Saturday, 30 December 2017

why diet culture sucks and the best resolution i ever made

At the start of 2016 I made the best new years resolution I ever made. 

I made a promise to myself that, for the whole of 2016, I would not diet. At all. Traditionally, the new year is a time when everyone starts new diets and exercise regimes in order to lose weight gained over the festive period and focus on self-improvement.

We live in a society where self-improvement is often synonymous with weight loss. 

The previous year, my resolutions had been much more conventional, but much more unhealthy. Early on in 2015, weight loss was my main focus. It was certainly not the first time I had tried dieting. My entire adolescence had been punctuated by different weight loss fads. However, 2015 was a wake-up call. My weight was at its lowest and my health was suffering as a result. I was engaging in a lot of disordered eating habits every single day. Yet, still, people told me how good I looked, reinforcing the weight loss=self-improvement myth.

Of course, deciding to just "stop dieting" isn't possible for everyone. 

I still had days when I felt bad about my body, or had minor relapses. By the time I started university in September 2015, I already felt like I was quite some way into recovery, so my resolution seemed like the next positive step. Eating disorders are incredibly complex and telling someone suffering from one to decide to stop dieting is the equivalent of asking, “Why don’t you just eat?” However, this resolution worked for me once I was ready. If you have been in recovery for some time, I think the new year is a good time to solidify healthier habits and also say fuck you to diet culture. 2016 turned into 2017 and I did relapse slightly as I was freed from my new years resolution, but if a resolution enforces a positive habit into your life, why let it end at the end of the year?

I've always made new years resolutions. 

I like to view the new year as a fresh start. I am very sentimental about things like that. However, I also believe that we can start incorporating new habits into our routine throughout the year. The new year offers an opportunity to introduce bigger changes into our lives, but we should be growing and changing all year round. That’s why I carried my resolution into 2017 and will be taking it with me in 2018 as well. 

There is no such thing as healthy dieting for someone with an eating disorder, even once they have recovered, just like there is no such thing as healthy drinking for an alcoholic. 

Our society's obsession with dieting normalises restriction. In the UK, 1 in 250 women and 1 in 2000 men will suffer from anorexia nervosa at some point in their lives. I would argue that the statistics are probably even higher, especially if you take into account all other eating disorders, specifically orthorexia (obsession with healthy eating), which has seen a sharp increase due to the “clean eating” phenomenon. Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. In a country where so many people are suffering with eating disorders, how can we still be so fervently promoting new years dieting?

The festive season is stressful enough when you have an eating disorder without the inevitable pro-dieting rhetoric that the new year brings with it. 

Living in a culture that equates sticking to your diet with success is toxic. It is a culture that guilts you for eating a cupcake, promotes the idea that indulging in one more biscuit is “bad.” 

It is getting worse given that an increasing number of cafes and restaurants are putting calories on their food and drink. In the throes of my eating disorder, I would have loved this. It would have saved me time scrolling through websites and forums trying to find the lowest calorie meal on the menu before leaving to go out. We should be able to enjoy eating and drinking without equating it with numbers. 

Diet culture normalises eating disorder culture. 

It is not rare to hear conversations in public that could also be conversations on ‘pro ana’ forums. Sentences like “I’m so bad for getting this brownie” and “I’m meant to be on a diet” could be heard in the queue at Starbucks or in the internal dialogue of someone with an eating disorder. 

Google Maps recently came under fire for introducing a feature where it would tell you how many cupcakes you could eat considering how far you had walked that day. It was promptly withdrawn after people were outraged and suggested that it could promote eating disorders. I’m quite surprised that enough people complained about it for it to be removed, considering that the rhetoric of ‘earning’ food is so prevalent in our society. But, guess what? You can eat a cupcake (or 5, or more) even if you haven’t walked anywhere today and no one is going to drop dead because of it.

Making better resolutions.

I do still check in with my eating and exercise habits. My only rule is that I will only add things to my life, not take them away. In 2018, I am going to try to get my 5-a-day more often and I am doing a 30-day yoga challenge in January. Going to the gym doesn’t make me as anxious as it used to, but I still turn off the calorie counter on the machines and set goals based on the distance and speed I can go rather than how many calories I can burn. My main reason for exercising isn’t my body. I do it to clear my head, and trying to work out how many biscuits I've burnt off certainly doesn't do that.

I've become more cynical about new years resolutions this year. In 2017 I have discovered the importance of setting new habits whenever necessary. Making resolutions at the start of each week, or each day makes them much easier to stick to. 

However, new years resolutions sometimes do work, and the decision to stop dieting and buying into diet culture was the best one I ever made. 

Friday, 22 December 2017

"there's romance in sadness": mental health visibility in fashion

It's been a good few months for Adwoa Aboah. 

