29 June 2011

Shoes, shoes, fabulous shoes....

There is something magnetic about shoes.  The colours, the strapiness, high heels, wedges, bling, boots, stilettos.  It doesn't matter, as women we are forever hooked.

We are hooked simply because shoes can make you feel gorgeous, complement an outfit, create artificial height, make you feel and act different (imagine yourself in runners and then imagine yourself in a stylish pair of high heels) and best of all they will always fit unlike clothes.

Singapore retailers have the most spectacular collection of shoes.  Most are for teethering on and require exceptional balance, a straight posture and the skills to walk in them.  My recent acquisition of a pair of Guess clogs added a further 13cm to my already 170cm height. 

Guess clogs a steal at A$50.

On a recent visit my dearest friend and fellow shoe addict departed Singapore with 16 pairs of shoes, mostly courtesy of Charles & Keith and Pazzion shoe stores.  Blessed with great legs and superb feet for high heels each pair of purchased shoes had a wow factor, some more than others, but wow just the same.

Charles & Keith

The Charles & Keith label is a product of two brothers, Charles and Keith Wong, who grew up working in their parents' shoe shop.  The brothers launched the Singaporean label in 1996 and to date have a collection of 200 stores across Asia, Middle-East and Eastern Europe.  Driven to produce fashion forward designs and cater to market sentiments, Charles & Keith successfully create and distribute a plethora of footwear, handbags and other accessories.  Each store has an eye-catching window display, is a delight to meander through, and best of all respectable prices that suit most budgets.


Established in 2001 and of Singaporean origin, Pazzion has expanded its label into several Asian countries such as Japan, Thailand and Brunei.  The company's objective is to mix sophistication with fashion trends, whilst keeping it all within reasonable prices.

Why so many shoes? 

Can this question really be answered?  How can anyone ever articulate the love affair between a woman and her shoes or that instant attraction when she lays her eyes on those must-have heels or boots.  How do you ask a woman not to coordinate her ensemble with the perfect pair of shoes?

How can you ask a woman to say no when her visual senses are constantly tantalised with a myriad of choices?  There are pumps, wedges, clogs, stilettos, flats, platforms, open toed, closed toed, sandals, slingbacks, long boots, ankle boots, leather, suede, patent, mesh, lace, rhinestones, buckles, lace-ups and let's not get into the colours and patterns.

On this occasion maybe because the average pair was priced at A$35.  Maybe because the designs are beautiful and different to what can be found back home.  Maybe because she has great feet and just about everything looked awesome on her.  Or maybe, just maybe because she has an all encompassing obsession with shoes that many of us share, understand and even respect.

Thank you to Marc Gleeson for whiling away a couple of hours with my iPhone and photographing this gorgeous collection of shoes, whilst Mon and I were busy colouring in and painting.

The complete collection

23 June 2011

Thank you...

Written by my brother, this poem was inspired by a beautiful woman he encountered on his trip to Romania. The young woman, a theatrical actress, was described to me as earthy, soulful and simply just wonderful to be around.

He was smitten with her genuiness and realness. He felt like a teenager on his first date. Whilst he had to continue his journey and therefore leave her behind, he was left eternally touched.

I in turn was so touched by the depth of my brother and his words, that with permission I now reproduce it for my readers. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Thank you
by Alex Hajas

As the wind blows gently forth
Every morning at the break of dawn
Bringing life to summer days
For me your presence is the same

I have seen you form a smile
Not that easy to forget
And your eyes that make men flutter
Speak of longing, though I see pain

You hide behind a wall of glass
That is darkened to their sight
Yet I see you clear as day
Your inner beauty is insane

You glide the pavement as the wind
Gleaming eyes follow your stream
I see them turn and sigh relief
They know an angel spread her wings

The weight of love may be your burden
That you carry night and day
A breath of life and inspiration
For all to feast on through their pain

You give hope to all the helpless
You bring love and that’s your gift
What a flower everlasting
I wish I held in my own hands

There’s no denying how I feel
Because your presence seems unreal
Your smile and your gleaming eyes
Bears a will to hold you tight

To say I thank you that we met
Is incomparable to an embrace
I’d rather a kiss that’s everlasting
Repeated daily till the end

