What to do with old craft projects

I have enough yarn to clad an acrylic sheep. Well, had enough.

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It’s like a patchwork Christmas

Spring cleaning, along with plans to move house, had me clearing through boxes that have been unopened for four years and through at least as many moves. It struck me as inefficient, to use the wording of my favourite Borg (I’ve been watching Star Trek, it’s surprisingly inspiring), to carry these bags and boxes of miscellaneous craft products from place to place if I’m never going to use them.

So I threw them away.

Well, some of them. Not without a heavy dose of nostalgia at the project I started when I was seventeen. And not without a heavy dose of guilt as I hate throwing things into the bin, but you can’t recycle odd ends of acrylic yarn. I did check.

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Living in London, where space is a premium, it’s a luxury to keep hold of things you don’t regularly use. But though I often take a bag of clothes to charity shops, this the first time I’ve done a big clear out of things I’ve made. It’s an odd feeling.

What do you do with old craft projects? Do you keep them and look back at a portfolio of all the work you’ve made? Or are similarly ruthless?

 

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Good bye cardigan

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Burberry AW18 Show Review

Starting with a tense, almost creepy moving light display and ending with rainbow lasers, Burberry’s AW18/19 show covered all the emotions of someone leaving an institution they’ve been part of for so long. Trepidation, nostalgia but ultimately excitement for the future – they were all there in the spectacle that was Christopher Bailey’s last show for Burberry.

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The clothes themselves referenced past collections (remember that aviator jacket?) but also showed how far Burberry has moved as a brand since Bailey took the helm. The heavily street wear inspired pieces aren’t designed for the same clientele that buy the classic trench coat. Oversized hoodies are meant for a younger market, an almost cult following. The Nova check tracksuit had inserts of a floral pattern that wouldn’t look out of place on your grandmother’s sofa. But hey, when a model wears it down a catwalk, somehow it becomes…cool?

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Recontextualisation is a key theme in this collection. Snap back caps which used to be a hallmark of a chav have been appropriated by the fashion conscious youth. Pieces from the 80’s and 90’s gain an ironic sense of cool in the same way a vintage B-movie might.

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When a show focuses so much on the past, it’s hard to know where it’s future lies – especially as his successor is still unknown. But one thing is for certain, Bailey went out with a bang.

Designer Crib Sheet: Dior

Dior’s autobiography begins, “I am convinced my finest memories are still to come.” The book was published in 1957. In 1958, Christian Dior died of a heart attack, ending the career of one of the most revolutionary designers in the twentieth century after only eleven years.

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His first collection set the bar for a career that would rise like hemlines a decade later. Christened the ‘New Look’ by then-editor of Harper’s Bazaar, Carmel Snow, the Corolle collection was an exaggeration of a silhouette that had been developing since the end of World War 2. Dior himself admits it was a reaction against the utilitarian fashion of the time. Whilst Balmain presented a collection with small waists and big skirts in 1945, it is Dior’s New Look that we remember.

Subsequent collection turned the silhouette on its head and inside out. Spring 1955 saw the A-line, with narrow shoulders and wide skirts. Fall 1955 showed the opposite – Vogue called the Y line ‘Bulk against slimness’.

 

He shook up more than just the clothes. Dior introduced stockings and other small goods at a lower price point, allowing more people to buy into the Dior name, effectively inventing the practice of licensing. He is also a strong example for how important the press is within fashion. Compared to other designers of his era, Dior was known for courting publicity. This may be why his brand endured, whereas Balenciaga, though hailed as the greatest couturier by his contemporaries (Dior called him the master of all, even Chanel regarded him highly), is less well-known today. Dior already had the modern principles that allowed his brand to flourish today, and had the timing to create a collection that has secured him a place in history.

 

Happy New Hair!

New Year’s Eve. A time to reflect on the passing year, on all the things done, learnt and experienced over the past 12 months. Compared to last year, when I was traveling, I’ve done quite little… except dye my hair.

I mean yes, there was a job, a couple of short internships. I worked backstage for a LFW show again, dressed trunk shows for Valentino and was a wardrobe mistress’ assistant. But the biggest change and most regular, had to be my hair.

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January started with almost-natural hair, the result of traveling and letting it grow out. That wouldn’t last. In February, missing darkness around my face I went back to black, a colour I’ve toyed with since I was able to dye my own hair.

It felt too dark though. I’m no longer eighteen – gothic black didn’t suit me any more. So after an undercut (which I loved) I asked a hairdresser the impossible. Could she take me blonde?

