Cultural Referencing Is At The Heart Of British Designer Bethan Gray’s Philosophy

With her love of travel and gypsy roots, London-based Scottish-Welsh designer Bethan Gray has always been inspired by different cultures. Her designs combine luxurious natural materials such as wood, marble and leather with refined craftsmanship from around the world and attention to detail. Take for example her Siena series influenced by the black-and-white motifs of Medieval Italian cathedrals or the Shamsian collection based on Omani architecture and crafts in collaboration with celebrated Iranian artist, Mohamed Reza Shamsian, which is made by the same artisans who have been creating for the Sultan of Oman for 40 years. The handmade furniture reveals patterns on stained wood produced using marquetry and inlay techniques that have existed in Islamic craft for centuries. For the detailing on the Dhow table, Gray was drawn to the shapes produced by the large triangular sails of Oman’s traditional dhow boats as they catch the wind, a pattern adapted for the hand-stained, birds-eye maple veneer case of The Glenlivet Winchester Collection Vintage 1967 with its curved solid copper overlays that echo the whisky distillery’s copper stills, the River Spey and the layers of mist that gather in the surrounding valleys. She worked with Scottish master glassblower, Brodie Nairn, to create the bottle showcasing hand-cut lines that result in an ombré color effect with the whisky that goes from light to dark to mimic the 50-year ageing process.

With a mother who was an art teacher and a great-great-grandmother who was a cabinetmaker, Gray was encouraged to follow her creative instincts. Born in Cardiff in 1977, she graduated in three-dimensional design and was discovered by Tom Dixon in 1998 when he bestowed on her the New Designers Innovation Award for a piece of furniture she showcased. This prize led to her appointment at Habitat, where she rapidly became design director before opening her own design studio in 2008. This allowed her to enlarge her client base and work with the more costly materials that she couldn’t at Habitat, designing best-selling collections for high-profile global retailers and brands such as Liberty, John Lewis, Anthropologie, Crate & Barrel, 1882 Ltd and Rado. She is recognized today by four Elle Decoration British Design Awards including Best British Designer and Best British Tableware Designer. We sit down with Gray to discuss how she’s inspired by the art and culture of the places she visits, working with hundreds of craftsmen and her business strategy.

You’ve been working in the design industry for 20 years. What motivates you?   

I love getting to know people from all over the world and understanding what inspires them – whether it be cultural narratives or elements from nature, as well as their own personal experiences and journeys. This motivates me to use local craft techniques and materials to tell stories that would be relevant to them, but also work for a global audience.

How does your multicultural family background influence your work?

I’m inspired by my ancestors’ journeys – they were a Rajasthani clan that traveled from Northern India through Arabia and Persia and then to Europe, before eventually settling in the Celtic heartland of Wales. I’ve recreated those journeys and been inspired by cultural narratives and nature that I have experienced on the way. I’ve been brought up to be proud of my Romany-Gypsy heritage, so I’ve always been fascinated by other cultures. I don’t know if it’s also about being Welsh. I speak Welsh and only 20 % of the population does, so I’m more aware of different cultures because I speak a minority language. I’ve traveled a lot and like to use cultural references as inspiration; I like to have a link when I’m designing a product. We’ve also formed very close partnerships based on trust and mutual respect with local master craftspeople in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. In fact, we support over 400 master craftspeople who make our luxury craft collections.

Describe your creative process.

I start with research and then I like to look at lots of options in the concept phase. So I start and I choose one thing and I know it’s not going to be the end of it, but that leads to another thing and to another. If it doesn’t work, I know quite quickly and move on. Then detailing is very important to me. Getting really simple is the hardest thing. These three elements are equally important, so it’s a balance.

How involved are you in production?

It’s really important understanding what’s possible, how things are made. I love working with craftsmen all over the world. I’m not a craftsperson and don’t have the patience to be one, but I have the utmost respect for them. All my projects are based on craft. I love understanding a new material that I haven’t worked with before. It’s all about pushing the boundaries to show off the craftsmanship so much better. You work around problems and make them work, and the craftsmen are so proud of what they can achieve.

What is your work philosophy?

