Friday, 27 October 2017

timeline of female creative directors

Fashion often portrays powerful women. The industry still has a long way to go before it reaches gender equality, but it is one of the only industries where it is not perceived as unusual for women to be in the top positions. As disproportionate consumers of luxury fashion, women drive the industry, and clothes designed for women by women have caused some of the most revolutionary changes in fashion.

Paris' oldest couturier was founded by a woman. Women brought trousers and later the miniskirt into female wardrobes. They pioneered punk and brought fashion into the 21st century by exploring fashion in unique, creative ways, even when it felt like everything had already been done before. These are the women who have shaped fashion history.

Jeanne Lanvin 1889-1936

Jeanne Lanvin founded her eponymous fashion house in 1889, making Lanvin the oldest Paris couturier in continuing existence. The label is famous for its signature romantic style and popular shade of quattrocento blue. Lanvin celebrates femininity, with its focus originally being on motherhood and the family.

Coco Chanel via Vogue UK

Coco Chanel 1913-1971

Chanel began as a milliner, with the opening of her first store funded by friend and lover, Boy Capel. However, Chanel disapproved of Capel lending her money. Her fierce independence and determination for financial autonomy, without help from men, is reflected in her proto-feminist designs. Chanel was wearing trousers before it was socially acceptable for women to do so and her jersey dresses defined the sporty aesthetic adopted by the modern woman.

Elsa Schiaparelli via Vogue UK

Elsa Schiaparelli 1927-1973

Schiaparelli set up her store in Paris to design sweaters with surrealist designs. Her line that followed this focused on bathing suits, tennis skirts and skiwear for the active woman. Schiaparelli's circle included artists Dali and Duchamp, whose work inspired her designs. "Dress designing is to me not a profession, but an art."

Mary Quant 1955-

Mary Quant's name is synonymous with 1960s London. Quant opened her first store, called Bazaar, on King's Road in London. As one of the few designers offering youthful clothes at a time when youth was becoming the centre of society and dictating its trends, Quant's store became a success. Young women flocked there for miniskirts, which became symbols of women's liberation and the sexual revolution of the '60s.

Vivienne Westwood 1971-

Today, Vivienne Westwood is best known for her environmental activism. In the '70s, the designer created waves when she launched her punk label, which specialised in bondage gear, safety pins and chokers.

"Punk feels very heroic. It's liberating," said Westwood. Her brand, which exists on her motto that, "you have a more interesting life if you wear impressive clothes," has recently become part of the background of her political pursuits, such as Climate Revolution. She held up a banner proclaiming, "Climate Revolution" at the London 2012 Paralympics Closing Ceremony. The Climate Revolution campaign advocates quality over quantity, buying less and choosing well, preparing and cooking your own food and cutting out plastic. In short, Westwood wants to start a conversation about climate change, particularly in fashion,one of the least environmentally friendly industries in the world.

Rei Kawakubo 1973-

"When you put on clothes that are fighting against something, you can feel your courage grow," Rei Kawakubo has said about her avant-garde designs. "Clothing can set you free." Founded in 1969, Kawakubo is known for her deconstructed collections, more akin to art than fashion.

She was the theme of 2017's Met Gala, but when she first showed her clothes in Paris in the early '70s, the fashion elite did not know what to make of her. Kawakubo rarely does interviews, but when she does her insights are engaging and unique. If female designers have proven to be the most forward thinking, Kawakubo leads the charge for individuality.

Rodarte Spring 2016 via Dazed

Kate and Laura Mulleavy 2005-

Rodarte was founded in 2005 and has gained a cult following among fashion lovers who see clothes as an art form. Kate and Laura Mulleavy studied art history and English literature, respectively, at the University of California before saving up $20,000 over the next decade to create their first collection.

In 2010 they helped design the costumes for Black Swan. This year they released a horror film, Woodshock, starring celebrity fan Kirsten Dunst. Dunst plays a cannabis dealer trying to deal with the grief following her mother's death. "As a designer you have to spend your whole life pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone," said Kate Mulleavy. "We have always believed that no matter where you are from, as a designer you are creating your own world."

Their work doesn't stop there though. They also have a Radarte t-shirt line and count Natalie Portman and the Fanning sisters among their Hollywood fan base.

Iris van Herpen 2007-

Created in 2007, Amsterdam based designer Iris van Herpen is widely regarded as one of the most forward thinking creative directors today. "For me fashion is an expression of art that is very closely related both to me and to my body," said van Herpen. "I see it as an expression of identity combined with desire, moods and a cultural setting."

