Friday, 6 April 2018

A Lesson In Personal Style

Last night as I scrolled through my Instagram, I realised something. I've been working in fashion for way too long. How long is too long? Eight years, everywhere from start-ups to established luxury brands and even an eventful stint at an agency. And the indicator that I've been in my industry for too long? A feed which featured swathes of black, despite my natural aversion to fashion's favourite hue. My family are Indian, I'm naturally drawn to bright, vibrant shades but it seems that over the years I've slowly snuck more black into my wardrobe. I realised last night that I shimmy into black outfits pretty much every morning without even realising it! 

Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with black. A perennial fashion favourite, it's bold, confident, understated and chic all at the same time. Riccardo Tisci describes black as elegant and "the most complete colour in the world" while Ann Demeulemeester calls it poetic. My favourite quote is by Yohji Yamamoto; "Black is modest and arrogant at the same time. Black is lazy and easy - but mysterious. But above all, black says this: I don't bother you - you don't bother me.". I think of black as a sartorial comfort blanket, it's always ambiguous and safe. 

While there's nothing wrong with black, I tend to veer towards colours and prints. I feel like they express who I am more than black does. It's also in my genes as I alluded to earlier, Indian culture is so rich and vibrant so it feels natural to gravitate towards different colours - if you've never been to an Indian wedding, they look like an explosion of Starburst! So when I realised my wardrobe choices had become a little monotone, I decided to make a change. 

They say you should do one thing every day that scares you. I don't think "they" were thinking about dresses when they said this but whatever. I was stuck in a little bit of a style rut and needed to challenge myself. So when I saw a dress that I loved and hated in equal measure...I was intrigued. Very 'Kim Kardashian at the Met Ball 2013' and an awkward length to boot, this dress just wasn't "me"...on paper but maybe it could pull me out of my 'all black everything' phase?

When it arrived, I was even more uncertain. The print was bolder than I remembered, the fabric not as nice as it looked in the picture and when I slipped it on, I was giving off some serious 'frumpy but trying too hard to be "cool"' vibes. I tried it with my Stan Smiths, channelling the nonchalant midi-with-sneakers look and it just wasn't me, I looked like I was trying too hard. However, when I slipped my beloved lime green snakeskin heels, the look started coming together. Once I slung on my (also beloved) Off White belt, I was set. I felt less like a pretender and more like myself. 

I learned two very important lessons from my little experiment which I wanted to share with you: 

I initially tried to style the dress in a way that looked great on others but just didn't feel right on me. My style is extra, not casual and breezy! Once I embraced that, the look just came together and most importantly, I felt comfortable in the outfit I styles.

While I challenged myself with a piece that confused the heck out of me, you don't have to. If you're not into this season's sartorial whims, skip it. 

The most important element of your style is you. Without your eye and creativity, it's just a bunch of clothes. Channel trends, stand out but above all else, do it your way. I'll end this post with a quote by Dave Grohl, "No one is you, and that is your power". 

Dress - ASOS
Belt - Off White (Orange, sold out in yellow)
Shoes - Brian Atwood

Photography by Adorngirl.


Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Evolving Beauty Ideals, Unrealistic Beauty Standards and Finding Self Acceptance

I feel fortunate that I was born in the 80s and raised in the 90s. While everyone thinks of their era as the "golden era", I genuinely think this was one of the best times to be growing up - in between the second wave of feminism and the digital revolution I experienced an empowering upbringing where the world was literally at my fingertips. Questionable fashion choices aside, it was a great time to be growing up as a girl! I could be anything I wanted and I had unparalleled access to the information to get me there. 

I don't think it's any surprise I ended up in digital and become a fashion blogger. Growing up with a pre-Windows PCs, dial-up Internet, forums and MSN Messenger, this generation was the first to experience communication without any boundaries and the beginning of media democratisation. I remember joining a couple of forums as a teen and discovering kindred spirits across the globe to discuss everything from niche makeup trends to Justin Timberlake. Books became less important as a source of research or inspiration as I had the whole world at my fingertips, instantly. 

