Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Dior A/W2012: Illustration

Dior Dress A/W2012

Just a hint of colour to suggest the cerise pink of this dress.

Another illustration has made its way out of the vaults - yep, I've been digging up loads of my old sketches. This is a glimpse of what Dior brought us for A/W2012, which reminded me of Roksanda Ilincic-style gowns due to the t-shirt shape on the body. The layers of tulle give a nod to the opening credits of Sex and the City, but this is a more polished look than what our heroine SJP was striving for on the streets of New York. The colour wasn't representative of the rest of the collection, by any means, but that's kind of why it stood out for me: a flash of something urgent amidst the other (still remarkable) pieces.

I found the model a tad too skinny so I fleshed her out a bit - she might not have made it onto the catwalk this way, but I think she looks a lot healthier.

[Illustration my own - please ask before reproducing].

Saturday, 28 July 2012

In Praise of 100 Beards: Interview with Jonathan Daniel Pryce

Ali, by Jonathan Daniel Pryce, 2012
 Ali, British Library, London. 
[All photographs by Jonathan Daniel Pryce].

Atip, by Jonathan Daniel Pryce, 2012
 Atip, Shoreditch High Street, London.

I've been an admirer of the photographers over at street style blog Les Garcons de Glasgow for quite some time, as well as offshoot men's style blog Another Garcon, and was pleased to see that Jonathan Daniel Pryce was launching a new project, 100 Beards. The idea is simple but very engaging: snap a different man and his beard for 100 days, recording the results on a dedicated Tumblr. Seeing this week that he'd completed the first quarter of the project, I was keen to find out how things were going. 

"The beard trend has been growing for the last five or six years, I'd say, and it's now reaching public consciousness on a widespread level," says Jonathan. He believes that it has "another three or four years" before the fuss dies down. Not only is now the perfect time to look at facial fuzz in terms of it's value in fashion, but also because it's something that really interests Jonathan: "I think there is a real subculture - every man with a beard seems to have a knowing look in his eye."

Gregory, by Jonathan Daniel Pryce, 2012
 Gregory, Swanfield Street, London.

The current hot favourite in terms of popularity is the portrait of Gregory on Swanfield Street, which has been the most shared photo so far. My personal favourite is Ali, photographed at the British Library; there's a real intensity to the image and I also love how his beard merges into the rest of his hair and yet it's a completely different style, peppered with grey. I'm also drawn to Derek in London Fields, the knowing look of Michael on Leonard Street and the piercing that cuts through Atip's beard (shot on Shoreditch High Street). What's more, Atip's stripy loose-fit Comme des Garcons t-shirt is cleverly set against rigid striped shutters, making for an interesting mixture of lines.

I wanted to ask Jonathan if there was any correlation between how a man keeps his beard and how he dresses, assuming that the neatness of one would equal the neatness of the other:

"What I have noticed is those with sculpted beards tend to dress in a sporty, high street looks. My favourite though is actually an inverse correlation, which is something I find quite frequently. By that I mean a big, bushy, unkempt beard with a sharp, tailored suit and button down shirt."

The project already seems to be spreading like wildfire, with Twitter users in particular getting excited about both the concept and execution. "People feel they have ownership over it, which is a great feeling," says Jonathan. "I'm really pleased with how it's going, although it's much harder than first expected!"

John, by Jonathan Daniel Pryce, 2012
 John, Evelyn Street, London.

These days it's not uncommon for blogs to turn into books or for bloggers to become hot property. So where does he see the project going? "In terms of end results, I'm really looking forward to the exhibition which I'm planning at the moment and looking into getting a book published." I can certainly see these images working on a larger scale and lighting up a gallery. There's also Jonathan's other project, Superior Interior, which finds out if your dress sense extends to how you dress your home, and is hosted on Another Garcon.

One concern that Jonathan has is that "I don't want it to just become the hipster show," referring to the current trend for beards (and what I called the 'Shoreditch/Hoxton hipster style'). His solution is to be as diverse as possible, "selecting a broad range of facial hair." You can definitely see this just by scrolling through a small range of photos, but on a grander scale it's going to be a fascinating look at different approaches to the beard. I had no idea it was such a personal and idiosyncratic thing, but now I can see that it's a huge form of self-expression for those who decide to put down the razor. Not only that, but individual participants have their own stories to tell. Jonathan enthuses:

"The most touching photo for me is John. He emailed me last week thanking me, as his mother has days left to live and smiled for the first time in weeks when shown the photograph. It's those sorts of moments that mean a lot to me."

If you want to see the photos and learn how to participate in 100 Beards then do check out the Tumblr site and see for yourself, as well as looking for the #100Beards hashtag on Twitter. It's great to see that men's style is being given platforms such as these, and I look forward to seeing how it concludes.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

When All Else Fails, Dress Like Human Candyfloss

Fashion Against Aids: H&M
 Screw the 30 Degree weather, I'm wearing a sodding cape.

