Sunday, 31 January 2016

Insiders' Club

So, Brooklyn Beckham shot the latest Burberry fragrance campaign. This is a move that was bound to cause a stir. Whilst some point to Beckham as a shoo-in for the role, thanks to his mother's fashion prowess, his younger brother's history fronting campaigns for the brand and his supposed affinity for photography, many have derided the decision for its unashamed nepotism and disregard for other, more qualified, experienced professionals. 

Of course, Beckham wasn't chosen for his skill. He hasn't spent years honing and studying his craft and he hasn't paid his dues the way the majority do, by testing, assisting and testing some more. In their article anticipating the shoot, the Telegraph noted: "Anyone who follows Brooklyn on Instagram will know that he is a keen photographer..." but an Instagram account does not a photographer make, so what's the deal? The deal is, he's a Beckham and a teen heart-throb with an Instagram following that currently stands at 5.9 million. Burberry aren't buying into his talent, they're buying into his name and the audience that comes with it. It's an increasingly common marketing ploy in the fashion industry: inviting celebrities in under the guise of a 'creative' role in order to piggyback off their social media reach. 

Campaign shots taken from Burberry's Instagram

Perfume is an attainable entry level purchase. It allows the buyer to own a slice of a high-end brand on a low-end budget. It was a savvy move, then, on Burberry's part to bring Beckham in on a fragrance campaign rather than, say, ready-to-wear. His predominantly young, female audience is exactly the type of customer they seek to target. Perhaps they're just starting to earn their own money, or beginning to develop a more sophisticated taste. Brands such as Burberry are aspirational yet, on the whole, out of reach. So how do they buy into the name? They grab a bottle of the latest fragrance. And if Brooklyn Beckham has been endorsing that fragrance since day one then all the better and all the more desirable.

There's no denying that it's a clever move but the anger and dismay trained professionals have aired at the decision to choose a name over talent is not to be overlooked. We're living in a time when creativity is shamefully undervalued, and social media hierarchy and a recognisable name are king. 

Why champion a young photographer who has dedicated years to creating a reputation when Brooklyn Beckham can create an industry-wide buzz with a single Instagram post? Why take a risk on an up and coming designer when Kylie and Kendall could 'design' one for you that will sell out in seconds? 

The short term impact of favouring names over talent is a little outrage and a lot of sales. The long term impact is a stagnating creative scene whereby we lose our brightest and best because a career in their chosen field is unsustainable and simply nonviable. We get the culture we deserve and if celebrity and commerce continues to trump creativity, ours will falter to the point of no return.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Fitting Room Conversations (With Myself)

Fitting rooms rank among my least favourite places on earth. They’re up there with train seats next to open mouth chewers and the Apple store. They’re unfeasibly hot, badly lit and never quite clean (why is there always a rogue plaster on the floor?). They’re also the place where I put my physical appearance under the most intense scrutiny; helped along immeasurably by those movable mirrors that allow you to see yourself from angles unseen on a day-to-day basis. The ones that dismantle any illusions we have about our appearance and replace them with the question, ‘is that really what I look like?’

Fitting rooms can make and break our fashion dreams. The jacket that looks incredible on the hanger looks like a wet paper bag when you try it on, but the dress you picked up on a whim fits like a dream and makes you feel invincible. The humble fitting room can both lift spirits and ruin days.

Anatomy of a fitting room

Some people – teenage girls in particular, as I found during my years in retail – love to share fitting rooms; swapping garments and offering up scathing critiques of what their friend has picked up. I will never share a fitting room. It’s a stretch to even go shopping with another person. The fitting room is a sacred place where the only critical gaze welcome is my own. Any unzippable jeans or disastrously ill fits are between me and the mirror; any outrageous choices are mine alone to either laugh off or go for broke and buy.

We all know that we think things about ourselves that we’d never dream of uttering to anyone else, so another opinion is entirely unwelcome and wholly unnecessary. The internal monologue which constitutes the soundtrack to every trying-on session I ever have is more than enough without another voice wading into proceedings. Allow me to share...

