Express yourself: Japonesque a unique beauty brand

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I’m a bit late to the party – seeing that this brand is 25 years old – but I’ve just discovered the Japonesque beauty brand.

Inspired by the professional makeup tools used in Kabuki theater in Japan, Japonesque have become renowned for their beauty tools and brushes, as well as their high-impact, pro-performance make-up (beloved by make-up artists).

Giving a bit of insight into the history of the brand, Karen McKay, president of Japonesque, comments: “Kumadori make-up was used in Kabuki theatre starting sometime in the late 17th century.  This make-up was used to emphasize facial expressions with each ‘role’ having their own pattern particular to a specific role.  The quality of Japonesque colour was inspired by the beautiful pigments used by these incredible artists. Japanese Kabuki is  a classical dance incorporating drama – the beautiful bamboo wrapped precision brushes that created these beautifully and dramatic made-up faces inspired the artist collection of Japonesque brushes.”

My favourite is this Safari Chic Bronzer Brush, £19.50. It may look funky with its animal-print bristles, but don’t be fooled by its fun exterior – it has serious credentials. With its super soft bristles, the little power-house of a brush ensures precise application of bronzer and blush and is just the right size to carry with you.

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Furthermore, it is perfect for applying one of the label’s hero products, the Velvet Touch Blush, £18, shown here in the popping pink 04. It’s a refined powder formula that goes on subtly, thus enabling you to build colour as you wish.

Silky and lightweight, it’s a dream to apply and is nowhere near the strong colour it appears in its box. Talking of which – I love the packaging. The arty swirls on each little case is a one of a kind individual work of art created from a unique blend of gel pigments that flow and blend before setting – so no two will ever be the same.

Unique and beautiful – just what we’re all after.

Available at www.johnlewis.com 

Up or down: pop in a Popband

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Have you heard about Popband London yet? They are the new ‘kind-to-your-hair’ hair bands that come in a variety of ‘collections’ of differing patterns and fabric choices.

Made from soft fabrics – whether they are glitter, print or plain – they do away with those annoying dents that are left in the hair after being pulled away from the face.

 

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They are also cute on the wrist, the idea being that most of us ‘yo-yo’ with our hair through the day and end up with our hair-bands on our wrist. Therefore the fashion-minded Popbands look equally good if in use or not. While they are are soft to touch, they also have enough stretch to hold hair tight and in place (but still kink-free when you take it down!)

Among my favourites are these Aztec-inspired printed versions – with a touch of glitter. There are also longer hair-bands to choose from (perfect for up-do’s) as well as special-edition version with Swarovski crystal beads.

 

Available from www.thepopband.com

Harvest festival

I’ve harvested some new products for the new autumnal season. Here’s a little snapshot of what’s floating my boat.

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Glamglow Youthmud has to be one of the beauty industry’s most whirlwind success stories. Going from zero to hero, the exfoliating face-mask has quickly become one of the most coveted products of recent times. Originally created by husband and wife team, Shannon and Glenn Dellimore, for behind-the-scenes use in Hollywood’s entertainment industry, it garnered a name for itself as the must-have product for starlets wanting instant glowing skin. Due to this word-of-mouth success, the pressure was on for it to be widely available, and so the couple launched it for general sale in 2011 and haven’t looked back since.

Now available in 54 countries, it has won many beauty awards and accolades over the past three years. While its glamourous rock-star look – sparkling silver and black packaging and cute, retro pot – is part of the appeal, it is undoubtedly its fast-working ingredients giving instant results that are the reason for its success. Containing volcanic minerals and French sea clay, the mask tingles as it tightens and brightens the skin, allowing you to have a professional-level facial at home. Within ten minutes it has worked its magic – hydrating and balancing oil levels, exfoliating the skin’s surface, smoothing fine lines and leaving an incredible glow. Instant results, instant success – just like the brand itself. £49,00. www.glamglowmud.co.uk

 

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I’ve rediscovered the blotting paper. This pouch from Jane Iredale is stacked with 100 lovely soft papers to remove oil and shine from skin – without removing make-up.

Made from 100 per cent natural organic flax seeds, which are more absorbent than traditional rice paper or linen, the Facial Blotting Papers absorb excess oil and come in a slim and sleek gold case that can double as a business card holder. £11, www.janeiredale.co.uk

 

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While we are on the subject of blotting papers, I have to give this version from Japanese DHC a mention. First of all I love the packaging – the printed box is so pretty mixed with a downtown pharmacy feel with its plastic packaging. There’s also a little drawer that pulls out that contains the papers.

The DHC Blotting Paper oil-absorbing sheets mattify the complexion and make cosmetic touch-ups a breeze.Make-up stays in place and there’s no sign of any powdery product. They are the perfect travel companion for trips to humid destinations or just to fling in your bag for hot city days. £4, www.dhcuk.co.uk

 

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I love these Blush Papers from Mai Couture. Coming in a variety of colours – the papers are impregnated with pigments – such as Sunset Blvd – which is a pretty, apricot-gold shade – and are pressed on to the cheeks as a quick fix while on the go. The colour comes out unbelievably well and gives the complexion a lovely sheen. Best of all is the Trio Papier Poudre in Glow-geous. The mini-booklet contains powder-infused bronzer, highlighter and blush papers – all you need for a perfect complexion. £16.50, www.thisisbeautymart.com

 

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Forget your traditional concealers, foundations and BB creams, a new product on the scene promises flawless skin from just one little tube. The highly concentrated Amazing Concealer erases dark circles, blemishes, rosacea and sun damage.