Alex Hajas

13 June 2011

iPad2 Review From a Non-Techie

How do I love thee?  Let me count the ways...
  • you weigh 613g
  • you're so thin at 8.8mm
  • 10 hours of battery
  • you are portable and fit in my handbag
  • you can take photos and videos
  • I can watch movies or listen to music anywhere in the world
  • I can charge you through my laptop or a power outlet
  • I can websurf through Wi-Fi or 3G by piggy-backing off my iPhone
  • take Skype calls away from home base
  • communicate with family in a foreign language through your multi-language keyboard and dictionary support
Can I ask for more?  Maybe but I'm just a regular user with no technical specification expertise and I am happy with your creation and what you have to offer.

8.8mm thick
Personalised if ordered online

Did I need the iPad?  Of course not but who can resist such a good looking toy that as a technological product slots so easily between a laptop and an iPhone.  I am married to an IT professional and so an understanding and appreciation of IT products is now inbred in not just myself but also our daughter, who at nearly 3 years of age is showing an immense affinity towards all technological products.  She navigates my iPhone like a professional.

The iPad gives me websurfing capabilities to research subjects that I am blogging about whilst I am drafting the content of the blog on my laptop.  It is convenient to check emails, Facebook or Skype chats without needing to fire up my laptop.

Dare I say that the iPad is also kinder on the planet.  With 10 hours battery, the power outlet is used only every few days as opposed to the laptop which is constantly plugged in because the battery only holds a couple of hours charge.

With 64GB of storage space, the iPad can store up to 32,000 photos taken with a 14 megapixel camera or 64 standard movie torrents (not blue-ray or HD) at 1GB per torrent.

I can conveniently write notes on things I think of, see or experience without worrying about having a notepad or pen on hand and certainly not having to rely on my memory.

Most of all, I love the Apple apps.  The following are some of the ones I use:
  • Hungry - eateries throughout the country, their prices and reviews, along with a section that details just those that are near my condo.
  • Compass - will never lose my way home again.
  • SG Malls - a listing of Singapore shopping centres and their contact/location details.
  • Maps - a smaller and easier version of getting around as opposed to the paper tourist maps and it gives you directions.
  • Weather - weekly weather forecast anywhere in the world.
  • Currency - convert and view up to 150 currencies.

The forthcoming international trips will be that much easier to bear, knowing that Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Tom & Jerry, Tinkerbell and Dumbo can be loaded on my iPad to occupy my little girl during the 15 hours of flying.  I just better make sure the iPhone is charged to play Talking Tom, Talking Ben and Talking Gina and the chargers are in the bag.

So whilst I love my husband, I am having an affair with my laptop, dating my iPhone and getting to know my iPad.

10 June 2011

Beauty in Black

Have you ever wondered about the history of black and its place in fashion?  Once a colour synonymous with mourning, black is now associated with timelessness, style and class.  When, how and why did it become fashionable? 

The National Museum of Singapore is currently exhibiting "Beauty in Black: Dresses from 1950s-2000s".  Creations by the likes of Balenciaga, Givenchy, Cardin and Lagerfeld and locals Thomas Wee and Benny Ong give a glimpse into the colour black, its versatility and the effect it can create through design, shades & fabric.

Black's initial rise as a fashion colour took place in the 15th century during the reign of Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy.  Initially he wore black as part of mourning his murdered father but continued to wear it once the mourning period ended.  Since Burgundy was powerful during Philip's reign, wearing black as fashion spread throughout the European courts.  However, black continued to be largely regarded as a colour representing death and destruction and worn as a sign of mourning and despair.

Fast-forward to 1910 Britain.  To mourn the recent death of King Edward VII, Britain's Society attended the Ascot races completely clad in black.  Then in 1914 following the outbreak of WWI, women adopted the usage of black clothing as a sign of economic constraints and the need to be mobile and productive at work.  Unintentionally, through luxuries and haute couture, the colour black was elevated to a new status, yet through needs and lean times black was also practical and convenient.

In 1926, Vogue published a photo of Coco Chanel's little black dress (LBD).  Calf-length, straight and decorated with a few diagonal lines, the dress was simple and accessible to women of all social classes.  The image of Chanel in a simple LBD with bobbed hair, made the garment synonymous with her and by the end of the 20s, the LBD was a staple garment in every woman's wardrobe.  And so began our love affair with black.

