Monday, 30 April 2018

Dad Trainers As The Basis Of An Outfit Every Day For A Week

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Dad trainers, the great sartorial divide of our times...

I'm very much for them, let me make that clear. However, my affection very much comes with plenty of terms and conditions. I'm not an old fogey who complains about ripped jeans (within reason) - I get how pre-wearing items can be aesthetically pleasing - but I refuse to pay for runners that look like they've been worn until they are a gross brownish-white. Refuse. Similarly, I need the colour palette to be attractive - I'm not into some of the deeply unattractive and fuddy-duddy, drab "Dad" colour schemes. Basically, give me the fat silhouette, but make it a little slicker, and give me a couple extra inches of height in the sole. Footwear that makes me taller, looks fresh and is comfy? Yes, please.

So, now that we've established where we stand when it comes to my opinion on the trend, let's talk styling. I was a little concerned, before they arrived, that these guys from Public Desire might not be overly versatile. When I laid eyes on them in person, I quickly realised that they were going to actually be really fun and easy to style with a bunch of different kinds of outfits. 

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First off, I faced Monday in a comfy outfit comprised of the lovely cream hoodie I bought in Seoul and these cropped favourites from Topshop and then pulled the hair around my face back into a little pony on top of my head. As I said, it was comfy and that was key for how I felt on the day (i.e. dead tired) but the cream accents on the runners tied in nicely with the hoodie, which is a more structured fit, making it all look more polished.

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Day two was a more girly look with my custom-made pinnie over an & Other Stories striped long-sleeve, a bunch of pins and these cute heart-shaped sunglasses from Primark. The little bit of height in the runners made me look good and leggy and they also made an otherwise sweet outfit a little fresher and more interesting.

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For Wednesday, I was wearing my politics on my chest with my Repeal sweatshirt, a striped over-long-sleeve underneath to break up the all black a little, and my trusty Jamie jeans from Topshop that are about six years old and still going strong despite constant wear.

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Thursday was one of my favourite looks, quite different from the others. My powder blue suit from Savida at Dunnes made another appearance with my white Winona tee underneath and the runners to make the whole thing a lot cooler and less stuffy. I was still pretty overdressed for everyday life but I was so into the look and I'm so used to being overdressed that I didn't really care.

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However, in saying all this, my last look was my favourite. A little Hypebeast-wannabe but still cool enough that I'm not mad at it, it brought out these faux leather sweats from Topshop that I got years ago and have never really worn and saw them paired with my beloved Vetements hoodie, some Vetements socks and my new faves: the dad trainers. It was effortless, made me look tall and lean and was comfy as hell. The kind of outfit magic that I always aim for but seldom achieve to this level.

So, moral of the story is: if you get the right dad trainer, they will work with everything in your wardrobe, give your tired feet a break and look cool as hell while they're at it.

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Sunday, 29 April 2018

Five New Skincare Heroes That I've Introduced Into My Routine

Between travelling to South Korea (I know, I know, I'm sure you're all sick of hearing about it) - skincare capital of the world - and recent press sample accumulations lately, I've come into the possession of lots of great beauty bits in the last while. In particular, I've found some new firm skincare favourites that are seriously effective. These, of course, are working with my skin and that always means they might not be the most useful for everyone's skin types but they are all products with some excellent and effect ingredients and, in many cases, cult followings. There's a reason that many of these guys are beloved products.

In order of use, these new loves of mine are...

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1. Cosrx Centella Water Alcohol-Free Toner

This little beauty is, as it says in the name, alcohol-free, which is one of the first things I look for in a toner. Having been sold toners before that I was told were without alcohol (mostly my own fault for not double-checking myself), this is an important feature to highlight. Alcohol in a toner is a big no-no as it can dry out the skin and toning is the first step to rehydrating the skin after cleansing. Ergo, one of the main things I look out for when choosing a toner.

