Thursday, 30 June 2011

All Things Blonde and Beautiful - the Slogan T-shirt

After a mid-bleaching ginger/yellow moment, I have finally achieved platinum blonde again. Last year this was a salon-based tranformation, but this time I created the look at home, with gaps of at least a week (if not two) between colour changes, to aid hair recovery. [Image my own].

This is on my wishlist for new items. It's cheeky as a slogan but also the actual colourscheme is really nice - I love the mustard yellow against the dark marl grey. There's a brilliant red seam running from both armpits, which will make blonde hair stand out that little bit more.
T-shirt, £14.99, River Island [Image taken from their website and enhanced by me].

It's time for a confidence-boost, and I've found the perfect solution with this t-shirt. Sometimes you need to go back to basics with dressing, and remember that not every outfit has to be a smart one. For those more relaxing days, a slogan tee strikes the perfect balance between fun and functional, plus it allows you a lot of flexibility regarding your bottom half. Of course you can go for jeans, but equally a plain midi-skirt or shorts would work here. The great thing about an inoffensive slogan such as this means that it can be worn for babysitting, spending time with relatives or meeting new people, without the risk of causing offence (put away your 'Barbie is a Slut' version for those occasions).

Trust me: I'm a blonde.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Ethical but Aesthetically Pleasing: the new Mel collection at Office

[Images via Office Shoes].

When you imagine Vegan footwear, these styles are perhaps not what you would have in mind. The traditional stereotype of ethical brands as being centred around hemp and the socks-and-sandals brigade needs to be quashed, as proven with the new designs from Mel by Melissa. Each pair of shoes is lovingly made from bubblegum-scented plastic (which has to be smelled to be believed) and is recyclable, but also takes on the shape of a staple footwear style, such as the peep-toe heel or the flip flop.

You may recognise the boots, seen above in grey and red, from the Melissa collaboration with Vivienne Westwood Anglomania, where this basic template was adorned with large gold buttons and available in classic shades of red, blue, taupe and black, sometimes with a smattering of glitter. Now the Mel boot has arrived, which uses a gold ribbon design to give ankle detail to the streamlined shape. At £38, this is not far off the RRP of premium brand wellies, but will keep your feet dry in a definitely more feminine way.

If you're not into boots then the brogue option might just sway you - they've been in our fashion lives for a few years now in leather, canvas or faux leather formats, but the plastic brogue with lace-up detail and authentic panelling (£28) is an innovative new option. A pair of these would look great with some bright ankle socks or simple patterned tights (think lace, floral or polka dot) for a modern and quirky take on androgynous footwear.

This is style with a conscience, and I'm certainly a fan. For more styles, see

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Monday, 27 June 2011

Janelle Monae's Fashionable Set at Glasto

The most stylish backing singers I have ever seen - rocking the black and white humbug-esque stripes and very artistic looking hats.

The backing duo match Janelle's monochromatic colourscheme, but she goes for androgynous tailoring and flat brogues, with her trademark quiff.

She even adds a cape, for that extra bit of dramatic flair. It features an embroidered collar.

The look is sharp, but does not detract from the music.

[Images taken as stills from BBC footage].

I am enthralled by the style of Janelle Monae; when she first arrived on the scene, I was worried that her clothing choices felt a little too structured and planned, but the footage from her Glastonbury set proves that she can dance, sing and relax without seeming uncomfortable in a crisp white shirt and tie. She doesn't let the clothes wear her - she wears them. Here is an artist unafraid of making her supporting musicians appear just as fashionable as she is, even though their outfits might just be capable of upstaging hers. Top marks, Miss Monae.

Polly Interviews: Laurie Lipton, artist

Photograph of the artist, copyright Laurie Lipton.

Please click on the image above for a larger view of this interview. Laurie Lipton is a fantastic artist, whose work is highly recognisable due to her collaboration with AllSaints, when a series of anatomically-focused t-shirts were created. Lipton hasn't just capitalised on a gap in the market; she believes in the work that she produces, and she loves her job. Having recently moved to Los Angeles, she will not be forgotten by her London fans. You can view her work at:

This interview was originally conducted as part of my journalism portfolio whilst at LCF, and it formed a larger article on the lure of anatomical illustration and its fashionable appeal. It was a privilege to talk to Lipton, and she really is a lovely and highly talented woman.

To see my entire final project (a 28 page magazine), please click here.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

'Murder, She Wrote' re-imagined by Stephen Webster

The neon lighting of the launch party for Webster's new collection. [Image via Stephen Webster].

The original 'Murder, She Wrote' heroine, Angela Lansbury, who was somehow overlooked as a model for this venture. [Image via IMDB].

A stunning example of the new range - a double-ringed bloody dagger, wielded by perfectly manicured hands. [Image via King Jewellers].

