#WeAreTesting Sustainable Venues: Sisu London Rooftop Retreat

Bag-laden Oxford Street shoppers can rejoice this summer, for finally a rooftop retreat has opened that doesn’t involve navigating the perfume section of John Lewis. A security man, an un-marked door and four flights of stairs are the only things lying between you and your next summer drinking hole, but is it worth the climb? 

Words: Kyra Hanson @kyra_sian

Sisu London off Oxford Street. 

Sisu London off Oxford Street. 

Sisu describes itself as a 'utilitarian nature reserve' with a 'greenhouse' restaurant offering 'organic vibes' and 'Scandinavian surrounds'. After reading the press release I was all but ready to grab some binoculars and settle in for a bird watching session. However, rather than the 'smörgåsbord of leafy green plants' promised, the spider plants were dry as a bone and the poor potted plants on our table were dead beyond recognition. The shrivelled leaves flaked off in my hand as I sipped a very strong Old Fashioned from the coin-operated cocktail tap – the most expensive drinks vending machine you’ll encounter at £8 a token. So, nil pois for green fingered bar staff.

If it’s cocktails you’re after opt for the Swizzle, a fizzy mix of Appleton Estate Signature blend, pineapple juice and Velvet Falernum (a spiced-citrusy-sweet liqueur). It’s a little on the sweet side but doesn’t arrive in a jam jar, so you get more booze for your buck. There’s also a drinks selection from Camden Town Brewery. Food was perfect for a light bite but I wouldn’t recommend turning up here ravenous. Before ordering, I searched the food and drinks menu for those 'organic vibes' to no avail. The aubergine taco with chili and fried onions would have benefitted from some sauce. The cauliflower cheese arancini was tasty but titchy, at least the chicken waffle was free range.

We were informed via email “the whole menu is not entirely organic, however the food mainly uses organic ingredients, and the drinks also strive to use organic produce whenever possible.” If this is the case why not make mention of it on the menu? Surely it’s a selling point for the health conscious, eco-consumers of today?

This rooftop is surrounded by taller buildings, which hogged the sun on our visit, however the RetrEAT (design by DENLDN) was a welcome addition. More shed than greenhouse (it being constructed of wood not glass), the thick blankets, chilled playlist and use of natural materials did manage to meet the relaxed, Scandi-cool brief. Heated concrete seating was a nice surprise though not exactly ethical. And there are two tiny toilets in which no matter where you stand you will set off the hair dryer.    

"More shed than greenhouse (it being constructed of wood not glass), the thick blankets, chilled playlist and use of natural materials did manage to meet the relaxed, Scandi-cool brief." 

So, does Sisu get any sustainability points at all? Well, we were told the plates are biodegradable and the furniture has been upcycled by the Sisu team. This is a well-located urban hideaway, which you’d be pleased to stumble across after navigating the snap-happy tourists and queues of Primark shoppers below, just don’t turn up for the organic vibes. 

Sisu serves food and drink between noon and 10pm every day, from now until late September.


What to Expect from a Cuddle Workshop? We Experience the Ultimate Intimacy of Human Touch

Cuddle Workshops offer attendees a space to explore the importance of touch in a non-sexual environment. They are designed to “which explores affection, intimacy, boundaries and verbal/non-verbal communication” and are open to all. I attended a ‘Cuddling for Beginners’ class, to better understand how these events helped a group of strangers to literally embrace one another.

Words: L.Gilbert

Image: Cuddle Workshop, UK. 

Image: Cuddle Workshop, UK. 

I arrived fifteen minutes early to the workshop, but hesitated before I enter the door labeled 'Room 1'. I have to admit, I was feeling nervous. I wasn't entirely sure what to expect, but I knew I was about to engage in four hours of intimacy with absolute strangers.

When I finally plucked up the courage and entered the room, I found a trio of smiling women. One sat behind a table laden with biscuits, hot drinks and a large jar of mints, and offered me my name tag (punctuated with a little heart). Another gave me a laminated piece of paper with an ice breaker question. I dutifully went and asked the next person who entered the room "when was the last time you had a really amazing meal?" After a chat about the merits of London-based fish and chips, we discussed our reasons for attending a cuddle workshop.

For my part, I was intrigued by the idea of a space to explore platonic touch. As a teenager, I had been quite tactile, but became increasingly less so in recent years. I wanted to explore the idea of physical connection without worrying that my hugs would be misinterpreted. My companion told me she loves cuddling, and signed up to the workshop just this morning. She too had no idea what to expect.

What followed was an afternoon of sharing. We were asked to share our names, and how we were feeling. We asked one another if we could "share a hug". We shared the emotions stirred up by the exercises. Throughout the session, there was a real emphasis on being generous with ourselves, and one another.

"The experience of a cuddle workshop is subjective. Some participants would cry after an exercise, as the intimacy of the moment allowed for a great emotional release." 

