Sunday 22 September 2019

Fashion Week Tea From London Fashion Week SS20

It's day one of London Fashion Week SS20 (Spring/Summer 2020) and, on a foot with a potentially broken baby toe (I fell down a stairs the night before in my friend's apartment as it was incredibly dark and the stairwell is next to a very narrow landing), I rush in for my first show of the season. I somehow make it with fifteen minutes to spare – an eternity in the fashion world where things nearly always run late – and join the dishearteningly long queue but I don't think about it too deeply, as surely they know best about how many people to invite? Wrong. They, in fact, do no know best, as we quickly realise when the one, very small and sweet and polite young woman being sent to man the ever-growing queue tells the majority of us that the show is at capacity and none of the rest of us will be getting in. Unwilling to observe people with egos berate this lovely woman who is only doing her job, I immediately duck out of the queue and into a nearby cafe for a nice breakfast. What's the point in being annoyed? It's not going to change anything and it's just fashion, it's not that serious. Lining my stomach with delicious food will make things infinitely better.

Models at the Nensi Dojaka SS20 presentation.

Next, I hit up a presentation in which models in very cool and daring lingerie-inspired dresses wander the room, selfie-sticks in hand, looking listless and generally reflecting a message of caution towards contemporary behaviours and attitudes in a digital era. One of the models carries bundles of printouts of photos of another model that are spewing from a printer in the corner. I register this peripherally as I am at work trying to get “the shots”, on a time crunch. I do not register the model approach me, something that I have never experienced at a presentation before (A/N: presentations are an alternative to fashion shows in which models are dressed in the collection and allowed to roam a space for several hours, either simply posing or acting in some way to adhere to the theme of a collection). She comes at me with a print-out and I gasp-scream before chuckling in embarrassment (no one makes eye contact or laughs with me, despite the fact that I am surrounded by other attendees of the presentation) and meekly accepting the page. The model, God bless her, is a complete professional and doesn't even blink in surprise, continuing on her merry way. Thankfully, I have an out as I need to get to another show, so I scamper away.

Gayeon Lee SS20.

At said other show, I have trouble finding my seat, which is odd, as there are finite, labelled options of seats and I can read. I go back and forth along the row of seats before asking for help. The sincere and lovely young attendant that I ask, however, quickly proves to not be very good at her job. She is as lost as I. On an amusing note, when she gets her hands on an i-Pad to look up the seating arrangement, I notice that I am listed in the database with a picture of the television broadcaster by the same name.I fail to get a photo of this but it makes me laugh and I wish I had. (They must have just googled my name and not looked into it to make sure they had the right Colette Fitzpatrick?) Eventually, it becomes apparent that someone has stolen my seat. Another attendant, who is much more on top of things, tells me to do the same so I squeeze in between two people and ensure I get my hands on a giftbag – look, I was given a front row ticket and there was a damned cute hat in the bag, I was simply getting what I was promised.

Sharon Wauchob SS20.

Upon leaving the show, I make my way to Foyle's, the famous London bookstore, for my next show. I try, and fail, to resist the temptation of being in a bookshop and buy three books to add to the stack of books in my room that I have yet to read. When I get to the show itself I am immediately surprised by the increase in the number of people with zero fashion week etiquette, including professionals. It's always been an issue that bloggers, students, and randos invited along don't get the etiquette. They don't seem to grasp that everyone is there trying to get their shot, that a lot of the people are there to work, and that they need to get that shot in order to get paid. I see lots of people hogging prime spots to have a chat, which is simply rude. The etiquette, as I've observed it, is to wait your turn, get your shot as quickly as possible and then to step aside for the next person to do the same. The number of people ignoring, or ignorant to, this, seems to have increased exponentially since last season. I also observe similarly rude behaviour among the photographers this season, which is surprising. They're normally the very people that you can count on to get it! I don't know if it's because the market is so saturated and getting “the shot” makes it easier for you to sell your images over another photographer or if there are just more photographers that are very green getting involved but it was sad (and very frustrating) to witness. Irritated as I am, I leave once I've seen everything once, even though the usual bonus of a presentation is being able to carefully take in pieces and all their details. Rudeness is my Kryptonite so I have to split before I get so huffy (because, of course, I won't actually say anything), I knock myself out from a lack of oxygen.

