A Modern Homage to Classics

It isn’t easy to mix… but when it’s done right it somehow looks so easy on the eyes… I love what they have done with this apartment… they have mixed classical elements, design pieces and contemporary materials with luxurious details, with a masterful minimalist approach. The colors and textures are relaxing yet sophisticated! What do you think?

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Images via  Guilherme Torres

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Book of the Week: The Sultan and the Queen-The Untold Story of Elizabeth and Islam.

18brotton-master768Murad III, left, Elizabeth I, right. Credit Ullstein Bild, via Getty Images (left); The Print Collector/Getty Images (right)

Jerry Brotton, a professor of Renaissance studies at Queen Mary University of London, is the author of the forthcoming “The Sultan and the Queen: The Untold Story of Elizabeth and Islam.” A dear friend of mine sent me a summary of the forthcoming book that the Prof. Brotton has written…. I have copy pasted what he wrote as I thought that I simply couldn’t put it any better… I have pre-ordered my hard copy, it is coming out on the 20th of this month yay!

“Britain is divided as never before. The country has turned its back on Europe, and its female ruler has her sights set on trade with the East. As much as this sounds like Britain today, it also describes the country in the 16th century, during the golden age of its most famous monarch, Queen Elizabeth I.

One of the more surprising aspects of Elizabethan England is that its foreign and economic policy was driven by a close alliance with the Islamic world, a fact conveniently ignored today by those pushing the populist rhetoric of national sovereignty.

From the moment of her accession to the throne in 1558, Elizabeth began seeking diplomatic, commercial and military ties with Muslim rulers in Iran, Turkey and Morocco — and with good reasons. In 1570, when it became clear that Protestant England would not return to the Catholic faith, the pope excommunicated Elizabeth and called for her to be stripped of her crown. Soon, the might of Catholic Spain was against her, an invasion imminent. English merchants were prohibited from trading with the rich markets of the Spanish Netherlands. Economic and political isolation threatened to destroy the newly Protestant country.

Elizabeth responded by reaching out to the Islamic world. Spain’s only rival was the Ottoman Empire, ruled by Sultan Murad III, which stretched from North Africa through Eastern Europe to the Indian Ocean. The Ottomans had been fighting the Hapsburgs for decades, conquering parts of Hungary. Elizabeth hoped that an alliance with the sultan would provide much-needed relief from Spanish military aggression, and enable her merchants to tap into the lucrative markets of the East. For good measure, she also reached out to the Ottomans’ rivals, the shah of Persia and the ruler of Morocco.

The trouble was that the Muslim empires were far more powerful than Elizabeth’s little island nation floating in the foggy mists off Europe. Elizabeth wanted to explore new trade alliances but couldn’t afford to finance them. Her response was to exploit an obscure commercial innovation — joint stock companies — introduced by her sister, Mary Tudor.

The companies were commercial associations jointly owned by shareholders. The capital was used to fund the costs of commercial voyages, and the profits — or losses — would also be shared. Elizabeth enthusiastically backed the Muscovy Company, which traded with Persia and went on to inspire the formation of the Turkey Company, which traded with the Ottomans, and the East India Company, which would eventually conquer India.

In the 1580s she signed commercial agreements with the Ottomans that would last over 300 years, granting her merchants free commercial access to Ottoman lands. She made a similar alliance with Morocco, with the tacit promise of military support against Spain.

As money poured in, Elizabeth began writing letters to her Muslim counterparts, extolling the benefits of reciprocal trade. She wrote as a supplicant, calling Murad “the most mighty ruler of the kingdom of Turkey, sole and above all, and most sovereign monarch of the East Empire.” She also played on their mutual hostility to Catholicism, describing herself as “the most invincible and most mighty defender of the Christian faith against all kind of idolatries.” Like Muslims, Protestants rejected the worship of icons, and celebrated the unmediated word of God, while Catholics favored priestly intercession. She deftly exploited the Catholic conflation of Protestants and Muslims as two sides of the same heretical coin.

The ploy worked. Thousands of English traders crossed many of today’s no-go regions, like Aleppo in Syria, and Mosul in Iraq. They were far safer than they would have been on an equivalent journey through Catholic Europe, where they risked falling into the hands of the Inquisition.

