Tuesday, 4 September 2018

How to Wear Brown This Season

When I worked in fashion I learnt something very important: for most designers, Pre-Collections are more important than Main. In between spring/summer and autumn/winter, the majority of brands release a pre-collection, which is like a little preview that hits stores around December and July just before the main collection drops. This is what you should be paying attention to if you want to spot the commercial pieces and to get a preview of what's to come. 

I worked for a huge luxury department store for years and the buyers always invested heavily in Pre, so I paid attention and got an early indication of what trends were being picked up and gaining traction. While I saw what has been shown on the runway 6 months earlier,  I learned to always scope out stores early to help plan which trends I'm going to focus on for rest the season. 

And what have I seen for AW18? Pantone might be touting ultraviolet as the colour of the year but this season is an undeniable ode to brown. Chocolate, cocoa, chestnut, walnut, coffee....brown. The two trends which have emerged triumphant already are the seventies and leopard print/animal print, both of which lean heavily on one of fashion's most overlooked hues. Brown is really the new black! 

Brown was seen at the likes of Rochas, Gucci, Etro, Dior and Fendi as well as Chloe, who embraced the awkward hue with open arms. Chloe always draws inspiration from the Seventies but AW18 is literally like stepping back in time, Natacha Ramsay-Levi's collection features a muted, earthy palette and details including billowing silk shirt dresses and blouses, retro prints and chunky gold jewels. Coupled with the current craze for classic logo pieces from Fendi and Vuitton, it's no surprise that brown has been picked up heavily by the high street. 

The colour brown tends to be a bit controversial in fashion. It gets a bad rap for being boring, bland, ugly and difficult to wear. I have to admit, when I started seeing it appear on the runway and in store windows, I did have flashbacks to my uniform for the Brownies! My primary school uniform had a similar colour palette too and neither were a good look. 

Despite these two traumatising incidents(!) I'm open to embracing brown this season. I'm a huge fan of leopard print, for me it's a neutral, so my autumn/winter wardrobe will naturally skew towards brown and caramel shades. As for the Seventies, I'm more likely to adopt a couple of nods like fringing or flowing silhouettes rather than a full-on throwback look.  

I like the challenge of wearing brown, like Miuccia Prada who stated, "Brown is a colour that no one likes, so of course I like it because it's difficult". There's something very satisfying about getting out of your comfort zone and challenging yourself. Earlier this year I wrote about the dress that pulled me out of my style rut and I feel like embracing brown can shake up my winter wardrobe in a similar way too. 

Intrigued by brown and want to give it a whirl? Here are my top five tips for wearing brown this season: 

1. Stay true to your style

This is THE most important piece of style advice and is applicable for any trend and any season. If you're really not comfortable in brown or the Seventies trend or leopard print, simply don't wear it. I have to admit that the Seventies aren't my favourite trend, so I found this dress which is actually a nod to the Eighties (another huge AW18 trend) and it is much more me than some of the Chloe-esque pieces I spotted on the high street. 

2. Try a subtle nod

If top-to-toe brown is daunting, try gently dipping your toe in the trend rather than diving in head first. Brown and leather go hand-in-hand so try some accessories. I've also seen some lovely brown knits and tweed blazers. 

3. Keep it fun

Brown feels a *serious* hue. It conjures up images of librarians or my GCSE physics teacher, Mr Clark Maxwell. Brown definitely needs some fun, slightly whimsical or playful elements. That's why I paired this dress with pink fluffy mules, after trying on a pair of silver court shoes it just felt flat but the fun of the fluff perfectly offset the seriousness of brown. 

4. Don't forget the accessories

Brown is one of those shades which looks utterly delicious against gold. Like a fun or whimsical twist, I will definitely be piling on the jewels when I wear brown. For me, the combo of brown and gold adds a more luxury element and elevates the whole look. I wore layered necklaces through spring/summer in winter I want to pile on the rings and maybe throw on a waist belt. 

