 November. Combining this with a visit to the Shoes: Pleasure and Pain exhibition makes a lot of sense.

On Tuesday 24 November there’s an evening talk with Sandy Powell, the Oscar and BAFTA winning costume designer. She has worked on both historical and contemporary projects and her many films include Shakespeare in Love, The Young Victoria, The Wolf of Wall Street, and most recently, Carol.

And this month’s ‘Friday Late‘ is on Friday 27 November. The theme is ‘Made in India’ and the evening opening will include underground music and digitally designed, Indian-inspired textiles on display.

The Queen’s Gallery

The next exhibition at The Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace – Masters of the Everyday: Dutch Artists in the Age of Vermeer – looks particularly worth seeing. Opening on 13 November, this is a chance to see 28 of the finest 17th and 18th-century Dutch paintings in the Royal Collection, including Vermeer’s ‘The Music Lesson’ (seen here).

The Dutch artists of the 17th century painted ordinary people doing everyday things. They offer us a glimpse into the rumbustious life of village taverns and peasant cottages, and the quiet domesticity of courtyards and parlours.

Vermeer - The Music Lesson

Johannes Vermeer, ‘Lady at the Virginals with a Gentleman or ‘The Music Lesson”, 1662-5
Royal Collection Trust/ © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2015

Elf the Musical

If you’re still feeling ‘bah humbug’ this is the show to get you in the Christmas swing. Elf the Musical opens on 5 November at the Dominion Theatre for just 10 weeks. Ben Forster, Kimberley Walsh, Joe McGann and Jessica Martin star in the London premiere of Elf, based on the 2003 movie starring Will Ferrell. Elf is the tale of Buddy, a young orphan child who mistakenly crawls into Santa’s bag of gifts and is transported back to the North Pole.

Elf the Musical

Even More

If you would like even more ideas for this month have a look at the November 2015 in London blog post from London Bridge Hotel, our sister hotel.


Of course, December has even more Christmas fun, including the Trafalgar Square Christmas tree lights being switched on in the evening on Thursday 3 December, and A Victorian Christmas at Kensington Palace.

Sporting possibilities include The London International Horse Show at Olympia. Big names in the show jumping world gather to compete alongside the Household Cavalry and the Shetland Pony Grand National. And Champions Tennis is on at the Royal Albert Hall too.

Foodies should head to Hampton Court Palace for the BBC Good Food Festival Christmas Fayre on 4-6 December.

And the new Europe 1600-1815 gallery opens at the V&A on 9 December 2015 with a redisplay of 1,100 objects from the Museum’s collection of 17th- and 18th-century European art and design, completing the restoration of the entire front wing of the Museum.


Do check out the latest offers as Kensington House Hotel has some great weekend deals. You can sign up for special offer alerts here.

Laura Porter writes the About.com London Travel site and AboutLondonLaura.com and contributes to many other publications while sustaining an afternoon tea addiction to rival that of our Queen. You can find Laura on twitter as @AboutLondon and on Facebook as @AboutLondonLaura.

May 272015

There’s so much going on this month it was hard to decide what to include but I think these recommendations will ensure you have a great time in London.

The V&A

The V&A has plenty of reasons to visit this month. The Shoes: Pleasure and Pain exhibition is the main highlight. On from 13 June 2015 to 31 January 2016, this exhibition looks at the extremes of footwear from around the globe.

Parakeet Shoes

Parakeet shoes,
Artist: Caroline Groves (b.1959)
Credit: Photography by Dan Lowe

Over 200 pairs of shoes are on display from historic sandals to famous shoe wearers and collections. Cultural significance will be considered alongside the latest developments in footwear technology creating the possibility of ever higher heels and dramatic shapes.


The V&A also has Captain Linnaeus Trip: Photographer of India and Burma, 1854-1860 on from 24 June to 11 October, as part of the V&A India Festival, and the exhibition is free to visit.

Rangoon: Henzas on the East Side of the Shwe Dagon Pagoda,  November 1855 Artist: Linnaeus Tripe

Rangoon: Henzas on the East Side of the Shwe Dagon Pagoda, November 1855
Artist: Linnaeus Tripe

This display features some of the earliest and most striking views of the landscape and architecture of India and Burma, by a pioneering British photographer.

Other reasons to visit The V&A this month include comedian Paul Merton: In Conversation on 19 June and the monthly Friday Late on 26 June. This month’s theme is Art Is Good For You and the evening will explore the capacity of art and design to empower and transform, and ask questions of art, design, and architecture’s relevance as a tool for social development today.


Kew Gardens

Full of Spice is the summer festival at Kew Gardens, on until 6 September.

Kew Gardens

© RGB Kew

We don’t think twice about the peppermill on our dining table or the vanilla in our ice-cream, but the power of some plants to colour, flavour and preserve, makes them worth more than their weight in gold.

