It’s Britain’s second biggest city and home to the boroughs of Moseley bog, Sarehole Mill and Perrott’s Folly; the landscape that inspired J.R.R. Tolkien’s masterpieces ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings.’ Although I saw copious orks roaming freely around the city, I dare say my city break to Birmingham will be the muse to my magnum opus. What did give me the horn in Birmingham was the living, breathing presence of diverse cultures; a sprawling metropolis of many different ethnicities, vibrantly represented in its people, restaurants and markets. While I avoided ‘Mr. Chicken’ with the repugnance one usually reserves for any war-ration evoking foods such as spam, Nanny’s signature dish my sisters and I haughtily named ‘Pedigree Chum’ and any type of meat with a face printed on its slices (yes Billy Roll, I’m looking at you), I had scant reserves in trying the local curry. Oh yes, sir!
Birmingham is a bit of an anomaly to me. Standing tall in the city centre is the £40 million Selfridges building; a vast, show-stopping landmark, immediately drawing the eye to its unique design. Designed by Future Systems Architects, this superstructure is evocative of space-age inspired design. Embellished with 15000 spun aluminium discs painted electric blue, mirroring the design of a giant pin cushion, it reaches four storeys high. Not two streets away is a landscape of poverty and urban decay – dilapidated buildings and street graffiti. I guess that is what makes Birmingham a city in the true sense of the word; the dichotomy of lower and upper class, existing alongside each other; deprivation and affluence all residing in the same urban sprawl.
Co-existing with the high-street regulars, the designer offerings of Selfridges and the local markets is a delicious slice of Victoriana. The Great Western Arcade transports you to another era with its boutique stores and independent retailers. The Arcade was built in the 1870s to span a tunnel for the railway line between Moor Street and Snow Hill stations. One instantly feels part of Britain’s history and culture and the atmosphere is further preserved by the distinct lack of anything high street.
While visiting the beautiful designer bags in the ‘Designer Exchange,’ a decadent offering of pre-loved bags, the sales assistant informed me, much to my chagrin that Birmingham does not stock Chanel. How horrifying! The two vintage Chanel bags on display in this designer exchange were the only offerings by the designer in the whole city!
About my outfit…… I adore Zoe Karssen. Her tongue-in-cheek slogans are the perfect way to inject humour into any outfit. Despite the laid-back, casual aesthetic, Zoe Karssen’s clothing is always impeccably constructed and finished. This sweater is a combination of cashmere, merino wool and cotton – the triumvirate of winning material combos! I love combining high street and designer and my jeans come from the humble Irish superbrand Penneys, AKA Primark overseas. I had seen two of my style icons wearing this sweater, Zooey Deschanel and Ashley Madekwe, so ladies, this is my tribute to you! To mix it up, I paired the outfit with my killer pony-hair heels from Office. I’m afraid to tell you they are not one bit comfortable and in fact, my feet have born the signs of stigmata after wearing these puppies. My Louis Vuitton speedy is such a staple; I use it all the time, it fits loads and goes with everything!
- Sweater, bought from Zoe Karssen collection at http://www.net-a-porter.com/, approx €250. Try ebay for this exact style. Similar here
- Jeans, €17 in Penneys. Similar here and here
- Shoes here.
- Trench coat: Supertrash girls collection, age 14! Bought for €150 in Brown Thomas. Similar here: