Strike a pose

Last week I was asked to do a photo shoot for a website, strandofsilk.com, that delivers designer collections from India to the UK.  As skeptical as I was about my ‘modelling’ credentials, it sounded an interesting experience, and with free pizza thrown into the mix, who could refuse?

Strand of Silk is a small UK-based operation, and while it is relatively unknown in this country, apparently it has quite a reputation in India.

We provide you access to the latest hand picked collections from leading designers based in India. Our designers are the crème-de-la-crème of the Indian fashion industry and they have dressed Bollywood celebrities, famous Indian personalities and a wide range of private clientele.

The shoot itself was a low-key affair – I did my own hair and makeup, and there wasn’t any lighting equipment.  However, the majority of the photos came out surprisingly well, despite my lack of experience in front of a camera and non-model appearance.  Some of the clothes were beautiful: silk shirts, embroidered and beaded dresses, and some obscenely tight jodphurs!

Overall, it was an enjoyable experience, although I think I prefer to be behind the camera or styling shoots, rather than being the end product.  Thank you to everyone at Strand of Silk for a great opportunity!

It’s time to face the music

It’s that time of year again.  Time to cancel all plans for Saturday nights until Christmas and prepare to temporarily disown friends for supporting the wrong person.  Time to bitch about whose outfit was better, and who’s better looking than who.  Time to make embarrassing Facebook statuses, and for favorite songs to be destroyed.  Yup, as of this Saturday, it’s X-factor season.

I’ll openly admit it, I’m a big X-factor fan.  I know it’s not to everyone’s taste, but to me it provides an essential period of brainless escapism.  Intellectually undemanding, visually stimulating, aurally questionable, this is entertainment in its most successful form.  And this year has an even greater sense of anticipation with an almost completely new judging panel.  If the weekly glossies are anything to go by, Kelly and Tulisa have more than replaced Cheryl and Danii in the fash-off stakes, and I think we can rely on the self-acclaimed ‘chav-tastic’ Tulisa to give more than her fair share of honest opinions.  I can’t quite predict what Gary Barlow will be like.  Mean and abrasive a la Simon Cowell?  Or aiming for public popularity with a softer approach?  Personally, I feel that they kept the worst judge.  I find Louis Walsh intensely annoying, and let’s not forget that this is the man that inflicted Jedward upon the world.  Please, no more ‘entertainment factor’ acts.  Watching someone like Wagner murder Elvis Presley is more than mildly offensive.

And what of the acts themselves?  I’m half-expecting lots of mini Cher Lloyds and wannabe One Directions, as well as a bevy of painter-decorators and Tesco workers.  Hey, if it worked for that lot last year…  This may be a bit controversial, but I’d quite like to see a genuinely normal person make it to the live shows.  No sob story, no weird dress sense, no pity factor, just the ability to sing and perform.  Although maybe I’m setting my hopes a little to high here.

Whatever this year’s X-factor brings, there’s very little that will turn me away from watching it.  I’ll almost definitely be hooked by the second round of auditions, and by the time I move to France in November I’ll probably be reluctant to leave the country.  Yes, it’s a little bit pathetic, but there you have it.  Some may love Jersey Shore or Eastenders, some (like my brother) would rather gouge out their eyes with a blunt spoon than watch it, but I love the X-factor, and I know I’m not alone.

After the storm

So we here we are, beginning to recover after what has been, to put it mildly, a pretty unsettling few days.  There aren’t many times that I’m glad to be living in the back woods of Dorset, but as events unfolded on Monday night, I have to say that I have never felt more grateful for my parents’ decision to move down south.

What chilled me the most was that some of the worst rioting, looting and vandalism happened where I grew up.  Many of my childhood memories are centered around the area surrounding Clapham Junction, and to see places such as Party Superstore (best fancy dress shop in south London, fact) go up in flames was fairly horrible.  I imagine it was worse for those who actually live in Clapham, Croydon, Ealing, Hackney, and everywhere else in London and England that has been knocked sideways by the uncontrollable violence of the last few days.

And all this to what purpose?  What were these people trying to prove, if anything?  How does a peaceful protest mutate into such anarchy?  The press has been using the phrase ‘copycat riots’ a lot, and sadly this seems to be the case.  What I have found the most surprising is that many of those arrested do not fit the vandal stereotype.  A large amount of these people have good jobs, no criminal record, and no history of grievances against the government.  Apparently, it’s very easy to be swept along by the mob and find yourself in a state of violent excitement.  Imagine, five minutes of madness, and now several years of paying for it.

