Friday, 24 August 2012

Ebb and Flow

The blue floral dress belongs to the beautiful Flo, and the black, red and yellow one was inherited from my maternal great-grandma - a fitting choice for Flo to wear, as she's previously taken photos of me in it.
Photos by me - back in May, during a brief burst of summer.

We used to bounce on the trampoline. We’d fly up and down, airborne as we sang rhymes and attempted complicated hand-clapping routines mid-jump. I coveted that trampoline, wanting one of my own. Instead, at my house, we dressed up. We wore purple velvet, spangled shawls, old nightdresses, net hats, shiny pink lipstick and shoes three times too big. We performed plays and crafted elaborate stories: pretending to be orphans, hiding in the ‘cave’ under my bed or piling idea upon idea about our future lives. The dramas continued on the day we made a puppet theatre – carving a proscenium arch out of the front of the tall box our fridge-freezer had just arrived in. It was painted in pink and blue, and we squashed inside, peering out into the auditorium of the garden. I have photos of us both brandishing paintbrushes – me with gapped teeth and plaits, she with thick, messy hair and a grin.
The ‘she’, of course, is Flo: photographer, friend and all-round fabulous person. We’ve known each other  - or rather, she has known me - since I was a few days old. Our parents’ friendship was catalysed by my birth, her mum arriving at our front door with a brown paper bag of cherries and a cry of “Where’s the baby?”

We’ve had several holidays together on the Welsh coast – back when we were both little. Our two families squashed together around the kitchen table - fighting over the first slice of toast or the last spoonful of pasta sauce. Flo and I (along with various other siblings) plundered the bookshelf for comics, played board games on the faded carpet and let our playmobil toys explore the garden at the back. This garden came to a sharp stop at the bottom, marked with a low, stone wall. Below us there was a path that edged the beach, often frequented by dog walkers. We had a game – ‘accidently’ dropping a playmobil figure over the wall just as someone strolled past. We counted how many would pick it up and return it, and how many strode on. We stopped doing that on the day her princess figure was mauled – left with canine-shaped tooth marks in her dress and hat.

There are plenty of other memories I could delve into – unhooking the latch on images of us swimming in the cold, choppy sea or pulling the dustcover from recollections of my jealousy over the two-year age difference between us. But this isn’t a friendship that remains stored somewhere in the past, left behind like many others. No, despite several years of sporadic communication, Flo and I joined forces again when I was thirteen. She took the first set of photos that I ever used on my blog. I wore silver sparkled leggings for one shot, a sixties green mini-dress for another. At that point I saw her as the slightly glamorous ‘older girl’, and was flattered by her renewed interest. But, in recent years, it has evened out into something much more equal – a friendship between two young women who can collaborate on shoots, spend hours lying in fields discussing our lives and toast each other’s birthdays under the stars. Now that she’s moved away, meet-ups are rare. We’re both busy people with plenty to fill our days. But she’s still the one I can confide in when I’m upset; the one willing to cavort through flowers for the sake of a good shot; the one who I can trust to accept me as I am, rather than judging. Plus, we’re both still rather big fans of the dressing up box. 

Monday, 20 August 2012

The Street Style Hunters (with video)

These four are from the delectable Dvora of Fashionistable, who is currently shooting all sorts of wonderful street style photos for Vogue UK. The green sixties dress visible in the photo above was the first ever item posted on this blog over three years ago. It defines longevity to me!

This was shot by Candice Lake for - catching me in the act of some note-taking that later formed the basis for my poem. The pink coat was a second hand eBay buy, but was spruced up with some vintage Chanel buttons kindly given to me by my grandma. 

The whizzing, flashing merry-go-round that is fashion month is about to take another spin. There are certain calendar dates that, no matter how regularly and evenly they are organized, seem to pop up (or rather wobble around the corner in high heels) unexpectedly. When new schedules are being released already, it’s easy to fall into predictable cries of “What? But we’ve only just had the last one!”
Maybe part of the puzzlement lies in the pace of the fashion industry. It’s something I’ve touched on before – the idea that everything is increasingly instant and up to the minute. Platforms such as twitter and instagram allow for snippets and sneak peaks in a matter of seconds. A word often used in relation to this relatively new phenomenon is the “democratization” of fashion.

