Saturday, 19 August 2017

Outfit Post: Rediscovering Your Personal Style

This is a huge fashion blogger faux pas but I've been in a bit of a style rut recently. I say recently, truth be told I'm not really sure when it was but one day I woke up totally despairing at the state of my wardrobe. It all felt jarring. The skirt I lived in last year suddenly felt wrong and looked awful with the shoes sitting on my shelf begging to be worn for the first time and don't even get me started on the half dozen pieces I just bought on a whim. Getting dressed in the morning quickly became the bane of my life.

I will never be one of those women who are organised enough to put together a look the night before and still want to wear it the next morning. For me, fashion is much more emotive than that. I've always been an instinctive dresser, picking pieces and putting them together based on my mood rather than simply shrugging on a premeditated outfit. It's one of our most overt forms of self-expression. Whether it's a conscious decision or not, your outfit tells everyone that you encounter in a day something about you. And for the last few months, I'm sure they've been screaming "I got dressed in the dark!"

I went through my wardrobe to streamline it, giving away six bin bags of clothes, shoes and accessories to charity. It helped but it didn't fix the underlying issue of having such a broad variety of styles, colours and prints staring at me whenever I opened my wardrobe. Having a signature style doesn't appeal to me, while I appreciate a consistent ode to a 50s silhouette or Karl Lagerfeld's love affair with his work uniform, I love fashion far too much to narrow my scope of wardrobe choices - I'm sure this is obvious for those who have flicked through my outfit posts! 

The only remedy seemed to be investing in a whole new wardrobe to find pieces I actually want to wear while injecting some much-needed energy into the pieces I love. So a few months ago, I booked myself a personal shopping appointment at Topshop.

After a brief consultation with my personal stylist, I popped in on a Sunday morning and was totally overwhelmed by the service. My wonderful stylist, Lise, pulled together two rails of outfits in my own private room. Everything had been outfitted with accessories and she talked me through each outfit and alternative ways to style each piece. I spent the next hour trying the pieces on and falling in love with absolutely everything. It's like Lise knew my style better than I did! 

I ended up spending far too much on a brand new wardrobe from Topshop but you know what, it was worth it. The pieces I bought slotted in seamlessly with my own wardrobe, filling in the gaps that were there and enhancing the pieces I already owned. I rediscovered my love for fashion and saw my wardrobe in a new light, getting dressed in the morning became a joy again rather than a chore. 

I can't believe one personal shopping appointment had such a huge impact on me. I've been shopping at Topshop for about two decades and I can't believe it took me so long to take advantage of their personal shopping service, which is complimentary by the way. Oh and this post is not sponsored by Topshop at all. It's a genuine ode to their personal shopping team. I'm just blown away by the service, I've been raving about it to my IRL pals and wanted to share how amazing it is online too. 

Huge thanks to the lovely Lise for being such an angel. 

Dress - Topshop
Sneakers - Vans

Photography by Adorn Girl.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Outfit Post: Don't Worry, Be Happy

Happiness is a funny thing. In Western culture, the pursuit of happiness is a phenomenon. We spend forever chasing the idea of it without perhaps knowing what we're chasing. The concept of happiness usually means "feeling good", a fleeting notion driven by instant gratification. It's normal to splurge on a pair of beautiful shoes or treat ourselves to a decadent dessert because it makes us feel good in the moment But seeking happiness through short-term gratification leads to a cycle of constantly needing to top up the high we get from things, food or experiences. It becomes a vicious cycle. But here's the tea; consumerism isn't the key to being happy, despite what the media tells us. 

A few years ago I explained the West's pursuit of happiness to my motorbike guide, Quy, while I was biking across central Vietnam. We had just reached the top of Hai Van Pass, a magnificent mountain road of hairpin bends which looks across the South China Sea. We sat at the top, taking in the breathtaking views and drinking a super sweet Vietnamese coffee. Quy started asking me about what job I did; he assumed I had an incredible job because I was able to travel. He thought I had a big house and was super happy.

