Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Blog Birthday!

My Mum's Amazing Pear and Almond Tart

I just realised that today marks my blog's first birthday! So I'm taking a break from dealing with the copyright infringement splog nightmare to post in celebration.

It's hard to believe that a year ago I made my first post wondering if I was just a little crazy to be taking a picture of a new item of clothing and then waxing lyrical about it on the Internet.  And my word - where on earth has the year gone??

It's hard for me to believe that I have stuck with regular posting on The Taxonomy of My Wardrobe all this time.  That continued commitment in itself has been quite an achievement for me!  It has also led me to meet many wonderful bloggers whose time spent commenting on this blog and interacting has meant a lot to me.

I would like to extend a heartfelt thanks to everyone too for their encouraging and supportive comments in the last few days as well as say a very big thank you to all my readers out there for coming by and reading my ramblings this past year.

Here's to the year to come!

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Fashion Trending Infringers of Copyright - Warning Your Blog Might be Next

I am sorry to report that many of my images and written content from this blog are being reproduced at a parasitic, copyright infringing, blog scraper site called Fashion Trending.  I am not going to link to them as the aim of scraper blogs is often to steal traffic by stealing your content and then when their stats look healthy they sell the site on to a third party for a profit.  They are also trying to get advertising revenue from click through ads using stolen content from blogs.

An astounding amount of my blog has been and continues to be reproduced on this site without my permission and without a proper active link back to my blog.  The site has a bogus privacy policy where they say that owners of the copyrighted material can contact them to remove their content but they then do not provide an email or postal address.  The email address on the site provided is bogus and immediately bounces back any messages you attempt to send to it.

I have attempted to contact the web hosting service with complaints to no avail so I have now contacted Google to report the infringement of copyright.  I will be giving this a few days before I enlist paid professional services to help because I do not see another way in which a site like this can be held accountable for what it is doing.  I have had some stellar assistance through a query on the FBFF Google discussion group but I would appreciate advice from anyone else who has had a similiar experience with this type of scraper blog and their success rate at getting their content removed.

A bit of research has shown that burning your posts in a feed in its entirety (all images, text etc...) makes it easier for these types of sites to steal your content.  So I have adjusted my feed to only provide a summary and an invitation to click through to my site here.  I am really sorry to have to do this for any of my readers out there who have subscribed to the feed for the convenience but until I get some time to sort this all out my poor little blog needs some extra protection.

I don't have a huge following on this blog and I am really saddened that I may lose precious readers by changing the feed in this manner but search engines like Google will actually penalise my site for having reproduced content on the web.  So if you are at all concerned about your own blog please check for plagarism of your content - to do this online, this site was recommended to me: http://www.copyscape.com/  It shows up content which has been plagarised from your blog.

These are sophisticated crooks - the url at which my stolen material keeps changing - this obviously makes it more difficult for you to lodge a complaint about copyright abuse to the hosting site and search engines like Google, Yahoo, etc... as you are required to send the url where your material has been copied to.

And please if you are a blogger listed below I have seen material from your blog on this site too.  If you want to get the link to the site please email me (veshoevius @ taxonomyofmywardrobe.com) and I will give you all the information I have about submitting a complaint and what I have been doing to stop these crooks.  The more complaints they have against them, the more chance they will be taken down by the powers that be.

Vintage Vix
Cloud of Secrets
Calamity Jem (I'm 95% sure it's your site)
Penny Dreadful Vintage
Street Style London - Pics by Polka Do
Rags against the Machine
Grit and Glamour
Bubbling with Elegance and Grace
Devillishly Pleasurable
Goldmine Trash
I'm Not Emily Brown
Aesthetic Alterations
Fashion Pearls of Wisdom
Comtesse de Ferveur
Mrs Bossa Does The Do

I will keep adding sites to the above list and updating as I recognise others.  I believe the site is running an automated process - I have noticed more and more of my blog material appearing on the site with time - I think that once they have you on their radar there is some sort of automated process that goes back to scrape more and more material off your blog over time.

I am still researching what to do and as it has been a very distressing, demoralising and time consuming process, so I will not be doing any further blog posting until I can sort this out.   Hope you all understand and continue to come back!  I will update as soon as I can.

