Inspiration, Photography, The Reading List

Things to Read #14

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The 28th of July marked the centenary of the start of WWI. Much of the past few weeks has been eaten up with research into my great-great grandfather,  a career soldier who served at Gallipolli and died at the Battle of Verdun. A lot of Irish people don’t talk about family members who served in the British army during that time period. I suspect that, until now, it’s been a source of shame for a nation whose identity is so ingrained in rebelling against the British and the colonial system. Seeing the minutiae of a soldier’s life humanises the conflict. These men were not traitors. My great-great grandfather was my age when he died. He had four kids.

“His eyes, the one part of his original face still intact, dart like anyone’s eyes, and I find myself chasing them, the only reliable clue as to what might really be going on in there.” An excellent (and very long) look at Richard Norris and his exceptional face.

Fashion advertising – where has the controversy gone?

The curious, sexist world of the Irish model.

‘Beauty as Duty: Patriotism, Patriarchy and Personal Style during WWII’ – excerpted from the rather good Worn Archive book.

The Believer talks to Joan Didion.

Advertising without Photoshop. It’s art.

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Fashion

Licentiate Column 26/09/13: On Not Getting in to Fashion Week

Rainy, rainy fashion week. Photo via.

London life guys, it’s like a mixture between ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ and a Rimmel ad – the ones with Georgia May Jagger, not Kate Moss. Oh, it’s all frills and ruffles and Beefeaters and Christopher Kane. In no way is it me typing away on my friend’s couch in Wood Green while he plays Pro Evolution at an ever-increasing volume. “RAAAAAAAH”, the crowd goes. “RAAAAAAH”.

London is nine pounds fifty for a packet of cigarettes – I promised my mother that I’d give up anyway. London is a sea of bodies, some more interesting than others – I saw Michael Cera, the gangly, chinless guy from Superbad, coming out of the Apple Store on Regent Street the other day. At least, I think that I did.

London is London Fashion Week. Before I moved over here, I was safe in the inevitability that I would get a press pass. Everything was accounted for. I had been pre-approved. I had my PVC trousers packed in my suitcase and everything. Then, the day before LFW started – the rejection. My application hadn’t been processed properly.

You’d think that this would be a bummer, but it isn’t. I didn’t particularly enjoy Fashion Week the first time around. It is an industry event, and at industry events you go to learn and not to have your photo taken. I’m only glad it happened this time around, when I didn’t have essential work to do.

Fashion week is something you have to go to – there are crowds and queues and long days. Of course, the perks are great. Free make-up, free hairdos, designer trinkets, the knowledge that you have enough clout to actually get in the door. But even then, when you’re in you’re subjected to a barrage of scrutiny by PRs, other journalists and the guy serving you your free espresso in the courtyard.

I had a spare afternoon and decided to wander, minus pass, to Somerset House, the epicentre of London Fashion goings-on. Just a note – I’m five foot nothing and terrible with crowds. I hate them. Thank God for the habit of tall guys to pop small girls on their shoulders, otherwise I would never have had a good concert experience. I prayed for rain, knowing that in Somerset House, crowdsurfing is frowned upon.

The courtyard was cold and rainy – and deserted. It’s usually a heaving mass of streetstyle photographers and people who really, really want to be photographed. In this weather, the heaving mass had decamped to a nearby arch right by the Courtauld Gallery. The result was a mix of flashing lights and slightly confused tourists trying to find an exhibition on Drawing the Figure.

I was watching the photographers. I was watching the people hanging around, smoking expensive cigarettes, waiting to have their photo taken. I was watching them, watching the photographers, looking like I was waiting to be photographed myself.

The rain thickened. The atmosphere was soggy. The last show was long over. And yet everyone was waiting, and not for the rain to stop. No roar from this crowd, just a murmur.

The time to go back to Wood Green was long overdue, and I was glad of it.

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Inspiration, Licentiate Columns

Licentiate Column 30/05/13: Why I Shouldn’t Hit on Guys by Telling Them I’ll Write About Them – But Mostly, Waxing

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Last week I – drunkenly – promised a man who I met in the pub that I’d write a column about him. Then, today, I was sent an email from our much esteemed editor Deirdre asking me to write something about beauty bootcamps instead. I read it with relief and uttered a silent prayer of thanks to Karl himself.

