Monday, 29 December 2008

Put a knot in it

Knowing the weather forecast is part of an informal curriculum taught to all British citizens alongside maths and English. And since this chill is not predicted to ease off until well after the New Year, Jack Frost will be nipping at more than just your fingers and your toes if you give him half the chance!

Make like a pig in a blanket (the tasty and 'wrapped up' sausage in bacon side order to your turkey dinner, not to be confused with the Sarah Palin look of 08, known as the pig in lipstick) and invest in some classic silk scarves. Not only do these square shaped handkerchiefs come in a variety of patterns but they can also be knotted to your neck or head, in a number of ways.

If you want to achieve the elegant scarf tied around your bonce, reminiscent of Audrey Hepburn in 'A Roman Holiday' rather then the less coveted washerwoman wench look, you will find its all in the choice of fabric, pattern and colour palette. Cotton fades whereas silk looks vintage and will keep your ears toasty warm and the paisley print is pretty but quirky designs of horse riding gear or nautical illustrations are more interesting.

Now there are a number of ways to tie a scarf round your neck, the most effective is folding the scarf in half to make a triangle then keeping this section at the front, wrap the other corners round your neck and then knot at a jaunty angle to the side. Or if the scarf is longer, try the droopy bow knot.

Although you can pick up these scarves new from places like or Topshop, the cheapest and most unusual ones you will find are hidden amongst mint imperials in your granny's handbag or in your local charity shop!

Scarves are also nice to decorate ones handbag with or to tie up boys to bedposts, (wink, wink, nudge-nudge) just get knotting!

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Paris is worth every (weakening) pound

I have recently got back from a mini break in Paris and I am seriously in love.

I confess that I am head over heels for the Parisian style of dressing and their general attitude to fashion! In the Beauborg quarter, which is situated on the right bank, people were sporting a number of looks; from the truly odd in red wigs and 50's style tea dresses to the truly fashion forward in over sized specs, Doc Martins and low drop crotch trousers.

In this quarter there was also a number of second hand and vintage shops secreted in the winding streets. These shops were stuffed, more than your dad after his Christmas dinner with all the trimmings, with absolute retro bargains and even though the Pound is being sat on by it's fatter sister the Euro right now, there was still some gems to be found.

My favourite finds were some 80's mohair jumpers embellished with patterns of sequins, diamonds and sparkly appliqued designs for an eclectic take on this season's woolly must haves. Though static hair and stray fluff in the eyes/nose did make it a challenging wear!

I also came across a fantastic Aladdin's cave of a shop on the hill of Monmatre; it was impossible to get round from all the piles of fur coats, puffed sleeves and random bowler hats, there was a definite smell of mothballs and your eyes were straining in the dim lighting to make out the labels. Perfect conditions for a valuable find! If only I hadn't needed to catch my plane home I would have snapped up more than a pair of silk scarves!

Thursday, 4 December 2008

More than just a close shave

Although all eyes have recently been on Lilly Cole, Daisy Lowe, Agness Deyn and model of the moment Jordan Dunn, I think the most refreshing face of 2008 has to be Alice Dellal. For those of you who aren't familiar with this live wire, she is the daughter of Brazilian model, Andrea Dellal, and granddaughter of the British real estate mogul, Jack Dellal. Oh and if that hasn't sealed her glamorous credentials enough, her Godfather's Mario Testino, the prestigious photographer for Paris Vogue!

Dellal has a punky/grunge style of dressing, often spotted in beaten up old leather jackets, vintage rock tshirts and of course her daring shaved hairstyle. It's the tough looking boots she puts together with lacey stockings and belly skimming tops that give Dellal an interesting edge, almost reminiscent of Madonna's 80's style from her Desperately Seeking Susan days- all that side swept wavy hair and tough attitude, though don't include the bows and glam rock styling!

In a recent Vice magazine shoot, a model named Zoe was photographed sporting the Dellal look. Although it looks very fetching on elfin faced, jutting cheekboned young things not sure it's going to be the 'Rachael' cut of the naughties.

Other than being Mario Testino's muse, Dellal has modelled for Burberry in 2006, appeared on Vivienne Westwood's A/W 08 catwalk, is the new face for Agent Provocateur and Alexander Wang loves her with a capital L. Talk about the cat who got the cream!

