Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Fashionably padded elbows at the ready...

A floral minidress, earrings and leggings by Versace for H&M 

Those in the know and anyone who generally reads a newspaper or likes a bit of a peek through a fashion magazine every now and then will know that H&M’s most exciting and long-awaited alliance to date is about to drop.

Yes, Versace’s collaboration with H&M finally hits UK stores this Thursday, 17 November. Founded by Donatella Versace’s late brother Gianni in 1978, Versace is one of the biggest-selling designer labels with 82 boutiques worldwide. After saying no to H&M’s approach for a collection 4 years ago, Donatella finally agreed. Apparently, Lady Gaga herself was the inspiration for the collection after Gaga’s excited reaction to the Versace archive earlier this year made Donatella view the designs through fresh eyes. Lucky Gaga.

I’ll be at a wedding on Thursday so won't be there to witness the madness that awaits H&M. No camping outside the store the night before for me, no need to hatch a cunning plan to ensure I’m first in the queue or whatever else you're supposed to do to bag yourself a piece of the action when luxury high-fashion designer meets high street champion. No sharpening of elbows or dusting off the sleeping bag required; I’ll just have to wait and see if there’s any thing left among the remnants after the hungry shoppers have finally departed. Failing that I’ll pop onto eBay.

Having seen the collection online a couple of weeks ago (which includes metallic, suede and fluorescent footwear, big and bold jewellery and even home accessories) and analysed it in more detail in all its splendour in today’s Grazia I'm totally in two minds.

Part of me absolutely adores it. The collection certainly has not been diluted for the high street. It’s all shouty studded leather, exuberant prints and bags adorned with chains and gold that to me conjures up images of the ebullient 90s. It slowly creeps up on you and shouts ‘FASHION!’ really loudly in your face which I love. 

Anna Dello Russo has already worn the studded leather dress at Paris Fashion Week:

Nicky Minaj, always brilliantly bonkers, wore head to toe black floral at the launch party in NYC:  

But, part of me is slightly unsure. The printed trousers no doubt look fabulous in Milan but seriously I'd feel like a bit of a twit in clashing exotic floral prints crammed on the Victoria line with someone's armpit in my face. The Silk Miami Print Dress is one of my favourites for sure, but it’s currently 7 degrees outside and the thought of flashing my legs in that makes me feel a bit hypothermic and want to grab a blanket.

Silk Miami Print Dress
Then again I've just read that back and I'm utterly ashamed to sound so staid and boring. The collection is fun, totally fashion-fabulous and brightens up the dreary world outside. How could you not smile wearing a piece of history that both you and your wallet are thankful for?

So, I’ll be missing the stampede but if anyone plans to queue up or sleep over on Thursday, could you please pick me up the  Studded Silk Shift, Miami Print Skirt and 
Black Silk Dress?

Please? Cheers.

See the full collection here:

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Defy the Gloom - Embellish!

You don’t need to take a peek outside right now to know that winter is nearly upon us. There's a damp chill in the air that seeps under your coat sleeves and gets under your skin. By 5pm this evening the inky darkness will surround you. Winter - a season to hibernate; to cocoon yourself in numerous layers and disappear into the duskiness.
Or not. Ladies, it’s time to grab winter by both arms, give it a very firm shake and say ‘NO, I refuse to fade into the background’ and defy the gloom with a bold, beautiful dress.

Take a big step out of your comfort zone and experiment with texture, embellishment and colour to beat the winter blues. Key trends are feathers, texture, baroque, metallic sequin accents and bead adornments to name but a few. Feather dresses are a strong sign of the Twenties influence which is permeating the fashion world ahead of the release of the Baz Luhrmann directed 'The Great Gatsby' in 2012. Beads and sequins are the perfect items to make a striking statement and shine in the gloom. 

How do the designers do it?

Matthew Williamson – Appliquéd wool-crepe dress
Up the glamour stakes to the max with rose-gold sequins, silver and black beads and vintage feather appliqués.

