Category Archives: Fashion

What’s the deal, ASOS?

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Let me start by saying I have been ASOS’s #1 fan since 2007. I honestly think no-one does online retail better – the pricing, the variety, the delivery and returns policy, the interface – all of it makes for the best shopping experience you’ll find on the web. But now they’ve teamed up with my most hated brand, Primark. Their ethical reputation has long been shady at best, but in the wake of Rana Plaza I’m baffled as to how they’re not enduring more of a PR storm. And not only that, but how they’ve managed to score a fantastic sales platform as ASOS’s latest sign-up. Today Vogue reported that ASOS would be doubling it’s stock – clearly I’m in a definite minority being as unimpressed by this news. It’s a move many will be celebrating as Primark has shunned online retail forever, depriving customers of bargain surfing on the web. But if you want cheap clothes, Primark isn’t your only option! Years and years ago I was debating the ethics of Primark with someone, and she threw out the ‘Not everyone can afford *blank*’ card. Bull. Shit. Charity shops, eBay and low-cost chains like Uniqlo, H&M and New Look are all viable, much more ethical alternatives to shopping on a tight budget. I just think we shouldn’t be so quick to blow apart our morals when enticed by the prospect of a £6 top.

And let’s be real for a moment here – anything Primark actually designs, i.e. that isn’t a pair of jeans or a plain jumper is kind of hideous. If I’m ever found roaming the streets wearing a ‘varsity’ oversized tee that says ‘A student’ on it, then just put me out of my misery.

P.S. So this was a really downbeat post to return with – brighter things coming your way soon I promise!

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Time for DIY?

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Lulu & Co Pink Horizontal Stripe Jeans, £195 at Liberty’s

Pink paired with fashion always reminds me of one of two things – the Dior collection that somehow made fuchsia work with pillar-box red, and when the offices of Quality magazine in Audrey Hepburn’s Funny Face get a rosy makeover. But lately I’ve been bringing it to a more personal level, and suddenly everything at the top of my never-ending wishlist is in some shade of Barbie’s favourite colour. The latest addition to the pile are these Carrie Bradshaw-worthy jeans by Lulu & Co, which can currently be purchased from Liberty at a 30% reduction, bringing them down to an equally unaffordable £142.45. Now, I’m known amongst my friends for my incessant need to shop but also my money-saving obsession (yeah I subscribe to moneysavingexpert.com’s newsletters – and what of it?). My latest, and possibly all-time best steal was the recent purchase of a pair of £325 Linda Farrow sunglasses for £20 at a sample sale. But last time I checked, that ain’t an option here. I put down my needle and thread, multipack beads and blunt scissors about a decade ago when I finally accepted ‘customising’ clothes was not for me. But these jeans do seem DIY-doable. I’m thinking masking tape, neon pink paint and charity shop denim could provide a viable – if not washable – affordable alternative. I’ll keep ya updated.

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CFDA Male Models Cover Daft Punk’s ‘Get Lucky’

Turns out I’ve been absent for so long that I forgot my password and had to reset it – a cardinal sin in the blogging world I know (the absence… not the password)! I’ve been interning for the fashion section of a newspaper hence the empty void. So apologies for that, but I have been absolutely loving my work, and one aspect of that is rounding up the daily fashion news. That’s when I came across this gem after the CFDA awards. Aren’t we all grateful it exists? Most of the internet has reacted with a mix of horror and WTF but I for one am a huge fan. Also really enjoy the Duckie Brown looks (side note – for some reason I’m getting more and more into menswear these days). Enjoy!

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Saint Laurent F/W 13 – 14 by Hedi Slimane