Veshoevius
x

UPDATE:

Ladies if you are on the list and have found your material copied by this blog here are some starting points to complain:

1. I don't wish to link to the offending site to send them more traffic but if you haven't found the Fashion Trending site and their IP address through your own devices (doing a whois search etc..) I am happy to email you details.

2. This is the web hosting service's website www.softlayer.com and their procedure for lodging a copyright infringement complaint http://www.softlayer.com/legal/copyright-infringment-dmca/
Email your evidence to copyright@softlayer.com, you could also copy in abuse@softlayer.com for good measure.

3. Complain to Google - go to this link (it is the "Report Illegal Activity" on Google's Help section)
http://www.google.com/support/bin/static.py?page=ts.cs&ts=1114905
I took an educated guess and selected "web search" from their options and a menu listing copyright infringement came up and I just followed the instructions after that - you will need to provide urls of your copied work and urls of the offending site where your work is being infringed.

4. It is advisable to do the same for 3. at Yahoo and MSN to prevent the site from indexing yours.

5. If you are on Wordpress and can install an antiscraper plugin or some code that blocks IP addresses from accessing your site do so ASAP - HOWEVER if you intend to complain or have a written complaint pending with the hosting site www.softlayer.com don't block the IP address yet, as the address is theirs and they will probably not be able to access your site to verify your complaint!

6.  Kirsten of Relatively Chic has just advised me via FBFF that she has posted about How to Deal With Splogs Content Theft.  This is a MUST READ if you are experiencing this problem as Kirsten has broken down in very understandable, clear language a number of steps you can take to stop the sploggers - including a tactic to add a post feed footer for Blogger users.  Thanks Kirsten!

 I will update as I get more information!

Friday, 25 March 2011

Friend Friday: Feminism and Fashion

Source: What Makes You
Friend Friday is run by ModlyChic.  To participate email katy_rose1@yahoo.com.  This week we are talking about feminism and fashion. Some time ago, Courtney from Those Graces, Katy and myself had a little email brainstorming session about this topic, so some of my answers are derived from my ramblings there.

1. Do you think there is an incompatibility between feminism and a love for fashion?

I recently wrote a post about how my style is probably not influenced by being a feminist in any other way than reclaiming the right to wear whatever I want.  In that sense I do not view a love of fashion and a desire to look my best through paying attention to dress as incompatible with feminism.  But at the same time I do also have my doubts.

I do feel there is an incompatibility between what feminism has historically set out to achieve for women versus the amount of time, effort and money that women are pressured into spending on a love for fashion and on an often absurd quest for attaining standards of beauty and preserving their youth beyond what is reasonably possible.  As a example of a fairly voracious consumer of fashion, I am the first to admit that I can be well and truly sucked in by marketing and advertising to spend my cash needlessly but I know I'm not the only one.

Sometimes I watch video footage on the news in horror where I see irrational scrums at end of year sales and cat fights on the shop floor over the latest designer collaboration with high street fashion stores.  Or I will wonder at the sanity of women paying for the latest eye watering expensive must have item that has sold out or women placing themselves on a ten year waiting list for a handbag.  And then sometimes it is me getting up at the crack of dawn to wait for an online sale to start or the first drop of a designer collaboration to go live and I start questioning my own sanity.  Was this the pinnacle of achievement the pioneers of feminist ideals had in mind for us when they fought for equal opportunities?  Shouldn't we be encouraging women, especially the younger generation to focus their energies on achievements other than striving to have the latest fashionable item?

I do view this level of gullibility (of which I am the first to admit I am guilty of!) as being incompatible with feminism because it undermines the amount of time, effort and money we have available to achieve more important things.  One could argue that women earning their own money should be able to just enjoy spending it the way they see fit and that's nobody else's choice but theirs - to be financially independent and have it all is the ultimate neo feminist dream - you can be hard working, beat the boys to the best jobs and be glamourous and beautiful at the same time as you shop till you drop.  Except....it is not really like that.  Women on average still earn less than men, are still under represented at senior levels in companies and scary statistics are all too readily bandied about over the amount of women in debt and filing for bankruptcy.