- Is that what I look like from the side?
- Anyway, I’ll try this first.
- Why is there a cut out there? Does everything have holes in now?
- Maybe I’m just old. Next.
- Why do these ‘boyfriend’ jeans fit like skinny jeans?
- Let’s see what they look like from the back.
- Wow, I should have brushed all of my hair. Not just the front.
- No to the jeans but this skirt will look great without sock marks and fuzzy legs.
- Well, I’ve tried on three sizes and none of them fit.
- Am I a weird shape? I think I’m a weird shape.
- Not to worry, this is the perfect dress. This dress will make me better at my job. More sociable. A better girlfriend.       More attractive. It must be mine.
- Oh, it’s that much? Never mind.
- This jacket will help me get over the dress.
- I have a lot of jackets. Do I really need another one?
- Yes. Yes I do.
- OK, I saved the best til last. Prepare to be transformed.
- Nope, turns out it’s the worst.
- Ugh, fake pockets too. Definite no.
- Why is it so hot in here? My forehead is sweating.
- Time to leave.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

New Flamboyance

As a child, most history lessons were spent pondering not the political ins and outs that led us to various wars, but the exquisite dress worn by both the significant figures and the every day people of days gone by. When we learnt about our monarchs, I coveted their extravagant gowns; ostentatious in their splendour. When we learnt abut the Victorian era, I was enchanted by the bustles, crinolines and swathes of luxurious fabrics. Why had I been born into an era of jeans and t-shirts? I longed to sashay down elegant hallways adorned in embroidered silk and rich lace. 

My favourite era was (and still is) Georgian. The elbow length sleeves, hemmed with cascading frills; the wide set necklines; the voluminous skirts; the ruffles; the bows. In hindsight, the practicalities of wearing such finery day to day must have been uncomfortable and wearisome, yet there's a romance in the idea of such pageantry in every day life.

No costume design has captivated me and reignited my daydreams quite as much as that of Sophia Coppola's 2006 telling of 'Marie Antoinette'. Milena Canonero's inspired and award winning design transported me to an era of excess and indulgence that I could only begin to imagine on those days sat in the uninspiring surroundings of my primary school classroom. Why, as time passed, I wondered, had clothes become so pedestrian? Yes, jeans might be more practical, but wouldn't life be more fun in frills?

In recent years cool minimalism has reigned supreme. The pared down, 90s inspired aesthetic became ubiquitous among street stylers, bloggers and Instagrammers alike. Quiet and understated, the look epitomises a sense of effortless sophistication and a dedication to quality over quantity. My appreciation for this is much the same as my appreciation for opera. I appreciate its beauty, I can see why it works for other people, but it's not for me.

So, the return to a more theatrical way of dressing feels like a warm, familiar embrace. In place of crisp shirts are louche and fluid blouses; in place of slim-line cigarette pants are capacious flares. The new silhouette is altogether more dramatic. Tulle, jacquard, velour and lurex add depth and a sense of decadence, whilst frills and ribbons tie the whole thing up with a whimsical flourish. High necks and elongated sleeves are also reference points in high rotation and communicate the costume influences which peppered the moodboards of many designers for pre-fall (who knew Changing Rooms-era Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen would become a style icon?).

MSGM Pre-Fall 16

MSGM's pre-fall collection blends ruffles, softly structured tulle and luxe fabrics with unexpected architectural elements and sportswear influences for a contemporary perspective. The light-hearted exuberance of the more elaborate pieces is met with the refinement of carefully considered cuts and a silhouette that, when you look beyond the ruffles, is slim-line and neatly tailored. It's an exercise in eloquent contrast.

Osman, in a slightly more straightforward interpretation, evokes the elaborate style of Little Lord Fauntleroy with his theatrical suiting and over-sized pendulous bows tied under the collar. Not all of his looks had quite the same grandeur or volume, but those that did - his menswear in particular - were uncompromisingly flamboyant. 