5. Accent shades

Brown is actually a super versatile hue to wear, especially when you pair it with jewel tones like emerald greens, sapphire blues and warm yellow. The overall look is rich, sumptuous and slightly reminiscent of a box of Quality Street! My finishing touch to my look was my little Miu Miu clutch, the shade contrasts beautifully with the deep brown dress and the gold chain detailing gives it a luxe edge. 

Dress - Zara | Shoes - Topshop (past season) | Bag - Miu Miu (past season)

Photography by Adorngirl

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Why Your Own Platform Is Your Most Powerful Channel As A Content Creator

Back in 2008, I started this blog and began to call myself a blogger in a somewhat sheepish manner - this was in the early days of blogging when no one really knew what a blog was. Explaining that you had a website where you wrote about fashion and took pictures of yourself with a self-timer in your bedroom felt a bit weird but over time, blogging started becoming mainstream and "acceptable". What started as a few dozen people carving out a little corner of the internet for themselves quickly turned into a blogging army of thousands in the UK. 

It's been incredible to see the industry evolve over the years. What started off as a little hobby or passion project has evolved into fully formed businesses and a profitable industry. In turn, the term blogger has filtered out and was replaced with influencer or content creator. I prefer the latter as we are now creating content across multiple platforms - full posts on the blog with horizontal images, square images and witty captions for Instagram, snippets of everyday life for Twitter, engaging videos for YouTube and inspo/mood boards for Pinterest. A stark contrast to the days of self-shooting in your bedroom with bad lighting and zero editing! 

Instagram is undoubtedly one of the key channels for creators, so much so that many have either given up their blog to focus on Instagram or completely skipped starting a blog in fave of IG. As longer captions and galleries started to become popular, blogs started so seem a little redundant - what's the point in creating long read content when Instagram posts are quicker and easier? IG is also the first port of call for everything, from doing a quick background check on a potential Bumble date to discovering a new brand; your Instagram profile is your new business card

However, focusing solely on Instagram puts all of your eggs in one basket and you're limited to the whims of the algorithm, which we all know is as fickle as the weather. I was an early adopter of Instagram, back in the days when it was a fun channel full of Valencia-filtered snapshots of real life. As it evolved into a super important, super filtered channel, I was slow to react and grow my following. I'm now stuck in a weird IG void, full of creators who are putting out good content, using hashtags and engaging with their audience but seeing zero pay off. Growth is slow or non-existent and I'm constantly having to chop and change my strategy as the algorithm changes all while watching people who I know use bots to grow. It's a little disheartening, to say the least! 

Last year, I wrote a post on why I've decided to ignore the numbers and enjoy Instagram as a platform. It was liberating. And in the 12 months since I wrote that post, I've accepted that I'm never going to be a super influencer...and that's totally fine with me. I don't want to give up my life just to have a high number of followers. I want to enjoy my life and live it while sharing some moments online rather than planning my life around creating content to fit a certain aesthetic. 

Take travel for example, I'm super passionate about travelling to exciting destinations and sharing that with my audience but I'd rather enjoy where I am, immerse myself in the culture and create memories rather than slavishly trying to create the perfect moment. Recently, I visited Paris and while I dressed down in kicks, oversized tees and cycling shorts I saw other influencers in tutus clutching a bunch of helium balloons by the banks of the Seine. It seemed ludicrous to go to an incredibly beautiful city with an impractical wardrobe just to capture a shot and filter in a pink sky and Photoshop out all of the people in the background. That's when I realised that I just don't care enough to devote my entire life to a platform that makes me jump through ridiculous hoops and doesn't reward my hard work. 

Rather than being discouraged completely, I decided to reframe and focus on what I can impact - my own platform. The beauty of having your own platform is that you are in control. No one can tell me what content to put together, what I can write or what I can wear. I can do what I like on my platform and the work I put in pays off because the goal posts aren't constantly shifting. 