The workshop was made up of a series of exercises. The nature of these was varied: one exercise involved lying with your head in a partner's lap, while he or she stroked your head, arm, shoulders and back. Another played with the idea of presence, asking us to feel the difference between touching someone when distracted, touching someone when he or she is distracted, and touching someone when both of you are focused on the moment. There was an exercise involving an embrace known as a "melting hug". There was another where we practiced saying "no" to a proffered cuddle, and explored what it felt like to both reject and be rejected. This focus on consent, and accepting one another’s boundaries, was key: our leaders, Anna and Andrew, created an environment of communal respect. People were able to opt out of exercises, and we were told to ask our partner's permission before we reached out and touched them. We were also told to thank everyone we shared a physical connection with, and to thank those who didn't want to be touched. At the end of the workshop, many of the attendees told the group that they felt "grateful", and no wonder: we were constantly encouraged to engage with this warm emotion.

The experience of a cuddle workshop is subjective. Some participants would cry after an exercise, as the intimacy of the moment allowed for a great emotional release. Two men both explained how stroking another man's arms reminded them of their fathers, and how this memory helped reconfigure their preconception about male-male touch. One attendee announced at the end of the session that he felt energised; many others that they felt calm. Some, no doubt, left that afternoon feeling that they would stay on their oxytocin high for a while yet. Some, no doubt, felt their initial anxiety completely subside shortly into the session. Others may have felt the occasional stirring of nerves, but were able to accept this, and still engage with others.

"I wanted to explore the idea of physical connection without worrying that my hugs would be misinterpreted."

I entered the workshop intrigued, but sceptical. I left with an appreciation of how open people can be, and an acute awareness of how quickly two individuals can connect. I feel that every embrace I shared today told me so much about the person I shared with, and I wonder how much they now know of me.

I also left having experienced some jolly lovely hugs indeed.

#WeAreTesting: True Organic of Sweden

‘All You Need Is Me’ — this high-performance product by True Organic of Sweden is a natural ointment made of certified organic ingredients without any added extras — parabens, sulfates, alcohol, or other synthetic chemicals. This 100% natural tube made of sugarcane is here to help treat sunburn, eczema, cuts, dry hair ends from rain or snow, tired muscles, and gives a fine finish for lips. 

You may apply it on your elbows, knees, face, tip of your nose and even hair, so instead of numerous products causing unnecessary waste, the benefits of healing organic compounds have been gathered into one that’s multi-effective. We especially loved the repairing effect of this miraculous potion, which showed immediate results when used on lips and even the more delicate facial skin, leaving it soft and smooth after use.

This multi-effective product comes especially handy in winter to fight skin dryness and eczema. We are extremely pleased to have discovered this natural product from True Organic of Sweden’s holistic skincare range for winter, and it will stick with us on our beauty counters for quite some time. 

“It is odourless and colourless, so at first glance I didn’t know what to expect, but it’s incredibly effective. It’s one of those does-what-it-says-it-does type of products, and I like such honest, transparent approach by beauty brands. It heals your skin and moisturises it for the entire day ahead. It doesn’t leave skin annoyingly greasy or oily, but quite the opposite — it absorbs quickly and leaves a soft finish. What’s even better — you can use it on your lips, too, so you won’t have to carry (or constantly look for a missing) lip balm with you 24/7. The pocket-sized version is particularly great when you’re on the go.” 

— Reviewed by Johanna Raudsepp, Editor’s Assistant

Sometimes simplicity in texture combined with natural ingredients in their purest form, without extra additives and chemical compounds, in one tube is all you need. If you, too, are looking for your next green beauty all-in-one, this product is not to be missed. It’s simple, all you need is me!

Shop here:


#WeAreTesting: Supermood Natural Holistic Beauty

With the secret organic ingredients, such as Chaga mushroom, deriving from faraway Finnish forests, Supermood have chosen to implement a holistic, sensory approach to their facial products. Personally, I’m always more curious to test products that offer a soothing experience for all the senses, and these products are here to prove organic beauty doesn’t need to be less fabulous than your other luxury beauty counter friends. During the course of 10 days, in this competitive rabbit-and-tortoise style race for better, improved skin, I religiously applied these Supermood Holistic Beauty products every day, or some, like the Youth Glo luxury peel, 2-3 times a week, as per instruction.

As a foreword, I haven’t been gifted with exactly the best skin type — sensitivity and occasional allergies and redness are common guests unwantedly ghosting on my delicate facial area, especially before the approaching winter season. For years on end, before I could even think of any decorative cosmetics products I’d like to possess, my best friends were only the strongest apothecary products, promising their best to fight against allergies, rashes and unwanted blemishes. Not so long ago, I turned my beauty counter, then consisting of all kinds of fabulous chemical-induced products, into a cruelty-free, green beauty haven, and I’ve only encountered beneficial effects and lasting results after adapting to that change. 

SUPERMOOD Natural Holistic Beauty, 2016. 

SUPERMOOD Natural Holistic Beauty, 2016. 