I have a real soft spot for the 90s and it's funny looking back and seeing how far things have evolved in the past 20 years. The 90s is a huge reference point for the fashion world currently, I really enjoy seeing how everything from streetwear and slip dresses to crop tops and chokers are being reinterpreted by today's designers. This is the first real fashion era where I can instantly recognise trends from the first time around but despite this, it still feels fresh. It's an evolution of the looks I grew up with. 

While fashion may currently be recycling trends, today's beauty ideals couldn't be any more different to the 90s. Naturally, the meteoric rise of Kate Moss meant the waif-like look was one of the defining looks of the decade, but I actually feel like it was fairly diverse; Pamela Anderson is another icon of the 90s and she couldn't look any more different to Kate! With icons of the era ranging from Liv Tyler and Drew Barrymore to Aaliyah and Brandy, it was a fairly diverse decade. 

Across music, movie, TV and magazines, the one common thread I remember is seeing natural, accessible beauty. Sure, the super-waif Kate Moss aesthetic and the ultra-buxom Pamela Anderson look were unrealistic for most, they were two opposing ends of the spectrum. And yes, Pam had gone under the knife but it wasn't the norm for the majority of celebrities back then. Beauty was more understated and makeup tended to be pared back - Gwen Stefani and Aaliayh would rock a bold lip but on the whole, the 90s was an era of minimalism and the natural look. I didn't wear much more than a slick of mascara and lipgloss til I went to university. 

Fast-forward to today and beauty ideals couldn't be more maximalist. A quick scroll through Explore on Instagram shows me that more is more, from the 'Instagram brow' with accompanying 7 eyeshadow's blended to perfection to waist-trained, potentially enhanced butts. While I prefer to credit the likes of Beyonce and Jennifer Lopez for making a pert posterior covetable, it's obviously the Kardashians who have championed the dangerous, cartoon-like proportions which are influencing young women today. From suffocating with waist trainers and trying "detox teas" to going under the knife, I'm finding that I'm getting increasingly concerned with how far women are being pushed to fit into a a very narrow view of "perfection". Why aren't our bodies celebrated instead of being told we're not good enough? 

Looking back over the decades, women's beauty standards are constantly in flux. From the lean, athletic look of the 80s to the waifish 90s to the Victoria's Secret bombshell look of the 2000s, the "perfect female form" is a constantly yo-yo-ing concept which is a totally unrealistic long term. flexing between slim to curvey to slim as each decade passes means that inevitably we will never feel beautiful in our bodies. 

I'll use myself as an example, I have a naturally small build and high metabolism so I've always been slim without really needing exercise or watch what I eat. This was fine in the 90s but as the zeitgeist moved towards a curvier aesthetic I felt a little alienated and self-conscious about my lack of curves. I say "a little", I've probably wasted weeks of my life feeling down about it rather than celebrating the things that I love about myself. Isn't that crazy? 

I'm far from the only case though. Hands up if you've ever felt personally victimised by society's unrealistic beauty standards?! For women especially, the media and society are geared up to feed on our insecurities and make us feel like we're not good enough. You just have to walk past any newspaper stand and glance at the magazines either pitting one woman against another or pointing out "flaws" while someone is just trying to chill on a beach. 

These days, feeling confident in your own skin and at peace with your body is almost a radical thought, especially in a society which profits from our insecurities. We are bombarded with a plethora of things that can be wrong with our bodies from the shape and size to body hair, stretch marks and just about anything else which is actually natural. Women more than men are shamed for their bodies in one way or another while being provided with a list of products to buy to "solve" the problem. It's crazy. 

I've started accepting and loving my body rather than wishing it was something it's not. And you know what, it's so empowering. I'm channelling the women I grew up watching or listening to, the ones who were comfortable in their own skin and natural beauty. I'm more than channelling a little bit of Aaliyah with this look! I'm learning to love myself which is such a beautiful, rebellious thing. As Dr Gail Dines once said; "If tomorrow women woke up and decided they really liked their bodies, just think how many industries would go out of business"

Jacket - Tommy Hilfiger (similar)
Tshirt - Uniqlo x KAWS
Trousers - Missguided
Belt - Off White
Heels - Brian Atwood

Photography by Adorngirl. 


