Simple pleasures

When we think of entertainment, many things spring to mind: watching television, going to the cinema, playing on a PS3…  Even shopping is now a leisure activity.  For the most part, modern-day entertainment involves passivity in front of a screen (unless you’re blowing up aliens from the latest video game), and some kind of expenditure.  It is how our society has evolved – we want entertainment and we want it now, preferably with a few special effects.

Whilst I can understand the attraction of slumping in front of the TV and not having to really engage your brain for a couple of hours (X-factor fan, guilty), I do believe that there is a huge amount of pleasure to be gained from slightly more traditional forms of entertainment.  Board games still hold enormous appeal, especially when you get a bit older and conventional rules get exchanged in favour of drinking rules.  Card games can keep people riveted for a whole afternoon, as I have discovered each summer when a large group of my friends stays at my house and most of the weekend is spent playing Racing Demon.

What I feel is far more important is that these activities are far more sociable than being glued to a screen for hours on end.  Admittedly, board games can get a bit competitive and heated, and I’ve certainly flung a few chess boards across the room in my time.  But overall, this is entertainment that can be endlessly shared.

And then there are the more creative forms of entertainment: painting, music, Lego…  True, these all cost something to begin with, but when you compare it to the price of an Xbox or DVD collection, it’s really not that much.  I recently spent a very happy afternoon with a pack of plasticine that only cost £1.05.  Yes I’m 23 years old, but I think we’re all allowed a bit of childish pleasure once in a while.

Having been raised in a household where one read books to pass the time, rather than sit and squint at a Gameboy, perhaps I’m a little biased towards the non-screen entertainment sector.  I’ll also admit that I log a hell of a lot of screen time each week: writing this blog, looking at Facebook, checking e-mails, watching TV series online… it all adds up.  But I am still a strong advocate of the simpler things in life, like going on a walk, reading a book, or even just sitting and talking with your friends or family.  After all, these will create the more memorable moments in our lives.  No one’s going to look back and reminisce about that afternoon they spent going through someone’s profile pictures are they?  

Bright young thing

Bond Street.  This exclusive London address conjures up images of luxury brands like Chanel, Prada, and Ralph Lauren, and there is the common conception that only the elite may shop here.  I certainly don’t see myself spending any money along this street until I’m well into my thirties.  Along with this aura of high-class luxury, there is also one of subtle intimidation.  Most people my age don’t even browse in these elegant stores, mainly because of the looks we’d get from first the doorman, then the sales assistants.  Clearly, unless we’re waving around a Coutts card the minute we walk in, we (as in young twenty-somethings) are not deemed to ‘belong’ in this environment.

However, there is a subversive movement against the old school establishment.  Gradually, Bond Street is giving over to younger and fresher names, and these are stores that do not scare you off with pristine white floors and staff with upturned noses.  At the forefront of this shift is Core Spirit.  While this brand is yet to become a household name, since its conception in the UK in 2007 it has carved its own path in the fashion wilderness in ways less intrepid labels will look at with jealousy.

I first went into the New Bond Street flagship store on Fashion’s Night Out, and I was instantly struck by how different it was from every other shop I’d seen that evening.  With a darker colour palette, louder music, and more discreet staff, I felt more at home than in, for example, Louis Vuitton.  The store’s aesthetic reminded me of All Saints or Diesel, which I feel would put many young shoppers at ease.  With the store split into two levels, the Core Spirit brand is presented as one that is fresh and edgy, and far more accessible than its stuffier neighbours.

The clothes themselves have a very urban feel: ripped and faded denim, deconstructed leather, and a subtle use of hardware all lean towards a tough-yet-wearable look.  With collections for both men and women, and with prices starting at £35 and going up to £450, Core Spirit is ideally suited to the young professional’s off-duty wardrobe.

