Monday, 30 March 2015

A Spring in my Step

It’s no secret that I’m a flat shoes aficionado – I’ve said that much before. I like their stability, their practicality, their strideability (I’m making that a word, as of now). I’m a quick walker, committed dancer and regular cycler. All of these are improved by having things on my feet that are comfortable rather than intricately pretty.

But there’s still an issue – namely, the navigating of fancy events more suited to elevated heels than battered boots. Most of my flats err towards the pragmatic, my favoured choice at the moment being these much-loved velvet DMs. Otherwise, it’s black leather lace-ups, brown brogues, or blue suede boots. All great for libraries and London day trips, but not so good for more elegant occasions.

I’ve got a few ornamental pairs of flats, but they're often just as painful to wear as stilettos with serious inches to them. So usually I plump for being incongruous. I figure that few people will be looking at my feet, so I can get away with thick soles and clumpy weight rather than flimsy nothingness with a bow on top (I’m not a fan of ballet flats – they remind me of school uniforms and the awkward flush of adolescent conformity).  

Occasionally I’ve thrown away caution and just plumped for the extra elevation, thinking that I’d grit my teeth and flit through the pain. Usually this isn’t the wisest of ideas. There’s a sizeable gap between projection and reality.

On one especially memorable night last summer at a ball in Oxford, I chose vertiginous shiny shoes that added at least four or five inches to my height. They looked perfect with my black gown shot through with silver threads. But, outfit perfection notwithstanding, they were bloody uncomfortable. After queuing for about an hour in increasingly chilly winds, with only a small scarf to protect my shoulders from the cold, I was miserable. My feet ached. I began doing that thing where you balance on one foot, flamingo-style, and flex the other – trying to get feeling (and blood) back into toes. By the time we finally got in, each step hurt. It also required that extra confident stride one has to adopt in tall shoes, with feet placed firmly, quickly, carefully one in front of the other. When everything is already feeling a bit numb, that kind of pace isn’t pleasant.

I did have a lot of fun that evening – I danced, ate good food, was liberal with the Irish coffee on offer, and hung out with friends. But you know the single best moment of the night? Sneakily managing to switch from those damn heels to my brown Chelsea boots, complete with thick socks (and a cardigan too). Suddenly I could think clearly again, and move without uncontrollably shivering.

It’s that ease I value above all - to the point that this summer, any fancy events will either be attended in brogues/ other flats, or with something more pragmatic stowed away in my handbag. Maybe these patent Ops & Ops ones pictured. Aren’t they beautiful? They’re handmade in a family-run factory in Portugal, and are soft as soft can be. The founders/ designers Steph and Teri (two seriously cool women with backgrounds in journalism) were inspired by their adoration of sixties shapes and colours, wanting to create durable shoes one could dance in all night - and also wear during the day. Well, I'm yet to go out dancing in them, but as someone pretty committed to boogying on into the early hours, it can only be a matter of time... But here they worked ever so well to complete my vaguely idealised sixties student get-up, complete with some stylish Penguin reissues picked up in Blackwell's (somewhere I spend too much time and money).  

Many thanks to fabulous Dina of She Loves Mixtapes for taking the pictures (see the shoot where I was behind the camera here). Everything else I'm wearing is second-hand, with the zip-up dress bought from Vix's FABULOUS Kinky Melon boutique by my mum. 

(Jumping for joy in my best, slightly blurred Avedon style)

Monday, 23 March 2015

Burning Bright

If you asked me, I’d never say I was someone who aims to be bright – to fill life with colour, or to dabble in especially zany fabrics. But look in my wardrobe, and immediately you’ll see the clash of pinks, yellows, greens, blues and oranges, with plenty of stripes, patterns and prints thrown in among them. An ample dose of subtler background shades too, but they tend to be less noticeable. My necklaces are all jeweled tones and magpie-glitter, while my gloves range from raspberry to mint to lemon (and plenty that can’t be described with references to food either).

