Monday, 2 January 2017

The Burden of Stuff

On New Year's Eve, my boyfriend and I had one of our accidental, biannual clear-outs. They usually start with an innocuous suggestion of dusting a shelf or tidying some books and end hours later with us stood, frazzled from a series of "no, don't put it there, put it there"-style micro arguments, looking down at bags upon bags of stuff, wondering where it all came from and how it all fitted in our flat.

Original artwork in collage: Venus of the Rags by Michelangelo Pistoletto


This time, we cleared out the living room and ended up with three IKEA bags full of books and 6 further smaller bags of sundries to donate. So extreme was the mass exodus of stuff, it rendered an entire shelving unit redundant.

The fact that we had so much stuff to expel from our flat even though we have regular clear-outs might make it sound like we're hoarders who have to tunnel through our own consumer debris but we're really not. Last summer we put a ban on buying unnecessary stuff for the flat (something we had been guilty of in the past) and I am tidy to the point of being annoying. Still, mindless purchases throughout the years build up, almost without you noticing, until you look around and think, "why on earth do we have all this useless shit?"

So this time, we were brutal. Without trying to sound too Marie Kondo, if it wasn't useful or we didn't love it, it got the boot. It was heart-wrenching at points but the outcome was a huge relief. I felt unburdened. 

Increasingly, I find stuff (or possessions or things or whatever you want to call the non-essential bits we accumulate throughout our lives) to be a source of stress and guilt. When my wardrobe feels a bit full or the shelves look a little overstuffed, I feel overwhelmed. This excess stuff isn't making me happy, it's making me tense and anxious. It's a physical and mental burden. And it's a chain. If I sell something, it becomes someone else's burden once they grow tired of it too; if I donate it, it becomes the charity shop's burden; if it's something that can't be sold, donated or recycled then it becomes the earth's burden.

We're filling our lives and our planet with stuff. I often imagine the Earth bulging outwards as we churn out phone after t-shirt after PlayStation after sofa and wonder what's going to happen when we've reached capacity. Like a suitcase that has to be sat on to close, I feel that the Earth must be straining at the seams, ready to burst. The mental image leaves me feeling incredibly uneasy and a home full of stuff is just a reminder that I'm only serving to add to the burden.

In response to these feelings of worry, stress and guilt, I've been trying to change my habits. I've spoken previously about my fast fashion detox but this extends beyond my wardrobe. Of course, it's easy not to buy a TV or a computer but it's the little things that creep in, almost unnoticed. For example, I upgraded my phone last year as mine had finally given up after four years and I immediately looked for a new case. I may have had a newer model but it was exactly the same size as my old phone and so my existing case was perfectly fine. I didn't need a new case, I was just following the same old pattern I'd fallen into. 

That tiny event was really important in changing my behaviour. The average consumer is so settled into buying new rather than making do that they do it without thinking. When I found myself googling phone cases I was just doing what I'd been conditioned to do by years of advertising and 'treat yourself' rhetoric. It was a habit and habits can be broken. By just taking a second to really consider what I'm buying and, crucially, why I'm buying it, I've saved myself countless unnecessary purchases and the resultant burden of yet more stuff in my life and my home.

I don't want to look in my wardrobe and feel stressed just as much as I don't want to look at landfill sites and feel responsible. So, by questioning my choices and the motives behind each purchase, I hope to ease the burden and claw back both physical and mental space.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

A Completely Selfish Christmas Gift Guide

I had intended to write a series of festive posts but, in the face of pre-Christmas deadlines, I found myself bereft of the energy and, frankly, the will. My Christmas spirit peaked somewhere around early to mid November, as I began to diligently craft a selection of decorations, visions of transforming my flat into a multi-coloured wonderland in my mind. Unfortunately it has since dropped off into oblivion, much like the pound. 

But, in the spirit of...getting into the spirit, I've decided to create a completely selfish Christmas gift guide based entirely on my own interests. The hope is that if you read this blog you surely have the same interests as me and so, in turn, this will become your own personal gift guide. If not, there's a picture of my cat for you to enjoy. Speaking of which...

Cats

If you follow me on Instagram, you'll know that my cat Vashka is my one true love. Seeing as she can't, unfortunately, grace all of my clothes, I'll have to make do with a wardrobe full of Stella McCartney and Gucci I suppose. After the trend bubbling under the surface for a few seasons, we reached peak cat in AW16 and I'm happy to press pause and set up camp there. Wrap me in Stella's soft, dusky cat prints; swathe me in Gucci's bold feline motifs; let me live as my authentic, cat-loving self from here until eternity. Side note: Vashka has earnt a place on the collage too, of course, because she's a gift to the world.

