Category: Comment

Inner Life, Outer Coat..

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No Joke (hashtag-no-filter-added) this arrived through our door yesterday. ‘Guys, let us inflict extreme pain and fleece your crown jewels (literally) for your hard-earned cash’.  It’s the biggest rip off I’ve seen in a long while….waxing is the love child of the devil with the craft and credentials of Nurse Ratched. And then they have the cheek to call it Serene..

Apparently Essex is the Mordor and birthplace of this spawn and the materialistic home of the pejazzle – a county sadly known more for it’s orange tans and love triangles than brains, a place where this torture is considered an accepted part of male grooming with crystal tattoos (slot eyeballs back in) applied during treatments.  But for this madness to reach the leafy shade of South West London?…it’s the world gone mad. I’ve been against the silly stripping of women to prepubescent levels since the plucked chicken look became a brand – a women should be a woman, it’s one of the things that defines us as adults. Keep things under control by all means…but this phobia against body hair because porn stars want to look like girls? it’s just plain wrong.  And now men want to follow the same route?? All I can say is you’ve got a lot to learn…watch this video without wincing (a man, no less, going through a wax sack and crack..be prepared)..and then, if you still think this is something that floats your boat…don’t look to the Essex boys for advice, skip a few generations of intelligence, ask the girls and google electrolysis.  But believe me, a man obsessed with body hair shrieks of narcissism, sheep and the need for help.  Just don’t do it –  remember everyone loves a man’s man with something to hold onto and plait.

 

Laters, Kate x

Badge of Honour..

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When something is highlighted as a major trend is it already too late to embrace it as true fashion condemned a follower rather than an adventurer?..

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Does the fact something is popular reduce it currency, making it smaller, grubbier..repetitive?

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Can it become overused..or liberated?

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With stripes there’s a reason it nags away at you, an appeal, an intrinsic quality passed down through nature and the centuries..

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Like it?

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Then take it and turn it into a world a possibilities with courageous style.

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Because there’s always room to negotiate a different way…

Laters, Kate x

Savage Beauty x

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How to write about Savage Beauty? Can McQueen be captured in an Exhibition..or in the limited bubble of a post?  The answer is no, but one has to try.  So I’m writing this with the sound track to Schindler’s list playing in the background – it’s an earworm from the exhibition I’ll carry in my heart for a long time…and has made me, for the first time in over ten years, order a piece of violin music just so I can play it myself, softly at night with the back door open..

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Cleverly, rather than chronological, the exhibition is grouped in thematic moods: Romantic gothic, Plato’s Atlantic, Highland..each room with it’s own presence: feathery oily gloss, crow black, cloudy foxed mirrors, decadent gilt, hospital white, all dripping quietly with the dark.

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Wandering, discovering, uncovering the rooms is like being lead through the Minotaur’s labyrinth in a time chopped and spun dream.

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(All photos from Google..no cameras are allowed inside the exhibition)

The Cabinet of Curiosities at the centre is the living brain with flashing synapses and pulsing electricity: Barnacle breasted leather, swooping scooping skirts, spit and saw dust, rich blood reds, spruced and scarred, gossamer held on wings, flammable laughs, chicken feathers in a slaughter house, murmurs, whispers, the glint of gold, leather and bones that wink, the haunting and the haunted. We accept these creations for the sculptures they are, the devolution, destruction, superb craftsmanship and extraordinary vision often without thought for the true effort they took….the room that followed broke my heart.

 

Go without expectations and you will find Lee, the insecure anti-hero leading the pack, looking inside and always expecting the worst, his discomfort then projected outwards into pure magical McQueen creative gold.

 

Walking out was a strange journey back into reality.

Laters, Kate x

Into the Darkroom..

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Guy Bourdin was a photographer best known for his surreal work for French Vogue from the mid forties to the mid eighties and for his graphically strong and charismatic work for the shoe company, Charles Jourdan.  He’s now the subject of the brilliant Image Maker exhibition at Somerset house, London.
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Whilst conventional fashion images follow the general generalisation of the world: making beauty and clothing their central elements, Bourdin’s photographs offer something grittier..more radical. In a glossier, more vibrant, tumbling world he created desire and lust..then subverted it with hints at dark fantasies and suggestions of depravity. In beautifully created and calculated illusions, his camera acts like an unwanted intruder..

guy-bourdin-15He invites you in…

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Welcomes you to the unexpected, wickedly carving up the narrative, his subjects caught in the headlights.  Disgraceful, flashy and all handcrafted with love and terror.

photo-guy-bourdinWhere he’s happy to leave a layer of shocked emotions smeared across the floor..

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But always with humour and heart.

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The colours are intense: heightened, enhanced, almost hyper-real: Red, blue, a specific yellow, black and white. And always with a life and energy that our modern day editorials seem to have lost.

