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Friday, 28 January 2011

Nice Day for a White Wedding: Gioia Mia Designs

When I was little, I wasn't like a lot of the other girls in my class. I didn't talk about what my wedding is going to be like or dream about dresses and flowers and all of the other things that come as part of the bride 'experience'. As I got older, nothing really changed and as the girls around me talked with even more enthusiasm about what kind of veils they would have and could rhyme off the whole event like a well planned-MI5 operation. They had (and I'm sure still have) their wedding day plans down to a fine science. I guess I just don't have that 'bride gene' (as some people call it), I'm not one of those girls (as lovely as you all are).

Not having been to many weddings I haven't had much reason to look at the fluffy white world of bridal wear. This year, all that is going to change. Two people very special to me are getting married and for the first time I have been asked to be a bridesmaid (twice), which is a total honour (if a little daunting) and I have also been selected to help style one of the brides. No pressure then! This means I have to sit up and start paying attention to what I used to normally call "all that bride stuff" and start to get familiar with all that comes with being involved in a wedding. As much as I am being pushed out of my comfort zone, I am still looking forward to it and have already started to look at different designers (although I have still managed to avoid cracking open a bridal magazine). Being the magpie that I am, I have eased myself in by looking at accessories first.

Bridal wear is a vast and successful industry, there are countless designers specialising in everything from shoes to fascinators. It's pretty overwhelming. There are dozens of magazines solely dedicated to advising brides on what to wear and whole events set up to help people plan their perfect wedding. Where possible, I like to check out local designers and was so pleased when Gioa Mia got in touch with me as they are just what the doctor ordered - local, talented, down-to-earth and unusual. It was enough not to scare me off (some of those bridal shops in town can just be plain scary).

Bracelet: Sterling silver, Swarovski crystal, freshwater pearls, glass (£120)

Gioa Mia are a bespoke bridal jewellery and accessory design company based in the West End of Glasgow. They have been trading for 6 years and over that time have been building up a great reputation for good customer service and attention to detail. I caught up with designer Sonia, who started the company in 2004 after designing and making all of the jewellery and accessories for a friend who was getting married. Sonia explained that her unique designs are bespoke, so each piece is created through getting to know her customers and understanding who they are, what ideas they might have and the overall feel of their wedding. Understanding what your customers want and tailoring to their needs is a huge plus point (just ask Mary Portas) and I should think that attention to detail is probably important in any bride-to-be's book.

Tiara: Swarovski crystal and Swarovski pearl (£180)

Gioia Mia designs are currently made on a commission-only basis directly from the designer which sounds expensive but the prices are very reasonable starting at £15 for earrings and can range up to £150 - £300 for a bridal tiara. The pieces are made from high-quality materials including Swarovski crystals, gemstones and sterling silver.

Earrings: Sterling silver and Swarovski crystal (£100)

It's clear that a lot of the pieces have an antique-y, whimsical feel too and it was no surprise when Sonia revealed that a lot of her designs are influenced by historical costume and design - such as Renaissance costumes or Neo-classical paintings. An excellent example can be seen in this pretty floral tiara:

Tiara comb: Swarovski pearl and crystal, freshwater pearl, rose quartz, paper buds and flowers (£160)

Giving customers the "personal touch" is certainly what sets this company apart and even the website has a warm, almost journal-like approach with real-life customer testimonials and photographs of the brides wearing the pieces as opposed to a hard, corporate sell. As well as the commission based designs, last year Sonia created her ready-to-wear collection which is aimed to be sold online and from a selection of hand-picked stockists. The ready-to-wear collection has already had a massive impact with requests from magazines and photo shoots coming in before the collection was even finished! It's no surprise that Gioia Mia continues to go from strength to strength with plans to launch an online shop later this year.

You can find more information on Gioia Mia on their website, and by joining the mailing list at And as for my journey into the world of bridesmaid duties? I'll keep you posted.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Come Sale Away

After the excitement of Christmas and all it's festivities I often feel a little sad that it's all over. Luckily, to pep me and so many others up, the January sales arrive and promise enough reductions to tempt most people out of their cosy pyjamas and into the shops.

Lupe Go Lightly on Great Western Road announce their Mega Winter Sale in their own ever eye-catching way.

This year I was ill and could not muster enough energy to have a day of SSS (that's Serious Sales Shopping), I guess my bank card has avoided a beating (this time) with only one item purchased.

The trouble with sales - especially January sales - is that they can often bring out a bad side in people that are normally quite calm and rational shoppers. Take it from someone that has worked in one of Glasgow's busiest stores on Boxing Day (and beyond), and been to a good few January sales herself - it can get ugly. It's important not to get caught up in the frenzy of it all, otherwise you could end up buying things you don't even want, never mind need. It might be the last one, but when are you going to wear a neon green boob tube? Yes, it may be 50% off but it is three sizes too small (there's wishful thinking and then there's really wishful thinking) and you made fun of it when you first seen it four months ago at full price. I rest my case.

Even though we are halfway through the month there are still plenty of sales going on for anyone hoping to bag a bargain. Here's a quick roundup. In town, House of Fraser, Urban Outfitters and Fred Perry (to name a few) are still going strong. In particular the Amy Winehouse for Fred Perry collection (which I had my eye on when it was originally released in all its black and pink rockabilly glory) is now 50% off, making it all the more appealing.

Sketches from the Amy Winehouse for Fred Perry Collaboration, now in Fred Perry's winter sale.

There's bargains-a-plenty going on in the West End local boutiques for those less willing to venture as far as town, or looking for something a little more unique. Felix and Oscar (Great Western Road) are having a fantastic little sale, featuring 30% off all clothing (excluding pieces by Get Cutie and F&O) and 20% off No Added Sugar. A quick stroll further up the street and you will find Lupe Go Lightly (pictured below) having their 'Mega Winter Sale'.

A selection from Lupe Go Lightly's stylish window display (various prices).

I love this store, it is difficult on a normal day to come out empty handed so when there is a sale to be had it's even more tempting. Finally, vintage clothing stores have January sales too dontcha know? Retro on Otago street are offering 20% off the full price on all stock.

For people that aren't even willing to leave the house, there are a good few online sales to keep you occupied. In particular, Temporary Secretary are having their winter sale, with up to 50% off their collection of cute and quirky jewellery. Prices start at a mere £3.00 and my top picks are this vintage style brass telephone necklace (£14.40):

Telephone necklace (photo used with thanks from Temporary Secretary)

And I love these bright pink cupcake earrings, cute as a button and priced at only £3.75 - making them literally cheap and very cheerful:

Cupcake earrings (photo used with thanks from Temporary Secretary)

To get the best out of January sales, sometimes it's worth making a list of what you are ideally hoping to get and trying to stick to it. Sometimes its more fun to set yourself a budget and see what happens. Even though I love a good sale, I'm also looking forward to the year ahead and seeing all the new collections hit the shops and online stores.

Have you been hitting the January sales?