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.

Innocent Knit Up at The Pavilion, Cork

If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you’ll know that I got involved in the Innocent Irish Big Knit this year. It’s as easy as pie; knit a pile of teeny, tiny hats, send them to Innocent, they put the hats on bottle of smoothie for sale, and with every hatted bottle sold, Innocent donate 25 cent to Age Action, which supports elderly people all over the country.

If you know me well, you know that I have a phobia of knitting, bought on mostly by my third class teacher Mrs O’Keeffe, who had zero patience for nine year-old girls with two left thumbs. That year, we had to knit a cushion made out of six different knitted patches. My friend Collette’s looked perfect as she’d been knitting with her nan for years. A hobo would have scoffed in disdain at mine. It was so crap and misshapen and embarrassingly small that even the filling got sick of it and tried to jump ship in between burst seams and dropped stitches.

So, when it came to re-learning knitting for the Big Knit, I turned to Collette and not Mrs O’Keeffe. And this time around, I found out that not only do I love knitting, I am actually kinda good at it. My mother, who is the Simon Cowell of the knitted garment, was borderline impressed.

I knitted these ALL BY MYSELF!

With a little help from James and the ever-accommodating Aisling at The Pavilion, Cork, I somehow managed to host a Knit Up, attended by total novices, tiny hat maestros and the occasional person who just wanted a free smoothie and a pattern leaflet. It was most excellent fun and I did by far the most constructive thing I’ve done so far this winter by teaching my friend Hayret how to knit. Her little purple hat is a source of great pride to me (and, I hope, to her as well).  We had a tiny pile of hats after a few hours.  Banter, smoothies and knitting – it was pretty good going.

The Force compels you to knit more tiny hats. Yoda says so.

Innocent and Age Action are accepting hats until the 30th of November, so get them in at your local Age Action shop or send them to Innocent Towers at 120/121 Lower Baggot Street, Dublin 2.

Diet Coke Fashion Friday: Cork Fashion Week Style

Cork Fashion Week finished for another year last week and I was lucky enough to go along to their High Tea at Hayfield Manor Hotel, which kicked off the event schedule.  Hosted by the loverly Angela Scanlon, we saw the very best that Cork’s shops have to offer, and I got to hang around backstage, interview all the main players and try not to accidentally ogle models as they changed (I’m not so used to being backstage that I can be properly nonplussed yet).  Did I mention that there’s going to be a video?  Oh yes, there is a video – not of models changing by the way; that would be weird and incredibly invasive.

Here’s a few snaps of some very stylish people.



Diet Coke Fashion Friday: Five Reasons To Love J.W. Anderson

1.  He’s really, really ridiculously good looking,  Like, Zoolander good looking.  In real life?  Even better looking.  Handsome and talented and hardworking?  Life is just not fair sometimes.

Photo by Sebastian Kim for Interview Magazine

2.  He knows all the cool people.  Anderson used to date Rufus Wainwright and was discovered working in Brown Thomas Dublin by none other than Manuela Pavesi, Miuccia Prada’s right hand woman and an all-around enigmatic, creative force herself.  Anderson isn’t afraid to draw inspiration from his co-workers either – Pavesi collects maid’s outfits and Anderson has included a surprisingly classic but on-trend very maid’s uniform in his new collection for Topshop, which launches online and in shops tomorrow.  I’m thinking about pairing mine with one of those white doily headdresses.  Maybe not.

From the J.W Anderson x Topshop lookbook

3.  He blogs.  Over at the J.W Anderson Tumblr, you can find the usual products shots, magazine tear-outs and catwalk photos, but amongst those are photos and gifs that inspire him.  It’s a great thing to see a designer who is so secure in his talent and ideas that he’s willing to share it with everyone by plastering it all over the internet.  And on the flip side, who doesn’t love finding the Tumblr of a person they admire?