Just a tiny amount is needed to erase most skin imperfections and unsightly blemishes – a little really goes a long way. As a result of its advanced technology, the new generation product has highly concentrated pigments, a waterproof formula and an emollient texture, which means it can blend effortlessly into the skin without settling into pores and fine lines and won’t budge. £19.50, www.marksandspencer.com

 

Softly softly, here comes SUQQU

There’s something about the Japanese approach to beauty that I love. Highly ritualised, there’s an attention to detail that is simultaneously old-fashioned (the endless hours of pampering is so Marie-Antoinette) and thoroughly modern (products that Japanese women typically use are normally cutting-edge with a cult emphasis).

Enter, stage right, the ‘insider’ Japanese brand SUQQU. It’s likely that you may not have heard of it yet (although if you are a real beauty junkie, you’ll have come across the name) but its been making inroads into serious beauty know-how over the past few years, with its sights now set firmly on the UK. It envelops all of the previously mentioned factors that epitomise the Japanese way of beauty, resulting, more often than not, in flawless skin.

Renowned for its skincare products and in particular its innovative GANKIN facial massage, SUQQU is highly regarded among the makeup artist elite and in-the-know celebs. The brand believes that investing time to prepare your beauty regime prior to applying make-up is vital to looking your best. Japanese skincare begins with hydration and so the SUQQU tradition is to layer the skin with various moisturiser components to keep water and moisture locked in. It’s ethos lies in its name – inspired by the Japanese word ‘Sukku-to’, it means ‘walking tall on your journey through life, inspiring a confidence in attitude and beauty.’

SUQQU’s original GANKIN Massage was created by exploring the relationship between stiff facial muscles and sagging skin. This powerful three-minute massage – that can be done at home (see below) – eases away stiffness and tension by promoting lymph and blood circulation and enhances overall metabolism to create a sharper definition.

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There are a few key products to help with trying the massage at home – and which are also central to SUQQU’s product line-up. The Musculate Massage & Mask Cream, £68 (shown above) isa gorgeously rich and highly moisturising cream that keeps skin hydrated, supple, and glowing. Infused with yeast extract, to strengthen the muscles, and yuzu extract, which improves the blood & lymph flow, while fat-burning geranium herb extract conditions skin’s circulation to enhance the facial contour. It has a subtle and refreshing scent (derived from orchids). The cream can also be used as a mask for deep nourishment and to firm and tone the face.

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Another must is the SUQQU Face Refresher, £35. It’s a wipe–off lotion to remove residual oil left after the GANKIN massage and it also removes dead skin cells. While it is lovely and refreshing it is also a moisturising lotion – the idea being that it is another layer of ‘help’ for the penetration of other skincare products that follow in the skincare ritual.

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One of these is the SUQQU Moisture Repair Lotion, £85, which has a really luxurious feel about it. The moisturising essence has been designed to be used just after cleansing so that its soft texture can penetrate quickly into the skin to recondition and revitalise skin cells. Lovely.

Just as SUQQU is about to launch its new counter at Fenwick’s on Bond Street (watch out for the onslaught of column inches on this brand any day now), who better to talk, then, than its UK make-up artist, Tomoko:

“The importance of spas and their wellbeing benefits have a long and ancient history in Japanese culture,” she says.  “At the heart of SUQQU is the GANKIN Facial Massage. It is a three-minute treatment targeting facial bone structure and lymphatic drainage; it increases the metabolic rate of the skin to create sharper definition with impressive results such as improvement in sagging around the eyes and cheeks by 40-50%, tightening of the pores and increased blood and oxygen flow. Many women are keen to learn and incorporate an additional step, like facial massage into their daily beauty ritual. They’re interested in daily, continuous practice of a facial massage, which fundamentally tackles root causes of wrinkles and sagging skin.

“Japanese women tend to spend more time and effort on skincare, valuing a healthy-looking brightened complexion,” she says. “As they are aware of the superior benefits of facial massage, they know that even the most expensive foundation can look dull and unhealthy if it’s been applied to skin that isn’t looked after. Every woman can easily include SUQQU’s simple three-minute GANKIN Massage as part of their skincare ritual.”

Here’s her advice on trying the SUQQU GANKIN Ritual at home:

“Use the SUQQU GANKIN technique at the start of your day to awaken your facial muscles. The GANKIN should be carried out using SUQQU’s Musculate Massage & Mask Cream, which intensely nourishes and moisturises the skin. This rich formula allows sufficient pressure to be applied whilst massaging the face. After following the three-minute GANKIN technique, the complexion will regain its radiance as a result of increased lymph circulation and re-engerised blood flow. Use SUQQU’s Face Refresher to wipe off the excess cream. You may find that you might not need to use as much foundation as usual, as your skin will look beautiful on its own.

Use the SUQQU GANKIN technique at the end of the day to help release stiffness and stress after a long, busy day.”

You saw it here first.

SUQQU is available at Fenwick of London; www.fenwick.co.uk, and Selfridges; www.selfridges.com.

Let the Spirit move you

Have you noticed how chilly the mornings are now? And the bite of Autumn is setting in just as the sun is itself setting earlier, too? I’m loathe to rush the gorgeous Autumn days away, especially as we’re promised an Indian Summer this year, and the days are glorious, but there is one date to put on your calendar.

