August is here, which means holidays! Several of team Palava have trips coming up this month. I am lucky enough to be travelling to Croatia next week - I'm so excited I have already started packing. Here's a selection of my holiday essentials, chiefly - sunglasses, books and dresses!  This is my pick of books for the trip: an anthology of women travel writers, a novel by Elizabeth Bowen and my favourite novella by W. Somerset Maugham.  Elizabeth Bowen was an Irish born writer from Dublin. Born in 1899, her first collection of short stories entitled 'Encounters' was published in 1923. Bowen went on to be a prolific short story writer - her work is often taught as part of creative writing and literature courses as a shining example of the craft. This novel, 'A House in Paris' was first published in 1935. Split into three parts, it follows the meeting of two children in France's beautiful and majestic capital city. From there we travel back in time to learn more about the boy's parents and the family's history in Paris - their lives, loves and adventures. William Somerset Maugham was born in France in 1874. His influence as a writer is apparent in not only the continued popularity of his novels and short stories but also the many film adaptations of his work. One of my personal favourites is 'The Painted Veil'. Maugham himself was an interesting character - during WW1 he served with the Red Cross, going on to work as a government spy. He fictionalised his experiences of espionage in 'Ashenden: Or the British Agent' (1928) and other short stories.   'Up At The Villa' (1941) is both a literary classic and the perfect holiday read. I have read this twice before - the last time was a few years ago, so the memories of the story have faded a little. One of the most enjoyable things about returning to a book is the different perspective that time can provide. The nuances of characters and plot can shift, depending on your own experiences and the context or the place in which you read the book. Without giving too much away for those who haven't read it, 'Up At The Villa' is essentially a tale of romance with a dark twist. The clean prose and vivid characterisation enable you to get lost in the luscious Tuscan countryside where the novel is set.  'The Virago Book of Women Travellers' is a collection of short stories by female authors: including Mary Wollstonecraft, M.F.K Fisher and Joan Didion. Selected for their common theme of travel - all stories take place with the author or lead character visiting places far away from home. The stories date between 1717 and the later part of the 20th century, and are fascinating snapshots of women who were fearless in their ambition to travel and explore the world, even during times when it was particularly unusual for women to do so. I am looking forward to dipping into this during my own summer adventure!   Now that I have my book choices sorted, on to the dresses! These are all currently in our big Summer Sale, alongside countless other styles. I picked these three for myself and am looking forward to wearing them in Croatia.  The detail on our Kew Gardens print is very special - featuring Mr. Giraffe and several of his animal friends including a crafty snake, a few birds of prey and a magnificent peacock in full plume. The vibrant colours, unique print and flattering cut make this one of my favourite Palava designs.  Irene Coral Doodle is a lovely lightweight summer dress that was designed by Bryony after an afternoon doodling. A little sketch on a notebook transformed into the print you see on the dress. The muted coral colour is vintage inspired and perfect for summer. Our Rose Pineapple Heaven dress is a classic - with a V-shaped neckline, pretty pink waist tie and lovely knee-length skirt. I love the fun quality of the novelty print.   I can't wait to share some photographs from my holiday with you all, so stay tuned. In the meantime, have a browse of our sale. Many of our gorgeous prints are limited edition and won't be made again. Which makes them even more special!     Whether you're going away in August or staying at home, here's to a good month ahead!    
