This school year and certainly the start of 2018 has been tainted by the unavoidable: Our eldest facing the horror of Year 6 secondary school exams. A hideous time and one of the horrible consequences of living in London where there are too many children chasing too few places.
As a parent you can make the decision whether to join the pressure party or take a more fatalistic approach – for many reasons, our choice is the later. But even the choice of a relaxed attitude is not without it’s mental fuck ups: Guilt, doubt, even fear – We chose this school route for them – nobody put a gun to our heads – and when the kids are lining up to go into another exam it’s not easy to stand firm against a serious onslaught of questioning anxiety.
A shining light during this time has been our weekly cold water swims at the open air lido in Tooting. Started at the beginning of September as a conscious way to replicate and appreciate what the kids were going to go through, it was meant as a challenge – could the three of us swim through the year without wetsuits? We’ve watched the saturated colours of summer turn to the stark realisation of winter, leaves turn and mists fall.
We kept going, even when it meant swimming in the sea in October.
Each week is the unspoken question – is this the week we fail?
And each week, as we emerge newly pink it’s like we’ve been fitted with a new coat of bespoke armour ready to face the world: Bulletproof mate, bulletproof.
It’s been a joy, a pleasure, life affirming and life saving.
I swear our blood is a different colour now.
Laters, Kate x
Christmas season maybe fast approaching but even the sighting of that behemoth shouldn’t turn all thoughts to party clothes. Why? Because life needs to be lived and party clothes should be a reflection of every day. Such is the philosophy of Henrietta Rix and Orlagh McClosky, the founders of fashion label Rixo.
Their vision was to create vintage-inspired pieces for the modern woman to wear with confident style and effortless grace.
For the quality of the material – silk, the timeless nature of the clothes and the plus point of individuality, the price point sits happy on the purse.
(All pics Rixo)
These pieces sing dressing up is for daytime, floor length can be casual and style always transcends season.
I, for one, am in.
Laters, Kate x
God the eighties were fun…the smoking, the staying up partying all night then going into work then fishbowls of Chardonnay at 5. No gym, no clean food, just living life to the full and never worrying about the consequences. People behaved badly but oh how we laugh, we laughed every single day. Until recently I thought rather than marking an era this was just a rite of youthful passage. Now I’m not so sure. There’s a modern contagion that’s spreading through all walks of life to constantly do as much as possible..and do it fast. Life is serious, focused and controlled, it’s either join the ranks or be left behind. Walk into an office and there’s no frantically ringing phones or waft of cigarette smoke, it’s all green algae juices and mindfulness. Which is maybe why the pull of any type of nostalgia is still strong for me and why shops such as Labour and Wait will always float my traditional wooden sailing boat.
Labour and Wait sell the sort of things you’ve always needed but didn’t know where to find, unless it was an Enid Blyton book or an Agatha Christie mystery.
I’m slowly replacing all my pound shop plastic for their built-to-last-wholesome-simplicity.
This is sourcing the best in life. But learning not to take it too seriously.
Laters, Kate x
(As taken by Diego Zuko of Harpers and Bazaar)
Because it’s always the best.
Laters, Kate x
Yesterday I went with the lovely Galliana to Buckingham Palace. As you do. The only downside was we were there only as ticket wielding plebs. But we still had the chance to admire the ornate state rooms and look out over the beautiful 39 acre garden in the centre of London.
But the highlight was the exhibition of the 90 years of style from the Queen’s wardrobe amounting to eighty outfits and 62 iconic hats.
It was a lesson in the diplomacy of fashion: Made for a reason, for a specific person with a unique job using colours to be seen with subtle emblems and signs to flatter the right people in the right places – like the incorporation of the colours of a national flag for a tour abroad. There was thought, care and attention to detail and whilst fashion was was there, it wasn’t fashion for fashions sake.
It really was the best of British. The collection is on till Oct 2 and is well worth a visit.
