Monthly Archives: February 2012

Is fashion a waste of time?

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As someone whose writing comfort zone rotates around lifestyle pieces and art reviews, I decided it was high time to branch out. Last week, I took the plunge into the world of fashion journalism. Thanks to the brilliant Who’s Jack magazine, I had the opportunity to report from London Fashion Week – which was an eye-opener to say the least.

Don’t get me wrong; I love clothes. About 80% of my income goes on clothes, and the other 20% on vodka and shampoo. I’m not what you would call a trendsetter though. I make an effort, I have a good eye, and I know what suits me, but I don’t have that impulsive need to trade in my year-old winter coat for a brand new one because it’s ‘so last year’. I’m far too sentimental to be a fashionista.

Designer Carlotta Actis Barone skipped down the runway after the success of her show.

I’m also more of a ‘guys’ girl’ when it comes to clothes. For some reason, when getting ready to go out, my natural reaction has always been to dress a little bit provocatively. It isn’t until I see my younger sister standing next to me in photos that I realise it’s possible to look better having your shirt buttoned to your neck and 40 denier black tights on. I’m pleased to say that as I’ve got older my dress sense has improved dramatically. I have my mum, my sister and my ex-housemate Olivia to thank for that, as well as my own tendency towards progression.

So, here’s a question I’ve often asked myself: Is fashion a complete waste of time? Obviously the concept of ‘fashion’ can be broken down, the two main components being 1) clothes and styling that make you look good and/or original and 2) clothes and styling that have recently been exhibited on a catwalk/celebrity and thus cause the pursuer to appear ‘fashionable’. I for one would satisfy the first component but not the second, and if I feel that I look good, does it matter that I’m not ‘on trend’? The answer is no, to me it doesn’t matter that I’m not wearing the latest trends all the time. What matters is looking and feeling good about the clothes you’re in. If everyone wore the latest trends all the time, or followed the same designer, clothes would lose the ability to emit any sign of a personality underneath.

Having said that, during my time at London Fashion Week, I surprised myself with how important I suddenly found every new design I saw. I became fascinated and awestruck, developing an enhanced respect for the ability to create designs that people would then be desperate to recreate. Fashion really is a form of art. The designers are all incredibly talented and deserve all of the recognition they get. To be honest, if I could afford it, I would probably become a lot more proactive as a follower of fashion. Much like if I could afford to deck my house out with original prints and photographs by my favourite artists then I would. With the position I’m in, I have no choice but to make do with displaying my own photography on the walls and wearing the same sort of clothes on a regular basis. I guess saying that fashion is really important is like saying that money is really important. Which in many ways it is, and in many ways it isn’t.

"All she wanted to do was pin the dresses to the wall so she could stare at them all day"

Maybe the real question should be, does fashion have the ability to make you happy? One of the girls I was working with, who happened to be a friend of mine from University, reluctantly wore pastel shades on the first day, because they’re meant to be big this summer. She looked good, but she looked even better the following day when she decided to wear shades that suited her complexion, and fabrics more suitable for this time of year.

In my opinion, you can look good without taking fashion too seriously. But we mustn’t forget that fashion designers have the divine right to be taken as seriously as an acclaimed artist. Fashion is about taste after all, and someone who’s able to appeal to the tastes of many, has talent.  To ignore fashion altogether would be like ignoring the cultural and historical influences on society.

For the record, every single person I spoke with during London Fashion Week was friendly, informative, willing to help, and so outwardly happy to be a part of it. I have never seen such a diverse collection of people all congregate for one cause, and was pleasantly surprised to find that it wasn’t remotely superficial or shallow.

I believe that it’s important to take pride in the way you look; it says a lot about the sort of person you are. However, you don’t have to blow your wages following the latest trends in order to do so. High fashion has an important role regardless. It generates economic growth and creates bonds with other countries and cultures. It also serves to give Britain a greater sense of identity. Fashion, like art or music, could never and will never be a waste of time. Fashion both fuels and is a product of culture, and without culture we’d all be going backwards. Fashion tells us about history, about the present and about ourselves, whether we choose to follow it or not.

Check out my London Fashion Week show reports here 

 

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Does Uni prepare you for real life?

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Whenever I ask myself this question, my initial answer is always ‘absolutely not’. As an English student, I had all of two lectures a week and spent the rest of my time pretending to read various books. The accumulative effect being that now when I’ve endured three days of solid work, I feel like it should be the weekend. I actually feel hard done by when I only get two days off a week. Two days is obviously completely normal and fair at the ripe old age of 22.

"At least she knew how to throw a good party"

I’m lying to you slightly. I’ve been doing bar work for the last six months and University life has definitely equipped me for me that. It  has taught me how to stay awake and alert at all hours and how to act like a normal person when my hangover is making me want to cry. Not only that, I’ve mastered the art of blocking out people attempting to look down on me, or bore me to sleep, and my argumentative nature is ever persistent. Mind you, at least it pays. My other ‘job’ is just like a real job, only it doesn’t pay.

Ok I’m just being plain negative now. I repeat, I’ve been doing bar work for the last six months. Well, four years actually. Meaning, I’m worn out and grouchy and bitter at the fact that I didn’t land myself the job of my dreams within hours of graduating. I’m not cut out for bar work. I’m hard working and I hate sloppiness, but I’m definitely no ‘people person’. I can’t pretend to smile, and I definitely can’t pretend to enjoy being chatted up but ‘that strange guy’ with god awful shoes.

Generic pub weirdo: ‘So are you gonna give me your number then?’

Me: ‘Hell no.’

At this point, I remember why I went to Uni. Not to get away from my home town necessarily, but to clarify what sort of person I am. In basic terms, I enjoy reading and writing, my own company, a few too many G&Ts, a good old dance and DMCs by the bucket load. It doesn’t matter that I knew that already, because now I’m 100% sure, with a sharper mind and a degree I’m insanely proud of.