For I actually do love colour, especially when it’s mixed together: the satisfaction of a yellow vintage shirt under a blue boiled wool tunic; a baby pink gingham fitted dress with a bright green sixties coat on top; the delicious combination of mauve velvet and teal silk; red mohair facing off a grey leather full fifties style skirt; orange pleats matched with khaki layers. Whether there’s a number of juxtapositions, or one shade standing proud against a muted palette, I feel comfortable when my get-up is a little eye-catching.  

Plenty of my favourite film sequences and photographers tend to focus on colour too. Consider Kay Thompson with her instructions to ‘think pink’ in Funny Face, Moira Shearer looking glorious in a spray of petrol blue layers and flashes of lavender in The Red Shoes, Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell dripping with red sequins in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, or Audrey Hepburn’s array of dresses in orange, lime and light pink in Paris When it Sizzles – and that’s before we get to the technicolour brilliance/ headache of The Wizard of Oz. Also, think quickly of Erwin Blumenfeld, Horst, Irving Penn, Richard Avedon, Tim Walker, Nick Knight. All adept at monochrome, but dazzling in colour too.

But to rein it back in to the personal, it's easy to forget that it’s more unusual to love the vibrant and lively - and that for some a uniform of dark, restrained colours is much more desirable. I often think about this when I’m on the Tube (London Underground) - as I have been a lot this week - where the usual tone of coats, jumpers and trousers errs towards the darker end of the spectrum. Not always, by any means. But to be intensely colourful remains a way of making the choice to stand out slightly. As I try to stay upright, one hand gripping the rail and the other balancing a book, I’m aware that my red lipstick, turquoise cardigan, velvet shorts and purple tights (a combination that works, I promise) marks me apart. I appreciatively note others who’ve also chosen to be bright and bold, as well as the odd man or woman who looks intensely chic regardless of the need for something vaguely flamboyant. 

My own choices change from outfit to outfit too. One maxim I frivolously work by is ‘the greyer the day, the more intensely colourful my clothes.’ If it’s drizzling, out come the florals or electric blue beanie hats. (Also, the chillier it is, the shorter the skirt - but we’ll save that for another time). At other points I’ll move towards muted tones, reveling in charcoal, black, brown and navy. Also, uni taught me to dress for comfort, then provided another valuable lesson too – the art of sometimes dressing down, colour-wise. Right now I have on a black leather mini-skirt, black brogues, and a blue and white jumper. Still ‘dressed up’ by some people’s standards, but a little more low-key for me.

I like being able to chop and change though, to move between peacock and pigeon – knowing that I feel equally comfortable in either guise.

Here we have a mix of the intensely bright and the slightly more muted, thanks to my late great-grandma's mohair cardigan, and a velvet embossed/patterned - it's like flock wallpaper - dress from a charity shop (with the requisite polo neck underneath). Also a second hand cobalt blue handbag and men's shoes. Thanks to Stella for snapping the pictures. 

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Barbie Girl

Why does Barbie have such an enduring appeal?

At first, my mum hated her. She railed against that unrealistic figure - all snap-in-half waist and boobs big enough to cause backache. After much begging from five year old me, she finally relented and let me build up a small collection – but with the proviso of encouragement to be creative in making some of the clothes for them myself.

I had a box full of fabric scraps and bits of ribbon, creating costumes by wrapping, tying and (occasionally) stapling together these oddments and my mum also ran up a few tiny garments on the sewing machine. Alongside homemade skirts, there was a modest array of shop-bought outfits – emerald green gowns, shiny pink dresses, polo-necks you had to wrestle over Barbie’s head, little plastic shoes to jam on her feet. My favourites were some green glittery platforms with chunky heels and lots of straps. Different times indeed…

So, I look back and I don’t think Barbie is necessarily awful. I had such fun with all of mine, whether I was setting up elaborate scenes (I was that child who was more into dressing/ arranging/ making them interact and look great than actually playing) or on occasion urging the dolls to abseil down the tree in the garden. Bratz were out of bounds – an illicit treat I could only access at a friend’s house. My Barbies provided hours of entertainment and imagination though, and a good grounding in how to layer up silk and velvet.