Known for her use of volume to create clothes that are at once sculptural and buoyant, Kym Ellery is well placed to design a collection that speaks to a more lavish aesthetic. In a departure from previous collections, the tailoring follows a more narrow line, serving to further accentuate the statuesque mutton-sleeves and kicked out bell bottoms which are focal points amongst the line up. The nonchalant draping and 'undone' styling of a handful of looks lends a languid tone for an overarching theme of understated excess.

Osman Pre-Fall 16

Ellery Pre-Fall 16

All images

With such a bold step towards the more overt and ostentatious, perhaps my flamboyant dreams will finally be realised.

Monday, 11 January 2016

Oh! You Pretty Things

As I sat writing my first piece of the day this morning, the warm and bouncy opening bars of Oh! You Pretty Things danced upon the airwaves and I felt the sort of sadness you feel physically yet you can’t explain where or how or what it really is. That odd lurch when your perspective shifts in an instant. The weird and intangible feeling when you turn the last page of a book and suddenly miss that character whose life you lived over the preceding days or weeks. You didn’t know them; they probably don’t even exist, but each night you settle into the comfortable familiarity of their voice and they take a place, however fleeting, in your life. The simple fact of not knowing someone doesn’t mean they cannot leave a hole in your life.

One of my favourite quotes about David Bowie is from Caitlin Moran’s ’10 Things Every Girl Should Know’ and it goes as follows, “In 1968, Bowie was a gay, ginger, bonk-eyed, snaggle-toothed freak walking around south London in a dress, being shouted at by thugs. Four years later, he was still exactly that – but everyone else wanted to be like him, too.”  

David Bowie didn’t change, the world changed around him. For every weirdo and outcast, for everyone who struggled with their identity, for everyone who didn’t fit the mold, Bowie represented, and continues to represent, acceptance.

Whilst someone is still here, their mere presence on this earth reinforces the changes they’ve brought; it’s still happening because they’re here to keep the flame lit. When they’re gone, in an instant it can feel like it’s all over and that their influence will become just another part of history. We worry that it will all slip away and the world will reset to the point just before they changed it all. But rather than simply forming a bittersweet memory, such impact can and does become a thread of energy we can continue to weave into the days when we’re no longer graced by their shadow.

I was born too late to experience Bowie in his glorious early days but it’s clear, not just from my own admiration and appreciation, but from the sheer span of tributes pouring in, that his appeal has no expiry date. His creativity transcends generations, permeating our collective consciousness in a way only a magical few can. Some may say ‘you’re too young to really understand’, and I get that it’s difficult to truly appreciate that wonderful frenzied feeling that only comes when someone bounds onto the scene who is everything you’ve been looking for without even knowing it. But feeling different and misunderstood is a universal experience, and the weight of Bowie’s influence truly shines through in the fact that people still feel it decades later.

Upon hearing the news, one of my first thoughts was how sad it is that my nieces and nephews didn't get to experience David Bowie whilst he was still alive. (I realise that I didn't either, to the full extent, but there's something about sharing the same planet at the same time that makes you feel more of a part of something.) But then I settled upon the comforting thought that someone so important doesn't simply stop being important after they've gone. In fact, he now becomes even more important as we scramble to preserve and document everything he ever made us feel, grappling with the fact that his creative output has become finite. We treasure it more fiercely and pass it on more freely in order to ensure it doesn't get lost or forgotten.

His body of work and his enormous influence is there for us to pull from and build upon whenever we wish. He has left more than he has taken away.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Waste Not, Wear Not

If no one sees you wear it, did you ever really wear it at all? The dilemma of a ‘wasted’ outfit is one I face daily. I mostly work from home and generally go straight to the gym once my boyfriend gets home. So, unless I have to pop out or meet someone during working hours, my outfit won’t see the light of day. It’s hard to have the will to put any effort in when the only one to set eyes on my outfit besides me is my cat.