Molly Goddard via Vogue UK

Molly Goddard 2013-

In 2012, Molly Goddard graduated from Central Saint Martins with an MA in knitwear. Five years later and she is the young designer du jour and the name on everyone's lips. "She's from the believable generation," says Sarah Mower of Goddard's designs and presentations. "It's real; it's not just the skinny zombies." The brand was conceived from a joyful place, with her signature tulle reminiscent of outfits worn to high school proms or decadent parties. Last winter, Goddard invited the public to embroider large tulle dresses hanging from the ceiling of the NOW Gallery in Greenwich. The exhibition aimed to get more people into embroidery, and the dresses have since been auctioned off for charity. 

Friday, 13 October 2017

an ode to lorde's party girl

They're all gonna watch us disappear into the sun.

There will never be a shortage of pop songs about parties. Dancy beats lay beneath lyrics that describe dancing 'til sunrise, falling in love, living for the weekend. They revel in the joy and free abandon of the coolest party ever. Then Lorde comes along and speaks to a different kind of party girl and a fuller, more realistic image is formed.

We saw glimpses of this on her debut. In 'A World Alone', she sings that her friends are, "studying business, I study the floor." Lorde's party girl watches from afar and continues to ruminate as she is swept up with the rest of the night. On Melodrama this vision becomes fully formed, capturing how parties are microcosms of youth; expressing the excitement, the vibrance, and the comedown. 

We are faced with overarching themes of violence and melodrama. We are more used to seeing these in classical tragedies than at "fun, scummy house parties." Yet, when you think about the crazy things people do at parties that they would never dare to do in the light of day, you realise that parties are actually very theatrical. We kiss people we would be too nervous to kiss otherwise, get into fights, forget the person we have to be when Monday morning rolls around. 

Melodrama is punctuated with self-awareness, something that Lorde's party girl cannot escape. Even in the joyful moments where she dances until she can't see, there's still an aching in the back of her mind about what it all means. Pretending not to care, but actually caring a lot. Knowing that the night has to end. Agonising over whether you will ever have this much fun again. It picks apart the 'perfect night'; a jaded idea used by businesses to sell us new party dresses or expensive bottles of vodka.  Sometimes the perfect night happens and you find that perfect place with the perfect people, other times you're left mine sweeping other people's drinks and crying in the taxi on the way home. Lorde's party girl feels everything in bright lights and darkness. There is no grey, so every night is an intense adventure that can go one way or another, but when it is good it is really good.

When she's not dancing, she's pouring her heart out under porch lights, watching the way other people act when they're drunk or high or in love. She ruminates in bathrooms then sways back downstairs to try and keep up with the rest of the room. The night builds to a crescendo with dancing in the living room. She goes home, then does it all again the next night. 

Whilst there is a realism to Lorde, it is easy to see how she romanticises these moments. Hazy memories and the pale glow of streetlights, disco lights, porch lights, cigarettes makes everything seem soft and beautiful. These nights feel like dreams, so we try to recreate them and find these perfect places. 

Friday, 6 October 2017

a timeline of female empowerment in fashion (part 2 1960-2017)

The 1960s signalled a new chapter for women's liberation. Women's wardrobes reflected this as Carnaby Street buzzed with teenage girls and young women in miniskirts and bright, psychedelic prints. The decade saw the invention of the Pill and teenagers became society's key taste-makers as Beatlemania took hold. 

Perhaps the most famous sartorial event of the 1960s women's liberation movement is the alleged bra burning. Whilst this did not actually happen, it still demonstrates how clothes can be used either to oppress or liberate women. Underwear is still occassionally a point of contention for the feminist movement. Much of the women's lingerie industry is filtered through the male gaze and marketed at men rather than the women who actually wear it. We are currently witnessing an increase in lingerie brands that are created for women and by women. Labels like Marieyet create feminine lingerie that does not fall victim to sexualisation through the male gaze. 

The 1960s was the first time women could publicly take control of their own sexuality. The newfound independence offered by the Pill in the was aestheticised by Mary Quant and the miniskirt. It's now hard to imagine a time when the miniskirt did not exist, but in the '60s in represented a reclaiming of female sexuality. It gave women a new identity, outside of the domestic sphere. Quant famously stated that she did not invent the miniskirt, but that it was invented by teenage girls and young women in London who kept asking for their dresses to be cut shorter and shorter. The fashions of the era indicate how, in certain circles, women and girls were beginning to be taken more seriously. 

By the 1980s women began to take on more senior roles within businesses. This shift led to the rise of the powersuit, which can be seen as both feminist and conforming to patriarchal standards. The fact that women felt the need to dress 'like men' to be taken seriously as professionals shows that women's liberation still had a long way to go. Another, even more insidious, reason for the popularity of the power suit in offices was so that women could avoid sexual harassment in the workplace. 

