Thursday, 8 June 2017

The Swimwear That's Saving the Oceans

8th June marks World Oceans Day. This year's conservation action focus is 'encouraging solutions to plastic pollution and preventing marine litter for a healthier ocean and a better future'. I briefly mentioned microfibres in my previous post but today I'm going to look at our global plastic problem a little more closely.

There are huge efforts going on to stop the plastic pollution of our oceans. Greenpeace are currently running an 'End Ocean Plastics' campaign, sampling water for microplastics off the coast of Scotland and documenting the impact of ocean plastic on marine life; the Marine Conservation Society are running the Plastic Challenge this month, challenging participants to go plastic free for the month of June, offering starter packs, tips and support to those taking part; eye-opening documentary A Plastic Ocean was released on Netflix earlier this year, highlighting the serious environmental impact of our destructive, disposable lifestyles; and there are countless other organisations, schemes and campaigns happening around the globe to fight back against plastic pollution, from beach clean-ups to a 'Beat the Microbead' app.

In the past ten years, we've created more plastic than we did in the last century. That's a lot of plastic. In fact, five trillion pieces of the stuff are currently floating in our oceans. It comes from disposable shopping bags, water bottles, microbeads in cosmetics, toothbrushes, lighters, straws and all the other millions of things that are made from plastic that we use every day. 

The problem is it doesn't biodegrade, rather it just breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces, posing a serious hazard to marine life. Turtles mistake plastic bags for jellyfish and ingest them, fish eat microplastics and microfibres which are then in turn introduced into our food chain and 90% of sea birds have swallowed plastic in their lifetime. 

It's a challenging issue that needs tackling from every side. Which brings us to swimwear. If you're going to enjoy our oceans, it makes sense to respect them too, so increasingly swimwear brands are actively trying to reduce waste and incorporate recycled plastics into their products. So who are the brands trying to save our oceans?

AURIA

AURIA blend sustainability with playful, contemporary design. Launched by Diana Auria in 2013, the brand was founded upon principals of sustainability; focusing on a tight supply chain, responsibly sourced fabrics and environmental responsibility. AURIA swimwear is crafted from Econyl, a yarn created from Nylon waste, including fishing nets, carpets and fabric scraps. It's completely regenerable, forming a closed loop system.




adidas x Parley

adidas have teamed up with Parley to transform marine plastic pollution into footwear and high performance activewear. When the Parley Ultraboost dropped it felt like a big step for the future of the use of recycled plastic and they swiftly followed suit with a swimwear line, created from a chlorine-resistant, Econyl-based compression fabric.










Weekday

Launched for SS17, Weekday's new swimwear collection is made from recycled polyamide. Channelling a minimal aesthetic, subtle ribbing, high necklines and chunky buckles provide all the contemporary detailing needed.







LIAR the Label

Another brand championing Econyl, Byron Bay-based LIAR the Label donate 10% of their 'Exoskeleton' collection to Marine Conservation and plan to partner with more environmental organisations in future. 









GREENLEE SWIM

Launched in 2013, GREENLEE SWIM design and manufacture their swimwear in Los Angeles. As well as using 82-83% recycled fibres in the manufacturing of their products, they also partner with and support organisations such as Global Green USA, Heal The Bag, HoneyLove.org and The Rain Forest Partnership.







OceanZen

OceanZen founder Steph Gabriel has a degree in Environmental Marine Sciene and, having been involved in a series of research projects around the world, from coral reef analysis to researching humpback whales in Ecuador, she created the brand in order to help protect the oceans. The fabric is made from recycled fishing nets and plastic bottles, salvaged from the ocean and crafted into bold, sunshine-infused mix and match separates.








Sunday, 4 June 2017

The Fluffy Stuff: A Closer Look at Cotton

Synthetic fabrics are in the spotlight. News of the damaging effects of microfibres - the tiny particles of plastic our synthetic garments shed in the wash - has been swirling. With each wash, hundreds of thousands of microfibres enter our rivers, our lakes and our oceans, where they contaminate the environment and pose a threat to aquatic life. 

In order to combat the damaging spill of microfibres, we're being encouraged to invest in natural materials instead. As the king of natural fibres, cotton tops almost every list of recommended alternatives. Any step away from oil-reliant, environment-polluting synthetic fabrics is positive but cotton isn't as clean as we're led to believe. 

Behind those fluffy cotton bolls and pure white lengths of fabric lie tales of slavery, corporate manipulation, desertification and poverty. Let's look a little closer at the world's favourite fabric. 