Whether it’s truly democratic is a debate for another time, but the word seems strangely apt in relation to what happens on the streets and pavements outside each venue. It is only in recent years that the interest at each fashion week has been divided between the inside and the outside. The inside is host to shows, presentations and exhibitions – new designs showcased for approval of the press and buyers. The outside is the land of street style. Here the cameras are not organized, brick-like, at the end of a catwalk as shutters click and flashes pop. Instead they are roaming – hung around necks and slung across shoulders – always on the move. Sometimes there are swarms of lenses, appearing like a chorus of clicking insects around a particular figure. It’s fascinating.

What this movement has given flight to are some fantastic street style photographers, including Vanessa Jackman, DvoraDavid Nyanzi, Tommy Ton, Phil Oh and Candice Lake. Some photographers have an eye for colour, others for shape or a particularly mesmerizing face. It strikes me that the very best are those who capture the people as well as the outfits – celebrating both personality and creativity. Their work is compelling. I've been lucky enough to be shot by all of them, and was excitingly recently featured as a 'one to watch' on

Last time I was at LFW in February, I was standing outside a show with a notebook in hand. In fact,  the purple penguin-cover one featured in the last photo. I was scribbling down the details of the outfits around me: from glittering heels to cropped trousers to incredibly suave suits. From this messy list I extracted and shaped some of the images into the outline of a poem. The sight of twenty or thirty photographers hanging around outside the Royal Courts of Justice seemed to be the defining moment of LFW for me, and I wanted to preserve it. It’s easy to lose sight of the effort and hours put into producing and providing street style images. The ones I most appreciate are those who do not scrimp on their skill or integrity, no matter how little they slept the night before (thanks to uploading, editing and sending duties). I shall let the rest of the poem speak for itself:   

'Shooting Party' poem from Rosalind Jana on Vimeo.

Shooting Party

They gather for the hunt,
Grouping, readying, checking the light;
Wearing practical footwear and warm woolen coats
for air iced at the edges.
Smoke and gossip rise.
A glimpse of colour; a snap to attention; the shooting begins.

Shearling coats and spotted fur and shiny Chelsea boots,
Tailored waistcoats, thin, black gloves and khaki tweed cut suits.

Birds emerge past curlicued railings.
Every variety! Some with plumage of soft grey,
others with yellow or dusted pink.
The hunters point, focus, click
and chase down chosen subjects.

Floral blazers, patterned trousers, satin billowed skirts,
Pastel pleats and pointed toes and classic cream silk shirts.

Bright birds are briefly caught, ringed, recorded, set free.
Breeze lifts wings of fur and leather.
A flock of heels,
A ‘v’ of brogues,
tip-tapping on wet pavements.

Belted jumpers, purple blazers, a yellow, vintage mac,
Beanie hats and umbrellas – a suitcase stamped in black.

Winding galleries display the trophies,
prize selections framed by screens.
Magnificent finery
draws praise for a feather’s breath,
while the hunters return to tread grey paths
and shoot under London clouds.       

As an addendum, I must mention that even my mum agreed that my voice sounds very different in this video. Oh, and as is apparent, I have braces (two months so far). 

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

A Question of Taste

When these jeans were first unearthed from the dressing up box some two or three years ago I shuddered. They called to mind the kind of garment that Eddie from Absolutely Fabulous would descend on in a cloud of exclamations and “sweetie darlings!” The swirls, patterns and colour scheme were part henna tattoo, part psychedelic ode to the nineties. I stuffed them back into the dark corner they’d emerged from, shaking my head.
My mum had found them, and a partner pair, in the local charity shop for a pound apiece. The reason for purchase was the label stitched into the back: Jean-Paul Gaultier. They were bought for the sheer hell of it. No need to wear them – just occasionally admire (or wince at) the brash patterns. The corresponding pair was equally outrageous: the combination of black, white and red called to mind a skeletal, Alexander McQueen-wearing zebra. I defined both pairs as the epitome of ‘bad taste’, suitable only for silly evenings spent in even sillier costumes.