The toxic idea that a woman could somehow be 'asking for it' by the way she dresses is a discourse we are still battling with in the 21st century. In 2011 a Toronto police officer told a crowd of women that they should, "avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimised." Women fought back, and Slut Walk was founded; an annual march that now takes place across the world, where women assert statements like, "little black dress does not mean yes" and, "whatever we wear, wherever we go, yes means yes and no means no." Fashion is often trivialised simply because it is seen as a feminine interest and everything girls like is silly and needs to be mocked amiright? but women's progress in society can be tracked sartorially. To have come so far then have a crusty old policeman tell us what we can and can't wear in order to not get raped feels massively outdated. 

Fast forward a few years to 2017 and Instagram is revolutionising our worldviews. Whilst the app can be potentially damaging, it is also a tool to promote body positivity and the same anti-slut shaming principles that characterise the Slut Walk movement. As a visual platform, fashion is central to its function. Trends are started by influencers who are paid to sponsor brands. Yet there is still space for individuality; a trait that has been central to female empowerment in fashion throughout history.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

i know the story by heart

I started back at uni this week, so I might not be able to update this blog as frequently as I have been recently. I have lots of ideas to write up, so content is on its way, but it will be more spread out.
The above photos were taken by Ethan before I went to see Lorde on Tuesday. The gig was the most joyful experience and I danced and cried then danced some more.
I'm wearing an American Apparel turtleneck, H&M leather jacket and Topshop trousers. I tried to style a Lorde-esque outfit. Last time I saw her I wore a 'Tennis Court' t-shirt I made but that has since fallen apart.

Though I have only just started back at uni, I have been back in Sheffield for nearly a month. The photos in this post are from days out, film nights, poetry readings, brunches and gigs. Even though I'm back at lectures now, I still hope to make time to explore the city and its cultural offerings, as it is my last year here. I will probably be based in and around London when I graduate so I want to make the most of being up north whilst I can. I've been to Manchester twice in the past week. Despite being so nearby I have rarely visited. I finally spent a day exploring Northern Quarter which I enjoyed as much as people had said I would. 

On Monday I didn't start uni until 5pm so I had time to do some reading. This year is the most interesting year of the degree because I am studying Romantic and Victorian literature and America and the Avant-Garde, which includes film, art and music, with the chance to create an artwork for one of the assessments. I'm currently planning on making a zine of poetry and collage. After uni on Monday I saw The Jesus and Mary Chain. It was my third time seeing them, but it was still amazing as they're one of my favourite bands.

Tuesday is my busiest day at uni, so I went straight from a 3-hour seminar to get the train to Manchester to see Lorde. The train journey back afterwards was long so I wrote about the gig in my journal: Wow. That was one of the most joyful experiences of my life. I danced 'til I was blind, fell in love with the moment, cried, smiled, felt it all. I'm a sweaty mess, but I'm happy.

The main step up from previous years at uni is the amount of reading. You could literally read 24/7 and still not get through all the suggested secondary reading. I am glad that there is a creative component to one of my modules. I think I'd go crazy if it was all criticism.

This weekend I'm off to Manchester again for Floating Points at Warehouse Project. We're staying the night so it'll be a nice mini break to end the first week back of third year.

I hope everyone is having a good week! 

Saturday, 23 September 2017

night time, my time

How we look back at the fashions of an era is principally defined by its nightlife. From the tassled flapper dresses of the ‘20s to the sportswear of ‘90s ravers, what we wear after dark shapes the way we are perceived. It tracks the social change of the 20th century, where, in the 1920s, nightlife was democratised by shorter hemlines and the little black dress. Low lit jazz bars were filled with flappers clasping onto cigarette holders and embracing the freedoms of first wave feminism. The 1960s saw the invention of nightlife as we know it today. The sexual revolution caused hemlines to rise even higher and psychedelic prints ruled as hallucinogenic substances bled into the mainstream. As we move forward to the end of the century, rave culture reigned supreme and it was saturated with sports jackets and rainbow colours. From the ‘60s onwards, nightlife has become more diverse and vital than ever, but with more than half of London’s clubs closing in the past five years where does this place the cultural landmark that is Britain’s clubbing scene? One that is critically important to the nation’s fashion history.

In the ‘70s and ‘80s subcultures gained definition as London saw a rise of eccentric dress codes in now iconic, but largely closed down, venues. Nightclubs like Madame Jojo’s and club nights like Kinky Gerlinky combined daring fashion with music, and provided a haven for kooky outsiders. Madame Jojo’s hosted gigs from Lorde and The xx, whilst Kinky Gerlinky was a favourite haunt of young Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell in the ‘90s. Both have since closed, leaving a gaping hole in London’s nightlife.