Lark & Berry rings.

On the second day of London Fashion Week, my true love gave to me...sorry, no, wrong song, different tune. But I do get a free ear piercing at Lark & Berry, which is pretty good. Some fashion week glamour rearing it's expertly groomed and styled head. The brand is really interesting, using cultured diamonds and gems (i.e. Lab-grown, did you know that was a thing? I didn't) and maintaining incredible transparency about their practices. Their gold is ethically sourced, too, and they plant five trees for every piece sold. They also treat me kindly, even though I'm aware (as fashion week consistently reminds me), that I'm a nobody in the industry (that's fine, I'm a somebody in my free time so I can't cope with a little bit of ego-testing). At the very next thing I go to, however, I'm booted from my seat in the frow when a more important person arrives late. I'm not the only one it happens to and I don't take it personally but it stings a little. The collection is v good though, I just wish I asked the name of the girl I was chatting to before being escorted to my new (much less good) seat as it's rare enough to talk to someone nice at fashion week, someone who isn't trying to figure out if you're important enough to waste their time on.

Riona Treacy SS20.

The middle section of day two flattens and, aside from the Riona Treacy presentation, nothing is especially memorable. Fashion week is one long clamour of thousands of voices to be seen and heard and, unfortunately, not everyone can be. It's an exhausting energy to be around and makes me feel sad for people who place too much of their self-worth in it all. I also manage to go to the wrong show when I'm pointed the wrong way but manage to figure it out at the last minute and grab my seat. This time I'm not kicked out of the front row and the THISNORTHAT collection is a wonderfully cool palate-cleanser after a rather forgettable afternoon.

Simone Rocha SS20

Summer returns in full force for day three and I am forced to abandon the outfit of lace and velvet that I had packed specially for the Simone Rocha show. I battle through the hot underground and am glad I chose to change; when you're a regular pleb, there is too much use of public transport to allow for the perfectly turned-out looks of street style fame. The first show of the day is another that I don't find especially noteworthy, something that increasingly weighs on my mind as it feels more and more important not to put our planet under the burden of making things that aren't necessary or extraordinary. There is no longer room for that which is just "okay". The mad schlep out to Alexandra Palace for the Simone Rocha show exemplifies this. These are clothes that needed to be born. These clothes make the world sparkly and magic. These clothes are works of art that were well-worth the panicked combo of tube-train-bus and hour-and-a-half-commute-that-many-of-us-thought-left-us-with-plenty-of-time. We were wrong. More fashion week sweating ensued. But, as I say, it is worth it. I quiver with excitement throughout the whole show. Afterwards, Galway Now's very own Blathnait, who I haven't met again since a brief encounter years ago and not since beginning working with the magazine, and I finally reunite. We bump in Sinead Burke and, somehow, we end up talking about Peig Sayers on acid. The meeting and the show leave me buzzing so much that the next, once again, somewhat underwhelming show doesn't stop me from having trouble falling asleep for all of the ideas racing around in my well-stimulated brain.

Finally, I finish with the Paul Costelloe show, as is often the case for me, sadly missing Katie Ann McGuigan and Colin Horgan's shows as I don't plan to stay for the Tuesday. It's a fashion week rule: if you stay the extra day, nothing is on. If you leave, you miss something exciting. Thankfully, though, Paul is a great note to end things on. The collection is joyous and, of course, at the show teeming with fellow Irish folks, there is no shortage of kindness. I actually manage to miss my show at half eleven but there is another at twelve and the attendants all wave it off as nothing, assuring me they'll squeeze me in. They do just that and though the party vibes and social atmosphere border on rude at times (lack of that etiquette again; three ladies chatting on the runway had to be told to sit down after the lights dimmed and music cut out and everyone else cleared the way), I can't help be glad of the guaranteed kindness of this show to ensure fashion week always ends on a very positive note for me. In this case, there is no more tea to be spilled, and, sure, isn't that as well? Tea is to be savoured, with good people, not wasted.