The other two features that are key are: being cruelty-free and being both sizeable and cost-effective. This Cosrx toner is all of the above. Retailing around the €14 mark and measuring 150ml, it suits my layering of toner and how quickly I get through toners. Being pleasant, effective and ticking all of my many toner-specific boxes is difficult so I'm a big fan of this one!

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2. LuLuLun Premium Sheet Mask (Sold as a pack of 7)

My best friend was also recently in Asia, in Japan, and she brought this back for me after hearing it was a firm local favourite. I really immediately liked the idea of a bulk pack of sheet masks as the amount of packaging for traditional sheet masks has been bothering me a lot lately. Admittedly, they drip less with essence and are probably a little less effective than my favourites, as a result, but they're nice and effective to throw on at the end of the day for some extra moisture. The packaging thing though, is a seriously big bonus for me, enough to recommend it. They also work out as super cost-effective at around the €5-7 mark for the pack of 7.

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3. 3CE Back To Baby Mask Ultra Moist

Speaking of sheet masks, I have to mention these guys. Another purchase from my trip in March, this three-pack is more of a special occasion treatment which helps me feel better about the amount of (admittedly adorable) packaging. With an exfoliating scrub (a physical one, something I would not ever use on a regular basis) and a well-fitting (it's very annoying when they are far too big) sheet mask, it is a two-step treatment that leaves you looking bouncy and fresh-faced the next day. Once again, it is cruelty-free Korean skincare, which is hard to come by and something I always love as there are lots of great brands that I simply can't ever buy because they aren't cruelty-free. When I bought it, the pack was on a special buy-one-get-one-free offer for around €15, making it work out at a decent price point, as well (sadly, it seems to no longer be on offer).

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4. Glossier Super Bounce Serum*

This lovely serum features hyaluronic acid and vitamin B5 and is great for getting your skin all hydrated, plumped and happy again after cleansing. Seriously cute, with a mild, rosy scent, it's very nice to use and to look at. At 15ml and priced at $28, it's not crazy-cheap but it's also not the most expensive serum or worst bang for your buck that I've experienced. Additionally, it's cruelty-free and part of a brand with a great ethos and that I love, so I'd happily repurchase it.

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5. Klairs Mid-Day Blue Sun Lotion SPF40/PA++

Once again, this is a lot about boxes ticked: cruelty-free, effective, Korean skincare, that isn't crazy-expensive (around the €15-17 price point and I've spent around thirty to fifty on similar products before). Getting a good day-to-day SPF is hard but this is really great. It's light and not greasy, it quickly absorbs and mixes well with moisturisers and it's a high SPF. What more could you want? In fact, I think it's the best SPF product I've ever bought!

So, those are the skincare bits I've been digging as of late. If you've been looking for a toner or SPF in particular, I think I'm on to some winners that a lot of people could enjoy.

Let me know if you've tried any of these products before and what you make of them!

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(Note: The Glossier product marked * was given to me as a press sample. However, I was not paid to review this product and all opinions are my own.)


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Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Wide-Eyed And Travel: The Five Best Things I Did In Seoul...


...other than fashion week, of course...

While I had a rocky, jet-lagged, embarrassing start in Seoul (involving publicly humiliating myself, running away in terror at a stupid mistake and being very overwhelmed by the alienness of everything) that made me so afraid I didn't want to leave my hotel, I quickly got over it and had the time of my life. I've never been alone, or away by myself, for a week before so that was a novelty but it was also a luxury that allowed me to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted (around my fashion week schedule).

I spent one day shopping and wandering, another on a museum crawl and others exploring specific districts. I made a major dent in the long list of places I had seen in vlogs and blogs that I wanted to visit. I ate when I was hungry and skipped meals in favour of getting to the next place on my list, as I saw fit. On the other hand, I slept in in the morning at my hotel or sat in a café for hours with a book when that suited me too. It was utterly delicious levels of freedom. And Seoul itself stunned me. It was not love at first sight but now it is a very intense long-distance affair. I cannot wait to get back to do all the things I didn't get to tick off my list.

To discuss all the highs would be impossible in one post but I thought listing five of the best things I did in Seoul might help give a picture of just why I'm so obsessed with the city now.