This summer, The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is exploring the botanical origins of these mystical commodities. Come face-to-face with nutmeg, turmeric and tamarind in the steamy Palm House, or chillies, ginger and vanilla orchids in the Princess of Wales Conservatory.

You can meet the Kew Scientists and there are lots of ‘hands on’ sessions too. Every Sunday you can get a ride on the Cinnamon, Pepper or Cardamom Rickshaw for an immersive, theatrical and yet educational ride around the Gardens. And there’s a Botanical Bar on weekends too, and a Strictly Spice Dance competition on the lawn in front of the Orangery throughout the summer holidays.


The Battle of Waterloo Bicentenary

Apsley House is celebrating 200 years since The Battle of Waterloo with a vegetable reenactment! Visit on Thursday 18 June to find out about Regency clothes and dressing and prepare to celebrate when the Duke returns.

Apsley House

The re-presented Waterloo Gallery in Apsley House with magnificent silver gilt dinner service on the banqueting table.

Another reason to visit Apsley House this month is for the Preparing For a Waterloo Banquet weekend on 20-21 June. Prepare your toasts and perfect your speeches as the house is readied for the imminent return of the Duke of Wellington and the annual Waterloo banquet.

On the same weekend (20-21 June) you could head to Eltham Palace in southeast London for the Grand Medieval Joust. Knights compete on horseback and the cheeky court jester brings the laughs for this medieval entertainment.


Barbara Hepworth

The summer exhibition at Tate Britain is Barbara Hepworth: Sculpture for a Modern World, on from 24 June to 25 October.

Barbara Hepworth, Sculpture with Colour (Deep Blue and Red) (6) 1943 © The Hepworth Estate

Barbara Hepworth, Sculpture with Colour (Deep Blue and Red) (6) 1943
© The Hepworth Estate

Hepworth is often overshadowed by her contemporary Henry Moore, although she really shouldn’t be. Here’s a chance to appreciate the full portfolio of her work including textiles, collages, drawings and trademark sculptures.

Also at Tate Britain is the BP Spotlight: Tracey Emin and Francis Bacon where you can see Tracey Emin’s famous unmade bed as it is back on display until summer 2016 and is free to see.

Another popular exhibition this month is the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition from 8 June to 16 August. It is the world’s oldest open-submission exhibition and includes painting, printmaking and sculpture through to installation, photography and film. Look out for Conrad Shawcross’s installation in the courtyard which consists of a group of five steel ‘clouds’.


Sporting Highlights

If you would like to attend a quintessentially British summer occasion (and didn’t manage to get tickets for Wimbledon)  Polo in the Park is at Hurlingham Park on 5, 6, 7 June. Or you can watch world-class motorsport at the London ePrix on 27-28 June. The track is in Battersea Park, next to The River Thames, for 20 Formula E drivers to zoom around.

Polo in the Park

Even More

If you would like even more ideas for this month have a look at the June 2015 in London blog post from London Bridge Hotel, our sister hotel.



Apsley House has a Waterloo Weekend every weekend in July where you can meet Wellington’s Troops in the midst of the combat campaign. There are also etiquette lessons and tips on dressing the Regency way.

Soundscapes: Listening to Paintings opens at the National Gallery on 8 July where you can ‘hear’ the paintings and ‘see’ the sound.

Eltham Palace has Jazz on a Sunday Afternoon on 5 & 19 July for you to relax and enjoy a summertime stroll in the stunning surroundings.

And this year, at the Summer Opening of Buckingham Palace the theme is A Royal Welcome and you can discover what goes on behind the scenes from 1 August to 27 September.


Do check out the latest offers as Kensington House Hotel has some great weekend deals. You can sign up for special offer alerts here.

Laura Porter writes the About.com London Travel site and contributes to many other publications while sustaining an afternoon tea addiction to rival that of our Queen. You can find Laura on twitter as @AboutLondon and on Facebook as @AboutLondonLaura.

Apr 272015

The sun is out in London and you should be out there enjoying it. There are plenty of reasons this month to get outside including the Shaun in the City trails I mentioned in April.


London has some irresistible stores and there’s a great shopping event on Saturday 9 May with a street party too. London shopping destinations Seven Dials and St Martin’s Courtyard are on the edge of Covent Garden and from 12 midday to 5pm over 120 shops, bars, and restaurants will be offering a 20% discount. The area will be traffic free with live music, street food, alfresco games, and a pop-up lawn with deck chairs. Ladies can get complimentary up-do’s and for the men there’s complimentary beard and moustache trims. Register for a free ticket and you’ll get a complimentary cocktail too.



Floral Month

West London loves this month of the year as the RHS Chelsea Flower Show is here from 19 to 23 May. It’s a true pleasure to visit but do note you cannot buy tickets on the door and it does sell out in advance. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy floral delights as Chelsea in Bloom is a floral art on the streets of Chelsea. From 18 to 23 May the shops and restaurants transform their windows and menus so it’s worth exploring the area.



