Fashion, Film, Photography, The Reading List, Things to Read

Things to Read #2

Winona Ryder as Heathers' Veronica Sawyer by Mike Mitchell

Winona Ryder as Heathers’ Veronica Sawyer by Mike Mitchell

Teaching The Camera To See My Skin – Some aspects of photography are racist. I did not know that.

AnOther Loves Tattoos.

Kurt Cobain died twenty years ago yesterday. His vigil was a covert suicide prevention rally as well as a memorial.

Karl Lagerfeld has the be the most quotable fashion designer alive.

A 6,000 word dissection of 10 Things I Hate About You. You’re welcome.

My Dad sent me this review of the new Lydia Davis book, unaware that I already had a copy. Paternal synchronicity (seriously though, it’s a good book). Super short stories that cut to the bone and experiences that are so specific but so common that you think Davis could be writing just for you and your weird little brain.

An Oral History of Heathers, one of the best teen movies ever made. Bonus points for Winona Ryder trying to sell Heathers 2 to Meryl Streep (co-starring Meryl as the First Lady) while filming in an rural Portugal, where Ryder knew Streep would have no escape.

Lest we forget though, Heathers was a biting satire with a serious amount of disgust for its characters.

Sex Ed for Boys. Communication, communication and more communication.

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Art, Fashion, Film, The Reading List, Things to Read

Things to Read #1

Anatomical collages by Travis Bedel (Colossal)

Anatomical collages by Travis Bedel (Colossal)

Things have been a bit, um, stilted on the blog front recently.

Ever since I stopped writing my column, I’ve been at a bit of a loss. Should I still blog? And if so, what should I write about? One of the simplest things to remember about blogging is that you should probably love it. You should love writing or taking photos or making videos and you should love sharing your thoughts, quirks and the cool things you pick up along the way.

I’ve come to a point, after moving countries and going back to university and getting a new job and dying my hair alternately blue, green and a bruise-ish violet, where I’m at a crossroads. One point, four different directions and no real idea where I’ll end up. More to the point, no idea where this blog will end up.

The trick, really, is to find your niche.

The only thing I did with real regularity, apart from the column, was book reviews. So, Im going to keep doing that.

Over the past year or so, I’ve been getting into longreads; real, meaty articles that are the total opposite of the thoughtless, bland, soundbites that make up a huge chunk of internet journalism. Damn our goldfish memories. Every Sunday, I read Ana Kinsella’s clicks and, for half an hour or so – usually over a pot of tea and a jam donut – I get sucked into a Good Reading vortex. I highly, highly, recommend checking her Tumblr out. She’s a smashing writer too.

When I’m tootling around on the internet and I find something I know I’d like to read in real depth, I save it on Instapaper for later. So, in the spirit of sharing, and because Ana is OK with me blatantly copying her, here are some things to read. This will probably be sporadic (as soon as the Instapaper filing cabinet is full, I’ll write another post), but we’ll see how we go.

The Surrealist Ball, 1972 (So Bad, So Good)

The Surrealist Ball, 1972 (So Bad, So Good)

‘The Devil and the Art Dealer’ – Vanity Fair. “The artworks stolen from the Jews are the last prisoners of WWII. You have to be aware that every work stolen from a Jew involved at least one death.” 1,280 works of art, originally stolen by the Nazis, were recovered in an apartment in Munich a few months ago. The billion dollar hoard includes works by Picasso, Brancusi, Otto Dix, Oscar Kokoschka… pretty much every European early twentieth century painter of note, plus a few Old Masters. Because what’s an art hoard without a Canaletto?

‘Geek Love at 25: How a Freak Family Inspired Your Pop Culture Heroes’ - Wired. Geek Love is one of two books that every person I have ever lent it to, without exception, loved (the other one being ‘Rip it up and Start Again’ by Simon Reynolds). Read this, then read the book. And if you’ve already read the book, read it again.

‘Why are We Obsessed with 90′s Film Fashion?’ – Never Underdressed. An interview with Elizabeth Sankey.

‘Simone Rocha: Just a Little Bit of a Lady’ – The Telegraph. Man, she’s cool.

The Vintage Black Glamour book is one to look forward to (Miss Moss)

The Vintage Black Glamour book is one to look forward to (Miss Moss)

The Detective Wore Prada’ – The Guardian. Guardian writers share their best-dressed of the small screen.

‘Are Celebrities the New Fashion Critics?’ – Style.com. A big, fat, resounding ‘NO’ is the answer here.

‘Showgirls is a Good Movie’ – The Awl. It’s VERSAYCE! Heh. I love Showgirls, though that pool sex scene with Jessi Spano and FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper still gives me the the willies.