I explained that life in the West is constantly chasing the next thing, whether it's a job, flat, car, handbag or anything else the media dictates that we must have. Our happiness is connected to things. Quy was so surprised and said that the Buddhist view of happiness is totally different. Every morning, he wakes up and is thankful that he has two eyes that see, a nose that smells, two ears that hear and a mouth that speaks and can taste. He grew up in a tiny village which didn't have electricity till the 1990s and he's had a tough life yet he is full of gratitude and joy. He taught me a lot about Vietnam, Buddhism and above all, being thankful and grateful every day. 

I'm not very religious but I enjoyed learning about Buddhism and a lot of what he taught me aligns with how I see the world spiritually. I'm a strong believer in energy and what you put out into the universe coming back to you.  This is why his words about being grateful are so important. Practicing the art of gratitude works in so many ways; it forces you to a positive state of mind by reminding you of how many blessings you've already received and opening your eyes to the abundance in your life rather than focusing on what you don't have. 

I started thinking about the things my lovely friend Quy taught me recently. In a previous outfit post, I shared that my mum was having major surgery and would be spending a month in the hospital. I'm happy to report that she is now home and getting a little bit stronger every day. Quy's outlook really helped to keep me positive over the last few weeks, I focused on being thankful to the doctors and nurses who helped my mum on her road to recovery as well as being totally in awe of her strength and determination. 

Focusing on being positive has made a huge difference to my outlook this month and now that my mum's health is stabilising, I feel even more empowered to be happy and positive. It's not easy by any means; you don't just wake up feeling happy by accident. The trick is to work at it every day and be conscious of your happiness. It's like a muscle that you need to exercise, every time you do it gets stronger. 

It's sometimes easy for negative thoughts to creep into my head but I'm getting better at nipping them in the bud and replacing them with happy thoughts. Being happy really is a choice and now that I'm actively trying, I see the good energy I'm putting out there come back to me. It really is a beautiful thing. 

I wanted to share my favourite little ways to stay positive and put good energy out into the universe: 

1. Wake up and take 30 seconds to think about what you're grateful for before getting out of bed. 
2. Smile at strangers, they'll always smile back!
3. Slow down and be conscious of your surroundings, look for the beauty. 
4. Compliments, both in person and online! I spend so much of my time on Twitter complimenting people and it really makes people's day. 
5. Pick up the phone and call someone instead of just texting. I'm so guilty of this as I'm always multi tasking but nothing beats a phone call. 
6. Before you go to bed, think of all the things you're thankful for and set a positive intention for the next day. 
7. Don't be afraid to let go of people or situations which no longer serve you or help you grow. 

Dress - Topshop
Sneakers - SWEAR

Photography by Adorn Girl


Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Outfit Post: That's Shoe Business

It's not often we get a chance to pause and reflect on how far we've come. Life, particularly in cities like London, has us hurtling forward at 180mph barely able to catch our breath let alone take stock of our achievements. The key to surviving seems to be an elaborate juggling act between obligations and trying to hold onto some semblance of a "normal" life. But if we don't stop to smell the roses, what's the point? By this, I mean really appreciating how far we've come and how hard we've fought for it, rather than the odd 'treat yoself' splurge. 

Last week, I found myself running early for a friend's birthday drinks so instead of my usual speed walk/canter to the event, I slowed to a stroll, took in my surroundings and let my mind wander. This year marks a decade since I graduated from university. I had to count it on my fingers to make sure I got it right. I couldn't believe that it had been that long but at the same time, it seems like I've lived several lifetimes since then. It's weird how time can be so subjective. 

I've loved shoes way before I even started university - I blame my mother for that little habit - and it seemed like kismet that I spent my final year working for a shoe designer. Managing the Primrose Hill store for British designer Beatrix Ong was fun, I played with beautiful shoes all day and sat in on buying appointments from time to time. It's where I started to learn about the shoe trade. 