Yet there are a few important things to point out. The professions of my Barbies, when first bought, ranged from the ubiquitous (princess) to the rebellious (skater girl) and the professional (photographers and scientists). They weren’t all blonde, long-haired and white either; my mum covertly ensured I had a diverse range. I was perhaps encouraged to play with my dolls in a particularly inventive way. And although there was a certain amount of fluffy female stereotyping, not everything was pink and sparkly and reductively ditzy/ more hair than brain cells.

It seems that in recent years the Barbie stereotype has heightened. Maybe that’s also because I’ve got an increased awareness of beauty ideals and gendered toys. But I do think beyond that, Barbie is less fun than she used to be – even more ‘perfect’ and airbrushed than before. And, yes, the word ‘Barbie’ has always been shorthand for describing a particularly ridiculous, archetypal expectation of brainless femininity, the type that asks boys for help with anything too smart or technical. But I’m sure that the relentless emphasis on looks and proportions and passivity have become more – rather than less – prominent in a world where women are reduced down to their appearance so much of the time.

Add into this the resurgence of Barbie in the fashion world last season - from Moschino to the Karl doll. Apparently all of this is meant to be ‘fun’ and ‘tongue in cheek’ and ‘soooooo innovative’ (fash-speak for, umm, I liked it, but can’t quite articulate how, so I’ll resort to hyperbole). Really though, and I’m only speaking for myself here, I find it quite bizarre. All the Moschino show underlined to me is how ridiculously slender the mould is for catwalk models. In a recent interview with The Observer, Jeremy Scott said that ‘she’s there to bring fun and you shouldn’t really look further into it. She doesn’t promote body dysmorphia, she’s a 12 inch-tall doll. People bring too much of an adult perspective to it. They do to all fashion, really. It’s just clothes and, above all, it’s a choice. Buy it or don’t – you don’t have to have a conniption fit about it.’

As someone whose basic mode of operating is to ‘look further’ into plenty of things, this held no sway. Scott ignores any sense of context or cultural awareness. ‘Perspective’ is bloody important, actually. Yes, fashion is meant to be ‘fun’ (at times) – but one designer doesn’t get to dictate exactly how that ‘fun’ is manifested, and then ignore all suggestions to the contrary. Nothing is ever ‘just clothes’. Designs are rooted in this culture, this age, this society. To claim anything can be separate from all that is pretty laughable. But maybe he’s right. It’s not Barbie that promotes body dysmophia, per se – but the entire ideal pushed forward by the industry. She’s just a kind of vamped up, hyper-exaggerated version of that.

There’s no better exemplification of this than the @barbiestyle Instagram account, which obviously mimics many high profile fashion bloggers/ industry figures. Yet it parodies the conventions, whilst also flagging up the fact that the kinds of bloggers given the biggest exposure and celebration are often those who fit the incredibly slender Barbie-esque measure of what's considered 'attractive'.

Essentially the continued message is that beauty and popularity are constituted online in extraordinarily slender, white figures (black Barbies only make cursory appearances, at best) dressed head to toe in expensive designer gear. This Barbie blogger’s imagined life revolves around shopping, spa days, exercise, jet-setting and taking selfies. Seeing a doll posed to emulate a blogger/ online celeb – but knowing it’s not a piss-take, but rather a seriously clever commercial move – leaves me unsettled. That particular incarnation of Barbie may resemble satire, but she’s not being laughed at. She’s being taken deadly seriously. 

