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EMPOWER ME THIS

An image from VB's Victoria collection lookbook last year featuring a model looking a bit tired.

An image from VB’s Victoria collection lookbook last year featuring a model looking a bit tired.

I find few things more irritating than being preached at by helpful celebrities in bloody magazines about how to live my life (I am gradually stopping reading most of them but sometimes you can’t avoid it, especially when it’s part of your job). The return of the rhetoric of ‘empowerment’ and ‘choice’ to our newsstands might seem arm-punchingly-go-girl on first glance but on second it’s pretty shallow.

Sorry Victoria Beckham (chief offender), but empowerment is not kitting yourself out in a two grand frock that the wearer can’t even breathe in and which cuts into her armpits. A favourite outfit can lift your mood or smarten you up for a special occasion, but to hear VB preaching to her followers that a dress is ‘empowering’ is disingenuous and patronising, merely thinly-veiled marketingspeak.

Just because FEMINISM IS BACK, I’m not going to buy into a vague glossy-mag cliché about what-women-want and who they’d like to be. VB is all flitting from fashion week-to-launch-to-awards ceremony in her private jet and toe-rotting shoes, living her expensive life on some unimaginable, unbelievable plain and in the meantime we’re all down here in the real world doing what – wishing if only?

Reading celeb tips about how we might ‘empower’ ourselves through shopping in between pages of vacant-eyed, soul-bereft ads makes even more visible the gulf between the experience of coveting consumer goods and the likelihood of ever owning them for the average reader.

I love escapism and fashion fantasy, but that’s not the issue here – it’s the suggestion that we can’t just buy clothes, we can buy into them. When one examines the reasons why one lusts after certain items it can reveal a whole lot more that you’re maybe trying to ignore. A dress/haircut will never change your life and a new bag is not a substitute for some friends who like you or a job that pays you enough to leave you with some money at the end of the month.

Some things which are really empowering: being able to drive; mentoring a younger person; getting out of debt; getting an education; not being afraid. Doing useful things.

Things which are not empowering: Wearing high heels – it just makes you taller, means you can’t walk and sometimes finishes off an outfit nicely; thinking a debt-making frock will change your life; thinking a bag will get you a new job; buying magazines.

VB obviously can’t come out in these fluffy interviews and say ‘buy my extortionately-priced dresses because they’re nice and so exquisitely made and be smug in the knowledge that you have enough disposable cash to afford one’, she needs a story to go with her brand and hers is that these magical dresses have the power to transform their wearers.

Maybe I’m being harsh on VB. She after all is not au fait in the vocab of contemporary feminist theory and is an extremely busy woman, but I still think that we shouldn’t let her or any of the rest of the empowerment-spouting, unwanted-advice bores get away with this kind of lazy language. Such sloppiness is a wider problem in the media discussions around what women want and people with power and influence need to take responsibility for their nonsense-chatter. Turning empowerment into something almost entirely passive shows how blind they are to what women might actually need to hear. VB has always been my favourite Spice, but throwing this word around is as relevant as GIRL POWER was: redundant, reductive and meaningless.

5 ways to tell you’re empowered – list + quiz on page 102

THE FIVE AGES OF WOMAN

0-13    learning / safety / innocence
14-21             boys+girls / exams / music / introspection
22-29             oblivion / mistakes / narcissism / london
30-midthirties self-discovery / wildernesses / yoga /wellbeing / refined taste in wines / the countryside
midthirties+ ?


Lazy LFW Photo Post…

This was the general scene throughout London Fashion Week at the tents at Somerset House – wet, bleak and grey.

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2Thankfully though, the weather being cold, rainy and generally miserable meant I got to wear my new APC coat – yay! (with Hobbs platform brogues, 3.1 Phillip Lim bag and Gap jeans).

This was on Friday, when I went to a couple of really interesting off-schedule shows. The first was Corrie Nielsen at the May Fair hotel. Corrie couldn’t care less about trends or what the general consensus is, fashion-wise – if everyone else is doing digital prints, or florals or whatever, she continues doing her own thing, oblivious to whether it fits into the zeitgeist or not.

That always makes her shows a visual treat, as she is a true modern coutourier, creating incredible shapes out of billowing, puffed and pleated fabrics – Duchesse silk, latex, you name it.

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Then I hopped on a bus down Piccadilly to the Aldwych for Kilian Kerner’s presentation in the Palm Court at the Waldorf. With the champagne, ice cream and baby grand tinkling away in the background, all in the elegant setting of this beautiful white and gold space, it felt exactly like I’d stepped back in time to a debutante’s ball in the ’40s.