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She could. In the first salon session, lasting seven hours, she lifted the black dye out of my hair and took it to a dark honey blonde. As the first time with light hair, it felt very weird, like I was a different person. I think a hair colour can change how you see yourself, and therefore how you act. Blonde me was more sociable, another big change, although when I took it lighter again in July to a white blonde, I felt a bit more normal. White blonde was unnatural and took a lot of upkeep, but it was almost alternative. Though at the opposite end of the colour spectrum, it had the comfort of being as unusual as black.

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Other perks of white hair? It’s easy to paint pastels on top. I tried purple, then turquoise underneath, then split my head in half with pink and purple. I can only find a photo with purple – no colour lasted long.

By October light hair was starting to feel wrong. Winter is a time for darkness, which prompted an impulsive self-dyeing in red. So impulsive that I only bought one bottle. I had red roots and pink hair for almost a month before doing the ends in what I thought was a temporary blue.

So temporary that I still can’t cover it. I’ll be greeting the New Year with brown hair, though the undertones of blue and red are showing through, in the same way that what happened last year will have an effect on the coming year. How you choose to deal with it is what will make the difference. I hope you can all make the changes you want to and continue with the things you like. Happy New Year!

Harlequin Sundays

What to do on a Sunday afternoon when you have nothing essential planned? Perhaps put the time to good use, learning a language, reading something stimulating or watching a foreign film… or painting your face.

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I will defend the practice of make up as both fun and something a little more serious. Even spiritual. Sometimes self-reflection comes from the outside (staring at my blotchy skin, I realised I haven’t been taking care of myself. Stress shows, plus I need to drink more water).

Obvious revelations aside, I decided to spend this afternoon playing with a Harley Quin look, only to discover I don’t own any eyeshadow. Luckily I own quite a lot of lipstick so blue and red was achievable after all.

20170723_194409Anyone interested in recreating this look, its a simple wing eyeliner (I use Illamasqua Precision Gel Liner and Benefit they’re real! push up liner, both of which last forever), a highlighter crayon across my cheekbones and after much deliberation, two lipsticks. One of my favourites, another Illamasqua, in Disciple for the blue-black and a (possibly fake) Lime Crime in Wicked for the red. Oh, and Illamasqua’s Eye Brow cake in Thunder. Do you think I have a favourite brand? #notanad

I also discovered the portrait features on my phone camera which are slightly scaring me. You can slim your face. Slim your face. That’s beyond airbrushing and filters, that’s sneaky Snapchat-level of alterations (you know how the puppy face gives you bigger eyes but no one really talks about that? It’s the same kind of thing. Which incidentally, there is also an option for).

 

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Not the most productive Sunday ever, but we need one day a week off right?

#FBF Jean-Paul Gaultier: Sidewalk to Catwalk

When I was at fashion college, I entertained the notion of running a blog (some things never change!). So I visited a couple of exhibitions and wrote blog posts about them, only for them to never see the light of day. Here’s an old post about the Gaultier exhibition held at the Barbican over the summer of 2014. Beware of childish hyperbole and dated references.

The most important thing I can say about this exhibition is to go and see it for yourself (too late, sorry). I sat in the sun outside the Barbican for twenty minutes trying to sum it up and I can’t.  Photographs do not do any justice to the incredible haute couture pieces on display and the story told by this exhibition. Just go and see it. For those unable to go (it finished August 25th 2014, so that’s everyone now), I can give you a sliver of my experience.

It was my first time visiting the Barbican, a dated looking building surrounded by blocks of flats in 70’s brown. But, being London, there was quite a lot of greenery and a cool fountain arrangement (literally cool – as I sat burning in the sun, the occasional drops were a welcome relief).

The exhibition opens with ‘The Odyssey’ showcasing some of Gaultier’s sailor, mermaid and religious-inspired pieces. Despite this being an identifiable part of Gaultier’s aesthetic, I recognised very few pieces – no fashion points for me. From there it lead into ‘Punk Cancan’, complete with moving catwalk, into his muses, known for being unusual. This challenging the norm is key to Gaultier’s work, something stressed by the exhibition. We all know one of his signature pieces is the corset, but for both men and women. He plays with the subversion of the masculine and feminine, with outerwear as underwear, and often appropriating symbols and recontextualising them. (Kudos to the exhibition that managed to present well-curated pieces that kept this narrative tight.)

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It’s awe-inspiring that he can take such strong ideas, often quite controversial and present them in such a fun way. You get the impression that Gaultier doesn’t take himself too seriously and yet he still produces highly-detailed and well made work, using a variety of techniques. What some may consider a joke – men in corsets and skirts, a dominatrix style bodysuit – is produced to such a high standard that it ceases to be funny and is instead just fun. Not quite normal, always extraordinary but with very real and normal roots.