‘The Grand Budapest Hotel: The Amazing Backstories Behind Ten Memorable Props’ – Paper.

The Irish Boys of Central Saint Martins – The Irish Times. I interviewed three really, properly, achingly talented Irish fashion grads for this article.

‘How American Pageants are Turning Politics into a Beauty Parade’ – The New Statesmen. It seems that the average American beauty queen can easily segue into a career in politics. Hmm. A big, fat, hmm.

‘Amazing Structure: A Conversation With Ursula Franklin’ – The Atlantic. Scientist, feminist and an all-around remarkable woman.

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Fashion, The Reading List

The Reading List: Man Repeller – Seeking Love, Finding Overalls

Who hasn't gone out to find love and come home with a pair of overalls?

Who hasn’t gone out to find love and come home with a pair of overalls?

Leandra Medine, a.k.a the Man Repeller, has gained a large and rabid online following the success of her blog, which promotes self-love through layering, harem pants and the wearing of generally unsexy things.

On paper (or onscreen, I suppose) it sounds a bit odd. In practise though, it’s unsurprising that Man Repeller became as successful as it did in such a short time. What sane women would turn down a free pass to experiment with her own sense of style, free from the Cosmo-lite rhetoric of fashion magazines that encourage us to dress so our boyfriends won’t leave us for other, much better-dressed, pert-bottomed women. I’ve given my opinions on the MP before (link to the Irish Times article here*) so here’s the tl;dr version (sorry, I’ve been spending a lot of time on Reddit recently) – Man Repeller is genius. Guilt-free love of self and love of fashion; style dictated for ourselves, by ourselves. If Medine didn’t come up with it, someone else would have had to.

Business in the front, party in the back.

Business in the front, party in the back.

Man Repeller: Seeking Love, Finding Overalls is Medine’s first book of essays, and it trades heavily on her existing internet fame. She’s brutally honest, self-effacing, funny and that special type of brave that is reserved for people who write about their lives and the lives of their friends and families with no regard for any personal fallout that might occur. While many bloggers present an idealised version of themselves, with only best best bits on show, it seems that Medine was self-aware enough to realise that growing up in a wealthy, loving family in Manhattan with an enviable wardrobe was already enough life-envy for most people to process without pretending that her personal life was something out of a Disney film. She gains weight, she loses weight, she loses her virginity to a guy who isn’t that into her and she has an unfortunate vomit-y mishap with a precious family heirloom. She’s insecure, she doubts herself, she makes bad decisions and she discovers the joys of reading Joan Didion.

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That being said, Medine is no Joan Didion. She has a strong, strident, easy to read style, but ultimately it’s honesty that makes Man Repeller a page-turner, not writing.

In terms of fashion, clothes are woven into the fabric of Medine’s life. She constructs outfits for different social situations, worries what people will think of her outfits and devises her harem pants as a dating filter, weeding out the posers from the pure at heart. It’s a slim, small book that starts at infancy and ends with marriage, but it’s a style evolution that’s secondary to her own life. It’s a quick, easy and enjoyable biography of the original Man Repeller, not an analysis or step-by-step guide to man repelling.

 

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*To answer Irish Times commenter Tommy, who asked, “Who reads this shit?” I’m not sure if you’re referring to the article or to Man Repeller, but the answer to both, conveniently, is lots. Lots and lots.

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Fashion, Licentiate Columns

The Last Licentiate Column (For Now)

The view of the Lee from my old flat on North Main Street. Sigh. I wonder where that jacket is?

The view of the Lee from my old flat on North Main Street. Sigh. I wonder where that jacket is?

Alright Stevie G, you’re taking the piss. Just when I sat down to write this, my very last column, the veteran broadcaster, DJ and general nurturer of Cork’s creative talent, tells us that he’s leaving us. I didn’t have any thunder to steal, but if I did, I’d be rummaging through Stevie’s record bag trying to find it.

Cork has changed, lads, I can see it from all the way over here in London. It’s not the way it was when I first started writing for this fine paper in 2009. We were deep in the throes of a recession, the novelty only starting to wear off. Off in the distance was the cultural revitalising of a truly brilliant city; one I was immensely proud to call my home for more than six years. While Cork is perhaps better known in recent years for the flood of musical talent pouring out of The Pavilion, you can’t deny the creative output in other areas; film, art and, lest we forget, fashion.

