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New Book Review – Amber Jane Butchart’s Fashion Miscellany.


Every now and then a fashion book comes out that piques my interest primarily for the format. I must confess I am prone to a short attention span. I love to learn but I’m not keen on great lengths of meandering theory. Without indulging in a tangent worthy of AA Gill or legendary grot reviewer Chris Nieratko, there is a reason why I studied Law and Languages at University. I am not too fond of fluff or being told that X, Y and Z’s interpretation is more relevant than Z, Y and X’s. While studying A-Level English, I fondly remember arguing more about the relevance of interpretation rather than the book at hand.  I had two teachers: Mr Hill, who gave me straight A’s whilst simultaneously accusing me of truculence (a favourite word ever since) and Miss Thornett, who could barely contain her loathing for me and awarded me consistent E grades. I still remember her scrawl on one particular report: ‘Naomi is blissfully unaware of her surroundings’. I ended up with an overall E grade – I think you can guess who marked that paper. I couldn’t give enough of a shit to appeal it as I had four others that sailed me straight into Sussex. Miss Thornett (I’m assuming its still ‘Miss’?), my next book is due out in September.

For those who like their facts straight up, Amber Jane Butchart has deftly assembled the eponymously titled ‘Amber Jane Butchart’s Fashion Miscellany – An Elegant Collection Of Stories, Quotations, Tips & Trivia From The World Of Style’ (Ilex Miscellany £8.99). It is a slender yet attractive book covered in a tactile binding of peacock blue linen, embossed in gold, classical lettering. General knowledge books are hardly a new genre but taking the subject of fashion, assembling a tome that grabs the subject by both hands and turning it into a veritable font of useful and relevant knowledge is another affair. Amber seizes the opportunity to really flex her considerable fashion historian muscles. It is done with such aplomb that you can’t help but develop a deeper respect for the history of fashion and the anthropological elements that are intrinsically entwined in how we dress and why. I am very much in awe of how much information has been included in what is essentially a fairly slim book. Make no mistake, it is a book for all ages and genders (plenty on tailoring and historical movements from both sides) that doesn’t pander to the superficial nature that can trail behind fashion like an insecure try-hard.

So, without boring you with my own meandering theory and musings – my opener was more of a long-festering jab to a certain eye – my verdict: a book that packs a punch and elevates the academic side to this topic. Economics, politics and of course, the arts all have their ties to fashion, making this an entertaining read that equally lends substantial gravitas to the subject area – there is a reason it made Dawn O’Porter feel clever. It is also great for dipping in and out of…or you can just stroke the linen cover and enjoy the illustrations by Penelope Beech. It may be aimed at the gift market but I would suggest it’s time to treat yourselves first.


The Broken Hearts Present Peppermint Candy


Amber Butchart and Nisha Thirkell are first AKA the Broken Hearts are DJ extraordinaires who met working at the hub of many a vintage seeker’s shopping sprees: Beyond Retro.

Their DJing covers music from way back to the birth of swing to the crispest of modern adaptations, moving back and forth between lindyhop, balboa and shag to neo-swing and electro-swing creating what makes simultaneously a vintage collection to die for and the freshest of sets.

Amber and Nisha have created DJ sets for shows across Europe and in the US and bespoke soundtracks, play-lists and compilations for the likes of The British Film Institute, the British Fashion Council, Lulu Guinness, Magnum, and Hendricks Gin. Broken Hearts also run a fashion and style blog, have created silent movie soundtracks, recorded songs using a live tap dancer, starred in their own music video as vaudevillian magicians and design clothes for Beyond the Valley. Their circus stylings and vintage expertise makes them an effervescent, eccentric presence in the vintage community, even within this uniquely styled community; the Broken Hearts really stand out.

The latest offering from Broken Hearts is their brand new show Peppermint Candy, which launched on Jazz FM, on Thursdays from 6 – 7 pm. Amber and Nisha say “Swing is a constant source of inspiration for us – a music and dance born out of tough times, which has given rise to a rich culture very much alive today.  Our first DJ sets were at Speakeasy-style parties so we’re really excited to bring this type of music to a wider audience. There’s a thriving contemporary scene and our radio show will immerse listeners in the whole culture; music, dancing and style.”

Peppermint Candy’s motto ‘Swing is not just a Dance, it’s a way of life’ couldn’t be more perfect, as a Jazz and Swing specialist show they’re bringing new life to the genre, giving some much needed love and attention and some pepping up and branching out that’s jazzed-out bliss for lovers of swing and newcomers alike.

The show is bursting with variety, covering not only music, but the ancestry and legacies of swing stars and influences, culture, style and fashion. Their show included tracks from the greats such as Louis Prima and Jelly Role Morton and featured artists you may not have heard of but certainly will love, such as Carmen Maria Vega’s gutsy brand of swing and Nick Hollywood, one of the pioneers of electro-swing.

Peppermint Candy is supported online with a regular blog and a weekly style and fashion guide. Their finely crafted playlist displayed real knowledge of the original era and its influences right up to present hits and show a labour of love that promises a fantastic show from here on in. I’ll be listening on Thursday, and if you don’t have a radio to get Jazz FM, you can catch their show online from their page on the Jazz FM site.

I can’t praise this show enough, so you’ll have to tune in, turn up and get down.

Peppermint Candy airs on Thursdays from 6-7 pm

Jazz FM can be heard nationally on DAB and online globally at www.jazzfm.com


VS on ‘Vintage Prim’ Trend Report for WGSN

During the summer, the fashion tour de force (and one half of the Broken Hearts) that is Amber asked me to help her in her undercover mission to find the best of vintage ‘prim’ for WGSN, the online industry resource, research, trend analysis and news service for the fashion and style industries.  Here is the result! Lovely warm vintage knitwear, perfect for the chilly evenings (and now days). Turn the pages to see more. What do you think?

Amber, we hear, is also launching her own fashion blog. We have an exclusive preview coming soon.

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