Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Worth the Wait

Burberry have released a preview of their see-now-buy-now 'seasonless' collection. Not only is it unusual for a brand to release new collection teases before the official show during fashion week, it's also big news for the industry; marking a definitive shift in the fashion calendar.

Image: Burberry/Testino

It's not a surprising move. It's been talked about for seasons, with Tom Ford and Tommy Hilfiger having announced their intentions to follow the new model and the likes of Moschino, Michael Kors and Prada having already done straight-from-catwalk releases. It's also an answer to the issue of the high street producing knock offs before the real thing has even hit the rails. Ever since fashion week transformed from an industry event into a public spectacle, high fashion has become more accessible than ever as the trickle down effect has reached warp speed. Great for those on a budget, not so great for those selling the original designs 3 months after they've graced the rails of Topshop.

Burberry's collection, combining menswear and womenswear, will launch in store on the same day that it hits the catwalk. I completely understand the move. It's arguably the only way to beat the highstreet and it plays into the immediacy of modern marketing and social media. It's understandable. Necessary, even. But waiting for something makes it all the more tantalising and removing that wait extracts a part of the magic.

As a child, some time around mid November, you would write a letter to Father Christmas. In my case, I would trawl through the pages of the Argos catalogue and list whatever it was my heart desired that particular year. The wait was what made the whole thing exciting. The six week long anticipation allowed my level of yearning to reach boiling point, so that by the time Christmas day came round I could barely contain myself when the time came to tear open the wrapping paper. 

The see-now-buy-now model will rob consumers of that giddy, delicious anticipation and the weeks or months of imagining all the ways that a particular dress, coat or bag will wildly enhance their lives. I've scanned magazines and dreamed of an entirely new life that would be bestowed upon me if only I could own a particularly dramatic skirt or a heavily embellished blazer. I'd be the type of person who does yoga before work, who always carries cash and who has a signature scent. If I could go and buy that magical garment on the same day I saw it, I'd know within 24 hours that, actually, an extra hour in bed always trumps feeling 'centred' and that my only scent is whatever deodorant is on offer in Wilko's. 

Not only does waiting build excitement and prolong preposterous dreams, it also avoids those big mistakes. "Yes, my wardrobe is all black but think of all the ways I can wear this lime green sequin jumpsuit!", you think as you hand over your debit card, mere minutes away from buyer's remorse. Hours of listing unworn, ill-advised purchases on eBay has taught me that a little time between initial lust and parting with your money is necessary when deciding how much you truly love something. I've saved a sizeable chunk since implementing this rule and excited, sweaty palmed fashion fans may do well to remember that the latest thing ≠ the best thing ever. Impulse buying is the stage for regrettable purchases.

So, yes, it seems as though the see-now-buy-now may be the logical conclusion brands are coming to in order shake things up and drive sales but I will argue that incredible fashion is always worth the wait and, in fact, the wait makes it even sweeter. 

Monday, 8 August 2016

No Sew T-Shirt DIY: The Tote Bag

Ain’t nobody got time for harming animals, polluting the sea, adding to landfill, or 5p bag charges, so in the second instalment of my No Sew T-Shirt DIY posts, I’m going to show you how to make a super cool, reusable tote bag.

You can use any t-shirt you like; the bigger the t-shirt, the bigger the bag. I happened to find one languishing in my boyfriend’s drawer with boxer Marvelous Marvin Hagler gracing the front and decided to co-opt it for this project. (I got his permission to use it. Please don’t start cutting up your significant other’s clothes without asking, I can’t be held responsible for any ensuing arguments). T-shirt trivia: Marv got so sick of the announcers not referring to him by his ‘Marvelous’ nickname that he had it legally changed so they had no choice but to use it.

The Tote Bag

To make the tote bag you will need:

- A t-shirt
- A pair of scissors
- Chalk or a washable marker

Step 1
Cut the sleeves off each side.

Step 2
Using your chalk or marker, draw a curve under the collar. Make the curve shallow if you want a handbag and deeper if you want a shoulder bag.

Step 3
Cut along the line. This creates the handles.

Step 4
Before starting this step, you may want to shorten the t-shirt by 10 or so centimetres so the bag isn't overly long. Once you've lopped the bottom off, draw a line 10 cm from the bottom of the t-shirt and cut upwards in 1-2 cm intervals.

Step 5
Knot each pair of tassels together.

Step 6
In the words of Jennifer Anniston, here comes the science bit. To fill the holes between each not, lay the pairs of tassels one up, one down as shown in the photo. Next, tie each top tassel to the bottom tassel on its left. If that makes no sense, I simplified it with a diagram to avoid any confusion. Just tie A to B all the way along.