Although there is no getting away from an individual's responsibility to be sensible about the amount of time and money spent on anything they enjoy in life, I do feel women are encouraged by the media to be borderline obsessed about how they look.  As a gender we are the target of marketing far more than men in this respect.  We are encouraged to indulge in frenzied levels of consumerism in our pursuit of fashion and wear the spoils as badges of honour.  I love shopping for clothes and makeup as do so many women I know.  Who doesn't enjoy going shopping with their girlfriends?

Sometimes though, if I take a step back from it all, I feel like I've just swallowed some marketing spiel to make me feel good about splashing my cash on things I don't actually need without engaging my brain.  I can see that as a woman I am constantly targeted by advertising campaigns whose essential aim is to make me feel insecure about my appearance and believe (for just long enough to get me to the till) that there is always a product or new bag/dress/pair of shoes that will fix that.  There needs to be more balance but as long as I, as a woman, am part of a target market, the only one who can maintain that balance is me.

The fashion industry in its limited focus on particular types of beauty feels particularly out of touch with feminism.  I might be harking back to old school feminism here but having to conform to a limited ideal of beauty is, at least to me, limiting to women the world over.  Women come in all different guises in terms of height, body types, racial background and looks and this is never reflected adequately by the fashion industry.  Instead the fashion industry sends out a message that there is a limited set of characteristics that make a woman beautiful, essentially being young, thin with even facial features that photograph well.  I find the focus of fashion marketing like a form of brainwashing - it is done deliberately to make sure we feel we do not live up to a mainstream ideal and therefore must constantly spend our time and money to better ourselves and conform.  It is in this way we are being controlled.  At the mild end of influence women might feel insecure about themselves and spend pointless hours dieting or buy a new outfit or face cream.  But at the extreme end the result is unhealthy relationships with food, eating disorders, body dysmorphia, and a willingness to subject oneself to the risks and expense of plastic surgery.

I do look at men and envy that they are not affected nearly as much by the whole question of their appearance as women - imagine the time, energy and money I would save if I just turned a blind eye to it all.  What other things could I achieve in my life if I wasn't so distracted by fashion?  Surely such indifference would be more empowering as a woman than spending time and money on ones appearance and blogging about clothes?

I once had lunch with a female astronaut from NASA (true story).  It was a Women in Science lunch.  She drew our attention to an interesting statistic about the amount of money that was spent comparatively in the US on funding space exploration and related research and development versus what was spent on cosmetics.  Cosmetics expenditure far outstripped the R&D funding.  Whether you agree or not about space exploration being a worthwhile use of money for the betterment of our world, the comparison with cosmetics expenditure is still food for thought.

2. There is more to each of us than a love for fashion, how do you incorporate every aspect of yourself into your blog?

Although I am happy to share certain things about myself on this blog, such as my thoughts on feminism and how it relates to how I view fashion, I do not (nor do I feel obliged in any way to) incorporate every aspect of myself into my blog and that has been a conscious decision.  I really question how realistic this is for anyone blogging.  How many people who you interact with do you truly show every aspect of yourself on a daily basis?  The good, the bad, the truly ugly.  I would probably only list my long term partner.

There are bloggers out there who seem happy spilling the beans about everything on a globally public forum like the Internet - their religious and political views, the state of their finances, what they happen to be going through including acute medical conditions and relationship troubles.  They are obviously comfortable with this level of public exposure of their personal lives.  Others, like me, are simply not.  If I don't discuss something about myself or don't share a viewpoint I have it is because I wish to keep that private.

Anybody can read this blog.  Not just the lovely people who stop by with their warm comments but potential employers, clients and not so nice people.  I don't want to have every aspect of myself on show to just anybody and I just consider self editing to be sensible social media behaviour.  There seems to be an absurd notion that if bloggers aren't telling all to their readers they are somehow being dishonest.  This may be getting back to the Martherette's discussion that was had some time ago about bloggers only showing a small part of their lives through their blogs to make them appear more "glamourous" than they really are, somehow this was viewed as dishonest or a form of self promotional trickery.

This blog is mainly limited to my thoughts on fashion, clothes with the odd personal tale about my family, my boyfriend, my other interests, my travels and what I get up to on the weekends.  There is certainly enough material here on my blog and from my comments to give readers a flavour of what I am like as an individual.  I don't wish to publish posts for all and sundry to read on things I feel are deeply personal - there is going to be a different limit for everyone.

3. With the fashion industry still being a male-dominated profession, how do you think it would differ if women played a larger role?