At the time, Beatrix collaborated with artist Natasha Law (yes, Jude's sister) on some beautiful shoe boxes featuring her delicate prints along with a Lao Tzu quote; "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step". That quote stuck with me and it's ironic that now, 10 years later, I'm still in the shoe business albeit in a much senior role for a much more exciting business. I guess my weekend job might have been the single step towards where I am now. 

I don't really talk about my day job on the blog or social media, but I'm blessed to be doing a job I really love. I manage marketing and PR for a start-up shoe brand. Working for a start-up after working for one of the biggest luxury retailers was a huge step change but it's been more rewarding than I can put into words. In a single day, I can be doing anything from engaging influencers, naming our newest shoe style, signing off PR strategy or working with a huge US retailer on a campaign. Or I could be flying out to Porto for a factory visit. 

I walked into work yesterday without a hint of weekend blues and despite only getting 5 hours of sleep I was raring to go. I work for a company I'm passionate about, I have an amazing yet challenging marketing role and I really respect my boss and colleagues. I'm blessed. 

I would say I lucked out, but luck has very little to do with where I am now. It's taken hard work, determination, blood, sweat and tears to get to where I am now. I haven't had any handouts and no one has given me a leg up. I've endured enough horrible jobs and worse bosses to last a lifetime. I had a job so awful, I would cry as soon as I got home. I've worked with a colleague so horrific I couldn't bear to speak to her. Looking back, I can barely believe how unhappy I used to be. Having survived the worst and fought for better really makes me appreciate where I am in life. 

It's easy to see where someone is in a current moment and not appreciate their journey and hard work. Especially with social media, which is little more than a highlights reel showing select high points and none of the lows. It's easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of projecting a perfect life but it's so, so important to stay down to Earth. I'm fortunate that my hard work has paid off, I have lovely things and travel to incredible places but I'm also very grateful for every experience. There's a brilliant Oprah quote that I try to live by; "I still have my feet on the ground, I just wear better shoes.". 

Tshirt - Miss Selfridge
Jeans - Topshop
Shoes - Topshop

Photography by Adorn Girl


Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Travel: A weekend guide to Capri

Having been to Capri twice, I’m surprised that the majority of people tend to pay the beautiful island a fleeting visit, arriving just before midday and fleeing on a late afternoon ferry. There’s so much more to see on the island than the Blue Grotto and the Piazzetta in Capri town! Here are my top tips and recommendations for an extended trip to my favourite Italian Isle.

What to do:

The Blue Grotto and the Faraglioni
One of the most iconic sites of Capri, it’s impossible to visit the island without taking a boat over to the Blue Grotto. Hop aboard a boat in Marina Grande, either just to the Blue Grotto or a half-day trip to the Blue Grotto and continuing around the entire island. I chose to go around the whole island, taking in the lighthouse, a couple of smaller grottos and of course the Faraglioni.

For the Blue Grotto, you’ll need to be transferred to a wooden rowboat so your able skipper can navigate through the entrance to the grotto – be sure to lay as flat as possible as the entrance is barely a meter high! Once inside, you’ll see the grotto lit up by a beautiful azure blue light, while the boatmen sing old sailor songs. It really is something special.

I continued around the island and one of the highlights was seeing the Faraglioni, three huge rocks jutting out of the water. They’re an iconic emblem of Capri and this is the best way to see them so I highly recommend taking the half day boat tour.

Capri Town
Capri Town is unsurprisingly the epicentre of Capri island. As soon as you step off the boat, you’re whisked by funicular train up to Capri Town. The Piazzetta is the heart of Capri Town, with four bars on each side of the square – ideal for sipping a limoncello and people watching. The town has a very laid back vibe so it’s best to take it easy and just have a wander down the little lanes and enjoy it at leisure.

I’ll cover where to eat and drink a little later in this post but the town is great for shopping. Fashionistas must take a stroll down Via Camerelle to window shop every luxury brand from Prada to Gucci, Chanel is opening very soon right across the street from the Grand Hotel Quisisana.