Miniature World

You can see the world in miniature this month with the Kensington Dolls House Festival on 15 and 16 May at Kensington Town Hall. This is the festival’s 30th year and it has become the top international show for quality dolls’ houses, miniatures and models. The show is not just for collectors and makes a lovey day out.




Pint of Science

Have you ever had one of those conversations down the pub where you try to solve a scientific quandary? I guess we’ve all done it but did you have the answers?  Try an evening with a bunch of scientists and you might just get those solutions at Pint of Science. From 18 to 20 May you’ve got the choice of twenty pubs in London with topics such as climate change, the stars, radioactivity and many more.


The Victoria & Albert Museum

At the V&A seven galleries have been transformed for the redisplay of the Museum’s unrivalled collection of 17th- and 18th century European art and design. Europe 1600-1800 opens from 2 May and is part of a major project in the V&A’s ongoing redevelopment programme. The displays have 1,100 spectacular examples of textiles and fashion, painting and sculpture, ceramics and glass, furniture and metalwork, prints and books, including a number of important new acquisitions. On show will be some of the most magnificent works held by the V&A, many made by Europe’s finest artists and craftsmen for the period’s most discerning leaders of taste such as Louis XIV, Marie Antoinette, Catherine the Great and Napoleon.

© Victoria & Albert Museum

© Victoria & Albert Museum


Walk London

On 30 & 31 May there’s a weekend of free led walks from Walk London. You could walk The Thames Path for 8 hours or take a 1.5 hour stroll around the West End. There’s a huge choice and you don’t even have to book in advance.


Even More

If you would like even more ideas for this month have a look at the May 2015 in London blog post from London Bridge Hotel, our sister hotel.



In June, Shoes: Pleasure and Pain opens at the V&A looking at the extremes of footwear from around the globe.

Book ahead for Sunset Safari at London Zoo which is on every Friday from 5 June to 17 July.

And on 20 & 21 June it’s West End Live in Trafalgar Square to celebrate London’s West End theatre shows.


Do check out the latest offers as Kensington House Hotel has some great weekend deals. You can sign up for special offer alerts here.

Laura Porter writes the About.com London Travel site and contributes to many other publications while sustaining an afternoon tea addiction to rival that of our Queen. You can find Laura on twitter as @AboutLondon and on Facebook as @AboutLondonLaura.

Apr 182015

8._Installation_view_of_Voss_Alexander_McQueen_Savage_Beauty_at_the_VA_c_Victoria_and_Albert_Museum_London (Large)

If you love seeing a true, original talent, then swiftly head for the Victoria and Albert Museum, London to see their blockbuster exhibition, Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty.

9._Installation_view_of_Romantic_Naturalism_gallery_Alexander_McQueen_Savage_Beauty_at_the_VA_c_Victoria_and_Albert_Museum_London (Large)

What a revelation this was – entering into the world of a privileged few who knew him, reviewed this designer or wore his clothes. It’s only by seeing the physical products that he produced that you understood what a raw and innovative talent this young Scot had – and what we lost when he left us.

6._Installation_view_of__Cabinet_of_Curiosities_gallery_Alexander_McQueen_Savage_Beauty_at_the_VA_c_Victoria_and_Albert_Museum_London (Large)

The skilful way in which the exhibition has been curated tells his story alongside his clothes – his Savile Row apprenticeship, his association with marques like Givenchy and the establishment of his own eponymous label. It’s easy to see why he was often referred to as the enfant terrible of fashion for his irreverent style and celebration of the gothic and grotesque – yet even in the most outlandish of collections, a beauty and grace shone through together with a surprising depth and grasp of historic knowledge and tradition.

3._Installation_view_of_Romantic_Gothic_gallery_Alexander_McQueen_Savage_Beauty_at_the_VA_c_Victoria_and_Albert_Museum_London (Large)

By walking through his life through this carefully curated exhibit, I saw the skill and raw talent that he had and how his ideas have permeated every section of our society. The quote “You’ve got to know the rules to break them. That’s what I’m here for, to demolish the rules but to keep the tradition” really sums up this exhibition. You can still buy tickets for this exhibit and I urge you to do so. I came away both enlightened and informed.  Just wonderful.

2._Installation_view_of_Savage_Mind_gallery_Alexander_McQueen_Savage_Beauty_at_the_VA_c_Victoria_and_Albert_Museum_London (Large) (2)

Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, in partnership with Swarovski, supported by American Express and made possible with the co-operation of Alexander McQueen, runs from 14th March – 2nd August 2015. There are still tickets available so snap one up soon – www.vam.ac.uk/savagebeauty. Follow Victoria and Albert Museum on twitter @V_and_A and on Facebook: Victoria and Albert Museum.


Contributor: Sue Lowry Via Magellan PR, a boutique travel PR company.

Photographs: Reproduced courtesy of Victoria and Albert Museum, London.