The fashion and beauty industries are often dominated by a very male ideal of female beauty - youth obsessed, over sexualised, and some of the misogyny that creeps into advertising campaigns (models appearing dead, vulnerable or ad campaigns that could be accused of glamourising gang rape) borders on disturbing - see this post by Mrs Bossa for brilliant examples.

Would we be seeing very different messages about fashion and beauty if there was more representation of women in the marketing or design departments of fashion houses?  I believe we would.  I am sure the fashion and beauty industries suffer from glass ceilings in the same way that other industries do and end up with more men calling the shots than women.

In the past season we were given a glimpse of what the fashion industry might look like with women at the helm of designer collections.  Look at the difference in the reactions of female fashion editors to the collections designed by women like Celine, Chloe and Stella McCartney (hailed as much more women friendly, wearable collections) versus the collections of Balmain, Cavalli and Chanel designed by men (always big on the sex appeal).  Or the feminine turn at Gucci once Freda Giannini took over from Tom Ford as creative director.  There are clearly very different muses for a male designer and a female designer.  It is notable that Pheobe Philo and Stella McCartney are now both working mothers and their lines had evolved to reflect the changing needs of their lifestyle.

4. How is your self-image and the way you carry yourself informed by your beliefs?

I dress at a minimum to look presentable to the world and at the other end of the spectrum to feel good about myself and express myself as an individual.  I do so with some element of care because I value myself.  They say you have to love yourself before you can love others.  How you feel about yourself is integral to that.

I posted earlier this month about whether or not being a feminist affects how I dress.  I grew up in a society where I was raised to believe I should have equal rights and opportunities as a woman and where I have always been free as a woman to express myself through dress as I see fit.  So I am confident in dressing, take great pleasure in experimenting with dress and reclaim the right to wear whatever I want.

If I sometimes tow the line to conform with external expectations of how I present myself it is generally to comply with a social construct such as dress codes set by an office or cultural norms governing events like weddings, funerals or religious celebrations and occasions.  This is down to a deep rooted belief that you need to respect other people, that includes your family, your friends, your colleagues, the inhabitants of countries you visit.  Even though you might not share their beliefs, be those religious, political, or even what is acceptable office wear, there are times when it is appropriate to consider the customs and rules of others over your personal preferences just out of respect and courtesy.

5. Do you think clothing/makeup/hair helps communicate the truth about yourself or are those things superfluous add-ons?

There is no question that what is inside each of us is what counts first and foremost.  I can certainly sympathise with rhetoric that espouses we should look beyond the artifice of people's appearances in a society increasingly obsessed with unattainable standards of beauty and youth.  It seems like we take several steps backward in our progress for equality as women by placing youth and beauty on a celebratory plinth as the defining characteristics of our gender and unfortunately, the fashion and beauty industry often seems to pummel us with little else but this message.  No wonder an interest in fashion and beauty can be seen by many as vain and shallow pursuits.

But we cannot get away from the fact that as human beings we judge others by their appearances as much as we are judged by our appearances.  There are quite valid arguments that how you present yourself to the world is a reflection of how you feel about yourself and that the art of dress is an act of self expression.  What message are you sending out?  How we dress and groom ourselves is also informed by personal, social, cultural and even religious influences - how can it not communicate some truth about the individual?

There is nothing wrong with wanting to make the effort to show yourself in your best light by taking care of your appearance.  Wanting to feel attractive is just part of the human condition for both men and women.  There are however, dubious extremes to which women are encouraged to go that I do not feel comfortable with.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Seven Stylish Things


Some time ago I was awarded a Stylish Blogger Award by the lovely Devillishly Pleasurable and Jill of Everything Just So, and now Ginta of Hunting and Gathering has passed me one too!  Thank you ladies!  I started this post ages ago and then London Fashion Week happened, then Spain and then the Japanese Earthquake, so progress on it kept getting interrupted.  So without further ado here are my seven stylistic things!  The idea behind the award is that you pass it on to spread some blog love to other bloggers you interact with.  So if I nominate you this is what you are supposed to do:

1)Thank and link back to the person who awarded you this award.
2)Share 7 things about yourself
3)Award 10 recently discovered great bloggers.
4)Contact these bloggers and tell them about the award

1. Leopard

I love leopard print and I own two scarves, a pair of trousers, three floaty blouses and a pair of shoes.  For the record Mr V hates leopard print in principle and always screws his nose up when I pick up a leopard piece while shopping to take to the changerooms but then has to admit that when I wear it, it actually can look good.