05th Aug 2017
Who doesn't love afternoon tea? We had some special guests this week at the Palava head office and took it as an opportunity to get creative. As part of the floral theme we have been exploring, we baked a Victoria Sponge with a difference. In addition to a double cream and strawberry jam centre, we decorated the centre piece of our afternoon tea with edible flowers.  Restaurants and cafes are using edible flowers more than ever in sweets, savoury dishes and cocktails. We got ours from Maddocks Farm - one of the most popular producers of organic edible flowers in the U.K. Cut flowers from florists and supermarkets are generally not suitable for eating due to the chemical sprays used to preserve them. Maddocks Farm is based in Devon - close to wild and rugged Dartmoor. As an eco-friendly farm, the production of the flowers includes solar powered electricity, use of natural spring water and environmentally friendly packaging. No chemicals are involved in the production of the flowers, making them perfect for adding to recipes or as decoration to your home baking.   We were excited to incorporate organic flowers into our afternoon tea. As a company we value the ethics and quality of organic production greatly and are ourselves committed to using organic cotton for our dresses and skirts. This ensures a more ethical means of production and results in fabrics that are softer and kinder to the skin.  Our cake recipe was from Bee's Adventures in Cake Decorating by Bees Bakery by Bee Berrie. A gorgeous book, filled with creative ideas that has certainly rejuvenated team Palava's baking creativity! We stuck with the basic, fool-proof vanilla sponge recipe that was as easy and delicious as promised. We are now looking forward to trying out the colourful and unusual recipes such as aubergine cake, beetroot and chocolate cake, orange veg cake and avocado icing. We also decorated these tasty prawn and cheese slices - made especially by our boss Bryony from a favourite family recipe. To make these, simply mix freshly cooked prawns with cream cheese and dill - season with salt, pepper and lemon and serve on freshly sliced wholegrain bread. Add as many edible flowers as you dare!  To wash down the cake, we enjoyed a pot of earl grey tea and a few glasses of Italian sparkling Rosato. It was certainly an afternoon tea to remember! We continue to celebrate flowers and nature this week and the various ways we are inspired by them. Our pick of the week includes a selection of our floral skirts - a great alternative to our classic dresses. Enjoy!      
23th Jul 2017
At Palava HQ we are celebrating a two-week floral extravaganza! Join me for a look at the inspiration behind our designs, as I discuss florals with our founder and lead designer Bryony.  Flowers and botanicals are so often at the heart of everyday life; from the food and drink we consume and the beauty products we use, to the way we decorate our homes and fill our wardrobes. Flowers are also symbolic of many aspects of human relationships and the way we express ourselves creatively - we give and receive flowers to mark anniversaries and celebrations; and produce poetry, music and art that attempts to capture their natural beauty. At Palava, floral inspiration comes in several forms. We make a point of decorating our studio with fresh flowers and have a rather impressive collection of house plants that add a natural splash of colour alongside our fabric swatches, notebooks and computers. This week, we chose shocking red gladioli. In addition to surrounding ourselves with floral inspiration in the studio, our designs themselves frequently pay homage to the vibrancy of nature. Bryony initially sketches our prints with pencil, paper and watercolour. These are then transformed into detailed, colourful illustrations which are carefully printed on to cotton and linen, ready to be cut into dresses and skirts. I sat down with Bryony over a cup of tea and asked her to tell us more about her creative process, hints of what she's working on next - and inside tips of where to visit to enjoy florals and green spaces throughout the seasons. To start, can you talk us through why flowers and nature interests you as a designer? Are there certain flowers or places you return to for inspiration? "Flowers offer such a wide variety of colour and texture, there’s so much to work with. I always seem to go back to my childhood as a starting point. Growing up in north Yorkshire I was very lucky to live very close to an amazing bluebells wood. When the bluebells are in season the ground is completely covered in beautiful, luminous lilac." "Photographs never completely do it justice – but they offer a glimpse into the colour and the effect this has on the light and feel of the wood. When it came to designing our Bluebells print, I wanted to capture the stillness of the woods: the feeling of being completely surrounded by nature, lost in thought – perhaps the freedom you feel as a child." "I’m also often drawn to wild flowers, growing in places they are not meant to - out of place with their surroundings. Foxgloves always seem to pop up on their own, often against quite bleak or homogenous backgrounds. The contrast and colour they offer is eye-catching and amplified. We tried to capture this in the Foxgloves print by choosing the stone-coloured natural linen. " I’ve also been very inspired by herbaceous borders and some of the ingenious designs at places like the Chelsea