Aside from food and fashion, there are two lovely hiking trails which start in Capri Town. There’s a lovely hike up to Villa Jovis which sits atop Capri’s second highest peak, Monte Tiberio. The second hike is slightly more leisurely, taking you to the Arco Naturale, a natural arch formed by the collapse of a grotto which dates back to the Palaeolithic age. Both hikes start at the same spot. Next to Piccolo Bar, head down a tiny little road which is no more than an alley called Via Le Botteghe. Keep following the road until you see signs for both Villa Jovis and the Arco Naturale, pick your route depending on how adventurous you’re feeling! There are some great little restaurants along the Arco Naturale route, as an FYI.

Anacapri feels like the real Capri, no glitz or glam, no celebrities and much fewer tourists, you get a feel for real life on the island. Full of pretty little lanes and piazzas decorated with bright geraniums and bougainvillaea, it’s so picturesque it barely feels real. It’s only a short 15-minute bus ride from Capri Town but feels like a world away. Those day trippers are really missing out!

The bus shudders to a stop in Piazza Vittoria, in between the chair lift for Monte Solaro and the main street in Anacapri. Getting a chair lift to the top of Capri’s highest peak is one of my favourite things to do on the island. It takes about 12 minutes to slowly make your way to the top of Monte Solaro, enough time to take in incredible panoramic views of the island. At the top, you’re rewarded with beautiful views across the Bay of Naples, just blue skies meeting blue seas. There’s a shop at the top but I recommend taking your own picnic of treats with you.

You can either return via chairlift or by hiking down the mountain. I’ve done both and thoroughly recommend the hike down – for one, gravity is working with you! It's not an arduous journey, just watch out for goats on your way down.

Once you’re back in Piazza Vittoria, head across the road to Via Giuseppe, the main street in Anacapri. This is a beautiful little bougainvillea-lined street full of shops and restaurants. Last time I was taking a stroll down, I made friends with an old Nonno who introduced me to his wife and sold me a pair of her hand-knitted baby booties.

About halfway down the lane, you’ll see signs to Chiesa Monulentale di San Michele. Follow them and you’ll find the most incredible church. The baroque church was completed in 1719 and while it may look simple on the outside, the inside houses one of Capri’s architectural treasures. Ceramic artist Leonardo Chiaiese painted the majolica tiled floor with a scene showing the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. The detail is incredible, best admired up close on the ground floor and in its entirety from the organ loft where the colours and scene really come to life.

From Viale Tommaso de Tommaso bus stop in Anacapri, you can continue by bus to Faro, the southernmost tip of the island. Home to Capri’s lighthouse, the second tallest in Italy, this little spot in drenched in sunshine from dawn til dusk. No wonder it’s a favourite spot for the locals, both for sunbathing at the beach as well as enjoying an epic sunset.

There are a number of paid-for beach clubs on the island but the Lido del Faro is free, perfect! Beaches on Capri tend to be rocky but the beach at Faro has sun decks nestled between the rocks, a beach club, restaurant and snack bar.

On Sunday, half the island descends onto Faro for a sunset beach party. There are three beach bars servicing cocktails and it’s the perfect spot to watch the sun set across the crystal clear waters.

Where to eat and drink:
When it comes to dining, you are spoilt for choice. Most of my favourite restaurants on the island are located in Capri Town, where you may or may not bump into one of the celebrities that love to visit Capri during the summer months.

La Capannina – Via Le Botteghe, Capri Town
La Capannina is a Capri institution. It dates back to the 1930s and everyone from Jackie O to Mariah Carey has passed through their doors – the walls are adorned with pictures of politicians, singers and royalty who have dined at the restaurant. During busy months, the beautiful conservatory is the place to be, decked out with flowers it’s a stunning space. I enjoyed a modest ravioli with parmesan topped asparagus as a side and regret not ordering more!