Gazing out at the world from the cover of the first issue of Edward Enninful's Vogue, Aboah symbolises the start of a new era for the magazine, and a new attitude towards diversity in fashion. Only a month after the issue was revealed, Aboah won Model of the Year at the Fashion Awards, beating the Hadid sisters for the title. She has come a long way since an attempted overdose in 2015; a topic she is refreshingly vocal about, bringing mental health into the conversation in the fashion industry.

Having seen her face in campaigns and editorials, the first I properly heard of Aboah was from the Evening Standard magazine that I picked up on my way home from Vogue in July. I read the interview on the train and I was taken aback by her openness about her struggles with depression and addiction. It was then I realised that when it came to discussing mental health, the fashion industry was lagging behind.

Big names in film and, in particular, music had become increasingly vocal about mental illness earlier in 2017. The Stormzy NME cover may have been misguided, but, in many ways, it became a catalyst for the mental health conversation in music. Music, however, has always lent itself to this. Of course this applies to some genres more than others, but there are no shortage of songs describing the experiences of living with a mental illness. 

Fashion falls short because the whole industry is essentially about covering up. It is one of the only creative industries that suggests a lack of sensitivity is needed to succeed. You are told to "develop a thick skin" in order to make it in fashion. There has been little awareness of mental illness in the industry until now.

"There's romance in sadness." Discourse around mental health in fashion has changed a lot since McQueen’s suicide.

When Alexander McQueen committed suicide in 2010, the fashion industry should have turned its focus towards mental health. Instead of looking at the absurd pressures put on designers to produce up to 10 collections a year, McQueen was martyred as a misunderstood artist. His death has been romanticised and mythologised, almost allowing us to forget the painful reality of it.

It is true that his work is deeply emotional; perhaps moreso that any designer before or since. It was difficult not to be moved by the 'Savage Beauty' exhibition when I saw it at the V&A. This emotion is what makes McQueen's work so special. The industry should nurture creatives and give them the time and space to perfect their work as well as giving them time to look after themselves.  

Fashion editor and friend of McQueen, Isabella Blow, had committed suicide in 2007. After her death, Daphne Guinness set up the Isabella Blow Foundation, which supports fashion and art students as well as funding research into depression and mental health. Fashion Communication students have some of the highest rates of anxiety out of any university course. The competitive aspect of the fashion industry as well as its emphasis on appearance and the nature of the job market today, make fashion students at high risk of developing mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.

 “Don’t make yourself small”

“Don’t make yourself small,” psychologist Dr Lauren tells Adwoa Aboah in this video interview for Vogue. “Fitting in is gross. There’s no reason to fit in.” Aboah’s first assignment as Vogue contributing editor was to interview Dr Lauren on the topic of mental health, and issues facing young women in particular. Seeing two successful women talking honestly about their own struggles with anxiety disorders, depression, addiction, body issues and mood swings on the Vogue Facebook page instead of another “behind-the-scenes with Kendall” video is so empowering.

Fashion itself has an obsession with smallness that is deeply problematic. It seems to tell you to, "make yourself small." Having promoted unrealistic beauty standards and disordered eating behaviours for so long, it is essential that the industry enters the conversation about mental health and repairs some of the damage it has contributed to. 

"The young generation has no time for anything that is no authentic or honest."

The bitchy fashionista cliché means that, in the fashion industry, you are told to toughen up, never smile and place disproportionate value on material possessions. This narrative excludes those who suffer from mental illness because it encourages so many unhealthy thoughts and behaviours. That is why it is so liberating to see Adwoa Aboah on the cover of Vogue. She proves that you can never be defined by an illness. The term “model-activist” often has an inauthentic ring to it, but if anyone is deserving of the title, it is Aboah.

Due to her personal experience, Aboah will make sure that fashion's engagement with mental health will not be just a trend. Whilst Vogue's average demographic is slightly older, it must engage in issues concerning young people in order to survive. The recent success of Teen Vogue has proven that young people want to read about important topics, not just "10 party dresses to wear this season" or "How to get him to like you back." With the number of young people suffering from mental illness at epidemic levels, it is crucial that this is addressed by magazines that present themselves as aspirational.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

how to conquer the fear of creating when you have depression

Depression makes it difficult to function day to day, let alone create. Realising that I hadn't written anything creative for months and in an anxiety inducing rut about the whole thing, I recently googled "how to be creative when you have depression." Then I stared blankly at the screen as the search results revealed a list of think-pieces about how artists are more prone to depression, but no advice on how to actually make art when you are feeling depressed.