Flower Show. As a design concept it’s the perfect match for one of our Palava specialities - the border print dress." How you get from the idea itself to the print we see on the dresses? "It can be a long time until something comes to fruition. I have a huge folder of photos and inspiration I work from. I’m always keeping my eyes open, always snapping away. I’m constantly thinking of where our Palava characters Poppy and Fred’s next adventure might be happening. When I have time I enjoy taking a little sketchpad into somewhere like the bluebells wood and begin the illustration in person; really trying to soak up the atmosphere of the place. I think that makes for better designs. Saying that, the bulk of the work happens of course in the studio, where I pin hundreds of floral pictures to my noticeboard for inspiration."  Floral prints are central to one of our latest collections - Chelsea Flower Show. Where else do you visit in London for your floral inspiration, and why? “In summer, Regent’s Park - especially the rose gardens. I love learning the names of all the different varieties. It’s also a time to stroll and explore new green spaces – there’s always a new little square or garden I stumble across and discover. That’s the joy of living in a big city! In autumn, Curve Garden in Dalston. It’s involved with various community projects, festivals and music nights, which make it a great space to meet new people in a unique, outdoors venue. At Halloween they do an amazing themed evening with pumpkin lanterns that I would recommend! In winter, a walk on Hampstead Heath; the unparalleled views of London from Parliament Hill, the woodland, iced over ponds…I’ve walked there in the snow and watched all the trees and greenery cloaked in white. I love the way the snow changes the sound the place, muffling everything – it creates a beautiful quietness all around. The heath is probably the closest I can feel in London to the countryside where I grew up, because it’s so big you can almost get lost in it. In spring, nothing beats the flowers at Kew Gardens. I am always inspired by their tropical greenhouses and the exotic plants - the inspiration to our Kew Gardens dress. There’s then the history of the place itself. Kew Palace was a favourite residence of King George III – the house serves as a kind of museum, documenting the time his family spent there. I also admire the scientific research that Kew produces and its commitment to protecting species of plants and flowers. It’s a gorgeous, picture perfect park but education and research are at its heart." At Palava HQ we recently enjoyed some of your delicious homemade elderflower cordial. What are your other favourite floral flavours? "Jasmine green tea is delicious and very soothing. In terms of home-made recipes, I recently grew some borage in my garden and have discovered its magical secret…drop it in your gin and tonic and see what happens! Food-wise, rose flavoured Turkish delight always hits the spot." Which of the Palava floral designs from the Chelsea Flower Show collection is your personal favourite? “The Chelsea Flower Show design itself. It’s really the essence of our company; the border print, and this was the perfect design to showcase that. I create a storybook for each collection and  particularly enjoyed painting the illustrations and writing the story of Poppy and Fred getting up to all kinds of mischief. It's playful, colourful and fun - which is what Palava is all about. Plus, it features a topiary elephant!" What’s next for Palava florals?  "We have so much in the pipeline! We’re quite floral obsessed and have designed three completely new prints for Summer 18 to add to our Chelsea Flower Show range. This includes a bold tulips print that we’re very excited about. For Autumn/Winter 17, our popular Hungarian Flowers print will be released in a new colourway, giving it a very different feel - perfect for autumnal adventures!" We hope you've enjoyed a little insight into the background of our floral designs and the ideas that spark our interest. As part of our floral celebration, we are offering 30% off our top five floral dresses of the week - for both women and girls. This includes the beautiful Irene dress in our Flower Garden print. Enjoy!  
14th Jul 2017
In June, Bryony visited beautiful Lake Como in Northern Italy for a weekend of sunbathing, spaghetti and swing dancing.  An avid swing dancer, Bryony can often be found hitting the dance floors of London's Lindy Hop scene. Originating in Harlem in the late 1920s, Lindy Hop is a partner dance that unifies elements of jazz, tap, and charleston. Increasingly popular in the U.K and Europe, swing dance festivals have multiplied in recent years. You can now choose a dancing holiday in any country you like, from the beaches of rural Corsica, the lakes of Finland, to culture hotspots such as Berlin, Barcelona and Budapest. The Swing Crash festival is an annual weekender that brings Lindy Hop to the shores of one of Lombardy's largest lakes - the majestic Como. Bryony visited with four friends who are fellow dancers, renting an apartment close to the shores of the expansive 400m deep waters. Lake Como is known for its idyllic palatial villas, tranquil tree-lined towns and the mountainous terrain of the surrounding countryside. Its history in the arts is significant - Como has inspired literary greats such as Mary Shelley and Mark Twain and finds reference in the works of Ernest Hemingway and Samuel Beckett. The lake itself is fed by the river Adda. Full with greenery and rich vegetation; figs, olives and pomegranates flourish upon its banks.  