There is a lot to say about cotton and it would be impossible to cover it all in one post, so consider this an introduction to the many faces of the cotton industry.

A Thirsty Crop

Producing cotton is incredibly water-intensive. It takes 20,000 litres of water to create just one kilogram of cotton. One kilogram of cotton becomes one pair of jeans. To create a humble t-shirt, it takes close to 3,000 litres of water; the amount the average person drinks over a three year period. Add to this the fact that over half of the world's cotton is grown on dry land, and you have an industry that relies heavily upon irrigation, causing the depletion of non-renewable, freshwater resources. 

Perhaps the most extreme example of this dangerous depletion of our precious water sources is the Aral Sea. Formerly one one of the four largest lakes in the world, by 1997 it has shrunk to just 10% of its original size and by 2014, NASA released a shocking satellite image of the dry land where the Aral Sea had once been, declaring it had completely dried up. So what caused this? While the lake itself is (or was) salt water, the rivers that fed it were freshwater. In the 1940s the Soviet Union began diverting the freshwater rivers away from the lake for purposes of cotton irrigation in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. In doing so, they starved the Aral of its water sources.

Before the onset of the devastating desertification, the Aral Sea was abundant with fish; a source of income and food for those who lived on its banks. The thriving industry shrank with the water levels and where water once was, now lies the exposed lake bed which contains a dangerously high concentration of salt, pesticides and chemicals. Dust storms blow this poisonous cocktail into nearby villages where, as a result, the locals suffer from tuberculosis, cancer and lung disease. 

Such devastation, simply to sate our desire for a single crop.





Slavery in the Supply Chain

Moving from a lifeblood of the people to the people themselves, let's go behind the scenes of Uzbekistan's cotton harvest. As one of the world's biggest producers and exporters of cotton, the government-controlled operation is huge and, as almost all of it is picked by hand, they require a lot of people power to get the job done. 

The answer? Forced labour. Unable to find enough seasonal workers, the Uzbek goverment simply forces citizens out of their jobs to spend weeks in the fields picking cotton. There is no refusing: hospitals lose their doctors and nurses, schools loose their teachers. But the process isn't limited to adults and teachers may well find themselves joined by their students in the field, working under punishing conditions towards impossibly high quotas. 

There has been some progress. Since 2012, forced child labour has been reduced thanks to global pressure. Reduced, yes, but not abolished and more adults are simply drafted in to fill their place. 

This is only one part of the story; slave labour runs right through cotton production, from picking to spinning to sewing. And I can't possibly fail to mention the dark and shameful history of American cotton slavery, although I feel that it deserves a platform of its own from which people far more knowledgeable than I can speak.


Planting Poverty

As it's such a booming industry, you'd be forgiven for thinking cotton farmers are raking in the cash. And some are. The Doha Development Round was a strategy developed in 2001 by the World Trade Organisation to bolster growth and create wealth in developing countries. However, during negotiations, those very developing nations were sidelined in favour of the US and the EU.

In the US, for example, billions of dollars have been doled out to cotton farmers in subsidies in order to sustain the industry. Such huge subsidies protect US cotton farmers from market fluctuations, allowing them to maintain consistently low prices. The European Union also hands out large cotton subsidies as does China and, to a lesser extent, India. This all sounds incredibly positive but it has a direct, negative impact on Africa's cotton industry. 

Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali are known collectively as the C-4. They produce cotton more cheaply than anywhere else in the world and rely on it for almost all of their respective export revenues. But, because they receive no subsidies at all, and with the price of cotton falling in real terms over the last 60 years, farmers and producers in the C-4 are left poverty-stricken. Simply by putting an end to US subsidies, the average household income in West Africa could rise by up to 9%. The C-4 have formally requested a reduction, and subsequently elimination, of subsidies by the WTO but a resolution has not been forthcoming. 





Seeds of Despair

I mentioned in the previous section that India receives subsidies and it would be reasonable to think that their farmers are more on a level with the US than the C-4. Not so. They might have a head start on the C-4 but India's cotton farmers are deeply in debt and committing suicide at an alarming rate. 

Monsanto is an agriculture company. A giant, highly profitable corporation, it has a monopoly over the Indian cotton industry; until recently their genetically modified 'Bt' cotton accounted for around 95% of the country's cotton farming. 

