An Inspired Christmas Treat

Last Wednesday as part of the launch night of N16 Lates our shop window was transformed into a shadow puppet theatre by the wonderful puppeteer and artist Justina Kochansky.  It was an inspired and brilliant festive evening all round that shouted our what a great community we are part of.    At Olive Loves Alfie we put out a row of old school chairs on the pavement, piled up boxes with popcorn, cooked up some rather wicked mulled wine on our camping stove , filled goodie bags which were reportedly “the best goodie bags we have ever had”, introduced Jess our new hairdresser from Powder Puffs & Pin Curls to some of our wildest little customers, and Olive made her busking debut too!

Inspired by the epic snowfall of 2009 Justina created a magical story that was set on our very own Church Street.

If you missed the show last week Justina will be making a 2nd appearance this Thursday 13th December as part of a special family evening on Church Street.    A new five minute show specially devised for us ‘Olive Loves Christmas’ will be performed at 6.30 and again every 20 minutes until 8pm.  Just two minutes away at the Fire Station on Church Street you can  join in the Christmas Carols, see the most festive dog win an award courtesy of our new neighbour Paws & Purrs and wait for Father Christmas to put in a very big appearance.

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Olive Loves Alfie’s Guide To The Family Christmas Theatre Season

With so much to choose from, it can be hard to make your mind up for a festive treat at Christmas.  But with competition keener than ever between different venues, the Christmas show is attracting the most dynamic playwrights, directors, designers and performers in contemporary theatre to create magical shows for children, so there are some mouthwatering options for all ages this year. Here are some hot tips that will give you and your kids a taste of top quality live performance and spectacle this Christmas season.

Top pick is FEATHERS IN THE SNOW at Southwark Playhouse by Philip Ridley, renowned children’s author (KRINDLEKRAX, SCRIBBLEBOY) and leading playwright (TENDER NAPALM, THE FASTEST CLOCK IN THE UNIVERSE). With a massive cast and an epic narrative, expect a celebration of the power of storytelling with unforgettable language and exciting visuals.

There are at least four different versions of CINDERELLA in London this year, but the most adventurous is bound to be MIDNIGHT’S PUMPKIN by the celebrated Kneehigh company at BAC, those specialists in the reinvention of fairy tales (previous hits include THE RED SHOES and the wonderful RAPUNZEL). Recommended age 6+.

There are also four different versions of Dickens’ A CHRISTMAS CAROL, but we’d bank on the one at Waterloo East Theatre being the freshest and most interesting. It’s directed by Tim Carroll, who did the current Mark Rylance productions of TWELFTH NIGHT and Richard III in the West End, and is performed by Dominic Gerrard with a host of puppets. Ages 9+.

If you want to splash out, the big dance event is MATTHEW BOURNE’S SLEEPING BEAUTY at Sadler’s Wells with its ravishing Gothic take on Tchaikovsky. The show is Bourne’s third in a trilogy of classic adaptations that began with the legendary SWAN LAKE. Or there’s a tempting prospect at the National Theatre, where renowned director Katie Mitchell and rising playwright Lucy Kirkwood present a new version of HANSEL AND GRETEL for children aged 7-10.

The one that really grabs the eye is IN A PICKLE at the Unicorn, where the perennially excellent children’s theatre company Oily Cart team up with the RSC to create a magical show exploring the weird and wonderful landscapes of Shakespeare’s imagination for a very young audience (ages 2-5). But it’s also worth checking out THE HOUSE WHERE WINTER LIVES, by Punchdrunk Enrichment, for children aged 3-6 at Discover Children’s Story Centre on High Holborn – taking the children into a cottage in a winter wonderland, it’s bound to use interactive ideas with special inventiveness and an anarchic sense of fun.

For those with a yen for traditional Christmas panto, our very own Hackney Empire or Theatre Royal Stratford East both reliably come up with the goods each year, with DICK WHITTINGTON AND HIS CAT at the former and JACK AND THE BEANSTALK playing at the latter.

Our hot Panto tip this season, though, is CINDERELLA at the Lyric Hammersmith, where Artistic Director Sean Holmes takes charge of the Christmas offering and ought to breathe some exciting new life into the genre without sabotaging any of its time-honoured pleasures.