Every project I do is all about relationships. You have to have an open dialogue with what you’ve created, especially the relationships with craftspeople. Even if you don’t speak the same language, there’s so much that you can communicate. Some of my work comes because I’ve connected with people. Everyone that I have worked with, we have a connection. For instance, I met Emily Johnson of 1882 ceramics, which is based in Stoke-on-Trent, and we got on really well before we decided to do a project together, and we’re continuing to do more. The Shamsian collection is made in Oman; we started there a few years ago and now we’re launching new collections every year with them.

Tell me about your collaboration with The Glenlivet on the Winchester Collection Vintage 1967.

The collaboration started with some simple sketches of the decanter and canister that would eventually house Vintage 1967. We intended to tell a story about the craftsmanship behind such a rare and coveted collector’s item, and we wanted to incorporate features from nature that were important to both Master Distiller Alan Winchester and I. Ideas for the designs stemmed from the Cairngorms landscape, and going back to nature helped to create a truly distinctive theme. For the canister, I have customized my Dhow pattern and included mother-of-pearl inlays to reflect local freshwater pearl mussel shells, while the beautiful and captivating decanter itself was created in conjunction with master glassblower, Brodie Nairn, who used innovative glassmaking techniques and bespoke cutting tools to create a capsule as pioneering and special as the whisky it houses.

What has been your best business decision?

It’s probably having more confidence in my own choices and just going and showing what I want to show, the level of craftsmanship and my style, which is always evolving. Also getting my husband Massimo to join me. He’s a consultant to culture and other creative businesses. He’s got this great way of bridging the creative and business worlds. That’s what he did for me before he joined and that’s ongoing. Sometimes it’s difficult but he pushes me, in the same way that I push the craftsmen. Although I don’t always appreciate it at the time, I do appreciate it afterwards. I’m a perfectionist and I push myself, but he pushes me out of my comfort zone.

What has been the greatest difficulty you have encountered in your career?

Probably letting go of certain details. Sometimes you have to compromise. It’s sometimes difficult to know which things to be strict about and which things to be flexible about. Like in detailing, if something is going to add £2,000 for a very small detail, is it really worth it for the end consumer? Sometimes it is and sometimes it’s not, so it’s hard to get that balance.

What is your vision of the future of design?

It’s interesting because we launched a new project at Rossana Orlandiin Milan during Salone that’s all about natural materials that are wasted. For instance, pearl shells from pearl factories only interested in pearls and not the shells. We’re also using goose feathers, scallop shells, abalone shells and pen shells. It’s a new collaboration with Nature Squared, a Philippine company making sustainable products, normally surfaces for yachts. This is the first furniture line that it has created; it’s a new way for it to work. There are about 10 pieces plus some accessories. Obviously sustainability has been there for a long time although people don’t talk about what they do do because I think they’re scared of being criticized for what they’re not doing, but everyone has to start somewhere. We need to celebrate what people are doing, even if they only have one piece in their range that’s sustainable. It’s a step forward.


The Best Designer iPhone Cases of 2019

Give your phone case the designer touch.

Want to dial up the glamour on your phone? Give it a change of case—or two. After all, a phone is the one accessory that’s with you everywhere and seen by everyone, so this is no time to skimp on style.

These designer iPhone cases have got your phone’s back—and sides:

UNDER $100

Marc Jacobs Orange Peanuts iPhone XS Case

Meet the case that puts the good in “Good grief!” A collaboration between Marc Jacobs and Peanuts, its iconic Charles M. Schulz drawing of Charlie Brown looks like it was lifted right out of the funny papers, complete with Schulz’ unmistakable signature at the bottom. Made from smooth rubber, the interior is printed with some of Peanuts’ classic wisdom: “I need all the friends I can get!” Remember that next time you’re despairing about your paucity of Instagram likes.

Moschino x Sims Pixel Capsule Logo iPhone XS Case

Let the gamer in you revel—this Moschino x Sims case is an AFK win. The logo has been pixelated to the point of obfuscation, as has the “quilted” pattern against which it’s set. The result is a hard-shell case that is no hard sell, with just the right degree of underground cool.

Heron Preston Silver Logo iPhone X/XS Case

Heron Preston, a DJ and artist who got his start with Off-White’s Virgil Abloh and Alyx’s Matthew Williams, is known for his subversion of logo mania—he’s gone from making bootleg NASCAR shirts to collaborating with New York’s Department of Sanitation—and this phone case is no different. Paying homage to the brainiacs at NASA, it has a rocket scientist’s austere touch with its tiny ruler marks, while its metallic-silver coloring makes it something to keep you grounded even when your head is in the clouds.

