Friday, 25 May 2012

Cut the crap

A few things have happened recently that have made me re-evaluate what I think about blogs and blogging. Some of them personal, some of them observed from afar, some of it prompted by Fashion Editor At Large's post on “blogger style” (excuse me while I choke on my own vomit) and more importantly Jen's excellent post with the ensuing comment debate.

I am a blogger and I read blogs so I guess that makes me biased, but here we go... As far as I can see, digital is the future, but that doesn't necessarily mean bloggers, or at least the current crop, are. There is no reason for those already involved in print publishing not to move online (in fact surely most have, right?). As technology gets both highly sophisticated and ever more ubiquitous I just can't see how mainstream magazines will survive. I'm not talking about today, or next year, but maybe in the next five to ten years I think the way we consume information will be revolutionised (further than the burgeoning internet has already taken us). In many ways this should democratise information and artistic content. Anybody with a talent can write an article or create an image to post online. You don't need to go to university to study some vocational course or have the relevant work experience. Eventually the cream should rise to the top, one might hope.

At the heart of it, I think this is what frightened some print journalists at the beginning – that essentially all their hard work studying to do what they do has become unnecessary. If you are truly intelligent and creative (and that's a big IF, IMO), you can do things you haven't studied before. That's why physicists can go straight into banking with no knowledge of economics (a pseudo science at the best of times), and history or classics graduates often end up writing about, I don't know, gardening or travel. My friend quit her masters in human rights law to become a music journalist. In a meritocratic society (ha!) it's not about how hard you've worked to get there, it's about who can do the job better. That's the theory anyway...

But at the moment some of the loudest voices I hear bigging themselves and blogging up are just talking crap. Bloggers are not as all-powerful as they claim to be. For a start, many of them seem to inflate their readership massively (as can be seen quite obviously by combining their Alexa and Google page rankings with numbers of comments etc). They want brands to take them as seriously as an editor from a major print/digital magazine when their influence is patently smaller. Of course some blogs have viewing figures that dwarf the circulation of mid-size magazine but those guys usually aren't the ones making a song and dance about it. I love coming across new bloggers on my internet wanderings with thousands of followers and hundreds of comments, but whose sites I only happen upon by chance because they choose not to pimp themselves out on other social media platforms. This might sound a bit rich coming from me, a confessed Twitter addict, but I genuinely love meeting new people online who share my interests. Believe me, I don't meet that many of them in my day job! I'm not on Twitter to become a celebrity; if I were I wouldn't post so many damned photos of my dinner or drunk and embarrassing personal stories on there.

I find the idea that bloggers are sooo influential as well kind of hard to swallow when I speak to most of my non-fashion friends. These are people who still like to look nice and buy clothes but most of them are not the slightest bit interested in what a blogger is wearing. They don't even look at blogs. When you hang out with fashion industry people your whole opinion of what's in, who's a celebrity and what people do on a day-to-day basis becomes skewed. You really do lose touch with reality. Now I, for one, love living in a cuckoo fantasy world but when making business decisions I think it might be a bit smarter to look at what real-world people are doing and not your closest associates. And maybe listen a little bit less to what the loud-mouths are saying about themselves. There's a thought.

I think maybe my message has got garbled a bit in this spontaneous rant but basically my point is this: stop talking bullshit about yourselves.  

Tomorrow normal service will resume with photos of me staring at the camera with my 'Queen of Hearts' face, as one kind reader has dubbed it.  But I've been feeling quite disillusioned recently so you can probably expect another diatribe at some point in the future.  I might even talk about something other than fashion if you're really unlucky.


P.S. Thanks, Jen, for inspiring me to blog my mind.  

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Summer snip

Don't worry (or get excited?), I haven't opted for a summertime circumcision - I've always thought genital cosmetic surgery is more of a winter pastime - just had my locks shorn to keep it cool in the warm months week ahead.  I asked Zara at Taylor Taylor to cut me in a defined parting, or 'shed' as Mother likes to call it, for a preppier look.  Ivy League hair works ever so well when you're carrying a shearling handbag and dip-tipping your nails in Chanel polish.  It's quite voluminous at the moment (Zara likes her mousse) but I'm thinking of investing in some Brylcreem and smeeeaarring it flat onto my head.  I want to look like I've just been drafted into the Air Force.  

Talking about personal grooming, I'm pleased to announce the winner of my Zirh competition with Tesco Direct is Hugh!  Newly named toucan Penelope Myles congratulates you on your new skincare regimen.  