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Strictly come sparkle

Its the run up to Christmas, everything is covered in glitter and like a moth to the flame I cannot tear my eyes away from 'Strictly come Dancing'.

I'm not sure if it's the music, old brucey's corny jokes, the amazing dancing or perhaps the fact that everyone is as sparkly as a herd of excitable pre-pubescent girls covered in glitter outside a screening of High School Musical.

Whatever it is I want it! If like me, you are craving a bit of shimmer in your wardrobe but want to keep it classy like the strictly crew a brilliantly cheap idea is to visit Oxfam's website. On there you can find in the evening wear section outfits from vintage designer Frank Usher, with this blue top priced at £14.99, to this Karen Millen dress from £120.

Do a little dance, make a little love....

Does anyone else after they've bought new clothes and hurried back to the safety of their rooms, try on their new purchases (all at once), whap on a tune and just generally dance about like a five years old at a school disco?

I blame MGMT's album, my new charity shop finds and that massive pack of jelly beans.

Monday, 1 December 2008

First the worst, second the best, third the one who can't fit in their xmas dress

The first of December! You can finally crack into the advent calendar that's been sat on your desk for the past two weeks! Yet, is it just me or does it seem slightly unfair that the lead up to Christmas, which is usually celebrated with just a taster of chocolate each day, is also when magazines start yelling at us to shift those pesky pounds.

As my ever tactful father likes to remind his womenfolk 'a moment on the lips is a lifetime on the hips', as he scoffs yet another cream laden mince pie! huh! I would like to see Men's Health or Nuts informing their male readers that, no they can't indulge in the entire bag of Cadbury's fun size chocolate bars or verbally rapping their knuckles when they think a whole pack of bacon accounts for one meal!

The only light at the end of the Christmas diet tunnel is that; A) it ends on Christmas day itself when coincidentally the turkey feast arrives and you can eat your weight (also include weight lost while on faddy diet) in turkey, and B) Us girls are transformed by the time the Christmas parties swing round! Well, this is what I'll be reconciling myself with while on my first painful run of the month. ouch!

The British Fashion Awards

Fashion took centre stage at Westminster's Lewerence Hall on Novemeber the 26th. The crowning winner was undoubtedly Luella Bartley with her award of Designer of the Year, and quite rightly so.

Luella has been a hit in New York, Milan and has been a fashion favourite with the London Fashion Week crowds. Her S/S 08 collection was a psychadellic twist of refined English formal dress wear with tweed and lace mixed with oversized pearls, candy colours and childish make up. Her A/w 09 collection didn't lose her signature sense of fun with witches hats, orange tights and insanely crimped hair.

Other winners included miliner Stephen jones for the Outstanding Achievemnet award, Ruperst Sanderson for the Accessory Designer award, Christopher Bailey won Menswear Designer for his work with Burberry, Jouran Dunn (the face of Topshop) beat Agness Deyn to the Model of the Year award, Matthew Williamson picked up the Red Carpet Designer award over Giles Deacon and Stella McCartney.

Friday, 28 November 2008

When Giles met Colin

On Tuesday 11th November Colin McDowell, Senior Fashion writer for Sunday Times Style and renowned fashion commentator, staged a televised chat with fashion designer, Giles Deacon, at The London College of Fashion. There was an atmosphere of excitement as Giles, who was awarded British Fashion Designer of the year in 2007, strolled on stage and settled into his chair next to Colin.

Colin started by praising Gile's achievements and outlining his star studded career which has involved working for Bottega Veneta, Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Ralph Lauren before setting up his own London based luxury womenswear label in 2004.

Gile's came across as very magnanimous, as in answer to a question on how hard it is to become an established fashion designer, he explained how there is so much petty politics within the industry and how he has tried to combat this in his own team by ensuring a healthy fun relationship. Among other qualities he listed, was 'direct honesty, to say that's a shit idea', to which he sat back laughing.

Gile's then answered questions from the audience, such as the inevitable, 'is there anything that inspires you?' to which he replied that it was actually those around him that influence him, adding after a pause, that daily work has to be stimulating, and you need people to be direct and even silly, like his long term friend and ex, Fashion Stylist Katie Grand. Though he hastily assured the audience that she was not his muse, 'the concept of a muse is just a bit creepy, like designers who say they were inspired by their grandmothers skirts when they were little. that's just weird!'