Off-White Green Camo Quote iPhone XS Max Case

This phone case is so iconically off-white a logo isn’t even necessary (though there is one). With the brand’s signature ironic quotation marks and industrial type, it’s got a muted green camo print that’s better at helping it stand out than blend in. Plus, at this price tag, it’s the piece that’ll help your style work double time without making you do so. It’s also available in yellow for the iPhone X.

UNDER $200

Dolce & Gabbana White Laundry iPhone XS Max Case

This is one case in which you definitely don’t want to follow directions. In a heavy dose of fashion-forward irony, this iron- and tumble-dry-ready protector takes the tag right off your clothes and sticks it on the back of your phone. Though the rubberized graphic wouldn’t fare well in the heat of your dryer, it would look great near other hot things—like fresh white Dolce & Gabbana sneakers.

Givenchy Logo iPhone X/XS Case

The shiny black back of this case evokes images of patent-leather glam rock and the velvet-roped clubs of decades past, a nostalgia that’s enhanced by the sprawling rainbow logo. It’s a play between the brand’s minimalist lettering and David Bowie glam. The result is a case that provides ready protection and can go from day to night.

Off-White White Arrow iPhone X Case

The off-white logo on this polycarbonate case is turned into a child’s crayon drawing of a blue table, surrounded by potted plants. Consider this the modern art of cases, with doodling on the back that, yes, maybe you could’ve done yourself (except that now you don’t have to).

UNDER $300

Balenciaga Printed Textured-Leather iPhone X Case

In a bright baby blue, the leather of this case was made in Italy, making it especially worthy of the Balenciaga label inked on it. It offers a minimalist and modern silhouette that’s become standard on the fashion house’s runways; the days of jumbo thimbles have been forsaken for crisp lettering and sleek shapes, resulting in this especially trend-worthy accessory.

Christian Louboutin Loubiphone Embossed iPhone X/XS Case

With ridged rubber sides and a durable PVC back, this “Loubiphone” case has a utilitarian functionality in the brand’s signature high-fashion sensibility. It has everything you love from the brand, including the red of its trademarked soles—a hue so vibrant you might miss the “Louboutin” scrawled down the length of it.

Dolce & Gabbana Black Bag Shape iPhone X Case

If your jean pockets are starting to shade around a familiar rectangle, this is the case for you. Or the bag for you. Shaped to resemble a Dolce & Gabbana purse, it features a top handle and detachable chain long enough to make it an actual purse, while the range of colors—beige, black and red—lets you pick the one that matches your look.

Chloé Printed Textured-Leather iPhone X/XS Case

In retro-prep stripes, this leather case lets you bring Chloé’s ’70s energy with you everywhere. The cream and deep red give it a warmth that’s perfect for fall weather, but, at the end of the day, this is a phone case, and you can’t put an expiration date on its practicality—or it’s durability, thanks to the scratch-resistant felt lining and embossed cow leather. Extra points if your name is Chloé.

UNDER $400

Gucci Print iPhone X Case

In a washed design taken from 1980s Gucci archives, this case is a classic, with timeless appeal. The canvas material has a leather effect that’s emphasized by the fading of the logo itself, while the creamy color is an equally refreshing alternative to pure white, with less mess-related stress. It’s also available in black, but you’ll have to jump onto the wait list to get one. And if you do,.

Prada Saffiano Leather iPhone X Case

Don’t damage your case with any old ring prop; this leather case from Prada has the stand preinstalled, so you can hang it, dangle it, balance it however you want straight out of the box. Fashioned in a streamlined Saffiano leather, with navy and white accents, it provides a deserving home for Prada’s iconic triangle logo—a good replacement when you can’t tote your phone around in one of their similarly iconic nylon bags.

Saint Laurent iPhone XS Quilted Leather Phone Case

With chevron stitching giving it an edge—and some cushioning—this case defines luxe phone style, with a metal YSL logo pressed into the material. The perfect partner to any of the brand’s similarly quilted purses, this case is crafted out of a satiny black calfskin, making it your phone’s plush new home.


