Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Image of Inspiration

It feels like forever and a day since I last posted and my blogging withdraw symptoms have returned. I keep having the urge to write about completely inane things that would be of no interest to a person with all their faculties. I apologise my posts continue to be so irregular but I have spent the last couple of days settling into my new home!

That's right my lovelys, I have finally flown the nest and am living with my best-friend of fifteen years. She also  happens to have a wardrobe worthy of raiding on a massive scale but I swear the reasons are not linked!

This shall have to be a very short post (unusual for me I know but you can breathe a sigh of relief); I'm still running about like a headless chicken powered by Duracell getting things sorted.

Since this is a post about new beginnings though, I leave you with the picture that first inspired me to truly want to be a Fashion Journalist. It continues to be the image imprinted on the inside of my brain whenever I need motivation. 

Alexander McQueen-Vogue UK-2007
Is that not utter perfection?
Do you have any images you'll never forget?

Saturday, 24 September 2011

A Fashionable Reunion: Interview with an Aquascutum Intern and Old Friend

Last Tuesday, I got on a different train to work.

At the time, I thought this was just because I had got up too late, wasted time straightening my hair and missed the earlier train. I now realise, I was always meant to get the later train on that day (the day of the Aquascutum show at London Fashion Week) and, by a twist of fate, meet an old friend, currently interning at Aquascutum as part of her Fashion Technology degree!

On reading the show was scheduled for later that day, I thought of her and then looked up to see the same girl standing beside me! I should mention now, I had not properly seen this friend, also called Fi, for about nine years, though our mums remained in contact. Bizarre to bump into each on that particular day, right?

Anyway, it was brilliant to have a brief catch-up and so strange/ wonderful that we share the same passion after all these years!

Plus, it turned out she was on her way to the actual show! As you can imagine, I was beside myself with envy and excitement. I really could have missed my stop to find out more. Unfortunately, I still had three-pack baby vests to deal with-no runway shows for me as yet.

 We chatted later though and she even allowed me to interview her about her role, the brand and Aquascutum’s Spring/ Summer 2012 collection. You can tell just how passionate Fi is about what she does. Her insider's perspective really makes you appreciate the attention to detail that leads to garments of outstanding quality and upholds Aquascutum's reputation as a long-standing, luxury brand.

What is your interning role title at Aquascutum?
I'm officially a 'Product Development' intern.

What does this involve on a day-to-day basis?
Luckily I don't make cups of tea. Everyone has this horrid vision that their internship will involve making tea on a daily basis but I was never a glorified tea maker (thank goodness!)
Part of product development is quality assurance (QA), which is ensuring that the customer gets the best quality garment they can. I suppose quality is defined in many ways but from a QA point of view it's having a garment that is fit for purpose and is going to stand the test of time.
When we get garments that come in from the factory I check that they are not faulty, that they've actioned comments we've written to them (about how the garment should be made, trims, finishes etc...). If they have, we approve them and they go into mass production and, if they haven't, we reject it and they have to send us another sample.

When did you realise you wanted to work in Fashion?
My nana used to be a dressmaker and I used to look at her drawings as a kid. It sounds silly but I seriously cannot remember ever wanting to do anything else. I wanted to be a fashion designer at first but - while I think I'm kind of creative - I'm not always good at thinking way outside of the box. So I settled for a more practical approach; one that would teach me how to make garments.

Can you tell us a bit about Aquascutum; its heritage and image?
Aquascutum has been going since 1851 and is famous for its trench coats. I cannot tell you how many raincoats I check over on a day-to-day basis. Jo Sykes is Head of Design for Aquascutum now and she's bringing a really fresh feel to a brand some often saw as being only for an older audience. Alongside the raincoats is our trademark club check which we line our coats in so that people know it's an Aquascutum garment.

Aquascutum is typically a tailoring brand so with everything they do there’s always that element of neatness. The menswear suits are amazing and that’s the field I find myself most drawn to, you really cannot beat a good suit - I find myself assessing the fits of mens suits when I’m on the train thinking to myself “You need longer trousers,” or “that shoulder pad is way too large!” Even with the feminine colours of the collection there were strong shoulders, straight cuts and tailored trousers on the catwalk. You just can’t escape it!

What has been your favourite moment of interning so far?
Fit sessions. It sounds weird but when you get a garment you have to make sure it fits your customer so we have a real life, standard size ten model who we put the clothes on. We then change measurements, pinch bits out basically make it fit better. The women’s ones are so involved because their fits are more complex, you want the clothes to do different things depending on what they are. The men’s ones are simpler in the way that a men’s garment block doesn’t change. Suit styles haven’t changed, it’s just the trims that change with every year. I love going into fit sessions because I get to see the before and after effect.