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1. Cafés

European café culture is something that I'm a massive fan of, though it is not quite present in Ireland. However, Korean café culture is on a whole other level. The majority of cafés in Seoul are beautifully designed, wonderful places, where you can avail of wifi, charge your phone, get a tasty drink and adorable snack, and relax. Often themed or within stores, I was in a couple flower cafés (a type that combines café and actual florist or incorporates a large amount of plants into the design of the store), both of Stylenanda's super-extra Pink Pool café's (one of which has an actual pool in it - though you can't swim in it), some Hanok (traditional-style houses) cafés in Insadong, a K-pop themed café that was run in collaboration with a record label, some cute neighbourhood cafés, and more.

Commonalities among them all, whether they were chains or themed or small or large, were the fact that everything is presented on a little tray looks adorable in photographs, attention-to-detail was insane and everything was Instagram-friendly. Admittedly, things in cafés are kind of expensive - you can get a nice meal for under 10,000 won but tea and cake will cost you around 15,000 won in a café - but it is worth it for the whole experience. Because that's what it is, an experience. I spent a lot of my trip in cafés, so I can't stress enough how integral they are to enjoying the city! Pro-tip: order the Yujacha (citrus tea) - as long as you're not diabetic (so sugary)!

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2. Deoksugung

There are several palaces in Seoul, the most famous being the grand palace of Gyeongbokgung, and each has something different to offer. All are stunning examples of traditional architecture and culture but Deoksugung - at least on a Tuesday morning - is the most peaceful and lovely. It isn't the grandest or flashiest but it is simple and charming and I fell utterly in love. It is only a couple of quid in and then you can wander around the grounds. Most lovely is the fact that everything is arranged to frame even the least interesting, or pretty, views beautifully. A perfect postcard image is at every turn.

Crowds are relatively small and are mostly local tourists, which makes for quiet and reflective wandering and peaceful admiration of your surroundings. An added bonus is that the palace is home to some stunning 19th century Western-style buildings, one of which is home to a branch of the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, where I was lucky enough to catch a great exhibition on Korean female artists. It only costs a couple thousand won more to enter and, if the exhibition that is currently on show is anything like the one I attended, it will be well-laid out, with some English information panels and some fascinating works on display. I could go on and on about this whole place, but I won't!

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3. Daelim Museum

Speaking of museums, another one that I went to and loved was the Daelim Museum. More expensive than a state-owned museum, it is, however, constantly home to fascinating, wide-scale international exhibitions on interesting themes. The exhibition that I saw was called, "Paper, Present," and was made up of works from a variety of international artists and design teams that were entirely made out of paper. It made me completely rethink my idea of paper as a medium and was stunning. It was also, like so much of Korea, very Insta-friendly, and the staff were lovely enough to help a solo-traveller like me get some photos!

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4. Mango Plate

So, Mango Plate is actually an app, not a place or thing, but it opened the door to some wonderful culinary experiences. It is a popular and well-used app that ranks restaurants in the city (some of it is in English) and allows users to post reviews, photographs, menus, tips and more. Extremely useful and with some discerning picks, I used it on a daily basis. However, be warned, it may lead you to places that are very much largely locals only so be sure to hold on to your courage and try new things!

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5. Shopping

Like with the cafés, so many of the stores in Seoul are beautifully-designed dreams, full of wonderful things. Fashion and beauty are serious business, so if you're interested in either, you'll be delighted but there are all sorts of unique experiences that anyone can enjoy. Be sure to check out:

(a) Stylenanda: The aforementioned café isn't all there is to the place. The clothes are seriously cool, the themed Stylenanda Hotel is an insanely-extra and magical shopping experience, and their makeup brand, 3CE, is adorable. Plus, you have the cafés right there to refuel. There are two locations, in Myeongdong and Hongdae, and both are worth a visit.

(b) Ader Error: Another extra shop (technically menswear), this is half-museum, half-store and needs to be seen to be believed. Spoiler: you enter through a mattress.