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The Spirit of Christmas Fair (yes, there, I’ve said the C word) – taking place between 4-9 November at Olympia – is one of my favourite seasonal events for a spot of Chrimbo shopping.

A must on my calendar each year, it manages to gather together a lovely selection of unique, independent boutiques and emerging design talent, so it’s perfect for sourcing really unusual gifts for loved ones.

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I always go along with my sis and indulge in much oohing and aahing over quirky homewares, hip jewellery and covetable interiors bits and pieces (in fact, I often go away with more for me than anyone else and usually am armed with leaflets and cards for little home-style pieces that I’ll later buy from stalls and shops that have caught my eye).

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As usual there’s also a Food Hall filled with artisan produce and specialist delis – perfect for planning that ultimate Christmas menu or for buying gastronomic treats for friends.

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This year, the expert-led workshops include the secrets of scenting with Miller Harris or Jo Malone London, icing techniques with Biscuiteers and a Champagne experience with Louis Roederer’s Master of Wine.

It’s in the diary, tickets ordered. Don’t miss it!

www.spiritofchristmasfair.co.uk

Eastern promise: results driven products inspired by Japanese’s finest

 

A ritualistic approach to beauty, inspired by Asian practices, is revamping our beauty regimes. Here are some of the new results-driven products inspired by age-old traditions

For many of us, cleansing the skin after a hard day’s work (or hard night’s play) is a chore to get out of the way fast. While British women are not shy when it comes to buying into the latest skincare innovations– just think how fast BB and then CC creams have taken off, for instance – our cleansing routines have remained strangely stuck in the past. With many of us still following a ‘cleanse, tone and moisturise’ mantra, first invented in the 1950s, it’s about time that our cleansing routines were revamped.

New products on the market – such as exfoliating powders – and a growing awareness of the benefits of double-cleansing, an essential part of a woman’s beauty regime in Japan but a new concept to the UK, call into mind an Asian approach to achieving tip-top skin. While we’re not advocating a 10-step approach, like many Korean women undertake, more accessible cleansing rituals, using hardworking, intelligent products, seem to be having a resonance.

 

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Cleansing powders are currently having their moment in the spotlight. “We’re seeing a big increase in demand for these,” says beauty expert Millie Kendall MBE, founder of concept store Beauty Mart (www.thisisbeautymart.com). “DHC’s Washing Powder is hugely popular and is excellent for a deep cleanse. Our customers like the fact that they are made of a fine powder, which is gentler than traditional exfoliators. They like the old fashioned process of the powder changing its texture on contact with water and how they buff and polish the skin.

“Cleansing powders originate in Japan where women take a real pride in having flawless skin,” she continues. “A translucent, smooth complexion is revered. Japanese women also have a hands-on approach to skincare – they like the process of rubbing in products, massaging the skin, prepping the face, going through repetitive steps to get results – it’s all part of their beauty rituals.”

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Annee de Mamiel, acupuncturist, aromatherapist, and founder of the De Mamiel beauty line, founded on the ancient principles of Chinese medicine, agrees: “Powder cleansers – such as our Brightening Cleanse & Exfoliate – are gentle yet very effective. Many, including our version, are made without preservatives and do not contain any ‎harsh chemicals. That’s just part of their appeal. They can also double up as a masque for a deep cleanse.

 

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Perfect for double cleansing is Suqqu’s Muscular Cream and Mask (and below)

 

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“I’m an advocate of the Japanese approach of double cleansing, too,” she says. “It gives a unique radiance to the complexion. Step one is to take off the day’s make-up and grime, using a powder cleanser. Then, follow up with a balm or oil-based cleanser, massaging the face. This will deliver the nutrients the skin needs and take away the toxins via lymph drainage.”

 

This new thinking when it comes to the art of cleansing isn’t just skin-deep – it has also reached hair-care, too. Forget the traditional two-step shampoo and conditioner approach, there’s a new generation of gentle cleansing creams that also condition the hair. Brands such as Shu Uemura, Palmer’s and Macadamia Hair have all recently launched their own one-step ‘cleansing conditioners’ whose main benefits are not to strip hair of its natural oils.

 

Verity Douglas, content editor at Cult Beauty (www.cultbeauty.co.uk), which sources some of the world’s best beauty buys also identifies Asia, and in particular South Korea, as leading the way when it comes to these new beauty trends:

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“South Korean women are renowned the world over for their flawlessly beautiful skin as well as their extensive, eight-to-ten step skin care rituals,” she says. “Pioneering the latest, most effective and often the most extraordinary ingredients in skin care (don’t be surprised to see starfish extract, snail secretion filtrate and egg white alongside other super-scientific sounding compounds), where South Korea leads, the rest of the beauty world swiftly follows. It’s why we’re über-excited to usher cult Korean skincare brand Mizon into our store.”

 

Brightening essences – huge across Asia – are also gaining momentum with a European clientele. Chanel’s Le Blanc range of products, for instance, contains extracts of Akoya pearl from Japan to give skin a luminosity and lustre – an attribute women all over the world lust after.

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Also seeing a resurgence in popularity at Beauty Mart are a new generation of papier poudres by Korean brand Mai Couture. The pretty booklets are based on traditional French blotting papers but instead are impregnated with foundation and blush colours. “They are hygienic, portable and give a flawless finish,” Millie Kendall reveals. “They are the next step in make-up.”