I was on the look out this season for a good trench or coat and unbelievably with all the leopard that was on offer I didn't find one! I can find some prints garish because there is too much yellow or orange in the pigments.


2. Leather

I like my leather.  I have three leather dresses, a pair of leather leggings, a pair of leather shorts, a leather tee shirt, a leather maxi skirt, a pair of leather biker trousers, several pairs of leather gloves and leather jackets in spades.  I am the sort that will wear the fashionably forbidden leather on leather.  I'm sure when people meet me they must think to themselves "Now why on earth does a nice lady like you insist on dressing up like the gimp all the time?"


3. Biker Chic

I'm a sucker for a biker jacket.  I'd be all over Burberry's SS 2011 collection of spiky biker jackets if money were no issue.  A black studded leather biker is on my wish list for Spring/Summer.  I'm hoping that by Burberry setting the trend that there will be some good pieces on the high street to choose from.

Heaven only knows why biker chic became so much a part of my wardrobe.  The closet I ever got to riding a motorcycle was riding pillion to university in the mornings with a friend who actually did ride one.  Pretty lame for someone who now owns numerous biker jackets.  It is probably fair to say I collect them!  In addition to the leather and suede I have one in black wool and another in houndstooth check.


My first forays into biker chic were a couple of Harley Davidson enamel interchangeable belt buckles much to the mirth of my male university friends who thought I was too sweet and innocent to be wearing them.  I was nineteen when I bought my first biker jacket, a cropped design in jet black suede.  I remember waiting patiently for the Boxing Day sales and then queuing up outside the local Miss Shop store to be one of the first ones in.  It was the last in its size and I only got it because another girl who had it in her hand (and who I was stalking) had a change of heart and put it back on the rail.

Miss Shop was the Aussie equivalent of Topshop but I am still amazed to this day at the quality of this jacket when I compare it to leather jackets I find in high street shops now which never keep you warm because they are so thin.  It was made in Australia with sheepskin leather and has a thick quilted cotton lining and although the suede is a little on the stiff side it actually keeps me warm.  I am a dreadful hoarder and almost twenty years later I still have it which means its probably officially vintage!  They sure don't make them like this on the high street anymore.

My first biker jacket

4. Petite Pear

In fashion body types I am a pear (or triangle in some guides) as my hip measurements are (slightly) larger than my bust.  So the bottom half of me tends to get bigger if I gain weight.  Sod's law.  I am also quite short and qualify as petite.  So that makes me a petite pear. Apparently Lucy Lui  is also a petite pear.

I've never seen advice dedicated to cross referenced body types in style books though I think many women fall into two categories at once.  Which one should you focus on when dressing?  Although I tend to read all that fashion advice about how to dress for a pear and being petite I then flatly ignore it and do whatever I please.  I did however find the following link which does helpfully tackle how to dress for both at once.  Thank God for the Internet.

5. Watches

I don't wear a watch.  I used to wear a watch with a metal strap and broke my wrist snowboarding while wearing it.  Since that day I've never worn a watch.  I keep track of the time looking at my mobile phone clock or clocks in the house and in public spaces.

6. Cashmere PJs

I sleep in a cashmere jumper.  This is not a luxury you understand but a necessary survival tactic for an Australian trying to get through an English winter.  I usually get mine at the Uniqlo sales though recently I've been naughty and sleeping in my Cos one as well as its very soft!

7.  Hats

I used to be renowned for wearing hats. I was known on my old university campus as "that girl that wears hats" and for my 21st birthday (traditionally a big celebration in Oz) my friends from university gave me a hat stand as a present.  Wearing hats was pretty out there style wise for where I grew up in Australia even though it made a lot of sense health wise to protect your face from the harsh sunlight and avoid skin cancer.  Over the years I have owned and worn a top hat with a viel, a bowler hat with a burgundy velvet flower, several wide brimmed straw hats, a straw boater, several berets.

