Sunday, 6 January 2019

Hello 34!

I'm not a huge fan of celebrating my birthday. Not because I don't like growing older, it's because being a January baby is the *WORST*. It has always been difficult to celebrate my birthday because come January,  everyone is broke, detoxing, suffering from the January blues, giving up alcohol or embracing Veganuary. I often let my birthday sneak by with a very lowkey celebration with a couple of friends. But since I turned 30, I've enjoyed celebrating and realised how important it is to talk about my age. In a world obsessed with youth, it feels like a rebellious act to be loud and proud of being a 30-something.

When I was younger, 30 felt ancient. As I've grown older, I've realised this is a total myth which is mostly maintained by the media. Rather than bucking the trend, the blogosphere has followed suit. It's seen as a 20-something's game and you often see ridiculous things like someone in their early 20s promoting anti-ageing creams because - God forbid - they actually have someone who age-appropriate who looks like their actual customer base in their campaign. What a revolutionary concept!

We live in a world where age equates beauty; you're at your most beautiful in the first flushes of youth after which your beauty fades each year. Well, I beg to differ. Each morning before I hastily apply my make up before rushing out of the door, I study my face. I see laughter lines around my mouth from giggling with my godson or that time in Capri when an old man started stripping on the table of a club (true story). I see little crinkles on the corners of my eyes from laughing so hard I can't breathe and from squinting at the sun while visiting somewhere beautiful. Tell me, what's more beautiful than seeing the signs of a life that has been lived fully? What's more captivating than signs of a happy, joy-filled life?

Years ago, a friend of mine made a beautiful analogy. He showed me a plain piece of paper and asked me to look at it, which I dutifully did. Plain, white, straight edges. He then screwed up the piece of paper and attempted to flattened it out and asked me to look at it again. It wasn't smooth and sleek anymore, instead, it was full of bumps and crinkles. He explained that the first sheet of paper looked perfect but it didn't make me feel anything. On the other hand, the second sheet was interesting, it told a story. Each crumple was like a line in a sonnet. He made me see that perfect gets boring very quickly but there's beauty in imperfection. The crumples and crinkles are intriguing, fascinating and draw you in. I thought it was such a lovely way to look at life, it really stuck with me and helped me to appreciate my wrinkles, stretch marks and scars as beautiful.

Truth be told, I rarely think about my age and I often forget how old I actually am. Occasionally someone will ask and I'll need to pause before answering. I don't see age as very important, most of the time I feel like I'm still 26 so when I answer and remind myself of how old I am, it comes as a bit of a shock that I'm actually 34!

I've really appreciated the last decade of my life and I've found a peace which you only really feel after you turn 30. I feel like I've unfolded into myself. I've spent a lot of time appreciating who I am and what makes me tick. It's almost like having a friendship with myself, peeling away a layer at a time and learning who I really am.

Each year feels like another exploration of who I am and it feels so glorious. Last year, I wrote about turning 33 and wanting to celebrate the fuck out of life. And over the last twelve months, I've had a riot. I visited 9 different countries during 13 trips abroad. I've had crazy nights out, done rum shots for breakfast with a tobacco farmer, hiked to picturesque waterfalls, stayed up to see the sun come up and added to my collection of laughter lines. I'm so grateful for the best 33rd year.

And what am I hoping for from my 34th? Well, I want to grow up. Stop procrastinating. Get on with it. I have a ton of things I need to tick off my list, they've been languishing there for quite a while. I'm gifted with great language skills but haven't been able to commit to learning any properly. I love photography but I'd rather watch Netflix than hone my craft. In a way, I want to go back to school this year...just with better shoes and school trips. Travel-wise, I want to continue venturing off the beaten path to lesser-known destinations like Uzbekistan and Namibia. Not bad for someone in their 30s, right?!

Top - Halpern x Topshop | Skirt - Halpern x Topshop | Shoes - Aquazzura
Photography by Kylie Eyra

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Happy New Year 2019!