 I hate outfit posing and I loathe sticky summer weather, but last weekend I bought the most amazing top-slash-cape thing with ombre dye from H&M, and couldn't wait any longer to wear it (despite being called 'The Caped Crusader' by my colleagues all day - cheers, guys!). It's part of the Fashion Against Aids range, which is not only incredibly stylish but donates 25% of the profits to charity. It was incredibly easy to chuck on with some black leggings, which gets a big thumbs up.

H&M Creeper Shoes
No plants were harmed in the making of this photo.

To top it all off, I splurged on some creepers (also from H&M - I basically did Supermarket Sweep in there) in candyfloss pink, which have an amazing foam sole that makes them a bit like those chunky platform flip flops from the 90s that served me so well on family beach holidays as a child. 

Obviously when teamed with the top then everything goes a bit too pink and girly, but when you're in the grip of a furious summer heatwave (read: sweaty, flabby and grumpy - not what they tell you about in summer magazine editorials) then it's probably a handy distraction.

I promise not to make you endure any more photos of me for at least another month or so...

[All photos my own.]

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Going for Gold - Illustration

Gold Eye Make-up Illustration

Here's a little illustration I produced last month which has been waiting for the right time to pop up on the blog. There's nothing like a dramatic eye to get you noticed... 
Block colours have been hitting the catwalk left, right and centre, but this was also inspired by the influx of Art Deco-style accessories available at the moment (which will continue into next season and probably peak with the film adaptation of The Great Gatsby) and the gold lust of Team GB pre-Olympics. Get ready to see a lot more gold in the media frenzy, kids.

[Illustration my own. Please ask before reproducing].

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Culture Cloud: 10 Great Books by Women

When a friend of mine recently admitted that he'd never read a book written by a woman, I thought he had a pretty terrible sense of humour; then I realised he wasn't joking. Aside from being prescribed dreary novels in secondary school that he never actually finished, he'd not been introduced to any women writers, which really got me thinking about which ones I'd recommend first. 

Admittedly when thinking about my very favourite books, they're all penned by blokes (not something I'm proud of as a feminist), and I was desperate to contradict this with some solid ideas on who to dig out of the library first. Here are my top suggestions for books written by women:

Jane Eyre cover - Levante Szabo

 [Book cover design by Levante Szabo for the Re-Covered Books challenge].

1. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Brontë

Yep, let's start with the obvious ones. Jane Eyre is one of the best written female protagonists in literary history, who isn't afraid to fight back when her cousin bullies her in the novel's early stages and isn't about to bow down to the backwards-thinking control freak St. John in its later chapters. In between she sleeps in ditches, braves a fire and faces the most prominent instance of  'the madwoman in the attic' from Gothic literature that would soon become a stereotypical plot device for writers across the world. Oh, and she doesn't look like a Disney princess, which is always refreshing.

2. The Color Purple - Alice Walker

With a heartbreaking life story, Walker's narrator Celie has definitely been through the mill (we're talking a good few years' worth of soap opera plots thrown at one character). The book follows her in 1930s America as a downtrodden woman who's trying to emancipate herself and move on from everything she's been through. Male characters are typically violent, cruel or easily led, whereas the females are generally world-weary and streetwise, including the brilliantly named jazz singer Shug Avery.

3. A Spy in the House of Love - Anais Nin

There's nothing like a dysfunctional lead character to keep you on your toes. In the case of Nin's Sabina, we're following a 'fire-bird' who is unpredictable, needy and not afraid to get what she wants.  In modern day terms she'd be diagnosed as having sex addiction and sent to regular meetings, but instead we see her in bars and desperately dialing a mysterious figure known as the lie detector.

4. The Best of Everything - Rona Jaffe

A frank and amazingly poignant look at life at the bottom of the career ladder for four women in 1950s New York, without the buoyancy of Sex and the City's altercations with men (try something more along the implied lines of 'pervy boss, cheating bastard and lying idiot' rather than any of the hilarious monikers coined by Carrie et al). The main protagonist wants more than a life in the typing pool followed by marriage to a complete pillock, and she's going to fight for it.

5. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall - Anne Brontë

If you like your female role models with serious guts then this is the book for you. Married to a drunken and abusive husband, at a time when women had no rights, our heroine ups sticks with her young son and makes a new life for them under a different name. Using a plot device of a story within a story (much like her sister Emily's Wuthering Heights) there's a lot to be revealed once you get beneath the surface of this novel.

6. The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold

Although the subsequent film adaptation by Peter Jackson didn't quite live up to the hype, The Lovely Bones is a cult story for good reason. With a unique viewpoint, we're invited into the world of Susie Salmon who has been murdered aged 13 and is watching over her community (including the killer) as the fallout of her death continues to affect everyone she left behind. You don't have to be a softie to cry at this. 

Wise Children Book Cover

 [Book cover from the Virago Modern Classics series].