There was many questions from people in the audience who felt an affiliation with his northern roots, having been brought up in Cumbria, and he demonstrated how his background informed his career from his 'northern pragmatism' which made him think, 'Christ, gotta get a job, pay the rent!', to his new collection for high street retailer New Look, 'it's an income for the next three years, and people were sniffy about it but then not everyone can or wants to spend £250,000 on a dress. And why should they?'

And his proudest moment? without hesitation he replied, 'being Designer of the Year, just looking at the list of other people who were on it and thinking Christ I'm on it!' Since last year he has been a permanent fixture in the fashion world and has a number of lucrative deals with New Look, Daks and his own label Giles Deacon.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Interview with Fashion Designer Ashish.

Don’t fancy being left to fester under the mistletoe this Xmas? Take your mother’s advice and put on a sequined party frock to stand out from all the boring little black dresses. Ashish is the king of sequins and his A/W collection exudes high octane party glamour.

The story behind his collection this season runs along the theme of, ‘Disney meets Marilyn Monroe, and an ex Las Vegas showgirl.’ The thirty-two dazzling outfits leave you with the feeling that the Disney characters, Marilyn and the showgirl did more than just meet, they donned some sequins and partied!

When creating a collection, Ashish explains that he keeps his clients in mind; whereas the English appear to buy across the scale, his clients in Russia and New York are more difficult to predict, though his designs tend to appeal to young party girls.

It is easy to see why; his collection this season sports heavily sequined mini dresses, skirts and tops, which combine instant impact glamour within a feminine silhouette. There are voyeuristic dresses with large holes cut out, sporty sweater with burlesque style nipple tassels and woolen jumpers adorned with cherries.

Since he first sold his A/W collection in 2001 to Browns Focus, a London designer fashion boutique, his star has been rising. His statement outfits have been worn by Lilly Allen, Madonna on her ‘confessions’ album tour, Victoria Beckham, and R&B singer Estelle, ‘£700 is a lot of money and I really feel flattered when people say they feel sexy in my designs’.

From all the celebs parading around in his outfits, the new and upcoming ‘doowop’ soul singer, V.V Brown caught his attention when she wore one of his dresses for a Jools Holland performance, ‘she also wore that dress for her video, she embodies my ideal girl that I keep in mind when designing, so much energy.’ From wearing one of his dresses V.V Brown earned herself another little number as he kindly sent her one to keep. In comparison, his thoughts on celebrity drag queen Jodie Harsh wearing his designs, went along the lines of- ‘lovely bloke, great fun, don’t really want to see my clothes on a tranny though!’

Ashish’s first show in 2004 exploded onto the fashion scene like a kaleidoscopic glitter ball, he said he had, ‘nothing to loose, though sequins at that time were not cool. Americans didn’t like it, they were like ‘oh my god, we haven’t seen sequins on the catwalk for like 40 years’. People were frightened by it. But then Lizzie Jagger started wearing it’. However, the British press lapped it up and he was rewarded with a ‘New Generation’ sponsorship from The British Fashion Council. This is what is exciting about Ashish, he isn’t afraid to go against convention and design outfits that force people to rethink their preconceptions concerning fashion. His radical attitude to design has proved him to be definitely more than just a party girl’s favourite designer.

His zest for colour and eye for the alternative can be said to come from his fashion forward mother, who now manages his factory of 70 workers in Delhi, ‘She was fabulous! Before the weight of course, but this was the woman who could pull off a lime green jumpsuit.’ His other major influence is 80’s fashion designer Bob Mackie, who is best known for designing outfits for Cher and Gerry Hall. Ashish describes him as ‘vulgar but fun’ and as a designer he could bring humour to his outlandish, jewel encrusted garments.

And when he looses his creative spark and draws a blank? Ashish firmly believes in the power of films as soothing to a designers dry patch, ‘I watch like 60 films a day, no seriously, god that sounds sad! The film ‘the eyes of Laura Mars’ works for me, its corny but it’s shot beautifully.’

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

I can see clearly now...I've invested in some geek chic specs.

After spending a good week and a half squinting at the TV, people talking to me, and the number of a bus which i repeatedly failed to catch, I thought it best to get the old peepers seen to. Also the horrible idea kept coming back to me that you can read people's lives from the lines and wrinkles on their faces, and my face would just say-nothing! we'll blatantly all be botoxed to Bognor and back by the time i have wrinkles! silly sausages!