Target is rereleasing some of its most popular designer items from the past 20 years

Lilly Pulitzer-designed products for Target stores, including handled bags, pillows, and picture frames.

In the last decade, thousands of people have stood in line at Target stores around the country to get their hands on colorful, limited-edition items designed by big names like Missoni and Lilly Pulitzer. Those were chaotic events, with shoppers grabbing merchandise by the armload. Online, these same frenzied buyers crashed Target’s site multiple times. In case you missed out on the madness the first time around or are just ready to throw some elbows to get zigzag merchandise at a reasonable price, you’ll have your chance on September 14. Target just announced that it will be releasing a limited-edition collection of 300 products to celebrate the 20th anniversary of its design collaborations.

Models wearing zigzag-patterned clothes.Target

Twenty of its previous collaborations are included, including Missoni, Lilly Pulitzer, Jason Wu, Isaac Mizrahi and others, as well as homeware designers like Michael Graves and Philippe Starck. Prices will range from $7 to $160. According to the retailer, collections and items will vary from store to store, and guests will be limited to five items of any given size and color. So far, no images or hints have been released about which specific items from past collections will be available this time around. Target is also putting out a documentary and a Rizzoli coffee table book to commemorate the occasion.

Target was one of the first retailers to pioneer the collaboration model. The company has decreased the frequency of these collabs, but they still occur, most recently in May with the Vineyard Vines collection. Over the years, collaborative collections have become a regular occurrence at retailers at all price points, especially in the streetwear market, which relies on limited edition “drops” and frequent partnerships.

The brands that will be included in the Target collaboration re-release include Anna Sui, Thakoon, and Marimekko.
The brands that will be included in the Target collaboration rerelease.

At its heart, these types of collections act as marketing for the designer brand involved, which is usually more aspirational or expensive than others Target sells. But mostly, it’s an incredible way for Target to get people into its stores and to get people talking about Target, as a marketing professor explained to Vox back in May. It’s human nature to want what is hard to get or won’t be around for a long time, and Target excels at this marketing model.

While this anniversary collection will likely appeal to a wide swath of people, fashion fans should love this for the nostalgia factor alone. Jason Wu, Thakoon, Rodarte, and Proenza Schouler pieces are all included. And there is one timely update: Target has said that all of the women’s fashion pieces will be available in “extended sizing.” A lack of extended sizes has gotten the retailer into trouble in the past. In 2014, bloggers boycotted Target for not offering the Altuzarra collection in plus-sizes. The next year, it produced plus-size pieces for the megapopular Lilly Pulitzer range, but it faced controversy again because it only offered them online and not in stores.

In 2011, Target rereleased several of its fashion collaborations to celebrate five years of its Go International program, which is what is was called then. This collection will go beyond fashion, rereleasing a lot of the homeware collaborations as well, possibly including the popular home items from Missoni. Home is a hot category now. Anecdotal evidence: Erin Fetherston, who had a fashion collection with Target in 2007 and whose pieces will be included in this reboot, no longer designs fashion — she only sells home goods now.

A spinning-whistle tea kettle designed by Michael Graves for Target.
A spinning-whistle tea kettle designed by Michael Graves for Target from 2000.

Target has been beefing up its private labels in-store, particularly in the home department. If you’ve ever seen how picked-over the HGTV darlings Chip and Joanna Gaines’ Hearth & Hand collection is, you have a sense of this already. Presumably home design enthusiasts are going to be excited about scoring one of those late ’90s Michael Graves Seussian tea kettles.

Target will undoubtedly capitalize on the same FOMO and anticipation that has driven these collections to such success in the past. In the next few weeks, Target will likely release teasers of items that will be included in this collection. Websites will release the lookbook. Shopping strategies will be planned. And the ultimate reason this exists: carts will be loaded.


Of Course Donald Trump Crashed the New Jersey MAGA Wedding

Donald Trump leaving the White House for Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster New Jersey.

Well, if you’re going to hold a “Make America Great Again”-themed wedding at Donald Trump’s own Bedminster golf club, you might as well brace for a presidential wedding crasher. The flattery and spotlight proved too tempting for a battered Trump to resist this weekend, as the president dropped in on a much-publicized MAGA wedding to greet the bride and groom.