The first promotional glimpse, with model Daisy Lowe. Photographed by Mat Collishaw. [Image via Professional Jeweller].

A vastly repeated daytime crime serial is perhaps not the obvious inspirational choice for new jewellery lines, so it may come as a surprise that the highly successful Stephen Webster has named his latest collection 'Murder, She Wrote'. Taking the elements of intrigue and 'a cup of tea in the countryside', but in a 'tongue-in-cheek' way, as the jewellery designer explained, this is definitely something to be excited about. You might even consider a life on the wrong side of the law to get your hands on these pieces, as seen in the third and fourth images above. There is a sexiness to the collection that moves it away from the doldrums of television which the Angela Lansbury-led program may evoke. This is particularly clear in the choice of brand ambassador - Daisy Lowe, the British model of the moment who has a vintage silhouette but a very modern life in the public eye. She is the perfect choice for this campaign, featured gazing into the middle ground of a dark scene from a railway carriage (note the beautifully reflected train station roof in the top of the frame). Photographed by Mat Collishaw, who is a very talented artist and also the ex-partner of Tracey Emin, there is an extra injection of Britishness here, as well as the obvious but tastefully portrayed undertones of love, revenge and seduction.

In the jewellery itself, I think there is a clear link between the almost emblematic designs and the iconography of films such as Snow White. In the next year we are due to enjoy two more mature re-workings of that classic story, exploring the character of the woodcutter who was ordered to murder Snow White, under the direction of the wicked Queen. Without wishing to suggest that Webster was inspired by Disney, I think that the old fairytale behind the film may have been an influence. We also see poison and fruit cropping up in his other pieces, so for me there is at least a subconscious thematic link that he has produced for his customers. I look forward to seeing the adverts in the press and learning more about the background of this sumptuous collection, from the blood-soaked dagger to the bold and arresting title. It's criminally good.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

D.I.Y. wedding accessory

This is the finished article! My much sought-after netting finally arrived and was the finishing touch to this fascinator. I was determined to make it myself, and I did!

Fascinator in blue (above) and burgundy (below) settings. My hair is platinum blonde at the moment, so the base of the piece will blend in, with any luck.

[Images my own. Please ask before reproducing].

So, my crafting project for Operation Wedding has come to fruition and here are some images to give you an idea of how it all went. I opted for a straw fascinator base, although you can get fabric-covered versions, but I was drawn to the straw because it has more of that vintage feel. I wanted feathers, but found that a lot of the high street hairpieces were completely covered or were full of these fussy, pokey things that stuck out a mile away. My fascinator needed to be fashion-led (it's an LCF alumnus getting married), classy (it's not a night clubbing) and a bit eclectic (it's me who's wearing it). Hopefully I've achieved that with the addition of flat peacock feathers, turquoise feathers, black fabric bands and black birdcage netting.

Method for 1 wedding fascinator:

  • Take your base (which can be bought easily online, or from craft shops such as C&H Fabrics, where I found this straw number for £2.79) and decide how you want to arrange the decorations on top.
  • Sew some black fabric bands onto your chosen base, to emphasise the direction of the feathers and add a bit of a background, effectively meaning you can add colour between those lines. I created a 'V' shape with two black strips arranged across the circular base.
  • Attach the netting onto the back of the base using a simple running stitch or even some PVA glue, remembering to try it on your head to see how much or how little netting you want to use. It's nice to try and shade one eye slightly with the coverage, giving a retro feel.
  • On the back of the base, attach a bridal/crafting comb (again, from internet suppliers or C&H Fabrics), which has a loop on each 'finger' of the comb that you can sew into. By catching those loops in your running stitch, you keep the comb close to the base and it should feel fairly solid. Remember that the direction of the comb dictates how you can fix it to your hair - the top of the comb should adhere to the top part of the design on the other side!
  • Sew, glue or clip on feathers and other appropriate decorations. You might want to add bridal hair pieces such as pearls on wire, or maybe some fake flowers. For an easy approach, grab some cheap hair accessories featuring flowers, gemstones or feathers from H&M or Primark and affix them wherever you want. If you've used a loose running stitch to put the fabric band on, you can tuck feathers into the gaps between the stitches and they should stay put.
  • Voila! A slightly ostentatious but very unique fascinator that you can remodel for future occasions.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

My namesake in bag form

[Images via Mulberry].