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The final stage in every woman’s beauty regime is that all-important spritz of perfume. Take further inspiration from the East by investing in a barely-there scent (strong fragrances are not popular in countries like Japan). Bath Colognes from Jo Loves, for instance, aim to linger on the skin long after you’ve dried off negating the need for an actual perfume, while Aroma M’s niche perfume oils are inspired by the world of the geisha and come wrapped in traditional Yuzen paper from Kyoto. Subtle but effective.

 

 

DIY rituals

Reinvent your beauty style with these Asian inspired products

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De Mamiel Botaniques Brightening Cleanse & Exfoliate, £41, www.demamiel.com

A powder-to-paste exfoliating cleanser with Vitamin C, ginseng and pearl powders to brighten and smooth the complexion.

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One Love Organics Brand New Day, £34, and One Love The Cleansing Sponge, £11 www.oneloveorganics.eu

Sweet pea flour and fresh pineapple enzymes lightly buffs skin to perfection in this granule-style cleanser. Meanwhile, the Cleansing Sponge, made with pure konjac plant fibre, detoxifies pores and smooths skin while buffing away dirt and make-up. Ideal for even the most sensitive skin. This rose clay heart version is especially targeted for rosacea, mature and dry skin.

 

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DHC Washing Powder, £9, www.thisisbeautymart.com

Papaya extracts gently clean skin in this iconic powder product.

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Suqqu Musculate Massage & Mask Cream, £68, www.fenwick.co.uk

Products from this coveted Japanese brand are based around the practice of facial massage. This cream is ideal for effective double cleansing.

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Mai Couture Blush Papiers, £12.50, www.thisisbeautymart.com

Press on to skin for instant make-up. Perfect for travelling.

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Paul & Joe Blotting Papers, £10.50, www.beautybay.com

Achieve oil-free skin with these pretty, feminine papers.

chanel Le Blanc Illuminating Brightening Concentrate

Chanel Le Blanc Illuminating Brightening Concentrate, £98, www.chanel.com

Gives a luminous quality to the skin, correcting dark spots and evening out pigmentation.

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Shu Uemura Cleansing Oil Conditioner, £32, www.shuuemuraartofhair.com

Cleans and conditions in one step, leaving hair silky and weightless.

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Macadamia Natural Oil Flawless 6 in 1 Cleansing Conditioner, £8.75, www.macadamiahair.co.uk

Contains chamomile and vitamin E and has a no suds formula meaning hair is cleansed but not dried out.

A Shot of Fresh Sweet Peas Bath Cologne 200ml £59.00

Jo Loves Green, Orange & Coriander Bath Cologne, £59, www.joloves.com

Jo Loves’ Bath Cologne are a new way of wearing scent – they have been designed to linger on the skin.

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Body Shop Japanese Cherry Blossom Eau de Toilette, £16, www.thebodyshop.co.uk

Light and airy, this scent has been inspired by a spring day in Kyoto.

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Aroma M Geisha Roll On Perfume Oils, £36. www.aromamperfumes.com

Available in a range of Japanese inspired fragrances – such as the delightful Flower Tea (Hana-Cha) – and pretty packaging.

 

 

Clever clogs: intelligent footwear

 

Let’s face it, medical-wear (blue surgical smock anyone?) is not known for being at the top of its game fashion-wise. But new ‘intelligen’t sock wear brand ITEM m6 may just be about to change all that.

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Anyone unfortunate enough to have experienced having to wear compression socks after an op (or on a flight) may just have a little ray of light on the horizon. It’s a subject close to my heart as I recently had to wear the socks for at least 4-6 weeks after a minor op. Horror of horrors – as they were horrendous and didn’t do anything for my so-called wellbeing recovery! And I also frequently travel.

The socks and tights, from German intelligent legwear and shape wear brand ITEM m6, on the other hand, are brilliant alternatives to the usual compression socks. Such a genius idea.

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The brand, part of the high-tech manufacturer Medi, which is the world leader in compression technology, uses a state-of-the-art manufacturing process and high quality materials to create their leg and shapewear. Each style is made from skin-friendly, high-performance fibres that prevent slipping and cutting and is enriched with silver ions for an antibacterial effect. The result is a range of products that keep your legs feeling light and relaxed to give you more energy, enhance your performance and also manage moisture and heat.

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On first wearing them, the socks feel tight and fairly constricting, but then this eases off. They give a comfortable pressure just above the ankle, which decreases up the leg – but is just enough to shape it – and which promotes blood circulation and improves the overall oxygen supply from toe to head. Perfect for travellers.

Best of all is their nod to fashion with seasonal collections, colours and styles – a new range for AW14 has just been released. Next up from the brand is the new ITEM m6 shape wear – also just launched. The special shape and push-up zones on the base garments act like a second skin and give shape and definition. Definitely on my wish-list for the party season coming up. Clever clothing.

 

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www.theintelligentlegwear.com

 

Stretch out your summer: where to head to for September sun

Autumn may be creeping upon us here in the UK, but don’t give up on your summer just yet. Hop on a short flight to one of these balmy destinations and you can still have your day in the sun.