Friday 6 September 2019

5 Minimal Waste Cruelty-Free Irish Beauty Products That I'm Loving Right Now

As I mentioned a while back, I have had a wild ride of utterly reevaluating consumption, blogging, and my personal responsibility to the environment. Stepping back and really looking at how I'd been going about things and taking stock for a moment made me realise that beauty blogging and fashion blogging, in the traditional sense that I had grown used to, were no longer possible for me. 

Basically, I stopped shopping except when necessary, shopped the stash of untouched products that had piled up in my house instead of going out for anything when possible, and made sure that I bought only sustainable, minimal waste items when I did need to get something. I replaced my toothbrush (once it was at the end of its life) with a wooden brush (three times by now), stopped buying traditional toothpaste (those tubes are not at all recyclable), switched to a reusable razor for shaving, and slowly changed everything that was on my bathroom shelf.

The biggest change, though, was simply not buying things. And this meant that I no longer had things to review all the time. Ergo, no real beauty posts for months beyond the less glamorous and more practical articles I have written about the experience of switching to more sustainable basic grooming options. Until today, when, after around half a year, I have finally accumulated five (the necessary minimum number for any listicle worth it's salt, obvs) beauty products worth talking about. All are cruelty-free (a pre-existing stance when it comes to products that I have maintained for years now), all are Irish (to reduce my carbon footprint and air miles), and all are made of either entirely, or almost entirely, recyclable materials. I still prefer refillable products when possible (brands, can you get on this?!) but these guys are the next best thing given the market we're in. Here are 5 Minimal Waste Cruelty-Free Irish Beauty Products That I'm Loving Right Now...

1. We Are Paradoxx Hangover Hair Elixir, 75ml, RRP €35.00

Look, I won't lie, this guy is pricey and I was totes initially suckered in by the packaging. That being said, I swear by hair oils and this is one of the better ones that I have tried. As someone who cannot go a day without washing their hair, I need the extra moisture and not only does this deliver that, but it also leaves a nice glossy finish and a lovely warm and sweet scent. It is also: "Clean, 100% toxin-free, organic + natural extracts, vegan, 90% plastic-free, paraben, perfume free, cruelty-free, ethical + sustainable, gluten-free, synthetic fragrance-free, eco-friendly, mineral oil-free, SLES + SLS free." And, as they note on the packaging, a little really does go a loooong way. Plus, come on, that's some damn cute packaging! Although I've gotten a few weird looks at the gym for pulling out what looks like a hip flask in the changing rooms...

Admittedly, with this bad boy and it being a face mask, I haven't used it for the consistent two month minimum required before I normally talk about skincare. However, it's great! It calms the skin (and mine is currently super cross and covered in hormonal breakouts in the chin region), balances it out, moisturises, and leaves your face feeling soft and springy. Made from powdered seaweed, it comes in a small jar (no plastic in sight) and you take one teaspoon of it and add either add one teaspoon of water, natural yoghurt, or honey. I recommend honey for the consistency (water makes it very watery indeed) and to improve the experience as, I'm not gonna lie, it doesn't smell pleasant when you have it on but, if you get a little in your mouth (as I am prone to do) when it's mixed with honey it doesn't taste half bad, which makes the whole thing less unpleasant. 

I actually met the Cloon Keen gang in their Galway store at an event a few years ago and got this candle as a press sample and fell in love with the warm, spicy, masculine scent. That candle was quickly used long, long ago and I decided to buy it again a few weeks ago as it had been over a year since I'd bought or had a scented candle. I allowed myself the treat and, boy, am I glad I did. My room feels instantly more elegant and cosy with this sucker going in the background. An Irish candle, rather than one that had to be imported, handmade in small batches, and packaged in glass and cardboard, it isn't going to leave too much of a mess behind or too much of a carbon footprint either comparatively. Excellent all around.