From J.W Anderson’s Tumblr

4.  His designs are for everyone.  It might have something to do with his training in menswear, but Anderson doesn’t specialize in bodycon or intimidating, boob-baring cutouts (although if that’s your thing, more power to you) – he’s more into super-flattering, slick, expensive-looking tailoring.  With his new Topshop collaboration, which drops tomorrow, he’s borrowed heavily from his mainline collections.  The hundred-strong array of clothes, sweets, stationary and art prints are made up of classic staples like the trench coat and tailored trousers, to the arguably bizarre quilted paisley skirt suits combos.  The collection is built for layering, which makes the pieces ideal for integration into an already hardworking wardrobe.

Layer it up for an ‘insane homicidal clown’ vibe or tone it down for a more mainstream look. Rollerskates optional (but highly recommended).

5.  The best bit?  The J.W Anderson x Topshop collaboration is coming to Ireland tomorrow – and if you’re in Cork City, you can check out the collection, try on a paisley concoction or just greedily paw the clothes in real life in Brown Thomas on Patrick Street. Prices for the pieces will range from €45.99 to €197.99. If you’re not in Cork, you can see the collection in BT2 Grafton Street and Dundrum. And if you’re not in either of those places, it can be obsessed over on the Topshop website.

Licentiate Column 21/06/12: Au Revoir Cork

I left Cork for what may be the last time today.  The Lee was unusually brown after two days of heavy, unbroken rain.  As the bus pulled away from the grey, drizzly city and left behind a panorama of houses muddled together over hills and valleys, rising spires punching holes in the horizon, I felt more than sad.  I might have even cried a little bit.

I love Cork.  Love it.

I hate the fact that I have to leave.  I am deeply annoyed that nowhere else in Ireland can I get a good brunch at 2pm on a weekday but in the Liberty Grill.  I am aggrieved that I can no longer just walk down the road to Freakscene on a Thursday, my go-to for general debauchment and devilry for the past seven years.  And I am deeply regretful of that fact that I can no longer wake up in the flat I once shared with someone very special, open my balcony doors and have breakfast watching the same panorama that passed me by just as I left it today.

One of the best things about Cork, or indeed any city with a steady stream of creative, industrious inhabitants, is its ability to reinvent itself.  I know I’ll come back in a few months, or even weeks, and there will be a new place to go, a new business sprung from the not so-fertile ground and a new event that, once it takes hold, we can’t imagine our weekend without it.

In my few years spent in Cork, and especially in my tenure as a writer for this very fine newspaper, I have seen the fashion industry in Cork evolve into something totally different (and much better) than it was before.

There is probably a core group of thirty to forty people in the city who are making an active effort to advocate for Cork fashion, and I would like to salute a randomly-selected cross section of this very diverse bunch of creatives.  The people selected reflect a little bit of the best in Cork without any semblance of hierarchy; no-one is more or less important than other people I have omitted to mention.

Belinda O’Sullivan is one of Cork’s most talented dressmakers.  She has an understanding of fabric and skill with tailoring that is that magic, elusive mix of talent, instinct and learned skills.  A dress from Belinda is one that you will treasure forever (and she’s a ridiculously lovely person to boot).

Cathy O’ Donoghue of vintage store Turquoise Flamingo has transformed her bolthole in Washington Street into a concept as well as a retail space.  Not contented with just selling her careful edit of clothing (she’ll always have something special in the back, just ask very nicely) she also hosts vintage nights in-store and stocks incredibly cool jewellery and reworked vintage clothing from small local business, which have built up a cult following.

And finally, Emer O’Sullivan and Vivienne Kelly, who may well be the catalyst for the turning point of the no-longer still world that is Cork fashion.  By promoting and nurturing Cork Fashion Week, they have given the industry in the city a legitimacy that it was somewhat running low on before.

For these people, the ones I didn’t mention and the ones who follow them, I say thank you.  Thank you for making this city one I was proud to live in, and one I am still very proud to write for.

Cork, I love you, but you’re bringing me down.

Not strictly true, but ‘Oh Cork, I love you, but all this constant travelling and all these prohibitively expensive bus journeys are bringing me down’ didn’t have the same ring.

I’m no longer in Cork full time, so I divide my time between my parent’s place in Kerry, Cork and Dublin. The constant travelling pretty much means that I’m on a monochromatic palette 24/7. The new uniform.