As a weekend creator, I have had to prioritise where I spend my time and while I've been posting weekly content to my blog consistently for over a year and posting to Instagram nearly daily, I've ignored the maintenance and upkeep of my blog. I'm not 100% happy with my blog platform and branding and I've totally neglected the SEO side. In hindsight, it seems crazy that I've ignored the nuts and bolts of a platform that I have control and ownership over! If I'm not happy with the performance, I can work at it and my changes make a difference, I'm not a slave to bi-weekly algorithm changes. Any tweaks I make to the site or copy is evident immediately while any SEO effects will be seen within weeks. 

So what am I actually working on? 

Have a blog-first mentality

I touched on this when I shared my blogging goals for the rest of 2018. I'm concentrating on creating authentic, meaningful content which resonates with my audience. I'm shifting my focus so that my blog is at the core of my content creation strategy and other channels follow the message and content of my blog. This means creating the content I want to and carving out my own aesthetic rather than following social media trends - you certainly won't catch me posing outside of Peggy Porschen!

I'm working on creating an editorial calendar I actually want to stick to. I've created several in the past but my renewed focus has crystalised that I need to put my blog at the centre of my plans. I'm hoping planning my content further out will help evolve my blog content and create a consistent voice. 

Optimising my blog's SEO

In the short-term, I'm working on SEO to help more people find my blog. I have already set up Google Analytics and Search Console to make sure Google knows my site exists. But SEO is more than just ticking a couple of boxes, you need to continually optimise your site and content to ensure you rank for the relevant keywords. 

As I neglected my blog maintenance for so long, I started with a deadlink audit and discovered I had over 500 dead links on my blog! Dead links are essentially sites that I have referenced and linked to in old posts which now do not work - this is usually where I've linked to an old product, brand, site or blog which no longer exists. This negatively impacts SEO as one of the ways Google rank websites is by crawling their links, a high number of dead links can stop search engine spiders from crawling your site and indexing it...which is bad. 

I have now removed the dead links and archived some very out of date posts. The next step is to make sure my existing posts are optimised for the correct keywords. Tools like Moz Keyword Explorer and KeywordTool.IO are invaluable for researching keywords which have high search volumes but little competition - it's much more effective to go after these longtail keywords rather than broad keywords which have high competition. These keyword terms need to be worked into the title of my posts as well as the first paragraph. They also need to be factored into images, which need to have descriptive alt tags and keywords. 

Rebranding my blog

I started my blog a decade ago and I've tweaked the branding over the years but I've been itching to completely overhaul my blog for a long time. The name and current look and feel don't really resonate with me anymore, I've grown so much as a person over the last ten years and it feels like there is a disconnect between me and my blog. I've started this task in earnest but metaphorically stripping my blog back to its bare bones to put it back together is a process that is taking time and I want to get it right. I can't wait to finalise my plans and share the brand new blog with you soon! 

Are you shifting your focus onto your own platform? Is blogging relevant still? What content do you like to see? 

Dress - ASOS | Heels - Nicholas Kirkwood

Photography by Adorngirl

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Ethical Fashion & The Instagram Brands You Need To Know

Despite working in luxury fashion for years, I'm a huge advocate of affordable fashion. I love how stores like Topshop, New Look and H&M democratise fashion and trends; you don't have to spend a lot to look a million bucks. Although I splurge on designer pieces from time to time, I still love the accessibility and affordability of the high street, I even wrote my dissertation on how high street stores use branding as a form of competitive advantage.

However, like many, I've become increasingly conscious of consumption and my shopping habits. Working in the industry for so long, I've realised that affordability comes at a price and I'm not completely comfortable with the human cost of my £10 bargains.

The first time my eyes were opened to the ugly side of fashion was in 2013 when the Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh collapsed. Over 1,100 workers were killed and unions called it a "mass industrial homicide". The tragedy highlighted the unsafe and illegal conditions that garment workers endure for pitiful pay. Bangladeshi garment workers are paid the lowest wage globally yet nearly 5 million people are employed in the industry. In the five years since, an alliance and an accord have been put together to try to protect workers. Nearly 100,000 violations were identified but reinforcing the regulations is very hit and miss.

