Do What You Love

I write about things that pop into my head. Prepare to be surprised daily.(ish)


Friday, 24 June 2016

Looking to the Future.

Today marked a monumental occasion. Not least because it was an unexpected decision, but because it was a day when the nation divided, and chaos reigned.

One can take many things from this outcome, what stood out to me- other than the impact that this will have on my country and future, was what this says to the rest of the world. I watched the financial market plummeting, I saw the panic and the defeat when the final results were announced. The hurt, the shame, and the grief.

This election was about so much more that just in or out. This election was about identity, it said a lot about who people were and their attitudes. This election proved to the world, and to the British people what they already knew, and feared about us. 

For all our patriotism, our 'pride' in multiculturalism, our aggressive acceptance of LGBT, and our silent hatred of the French, this election has proved that we let our own selfishness get the better of us and discarded basic duties to our neighbors, and the refugees. 
By abandoning our duties, we don't just look like naive inhabitants of a tiny island, we are saying that we actually don't really care what happens to the rest of the world, the risk of the collapse of the EU and the dangerous rise of Putin.

A vote to leave means that people like Farage and his despicable poster have won. His once shocking and disturbingly racist attitude towards migrants and UK independence has now become the belief of a large number of British people. 
Our smug two fingered salute to the EU and it's 'evil bureaucratic leadership' proves our simmering racism and nastiness beneath the surface. This is a victory for xenophobia, paranoia, and right-wing extremism. They have their 'Britain back', and it's ruined. 
I am deeply ashamed and embarrassed to call myself British now. We have let down the whole of Europe, and shown our true colours to the world. The countries who lit up their most famous landmarks with the British flag to show their support, now also face an uncertain period of time over the fate of the EU. 
One thing is for sure. The world is now a different place. The atmosphere is strange. Today's Britain is a very different Britain to what it was. 

I don't know what lies ahead. I'd like to think I do, but I'm as clueless and scared as everyone else. The result is decided and what needs to happen now, as we wait for the dust to settle, is to try and accept our fate and uncertain future, to try, our best to unite this divided country.

So long Europe. It won't be the same without you. 

Friday, 26 June 2015

Vogue Entry #1 Interview

The Jersey Girl: 50 years in fashion

The career of fashion designer Steffi Kester “the Jersey Girl” spanned half a century from the 1940s. I met Steffi in her stylish flat at the top of the iconic modernist Highpoint block. We sat together, overlooking the spectacular views of London. An enchanting and intriguing character, Steffi is a dignified woman in her late 80s, but her face betrayed the excitement and wonder of a young girl, eager to share her story. She had a warm, welcoming smile and I immediately relaxed in her company.

In February, the New York Times reviewed this year’s collections at London Fashion Week. They called it “the end of austerity” as designers rejected David Cameron’s call to “live within our means”.

As she looked back on her own career, Steffi remembered another “end of austerity”, as the rationing of the 1940s and the social conventions of the 1950s gave way to the plenty and freedom of the 1960s.

I would have never guessed from her refined British accent, that her story begins in  Chemnitz, Germany. In 1939, she arrived in England on the Kindertransport having narrowly fled the genocide that was about to consume six million of her people. She was a shy and frightened 12 year old, living with strangers and missing her family desperately. In sharp contrast with her settled and classically furnished apartment in London, home for Steffi as a refugee during the war consisted of 9 different addresses.

She tells me that her original love for fashion came from her father, a textile factory owner in Chemnitz. She was fascinated by the fabrics and colours and would craft small clothes for her dolls using leftover scraps. This love of design continued and she was offered a scholarship to the Birmingham School of Art.

At the age of just 17 she was taken by her teacher to see an exhibition of French Couture designers in London ‘and that’ she says ‘really sparked me off.’  

Paris has always been her inspiration. Despite the war, Steffi felt that France was very much ahead of America, ‘their work attracted me because it was sculptured, not just sewn together. The couturiers had enormously good taste and refinement which I think lifted the fashion scene for a long time afterwards.’

By an extraordinary stroke of luck, Madge Garland, the editor of British Vogue at the time was attending the same exhibition. She spotted young Steffi making sketches of the clothing, ‘Ms Garland’ Steffi describes ‘was a very elegant, charming lady. My icon.’

Madge Garland, who also worked for the department store Bourne and Hollingsworth, offered Steffi a job there immediately. So there Steffi sat, safely ensconced in a small design studio of her own, ‘I was all of 18 and in heaven’. However, with rationing still firmly in place, her resources were limited. She had to do simpler designs that would fit into government restrictions and cultural demands.