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In our age of endless image manipulation and photoshopping, there’s something incredible about Bourdin’s sheer creativity and endless imagination.  Look, no digital re-mastering..

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(This is my lovely friend Sophie at the exhibition in our own photo homage)

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This exhibition is cool statement strong balls with scalpel sharp insights and seductive eye candy.  Go see it…then see it again..

Laters, Kate x

Food for Thought..

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Banana Republic Fall 2015 is the faultless streetstyle collection of NYFW.

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It’s the Collection for the realities of life: Meeting friends, the school run, a trip to the shops..a quick snap from the paps…it’s normcorm coolness personified..

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And maybe that’s where I have my itch, my first wobble of a potential problem, hard to hold back and impossible to shake off..

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I love the stripe. But think too deeply and this collection becomes an unsettling vision..like a serpent eating it’s own tail.  We have fashion..we have street style..now we have fashion that is street style and because it’s so perfectly of the moment, there’s no sense of pushing boundaries or striving for the next artistic step.

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It’s not that I don’t like it..I really, really do..and look – metallics and tassels again..

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(All photos Style.com)

It’s faultless, flawless, impeccable – and feels like it’s been squeezed and prodded into life by a profit driven corporate machine…to produce the opposite of anarchy.

The truth is fashion has to sell, but it fundamentally has to walk hand in hand with creativity: We need a heart..but we need a soul too.

Laters, Kate x

Fashion Story x

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In the focaccia bunfight of fashion, how is true style evaluated and who wins the cherry on the top?

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We know sometimes less is more..

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That it’s thinking out of the box..that magic moment when perfectionists take risks..

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Finding that rare sweet spot moment when it takes brains and a perverse delight to play a swaggering fool.  When you aren’t.

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Elegance and body language is in the mix..

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And it’s not about money..

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Style isn’t beauty, it’s perfectly picked proportions.

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That fine, hazy line between victim and genius, because there’s no beauty without strangeness.

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(All pictures from Style.com)

Fashion is conforming to current styles and trends.

Style is throwing them out of the window.

Laters, Kate x

Neuter not Neutral x

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Have you heard about Selfridge’s new Agender Project? Starting in March, instead of separate departments for men and women, the shop will stock three floors of unisex clothing for browsing by both. So is neuter the new cultural shift and a serious re-thinking of fashion? Or the prophetic skid marks of car crash about to happen? Or just someone with an unerring nose for hype indulging in the need for a good, loud scream?

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Selfridges says ‘We want to take our customers on a journey where they can shop and dress without limits or stereotypes.’ It can be argued there’s always been androgyny..and the men’s fall runway highlighted a further blurring of the gender lines.  It was only a couple of weeks ago I was listening to a discussion on Radio 4 about a new brand of neuter pants by Play Out – a sort of boxer for boys and girls – I would’ve blogged about it, but I actually found the designs desperately ugly in a post-eighties germanic way that really shouldn’t see the light of day again.  But it’s definitely a subject making waves..

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 (All photos Tommy Ton from Style.com)

I wonder how they’ll manage the button debate – (to the right? Or to the left? Or maybe a coalition??) – not that it’s ever stopped me nicking The Husbands clothes.  But then women into men has always been so much easier  – if I look in my wardrobe I’ve shoes, jeans, shirts and jumpers all from the mens departments because I prefer the heavier, straighter cut. Men into women? Why not? I love a bit of flower with my masculinity..

 

Whether or not this is an anathema to the wonderful diversity of gender expression and just another step towards global greyness and generalisation, it’s going to be interesting..but the truth is, it’s just an eight week project..maybe just enough to get people thinking..

 

Laters, Kate x

 

Finery London x

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There’s a new label on the cyber-street..Finery London, led by Caren Downe who’s high street pedigree and gene pool includes buying director at Top Shop and ASOS.

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She left ASOS disillusioned with the emphasis on commerciality rather than creativity…and has returned to fill what she sees as the glaring gap in the market: Women that know their style and want something more considered in the £40 – £250 price bracket, that magical hybrid of excellent design and affordable prices – and she’s certainly talking my language…

 

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It’s a range cleverly jigsawed together – there’s a sense of calm and knowing, rare in the heart of the retail storm, with warm, welcoming air that gently blows you across the threshold..

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The shoes are incredible..

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With a rich current of ideas running under simple shapes, that cunning mixture of cool statements and strong balls.

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Forensically clear with a sense of attentive stillness, but still authentic and heartfelt..I’ll be following this story with interest..

 

Laters, Kate x

 

The Book Barge..