The idea for this post was mainly sparked by realising just how perfectly 'Barbie' this vintage 70s pink satin blazer was - it was a present from my mum (and I actually snaffled the skirt off her too for the shoot). The shoes are from a charity shop, and the Barbie was dug out of the loft and dressed accordingly. And talking of Barbies, a while back I wrote a piece for All Walks on Louise O'Neill's brilliant YA book Only Ever Yours - which imagines a dystopian society where looks are the sole factor in determining young women's futures. It's great, and kind of bloody scary. You should buy it. 

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Mother's Day Musings

I didn’t plan to write anything today. As far as I was concerned, my blog could sit by itself for the weekend: images selected, text published, some musings on chilly temperatures and big coats enough to sustain the site for a while. But as I lay in bed this morning, contemplating which was more pressing – further snoozing, or making myself a massive breakfast (hard life, I know) – I began thinking about mother’s day.

I’m still negotiating the strangeness of not being with my family for these kinds of celebrations. Independence fits with an easy comfort, and I enjoy having my own, separate life for a portion of the year. Right now though I’m anticipating the next holiday interlude back at home, or, rather, back at my original home. It’s not the only one now. Oxford feels more and more like ‘my’ city as the months wind by.

What am I looking forward to back among the hills though? Big meals, laughter, walks, bickering, hanging out clutching mugs of coffee, conversations over wine, charity shop trips, creative ideas, sustained projects, a little bit of nurture. The freeing feeling of not being responsible all the time. Being able to have loooooooong, meandering chats with my mum without having to pick up the phone (which, admittedly, I do all the time here). Spending time in the presence of a close-knit family that I’m overwhelmingly privileged to have, and to be loved by. Access to my full wardrobe probably figures somewhere in there too…

All of this floated through my head as I snuggled under my duvet earlier. I realized that today, of all days, it would be fitting to write about my mum – create some little essay for that intelligent, resilient, witty, empathetic woman.

But rather surprisingly (for me), I have no idea where to begin or what to focus in on - mainly because the field of possibility stretches far beyond view…

I could discuss our shared adoration of vintage dresses and jumble sales, unwrapping the significance of my style heritage and nodding to the power of second hand silk shirts. I could plait together choice anecdotes about her side of the family, discussing each successive generation of mother and daughter – all quiet frustration and flashes of love. I could distill down the tale of how she met my dad, the meeting of the performance poet (him) with the teacher (her) – and how they married after knowing each other for less than a year. I could skim over the challenges my mum has faced: the bereavements, tricky situations, and family illnesses, both physical and mental, that required her to be so very strong in looking after others. And I don’t mean the ‘2D-female-stock-character-on-a-TV-show’ version of ‘strong’, but rather something veined with resilience and true tenacity.

Oh, and I could also relay the irritation/ absolute brilliance of having a mother whose editing skills are second to none, sharp eyes trained on extraneous words and grammatical errors (hi Mum! Am sure you’re going to tell me to correct some of these sentences when you see this!)

Any one of those is an outline that might be worked up into a full picture. But, maybe, actually, this is enough. Rather than expanding any further, I’m going to condense it down - leave this on a quiet note of appreciation. My mum is a fabulous lady. Truly fabulous. I’m lucky to have her. Not everyone has access to stable or supportive parents – and for some, mother’s day is not a time for merriment, but pain and weariness. That makes my heart ache. 

For that reason, I’m not going to finish by saying a general Happy Mother’s Day – because it’s not universally applicable, and this Sunday will be different for everyone (besides, it's only a UK-wide thing). But I do want to say it specifically to my mum. Happy Mother’s Day, Polly. You’re ace – and I've got a rather gorgeous seventies coffee pot waiting for you…

I took these photos of my mum in 2013 – when I was still living at home permanently. We tramped up to the bluebell wood behind our house, her resplendent in this glorious green dress. The light was extraordinary. Time always feels suspended when you’re standing among those trees. Nice to capture a snatch of that serenity on camera, and to be able to share it nearly two years later. 

