Friday, September 30, 2016

Stand Your Ground.

Studying abroad, to me, is more about the main dish living experience with a side salad of education. I've been here nearly a month now, and already, I feel like my mind has expanded and my experiences have taught me a lot about other people, particularly a lot about me.

One comparison in particular between my living experience and my educational experience is about standing your ground. Wavering on the precipice of the unknown, I've learned that time and time again, you will be questioned. Not only that, but you'll be pressured, swayed, doubted, and pushed so far into other concepts and ideas that maybe are a little foreign to you.

Well, it's good and it's bad. At the one end, the feeling of stepping into the unknown is tantalizing. I'm not talking about experimenting with drugs (answer will always be no), but about maybe going out to clubs, rather than spending a night in. Trying something different and experiencing something you've only had preconceived notions about, but safely, always.

However, I have also learned that there is a time and a place to stand your ground and say no. There's a difference between stepping out of your comfort zone and trying something new, and being pushed into something you know you do not want to do. And it's tough, because sometimes, the lines are blurred and I find myself perseverating over the two, wondering if I'm making the right decision.

It's like this in school too. I have some tutors who claim that the only way to win and be successful in the fashion industry is to play their game. Abide by the rules, for it's a dog eat dog world, and you'll eventually make it. Then I have other tutors who preach to us the importance of standing your ground and doing what you know in your heart to be the right thing.

It's a mixed bag. What I have left feeling though is that no matter what, you cannot lose sight of who you are. There is nothing wrong with stretching and growing in ways that are maybe not the most cozy to you, but you have to stick true to yourself. Like a tree stretching it's branches in all directions! Still growing, yet always grounded.

Through this all, I've also learned that I don't need to go out and find out what makes me unhappy. I know, in my heart, that I thrive best doing the things that are aligned with my values and as much as I may be dubbed "the mom" of the group, I will never lose myself for the desires and wants of someone else, no matter how persistent and pressuring they may be.

A recent successful example is a little photo-shoot I did with one of my peers. He needed a model and I happily obliged, only learning later that it would be topless. Convinced that it would be done in an artsy and alternative manner, I nonetheless proceeded to go through with it, knowing it would be an experience for me. And boy was it!

Definitely my favorite pictures. Getting a little handsy is part of his job!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Throwin' it Back.

I really want to delve into my London Fashion Week experience, for it was an enthralling one. Forgive the lengthiness, I have a tendency to write verbosely (I am learning to cut back in my Fashion Journalism course though!), but it was hard for me to just focus on one aspect of the show. Plus, it is my blog, and the rules to follow are simply my own.

I’ve dreamed about it since being a little girl. Glamor, snapping and popping of cameras, long runways graced by the eloquently laden models, beautiful and ethereal women wearing only the highest end couture. Reporters, fashion designers, and celebrities crowding the aisles, eager for a glimpse into the magical world of the designer’s show.

Of course, I always thought I would be a participant in the show, one of those lucky women confidently strutting down the runway, eyed at by audience aptly watching on. Instead, I sit here today, a fashion journalist intrigued not in walking the runway (being told to “eat donuts or lose thirty pounds” wasn’t worth it), but in observing, analyzing, and reporting.

I attended my very first fashion show this afternoon, one of the many included in the iconic bi-annual London Fashion Week. The abnormal hot weather finally dissipated and the clouds rolled in, leaving us a brief reprieve from the rain. Dressed in a bright silk Kate Spade dress purchased at a used clothing store just a few days before, and accessorized with some Ted Baker, I was dropped off at the entrance. Joining the hundreds of other stylishly dressed patrons, I had time to look at the plethora of styles around me.

I’ve never had the pleasure of standing in the middle of bona fide “street style” section. I grew up in Alaska where style was Carharrt jackets and Extra Tuff rain boots. Here, in London, one of the most eclectic and diversely cultural cities in the world, was a whole other dimension. First, there were your typically stylish women. Dressed in the latest fashion and seamlessly putting together the smoothest of ensembles, I saw that these were the girls I often pinned on my Pinterest board for inspiration. On the other end of the spectrum, however, were the Spectacles. These were the camera hoggers. Dressed in the most ridiculous of outfits, they were the ones often stared at, dressed in costume so ridiculous and out there that the cameras couldn’t help but snap their direction.