7. Wise Children - Angela Carter 

A family saga but with a huge dose of comedy and just about the strangest group of relatives you've ever met, this is one book to devour. Featuring an acting dynasty, bastardised kids and some hilarious anecdotes, it's hard to put down and also likely to make your grandparents look incredibly dull in comparison. You might also not be able to think of St. Paul's Cathedral in the same way again, thanks to Carter's sharp way with words.  

8. Regeneration - Pat Barker

The first book of the Regeneration trilogy but worth a read in its own right, Barker delves into the lives of World War One soldiers suffering from shell-shock and what is essentially Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Using a mixture of imagined and real occurrences at the Craiglockhart Hospital in Edinburgh, with a particular emphasis on nerves and neurological treatments, it's a fascinating look at a pivotal time in history, with the war poet Siegfried Sassoon being an important character and yet another blur in the lines of fact and fiction.

9. Prozac Nation - Elizabeth Wurtzel

I'm not usually one for autobiographical reading, but Wurtzel has a lot to say for herself and she's an important mouthpiece for discussing the much-stigmatised topic of mental illness. Suffering depression and trying to create some semblance of a normal life around it as she goes to university and tries to carry on, Wurtzel's memoir is a powerful commentary on a condition that is often brushed under the carpet. She's now a successful writer and occasionally pops up in my copies of Elle Magazine.

10. The Book of Human Skin - Michelle Lovric

I've written a lot about this book and keep trying to pass it onto other readers. It's a very unorthodox but compelling story featuring a psychopathic nun, a simple but loveable servant and one of the most evil characters you'll ever meet. If the title puts you off then you're missing out (and the actual storyline isn't too gruesome, so there's no need to panic).

Other contenders that didn't make my Top 10 but deserve a mention:

  • Bonjour, Tristesse by Francois Sagan - written when the author was 18, this is a coming-of-age novel that looks at the difficult relationship between a young girl and one of her father's girlfriends, who poses a threat as she doesn't seem to have the transience of his other partners.
  • Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier - another twist on 'the madwoman in the attic', but this time with her husband's ex-wife always at the back of the mind of our narrator, who has some very big shoes to fill. Housekeeper Mrs. Danvers is a potential candidate for most loyal staff member of the century, with her devotion to the first Mrs. de Winter.
  • Brick Lane by Monica Ali - now something of a modern classic, Ali's book caused controversy for its portrayal of Anglo-Bangladeshi life in Tower Hamlets. There's a lot to be taken from the story of Nazneen, who has an arranged marriage and moves to the Brick Lane area with her new husband, knowing scant English.
  • Blonde Roots by Bernadine Evaristo - a bold re-imagining of slavery with white citizens as the mistreated, looking at role reversals. By turning things upside down she is able to make the perpetrating race experience being victims, whilst also making us aware that many of the events taking place are not necessarily about race but they are about the corruption of power and of people.
Do you have any to add to the list? Let me know.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Lauren Luke for Refuge: How to look your best the morning after

Watch Lauren Luke's video and make a difference. [Video via Panacea81, Lauren's YouTube channel]. 

In a society where beauty bloggers and YouTube sensations have the power to influence millions of young women with their content, I'm chuffed to see that make-up artist Lauren Luke has taken advantage of this with a brilliant new campaign for the charity Refuge. You may know Lauren for her ability to replicate a celebrity look in just a few minutes, but this time she's focusing on something much closer to home, with a situation that none of us would envy.

Lauren's latest video sees our heroine teaching viewers how to cover up a black eye, a split lip and bruising around the neck - luckily these injuries are fake, as it's all part of her work with the domestic violence organisation. Looking after women who have been suffering attacks by the hands of those closest to them, Refuge aims to 'help bring the issue out of the shadows' and stop this being a 'hidden crime'. Just like Lauren, many victims will struggle to conceal what they've been through (both mentally and physically - but this campaign aims to tackle what is visible to the naked eye). Make-up is not the answer, which is where Refuge comes in. 

Worryingly, some of the comments on the video indicate that not everyone understands the point of the campaign and some people assume that the cuts and bruises are real. One user asked: 'are the bruises real or fake? i hope they're fake :(' [sic] and another posted the completely glib 'Get well soon :)' but fortunately these people seem to be in the minority and the message of the video seems to have got across to most viewers. Producing viral content such as this on the very channels that the next generation is addicted to is a great way of approaching a problem when straightforward advertising often falls on deaf ears. Lauren's status as a role model to women has been used to good effect and I think it's really positive that she's reaching out to her fans so directly, with the video being fully explained at the end but otherwise looking like one of her normal tutorials.

I wish Lauren and Refuge success with the campaign, which is so vitally needed at a time when we're being bombarded with promotional images for the singer Chris Brown's new album across billboards and magazine ads; this being the man who savagely attacked his partner Rihanna only a few years ago. If the media and society's conscience is so short then it's important to look at new ways to make powerful viral content that speaks out against domestic violence, which is why this video is so pivotal.

Watch it, share it and spread the word, using the Twitter hashtag #dontcoveritup. 
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