Made in Cork, these lovely soaps are handmade by the owner, Louise, in an old cowshed on her family's farm with environmental impact firmly in mind. This lemon scented one is super-fresh smelling and is what I use in the shower, now that I have long-since abandoned shower gels and their plastic bottles.

Going even more local, this lovely and super-clean smelling soap is 100% natural, hand poured, and hand cut using traditional methods in Dublin. It also boasts the finest natural ingredients sourced in Ireland, such as Offaly goats milk, Donegal seaweed, beeswax from Meath and Irish spring water. The Achill sea salt inside is designed to gently exfoliate. All in all, a kind of dream team combo of Irish products to make one rather excellent soap.

So, if you're trying to do your bit for our planet, you may need to slow down the consumption and make some changes but you don't have to miss out on little luxuries entirely, just be conscious and source them carefully. And in Ireland we're pretty damn lucky as there are plenty of people making some great beauty products with the earth in mind.

Monday 10 June 2019

I Bought My First Bikini* - Why That Matters And Why It Doesn't

(*in a long damn time)

A few months ago, when talking to my best friend about my fitness journey, I casually noted that I previously had been deeply ashamed of my body and I saw her sharp intake of breath in shock and her eyes fill up with utter sadness and hurt. I thought nothing of hating myself but she, being one of the people who loves me most, was incredibly pained by the cavalier way in which I talked about being cruel to her best friend. It gave me pause to acknowledge how fucked up my way of thinking had been and made me love her a little more for how much my suffering clearly affected her. I mean, obviously, I already loved her but the people who cry for your pain as if it is their own are the real keepers in life; remember this.

In many ways, when I started out with tackling my on-going issues with how I looked, I was going about, and thinking about, things in completely the wrong way. My value systems were completely messed up and favoured aesthetics and societal pressure over taking care of the only vessel I have, or will ever have, to occupy in this life. As time went on and I moved on from eating slightly better and walking home from work everyday, to mild exercise, to being able to run 5km in under thirty minutes, to running and doing circuits multiple times a week, I felt my body change. Firstly, my anxiety chilled the fuck out in a serious way. Then I felt more energetic. Then I noticed muscles I never knew I had. Everything got easier. I was fit for the first time since I was an actual child and it all became about being fit, about being strong, about being able to do all the things I wanted to do, and about being healthy and investing in myself and some longevity. 

However, it's not like I suddenly forgot all about wanting to look different and I'd be lying if I didn't enjoy the reappearance of my cheekbones, my clothes fitting better, and not having to worry about people seeing the hidden shame that I felt my torso to be. But that was all just a bonus. What did really change was how I weighted the importance of, and how much less brain space I devoted to, worrying about how my body looks. I still don't have a "perfect" body and do you know what? I don't give a shit. I recently went running with my dad on the roads around our family home and as I am pretty much an (less determined, less innately kind, less good) exact little replica of him, I'm also a serious sweater when I exercise. So, as it was a hot day, I (me, yes, me) went running in public in a (double-layer because my tits came in real strong at 13) sports bra and leggings. I didn't cover up with a baggy hoody. I knew that I still have some belly fat that I'm self-conscious about, that won't budge, and, yet, loves to jiggle around, but I said, "Screw it." I don't owe it to anyone, including myself, to have a "perfect" body. Pretty much everyone else but me cares very little about how "perfect" my body is. And it was hot and I sweat a lot. So, fuck it.

In a similar vein, I recently bought my first bikini since that one time in college I had an aneurism and I thought that the high-waisted bikini sets advertised so appealingly in American Apparel would make me suddenly skinny and hide my multitude of sins with their high-waistedness. Spoiler: They did not. And so the suit was relegated to the bottom of my bra drawer. Since then, I have worn one-piece suits exclusively and felt very uncomfortable even with their relative and comparative amount of cover/protection/safety blanket. As a person that partially defines themselves by their sense of style, clothes have always been a shield but swimsuits have not allowed me to make the edits and flourishes with my body where I want to. Swimsuits don't play by the regular rules of the game of hide and reveal of clothes. But now, now that I care less about owing it to others or myself to look a certain way, and now that I am proud of how I have honed my body through time and sweat and commitment, and now that I don't feel the desperate need to hide myself like some dirty secret, I bit the bullet and thought I'd try it one more time. I still got something simple, functional, made out of recycled polyester and made for swimming and climbing and jumping and not just posing but it bears a flash of very noticeable shocking whiter-than-white Irish skin around my torso that can't be missed. 