Friday, 13 March 2015

Creating the Image

'Behind every great man there’s a woman rolling her eyes', according to one old adage. There are lots of different variations on that particular saying, most on a scale from abysmal to just about acceptable. But if we applied the same formula to wintery blog shoots, it would go something like this: “Behind every great set of images, there’s a whole load of coats, boots, bags and gloves hidden just out of sight.” The picture only stretches as far as the reach of the lens, leaving out all the ephemera that joined us. Our tramp across a muddy field in wellies will be concealed in the instance of me pulling heels from a carrier bag. I’ll fling away all the practical bits and balance on the grass in my newly precarious footwear – trying to make the entire thing look effortless. 

It's something my parents and I have sometimes remarked on while setting up shots: the amusing disparity between the image of me, looking all serene in short sleeves or wispy layers, and the reality, which is a little more grumpy and sweary. For every snap where I’m posing naturally in a leather mini-skirt, there’s probably a minute’s worth of me hissing “I’m really bloody cold, can you hurry up?!”

That’s also before we get to the jaunts requiring a full change – a quick shimmy from HUGE jumper to sixties shift dress, somewhere, anywhere (but usually in the middle of nowhere). I’ve ducked behind bushes, hidden in cars, and brazenly stripped down and re-dressed on hill-sides – all the while hoping that no hikers stumble across me as I’m half-way into some ball-gown that’s proving tricky to get on. I’ve also grown adept at the art of hidden layers – of thick tights and thin vests that stave off some of the chill (any wonder I’ve shot so many polo necks recently?) All in pursuit of tacking on to an otherwise straightforward outing the just-in-case possibility of a few images I can use for the blog.

Fashion photography is artifice. This is how it is. The removal of anything practical or warm is just one element of that. Whether it’s in a studio or out on a countryside road, there’s an element of assembling something fictional or fantastical. It’s an exercise in imagination. Maybe I’m more aware of this with my forays into fairytale characters and whimsical get-ups; but the blogger in her skinny jeans casually stepping from a pavement is engaging in the same game. We frame, select, enlarge, conceal, reveal, and make myriad other choices over which pictures end up online. Doesn’t mean that they’re not ‘real’ – but rather that they are, inevitably, limited.

Maybe there’s some kind of distinction to be drawn between self-conscious invention/ illusion/ flight of fancy, and the semblance of a ‘gal about town just hanging out.’ Or maybe we’re just better at recognizing the former as make-believe.

At least the ‘coats, boots and gloves’ issue is beginning to ease as temperatures slowly creep up and the number of cardigans I have on diminishes. But it remains a humorous round of pragmatism versus appearance. What you see is a literal crop – or rather an idealized image in which, for a suspended second, all looks good. It’s a type of imagery I love playing with. There’s so much to explore and imagine there. 

This particular combination (above) of second hand jumper, my dad’s maaaaaassive jacket, a vintage Kangol faux-fur hat, woolly tights and my trusty men’s Russell & Bromley boots (from a charity shop) was the practical outfit I wore on the day we did this shoot - which took place on a family day out. The polo neck and ball-gown were pulled on, and everything else removed bar tights and boots. The rest of our afternoon was spent rambling around, gawking at my dad having a dip in a freezing Welsh stream, then driving up a mountain road full of hairpin twists and bends to see this extraordinary view laid out below. And I tell you what – I felt like I could properly enjoy looking at the landscape when I wasn’t shivering in it.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Young, Female, and Proud - International Women's Day 2015

What’s it like to be young, female and living in 2015? More pressures? More opportunities? A mix of the wonderful and the nerve-wracking? I think it’s a hotch-potch of so many things, most of them dependent on the individual and her circumstances. But to be a teenage girl right now is to be living through a time of unprecedented change (although I guess you can say the same of every generation), with all the challenges, possibilities, ideas, expectations and exploration that entails.