Step 7
Finally, fill your bag with books, snacks and money for ice cream and head out for an adventure.

This feature originally appeared on Sistrhood.

Friday, 29 July 2016

No Sew T-Shirt DIY: The One-Shoulder T-Shirt

It takes 2720 litres of water to make a single t-shirt. To put that into perspective, that’s how much we drink over the course of 3 years. And yet we churn them out at an alarming rate. We’re swimming in the things. Generally they’re cheap to buy, which means they’re one of the most disposable items in our wardrobe. It only takes a trip to your local charity shop to see how many t-shirts are thrown by the wayside: Jenny’s Hen Do Magaluf 2011, band merch, obscure American sports teams; the list goes on.

So, to save our planet, charity shops and pyjama drawers from the burden of unworn t-shirts, I'm bringing you two no sew DIY projects to bring new life to those jersey cast-offs. Here's the first...

The One-Shoulder T-Shirt

The off-the-shoulder top is undoubtedly one of the biggest trends for SS16 but, let’s face it, once a trend hits the rails in ASDA, its days are numbered. So, in light of this, I see your off-the-shoulder top and I raise you a one-shoulder t-shirt. It provides all of the shoulder liberation (well, half) with none of the worry about your Mum turning up in the same outfit.

To make the one-shoulder t-shirt you will need:

 - A t-shirt
- A pair of scissors
- Chalk or a washable marker

Step 1
Using your chalk or marker, draw a line from one side to the other, starting just under the neckline and ending just under the armhole.

Step 2
Cut along the line (save the spare sleeve for later).

Step 3
Cut along the side seam of the armless side.

Step 4
Create ties at the top, middle and bottom of the t-shirt by cutting 5-10cm inwards (depending on desired fit) and cutting away the excess fabric as shown. Measure for accuracy, or approximate like I did and get it ever so slightly wrong. The choice is yours.

Step 5 (Extra credit)
Snip the bottom 10cm off the bottom of the spare sleeve to wear as a matching cuff or choker.

Step 6
Now, tie those sides, put on that choker and live your truth as the pulled together, co-ordinated individual you always knew you were.

This feature originally appeared on Sistrhood.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

On Repeat

Repeating outfits is a hotly debated topic. Is in uncool to outfit repeat? When is it acceptable? Can you wear the same outfit twice in one week? Some fashion publications consider it tacky or a fashion faux pas, whilst others consider it to be a marker of a down to earth personality and a frugal mindset. Take Kate Middleton, for example; whenever she repeats an outfit you'd be forgiven for thinking she's cured famine, such is the praise she receives. Others are not so lucky; pegged as being 'caught out', questioned as to why they'd wear something twice when they can afford not to. (Side note: if I were to start a bitchy column documenting celebrities repeating outfits, I'd definitely call it Repeat Offenders).

In the world of fast fashion, it's deemed perfectly acceptable to wear an outfit once before either binning, donating or selling it because it has served its purpose. As a non-wasteful, non-millionaire I don't and can't subscribe to this one-wear school of thought. Not only that but I have a selection of favourites in high rotation at any given time. Not only am I not afraid of wearing the same top or pair or trousers a few times in the same week, I'm also wholly on board with wearing the same outfit two days in a row. Firstly, I work from home so my outfits are often 'wasted' (a subject which you can read about here) and secondly, if an outfit is truly perfect, it surely deserves a second outing.

Currently on high rotation are: a pair of wide leg polka dot trousers, a blue candy stripe skirt, any and all neckerchiefs and a lemon print denim jacket. Until I wear them out like and grow tired of them like a new song, they will continue to see the light of day multiple times a week and I will feel precisely zero sartorial shame.

Jacket: River Island (old), Shirt, trousers, bag, neckerchief and jewellery: vintage, Shoes: ASOS (old)

Dress, trousers, neckerchief and jewellery: vintage, Bag: Pineapple Retro, Sandals: River Island (old). I also had the lemon jacket this day but it was too hot to wear it!

These two photos were taken about a month apart on a couple of rare summer days, so clearly my current crop of favourites are in no danger of falling off the hot list any time soon.

Don't limit how often you can wear your favourite clothes for fear of being an 'outfit repeater' (a phrase which, according to google, will hold significance for Lizzie McGuire fans). If you love them, wear them seven days a week if you feel like it. Perhaps give them a wash midweek though...

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Naomi Valentine Collection Shoot

Having been asked to style and produce the shoot for designer Naomi Valentine's new collection, we somehow managed to wangle one of the only sunny days we've had in weeks for the shoot day. 