(You can also have tea by the lawn afterwards…)
Laters, Kate x
A true global and renaissance man, Jason deCaires Taylor was born in 1974 to an English father and Guyanese mother. He then grew up with one foot in Europe, the other in Asia with regular diving trips in Malaysia. In 1998 he graduated from the London Institute of Arts with a BA honours in Sculpture….before becoming a fully qualified diving instructor, underwater naturalist (Note to friends: That’s not a naked diver) and award winning photographer.
Then in 2006, off the West Coast of Grenada, he created his first underwater sculpture park and a life blood of creativity was unleashed.
His work explores the slipstream where Art and Nature collide, the grey area between man’s exploitation of nature for industrial means and the acknowledgement of the fundamental power of the earth: As time begins to colonize the forms it creates it’s own architecture, dramatic pulse and language.
This pulls on something deep within – the mystery of Atlantis, Pompeii, fairytales..even gothic Victoriana. They’re a dark presence, yet awe-inspiring at the same time.
Under the water is a world Jason knows, and through his art he aims to highlight the living beauty of the under world to encourage environmental awareness and instigate social change.
For anyone who’s heart sank at the news this week that 90% of sea birds have plastic in their stomachs, he’s a crusader you want to stand up and applaud.
His work isn’t limited to the turquoise depths of Cancun and the Bahamas..this mystical beauty can be found in Canterbury…
And now, from Sept 1 – 30, on the Thames foreshore at Vauxhall, London, adjacent to Camelford House and 87-90 Albert Embankment, is a new example of his work: The Rising Tide, commissioned by Totally Thames.
It highlights the role the river has played in the shaping of London’s history. And how easy it’s been for us to abuse it.
These could be horses, but they’re oil pumps..animals of industry, draining the land.
A theme as strong and compelling as any story ever told.
Laters, Kate x
Working at the rock face of fashion I have realised that very few people actually know how the modern clothing business truly works, particularly in terms of cost..and therefore profit.
Researching a visual to explain things quickly I came across the website of Everlane, who produced the following pictures..
The aim behind the pictures was to illustrate how consumers are ‘ripped off’ along the chain of events that leads to a designer purchase. But is it entirely accurate?
From make to wholesaler = 224% margin
From Wholesaler to retailer = 333% margin.
Which are big margins – but the diagram doesn’t explain them – the margins do represent a percentage of the profit but it’s only a percentage not the full whack. The margins are also required to cover other costs:
Further shipping, more transport, import duties, administration, design time, development, currency exchange, banking fees, marketing, loss leaders, pattern cutters, equipment, fittings, pattern changes, warehousing and storage, rent, utilities, IT costs, even labels, zips, threads and buttons..and probably much more.
At the second tier, for the retailer there could be a brick and mortar shop to pay for, employees and all the associated costs, advertisng, their own loss leaders etc etc…
The pictures do prove that nothing in fashion is simple.
It is possible to cut these costs. If you’re mass market and contract out to a third world country I’ve heard you can get a t-shirt made for 2p. In fact clothes have never been cheaper and are now fully accessible to all. Which has to be a good thing..But at what cost? 1,100 people died in the Bangladeshi factory disaster…is it ethical? Is it exploitation? Where does the line get drawn?
There are other alternatives abroad – better factories, better conditions where many of the ‘luxury’ fashion labels get their product made. And yes, with their financial clout and established infra-structure maybe they can make those sort of profits..but even then think how much money goes into marketing to support their brands? And think about the problems that can go wrong – the delays, the accidents, the unexpected that all has to be factored in. And all the time all that money being spent on manufacture is money draining out of the UK economy.
So where does this leave a British based start-up fashion label like us?
We can’t buy our materials in bulk so there is no reduction in cost for us there.
We can’t make our stock in bulk so there is no reduction here either.
