Monday, 18 January 2010

The Best Dress Shop In The World & The Best Cupcakes In The City (My Weekend In Photos)

Sometimes I like to go walkabouts with my camera, and as it was raining yesterday I decided to take a wonder down to dry off in Armorie, the place that has to be my favourite dress shop in the world...
Its not just the beautiful dresses that I have worn to Fashion Week and beyond on sale here, its not the fact that its deliciously close to where I live, and its not just how incredibly nice Sophie, who own and runs the shop is (but all this helps!) that makes it my favourite store...  Its the pretty pretty interior!
Why am I always frowning in photographs? And because of the raincoat over my lovely dress I look like I'm wearing a bit of a tent... But, anyway, isn't that the most exquisite dressing room ever? Big mirror, walls hung with white tulle...
I also really love the flowers Sophie has in here... and doesn't she have THE most beautiful personal organiser?
I also have a bit of an obsession with ceiling fittings...
After Armoire (which, for those of you who live in/ regularly go to Canterbury, UK, is on Palace Street, at the Sugar Boy end of the Kings Mile), I headed down the high street for the cafe I had ventured out in the rain for in the first place; Cafe BoHo. I'd always gazed at this place from afar but one day my friend Kathryn took me in there for an early supper and I've been in love ever since. My favourite is my BoHo brunch; smoked salmon scrambled eggs on toast with lemonade (bliss). But this thing they are most famous for, which is something I was heading out for, was their cupcakes. At £2.50 each they're not exactly cheap, but once you've tasted one you'll always think they are worth it!
I'll make sure I take some more inside photos at a later date, but this is the counter and it gives you a bit of a general feel for the place. The lettering on the cupcake frame says "Eat More Cake". Well if you say so...
These are my cupcakes. Don't they look lovely? Its a shame the lighting in my room is really bad... I had the yellow one with a can of Pret Manger Elderflower & Grape soda while I watched The Boat That Rocked (BRILLIANT film!) and I had the red cherry one for brunch in bed with a red berry vitamin smoothie.
After the cupcake mission I headed home, only to be dragged out again by one of my friends as she wanted to go get some film developed. After we'd got that done we went for a browse in Topshop. (You can read about what happened to us in Topshop HERE, and thanks for all your comments on that post, it was fascinating to read all your stories about your experiences with similar things) and I brought the most adorable skirt in the world which I can't wait to wear! It looked great with the plum coloured tights I was wearing when I tried it on. It was on the end of the rack in the petite section as we went up the moving staircase onto the first floor and my eyes locked onto it the moment it caught my eye. I dashed over and grabbed my size at once. There was no way on earth I wasn't trying it on and buying it if it fit and suited me, even though I'd promised myself not to spend any more money on clothes!
On Sunday after cupcake brunch I headed out to a cafe (I'm sorry I didn't take any photos, I didn't take my camera with) and sat and edited my novel for a while (ok, well the whole afternoon). Its called Coffee & Corks and its almost opposite Armoire. Its really nice inside with loads of sofas and comfy chairs, acoustic guitars you can just pick up and play, a bookshelf full of the literary greats (I dipped in and out of a bit of Falkner) and the best Rose tea with fresh lemon slices I've ever tasted. They have open mic poetry nights every week in there and its just a writers and English students haven. I got so much done!

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Does It Really Matter How You Dress?