Out of all the things I saw, that is the message I took away. The urban jungle section was interesting (though throws up questions of cultural appropriation), the religious iconography is impressive and the emphasis of multiple types of beauty, from Beth Ditto to Boy George is something the fashion industry needs to embrace. But it was the Boudoir section, the play with masculinity and femininity that will stay with me.

At least until the next thing grabs my attention.

A Trunkful of Valentino

After four years as a dresser, you think there isn’t anything new. You’ve done press shows and catwalks, have dressed for designers at London Fashion Week. Then an old contact books you for Valentino and you discover a completely new type of show, one reserved for the heights of fashion.

The trunk show.

Somewhere between a private viewing and a press show, a handful of clients are invited to view the collection whilst two or three models glide between them. It’s both more and less formal than a catwalk show – being that close to the garments gives clients a chance to touch or even try on clothes. The service however is very formal – faultlessly polite, unruffled with an obvious distinction between vendeuse and viewer. (Compared to being backstage at LFW, often you can’t tell you came to watch the show and who is PR.)

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My job was very similar to normal, a little calmer as time limits for getting changed weren’t so strict, but the setting was unique. The viewing took place in the furs room, at Valentino’s Old Bond Street store leaving the models to change in the temporarily repurposed offices upstairs. The seamstress table became a make up table whilst a spare rail held the new collection ready for changes.

Little surprises like this are the reason I still look for dressing jobs, even with so much experience in them. Many students (many students, the competition is fierce) do a few dressing jobs to lend credence to their CV before going on to longer term internships in the area they studied. But as someone without a degree, and not entirely sure what they want to do, jobs like this are essential in sussing out the fashion world and which career is the right path for me.

Plus who doesn’t want to spend an afternoon handling beautiful clothes?

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It Never Rains But It Pours

Last week I went from leisurely working on some illustrations to desperately trying to gather my portfolio (still at my parents house) and booking time off work for two big fashion opportunities. Oh, and trying to find a flat because my lease ran out on Monday.

I had a post planned about a side project I’m working on to build up my portfolio. Feeling inspired by the small progress I had made, I applied to be a studio assistant during fashion week. These things are competitive so it felt like a long shot but I had to try. Then, out of the blue I got an email from a stylist I worked with in September. She asked me to come and help out with a show she’s doing at the beginning of February. Mostly dressing, which I’ve done before, there would also be product sign ins and that sort of thing, all good experience for a wannabe fashionista.

Particularly one who, since university has been working full time and therefore has had limited chances to intern anywhere. I managed to squeeze in a few fashion shows, and last fashion week worked in a studio, but the opportunities are few and far between and so naturally I try to grab them whenever they come along.

Which is all very well until I received a response from my application.  They asked me to come in for an interview on Thursday which explains the mad scramble for the elusive portfolio. I don’t interview particularly well (who does?) so we’ll find out next week whether they want to take me on.

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Flashback to making my portfolio. I’ve actually lost this project somewhere, that’s how elusive it is.

 

The possibility that I might actually get it is scarier than the interview was by far. As I said, I work full time, and I booked off time to do the shows with my stylist before I got called in for the interview. Whilst I can take the time off for both (small perks of being a temp, I can take as much time off as I can afford), it doesn’t send a great message to the people I’ve been working with for the last few months, especially as I want them to hire me for real. But I also want to work in the fashion industry in the future and desperately need to start gaining relevant experience.

My Mum said, when I called her for advice, that sometimes you have to take a risk when you’re chasing your dreams and it’s down to you whether it’s worth it. Whilst there is every chance that the studio will decide I don’t have the skills or experience needed, I tried my best and hopefully, hopefully, I will have another week of studio assisting to add to my CV, as well as the week of shows with the stylist. This, to me, is definitely worth it.If I have to find a new job, or put off finding a flat, well at least I’m making progress on my dreams.

And to think, a few weeks ago I was wondering how 2017 could top last year’s adventure. Sorry America, my year is off to a flying start. Now if only I can find a place to live…

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Selfies

You’ll notice if you read through the posts made in Spain that I took a lot more selfies then. Almost every post signed off with a picture of my face.

The basic reason – I loved the way I looked then. I’d just started to lose weight, had the strongest tan my pale English skin will ever see and I had time to do my hair and make up every time I went out.

Normally I don’t care how I look. If I’m showered and my clothes are clean, that’s enough for me. In Belgium, where the locals wore very little make up, I got out of the habit of doing my own regularly.  And with it, the habit of taking regular selfies also fell by the wayside.