Guys....we made it. Is it just me or has 2018 felt like a marathon? I usually feel like time has flown but when I look back on 2018, it was so bloody eventful! It was the year of #Beychella, celebrating love at the Royal Wedding, people inexplicably eating Tide Pods, declaring Wakanda Forever and of course, Cardi B throwing a shoe at Nicki Minaj. What. A. Year. 

As the sun is setting on 2018 and I feel like we can all give ourselves a pat on the back for making it through an eventful year relatively unscathed. This time last year I posted a personal reflection on 2017 and what I'm hoping for 2018 and I wanted to undertake another personal reflection this year. 

Work Life

As I wrote my post last year, I had instigated a catalyse of change. I had been unhappy in my job for months and in December, I decided to quit. I had no idea what I was going to do, I just knew that I was desperately unhappy with my current situation. Instead of feeling fear and uncertainty, I felt a wave of relief; I was ready to make room in my life for something much bigger. 

And that is exactly what happened - I started my year landing a dream job working with influencers and over the last ten months I've really found my groove. My job is rewarding, challenging and has stretched my abilities but ultimately I feel like a butterfly that's emerged from a cocoon, spreading my wings and taking flight. I work with the most incredible, supportive team, I have the best boss ever and Monday has become a joy. I'm so blessed to be in the position I'm in and I'm grateful every day. 

The lesson I learnt from this is to be fearless in protecting your happiness and do not be afraid to take a leap of faith. Life is short, way too short to be unhappy and we all owe it to yourselves to live our best lives. Don't be afraid to say goodbye and make room in your life for something better. 

Blog Life

While my work life has been flourishing, my blog life feels like it's been resurrected. As a someone who is a part-time blogger, my working life and happiness has a direct impact on my blog - the more stressed and busy I am, the less I'm able to blog. This year has rekindled the joy and happiness in blogging, I've blogging pretty much weekly and been very consistent.

I've really worked on honing my skills and working on time management so I can prioritise my passion. I'm proud that I've kept up with my blogging schedule and I'm talking about real issues that matter rather than not using my platform for good. I hope that I come across as a real, relatable person who experiences ups and downs in life rather than just showcasing a "perfect" life. I respect content creators who have the vision and discipline to create inspirational content but this year I realised that being genuine and relatable are important values for me. I'm just trying to live my best, authentic life :)

Personal Life

And lastly...onto my personal life. I'm going to cut to the chase and hold my hands up. I gave myself a year off from dating and it's been glorious. I ended 2017 a little heartbroken so I wanted to give myself time to heal. This is something I really believe in, I really need to process my thoughts and feelings to consolidate a situation rather than jumping feet first into the dating pool. For me, the best way to get over someone is not to get under someone else! 

One of the hardest parts of the healing process is trying to open up to someone new and allowing yourself to be vulnerable. Over summer I did just that. I started seeing someone long-distance...I wouldn't really call this dating but I guess because of the distance it felt like a "safe" way to test whether I was ready. And...I kinda was. It was nice to be in a relationship and share some beautiful moments, it was good while it lasted but ultimately I decided that it wasn't meant to be. 

So I end the year single, as I started the year, but I'm much wiser and more in tune with myself. I don't believe in regretting relationships, each one helps you grow as a person and realise what you are and aren't looking for. 

I realised I'm looking for an equal, someone to love me as I am but appreciate my potential and challenge me to be bigger/better. Someone who supports my dreams as a multi-hyphenate. I also need to be someone who loves travel as much as I do, someone who wants to explore the world and has a curiosity about our planet as well as the bravery to embrace new experiences, cultures and people. That is what I love about travelling, getting under the skin of a place rather than just seeing the sites.  Will I settle down this year? Who knows, but I sure as hell won't settle for less than I deserve. 


