Tuesday, 21 June 2011

I keep reading in magazines the frequently voiced opinion that the internet has stiffled creativity. Well, not creativity, so much as the desire to properly investigate, research and explore. Enthusiasm and passion have overtaken fact, knowledge and experience.

I don't wish this post to descend into a regurgitated debate of bloggers versus journalists. That conversation has been had too many times before, and by far greater and better qualified individuals for me to attempt to shed any light on the matter or say anything new.

The internet is both a blessing and a curse as a democratizing force. The widespread availability of information at all times and in all places is like a deluge of words, images and film that is both refreshing and overwhelming. The idea that anyone, anywhere in the world, can fabricate a web page of their own design leads me to question the validity and truthfulness of almost everything.

I shall never forget the words of my history of art professor at university who adamantly repeated: 'All images are fake. No image is real.' What he meant was that there can never be an objective recording of anything, ever; be it words or pictures. Everything that is said, verbally or in writing, every photo that is taken and film that is recorded is done so from an angle, a unique perspective, your perspective. No matter how detached you may try to be, you always only see things from your point of view. Everything is tainted by the personal touch. Even the footage you see on the news: someone recorded that and made a decision, conscious or otherwise, to shoot from that standpoint, to aim their lens in that direction, at that event.

The content of the internet is largely like this. A proliferation of points of view and opinions, especially on blogs. We all comment, critique, observe and respond. It is so easy now to read ten, a hundred, a thousand different perspectives of one thing- and due to the open access of the internet it is easier now than ever for one person's perspective to be subsequently adored or vilified. 

Due to the younger generations having grown up parallel to the evolution of the web, they more quickly updated to the online medium and subsequently are the ones most at risk of overexposure.

Whilst I think it is fantastic that online blogs have enabled the voices of younger, passionate, enthusiasts to have their voices heard, I do worry about their ability to withstand the constant presence of the online public. The current level of celebrity hysteria is shocking. 'Bieber fever', Gaga's 'little monsters'...it's overpowering. And as the crash and burn cases of young stars like Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears have shown- it is hard to withstand the pressure of constant observation and scrutiny.

Isn't it about time that we stepped back? Shouldn't we take a moment to 'switch off'?

Obviously I am aware of the hypocritical nature of this post as it is being published on an online blog. But, how else are you supposed to communicate in this day and age? No one reads letter anymore.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

In the deserted park, silent and vast,
Erewhile two shadowy glimmering figures passed.

Their lips were colorless, and dead their eyes;
Their words were scarce more audible than sighs.

In the deserted park, silent and vast,
Two spectres conjured up the buried past.

“Our ancient ecstasy, do you recall?”
“Why, pray, should I remember it at all?”

“Does still your heart at mention of me glow?
Do still you see my soul in slumber?” “No!”

“Ah, blessed, blissful days when our lips met!
You loved me so!” “Quite likely,—I forget.”

“How sweet was hope, the sky how blue and fair!”
“The sky grew black, the hope became despair.”

Thus walked they ’mid the frozen weeds, these dead,
And Night alone o’erheard the things they said.

Friday, 17 June 2011

I have spent the last few days in Suffolk doing an AW fashion story with beautiful lingerie by new designer Katharine Harrison and big cosy knits, riding boots, wellies and all the accoutrements of luxury country living.

Until the age of about fourteen I was a naughty little tomboy running riot through the fields of my grandparents' houses and causing havoc in our local forests with the BMX boys who lived down the road. I loved nothing better than kicking up the dust in my old weather-beaten boots, climbing trees and making dens. Pretending I was an adventurer. Exploring new worlds.

So, whenever I return to a country environment, no matter where it may be, I feel the pang of nostalgia and my mischievous side begin to peak through. When I'm in a large country house (or any house other than my own, really) I cannot resist the urge to sneak down corridors, peak into rooms, climb up dusty staircases and give in to all the whims of my curiosity. 

I like to see how other people live; how they organise their things, what their things are, how they visualize and create their personal environments. Blogs like The Selby are catnip.

So here is a sneak peak into my even sneakier peak at the house we were shooting in.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011


If you were to look at the myriad street style blogs across the web you would hear the invisible voices proclaiming aloud down the photographer's lens that they are the most stylish, they the coolest, their city the humble abode of thousands of equally well dressed and coiffed individuals.

At least that is what I hear.

Photos ABOUND of bloggers capturing their own daily style offerings, or presenting the most eye-catching looks of passers-by which they have 'discovered'.