 

 

KOTOR BAY, MONTENEGRO, 28°C

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Forget Portofino, Cannes and Capri, when it comes to chic European resorts Montenegro’s Kotor Bay is where to head to. While there is a hip scene shaping up around the mega-watt Porto Montenegro development – a swanky marina attracting super-yachts with its designer shops, glitzy restaurants and luxury residences – there’s more to the bay than just suntans and sequins. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kotor Bay is unfeasibly pretty with a stunning fjord of clear water surrounded by lush, forested mountains. Its old town is also a delight with its 12th century city walls, medieval piazzas and palazzos. The place to stay, if budget allows, is at one of the starry boutique hotels at Porto Montenegro. Check out the Operosa on 13 September, an operatic version of Romeo & Juliet, with sets by British designers Jamie Vartan and Simon Corder (www.portomontenegro.com). And make sure you have a wander around the ancient city of Kotor, with its 4km of city walls – particularly stunning lit up at night. From the bay you can take a sailing boat across to the iconic Our Lady of the Rocks, a small man-made islet with a preserved 17th-century church and charming museum. You’ll be moved.

 

STAY

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Save your pennies for the exquisite Aman Sveti Stefan, which looks out across the Adriatic to the magical Sveti Stefan island, and which also boasts a new super-sized spa (from £754 per suite per night, www.amanresorts.com).

 

GET THERE

Montenegro Airlines flies to Tivat, from £234 return (www.montenegroairlines.com).

 

 

 

MYKONOS, GREEK ISLANDS, 25°C

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September is the perfect month to hop across to the Greek Islands. The searing heat of high summer is on the wane, the sea is warm and inviting and the tourists have thinned out. Mykonos is one of the Cyclades’ most glamourous isles but it’s also one of the most laid-back places to zone out for a while. Sundrenched beaches, such as the notorious Paradise Beach with its resident DJs, boutique hotels and a charming old town pull in a jet-set crowd. The white-on-white town centre has a famously warren-like maze of streets. Deceptive at first, many of these narrow lanes have hidden gems, such as the dazzlingly cool Interni Restaurant (www.interni-restaurant.gr), tucked away in a hidden courtyard and which blends a Hoxton vibe with a laid-back Aegean attitude (the food is pretty stellar, too). A must is a cocktail or two at the waterfront lounge-bar that is Caprice, in Mykonos’ Little Venice area – worth it simply to have a drink in view of the town’s old windmills with the ocean at your feet (www.caprice.gr). For something a little more authentic, check out the Grape Harvest Festival held at the Agricultural Museum in Mykonos Town on 14 September. Traditional folk music and dancing is the backdrop to a communal wine treading in celebration of the harvest (www.simplymykonos.org). It’s a barefoot kind of place.

 

 

STAY

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Take a room at the revamped Santa Marina Resort before it closes for the season in October. Expect contemporary décor with an Indonesian design ethos, a private beach and an exceptional Japanese restaurant (from £309 per room per night, www.santa-marina.gr)

 

GET THERE

Easyjet flies to Mykonos, from £300 return (www.easyjet.com).

 

 

 

AKAMAS PENINSULA, CYPRUS, 30°C

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One of the Brits’ most popular destinations, Cyprus boasts an impressive average of 30°C for the duration of the month. The southern coast near Paphos is a good base for sun-worshippers with secluded beaches, quiet bays and luxury hotels. But for those who get itchy feet, there’s more to Cyprus than margaritas in the sun. Rent a car and head north-west to the Akamas Peninsula – here the landscape changes to an untamed, almost Middle Eastern panorama (from Cape Arnaoutis, the tip of the peninsula, the Turkish coast is just 60 miles away across the Mediterranean) and offers a quiet respite from the hectic south coast. Perfect for wildlife lovers, mountain bikers and walkers, the area is renowned for its dense flora, huge variety of birdlife and wild terrain. A must is a trip to Lara Bay, a beautiful beach off the beaten track and the nesting site of loggerhead turtles. Stop off for lunch at Viklari The Last Castle Taverna, near the village of Agios Georgios. Despite its fancy name, this remote open-air restaurant has some of the best views on the island. Be warned – it offers no menu as only one dish is cooked here – souvlaki (priced at £10). Simple but satisfying.

 

STAY

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The rustic Paradisos Hills Hotel in the traditional mountain village of Lysos is on the edge of the Akamas forest, the ideal gateway for exploring Cyprus’ untapped northern region (from £80 per room per night, www.paradisoshills.com)

 

GET THERE

Cyprus Airways flies to Paphos, from £221 return (www.cyprusair.com).

 

 

 

PUGLIA, ITALIA, 27°C

Often overlooked for its more manicured neighbour of Tuscany, Puglia, the eastern region that stretches down to the heel of Italy’s boot, is the country’s most underplayed gem. Dotted with olive groves and ancient fortified towns, you can find many gems – such as the turquoise waters and quiet beach at Casalabate, the baroque beauty of the Chiesa di Santa Croce in Lecce and the enchanting seaside town of Polignano a Mare, which inspired everybody’s favourite sing-along tune Volare. Unlike Tuscany, this sunny corner doesn’t attract many Middle Englanders (a bonus) but rather this is where the Italians themselves come to holiday attracted by the temperate climate, fantastic seafood and an untouched landscape. White-washed villages, such as Ostuni, with their weird dome-roofed Trulli houses are a must-see, as are the Castellana Grotte – a series of spectacular caves with vast stretches of stalactites. Check out the website for one-off subterranean events in September (www.grottedicastelana.it).