Taken by Ethan in Berlin last December

Depression is one of the most romanticised illnesses. Whilst it is true that a lot of creatives suffer from it, when you are coming out the other side of a bad depressive episode where even getting out of bed/surviving is a struggle, it can be hard to work out how are you supposed to create anything at all, let alone anything good? Depression sucks everything out of you. Whilst it can be comforting when you feel low to imagine yourself as part of a cohort of tortured artists, it is not comforting to wake up and question how long you can go on calling yourself an artist if you are too depressed to create any art.

Create just for yourself 

Virginia Woolf said, "It is my belief that the habit of writing thus for my own eye only is good practice. It loosens the ligaments." That's exactly what is so important about creating just for yourself. It makes you less self conscious when it comes to sharing something publicly, which can reduce anxiety about creating altogether.

If you create something that no one other than you will ever see, then it takes away a lot of the pressure. Don't think as your creativity as "work." Instead, rethink it as a mode of expressing freedom. What you do doesn't have to be good, you just have to do it. 

I have always kept a journal for the days when I feel everything too much and I am so overwhelmed I have to write it down. Sometimes these entries are confused ramblings. At other times, they include lines and phrases that I use in my poetry. The most important thing is that when I am writing in my journal, it is for no one else to see.

Create as therapy 

Writing down how you feel is a good way to gain some control and understanding of your thoughts. However, if ruminating in this way makes you feel worse, try something completely different. The other bonus of creating in private is that you can practice forms of creativity that you do not naturally excel at. 

Visual arts like drawing, collage and colouring require few tools and little experience. The mindful adult colouring trend means that shops are awash with colouring books. Colouring can be therapeutic and creative, but, unlike writing how you feel, it can also make it easier to switch off your thoughts. 

Collaging is how I justify my magazine hoarding. I have a folder of all my favourite images so I can dip into that whenever I feel like adding some visuals to my journal. 

Try to engage creatively everyday 

Adopting a routine is an important part of recovery. Set aside some time every day to create. If you are busy, or feeling particularly low, even 15-minutes can make a huge difference. The longer you go without creating, the more intimidating it becomes, so if you practice for a short time every day you will not feel so out of touch with your creative self.

If the thought of creating makes you feel sick, (may seem melodramatic, but we've all been there) try using the 5-minute rule. Start working on something and if 5-minutes in you still don't feel better, try a different creative task, or do something completely different and return to it later. 

Think of this time as self-care time rather than a chore. Don't let the creative work that you have to do encroach on this time. Save it for something you are creating for the sake of it. 

Absorb art created by others 

If you immerse yourself in the creativity of others to feel less out of touch with that side of yourself. However, this step comes with a warning: don’t compare your work to others, especially if you haven’t made anything for a while. Lately when I’ve been spending time with my creative friends I have experienced huge bouts of imposter syndrome. Spending time with people who inspire you is important, as long as you try to be inspired rather than intimidated.

This always makes me think of the Ira Glass quote about taste and creativity. He says that "All of us who do creative work get into it because we have good taste." When you haven't created anything for a while, your taste is still good. However, you start to feel the pressure to fill the gap between your good taste and the work you create. 

The best way to tackle both these feelings is to find comfort in the fact that you are still interested in creativity, even if it is only through the work of others. It might take time, but your inspiration will come back to you. And think of all the ideas you will have- consciously or unconsciously- stored up in this time.

Try something new 

Okay, so this is definitely a recovery cliché, but I guess they say it because it helps. You by no means have to entirely recreate yourself on the way to recovering from depression, but any new habits that make you feel good are a bonus. 

We can get so obsessed with our thing. When you haven't done said thing for a while, it can get you down so much that it ends up being the last thing you want to do. Taking your mind off it in a creative way can help clear your head and inspire you simultaneously. 

If you usually write, try drawing. If you've never invested much time in photography before, try taking it up. In the era of multi-hyphenate creatives, you can never learn too many creative practices.

By Ethan

Fake it

This tip also appears in the post about my writing process. 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. 

Making a playlist to inspire you can also help with this step. I have two playlists to write to. The first one is full of my favourite poems and lyrics. I listen to this before writing for inspiration and to set the tone I want to achieve in my writing. I sometimes have the second one playing in the background as I write. None of the songs have lyrics so I write what comes into my head without distractions.

Whilst my annoyance about the romanticisation of depression is what fuelled this post, it can be comforting to know how many creatives have gone through it too. This article does a good job at explaining why writers are more prone to depression, but it can be applied to pretty much any creative pursuit that could potentially isolate you. It is refreshing to read a piece on the subject that avoids all romantic cliches. It acknowledges that lifestyle is a significant factor in depression and it is not just a result of being an oh-so intelligent, introspective Artiste. Depression sucks, but if reading this has made it suck a tiny bit less for someone then yay. I know that I feel better having written it.

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.