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So I know everyone will have seen these by now but I couldn’t not post about the campaign for what might be my favourite collection, ever. On the Fashion Spot and elsewhere there seems to be a lot of hate for the collection, the campaign and Slimane’s tenure in general.  All three seem to be branded as showcasing a surly teenager, but there’s only so long a fashion house can cater to one generation of customers before they start dangerously limiting their clientele. And I dispute that evaluation of Slimane’s work anyway. Yes, the looks are “young”. Yes, the looks are “grungy”. I don’t know too many adults in fashion (read: none), or even many that take an interest in the industry, but if street style blogs are anything to go by the over 30s are hardly just limited to finely weighted suits and silk shirts. So a young and grungy look isn’t necessarily at odds with a mortgage paying customer. I’m 21, and this collection is how I wish I could dress. But equally if I were 31, 41, or even 51 there is still so much in it that I could easily wear – check shirts, mannish outerwear and cocktail dresses are hardly beyond the wardrobes of those who can actually afford Saint Laurent. I love the direction Slimane has taken the brand in – the aesthetic is bang on for me but when you actually look at the individual pieces, they’re still very much wearable for older generations. And that’s why, despite pretty much every TFS comment to the contrary, Delevingne was the perfect choice for the campaign. No one seemed to kick up such a fuss when she was chosen by Burberry, who similarly promote a youthful, renegade vibe but generally sell to a much more financially secure customer. Here she looks perhaps a bit troubled, and certainly has a sense of recklessness, but it’s a mood that couldn’t fit the collection better.

I may actually splash out on colour cartridges so I can print these out. Fo’ real.

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An Ode to Desert Boots

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Office Uphill Desert Boots in Black and Pale Blue, £45 each (£40.50 with student discount)
(And yes that is an embarrassing his and hers style desert boot photo…)

In terms of sex appeal, they’re the boot equivalent of Birkenstocks. But I’ll be damned if they aren’t my absolute favourite shoe. I’d wanted a pair for about four years before I bought Office’s Uphill version in Black – why so long, I hear you ask. I have no idea why but when it comes to things I really love but are a bit more expensive I put off buying them forever, but will throw money down the drain on inexpensive items I’m not so into. The obvious desert boot of choice is the Clarks classic but at £79 they are definitely in the ‘expensive so I’ll put off buying them forever’ category. But unfortunately there’s something so perfect in the shape of the toe and the positioning of the laces that makes them a difficult piece to dupe. So when Office came to the rescue with a reasonably priced imitation I buckled and bought them. Almost three months later and we’ve barely spent a day apart. They have a weird ability to add a certain edginess to an outfit but also make me feel like a kid again – it’s not often you find a shoe with nostalgia-wielding powers. So when I walked past Office the other day and saw a sky blue pair in the window, I literally did a double take. The only slight drawback is that they are super bright and are yet to mould to my foot like my black pair, so at the moment they do kind of resemble clown shoes, turning my feet into unnecessary beacons of luminescence – not really something anyone wants from their footwear. I took them for a walk through a waterlogged park today so hopefully when they dry out they’ll have calmed down a bit! But either way, if you haven’t taken the desert boot plunge yet then hopefully this incredibly self-indulgent post will give you the push you need.

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Magazine Review: Wonderland

Taylor Swift heart cover [Wonderland Magazine - April/May 2013]

During term I have no time to read magazines, so now I’m a free woman I’m catching up on everything I’ve missed. I tend to mentally group fashion magazines into weeklies, glossies, and arties. The glossies are my comfort zone but when it comes to reading arty magazines I always feel like I’ve turned up to a house party wearing the wrong clothes. And moreover, I often find their layouts pretty distracting, making it hard to follow the copy. But Wonderland, you are a revelation. I wanted to try out either Wonderland or Pop and both had Taylor Swift on the cover (what’s the deal?) so I nearly lost my nerve but went for the first one in the end. I could go on about it for a really long time which would a) be boring, as I’m pretty late to jump on this bandwagon and b) be unhelpful, as my experience is obviously going to be different to yours. So to keep things brief here are three of my favourite things about the magazine:

1. I came away feeling like I’d actually learnt something. I loved their ‘Inventory’ pieces – short, informative, and always on something I couldn’t have discovered by browsing the internet. Also the topics were nicely varied, from an introduction to singer-songwriter BeBe Black to the 411 on Cartier’s ‘Paris Nouvelle Vague’, a ‘collection inspired by seven different Parisian moods’. Sure, I’ll probably never be able to afford Cartier in my lifetime but the idea is charming, and I appreciate an editorial process that chooses its content based on that charm rather than just commercial potential.