know that fashion is one of the most important things in my life, and I live to shop but I can also acknowledge that other people don't feel the same way as me, but these people do still need to wear clothes. I just had to write this blog post because I was appalled at something that happened to my friend while we were out shopping this afternoon, has happened before when I was out with her and according to her, happens all the time.
We were in Topshop, and we went to the fitting rooms with practically armfuls of clothes to try on (what's new there?). The guy at the fitting room entrance asked me how any items I was holding (4), I told him and he passed me one of those little plastic paddle things with the number on and even helped me find a fitting room. My friend went in next, holding 6 dresses. She was asked, and she told the woman. The woman told her "I'm sorry but I'm afraid I'll have to check that" and went through ever single hanger to make sure she had exactly that many items, even peering through the lace dress to make sure nothing was hidden inside.
Why? Because of the way my friend was dressed. I always make an effort whenever I leave my room to make sure I look presentable and nice, but thats a personal choice on my part. My friend doesn't care what she looks like and why should she? I asked, and she doesn't mind me liken her to one on my blog, but my friend was dressed like a tramp. The long and short of it is because she looked like she had no money for clothes, the woman in the shop thought she was going to try and shoplift. Because I dressed like I usually shopped in Topshop I was treated like a usual customer. To add insult to injury when we left the fitting rooms together the girl took the dresses from us, and taking a white lace number from me asked if it didn't fit; she really liked it. It had actually been tried on by my friend, not me, and I told the girl this. The look of horror that was on her face at this was just disgusting. Despite the treatment we both brought something (Topshop is just about the only store where I wouldn't be able to live if I had to boycott it), so why should we be treated any different?
Errm... what sort of world do we live in where this happens and where the girl in Topshop thought this was acceptable?
I remember in September we were in Fenwick (the department store) together in the perfume department (I wanted to change my scent) and the woman at the counter came up to my friend and asked her very firmly if she needed any help, the tone of her voice clearly indicating she didn't think my friend could possibly want to be looking at anything in such an expensive store without wanting to steal it.  We laughed it off at the time but we both remembered that day very clearly when we were walking home from Topshop.
I just can't believe this, and I am so shocked and horrified by how my friend is treated. Do any of you or have any of you worked in shops? Have you had any colleagues who've judged anyone by their appearance? Have you ever looked twice at someone?

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Make Your Dream Come True Day - January 13th

Today, January 13th is Make Your Dream Come True Day. This got me thinking exactly what my dreams are, and I discovered that may dreams are my aspirations, goals, aims and wishes for the future. As today is all about making my dreams come true, and all my dreams are about the future I've taken a few moments of what I can do and what changes I need to make in my life, be it go the extra mile in something or try something I've never done before to ensure these dreams come true!
1. Write a piece for NYLON Magazine. Its my favourite magazine on the planet and I would be so honoured to grace its pages, once, even if it is just once!
How am I going to work towards achieving this? I need to carry on working hard on my article portfolio with a diverse range of topics. Take every opportunity that falls into my lap. And keep on the look out for opportunities to write for NYLON in the magazine, on their website and in their newsletters and hopefully if one comes along I'll have a killer portfolio to show!
2. Publish a novel.
How am I going to work towards achieving this? Well I've written one, The Shakespeare Society, and I've completed the first edit. I need to work hard on the second edit, let some people read it and get some criticism, revise it then set about finding myself an agent. Once I've got someone good they'll help me on the road about starting to get it published!
3. Live for at least a month in New York City.
How am I going to work towards achieving this? Well I need to finish school first, but then I need to start working to save up money for the great New York visit. I need to find and make, so I don't have to pay for hotel expenses, friends who live in New York who i can stay with for some of the stay. Then I need to make a mega list of all the things I want to get done in the city. I'm visiting it at the end of this year so I need to make sure I make a list of things I wish I had time to do there, but I didn't get time to in the week I'm going for!
4. Have my own column. In a print magazine, online magazine or news site.
How am I going to work towards achieving this? Same as the NYLON entry at number one. Build my portfolio and look out sharp for opportunities!
5. Teach English for at least a year in a boarding school. Even if not for my whole career, I really want to spend some time as a teacher. I go to a boarding school and bcause I can see the lives our teachers have day in ay out, I would really like to, for at least a year to experience what they do, and love doing every single day.
How am I going to work towards achieving this? For this I don't need a teaching qualification but I need an English degree. So I need to study hard now to get into a good university, not just in English though but in all my subjects. Then I need to work hard at the degree then look for a job to apply to!
6. Teach English for at least a year in a state school. So I can have a different experience to the schools I went to growing up.
How am I going to work towards achieving this? The same as teaching in a boarding school, but I'll need to work towards a teaching qualification for this one too.

7. Write a play and either direct or act in it.
How am I going to work towards achieving this? I have an idea for a play and I've written a scene, but I need to work on getting it finished and polished. Then find somewhere to put it on and people to perform in it!
8. Design a dress and make it myself, from scratch.
How am I going to work towards achieving this? I know how to design, where to get fabric and how to sew and trim really well. I just need to buy/ borrow or rent a dressmakers mannequin, and learn pattern cutting.
9. Buy a really expensive pair of lovely pretty high heeled shoes.
How am I going to work towards achieving this? Save up, and then travel to a big city and trawl through all the stores until I find 'the' pair!
10. Found a Literary Salon. (A literary discussion group)
How am I going to work towards achieving this? I haven't got enough friends or acquaintances, or enough analytical experience to do this now, so I think I should wait until i at least go to university. For now I should practice my literary criticism, and keep on reading so I always improve and when the time comes I'll be prepared to take the helm !

