We always keep an eye on intricately handmade works of art when we travel either for business or leisure-- or both. And so, fresh from a trip to Northern Thailand, we came home with very tired eyes (from all the colors and textures!) yet very inspired with loads of great finds!
It's one thing to acquire a handmade piece borne out of culture and tradition and another to actually make it relevant to your closets, your living room, your kitchen-- or simply put, your lifestyle. It's your way of giving it a modern yet personal spin that makes this whole 'eclecticism' so interesting and so 'current.'
At Soi Chic, we bring your exotic finds with a contemporary spin. Starting with this amazingly intricate embroidered vest from the Karen tribe of southern Myanmar.
Styled with a chambray button down shirt, cropped jeans, and pool slides. Finished off with the Linda tote from Abre. We will take this look to some exotic locale or to a weekend road trip. Switch the slides to classic black pumps and this look will be work-appropriate in a creative environment.
We know the versatility of the classic white button down a little too well. We wear it with almost anything and in this case the Hmong wrap mini gave our favorite closet staple a playful punch. We love that the shirt is peeking out of the skirt giving it an unexpected twist. Classic black pumps and a structured tote polish the look.
The Hmong knee-length wrap skirt is a statement piece you can dress up or down. Styled with a boxy top and sandals-- we will take this look from work week to weekend. The Chedi scarf brings a jet-set feel to the outfit whether its tied around your neck or on your tote.
There you have it. Five easy looks from our trusty preppy-jet set style formula. Here's to hoping we have helped you introduce your Soi Chic finds into your daily sartorial takes with fun and ease!
My mother always told me never to show up to a party empty-handed. The hostess with the mostest put time and effort into the event and is welcoming you into her home. Bringing something thoughtful is always a lovely way to say thank you for her kindness and hospitality. Here we offer a few ideas to fit every hostess personality.
For the hostess who likes all things natural and organic, why not bring a bushel or two of of whatever is in season? Functional finds to help her prepare for the next party are always welcome.
It's not a party without cocktails and gifts in punchy colors are sure to get you invited back for the next happy hour.
After entertaining, your hostess will be looking forward to her downtime even more with these thoughtful gifts with her relaxation in mind.
What are you bringing to your next party? Let us know!
You’ll be hard pressed to find a more beautiful and stylish mother-daughter duo as Suman and Anjie Gogna. Their gorgeous skin, deep eyes and perfect eyebrows are definitely to envy not to mention how they flawlessly pull off laidback luxe style. Suman was born in India and moved to the Philippines thirty years ago. She has since been going back at least twice a year to visit family and shop for her then home-based boutique, Gifts of the Maharani. Her daughter Anjie, a makeup artist, has also been helping her run the business. They recently opened OM: Lifestyle + Café where they serve the best samosas and gulab jamun amidst a treasure trove of embroidered kurtas, printed caftans, hand embroidered fabrics, intricate accessories and unique home décor. Everyone at the HQ has been itching to go to India and our Creative Head, Bliss is the first to live the dream so we asked these experts for pointers and insider tips.
What are your favorite things to do in India? What's the best thing about going there?
Suman: Bond with family and friends, get connected with the root and culture, and eat authentic Indian food. And of course, shop until we drop.
What is the hardest thing about traveling there?
Suman: Personally, I don’t find it difficult because I was originally from there and well connected with the local culture and vibe. For foreign tourists, I would imagine it to be dealing with the public comfort rooms, transportation, foreign exchange and sometimes the language barrier.
Anjie: There are a lot of things I find similar between Delhi, where we travel to, and Manila. So basically it’s the things that make it difficult to travel here that make it difficult to get around there as well. For instance, when traveling in the summer, the intense heat gets draining and makes it harder to move around. There’s also crowds of people to deal with everywhere you go given the dense population.
What are the top three must see places?
Suman: For the first time tourist must to see is Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. It’s considered as a golden triangle. Delhi being the capital and still lot of British structures, beautiful architectural sites like the India Gate, President’s House, Red Fort, etc. In Agra, one can find the Taj Mahal, considered as one of the eight wonders of the world. It is a marble monument made by Maharaja Akbar for his beloved wife Mumtaz, embedded with semi precious stones. Jaipur is also known as “The Pink City”. It is a beautiful city of palaces and you will see the highlight of old culture and tradition.
Any advice for first time travelers? What should we expect?
Suman: They should travel with an open mind. They will encounter some beautiful sights and some also not so beautiful.