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Sarah Henshaw, a modern day heroine and one of life’s great dreamers proves that life is still full of endless possibilities…if only we dare to live them…

sarah henshaw, books, london, entertainment, journalist, reporter, press, lethal weapon, danny glover, reading, boat, book barge,
Because her words are far more relevant than anything I could write, I’ve cut and pasted this article in its totality, but you can find the original words and all info here.
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I remember quite clearly the first time I realised I might be in the wrong job.I was working as an entertainment journalist in London and, on this particular morning I was at a press junket to interview Lethal Weapon star Danny Glover.There was a long queue of journalists ahead of me so I took a book out of my bag and passed the time reading.When my interview started Danny quickly seemed bored and called his assistant over.After a brief exchange he turned back to me. “I hope you don’t mind,” he apologised, “but I’m very tired. I’m just going to stretch out on the floor for a few minutes and nap. You can stay here. We’ll resume the interview when I awake.”With that he pushed his chair aside and adopted a foetal position by my handbag.I squirmed awkwardly for several minutes, not quite sure where to look or what to do. “Oh, I should carry on with your book,” his assistant said helpfully. I didn’t need further encouragement.Anything with the power to take me away from a lightly snoring actor, a job I had no talent for and a city that overwhelmed me had my vote of confidence. I opened it and got lost.The idea for a black and cream book-flogging canal boat came a year later at the end of 2008.

Anything with the power to take me away from a lightly snoring actor, a job I had no talent for and a city that overwhelmed me had my vote of confidence

Sarah Henshaw

By then I’d quit London and planned to move back to the Midlands with my boyfriend Stu.He was about to retrain as a joiner and I had promised to support him financially while he studied. That was easier said than done.Months later, frustrated by a string of unsuccessful media applications, I hit upon the idea of creating my own job – a dream job. I would sell books… from a boat.I knew nothing about book selling – nor boats. I found Joseph, the craft that became The Book Barge, on Google.It was the first narrowboat I viewed and I bought it immediately with a £25,000 loan from my parents. My petitions to the banks had been turned down frequently and firmly.Despite my naivety business was initially brisk. Moored at Barton Marina in Staffordshire my shop stocked a decent range of new and secondhand literature and held regular bookish events, which were well-attended.This didn’t last. My appalling inexperience, coupled with price competition from online and supermarket retailers, meant that just two years later the shop was facing closure.
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Saddled with guilt and debt, I split up with my boyfriend and moved on to the boat.Tears obscuring all their titles I looked at my shelves of books and wondered how they could ever get me out of this new mess. The solution – in its simplicity – surprised even me.I set off with the boat from its permanent mooring immediately, giving myself six months to save it as well as a vestige of self-respect.I put myself entirely in the customers’ hands as I chugged a nervous figure-of-eight route around the entire country and bartered away my stock. The idea of swapping books instead of selling them made sense.Since buying the boat all domestic comforts (including toilet, shower, gas hob, bed and fridge) had been ripped out to bed, breakfast and a packed lunch.In London a gentleman offered a month’s worth of food from Sainsbury’s delivered straight to the boat, redeeming the value of his till receipt in secondhand books.In less populated places it proved harder to negotiate. Here I would often rely on fellow boaters for the use of their showers or for occasional towpath-foraged delicacies, including a particularly memorable wild flower syrup cake.By June of that year The Book Barge had attracted the interest of the national press.While I was talking to a journalist who came aboard in Hackney one afternoon a customer interrupted by making a scissors movement with her fingers.She gestured to the whiteboard hanging over my desk upon which I listed the items I needed each day and for which I was prepared to sacrifice free stock. “The haircut?” she offered.The journalist folded his arms and raised an eyebrow expectantly. “S-s-sure,” I stuttered and fetched a towel to put over my shoulders.Now I’ve been going to the same salon for years. I don’t generally let strangers hack away at it with a pair of paper-scissors, let alone untrained strangers in the middle of a busy bookshop.

It took 10 minutes. At the end the woman responsible for the un even lengths littering the floor by my ankles grinned broadly.

With that she bagged an £8.99 paperback as payment and walked hastily out. The journalist picked up a guitar and started quietly strumming. I could just about make out the song: You Can’t Always Get What You Want.By October 2011 I had returned to the Midlands having journeyed some 1,000 miles through more than 700 locks. Determined now that I could never let the shop close, I took freelance copywriting shifts to pay off my debts and started working at a high-school library during term-time.I still live aboard. I still allow customers to barter for books as well as buy. But one thing has changed.I’m back with Stu, who has become a pretty decent carpenter.In between fitting a toilet for us, he is renovating a house in a hamlet in the middle of France. The canal runs past it and there’s a book barge-shaped mooring at the bottom of the garden. We found it for sale for just €19,000.Who knows whether we’ll sell any books there but it’s a nice place for the story to end. Or for a new one to begin.
The Bookshop That Floated Away by Sarah Henshaw

It’s always good to know that fairytales really do exist.

Laters, Kate x