Naomi's collection is a bright, playful mix of textures, colours and thoroughly wearable silhouettes. I wanted that fun narrative to come through in the shoot so there was lots of smiling, laughing and jumping, which our model, Paris, relished whilst the rest of us melted in the heat. We ended the day very sweaty and a little pink around the edges but it was worth it for this shiny, happy shoot...

Photography: Lucie Crewdson
Hair & Make-up: Rebecca Anderton
Model: Paris @ J'adore
Styling + Production by me

Thursday, 16 June 2016

How to Make Your Shoes Cool AF in Under 2 Minutes

When I went on a trip to Düsseldorf a couple of months ago, I decided anything more than one footwear option would be frivolous, so I opted for my comfy, reliable silver ankle boots. That same pair of comfy, reliable silver ankle boots subsequently ripped my feet to shreds, leaving me with a limp which, I can assure you, was very becoming. Tens of plasters and ointments later, I decided only a new pair of shoes would provide me with respite from this hobbling hell. The resultant pair of emergency shoes from Zara (this was pre fast fashion detox) did their job but weren't particularly exciting: blue lace ups with a white platform sole. Kind of cool, but not cool AF.

So, upon my return, I set about rectifying this with two lengths of gingham ribbon and a couple of moderately frustrating minutes of threading it through the lace holes.

LEFT Shirt: Vintage (via depop), Jeans: Monki (customised), Shoes: Zara, Accessories: Vintage | RIGHT Vashka on the stool in between shots, proving once and for all that she should really be the subject of this blog

The result is somewhere between Prada SS16 and traditional Scottish Ghillie shoes. Who knew that between those seemingly unlinked entities lays the sweet spot for current season footwear?

If you have a pair of decidedly average lace ups and want to give them a similar make-over, I recommend ribbon no more than 1 cm wide, otherwise you may find yourself screaming into your lace holes in frustration when it just.won't.feed.through. Plus, 1 cm is the optimum width for a perfectly neat, flat finish with no overlapping or bunching. 

This is probably the easiest DIY project you could imagine and three metres of ribbon should cost no more than £1.50 (unless you've got very expensive taste), which means minimum outlay for maximum cool. 

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Can Fashion and Feminism be Reconciled?

This piece was originally written for Sistrhood.

It was a shoot in west London. I turned up with my suitcase full of garments and gear, meeting the rest of the team for the first time. The model was there with a chaperone.  She was from America. She was 15 years old. It wasn’t a provocative shoot; there was no lingerie, risqué poses or sexual implication but this was a womenswear shoot and here was a child modelling in it. I asked her if she’d like a private area to change, she said no. She was confident, professional and harboured an other-worldly type of beauty that I would have dreamed of as an awkward 15 year old. She looked great, the photos looked great, but I didn’t feel great. Dressing up a child and calling it womenswear felt irresponsible.


That wasn’t an unfamiliar feeling. Throughout my career I’ve often felt the weight of irresponsible representation within the fashion industry; I’ve felt uneasy with its standard practices, felt out of step with its ideals. Can you consume the product of, or indeed be a part of, an industry that is in so many ways at odds with your belief system? Do you attempt to change it? Avoid its most disagreeable sectors? Boycott it altogether?

Even if you’re not, as I am, on the industry’s payroll, it’s not an easy one to opt out of. No matter how little you care about trends or fashion week, most of us consume fashion daily. Whether it’s your new dress from Topshop, the latest issue of Grazia or an ad on the side of a bus, it seeps into our everyday lives. Fashion is kind of a forced participation deal.

(If you still insist you do not engage with fashion, I defer here to Miranda Priestly and her 'Cerulean Blue’ speech. I’m telling you: forced participation.)

From the outside you’d be forgiven for thinking the fashion industry has become a feminist haven. We’re celebrating body diversity! Beyoncè has got a collection out! We’ve got women of colour fronting our campaigns! Zara released an ‘ungendered’ collection! But dig just a little deeper, and I’m talking millimetres deeper, and the whole picture becomes a little less clean cut.

As an intersectional feminist on a mission to educate myself as much as possible on the history and current reality of the movement, I’m often troubled by my position in the fashion industry and I’ve tasked myself with finding a place within it from where I can reconcile my views and belief system with the career that I love. The problem with this is that the issues within the industry can’t be pinned on any one sector. They run through it, wound around the glamour and the creativity; stealthily undermining its participants with a not so subtle undercurrent of elitism, whiteness, thinness and sexuality.