And so, onto 2019.  I'm not one for dramatic "new year, new me" declarations,  we don't need to redesign ourselves because we're pretty good as we are. I've realised that the only person I need to be in competition with is myself. I just want to be better, learn more, give more and grow. I don't really believe in resolutions per se, as long as I live those values and continue to challenge myself this year, I'm happy. But there are a couple of things I want to work towards this year and I'm sharing in the interest of accountability! 

- Rebrand the blog (!)
- Rekindle my passion for photography
- Learn a new language
- Travel to 5 new countries
- Start working with a charity

What are you hoping for in 2019? 

Top - Zara | Trousers - Daily Paper | Belt - Off White | Bag - Off White | Shoes - Miss Selfridge (old)
Photography by Kylie Eyra

Monday, 24 December 2018

Merry Christmas 2018

Reena Rai wearing Ashish x Warehouse red sequin dress for Christmas

The parties are done, the out of office is on and the only thing left to do is put your feet up for Christmas!

This year, I gave myself a big, early gift - a plane ticket to Cuba. I'm currently gearing up for a big festival in a tiny little town to celebrate Christmas Eve before slipping away to an island to soak up the sun on a beach. I'm incredibly grateful to past Reena for having the intuition to book a trip away, the last few weeks have been quite tough and a blissful day by the beach is exactly what I needed for Christmas. Travel is such a tonic, rejuvenating, inspiring and relaxing all in one. 

Anyway, enough about me! I hope you have a wonderful Christmas, whether you're celebrating it or not. Whatever you have planned, I hope it's restful and you manage to disconnect even for a little while. Prioritise yourself and your mental health during the festive season. 

I hope you have a blessed day. 

Lots of love,

Dress - Warehouse x Ashish | Heels - Gianvito Rossi (similar)
Photography by Kylie Eyra

Monday, 17 December 2018

Guide to Conscious and Ethical Sale Shopping

Once upon a time, I lived for sale shopping. A total fashion fiend, the thought of topping up my wardrobe for *gasp* up to 50% off was alluring. I'd wake up bright eyed and bushy tailed on Boxing Day to drive to the local shopping centre to scoop up an entire new wardrobe. It became a ritual and my family, slowly stirring after a post-Christmas lie in, would wait for me to return home to see the spoils from the early morning hunt.

My attitude is very different now, partly due to working in fashion and partly because the world is becoming more environmentally conscious. When I worked in fashion, I learned about how retailers would utilise discounts and sales to boost trade and that certain pieces are produced at a lower cost and bought in specifically for the sale period. Ever spot anything hanging on a sale rail that you haven't seen all season? It's probably a sale piece. Suddenly a discounted dress doesn't seem so appealing.

The behind-the-scenes knowledge is interesting but the real change for me came when I started becoming increasingly conscious about consumption. I'm so glad that as a society we're becoming aware of the effects of our collective actions on the planet and the people living in it. Plastic has rightly become a dirty word with plastic straw bans and plastic bag surcharges. The effects on the oceans and sealife are devastating. I've also researched into the human cost of fast fashion. It really makes you question what you buy and whether you really need to shop.

I've cut down in my personal consumption hugely in the last few years. I never have, and never will, do a haul video or post. But...realistically, we do still need to shop. There's a huge middle ground between over-consumption and conscious consumption and it's really important to reach a balance. Cutting down and consuming more consciously is a great step to take. So instead of sharing a list of products that you absolutely should buy, I wanted to share some tips to shop the sales more ethically:

1. Ask yourself if you would you buy it if it was full price? It's easy to get seduced by a saving but a bargain is only a bargain if you value the piece in the first place.
2. Shop classic pieces. You will get much more longevity from a classic rollneck than a seasonal piece.
3. Buy better quality - not fast fashion. I try to steer clear of fast fashion retailers if I can but mid-tier or designer brands are expensive. During the sales, I like to invest in quality pieces which will last longer and I'll cherish for years to come.
4. Carry some tote bags to avoid using plastic or paper bags. We've all got a ton around the house, it's time to put to good use!
5. Check out this list of ethical shops and retailers.