It would have taken far more than five hundred words to explain to everyone – and unfortunately, to myself – why I’ve suddenly become (and out of nowhere too) so attracted to men with multiple facial piercings. Multiple.

So, instead, I’ll push that thought temporarily to the back of my mind and plough forward with a beauty bootcamp, whatever that is.

Come to think of it, the back of my mind is also where I normally push beauty-related thoughts. I have two make-up looks and, after a decade of trying, have finally mastered the eyeliner flick and a smoky eye that, more or less, makes me look like some sort of semi-sexy, come-to-bed-eyed raccoon.

However, the normal beauty routines go out of the window when it comes to preparing for foreign holidays. Herein lies the beauty bootcamp, the kind of intensive hair-removing, self-tanning, fringe-trimming palaver undertaken, I imagine, by the kinds of women who call each other ‘chick’ on Facebook but not in real life.

I’m not talking about regimented beauty bootcamps, where you pay a professional to help you with your hair and make-up. Those can be constructive. You can learn real skills. I’m talking about the kind of bootcamp where you are your own Ubersturmbahnfuhrer, torturing yourself with botched moustache waxes and biscuity-smelling fake tan. If a professional beauty bootcamp is like a personal training session, an at-home dealie is accidentally kicking your mirror over in a too-cramped bedroom to a dusty Tae Bo VHS. It only works if you’re very very careful – and don’t overstretch yourself.

As you read this, I will be on an actual sun holiday. A real one. I’ll probably bring a razor with me. That’s it. No fake tan (I like being pale), no bikini wax (recoil in horror if you want, but it’s a family holiday and waxing is EXPENSIVE and, y’know, I’m a woman, not a bloody Barbie and it’s not much of an issue anyway and just leave me alone about not getting a bloody bikini wax, will you?), no fringe trimming (fringes and seawater don’t mix). Just a rake of t-shirts and shorts and books and antihistamines. I might not even bring my contact lenses.

Of course, this is just what I’m comfortable with. If this overly worthy rant should teach you anything (and already the family members reading this have learned far too much about my new turn-ons and thoughts on pubic hair), it’s to do what you want.

Holidays are about relaxing. Do you need to have your hair ripped out at the follicles to relax? Maybe call a dominatrix. If not, a nice pre-holiday wax might do the trick.

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Art, Fashion, Photography

A Pop, Op and a Jump – Lacey for Vogue Nippon

British Photographer Lacey was an assistant to Tim Walker – and it really shows. Her inventive use of props (by design pair Craig and Karl) and collaboration with make-up artist Andrew Gallimore have made the pages of Vogue Nippon even more mind-bending this month. Styled by Beth Fenton, it’s part Pop, a little Op and a big, glam wheelbarrow of weird brilliance.

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Fashion, Licentiate Columns

Licentiate Column 07/03/13: Model Worship and My Big Fat Head

The 90’s supers are even less amused with the size zeros than I am. Pic by Roxanne Lowit.

Does anyone here remember the first wave of Model Mania? It’s the early nineties and Naomi, Cindy, Christy, Linda and the other one are rolling around in a tastefully lit, tastelessly draped room, lip synching to George Michael’s ‘Freedom’. Naomi and Mike Tyson, as a new and weird power couple, do a shoot for American Vogue in front of hundreds of people. Cindy brings out a make-up manual. Christy develops emphysema and, as a consequence, gets into yoga. She brings out a line of yoga and pilates workout clothes. Naomi will continue to throw phones at her assistants’ heads and accept blood diamonds from dictators long after it stops being stylish to do so.

What’s the difference between that wave and the current one? The models are much, much slimmer now. Where models were then expected to be a size eight or even *gasp* a ten (just the tall ones though), many models now are expected to be a six or even a four. For a bit of context, a size four, the fabled US size zero, means that your waist must have a circumference of no more than twenty-two inches.

My head has a circumference of twenty-two and a half inches, and no Superbrain am I. I am, however, smart enough to know that such a measurement is not healthy if you are a woman standing more than five feet ten inches in bare feet, nor is it a particularly achievable thing to look up to. I’m also getting a bit worried about whether I have a fat head or not.