'You have what is known as 'rugby ball' shaped eyes Miss Nightingale. Nothing to be alarmed about, it's called an 'astigmatism', the bloke with the breath that had a whiff of garlic-ness to it reassured me while blinding me with a mini torch.

rugby ball eyes? the only ball shaped body parts I actually want are the ones located on my chest. great. Also there didn't seem anything positive in the word aSTIGMAtism. My opinions were of the old school way, glasses were for geeks, school being an operative word. It was always the owly looking kids in my school who were picked on for their specs and now i was going to have to join the milk bottle mongtards (alright, that word is playground retro and you won't be laughing when it comes back!)

Yet when did the opinions of those kappa popper wearing, happy hard core listening, teenage baby producing bunch known as 'the popular kids' ever retain longevity? well, actually the first two trends in fashion and music are making a come back and all of Europe knows we hold the record for most teen pregancies...but hey ho on glasses they were wrong!

So the next day I bravely visited the specs shop and psyched myself up with thoughts like 'Lilly Cole for Paul Smith in harry potter glasses, sexy secretary, minxy teacher etc' and shoved a pair on and blinked and my newly framed face...hmm bit dame Edna.

unsurprisingly the classic Chanel and Dior frames were the best but waaay out of my price range. so I opted for a simple tortishell pair in a square style and hoped my critics, at college, would be kind. My own personal opinion was I was working the Daria (that American cartoon with a deadpan character) meets high powered lesbian look.

It wasn't until today when some sleazy Frenchman stopped me and waxed lyrical rubbish about me being sexy in specs, followed by asking if i was a teacher with a twinkle in his eye, that I realised I had accomplished at least one of my desired looks! Even though it resulted in me extricating myself from his oily charms and promptly hiding in a nearby shop.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Lesbians are so hot right now

Katy Perry’s singing about it, Lindsey Lohan’s snogging one, and Agnes Deyn, lets face it just looks like one.

Yet she’s not the only one. I realised the other day, as I picked up my new Chris Evans/high powered lesbian style specs, and dressed in my ‘boyfriend trousers’, unisex converses and new specs, I was very much doing the lesbian look. Perhaps this was why the old bloke opposite me on the tube was giving me a good eyeballing. Probably didn’t help that my reading of choice was ‘diva’, a well known lesbian magazine. What? I read it for it’s amusing articles!

Perhaps I’m missing the boat and every other woman is merrily beating around the lesbian bush. So I put the question; would you? to my polish housemate, who is as traditional as Mr Kipling is about his exceedingly good cakes. Her answer was an adamant ’a thousand time no!’, which was accompanied by a suspicious darting look in my direction. Her reasoning followed that ’surely you would miss something?’

But other than that something extra men have which comes in a long package (if your lucky), what would we miss? Certainly not the way my boyfriend picks his bogeys then proudly reveals it to me on his finger like we are in ‘show and tell’ in class one again, or the way he never realises his bum crack is on show. Don’t get me wrong I like his bum, but not when I’m eating my dinner or he meets my housemates, or more importantly my mum, you’d think it’d get draughty down there.
With a lezzy chum you could combine wardrobes, watch endless Sex in the City without any complaints and come bedtime at least she would know where ‘it’ is, ‘cos she’d have one herself!
The lesbians have changed peoples stereotypes from the dungaree wearing, cat loving and body hair growing clan they used to be thought of. With their chart topping tunes, intelligent magazines, glamorous celebs and serious fashion style they could make a straight girl as queer as nine bob note as my Oma would say.

However, if after a fair amount of philosophising and self probing (oo-er!) you come to the conclusion that being a lesbian just isn’t your cup of tea, remember not to spill your initial thoughts to your conservative housemate, or you will find you’re treated more suspiciously then Amy Winehouse claiming she’s clean.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

A 6 page photo story 'Plesae play nicely'

From country bumpkin to city chic

I have recently moved to London to do a course in fashion journalism. I thought I was pretty savvy and street wise, so I wasn't too scared of the big bad city.

I was wrong. No-one told me you don't have to hold doors open, say please or thank you, or that it is perfectly acceptable to ram into the tube forcing others do even more contorting yoga-esque positions.

Though it is those random moments when my friend told me to beware when riding on the number 1 bus...not of being harassed, or to hide my mobile phone...but to watch out for tree branches. Apparently some poor girl got taken out by some tree branch when sitting on the number 1.