Although I brought my entire collection over from Australia (including the hat stand!), I stopped wearing them when I moved to the UK because I ended up riding a bicycle everywhere which made brimmed hats impossible to wear.  I also found I was living in beanies, baker boys and berets to keep my ears warm rather than to keep the sun out of my eyes.

Some years ago, during a period when I was moving a lot, I had a wardrobe purge and got rid of most of them.  I now really regret doing that.  (Vintage Vix is probably picking them up for pence in carboot sales!).  I've only two left from my once extensive collection, a brown felt "mad hatter" style top hat, a romantic summer straw hat and some beanies (I recently lost my baker boy cap!).  I have since added a vintage top hat (not sure if it is Edwardian or Victorian) which has been worn a couple of times.  I would like to start buying and wearing hats other than the beanie/baker boy/beret variety again, maybe branch out to a fedora or a trilby.


These tagging awards tend to do the rounds of the same bloggers but I think the idea of them is to introduce readers to bloggers they may not have come across before.  So I've tried to tag people who I haven't tagged previously or who haven't already been tagged by others.  If you are on the list would be nice to hear seven things about yourselves:

Monday, 21 March 2011

Feathers and Leather

 

Don't be fooled by pictures of flowers sprouting from the ground, blue skies and window displays in shops brandishing mannequins dressed in floral prints across UK blogland. Despite officially being Spring it is still cold here in the UK.

Still cold enough in fact for me to crave the warmth of a fluffy gilet over my tops but temperatures have at least thawed to the point where I can wear my leather shorts again (albeit with wool tights) without wanting to run back indoors and change into trousers. Yesterday Mr V and I hit the town for an afternoon of shopping and dinner with some old friends later in Soho.  I was desperate to wear something other than the black wool tights, jersey harems and Mongolian fur gilet I've been wearing on endless loop this winter. So out came the shorts and this navy feather gilet I've recently rediscovered.


Whilst perusing the rails in Cos on Regent Street I overheard a young woman complaining loudly to her boyfriend that there was nothing but shapeless black things being sold there, without pulling out a single garment on its hanger for closer inspection.  Au contraire! I couldn't have disagreed with her more as I snapped up two of their amazingly soft pocket jersey tees and barely restrained myself from grabbing a great basic black jersey maxi t-shirt dress as well.  While I doubt there are many people who could do one hundred per cent of their clothes shopping there, to write off Cos completely is to entirely miss the point about one of the best places for good, quality basics on the UK high street.

I find Cos full of very useful things like great jersey and knitwear in fantastic fabrics and while they may appear shapeless and unobtrusive on a hanger, they sit or drape wonderfully on the body or can be styled up with a belt.  Yes, there are a lot of black pieces but they regularly offer versions in good neutral colours like white, navy, beige, nude and grey.  For the more adventurous colour mixers, this season they have extended the palette to more daring shades of coral, tangerine and chartreuse.

It's probably fashion's worst kept secret that Cos is where many a fashion editor heads for wardrobe basics.  Such plain pieces can seem boring to the untrained eye.  But it is their unobtrusive form that lends them their usefulness as staples and layering pieces, allowing them to lay the foundation for an outfit without competing for attention.  Their very simplicity means that they don't fight with your more outlandish pieces, like leather shorts, feather gilets and statement necklaces for example!

Navy feather gilet, Kate Moss for Topshop; Wool Turtleneck, Cos; Leather Shorts, Oasis; Wool tights, Falke; Studded cuff, Warehouse; Necklace, Merle O'Grady; Shearling Clog Boots, D&G;

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Hope Springs Eternal

 

Spring it seems has finally sprung! Yesterday was the first sunny day London has seen in a long while so Mr V and I went for a walk in the park and discovered the "flower" button on our Nokia camera.

It is amazing how every Spring, the earth rebounds from the dieback and loss of greenery during the bitter cold of Winter.  The  trees stripped bare during autumn, snap frozen during winter, their naked boughs stark against the bright blue sky, now seem hopeful for new life, the sunshine and warmth allowing new shoots to burst forth.  New buds and blooms are already appearing on some trees, the magnolias, the cherry blossoms.  The small tended walled garden is now studded with bluebells, daffodils, hyacinths and tulips. Something about Spring makes you call to mind youth, rebirth, reinvention.  Witnessing Spring return like seasonal clockwork, even after one of the coldest winters on record, reminds you of nature's innate ability to heal itself even after disaster, destruction and death.