Just in front of me, there was a woman dressed in this gawdy outfit, but it wasn’t what she was wearing that caught everyone’s eye, it was her hair. Purple dreads knotted together, she had done up her hair in a two foot pile at the top of her head, something similar to that of Marge Simpson from The Simpsons. And inside, when I finally passed through the marble corridors and many security personnel, a man with a full deck of makeup on his face and a white Chanel blazer slung across his shoulders.

Enter, London Fashion Week.

When I was finally able to sit down inside of the showroom, I was immersed in this fashion world at an even closer angle. Peering about me, it was hard to look at just one thing, as my eyes were constantly enticed by something new. Over there, a blonde pixie cut girl with thigh high knotted white boots, or the row of attractively dressed young men across from me, but then behind me, air kisses and recalls of past shows as old acquaintances reunited. It was like a dream.

Being the new girl on the block, I simply let the show roll out before me, the prequel to the actual fashion show. Cameras snapping at the Spectacles, like the man with his entire face tatted and gold teeth peeking out when he smiled, or the woman with the puffiest blue fur coat I had ever seen, I was immersed in this show before the show, intrigued and quite a bit amused.

When the lights finally dimmed and the first designer’s name popped up on the screen, I pulled out my Kate Spade journal and proceeded to write away. It was then that I noticed that the cameramen were finally taking notice of me, pointing their lens at me when there was a break between designers. Probably assuming that I was some high-end fashion journalist, I acted the part, looking perplexed at the models walking my way, scribbling chicken scratch in my journal about the designer’s aesthetic, what it reminded me of, what was the music like, and of course the poor condition of the models. Of course I thought about pulling out my camera (an actual camera and not some silly iPhone), but I didn’t want to follow the pattern of the entire audience, experiencing the show through that of a screen. This was my first show, and I wanted to take everything in with fresh eyes only.

Sitting in the second row, I had a pretty good look at what was about me, from the very skinny models on the runway, to the audience of camera phones, to the expressions on people’s faces whenever someone new turned the corner onto the runway in some fashionable or exotic item.

I noticed the first collection (by Ana) to be a combination of pastels, soda pop, pinup, sea anemone billowed shaped ensembles. For the second designer, Anissa, I got the vibes of farmer, straw, classic boxy cuts, Chinese influence, chopsticks, half painted face, and hues of denim and white. When Ester’s collection came out, it was all paper shredded, old theatre, piano style tuxes with a seventies influence with long haired vibes and masculine linens. And lastly, for Billie, a sparkle show of pink sequins, fur, exotic jewelry, punk ‘80’s unicorn, and light up sneaks. All new designers, all very dissimilar aesthetics.

And just like that, all that hard work, all that time spent backstage prepping with models, makeup artists, and publicity, it was over. Fifteen minutes to capitalize on hours and hours of hard work and dedication.

Surprised at the abrupt ending, I quietly packed away my journal into my back and carefully walked through the fashionable crowd back to the real world on the street, carefully coming down from the cloud of this show, more wise and knowledgeable with my thoughts on this mysterious industry.

Although there’s beauty and mystique about the fashion industry, also admitting that it’s an illustrious and formidable industry, it doesn’t exactly align with what I had imagined it to be. Secluded, entitled, and all based on looks and fading identities, it’s an industry that thrives on the concept of one day being in, and the next day being out.  

As much as I enjoyed being thrust into this world, glimpsing at only a peek of what it feels like to be the queen of the crop in the fashion scene, it wasn’t the right vibe for me. As a woman of modest and empowering traits, I couldn’t help but feel replaceable and insignificant, like last year’s Prada handbag.

I must say, what I’ve read about has all proved to be true. I guess it just took a leap into the pit to discover that for myself.

What I wore: vintage rhinestone choker, olive green Christian Dior draped top (designer resale store), soft floral Ted Baker high-waisted skirt (I loved my job!), and Nordstrom flats (Nordstrom Rack).

Sunday, September 18, 2016

What a Weekend.

I had the most intriguing of weekends. Participating in some new adventures, meeting some unexpected Londoners, and overall having an eventful and entertaining weekend.