Here I am, several years later, wearing them out of choice. I recently cleared out the basket under my bed housing the ball gowns, sequined tops, fifties floral aprons, old nighties, lace leggings and other fancies used for dressing up. Although the ‘clearing’ was only minimal - I managed to get rid of about four items - it led to re-discovery of the trousers. Whether it is my taste that has changed, or the zeitgeist (as my mum remarked: “patterned trousers are everywhere at the moment”), they appeared a little more acceptable than previously judged. Although I would never call them beautiful, in my eyes they are now rather extraordinary.

There are two types of taste. The first is that dictated by the ‘tastemakers’: those who deem a particular colour, shape or style to be the most desirable of the season. This taste changes by necessity every six months in the world of fashion, and regularly in all other creative spheres – such as music, art or literature. Fledgling trends gain mainstream appeal, while seemingly popular styles quickly fade.  In all areas, the taste must change so that more items – be they clothes, paintings, furniture or novels – may be sold. There is a constant desire for the new, leaving a huge pile up of the ‘out of date’ and the ‘hopelessly passé’ behind. Such taste is market driven and rather fickle.

For one who is interested in the eternal and timeless power of creativity, this can be dispiriting. If something is reduced merely to a product to be sold (and then superseded by something else), then what is there to celebrate? But the best creations are those in which imagination and innovation is not forfeited in the bid for profit. There are plenty of designers out there – from Corrie Nielsen and Mary Katrantzou to Fyodor Golan (three favourites of mine) – who elevate fashion beyond the mundane and ordinary. They do not just clothe the body, but enhance it. Their designs might not be considered timeless in the way that a Chanel jacket or a tailored white shirt might be, but they are memorable enough to transcend seasons.

At least, that’s my opinion. Their clothes appeal to my personal taste – the intricately woven map of loves and hates unique to me. Personal taste is altogether harder to define, as it alters with less precision than popular taste. Personal taste is instead an accumulation of experience, knowledge, impressions and opinions. I have learnt that I love 1960s mini-dresses and will wear them at every opportunity, but my early teen penchant for brightly coloured hoodies and trainers is a thing of the past. Personal taste evolves and is added to as we grow. Things previously described as horrendous can become desirable – and vice versa. Trends can briefly influence personal taste too. I’m happy to crack out the Laura Ashley-esque crocheted dresses whenever the seventies rears its head. I wouldn’t ever want to adhere entirely to what is ‘in’, as its better to forge a path than follow one, but there’s no harm in taking onboard pointers now and then.

Who knows what will happen with these Jean-Paul Gaultier trousers? For all I know, in several years time they might be scrunched up back under the bed. Or alternately they might still be worn with pride – although perhaps not with these particular heels, as they are completely impossible to walk in.

The highly impractical heels were from eBay, the men's silk shirt from a charity shop and the vintage silk scarf was inherited from my maternal great-grandma. All, however, were merely a sideshow to the jeans.  

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

A Month in London

The photos show a range of outfits worn to the Vogue offices and out and about in London - all from the usual range of second hand sources. The last was a quick iPhone snap that my dad took one morning. See Fashionistable Dvora's fabulous blog for more photos of the blue denim dress.

I've been visiting London since I was little. My grandma’s home is there: a wonderland-esque time warp of a flat, complete with Saarinen furniture and original sixties bubble lamps that have been there since my dad was young. My early memories revolve around grazed shins and tree climbing; the panoramic view from the top of Primrose Hill; the occasional roar and heat of the tube. These moments reflect a much smaller London – one that I only knew in snatches. To me the city was the children's playground, the canal, the parks. 