From Cara D to Lea T, women are worshipping models. And why not? They’re all so beautiful and oddly-proportioned; they look like they’ve been manufactured by a group of mad scientists, possibly in the region of Doctor Moreau’s island (I hear that it’s also a great place to get a tan).

In models of this generation, the weird quirk is celebrated. We love eyebrows with no arches, gaps in teeth and protruding eyes. They’re still beautiful, but their beauty encourages more of a fascinated, museum-appropriate stare. People look at models like specimens rather than people. Perhaps this is the natural progression. If so, you wouldn’t be castigated for losing a little more faith in the human race.

The quirkiness and the slimness – that causes worry for women who remember models before heroin chic became, well, chic. It’s far too easy to put the blame squarely for the skyrocketing incidences of eating disorders on the modern model. The psychologies of anorexia and bulimia are much more nuanced and sinister than that. It’s a subject that bears further scrutiny despite the large amount of research that has already been done.

Even my (actually, normal-sized head) can comprehend that.

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Fashion, Inspiration, Licentiate Columns

Licentiate Column 25/10/12: Better Remarkable Than Attractive

My new do – it’s the latest thing in Man Repelling, don’tcha know?

Working in the fashion industry has a few advantages, the most underrated of which is the ability (or expectation) to dress like a loon at the office without the negative judgement of others. It’s ok to be a bit weird. It may even be par for the course.

In fashion the opposite to good taste in clothes is not bad taste; it is MOR, sheeplike indifference. Dress like everyone else and your ability to work may be called into question – ironic, when you consider that the opposite is true in many other industries.

In school, I was that person who had different coloured hair every month. I’ve been blue, purple, pink – one golden autumn I was (due to a bleaching mishap) blonde, brown, pink and ginger all at the same time. The only colours I haven’t yet gone are green and grey, and since grey is inevitable at some stage, I’ve decided to give green a proper go after years of natural, if slightly mousy, brown.

By the time this column goes to print, I will have petrol green streaks in my hair. It sounds horrific. Just typing that I shudder a tiny bit, half out of anticipation and half out of fear. On telling my mother about my incipient She-Hulk hair plans, her response was, “But aren’t you concerned about being attractive?”

That question stuck with me. I wrote it on a Post It and stuck it to my computer. Am I worried about being conventionally attractive? No, I really am not. I am more concerned about being remarkable, about being smart, about bringing in a balanced budget.

I’m not looking for a boyfriend. I have no obligations to be anyone but myself. Having green streaks will not deplete my already very low charisma and mystery levels. If anything, I am concerned about being ugly. Ugly is remarkable. I would rather be remarkable over attractive any day.

I have a noticeably large nose. It has been broken several times and is home to more than a few lumps. I like it. It gives my side profile a bit of a witchy appearance, but it is what it is – I might as well embrace the oddness. Serge Gainsbourg, owner of a sizable conk himself, once said that ‘ugliness is in a way superior to beauty because it lasts’. Looks fade, what is considered beautiful often changes and looking weird is, at the very least, consistent.

We should all embrace who we are. Facially speaking, flaws should be accentuated just as much as the better attributes. What working in fashion has taught me is that, if you carry anything with confidence (yep, even warts) and make it look deliberate, you will be all the better for it. This advice may be coming from a woman with a big hooter and green hair, but her common-sense is as finely-tuned as the next person’s.

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Fashion

Jean Paul Gaultier x Diet Coke Tour Bus Comes to Cork!

So, last week, I wandered along to the launch of the Jean Paul Gaultier x Diet Coke tour, had my nails did, quaffed some no-sugar beverages, snapped a bit of street style (I loved Roisin’s camo/denim combo, which you can see below) and had excellent laughs with fellow bloggers and my Diet Coke co-presenters, Ciara, Katrina and Sue.  You can see all the fun times we had in the video above.

If you want to partake in the fun yourself, the JPG tour bus is stopping in Cork at Mahon Point Shopping Centre this Friday (that’s the 27th). Come along, get a manicure (I went for red nautical nail wraps), some temporary tats (mine were anchors) and, if you’re lucky, some limited edition Jean Paul Gaultier Diet Coke bottles.

Here are some photos of all the fun.

Professional photos by Thinkhouse, incredibly amateurish Instagram photos by me.

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