The design team at Mulberry are clearly worth their weight in gold, because their latest offering is called Polly (yes, I am slightly biased seeing as my parents gave me that name 22 years ago, but let it be said that they didn't name me after a handbag - it was the other way round!). They have also chosen one of my favourite colours, burgundy, as the shade of soft leather for this new collection. I would have blogged about this earlier, but in all honesty the images on the official website don't do them justice, and I actually thought this was an almost brown shade of maroon. However, when I popped into Selfridges the other week before my friend's very civilised and stripper-less Hen Party, I managed to catch a glimpse (okay, cop a feel) of the new Mulberry Polly bags on the shelf. The burgundy version is called 'Conker' and it's more purple-hued when you see it up close. Equally, the almost mustard-looking 'Pumpkin' shade (not pictured) is definitely orange when you meet it in daylight. The other colourway is, of course, black, because for every woman who wants a bright bag there is one who'd prefer to go classic. The shape of the bags has been inspired by the earlier and highly coveted Mulberry Neely range, though the introduction of the pushlock here means that there's a decidedly vintage feel to these incarnations. You can choose from the small or normal pushlock, or plump for the even roomier tote version, though personally I'm drawn to the straightforward Polly Pushlock because it's accomodating but stylish.

As I write this, the Polly range is well out of my reach financially, but it's definitely being written into my (now overwhelmingly extensive) Future Investment Items for Future Disposable Income list, which also includes dental treatment and about half of Vivienne Westwood. When I acquire that elusive disposable income, I'll let you know, but in the mean time I shall leave you to gaze at Mulberry's work.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Visual Merchandising: Selfridges and Project Ocean

[Images my own].

This year has seen a major Selfridges campaign in aid of the world's seas (helpfully titled 'Project Ocean'), which has been incredibly thought-provoking. It also gave the Visual Merchandisers at Oxford Street a bit of a challenge, which has led to this innovative display of confiscated coral, normally held at the London Aquarium after being seized by the authorities. The forms seen in these images are truly beautiful, but luckily in this day and age you can pick up some excellent fake coral pieces if that's what takes your fancy. These windows showcase the talent of several milliners, who were given the coral as a raw and inspiring material, and it's not hard to appreciate the sculptural and structural qualities when wielded by the likes of Stephen Jones. Something as negative as coral harvesting has been transformed into a positive message to prevent further damage taking place.

I am constantly impressed by the VM team at Selfridges and this is yet another example of how they are streets ahead of other big British retailers.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Visual Merchandising at Zara

[Images my own].

I would love to say that I understand the jazzy lampshade-on-head look that Zara is going for in menswear this season, but I don't. Their window dressers are, however, always pushing the envelope with a playful sense of vitality, and this display is no exception to the rule of thumb. It also features an unusually feminist angle, with the men semi-naked and resembling automatons, whilst the women take centre stage with clothes and accessories. Again, not all of it is wearable, but it grabs your attention on a dull day at the shops and it also gets people talking. Top marks for effort.

Don't eat a doughnut when you wear lip transfers...

[Images via Violent Lips, with a little customisation on my part].

Thanks to the Sunday Times Style Magazine, I was alerted yesterday to the presence of Violent Lips in the beauty market. The company makes lip transfers which, judging from the website tutorials, seem fairly easy to apply and give the wearer a unique look. Above you can see three of my favourite designs, all of which are available in different colourways. There were some others that I feel would be less 'cutting edge' and more 'crap tattoo effect', notably the versions mimicking fishnets or with graffiti-style slogans of 'Kiss' or 'Love', but generally the brand seems to be heading for the conceptual-esque fashion lover (for that, read Lady Gaga or Jessie J). I really think that there is a gap in the market for this kind of thing, although it's not really an everyday look, but I'm sure it'll prove popular for photoshoots, clubbing or catwalks. I am tempted to try some as soon as my finances allow!

Friday, 17 June 2011

Even seaside caffs have dress codes

[Image my own. Please ask permission before reproducing].

I know that this sign is probably addressing the practicalities of walking around in a soggy piece of neoprene, but I'd prefer to think that it's just an irate and sartorially stubborn cafe owner who finds wetsuits distasteful. (I don't have anything against them myself - have outgrown my old one, though, so it would be pretty shocking if I squeezed into it and attempted a cake-related cafe trip).

Monday, 13 June 2011

Graduate Fashion Week: Menswear Making Tracks

[Images courtesy of Brett de Jager and the London College of Fashion].

This collection, taking inspiration from tribal clothing and grungy Western streetwear, is called Punx on Safari. Brett de Jager has captured the mood of modern living, with its elements from exotic culture and home life being juxtaposed for an exhilirating final result. The colours are bold and combine dayglo paint with traditional plaid. Silhouettes are relaxed and often include multiple panels, teamed with spiked footwear that makes a statement.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

New Look in Financial Crisis?! To the shops!

[Image taken from New Look's website].

It has been reported today that the British retail giant New Look has posted profits of £0.0, apparently due to overpriced lines and misjudged products that failed to get the cash desks ringing. My local branch is, unfortunately, about the size of a shoebox (as is our Topshop and Dorothy Perkins) and could do with a move to a bigger, brighter premises, where I'm sure that it would perform better. The town itself is crying out for a wider range of womenswear, which New Look could easily provide. As for the stock? There's still so much that New Look can offer, particularly regarding its footwear department. I have my eye on the white court shoes, seen above, which channel the 1960s and are priced at a very reasonable £12.99. The store also translates the season's key trends well, but I think it could do with cutting out some of the more basic partywear or workwear and offering more directional pieces for these occasions.