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Models and mannequins were grouped together, posing exactly like bored or tired debs at the end of a long night of dancing with their ‘debs’ delights’. Just look at the pretty dresses – this is my kind of fashion, unashamedly feminine, glamorous and timelessly chic. Airy little strapless cocktail dresses, beautiful embroidery, stiff taffetas and rich silks…

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On Sunday I headed over to Fashion Scout for London-based, Singapore-bored designer Eugene Lin’s show.

eugene-lin

rebecca-and-sarahBefore the show started Rebekah Roy introduced me to the jewellery designer Sarah Angold. I have always loved perspex – in jewellery form and furniture – and her pieces are spectacular. Rebekah is wearing one from the Limited Edition collection Sarah designed for Topshop, and she is sporting one from her own line. This is one of the nicest aspects of fashion week – it might be tiring and frenetic, but then you get to meet really nice, interesting, creative people who are actually friendly!

Freemasons Hall is the ridiculously grand venue where all the Fashion Scout designers show their collections. It’s a warren of endless corridors, marble columns, chandeliers and stained glass windows – high camp and completely fascinating. I wondered what these two jazzy fellows felt about the fashion crowd sitting beneath them? Probably thought the frow was a tad underdressed compared to them…

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The collection was slick and sporty with textured fabrics layered over each other in interesting ways. Searing tangerine orange, black and cream stood out in high contrast on the dazzling white runway (I love the Fashion Scout runway as the amazing light makes it so much easier to take photos.)

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eugene1The End. (my brain is totally out of words this week.)


Visiting the Elnett Hair Fix bar at the Glam LFW Blogger Suite

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**Sponsored post**

Because I am inherently lazy, one of the best bits of London Fashion Week for me is always visiting the Glam Media suite (Pamflet is part of Glam’s blogger network.) I love hunkering down in the Dome room at One Aldwych and availing myself of their WiFi, sandwiches and sofas. And this year there was something even better – L’Oreal Elnett’s hair fix bar.

After queuing in the pouring rain waiting to enter a show venue (only for us to be told it was ‘oversubscribed and they were only letting the front row in’, FFS), my hair was looking pitifully limp, frizzy and in need of scjhoozing (jchooshing? you know what I mean).

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So I plonked myself down in stylist Simon Izzard’s chair and, breathing the heady, comfortingly familiar Elnett-scented air in, let him work his magic. I am completely useless at styling my own hair – I can’t use rollers or hair straighteners properly (my arms are too weak), don’t understand which products do what, and tend to tip it upside down, blast it with a hair dryer and scrape it into a top knot to ‘encourage’ some curls to form – hence why I always look a bit scruffy.

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Pamf-LIT: Hannah Kent

Kent, Hannah (c) Nicholas PurcellHannah Kent is the author of Burial Rites, an astonishing debut novel that tells the story of Agnes Magnúsdóttir, the last woman to be executed for murder in Iceland in the 19th century. The 28 year old Australian also runs the literary journal Kill Your Darlings.

Do you read paperbacks or Kindle?

Paperbacks. I have an iPad, and occasionally I’ll muster up some forced enthusiasm for ebooks and buy a couple, but I dislike reading on a screen. Most of the ebooks I’ve bought I now own in paperback too. There’s just some ineffable quality about ‘real’ books that I find lacking in digital. The smell of them. The option to crease a corner on a particularly well-written page.

How do you organize your books?

I used to shelve my books anywhere they would fit, in whatever order they fell, but after a few recent occassions where I bought a novel only to realise I already owned it, everything is now strictly alphabetical. The genres are mashed in there together however.

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What’s the book you own but have never read?

There are more than I’d like to admit to. I acquire novels faster than I can read them. Most of my books with uncracked spines are classics purchased in a fever of self-improvement. Dante’s Hell. Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov.

Burial Rites HBD FCWhat’s on your nightstand?

East of Eden by John Steinbeck. Eleanor Catton’s new book The Luminaries. A history book by Robert Ferguson called The Vikings. Leonard Cohen’s The Book of Longing. 

What’s in your handbag?

Lip balm, purse, keys, a pen, and a cleaning cloth for my glasses. Some unfortunate-looking bobby pins (kirby grips). I travel light.

What’s the book you foist on people?

Independent People by Halldor Laxness. For anyone even remotely interested in Iceland or Icelandic literature, it’s a must-read.

Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites is published on 29 August in hardback, £12.99


To DoC, Or Not DoC… The Tribulations of Wedding Dressing

Wedding season is fast approaching, which means the quest for appropriate one-dress-fits-all has begun in earnest. I’ve ventured into several occasion-appropriate high street outfitters – with which there is nothing exactly wrong, but with which I usually fail to find very much right. Which has got me thinking (a la Carrie Bradshaw), why does ‘wedding’ cause me to abandon all of my usual – not L. K. Bennett-esque – taste? It’s as if on receipt of invitation, I morph into a hybrid of Princess Kate and some poor victim’s sister from the set of Midsomer Murders. I don’t do pastels or Ascot or sequinned stoles, so why on God’s earth am I suddenly fondling them appraisingly? (Not Ascot. I understand one can’t fondle Ascot)…

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Why have I picked these (L) when what I really want is THESE (R)?

I’ve thought and thought as to why this taste-overhaul takes place and can only attribute it to the desire to look like a ‘grown up’ – an aesthetic which invariably escapes me IRL*

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