Each of the group packed a Palava dress for their Como adventure. The warm temperatures of June required easy-to-wear summer dresses - but more importantly, the desire for something comfortable, elegant and eye-catching to dance in. We asked the girls to talk us through their style choices. Scientist Bella chose our Large Flamingo print, one of our most popular styles from the Walking In The Zoo collection.  "I love flamingos! And the blue is super flattering, along with the nipped in waist. Plus it could be worn at a wedding, or more casually, like dancing around the house!" Publishing professional Caroline picked Beatrice Cap Sleeves in our Red Walking Zoo print. Perhaps the most colourful of our dresses, featuring a parade of exotic hand illustrated animals: you can spot zebras, monkeys and peacocks on patrol.  "I love the colour. It matches my lipstick! The shape is flattering and easy to wear. Best of all, it's made from organic cotton which is very soft and comfortable. The quality speaks for itself."  Construction expert Victoria wore Audrey Foxgloves, made from high quality summer weight linen. The floral print adds a dash of colour to a classic, flattering shape.   "I've not come across many dresses with such a range of unusual and quirky prints. I was drawn to the botanical print. I like when objects from nature are used to make distinctive, bold prints. The neckline is also very flattering. I love the sustainable ethics behind the company, the use of high quality organic fabrics and the attention to detail of the prints themselves."   Housing professional Rosie loves Audrey Bluebells - a chic, sleeveless design with back zip, side pockets and slim fit. Our Bluebells print added a touch of springtime cool to the intense Italian heat. "My dress has such an elegant shape, I love the tailoring on the pulls you in nicely and is very flattering. The bluebells pattern is quite striking...makes it a bit of a stand out frock!" Lake Como provided a rare opportunity to observe four very different Palava styles worn side by side. Be it during afternoon strolls around town in search of coffee and gelato, or dancing into the night - each dress passed the Palava holiday test! If you want to try one of these dresses for yourself, they are featured in our pick of the week selection. Enjoy 20% off - this weekend only, plus a few other summer styles. Have a peek now!    
07th Jul 2017
With the wedding season in full swing, we often get the chance to see bridesmaids - and sometimes even brides, dressed in Palava. Bryony recently attended a friend's wedding in Pesaro, Italy and was lucky enough to witness no less than four bridesmaids in our folk art inspired Hungarian Flowers print. One of the unique aspects of Palava is that our prints are designed for both women and girls - allowing our mini Palava folk to feel just as grown up and stylish as their adult counterparts. It's also an easy way to coordinate dress codes for special occasions. In the case of Claudia and John's Italian wedding - three grown-ups and one mini-me! Pesaro is in the Marche region of Italy; famous for its mountainous countryside, Verdicchio wine and coastal bays lining the clear waters of the Adriatic sea. In my view, nothing symbolises central Italy as well as tranquil, sweeping olive groves - and Pesaro has plenty. The morning before the wedding was spent wandering through the greenery - taking in the gentle, luminous scents of freshly growing fruit. Bryony's choice for the day was our Audrey Bluebells dress crafted from lightweight summer linen. Both Bluebells and Hungarian Flowers are vintage inspired floral prints; the linen and organic cotton fabrics work especially well in the high temperatures of summer.  It was the perfect day for a wedding, without a cloud in the sky... Here are the stars of the show! Our three grown-up bridesmaids looked beautiful in their Beatrice dresses - styled with elegant floral wreath bracelets. It doesn't get more summery than this. There's nothing better than capturing a Palava print against a beautiful floral backdrop. Italy did not disappoint. And last but not least...our mini wedding guest in Margaret Hungarian Flowers. Our girl's dresses are designed with style, practicality and comfort in mind. We want children who wear Palava to feel elegant and special - but it's important this doesn't get in the way of fun and adventure. From picnics in the park, dancing at family get-togethers, or simply eating with gusto - all of this is possible in Palava! Our children's dresses are very comfortable, easy to get on and off - and machine washable. They come up great with a bit of vanish if your little one gets their paws a bit mucky. What better example to set that having a little boogie! Part of the joy of weddings is the communal celebration; big and little, younger and older - all enjoying in the festivities of the day. It was a proud moment for team Palava. If you're looking for a summer wedding outfit, our Chelsea Flower Show Collection has many good choices to pick from; inspired by summer flowers, natural scenery and adventures abroad. Filled with plenty of floral, border and all-over prints, the dresses are a modern take on the summer styles of the 1950s. It was a joy to see this special Palava wedding in Italy...we can't wait for the next one!
23th Jun 2017