Coco Chanel

Below is a photographic collection of dresses from the exhibition accompanied with some of the Museum's history and description of each dress.

"Here the black is so black that it hits you like a blow. Thick Spanish black, almost velvety, a night without stars, which makes ordinary black seem almost grey."
Harper's Baazar on the work created by Cristobal Balenciaga, 1938

Balenciaga - Early 60s
Lace, satin silk, beads & sequins

This sleeveless satin dress is overlaid in black lace and embroidered with sequins and beads.  The dress is worn with a matador cape lined with black organza.

Described by Dior as the "master of us all", Balenciaga had a reputation of uncompromosing standards in the world of couture.  In his latter life he tended towards heavy fabrics, intricate embroidery as the above dress illustrates and bold materials.  He liked using sombre colours like black and brown.

Theyskens - S/S 2006
Lace and linen

This Victorian inspired dress is made of full black lace decorated with flowers, dragonfly motifs and black tassel-like trimmings.

Olivier Theyskens designed this dress for his last collection with fashion house Rochas.  For him, lace reveals the different textures of black when light descends on it.

Lagerfeld - 1982/83
Silk georgette, sequins and beads
Lagerfeld's halterneck "Guitar Dress" is embellished with vertical rows of white beads.  The 'electric guitar' on the back of the dress was embroidered by Francois Lesage, a master embroiderer for many couture designers.

Incorporating street style into haute couture and blending class with quirky, Lagerfeld is known for imaginative creations.

Givenchy - 1952
This black and metallic green silk dress, typified the 1950s fashion.  A button fronted blouse with wide shoulders and a nipped-in at the waist overskirt is embroidered with flowers and seated musicians using gilt metal strips.

Designer of the most famous LBD worn by Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's, Givenchy is known for creating wearable couture using luxurious materials and embroideries.

Amies - 1957
Taffeta silk
The nipped-in waist and full skirt is achieved with a built-in corset in order to maintain the shapely figure.  Amies believed that elegant clothes should have a low waistline, hence the above creation.

Hardy Amies, was the dressmaker for Queen Elizabeth II since the 1950s.  His creations were largely classic dresses and tailored suits.

Cardin - 1960s
Wool crepe

This wide necked mini dress is constructed by a series of vertical panels which form curved gores at the hem.  The short hemline was quickly adopted by the youth and was most likely worn with leggings and boots.

Cardin preferred sparse, geometric and hard edged minimalist designs to the figure revealing forms of the 1950s.  Often ahead of his time and an accomplished designer, Cardin was the first couturier to launch the ready-to-wear collection in 1959 and very much embraced science and technology in fashion.

Alaia - 1990
Lycra and rayon
This ensemble consists of a bodysuit and skirt, decorated with seams created by fagotting (a technique by joining two edges of fabric together in decorative openwork effect). 

Azzedine Alaia from Tunisia was renowned for creating pieces based on seaming and stitching normally used in corsetry to achieve the perfect fit and flaunt women's toned body shapes, very much a reflection of the 80's era.

Wee - S/S 2010
Taffeta silk
Whilst simple looking at the front with a boat neckline, the dress surprises with a plunging v-drop back and gentle draping. Secured with a bow, it enhances the silhouette of the dress.

Singaporean fashion designer, Thomas Wee is celebrated for his precise tailoring, which is particularly highlighted in this one-seam cut dress.

Ong - A/W 1987
Taffeta silk

Black & white has always been a successful and eye-catching match.  Positioning the white in the centre and flanking the sides with black, the dress reinforces the slim silhouette of the wearer.  Knotted black buttons and white bow provides a little interest to an otherwise minimalistic dress.

Singaporean-born Benny Ong believes that black is best interpreted when contrasted with white, regardless of how challenging it is to balance B&W on a female torso.

Kawakubo - A/W 2005
Silk, rayon and wool

This two-in-one dress consists of a structured black wool jacket attached to a collared silk dress beneath.  The deconstructed dress opens vertically at the center secured only by two hooks in front while it is cut horizontally at the waist behind and held by a black satin sash.

A most complicated looking garment, it is atypical of the designer who is renown for her unconventional deconstructed black clothing that is usually torn and crumpled.  As Kawakubo once said, "I work in three shades of black".