Anjie: Despite the notion people have of India being unsafe for women, it is just like traveling to any other country where there is always some danger when one puts himself in a vulnerable situation. So basically, it’s the same precautions you must take as with all travels - be careful of your belongings, don’t go out alone late at night avoiding places that aren’t centrally located. Other than that, travel with an open mind. Be open to witnessing everything from sights of intense poverty, to richness of culture, to cows chilling on the roads.
What are the important things for us to bring and what should we absolutely get?
Suman: Travel light. In India, dress more for comfort than fashion. Or better yet, be comfortably fashionable in light shirts with harem pants or long dresses. Be in comfortable walking shoes and bring a hat to combat the heat at this time of the year. Drink only bottled water, and take some medicines for emergency.
Anjie: India is very fashion forward in the metropolitan areas but if you are traveling as a tourist, you still want to dress simpler as it is still a conservative country at the end of the day. Leave your short shorts behind or you could be stared at. Instead, be one with the culture and have fun dressing in Indo-western get ups such as gyspy skirts or harem pants with light shirts. Keeping a light shawl or sarong with you helps so you can use it to shield from the sun, or to protect the hair from dust during commute.
Coming home, you shouldn’t miss packing some Indian sweets, and anything from clothes to home décor or home linen adorned with any hand-done work such as embroidery or block printing. These are arts that have been passed on from one generation to another and no other country’s intricacy in detail can come close to that of India’s.
What is your take on the Filipinos view of Indian culture?
Suman: Filipinos have a mix view about Indian culture for some it’s a lifetime experience, It’s exotic.. Once is not enough. For others, they find it dirty, and there is poverty, the food is spicy.
Anjie: If the Filipino’s view of India is an exotic culture where there is much to be explored, then that would be a view I agree with. But if the Filipino’s view of India is a dirty, poor country that is unsafe, then I think, being from Manila, that is just a completely unfair way to look at India.
What do you want people to know about India?
Suman: India is the second oldest civilization so there is much to explore. It’s a mix culture country from east to west, north to south. It’s beautifully diverse that merely traveling from one state to another, one will already get to experience an extreme difference in culture, religion, language, food habits, arts even the religion and the climate.
Why do you think everyone should travel to India?
Suman: Everyone should travel to India because it has a lot to offer from arts, culture, traditions and shopping.
Anjie: I think traveling to India is a truly enriching experience that as much as possible, one must experience in their lifetime. From culture, to arts, to flavors, it is a country that has so much to offer. All your senses will get activated and possibly overwhelmed with one travel to India.
Any funny/interesting travel anecdotes you can share?
Suman: While we were walking in the old part of Delhi once, a monkey swinging on the electrical wires just came from a building and grabbed my shades straight from my head!
Anjie: We were stuck in a traffic jam on a rickshaw once and witnessed a guy from inside his car swinging a baseball bat out of his car window out of road rage!
How has your traveling to India affected you?
Anjie: We are both constantly inspired by the Indian lifestyle yet we enjoy living it out in a more modern way given that we are based in Manila. That influences our lifestyle from the way we designed our home, our boutique down to our clothing and accessories, which we wear and sell.
What is the best thing about traveling with your Mom/daughter?
Suman: The best thing is we have a company of each other. We enjoy the same things. It’s easier to shop. We could take better care when traveling with each other. And myself, having been born and bought up there, have better knowledge of what is best to do in the local sense like where to go, how to get there.
Anjie: That just means I have the best travel buddy, shopping buddy, and tour guide, all rolled into one!
[All photos generously shared by the Gognas from their personal album]
Watch out for more exotic and exquisite finds at our Indian Bazaar!
We read a lot about our destination for our team's first ever seeking adventure together before we even booked our airline tickets. It was the city's charm, mystery, and coffee culture that got us reeling with excitement prior to departure. It turns out, no amount of reading can ever prepare a group of giddy first-timers in Hanoi.
We arrived in the wee hours of the morning from a red-eye flight but woke up refreshed and rejuvenated to singing song birds beside our hotel and the almost intoxicating aroma of Vietnamese drip coffee.
We stepped out and were instantly greeted by swarms of motorbikes left and right. Soaking in the whiffs of boiling pots we spot in every corner, we found a barber setting up shop on the side street. Bikers in conical hats balancing the local produce and shop vendors getting ready for the day. All these scenarios and more, tell tales of a typical day in Hanoi's Old Quarter.