But what makes this brand so different from its competitors?  The answer lies in its drive to discover and aid new talent in the fashion industry.  After all, the Bond Street store is not just a clothes shop.  It moonlights as a catwalk venue, which aspiring models, makeup artists, hair stylists or designers can book for free to create their own runway event.  This is a far more hands-on approach to nurturing fresh talent than I’ve seen in other brands.  Where some labels might fund from a distance, Core Spirit is actively involved in helping aspiring fashion moguls get a leg-up in a notoriously tricky industry.  The store even provides the clothes for the catwalk shows.  With an online system used to book the catwalk space, it couldn’t be easier to showcase an emerging talent.

Unsurprisingly, Core Spirit has been shortlisted for the WGSN Global Fashion Awards in the Outstanding New Store category.  I certainly feel that a fashion brand that does more than sell clothes deserves recognition for what it has achieved, and I hope that other brands will follow Core Spirit’s lead in launching new concepts that actively help the future faces of the fashion industry.  With global expansion set to conquer a new country per year for the next five years, and Hong Kong, Paris and LA being the top destinations, it looks like Core Spirit is set to continue steaming ahead in its unique style.  On a more personal note, I admire the way the brand seems to be (intentionally or not) giving the proverbial finger to its Bond Street roomies.  Gucci et al may be fashion forward, but Core Spirit is in a league of its own when it comes to innovation and empowering creativity.

Bond Street, watch out.  There’s a new kid on the block.www.facebook.com/pages/Core-Spirit/134124881586?sk=info

 

 

With great age comes… what exactly?

When I was 18, I had a boyfriend who was 24.  At the time, he seemed incredibly wise and mature, and light years ahead of the guys I had been at school with.  I thought to myself, ‘now here is a real man’, and I was convinced the days of playing complicated games of unspoken rules with the opposite sex were over.  Five years later, it is depressingly clear that they are not.

I came out of a long-term and long-distance relationship in January, and since then have enjoyed a few casual flings.  Not wanting a proper relationship, I joined the masses of students who are after, let’s face it, sex and not much more.  Yes a little flirtation and attention are great bonuses, but I think everyone reading this will acknowledge how convenient and enjoyable it is having the kind of relationship with someone that is physical, not emotional.  But, as I and millions of others have discovered, this simplicity is short-lived, and it’s not long before the smoke and mirrors begin.

I have, as do most girls I think, a fear of ‘talking seriously’ with a guy who isn’t my boyfriend.  Once you’ve slept with someone a few times, it gets to a point where you feel you need to say something.  However, whether it’s to assure the man in question that this is only a physical thing and no way are you going to get attached, or to ask the suicidal ‘where is this going?’ question, bringing it up suddenly seems like the hardest thing.  I’d like to know if guys go through this internal torture.  Frankly, I think it unlikely.  Anyway, this fear of talking has, I believe, been my downfall, and probably that of many other girls too.  Not saying anything, even if it was only ever going to be ‘let’s keep this casual’, has resulted in being suddenly dropped after the third or fourth, erm, encounter.

Does this mean that should be making like JT and Mila Kunis, laying down all the rules before any clothes are removed?  Way to go to spoil the moment.  OK, I know that men are basic beings and are far from being mind-readers, but I would love to send out this message to the male population: sometimes girls just want sex too.  Just because we send you the occasional text, or say hi on Facebook chat or BBM, it does not mean that we want to marry you and have your children.  We probably just want a repeat of fun times had the other night.  Got it?

However, if anything positive has come out my experiences of the last nine months, it is that I feel increasingly able to handle the seemingly inevitable outcome.  When it first happened, I sent some rather unfortunate bitchy texts.  No moral high ground for me.  But in the wake of the most recent wall-of-silence scenario, I was pissed off for about 48 hours and then got over it.  I definitely felt like sending bitchy texts, but it feels so much better to maintain a dignified air of composure.  Hey, it’s his loss.