When I’m in Cork I now tend to do touristy things, like hang around The English Market, or things I used to do in Cork years ago, like go to the Brog – that stuff never ends well. This outfit took me to both places. You just get to see the former, although I did end up walking home at 6am, sans glasses and dignity, which I probably left somewhere on Western Road – so you’re not missing much.

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Diet Coke and Benefit and Me, oh my!

If you live in an Irish city, own a tv or pay attention to bus stop hoardings, then you’ll know about the Diet Coke Get Glam campaign with Benefit.  Pick up one of the swanky Diet Coke cans and you could win 99 euros worth of make-up.

Over the past few weeks, there have been Benefit and Diet Coke events taking place in selected Debenhams stores.  Free drinks, free makeovers and general merriment to be had – in short, lots of nice things.

The last stop is on Saturday the 24th of March in Debenhams in Mahon Point and guess who’s playing host for a film like the one above and covering the event and the make-up looks?

Ok, don’t guess.  It’s me (cue intense internal ‘squee’ing).

I’ll post up more details as I have them – see you in Mahon Point on the 24th (or else we’re not friends anymore).

Cork Fashion Week Photos

Yep, Cork has a fashion week.  Pretty good it is too.  Here are some pictures of the Fashion at Christchurch event.  Photos courtesy of Margaret – more on her blog!

Leopard moments

Serious contender for best outfit

The best dessert table ever

Kieran, Aisling and my big head. One of these days I will learn how to pose.

Backstage

dressing room

Licentiate Column 04/08/11: The Shopping Experience

Recessions leave indelible marks on people’s lives.  Like a too-tight grip on your wrist, once removed it leaves angry impressions that take their time in fading.  Every month the tentatively optimistic reports that the the Big R is slowly fading away from the tiny island with the not-so tiny debts gradually increase.

We listen, but are loathe to start spending again.  The marks left on the international psyche as a result of the economic downturn have yet to soften.

This has resulted in a new generation of cautious shoppers.  By cautious, I don’t mean miserly, because these shoppers spend big money – but mostly in established high street and bargain chains.  Nor do I mean that they are shoppers in search of classic, well-made pieces that will last forever.  These shoppers need to be trendy – and they do it very well on the cheap.

They can easily rack up big credit card bills or take out loans to buy designer goods; mostly handbags or shoes.  It might be expensive, but a black Alexander Wang bag will go with everything.  So will that McQueen skull scarf. Accessories, especially bags, have become the bread-and-butter of many designer brands.

With that in mind, small independent boutiques have to work extra-hard to bring in new customers and redefine their shops not just as a place to buy clothes, but as a legitimate fashion destination.

Two shops that come to mind in Cork City are Turquoise Flamingo, a vintage clothing store and Amity, a women’s boutique. Both are in the city centre and rely on a trade of devoted customers who spread the news about their goods via word of mouth and ever-omnipresent facebook and twitter networks.

Amity is a girly dream, with racks of flirty dresses and separates set against a backdrop of quirky papered walls, exposed wooden floors and vintage-inspired housewares and trinkets. Turquoise Flamingo is a nook-and-cranny place stuffed with vintage finds , with a vinyl-playing turntable always at the ready.  Both shops have comfy chairs and magazines in case you need a break.  Similarly, the owners of both shops are friendly, knowledgeable and not liable to give you the evil side eye if you stray for too long without purchasing.

It’s an enlivening antidote to online shopping.  We may love the thrill of the chase of eBay or the bargainous finds on Etsy, but there’s no-one to ask if something is a large or small fit, or if that dress really suits you, or if a seller might have something that you might like but haven’t seen yet.

There’s no comfy chairs online, no record player wafting out and irony-free Nana Mouskouri.  Online, no-one will offer you a cup of tea, make great local shopping recommendations without prodding or brighten up your bad day with a un-PC anecdote.

We, the cautious shoppers, should continue to visit these destinations and others like them.  The real scars of a recession are not the marks left on us, but the rows of boarded-up shops and empty lets mouldering away on streets in every town centre.  If we want to minimise that scarring, we should re-evaluate what makes us cautious and reinforce our support for local businesses.