Friday, 16 March 2018

On Facing Hard Times, Resilience and Self-Care

Whoever said that "life is a bumpy road" was a very wise soul. Life certainly has its ups and downs. You might be tricked into thinking everyone's life is peachy, especially as you scroll through your Instagram feed, but I can assure you that this is absolutely not the case. Everyone is struggling with something. With Social Media, we tend to show our best face to the world and I often describe it as the "highlights reel" of your life - all of the best bits and none of the bad. By ‘best bits’, I mean a filtered, Facetuned, edited version. It’s not necessarily bad - we all do it! - it’s just that it’s easy to forget what goes into each happy, carefree picture that you see. 

I have two teenage nieces so I’m very conscious about what I put out on my blog and social media and the impact it has on young, impressionable girls. Of course, I shoot beautiful images and love sharing my outfits but I also want to be a real person and show that life isn’t always rosy. It doesn’t always fit on my feed or get the best engagement but it’s important for me to share some of the lows as well as the highs. 

Sandwiched between the highs of Paris Fashion Week and starting my new job, I had a horrible low. Long-term readers and followers will be aware of Bob, my gorgeous little lop eared bunny. I got Bob a decade ago when he was just three months old. He’s been my little companion for years, living with me in several different flats over the years and even having a shoot with Love magazine! Ten is ancient for a bunny and sadly he got very sick last week and had to be put to sleep. It was the most heartbreaking decision I have ever had to make so I took a few days off social as I grieved. Instead of returning like nothing had happened, I posted a picture and explained my absence. 

The day I discovered just how bad Bob was, I was just about to leave for a shoot. I had been warned to prepare for the worst and I was utterly devastated. I thought about cancelling the shoot but it was so last minute. I knew I couldn’t bear to deal with the tube so I jumped in an Uber to the location, sending some frantic texts on the way. I arrived teary-eyed and emotional but somehow managed to block everything out and focus on shooting all of the planned looks. And you know what, I am so, so proud of those images. We slayed…despite everything else that was going on in my life. 

I’m pretty well versed in encountering bumps in the road. A child of divorce, abusive relationship escapee and daughter of someone who has been battling cancer for 14 years, it’s safe to say my path has been anything but smooth. The normal challenges of life - jobs, friends, boys - are just the cherry on the cake. Rather than lamenting the cards I’ve been dealt and feeling sorry for myself, I’m grateful. Everything that I’ve experienced has moulded me into a strong, determined woman who is way more scrappy than she looks. I’ve survived everything life has thrown at me; I didn’t let it defeat it, I endured and it made me stronger. 

At a young age, I learnt that life doesn’t stop so you have to find a way through. Sometimes putting one foot in front of the other is the My mum was diagnosed with cancer while I was in my first year of university and my way of coping wasn’t the healthiest - drinking and partying it away. It has taken a while to learn healthy ways of coping which work for me. I think one of the hardest things to learn was to listen to myself and prioritise what *I* need. Cancelling plans to stay home is okay. Spending an entire weekend in bed watching Netflix is okay. Self-care is okay! 

It’s important to figure out what works for you but I wanted to share some healthy ways to cope when life gives you lemons: 

  1. Prioritise yourself
    One of my coping mechanisms is to withdraw and to shed anything that isn’t necessary. It’s taken me years to learn that this is absolutely okay and I won’t be letting anyone down - I always felt guilty for cancelling plans or saying I was busy even if I was just being a hermit at home. When life is putting you through the wringer, do what feels right. If you want to go out, great! If you’d rather be snuggled in bed, that’s also great. Just feel empowered to put yourself first.
  2. Switching off from Social
    Often when I’m going through a hard time, I’ll switch off from social - like I did last week. Partly due to not wanting to be bombarded by everyone’s highlights when I’m at my lowest and partly because I don’t have the energy to post pictures and act happy, my focus is enduring and making it through.  Again, it’s totally fine to step away from social media, WhatsApp and phone calls if you need.