I don't look perfect it in but I don't need to and I don't need to own that imperfection either. As Editor of Irish Tatler magazine, Sarah Macken noted in piece in the most recent issue of the aforementioned publication, it is great to see people who provide a beautiful alternative to the traditionally media and societal defined ideal "beach body", but some of us can also just have bodies that are ours and not a political statement. Some of us are out there changing the world but some of us can also just be. So, I'm going to be in my new bikini, around the people who love me; around a mother who is simply glad we are all healthy, a father who is proud that I've taken control of my life, siblings made of almost all the same stuff as me who don't give an eff about how I look. It's not going to be motivational or a statement (because who needs another white, middle-class, able-bodied, cis-gender, conventionally not unattractive woman in her twenties complaining about a little excess fat around her middle or trying to hijack the body-positivity movement that is far more needed, and better represented, by others?!), it's just going to be me on my personal journey, being. 

Monday 4 March 2019

Bar Shampoo, Brushing Your Teeth With Dirt And Other Failures And Successes In Making A Zero-Waste Beauty Routine 2019

A few weeks ago I wrote about the changes that would happen on this blog and the ways in which I had changed, myself, in how I related to objects and consumption. I have drastically altered the way in which I buy and use beauty products, in particular, as I try to consume in a more sustainable and ethical way and it has lead to some ... interesting ... experiments, results, and failures.

I. Buying Less

This is the most important change in my routine and the most crucial for anyone trying to consume more responsibly. Buying less is the easiest way to be kinder to the planet as it uses less resources to make, package, and deliver products and leaves you with less waste afterwards. Many of us buy things without even thinking about it, not entirely finishing something before moving on to the next thing, abandoning one product for something we've seen used or advertised. However, in an attempt to correct my chaotic overconsumption in the past, I've been buying only what is absolutely necessary in my routine. This has also simplified my routine. No more random skincare items infused with the trendy ingredient of the moment or some gimmicky fad but, rather, only the basics: cleanser, toner, serum, moisturiser, sun cream. And you'd better believe I'm cutting things open and using every last drop.

Screen Shot 2019-03-04 at 18.42.21

II. Shopping My Stash

Continuing on from buying less, I've also been rooting through presses and drawers and rediscovering things I forgot I had and making sure to finish them all. Something I was already doing, it has been further bolstered by the inspiration of Estée Laundry's daily #shopmystash posts in which the self-described "anonymous beauty collective" shares followers' pictures of the products in their routines and how they are doing with their own journeys towards being more sustainable. Also, for independent, unbiased information about beauty brands, beauty news, discussion about diversity and ethics in the industry, deep dives into various trends and issues, and more, you should give EL a follow as they are one of the most important pages atm for anyone interested in the area.


III. Bar Shampoo

I noted my attempts to switch out products for items with less or no packaging over on Bean a while ago. One of my first trials was the switch to bar shampoo from Palm Free Irish Soap. In theory, it's perfect, right? No packaging at all, relatively cheap, long-lasting, and it smelled nice. However, sadly, it was a case of something being too good to be true. 

Now, perhaps, if you have some sort of different hair texture, bar shampoo might work for you. Maybe if you wash your hair less often than me, if might work for you. Maybe if you're a more meticulous person, it might work for you. But from day one I hated the bar shampoo and it clearly hated me in return. On first use I lathered too much and I couldn't wash it all out. I thought I had been thorough in rinsing but the horrid, greasy mess I woke up to said otherwise.