Bt cotton is (or rather, was) resistant to Bollworm, the biggest threat farmers face in terms of pests. Unfortunately, Bt cotton seeds cost three to five times as much as ordinary seeds and, despite no longer being plagued by the Bollworm, yields were much lower than promised and farmers sunk into debt as disappointing yields meant they couldn't pay back the money they had loaned in order to buy the seeds in the first place. These GM seeds also require more pesticides and fertiliser, adding more to the cost of production. 

In a cruel twist, Bollworm has now developed a resistance to Bt cotton so yet more toxic pesticides need to be bought and sprayed onto the crops. 

Entrenched in debt and with no way out, Indian cotton farmers are killing themselves at a terrifying rate; there have been close to 300,000 suicides since 1995.


The Peril of Pesticides

Staying with India for the moment, as mentioned above, the use of pesticides is rife as farmers struggle to maintain their GM crops. However these pesticides aren't just deadly to the pests. One pesticide in particular, Aldicarb, is so potent that just one drop absorbed through the skin can kill an adult. Often applied without masks, gloves or any protective equipment, farmers are regularly exposed to dangerous amounts of these toxic chemicals.

Across the globe, even in the US where health and safety is enshrined in law, farmers experience a plethora of health problems from exposure to pesticides, from abdominal pain and convulsions to pulmonary oedema and kidney dysfunction.


Something in the Water

Circling back to water, depletion of freshwater isn't the only threat cotton poses. The raw fabric is often dyed with shocking disregard for the local environment. Located on riverbanks, factories spew thousands upon thousands of litres of dye-contaminated waste water directly into the river, staining the water, damaging the ecosystem and rendering the drinking water unsafe.

While governments rely upon cheap fashion exports to prop up their economies, they will only continue to turn a blind eye to these illegal and harmful practices.





What's the Alternative?

Luckily there are some alternatives to 'standard' cotton than can help combat the environmental impact and human cost:

Organic Cotton 
Certified organic cotton must be free from toxic pesticides, GMOs, chlorine bleach and other hazardous chemicals. It must be produced adhering to strict labour laws.


Fairtrade Cotton
The Fairtrade Foundation encourages sustainable production and guarantees a fair price for farmers. They work with some of the poorest farmers in the world to unlock new opportunities and ensure they get a fair deal. Organic, Fairtrade cotton is the golden duo.


Hemp
Hemp requires between a quarter and a third of the amount of water cotton uses and farmers can produce three times the amount of hemp fibre as cotton fibre on the same amount of land. It's worth noting though, that hemp does take slightly more energy to produce in some cases and also produces slightly higher emissions in some cases. 


Tencel
Lycocell (more commonly known by its brand name Tencel) is produced from wood fibre. It's certified as containing no harming substances, it's manufactured using a closed loop process and it uses less water and land than cotton.

Sources: Anti-Slavery International, BBC, Fairtrade Foundation, Freedom United, NASA, Stockholm Environment Institute, The Guardian, To Die For by Lucy Siegle, Unicef, WWF

Friday, 12 May 2017

Three SS17 Catwalk Looks Made From Stuff I Already Owned

The ever-accelerating march onwards of seasons and micro seasons keeps the fashion industry churning. Each season (or each week if you're ASOS and pals), we're subjected to new styles, silhouettes, prints and cuts, rendering the ones we feel like we literally only just bought outdated.

"Psssst", retailer newsletters and facebook banners say, "I know you bought a shirt with a waist tie last month but this month it's all about embroidery so you better whip out your bank card or you're going to look shit, mate." And often we fold because, well, who wants to look shit? I don't. 

But our quest to not look shit is endless because as soon as we're satisfied with our new ruffle shirt or our corset-waist t-shirt, the fashion industry will go and design something different and we'll need that instead. It's a futile process and one which resulted in me feeling genuinely stressed when flicking through any new season issue of Vogue, faced with all the things I would soon need.

Luckily, I've since had the following realisation: you literally don't have to get stressed about buying new clothes. At all*. The dress you bought last year defo still looks great and I won't like you any less if you don't have one with an on-trend hanky hemline. You are 100% allowed to want new clothes but you also definitely do not have to stress about owning them. You can just go ahead and wear what you have and everything will be fine.

Even if you're steadfastly dedicated to new trends, even then you still don't have to stress about buying new clothes. To prove it, I pulled together three looks straight off the SS17 catwalks from the clothes I already had in my wardrobe. 