Molly Goddard’s Spring 2017 show took place just weeks after the announcement of the closure of Fabric. Against this context, the upbeat collection took on an added poignancy. Goddard is leading the charge celebrating British youth culture and this collection was an ode to the disenfranchised youth of London, following the summer of Brexit. The show was set to the backdrop of a rave, with disco music, spotlights and a bright abundance of neon. Though Fabric has since reopened, its reopening is not representative of the current attitude towards nightlife in the UK. Many of the capital’s most diverse and creative venues have been redeveloped, meaning that it might not be long before runways are the only places we see avant garde style paired with partying.

High fashion and nightlife trends do not always go hand in hand. Runway designs are more suited to the red carpet than sweaty warehouse raves, but the trickle-down effect from the runways is increasingly interchangeable as more and more designers take inspiration from street style. Partywear electrified the runway yet again in the Fall 2017 collections. Adam Selman sent glittering lurex pieces perfect for a disco shimmying down the runway. Anthony Vacarello followed suit with his second collection for Saint Laurent which injected sex appeal into clothes worth dancing ‘til dawn in. Other designers took on a similar approach: Carmen March, Lanvin, Alexandre Vaulthier and Area used velvet, leather and glitter to represent the sensuality of night time.

Today, subcultures have diffused and most people are willing to dip their toes into a myriad of club nights. However, they are still at their most defined after hours and we continue to define them by their dress code. We navigate the bathrooms and smoking areas of clubs, either feeling at home or horrifically out of place. Nightlife is not immune to fashion’s obsession with reworked vintage. Today, young clubbers are clinging onto the back of ‘90s rave culture with a resurgence of sports jackets, trainers and serotonin. You can still spot smaller subcultures sporting mohawks and capes, dressed head to toe in black. Whereas pop princesses head into the night looking as though they have bathed in glitter. The night allows you to be a chameleon, flitting from one persona to the next.

Gentrification has a lot to answer for for the demise of London clubs. Rising prices are making some venues seem more and more elite. Nightlife should create an inclusive space for the kooks and the creatives. The right nightclub makes everyone feel like an insider. This is why the LGBT clubbing scene is so vital. The night is a time to celebrate youth and individuality, and to drunkenly compliment strangers’ outfits. It offers a level of sartorial freedom that the day is devoid of; allowing a creativity that fashion thrives off. Each era and subculture has its own uniform, but generally the rules are that there are no rules. We should not be treating clubs as disposable. Today, the UK is still clinging onto a diverse and active nightlife, but for this to continue it is essential that we do not take nightlife for granted.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

why i support body neutrality

(originally published on babe)

Loving yourself can be hard. We are all constantly learning how to love ourselves and our bodies and the widespread body positivity movement preaches the nth degree of that journey – unconditional self-love. It’s a lovely message, but it is not always possible. Everyone has bad days, days where we feel ugly, or when we look in the mirror and think unkind things about our bodies.

Body positivity may have come from a place of goodness, but in reality it puts a huge amount of pressure on us to love our bodies and at times, it can feel as though it is trying to guilt us for not loving our body 24/7. For people who suffer from body dysmorphia and the eating disorders that can come along with it, it is difficult to always love your body. Body neutrality can be a stepping stone to body positivity – and sometimes that neutrality itself is enough.
Loving your body still assumes that you should spend a lot of time thinking about your body, particularly in relation to what it looks like. The media scrutinises women’s bodies so much. Why should we have to scrutinise our own? They’re just bodies. There is no need to love or hate your body. How about being neutral towards it instead? The purpose of our body is to protect our organs and keep us alive. Your body is not a machine, nor is it a temple. It is a body. Appreciate it and nourish it. Don’t let it limit you.

Love what your body can do. It can keep you alive. It can run. It can feel. The basis of body neutrality is that we should not care what it looks like. Of course, this is easier said than done. Not caring what your body looks like is just as difficult as loving it for many.
Body neutrality is a form of self-care. It is about recognising that there will be days when you don’t love your body, but instead of viewing that as a negative that leads you into a spiral of self-hate, acknowledge how you are feeling and just let it go. Young women are constantly objectified. Recognise that you are so much more than your body.

Body neutrality doesn’t make for such cute Instagram posts, but it is just as important as the body posi movement. If body neutrality was turned into an image, it would be you just living your life; drinking at parties, eating pizza with friends and not thinking about your body.
Thin women do not face the same discrimination that larger women face. However, the body positivity movement often excludes them. This can be particularly damaging to women with eating disorders, when it is especially hard to love your body.
The most useful thing about the body positivity movement is how it calls out unfair representation of women’s bodies. Now, however, the same companies that have been called out are trying to reappropriate the movement for profit. Remember Zara’s “Love your curves” poster?The body positivity movement has become so mainstream and commodified that, in many ways, it has lost its true meaning.