Per TMZ, the New Jersey wedding of PJ Mongelli and Nicole Marie practically rolled out a red carpet for the commander in chief to make an appearance, between numerous invitations, a scrapbook of their fan encounters and social media pages splashed with adoration for Trump. Likewise, their 2017 engagement even took place at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster, where the wedding itself was also held.

Trump, visiting the club for the weekend, dropped by the reception to greet the bride and groom. The New York Post adds that he was introduced to the couple, and even put his arms around them as the crowd broke into “USA!” chants. It is unclear if he stayed any longer, accommodating Mongelli’s reported request.

The reception hall was also said to be lined with flags reading “Trump 2020.” Amazingly, this wasn’t the only Trump-themed wedding making the social-media rounds in recent days.


‘I want to be the master of all trades’: What drives designer Masaba Gupta

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Colour her busy: Masaba Gupta sporting makeup from her new range. (Courtesy Nykaa)

Makeup was readily available at home with an actor-mother around, and, yet, Masaba Gupta wasn’t allowed to apply any while growing up. Neena Gupta — as is the wont of mothers — would often tell off her teenaged daughter, worrying the cosmetics would make her already “bad skin” — with “huge pores” — worse. Masaba would still put on her mother’s makeup before going to school, but that made her stick out as the makeup — three shades lighter than her skin tone — would leave white spots on her face and a punctured confidence.

Days ahead of the launch of her own line of makeup — for the Indian skin tone — in collaboration with beauty-products retailer Nykaa, the Mumbai-based 30-year-old fashion designer, walks in wearing jeans and an oversized black-and-white striped shirt. Her hair is pulled back in a tight bun, and a light brown lipstick is the only embellishment on her face.

Two years in the making, the collection, as of now, comprises 12 shades of nail paint, and corresponding lipsticks, and a nail-polish remover. “Pop” is the word to describe Gupta’s creations, even though the colour palette is very muted, minus the drama of Gupta’s favourite colours — fluorescents, bright pinks and greens. There are several shades of nude, ranging from pink to brown, as well as a blue-tone red and a shade of orange, among others.

Not everyone has a makeup artist at her disposal, and so, “makeup needs to be super inclusive. There are all kinds of us — girls with great skin, girls who tan easily, girls who want to tan. We needed something for everyone,” she says, “I have put together five shades of nudes, because what’s nude on you is brown on me. Makeup should, perhaps, only make you slightly better, and we should not use it as a place to hide.”

The world of fashion opened up to her when she was only 17. The creator of The House of Masaba label started with ushering at the Lakmé fashion week in Mumbai. A GenNext designer at the 2009 Lakmé Fashion Week, Masaba got her first break under fashion designer Wendell Rodricks. At 24, she was also one of the youngest people to have helmed Satya Paul as its fashion director. But it was the quirky prints of a comb, camera, Tamil script, and animal motifs combined with playful colours that helped Masaba come into her own. Cheap copies of these prints sell by the dozen in wholesale markets. For inspiration, she says, she looks to the past — “to history and the vast heritage of our country, from the south to the north.”

Earlier this year, she unveiled her jewellery line Ghana Ghana (an 85 piece collection, inspired by the West African Akan tribe, blending animal motifs of crocodile, fish, with those of face masks, horns, etc., in large chokers, earrings , pendants and oversized cuffs, in silver and gold) in collaboration with the Rajasthan-headquartered brand Amrapali. This, in addition to a cricket-inspired sari collection for Banarasi-wear label Ekaya. While an Ekaya sari/lehenga would be priced at Rs 70,000 upwards, an Amrapali statement piece is below Rs 13,000. “I’ve always wanted to push myself. I’ve never wanted to repeat myself, am not happy with presenting one line in three months and be done with it. I want to be the master of all trades,” she says, adding, “People think that I have it easy, but I have built something on my own for 10 years. I’m going to work doubly hard to deliver, and continue to create.”