  3. Focusing on work
    Now, this won’t work for everyone but I always focus on work and use it to pull me through. Keeping a routine and finding something to focus on always helps me, it keeps my mind off whatever is bothering me. Much like when I got the news about Bob, I found focusing on the shoot helped to prop me up, I clung to my work and had a huge sense of achievement for having the perseverance to make it through.
  4. Meditation/yoga
    I swear by meditation and yoga for keeping me sane. Meditation helps to keep me grounded and look inwards, which is super helpful when life is throwing you curveball after curveball. Though I haven’t practised for a while, nothing makes me feel better than when I’m on my mat. I practice Ashtanga and find it incredibly meditative. It calms and stills my mind in a similar way while keeping my body active.

  5. Talk!
    This is the hardest one for me as my natural reaction is to withdraw but a problem shared really is a problem halved. Talking through what is going on is to therapeutic, whether it’s a friend or a trained professional. While ignoring my phone helps cut down the ‘noise’, I always try to speak to friends about what I’m going through. Even if they can’t help, just knowing someone is there for you is help in its own right. I have also spoken to a therapist in the past which was incredibly daunting but so, so rewarding.

Jacket - Tommy Hilfiger (similar)
Top - Dimepiece
Trousers - Missguided
Shoes - Brian Atwood
Bag - Shrimps

Photography by Adorngirl. 


Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Paris Fashion Week Diary FW18

This season, I headed back to Paris for Paris Fashion Week, which is fast becoming my favourite city to skip around for shows. I first attended PFW last March, I wrote about being a newbie and finding my feet in this post. It was slightly disconcerting going from knowing the ropes in London to being uncertain in Paris but I actually relished all of the unknowns - from the venue to the queue politics to the street style photographers.

Now back for my second season, I came armed with the knowledge I had gained during my inaugural season. And you know what, it felt like coming home. Hopping and skipping across the city between shows and showroom appointments felt like my natural habitat and I had a much more packed schedule than the first time around. Want to see what I got up to? Read on! 

Issey Miyake FW18

I was extremely honoured to attend Issey Miyake's AW18 show. One of my favourite designers through the '90s, his brand is always technically innovative while never compromising on its foundation in the beauty of simplicity. Perhaps best known for pleating, Miyake began to experiment with pleating in the '80s and his new method involved cutting and sewing each piece before sandwiching it between layers of paper and being fed through a heat press to be pleated. The fabric's "memory" held the pleats and each piece was super flexible and easy to care for. Revolutionary. 

This season, womenswear Creative Director Yoshiyuki Miyamae introduced gentle movement and waves to amplify the pleats, complete with a dash of colour to further accentuate the house's signature texture. A beautifully clean all-white collection made way for yellows and blues, a bold symphony of harmonious pleats. 

Mashama FW18

Mashama's AW18 collection is an ode to tender yet strong women. Inspired by Satoshi Kon's anime film 'Perfect Blue', she takes the split personalities of the protagonist, Mima, and translates them into a beautifully maximalist collection of overflowing layers and oversized pieces. 

Key details include exaggerated hoods, deconstructed and voluminous silhouettes and the most delicious bubble puffer jackets. The collection also saw the introduction of denim and several technical innovations including a colour-changing coat, heat-absorbing patches and body-warming puffers. The perfect armour for the woman of today. 

John Galliano FW18

As Creative Director of the John Galliano brand, Bill Gayyten has an unenviable task. It can't be easy to be at the helm of a brand named after arguably one of the most brilliant designers of our time. Yet Gayyten artfully translates Galliano's design signatures season after season. To my delight, this season saw the return of the Galliano Gazette, perhaps one of my favourite signatures of Mr Galliano. 