Moving forwards, I used less and less of the product with each wash and that yielded better results but it still drastically affected my hair. Prior to bar shampoo, my hair was incredible; soft, silky, and impossibly shiny. When I brushed it, my friends would marvel and say it was shampoo commercial hair. Only now is it returning back to that state, a month after abandoning my bar in favour of refillable shampoo in glass bottles from The Glass Dispensary

Great in theory, in reality bar shampoo just isn't an option for lots of us, particularly those with lots and lots of very fine long hair that requires daily washing. However, the Glass Dispensary's refillable bottles are a great alternative and mean that you still aren't generating any waste. 

Oh, and don't worry, I didn't just throw away the shampoo bar. It still smells nice so I used it as regular soap instead.

IV. Brushing Your Teeth With Dirt

Georganics, dental care, products,  2018

Okay, so I obviously wasn't actually brushing my teeth with dirt but another of my swaps was for toothpaste. Toothpaste tubes and the difficulty in recycling them really, really triggers my anxiety. I don't know why it is so especially strong for this particular item but it is. Therefore, it had to be one of the things I focused on finding an alternative for. 

Years ago, I used Lush's toothpaste tabs - which are little tablets you chew up and then add water to with a wet toothbrush - but I really hated the texture and never went back to them. In an attempt to find a better alternative, I tried Georganics' glass toothpaste pots. A natural toothpaste, the texture is a bit different to your regular toothpaste, more crumbly and drier. Pair this with the fact that I was using the charcoal variety in their range and you might be able to see why it felt as though I was brushing my teeth with dirt. It's great for whitening and does a decent job cleaning but I really missed feeling minty fresh while using it. Plus, I dreaded the texture and hated using it. It made brushing my teeth a real chore. I want to try the peppermint flavour next and see if that is any better but I have to say that it's not my favourite experience I've ever had, overall. With few better options, however, I guess I'll just have to learn to put up with it all. 

V.  Getting Rid Of Disposable Cotton Rounds

This, I think, has been my most successful swap. I have traded disposable cotton rounds for reusable ones and they're great. I've heard of others not liking them but I tried them anyway and I'm into it. I actually think they drink up less of my toner, allowing me to use more and waste less of it, stretching out the life of that product too. They are also pretty low maintenance and my pack of five is perfect for using a side each night and then throwing however many I've used in the wash with my clothes. I always having some clean ones lying about and never have to worry about running out. 


All of this has been a bit of a learning curve for me and I'm always trying to find more sustainable options and do better. While some of the experiments that I have undergone on this journey have been vaguely disastrous or unpleasant, I do think I owe it to the planet to go through a little discomfort. In the grand scheme of things, it's not that big of a deal or that much of a sacrifice. And, perhaps, you can use my experiences and anecdotes to help yourself get started too...except with some things to keep in mind and avoid.

Let's all do our best and try to be better!

Monday 18 February 2019

London Fashion Week AW19 - Highlights, obsessions, manners, and frustrations

I do London Fashion Week each season. Have done (almost without exception) for four years now. It is almost always wonderful, dizzying, leaving me breathless and vibrating with renewed passion and excitement for weeks after the fact. And, at this stage, I have designers I have personally followed, in some cases since their debut, for years. I have favourites and friends in the industry and I'm always discovering new, intriguing brands.

Being in London twice a year for fashion week also gives me a chance to see friends who live in the city and gives me access to eateries, stores, museums, and more that I have to admire from afar in between visits. It is a heady mixture of fashion, reunions, and hectic touristing. And I am also, technically, working. As you can imagine, it is exhausting. But it is always worth it. Mostly.

This season, for me, was dominated by Irish and Asian designers working from London. NATALIEBCOLEMAN being back at LFW herself and on the schedule was a highlight and seeing Katie Ann McGuigan get the British Fashion Council support she deserved delighted me while Xu Zhi's presentation literally blew me away with its beauty and both Gayeon Lee and Jamie Wei Huang both presented collections I wanted to shop immediately.