In 1948 she was offered a position in New York. For an 21 year old budding designer, New York was an urban paradise, I could see the excitement in her face as she remembered her whirlwind trip as a wide-eyed young girl. ‘In America there was everything... interesting novelties of all kinds which in England you wouldn't have.’

However her time there was cut short. She had to return home because her father had died. Soon afterwards, she got married and set up her own fashion label.

It was her Knitwear and Jerseywear designs which earned her the name “Jersey Girl” in the press. Her pieces were timeless. ‘I loved and still do love classic designs in good colours.’

Then the 1960’s rolled around and people started to dress in a manner which suited them, ‘that’s much more important than trying to look like somebody else.’

She remarks that 'a designer has to have eyes everywhere and their ears adapts to the time that you live in, people cannot walk around in Edwardian skirts and jump on a bus and rush off with a briefcase, the history of what is happening influences the design of almost everything’.

At the end of our meeting, she presented me with a file containing press cuttings, photographs and letters she accumulated over her extraordinary career, and urged me to take it home to look at. I sat at home studying her portfolio containing almost 50 years of work, including photographs of her timeless designs. The small green folder holds a lifetime of achievements, pride and hard work. For Steffi, the end of austerity was marked by the freedom of expression which exploded in the 1960s. We have yet to see what the end of our own era of austerity will bring to the world of fashion.

Vogue Entry #2 Social Observation

Where beauty dwells

The experience of a slum is not something one can forget in a hurry. The smells have always stayed with me - from the moment I exited my taxi and entered the thick evening humidity and shadowy paths in the slums of Chennai, India. The smells of cooking lingered in the air, along with the odour of too many people living in close proximity to each other.

I was visiting the SAVE trust which provided microfinance loans to the women of the slums to help them set up their own business. These women weren’t just given handouts - they were given the chance to keep their dignity. The loan was an investment in them and in their future. It was hoped that these women would be able to earn enough money to send their children to school and provide for their families.

The rains had come earlier in the day. The ground and its contents had been churned up by the monsoon, and debris and litter were swept up with it. I could feel the excitement and anticipation of the residents. With Western clothing I have never felt so out of place, surrounded by brightly coloured sarees. As I walked deeper into the slum, a gaggle of children followed me, eager to high-five and touch my clothes. There was such a vast distinction between the beauty of the woman's clothing and the appalling conditions around them.

More people came out of their homes to see the spectacle of a western female. I was met with curious stares from faces deeply grooved with hardship as their eyes met mine. As I picked my way through the alleys glanced into their homes which were built quickly from anything that could be found in the littered streets of Chennai. A strange orange glow of candlelight illuminated some of the homes, whilst others remained dark, dank and sparsely furnished.

The centre of the slum was strewn with charred wood and blankets of corrugated iron. This area had been destroyed by a recent fire. One of the women pointed to a pile of rubble, “this was my house” she said. For people with so little to start with, to have their fragile homes so easily disappear, was an inconceivable tragedy to me.
I saw people living with the bare minimum, and was struck by the huge contrast between our lives, and how much unnecessary stuff we own.

In John Steinbeck’s autobiographical ‘Travels with Charley’, he tells his worker to go to the shop to buy more paint. The decorator insists on changing his paint-splattered clothing first. Steinbeck told him to go as he was -  the proud worker retorted ‘You gotta be awful rich to dress as bad as you do’. This struck a chord with me.

In our materialistic society where everything we need is at arms’ reach, the concept of our ability to ‘look poor’ really resounded with me. On my visit to India, I was struck by the beauty of everything, the intricate designs of the fabric and the jewellery, and the effort people made to inject beauty into their everyday lives, from decorating their rickshaws to adding fresh flowers to their hair. I sometimes think back to my appearance in the slums; a t-shirt and shorts must have seemed so offensive to people. They had made such an enormous effort to welcome us, many of them had made an effort with their clothing, hair and jewellery.

‘You gotta be awful rich to dress as bad as you do’... That’s what I did. They, on the other hand, had to go to great lengths to present themselves well the whole time, because apparently it is fine for a rich person to dress as a poor man, but for a poor man to walk out in poor clothes is somehow not.