The fashion industry, she feels, should introspect and look towards our past for inspiration. “I was taught Ralph Lauren, Alexander McQueen and their ilk in college (she studied apparel manufacture and design in 2010 at Premlila Vithaldas Polytechnic of Mumbai’s Shreemati Nathibai Damodar Thackersey Women’s University, whose alumni include Anita Dongre, Neeta Lulla and Sonakshi Sinha), but why is Ritu Kumar, Rohit Bal or Anita Dongre not taught as part of the fashion curriculum? We need to look at our heritage, history and learn. Why wait for a Chanel to create an ‘India-inspired’ makeup line?” asks the designer who calls herself “India-proud”. The embroidery for all the leading fashion houses and labels in the West, she says, happens here, and, yet, “we don’t embrace it. We, as an industry, have modelled ourselves on the West, but as a society, we function differently. Wedding shopping, for instance, is a social affair — the whole family has to approve of the bride’s lehenga,” she says.

Today, she has become a go-to designer in the Hindi film industry. Sonam Kapoor, Katrina Kaif, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Karan Johar, and Alia Bhatt are all Masaba regulars. “Bollywood sells,” she says, “It is a part and parcel of who we are. It’s just better that we accept it. The life of a super star is what we sell.”


Kate Middleton’s $85 shoes from Aldo are the best part of Wimbledon

(Photo by Victoria Jones - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Kate Middleton and Prince William stepped out this weekend to enjoy the tennis match at Wimbledon, but it’s the Duchess’s shoes that caught royal watchers’ eyes.

To complement her totally chic bespoke baby blue Emilia Wickstead dress, Kate opted for $85 heels from Aldo with an on-trend ankle strap.

Getty Images
Getty Images

The Duchess opted for the shade bone, but the shoe is available in six other versatile colours.

Take a look at the exact shoes Kate wore as well as other cute ankle strap heels!

Aldo Nicholes


From Wimbledon straight to your feet. Get these heels that Kate wore before they’re gone!

SHOP IT: Aldo, $85

Naturalizer Vera Ankle Strap Sandal

Naturalizer Vera Ankle Strap Sandal
Naturalizer Vera Ankle Strap Sandal

Show off your pedi all day with the signature comfort Naturalizer is known for.

SHOP IT: Nordstrom, $135

Sarto by Franco Sarto Ronelle Heeled Sandals

Sarto by Franco Sarto Ronelle Heeled Sandals
Sarto by Franco Sarto Ronelle Heeled Sandals

These two toned sandals will keep your feet comfy all day with a chunky block heel and elegant straps.

SHOP IT: Anthropologie, $120

Faux-Suede Braided-Strap Block-Heel Sandals

Faux-Suede Braided-Strap Block-Heel Sandals
Faux-Suede Braided-Strap Block-Heel Sandals

The braided strap on this heel elevates it to a summer staple.

SHOP IT: Old Navy, $35

Kota Ankle Strap Pump

Kota Ankle Strap Pump
Kota Ankle Strap Pump

A demure stiletto heel topped with a skinny ankle strap and styled with a leg-lengthening pointy toe in a gorgeous colour.

SHOP IT: Nordstrom, $135

Emma Go Navy Ankle Strap Heels

Emma Go Navy Ankle Strap Heels
Emma Go Navy Ankle Strap Heels

As well as the stunning scalloped pattern, this shoe is locally sourced and crafted in Alicante, Spain.

SHOP IT: Anthropologie, $200

Call It Spring Mynah Dress Sandals

Call It Spring Mynah Dress Sandals
Call It Spring Mynah Dress Sandals

A block heel is the perfect foundation for your wardrobe. Chic, sturdy and guaranteed to win compliments.

SHOP IT: The Bay, $30

Jewel Badgley Mischka Giona Sandal

Jewel Badgley Mischka Giona Sandal
Jewel Badgley Mischka Giona Sandal

Sparkling crystals embellish the toe strap of an elegant evening sandal.

SHOP IT: Nordstrom, $135

Raphaella Booz Jute Heeled Sandals

Raphaella Booz Jute Heeled Sandals
Raphaella Booz Jute Heeled Sandals

Delightfully feminine, this pastel pair infuses any outfit with sweet, sun-faded color.

SHOP IT: Anthropologie, $140

Style & Co. Paycee 2-Piece Dress Sandals

Style & Co. Paycee 2-Piece Dress Sandals
Style & Co. Paycee 2-Piece Dress Sandals

A sassy pair of red heels are a must for any wardrobe!

SHOP IT: The Bay, $40