For starters, we’re still figuring out the internet – deemed ‘digital natives’.  But we’re not really natives as such. We weren’t born into this online space, much as it may play home to so many hours in the day. Rather we’ve acclimatized quick-smart to new conditions, feeling them out tweet by tweet, blog post by blog post, selfie by selfie.

I was reminded of this again when watching a video put together by Gemma Cairney for the currently ongoing Women of the World festival – culminating today, on International Women’s Day. It made me want to simultaneously cry and applaud the AMAZING young women interviewed. They spoke perceptively on body image, sexting, exams, social media; immediately proving wrong any lazy generalisations one might be tempted to make about teens. But my god it’s frustrating too, especially in their observations on what was asked of them – whether it was from boys, school or society at large. So little room within that for a formation of identity and behaviour based on what feels personally right, rather than a reaction to the world they’re immersed in.

I’m a few years beyond that age – close enough for it to hit home, but with some healthy distance measured out in time and independence. I can recognize what they said without feeling it. I’m navigating other things now. But with each year that goes by, my belief in the significance of young people – in this instance young women – grows. And when I mean ‘significance’, I don't mean that there’s any kind of inherent wisdom, value, or precedence to be found among the next generation; more that the genuine concerns of teens and twenty-somethings often tend to be dismissed as having less validity than their older counterparts.

But what excites me is the momentum that’s building right now. Recently we had Yas Necati’s Campaign for Consent (with so many sex ed charities & other organisations continuing the battle). There’s an ongoing campaign run by the ace Integrate Bristol to eradicate FGM, with Fahma Mohamed and Muna Hassan (who once told David Cameron to "grow a pair"), among others, at the forefront. Malala is still being fucking awesome. My friend Azfa Awad has been doing her own show based on the experiences of female asylum seekers. Rookie is busy publishing engaging content, week in and week out. June Eric-Udorie is writing things like this and this. Jules Spector is fourteen (!) and runs this blog, while Ellen is 16 and has won awards for her writing on OCD. We’ve got the Guides being bloody brilliant with their Girls Matter campaign – asking us to all shout a little louder.

I mean, if I detailed all of the fabulous, fiercely inspiring campaigns, networks, communities, activities and individuals doing good things, this would be less of a blog post and more something the length of a book.  

Special mention, however, goes to Kate Nash’s Girl Gang initiative – echoing the message first heard in her Rock N’Roll for Girls After School Music Club. She’s saying that young women are important, that they need a space to be creative and experiment and be taken seriously. I was lucky enough to go to the UK launch of Girl Gang TV a while back, and hear about the evolution of something that is ultimately about giving young women a space and a place to talk, collaborate, think, respond, act. What began as a series of informal chats in Kate Nash’s garage in LA has now become a fully-fledged global community with its own Youtube channel. As she says here, she wants to support “really cool girls who are interested in feminism, and making stuff, and changing the world.”

And my god, we need more of that – more adults encouraging (and listening to!) the next generation. Also more older women carrying on with being spectacularly cool, whether that’s Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Janet Mock or Bjork (those are the first three I plucked from my head, but there are literally hundreds I could name). Also more sensitivity to the challenges out there that huge numbers navigate daily, and awareness of the fact that there are numerous problems, prejudices and possibilities for girls globally. And more celebration too, ESPECIALLY of young women. 

It’s a tough and scary time in so many, many ways, with much seemingly beyond control, but there are glimpses of thrilling potential too. Long let that momentum continue - and happy International Women's Day to all of you. 

This portrait by Tuuli Platner is part of a wonderful series done at my uni titled ‘Oxford Women Speak Out’ (with Pam Robertshaw organising it). The idea was simple – to choose a message that means something to you, and write, or have it written, on your body. Nearly 300 of us took part. I ummed and aahed a lot over what to put, swinging between possibilities like “Stand tall & stride well” and “Embody the space you take up.” But ultimately I settled for this because a.) ‘perfect’ is a concept I’m both fascinated and appalled by, and b.) Having these words next to my scoliosis scar was aptly personal. Learning to be properly proud of the body I have feels like something of a small - but radical - personal achievement for me within the last year.