And if you're making space in your wardrobe for a couple of new additions, think about where your clothes are going. I stopped throwing away clothes years ago. I tend to take clothes and unused makeup to my local charity shop. I sell designer pieces on Vestiaire Collective, Depop or eBay are also good options. I also wrote a Black Friday post about how to prepare for the sales and snap up exactly what you want.

I hope you found this guide useful. I'd love to hear your tips in the comments below.

Jumper - H&M (past season) | Skirt - Topshop | Heels - Nicholas Kirkwood (past season) | Ring - Saint Laurent (past season)
Photography by Kylie Eyra

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Why You Should Be Kind To Yourself This Festive Season

Ah, December. It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...the John Lewis advert, presents, parties Rudolf and all of the fun and festivities! Even if you're not a huge fan of Christmas itself, I think everyone enjoys letting loose at the end of the year. Unless you're a content creator, that is. Rather than seeing this month as a home run, this time of year seems to exacerbate stress and guilt over all of the things you have left to achieve by the end of the year. 

I've noticed a fair few tweets on my timeline panicking about only having 20-odd days left to achieve a never-ending list of blog posts, shoots, campaigns and content. I've said it many times before but being a content creator is a graft. Especially if you're a 'weekend creator' who also works fulltime. I don't know about you but I feel like I'm in a constant state of juggling my ever-growing to-do list and feeling wracked with guilt about all the things I haven't done yet. 

But enough is enough. Instead of letting anxiety and my inner critic rule and spending the last few weeks of the year burning out trying to achieve everything I set out to do, I’m going to sit back and give myself props for everything I HAVE achieved this year. It’s not very British to admit this but I’ve been working my ass off this year and I have some amazing achievements under my belt. I’ve also seen some of my favourite bloggers working their socks off to achieve incredible things, whether it’s winning awards, working on amazing campaigns, writing books or simply upping their blog game. So why are we beating ourselves up instead of celebrating our successes? Why let a handful of outstanding items taint all of the things we've worked hard to achieve? 

It's hard to focus on what you have achieved and celebrate your success as we live in a society of overachieving and trying to have it all. We wear “stress” and “busy” as a badge of honour. I'm slowly learning that busy ≠ good. Instead of aiming for a life which is bursting at the seams, we should allow ourselves time to pause and celebrate each step towards a goal rather than ticking something off the list only to move straight to the next task. If you don't stop to appreciate your work, you won't find happiness, contentment or joy in what you do. 

This doesn't mean stop setting yourself goals or dial down your ambition, it's just being realistic about your goals and being able to hit pause without being wracked with guilt. I put together a couple of tips to tick off a couple of projects on your to-do list while keeping your sanity over the festive season: 

  1. Set goals...but be realistic. Would you rather do things or do them well?
  2. Prioritise your mental health. Giving yourself an evening, day or even week off when you need it will do you the world of good. 
  3. Remind yourself what you've already achieved this year. 

My most important piece of advice is: give yourself time to let your hair down. Be kind to yourself, take the pressure off and let yourself have fun. 

Co-ord - Missguided | Coat - Max Mara | Bag - Miu Miu | Heels - ASOS (similar)

Photography by Kylie Eyra

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Happy #WorldKindnessDay

Did you know today is World Kindness Day? Celebrated annually on 13th November, World Kindness Day seeks to make the world a better place by promoting good deeds, pledging acts of kindness and focusing on positive power. In a world that seems to be ruled by division with an increase in racism, sexism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia and general hate, it's more important than ever to practice kindness to yourself and others. Love trumps hate and all of that.

Global politics aside, kindness is also necessary on a macro level. In a world ruled by instant gratification through social media likes and expendable human interactions via a series of never-ending left and right swipes, kindness and compassion often take a backseat. We all become hardened by pain and suffering, both our own and what we see in the world. The thing is, humans are made for love, community and connection. Love, kindness and compassion are what will heal us individually and collectively.