I’ve read plenty of conflicting articles on the subject of what to wear when working from home and the opinions oscillate wildly between ‘pyjamas all day every day’, to ‘I would never start work without heels and a full face of makeup’. I’ve certainly never belonged to the latter camp. Those women look beautiful in their photographs, perched next to a MacBook in an expensive looking cashmere sweater (just look at the google image results for ‘what to wear when you work from home’ if you need confirmation) but I’ve just never have that much enthusiasm for dressing within the confines of the four walls of my office. Generally, I tend to sit somewhere in the middle; something comfortable but not quite a full, pulled together outfit.

Today, however, for the sake of argument I decided to dress as if I were heading out for the day - full make up, shirt, neck scarf and jeans. And I’ve got to hand it to those pristine google image ladies, they’re onto something. I do feel more productive, more ready for the day and more like I’m actually at work. And surprisingly, I’m not particularly bothered about no one seeing me. Although I’m definitely banking this look for another day, so it’s not truly wasted...

So, there are the clothes that are worn and then considered wasted, then on the other side of the coin there are the clothes which, in the ultimate fashion paradox, are never worn for fear of being wasted. Most of us have a dress or a jacket that we buy for a special occasion and then never wear because no occasion feels quite special enough. They languish in our wardrobes, repeatedly sidelined for safer, more reliable options; deemed ‘too good’ for every day wear. It’s a common trap that many of us fall into but why have beautiful, fun clothes in your wardrobe that will never be worn?

L Jacket: Topshop Unique, T-shirt: Golden Goose, Jeans: Alexander Wang, Shoes: Zara, Beret: Monki / R Jumper: Monki, Skirt: Topshop, Earrings: Toolally, Trainers: Adidas

I have no qualms about feeling overdressed, but for those who like to keep it a little more low key, most things (barring ball gowns and wedding dresses perhaps) can be dressed down to work for everyday wear. A luxe velvet blazer could be left to gather dust, or it could be paired with a t-shirt and jeans for the perfect fusion of dressy meets casual. A metallic pleated midi skirt may scream NYE party but, when paired with an oversized turtle neck knit and trainers, it becomes a wearable, everyday wardrobe hero.

No clothes are wasted as long as we enjoy wearing them, so let’s stop waiting for a special occasion and rekindle our relationship with those much loved, neglected pieces. And if you do wear it and no one sees it? Well, just wear it again the next day. I won’t tell if you don’t.

Monday, 4 January 2016

Fancy Pants

It's a long time since I've owned a pair of blue jeans. Something about them just screams 'normal' to me and they've never quite fit into my mix and match wardrobe. But, since denim has made a spectacular comeback thanks to the likes of Marques Almeida, it's no longer a case of skinny jeans or GTFO, and the choice has grown exponentially. We've been released from the shackles of Joni jeans and a whole new world of denim is there for us to explore.

I believe the hipster waistline is a curse from which denim should be freed (muffin top anyone?), so the high waisted fit of these raw edged, wide legged, cropped length jeans made them a winner from the start. And they go with everything. The silhouette steers them clear of boring territory, they sit on my waist, they have real pockets (I loathe fake pockets), and the length is winter appropriate with boots and summer appropriate with sandals. Yes, they are magic jeans.

I set myself a challenge of styling these magic jeans up four different ways and it turned out not to be a challenge at all. The real challenge was not tearing everything off its hanger and having a movie montage style trying on session. I felt like Marc Bolan in my fur collar, flares and snazzy boots, whereas with more pared back styling, my outfit took on a new, more sleek appeal. Who knew one pair of jeans could be so many things?

L - Jeans (throughout): ASOS, Coat: Paul Smith, Collar: Select, Turtleneck: stolen from my boyfriend years ago, Boots: Zara / R - Blazer: Topshop, Jumper & Boots: ASOS

L - Top: Zara, Necklace: Colours May Vary / R - Shirt: Handed down from my Nana, Scarf: Bella Singleton