I have very rarely met a guy who has the balls to say how he feels in an open and honest way.  Nine times out of ten, I have been on the receiving end of shit excuses, lame apologies, or just plain silence.  As previously stated, I thought that this all ended when the word ‘teen’ came out of your age.  Evidently, I was sorely mistaken.  Looking at single women I know who are in their late twenties and beyond, it seems that we’re going to have to cope with these games no matter how old we are.  Of course there is the occasional good guy out there, and we can only hope that we’ll meet one of them eventually.  But for now, it looks like we’ll have to make do with what are essentially boys with too much stubble.

Ready steady shop

Thursday 8th September saw London Fashion’s Night Out launch its annual late-night shopping extravaganza for the third time.  Having been last year, it’s clear that the event has expanded even more, bringing in thousands of shoppers, onlookers, and tourists, not to mention a fair few celebrities as well.

My night started in Tiffanys, where Harvey Wallbangers, mini burgers and cones of popcorn were on offer alongside an Andy Warhol-style photo booth.  It felt a little odd to have all of this food and drink in such close proximity to millions of pounds’ worth of diamonds, which might explain the stressed-looking sales assistant following us around the store…  There was also seventies-themed hair styling on offer, but as I don’t think my hair could handle either an afro or the hippy look, I decided it wasn’t the best idea.

 

Next up: Chanel, and an hour queuing for a Sophy Robson manicure, featuring the new Denim nail polish collection.  However, our wait was made bearable by a never-ending stream of peach fizz, bellinis, and cheese straws.  This was, believe it or not, the first time I’d ever had my nails professionally done, and I’m now a convert.  A ‘fade’ effect was painted on using all three colours in the Denim range, and four days on I can report that there is only one chip.  Post-manicure maneuvering was a bit more of a struggle as I had to wrestle with bag, jacket, phone and camera without smudging my nails.  The things we do in the name of beauty.

Oh, and just as I was leaving, Daisy Lowe came and plonked herself down in the chair next to me, gushing over a pair of Chanel biker boots she’d just been given.  Some people have all the luck.

Wandering further up Old Bond Street, I passed DKNY and Dior taxis, as well as an Hermes horse box, all of which were pop-up photo booths (and all of which had hefty queues outside).

 

 

 

 

 

Having sampled some delicious ice cream from Folli Follie, the next port of call was Mulberry.  Once more there was a photo opportunity, except this time with animal masks and a woodland background, tying in with Mulberry’s current ad campaign.  The waiters were dressed like huntsmen, and were offering English fare such as mini toad-in-the-hole.  Mulberry was where the highlight of my night happened – meeting BB from E4’s Dirty Sexy Things.  Swoon…

After wandering around for a bit more, and passing Yasmin doing a live set on the street, the high-heel-pain began to set it, so there was one more shop to visit before calling it a night.  I had never been into the Louis Vuitton Maison before, and its glittering lights looked so inviting it was impossible to walk past without a quick peek in.  We were met by the slightly bizarre sight of three live models standing at the doorway, dressed as French maids with balloon poodles on leads.  Poor girls must have been bored rigid.  

Louis Vuitton had certainly hired the best looking waiters of the evening, but there sadly had run out of drinks so I found myself without an excuse to talk to them.  The Maison itself was jaw-dropping, with multiple floors of shiny surfaces and luxurious leather.  So, the goals for next year are chat up a hot waiter and actually buy something.  I’ll start saving now.

 

Some kind of sexy

Sex appeal: some people have it, some don’t.  It’s a fact of life.  But what creates it?  Why is it that one woman will walk down a street and have every scaffolding-bound gorilla whistling at her, and another will pass by unnoticed?  OK, maybe builders aren’t the best example here (they’ll comment on anyone with a pair of tits and an arse) but I think you get my point.  And, more importantly, is it as empowering as we hope it might be?

The perception of sexual attraction has changed vastly over time.  From the heaving bosoms of Henry VIII’s court, to the high-necked Victorian austerity where a flash of an ankle was titillation to the extreme, to our modern-day displays of acres of flesh: what we define as alluring is constantly developing.  Clearly, sex appeal is a trend, as much as clothing and music are, and as with all trends, it is dictated by popular culture, current events and social media.