The tranquil Hoan Kiem Lake divides the bustling Old Quarter from the tree-lined grand boulevards of the French Quarter. Here, one can bask in French colonial architecture with the Sofitel Metropole Legend Hotel and the Opera House leading the pack. This side of town is also home to the capital's fanciest restaurants where the wide streets are way easier to navigate than that of the Old Quarter's sometimes stinky alleyways. Stink aside, we still preferred the latter.
However contrasting the two sides may seem, both were interesting enough to be a great source of inspiration to our team. Every corner, every alley, every hawker we encountered can easily make for an exhausting getaway but simply put, Hanoi is a place that grows on you the more you experience it. All the more so after unearthing great finds-- which was the very reason why we were there in the first place.
If you ever find yourself in this charming corner of the world, here's a tip or two..
Think worldly and sophisticated Mademoiselle you just want to hang out with. This hotel is so charming we spent more time here than what we originally planned. It was as if we were transported back to 1920's. We literally had to peel ourselves off our comfortable patio chairs and snap out of girly chitchat.
A "bang for dong" recommendation by our trusty LUXE guide. It was comfortable with good service and is right smack the bustling Old Quarter. It didn't hurt that it had free WIFI too!
Also a LUXE guide reco, this hotel was one of our choices but decided against it, as it sits next to the lake and is a little far from all the seeking action. It is said to have a modish Asian flair to it that I think is worth a try-- next time.
We tracked this down on our first day and covered a good number of blocks and alleys to find it. It's famed for its vegan fare, strong cocktails with good vibes for dessert. After lunch, we discovered the place has a roof garden perfect for sundowners. If only we had the time to while away. 6 Hội Vũ, Hoàn Kiếm, Hanoi, Vietnam
If you only have time for one cup of coffee in Hanoi, it has got to be in Cong Caphe. I'm not big on cold coffee but the Vietnamese drip with coconut frozen yoghurt is to die for.
We chanced upon this courtyard hideaway of a resto and we couldn't be happier. Food is French-Vietnamese experimental bites and is a little on the high side, price-wise. Although the refuge it offers from the chaos of the Old Q makes it all worth it. 48 Hang Be Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi, Vietnam
No better way to experience authentic local fare than at the side streets. Where hole-in-the-wall eateries abound, it's best to ask your hotel concierge for recommendations. We had our own share of the 'real deal' right outside our hotel!
There is practically nowhere else to shop in Hanoi than the Old Quarter. This is where you'll find snaking streets of trade each aptly named after their specialty, from silver to silk, to bamboo and even down to coffins (!).
To sum it up, Hanoi is a sweet escape. Try to make it there for more than a weekend as there are lots to see and lots to eat! If you don't have the time, leave the shopping to us. We have sought great finds you can seek right from your desk or your mobile phones sans the three-hour plane ride.
'Til our next seeking adventure!
Your Purveyor of the Uniq,
Ah, the allure of the caftan. How could a woman be covered in that much fabric and still manage to look so sexy?
I have to admit I’ve been slightly obsessed with scoring at least one of the beautiful embroidered caftans on the site and heartbreak ensues each time I realize they’re all gone. (Who are you lightning fast seekers anyway??) I’ve tried everything, even shamelessly attempting to pull some strings but to no avail. To say that I shed a few tears the last time they all sold out would be an understatement. What can I say? It’s what my lounging dreams are made of.
There really is something about that simple flow of fabric grazing the body. Just throw it on and you’re done. Despite its ease, you always still manage to look like you "tried". It is modest yet fashionable. It communicates an effortlessness and dare I say, power? Well caftan lovers like us are in good company.
My love affair with this frock started early, growing up with fashionable grandmothers who wore nothing but caftans around the house. It was always so comfortable and easy and they also managed to look so put together and glamorous whether they were checking on their gardens or entertaining guests at home. Later, the popular image of Talitha Getty and her husband on a rooftop in Marrakech draped in an ornately embroidered caftan with white boots would really strike me. Another of her barefoot on a yacht in the most delicate of caftans barely alighting her thin frame she accentuated with a giant cuff and stacked rings on all fingers still gets me giddy.
Elizabeth Taylor wasalso known for her caftans. She had one for every occasion and amassed a great collection through the years. There are numerous photographs of her in caftans, my favorites are those of her in the simplest of styles but dripping in diamonds and jewels. Her fondness for caftans was particularly evident when she got married in one to Richard Burton the second time around in Africa. This eventually sold at a Christie's auction for $62,500!