2. The sheer volume of high quality, inventive fashion and beauty work. I don’t know if quantitively Wonderland does produce more than other magazines on this front, but there was something about how different each piece was, and the fact that they had been laid next to each other, that gave this aspect of the magazine a real force. Normally I don’t pay much attention to the make up in fashion shoots, or the fashion in make up shoots but the editors got it bang on with balancing the two and making them really work for each another. Also another huge positive for me was that Wonderland includes both female and male fashion. I often veer between really quite ‘girly’ looks and more androgynous ones so I’m pretty into men’s fashion too. But also it changes Wonderland from a women’s magazine to a cultural magazine – including both genders gives the fashion an aesthetic frame, rather than a ‘wear this to highlight your curves’ slant or whatever. I love the fashion of magazines like Vogue which manage to take an aesthetic approach without including both genders, but it’s a really nice aspect of Wonderland. Also I have a huge issue with Page 3 (more on that to come) and so the profusion of male nudity was a welcome antidote to the sexualised, gratuitous female nudity which is far too prevalent in British media.

The look on the right is one of my favourites from the issue.

The look on the right is one of my favourites from the issue.

3. The emphasis on music. I get the impression from this issue that Wonderland is more interested in creatives in general than it is in packing its pages full of any celebrity it can get its hands on, but there is a particular emphasis on musicians. Wonderland is the first fashion magazine that I’ve ever seen an ad for an album in which has to testify to its interests, and there were certainly plenty of artists – especially ones I’ve never heard of before – featured. Lou Doillon was an excellent inclusion as she neatly treads the line between the worlds of fashion and music, especially given who her parents are. Often fashion seems a compulsory add-on for musicians but Wonderland makes those worlds collide with great skill.

And finally, my favourite thing about this specific issue: the theme, ‘outspoken’. ‘Outspoken’ is often used in reference to people who are simply rude or obnoxious, but to me ‘outspoken’ should be about having the courage to speak up for something you care about. And that’s something I think is a fantastic attitude, one the world needs to have more of. All in all I’d definitely buy Wonderland again.

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Bits and Pieces

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I finished my finals a few days ago but before all of the exam madness began I loved getting involved with student fashion journalism. These shots are a few of my favourites from my time as Fashion Co-Editor of The Oxford Student Newspaper and Founding Editor-in-Chief of Industry magazine. Shoots were definitely the highlights of my weeks, and were such a nice opportunity to work with incredibly creative students I wouldn’t have met otherwise. I really enjoyed coming up with concepts and directing as well as styling, although the latter is definitely my weak point! All photographs by Dan Fox, Charles Roberts or Laura Simmons, and apologies for the different sizes.

Feminists in fashion

When I consider what holds women back in society, I often end up thinking about role models. At a recent Oxford University Student Union meeting there was a vote taken on a motion proposing that at least 50% of the OUSU representation at NUS meetings had to be female. I still don’t know where I stand on positive discrimination, but one of the major arguments given for it in this case was that it would provide role models. Basically, if we don’t see women in positions of power, are we likely to pursue those positions ourselves? The fact that as of this year only 4.5% of CEO positions in Fortune 1000 companies are occupied by women screams to us that something needs to give, but we shouldn’t dismiss the 4.5%. In the vein of holding onto whatever representation you do have in a field that doesn’t seem all that welcoming to you, I decided to write on feminists in fashion because, believe it or not, there are some. Here are a few who have openly declared their support for gender equality:

1. The Journalist: Hadley Freeman

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If I had to pick a role model it would undoubtedly be Freeman. She’s written for Guardian fashion since I started reading it and is a fantastic example of how yes, you can like nice clothes but yes, you can also give a crap about being afraid to walk home alone at night because you happen to be female. If you’re currently in the camp of struggling to reconcile fashion and feminism I’d head straight to this article she wrote for Vagenda. She completely hits the nail on the head when she writes: ‘let’s talk about fashion as opposed to the fashion media.’ When people bitterly spit out ‘Fashion is disgusting’ in the comments section of pretty much any fashion article on any newspaper website, I’m pretty sure they don’t mean that a Topshop dress repulses them or a Balenciaga jacket makes them want to throw up. There’s a difference between the industry and the clothes, ladies and gents! She also proves you can be a fashion journalist and still write pieces like this, this and this. So if you’re ever feeling like the contradiction people tell you that you are, google her.