Red Valentino – Embellished tulle dress
Texture, shimmering metallic beading and a flirty hem make this a perfect party piece.

Chanel Spring 2012 RTW
Only Karl Lagerfield could create a dress that channels modernity with texturised mille-feuille pleats but still manages to retain the classic Chanel look.

How do the stylish people wear it?

Sienna Miller in Matthew Williamson Spring/Summer 2012, London, October 2011

Alexa Chung in Christopher Kane Autumn 2011,  New York City, May 2011

What’s the vintage inspiration?

Lucien Lelong
Lelong was the son of two nineteenth-century couturiers and from 1937 to 1947 he was President of the Chamber Syndicate de la Couture Parisienne, haute couture's governing body. His style and design included tightly waisted, full-skirted dresses that pre-empted Christian Dior's famed 1947 New Look.

Norman Norell
Norell was one of the first American designers to have his name on the label of a dress. He designed empire-line and chemise dresses and pavé sequinned capes and dresses under the Traina-Norell label.

Ok, but where can we get it?

Multi-fringe dress by Dress Up Topshop, £175.00
This capped sleeve dress from Topshop's Dress Up range with all over beading in bronze, blue and silver will add extra flair and flamboyance to your overall look.

Cream Beaded Shift Dress by Miss Selfridge, £150.00
This beautiful cream short sleeve shift dress with silver and gold embellishment will illuminate the darkest night. 
Paloma Chariot Dress by AllSaints Spitalfields, £195.00
This 100% silk dress has multi-coloured sequins and a vintage, tribal layout. Tonal colour blocks will ensure this really stands out from the crowd. 

Try out something adventurous. Let your personality sparkle and shine through. 

Go turn heads.

Friday, 4 November 2011

A guide to Job Hunting for the very Disheartened Hunter

Searching for a job right now? Here’s some tips to keep yourhead safely above those perilous waters. You may have noticed that each headingis a song. No reason, I just like songs. 

1.     Get Up Everybody

Get up at the same time as your workinghusband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend/flatmate/

etc every single dayLying in bed till midday whenyou're 33 and job hunting is not the same as lying in bed when you're 23 aftera night out on the sauce. Believe me, it holds no pleasure and pretty soon theguilt will get you. That elusive job you really want won't come looking foryou, hidden there under the warm duvet. It can be really tough but dragyourself out of bed and embrace the day! (I know, I know. I'm annoying myself).

2.     U Got the Look

Make sure you wash and get dressed immediately on rising. Innormal clothes. Soundssimple I know, but before you know it its midday and you're still festering inyour pjs tapping away on your laptop. Dressed? Well done! But seriously, you’rewearing that? Step away. Those baggy,travellers trousers paired with that t-shirt may have looked edgy at afestivals 3 pints of cider down, but believe me, you'll feel foolish when thepostman knocks, your Amazon delivery arrives or you bump into a neighbour whilepopping out to get milk looking like a deranged hippy in sequins. I'm nottalking high fashion or channelling your inner supermodel, just wear somethingrelatively normal. I promise it'll make you feel better, focused and moremotivated. Power dressing! So ‘80s, but so good.

3.     Control

Sounds a bit bossy and rigid, but stay in control of your day andcompartmentalise your activities. Clever planning is the key to a productiveand happy you. Make a clear, realistic and attainable list the night before ofwhat you want to achieve the following day – activity relating to your jobsearch, those pesky admin tasks/online banking/birthday cards to write, apersonal email you’ve been meaning to send for yonks etc and build theseactivities into your day.

Writing a plan the night before will set you up for the dayahead. Don’t waste time writing a perfectly, neat, list in the morning ormaking it look fancy or even colour-coordinated.  Procrastination is opportunity’s assassin. (Ijust looked that up). Factor in breaks to avoid burn out and if you’re meeting a mate for lunch, buildthat into your plan too and work hard right up to you leave. Guaranteed you'llenjoy it more and can reward yourself for your hard work and amazing superpowers of organisation.

Don’t, however, beat yourselfup if you haven’t done everything. Maybe you overloaded your list. No dramas –just stick it on tomorrow’s.