Despite many of the women’s desperately poor conditions, I could see the extraordinary efforts they put into having beauty in their lives, even at their darkest and most wretched times. Just like the smallest amount of money in the microfinance program can raise them out of poverty, so too the smallest amount of beauty can lift them, even for a brief moment, out of the darkness.

Should we reconsider our perception of beauty? Does it always have to be that product, that celebrity? We can learn a huge amount from those women, not just about empowerment, but the ability to create beauty among adversity and suffering.

I won’t forget that small slum on the side of a motorway. Not just because it was such a stark contrast to anything I had ever seen or experienced, but the community there changed my perception. They used what little they had, and made it beautiful.

Vogue Entry #3 Pitches For Ideas

Fashion on wheels
I have always been an avid cyclist and have wondered what can be done to make cycling more fashionable for women. I cannot help but notice that there are more and more brave souls taking to the fume infused streets of London as opposed to the subterranean commute. Cycling has traditionally been a mans’ sport, however with the rise in women now cycling to work, and the good weather finally making an appearance there is no better time to do a feature on cycling fashion. Whether it is of the top picks for cycling gear, helmets or shoes, to multi-purpose garments that can be worn on a bike or in the office. America is far ahead of us with companies like Betabrand providing just that. I want to find a way of minimising the time taken to change an entire outfit, for people with a busy schedule. Cycling gear for women doesn’t always have to be neon lycra.

Bend down boutiques
A lot has been written about our cheap and disposable clothing culture. We buy to throw away and don’t give a second thought as to where the clothing we ‘donate’ actually goes to. After our sack of clothing is delivered to our local Oxfam, often the clothing ends up in the markets of a sub-saharan country. In the UK more than 70% of reused clothing gets sent abroad - that is a staggering 350,000 tonnes. Demand is rising for  ‘bend down boutiques’, this is as it describes, people bending down to look through giant bins of clothing. Locals call this fashion “white man’s deads”.This mass import of our unwanted clothing is killing the local clothing industry. Demand for locally produced clothing in traditional designs and textiles has plummeted. Our clothing is manufactured in the world’s poorest countries and when we, in the rich West have finished with them - we ship them over to other poor countries. Where they are placed in giant black bins, with someone bending over it sorting through the rags from the riches.
There is so much that goes on after our bin bag has been dropped off outside Oxfam.

Mix and Match Makeup

Our society is fasted paced and demanding, each person needs to be somewhere quicker than the last. With smaller handbags for S/S15, makeup bags bursting at the seams just won't cut it. Not only do people wear less makeup during the Spring and Summer, there is also more travel. I think a feature on multi purpose beauty products will be received with open arms. There has been a huge market for multi purpose products with brands like Charlotte Tilbury and NARS leading the way with the Film Stars On The Go, and the Matt Multiples, High Street brands are also snapping up this opportunity for extra sales, so a guide on this will be welcomed by puzzled customers. This feature could, not only include what is available on the market, but also what could be used at home, for example, lipsticks as blusher, and brown eyeshadows as bronzers.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Lunching at Vogue

A thick cream envelope replete with a large Vogue logo plopped through the door on the 28th May. I knew what it was, and it had finally arrived.

I had entered the Vogue Talent Contest in April, as a what I call 'outlet from revision' when in fact I desperately didn't want to be revising ox-bow lakes. 

I was required to write an Interview, a Social Observation piece and three Pitches for ideas suitable for Vogue. I managed to write them before the proper revision started- after the Easter holidays. 
They were sent off with a rather unattractive head shot of me and my contact details.

Now it's May and with half closed eyes I opened the envelope. 

"I'm delighted to announce that you have been shortlisted for the Vogue Talent Contest 2015." 
An audible gasp erupted, and the cat scuttled away. I then proceeded to read the rest of the letter, inviting me to a lunch at the Vogue House in Hanover Square. 
"Yours sincerely, Alexandra Shulman, Editor-in-chief" signed with a flourishing signature that only the best career women can master.
My mother exclaimed: "Ooo we must go shopping"
Many shaky excited phone calls later, and it was time to head back into reality, finish my GCSE's and sort out my summer holiday.

Top- Reiss
Skirt- Karen Millen
Bag- Mango
Shoes- Schuh

Fast forward to June, outfit bought, research done. I was due at Vogue at 12:45, on the 24th June. I pottered around the house fretting, butterflies in my stomach and trying to perfect my eyeliner with extraordinarily shaky hands. 

I arrived in Hanover Square, took the compulsory outside Vogue picture and headed through the alarmingly fast revolving door. 