Were you involved in the show’s preparations?
There are a lot of 24 hour days. I’m not kidding. Darting off at a moments notice across London to get buttons, trims and garments was a regular occurance. I made several trips to the edge of east London to get garments from a supplier. It’s absolute madness, you need dye samples, stitch samples - so many samples before anything gets the green light to go. You have to draft and re-draft and then copy the patterns for trousers, skirts, tops etc to go to factories halfway across the world and I was doing that - the copying bit not quite the drafting bit yet. We have machinists in the building who ended up making about 70% of the clothes that appeared in the show. Some people would get into work at 7am and not leave until 7pm the next day. Interns stay too.

What was the inspiration for this season’s collection?
I think it was feminine colours mixed with fine tailoring. There were a lot of wrap trousers and shorts (which are a Jo Sykes trademark). I loved the injection of yellow; it was like a wake up call in amongst all the soft nudes and dreamy beiges.

What was it like being at the show?
It’s quite relaxed surprisingly. It was really strange to see months of madness all over in 10 minutes, but it was nice to see the effort getting it’s moment to shine. Not many people will ever know what went into it and whilst it could be a disappointing it feels more like knowing a huge secret haha!

Did you meet or see anyone famous?
Apparently Kara Tointon was there but I didn’t recognise her. It was quite hard to see people because all the staff were standing behind those that were sitting - and of course some people are roguishly tall!

What was your favourite piece?
There was a long yellow dress. It was a halterneck with a wrap front and it looked so bright and Grecian I thought to myself, “I need one of those!”

Do you have any advice for those hoping to go into Fashion?
You can study as hard as you like at university but the most you will ever learn is in your first year of work. Don’t be disheartened if you don’t think you’re doing well at university. The fashion world is built on interns, and they don’t expect you to be excellent at first because you can learn so much in 3 months. I was so useless back in June but now I feel like I’ve got firm footing, I’m still learning but I don’t feel like a fish out of water.

Suss out what kind of intern you want to be and, if it’s a design intern, don’t expect to sleep much but do expect to see some wonderful things. Design interns work harder than any other interns I’ve met - myself included!

Sorry this post has been so long but it is the closest access I have, had to London Fashion Week and I'm so pleased Fashion has brought my friend and I back together. We've already been reminiscing about the good old days when we played around with huge rolls of material and dressed each other up...not sure we knew about Quality Assurance then!


Friday, 23 September 2011

The Alpha Opinion

Despite believing women should wear whatever they feel confident in, without trying to impress a man, I have decided to involve male friends in my fashion antics and gain their opinions on women’s trends and styles in a weekly post.

My little band of merry men is made up of a range of guys from different backgrounds and this week we were talking bag size. I didn’t even have to hold a gun to their heads to get through the conversations!

I wanted to know if their initial opinion of a woman is affected by whether she is carrying a mini-bag or an oversized tote or if they even notice she has a bag at all.

They were each shown this image of Cameron Diaz’s oversized Prada number and asked their opinions:

Exhibit A
(let me know if you think Exhibit A is just unnaturally large by the way and no woman has ever been seen holding a bag that big).

Our sportsman was the first to point out, “that’s not a handbag! It’s a fucking suitcase!” Followed by the scientist who agreed, “that looks ridiculously enormous”. For those who are now worrying that Exhibit A seemed standard size to them and were already questioning where the outer compartments were, never fear, our other men were more sympathetic. The musician decided it was “pretty big” but “not bad” and the businessman actually liked it!

They were then shown this image of Ashley Greene and asked which woman they would be more likely to go for based on their bags.

Exhibit B

I realise this is hardly a fair test; for starters it’s affected by whether the man is a blondes or brunettes kind of guy! Of course, the scientist was quick to point out how I could standardise my variables and improve the investigation but you soon find yourself saying, “no you cannot have both of them” at the mention of identical twins to a guy.

My scientist and sportsman agreed the smaller bag looked better, even compared to Eva Longoria’s attempt at medium size:

Despite seeing the positives in Exhibit A (“I could fit my decks in there!”), the musician still preferred the smaller bag. He wasn’t as sure as the sportsman though who decided a woman with a bigger bag is an “attention seeker or they dont feel adequete and have to make up for it somehow”. I did point out women don’t really have the same issue over package size as those men who feel they have to compensate with ridiculously large, turbo powered cars but he maintained they were still looking for something to hide behind. What do you think?

