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


Wednesday, 14 February 2018

The Truth About Blogging

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. I love that images are subjective and can be interpreted in so many different ways, with or without words. Naturally, I prefer the former. I really enjoy creating content for my blog, both the images and the words go hand in hand to tell a story. Everything is considered, from the location and look to the poses. Sometimes I know the story they will tell before we shoot and sometimes the words come together after I see the final images. Either way, one supports the other. 

And what story does this shoot tell? Actually...didn't want to weave a lovely story with these images. To tell the truth, it's not my favourite shoot and I want to tell you why. All of's hard work and on the day of the shoot it was just too much, I was dead on my feet and had nothing left to give. I went to bed at 4 am the night before and I was up again at 8 am. Ashanti was shooting this look at around 2 pm, I hadn't eaten all day and it was bloody freezing outside. I always say we create magic on our shoots but honestly, I was totally out of sparkle during this shoot. 

I'm not feeling sorry for myself in the slightest and I don't want to put a dampener on my work but the reality is: shoots aren't always fun and blogging isn't always a laugh. That's the honest truth. Blogging is a real graft. A blogger is essentially a one-person publishing army - you're a writer, subeditor, fashion director, editor-in-chief, photographer, social media manager, PR and many other things all rolled into one.  

I've been part the blogging community for years and I have witnessed a lot of change in that time. One of the major differences from a blogger's point of view is the sheer amount of content that needs to be created now. When I started, I was self-shooting in my bedroom and social media wasn't really a thing. Fast forward a couple of years and I feel like a content factory, planning shoots for my blog and shooting additional content for Instagram as well as engaging on all social media platforms. Algorithms have evolved and essentially need you to live on their platforms, constantly engaging to see any growth. It's a full-time job...on top of my existing full-time job!

Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love blogging, creating content and sharing it with all of you. It's not always easy, but nothing worth having in life is. I've fallen in and out of love with blogging over the years, sometimes taking months off at a time when I've had severe writer's block or burnout. Last year, I discovered my blogging rhythm again, fell in love with writing once again and I couldn't be happier. Wearing so many different hats has taught me so much and I love seeing the progress I've made, especially over the last year. It's one of the most rewarding things I have done and I can't wait to share the next shoot with you already! 

Jacket - Tommy Hilfiger (similar)
Dress - Tobi
Belt - Off White
Boots - ASOS

Photography by Adorngirl


Friday, 9 February 2018

On Women Being Eligible to Vote and Indian Suffragettes

As you may have seen online, this week marked 100 years of women getting the vote. My heart was felt so full seeing the celebrations and acknowledgement of women who fought the good fight. I'm beyond grateful to the men and women who have fought so hard for equality and those who are still fighting for it. I'm a huge advocate of feminism and equality, it's a cause very close to my heart. I love celebrating and standing in solidarity with women. 

While this anniversary marked a huge step forward in gender equality in the UK, it doesn't actually mark ALL women getting the vote - only women over 30 who owned land or were married to a man with property were eligible. It wasn't until a decade later that all women were granted equal voting rights. This just one example of the inequality within feminism and how biased it has been towards white, middle-class women. 

As a woman of colour, the concept of intersectionality is super important to me. Intersectionality is essentially understanding an issue as multifaceted and being inclusive of race, gender, class, ability and ethnicity. So while we celebrate 100 years of some women getting the vote, let's not forget that working-class and women of colour were excluded from this. Of course, the likes of Emmeline Pankhurst, Emily Davidson and Millicent Fawcett made huge contributions to the suffragette movement and are rightly celebrated but what about working-class women and women of colour? 

Have you heard of Sophia Duldeep Singh? She is the most prominent woman of Indian heritage in the suffragette movement and has been largely ignored by the media. Sophia was involved in the women's Tax Resistance League and shared the view that women shouldn't pay taxes as they didn't have the vote. She also led the 1920 Black Friday suffragette demonstrations alongside Emmeline Pankhurst. 

Another important but often ignored Indian woman is Bhikaji Cama, who started campaigning as a suffragette in London and also fought for Indian independence from British rule - she became known as The Mother of the Indian Revolution due to her efforts to free India. She spoke out about poverty and oppression under the British Raj and even designed the first Indian flag. Sadly she passed away 11 years before Indian finally achieved independence in 1947.

Why are these women not equally celebrated? 

The lack of women of colour within the suffragette movement is rooted in the ideas of imperialism, colonialism and the objectification of women of colour - British suffragette campaigners simply didn't think of including women of colour into the conversation. The below image of Indian women taking part in a suffragette procession is super important - although these women were living in Britain with their families, they were in an 'Empire section' of the procession alongside Australian and New Zealand women.

The fight was predominantly for white women to get the vote and speak on behalf of women of colour. Dr Mukherjee, a fellow at King's College researching Indian suffragettes states that there was "an implication that white women felt they were more able to speak for Indian women than Indian women themselves. So although I’m not sure I’d say it’s overtly racist, it is imperialist.”

Times have obviously changed but despite diversity being a huge buzzword for the last couple of years, British Asian women's voices are still rarely heard. In the past, I've been vocal about issues to race and particularly representation for South Asian women. It's a cause I'm very passionate about, particularly as we tend to be written out of the narrative so frequently. I'm so happy to lend my voice to speak about my experiences as a British Asian and particularly women so I was thrilled to be asked by the BBC Asian Network to take part in a campaign to talk about the issues faced by British Asian women today and also share what I'm grateful for. Here's a snippet of the show, it coincided with a larger programme which you can listen to here

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