Jumpers: Gucci, Jacket, trouers, dress: Stella McCartney, Cat: Literal perfection







Jewellery

If clothes are my lifeblood then jewellery is the heartbeat that keeps everything flowing. If ever I'm not feeling my outfit, a pair of huge earrings or an over sized, plastic cuff will always turn a 'not sure' into a surefire winner. As with the rest of my wardrobe, colour is the name of the game when it comes to choosing a new piece to add to my collection; the brighter the better. Throw an abstract shape in the mix to sweeten the deal and I'm sold. 

Earrings and brooch: Lou Taylor, Bangle: Georgia Perry, Necklace: Aliyah Hussain







Vegan

This year, after being a vegetarian for 16 years, I turned vegan. Obviously this impacted my wardrobe and materials such as leather, silk and wool are now off my shopping list (real fur always has been). In a dream world, Stella McCartney would stop using wool and silk and I'd buy all of my clothes from her. In the same dream world, I'd also have to be outrageously wealthy in order to afford £500+ trousers and £1000+ dresses, sigh. Until I inhabit said dream world, however, other, less gut-wrenchingly expensive vegan options abound as long as I am (or the person fulfilling my wishlist is) willing to check every single label and do a little research beforehand. From Shrimps' whimsical faux fur to Matt & Nat's clean lines and understated luxury, there are plenty of vegan treats worthy of a spot under the tree.

Bag and shoes: Stella McCartney, Coat: Shrimps






Now, I'm going to go and eat my weight in vegan chocolate and watch Elf.


Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Layer Up

I have a complicated relationship with winter. Firstly, I despise being cold. I spend almost the entirety of winter wrapped in blankets, hunched over hot water bottles, saying "feel how cold my nose is" to my boyfriend. Secondly, I loathe dark evenings. You better believe I've uttered the sentence, "ugh it feels like it's the middle of the night!" at least five times a week since daylight savings began. Thirdly, each winter the universe conspires to place me, at all times, within at least 5 feet of a compulsive sniffer or an open mouth cougher. 

BUT, despite the germs and the dark and the cold, this time of year is also sort of my spiritual home because it facilitates me wearing an inordinate amount of clothes on any given day. So, while Vogue continues, inexplicably, to extol the virtues of bare legs in winter, I'm trying to work out the logistics of wearing two jumpers without looking I'm partaking in a YouTube challenge.

I think it's clear by now that 'less is more' means absolutely nothing to me, so I've decided to take you on the rollercoaster that is my layering process. Strap in, it's about to get cosy.

Almost every single winter outfit starts with a turtleneck because, of course. So, leaving the formalities of layering aside for a moment, let's take some time to focus on my jeans because they cost me a mere £5 and happen to feature the most exquisite green stitching and a very pleasing centre crease. I can only assume the previous owner was some sort of Guinness world record holder as I had to lop a full 20 centimetres off each leg. But back to business. Next up is a printed shirt to bring some colour to proceedings and then the obligatory neckerchief because what is a turtleneck if not a blank canvas for a jaunty neck accessory?




After that it's coat number one. This vintage ski jacket featured in my snappily titled 'Vintage Clothes That Totally Look Designer' post earlier this year and I'm still very much on board with its Miu Miu-esque vibes. Adding to its already lofty credentials, it's a lot warmer than it looks and a double zip means I can create some shape and avoid looking like a toilet roll tube. I've deftly neglected to demonstrate that particular detail here.

After coat number one comes coat number two. Not strictly a coat, but this monster is about as warm as knitwear gets (or faux knitwear as I'm no longer buying wool - more on that soon). I found this blanket-masquerading-as-garment in a flea market in Berlin and it's one of those pieces that gets compliments every time I wear it. Maybe it's the extravagant blouson sleeves.






Lastly, it's hat and scarf time. Frankly, this could have been one image but I needed an even number so here we are. I made the scarf a couple of years ago as a post-Christmas treat for myself when my generous spirit began to wither after weeks of crocheting gifts for other people, and the hat came at the hefty price of £2 from a vintage shop. Both the scarf and hat are near permanent features about my person throughout winter.











So, there you have the secrets of layering laid bare. Stuff over stuff over more stuff, essentially. And you will find me in this cocooned state for approximately 3 months until the weather forces me to do otherwise. 

Monday, 21 November 2016

The Party Season Style Guide We Actually Need

If I'm to take the magazines I read and the marketing emails I receive as a barometer for my social life, I should be attending at least ten Christmas parties this year. How many do I currently have in my diary? Zero. 