Last year, it came to light that one of the factories that makes clothes for Zara hadn't paid workers for months. It came to light as customers discovered notes desperate notes into the pockets of the clothes they had sewn. The factory also supplied clothes to Next and Mango but workers targeted Zara as the majority of clothing was for them. Zara owner Amancio Ortega is the 5th richest man in the world.

Though not exclusively an issue limited to the high street, fast fashion retailers perpetuate the issue with low prices and high turnover of stock, resulting in a constant demand and the prioritisation of profit above ethics. As a consumer and knowing what I know about the industry, I'm conscious of the choices I make and I'm now trying to avoid buying clothes unnecessarily. As Vivienne Westwood herself said "Buy less. Choose well. Make it last. Quality, not quantity. Everybody's buying far too many clothes.".

I acknowledge that this isn't easy, particularly as a fashion content creator. The pressure to always wear the newest, hottest piece is crazy. I touched upon the issue in a previous post where I discussed repeating outfits and the state of blogging. Instead of turning to high street stores, I'm trying to find independent brands who are less likely to exploit their garment workers.

Last year I wrote about Instagram being my favourite place to discover brands and that's exactly where I discovered this top by British-based designer Olivia Rose. I can't quite remember where I found her but I instantly fell in love with the piece, clicked through to her profile and hit the follow button. I then discovered that Olivia set up her label just last year and she handmakes each piece to order in limited quantities with fabrics sourced in the UK.

I simply had to buy one of her pieces. But instead of that instant gratification of an impulse purchase which quickly fades away, I patiently waited a couple of weeks for Olivia to cut, sew and ship my top along with a handwritten note. The excitement of opening that parcel hasn't gone away, I adore my beautiful top and I've worn it to death already. I smile every time I slip it on, something I've never gotten from a Zara top. I'm already planning my next purchase, which I'm sure I'll treasure too.

Along with Olivia's gorgeous brand, I'm really into these brands which I also discovered on IG:
Orseund Iris
Rat and Boa
I am Gia
Daily Paper 
With Jean
The Posse

Top - Olivia Rose | Shorts - Bershka | Belt - vintage | Heels - No21 | Bag - Missy Empire | Sunglasses - Canal Street knockoffs 

Photography by Adorngirl.

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

The Five Denim Brands To Buy Right Now

I want you to come on a little journey back in time with me. As a kid growing up with a brother and two step-brothers, I was a huge tomboy. You were more likely to catch me climbing up a tree than having a tea party with my teddies. As I entered my teens, I became interested in makeup and skincare but the tomboy traits definitely stayed put. Jeans were all I wore and they were pretty much my style signature, so much so that my young and impressionable niece only wanted to wear jeans or denim skirts because that's all she saw her favourite auntie wearing. 

Even as a uni student in the '00s, my jeans were practically superglued on. But I graduated from high street finds to proper denim brands. I became somewhat of a connoisseur. I'd find out what brands my favourite celebrities were wearing via magazines or forums (remember those?) and hunt them down on eBay. My favourite brands back then were Paper Denim & Cloth, True Religion and Seven For All Mankind. eBay was the only place I could afford to buy my brands at a reasonable price, it was about 50% cheaper than RRP so I became an expert at working out my size based on fit and measurement details and my attention to detail for spotting fakes was almost obsessive. I was basically the Hercule Poirot of denim shopping. 

During a very short stint in a telemarketing job during the uni holidays, I even helped a colleague hunt down half a dozen pairs of jeans on eBay after she asked for recommendations because she loved my jeans so much. Looking back, I really should have charged a commission for my personal shopping services! 