For FW18, he is inspired by the Great Depression in Midwest America and burlesque stars of the '30s and '40s. The resulting collection is a contrast between practical tweeds and denims and beautiful tulle concoctions adorned with diamonds and pearls. Further accentuated by the styling, sheer layers were artfully juxtaposed between boxy blazers and heavier fabrics for a look which is provocatively undone. Another utterly brilliant collection. 

Agnes B FW18

Few designers on the PFW roster are as quintessentially Parisian as Agnes B and this is why her collection is always one of my highlights of Paris Fashion Week. This season, inspired by A Une Passante poem by Baudelaire and Marguerite Duras' book L'Amant, her collection featured rich fabrics accentuated by jewel tones. Her laid-back silhouettes felt typically Parisian and super covetable. The bridal look which closed the show this season was a darling pretty millennial pink concoction. 

Valentin Yudashkin FW18

Set in the imposing Intercontinental Paris The Grand hotel, Valentin Yudashkin's show was a triumph of almost couture-like beauty. Gowns and cocktail dresses in tulle adorned with sparkles and ostrich feathers trims shimmied down the runway, each more beautiful than the last. A handful of daywear looks grounded the collection but all eyes were on the gowns. A nod to the '80s, with bold shoulder blazers, taffeta puffball dresses contrasting with slinky bodycon numbers. I can't wait to see these looks on the red carpet. 

Richard Quinn Showroom

Undeniably the designer of the moment, I popped in to see Richard Quinn's exquisite collection in all it's resplendent detail. You may remember Quinn making headlines as HRH The Queen sat front row at his AW18 show. The Central Saint Martin grad has been making waves since he launched his eponymous label in 2016. Best known for his bold and emotive use of florals, his penchant for prints really IS groundbreaking. 

His AW18 collection featured languid maxi dresses, simple gowns and oversized capes and puffers in his signature prints - blown up and clashing for a real style statement. I am very, very excited about Quinn, he is the future of British fashion! 

London Showrooms

As I mentioned in my last post about Paris Fashion Week, one of the most interesting aspects of Paris is heading into the showrooms to see collections up close. Although I see most of the London designers in our hometown, inevitably I will miss a show or presentation due to the packed schedule so it's great to catch up with the likes of Eudon Choi, Edeline Lee, Ryan Lo and Marta Jakubowski.

Eudon Choi FW18
Edeleine Lee FW18 
Ryan Lo FW18

Marta Jakubowski

Jaime Wei Huang

Huang is another British-based designer I caught up with during a showroom appointment in Paris. Unfortunately, I missed her presentation in London but I'm so glad I had the opportunity to see her brilliant collection. Walking the line between commercial and conceptual, Huang's brand explores self-expression through fabrics and materials. I saw influences of abstract art in her collection, which featured her signature elongated silhouettes. The accessories were a real highlight. 

Alexandre Birman FW18

Alexandre Birman has been making beautiful shoes inspired by his rich Brazilian roots for a decade. Simple and feminine, his shoes are handcrafted in bold shades and prints making for a real style statement. For AW18, his collection featured exotic materials and both vibrant, clashing shades and rich plums and greys. 

Alexandre Vauthier FW18

If you are after unapologetic glamour, Alexandre Vauthier should be top of your list. Designing couture for the likes of Thierry Mugler and Jean Paul Gaultier before launching his eponymous label in 2009. Officially recognised by the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, his couture collections are of course sublime and echoes of this collection are evident in his RTW line. 

Using his key couture colour stories of rich ruby red, regal violet and deep emerald, the collection featured exquisite, luxe pieces in rich, heavy fabrics and often adorned with some sparkle. Inspired by the '80s, his signature dress silhouette is short, cinched and of course with a statement shoulder. I'm glad to see his crystal-studded jeans make a return and also the introduction of an eyewear collaboration with Alain Mikli and diamante stiletto designed with Amina Muaddi. 

The Fun Stuff

One of the best things about Paris is that absolutely everyone is in town. The fashion world really is tiny and I'm forever bumping into people I haven't seen since London or Paris last season! I have a little crew who I know are going to be at PFW so we sync diaries for shows, showrooms and delicious places to eat in between but it's slightly more fun when you bump into someone unexpectedly.