1. First up, MSGM. Most current season trend stories would lead you to believe tulle has just been invented but sheer slips have been hanging from the rails in H&M, Topshop and others on and off for years now; I bought this blue one from indie label Somewhere Nowhere back in 2013/14. It just happens that we've gone particularly mental for them this season. The top is actually a folded down strappy top and a piece of ribbon, the shirt came via Depop and the leggings came from wherever it is stray black leggings magically appear from. So that's one SS17 look and zero new clothes. Let's move on.



2. Stella Jean knows how to do prints and I covet every single thing she's ever produced. Luckily it turns out that I could quite easily emulate one of the looks from her spring/summer collection by wearing my striped vintage dress as a skirt, nabbing a white shirt from my boyfriend's wardrobe and breaking out a trusty Paul Smith shirt that I got at an outrageous 100% discount when I worked there. (Uniform allowance truly was the best part of working in retail.) Who knew I had a full Stella Jean look just ready and waiting to go in my wardrobe?



3. Finally, we move onto my favourite look, a copy of Isa Arfen's delicate summer layers. While admittedly I prefer the real deal top, I do fear that it would struggle to contain even the most modest boobs so my over-a-year-old Topshop number is probably the safest option. The vintage Levi's aren't a great match but were the closest thing I could find. As for the white, split front dress, that's a story of vintage serendipity. I was forced to admire it on a sad looking mannequinn for weeks, unable to buy or reserve it, convinced that someone else would nab the perfect layering piece when, one day, I noticed it was no longer in the window and marched into the shop to find it staring at me from the front of the very first rail I came to. I'd give this a 7/10 for accuracy but a 10/10 for being the most wearable of the bunch.



Releasing myself from the stress of feeling like I needed new clothes has been truly transformative. And, as evidenced above, next season's looks aren't always so groundbreaking anyway, so why not just stick with what you already love?


*Obviously this applies to the lucky ones among us who can buy clothes for fun and not to those who are struggling to afford a shirt for an interview or new school uniforms. That's an entirely different, much more difficult issue to be addressed another time when I'm not playing dress up.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Fashion Revolution: Are the High Street's Eco Collections the Answer?

You'd be forgiven for thinking that the high street is leading the fashion revolution. Almost any sustainable shopping feature you'd care to read will feature H&M, hailed for their yearly sustainability reports and commitment to upping their use of recycled and sustainably sourced materials. Alongside them will likely be Mango, whose Committed Collection is in shops now, and ASOS (not on the high street but surely the high street of online shopping?), on the list for their Made in Kenya range.



Each of these fashion giants have carefully crafted narratives which fit snugly within the sustainable style remit. They flaunt their green credentials, assuaging consumer guilt with promises of organic fabrics, fair wages and renewable sources. Taken at face value, this sounds wonderful. We can continue to shop at our favourite shops and save the planet. It's a win-win. 

Except, it's not quite that simple, so let's dig a little deeper. To do so, we first need to establish the differences between ethical and sustainable fashion, because ethical fashion isn't always sustainable. Imagine, for example, that a brand produced a range of t-shirts. The t-shirts are made in a safe factory which is subject to regular inspections. The people making the t-shirts are entitled to benefits such as paid holiday and maternity leave and they're paid a fair, living wage. To many, this would be considered an ethical set up. 

But if those t-shirts are made from cotton, it would take around 3000 litres of water to make each one. And if those t-shirts were bright pink, the toxic dye might seep into the local water supply, denying people a clean water supply. And if those t-shirts were best sellers, they might be produced in the hundreds of thousands. And if those t-shirts went out of style, they might end up in landfill. That doesn't sound very sustainable. 

The link between ethical and sustainable fashion cannot be assumed but the two are often conflated and this works to the high street's benefit. Looking at H&M as an example, the brand has committed to implementing wage management systems at supplier factories, to switch to 100% renewable energy, to use 100% recycled or other sustainably sourced materials by 2030 and to become climate positive throughout its entire value chain by 2040. Grand claims indeed. 

The importance of commercial and financial commitment to meeting such goals cannot be overlooked. Investment and research lead to breakthroughs and if those breakthroughs can transform the supply chain with pioneering recycling methods and new, sustainable fabrics then all the better. However, their claims often lack context, so here's some of that for you:

Looking first at their intentions to scale up fair living wages, it's vital to note that the brand doesn't actually own any factories, instead utilising independent suppliers in developing countries. Just this year, violent protests broke out at a supplier factory in Myanmar over benefits and working conditions. 'Scaling up' industrial relations does not guarantee the ethical treatment of workers throughout the supply chain.

Moving on to sustainability, what exactly do H&M's pledges mean in the face of the 550 million garments they reportedly produce a year? For every promise and impressive statement, they are still pumping the world full of clothes that are intended to be disposable; discarded in favour of the next new trend. 