The Idol brand, one of the more high-end diffusion lines of New Look, has brought out some fantastic styles which would easily be snapped up, but it is only available in selected brances, meaning that many consumers just aren't aware of it unless they go online. Meanwhile the Giles Deacon range is a brilliant addition but deserves to be continually championed because it shows that young designers believe in New Look and want to collaborate with its team. Many of my friends didn't even know when he had a collection in store, purely because they didn't really pay attention to the label in the clothes and they felt it could do with being given a stronger presence.

I really do love shopping at New Look (when my pitiful bank balance allows), and I hope to continue doing so in the future. It would be a shame to see this high street stalwart diminished. I hope that the company manages to pull itself out of this situation and continues to serve us for decades to come.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Thrifty Antics - The Customised Skirt

[Images my own].

Dusting off my Textiles GCSE from many years ago (where I made a wall hanging based on Queen - the rock band, not the monarch - involving a very sequinned Freddie Mercury portrait), I managed to transform a pair of charity shop trousers into a skirt. This simple bit of sewing also allowed me to create the sort of maxi that the high street doesn't make for my shape, because until now I was finding that anything remotely capable of fitting my hips managed to give me the distinct impression of a fishwife or a chubby school mistress. However, by unpicking the inside leg of the trousers and hand-sewing the remaining material into a tube, my very own maxi was born. It hasn't fallen apart so far (yep, I just checked as I typed that) and I'm pleasantly surprised with the results, especially as the trousers only cost £2 in the first place.

I don't think you'll make a seamstress of me just yet, but it's a start, and my wallet will thank me for it.

New Designer O'Clock - Graduate Fashion Week

[Images courtesy of London College of Fashion and Stine Riis].

With Graduate Fashion Week 2011 in full swing in London, it's an incredibly exciting time for new designers. This year sees the new sponsors, George at Asda, establishing themselves as the protectors and celebrators of the graduating intake, and it will be interesting to see how they choose to involve some of these creative individuals in the George design process. The previous sponsors were River Island, who chose to release a Graduate collection each year to showcase their top picks for emerging fashion talent, and it gave a great boost to the high street by injecting fresh ideas. Similarly, New Look has put graduate footwear on the map with its recent LCF style drop, which I focused on in a previous post. So far, George has publicised the catwalk shows on its blog but I would also love to see the clothing aisles of Asda buzzing with the efforts of these prodigies. I know that supermarket style may not be seen as the high point for the discerning designer, but you can't ignore that consumers are lapping up fashion at the same time as doing the weekly shop, with competition fierce between the major players (Tesco, Sainsbury's and the aforementioned George). I don't think you can go far wrong by getting involved with George if they give you the nod.

My favourite of the London College of Fashion graduates this year would have to be Stine Riis, as seen above. Her work is inspired by 'duality', 'decay' and 'decadence', and I can't get enough of it. The colouring is simple and wearable, with echoes of the fashion giant Chloe in the use of rust and camel. With draping key to the collection, there is a love of the female form in this womenswear, and an enthusiasm in developing new silhouettes, from the structural to the loose. I think this is a really mature range, but it doesn't have to be inaccessible to young women - you could easily pick up her navy and green skirt with draped panels and wear it with battered Converse and a supermarket vest top. I would love to see Riis' designs on sale in the future (though I'd steer clear of her fur pieces on the principle that I only wear fake) and I am sure she will have a successful career in the industry, whether she works for a major fashion house or she is taken under the wing of George.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

In sickness and in lipstick

Apologies for the lack of blogging recently - I haven't been very well. Instead of prowling the streets for fashion and culture, I've been clocking up pyjama time and chaining myself to a box of tissues, whilst drinking more cups of tea than you've had hot dinners. One of the things I'm missing the most is the transformative power of a good lippie, to make me look vaguely alive. The one pictured above is by Sleek and it's a fantastic magenta (a cross between pink and purple, for those who don't know their colours) which I cannot wait to put on when things get back to normal.

Whilst I lay dreaming of cosmetics, it reminded me of the Leading Lipstick Indicator, which is a consumer theory developed by the founder of Estee Lauder. He discovered that sales of lippie increased during difficult periods, both economically and socially, such as the Great Depression of the 1930s and in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks. Obviously I'm not comparing my illness to a world event, but I find it interesting that my desire for lipstick should be typical of a consumer enduring a tough time. Financially, of course, it makes sense that buying a new product is a hell of a lot cheaper than a whole wardrobe or a shiny car, but lipstick does undeniably give you a confidence boost and make you look a little better.
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