Obviously, a huge part of what is now seen as ‘sexy’ is a product of the sexual liberation that started in the sixties.  With the advent of the contraceptive pill, women took their sexuality into their own hands, and it became more acceptable (or maybe less frowned-upon) for a girl to display more openly what her body had to offer.  Now add to this the explosion of the porn industry, and the result is what we see today: plunging necklines, extreme makeup, and hemlines so high that the person who blurs ‘intimate’ areas on tabloid photos has been working overtime.  Women are rubbing their sex appeal in men’s faces, and while this all may be part of the post-feminist movement and a symbol that we can be as sexually forward as men, isn’t it all just a little degrading?

Many women claim to get a kind of sexual thrill when a man looks at her like a piece of meat.  Evidently, some women wear minimal clothing so that men will stare and comment and go for a cheeky pinch.  Each unto their own I say.  Personally, I try to avoid this kind of attention.  Yes I take care over my appearance before leaving the house, but I do this to feel good and confident about myself.  I wouldn’t feel comfortable parading around in body-con and a push-up bra, it’s not who I am.  Yes, I have been guilty of sporting tiny outfits on nights out, but these were generally unpleasant experiences, and ones I aim not to repeat.

In an ideal world, everyone would dress like the cast of Mad Men.  For starters, what man doesn’t look good in a suit?  And the women: dresses that flaunt our assets and hide our faults, lingerie that cinches and supports in a way that makes you walk tall and look amazing, and an attitude that says ‘You might be able to have me, but you’re going to have to work damn hard for it’.  Isn’t concealing your body far more tantalising than laying it out on a slab for everyone to see?  To me, sex appeal is about mystery and intrigue, the slow unwrapping of layers, and a private whisper that only a certain someone will hear.

Now, this is probably never going to happen, despite fashion’s best efforts over the past few seasons to inject a more ‘ladylike’ quality into the way women dress.  The fact is that the vast majority of 18 to 30-year-old women will, in preparation for a night out, squeeze themselves into a four-inch long scrap of fabric, insert chicken fillets, pop a condom into their clutch bag and totter out on their shiny orange legs.  But would it be too much to implore these women to use the either/or rule once in a while (this being where you’ve got either legs OR boobs on display, not both)?

Ultimately, it lies with personal preference.  Maybe some women do need to go out looking like an LA hooker in order to feel good about themselves, and yes there is sex appeal in the ‘more is more’ approach to revealing more of one’s body.  Mini skirts and plunge bras will certainly get you noticed, but, and this is what I find more important, will it get you respect?  I think not.

 

Carnival time

On Bank Holiday Monday I went to the Red Bull Music Academy Carnival Party, which was part of the Notting Hill Carnival.  Although this was my first time at the Carnival, I saw very little of the carnival parade itself, mainly due to the fact that the Red Bull event was too good to leave.  Free entry, free food, free booze… what’s not to love?  Not to mention the quality of the music blaring out of some fairly hefty speakers.

Major Lazer Soundsystem aka Diplo and Switch were at the helm of the event, and the line-up included the Jamaican sound system from Miami, Black Chiney, Dillon Francis, Brodinski, Oneman, DJ Mag’s Best Breakthrough DJ Jackmaster (featuring a guest appearance from female vocalist Jessie Ware), Lunice, and Kito.  I have to be honest, I hadn’t heard of most of the acts, but I loved every minute of the sound they produced, and I now have a great many tracks to download and modernise my music collection.

As well as enjoying all the free fare on offer, I was also on the lookout for some stylishly and interestingly dressed individuals, and the Red Bull party certainly didn’t disappoint.  There was an eclectic mix of urban and exotic styles, with some odd elements of fancy dress thrown in.  There was hardly a high heel in sight (thankfully), and the cleavage-tastic outfits I’m used to seeing out were replaced by comfortable-yet-stylish outfits with oodles of attitude.

Oh, and did I mention there was a mechanical moving fire-breathing dragon?