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Fashion Fringe 2012

A couple of weeks ago I received an intriguing invitation to meet the finalists of this year's Fashion Fringe competition at a reception in Horseferry House, worldwide home of Burberry.  It was all a little odd because I didn't see the event listed in the usual places and I didn't hear any chatter on Twitter.  Turns out they didn't invite that many people so when I arrived yesterday evening, escorted from the lift by my personal security guard, I found only four or five familiar faces in the crowd of around forty (I'm not counting Colin McDowell and Hilary Alexander among my personal "friends" here...).  Still don't know quite why I made the hallowed list of invitees but who's going to say no to a champagne reception with one dashing Mr Christopher Bailey? Swoon much.

The three finalists, chosen from ten, were Finnish Teija Eilola, Chinese Haizhen Wang and London-born Vita Gottlieb.  I don't know that much about the designers other than what has been provided by Fashion Fringe but these three will get to show full collections as part of a runway competition during Fashion Week in September, after which one will be chosen to receive the prize of financial support, mentoring, a studio space at Somerset House and a catwalk show the following fashion week.  Teija doesn't seem to have a website up and running yet but I borrowed a few images from Haizhen and Vita's websites below.  While Vita's work isn't typically 'me', I can tell the judges will be impressed by her textile design (she has been producing interiors since graduating with her MA in Fine Art) and the complexity of her construction.  Haizhen's designs are definitely much more my own style - if I were a girl I'd love wear those dark and draped dresses.  Maybe he'll let me borrow one of the hats? 

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Solar flare

"The sun has got his hat on, hip-hip-hip-hooray! The sun has got his hat on and he's coming out today..." 

God, I hated that song. I had a primary teacher (at Burnside - what's the world coming to when the head teacher has her own blog??) who used to force us to sing it every year and I always detested the childish lyrics.  Well, until I looked them up five minutes ago and discovered it's exceedingly appropriate nowadays.

Annnyywaayy London seems to be bathing in sunlight for the foreseeable future, i.e. until the weekend starts, the yobbos have changed into their t-shirt-flip-flop combos and it's time for Duck to get his bling on.  Thankfully I returned the ghastly Marni x HM shirt I bought online and used the money to buy bit of real Marni sparkle from Bicester Village.  I think I might be over these high/low collaborations, the fabric quality always lets them down and I do like being able to touch my own clothes without gagging.  I usually find the quality is lower than the store's own usual gear - I guess they have to spend more on printing, etc?  Let's do the math, as they say: 

Bicester 60% + special 10% discount + £50 gift voucher = HM prices

Some of the glass (plastic) spheres are filled with what looks like chunks of pyrite and the other metallic balls are so highly polished you can spy my own reflection in them.  I'm going to go stand in front of the gold building next door and dazzle the traffic until an ice-cream truck crashes and spills its delicious contents onto the road for me.  Or until I get stabbed by one of the Queen's Park gangs for, you know, wearing women's accessories in the street.  


Monday, 21 May 2012

Weekend in review: 'Name That Toucan'

We all know I'm an accessories fiend, hoovering up the ridiculous and the inappropriate in my ongoing quest to make myself look like the most fabulous bag lady in town.  I have necklaces with jewels, spikes and jingle bells, rings cast from gothic animal skulls and bags made of green fur, two-tone jelly and inside-out neoprene.  Even when I was a teenager I was obsessed with wearing a set of vintage rings I bought in a market in Moscow.  I used to think they had magical powers (to repel 'straight-acting' men, do doubt).  But what I didn't have, until this weekend, was a comedy umbrella head.  I did have a fabulous long umbrella I bought when I was studying in Munich but that was carried away by the naughty, drunken fairies the night of our last family gathering.  Either that or my taxi driver stole it, the bastard.

A Twitter poll suggested I go to James Smith and Sons to find a replacement and, with recommendations from the likes of Amro and Hugh, I could hardly refuse.  The company has been making brollies since 1830 and the gorgeous traditional store front on New Oxford Street hasn't changed for 140 years.  Sadly they have a no-photography policy so you'll just have to believe me when I say you need to visit this place.  Apart from the exquisite wooden décor - why don't they design shops/anything to last any more? - James Smith has an amazingly wide selection of umbrellas in all sorts of sizes and shapes...  I was tempted by the solid wood/cane options but all coming in over the £200 mark they were completely unrealistic.  Then I set eyes on this, my sweet, darling toucan.  The bird head is cast in resin while the rest of the handle is maple wood; the style is 'slim-rolled London' which means it's a little bit thinner and a little bit lighter, handy for hopping on and off a double decker.  The clincher: it came in nicely below my £100 upper cap.