I really believe in being kind to others. love that warm, glowy feeling that you get from being kind to someone else, whether that's buying someone a cup of tea, offering my seat to someone who looks like they need it on the tube or buying a random gift for someone for no reason. Being kind keeps me humble and makes me feel more connected to the world by putting someone else's needs and happiness above my own.

I'm also a huge advocate of being kind to yourself, also known as self-care. I love that this concept has become mainstream and the guilt associated with putting your needs first have been dispelled. Every time I feel pangs of guilt for prioritising my needs, I remind myself that "you cannot pour from an empty cup". If you look after yourself, you're able to look after many others. I wrote about resilience and self-care earlier this year and shared some tips for coping with hard times.

But today is all about being kind to others so I wanted to share five quick and easy ways to be kind:

1. Compliment someone

You know that warm, fuzzy glow you get when you receive a genuine compliment? It feels just as good to give compliments too. I feel like this is something Brits don't do often enough. I've been making more of an effort to give compliments to friends, colleagues and even strangers and it feels so nice to bring a little happiness to someone - it could make all the difference, especially if someone is having a bad day or feeling down.

2. Say thank you

I'm sure that you've seen that social media post about expressing gratitude instead of apologising - saying 'thank you for waiting' if you're late to meet someone instead of apologising for being late. This is a really simple, powerful way of reframing your mind to seek out the positives in life. Saying thank you shows someone that you acknowledge them and value their time and effort. 

3. Give a gift

Giving a little gift is such a lovely way of showing someone you appreciate someone. It doesn't have to be expensive or elaborate, picking up their favourite chocolate or a little token of appreciation.

4. Buy a hot drink, meal or space in a shelter for a homeless person

Simply stopping to buy a hot drink, something to eat or offering to pay for a night or two in a shelter can make a huge difference to someone in need. You can also contract Street Link who may be able to offer assistance.

5. Donate to charity

A super quick and easy way to be kind no matter where you are is to donate to a charity.  I always donate to Cancer Research as my mum has cancer but there are so many deserving charities like NSPCC and DEC, who are currently collecting for the Indonesia tsunami appeal.

I'd love to hear how you practised kindness today so let me know in the comments section.

Cardigan - Nasty Gal | Jeans - GRLFRND | Heels - Reserved | Bag- Chloe | Hat and belt - vintage

Shot by Kylie Eyra

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

How To Run A Blog While Working Full Time

I always describe blogging while working full-time as a rollercoaster. When it's good, I feel like superwoman for bossing my day job while pursuing my passion. But when it's bad, I feel overwhelmed and like my side hustle is a burden rather than a passion project that brings me fulfilment. 

Last September, I was definitely going through a bad patch. Between launching a global brand during the day and trying to plan for London Fashion Week, writing and shoot blog content during the evenings and weekends, I was utterly exhausted. Nevermind trying to keep in touch with friends, remembering to eat, wanting to exercise and needing to sleep too! I had too many plates spinning in the air and I felt like I wasn't spinning any of them well.

I tweeted about how I felt and was overwhelmed by the number of people who shared similar experiences. After some reassuring Twitter chats and realising that I was far from alone, I planned to write a blog post about the challenges of working full-time and blogging as a side hustle...but it's taken a whole year to finally put pen to paper. Ah, the joys of having too much to do and too little time to do it in! 

I've been working full-time whilst blogging for a decade. There was a time when I used to blog every single day after finishing work, after attending events, after meeting friends for dinner. I was averaging about four hours sleep a night, it was utterly exhausting and not rewarding in the slightest. Sometimes I was simply writing words for the sake of writing words. I was uninspired and grew to resent blogging. The crazy thing is, no one put this pressure on me. I put it on myself. 

Kenzie from Lemonade Lies can sympathise with the effect of putting too much pressure on yourself, stating "there are so many ways you can do both [working full-time and blogging] efficiently, just don't burn the wick at both ends because it can make you resent things. If push came to shove most would give up their blog over employment so make sure you keep your love and passion for it and do what works for you". 