It started on Friday evening. London Fashion Week was this weekend and one of my tutors, who happens to be a fashion journalist, kindly gave out some extra tickets to some of the underground shows for new artists, none of that popular stuff, like H&M and Topshop. Thrilled at the prospect of attending my very first fashion show, I received a ticket for the "Ones to Watch" show taking place at the lovely Freemasons' Hall in Covent Garden.

That was an experience in itself, one which I'll definitely be delving into at a later time, and one that I'll look back on. Let's just say... it got me to thinking a little deeper about my thoughts on the fashion industry. Plus, I got my very own look at some bona fide street style and that was pretty amazing!

Then came last night. I had been alone for most of the day, as the night before was spent with my ill roommate, and I wasn't really in the mood for going out. So there I was, sitting in my bed with my dear journal, casual clothes cozily wrapped around me watching The Vikings and one of the girls from upstairs comes down, all dressed to the nines. We get to chatting and before I know what's happening, this girl had somehow peer pressured me into going out and two minutes later, I'm dressed and in the cab headed to the club.

The club, some place called "Drama" was quite the hopping location for a Saturday night. Filled mostly with girls, it was very colorful and eclectic, with a generous free tableside drink service (thanks to my friend who modeled in one of the LFW shows).

As the night wore on, the place became more crowded and at some point, I thought I caught a glimpse of one of the YouTubers I used to watch, Ollie White. He was in the company of some other guys and when they ended up near our section of the room, we got to talking and I soon recognized the others: Joshua Pieters, Joe Sugg, Caspar Lee, and one other fellow with pink hair. Casual, super casual. They were all so friendly and I just couldn't believe that the one night I got dragged to go out, that happened! See, you just never know.

And then there was this morning: Tower Bridge. I saw that their new exhibition just opened up which included a glass floor to walk over the Thames with and knew we just had to go and experience it. After seeing the 1D boys up there in their Midnight Memories video, it was too good to pass up!

So we ventured over there and had ourselves a towering walk over the Thames.

Interesting weekend? I daresay it was.

London Fashion Week coincidentally matched my ensemble...

What a towering bridge there!

And as always, I can't get over the neatness of London's mixture of the old and the new!

Friday, September 16, 2016

Heat Wave.

It's mid-September in London, which technically implies that temps should be cooling down and rain should be falling. Instead, we've been boiled with an intense heat waves with temperatures bubbling into the eighties.

It's unbearable. While I should be pleased that the hot weather was luckily placed upon us, I have instead been sweating profusely and dying in the 50% humid city heat. What's worse is that I didn't bring any of my summer clothes and air conditioning doesn't seem to exist here.

You can imagine my pain. On the (literal) bright side, my roommate Siobhan and I have chosen to brave these hot days and continue to explore, as we know cold weather is just around the corner.

So the other day, we tubed on down to South Kensington. Both of us have a fancy for used clothing shopping and so we did some research and discovered that South Kensington, although very fancy and upper class, has quite a few red cross and donation centers, like US Salvation Army's.

And we scored. Both of us walked away with quite a few treasures and were feeling awfully stylish and proud, considering our finds were used. And Fashion Week has just arrived in London...

Siobhan's new Pinko skirt, looking fabulous...

And my new Ted Baker romper!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Secret Spot: Daisy Green.

We've walked past it nearly everyday in our jaunts to school. It sits there on New Quebec Street, enticing us with it's promise of fulfillment and happiness.

Is it a store? A handsome gent dressed to the nines? A garden of greenery, an escape from the bustling city of London?

Even better. It's a brunch spot!

I know, we're such starving college students over here, how could we bring ourselves to spend fifteen pounds on brunch?

Well I'll tell you how: life is short. I've found myself budgeting and constantly in a bit of a tizzy over expenses, as it is quite pricey over here, but throughout it all, I've also realized that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, living here in London Town. And whilst I must be aware of my spending, I also deserve to dine out a little and treat myself. I won't get opportunities like this at home!

That being said, Kat and I treated ourselves to one of the best brunches I have had the pleasure of consuming. And it was extra eggcellent because it was after a painful 8:30 lecture.