So to compartmentaliseis to conquer. It will give you a sense of achievement that you might belacking in right now. There's something really quite satisfying about tickingsomething off your list. ‘Watch E! News’. Check.

4.     Banana Pancakes (and other food)

Always eat breakfast - at breakfast time. This does not mean eatCrunchy Nut Cornflakes out of the packet with one hand at 10.45 am while typinga covering letter with the other. A proper breakfast will set you up for theday. Have a spot of lunch too, and do what you'd normally do if you were at workduring your lunch break (improvise if you don't have a Top Shop opposite yourhouse). Drink water throughout the day to keep hydrated. Bored of water? Justput a slice of lemon or lime or mint etc in it. Nibble on super foodsthroughout the day, especially if you’re at home. Nuts, wholegrain foods,berries, eggs, green tea, and even dark chocolate can have a powerful affect onthe brain’s energy, how your mind handles tasks and your general mood. 


 5.     You’re the Best Around

Stay positive and dare to becourageous. 'Pah, easy for you to say!' I hear you shout. Look, don't  get mewrong. I know how terrifically hard it is and some days you just feel liketelling your PMA to FO (that's positive mental attitude and the 2nd word of the2nd acronym is Off). Quite frankly, it all feels like the biggest ball acheever (this word is a trademark of Ms Carolyn Dickson and Ms Sarah Louise Carter-Hounslow).

But in the words of Dickens, it's all about Great Expectations.Research has shown that if you think what you want often you get it. So go getit. Always wanted to work in retail marketing? Do some research, find out howto apply and fling over your CV with a stand out covering letter firmlyattached to the back of it. You never know, Mary Portas might be that verymoment scratching her head thinking 'hmmm, if only I had a super efficient HRperson to complete my empire' as your email hits her PA’s inbox. Don't try,Don't get.

6.     That’s What Friends are For

I'm going to be honest now. Or transparent which is a very good HRword. In my darkest moments when my nearest and dearest have had (in my mind)the audacity to moan about their jobs, my inner voice has shouted but at least you have a job!!! and I'vewanted to flounce off somewhere and sob. But that's entirely unfair. Yes, itfeels safe and secure to be in full time or even contracted employment but thatdoesn't mean it's not highly stressful, mind-bogglingly dull or involves aninteraction with a boss who would make Anna Wintour seem like, really reallysweet. Don't take it personally. Be empathetic - not envious. Listen and offerwords of advice or an open ear. You'll be moaning about your job again beforeyou know it. 

Having said that, surround yourself with good, positive peopleand let their concerned and helpful vibes be the fuel that drives you. Thankthe ones that genuinely want to help and keep an eye out for any opportunitiesfor you. Avoid the ones who make you feel bad for now.

7.     The Lazy Song

Give yourself a break and do things you could only dream of when thejob had you chained to your desk at 8pm. Meet your maternity leave friends fora cheap bite, read that book everyone’s been talking about. Spend time withchildren - they can make any miserable day seem utterly joyous just with asmile (by this I mean children you know, like ones in your family or whosemother is your friend. Not random children).  

Take a break in a coffee shop or pub and read a book instead ofa professional update. Hey, go crazy and order a glass of wine. Feels goodright? Stop feeling guilty. If you've followed my advice you would havecompartmentalised your day, worked really hard and done something brave todayso cut yourself some slack. Besides, if you were at work you would not beworking every single millisecond of the day. You would stop every now and then.So stop.

8.     I like to Move It

Do something active every day. I'm not talking a feat ofmarathonian proportions. Go for a walk, hit the gym, try that rumba class inthe church hall you could never get to. Dance on your own at home. Exercisedecreases the stress hormones such as cortisol and increases endorphins. Endorphins are the body’s natural feel good chemicals, and when they are releasedthrough exercise, your mood is boosted naturally. Just half an hour a day will keepyou alert, focused and positive – and give you a break away from the dastardly screen.