So what are your dreams, and what are you going to do today to make a start on it coming true?

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Ten Questions with Stephanie J, Editor In Chief of N.E.E.T Magazine

For this edition of Ten Questions I've been joined by Stephanie J, the Editor In Chief over at N.E.E.T Magazine, somewhere you may have heard me mention before...
I love making lists of my favourite things, things I'd love to achieve, and on that latter piece of procrastination is, pretty near the top the fact that N.E.E.T is the online magazine I'd most love to write for in the world, and looking at the layouts and killer format and content I hope you can see why! So it is a great honour for me to be doing this interview so thanks Stephanie & N.E.E.T, and to all my readers - enjoy! You can read the magazine, check out the back issues and hit up the magazine's blog HERE!
So to start up, introduce yourself and your magazine...
N.E.E.T. began in December 2005 as a quarterly, online publication, laid out in a magazine format - as a showcase for grassroots creativity. N.E.E.T. is the first of its kind - online, free and packed with everyone from a crafter creating from their kitchen table, to a fashion design graduate straight out of college, to a team of people doing it for the love of it. N.E.E.T. Magazine is an eco-friendly, grassroots style bible for the digital age. I organise, lay out and design everything in the magazine, so it's really a one-woman-band!
Doesn't N.E.E.T stand for "Not currently engaged in Employment, Education or Training" on all those government tax forms? Isn't that a bit of a depressing thing to name a magazine, or did you name it after something else?
Yes, that's where the name came from! I was 'NEET' at the time of starting the magazine, and you're right, it has a somewhat derogatory meaning, referring to young people who aren't employed or doing anything considered "worthwhile" - I took the term and gave it to the magazine to show that there are many people who are working for themselves, or doing many different things - not just working in one career path or in a 9 to 5 job in an office.
How long have you been the Editor of N.E.E.T for? What did you do before that?
I started the magazine in 2005, and I had just quit a Fine Art degree, feeling the rigidity and often falseness of the artworld wasn't for me. I still felt I needed a creative outlet, and that's how N.E.E.T. began.

Why independent and grassroots fashion?
Having been part of many communities on the internet (Livejournal, Flickr, Deviantart, even Myspace) I knew there was a large community of people out there who were creating, designing and making, because they had a desire to. They weren't backed by big business, and they didn't need to be. That's the beauty of the internet - everyone can have a voice. And the best fashion, the most innovative and immediate style and design, comes from us, the people.
Have you always wanted to work in fashion, or is it something you just fell into? Do you see yourself continuing in this field?
I have always been interested in fashion, from wearing humungous clip on earrings at five, some serious fashion faux-pas in the 90s as a teenager, and it was a natural extension of my interests.
You also run your own web and graphic design service, Design by Stephanie J. How did that come about? Was that always the plan?
I got into designing websites for myself, when every teenage girl seemed to have a personal site, before the explosion of blogs. Friends needed sites or graphic design work, and they came to me.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to get going in the fashion industry, or even start their own magazine?
There has been a massive growth in the number of online magazines since N.E.E.T. began five years ago - from one-man-teams to major publications going digital. The best advice to someone wanting to start an online magazine is to have a unique selling point. N.E.E.T.'s is that it features independent fashion - including vintage, fairtrade, eco-friendly and organic. There are so many print and digital mags churning out the same haute couture or the same highstreet fashion, and N.E.E.T. brings something new to the table.
What do you enjoy doing asides from running the magazine and your design services?
Shopping, and going to the pub!

Describe a day in your life...
When I'm working on the magazine, it often doesn't feel like I'm working! I get to read a 1000 blogs, researching shops and artists, answering emails and organising advertising. I also research for the N.E.E.T. Blog ( which features designers and artists from past issues of the magazine. I'm a nightowl so I stay up until the early hours working and watching trashy tv!
So what's next for both N.E.E.T and Stephanie?
The blog's been a great addition to the magazine, and I plan to continue and grow that. I'd also like to get involved with other sites related to independent fashion and design. I have plans for a N.E.E.T. book and even a N.E.E.T. shop!

Thanks so much again for the interview. You can also find Stephanie's web design services HERE!