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.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

how to plan your days when you have anxiety


I am writing this post as much for myself as for anybody else. I have always loved making meticulous lists and plans, as lots of people do. It gives me a sense of control over my life and motivates me to actually get stuff done.

I recently moved back to Sheffield, where, in a few weeks, I am starting the final year of my literature degree. Only a handful of other people are back this early so I've had a lot of time to myself and I've been structuring my days pretty rigidly. For the first few days it was going well, but there are some things you can't plan for. You can't plan for last-minute invitations, rearranged plans, or poor physical or mental health.

love the idea of spontaneity and surprise, I wish I could fully dedicate myself to it without worrying about not being productive enough. That said, I rarely turn things down. Most of my money goes on spontaneous coffee trips with friends I haven't spoken to for a while, and I always feel like I'm missing out if I don't say yes to every night out I am invited to. 

As I was halfway through writing this post something happened that made my mood drop and consequently meant taking some time out from the schedule I had thus far stuck to. Instead of acknowledging that I needed time for myself, I just worried about all the more productive things I could/should be doing. I’m very bad at knowing when to allow myself to have a break, but I am going to start trying to follow my own advice that I have put in this post. 

When I have already planned my day, and evening up to a week in advance and then something changes, I can't help but feel guilty and anxious about giving up my original plan. The same goes for if I spend half an hour procrastinating and then panic knowing that I will never ever get that time back again. 

Clearly, something needs to change. There are ways to schedule activities and motivate yourself to be productive that don't involve having a breakdown about last minute changes or cancellations. 


Set general goals rather than strict time limits


Instead of waking up and forcing yourself to read for 2 hours, set the goal to read 50 pages that day and dip in and out whenever you feel like it. This way, if you get distracted or really don’t have the focus, there’s no need to stress. This works for any task. It requires a certain amount of self motivation because if you leave everything to the evening then it will be a mad rush to get things done. However, it is better than fretting over been an hour behind on a planned schedule.


Don't be too harsh on yourself


If you don't go for a run or go to the gym, do some yoga or go for a walk instead. Learn not to see one task as more important than another unless it really does have a deadline you need to stick to, especially with exercise. Learn to see high intensity work outs as equal to lower intensity ones, as you are doing them for your mind, not just for your body, because that is fine the way it is.


Congratulate yourself for the small things


Take the time to congratulate yourself for every little task you complete. Whether that’s just washing your hair or writing an introduction to an essay, it is important to appreciate all our achievements; big and small. Congratulate yourself the same way you would congratulate a friend who was struggling, or as if you were praising a child.


Think of one thing you did well today


At the end of the day try and write down one thing that you did well that day. This can be smiling at someone on the street, getting out of bed, eating three meals, or calling someone you haven’t spoken to in a while. Even if you think you haven’t had a very productive day, you will have done something worthwhile. Remember that when you don’t feel well, you don’t need to have a good day, you just need to have a day.  

Break tasks down


Break tasks down so that you do not have to sustain focus for longer than you can. Everyone has different limits. You might be able to properly focus for 20 minutes before taking a 5-minute break and restarting, or maybe you can focus for an hour before taking a slightly longer break. I find that if I am working on the same thing for much longer than 90-minutes I start to lose focus and need a break, even if that’s just walking to the shops or making a cup of coffee.

Make time for breaks


It is important to make time for breaks. I sometimes feel guilty doing this, seeing as most of my so-called “work” is reading and writing, which I enjoy doing anyway. However, I have found that if I am reading or writing for too long it ceases to be enjoyable and I do need a break. Try doing something completely different in your breaks, like watching TV, having a snack, listening to music or going on tumblr (if anyone other than me still even does that anymore.)


Schedule self-care time


At least once every 3 days you should schedule some self-care time. Even if you are flexible with every other task, stick to this. It is not a waste of time. Dedicate half an hour, an evening, or a whole day to checking in with your mental health and pampering yourself. Try to work through any anxieties you have by writing them down or discussing them in a productive way with a friend. Then reward yourself with something like a bubble bath, some yoga exercises or a face mask.


Try the 5-minute rule

In contrast, when you really want to get something done, but don't have the motivation, try the 5-minute rule. Start the task and focus on it for 5-minutes. If you still really don't want to do it, then take a break. Quite often, starting a task is more daunting than actually doing it. I find this especially true when it comes to running. The hardest part is getting out the front door.


Tuesday, 5 September 2017

why fashion needs female creative directors

The fashion industry is currently riding a wave created by female creative directors. Despite fashion supposedly being a "women's industry", historically, the world's most successful high fashion brands have been led by men. In such a visual industry, it is significant that everything is largely filtered through the male gaze. It can even be considered a contributing factor to many of the issues in fashion today surrounding body image and unrealistic beauty standards. 

Campaign image: Alexander McQueen AW14 campaign with clothes designed by Sarah Burton. Dress by Clare Waight Geller at Chloe for SS15.

In March this year, Natacha Ramsay-Levi became the latest woman to become creative director of a major fashion house. Ramsay-Levi takes the helm at Chloe, replacing Clare Waight Geller as she moves to Givenchy. The two women join Maria Grazia Chiurri at Dior and Sarah Burton at Alexander McQueen as female creative directors of some of the most famous designer brands in the world. Being a woman and getting to the top of the designer chain is no longer reserved for celebrities and those who benefit from family nepotism.

Vivienne Westwood and Rei Kawakubo represent the innovation of female designers. Throughout the 20th century both provoked with their Avant Garde, punk designs.

Many prestigious houses were initially founded by women. Paris’ oldest fashion house was founded by Jeanne Lanvin in 1889. Lanvin began by designing clothes for her daughter. The brand’s logo depicts a mother and her daughter, reflecting its family oriented origins. Lanvin's humble beginnings represent the thread of femininity running through the brand.