The thing is, taking selfies was an extra motivation to put that effort in. I’d decided to sign off each blog post with one so  I knew I’d need to take a photo of myself at some point. I did my make up and looked for interesting backdrops and the result is I have a collection of photos from Spain that show my face. Relatively good photos.

It felt silly at the time. I was not one of ‘those girls’. And we always say that with such derision. It’s a condemnation of vanity and vapidity. Don’t you have anything better to do? And yet I find I miss it. Not only the way I looked back when I bothered, but also having that record. I have hundreds of pictures of buildings and many of food. But only a handful of my own face.

Part of my New Years Resolution is to change the way I look and feel about myself. I tried running last year and enjoyed that for a while, but by the time I got to Romania the familiar problems were back. I couldn’t escape myself. So we try something new and hope for different results. Maybe at the end of this year I’ll be able to look back and say, I’m finally happy with how I look.

If it takes some selfies as therapy then you’ll just have to put up with that.

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When in doubt, eyeliner. Failing that, a strong filter does wonders.

Sweet (two thousand and) Sixteen

I’ve been incredibly lucky this year. New Year is typically a time to look back over the year that has passed, but frequently I’ve been in a position this year to look back and think, two weeks ago I was doing something completely different.

Basically this is me bragging on the internet about the best things I’ve done this year. But isn’t that what the internet is for?

On the Importance of Shaking Iced Lattes

Got promoted (technically)

At the start of the year I was working for a small coffee shop, during which time I learnt a lot. In January my manager left and I was given the position of supervisor which involved a couple of extra responsibilities. They weren’t difficult things – counting stock is common sense – but they were new to me. Plus, I got paid a little extra and it was nice that I was chosen.

Visited four new countries

A few months after this, I got given the opportunity to go to Spain and au pair for a family. At the time, it seemed like a great idea and although I ended up disliking the au pair part of it, travelling was an amazing experience. I stayed in Madrid for two months where I …

Learning Spanish

Started learning a new language.

I’d forgotten how much I liked languages. Learning Spanish was easier than I thought it might be, especially when surrounded by it. Constant reinforcement. I work with a Spanish guy now and he’s helping me continue practising.

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Met people from around the world.

From Spain I went to Belgium. There I worked in a hostel and met travellers from around the world. They were some of the most amazing people I have ever met and I hope to see them again someday, maybe visiting them in their own countries or perhaps we’ll go travelling together. Maybe I’ll never see them again, but I know my life is richer for having met them. It’s not always about where you go, but sometimes who you go with.

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Worked backstage at London Fashion Week

On a completely unrelated note, I had two big fashion experiences this year. The first came from a random text whilst I was in Belgium. “Are you available to work at Autumn Fair in September?” I wanted to be home for my Mum’s birthday so I knew I’d be in England. The timing worked out perfectly and I worked on the fashion at Autumn Fair in Birmingham, then a week later an interview for a simple dressers role turned into a studio assistant thing for Kristian Aadnevik. They were completely different ends of the fashion industry but I enjoyed both and got some more experience to put on my CV.

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Had my eyes opened to a completely different culture.

In October I went to Romania, somewhere I’d been really excited about going to and somewhere that I still feel conflicted about. I’m glad I went, but when people ask me about it, the best thing I can say is that it showed me a different way of life. The East is so different from the West and so different from anywhere I’d been before. I met a few interesting people there, but in general the atmosphere was so alien that I didn’t really enjoy and ended up leaving early (via Vienna which was beautiful).

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Finding a new job.

Coming back to England I had almost no money. In fact, my bank balance has been in single digits several times. But after two weeks going back and forth between London and my parent’s house I was picked up by a temp agency and have worked consistently since. It meant living in hostels again for a couple of months but I really liked the place I got sent to most often and have some really great colleagues. Once again, it’s not the place, but the people that make it.

I can confidently say 2016 has been the best year of my life so far, every couple of months bringing something totally new and exciting. How the hell I’m going to top that next year, I don’t know. But I appreciate how lucky I’ve been and I want to encourage everyone who gets an opportunity like I did, to take it. In January I shortened a trip to France because I wasn’t ready to give up the comfortable job and flat. A few months later I gave everything up, still worried about it but ultimately it was the best decision I could have made. Many times, as I worried about mundane but crucial things like money and having a place to live, I thought I’d been stupid and wished I’d stayed at work. But if I had, I would never have done any of incredible things I’ve done and they are worth the worry. I couldn’t have done it without the support of my family too, always just a phone call away. I’m not American, and thanksgiving is long gone but I’m so thankful to them, and so grateful for everything I’ve received this year.