The Ottoman authorities saw their ability to absorb people of all faiths as a sign of power, not weakness, and observed the Protestant-Catholic conflicts of the time with detached bemusement. Some Englishmen even converted to Islam. A few, like Samson Rowlie, a Norfolk merchant who became Hassan Aga, chief treasurer to Algiers, were forced. Others did so of their own volition, perhaps seeing Islam as a better bet than the precarious new Protestant faith.

English aristocrats delighted in the silks and spices of the east, but the Turks and Moroccans were decidedly less interested in English wool. What they needed were weapons. In a poignant act of religious retribution, Elizabeth stripped the metal from deconsecrated Catholic churches and melted their bells to make munitions that were then shipped out to Turkey, proving that shady Western arms sales go back much further than the Iran-contra affair. The queen encouraged similar deals with Morocco, selling weapons and buying saltpeter, the essential ingredient in gunpowder, and sugar, heralding a lasting craving and turning Elizabeth’s own teeth an infamous black.

The sugar, silks, carpets and spices transformed what the English ate, how they decorated their homes and how they dressed. Words such as “candy” and “turquoise” (from “Turkish stone”) became commonplace. Even Shakespeare got in on the act, writing “Othello” shortly after the first Moroccan ambassador’s six-month visit.

Despite the commercial success of the joint stock companies, the British economy was unable to sustain its reliance on far-flung trade. Immediately following Elizabeth’s death in 1603, the new king, James I, signed a peace treaty with Spain, ending England’s exile.

Elizabeth’s Islamic policy held off a Catholic invasion transformed English taste and established a new model for joint stock investment that would eventually finance the Virginia Company, which founded the first permanent North American colony.

It turns out that Islam, in all its manifestations — imperial, military and commercial — played an important part in the story of England. Today, when anti-Muslim rhetoric inflames political discourse, it is useful to remember that our pasts are more entangled than is often appreciated”.

Velvets Are Back!

I am thrilled that the 90s velvet trend is back! I felt so nostalgic when I saw all the FW collections… I loved this trend back in the 90s…. I still remember Carolyn Bessette Kennedy’s long black velvet gloves she wore with her Yohji Yamamoto dress like it was yesterday!

Designers like Marc Jacobs, Ralph Lauren (below), Valentino and much more, have included velvet in their Fall/Winter collections. I honestly haven’t seen this much velvet since the 90s… I’m loving it! I’m loving the wide range of colours and the wide range of designs from those extra wide pants to the victorian style dresses…

There are many dos and dont’s on the net of how to wear velvets… None really make much sense to me… One particular “dont’s” that I’ve been reading everywhere and that made no sense to me at all don’t wear velvet on velvet!… I personally think that velvet on velvet can look great if done right! I’m on the hunt now for the perfect velvet heels to wear with a matching colour velvet dress! Those Gianvito Rossi signature heels in velvet are one of my favorite out there!

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 I just wanna run in those heelz!

Christian Marclay’s Fondue

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Swiss-American artist Christian Marclay who has won many prizes (which includes The Golden Lion for the best artist at the Illuminations exhibition at the 54th Venice Biennale) has a great fondue recipe ..  My close friends and family love fondue so I thought of trying this one out with them and find out if his fondue is as good as his work!!!

Ingredients
(Serves four)
1 garlic clove peeled and crushed, to rub the fondue pot
1 tbs cornstarch
300ml white dry wine, such as Fendant from the Valais region
400g Gruyère, grated
400g Vacherin Fribourgeois, cut into pieces
black pepper
pinch of nutmeg
a small glass of kirsch
loaf of bread (700g) cut in cubes

Method
Crush and rub the inside of the fondue pot with the garlic clove, then discard. Dissolve the cornstarch in the white wine, and mix until boiling on the stove. Slowly add the cheeses and melt slowly on a low flame while continuously stirring with a wooden spatula. Season with pepper and nutmeg and add the kirsch. As soon as the mix becomes creamy, put it on the table heater just before it boils. Maintain the fondue at the same temperature on the heater. Stir in the pieces of bread and eat. Diners should keep stirring the pot regularly to maintain the unctuous texture.

Note: Don’t forget to rub your caquelon with garlic.