I'm using H&M as an example because they're often lauded as being at the helm of the sustainable fashion movement but, of course, they're not the sole culprit. Built upon modern consumer culture, the fast fashion model is, at its very core, utterly unsustainable. 

Global clothing production has more than doubled since 2000. On top of this, the average person buys 60% more clothing yet keeps them for about half as long as they did 15 years ago*. Fast fashion is feeding our insatiable, untenable desire for more clothes than we've ever owned before. 

It's also important to remember that alongside every eco, conscious, committed and green collection on the high street are rails upon rails of clothes that are decidedly the opposite. Not made from organic cotton; not made from recycled fabrics; not crafted with the environment in mind. 

A biannual capsule collection and intermittent use of recycled fabrics simply isn't enough to offset the inherent unsustainability of producing hundreds of millions of garments a year. So, yes, there are a handful of positives take from to those eco collections but they are absolutely, resolutely not the answer and they do not clear fast fashion of its culpability in the mistreatment and exploitation of human beings and the irresponsible use of the earth's finite resources.


*Source: Fashion Revolution in partnership with Greenpeace

Thursday, 13 April 2017

It Was Summer for a Weekend: Here's What I Wore

In a somewhat unprecedented move, summer happened last weekend. Of course, it's gone now and it's only a matter of time before the Christmas adverts come on, but for one glorious 48 hour stretch, summer happened and it reminded us all that we have ankles and shoulders and inner happiness. 

As it crept up on us with precisely no warning, I imagine half the population spent Saturday morning stood in their underwear, peering into their wardrobes, wondering what to wear in the absence of the easy option of teaming a gigantic coat with a look of resignation. That's exactly the predicament I found myself in. Warm weather is so fleeting that whenever it occurs, we have to completely reboot our sartorial systems in order to cope with the prospect of sun on our skin. Some people take it very far, very quickly (case in point: the men in rolled up denim shorts and nip-skimming vests); others know they've been hurt before and so bravely persevere with puffer coats, safe in the knowledge it's only a matter of time before everyone else joins them again too. I hit somewhere in the middle ground, suspicious of the weather's intentions yet wildly keen to embrace it wherever possible.

Armed with a healthy dose of pessimism, I wasn't quite ready to commit to anything as radical as bare arms or exposed toes. Instead, it felt like the perfect opportunity to pair up two things I'd been waiting for warmer weather to wear. One was the dress that I recently took on a spin through all four seasons in a bid to prove to myself it wasn't a frivolous purchase. The other was a Fila polo my boyfriend bought me for Christmas. I was going to do the obvious top-under-dress strategy but this polo has a trompe l'oeil pocket and wayfarers which would be criminal to hide, so I flipped it and went top-over-dress. Life starts when you step out of your comfort zone, guys.

I topped it off with my new-to-me leopard print cardigan and an ancient belt that I've often considered donating but always comes in handy. Clearly, this was all far too tonal, so I stuck on a pair of turquoise loafers, grabbed my plastic basket and a summer outfit was born.










Emerging from beneath the shroud of the winter coat is an event worth celebrating with copious amounts of accessories. Never one to scrimp on the details, I popped a naked lady pin on my lapel and loaded up my wrists with a pleasing selection of bejewelled paraphernalia, happy that the world could see them for a change. 

Despite the initial panic and struggle, we all get into the swing of warm weather dressing pretty quickly. We settle into a style rhythm, with light layers, sandals and floaty silhouettes setting the tone, only to have to go crawling back to our coats mere days later, embarrassed at having being lulled into a false sense of security by the sunshine once again. 

Sunshine is the cheating boyfriend we instantly forgive when he rocks up with a bunch of flowers and a knowing smile. Things will change. There will be sandals, slip dresses, we've even been planning a straw hat! But unfortunately, you know how this story ends. With heartbreak. Before I knew it, I was back in boots, jeans and a jumper, but at least I have the memories of the short but sweet summer of 2017. Unless it comes back. In which case I'll be stood by my wardrobe, ready to emotionally invest again without a second thought.

Friday, 7 April 2017

I Heart Lisbon

Allow me to preface this post by saying that I am not a travel blogger. I don't note down the names of picturesque back streets, I forget the names and whereabouts of any and all cute local shops and I have never once stood at the edge of a cliff, back to camera, arms akimbo. So, I'm afraid this will be less a comprehensive guide to Portugal's capital and more a gushing account of just how much I loved it. 