Our ‘factory’ is an ‘atelier’ – a room of skilled – masterful – sewers based in London who make everything by hand. Not at a cost not per garment, but per hour. Look at a sewing machine, look at an expensive piece of silk and look at the finished product – the tiny stitches, the French seams. It’s not a fast job. Each hour is £25.00 plus VAT. But that is the cost of a craftsperson at the top of their profession..
We have no choice, we have to start at the designer end, the hard end – so why bother?
We still believe that there is an element of magic in fashion. We believe we can make a profit by cutting out the wholesaler and selling direct – only time will tell. And we believe that at some point consumers acknowledge they are buying more than the tangible item itself..we believe that value can take on a new meaning, that design can be desirable, treasured and trusted…our atelier is so good they do work for Victoria Beckham. We have drive, we have passion and we have a designer in Anna who has an acknowledged pedigree having worked with the greats such as Karl Lagerfeld and Valentino..she knows this industry and she was born to design.
The truth is that the Everlane illustration was too simplistic – the bottom-line is that in the retail world not all products are created equally. And some are definitely created with more love and care than others. Only sales will confirm whether that is worth the price.
Laters, Kate x
So I’m running away to the sun today a week earlier than expected as my father has broken his elbow – there’s no time to write new blog posts, instead I offer you summer re-runs..some of the best posts from times gone past. Until we meet again – enjoy!
I was aware of fashion from a very early age …rolling down my hated knee socks in primary school in longing of cute ankle ones – and lusting over those nearly not there socks with the pom-pom at the back? Sigh. And there was the utter object of my desire..navy blue clogs. I’d watch those lucky girls nonchalantly flick them off to do cartwheels on the grass..before sliding them back on and jauntily walking off with that bone dry rhythm. I knew it was wrong to be fiddling with a buckle.
Time has made a difference..and I just got me some new summer shoes…CLOGS! A long held desire has been appeased and a wrong has finally been righted..Do you know the brand Swedish Hasbeens? They have a lovely story..(although it has given me visions of Anita lighting up a four-legged beast from the desert)..
The designs are delicious…
I went for simplicity and a lower heel – I’ve never worn Hasbeens before and I suspect a wooden sole takes a bit of getting used to, also I was ordering off the internet…and truth be told – I’m not too good on really high heels and I want these as regular day shoes..the colour is divine…not white, but a soft, buttermilk.. they’ll go with everything..
But if they suit…and they become my best-ever-summer-shoe-purchase-since-the-arrival-of-flatforms..guess where they’ve opened their first UK shop? Only in Hanbury street in Spitalfields…I hear a siren call..
Laters, Kate x
P.S. Tip from Anna, the half-Swedish girl who knows..to wear them in (the leather is good n strong) start wearing them in the house with extra thick socks!
Now for something totally different: This was something that we did with my sister-in-law and brother-in-law and few months ago..except I couldn’t write about it then as we were all sworn to secrecy but now this particular experience has finished the secrecy is no longer needed and to be honest, somehow it feels appropriate to think back on something we brits are good at: obscure, ironic brilliance. This was a whacky, immersive dining experience set up by a Company called the Gingerliners in a warehouse in the Hoxton area of London where every course was in a different room, with a contrasting theme/story/setting..each more crazy than the last. (See the video above for the best interactive experience..or just enjoy the pictures)
It was a bit like being in a Harry Potter movie..you entered the first room on a sledge with four other people through a low tunnel to find your self in a rainforest complete with bird-girl on a swing and our starters in the trees…
The next room was run by a robot and her baby and our soup came from a suspended engine..
Have you ever been in one of these as an adult, drunk and drinking from a urine pouch??
Dessert was sorted by a dolly with a trolly on a plane, with accompanying dance and song. We left via a giant slide..convinced the whole thing had been some fantastical dream. It’s opening again in September (go to Gingerliners to get on their mailing list) with whole new rooms of experience – tickets are hard to get – they sell out FAST. But if you like your reality hot-wired, this is the place for you.
Laters, Kate x