Seemed appropriate for a walk in the park to adopt a tree hugging demeanour and dress like a horticulture worker in olive, black and brown.  (Actually I was thinking more of comfort whilst burning some calories walking and warmth as the air here is still a bit nippy).  Cuff leg cargo trousers with zipped ankles are back for Spring apparently which has prompted me to drag out my old pair to avoid buying new.  They are a little too long in the legs for me and I've plans to shorten them for a Spring reinvention of the sartorial kind but more of that another post.

After our day in the park we went back at nightfall to see the "super moon" that was supposed to be rising, itself targeted by the superstitious as an omen of death and destruction with some more outlandish claims that it is to blame for earthquakes and tsunamis.  It was actually quite beautiful to behold on a quiet night, a richly golden portent hanging swollen in the clear black night sky, shining like a giant coin at the bottom of a silent dark sea.  I prefer to think of it as a good omen - one hailing new beginnings.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

For Japan With Love


I posted last week about the events in Japan and my concern for the Japanese people, but today I would like to raise people's awareness of a blogger organised event to encourage people to donate to ShelterBox to aid the relief effort in Japan.  It has been organised by the ladies at Utterly Engaged and Ever Ours.  Participating bloggers will also be observing a day of blogger silence (i.e. no posting) this Friday, which for me is a small way in which I can pay respects to all those people who tragically lost their lives in this disaster and extend my sympathies to the survivors who have lost loved ones and are trying to rebuild their lives.

Curiously just before I left Spain last Tuesday I bought a beautiful silk kimono in a sparse floral print.  Whilst unpacking it at home the next day I was thinking about putting together a post about the influence of the Japanese on fashion and in particular the fascination fashion has with the kimono.  A day later the earthquake hit Japan.

So far many of my Japanese friends and their families have not been affected.  However I have no word about the flamenco artist Shoji Kojima who I met recently in Spain, and am hoping that as he was likely to be in Tokyo that he is safe.  But as many of you may be aware, events over the past week have shown the aftermath in the country to be horrific and worsening.

Like everyone I have been following the events in the news constantly.  Last night on the tube, reading more commentary on the disaster in the papers, my heart really sank and I was overcome with sadness.  Could you throw anymore catastrophic events at these poor people?  As if dealing with the death, destruction and the hundreds of thousands of displaced people from the tsunami were not enough there have been severe aftershocks, escalating, frightening problems with the nuclear reactors, further evacuations to avoid radiation exposure to those living close by, power cuts, a struggle to get aid to people who have been without food and water for days and rising fear that people are on the brink of rioting for food.  Then there are the freezing conditions bringing snow and rain that apart from hampering the already difficult search for survivors are also raising concerns about carrying radiation further afield and increasing the chances those housed in refugee centres especially children, becoming ill.

The stories coming out are so heartbreaking, so frightening and I am sure many of us who have tried to put ourselves in the shoes of these people only realise that whatever we imagine them to be experiencing cannot even come close to the horrific reality.  Every time I see the prime minister come on television, in the face of another nerve wrecking update on the state of the nuclear reactors, trying to reassure what must be becoming an increasingly distressed nation, my heart bleeds for him too.  Foreign nationals are understandably fleeing the country in droves but as one resident American man interviewed in the paper I read said, Japan needs help not abandonment.


In the spirit of the event, tomorrow rather than publishing a post, I will be retweeting the link to For Japan With Love.  Mr V and I will be donating to the following charities via a scheme at his employers who will be matching any contributions made by their staff.  The links below are to where donations are being accepted online in the UK.


Below is the flier for the blogger event I have cribbed the instructions to get involved and the relevant links.  Thanks also to Sugar and Spice for posting about the event and alerting me to it.


There are two parts to it.

Fundraising:

For Japan With Love has a direct link on the website to our fundraising page for ShelterBox. ShelterBox was one of THE first organizations asked by Japan to help and were on hand on the Saturday after the quake. Each large, green ShelterBox is tailored to a disaster but typically contains a disaster relief tent for an extended family, blankets, water storage and purification equipment, cooking utensils, a stove, a basic tool kit, a children’s activity pack and other vital items.

Please check it out and whatever you can contribute will be so appreciated.