When the Cork Independent’s editor Deirdre first suggested that I write a fashion column, I had my doubts. I knew that I loved clothes, but the problem was that I didn’t know very much about trends and definitely didn’t care about adhering to them. I still highly suspect that she only gave me the column to stop my aunt, confusingly also called Deirdre, from mentioning her fab writer niece every ten seconds in conversation. To both Deirdres, I will always be grateful. You gave me my first real leg up into the world of journalism. Without both of you, I don’t know where I’d be. Working on a building site in New South Wales, probably.

The Cork Independent is pretty unusual, in that it’s a free sheet that isn’t total crap. I was allowed to talk about pretty much anything I wanted, which is almost unheard of in print these days, doubly so for a writer with relatively little writing experience. I was allowed to be an honest voice, even if that honest voice was only talking about a nice hat that the writer saw on a woman on North Main Street.

I have been writing this column for four years, more or less. I have changed as the city changed and, while there is no way that I could outgrow such a unique place, there were unique opportunities presented to me as I learned more about my chosen subject and (hopefully) became a better writer. I would have been a fool not to pick them up. So, pick them up I did. I left. I moved to London, where I’m now doing stuff that I would never have thought of back in the days when staring at a blank screen, wondering how to talk about pink, was a weekly ritual.

I love Cork, I do. I still get sad when I think that I can’t just walk down the road and call into Miss Daisy Blue (still one of my favourite vintage shops ever) or order an Eggs Benedict at Liberty Grill. Sometimes I get so maudlin I even get nostalgic over avoiding the unsuitable boys I kissed, now almost a decade ago (!) in the Brog.

We change though, we get older. Cities change like people. Sometimes, the city you loved isn’t the city that exists anymore. It’s time to give up my corner of the newspaper, and by extension Cork itself. Thank you all for reading. It’s been quite a trip.

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Fashion, Photography, Subculture

The Wild Girl Gangs of Marrakech

Kesh Angels, the work of Moroccan-born, UK-based photographer Hassan Hajjaj is a hallucinatory look into a young subculture that most people aren’t privy to – the Moroccan motorcycle girl gang. Women on scooters with Nike djellabas, knockoff designer slippers, heart-shaped shades and a flagrant disregard for perceived speed limits. They’re got the attitude and unblinking, unwavering stares of Russ Meyer film heroines, but the only killing these ladies are doing are with their threads.

It’s only a matter of time before this gets co-opted into an M.I.A music video – or maybe that’s kinda happened already

P.S – If you like this, you might like this old post on the Hell’s Angels and the women who rode with them.

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Kesh Angels is running at the Taymour Grahne Gallery in New York until March 8th

More photos at The Guardian.

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Fashion, Photography

Karen Walker, Visible

Karen Walker is well-known for the originality of their eyewear campaigns, but this one is that little bit extra special.

The Visible eyewear range will be available from February 10th and is partly made in Kenya with a group of artisans under the UN’s ITC Ethical Fashion Initiative. The stars are the people who worked to make special beaded glasses pouches; assistants, screenprinters and specialist Maasai beaders.

A lot of campaigns pay scant lip service to ethical and sustainable fashion initiatives in Africa, so it’s nice to see a company doing slightly more than photographing a wistful celebrity in an arid, vaguely desert-like environment to hawk terrible, deliberately faux-naive looking stuff. “Look how desperate it is here!” the celebrity’s eyes say. “You must buy this bag out of a misguided sense of guilt. Oh, go on.”

What a fucking insult to the people of Africa. Sorry, I’ve gone off on a tangent here. Hopefully this campaign will persuade people to look at little deeper into African fashion in a real, engaged way instead of just pandering to the same old stereotypical images. If Karen Walker can do it, there’s no reason why we couldn’t either.

karen walker behind the scenes

Rason (Maasai beader)

Rason (Maasai beader)

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Velma (Assistant)

Velma (Assistant)

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Collins (Metal Caster)

Collins (Metal Caster)

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Kappoka (Maasai beader)

Kappoka (Maasai beader)

Pics via Karen Walker

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Art, Fashion, Licentiate Columns

Licentiate Column 06/02/14: Couture Comedown

photo by Lea Colombo for Dazed and Confused

photo by Lea Colombo for Dazed and Confused

Couture – what does it mean, really? On a surface level, most of us know what couture is; really really expensive clothes for people with more private jets than sense. Couture shows are populated with the super-duper-uber rich, people who sneeze into hankies made of the real Turin Shroud, people who watched ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ and had several painful pangs of nostalgia.  Truly, those were the good old days. That was when all the real excess happened.

Couture has always been about exclusivity; it’s difficult to manufacture, can take thousands of hours to produce and is incredibly costly. It’s not totally out of the ordinary to see a couture wedding dress with over a quarter of a million little pieces of fabric meticulously attached. It is, however, very unusual to see more than a few produced. Like I said, it’s exclusive.