Here is what I encountered on my 10-day journey of testing these six wonderful Supermood products.

1. Beauty Sleep Sweet Pillow Scent - Calming Herbal Scent for Sweet Dreams

Each night, just before prepping for bedtime, I sprayed 3 drops gently on my linen pillowcase and let the mist absorb for a few minutes. Although in the beginning, the aroma, reminding me of a mixture of lavender and moss handpicked from Nordic forests, might be slightly off-putting because of it’s strength, it quickly fades away and transforms itself into a milder, more delicate version of itself, awakening your senses to an aromatic experience featuring a herbal bonanza. All these nights, as if by magic, I fell asleep instantly and woke up all freshened and bright, so it surely is more effective than all sleeping pills combined, with a mind-at-ease blissful sleep guaranteed. 

2. Beauty Sleep Absolute Bliss Serum - Youth Restoring Sea Fennel Serum

More often than not, it’s hard to find a serum that has that ideal, balanced texture — not too thick, not too liquid-y. The scent, boasting mild notes of sea fennel, also comes across surprisingly calming, not irritating. The serum is meant for overnight rejuvenation, aiming to deliver youth restoring qualities. By morning, the face is well moisturised, wrapped into a healthy glow and prepared to absorb all other products just perfectly. 10 points out of 10 go to mild, calming scent and light texture, exactly the basic comforting necessities you want to take into bed with you, all extra additives have been left out. 

3. Beauty Sleep Youth Restoring Eye Serum with Sea Fennel Stem Cells

This overnight product ideally pairs with the Beauty Sleep Absolute Bliss serum. Yet it differentiates from the original facial serum by featuring a slightly thicker, creamy texture, which suits well the delicate skin surrounding the eye area. To avoid any irritation, I applied it very carefully with small drops in a circular mode. Waking up, the blue circles around the eyes, which usually derive from excessive hours spent staring at the computer screen and are difficult to get rid of just overnight, had faded away, and it truly seemed to fight redness. In addition, it soothes and softens the eye area, helping to get rid of fatigued skin cells.

4. Youth Glo Luxury Peel with Natural AHA-Acids and Fruit Extracts

I would like to highlight the first thing I appreciate is that the scent is again very mild and delicate, completely contrasting to what you would usually get with, although super-effective, yet chemical peel products. It is recommended to hold the product only for 60 seconds during the first times of use. You don't feel any effects during the peel, other than slight chemical reaction on the surface of the skin. Then the face, slightly irritated from the effects of bioactive ingredients, turns completely burnt red. For preserving your own sane mind, I sincerely recommend avoiding mirrors at that stage. After 30 minutes or so, the redness should gradually diminish, although some patches of redness and irritation may remain, hence this serves as the perfect pyjama-party, pre-sleep peel. I really wouldn't recommend using it on other occasions than before bedtime, when your skin can afford to have its ‘downtime', get restored and repair the healthy glow by the morning hours. After waking up, the skin tone is true-match-all-the-way even, and there are no irritations at sight. What a bliss!

5. Egoboost One Minute Facelift Serum

This product surely stole the show! The first time applying it can succumb your skin to a chain of chemical reactions, whereas the delicate Chaga mushroom scent only complements the product’s promising effectiveness. After at least a minute of absorption time, the product lifts the cheekbones a millimetre higher each time and offers bold definition of the facial contours. I've never encountered my cheekbones to be so clearly defined and toned, than after applying this wunderserum! In the first place, I didn’t quite seem to comprehend what the fun aspect of Supermood is about. The answer lies in this Facelift serum! You have to try this, it's so effective. Fun found in elevated cheeks in a minute. 

6. Youth Glo Radiance Serum - Luminous Serum with AHA-Acids and Firming Moth Bean

Before the ten days, I would be the person blocking all their pores with layers and layers of heavily applied foundation. After familiarising myself with this Glo Radiance Serum, gone are the days! It has become the best part of my morning routine consisting of transforming myself from a Quasimodo-like,  — one eye blue, another red, craving-caffeine-like-there’s-no-tomorrow —, to a Lets-Start-This-Motivating-Day-With-Glowing-Skin Queen. I hardly wear thick layers of makeup on my face anymore. It seems somewhat irrelevant, when skin can boast an even, irritation-free surface without. If this effective, calming product is not the best thing happened to mankind, it's at least the best thing ever happened to my face. 

During these test days I learned that beauty really does begin from clean skin, which has been taken care of inside out, in a 360-degree way. Your dearest beauty products should not only look good, but offer pampering care for all senses. If you happen to be the person, like myself, who is extremely fuzzy about textures and scents, then this might just be the right everyday beauty range for you. And who could resist these wonderful, yet whimsical glass bottles and pastel packaging? It’s good to know honest products can actually honestly deliver. I found all that’s missing is a little bit more time for our phone-switched-off-it’s-me-time elevating beauty routine… 

After all, outer radiance can only flourish, when inner harmony is in place.