Yet when I was riding between Canada water and London bridge at rush hour, and some suited w**nker was kindly resting his daily paper on my head, i channelled my rage to thinking about urban style.

no not the cool kind that the sartorialist photographs but almost urban survival dressing. Juggling the need to be trendy and chic while not damaging your back in heels, sweating, or revealing anything you, er, don't want to be revealed.

I'm talking the odd bit of boob when desperately trying to remove some layers in the jungle-like humidity of the underground. Or an unintentionally flashed patch of hairy pit when reaching for a bar to grab hold of.

So while I am avoiding any dodgy looking trees and occasionally letting slip a please or thank you, I am dressed to survive in copious amounts of deodorant, comfortable daps and some sharpened elbows.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Whose guna be an electric gypsy?

Sitting in the hairdresser's seat with my hair wrapped up in a towel like a 1950's housewife, my hairdresser asks the usual how have you been type questions and above the drone of the hairdryer we get to moaning about the lack of independent clothes shops in Taunton (in a town where wellies and flat caps are the code of fashion this isn't a shocking revelation). To cut a long gossip short, the result of the conversation was that she recommended this boutique in Exeter called 'The Electric Gypsy'. As curious as a cat with a mighty fine new hairdo I decided to visit this retro vintage shop and give it a good raiding and report back.

Trotting down Exeter's fore street in the rain with mother in tow, I spot the shop and we both bundle in, blinking like new born lambs in the warmth and light. As we shake off our wet clothes, the bloke behind the till gives us a smile and to the sound of the new Goldfrapp album being played, we furtively begin to look at the racks of clothes.

I quickly become engrossed, elbow deep in one of their many baskets of sale items when mum calls me from the back of the shop. She is wearing a floor length coat with a fake fur collar and cuffs and begins expertly stuffing me into a 70's beige mac whilst telling me she had the exact same style herself in her wild child hippy days when your dad wore flares and a leather jacket.

While coughing up the mere thirty pounds for my new-but-not-new mac, I get chatting to Nick, one of the guys who runs the shop. In a matter of ten minutes we discuss second hand clothes, sustainable fashion, independent shops and doing it all like they did when the hairstyles were longer and the skirts were shorter. After promising to call up for a proper chat, mum and I leave with a nice warm fuzzy feeling, a bit like after having a few glasses of vino, which you just don't seem to get when leaving a chain store where the checkout girl tells you in a monotone voice to have a nice day.

A week later, I'm sat down calling The Electric Gypsy, eating my third chocolate digestive and slurping my tea when Nick picks up the phone. Being the professional that I am I call him Duncan, then when hearing his confusion remember he's called Nick and quickly jolt his memory of our chat the previous week. Sounding genuinely pleased to hear from me we get talking about how the founders of The Electric Gypsy all met...

Nick: Well, Mike and I were doing film studies at art college (what used to be Farnham and is now Surrey Institute of Art and Design) and she (Emma, the driving force as Nick refers to her as) was doing fine art. That would have been...gosh...working back at least twelve years ago, so 93 or 94. So anyway, Mike was doing this zombie film (there's a pause while we both laugh over this film genre) and was involved in art direction, special effects, costume and set building and we just stayed friends. After college they (Emma and Mike) were down in Dorset and it was around April 2004 that we started the shop but it was the autumn before that, that Emma had been chatting about it and asked me to join in so I moved from London to be part of it.

Me: Last time we met, you said Emma designs and sews a lot of her own clothes for the shop, how did she get into that?
Nick: She had kind of always made and customised her own clothes at college, but it wasn't until after college when she was working for a water company that it drove her to think about it as a business. So she made her first clothes the year before and sold them at Glastonbury in our own tipi-
Me: Do you guys make everything yourselves?!
Nick: haha! Yeah well the guy behind the tipi now travels festivals and it's called the Bimble Inn. But anyway we all came together down here and me and Em spent two weeks running the shop.

Me: Who came up with the concept/idea of the shop?
Nick: Em and Mike came up with the name, it's from a 1976 Steve Hillage song called electric gypsies. I suspect Emma had been dreaming about the idea of having a clothes boutique for ages (how long you'd have to ask her!), and when she and Mike first moved to Exeter, the time she spent temping was time she spent imagining turning that dream into reality. So she isn't just the driving force, It's actually her vision that made it happen, and her designs and sewing which are behind all of our "own label" and customised clothes. We all pitch in bits here and there, but it's Emma we always defer to!!