However, the major silver lining to this charred and smoking cloud is the way people have grouped together and refused to be bowed by these pointless acts of vandalism.  I can hardly keep up with the number of ‘riot clean-up’ posts on Twitter, and the community spirit shown on the news proves that, in true British style, residents are keeping calm and carrying on.

Now, I realise that there is a chance that this is the calm before another storm, but I sincerely hope that the combination of the arrests made at the beginning of the week and the stoicism of the general public has shown to potential rioters that there really isn’t any point in poking the hornet’s nest again.  I’m moving to London for a short while at the end of this week, and am both intrigued and apprehensive at what kind of city I will find myself in.  Hopefully these riots won’t have fundamentally changed how safe Londoners feel in their own neighbourhoods, but I guess only time will tell.

Give me autumn

Yippee, the September issues are out!  For the past few days I have done nothing but absorb hundreds of glossy pages of sumptuous clothes and accessories.  Given the size and weight of these magazines, this has required sitting at a desk; no lounging around in bed with these bad boys!

I know it’s still August and still rather warm, but I can’t wait to bury myself in layers of cashmere, leather and lace.  Last year’s aviator jackets are out (thank God I didn’t blow my student loan on one) and the proper coats are back in.  The fetish trend was prevalent across the AW11 shows, so now the trick is to get a little rubber or leather in your life without turning into some scary dominatrix.  Maybe I’ll try cuissardes balanced out with some chunky knitwear.

If last year’s autumn trends began to show signs of an industry focusing on a more grown-up look, this year sees confirmation of fashion’s love of pared-down elegance and style.  Necklines are higher, skirts are longer, makeup is minimal with just a red lip to channel the Forties vibe.  The key is in the detail of a few simple garments: a touch of embroidery, the quality of hand-stitched leather, a flash of lace…

This season lends itself to enhancing a more womanly figure, with pencil skirts and fitted trousers embracing curves and eschewing waif-like shapes.  I don’t think I’ll go to the extreme of those Roberto Cavalli jodhpurs, but something tailored and fitted would go down a treat.

Personally, I much prefer winter dressing to that of summer.  There’s something about being wrapped in rich fabrics that is so much more sexy than baring all in a mini dress.  After all, Wallis Simpson didn’t get her man by parading around in hotpants.

Information generation

In my family, my dad bears the brunt of a lot of jokes, and most of these are of the ‘you’re so uncool/old/antiquated’ variety.  These generally come about as a result of my dad looking completely clueless when the rest of us make pop culture references.  Phrases such as ‘who is Lady Gaga?’ come to mind.

Now, I imagine that most people’s parents will make similar comments, and most children will bemoan their elders’ lack of knowledge when it comes to all things modern.  We probably all feel that we’ll never lose touch with what is going on in the world as far as new music, film, and social media are concerned.  But is this really the case?  Having spoken to various adults, it seems that once careers and families come to the fore, one stops caring so much about such frivolous things like the UK Top 40 or which celebrity has married/divorced/cheated on another celebrity.  Indeed, why should we continue to care about these things?  True, I don’t set much importance by knowing who’s released a new album or what films were released this week, but I still like to know.  Should the older generation make an effort to keep in touch with these never-ending changes?  There must be thousands of people out there who are like my dad and only read the Financial Times and The Week.  Unsurprisingly, the amount of ‘popular news’ items in these publications is rather small.

Perhaps this is another marker of the difference between out generation and that of our parents.  Through the ever-expanding network of social media and advertising, we cannot help but be informed of constant developments in industries like music and film.  However, whilst our parents might be pretty good with e-mail, and some of them might even use sites such as Facebook and Twitter, their exposure to this mass of information is far more limited.  I have lost count of the number of times I’ve come across a new band through clicking on a link I’ve found on YouTube or Facebook.  I imagine most of you have done similar things.  One person posts a link on a friend’s Wall, someone else clicks on it, likes it, forwards it to a different friend etc etc.  The possibilities for a constant supply of new information are endless.

So, when will we pull ourselves out of this fascinating but rather time-consuming web?  A year after we’ve graduated?  When we get proper jobs?  When we turn 30?  The truth is, the vast majority will stay in to avoid being ‘out’.  After all, no one wants to be the awkward individual who can’t contribute to a conversation about popular culture.  There is also the all-consuming fear of turning into one’s parents.  Certainly, there will come the day that I stop listening to Radio 1, or stop buying fashion magazines, or stop using Facebook, but I can’t see it happening any time soon.