I soon realised blogging daily while working full-time was completely unsustainable and stopped putting unnecessary pressure on myself. Actually, I took the pressure off completely by taking a little haitus from blogging. I felt so demotivated and needed time to figure out whether I still loved blogging and what I was doing it for.

Jazmine from Jazzabelle's Diary also admitted that motivation is something she struggles with, as she works in social media and marketing for her job, the last thing she wants to do in her downtime media, writing and marketing! She told me "lacking motivation can be frustrating, as I would love to post more, however right now the most important thing in my life is maintaining a healthy work/life balance, and if that means spending less time on my blog, then that's something I'm happy to do." 

After taking a little sabbatical, I  came to the realisation that I really love blogging - the creativity, writing, connecting with people around the world and sharing my perspective. I just didn't like putting myself under a ton of pressure and losing my passion and motivation. This was a real lightbulb moment for me. I decided to figure out how to pursue my passion without killing myself in the process.

Over the last couple of years, I've reached a happy medium where I aim to blog once a week. If I don't manage to find the time, I'm ok with that - and hope you are too! Sometimes I still struggle to find a balance but 80% of the time I have it down. The key has been being smart with my time and realistic with what I promise myself I will deliver. 

Laura from Lelore also struggles with finding the time to manage working and blogging side-by-side but she maximises her commuting time to "keep on top of emails and social media, and also to schedule tweets. I tend to do the majority of my writing and photo editing at the weekend so that if work gets a bit hectic during the week my content is still ready to go".

After finding a healthy work/blog balance and renewing my passion for my side hustle, I wanted to share five tips which have really helped me. 

1. Create an achievable plan
When I was blogging every day, I had no one to blame but myself. When I took a step back and looked at what I wanted to achieve through blogging, it was storytelling and communicating. My goal was not to be a one-woman content factory! I cut down to blogging once a week as I felt it was achievable but still pushed me to create blog content with a regular schedule. I also set boundaries for Instagram content, aiming to post once a day. 

2. Embrace the power of lists
Now that you have a plan, it's easier to figure out how and when you're going to create your content. Sarah from Sarah Jayne Potter's top tip for managing her time efficiently is "a lot of lists!! I also now don't promise coverage or blogs asap. I set dates and deadlines and give myself enough breathing space to be able to take photos, do the write-up and still manage to have a social life! If I get ideas on the go, I make sure I document it on my phone so I don't forget." 

3. Become a time management ninja
With a plan in hand and a list of tasks to whizz through, the next step is finding the time. After working all day, I protect my evenings as my sacred time - to catch up with friends, work out or just potter around my flat. I would rather carve out some time at the weekend to do my blog-work and allow myself some time to decompress in the evenings. 

I shoot my blog images once a month, packing a little suitcase of outfits to shoot all in one go rather than trying to shoot weekly. This really helps me plan ahead as my images must have cohesion with my written content. Planning a month in advance helps to capture all of my ideas so that when I sit down to write, I have a rough outline of what I want to cover. 

Instagram content is much trickier. I'm just not very interesting Monday-Friday and it's dark by the time I finish work so I can't capture any content during the week. To remedy this, I create content during the weekend that I can post throughout the week. In the depths of winter, it's easier to shoot IG content on Saturday and Sunday morning and write blog content in the evening. 

4. Automate as much as possible
I'm a huge advocate of scheduling content. Being a blogger is more than just writing and posting to a blog, you have to think about Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest too. Wordpress and Blogger both have in-product scheduling which makes queuing up blog content super easy, though I rarely have more than the next blog post ready to go. 

There are a number of different tools available to schedule tweets on Twitter but I prefer Hootsuite. I first started using it years ago when I managed social media for brands so it feels intuitive to use. I use it to schedule tweets promoting my blog posts throughout the day but I prefer using the app to actually use Twitter and engage with my community. 