(c) Gentle Monster: A sunglasses brand that has multiple locations, all themed, all several floors, all with lots of space used for everything bar displaying their wares.

(d) Department Stores: The Korean version of a high-end department store is even more elegant and perfect. Seriously. Glittering marble and powder rooms everywhere.

(e) Underground Malls: At a lot of metro stations in Seoul there are also underground shopping malls, some of which are sprawling and massive. You'll find all sorts on sale, often into the wee hours, great deals and room to bargain.

(f) Aland: Another popular chain full of Hypebeast-cool clothes (for both genders), beauty products, small homeware bits and a vintage section, this is kind of like a cooler Urban Outfitters. Plus, the one I was in had a ball pit in it. Obviously.

(g) Co-Ex Mall: With a giant stunning library/bookstore at the centre, massive food court, international highstreet chains and Korean brands, this massive mall has some beautiful surprises and is filled with gems.

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I could still talk for hours and hours (and probably will, at some point) but those are just five of the best things I did in Seoul. Hopefully, I get to go back soon and add to the list!

Have you ever been to the city? What did you love? Any recommendations for my next visit?

That's all for now, 안녕!


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Friday, 30 March 2018

Joanne Hynes for Dunnes Stores SS18

Jangly pop and punk girl bands and eighties jams sound out over the speakers as the bustling crowds of Joanne Hynes devotees settle in for the show. Shoppers clutch the pieces they have eagerly grabbed in the pre-sale to their chests with one hand, as they try and juggle their phones and G&Ts in the other. I, myself, juggle my camera and phone, as I wait excitedly to capture the collection, which I have been looking forward to since Hynes shot her, "You Do You And I'll Do Me," campaign video and looks, guerilla-style around the city at LFW.

The setting for the show is Dunnes HQ, in an atrium amongst emptied offices, filled with staged looks from the collection or transformed into changing rooms for the shoppers. The space is airy and a little bit corporate and raw - perfectly cool and on-brand for Hynes.

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When the models begin circulating around the ring of chairs lining the room, the Hynes aesthetic is also immediately apparent. Colour and bold prints abound, as we've come to expect, with colour-blocked knitted two-pieces, beautiful florals, eighties denim and a plastic floral trench that immediately captures the attention of many in attendance, as a stand-out piece. There are Hynes' trademark electric shades but also an overall pastel palette that is Spring appropriate, as well as incredibly pretty. It reminds of the best kind of elevated lovely from Italians like Prada and Miu Miu.

Hynes continues to develop her Dunnes Stores label masterfully and build a brand identity and ever-feverish fandom that is admirable. I, personally, look forward to her wearable looks and adventurous styling each season and can't wait to get my hands on the coordinating bag to that plastic trench...

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Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Seoul Fashion Week AW18 - Sitting Front Row At Major Fashion Weeks Across Two Continents, Street Style and More!

About a year ago, I decided I wanted to go to Seoul Fashion Week. I'd been attending London Fashion Week biannually for a while and, given my great love of Korean fashion, wanted to see what it was all like over there. It seemed like a distant dream - it would be too expensive, it was so far away and I'd likely have to go alone. And then my friend announced she and her boyfriend were going to Japan and I thought, "If they can do such a big trip, I can too!"

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Organising it was difficult. The flight, hotel...all that stuff was easy but fashion week was hard. It's not as old or well-established as London and, as a result, the mechanisms in place don't run as smooth. I never actually did manage to properly register through the official event. Plus, I was doing it all through my limited understanding of the Korean language and contact with people who spoke limited English. Then, my Korean teacher saved the day and put me in contact with a designer friend of hers, Jimmy Tailor, and a designer I met at LFW pulled through for me with a hook-up. The amazing, jam-packed line-up of shows that I had envisioned didn't happen but these contacts saved the entire trip for me and I got to attend five shows and peep the incredible street style outside, as well. Plus, the fact that I didn't have a crazy schedule meant that I got to tourist in Seoul and have an actual holiday!