People get jaded very quickly.  What do we, the public, care for exclusivity? We could never afford these fripperies.  You could easily buy a house in today’s property market (outside of Dublin, at least) for the price of a particularly well-embellished couture gown. Why bother? That much excess verges on overstuffed, overindulged, flabby stupidity.

This season, the team behind Maison Martin Margiela’s Artisanal line have added a new layer – history. History is the new exclusivity and history, in this case, will not repeat itself. The MMM team armed themselves with what must have been epic amount of guts and searched the world for vintage materials with some sort of artistic or historical significance.

Somehow, they managed to wangle yards of culturally priceless interior fabrics from the archive of legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright. What did they do with this fabric?  Dear reader, I shall tell you.  They wove it into t-shirts. A Twenties-era tapestry inspired by the Tahitian paintings of Paul Gauguin was made into a heavy opera coat. Scarves stripped from a 1930s brothel were sewn into skirts.

In an era where modern technology is in danger of making couture techniques of sewing and embellishment obsolete, this is the new exclusive; the heavy weight of history. It’s desirable, but in an incredibly high-minded way.  Of course, you could replicate that tapestry, but it won’t have the same story. It won’t bear the marks of the passage of time. You can mimic the Frank Lloyd Wright fabric, but it won’t really come from the man himself anymore. It would just be a facsimile; bland and boring.

The modern couture collection is high-minded in its desirability.You could also argue that it is eco-friendly, an able evolution in a couture industry that was barely limping along a few years ago. However, the question remains – is this sort of shenanigan recycling, or just desecration?

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Fashion, Inspiration, Licentiate Columns

Licentiate Column 23/01/14: Breasts, Beauty and Wearing a Cure

Better living through chemistry

Wearable technology is really the new buzz-phrase that will seriously affect women in 2014 over all trends. not just because it can make life a little easier, but because one day it could  well save them.

The development of new, wearable technology may be a reprieve for the thousands of breast cancer sufferers who, due to side effects, cannot take the potentially life-saving drug Tamoxifen. A new study, undertaken by Central Saint Martins student Sarah da Costa, suggests that wearing clothing impregnated with the drug may be a viable alternative to taking the drug orally.

Tamoxifen, which has been roundly hailed as a miracle cure, is a hormone treatment that effectively binds itself to cancer cells and prevents further tumour growth. It also leads to a host of unwelcome side effects ranging from menopause-like symptoms such as hot flushes and the cessation of periods to an advanced risk of endometrial cancer. Like it or not, breasts have become a sign of an essential part of womanhood. We obsess over size and shape, we pop them on a shelf and we strap them fast to our ribs when a trip to the gym is involved. The irony of a life (and breast) saving drug that also mimics the menopause is that it may make a women feel like less of one while essentially saving her.

What if, instead of taking the drug, you could just wear it? Da Costa has been heavily involved in research of biopolymers, naturally occurring molecules that could easily facilitate absorption of medication through the skin. She hopes that, through technological development of these biopolymers, that Tamoxifen could be embedded in a bra and administered on a constant low-dose basis, which would attack tumours at source and lessen the unwanted side-effects.

Da Costa’s prototype of the Tamoxifen bra insert looks a little like the prosaic ‘chicken fillet’, a rubbery, clear gel pad that sits inside the bra cup. However, the unintended cosmetic effects are incidental – the drug inserts are slim, flexible and virtually unnoticeable when worn.

Whether the technology can be practically applied is a totally different matter.  It’s not yet know how effective this could be, if at all. Still, it’s nice to dream of a better world. A world where you can wear your medicine, where being gravely ill doesn’t automatically mean death.

Fashion trades so much on physical beauty, which, as a short, slightly dumpy woman, can get me down. We need to trade in our definition of beauty for a new one. Just to be alive is to be beautiful. To feel the heartbeat of a loved one when you hug them, to feel the cold on a winter evening and know it’s not just the temperature, but the blood coursing through our veins; it is a beautiful miracle.

Clothing doesn’t have to just make you conventionally beautiful. When (and I truly hope that day does come) garments helps the sick to stay alive, fashion will be truly beautiful.

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Fashion, Licentiate Columns

Licentiate Column 09/01/14: New Year, New Nothin’

We all turn to self-examination when the New Year rolls around. Photo of Lena Horne by Teenie Harris

We all turn to self-examination when the New Year rolls around. Photo of Lena Horne by Teenie Harris

It’s the second of January as I write this. It might not be the second of January as you read it.  A few days always elapse between thinking something up, committing it to paper and watching the (sometimes not very well considered) thoughts as they are processed and printed.