I was greeted with a smile and a name badge and joined the rest of the finalists on a red leather bench- very Vogue... darling.

After a brief chat with a girl sitting next to me, Elizabeth White- Frances Bentley (the Managing Editor's) assistant came and told us that the editors were ready and waiting upstairs excited to meet us all. Cue more butterflies. 

We were lead up a flight of stairs and into a cream coloured room with black and white photos lining the walls, and there they all were. Smiling and resplendent with name badges.
Champagne was being circulated- quickly plucked from the tray by a very nervous me. 
They were just all so lovely. Smiling and welcoming and I eased immediately in their company, conversation flowed smoothly and, thankfully, there were no spillages on my part. I spoke to Hannah Rothschild and we immediately hit it off, I spoke to her about my interview with Steffi, and she seemed fascinated by her story. 

We were then invited into the dining room, this was a similar room, with large windows, and beautiful black and white photos lining the room, there was a large oak table in the centre set immaculately with glasses, silver cutlery, and place cards with our names in calligraphy.

When we were all seated Alexandra Shulman spoke about the competition, how far we have come and what an achievement this was. She told us that our table manners and conversational skills wouldn't be judged- I could almost hear the collective sign of relief. 

I was seated next to Sarah Harris the Fashion Features Director, who was at the head of the table. Sarah is strikingly beautiful, with sharp features and beautiful long silver hair. 

She was dressed immaculately in a grey tee and sharp black blazer thrown over her shoulders. 
We chatted over our first course about all sorts, how she got to her position, my trip to India, and what I thought about the way the women dressed, and the beautiful patterns, colours and fabrics they wore. 
Later in the conversation she remarked- "you were born in 1999... but that was like yesterday, that must mean that I started working here when you were four!" she was easy company, friendly, witty, sharp and intelligent.

Then our plates were cleared away and Sarah Harris was replaced with Alexandra Shulman dressed in a black, white and grey checked dress, which, as one of the finalists noticed matched the chairs. 

Alexandra was all that I imagined and more, she had read my pieces thoroughly and we spoke about politics, the recent election and our horror at the Conservative majority, however, she remarked, a Conservative majority would be great for the magazine. 
We conversed about the Western fashion culture where clothes are becoming cheaper and cheaper - the way they are produced in Bangladesh - how we assuage our guilt by donating our discarded clothes to charity shops, which are then sold onto African street markets - we   are unaware of the damaging impact this has on the African textile industry.

Hannah, who was sitting next to me leaned in mid conversation and took me rather by surprise when she asked me who my favourite painters were, (Rembrandt because of his use of light and Hockney for his use of colour if I remember correctly) because she was talking about art with another finalist. She also asked me about Literature and my favourite writers (John Steinbeck and Ira Levin). 

We then got chatting again, talking about education, literature, and all sorts.
Conversation flowed, and food was finished, then before long the editors moved on, and Alexandra Shulman was replaced with Emily Sheffield, the Deputy Editor. We spoke over a divine coffee ice cream (with little chocolate flakes- best part) and fruit, I talked to her about school, the education system and how it desperately needs changing and re-evaluating, her job and my love of theatre. She was sharp clever and intimidating, in a good way, she challenged and pushed me further in conversation. 

Then the lunch was finished, the coffee drank, and plates cleared away. We were invited on to the roof (oh yes) to have our picture taken as a group, which will be featured in October's issue. 

Individual shots were then taken which allowed me to talk more with the other finalists and ask them about what they wrote. They were warm, lovely and a great laugh. One girl had flown in from Helsinki, another was studying at Harvard. I, however was the baby of the group at just 16. Most of them were in their 20's.

We were invited on a non-compulsory tour of the offices (as if anyone would say no) which was fascinating. 

Rails of clothes lined the narrow hallways, and we entered into a large open-plan office, with people typing away into that all familiar Vogue page layout. Different issues of the magazine were scattered everywhere, and hundreds of mismatched photographs and keepsakes lined the walls. 
The editors were all quick and eager to answer questions and describe their role and how they ended up in their position. 
One of the women in the beauty department described herself as "a skincare whore". The trend spotting department kept laughing and exclaimed, "we're normally much better at this- gosh you must be wondering what we've been smoking" (nothing I can assure you, nothing). 

The tour was fascinating and informative, I got to see just how many people, and how much work goes into one issue. They were also very excitedly planning their centenary celebrations and their massive issue to mark the occasion. 