Aurora – Via Fuorlovado, Capri Town

Aurora is one of those places on the island, where you go to be seen. One of the top eateries on the island, it has a beautiful front terrace which is always lively as well as an expansive yet intimate dining space inside. Candle-lit tables with starched tablecloths and attentive waiters in black and white uniforms, this is the place to go for a special meal on the island. Owned by the D’Allesio family, the cuisine is traditional Caprese with a touch of Neapolitan flair. I started with a very green and very fresh minestrone soup followed by the thinnest, lightest margarita pizza I have ever had in my life, the base was paper thin but full of flavour. I didn’t want this gastronomic feast to end so of course, I found a little room for dessert, a delicious rhum baba was the perfect way to end this incredible meal.

Restaurant D’Amore – Via Fuorlovado, Capri Town

Just a couple of doors down from Aurora is Restaurant D’Amore. We grabbed a seat at the bright, pretty terrace to grab a quick bite before hopping on the ferry back to Naples and it’s probably one of the best impulse decisions I’ve made. The restaurant is a mix of old and new. The name itself is new, formerly known as the Ristorante Sollievo, and the place has had a beautiful, contemporary makeover. I had a delicious and generous portion of gnocchi alla Sorrentina, which was very welcome after the tiny portion I received at La Capannina. I finished my meal with the most exquisitely presented Crème Brulee. Even a month on, I still think about my meal at Restaurant D’Amore.

Villa Verde – Via Sella Orta

Villa Verde, like Aurora, came highly recommended and is known as one of the best eateries on the island – this was confirmed by the group of handsome Italians at the next table who inevitably started chatting to us. Despite the reputation, this was my least favourite place to eat. As a vegetarian, I’m used to having a reduced menu choice compared to my meat-eating pals but this has never really been a problem for me in Italy, I find it one of the easiest places to be vegetarian as everywhere does a margarita and a spaghetti Pomodoro as an absolute minimum. I opted for the latter as it was one of the few veggie-friendly options and it was awful. It was just spaghetti with chunks of very strong tomatoes chopped and thrown together, I didn’t get a hint of garlic, basil or any other seasoning. Luckily the tiramisu and multiple limoncellos saved this otherwise disappointing meal.

Taverna Anema e Core – Via Sella Orta

You’d be forgiven for assuming the nightlife in Capri was wild – ostentatious clubs rivalling the Just Cavalli club in Milan perhaps or perhaps super sleek hotel bars channelling the Armani hotel. There are in fact only two clubs on the entire island, the infamous yet unassuming Taverna Anema e Core and a nightclub I can’t quite remember the name of…despite two visits in two years. Located in the centre of Capri Town just a hop and a skip from Villa Verde lies the Taverna and its infamous stage show. The first time I visited the Taverna, I was ushered through the unmarked wooden doors by some rather cute Italian boys who promised it’s the best spot in town.

What I encountered was a live band playing traditional Latin and Italian songs which everyone (bar me) knew all the words to. Everyone was in high spirits, the drinks flowed freely and it was all very confusing. Hard to imagine Naomi Campbell or Beyonce and Jay Z in the Taverna but stranger things have happened. Like the end of the night when legendary owner Guido, a 90-something Italian Nonno, jumps on a table and starts to strip down to his white pants… to much applause. When I visit this year, I meet Guido himself. The charmer kissed my hand and sang me Italian love songs, the charmer. The second time around, knowing what I was in for, it was a super fun night and I can see why the Taverna is the island’s hot spot.

Where to stay:
Inevitably, there are a plethora of hotels to choose from in Capri. For me, location was super important. Having visited the island last year, I knew that I wanted to stay in Capri Town for ease, accessibility and of course to be near the good food! For me, the obvious choice was the Grand Hotel Quisisana – arguably the finest hotel in Capri. It was opened in 1845 and occupies an enviable location just off Via Camerelle. The neoclassical building is so grand and beautiful, the staff could not do more to help you and the breakfast buffet is to die for. I loved the beautiful pool area which looks our across the sea – this is a huge bonus owing to the lack of “proper” beaches on Capri. Read my full review of Grand Hotel Quisisana in my separate post, coming soon.