London is now much larger and more present in my life. I visit pretty regularly, and have just returned from my longest period of time spent there. As many already know, last year I won the Vogue Talent Contest, with part of the prize being a month’s work experience at the magazine’s offices in Hanover Square. I am now back home, several hours away from the vibrant hum of the city.

While I was there, the general idea was one of needing to pack in as much as possible – of reaching out with two hands to grab everything that London could offer. Of course, it was impossible to take it all in. There’s a sense of there always being something else to do, to see, to take part in. When this feeling is harnessed, it’s exhilarating – the sheer scale of possibility contrasting with the sedate pace of my rural home, where the highlight of the day might be a visit to a car boot sale or a blustery walk past the lakes. In London there are films, restaurants, cafes, exhibitions, gigs, plays, museums – the list continues ad infinitum. And yet, the flipside of all this potential is the worry that you are somehow missing out if you're not out doing something all the time. If one is staying in the capital only temporarily then this feeling is exacerbated, with every spare moment and snatched hour spent experiencing something new, or spent feeling that one should be.

The memories that will remain, however, are the many moments of exploration and discovery – some of them shared, others alone. This was the first trip where I spent more time walking around than catching the tube. There’s nothing better than the underground for easy transport – whether the destination is Aldgate East for Brick Lane, Waterloo for the South Bank or the Royal Albert for David Bailey’s exhibition (technically the DLR, but still part of the vast network webbing London). And yet, the tube is a little like a rabbit warren – it’s easy to pop up and down stations with no real sense of where one is in the city. I had little idea that Covent Garden was so close to Trafalgar Square until I walked from one to the other with friends. With help from my A-Z, the handy maps on street corners and my phone, I managed to fill in and flesh out vast sections of London geography. I finally realised where these previously isolated places were in relation to each other, joining the dots as I paced.

There was plenty of incredible food along the way - whether it was visiting cafes on my dad’s recommendation (in pursuit of the perfect coffee) or sharing the best brunch ever with Stella in Workshop Coffee. In fact, Stella became a kind of unofficial foodie guide, introducing me to the delights of Vapiano’s pasta, Hawksmoor’s burgers and Scoop’s icecream, along with extended wanderings around the many streets, squares and corners of central London. The best meals during the month were those enjoyed with others: Peruvian food with Jennifer, shared pizzas with Merlin, outings to Lemonia with family friends, a dinner at Odette’s with my fairy godmother, dinners cooked at home for various people. A particularly special occasion though was me taking my eleven-year-old brother out to Marine Ices – a famed, family-owned Italian restaurant in Camden. It was a delight to play the role of big sister, particularly as I had hardly seen him in the preceding few weeks. He’s reached that age when conversation is a new delight, and I hope that it was the first of many sibling adventures we’ll have.

The entire trip was one of ‘firsts’: first ridiculously extravagant ice cream sundae 'lunch' at Fortnum & Mason’s; first time I stayed in my grandma’s flat by myself - with friends; first experience of proper nine-to-five work. My time at Vogue was interesting, insightful and informative, and it feels quite extraordinary at seventeen to be able to say that I was a features intern there. It was a month of real independence – another whiff of being truly grown up. I’m not quite ready to up sticks and move to London yet though. I’m enjoying the prospect of several weeks revolving around reading, writing, photography shoots, excursions, friends and family. It feels mellow after the busy pace of the capital. I’m just glad that I seized and made the most of London while I was there, and left knowing that there was plenty to return to. 

A final note - in the course of the month, alongside contributing to the Vogue blog, I was very excited to have various articles published elsewhere. I had my first piece on the Guardian website, some musings on ethical fashion published on Eco-Age and two articles on my all-time favourite feminist blog The Vagenda. They can be seen here and here. For other recent work, you can see the new writing page on my blog. 

To end the link-spree, one of my favourite musicians Beth Jeans Houghton (who I talked about here) has just started a blog full of thoughts on touring, music and unexpected encounters. 
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