I will bestow you with these two top tips though: 1. The Vegan Food Project cooks up a mean bifana of seitan and 2. do not, under any circumstance wear soft-soled loafers lest you end up skating along Lisbon's polished paths like I did on the first day.




Lisbon is, as the first selection of images suggest, a riot of colour. You can't take 20 steps without being confronted by a coral house, a green front door or that Instagrammer's favourite: a tiled wall. It's a veritable tile fest in Lisbon and I was all over it like a rich white girl at Coachella. There was absolutely no mistaking me for anything other than a tourist as I flitted from tiled wall to tiled wall, photographing every new pattern I spotted, risking my life every time I stepped onto one of their free-for-all roads to get the best angle. Azulejos, as google tells me they're called, are undoubtedly the city's defining feature but do you know what else Lisboan's (I think I've made that word up) absolutely bloody love? Sardines. 

So mad for sardines are they, that they have an annual sardine festival. I wasn't there for that but I did visit O Mundo Fantastico da Sardinha Portuguesa; a haven for any oily fish fanatic or, indeed, lover of outrageous extravagance lavished upon the mundane. 

As a vegan, I had absolutely no intention of buying any sardines to snack on but this place was hard to resist. The actual Ferris Wheel of sardine tins (!!!) in the window is what drew me in but the interior was just as wildly ostentatious. The walls were lined top to bottom with tins of sardines, each printed with a different year. Apparently a tin of sardines with your year of birth on it is a wonderful token to treasure for the rest of time. I did not purchase a 1989 tin but the sardines did, however, crown me as their Queen...




Reluctantly stepping away from sardines for the time being, most of my time was spent wandering around the steep, narrow streets saying, "ooh look at that" to my boyfriend. It's a miracle I survived, what with the hazardously polished pavements and the precarious, unmarked roads. Roads which are shared by impatient tram drivers with tuk tuks, taxis and the local's cars, all of which are driven with the wild abandon of someone with only 24 hours to live. 

Luckily, I did survive and managed to drink in yet more of the vibrant streets and paint palette vistas. I've never visited anywhere quite so charming yet with a definite thread of cool running through it. It's no Berlin or London but a smattering of indie restaurants, tucked away, eclectic boutiques and even the left wing grafitti speak to the city's youthful undercurrent. It's hidden below a thick layer of American and German tourists but it's definitely there.

Unexpected pieces of art interrupt the rows of pastel buildings; little reminders of current culture and a fresh voice nestled among the classic facades and tourist spots. Of course, most of them are suitably bright so sit neatly within the city's palette. In a completely out of character twist, my favourite happened to be the super lo-fi wire quote. 'Don't be mean' ranks high on my list of most uttered phrases, so it felt like serendipity when I came across it. 




Those little artistic snippets are the side dish to Lisbon's main course, though and I am completely smitten with both facets of it. A quick stroll away from the main shopping street brought us to a row of haberdashery shops that I was completely charmed by. I kept catching them after closing time, and admired the elaborate trims and ornate buttons through the windows. When I did manage to catch them during opening hours, they seemed uniformly to be run by tiny, elderly women who didn't speak a lick of English. A few bits here and there were on display in glass cabinets behind the counter but everything else was tucked away in battered old cardboard boxes. 

In the shop I'd spent the most time lingering at the window of, the woman behind the counter gestured at me to come behind and take a look through the displays. Embarrassed by my poor attempts at Portuguese, I left after a few minutes. I had been lusting after a particular pin in the window, though, so I returned a few minutes later and eventually managed to communicate my desire for the giant safety pin with a tortoise shell-style clasp. She brought a box out from the back and I gave her the thumbs up when the shuffle of trinkets revealed the one I wanted. 






My success at snagging the pin I wanted is not representative of my other shopping trips in Lisbon. Except for a fruitful venture to Feira Da Ladra, a local flea market, I was thwarted at every turn by 'permanently closed' notifications on google that I'd failed to notice during my pre-holiday itinerary planning. 

Luckily, unlike our recent trip to Berlin where temperatures dropped below zero, the weather was sunny and mild so I was content just wandering the streets and avoiding death by tuk tuk. If the locals' get up was anything to go by - puffer jackets, hats and scarves - it was positively freezing for the acclimatised but I was perfectly happy gallivanting around in my new most-worn piece; the pink, oversized, longline jacket my parents bought me for Christmas. Except for the loafer incident on the first day, my pre-planned outfits proved to be pitch perfect for the balmy weather and I fit right into the local colour scheme. (Unlike Berlin again, where black is the uniform and I looked like a children's entertainer by comparison.)