It has become focused on cis white women, many of whom fit society’s beauty standards already. We cannot let the companies that the movement was started in order to combat sell us a whitewashed, thin version of body positivity. It is time to start a new movement, focused on moving away from the scrutiny of women’s bodies.
Body positivity subscribes to an individualism that can be harmful to a movement. Individual self-esteem is important, but that alone does not change society. Women of all sizes need to unite against society’s obsession with criticising women’s bodies and trying to fit us into a narrow confine of conventional beauty standards.
Of course there are issues with body neutrality as well. In theory, it is a wonderful idea, but as long as people still feel the need to comment on women’s bodies, be it via Instagram comments or the Daily Mail, we cannot completely escape this obsession with body shape. When someone is actually telling you that you are too fat or too thin, it is incredibly difficult not to take it to heart.
From a body neutrality perspective, the best way to respond to comments about your body is to just keep on living your life and show that you can be awesome no matter what your body looks like.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

my writing process

I start my final year of uni in one week. The realisation that I only have eight months of education left has snuck up on me quickly.

I have been thinking a lot about how I am going to move forward in life with no educational authority telling me where I need to be and when. Of course, uni is way more relaxed than school, and it requires a great deal of self-motivation, but next June will still be the first time in 17 years that I haven't had lessons/lectures to attend.

I recently wrote about how to plan your days when you have anxiety because it was something I had been struggling with on days where I had nothing to do over summer. Like that post, I am writing this to help me make sense of life outside of education.

I have written creatively through some medium or other pretty much since I learnt the alphabet and how to use a pen, but I have never dissected my process. Teachers will show you model essay answers and spend hours pulling apart mark schemes. Tutors will tell you to attend lectures on how to write a first-class essay.

Each week for creative writing we were given different prompts and techniques to try out. Some of these worked. Some of them felt stilted and uncreative. I’m not studying creative writing this year, so it is down to me to find my own prompts and inspirations.

For me, one of the most important things is to strike the right balance between the romantic notion of being A Writer, and actually getting work done. This list is not conclusive and has taken a decade of trial and error, but I enjoy reading about the way other people work, so here's what I do: 

Make notes 

This one is obvious. Few people have the imagination to sit down and write piece after piece without referring back to something. I make notes in my journal and on my phone, depending on the situation.

If I ever lost my phone, the thing I would be most sad about losing are my notes. I have so many half-formed poems, snapshot descriptions and drunken epiphanies written in there. I use them as prompts and take phrases directly from them.

My journal tends to be a little more cohesive. I write about specific events that have happened and I write all my strongest thoughts and feelings in there. No one reads it, but it forms a large part of my writing in general, especially my poetry. 

Research as you go

With uni essay writing, I spend hours researching before I sit down to write any of the actual essay. However, with articles and fiction, I am lazier. However, this does have its perks.

If I read something similar to what I am writing then it can end up shaping my writing and then the piece doesn't feel like mine anymore. Avoiding research until you need to forces you to draw from information you already know. You can also fact check when you are redrafting. It also avoids comparing your work to others and can lead to more unique work overall.

Free writing

When I start writing I try to get as many ideas on the page as possible. I don't believe that quality over quantity applies to first drafts. This works under the same principle as drawing from notes you have already made. At the end of this part of the process, you have a lot to work with. You then only have to go through and pick the best bits, and get rid of the parts that don't work.

Free writing is particularly useful for writing poetry. Write down any and every image that comes to mind then give it a rhythm. Redraft by removing unnecessary words.

Write or die

If I am trying to free write but keep getting distracted, I sometimes use Write or Die. If you select the Kamikaze setting then your words will start to be deleted if you stop writing.

You can set a word target and you must keep writing until you meet the target. I usually do it in 100-word bursts so that I don't waffle too much. 

Be a poser sometimes

I have adopted this one recently, as I have taken up the task of rewriting the novel I wrote as a teenager. When I have really bad writer's block, I dress in black, make a cup of coffee and go outside for a cigarette because that seems like the sort of thing a writer would do. Then feel like I have to write because otherwise I'm just acting like a pretentious cliche for no reason.

Friday, 15 September 2017

carrie bradshaw is literally the worst

(Article originally published on babe)

Her walk-in wardrobe, Manhattan apartment and tight-knit group of friends may seem aspirational, but don’t let that fool you. Forget the hours you’ve spent longing for the Sex and the City dream of walking around New York City in fancy clothes, appearing on the covers of magazines and getting dresses given to you by Vera Wang. Carrie Bradshaw is actually the worst.
If she isn’t belittling her friends’ problems and making them all about her, then she is spieling off homophobia and uselessly pining after Big, who also happens to be the worst. Yes, Carrie Bradshaw’s life is the stuff of teenage dreams. The fact that she can afford an apartment in Manhattan when all she does is write one column a week proves that it is just that: a dream.