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Olive Loves Alfie Christmas Treats

Our very own Olive Loves Alfie Christmas collection has arrived and we are all in love with it.   Designed with growing children in mind both pieces from our first mini collection can be worn a size up with full length sleeves and a longer hem line.  Fast forward 12 months and they comes into their own with chic 3/4 length sleeves and cute hem lines hitting just above the knee.  Made from a combination of soft rich velvet and fine bamboo cotton Holly and Ivy are party favourites and every day classics.   With rough and tumble girls and busy lives very much in mind our collection is machine washable.

In the spirit of the Olive Loves Alfie family our photographs have been taken by  Dean Dorat of her beautiful daughter Lela.







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Work In Progress

Life is a work in progress especially when you have a head full of creative ideas and people to share them with. There are lots of things that I love about life at  Olive Loves Alfie but probably the best thing is the people that we have the chance to meet, the conversations we have and the ideas that develop along with new friendships. Christmas is coming and I am taking my usual renegade position, that in many ways isn’t that of a retailer. You won’t notice any evidence of Christmas  in our store until the beginning of December. Instead in good old fashioned style we try to hold onto the magic for as long as we can.

In our own pared back, home spun style, this Christmas our window will shine with simple messages of love and peace – the two things that we want to sing out to one and all. Very much work in progress we will keep you posted with news of our window when the lights go on!

For two evenings in December we are going to transform our window into a  shadow puppet theatre with the help of the rather magical and elfin puppeteer and sculptor Justina Kochansky.  Studying puppetry in the Dell’Arte School of Physical Theatre’s Bali Program Justina’s work has been seen around the world.  For 2 evenings only passers by and friends from our community will be able to enjoy something special from the pavement outside of our store.

We couldn’t resist giving you a sneak preview of the puppet of Olive and her friend the squirrel in work.  Taken from a photograph her profile is perfect and we just can’t wait to see her come to life.  Oh and don’t you just love Squirrel’s tail!


The first show on 5th December is just part of the festive celebrations that are being planned by Stoke Newington N16 Christmas Lates.  Gathering the community spirit of the neighbourhood stores will be open until 8pm with special festive offers and events.  The show ‘A Winters Eve’ is inspired by the view from our shop window in the heavy snow of 2011.

The second show has been devised especially for children and families.   ‘Olive Loves Christmas’ will be performed on the eve of our community Christmas Carol singing on the 13th December.   A festive family night, our first show will be performed at 6.15 just minutes away from the Carol singing that takes place outside the Fire Station.

Performances of  the 10 minute shows will begin at 6.15 and will be performed every 20 minutes until 8pm.

Whats next?… our round of the the best family shows written especially for us by theatre director Matthew Lloyd, and a special ticket competition to see our pick of the London theatre season!






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Playing Shop

Having a very chuffed and happy Olive spend a day with me in the shop recently bought back all kinds of memories.  I’m not quite sure why playing shop holds so much excitement but I can remember it being one of my favourite things too.   One of the big events when I used to stay with my Grandma was going to work with her on a Saturday afternoon to help out during her shift at Oxfam.   I loved the bus ride there through Lancashire villages, the day in the shop, the big slices of cake at tea break and the happy journey home together after a job well done.   Spending time with Olive in the shop made me realise just how much she has grown up.  Given the chance children are more than capable of doing many of the things we do ourselves.  Letting go and giving children the space and responsibility to have new experiences and to express themselves brings with it a sense of achievement and success.  I can highly recommend it.


Olive wore her Brunhilda Tutu over footless tights, with Dr Martens and her favourite Lurex Cardi.


Before we left for the day Olive made a list of  presents to choose from  for her cousin Isabella’s first magical Christmas.  After much deliberation she wrote down a knitted teddy bear (“because it has a great face and i think it would be a good friend “), an alpacha dress from Waddler (“because it’s so soft and it isn’t pink!”),  Bruno Munari Zoo (“because someone bought me the same book and I still love it”).

The question on Olive’s lips…”When can I come and help you again?”….

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Brand Focus – Little Titans


One of our favourite finds at Bubble London this year was Little Titans, a truely fantastic range of tights designed specifically with boys in mind!