The only issue remaining is what to call her?  I'm leaning towards Penelope but I could be swayed by a strong argument; I'm covering my ears to Anastasia's heinous suggestions.  

Obviously it would be impossible for me to walk that far along Oxford St without a quick pop into the British Museum.  I hoped to wander through the room on Viking period (Mother is studying Scandinavian history at university just now and I need to bone up for our 'debates') but unfortunately they were under renovation and I had to make do with Iron Age/Celtic Britain.  After satisfying my curiosity about insular art and the Celtic/Roman religious fusion I gave the gift shop a good seeing-to, liberating a book on The Origins of the British.  An application of modern genetics to track the history of the British populations through the ages, this is being added to my large pile of extracurricular reading material for when the going gets tough (next up The Virgin Suicides, The World According to Garp and A History of Scandinavia: Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland [I will beat her and her polymath ways]). 

Thursday, 17 May 2012

British Designers Collective: Menswear

It's not often Twitter spurs me to do anything other than shop or eat; rather it's much more likely to be distracting me from doing whatever it is I'm really meant to be doing.  I can close my browser and put my phone on silent but those nasty microblogs (have we stopped using that term yet?) still manage to track me down via DM emails or that Ubuntu Twitter programme I've tried to switch off a hundred times but still pops up now again to inform me my latest Instagram post was #MEGACHIC and #OUTOFCONTROL.  Anyway, today is probably the first time the Twits got me doing anything productive - i.e. writing this blog post.  Everybody is talking about the launch of the menswear British Designers Collective pop-up yesterday at Bicester Village, which I attended but forgot to blog...even though I had all my images edited by bedtime last night! 

The crowd of us taking the train up to Oxfordshire's not-so-secret shopping haven was a little bit different to the womenswear launch but I still recognised a few friendly faces in Disney Roller Girl and The Very Simon GBistrotheque provided us with delicious hampers of sandwiches, bread and cheese, pâté and champagne (I promised myself I wouldn't drink at lunchtime but I may have slipped and fallen head-first into my plastic glass).  A little bit more vegetarian food might have been nice but beggars can't be choosers...  Being menswear, the designers selected for the store were obviously also slightly different.  There were staples such as E Tautz, Folk and Margaret Howell who I'm sure will sell well, but I was much more excited about bStore, James Long and Jonathan Saunders.  

I had also promised myself I wouldn't spend any money but that wish went out the window when I spotted a pink bouclé wool biker jacket, lined throughout with black satin, from James Long's AW 2011 collection.  I had seen it on the runway, loved it, and there was only one in the store, IN A FITTING SIZE.  Then James came up to me himself to tell me how fabulous I looked in it.  Fate.  If you're thinking of buying any pieces yourself I'd get up there pronto, I saw quite a lot of men clutching British Designers Collective bags on the way back to the train station... 

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Win Win

Coming home for the weekend is all about admiring Dad's orchids, taking Grandma to the supermarket, arguing about the difference between porpoises and dolphins in the back of a taxi, and the luxury of sleeping in a bed with ironed sheets. Yesterday morning, on the train up, I finally made a major breakthrough with my research which should mean I get to move onto something more interesting and actually writing my papers/thesis. We celebrated with a trip to Zaha Hadid's Riverside Museum to see Glasgow's old transport modes (although our family's own motorbike and side-car must currently be in their storage facility).  Our verdict on the museum: nice roof, poor organisation, the cars are so high up on the wall they can barely be seen and why exactly do museum panels now have to be worded for five-year-olds? Anyway, a glass of prosecco at The Urban and a pizza at our local finished the evening off nicely. Tonight we're going to experiment with a trip to The Bungo – none of us have been there yet despite it opening quite a while ago.

Today is also the day to announce the winners of my Scandinavian give-away. Everything was done very scientifically using an online random number generator to assign the winners of a crate of Rekorderlig cider each: Amy, Shini, Justyna, John and David. In addition, John has won the Rascals' gilet and David the Won Hundred sweatshirt! Moomin sends his congratulations to everybody. 

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Scandinavian give-away

In honour of all things Scandinavian, I have teamed up with Rekorderlig cider (Sweden), Rascals' (Denmark) and Won Hundred (Sweden) to bring you an exciting give-away!  This is the first proper give-away I've done (apart from the Comme competition) so I thought I should make it a bumper one.  I have five cases (8 bottles each) of Rekorderlig's new mango-raspberry cider to send out to five lucky winners.  Two of those will also win one of either an army-green Rascals' quilted gilet (size L) from their A/W collection or a yellow Won Hundred sweatshirt (size M) from S/S.  Unfortunately loveable Moomins could not be included at this time.