Carrie Bradshaw is selfish. Sure, the TV series is narrated by her and about her, but her selfishness surpasses this. Her friends go through some horrible things and she still tries to make everything all about herself. When Samantha’s going through chemo, all Carrie can talk about is her new love affair. Carrie also says that her getting dumped by a guy she had only just started seeing is worse than Charlotte’s failed marriage.
When Miranda is worried because she has just found out she has a lazy ovary, Carrie shouts out, “Hey, did anybody notice my purse?” Yeah, sure, Carrie, your new purse is so much more important than the fact that one of your best friends may not be able to have kids. Let’s not forget the time Carrie got angry at Charlotte for not giving her money for her apartment. Maybe if Carrie didn’t spend literally all her money on ridiculous clothes, she would be able to keep the apartment herself.

Carrie acts like she is the most balanced, well-rounded of all her friends. She slut shames Samantha, makes fun of Charlotte for being vanilla and shows that she thinks Miranda is too focused on her career. What makes Carrie so perfect? All she does is chase after Big over and over again, despite her friends advising her not to.
Big and Carrie’s romance is meant to be one for the ages; the Romeo and Juliet of noughties NYC. She cheats with Big when he’s married and it’s fine because he’s The One. Bullshit. The rest of the show has Carrie condemning cheaters but when she does it it’s ok.

Big makes Carrie’s story line dull. It pushes the idea that you have to keep trying to get back with that one person, even if that person is emotionally abusive and the relationship has failed several times in the past. Move on. That isn’t true love. It’s unhealthy. Big is a dick, but so is Carrie who constantly tries to push him to do things he doesn’t want to do.
She is constantly giving him ultimatums. He has to tell her she’s The One, or else she’ll leave. Carrie should have learnt by now that Big is rational and understands that it’s impossible to tell anyone if they’re The One, or if The One even exists outside of fairytales. Grow up Carrie.
Considering Sex and the City was supposed to be super progressive in the way it talked about sex, Carrie just can’t get her head around bisexuality. You would be forgiven for never watching the show ever again after seeing the Boy Girl Boy Girl episode in season three. Carrie dates a guy who she finds out is bi and she majorly freaks out. She calls bisexuality a “layover to gaytown.”
This is coming from a sex columnist. Let that sink in. Carrie writes about the weirdest shit and forces the most ill-fitting metaphors onto love and relationships, but she can’t understand bisexuality. She quizzes her lover on his sexual history and asks him if she’s as good in bed as the men he’s slept with. She treats his sexuality like a novelty for a little while, before dumping him because of it. Ugh.

When Charlotte is dating a camp guy called Stephan, Carrie informs her that he could be a “gay straight” man or a “straight gay” man because “things aren’t as simple as gay and straight anymore.” Carrie then brings her gay friend to check if Stephan is gay or straight because apparently men aren’t allowed to be into theatre or interior design without being gay and, according to Carrie, bisexuality doesn’t exist. The whole episode has such a binary approach to sexuality.
In another episode, a gay couple Samantha knows asks her to have a threesome with them. Carrie finds this hilarious and blurts out, “BUT THEY’RE GAY!” They literally asked Samantha for a threesome though so shut up Carrie.

Sex and the City has its brilliant moments, but everyone knows that it is Samantha, not Carrie, that really makes the show.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

a timeline of female empowerment in fashion (part 1 1774-1930)

Brandon Maxwell described his Spring 2018 collection as being, "For my Nanu, and all the women who have opened doors for others, which, without their strength and conviction, we would never have walked through."

Likewise, Prabal Gurung drew inspiration from strong women in his Fall 2017 show notes, where he dedicated the collection to women, "who inspire us to present our unabashed and unapologetic definition of femininity with a bite." For the collection, Gurung researched 1940s wartime women, "who understood that one minority's downfall is equivalent to the demise of all humanity."

Many designers are inspired by powerful women. However, it is rare that a collection is genuinely empowering. Wearing clothes that you feel confident in is empowering, but only ever seeing those clothes modelled by one body type is not. Prabal Gurung did have more diverse casting, but all too often designers fail to practice what they preach.

There have been stand-out moments in history where women have been empowered through fashion. It can be said that we are experiencing one of those moments now, with brands increasingly pushing for diversity, the body positive movement and the rise of gender neutral clothing. 