Maybe, just maybe, the world will blow up between thinking and printing and no-one will ever get to read this.  Why, I could say whatever I wanted! Um, Kim Kardashian is a waste of space.  I can’t afford to pay my broadband bill. I’m absolutely terrified of the future and what it holds due mostly to lingering anxiety and an inability to trust people – even the nice people who buy me Kinder Eggs on a whim.

It’s not just reduced price tags, sample sales and enforced jollity that makes people go a bit mad with clothes shopping over Christmas and New Year. It’s also about the fear of change, the attempt to buy insurance for a future that may not yet exist.  Here we are, in the first week of the New Year, looking out on to a sea of endless possibilities. Maybe the possibilities aren’t endless.  Maybe there are only a few.  A puddle of possibilities.

Either way, you will probably feel the urge to buy a rake of new workout gear, but maybe not a new gym membership.  Maybe you, like I, will buy all your new clothes in a size too small, and still forget to buy a gym membership. Those two options rarely pay off.

There, however, are two options that are much more likely to bear fruit. The first is to buy clothes for a job you don’t yet have. It’s quite simple.  If you already own a Ghostbusters shellsuit, you’re much more likely to get a ride in Ecto-1. If you look the part, you just might get the part.

Working in fashion, there is an expectation to buy clothes that make you stand out. Often, these clothes can be quite expensive. You don’t have to do this, of course, but it’s a supremely stylish, single-minded and probably incredibly tall and slim person who refuses to literally buy in to this way of thinking.

The second option is to buy clothes for the relationship you don’t yet have. This is a tricky one. Not everyone differentiates between dressing as a single person or dressing as a person in a happy relationship – clothes can only do so much.

A lot of people do differentiate between these two. Some people devalue themselves, considering themselves only worthy of nice things (including clothes) when they’re feeling loved. Nice clothes for a nice relationship.

When I recommend that you buy clothes for a relationship you may not have, I’m really recommending that you do that for the most important relationship you’ll ever have; the relationship, romantic or otherwise, that you have with yourself.

At the New Year, it’s easy to think that you are in need of a physical and mental overhaul. Realistically, you probably don’t. Love yourself and treat yourself. In this case, having something nice to wear is a necessary New Year evil.

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Fashion, Licentiate Columns

Licentiate Column: Christmas Jumper Hangover

Is it Christmas yet? The festive season has taken an unexpected turn and all my reserves of jolly have broken in my bag, making the bottom soggier than a reject cake from the Great British Bake Off. Less ho, ho, ho. More boo hoo hoo. This former lover of bedecked halls is having yet another allergic reaction to the Christmas Jumper.

I’ve written about the Christmas Jumper and my hard-to-place distaste for them before. Predictably, that column was written last Christmas and not during a particularly blazing day in July, though that would give me another reason not to like them.  Woolly knits don’t go down well at the beach.  You’ll be all hot and itchy and sand will get stuck in the wool, scratching the living daylights out of you.  We’re just so lucky that the existence of a warm summer isn’t usually a problem for Irish residents.  Truly, we are blessed as a nation. Truly, truly blessed.

Last year I went for a few drinks with some colleagues at a women’s website. It might be the fact that we’re all screeching, hardcore, dungaree-wearing, card-carrying feminists (read this sentence with a touch of irony, if you will) but the men out en masse in the festive jumpers were bothering us, in many senses of the word.

I went home that night, drunk and angry, with a sore bottom from most definitely unwanted pinches. I hated Christmas jumpers.  Hated them. They were evil. They made the people in them do terrible, terrible things.  Christmas Jumpers were sexism in a garment.  I had cracked it!

The resulting column was terrifically angry. It was also very, very wrong. If men in jumpers acted like drunken festive idiots, then surely it was the jumpers that made them so, right? If my argument was correct, it could also be argued that wearing a nice pair of running shoes makes the wearer an Olympic athlete.

I am fantastically ashamed of my old argument, and even more so now that Christmas Jumpers are getting such a bad rep. I still don’t like them, but I no longer think that they are endemic and an indicator of everything that is wrong with Christmas excess. I just think that they are kinda crap.

Correlation does not necessarily equal causation. I needed to wake up and see that the Christmas Jumper wasn’t the disease. It was only a symptom.  The real disease is the craziness that people go through when festivities and free booze are forced upon them.

Don’t get me wrong; I still hate Christmas Jumpers with a deep and abiding passion.  At least now I know that, like my hatred of flying, this particular dislike is almost totally illogical. It might make me feel uncomfortable, but I know it won’t kill me.

If only I could say the same for everything else I hate.

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