Eventually, as with all love affairs, I eventually grew tired of denim. Partly because fashion started to move away from denim which dominated the industry in the '00s and partly due to work dress codes. Working in a professional environment meant that sometimes jeans were outlawed at work. I spent nearly 4 years working at Harrods, jeans (and sneakers) were absolutely not allowed in the office, even though denim was seeing a resurgence and premium denim brands were once again super desirable. This is around the time Vetements created their controversial $1,000 jeans! But I just didn't see the point in investing in a pair of jeans if I wasn't allowed to wear them for 42 hours of the week. 

This changed last year as I said goodbye to the world's most famous luxury department store and hello to a new role in the sneaker world. Jeans and kicks were back on the menu. I started to dip my toe back into the world of denim, first starting with some high street favourites. Topshop jeans are a fashion editor staple so I bought a couple of classic pairs then picked up a couple of pairs from the likes of Zara and Whistles. 

Fast-forward a year and my familiar denim-obsessive ways are back. I've fallen in love with denim again and willing to invest in a decent pair which lasts - as great as high street jeans are, they always end up losing their shape and are rarely made of good quality, rigid denim. While the likes of Paper Denim and 7FAM are still around, there are SO many new brands I'm like a kid in a candy store. A well-informed kid with Google at her fingertips and an appetite to learn before making a very well informed decision. But this time, instead of just sharing my knowledge with a colleague, I'm going to share my top five denim brands to buy right now! 

Launched in SS16, GRLFRND was founded by the team at Revolve. The jeans are designed and made in LA and the brand features 10 key silhouettes. I really like the range of silhouettes, washes and details of each pair. They are also the brand I'm wearing in this shoot. I'm wearing the Karolina, which basically makes your ass look incredible. I went for a classic blue wash but hunted down the permanently sold-out style which has a little slash under the buttcheek. Because I'm a little cheeky like that. 

Describing itself as a movement, RE/DONE was founded by Sean Barron and Jamie Mazur with the aim of keeping heritage brands relevant and creating sustainable fashion as well as focusing on individuality. What does this mean in practice? They take vintage Levi's and repurpose them, hence the name. Jeans are taken apart at the seams and put back together again in a new silhouette so needless to say each pair is unique. 

I know you know Levi's but this wouldn't be a list of denim brands that you need in your life without the grand dame. Founded way back in 1853 in California, Levi's are a classic symbol of All-American style. I recently rediscovered Levi's when I was on the hunt for the perfect pair of denim shorts. Exasperated by high street brands which made my booty look as flat as a pancake, I popped into Levi's. I shimmied into a pair which the sales assistant recommended and I'm pretty sure I heard angels singing when I pulled up the zipper and buttoned the fly. My butt looked pert, round and perfectly peachy. Sold. They are the best pair of denim shorts I have ever owned. 

AGOLDE is a recently relaunched 90s denim brand founded by Jerome Dahan, the king of denim who also founded 7FAM and Citizens of Humanity. They also put a contemporary twist on classic denim styles, using fabrics sources from around the world and developed in LA. As with most 90s brands, the vibe is very irreverent, anti-fashion and slightly rebellious. 

The founders of Frame, Erik Torstensson and Jens Grede, are actually in the branding game - they co-founded superstar brand agency Saturday and have no designer credentials. This didn't stop them from conquering the denim world though, Frame is one of the fastest growing denim brands in the world. With supermodel fans such as Karlie Kloss and Lara Stone, it's no surprise that their jeans are perfect for that nonchalant, model off-duty look. 

Bodysuit - Missy Empire | Jeans - GRLFRND | Heels - Topshop

Photography by Adorngirl

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

The Reason Why I Travel

As soon as I saw these pics, they just screamed HAVANA to me. The deep turquoise contrasts beautifully with the zingy yellow of my dress and it just makes me daydream of warmer climes...even though it was shot in a stairwell in Peckham!

I haven't actually been to Havana (yet) but its visuals provide such a strong reference point, from the art nouveau and art deco architecture, vibrant colours and super cool classic cars. It's definitely high on my list of places to travel along with....well, everywhere.