Whilst there are some magnificently designed black dresses in the world that will far surpass this exhibition, the display essentially explores the relationship between designers & women and our neverending passion for black. 

So then, is black actually a colour?  Black does not emit or reflect light it actually absorbs light.  In the late 17th century scientists expelled black from the colour spectrum once Isaac Newton discovered that colours are created when objects reflect specific colours, while absorbing others. Whilst a contentious subject, there is one thing for sure, black is here to stay and so is the little black dress in whatever future form it will take.

"With one black dress your safe.
With two, you have double-edged security."

The Straits Times, 1965

What do you think?

07 June 2011

The most versatile wrap I have ever owned

I was viewing one of my sister's profile pictures on Facebook and noticed that of the seven women in the photograph, five of them were wearing the same short wrap in the same colour in completely different ways.

I am the fortunate owner of several such wraps in different colours which are obviously needed to coordinate with seasonal releases of pintuck or complementary camis or the LBD skirt cum dress cum baby doll top (another multi-wearing garment - you should see this worn upside down, innovative for sure) or pants or slip... the options are absolutely endless.

My good fortune is a result of being the lucky sister of an Intimo Stylist. Intimo is an Australian company founded by Sue Whyte in 1995, with the vision to supply the Australian women with a brand of fashion lingerie in a broad range of sizes (8A/30A to 24G/46G). Since its inception Intimo has diversified into leisurewear, sports bras, maternity bra & slip and masectomy bra.

Annie Kallis, my fabulous sister, aka "the Slip Queen" (that's another story for another time) has been a stylist with Intimo for seven years. She is a product guru, fashion stylist and superb bra fitter. With a natural charm, zesty approach to her work and committed to ensure her clients feel comfortable and beautiful in their new purchases, this is one woman I would call on.

So you can imagine with a product guru in my family, it was inevitable that I would be exposed to the products, the fittings, the styling and even technical product knowledge. Back to the wrap.

Manufactured out of modal the wrap is versatile, soft, stretchy, non-crush and very smooth. Made of beech wood cellulose, modal is a textile that is resistant to shrinkage and fading, gentle to the skin due to its natural fibre properties, softer than cotton and skin hugging. Simply said a perfect fabric for wraps that can be twisted, pulled and stretched into different wears and particularly perfect for travelling as it folds up small and light.

Whilst the wrap is always available in black (size 6-20) and white (size 6-18), Intimo will occasionally release a seasonal colour.  For instance, the long wrap is currently released in French Navy.

Since pictures talk louder than words, peruse the different tying applications of the short wrap.

This is the classic wrap tied at the rear.

Did you ever think of wearing a wrap back to front. 
It gives a terrific backdrop to a long and sparkly necklace.

The wrap is back to front again, with the sleeves tied around the
neck to give a cowl neckline.

Back to front again, twisted prior to putting it on.

A diamante encrusted bangle is used to thread the ties through.

Same diamanted bangle with the ties crossing over and tying
at the back.

Back to front, with a brooch creating the asymmetrical look.

This has to be the simplest version of a wrap.  Pull the ties
through a gorgeous ring and voila, you have some bling.

And finally, not the most practical, maybe a little wacky, but
it shows that you are only limited by your imagination.
Amongst the hundreds of consultants across Australia and NZ, the short wrap has been twisted and stretched into 18 different looks. 

For now my rainbow collection of wraps sit in storage awaiting the day when it can surface to be worn in cool weather again as Singapore is just a little too hot and too humid.

Ladies, if you want a professional bra fitter, travel wardrobe or styling contact Annie at annie.kallis@intimo.com.au or 0412-476-130.  She will welcome you in her home for a private fitting or happily soujourn to your place for a girlfriend Intimo party.

Annie, this blog is a tribute to you as you reach your first $1 million dollars in sales. Thank you for the endless supply of beautiful lingerie and leisurewear.  I am so proud of you I want to shout it from highest mountain.

02 June 2011

Jurong Bird Park

Following the wonderful experiences at the Singapore Zoo (4 visits to date), an outing to the Jurong Bird Park was going to be inevitable (2 visits so far).  Especially when I found out that there are 4600 birds in residence, of which 1000 are flamingos and another 1000 are lorikeets.  That still left me with vultures, eagles, toucans, hornbills, macaws, penguins, flightless birds and so on.