 

 

STAY

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Set in 40 acres, Borgo Egnacia carved out of cream tufa stone is a family-friendly, yet effortlessly glamourous village-style resort. Choose to stay in quaint townhouses, slick villas or the lantern-lit hotel and make sure you visit the spectacular spa (from £247 per room per night, www.borgoegnazia.com)

 

GET THERE

Alitalia flies to Bari, from £137 return (www.alitalia.com).

 

 

 

GUIA DE ISORA, TENERIFE, CANARY ISLANDS, 25°C

Tenerife has been working hard to shake off its bucket holiday reputation of late. Reinventing itself for a more discerning traveller, it has upped its game with new boutique hotel openings and a push on its offerings away from the sunlounger. As well as a great place for hiking – it has 600 miles of trails – it is also one of the best locations in the world for stargazing, particularly in the Teide National Park, due to its clear, dark skies and proximity to the Equator. This month you’ll be in time to attend the Starmus Festival, 22-28 September, will sees Stephen Hawking and astronauts Walt Cunningham and Charlie Duke from the Apollo 7 and 16 missions celebrate the world of astronomy (www.starmus.com). The quiet Guia de Isora area, on the west coast of the island, has a sleepy, old-time feel. Untouched bays, palm-lined promenades and fishing villages give it an atmospheric, traditional feel. Mix with the locals and find some bargains at the Sunday market in Guia de Isora square.

 

STAY

1 Abama Spa & Golf Resort Imperial terrace-Pool and Sunbeds Spa Garden cabana

The Ritz-Carlton Abama is not only hosting the Starmus Festival but is also home to two of the island’s best restaurants. Martin Berasategui’s M.B. restaurant has two Michelin stars and the Japanese fusion Kabuki restaurant, sister to the original in Madrid, has one Michelin star (from £175 per room per night, www.ritzcarlton.com/abama).

 

GET THERE

British Airways flies to Tenerife, from £129 return (www.ba.com).

 

 

 

ALACATI, CESME PENINSULA, TURKEY, 26°C

Alacati 3 - credit Hakan Cetinkaya Alacati 6 - credit Hakan Cetinkaya Alacati 10 - credit Hakan Cetinkaya Alacati 15 - credit Hakan Cetinkaya

Sure to take the spotlight from Bodrum as Turkey’s most chi chi resort is Alacati, on Turkey’s Cesme peninsula. While a new batch of cool hotels, art galleries and boutiques are giving the coastal town a hip factor, it still retains – for the time being at least – a quaint, village-like feel. Whitewashed houses with blue shutters give a glimpse into the town’s Greek heritage, while the powder-white beaches and year-round breezes have long made this a popular spot for windsurfers. The food scene is especially vibrant and creative here, meaning lots of great restaurants to choose from – such as Asma Yapragi, which serves local dishes in an authentic traditional dining room (www.asmayapragi.com.tr), and Alancha, found inside a converted windmill and specializing in molecular gastronomy (www.alancha.com). For something truly memorable visit Noni’s House (www.cesmenonishouse.com), a hand’s on home-style experience where you can wander in the vineyards, collect organic produce, such as artichokes, from the fields, enjoy wine tasting and cooking. Sure to cement Alacati’s place on the culinary map is the town’s first foodie festival – Vanishing Tastes – due to take place 10-12 October (www.explorealacati.com). Worth stretching out your holiday out for.

 

 

STAY

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Rest your head at the wonderfully atmospheric boutique bolthole that is Tashan Hotel. The converted historic house has bare-brick walls, quirky original features and a gorgeous courtyard dining room, serving breakfast and dinner (from £67 B&B, per room for two per night, www.tashan-alacati.com).

 

GET THERE

Pegasus Airlines flies to Izmir, from £166 return (www.flypgs.com).

 

 

CALVIA, MALLORCA, BALAERIC ISLANDS, SPAIN, 25°C

With its proximity to the UK (flights are around two and a half hours) and its balmy temperatures, Mallorca is an obvious choice for a last-minute fix of sun. For a quiet escape base yourself in the smart province of Calvia, in the west of the island at the foot of the Tramuntana Mountains. The lush Mediterranean landscape dotted with ochre-coloured houses and historic churches is a world away from the busier coastal resorts. You can’t come to the island without having a dip in the sea so take a side trip to Pollensa, on the north coast, a characterful town buzzing with local artisans, stylish eateries and historic sites. If you’re here in the last week of September take in the madness that is Fiesta des Vermar (27-28th) in the wine-growing village of Binissalem (www.seemallorca.com). Events include a grape treading contest, a parade of giants, a super-sized paella, which is cooked al fresco and eaten communally in the town square, and an infamous grape fight (it’s compulsory to wear white).

 

 

 

STAY

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The recently-opened Castell Son Claret, in Calvia, is a converted 15th century castle set in lush, scented gardens. For something extra special stay in the Rapunzel Tower (originally a water tower) – just the place to let your hair down (from £251 per night B&B, www.castellsonclaret.com)

 

 

GET THERE

British Airways’ CityFlyer flies to Mallorca, from £49 return (www.ba.com/londoncity)

 

 

 

Dormy House Hotel: upping the ante in the country

Dormy House frontage

Idyllic scene

When it comes to finding an idyllic country-house hotel, there’s nowhere like the verdant hills of England to solve your problem. Up and down the length of the country – we’re awash with them. What were once manor houses for the idle rich are now cosy corners for weekending out-of-towners – Coworth Park, Luton Hoo, Barnsley House, Calcot Manor, Stapleford Park… the list goes on. Each boast manicured grounds, lofty rooms filled with antiques and spruced-up restaurants, giving us all the opportunity to pretend we’re landed gentry for a night or two.