You may have noticed on the blog and on social that I'm a bit of a moving target. Travel is one of my main passions, along with fashion and food. On average, I tend to travel somewhere once a month. Often short-haul trips to Europe along with a couple of trips to far-flung destinations a couple of times a year. It sounds decadent but exploring the globe is important to me and its something that I prioritise, much like people prioritise Chanel handbags or a new car. I guess I fit the millennial stereotype of preferring experiences to things. Every time I travel, I learn and grow as I discover a new place and a different culture. I go in with my eyes wide open and my arms flung wide, ready to embrace the new and broaden my experience.

I know I'm very blessed to be able to travel and I'm so grateful that I have the opportunity to. I was bitten by the bug young, my parents would take us away as much as possible as kids, first to places in the UK like Cornwall, Loch Ness and the Welsh countryside and then to places like Florida or Australia to visit my family there. As I grew older, I took weekend breaks to Europe when I could afford to and explored places like Barcelona, Budapest and Marrakesh.

I would call these trips holidays as opposed to travelling. To me, there's a distinct difference - a holiday is just popping somewhere, enjoying it but not straying too far from the well-trodden tourist track whereas travelling is a much more intoxicating experience. It's peeling the layers back and really feeling a place, connecting with the people and immersing yourself in its culture. It's venturing off into the far corners and away from the well-beaten paths. Sometimes it means stepping out of your comfort zone but that's often where the magic begins.

Like most modern voyages of self-discovery, my transition from holidaying to travelling starts with heartbreak.  Four years ago I walked away from an abusive relationship and that little act of braveness has changed my life in more ways than I could have ever imagined. While I didn't experience physical abuse, the emotional and psychological abuse became so intense it nearly broke me. Isolated from my friends and practically a prisoner in my own home, I wasn't even a shell of my former self. I barely existed. Everything had been stripped away from me, I switched my emotions off and I was like a ghost.

When I walked away, the relief wasn't immediate. I felt numb for a long time, I guess I had gotten used to not feeling anything. Slowly I began returning to the 'old me'. The colour came back. I learned to smile, to go out and live without crippling fear and anxiety. Sometimes while I was having dinner or drinks with friends, I'd have silent moments where I was so thankful I had the freedom to go out that I nearly cried.

As the months passed, I realised that that relationship nearly killed me and I counted my blessings for escaping. I was determined to live, to make each day count. I relished my freedom and I felt like I could do anything I wanted. Life felt limitless. On a whim, I booked a flight. To Cambodia. In two weeks' time. I'd never been away on my own. I'd never been to Asia. I didn't even own a backpack. But I'll be damned if any of that was going to hold me back.

That trip to Cambodia was life-changing. Arriving with a newly purchased backpack and no idea where I was staying that night, I decided to fully embrace whatever came my way and live the fuck out of life. Over the next 2 weeks were like nothing I've experienced before. From waking up before sunrise to visit temples alone at sunrise in Siem Reap to drinking rooftop cocktails from a teapot with new friends in Phnom Penh, I was living joyfully, revelling in the cultural riches of this amazing new land. As each experience unfolded, I fell further and further in love with this beautiful country, with travelling and with myself.

Since then I've travelled to some incredible places including Vietnam, Malaysia, Bali, Myanmar, Kenya and Zanzibar. But Cambodia will forever hold a special place in my heart. It's a beautiful country with a rich, tragic history and the most wonderful people you could hope to meet on your travels. It's also the place where I pieced myself back together after being ripped to shreds. It felt almost like hitting the reset button, except I was stronger, wiser and more worldly than the 'old me'. It had such a profound effect on me that even now, four years on, I still feel a huge rush of emotions when I talk about it. It healed me in a way I never thought possible.

Sometimes the most unusual catalyst can propel you to unexpected places and sometimes you can find yourself in places that you've never been before. I'm so grateful that I had the opportunity to explore the globe and discover a little more of myself in each place that I've travelled to.

Dress - Topshop | Shoes (similar) - ASOS

Photography by Adorngirl. 
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