This season, I was in town at the same time the new Monki store was opening so fortuitously I had the opportunity to catch up with my old pal Fiona, who I've not seen for years! I popped into the new store on Rue de Rivoli before heading to Le Grand Cerf for a bite to eat and some bubbles. She loved my sequin boots and t-shirt dress by Tobi.

I also caught up with my pal Natasha of Girl In The Lens who moved to Paris last year! We've been blogger pals and friends for a few years now so it was lovely to catch up with her at Angelina, for their famed hot chocolate and une petite patisserie. 

Til next time, Paris! 

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Learning The Art Of Letting Go

Now that I'm in my 30s, I really appreciate the journey I took during my 20s. It was a real voyage of self-discovery. Though technically an adult and in charge of my life, like many other 20-somethings, I had barely begun to live and I just muddled through as best I could. I didn't really know what I was doing because I didn't really know myself. There were a lot of mistakes along the way but with that came lessons, learning and growing. I don't regret any of the risks I took in my 20s - they helped me figure out who I am and who I'm not. I entered my 30s excited for a new decade to begin, with a firm understanding and appreciation for the woman that I had become. 

One thing I have learnt is that everyone is wired differently. Sometimes there's nothing you can do about it aside from embracing it! You can't fight how you've been wired, much like being a morning person or a night owl - no matter how much I try to embrace early starts I just adore the peace and solitude of the nighttime too much be fast asleep at 11 pm. I could easily stay up til 3 am every night, equally happy with company or on my own. I guess it's for similar reasons that my style tends to be extra rather than minimalist and I've never met a carb I didn't like - sometimes you just are the way you are. 

Carbs and shoe choices aside, getting to know myself and why I tick is one of the most rewarding things I've done. I've been working on playing up my strengths and working on my weaknesses. One of the things I've struggled with for years is learning when to walk away from a situation which no longer serves me - I have an awful tendency want to hold on due to misplaced loyalties. I'm really working on this as it's held me back so many times. 

Learning to walk away from something which no longer serves you, grows you or makes you happy is one of the best lessons I've learnt. There is something incredibly powerful about knowing yourself and your worth enough to put a hand up and admit that a situation is not for you, it's empowering to say "I am worth more than this".

In the past, I may have held onto friendships, relationships and work situations for a lot longer than necessary but I have gotten so much better at editing my life. I realised that it's MY life and I shouldn't just make space for everyone that wants to be in it, they have to earn it.

Sometimes admitting that a situation has come to a natural end is harder to face up to and admit but holding onto something that's dead is so damaging. I realised that the end is just another word for beginning - every time I have let go of something or someone, I have just made space for something better to come into my life. Don't just take my word for it though, I wanted to share some lovely quotes which discuss the art of letting go: 

Let it hurt, then let it go - r.h. Sin

I love r.h Sin's writing. To me, this quote means being true to your feelings and emotions, acknowledging the hurt and deciding to let it all go. 

Never let anyone half love you - Anonymous

You are simply way too wonderful to be half loved. You deserve the entire world, so don't put up with anything less.

Making a big life change is pretty scary. But you know what's even scarier? Regret - Anonymous

Letting something go or walking away from a situation can be so daunting and scary. I get it. But the only thing worse is staying in a situation which only drains you and brings you negativity. Trust me, I've been there.

If you don't love yourself you'll never feel like anyone else does either - Bridgette Devoue

I adore this quote. I see it as a reminder to respect and honour your worth, because no one else will if you don't! If you value yourself highly, you will force others to see your worth. Don't let someone treat you like a piece of glass when you're a diamond.

You don't have to see the whole staircase just take the first step - Martin Luther King

I have definitely felt a lot of fear and apprehension when I've been deciding whether I should walk away from a situation. Part of the fear stems from not knowing what is coming next. But you don't need to have everything planned out, just the next step. Sometimes you just need to put one foot in front of the other. 

Dress - Tobi 
Boots - Topshop

Photography by Adorngirl

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