Monday, 17 July 2017

Outfit Post: Let's Talk About The 'Gram

I think it's time we settled down with a cup of tea and talked about Instagram. As one of the blogging elders, I've been on Instagram for more than half a decade and I've seen it evolve from a sea of Valencia-filtered snaps documenting the ordinary to its current airbrushed and editorial. Change is good, particularly when it means no more blurry Starbucks pics in your feed but Instagram has changed so much over the last few years, I can’t help thinking its current landscape is problematic for a few reasons. 

As a blogger/influencer/content creator (what are we calling ourselves these days?!), Instagram is arguably the most important channel to promote your work. Despite not being able to include links in posts, it offers influencers the opportunity to visually communicate who they are - after all, a picture is worth a thousand words. A quick scroll of someone's feed gives you a snapshot into their style, lifestyle choices last holiday and even what they had for breakfast. This is why its’ such a key form of social media for content creators, it's invaluable to promote who you are and who you stand for.

This is particularly important for fashion bloggers. Fashion is a visual form of self-expression, so of course, Instagram is vital for the entire industry, not just fashion bloggers. I work for a brand that uses Instagram to establish a visual identity, using obscure art references or archive imagery alongside current product images. This helps to build substance behind the brand, establishing a personality and point of difference - which is exactly what influencers seek to do on the ‘gram. 

Learning about Instagram and how to harness it to build an audience is all well and good until Instagram decides to rewrite the rules. This happened last year; the infamous algorithm change which saw the feed change from simply displaying images in chronological order to a feed which uses an ever-changing algorithm to determine which content is displayed and to how many people. The upshot is brands and influencers alike have struggled with plummeting visibility and engagement ever since. For people who make a living from Instagram, it’s been disastrous. 

Influencers have had to start taking Instagram "seriously". By that I mean the fun has gone and it's now become increasingly strategic, laborious and stressful to maintain a decent presence on IG, both in terms of engagement on individual posts and to grow your audience. For brands and agencies, it’s all about the numbers. First and foremost, they judge influencers on how many followers they have. Engagement on posts in a secondary consideration, mainly to ensure there’s no discrepancy to indicate that an influencer has bought their followers. 

From hashtagging to comment pods, influencers have tried various different tactics to increase engagement and attract new followers. Perhaps the most extreme act is to engage bots to comment, like and follow/unfollow people in a bid to grow your audience. This is problematic, as brands will engage and pay for bloggers' services based on false inflated figures it essentially boils down to fraud. But I think it’s important to ask why people resort to such lengths for social media.

The pressure on influencers is insane. When I started blogging there were a few dozen fashion bloggers, we all knew each other pretty well. Nowadays, there are literally thousands. Everyone is vying to be the best and partner with brands or agencies, who only see the numbers. Instead of valuing micro-influencers, who have smaller but much more engaged audiences, it’s only ever the huge bloggers who are selected by brands - which is exactly why there’s so much pressure on numbers Bloggers also perpetuate this issue by judging other bloggers on the number of followers. We’ve all become obsessed with chasing a number which ultimately means nothing in the grand scheme of things. And Instagram keeps changing the goalposts make it harder and harder to reach that number. Isn’t that crazy?! 

For a while, I was obsessive about the number of followers and likes each picture got. I was invited to a couple of comment pods, I focused on making my Instagram look prettier. And honestly, I was adding a bunch of needless stress and worry to my life. Instagram began to rule my life, it was ridiculous. I've now given up chasing numbers, trying to keep up with comment pods, being a slave to a theme and all the other needless stress. I'm so much happier for it. It's liberating to take a step back and not put unnecessary pressure on yourself to live up to someone's expectations. 

Tshirt - Theyksens' Theory
Jeans - Zara
Belt - Off White
Heels - Aquazzura

Photography by Adorn Girl
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