When it’s such a fight to separate an industry from its deeply ingrained problems, it’s easy to feel resigned to the way things are, not to question things. After all, it’s difficult enough to secure a paying job in the fashion world without criticising the very structure you want to become a part of. However, slowly and surely people are starting to speak up and it’s causing a shift. But that shift is happening at an often imperceptible pace.


Let’s take a look, firstly, at racial diversity, or lack thereof. Vetements, the fashion collective of that DHL t-shirt fame, has been heralded for reinvigorating fashion week with its rebellious spirit and ‘haute streetwear’ aesthetic; Suzy Menkes referred to the label as “radical” in her review of their AW16 show and Dazed declared the collective to be “defiantly tearing up the rules”. But every single model that walked down the catwalk at that show was white. As were all the models at Balenciaga; the French luxury fashion house now helmed by Vetements’ own Demna Gvasalia. Vetements and Gvasalia respectively have been lauded as the future of the fashion industry. The model line ups did, eventually, cause a furore, but not before Gvasalia had received industry-wide praise for his ‘revolutionary’ work.

For an industry which supposedly sets the zeitgeist, fashion falls woefully behind on its representation of women of colour. A quick headcount of the main board of one of the world’s leading model agencies shows that of nearly 150 models, 87% are white. Similarly, a study of the amount of white models cast at fashion month shows it remains hovering around the 80% mark season after season.

When discussing the issue with Sonia Wan, an assistant editor based in Hong Kong, she said, “I do think designers have a responsibility to think about representation in order to create a more inclusive industry.” She also believes that part of the problem can be attributed to a lack of diversity within art schools. Speaking about Manchester School of Art, where she studied, she said, “Even though Manchester is an ethnically diverse city, it’s not represented within its art school students.” This lack of diversity goes beyond the wall of art schools and into the largest fashion houses and the most prominent publications. It permeates the industry as a whole and whilst this continues to be the case, whiteness will always be pushed as the norm. Wan commented that, “It’s only due to my own multicultural background that I am more aware of representation”, but how long can our editors, stylists, PRs, and casting agents continue to feign ignorance? 

When said editors and others do make attempts to be inclusive, it’s often under the guise of a celebratory issue, campaign or shoot. The likes of Vogue Italia’s Black Issue and Plus Size Fashion Week are subject to a great deal of debate. Are they really celebrating diversity? Are they exclusionary? Is any exposure better than none? Photographer, Jade Sukiya, has conflicting feelings: “It’s a catch 22. Inclusivity is better than segregation and exclusivity [but this] separates us into different categories.” Others such as textile artist, Leigh Bowser, feel that the industry’s attempts at inclusivity are no more than lip service. On the subject of plus size branding she said: “I don’t understand why it is seen as radical because a woman wearing [a bikini] has curves. Clothing is clothing. ‘Plus size’ women are entitled to wear the same clothing as others, they just aren’t given the option.”

Much like racial diversity, designers are slow to eschew the uniform sample size body type, perpetuating the ideal of women as white, thin, hairless and highly sexualised. They disregard the spending power of women who don’t fit within those ideals, excluding a shocking percentage of women from enjoying fashion. “As a woman who has struggled with my weight since I was about 17, I would argue that I don’t find fashion fun”, student adviser Jess Popplewell tells me. “I know women my size and bigger who do, but I know a lot more women in my position too, who feel like we don’t deserve to spend money on a really pretty dress...because we’re too fat to wear it ‘properly’.”

This loops almost directly back to my initial story. Why are we holding up children’s bodies as the epitome of what it is to be a woman? Is the reality of our bodies unpalatable? That’s certainly the message many girls grow up with, bolstered by the advertising imagery they’re subjected to daily. As womenswear graduate and partnership fundraiser Charlotte Matthews notes, “Many high-end designers beautify violence towards women... Dolce and Gabbana and Calvin Klein are just two brands out of many that glamorise sexual abuse. Not to mention the continuous objectification of women’s bodies in Tom Ford’s highly sexualised imagery.”

With its runway shows, style guides and editorials, fashion defines, to many, what it is to be a woman in a physical sense. And the parameters set are restrictively narrow. No matter whether the woman (or child acting as woman) is being put on a pedestal or being ‘put in her place’ by disturbingly abusive imagery, the woman is thin, she is waxed, she is bronzed, and she is usually white. That the fashion industry disregards so many women’s worth is almost laughable when you consider that women prop the industry up with not only their money but with their skill and labour.