Don't worry, this isn't a cry for sympathy. As I write this I'm wearing a blanket that has sleeves, which is perhaps an accurate sartorial metaphor for precisely how in the party mood winter makes me feel. On occasion, I like to muse on flitting from party to party swathed in velvet, weighed down by outlandishly huge earrings but then I remember how impossibly stressed I feel when anyone invites me to anything that starts after 8pm and I come back down to earth with a thud. 

As a child, I always wished I was older but as I edge towards my late(ish) twenties that has translated to a mental age of somewhere around 75. So, whilst I will happily scroll through page after page of velvet blazers, twinkling party dresses and Bowie-esque shoes, mentally creating show-stopping party outfits, what I really need (and I'm sure I'm not alone here) is a realistic party season style guide. One more suited to a less high-octane Christmas social calendar. Oh look, here's one...

Activity: Watching Elf and eating a tub of ice cream

The oversized silhouette of this cosy jumper will work with the curves of your impossibly bloated stomach. Teal joggers will infuse your look with a flash of colour and contrast fabulously with your sagging sofa cushions. Opt for monochrome socks to pull the look together and accessorise with a spoon that you can use to dig through the mountains of ice cream.

Jumper: Max Mara, Joggers: Baja East, Socks: Marni, Spoon: John Lewis



Activity: Staying up late to create beautiful gift wrap that will inevitably be torn apart

As you painstakingly curl the ends of each length of ribbon that will be cast aside without a second thought as your loved one desperately strains to see if you spent as much on them as they did on you, put comfort first with a pair of lightweight poplin pyjamas. You might be tempted to choose flannel but don't forget how much you stress sweat when you just.can't.tuck.those.fucking.corners.in. A sumptuous silk dressing gown will provide all the warmth you need if you start to feel a chill. Echo the luxury of the fabric in your footwear with plush slippers and add a playful edge with pompoms that will almost certainly be in danger of being mistaken for a decoration and snipped off by an errant pair of scissors.

Pyjamas: Three J NYC, Dressing gown: Olivia von Halle, Slippers: Dickins & Jones








Activity: Sitting in quiet despair as you wonder where the year has gone

The tree is up, the presents have been bought, now all that's left to do is panic about exactly how little you've achieved this year. Your mate on Facebook has been on three different spiritual journeys and you've spent 200+ hours watching videos of unlikely animal friendships BUT there's no reason why you can't look fabulous while you're doing it. Literally nothing can make you feel like you've got your life together like a well cut shirt, so let this striped number swaddle you as you question every decision you've made since January. Pair it with the matching trousers for a pyjama mind set with a high fashion aesthetic. Complement the look with a blanket in contrasting tones under which you can hide until January arrives with a whole new dose of reality check.

Shirt and trousers: Isabel Marant, Blanket: makeit-loveit.com




Friday, 4 November 2016

Hooked

Despite my best intentions, I haven't yet formally declared my undying love for crochet on this blog. If I could, I would live out my days in a large yet not ostentatious, semi-minimal/semi-cosy loft, crocheting under a blanket with my cat on my lap. 

There's nothing quite as soothing as the process of making something from nothing (well, yarn). And, the added bonus is that busy hands mean I sidestep that now almost instinctive itch to grab my phone and scroll through Instagram or read article after article about brave dogs recovering from a hard start in life (although the latter is arguably a great way to pass the time too). I started just over three years ago by following a granny square tutorial on YouTube and I've been hooked (sorry) every since. 





From watching videos to learning how to follow patterns, to then developing my own patterns and designs, I slowly built up my craft and inflicted it upon my loved ones by crocheting almost every birthday and Christmas gift for the past three years. But, aside from gifts and those triangle crop tops that, much like a re-aggregating sponge, become a single moving mass each year at Coachella, crochet is very much a winter thing. Scarves, gloves, hats, jumpers, it's all autumn/winter-focused and I wanted to create something that I could wear all year. That's when I discovered jersey yarn.

Created from textile off-cuts in order to minimise waste, jersey yarn is bold, chunky and fun to work with. So, after stocking up I opened my shop, named after this blog, and started designing and making jewellery, accessories and homeware.






The off-centre Russian doll (second from left) makes me die inside


Crocheting gives me the freedom to make whatever I'm in the mood for, rather than waiting to find it online or in a shop. Last year I wanted a chunky, colour block scarf. Instead of buying one, I made my own that no one else will have. A few weeks ago, I fancied a mini, multi coloured handbag, so I found the perfect marble handles and set to work. I've spoken before about our need to reconnect with making in order to truly value what we wear and crocheting certainly helps with that. 