I personally don't like or trust the in-product scheduling on Instagram. On more than a couple of occasions, I've been logged out of the app and all of my scheduled posts have disappeared. I have recently started using Planoly to schedule IG posts. It's an official Instagram partner and you can add a location and tag accounts in your image. It allows you to save groups of hashtags to upload to your images. You can also drag and drop images to see how your feed looks to make sure you're happy with your grid. 

Now, I know Pinterest is a tricky platform for some bloggers but I really love it both for inspiration and driving traffic to my blog. I only have 3k followers but my monthly views are currently 85k! I've achieved this by pinning little and often, that's the key to seeing growth. I use Tailwind to schedule my Pins however, they have recently launched an in-product scheduler which I'm going to use now. 

5. Blog support system
Last but not least, I find it super important to have a blog support system. This is a mixture of blogger and non-blogger friends who I can vent to or turn to for comfort. With all the planning and will in the world, it's still very difficult to manage to blog alongside a full-time job. Blogging is a graft and a hell of a lot goes on behind the scenes. Make sure you have plenty of people to both cheer you on and pick you up when you're down. This is true of life as much as it's true of blogging. 

And there you go, my top tips to balance your work/blog/life balance. I'd love to hear your tips so leave a comment below! 

Suit - River Island, top - Mango, heels - No.21

Photography by Adorngirl

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

AW18 Trend: Animal Print

Last month, I wrote that brown is a HUGE trend this season and shared my tips on how to style the notoriously tricky hue. The popularity of brown is partially due to leopard print also being a big trend for AW18. I only gave it the briefest of mentions because I had this post up my sleeve, dedicated to leopard print, snakeskin, zebra print and every other animal print under the sun! The AW18 runway embraced it's wild side and the high street swiftly followed suit. 

Leopard print started emerging as an early autumn/winter favourite back in August as pieces started dropping on the high street. I let out an audible cheer and picked up this cheeky little flamenco skirt from Nasty Gal as well as some satin wide-leg trousers. See, I fall into the bold camp of people who declare that leopard print is a neutral. I have a couple of pairs of leopard print shoes which I have worn every season for at least 4 years...they're being held together by the skin of their teeth and the skill of my cobbler! I'm seeing this season as an opportunity to stock up on one of my wardrobe staples. 

This season isn't *just* about leopard print though, so don't fear if it's not your favourite print. While the likes of Dolce & Gabbana and Max Mara embraced the print in a BIG way, Tom Ford opted for a punchy red leopard print and I've seen a handful of pieces inspired by his collection on the high street. Meanwhile, plenty of brands including Balenciaga, Victoria Beckham and Isabel Marant favoured snakeskin, faux python, zebra print and every other print imaginable. This has, of course, hit the high street, with Zara betting heavily on snakeskin and other high street stores dabbling in a range of different prints. 

I absolutely adore leopard print. For some reason, it makes me feel extra ballsy and fearless. I get that it might not be for everyone though, it's an acquired taste. I've outlined three different ways you can embrace animal prints: 

1. Accessorise
This is best for people who want to dip their toe into the world of leopard print without fully committing. A pair of shoes, bag or even a belt can give a subtle nod to the trend without being too overwhelming. 

2. Half/half
If you're feeling slightly braver, pair a leopard print piece with true neutrals, as I did for this look. I opted for a white top, black heels and a basket bag and let my leopard print do the talking. 

3. Head to toe
For a look that's straight off the runway, embrace a print from head-to-toe. I think this is going to be my favourite way to wear animal print as we head into AW18, though more likely to be snakeskin rather than leopard print as I've spotted SO many people in leopard print at the moment! 

Are you going to give animal print a try this season? If you need some inspiration, check out my Pinterest board

Top - Mebuar | Skirt - Nasty Gal | Heels - Aquazzura | Bag - Missy Empire (similar) | Necklace - Astley Clarke

Photography by Adorngirl

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
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