With the birth of baby boy Kit, Carly Hardy found older sister Matildas stripes and spots didn’t quite fit the bill, so set about her mission to create something boyish and brilliant that would let him strut his stripey stuff, bend it like Beckham or scale the back of the sofa like the real-life action hero he is, free to crawl unhindered and stylish to boot. Thus Little Titans was born!

We give you a glimpse into the mind of Little Titans founder Carly Hardy as she looks back at her childhood and projects into the future with our Q&A this month.



Q. Where did you grow up?  A. All over the place! My Dad was a fighter pilot in the RAF and we moved around a lot. I attended about 10 different schools before the age of 12. I spent the majority of my time in either Germany or Suffolk, two places that are still very special to me.

Q. Do you have a nickname that you like?  A. Hmm, not really. I am christened Caroline, but somehow my name morphed itself into Carly (mispronunciation by my little sister, I think). People tell me that I suit Carly much better.

Q. Describe yourself in 3 words?  A. Determined,  curious, excitable

Q. When you were a child what did you imagine you would be when you grew up?  A. Madonna (of the music variety)

Q. Did you have a favourite item of clothing when you were a child?  A. I had these red suede Pixie Boots that I used to dance around to A-ha in… They were a very treasured gift from Father Christmas.

Q. What was your first job?  A. Hauling frozen Christmas turkeys from the outdoor chillers at Waitrose to waiting customers. Let’s just say it was a vegetarian Christmas lunch for me that year.

Q. How would you describe your style?  A. Relaxed, bright, bold, pops of colour, utilitarian with a little bit of loveliness thrown in for good measure

Q. What are you reading?  A. Mainly children’s books at the moment! Both Kit (3) and Matilda (6) choose a story each at bed time. Kit is obsessed with Bob the Man on the Moon at the moment and luckily I never tire of Simon Bartram’s brilliant illustrations. Matilda and I have just finished reading Michael Morpugo’s moving tale Homecoming.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula has been on my bed-side table for the last 2 weeks, but I am yet to read a page. Come bedtime, I can barely keep my eyes open.

Q. Who is cool?  A. My daughter Matilda. She has her own sense of style and an unswerving sense of confidence in the decisions that she makes. She’s also so open about her worries and insecurities. To me, that’s pretty cool.

I also have a soft spot for Aaron Johnson of Kick Ass fame, which is strange because I rarely get fixated with celebs.  Have you seen him in the UBerlin REM Music video, directed by his wife, Sam Taylor-Wood? Weirdly captivating!

Q. What is cool?  A. So many things! I can lose myself for hours on Pinterest! I love it that everyone can create their own mood boards.

Q. What scares you?  A. Narrow-mindedness and bigotry. Our hero product, tights designed with little boys in mind, has received an amazing response from so many people, but now and again we get a response that knocks me for six! For example, that putting your baby boy in tights will turn him gay. That response is so wrong on so many levels.

Q. What inspires you?  A. When I have the seed of an idea, my natural instinct is to run it by as many people as possible. One thing I have discovered on my Little Titans journey thus far, is this amazing network of women running their own businesses, all so willing to help, yet expecting nothing in return. Having previously worked in a predominantly male environment, I find this incredibly refreshing and inspiring.

I also find London a very inspiring place to live and work. I love its freneticism and its pockets of calm.

Q. What is your idea of a perfect day?  A. Sunny day at a cracking British Festival with our kids and friends. There’s something so wonderful about being outside all day and night. We normally do Glastonbury, but tried Wilderness this year and loved it: brilliant Kids’ Field, a magical lakeside spa and the most amazing Midnight Masked Ball. We transport the kids around in a sheepskin-lined wheel barrow when they get tired! (As some of our readers might know, we couldn’t agree more on this one! See you on a hopefully sunny, probably muddy field next summer!!)

Q. What do you think makes the brand unique?  A. We design with little boys in mind, focussing on design and products that we feel are missing from the market place. But whilst our collection meets strict practicality criteria from a composition point of view, the surface designs are about fun, adventure and fantasy. Think superheroes, monsters and  boy scouts with lots of bright, bold pops of colour!

Promising peace and harmony to families of little sock-taker-offers everywhere, Titans are made of highest quality combed cotton, with reinforced terry feet and non-slip soles. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do!!….