Plus, a post-brunch nap followed and you simply can't beat that.

Ladies & Gents, I give you Daisy Green

The actual coolest little spot I've seen yet!

Throughout the meal, I couldn't help but feel that this bunny checking me out. At least somebunny finds me cute!

Kat told me that her coffee was most appealing, like the bananas behind her...

Fifteen pounds spent was well worth it. Just check out the size of that breakfast plate!

We will definitely be returning soon. They have a brunch offer with bottomless mimosas and that is enticement enough!

P.S. As if the food wasn't good enough, they also had the best playlist. Everything from Drake, MIA, Phil Collins, Pat Benatar, Tove Lo, and Miley Cyrus. They also used the f-word on their menu.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Identity: You.

I couldn't quite place my finger on it. I thought that after being in London a few weeks, I would acclimatize and become, as they say, a "Londoner"; however, I instead found myself in a rather peculiar position.

I wasn't feeling myself.

It only hit me recently. I've been so distracted, and so busy running around, but there was something always just a little bit off within me that I couldn't ascertain. But then the loads of observations and happenings began to fall into place.

First, it was the distress at not having my entire closet here. Living in London only a short while, I was limited to only a few suitcases and even that wasn't enough to bring out the full elan style. I brought the classics, what I could wear with multiple pieces, and left most of the showstoppers and vintage at home. But then I realized, after living here a few weeks, that if there's anywhere to wear the showstoppers and funky clothing, it's London! So every day, I walk out the door not quite feeling the full charge of elan because I feel incomplete without a full wardrobe to choose from.

Silly, I know, but whenever I'm not feeling 100%, my outfit shows and my demeanor is just a little bit off.

Then I noticed the beauty everywhere. I have never been to a city that has such a broad and eclectic array of beautiful and unique people. I found myself comparing myself to them, losing a little piece of myself whenever I deemed in my head that I wasn't pretty enough, or stylish enough, or confident enough.

And then there was the boys. All around me, stylish and handsome men. It is the mecca of attractiveness and even as I put myself out of my comfort zone, I found that I got little in return. My friends all around me continued to get numbers, attention, flattery, and I was once again the tall shy girl in middle school, an invisible wallpaper figure wondering what was wrong with her. I felt lonely and neglected and felt as though I were missing out on an experience that so many girls around me were having.

Horrible! All of it. How did I go from 100-0 real quick?

I was having a little bit of an identity crisis, wondering what made me unique, constantly comparing myself, and feeling just short about who I was.

But you know what it was? Change. I just moved some 4500 miles across the world to live in a different city, a different country, and a different culture. I remember my teacher Fifi telling us this on one of our lectures. She said that this experience will change you. She said that every day, you will grow just a little bit differently, from the experiences you have, to the people you meet, to the walk you have to school, to perhaps a new observation that you never thought of before.

Turns out, I'm not the only one who feels this way. When I spoke up about it at dinner last night (quite an adventure indeed, as all of our drinks were kindly paid for by the gentlemen sitting behind us), I found out that some of my friends were feeling the same way. It's totally normal!

And so I'm sitting on the tube this morning, on my way to a fashion photography class, and of course Rupi Kaur's milk & honey would have the perfect quote for each of my recent feelings.

For the lack of confidence in myself & my silly closet: accept yourself as you were designed. how you love yourself is how you teach others to love you.

For the beauty and comparison: we are all born so beautiful. the greatest tragedy is being convinced we are not. we all move forward when we recognize how resilient and striking the women around us are.

For boys & loneliness: you are your own soul mate. if you are not enough for yourself you will never be enough for someone else.

For change & accepting the new: you deserve to be completely found in your surroundings, not lost within them.

To top off the amazing revelation I've had, in my fashion photography class, our subjects were our classmates. And as we were photographing each other, I was just stunned at how beautiful and exquisite these girls were. Now this is the celebration of each other that needs to happen more! Looking at them, laughing with them, and celebrating each other is far more healing on the soul then hatred, jealousy, judgement, or comparison.

Back and forth we went and when I left, I felt exhilarated and at peace. Change is good and the struggle to move along with it is a learning process, one that will expand who you are and change you all for the better...

What an honor to be around such extraordinary women...