2. The Designer: Diane von Fürstenberg

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Simply because the woman cares. I get that any big corporate outfit, especially one that’s part of an industry with a reputation for rampant materialism and superficiality, has a bigger-than-usual obligation to PR. But von Fürstenberg does actually do a lot for women, not just the women who can afford her dresses or live in her zip code, but women around the world who’ve got the raw end of the deal to put it lightly. Her company supports Women for Women, an organisation that helps women whose lives have been torn apart by wars to take matters into their own hands through business and education. Also on her philanthropic radar is The White Ribbon Alliance, which is predominantly dedicated to fighting for the basic right to healthcare during pregnancy and childbirth. There are many women who have the kind of clout von Fürstenberg does, but very few who use that in any meaningful way to help other women out. She also holds the DVF Awards, which not only supports those who support women, but also introduces a sense of community and inclusivity between women into an industry that is infamously superior (and look – here she is with Gloria Steinem!).

3. The Model: Karen Elson

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Elson doesn’t have the openly feminist credentials von Fürstenberg and Freeman do, but she did speak out in Rookie about how it’s okay to be a feminist and be into fashion, specifically in relation to modelling. She told one reader that: ‘If you assume that models can’t be political, that we can’t have strong opinions and beliefs, you’re just falling prey to the popularly held misogynist view that beautiful women are stupid’ and ‘As a feminist, you can help change the industry by challenging beauty ideals, speaking out about the treatment of models, and being a role model for other women.’ I think it’s that last comment that really resonates with me. Industries, like anything made up of individuals, are not static entities. And so it’s pretty narrow minded to denounce something or even give up on it just because of how it appears to you on that day, in that year or hell, even in that decade. I started a feminist society at my college because I didn’t like how the hyper-masculine men controlled everything about college life, from its politics to its social side. So I decided to change it by creating a space in which people could come together and speak out about that. Since then loads more people have got on board, there is actually a discernable shift in the atmosphere, and I feel a little less determined by others than I used to. I’d like to think the same is possible in fashion, however long it takes. By taking Elson’s advice and following von Fürstenberg and Freeman’s lead, I hope that the fashion industry can catch up with fashion: liberating rather than oppressing.

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Hello

I’m starting this blog because I love fashion but I’m passionate about feminism, and right now the two don’t seem to get along too well. My feminist group was having a discussion about women’s portrayal in the media a few weeks ago and we got onto the topic of fashion magazines. I found myself desperately fending off attacks on the idea that the likes of Vogue and Elle were in the same camp as the weekly publications that gleefully brandish pictures of supposedly ‘imperfect’ celebrities on their covers. And that’s because I was thinking of sexualisation, of what women’s magazines demanded their readers aspire to to please men, whilst the others were thinking in terms of body image. I believe that on the former front there is something laudable in fashion, and indeed fashion magazines, that we need to hold onto and capitalize on. Part of the reason I like fashion so much is the creativity involved in evoking a vibe, in building an outfit, that has absolutely nothing to do with submitting to a need for male approval. But on the latter front there is, obviously, a huge way to go. Alexandra Shulman did recently tweet about the horrifyingly skeletal frames of models on the Preen catwalk, and Vogue editors worldwide have signed the Health Initiative pact. But whilst I’d applaud Shulman for being one of a tiny minority of editors who even bothers to address, let alone challenge the issue, when you open the pages of any glossy magazine you’re still presented with a narrow, generally Western ideal of beauty. According to Buzzfeed, nearly 90% of the models cast in the major four fashion weeks were white. Add to that the inexplicable obsession with ‘blacking up’ Caucasian models for editorials and the industry isn’t anywhere near to reflecting either its diverse audience or the women it impacts. A few years ago I pretty much gave up on my fashion journalism ambitions because of these kinds of issues, which was long before I even became so incensed by the gender inequality that persists in our society. But having got involved at university with both feminism and fashion, I see a change that needs to be made and want to be a part of helping realise that. Because the unreality of Tim Walker editorials and the opulence of Vogue’s clothing choices, so ludicrously expensive as to be clearly left on the side of fantasy, make that aspect of fashion only an ideal. And because of that it remains something to be enjoyed. But we all have bodies, and we all have skin tones. Consequently there are two sides of fashionable representation, one which I love and one which I loath. So I’m starting this blog to add a voice to what I hope will one day be a community with clout, a community that sees fashion as a point of self-definition and self-liberation, drawing it out of an archaic age of telling people that this is the one and only way they should look. Feminism and fashion needn’t be antithetical, and this is going to be an experiment in bringing them together!

Kathryn x

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