There was not even a whiff of Devil Wears Pradaness about it. The girls were happy, fun and quick to help or answer questions and it seemed like such a great environment to work in. 

Finally, we were taken to see the library and archive where they bind and keep every issue of any Conde Nast publications since 1950. The first ever Vogue however is kept in a vault in the basement, much to our disappointment.

I floated out of the building in a relative state of shock immediately walked the wrong way to the tube station, with two other of the finalists. After rectifying our inadvertence, we chatted about our pieces, the experience and where we were from.

It was such an honour and rare opportunity to see behind the closed doors, and to see just how much work and time that is spent on the magazine. 

It was a privilege to meet Alexandra Shulman, Hannah Rothschild, Sarah Harris and all the other editors, women I look up to and admire.
I was lucky to have the chance to talk to them in depth about many different subjects, learned a huge amount, and was given valuable pieces of advice and humbling compliments, and regardless of the outcome I will treasure this experience. 

I am yet to hear the result of the competition but will keep you updated via my social media below, and I'll post my three pieces up shortly.

Today's quote: "A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others." -Ayn Rand

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Why We Need To Stop Worrying And Learn To Love Immigrants

For those of you who didn't catch my reference to the film Dr Strangelove in the title, I want to talk about immigration. I know heavy stuff. 
I just want to share my thoughts on the subject, after all, it's my space to write about my thoughts and passions, and my blog description does say that I write about things that pop into my head.

This is a tetchy subject, particularly in light of the recent election where the main focus really, was immigration, but I want to talk about our attitude particularly in England. 

An article I recently came across gave me the idea for this post.

I don't understand this flagrant dismissal of people fleeing war zones, rape, abuse and conditions we cannot begin to imagine. 

These people are desperate and yet the first thought of our average Joe, is that Kos had become “disgusting” and that “It’s really dirty and messy here now,”  “And it’s awkward. I'm not going to sit in a restaurant with people watching you.”

We have a duty, as humans, to care for one another, to help each other when times are tough, and yet, people just complain, putting themselves before the people who need help the most because they're an inconvenience, or a strain on our resources and economy. 

We need to stop bowing to societal peer pressure and everyone's attitudes to the migrants drowning: Oh boohoo look at all those poor immigrants drowning in the Mediterranean, lets put them in a shelter for a bit and then send them back to where they came from. 

No. We need to address the problems in the countries themselves, we need to stop the traffickers, and the drug dealers and fix their messed up systems of welfare and police forces, we need to stop the bribery and the pure exploitation of people and their families. 

We need to protect their homes, so that these death trap boats aren't even an option any more. It's not enough to send money to these countries. We need to fix the problems deeply embedded into their societies. 

Does this post have a purpose, a resounding end. I don't know. I just wanted to show you my view on this subject. I wanted to give you the side of the story of a girl sitting and watching the stories unfurl in the media, and her horror at the attitudes of people around her, friends that believe that people should vote for UKIP because 'there are too many immigrants that are stealing are jobs'- oh what, cleaning our drains, collecting our rubbish?  

'Send them to Russia- there's loads of room there.' No comment. 

I do understand the problem that England is facing with illegal immigrants. It's problem I know, but UKIP is definitely not the answer, but this post is not an attack on UKIP- well, because there's not much point, and plus this post would be hella long.

I think we need to stop being grumpy, xenophobic Brits and stop treating these migrants as just another strain on the countries resources. 
Start thinking of them as people like us, with thoughts feelings, families, friends, lives and loves. People trying to escape from unimaginable conditions desperate to start afresh. 

I want a future for my children where people stop treating migrants as a problem they need to be rid of. Where people don't know the meaning of xenophobia- let alone how to pronounce it. Of course we must have immigration laws and border control, but just don't be like those British tourists complaining about migrants blocking their sun.

Please let me know in the comments what you think- I'd love to hear your opinions! 

Today's quote: 'There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up.”- John Holmes

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

She's Back!

Picture curtesy of Pam Hogeweide via Google images

Aaah, how I have sorely missed my little corner of the internet. It has been a while! However I am back as promised with a very very long list of exciting posts and plans for my little blog in a mismatched jumble on my phone- so stay tuned as hopefully I'll start to post everyday.
Don't forget to keep up to date on all my social media which I will leave below, but for now, all there is too say is that, man, it's good to back.

Today's quote: 'You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.' -C. S. Lewis curtesy