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Lobby lounge

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Cotswolds creamy stone

On first approaching the latest property to hit the UK scene – Dormy House – I wasn’t surprised to find the essential country-house ingredients in place. Located in the dreamy village of Broadway in the Cotswolds, there was the satisfying crunch of gravel, a buttery, creamy stone façade and clipped box trees. But this is where the similarity to the majority of other country hotels stops. And I was delighted – a fresh approach to the concept has been long overdue.

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Scandi influences (and below)

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Smaller, and therefore more intimate than many of its competitors, the once 17th century Cotswold farmhouse – a traditional hotel for many years – underwent a multi-million pound renovation, opening late last year, which saw its rooms and spaces updated for a new era of country house guest. Nothing new there. But what stands Dormy House apart, are its funked-up and utterly gorgeous interiors by Todhunter Earle, the London-based interior design duo renowned for their cool, quirky, Scandi touch. The hotel having been owned by the Danish Philip-Søresen family since 1977, the collaboration is a match made in heaven, with their modern sensibility weirdly translating well against the 17th century backdrop.

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The lust-after-me details (and below)

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While many original features have been kept – oak paneled beams, flagstone flooring and roaring fires – rooms and public spaces have been bought bang up to date with a laid-back glamourous approach and feature eclectic pieces made exclusively for the hotel by Emily Todhunter. A navy and cream pin-striped 1950s oyster chair, textural ceramic lamps and antique, wall chandeliers were already on my wish-list – and I hadn’t even made it to my room yet.

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Talking of which, each of the 40 guest rooms and suites are all individually designed. My ‘cottage-style’ Splendid Room (there are four room categories to choose from) in the Danish Court area – a stand-alone wing of the hotel – was Scandi-design meets the Hamptons – in other words ‘I want to take all of this home with me now’. This is not the usual off-the-peg, chintzy country house interiors. My room, for instance, had a pale, jade Chinese sideboard, chic velvet armchairs and geometric rug contrasted against a retro-print wallpaper and a bold, upholstered bed all in shades of blue. Doors led out to a courtyard garden (nice bonus) and the all-white bathroom was small but was top-notch in its fixtures and finishing.

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All the other rooms in the hotel follow suit – with varying gentle, colour schemes, unique pieces of furniture and welcoming touches – such as kilner jars filled with cookies, fresh meadow flowers and in-room iPads.

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Dining options – The Potting Shed

Dormy Hotel/Worcestershire

Private dining room

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Spa lounge

 

As you’d expect, dining here is also an experience to savour and will no doubt be one of the pulls for guests decamping in the Cotswolds for a day or two. There’s the relaxed and rustic Potting Shed – for easy-breezy family lunches or unstuffy dinners. Hearty pies, traditional puddings and classic British comfort food is served in a cosy dining room – it’s a take on an upmarket gastro pub. Head chef Jon Ingram also oversees the much smarter The Garden Room – an elegant space overlooking the hotel’s gardens, with an emphasis on locally sourced produce. Dishes such as ‘Cauliflower’ (which turns out to be a surprisingly delicious cauliflower risotto) may be cryptic in their description but go with it – the simple menu style, which seems to inexplicably in-vogue at the moment, works as a ruse to hide the many complex and accomplished dishes on offer.

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Spa scenes (and below)

Treatment Room Pedicure station in Nail Parlour

Last, but definitely not least, is the final jewel in the crown at Dormy House – the new House Spa, which opened in February this year. Cementing its position as leader of the country house hotel pack, this is seriously impressive. It is based around a central glazed spa lounge – which serves fresh cake and hot drinks (my kind of spa) and has a wonderful, wood-burning stove and an adjoining roof terrace garden (straight out of Miami). The spa echoes the rest of the hotel in its eclectic styling – there are sweet hand-mirrors on the walls of the changing room, butterfly art and knowing, witty signage (“Please slip on these very attractive overshoes”), not to mention oversized terracotta pots filled with lavender by the outside hydrotherapy pool, large day beds throughout and contemporary nods, such as the wooden, chartreuse lighting. Highlights include a Veuve Clicquot Champagne Nail Bar, a 16m infinity pool (lit by candlelit after sundown) and the thermal area with its Lavender Infusion Sauna, Hot Juniper Finnish Cabin, Salt Steam Room and Ice Experience. Treatments are by the natural, botanical brand Temple Spa with an emphasis on massage. Therapists here are trained with London-based massage expert Beata Aleksandrowicz, who pioneered the Pure Massage method, which incorporates stretching of limbs – leaving you thoroughly relaxed.

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My favourite spa details (and below)

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For an indulgent treat, however, try the Champagne and Truffles radiance facial, which uses the Temple Spa’s award-winning Skin Truffle product (which contains an oligarch’s essentials of champagne, silk, diamonds, gold and black truffles). A warm, melting mask, a special face massage and a finishing iced blend works as an instant rescue remedy – leaving skin plumped-up and glowing. Much like the rest of you after a night here. Highly recommended.