To enter the competition make sure you like Rekorderlig's, Rascals' or Won Hundred's Facebook pages [OR their Twitter accounts] and leave a comment below including your email address in the Disqus field.  No obligation to like my page on Facebook but you can if you want to...  Unfortunately, because of the alcohol content, you have to be 18 or over* and resident in the UK to enter this competition.  Let me know in your comment if you'd prefer the gilet or the sweatshirt!       

Monday, 7 May 2012

Antwerp II

I'm at a really stressful point in my DPhil right now where I just have to get something working and it's taking much more time than I had hoped.  I'm basically working on code every single day until my brain is fried and all I can do is watch Great British Menu repeats while flicking through photos of happier times.  In one of my brain-fry moments this weekend I took some time to mess around with the GIMP (no laughing please, we're adults), figuring out different colouring techniques as well as things you can do with layers and layer masks.  It's a pain not having access to Photoshop which has all the helpful online guides, but that's the price I pay for having a laptop where I can really program my maths efficiently.  Linux has its ups and down.  Anyway, here we have some disfigured images from my trip to Antwerp that haven't seen the light of day yet.  Matthew, Charlie and Lexxi in all their technicolor glory.   

Saturday, 5 May 2012

MVIO: Han Sang Hyuk

I love the blogosphere.  Apart from facilitating the expansion of my friendship group (beyond Anna) to include others with the same obsession as me, it has opened up my spending habits to fresh designers from all over the world.  Like Korean brand MVIO as designed by Han Sang Hyuk, whose A/W 2012 collection was recently posted online by Diane Pernet.  In many ways, Korea seems to be the new Japan of the fashion world - a country generating large numbers of talented, modern designers but keeping much of that talent at home.  Only a few brands from the Far East make it onto the European or American markets but I might just hope that MVIO will make the jump, at least to stores like the LN-CC or boutiques listed on Farfetch, if they aren't going to come to Paris to show their wares.  I like the quirky fusion of men's tailoring and biker gear in this collection, as well as the comic pseudo-Céline styling of the strong jacket over the shoulders.  Apparently some of MVIO's collections have been a bit wackier - they sent 'a 7 foot tall headless model riding a motorized Segway down the runway' (see here) - but this subtle twist on traditional clothing is what's working for me.  I'd really love to get my hands on one of the jackets or the suit in the third image.  The only problem would probably be the sizing; in Tokyo I had to buy an XL belt in an emergency, and even then I could only close it on the last hole.  The shame of it... 


Thursday, 3 May 2012

Do you like my brogue?

[I want to predicate this post by stating that I am not being paid or gifted anything by Dr Martens, the gushing you are about to read is 100% genuine.]

I bought a pair of black Dr Martens brogues on the internet last year.  You may have seen them around, most likely because I've been wearing them in every single outfit post since then.  This would be for three main reasons:
  1. They look good.  Chunky and rugged but old-fashion and polished, they have a stacked sole which makes me look even taller than I already am.   
  2. They are incredibly hard-wearing. Days of wandering London's dirty streets, nights of dancing at parties and they are still standing strong.  There is barely a crease or scratch to be seen.  A quick slick of shoe polish and they look brand new again.
  3. They are my comfiest "smart shoes".  The thick outer leather is a little stiff at first and requires breaking in, but once they've softened up they are more comfortable than my Converse.  Nine times out of ten I'm going to opt for the brogues over the Prada creepers just for the comfort factor.  If I really want to make a statement, then the Pradas win out. 
Now, I have recently been looking for a new "evening shoe".  Something that I keep in the closet for special occasions and whip out to add some spice to an otherwise simple evening outfit.  I was lusting after some new season Pradas and Raf Simons but really, I just can't afford that right now.  So I was wandering in Liberty the other week, the remainder of my birthday money and a £30-off voucher burning a hole in my pocket, when I saw these: my black Dr Martens brogues, but updated with a snakeskin insert.  I highly doubt it's real snakeskin given the price, more than likely patterned leather, but still.  I had to get them.  If you still don't understand why, see points 1-3 above.  In.  Love.  

So now you'll be able to figure out the time of day I take my outfit shots.  Daytime if it's the all-black brogues, evening if it's the snakeskin hybrid.