The caftan still worksits magic today thanks to the numerous designers who keep it relevant, such as Filipino designer Josie Natori who has made it an international luxury and necessity. I am happy to report that after three (yes, three, maybe four!) times of waiting and stalking STU’s instagram account, I finally have a few caftans of my own and boy, are they pretty. They are the softest, most comfortable pieces in my closet perfect for lounging and entertaining as well as covering up for days at the beach.
To this day, I bug my grandmother and hope and pray she gives up one of her vintage YSL caftans for my happiness. A sort of advanced inheritance, if you will. She is still undecided at the moment. In the meantime, like you, I am checking Instagram every hour hoping to see those three little words: BACK IN STOCK. I'll be racing you to the finish line!
It has been almost a month since I’ve been given the amazing task of testing & curating UNIQ beauty finds just for you. Here’s a sneak peek into our selection process… We are constantly on the look out for products that more or less fit this criteria:
- Are made with authenticity & integrity
- Are really actually effective and of the best quality
- Are well-priced whether they are luxury or consumer brands
- Are packaged well, with fun & love
- Are not readily available in Manila*
- Are produced with natural, organic ingredients*
*As much as possible
The latest brand we have discovered for you is called NEAL'S YARD REMEDIES. When I heard that Commander-In-Chic Mikka was stopping by London on her latest seeking adventure, I begged & pleaded for her to take home some fresh beauty picks from this beautiful brand. Needless to say, she (and my secret beauty buyer) have fallen in love with it too!!
NEAL'S YARD REMEDIES is a hidden beauty gem in a tucked away little corner of Covent Garden, London. Mikka was lucky to have visited the place herself and discovered that aside from beauty remedies, they also sold cheeses, fresh produce, and other organic wonders as well.
A LITTLE HISTORY – The brand was born in 1981. The founders like to think of themselves as pioneers in “organic beauty”. When they opened their first shop in Covent Garden, NEAL'S YARD was one of the few brands pushing against the synthetic chemical approach to skin and health care that had been adopted by much of the industry.
THEIR VISION – “To bring the expertise of the apothecary and our holistic approach to health and beauty to local people and their communities.”
Apothecaries had a deep knowledge of herb-based remedies, establishing their own Worshipful Society, way back in 1617. One of the distinctive features of their trade was the blue bottles filled with herbs and potions that lined their shelves. Neal's Yard believes that much of their time-tested knowledge was being lost and the world could do with a strong dose of what they used to offer.
The brand is slowly growing and is now opening stores all over the Middle East and Asia.
We have selected three of their STAR PRODUCTS for you to try. We chose these three products because they are universally acceptable for ALL SKIN TYPES, are perfect for Asian skin concerns, and they honestly really work wonders!
Nurtures and revitalises ALL SKIN TYPES.
The award-winning Wild Rose Beauty Balm can be used as a rich cleanser, gentle exfoliant, or deeply nourishing mask. The exceptionally high levels of wild rosehip oil – a potent antioxidant proven to help repair, firm and smooth the skin – are combined with geranium, starflower, hemp and rosemary seed oil, to help decongest and enrich the skin, restoring its natural radiance. Includes a free organic muslin cloth.
Diminishes appearance of dark spots for a more EVEN SKIN TONE
The concentrated brightening treatment targets dark patches and areas of hyper-pigmentation, while giving an overall more even, luminous complexion.
Infused with scientifically proven brightening African star grass with antioxidant vitamin C, moisturising tara and mineral-rich alfalfa to intensely brighten and correct uneven skin.
Replenishes and recharges ALL SKIN TYPES
The luxurious, lightweight and easily absorbed Beauty Sleep Concentrate has been scientifically formulated to support your skin’s natural night time regeneration, while reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
PROVEN IN CLINICAL TRIALS TO INCREASE SKIN'S MOISTURE LEVELS BY UP TO 98% OVER 12 HOURS.
Infused with naturally regenerative narcissus tazetta bulb extract, a smoothing tri-peptide and antioxidant-rich nourishing grape seed oil, for skin that looks and feels beautifully moisturised, replenished and recharged. With a delightful blend of aromatherapy essential oils renowned for their calming, relaxing properties.
BEAUTY is a universal quest around the globe. Here at STU, we passionately seek for the best quality products -- edited, tried & tested just for you.
Your Purveyor of Beauty,
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