At the start of the following century, Coco Chanel opened her first shop, defying contemporary expectations of women. She despised the heavy hats and uncomfortable corsets that were popular at the time and offered plain boaters, sportier looks and, eventually, her magnum opus, the little black dress. At the same time, Elsa Schiaparelli was collaborating with artists to create sweaters with surrealist prints that fused fashion with art. Both her and Chanel focused on a sportier style for women that would define their era.

Edie and Olympia Campbell for Lanvin AW14; the brand still sticks to its family oriented roots. Quote from the ultimate female creative, Grimes.

Schiaparelli and Chanel battled it out through the ‘20s and ‘30s to be the most popular designer of the time. What Lanvin, Schiaparelli and Chanel all had in common, however, was an eye for creating clothes that women felt comfortable in. Of course, this is what every designer strives for and it is hardly a revolutionary vision when addressed on its own, but Schiaparelli and Chanel pioneered the sartorial liberation of women between the two world wars. Would they have done so if they had been men? It’s questionable.

With so many women leading the industry, it is an exciting time in fashion. We are not only seeing women taking on established brands, but founding their own labels too. The past decade has seen the rise of independent female designers, with Molly Goddard and Iris Van Herpen experiencing huge success. Molly Goddard’s playful modern princess clothes speak to a new generation of young women, making her an industry darling. Whereas Iris Van Herpen creates pieces that walk the line between fashion and art, using experimental techniques that prove that originality is not an impossible feat. 


Donatella Versace is known for designing seductive clothes created from a female perspective.

It can be irritating and unoriginal when people put emphasis on the person doing a job. So, why the emphasis on being a female creative director, not just a creative director? In these turbulent times, identity politics is more prevalent than ever, and that even translates into high fashion. Whilst Maria Grazia Chiurri’s ‘We Should All Be Feminists’ t-shirts are more of a symbol of wealthy, privileged white feminism than anything else, at least they got people talking about the layers of privilege, tokenism in fashion and, of course, what feminism means today. Even that was better than Karl Lagerfeld's flop of an attempt to relate to contemporary protest for Chanel in 2014.

Upon the announcement of her appointment, Natacha Ramsay-Levi said, “I am very proud to join a house founded by a woman to dress women.” At womenswear brand, it seems like a no-brainer to have a woman at the helm. The women mentioned in this piece are all white, and fashion has a long way to go in representing women of colour. Tokenism is still a huge issue in fashion, but it cannot be solved over night. With more women working from within these brands, we can hope for change. Fashions fade, but we can hope that this industry shift will be eternal. 

Sunday, 3 September 2017

daily habits that increase creativity


Creativity can be fleeting. One nighttime burst of inspiration can be followed by weeks of creative blocks, or ideas lacking direction. Whilst there is no surefire way to become and stay inspired, there are habits that you can engage in that will help you. Every artist experiences periods of creative blankness. They can last for several hours, or several years.

Even if these habits do not lead directly to creativity, they can improve your mood and imagination, and give you more experiences to work with.



Read


Reading is vital to all creative work. As a writer and a literature student, I am obviously biased, but learning more about the world and other people's lives can never be a bad thing. 

Don't just read books that directly relate to what you are interested in either. Delve into the history of things to gain a fresh insight or see something from a new angle. Often creative blocks rise from a feeling that everything has already been done and it is impossible to be original. However, by reading widely you may stumble upon an idea that you can work with to create something truly unique. 

Look out for books focusing on the works of lesser known artists to find new role models. The year I spent only reading books by women opened my eyes to literary geniuses that are often overlooked in the canon and gave me a greater sense of belonging as a female writer.


Turn off your phone


Smart phones and social media mean that we are saturated with potential inspiration at all times. It is so overwhelming that, more often than not, apps like Instagram breed envy rather than creativity. 

Turn off your phone and spend some time creating something for yourself with no end goal of sharing it with anyone. I find that I do my best writing in my journals because no one is ever going to read it and I am therefore less self-conscious. 

It is important to take time out from social media occasionally. Recently I have only used social media to promote my zine after realising it was having a negative impact on my mental health. I will go back to it when I’m ready, but it’s important to know when you need to take a break.


Listen to music


Music can inspire such a spectrum of emotions. If you find it distracting to work whilst listening to music, try a genre you wouldn’t usually listen to. Music without lyrics and film scores both work well.

See what words and images to come to your mind when you are listening to an ambient soundtrack. It is amazing what our imaginations can create from virtually nothing. This exercise should also be done with your phone switched off.


Get outside


Walk, run, skip, whatever, just get outside. Haruki Murakami runs 10 kilometres everyday because he believes that, when writing a novel, “Physical strength is as necessary as artistic sensitivity.”

Running is a good way to clear your head, but if you want to become more perceptive, just go for a walk with a camera and a journal and observe. People watch, see the way the sun/rain/clouds make everything around you look, appreciate nature, pretend to be a Romantic poet. 


Work at the time that suits you best


When you study the daily routines of successful artists, you will find that most are either morning people or night owls. There is a widespread belief that getting up early is somehow more virtuous and productive. Getting up early can inspire a productive day, but if you know you work better at night, then there is little point forcing yourself to wake up super early. 

There is no formula to creativity. The discipline of a routine does help, but find out when you naturally work best and schedule creative activities during that time. Don't try to force someone else's routine on yourself, or you will just become miserable. 


Friday, 1 September 2017

pretty (issue 8)

I am very excited to share Issue 8 of Pretty with you. It has had a complete redesign, making it the best issue yet. I couldn't have done it without all the fabulously amazing contributors. The theme is 'Girl Gangs and Gladioli.' I hope you enjoy it!