9.     You’re the Devil in Disguise

Don't sell your soul to the devil AKA the recruitment consultant. Don't get me wrong somerecruitment agencies are utterly brilliant. They get back to you when they saythey will. They get your name right, which is a plus. They have your bestinterests at heart and want to find you a job you can do, not a quick fix to nailingtheir targets and that big fat commission. (to my followers in the recruitmentworld, that's you!).

Some however are poo. They have an accredited qualificationin reverse psychology. They don’t pay attentionto a word you say. You’d rather go out on a night out with Frankie Cocozza andhis ‘birds’ then go visit their offices and fill out a 92-page registration form andsuffer the humiliation of talking about what you did in 2001 only to have themsay ‘Ok, we don’t have anything for you at the moment’ at the end of the 2hours.

So be selective and only go to the agencies where you feelconfident they can help you. Remember, there are hundreds of agencies but onlya handful of good ones. You’re in control. Don’t rely on recruitment agenciesonly; cast that net as wide as you possibly can. Network with all your contactsyou’ve made over the years, use LinkedIn, make direct approaches to companies, andscour the best job boards. Don’t put all your CVs in one basket.

10.  Don’t Worry Be Happy

Do something every day that makes you smile, and treat yourself.This depends on what floats your boat and your bank account permits. Me?Fashion and music and mine permits bugger all. So today I looked at  Tim Walker's website, YouTubed one of my favourite film scenes 

and played my currentfavourite song very, very loud. Earthquake by Labrinth ft. Tinie Tempahsince you're asking. Hi-wired synths and massive beats. Uses the word f*ckquite a lot (see point 11) and turns his potty mouth on Simon Cowell too. Plusthis is a double win as hopefully it disturbs my neighbour. Right back at youplayer-of-too loud- absolute-shite.

11.  (You’ve got me feeling) Emotions

Warning. This will come directly after point 10.

Ride the emotional rollercoaster - cry, swear, mope, just dowhat feels good and go with what you’re feeling that day. Some days you're sickto your back teeth of rejection. The only job you possibly have the skills toapply for is based in Peterborough and you’re all LinkedOut. You feel hopefulwhen an email pops up only to discover it's from somebody called Wasteland Skiand there’s Only 4 more days to get Free Goggles!

Job hunting sucks. Crying is thought to reduce stress and may gosome way to remove toxic substances from the body. So go on, have a big old soband let it all out. Then breathe, blow your nose and focus on the task ahead. Stillnot done? Swearing is good. Try it. It will make you feel empowered. Justdon't try this out on actual people; that's just rude. Finally, have a goodmope about. Idly flick through the TV channels, nonchantly peruse the contents ofthe fridge, scrutinize the IKEA catalogue for a sofa bed. You’ll soon getbored.

12.        DaydreamBeliever

Lastly, job hunting can get you down in the dumps. It’s athankless task that involves too much time on your own. So why not pursueanother interest or hobby that you’ve been putting off for years or dosomething you simply never have time to do. Hopeful horticulturist? BuddingBuddhist? Amateur Astrologist? Or do you just simply want to clean out thatpesky kitchen cupboard or move your summer clothes out of your wardrobe? Usethis time productively while you've got it and try and get something out ofevery day. Build it into your 'list' and as long as you dedicate sufficient andproportionate time to finding a job, there's no reason to feel guilty. It'llgive you that all important sense of achievement, an extra string to add toyour bow and who knows where it'll take you. It's ok to dream.

Keepthe faith, hunters and good luck....

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Oh, The Places You'll Go! (Plus the Bang-ups, Hang-ups, and Slumps)

In the winter of 2007 I flew 10,000 miles around the world to escape - from myself.

London’s chaotic pace had given me a sense of incompleteness. A busy life, a demanding career and a fast-approaching thirtieth birthday all contributed to a sense of anxiety.

I had contemplated working abroad and the dream was fading like an old photograph. So, I pushed aside my fears and booked a one-way ticket to Sydney, Australia. I was leaving in 5 weeks.