Monday, 2 March 2015

We Need to Talk About Blogging

Photo: Dvora for 

Photo: Elena Molina for The Upcoming. Here you can glimpse my glorious Ops&Ops flats that I was wearing around Somerset House. Their new collection is released on March 4th. More on them soon...

Photos: Simbarashe Cha for Lord Ashbury

Why do I blog? I’ve asked myself this at various points since I began – often at times when it has seemed like a struggle to keep up with posting, or when I've experienced frustration at the way page views have diminished slightly in recent years. Maybe it’s classier not to acknowledge the challenges. But it’s certainly more human, and honest.

Plus, the answer that I consistently come back to is this – I blog because I love it. I blog because I adore great clothes and dressing up and interesting ideas and online conversations. I blog because, really, very little beats the satisfaction of knowing I’ve written something I’m pleased with (that doesn’t have to be passed through an editor, or given a news hook). Those evenings where I sit down in a fizz and flutter of thoughts, rapidly working my way through a first draft of three or even four posts in a row – oh, they’re the best.

Plus there’s the added satisfaction of occasionally meeting people who visit this little corner of the internet I’ve carved out for myself. I’m still kind of surprised whenever it happens. Sitting in front of a screen, you end up creating stuff in a weird vacuum-style space – not quite sure who (if anyone) is seeing it and responding to what you’ve flung out online.

I’ve now had this blog for a significant portion (more than a quarter) of my life – something I was reminded of when I spent a day at LFW recently, and got talking to various (very wonderful) people I originally met there, aged fifteen. That first time/ season, I’d taken my mum along – a detail that plenty of the photographers still remember, and they continue to ask after her. Some of them told me that I had made a bit of a stir on the street style circuit at that time. Although I was aware of the attention from cameras, everything felt so new and exciting that I just kind of took it for granted. I was from a tiny village. Suddenly having all this appreciation for my outfits was a form of both adventure and validation.

Many of the other bloggers I first met then have since turned their blogs into full-time careers, with huuuuuge followings, brand collaborations and brightly lit photos a-plenty; while lots of the the street style photographers are working for amazing publications. Fashion has sped up. It’s about the instant, the insistently ‘now’, the Instagram post put up quick-smart. Essentially, the relationship between social media, PR, the fashion industry and blogging has evolved beyond measure in recent years.

It's easy to fall into hard-line camps when discussing that evolution though. Innovation or frivolity? Creative or commercial? Airheads or clever business heads? Revolutionising the fashion industry or transforming it in damaging ways? Exciting growth or unsustainable pace? (I mean, yeah, it is definitely the latter with that one). It's easier to retreat into the realms of generalisations rather than interrogate these divides with any sense of depth.

Besides, you're allowed to hold two conflicting views in your head if you so wish. By way of example, I'm not the biggest fan of the kinds of style blogging now overwhelmingly celebrated (or at least gaining the most exposure) - slick, brand-led, frequently featuring white, model-slender figures. In fact, I've discussed the lack of diversity in the upper echelons of fashion blogging before – as well as giving an overview of what’s changed in recent years. Yet, despite all that, I can still respect the ways in which often relatively young women have built themselves up from scratch, working damn hard to get to the point where their blog becomes a business. They are usually enterprising, driven and very committed. That deserves to be applauded. I must admit, I admire it that little bit more if they weren’t already super-rich and very well-connected (isn’t that the same in all creative industries though?) Oh, and I DEFINITELY reserve the most respect for those bloggers who are genuinely nice and relatively uninterested in pulling rank. I mean, that’s a general life thing too, but it’s worth holding onto.