In a sudden wave of appreciation for my own craftiness, I decided to style an outfit around my two favourite crocheted accessories; the first chunky ring necklace I ever made and my most recent project: the aforementioned mini handbag. The handbag is highly impractical as I have to carry two enormous EpiPens with me wherever I go but what does that matter when it's so deliciously bright? The tones were perfect for pairing with my new vintage skirt which I found in a Berlin charity shop for just €8. I added my favourite pink boots and, hey presto, an outfit worth rounding up my boyfriend and his camera for. 

So, to sum up, crochet 4eva. IDST. 


If you'd like me to crochet something for you, head over to the Colours May Vary Shop.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Five Fashion Week Trends

Fashion month has come and gone. Kanye's disaster at Roosevelt Island feels like a decade ago, and Gigi Hadid and Kendal Jenner must have strutted down at least half a million runways since that day (give or take). Much like AW16, this season was shrouded in familiarity. Ruffles and cold shoulders are unwavering stalwarts, whilst the 70s and 80s continue to wrestle for the spotlight (the 70s aren't yet out for the count but the 80s are certainly winning the fight this season).

There have been a lot of shows that I've somewhat glossed over, with not much new to be found, but a handful of trends did come to the fore that captured my attention. Let's explore.


Off the Hook

L-R: MSGM, Novis, Red Valentino, M Missoni


This is a trend I can very much get on board with. My favourite lazy days are spent crocheting under a blanket with a cup of green tea and if I can use that time to whip something up that resembles MSGM or Missoni then all the better. MSGM adorned their models with halterneck frills that were neither a top nor a scarf and I'm intrigued by the ambiguity. Novis' approach was more straight forward with granny square style patterns and hand crochet techniques. Red Valentino used crochet for festival-inspired bikini tops and beach vistas and I was completely taken with M Missoni's chunky, bobbly crochet trimmed satchel bags.


Belt Up

L-R: Prada, Maison Margiela, Bally, Isabel Marant


Samantha Cameron will be singing from the rooftops; waist belts are back. From slinky barely there belts, to corset-proportioned cinchers, nipped in waists ruled the roost. Prada disrupted the structure of their panelled jackets, crossing the fronts over and securing them with kitsch belts that sat somewhere between 60s wallpaper and 70s motocross. Maison Margiela took us into the future, embellishing his space-age creatures with looped metallic belts and at Bally, Pablo Coppola offset his rich colour palette with slimline leather and sturdy metal clasps. Isabel Marant, meanwhile, deployed belts to add shape to slouchy utilitarian silhouettes.



Check In

L-R: Au Jour Le Jour, House of Holland, Peter Pilotto, Rahul Mishra


If someone stole all of my clothes and brought them back as gingham duplicates, I'd probably be OK with it. Ever since I commandeered my Mum's old pink gingham nightdress when I was about 7, the print has prevailed as a firm favourite. Au Jour Le Jour harked back to the print's prim, prairie roots with frills and aprons but retained an air of cool with sleek sequins and sportswear touches. House of Holland and Peter Pilotto layered gingham upon gingham; clashing colours and creating some of my favourite looks of the season in the process. Rahul Mishra also created abundant layers but instead interspersed his checks with bouyant frills and woodland scenes. 



All Tied Up

L-R: Isa Arfen, Milly, Roksanda, Trussardi


This trend speaks to the DIY-er in me. Give me a couple of long sleeved t-shirts or a handful of silk scarves and I feel like I could recreate this look in a jiffy. Isa Arfen, Milly and Trussardi all riffed on the same theme, with multiple knot ties to the front of tops and dresses, offering a flash of skin and a sense of feminine structure without resorting to ubiquitous frills and ruffles. Roksanda, on the other hand, swaddled her models in sumptuous fashion; her luxurious fabrics wrapped and tied at the waist.


Something Up Your Sleeve


L-R: Dsquared2, Jacquemus, Saint Laurent, Dolce & Gabbana


This trend may be bigger than the actual sleeves that designers sent down their respective runways. From Topshop Unique and Simone Rocha to Zac Posen and Salvatore Ferragamo, sleeves went supersized this season. Dsquared2 and Dolce & Gabbana took similar approaches, their puff sleeves clashing with decadent textures and ornate adornments. Jacquemus and Stella McCartney were subdued in their maximalism; tempering voluminous shoulders with clean lines and understated colour palettes. Saint Laurent, on the other hand, went in the other direction entirely; an embodiment of 80s excess.



Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Return of the Max

The end of summer is a funny, conflicting time. As a hangover from my school and university days, I'm filled with both new season hope and new term dread. I'm plagued by nightmares of school exams yet eager for crisp mornings and cosy evenings. Sartorially speaking, I mourn the loss of breezy summer outfits but excitedly welcome the return of layers and my favourite jackets. Unleashing your new season wardrobe has all the thrill of a shiny new uniform without the inevitable and depressing realisation that, shit, it's just that same old shapeless blue jumper again.

Autumn/Winter is the maximalist's time to shine. You can layer to your heart's content; piling on the prints and textures as the mercury drops. Warm weather is great but gingham against stripes against leopard print is far more exciting. Despite this summer's best attempts to hold on, losing just a few degrees to September's grasp has significantly broadened the horizons of my wardrobe. Double, and even triple, layers are on the cards again, satisfying my need to squeeze as much into any given outfit as possible.


L - Jeans (both): Monki, T-shirt: Vintage, Dress: & Other Stories via charity shop (customised), Boots: Zara, Scarf & Bag: Vintage | R - Shirt: Vintage via Depop, Halterneck: Charity shop, Necklace: Vintage via Depop, Shoes: Paul Smith


Defying custom and starting on the right, the halterneck over shirt combination was this season's first foray into layering. It may look like the height of summer in the photo - it was gloriously golden and perfect lounging on stairs weather - but the extra layer was perfect for the chills that tentatively loitered in the shadows and on the breeze. 

Moving on, the outfit on the left is my favourite thing I've worn in a long time. I lusted after the Memphis-esque graphic print dress when it was first available in & Other Stories but I was unspeakably poor at the time and so doomed to admire it from afar. Luckily, I happened upon it in my local Oxfam for only £8 a couple of weeks ago; a win for historical me. It was a slip dress but, as an irregular dress wearer, I decided to slice it up and turn it into the most perfect layering piece I have ever owned. Paired with my favourite vintage space t-shirt, my Marge Simpson does Chanel jacket and current go-to jeans, it made me briefly wish I was the type of person who interested the paparazzi just so that it was fully documented. (When they failed to show, I deployed my Instagram husband and reassessed my ego.)

So, yes the nights are drawing in and cold days are edging closer but the scope of my wardrobe is expanding by the day and that seems like a fair trade to me.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Do I Want a Hoodie?

I bought my first hoodie when I was 11 and entering my seminal grebo phase. I felt like a serious (albeit harmless, 11-year-old) rebel walking around in my black, oversized Linkin Park hoodie, probably paired with huge corduroy loons and a bandana in my hair. It was extremely fetching, especially when accented with the black eye shadow I later took to wearing. But hoodies soon became the mark of the type of teenagers that petrified the Tories and then soon after that they dissolved into ubiquity and I never rekindled my love for them. Until now.

Over the past few weeks I've found myself hankering after a hoodie. But do I actually want one or has their presence on the catwalk and the torsos of fashion's coolest just tricked me into thinking I do?


Images: Pop Sugar, The Telegraph

Images: Vogue


It's not a new trend. Kanye has rinsed the oversized hoodie with every passing Yeezy season, Vetements have had the audacity to charge £500 plus for theirs and it's become the uniform of choice for every off-duty model. From Lacoste to Marc Jacobs and Ashley Williams, they've been very much present on the SS17 catwalks and they are most definitely an established trend way beyond fashion's inner circle. But still, despite the fact that they may well be already 'done', there's something so appealing about a hood peaking over the collar of a trench or the slouchy proportions dressing down a pair of tailored flares.

The only thing is, I never wear sportswear. I used to wear trainers almost every day and had a growing selection of vintage Adidas but now trainers only make an appearance at the gym and the Adidas collection has become my lougewear. Surely, then, it's fashion working its magic. The same magic that makes us want to throw away our wardrobes and start again every season. (Either that or it's my predilection for all things cosy because don't they look so impossibly cosy when they're tucked up around someone's ears and pulled down over their hands?) 

So if I succumb to fashion's spell, how will I wear my hoodie? Well, definitely not on its own with bare legs for starters. That look is best left to Rihanna with her infinite confidence, seriously great legs and eternal close proximity to a warm, chauffeur driven car. As I alluded to before, it's the contrast that I like, so I won't be going full sportswear or full Yeezy, instead, I'll be layering mine over shirts or under blazers and tailored coats. And if I had an uncapped budget this is what that would look like...


L: Hoodie: Topshop, Shirt: Marni, Skirt: Gucci, Bag: Mark Cross, Boots: Alexandre Birman | R Suit: J Crew, Hoodie: Off-White, Bag & Shoes: Stella McCartney