We stayed for three nights; the perfect amount of time given that my legs couldn't take another day of trekking up and down steep hills, crafted mostly from polished stones with all the grip of an ice cube. The locals must have calves of steel. Still, I was sad to leave and England looked decidedly dull as we disembarked.

To sum up, 10/10, would visit again.



Friday, 31 March 2017

Why I Won't be Buying Clothes for the Next 3 Months

A few weeks ago, I had an absolute charity shop score. On an impromptu trip to my local Oxfam, I bagged a pair of vintage 501s, a jumper dress that's perfect for layering over said jeans, a leopard print cardigan (something I'd recently been searching for on Depop anyway) and a long length pinstriped blazer jacket with a super cool asymmetrical button fastening. And I paid less than £35 for the whole lot.

I'd got myself some stellar garms, it was all second hand and I'd saved a fortune. Then, last weekend, I found another second hand gem. A strapless, wide leg, gingham jumpsuit with a frill trim was calling to me from the rail of a vintage shop, so I snapped it up for £18. Another triumph for second hand shopping and sustainability. Right? Well, sort of.

Sustainability isn't just about buying second hand and investing in ethical labels and organic fabrics, it's also about consuming less. And buying five items in the space of just a few weeks is definitely not consuming less.

With guilt quickly replacing my second hand bargain high, I announced to my boyfriend that I wouldn't be buying any clothes for the next three months and made a note in my diary on the 25th June page that says, "NO CLOTHES BEFORE THIS DATE!". 




Why three months? The length of time is completely arbitrary; just the first thing that popped into my head. It seems a little paltry compared to Michelle McGagh's self-set challenge of not buying anything at all for a full year but it should at least be a sufficient amount of time to rethink and readjust my shopping habits. Maybe I'll extend it when 25th June rolls around but for now, three months is the goal.

I'm going to be completely honest. I know I will have to buy one thing during that time. Not strictly clothes but worth mentioning if I'm going to hold myself accountable: I need a pair of sandals. My last pair breathed their final breath at the end of summer 2016 and spending early summer stomping around in boots just isn't practical. 

When I realised my need for a new pair of sandals somewhat scuppered my plan, a funny thing happened. It started a chain reaction and I began to think of all the other things I might need. I haven't been on a beach holiday since I was 14 but I panicked that I don't have any swimwear. I had planned to buy a dark indigo denim jacket for spring/summer. What was I going to wear now?! (Answer, any of my other jackets). Maybe I'd need a pair of trousers or a new dress. What if I needed something before the 25th June?

The thing is, I don't need anything. I'm in absolutely no peril of being forced to leave the house naked having found myself bereft of any clothes to cover myself with. I have skirts, dresses, trousers, shirts, tops, jackets and coats. I have a plurality of each category of clothing but the consumer-clogged section of my brain started to itch at the thought of not being satisfied. 

Want and need have become interchangeable and I hope to finally separate them within the next few months. Obviously I know the difference between the two on a literal level but you'd be surprised how often all of us transpose or conflate the two in the name of justifying a purchase. 

I need a winter coat. I need shoes. I need a selection of clothes to cover my body. Do you know what else I've told myself I need? A pair of bright pink boots; a third summer dress; a fourth pair of jeans. None of them would serve an imperative function but I decided I needed them. I needed the pink boots because there would never be a pair as magnificent as them ever again (kind of true but still want not need); I needed the dress because it had long sleeves unlike any of my others and it looked v. Céline; I needed the jeans because I only had a light pair of Levi's so obviously an indigo pair was necessary. 

If I don't break the cycle somewhere, I'm going to continue to 'need' unnecessary things for the rest of my life, adding further to the burden we put on our planet. Earlier this year, I set out to take the time to consider whether I really need to buy something before committing. I've stuck to it, asking myself, 'do I need this?' when I'm tempted to hand over my money and the majority of the time, whatever I've been tempted by has ended up back on the shelf. Somehow, though, this attitude stopped at my wardrobe door.

By enforcing a break in my part self-inflicted, part capitalism-inflicted consumer cycle for the next three months, I hope to mirror the same shift in my mindset that I achieved where accumulating superfluous stuff is concerned. I imagine it will be a little harder seeing as I write about clothes for a living and love fashion with every part of my being but it's an essential exercise if I'm to truly embrace a sustainable mindset.

Here's to the next three months...