Me: I really like your website ( it's all psychedelic!
Nick: Yeah it's cool! Em was adamant; it had to be pink purple and orange! It has been her baby from the start. When I first got down here she had the whole design laid out and in the end we changed one wall, it was pink and looked bad in the morning! But when I'm not in the shop, I'm doing Boothill Records (Nick runs a music label and has a radio show on Phonic Fm with Mike on a Monday night) and Mike is now really doing his graphic design (the Electric Gypsy E-shop is designed by Mike and his design company is called Reactor) and Em has her own workshop, sewing and designing, oh and she sorts out the website.

Me: So is sustainable fashion something that you aim to promote or is it just part and parcel of your shop?
Nick: No definitely it is something we are all keen about. our first philosophy is the idea, the old art school idea of charity shopping and reclaiming old fashion to make something new. Sustainable fashion is really what we encourage, though no vintage fur. Em's against fur, there is still a stigma and she hates it-
Me: My Oma (the Dutch word for gran, she was Dutch Indonesian) had some original mink coats she used to wear and when they got wet they would smell of old dog! Other than obviously being cruel, it's just a bit creepy!
Nick: Ha-ha! Referring back to your question on sustainable fashion I think our ethics are quite multi-layered and we just wanted to harp back to a period of time that was freer creatively. The 60's/70's was a wonderful time when anything went and we want to encourage people to be like that more. I mean independent shops are important for the community, whereas clone shops make it impossible to see the impact they have on the local and further reaching than that. The people that run them do not care about the area as they don't live there, it has weird knock on effects.

Me: With The Electric Gypsy are you trying to give a different shopping experience?
Nick: Absolutely. Come in and chat if that is what you want to do, come and be comfortable in here. I truly hate anything that sells itself too hard, it just doesn't appreciate how we operate as human beings. It is just psychological bullying, forcing your thoughts a certain way, which is the opposite of what we (The Electric Gypsy) want people to do. If this place could be inspirational, firstly get people to think-though not too many people in Fore street!- I could do that then secondly to change their views on fashion shopping, that would be amazing.

In the true spirit of the hippy 60's electric guitar rocker Steve Hillage, this little shop is actively 'looking for adventurers to come and share the vision' of handmade clothes, vintage items, arty communities and comfy seats. Though no fur coats, especially if wet and smelling of old dog, allowed.

Monday, 25 August 2008

Not Cartier

Forget diamonds, costume jewellery is a girl's best friend. It's lavish, dramatic, sparkles and if you are as clumsy as me, it doesn't matter if you break it.

Since natural resources have hit the roof price wise, original vintage costume jewellery has become more sought after. As stylish as the expensive stuff they aim to imitate, the only difference is the price tag (and probably that these glass jewels are not robbing developing countries' ticket to equality).

There is this gem of a stall in Bath Guildhall Market, where vintage costume jewellery covers the the cabinets, tables and ceiling. Tucked in a corner of this Aladdin's cave is the lady who seeks all the pieces for her stall, she is exactly how I want to be when older; surrounded by treasure and interesting finds, though she is minus a cat.

Among the faux pearls and 60's plastic bangles, I found really exciting items like original cameo brooches and extravagant corsages for just five of your English pounds. This is the kind of sustainable fashion I like!

Monday, 11 August 2008

Web addresses on Primark, War on want and Blast

These are a few websites I have come across which are informative and lets you know how to get involved with their campaigns on poverty.

This is a youtube video for anyone who missed Panorama's exposing documentary on Primark's crimes against the third world (it is just a snippet):

This is a brilliant website encouraging people to be clued up on third world exploitation and do something about it all:

This is a BBC initiave aimed at young people but it is still very informative (and has nice graphics!):

Can I supersize on my McPrimark order?

Speed has become addictive in the 21st century. As consumers we expect our food to be fast, our internet to be fast and now our fashion to be as equally fast.

However, it is quickly being discovered that it is as difficult to shift those pesky pounds from a fast food binge as it is to clear your conscience from a bargain buying bender. High street stores are lowering their costs and distracting shoppers from the credit crunch with their cheap prices.
Stores like Primark and Tesco encourage consumers to buy in bulk and due to fashion turnaround being that much quicker and new styles being on the shop floor within the month, fast fashion supports the decadent sins of an already throwaway society. The question is though; if you are not paying more, who is paying that cost?