I started out with the Jamie Wei Huang show and was delighted by the location; the extremely lovely Garden Museum, which is located in an old church not far from Westminster. The crystal-clear morning sun was illuminating the first blooms of spring around the headstones and in flower beds in the churchyard as we stood outside and waited to be let in. I managed to snag an empty seat, despite the fact that I had been originally allocated a standing invite (a fact I'm salty about as I've been covering the brand for years and actively seeking out to attend and cover them but I like the work enough not to get overly put out) and quickly forgot my childish complaints as I fell into the charming school days theme of the show. Taiwanese Indie Band No-nonsense Collective blasted over the soundsystem as a distinctly nostalgic-sounding and energetic soundtrack, exam answer sheets were laid out on benches as the show notes, and a parade of male and female models with tousled hair, blushy cheeks and a slightly dishevelled look in tartan twinsets, asymmetric longline suits, unisex sweaters with hand embroidered check cable in the brand's signature bold shades of blues, reds, white and combinations of the above, reimagined macs and puffers with built-in backpacks, and more, passed by. Tartans, checks, knitwear, big coats...all very much staples of novels about British boarding schools but reimagined and a little more rebellious. The net result? I felt like I was watching the cool kids walk past me in the school corridor and, boy, did I want to join in!



Next, I rushed my butt across the Thames to the Gayeon Lee presentation, where I found things very prim, proper, and perfect. Hairbands, ribbons, elegant pointed shoes, and dainty little handbags, starched and pleated shirtdresses, hems to just past the knee or to the calf: it was a collection as pristine and put-together as I sometimes dream of being and will never be. But made more interesting and modern by slightly longer sleeve-lengths, handbag handles with Lee's signature geometric shapes, cut-outs just above the hip, and masterful use of tucking, gathering, and pleating to create sleek, form-fitting silhouettes. Lee's woman is elegant but she is not dowdy in the least, a line that is always hard to tread but is done here with ease and great taste. As I noted in the beginning, it was one of the collections I most wanted to fill my own wardrobe with, which is not always an indicator that a show is good or not but a place to start.



Friday was busy and chaotic and I did go to some other shows but was not particularly blown away again, until (and you really will have to excuse this continued pun), I got to the Xu Zhi presentation. This, however, was where my nice smooth streak of calm was blipped this season. It always happens, such is the way of fashion week. There is always chaos, crowds (bigger or smaller than forecasted, leading to messes in either scenario), and a lack of manners that boils my blood. The word has obviously spread as the brand has grown and the masses turned out for the theatrical presentation in which Xu Zhi Chen's models were blown about on a cold windy morning, strangers each going about their days on their way to their respective destinations, tied together by garments with elements in common, connecting and interacting here and there. This heavily conceptualised presentation required space for the models to act out being blown away, to come together in embraces, to walk about as if they were going about their days normally. As there was no clearly marked out space for the crowds of observers, the large mob kept clashing and interrupting their flow. I did my best to avoid their path and let them past but one very surly-looking model shoved past me twice, glaring at me as I apologised to him. Not that I could blame him, even if he were cross with me or merely acting out some character. The clamour to "get the shot" was unbearable and it was a crowd without normal presentation etiquette, or so it seemed. The collection itself, however, was a delight, as was the concept. The room was simply overly-full and overly-excited. But I was feeling the giant fuzzy coats and matching oversized bucket hats, the lacy, see-through bucket hat down over the eyes on one model, the fringed skirts, dresses, tops, and bags, the perfectly just-oversized suits. It was all slick and yet just a little chaotic. Wearable and theatrical. Opposites in the best sort of way.



I finished day one at the University of Westminster grad show, picking out some potential future talent before heading to the Dior exhibition in the V&A because, why not? I was in town anyway. The next morning, however, I sadly missed my first show because it was at half nine in the morning, which is just gross during fashion week when you're up late (doing social media until 2), have to dress up somewhat, and need to actually get there from wherever you're staying. At least be civil and have a two hour presentation if you're starting at half nine on the Saturday of fashion week. A catwalk at that time should be illegal. Trying not to be deflated at my own laziness, I took time to explore the designer showrooms and interview jewellery designer Ellis Mhairi Cameron for Bean (keep an eye out!). Then the Katie Ann McGuigan presentation began, delighting me once again with Katie's fearless and expert use of the most joyous colour you ever did see. I was at her LFW debut and this was her on-schedule official LFW debut, which made me very secondhand-proud if her. This collection was inspired by the Bosozoku "Speed Tribe" biker subculture in Japan in the 80s and 90s. The idea of an all girl underground gang is a serious mood and the beautiful combination of heavy monster shoes, sporty cuts, intense layering, and heavy leathers with breezy organzas, a palette of lilac, mint, ochre, navy, and jade, tulle, gingham, tie-dye, and rose patterns, is striking. The effect? A need to be initiated into said gang immediately.