Rates at Dormy House start from £230 per room, per night, based on two sharing and including breakfast. For more information visit: www.dormyhouse.co.uk; 01386 852711

 

Legendary Mykonos comes to life at the Santa Marina Resort

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View from the lounger

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Lobby

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Rooftop view

When Christiana Papageorgiou inherited her father’s hotel, The Santa Marina Resort in Mykonos, she knew she wanted to make some changes. So – after a three year revamp – out went the chintz and in came a cooler design sensibility.

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Indonesian design references

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The new laid-back look is down to the expertise of Silvina Macipe Krontira, a renowned Athens-based interior designer, and (quite handily) a long-time Santa Marina regular. With a reported £10m investment, her touch has given the light-filled hotel an organic and earthy feel with a nod to Indonesia in much of its design ethos.

 

A breezy entrance beckons you in to the all-white hotel and you make your way up to the lounge-like reception area through a cavernous, cream stone staircase (at night this is lit by huge silver lanterns and is wonderfully evocative).

Deluxe Seaview Suite Room

Gorgeous east meets Greece theme – room and details  (and below)

 

 

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In the rooms – there are 100 to choose from – a neutral colour palette offset by jet-black accents is the perfect backdrop for the twinkling aquamarine ocean beyond. Bathrooms are a highlight with rough-hewn sinks carved out of tree trunks, shower walls of glossy ‘touch-me’ pebbles, and sleek limestone floors. Bedrooms feature sexy, black bamboo four-poster beds, artwork made of stark white coral and nice quirky touches, such as travellers’ trunks used as bedside tables. A real bonus – and perfect for sunseekers – is that all the rooms have large balconies to soak up the views and the sun. The Cyclades-meets-the-tropics vibe is further carried through in the 11 tucked-away villas, which all come complete with butler service and some with their own swimming pools and gardens.

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Beach scene

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The hotel’s heartbeat, though, is the newly formed private beach area. Here, you can kick back, Apple Martini in hand, on oversized wicker-roofed daybeds, to a chilled-out soundtrack that wafts over from the bar on the breeze. When lunch-time waddles around, you can pad up to the new Bayview Beach Restaurant for salads and smoothies and, if that is too much effort, just simply raise a lethargic arm for service-with-a-smile at your lounger.

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Bayview Restaurant 

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Sushi platter

Bayview Beach Restaurnt Evening

Bayview Restaurant

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Boardwalk Bayview

 

It has to be said that Bayview really comes into it’s own come sundown. The Mediterranean-fusion cuisine is inspired by locally-sourced seafood with Japanese influences – odd, but it works – think oysters and sashimi, traditional Aegean fish soups and spicy king crab tempura all served from a honeyed wood terrace with the ocean swooshing underneath. With the sea as a backdrop and the sound of the waves in your ears, most things taste eminently better than they would inside – but here, it’s exceptional. The restaurant’s buzz, already pulling in a stylish, just-stepped-off-a-yacht kind of crowd, means you could be in the hottest restaurant in the hippest city. But instead of a glittering skyline laid out before you, you see instead the beckoning Med and the faint outline of the island of Delos beyond. While the eyes feast on that, your taste-buds will be doing cartwheels for some of the many standout dishes served here. The Greek red saffron risotto in langoustine cappuccino, for instance, is meltingly delicious (it’s one of those dishes that gives you a vivid taste memory for a long-time after. Yes, I’m still salivating) and the black cod with white miso paste surely has Mr Nobu running for the hills.

Deluxe Seaview Suite

Deluxe Seaview Suite

Deluxe Seaview Room (2)

Deluxe Seaview Room

It’s hard to be pulled away from the lure of Santa Marina – there’s the food, of course, the chic and deeply relaxing surroundings and the cool (but thankfully not pretentious) shoreline scene that sucks you in like the mythical Greek sirens did to Odysseus, making you feel 21 again. It’s joyous. If you can bear to break free, and, frankly, why would you want to? But, if you must, then Mykonos town itself is pleasantly authentic and just a short drive away.

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Mykonos Town (and below)

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Winding, narrow streets are lined with independent boutiques, tavernas and gift shops. White on white buildings jostle with each other for space and best of all is that there are hardly any tacky touristy spots that you usually find in most other holiday towns.

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Bar Menu at Interni Restaurant (below)

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One lovely gem to be shared is the Interni Restaurant (www.interni-restaurant.gr) found in a hidden courtyard. This dazzlingly pretty restaurant-come-bar not only looks the part (in a kind of Ibiza meets Hoxton way – nearly every man who worked here had a beard) but also delivers on its faultless menu – the signature beef tartare is meltingly good while the lobster burger with wasabi fresh cream and beetroot chips is inspired.

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The Lotus Spa (and below)

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Back at the resort, meanwhile, other tempting diversions include two swimming pools, a gym and the rather good in-house boutique – with its Chloe, Melissa Odabash and Antik Batik beachwear and accessories. Then (and you won’t be able to refuse) there’s the call of the Lotus Spa, with its exquisite treats on offer – such as the Lava Shells Tropical Massage (a Pacific Ocean-inspired treatment with exotic oils and massage with smooth shells) and the enchantingly-named Golden Veil Lifting – a toning facial which uses gold, myrrh and essence of flowers. It’s the stuff of legends.

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www.santa-marinaresort.gr

Classic Collection Holidays (0800 294 9318; classic-collection.co.uk) offers seven nights from £1,699 per person. Price based on two adults sharing a superior twin/double on a bed & breakfast basis and includes return flights from London Gatwick to Mykonos and private transfers.