I am sure it is not a revelation to anyone that the UK outsources most of its manufacturing to countries like Asia, Africa, South America and Eastern Europe. Resources, lax laws and of course cheap labour make the benefits worthwhile. Though perhaps (the naive and hopeful shopper might think while clutching their armful of bargain outfits) the jobs given in the factories by these multinational corporations and large companies put people in paid employment and as a consequence contribute to the country's economic growth and GDP? I mean, after all the newly industrialised countries of Asia began developing in this way, so surely we are just giving them that kick start they so desperately need.
This idea could only seriously be entertained by the type of person who also believes Amy Winehouse does not have any drug based mental illness and merely has an excitable disposition.

Unfortunately, child labour, long hours, low pay, poor conditions, abuse and no labour rights are a common practice in this industry. According to the campaign group 'War on Want', employees work as much as 'Eighty-hour weeks for 5p an hour, forced overtime and potentially deadly working conditions'. The driving motivation of capitalist production within the fashion industry is the force of supply and demand which is set against a backdrop of exploitation, inequality and the reality of an international division of labour.
In order for manufacturing costs to remain low, work is subcontracted to sweatshops where 'homework' is encouraged as workers are paid by 'piece rate' and not per hour. These middle businesses are illegal and evade tax. To avoid being penalised they can shut down at a moments notice, resulting in no profits going back into the country and hindering rather than helping the country's progression.

It seems ever glaringly obvious that it is an unsaid rule of the government's not to help the third world but instead to shift the blame on to the public. So with this growing sense of guilt we should do our bit, even if it just means putting that fabulous top declared this weeks 'must have' by Cosmopolitan back on the rail, and putting ourselves on a fashion diet.

As Tesco ironically said 'Every little helps'.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

The colour purple

Trudging up the Rialto bridge in Venice and panting slightly from the heat, I suddenly get a sharp nudge in my ribs as one of my travelling chums feels the need to inform me that he has, yet again, spotted some member of the public, Venician or tourist, wearing the colour purple. I had stupidly told him over pizza and vino the previous night that I was scouting Venice for any visible or unusual fashion trends. Lucky for me it seemed I was not going to get the chance to complete this grand mission on my own, I now had a voluntary sidekick to hand.

'Look, they're in purple. Purple tops and shorts', I squinted following his gaze and took in the view of two elderly women clad in lilac t-shirts with the slogans 'I heart Venice' teamed with matching lilac pedal pushers. I took one look at his beaming face and didn't have the heart to inform my accomplice that these ladies were less dedicated followers of fashion and more likely part of a pack of tourists following some guide with a plastic sunflower. If only he had read September's issue of Vogue he would have known that tomato reds and hot oranges are the autumn girl's colour palette. So instead I ignored him, smug in my Bible-like Vogue knowledge.

There are two questions I wanted to know the answer to from my few days in Venice; firstly why were there so many tourists wearing faux straw gondola boating hats with ribbons emblazoned with the words Venezia (why? why?! When would you ever where this item again except at a never-going-to-happen Venice themed fancy dress party, also do you just want to get ripped off with tourist prices?) secondly and more importantly, why do girls perceive fashion so differently from boys?

Well I don't have the energy to rant about the ludicrously irritating former observation, so why tourists wear hats with corks on in Sydney and t-shirts with the Eiffel tower on in Paris, (though interestingly, these items never reappear outside of these top touristy destinations) will remain one of life's great mysteries.

In attempting to tackle the latter mystery surrounding gender perceptions of fashion, a few explanations should probably be dismissed, Such as the age old stereotype that men see clothing as purely functional. The rise of very metro sexual male identities in the twenty first century, from pretty indie boys in tighter jeans than girls to emo boys with their precision styled hair, shows men see fashion as central to being recognised as part of a certain subculture.