I don't wish to be misunderstood- I neither feel any disdain for such sites, nor do I profess to avoid them disinterestedly. Quite the opposite. If you were to look at the bookmarks bar on my beloved macbook you would see countless links to blogs, worldwide, whose content matches the above description. I like to keep abreast of what people in different cities are wearing, what trends seem to be proliferating across the globe like a virus, and what minor tweaks of styling I can pick up from the creative mind of another.

But as the months have rolled on since I first became an avid observer of the online fashion community I have grown...tired, of the repetitive nature of posts: the same poses, same camera angles, same hairstyles.... but most of all, the same subjects. Despite the existence of some menswear blogs like stylesalvage or thestyleblogger, the stylings of girls and women dominate online content. Due to this lack, I devour the intermittent bites of well-dressed gentlemen on the Sartorialist. But, still, Scott Schuman, master as he is of the street-style genre, primarily captures the more traditional, suited and booted gent.

I am looking for something a bit different.

In London, the tailors of Saville Row are world renowned for their pristinely created masterpieces of suits. This is truly a craft, and one which supplies the demand of many a city businessman for the week's work and beyond. But London is also home to a wealth of other men's styling choices: from the customised creations of Camden punks, the preppy urbanites of Clapham, the wacky try-anything Shordites, the 'rude-boy' young guns of Brixton and everything in between.

For men, as well as women, vintage has made a major come-back in the noughties. You only have to walk through the door of the major Beyond Retro warehouse store on Cheshire Street to be confronted by a visual assault of 90s era colour pops or grunge gear. From neon string vests, thick sweatshirts emblazoned with everything from WWF to Americana style eagles, stars and stripes, oversized and over-bleached denim jackets, roughed up old black worker boots and many, many, many plaid shirts of every variety. Beyond Retro has it all. And if it all is too much of an attack on your senses and you feel overwhelmed by choice just look to the staff. The many guys there are sporting looks from grunge rock'n'roll, 80s colour craziness and all out Fresh Prince of Bel Air chav-glam.

The 90s are coming back around. The fashion world is returning full circuit through the 60s, 70s and 80s onto that beautiful era of our childhood (if, like me, you are a twenty-something with fond memories of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the Care Bears). If you want proof, just begin to count the number of hi-tops you're seeing around, gracing the feet of men and women alike. Take a trip to the Nike flagship store at Oxford Circus where all the sales assistants are decked in their finest street-sports gear with a custom pair of Zooms or Air Jordans.

Embrace the colour. Embrace the hi-tops. Experiment. Enjoy.

We are lucky to live in a time of continual renewal, rejuvenation and creativity where you can wear what you want, dress how you like and change your style each day as the mood strikes. Ditch the standard and try something new.

(All photos by me on the trusty iphone)

Thursday, 9 June 2011

I distinctly recall sitting in my grimy student room during finals and thinking: 'God, I can't wait to get out of this shithole.'

The 'real world', a world beyond the dictates of lecture timetables, tutorials and coursework deadlines, was a land of freedom and adventure. A place of possibility. Imagine the luxury of being completely independent. Earning your own money, paying your own rent and making your way in the world.

University didn't really prepare us for the brutal truth of the situation.

Upon entering the 'real world' you come to realise that rent is far more expensive than you thought, council tax and bills add up to shockingly enormous monthly payments, finding work is near impossible and upon securing that elusive position of employment you find out that a seemingly unfair proportion of your paycheck gets taken away for National Insurance Contributions and tax- none of which you understand.

I recently had a lovely young girl of fifteen come for two days work experience. She was sweet, intelligent, enthusiastic and completely unaware of the wonderful hardships that lie ahead as part of adult life. It is only upon witnessing first hand the beauty of someone who still looks through rose-tinted glasses that you come to see just how smudged and bleary your own vision is- obscured by the dirt of financial woes and career confusion.

For someone so young, this girl had an amazing range of interests which extended far beyond the stereotype of my super sweet sixteen. She talked of her love of art house films, Wim Wenders documentaries and modern art, which we saw first hand at the Frith Street Gallery (an intriguing little wonder in Golden Square, W1). Yet when we briefly discussed her potential career trajectory she was blissfully unaware of the realities of interning.

There has been much debate in the news recently about the pay for interns and whether 'who you know, not what you know' is a valid step up the career ladder.

The truth is that, particularly within the creative industries, and fashion in particular, the whole machine fails to run without the handy assistance of the cost-free intern cogs. Interns do the menial work whilst gaining experience of how magazines/design houses etc run. You don't get paid firstly, because there is a mutual understanding that the experience (and contacts) you gain is worth more than gold dust and secondly, (and more importantly) there will ALWAYS be someone there to take your job should you choose to raise the issue of pay or working hours. Fashion has become such a lusted after employment sector that even gaining an internship is a battle in itself. The potential interns are fresh out of school and far more willing to do the work for free than us twenty-somethings with degrees who may feel over qualified and unable to work without pay with the constant burden of student debt looming on the horizon.