As much as I dreaded the prospect of writing a dissertation, and as much as I align the university experience with late nights and budget food, the impact of successfully writing 8,000 words and receiving a good grade for it, is huge. I accomplished something I thought would get the better of me, and, not only that, I enjoyed it. I felt academic, I felt original, I felt unstoppable. I left uni feeling like this, and with an unexpected wave of grief that it was all over.

So here comes my next question, it is still worth going to University now that the costs have dramatically increased ? For me, working harder than I ever felt possible (albeit mainly in the final year) and realising my brain capacity, came from going to Uni. However, the people I shared those curious three years of my life with were an inseparable part of that experience. I honestly believe that I’ve benefited the most in terms of what I’ve learnt from the people I’ve met.  So as long as you go off and do something that challenges you, and something that forces you into new situations with new people, you don’t have to go off to University. It just so happens that uni is an obvious way of learning a lot.

There is never a moment where I could genuinely regret going to Uni. It didn’t prepare me for real life, but real life can wait…

Is it Possible to be Unique?

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Without sounding too up myself, I cannot stand the idea of being copied. It all boils down to playground politics. You had it first, she sees it on you, she gets it, they all see it on her. Whatever it is you bought becomes not a reflection of your personality, but a reminder of how hard it is to be unique. I feel for celebrities. They might have something custom made, so that is reflects their own personal image, only to find that  a week later there’s a Primark version donned by every 14-year-old girl in the country.

"I don't care what you say, I had it first"

I have a strong dislike for the word unique. It’s so overused that it can’t possibly bear any reference to what it’s supposed to mean. From a very young age we’re told that we’re all ‘unique’, that we’re all different and special. Yet when I look around today, everyone looks like a different version of the same thing. My dad went to buy a Barbour jacket the other day and I wouldn’t let him. You are not a farmer, you don’t live in the country and you are not a teenager with no sense of self. What’s worse is that the smaller the sub-culture, the more the members of it all look the same. The more people rebel against society the more they all look like each other.

Saying that, there was a girl at my school, a couple of years older than me, who would have retained her ‘look’ and essence, even if you stripped her naked and shaved her head. It wasn’t gothic, boho, punk, rocker, chav, or anything you could put your finger on. She was just different, whether she liked it or not. I envied her so much.

It has occurred to me recently that maybe it is possible to be unique, not necessarily in the way you look, but in the way you think. We’ll never fully grasp the exact way in which another person thinks to themselves, forms an opinion, remembers things, relives their dreams, carries a mental photograph, writes a poem. I bet when you think about it, you can’t really even work out how you’re thinking about it… My point is, it’s the way you think, not what you wear, that makes you who you are. The reason being, you have no control over it. If the way you think is wonderfully bizarre it will manifest itself in the way you act and the things you do. True uniqueness doesn’t come from people trying to be different, it lies within the people who can’t help being different.

Sitting down to write this blog, or write anything, I usually start off by thinking ‘how can I format this so that it’s different from everything else I’ve read?’ The truth is, being 100% different is up there with one of life’s biggest challenges. For us mere mortals, that enjoy a relatively normal life, standing out is hard work. Perhaps that’s why Lady Gaga is so successful. She’s somehow conjured up a character that is so out there, very few people can match it. Is that was it comes to then? To be unique you have to first be a bit wacky? In some ways, yes. However, to be absolutely different from everyone else, there has to be a difference in that person’s intelligence, their thoughts, and of course, the talent to carry it off. After all, there will only ever be one Michael Jackson, or Freddie Mercury, or Bob Marley, or Marilyn.

Time Waster

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Whilst I’m on the subject of time wasting, I thought I might as well share the events of my day. It was very nearly pointless, a waste, a reason to get back into bed at the soonest possible moment and groan, angrily. My day nearly got the better of me for, when I think about it, no good reason.

"When in doubt, whip the scones out"

I spent the morning  browsing the ‘New Artists from Germany’ exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery. I always try and combine exhibition dates with office hours. I’m expected to make an appearance twice a week and can often view and then review an exhibition in the same day, thus avoiding unnecessary trips to London. Like most people, I loathe the train. So, imagine my fury when I get to this office this afternoon, having travelled from Brighton to Sloane Square to London Bridge, and there’s nobody there. The doors are locked, the heating has packed in, they’ve all gone home. Naturally I’m somewhat annoyed when a text telling me not to bother coming in arrives seconds later. It’s freezing. I’m wearing a ridiculous hat and two thirds of my winter wardrobe, and I’ve lugged my laptop around a gallery for no reason whatsoever.

In the grand scheme of things, to what extent can I call my morning a waste of time? I enjoyed the exhibition, the sun continued to shine, I even bumped into an old friend at London Bridge Station. Not only that, I prefer working at home, which is exactly what I did.

My New Year’s resolution was a) to be more positive and b) to take each day as it comes. I could have easily come away from the first day of February thinking ‘what a pointless effort of traipsing around London, dressed for the Arctic, only to find that I could have gone to the exhibition, which is on until APRIL, on a day that would avoid me having to pay the £19 train fare twice…’

Instead, I chose to think, ‘I had a nice morning didn’t I? I made bloody good notes for my review didn’t I? I got a brisk walk, a brisk hug, a glimpse at some of London’s best bits, got chatted up in the coffee shop, and the chance to jot down some of my thoughts on my solitary journey home at 12:42pm. Was it really so bad that I ended up doing my work under a blanket by the fire? I even had time to make some scones afterwards and, for the record, that is something I never do. Ever.

Today was a good day, and all because I said so.