For the rest of the day, I decided to forego lots of invites for shows that I wasn't feeling or felt I was just in a very different demographic to and, instead, spent the day meeting friends. I had one other show in the evening and my childhood bestie and I decided to part ways for it and reconvene afterwards for dinner. This, perhaps, was not the best choice as, is often the case, later weekend shows can turn into an overpacked party where manners go to die. As is also often the case, clearly FAR more people than could fit had been invited. I had a seated ticket but, by the time I got through the door, there were few seats left so I tried to find a good place to stand instead. I could have been a dick and made a fuss about it but I didn't because what's the point? It wasn't any of the attendants' faults and they looked stressed as it was. Sadly, a trio of American men attending the show did not seem to feel the same way and I watched them ask some girls who were seated in front of me if they had seating tickets. When the girls said that they did not, they made them move, only to stand in the spots in front of said chairs for a better view (when you're that far back, you're better off standing) and block the line of vision of everyone behind them. It was a room of people clamouring to be important, to be someone, to be seen to have been there, and to publicise the fact, and this is exactly the worst side of the industry. It made me feel ill and sad for everyone involved. The desperation and rudeness, and willingness to push anyone out of your way is not my thing. I left as quickly as possible.

My final day began with the NATALIEBCOLEMAN SISTERS presentation, which was stunning and breathtaking and everything. I literally cannot stress that enough. In a darkened room, a circle of women sat, sewing, chatting, at work, together in sisterhood, different ages, sizes, and races. At their feet were scattered roses all over. They wore Carrickmacross lace, handmade by Natalie's longtime hometown collaborators, silk, linen, hand embroideries...women's work, a history of female legacy, celebrated and raised up once more. Caravaggesque lighting illuminating the angelic curls, impassive faces, and beautiful garment details of the diverse cast as they worked at stitching, leaned on each other or on an artful stack of books at the centre of the room. The presentation celebrates sisterhood, the bonds of women, and the importance of these bonds, more than ever, in these turbulent times. Shown in collaboration with the United Nations Sexual Reproductive Health Agency, 25 years after sexual and reproductive health became a fundamental human right, there will also be a capsule collection of printed scarves, hoodies, sweaters, and t-shirts (all sustainably and ethically produced in organic cotton), with 10% of profits going directly to the UNFPA. Once again, I'm Natalie's biggest fangirl, wishing I could afford an organza confection to live in.





On then to another show I went, having missed one I was excited for due to schedules being too tight. Upon arrival, I discovered the type of event normally fine but disastrous at fashion week; trying to liquor a crowd up in a sunny court early on a Sunday afternoon, an hour behind things, and with no explanation for the delay or hope for anything better. I had to bounce early, grumbling and unimpressed, in order to make my next appointment, with no idea how long the rest was going to take and no one who seemed to know themselves among those working there. Another major bugbear of mine: you just cannot mess with people's fashion week timetables! It's very poor form.


To end things off, I somehow just managed to make the end of the Underage presentation, of which I loved the punky Rocky Horror Picture Show vibes but arrived too late to really experience. I did like the Edwardian coiffing, Japanese-inspired tailoring and fabrics, creepy specs, clashing of fabrics and textures, and overall hedonism and romance of it all. And with that, I was pushed out the door so they could prep the space for the next show and made my way to the airport after a fashion week filled with incredible collections, lots of rude people who need to respect those at the event to work and who need to learn some etiquette, overly-crowded venues unable to cope, stressed employees trying to manage, fun times with pals, great food, a stellar museum trip, and the feeling, as per, that the whole thing is all really very strange...