Maybe the question is not; why do girl's perceive fashion differently to boys, but perhaps, just perhaps there is too much information advising, contradicting and essentially confusing girls. You only need to walk in to your local WHSmith and compare the voluminous rack of women's magazines on fashion, lifestyle, health, and bridal wear to men's sports and 'interests' (which we all know is a censored word for gay mags). Even when I have accompanied the boyfriend shopping with the aim of proving him wrong, that there is variety in men's high street clothing, I have been genuinely flabbergasted at the lack of individuality, noticable change in seasons and the general void of diversity. As he aptly stated 'it is all boring sh*t'. Whereas men's fashion seems to be promoting the minimalist meets subtle look, women's has exploded in a firework display of colours, fabrics and structures.

It seems this season there is for women a definitive trend of black lace, tartan, check print and the staple chunky high heel, whereas for men it is the usual 'smart casual' but of course we are going to describe it as “smarter than casual look but less smart than tailoring” according to David Lamb, Associate Fashion Editor at GQ ( Sure sure darling.

Oh having just checked the women's section of it informs me to 'Reign supreme in regal, jewel encrusted purple. It's the colour of the season.' Humph. Not only am I now confused with my Vogue palette of tomato red but I am now thinking that those lilac ladies of Venice were not so stale after all.

When a hat is not just a hat

Note to self- a trilby hat is good for messy hair, smartening up a summery outfit and avoiding sunburn of the scalp which inevitably creates your very own personal, flakey snowstorm of dandruff.

However, this juicy little tip flies out the window when the toddler on the plane seat behind you sees your fashionable accessory as nothing more than a bit of light entertainment. Not only does the trilby do all the benefits noted above, it is also doubles up as an essential item in a game of peek-a-boo.

Unfortunately this game is compulsory.

Saturday, 2 August 2008

How to sweat with style

My travelling chums and I are now in Croatia in Hvar to be precise and we are are all positive in bag numbers and very much minus in fluids, I won't go into gory details but the loss of fluids involved a lot of toilet trips, one hospital visit and a never ending supply of chicken soup. God bless the good people of Sarajevo and the Lord Immodium.

I have travelled a few times before to Australia, New Zealand and Thailand. The first two countries I visited, my clothes were functional and my accessories non existant, combats- great for hiking up a mountain, not so great for a night at Sydney opera house! So with a slightly more open mind I went to Thailand and quickly ascertained that floaty dresses were a vital staple part of a girl's wardrobe diet.

Now with my knowledge I am in Eastern Europe; the weather has soared from freezing Bosnian rain to scorching Croatian sunshine and my clothes have had to be just as versatile. Without a doubt the most useful items have been my straw trilby for those windswept beach hair days, a vast handbag to hold not only my snorkel set, passport and purse but also the boys stuff (why can't men embrace the man bag?!) oh, and my turquoise pop-coloured nail varnish!
All this I remembered and of course I forgot sensible covered shoes and an anorak. My mum would be tutting under her breath at this characteristic revelation!

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Wizard dressing

So after writing that post yesterday and emphasising getting to the point and all that jazz, I was rudely interrupted to go and watch my third graduation ceremony. Yet another event which was a blur of weepy parents, ancient chancellors in fancy robes, tingly hands from clapping and a foggy head after the complimentary glass of fizz. Oh so I am being a bit cool and objective but it is hard not to after three of them!

Though I must admit when it is you stood up there waiting for your name to ring out in the monotone call of names, and you are getting a bit sweaty worrying about your mini catwalk to the crusty old intellectual, and do your heels match your hood. Suddenly your name barges into your thoughts of you thinking you look like a member of Hogwarts and you mechanically trot out beaming in front of the crowd. It all feels quite worth it and that gown feels quite powerful. It also looks quite good swishing out behind you when you are striding about in a Loreal for gowns kind of way.

Anyway, I am currently sat in a small hostel in Budapest, typing on a keyboard made in the Communist era so I apologise for any poor grammar. What I will call my stream of consciousness (or really verbal diarrhoea( cant find other bracket there! will attempt to discuss any moments of cultural interest, with a fashion direction, that I come across on my travels in Eastern Europe.

I am slightly groggy from a nap and half listening to my boyfriends irritated call to the airport demanding his lost bag. Here would be a good point to end this unstructured drivel, wash the furry animal out of my mouth that creeps in when I sleep and be a caring girlfriend.

Monday, 21 July 2008

Well I don't think I should bother beating around the proverbial bush and just launch into this teeth and all. I'm referring to this blogging malarky, which in a way is like flinging a part of the insane rubbish that clogs up my brain into cyberspace...I hope there aren't rules on blog post recycling.