Thus, the debate begins again- to go to University or not to go?

I have been discussing this with many recent graduates and we all seem to be in a similar state of frustration and fatigue. Personally, I define my uni years as the best of my life. I partied, made friends and ran free for four years without a care until the exam period. The girls (and some boys) that I met are closer to me than some people I have known my whole life. I truly believe that we shall remain friends for life. This prosaic declaration aside, I also believe my University experience to be an almost total waste of time and money. I am about £17k in debt and four years behind many people in fashion who began working straight out of school. It is impossible to get a well-paid job at a magazine or retail head-office as I lack experience and I don't have the contacts, or the ability, to do an internship whilst balancing the costs of London living.

What to do, what to do?

Run away, or stick it out?

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

I have never particularly liked modern art.
To me 'modern' art was just a bit of a big joke. As if there were some secret society of individuals who thought they would make a mockery of classical painting by making childish scribbles, simplistic cube compositions or ridiculous installations which looked like nothing more creative than a piece of domestic waste. I was convinced that this 'modern' art was lacking in skill, artistry and meaning. I had been educated about eighteenth-century European painting and sculpture. The art I was used to was enormous canvases of oil painting, painstakingly rendered to produce a dramatic, engaging and emotive visual piece. I had been on a university study trip to Paris and stood for half an hour in front of Jacques-Louis David's 'Intervention of the Sabine Women' and felt tears welling up in my eyes. 
When was the last time a piece of modern art had this effect?

Tracey Emin had always seemed to me like the high priestess of modern art. She exhibited an UNMADE BED. If this was art, come to my house. It's a gallery of similar treasures.

Then last weekend, as part of our resolution to be more cultured, my housemates and I went to see the Emin retrospective exhibition at the Southbank Centre. There were some pieces in this collection which confirmed my opinions about modern art. I don't particularly like to see used tampons at any time, let alone on display in a glass cabinet and I'm not fond of rough sketches of nude women exposing their genitalia.

 Emin's work essentially confronts the idea of what could be classified as art. It is raw, provocative and deeply personal. What is on display is not just material objects which she has produced but representations of and revelations about her memories, thoughts and emotions. I used to think that modern art couldn't or didn't mean anything, that it wasn't an expression of a frame of mind or an opinion. Emin's work is the exact opposite. In a certain respect she is fearless. She has put on display the worst parts of herself and the most traumatic events of her life for all to see. The first room of blankets are like large tapestry scrapbooks of her diaries. Recounted memories are interwoven with quotes and profane outbursts, but all on the traditionally feminine medium of patchwork embroidery. This startling juxtaposition establishes the fragile and tempestuous relationship between how society, and more specifically men, view women and how Emin views herself.

The other piece which dominates the room is the sculpture 'Knowing My Enemy'. An homage to her father, this partially collapsed wooden pier with a small hut at the end, is a physical manifestation of the dream he had of a place that he, and hopefully she too, could find happiness.  The structure at once represents a certain loneliness but strangely also a sense of peace.

The neon signs in the following room are a classic example of Emin's sharp wit and ability to condense a  complex idea into a simple phrase: 'Is anal sex legal? Is legal sex anal?', 'I know, I know, I know' and 'People like you need to fuck people like me' are just some of the delights, alongside the show's namesake:

The films were, in my opinion, the most expressive and intimate pieces of the exhibition. 'Why I never became a dancer' is a palimpsest of scenes from Emin's hometown Margate. The commentary is a sweet, revealing narration of Emin's first sexual experiences and the beginnings of her unstable relations with men. As a young girl she submitted to the abusive taunts of a group of men she had slept with and abandoned her youthful dream of dancing. The film then ends with an adult, uninhibited, Emin dancing freely and herself taunting the camera lens with a wry grin. The most affecting of the films was a twenty minute interview with Emin about her reaction to having an abortion. It was horrifyingly sad. She speaks in such graphic detail about the physicality of the abortion as well as her thought process leading up to it and afterwards that you are completely taken aback. You feel traumatised and heartbroken watching it to the end.

I wouldn't say that the exhibition changed my opinion about modern art in its entirety but I feel very differently about Tracey Emin. Despite the somewhat unusual nature of installations such as the unmade bed, there is a definite sense of purpose and meaning to Emin's work. She has something provocative and interesting to say in her pieces, and although the medium may not be what I am used to, I think the message is one of great import.


(all images courtesy of loveiswhatyouwant)