Clothes have been either a symbol of empowerment or oppression for women for centuries. Of course, centuries ago, only aristocratic women could afford to express themselves through clothes. Women like Duchess Georgiana Cavendish, the 18th century's 'Empress of Fashion.' The Duchess was the style icon of an era, and every wealthy woman wanted to dress like her. However, she did not simply spend her time dressing up. Georgiana Cavendish was one of the first women to be significantly engaged in politics. She played a role in the establishment of the Whig party whilst simultaneously popularising 90cm high hairstyles and 1.2 metre ostrich feathers. So extra. Her campaigning for the Whig party also subtly translated into her wardrobe. The Duchess wore a fox fur muff in support of Whig party leader Charles James Fox. Politics finding its way into fashion is not a new phenomenon.

In general, female political engagement was very limited, but fashion was something that certain women did have control over and could make a statement with. The Suffragettes introduced a colour scheme that was sold to supporters of the cause by Selfridges and Liberty. However, the Suffragettes dressed surprisingly traditionally so as not to alienate women from their cause. The angry feminist caricature put women off daring to wear trousers or more masculine styles.

The next major moment of female empowerment in fashion was led by wartime women in the First World War. Having to take on men’s jobs when the men went to war meant dressing more practically. It was too dangerous to wear long, heavy dresses when operating machinery, so women wore trousers instead. Before now, fashion had been a tool used to oppress women, with tight corsets making women prone to fainting and heavy garments preventing them from moving about freely. 

Coco Chanel had already been dressing like a man prior to the First World War, making her a source of fascination among her contemporaries. Chanel and Schiaparelli pioneered women’s liberation from sartorial oppression, with the sportier style that they popularised throughout the 1920s and ‘30s. It was at this time as well that Jazz Age women were beginning to enjoy freedoms, such as drinking, smoking and staying out late, that had previously only been afforded to men. The rising hemlines and comfortable jersey dresses reflected this mood of liberation. 

Throughout history fashion has, for better or worse, been associated with each feminist movement. "We should all be feminists" slogan t-shirts seem tame compared to first wave feminism's impact on the way women dress.

Part 2, 1960-2017, coming soon

Monday, 11 September 2017

my favourite fashion books and what i learnt from them

The downside of studying literature is that I rarely have time to read for pleasure anymore. I had to dedicate most of my summer to reading books for this semester, though I did read The Stranger and Jim Morrison biography No One Here Gets Out Alive at the start of summer.

When I was preparing for the interview for my internship at Vogue, I made the time to read and reread some of my favourite fashion books. I still have a lot to read and I can't wait to have time to read exactly what I want when I have graduated.

Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life - Justine Picardie. I hold this book largely responsible for the start of my obsession with fashion history. Picardie focuses on how Chanel helped women's liberation more than her association with the Nazis, so it is not the most balanced biography, but she does provide an intriguing overview of Chanel's life. Chanel's life story lends itself to biographies. Abandoned in a convent by her father, her life weaves into a typical rags to riches tale. I would like to read Hal Vaughan's Sleeping with the Enemy to gain a more thorough understanding of Chanel's collusion with the Nazis, but Picardie's biography inspired and excited 13-year-old me like all the formative books we read around that age do. 

The Teen Vogue Handbook - Teen Vogue. 
I hadn't picked this book up for years until I got my internship. It brings back memories of endlessly revising its pages. I would recommend this guide to career's in fashion to anyone who wants to work in fashion, whether you are a teenager or not. Not only did it help prepare me for interning at Vogue, but it taught me about what editors and stylists actually spend their working days doing. It is filled with invaluable advice from industry insiders and I find it as useful now as I did when I was 13. 

Vogue On: Coco Chanel - Bronwyn Cosgrave. 
I was so excited when this came out because Chanel was still my favourite designer and Vogue my favourite magazine. Seeing Chanel's work through the lens of Vogue, you can see how her work and her life align. I would love to read some of the other books in the Vogue On series as I am sure they give a fascinating insight into the Vogue archives and consequently a look into fashion history overall.

Grace: A Memoir - Grace Coddington. The first time I heard about Grace Coddington was in The September Issue, like many others. In the documentary, I thought she came off as rude, but as I learnt more about her, I knew I had to read her memoir when it came out. I now count Coddington as one of my role models. Her memoir takes the reader through Paris and London in the ‘60s and ‘70s, the fashion set hanging out on the Riviera, and a meeting with Mick Jagger. It is a tale of life with stars offset with poetic insight into these moments. Out of all the books on this list, this one is a must-read. It is full of wonderful quotes, like this one:

“I still weave dreams, finding inspiration wherever I can and looking for romance in the real, not the digital, world” 

It - Alexa Chung.
When I got this book as a Christmas present, I had only ever really admired Alexa Chung for her style. Reading it I learnt that she has similarly great taste in everything else. It is not a particularly original book, but it is witty at times and if you want to discover new films, books and style icons then it is worth reading.