Those remaining days filled quickly with departures; farewell parties soaked with drinks and emotion. At Heathrow Airport, I left family with tears streaming down my face, entering into an unknown adventure.

On arrival, it felt like the holiday of a lifetime condensed into a few magical days. But as the jet lag vanished and the glitter settled, it was just me for company. I felt an overwhelming sense of panic, realising this was not a vacation and I had no concrete plan. I knew no one and although the blank canvas should have been exciting, it terrified me.

Exploring the sprawling urban paradise, I felt like a lost child instead of liberated. I ambled along sandy beaches painfully self-conscious in my own pale skin. My younger sister Michelle, a long-serving and very tanned Sydneysider was absolutely amazing, introducing me to her many friends, showing me all the magical sights and sounds that Sydney had to offer and surrounding me with excitement and opportunity. But I felt completely and utterly lonely. At parties I felt unusually shy, gulping down drinks and trying to find something worthwhile to say. My comfort blanket had been sharply pulled off my shoulders and I shivered with the exposure.

My CV painted a picture of someone I used to be in London, but did not reward me with a job. It rained uncharacteristically and relentlessly. My cash reserve was diminishing but the distance from home seemed to get wider every day. Galleries and museums provided solitude but I was drowning in desolation.

The anxiety of being judged followed me like a shadow. I knew people would question how I could feel this way in such a captivating place. I was lucky to have such a beautifully packaged opportunity but I could not find the confidence to unwrap the ribbon. So I searched for an explanation.

The realisation was painful. I was so heavily weighed down with issues I could not swim to the surface to breathe. Years ago, I had chosen not to accept my university place, a decision I regretted. I felt inadequate amongst the high-flying graduates in my life. I compensated by pushing myself too hard, my life overflowing with people and activity with no room for self-reflection. Instead of celebrating achievements, I always felt I had not accomplished enough. These insecurities had boarded the plane with me as excess baggage.

I didn’t learn my lesson. Joining a local group, aptly named ‘Get a Life!', was an attempt to broaden my horizons. First, Book Club, but my fellow literature lovers were overbearing. I drank too much wine. I fought the urge to shout ‘I don’t even like Catch 22! I haven’t even finished it!’. I decided instead to Get a Life and excused myself to the bathroom and left. Quickly. Walking in the hammering rain, I rang home but my credit ran out. Sitting on the steps of the Opera House I sobbed, wet through to my knickers. I wanted to go home.

It got worse. A simple National Park trek turned Bear Grylls endurance test. I got lost and did not pass another person for 4 hours. My foot bled from an unexplained injury and my water ran out. As the sun set, I felt crippled by absolute fear. This time I had gone too far.

It was my epiphany. It was time to leave the destructive path I had chosen to follow for so long.

I changed. I found a flat and a job in the city. I rediscovered yoga and indulged my infatuation for fashion in markets and vintage boutiques. I explored, I made friends, and I laughed a lot. Life began to sparkle again like the sun shimmering on the ocean. I saw my surroundings in dazzling Technicolour.

One afternoon in a second hand bookshop, I stumbled across an advert for a creative writing course. On enrolling, something finally clicked. I had a place to release all the thoughts, good and bad that swam around my head. Words spilled onto my laptop screen and filled endless notebooks.

I quietened the incessant inner voice that told me I was not good enough and allowed myself to feel a sense of accomplishment. I concentrated on building a portfolio of life experiences rather than worrying about a lack of academic achievements. I finally found solace in writing.

Those remaining days filled quickly with departures; farewell parties soaked with drinks and emotion. One night, a friend gave me a Dr. Seuss book called ‘Oh, the Places You’ll Go!’. It struck me how accurately it reflected the journey I’d gone on; around the globe and in my head.

I returned to London changed, but not a finished article. There is still editing to do. As I learnt, you can be in the most remarkable place, but if you are living inside your head, you may as well be anywhere.

The experience has shaped me though, and made me realise what I have to do – stop regretting the past and start writing.

In moments of self-doubt I remember Dr. Seuss’ wise words. You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.

Only I can decide where to go next.