On the other hand, our businessman actually preferred the larger bag; “there is intrigue for me...what’s in the bag? That’s what is going through my head!” The music man was also interested to find out what was inside but, unfortunately for them, I don’t think it’s lingerie, an Xbox or a curry.

So, in conclusion, it seems they do notice what is on your arm and can be affected by size. The practical man cannot see the need for a big bag nor understand our female ‘just-in-case’ syndrome, which hits us when it comes to packing luggage. To them, a woman with a big bag signals one who has to rely on material goods. Then you get your inquisitive guy who has no problem with bag size and would even consider a big bag to add intrigue; never reveal the contents though or the mystery is over!

Judith Leiber bags from Harrods (just to keep your attention)

Of course, the size of your handbag actually shouldn’t matter; it’s how you wear it. One of our panel still said that a large bag could be stylish and I certainly have no intention of downsizing! How else will I create a barrier between myself and that daily tube passenger who has never heard of showering?

It was just interesting to hear about fashion from a male perspective and I know they secretly enjoyed the excuse to talk handbags! One even proudly admitted, “I’ve often been told I’d make a great gay person”.

Anyway, I would love to know your opinion on this pilot post. Do you think it’s worth asking my panel further questions? Are there any fashion topics you would like a man’s perspective on?


Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Mary, Mary Quite Contrary

The day before Mary Katrantzou's show, the Fashion God looked down on me again and gave me a the form of the One Show (a television breakfast show at dinner time). I only really noticed it on in the background when they showed a report on the last tulip farm in Britain and this image appeared:

It was absolutely breath-taking (for some reason it doesn't look quite so amazing here but the colours were just fantastic). Then I caught up on London Fashion Week 24 hours later and found myself looking at the same beautiful scenes on Mary Katrantzou's creations!  

I doubt she had watched the same episode and pulled an all-nighter in order to dedicate her collection to that one field but you can see where she may have gained her inspiration! Admittedly, Katrantzou's flowers are carnations (as were the flower beds lining the catwalk) and the designs were accompanied by prints of tin cans, shells and shoals of fish but the effect was just as exquisite (actually more so...sorry to that Norfolk tulip farm). 

Anyway, no doubt I will be raving about the rest of the show soon but, until then, google tulip farm and you will understand how Mary managed to come up with such beautiful prints. 
Once again, the designer certainly did not disappoint!

Monday, 19 September 2011

When Marilyn Manson Meets The Flower Pot Men

So I still feel like poo and am very much aware that my only opportunity this London Fashion Week to ‘accidently’ run in front of Mary Katrantzou’s car and hopefully meet the designer is fading rapidly.

However, Fashion is my medicine and Ashish brought me a beautiful bouquet of flowers to brighten my day...well actually he stuck them in his models’ shoes and sent them down the runway! Yes, I realise this was a few days ago but, bear with me, I am still catching up.

Vogue’s Ella Alexander claimed the collection was ‘not a particularly practical one’ but, personally, I think it successfully combines the wow-factor with wearability. Of course, I’m not planning on making an allotment out of my shoe rack but god, don’t you love it when a designer has a bit of fun with Fashion?!

The collection is youthful, imaginative and making me almost as deliriously happy as the painkillers!

It looks like you're peering over a wall into a beautiful garden

 I’m trying to look for words to describe the style but all I can come up with is rocker-meets-grunge-meets-Bill and Ben chic.

Despite every piece being emblazoned with a floral print, the military boots and dark make-up prevent the collection from being ultra-feminine.

Love, love, love the eighties feel to this top. For some reason, I can see River Island catching on to these designs.
Giving away his inspiration for the collection a little bit.
Perhaps the only detail I am unsure about; in this context, the paper-bag waist reminds me a little of a sack of potatoes but the inspiration is still present!

Many will not go for the in-your-face floral designs but I personally love it and even more so for the black backgrounds, animal prints and trademark sequins.

I'm seeing a picnic blanket after a gentle breeze has just blown the blossom off the trees
This design reminds me of an eighties strapless prom dress my auntie gave me to work on, which I have looked for, dear readers, but must be lost to the depths of my wardrobe at the moment.  

A bit fun, a bit quirky, a bit everything; London I love you!

So what do you think of London Fashion Week so far?
What has been your favourite collection?

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Chapter One

I have a colossal confession to make. There has been a distinct lack of post updates recently and I can now reveal it is because I have a new job (I also managed to pick up a bug within my first week and have been as sick as a very sick dog but we won’t dwell on that).