This is one issue in particular which Jessie Shaw, a designer, feels needs to be acknowledged and addressed. “Around 80% of garment workers are women, [many of whom] work in terrible conditions for minimal pay; they don’t have sick pay or a union.” Indeed, this issue has recently come to light after the revelations surrounding the supposed ‘slave labour conditions’ under which Beyoncè’s Ivy Park collection was manufactured. Topshop claimed the collection ‘empowers women through sport’ and the backlash against this was swift and fierce once the story broke via The Sun newspaper. Whilst it emerged that the workers were, in fact, being paid above the legal minimum wage, Broadly reported that this still falls far short of the recommended living wage and that the factory employees are subject to strict curfews and are not permitted to unionise. Many were quick to chastise Beyoncè for at once championing empowerment and utilising poorly paid female garment workers to manufacture her collection. But Beyoncè cannot be singularly held to account for this as it’s a symptom of wider, ingrained problems within the industry; just at the feminist issues addressed within this piece are symptomatic of society as a whole.

It would be short sighted of me to think that issues that I find problematic within my field are happening in a vacuum. As Jess Popplewell put it, “It’s not possible to get to a point where one thing is perfectly feminist and egalitarian whilst the rest of society still isn’t.” Knowing this, however, there is still room for changes to be made from the inside. Like me, Jade Sukiya struggles to find the balance between her career and her ideas. She tackles this by harbouring an inclusive attitude towards her work and by teaming up with like-minded people: “I work with people who have the same excitement as I do to be more inclusive of varying skin colours and tones, different sizes and varying body types. Similarly, writer and illustrator Hattie Rex chooses to work with “female fronted platforms such as Sister Zine and Polyester Zine, so a lot of my audience are young feminists which steers the direction of my work on some projects.”

For many, feminism informs their body of work as a whole. This is certainly the case for stylist and photographer Jessica Gwyneth who notes, “Feminists are speaking out and it has become somewhat of a trend in itself.” For Layla Sailor, her photography work also encompasses her feminist viewpoint: “I know I like to show women in control mainly, if girls appear vulnerable it is the beauty of adolescence I like to show.” As well as her views shaping her body of work, Sailor also tries to befriend and mentor young professional photographers wherever possible, noting that women often have a different experience in the industry.

The power to change doesn’t lie solely with those who work in fashion, however. Arguably many of the changes we’ve seen have come from outside forces or industry outliers. The body positivity movement gained momentum through bloggers and Instagram, whilst the most diverse casting often comes from niche, up and coming labels. And if we’re looking at buying power, all of the women I spoke to for this article said they actively avoid shops, labels or designers who have ethics, produce advertising, or utilise manufacturing methods which are at odds with their views.

Change comes when we question the norm and choose to defy it. For my part, I can speak out against the norm, I can question the casting process, I can use designers who support fair pay, and I can do more to address diversity within my own portfolio.

Fashion and feminism don’t represent the most harmonious of partnerships but withdrawing from it completely will only serve to let the problem stagnate. Feminist voices in every facet of every industry are vital to furthering the cause so, whilst we’ve still got a long way to go, it’s our duty to speak up and ensure the fashion industry hears and acknowledges our voices.

Image credits - Photography: Jessica Gwyneth, Collage: Izzy Whiteley, Project: That's What She Said

Monday, 6 June 2016

Introducing Sistrhood

I've been posting a little less regularly on here of late, but for good reason, as I've been settling into the rhythm of writing weekly posts for Sistrhood, a brand new website written by and for women, aiming to inspire, galvanise and uplift women and girls from all walks of life. 

Founded by the multi-faceted, multi-talented Sarah Seaton, I couldn't be happier to be part of The Hood. My posts focus on sustainable fashion, female focused and female fronted labels, and all things feminism.

T-shirt: Tease and Totes, Trousers: Ralph Lauren via a charity shop, Accessories: Vintage

The photo above is taken from my recent post about Tease and Totes:

"'Empowerment' has become somewhat of a buzzword. Just about anything can now be referred to as being empowering, from taking a selfie to buying clothes. But twin sister-run brand Tease and Totes are committed to empowerment in its true sense; to give people (particularly marginalised groups) the means and autonomy to take control of their own lives...

"...The range spans slouchy sweatshirts, simple cotton t-shirts, baseball tops and sturdy tote bags. Care is taken in the manufacturing process with products from the range being made in Fair Wear Foundation certified factories, crafted from recycled materials or manufactured from organic cotton. Simple in design, the easy-to-wear pieces give the slogan space to breathe, allowing it to take centre stage.

"But whilst the slogans relay a powerful message of their own, from the beginning it was about more than slogans alone. "We knew from the start that we would put part of our profit back into empowering girls who need it most", Natalie told me. This is where their partnership with Worldreader comes in..."

Head over to Sistrhood to read the full piece and follow them for regular updates and all of my weekly posts.