Champagne Supernovas – Maureen Callahan.
I enjoyed reading this a lot. That is possibly because I read it on the beach in Costa Rica last summer, but it reveals a lot about the ‘90s fashion scene. Focusing on the lives and careers of Kate Moss, Alexander McQueen and Marc Jacobs, it is as tragic and moving as it is inspiring. The book is set to be made intoa TV show soon.

Inside Vogue - Alexandra Shulman. It is rare that we get an honest insight into global fashion publications like Vogue. The September Issue and Absolutely Fashion are ultimately controlled by their directors. Inside Vogue, however, comes directly from Shulman herself. This is another book that I read before my internship. I have a lot of issues with this book. It is not greatly written and features transphobic comments about androgynous models. However, it is an insightful read if you want to work in fashion magazines.

Legendary Authors and the Clothes They Wore - Terry Newman. I was so excited when I heard about this book because it blends my two favourite topics: literature and fashion. Featuring an analysis of the sartorial choices of writers including Arthur Rimbaud, Allen Ginsberg and Sylvia Plath, it is perfect for anyone interested in fashion and/or literature. It shows how fashion is not isolated from the rest of the world and it is especially relevant to all other forms of creativity. 

This is definitely not an exhaustive list of great fashion books. There are so many more I want to read soon. Let me know in the comments if you have any recommendations or what you think of the books in this post if you've read them. 

Saturday, 9 September 2017

the allure of high school nostalgia

Fashion is always seeking inspiration from the "best days of your life." Many will attest that our school days are, in fact, not the best days of our lives, but that does not stop the romanticised nostalgia for them in fashion, film and literature. One element that makes this concept so appealing is the experimental nature of youth. Whether it is playing dress up in your mum’s wardrobe or trying out many a fashion faux pas before settling on a ‘personal style’, a lot of creativity can come out of our teenage years; a kind that can, for better or worse, start to stagnate a little as we are swept up in the responsibilities of adult life.

The fashion industry's glamorisation of youth is often problematic. It fetishises and exploits youth. Luxury giants LVMH have recently announced that none of their brands will use underage girls to model adult clothes. Vogue also took this step back in 2012. However, recent allusions to high school and being a teen, have come from a more honest, non-threatening perspective. The trend was started with teen fashion bloggers broadcasting their own style and inviting the internet into their worlds. Now, the success of sites like Rookie and the rebranding of Teen Vogue means that teenage girls, their tastes and styles, are finally being taken more seriously. 

Calvin Klein SS18 'Sophomore'

Raf Simons' Spring/Summer '18 collection for Calvin Klein, titled ‘Sophomore’, has a thread of high school Americana running through it. With sporty parkas, PVC prom dresses and neat shirts, Simons subtly captured a mood envisaged in hit TV shows like Twin Peaks and Stranger Things. The collection featured many other references, most notably American horror movie heroines, but the high school nostalgia is also deeply embedded in the style of Raf Simons' Calvin Klein woman. 

In her December 2013 Editor's Letter for Rookie, Tavi Gevinson states that the allure of high school nostalgia comes from the concept of forever, "the state, exclusive to those between the ages of 13 and 17, in which one feels both eternally invincible and permanently trapped.” Over these years, we feel everything with such intensity and experience the variety of life for the first time. By designing collections inspired by these years, designers are drawing from a certain kind of nostalgia that rests within us all. It allows us to briefly remember how it feels to be, “both eternally invincible and permanently trapped”, or, more accurately, how we think we felt.

Molly Goddard AW15

Sofia Coppola and Petra Collins popularised the dreamy high school aesthetic in their films and photography, respectively. Coppola describes why her movies focus on teenagers, saying, "I always like characters who are in the midst of transition and trying to find their place in the world and their identity." Collins' Rookie teen style and focus weaves its way into the rest of her photography as her career has expanded. Her first subjects were her younger sister and her high school friends. Collins captures this in her favourite shoot for Rookie, Last Hurrah, which marks the end of high school for her sister's year. 

The designer who currently most inhabits the ethereal world of Coppola and Collins, is London favourite, Molly Goddard. For her Autumn/Winter 2015 presentation, Goddard famously set up a life drawing class. Models stood and sat around in uber-girly pink, frills and tulle, painting a nude model who stood in the centre of the room. Goddard explained that, “It’s about girls that went to the student ball the night before, haven’t slept, and come straight to class.” This harks back to the wild and reckless abandon of youth, characterised in Coppola’s adaptation of The Virgin Suicides in the scene where Lux returns from the homecoming dance at dawn, still wearing the dress and tiara from the night before.

According to Morrissey, "You never ever ever escape school", but perhaps that isn't a bad thing. No matter how bad your school years were, we can take comfort in knowing that we can find bountiful inspiration in them. The beauty of nostalgia is that you can always reimagine them through the lens of a Sofia Coppola film.