I am not exactly a high-flying business woman complete with Louis Vuitton filofax yet but if you were to take a trip to the Kids Department of Primark at the new Westfield shopping centre, you may find me under a pile of baby-grows.

I can practically hear the gasps of horror at the very mention of the P word, yes, I know:

“the only place on the High Street where you can buy shit in more than one colour.”

I’ve heard all the jokes and, for the first few weeks, even I hid my badge from basically every other store’s employees except perhaps McDonalds. We can all agree, Primark will never have an army of hot, Hollister-like models selling its products in a ridiculously poorly lit space. Our Kate will probably never meet Mrs. Obama in that Primark dress but, you know what, it was still pretty damn popular on Tuesday’s opening!

Either way, I am not aiming to plug the brand here but the Primark people and the opportunity they have given me. Despite top grades to A-Level, relevent experience and an insatiable interest in Fashion, I spent three months looking for a job in retail. You won’t normally find me stuck in doorways because my head is too big but the fact is, I’m not incapable and very keen to learn.

Gumtree, Retailchoice and Totaljobs became more frequently visited than Facebook and the ‘New In’ section of the Topshop website. I found advertisements for everything from ‘experienced sandwich maker’ to ‘luxury footwear assistant...preferably with smaller feet’ (if you’ve seen my feet you’ll know that is a problem). On low days, I even considered begging on the streets; apparently you can get paid if you do it for charity!

 Then Primark finally took me on and, in spite of everything said about it, I have enjoyed every minute so far...well ok...most of it. You can’t spend eight hours listening to screaming infants and being repeatedly run over by prams without once asking what crimes you committed in a former life.

Quite frankly, I am grateful to have this job at all though and excited to be on the first rung of the Fashion Industry ladder. I've been involved in the preparation of the store since the first deliveries, when we had to send out search parties between the piles of cardboard boxes to find missing employees. On my second day, the Visual Merchandiser allowed me to pick out pieces for the displays, having picked up on my Fashion interests and, by opening day, I found myself engaging in a lift conversation with Breege O’Donoghue. Admittedly, I had no idea Ms. O’Donoghue was a Director and the HR Manager of Primark at the time but the fascinator suggested she had to be of some importance!

I’m guessing most people stopped reading this post when they realised it is not about the latest style finds or London Fashion Week updates but it is about the realities of the Fashion Industry. I finally know Fashion is exactly where I want to be and yet it is one of the most difficult industries to break into!

It would be unfair to say I am starting at the bottom; for all the jokes, Primark is still a thriving company with a clever business model to target the masses. Nevertheless, I am doing the equivalent of making the office tea rounds.

Oh well, time to look at the silver lining again! I am certainly learning by the day and if I can survive the pressures of a shopping centre opening day, I can get through anything! Besides this is just the first step; Chapter One of my life in Fashion...

 ...and if you are still laughing at the idea I think I am working in Fashion as an employee for Primark, check out their Autumn/ Winter collection courtesy of Marie Claire!


Friday, 9 September 2011

Everything's Coming Up Tulips

So New York Fashion Week is well underway and I finally understand the male species’ hatred of finding out the footie results before they’ve had a chance to watch the game.

Suspense to find out the results of Designers’ hardwork and creative input for next Spring built as I sat trapped on the tube trying to get home last night. I even refused to pick up an Evening Standard, in case they had already started reporting on Fashion activities from across the pond. “NO, DON’T TELL ME,” I exclaimed, bursting through the front-door, as if Dad was going to ruin the surprise that knitted swimwear is back in for 2012 (don’t panic, it isn't so far). 

For the next hour my eyes were glued to the laptop watching replays of the first day’s shows and making notes like any aspiring Fashion Journalist. Thanks to youtube’s live streaming of certain shows, I can even pretend I’m sitting in the front row with Alexandra Shulman next to me, rather than my mum falling asleep to Country House Rescue.

As for the results, they were far from disappointing and the highlight so far has to be Tadashi Shoji’s tulip inspired collection of romantic florals, feminine flounces and delicate lace detailing. Without even having read the runway reports, you could immediately recognise Shoji’s muse. 

When asked, the Designer claimed he chose that particular flower because it “is full of life, incessantly evolving and changing in shape.”

 For me, the collection certainly was full-of-life; playing with different shapes and textures yet constantly maintaining femininity.

Shoji even named the colour of his garments after flowers, such as petunia, daisy, fern and magnolia.

The epitome of elegance; appliqué and lacing were also flower inspired and fit for a Princess. 

Roses may be red but Tulips are taking us into Summer 2012!

 So have you been following New York Fashion Week? What has been your favourite collection so far?