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A.Bell

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YCH

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Seoul Fashion Week was lots of the things that I had imagined but also surprised me in many ways. I knew it was run by Hera, a big Korean beauty brand, but I hadn’t realised that it was originally a government-run affair. And, in going private, I was told privately that it has gone from an event that funded young designers and became a system that allowed big designers to get bigger and gave newbies little chance to grow. This is disheartening news, to say the least, but not at all surprising in such a cut-throat industry.

Also surprising was the street style situation. It was as colourful and fascinating as I had presumed - though a North Londoner who happened to walk past me described the aesthetic scathingly as, “the ugliest clothes you can find with a bucket hat on top” - but there was a note of desperation that was unique to Seoul. Not desperation in a pathetic way but in a way that was so enduringly hard-working and eager that it made me sad. The main walkway down to the show venues was constantly lined with street style star hopefuls, posing and waiting to be papped. The same people were there for hours and hours and worked it in a way that was impressively professional. Of course, these types of people are at every fashion week around the world but they were especially persistent at SFW. Furthermore, the sheer number of young men compared to women was startling and severe. In Seoul, the boys are just as serious about fashion.

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Vanon Studio

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Sown Garments & Brown Hat

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When it came to the shows, I was super into the width and breadth of influences and styles. I had presumed that a very urban and contemporary look would reign supreme (as it did outside, on the kids waiting to be photographed) but, while it was present, it was not king. The first show I went to, A.Bell, was a refined and expertly restrained affair in sandy tones that would give Celine a run for its money. The next show, Vanon Studio, nodded to 1980s cybergoth and bondage. Largely made up of risqué menswear pieces, it featured  harnesses, cutouts and a traffic cone tied to a wrist as an accessory. Immediately after that came Sown Garments, with accessories by Brown Hat, which saw lots of neutral toned suiting directly from the early 20th century. Then was my favourite show, YCH, which was an ode to 40s and 50s trunk shows and boasted super-oversized hats, pearl details, headscarves, cheerful pops of colour, reimagined classic tailoring and romantic blouses. Finally, I had the Low Classic show that was all earthy palettes, draping, luxurious fabrics and boho tailoring.

My hook-up was pretty good and I ended up with lots of great seats - a couple of second rows and two front rows. However, for the YCH show, there was a fuck-up with the list. My name wasn't there and neither was the name of a Russian company director and the nine people who had come with her. She wasn't impressed and the show was about to begin. We were told to wait for one of the organisers to come meet us but she didn't show so the Russian lady dragged me along to the entrance to figure it out. We eventually found the woman in charge and she presented the Russian lady with two tickets. She laughed in shock and reminded the organiser that she had ten people in her group (who had since disappeared). Frustrated with the situation and sorry for me (who was next in the list of concerns and not yet considered), she simply handed me one of the tickets and said, "Go." I thanked her and ran inside. "Where do I go?" I asked several people (in Korean), as there was no number on the ticket. "That way" and a casual point in some direction. I asked two more people, the lights were going down, it was about to start. "Dear God" (or the Korean equivalent) said a more senior looking person and grabbed my wrist, brought me over to the front row, tugged a Matches Fashion buyer's name off of it, handed me the gift on the seat and pushed me into the chair. So, I ended up with a perfectly positioned seat, a cute present and a record of being front row at major shows, at major fashion weeks, across two continents. I might not be where I want to be in my career but that, alone, is pretty damn neat for an aspiring fashion journalist

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It’s funny, my experience of SFW gave me a great deal of insight into its uglier sides and, yet, I still saw enough beauty and genius that I fell in love. And you know it’s true love if it still happens when you can see the flaws so clearly from the get-go. My friend, who is a local fashion insider, said he felt that Seoul is just "one designer copying another, though it’s not like European designers don’t do the same". Of course, he’s not wrong that the fashion industry, globally, sees a lot of people jumping on board the same trends. But I would argue that the lens through which Seoul sees and re-imagines things is special and addictive. And now that I’ve gotten a taste of it, I can’t wait to go back...


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