Can you imagine the feast my eyes and senses endured when I happened upon 92 species of some of the most amazingly coloured parrots from everywhere in the world.  The blues, the reds, the greens, gold, pale pink, purest of white.  Wow, my camera was working overtime.

For a small island, Singapore manages to have "the world's largest..." of many things and the Bird Park at 20.2ha is just such one example.  A multi-award winner, only avian hospital in Asia-Pacific and an Official Rescue Avian Centre, this park is committed to conservation, education and breeding of avians.

Here is a small collection for your perusal. 


Supposedly pink, although they looked quite orange to me, the flamingos habitate in saltwater lakes and lagoons, south of the North American continent and the Galapagos Islands.  Their pink plummage is a result of certain pigments found in the food they eat. 

Pink Flamingos


Australasian natives, these magnificently coloured lorikeets are cheeky, noisy and bold.  My brother was tickled-pink when one of the lories befriended him.  The 3000 square metres, 9 storeys high lorry loft provides sufficient space for 1000 lorries, a suspension bridge and two-tiered central feeding tower.

My brother is making friends.
The multi-coloured lorikeets.


Native to Central and South America, the macaws are part of the parrot family and mostly live in rainforests.  Their facial feather patterns are like fingerprints, different and unique to each bird.  They are serious chatterboxes, screeching and squawking their way through the day for fun, to mark their territory and simply to just talk to each other. 

Blue and gold macaws
My jigsaw puzzle version of the Scarlet Macaws

Living in tropical and subtropical regions, there are 372 species.  Along with crows, magpies, jays and ravens, parrots are among the most intelligent birds, hence their ability to imitate human voices.  Monogamous breeders, they usually nest in cavities instead of building nests in trees like other birds.


According to fossil records the pelicans have been around for 30 million years.  In medieval Europe it was a symbol of piety. There are 8 major species of which the Dalmatian pelican has the widest wingspan at 3m and the Australian has the longest bill with a record length of 49cm.

This isn't feeding frenzy.  This is feeding madness.

Pink-backed Pelican residing in Africa & south Arabia
Dalmatian Pelican native to certain parts of Eastern Europe.
I love the scruffy head.  No brushing for this fella.

Shoebill Stork

Check out this funny looking stork with a bill shaped like a Dutch wooden clog.  Native to Africa, the shoebill has a statue-like habit whilst waiting for prey.  Surprisingly it preys on young crocodiles.  Who would have thought it could rank higher on the food chain whilst the crocs are babies.

Shoebill Stork

Toucans & Hornbills

On first sight both species appear to belong to the same family.  That is not the case.  The hornbill is a much larger bird and also has a casque on top of its bill (like a hump).  Interestingly the hornbill is the coat of arms for Malaysia's second largest state, Sarawak. 

Bar-pouched Wreathed Hornbill
Knobbed Hornbill
Bushy-crested Hornbill
Toco Toucan
Red-billed Toucan

Vultures & Eagles

Scavenging birds, they usually feed on the carcasses of dead animals. They are found on every continent except Australia and Antarctica.  The corrosiveness of the vultures stomach acid, allows the bird to safely digest toxin or bacteria infected carcasses which is usually lethal to other scavengers.

Himalayan Griffon Vulture.
Can travel 6 hours & 100 miles a day looking for food.

Steller's Sea Eagle is the world's largest sea eagle. 
Nest size is 2.4m across and 3.6m deep.
Brahminy Kite is considered a sacred bird in India and it's
the official mascot of Jakarta, Indonesia.

Changeable Hawk-Eagle
White-bellied Sea Eagle.  The largest eagle in Singapore
and extremely territorial.
African Fish Eagle
The following random photos are posted just because the birds are fascinating and colourful.

Scarlet Ibis
White-faced Tree Duck
Superb Starling
Helmeted Guinea Fowl
... and finally here's us on the monorail, enjoying the surroundings.

The Three Musketeers
I have never given birds much consideration but the visit to the park has given me a whole new appreciation and genuine joy being surrounded by such colourful creatures that roam our skies.

Highly recommended...