However, there's rather a lot of continued handwringing about commercialisation - as though the very presence of ads or collaborations completely undermines all sense of veracity. But bloggers do have bills to pay too. It's a time-consuming endeavour. Most of us dive into this online realm because we love clothes or conversation (or, for others, cupcakes - and beautiful food), but there's no harm in transforming that platform into a career - in fact, it's pretty impressive if you can manage it, and orchestrate your online presence into something lucrative.

There are some very interesting posts written by bloggers on this very topic that offer thoughtful insights. First, Olivia’s on why it’s ok to earn money from blogging. Also Emma’s, now a few years old, on the blogger/ writer divide and Kristabel’s on her answer to people asking her ‘So what do you do?’ All make immensely salient, smart points.

If we’re talking business though, this Texas Monthly piece is… eye opening to say the least – raising plenty of questions about transparency, the creative/ commercial divide and what ‘authenticity’ actually means now. I personally found it a pretty disheartening (but very compelling) read, reflecting a blogger ‘industry’ that’s so consumer oriented that there’s little mention of joy in dressing up, or approaching style as something inventive or intelligent. There are lots of exceptions to the rule, like Leandra Medine, but, well – they’re still exceptions. Plus, the article reflects a rapacious rate of consumption, with that persuasion to buy, buy, and buy some more buggering up our environment and leading to big worker rights problems.

I pretty much missed out on the first stages of the social media revolution – keener to focus on my blog (and to apply to uni!) than build up a following on lots of new platforms. Now, having belatedly hopped on board I spend a tad too much time on Twitter and Instagram, but enjoy them both on my own terms. Maybe one day I’ll use affiliate links, although that would be somewhat problematic given that most of my wardrobe is sourced second hand…! If I ever do though, I won’t feel guilty, because I know how much energy I pour into not just keeping the integrity of the blog, but keeping it going – full stop.

But I had a real moment post-LFW of wondering what might have happened if things had moved differently; if I’d monetized my blog, worn more ‘labels’, gone to a London-based uni and fully launched myself much more into the fashion industry? Where would I be now? Would I have tens of thousands of Instagram followers? Go to lots of parties? Measure my worth and professional standing just by page hits?

However, then I remembered that all my choices have been active ones, and that this is an immense privilege. Just as others have made canny, active business decisions, I’ve chosen to make room for the things I want to engage in while I’m still in full time education; before I have to earn a monthly income I can live on. For me, this has meant time spent in intellectual engagement and improvement; a huge focus on writing; assembling an immensely diverse social group; developing a span of aspirations that range from performance poetry to modeling to working on books. There are so many crackling ideas to develop and experiment with. There’s time to form an identity that isn’t predicated on maintaining an online profile; time for a working life where blogging is a part, rather than the whole, of my output. Space to muck up, make mistakes, and take chances.

This is about as subjective as it gets. Not a judgment on other blogging paths, but rather a recognition of what was right for me. Dipping back into the chaos of LFW for a single day this season was special. It allowed me to reflect a lot on how we define success and status, as well as to dwell on the experiences I was beyond lucky to access as a younger teen. But it also let me know that things are doing ok as they are – and that there’s still so much time ahead.

Thanks to all the lovely, lovely photographers who took my photo at LFW. Wonderful to catch up with Dvora and Craig in particular - and there was a fabulous moment of serendipity as the day drew to a close and I bumped into Simbarashe, having posted an old photo of his on my Instagram that very morning! 

I was wearing a hand-made vintage 60s/70s dress from Rokit, a green vintage coat that once belonged to my mum, a second hand shirt, my great-grandma's necklace, and a hat that first appeared at LFW in September 2011 (Craig and Dvora took my photo then too!) Both the bags were from charity shops. If anyone happens to see any other photos of me floating around, I'd really appreciate you letting me know.

It's been a busy month. This weekend just past was pretty momentous for all sorts of reasons (mostly to do with the book I've been writing) - all to be properly revealed soon. Take a look at my Instagram for some clues though. 
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