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

All The Things I Want to Wear Now Because I'm a Conditioned Consumer

In my last post, I mentioned my sudden but deep and burning desire for a pair of red boots. This desire was brought on purely by osmosis. Those with the most connections or the deepest pockets began slipping their perfectly pedicured feet into red boots by the likes of Isabel Marant; street style photographers snapped them in said red boots and the resulting images seeped into my subconscious, manifesting as a desire to own my very own pair. 

Since my infatuation began, fashion month has been and gone, bringing with it an abundance of brand new red boots to lust after, reinforcing the absolutely unfounded notion that they would enhance my life in myriad ways. This is because, ladies and gentlemen, I am a conditioned consumer. My brain was configured within a society that serves much more than the base needs of food and shelter. The mere thought of buying something floods my (and your) brain with dopamine, so no matter how much I abstain from clicking buy in the name of sustainability and having enough money leftover to spend on food, the desire remains.

I avoid as many of the tried and tested consumer triggers as possible; I've unsubscribed to store emails, deleted shopping apps, and stopped going into most high street shops. But I can't cut out fashion entirely. Firstly, because it's my job and secondly, because I don't want to. I love scrolling through show after show during fashion week and I adore browsing street style. I even treat myself to a single page net-a-porter scroll in between articles on work days as a change of scenery (screenery?). I am owning my consumer affliction, so join me, won't you, as I explore the latest objects of my desire. Dopamine incoming...

Midi Skirts/Knee High Boots

This trend descended over fashion month like a beautiful plague. Fluid, often asymmetrical hemlines floated about slouchy knee high boots everywhere from Victoria Beckham and Isabel Marant to Roksanda. The resulting combination has its roots in the 80s but manages to feel ultra fresh; a welcome departure from ankle boots. This is undoubtedly my favourite look to come out of AW17 and I'm mentally reinterpreting every outfit in my wardrobe within this framework. My calves are going into storage - I won't need them for the foreseeable future. 

Isabel Marant, Roksanda, Victoria Beckham. Images: vogue.com



Corsages

Just call me Carrie Bradshaw because I feel like I'm about to get into corsages in a big way. Gucci's been pushing them for a few seasons now, most notably atop a bow worn under a shirt collar. But now Saint Laurent, Adam Selman and Alberta Ferretti have all jumped on board and it's become a bonafide trend. I have just this second raided my styling kit and unearthed a silky flower on an elastic hairband, which I'll be re-purposing as a choker, and a polka dot flower hair clip which I'll be wearing on my lapel and under my collar, Gucci style. If there was some sort of points system at play here, I think I would have just earned at least 5 for resourcefulness.


Saint Laurent, Alberta Ferretti, Gucci. Images: vogue.com



Cargo Trousers

Dads of the world rejoice, cargo trousers are in. Until recently, cargo trousers could quite easily cause me to be a bit sick in my mouth but now I want a pair and I'm laying the blame squarely at J.Crew's feet. If you search 'cargo pants' on Pinterest, you'll find them almost exclusively styled with tan sandals and a white t-shirt or blouse. J.Crew, however, didn't tap into that sartorial snooze fest. No, they had the audacity to create the delicious trio of camo cargo pants, a pinstriped shirt and a velvet blazer (centre image), taking them out of Jennifer Anniston territory and placing them firmly within my fantasy wardrobe. That said, cargo shorts will be going nowhere near my pasty legs. There are just too many connections with style devoid men who 'totally aren't sexist but just truly believe that men are better at driving'. 

All J.Crew. Images: vogue.com



Leggings

I remain steadfastly NOT into leggings as trousers but as a layering device? I'm all in. Dsquared2 planted the seed for leggings as a viable style option with their Resort '16 collection, when they layered plain black leggings under short skirts and oversized shirts. Since then, leggings have continued to creep in as a pervading but fairly under the radar trend, permeating the collections of MSGM, Pringle, Gucci, Céline, Sportmax and plenty of others. The key to their appeal (to me) is keeping the sportswear overtones to a minimum throughout the rest of the outfit. I can see ankle length leggings peeking out beneath long skirts and mid length coats in spring and in summer, I'm thinking below-the-knee length leggings styled under sheer skirts à la MSGM SS17 (right) and teamed with slouchy belted shirts and loafers. 

Sportmax, Markus Lupfer, MSGM. Images: vogue.com


Here ends the non-exhaustive list of the current objects of my desire. Until next time, then, when I'll probably want a pair of Crocs and a corset belt...