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A Love Affair With Minakani Lab – handprinted wallpapers from Paris

I recently fell in love with a range of hand printed wallpaper from Minakani in Paris.   Our favourite design ‘Mosaic’ has given our living room a sensational new feel.   The geometric design has a stylish modernist feel and is created from over 30 colours.  Combining zingy brights with tonal grey neutrals it is surprisingly easy to work with.  Check out the Olive Loves Alfie eco paint range for colours to sit alongside ‘Mosaic’.

We are really excited and delighted to be the first UK stockist of  Minakani Lab.

Each roll of Mosaic is a complete drop without any repeat making it perfect for a feature wall.  The paper comes in a pack of 2 different 2.5 meter length and 1.5 meter wide rolls and costs £280.  The triangles are 33cm tall and 37cm wide.  Each roll introduces new colours adding to the impact and design of the paper on a feature wall.

‘Animals’ is a stunning graphic illustrated paper created from fun over sized animals.    Black and white with soft pastel details the paper is easy to incorporate into a contemporary nursery.    Each roll of Animals has a repeat at 1.25 meters.   The paper comes in a pack of 2 x 2.5 meter length x 1.5 meter width rolls and costs £280.

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Fun In The Forest

We are really excited about the new AW12 collection from Ej Sikke Lej.   Since opening Olive Loves Alfie in 2006 Ej Sikke Lej has had a distinctive presence along side our other favourite Scandinavian brands.  Appealing to a growing number of fans we see parents come back season after season in search of their latest collection.   Their magic is in their clever use of  retro styling, bold illustrations and applique motifs combined with sensible styling and quality materials.

The new collection for Autumn Winter 2012 evokes the mood of the forest with fox and bear motifs popping up throughout the collection.

Shop the collection now at


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Wrap Up Well

Our handpicked selection of hats, scarves, gloves and mittens has arrived in store.   The exciting selection is available online at Olive Loves Alfie in our brand new Accessory section for babies, 2-5 years, 6-8 years and 9 plus.

Bobble hats, berets, Inka hats, ponchos, legwarmers, mittens and gloves all come together to create an exciting selection of styles to keep your children warm this winter.  Styles available from 0-6 months to 14 years.

This is our favourite old school style Beanie hats £14.99 this season.  In one size from 6 to 14 years the beanie has clever matching mitts that fold back to become fingerless gloves…perfect for holding onto a cup of hot chocolate.

Our favourite Trapper hat this season is semi lined with faux fur and is available  in 4-6 years.  £29.99.  We have always loved leg warmers but our  new  Winter variety in faux fur takes the prize this season.  Pull them on over boots or high tops £19.99.

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Creativity in the House

I have always loved looking at art with Olive. It isn’t just about enjoying art; it’s about discovering more about Olive by looking at art together. To see Olive respond to art, and to interpret it instinctively without any preconceived ideas is a thing of purity, and it provides a great insight into her mind.

Looking at a Kandinsky in the Tate Modern when Olive was 5 provoked a spontaneous round of applause. Chris Ofili’s ‘The Last Supper’ wowed Olive to the point of wanting to create her own Ofili monkey to hang on her bedroom wall. Last weekend a visit to Endri Kosturis studio in East London made a strong impression on Olive. She loved the vibrancy of colour, the contrast of black, the words scratched into his paintings, and the paint splattered studio floor.

On Sunday I taped off a huge space on Olive’s bedroom wall. I covered the rest of the wall and floor with plastic and opened sample pots of our soya based paint range that we launched earlier this year in collaboration with The Nursery Paint Company.

Olive isn’t confident about figurative drawing and often condemns her art to the bin. I have thoughts about that; but figure the best approach is to curb my frustration, give her access to a range of art materials and encourage her to experiment and express herself in ways that make her happy.

I thoroughly recommend giving a child a wall they can call their own!

You can find out more about Endri Kosturi here.

If you are feeling inspired you can get your fix at Frieze Art Fair Sculpture Park  11-14 October. Located in the beautiful surroundings of the English Garden, it is a quick walk from the main fair in Regents Park and exhibits new works by both established and emerging artists. Even better, entry to the Sculpture Park is free to the public!

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