Bloggers Day of Silence:

Anyone that has a blog can help out with this one.

The aim is just raise awareness and respect and acknowledge the devastation going on in Japan.

The guidelines are simple.

1. This coming Friday, March 18th, no posts at all on your blog.

2. Please post a blog post about what you will be doing this Friday whenever possible in hopes to spread the word and whoever else would like to join in. You all can check out what Lydia of Ever-Ours did for her’s here or how we did ours here and do it your way if you’d like. We’ll be posting a reminder post on Thursday evening on my blog too.

3. Tweet and Re-Tweet the shiznit out of the link to http://www.forjapanwithlove.com please.

4. Encourage your readers to contribute to donate shelter to Japan.

Whatever anyone can contribute will be appreciated.

Every little helps.

Feel free to ask other bloggers you like to join in on this. Whatever impact we can make will be so awesome.

If you’d like to join in, please leave a comment with your blog name and a link too. We would like to acknowledge who will be participating and give them our thanks. Grab the flyer above and either of the badges below and feel free to use it in your post.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

FFB: Dressing as a Feminist


Today Feminist Fashion Bloggers' blogging event has asked bloggers to answer the question: how do you express your feminism in the way you dress?  To see everyone's responses check out the list of participants and their links at Mrs Bossa Does the Do.

Short answer: I'm not sure that I do.  In fact I never look at myself in the mirror after getting changed wondering "hmm... do I look feminist enough today?".

Anyone who visits this blog will know I am a woman who adores sequins, feathers, lace, tulle, dresses, floral prints, statement jewellery and skyscraper heels.  I also love to vamp it up in leather and layers of black.  I am not afraid of dressing in ways that are ultra feminine and sometimes just overtly sexy.  For some feminist movements that may immediately disqualify me from membership.  Quite frankly I'm not sure I understand the reasoning why.

I am equally happy trying out androgynous looks and I can don a masculine suit, not just because I like the tailoring but also when I think I need to play down my femininity in order to be "taken seriously".  But therein lies my bugbear.  I should be taken seriously as an individual, period.  Whether I am wearing a skirt or trousers should surely be irrelevant.  Why should I have to reduce my womanliness or make myself appear, or even behave more like a man in order to make my way through the world and receive the same opportunities?

The point of feminism is that as a woman I should have equal political, economic, and social rights and equal opportunities that are available to men.  There really should be no dress code for a woman in order to qualify for this.

The sad reality in my personal experience is that, especially in male dominated corporate environments, dressing to achieve whilst you take those opportunities means exactly that - hiding one's individuality and, if you are a woman, to some extent your gender.  It is like going into a battle zone wearing camouflage (i.e. not very much fun but a necessary evil), but despite morphing into a corporate foot soldier, you are still the same human being underneath and that human happens to be female.

To provide a little context, I believe I do qualify as a feminist, but it has little to do with my personal dress sense outside of office dress codes and more through my actions.  I am very highly educated and have always worked in careers which are traditionally male dominated.  From very early on where the boys went academically I followed, and many times beat them to the top grades.  I recall selecting my final year topics in high school and being appalled when almost every one of my extremely intelligent girlfriends wimped out of doing Physics and Maths because they were "subjects for boys".  Ever since then I found myself to be in a minority as a woman in every educational institution I've attended or job that I have taken.  I am hoping times have changed since but my point is that the opportunities do exist for both genders and have done for some time.  In my day however it was still less common that women had the determination and courage to take the bull by the horns and enter into male dominated fields.

As university student I campaigned against my own classmates to stop female strippers at their student parties and even now I'll find myself lecturing young women about why they should be concerned about pornography, wondering whether we've really made any progress on the representation of women's sexuality in the last twenty years.  More than one unwary work colleague has been sharply ticked off for speaking lightly about the topic of strip clubs and prostitution in my presence.

While I object to such sexual objectification of women, I don't see that wanting to look your best, attractive and even sexy should be restricted to a mutually exclusive existence with that of being a feminist.  I rejoice that I have the personal freedom to dress to express myself that is not granted to many other women.  I am grateful that I am not part of a society or religion where I am expected on pain of death to cover any part of myself up to avoid somehow being a "temptation" to men.  Rather I find it arcane and a great injustice that men aren't required to take responsibility to control their urges when they are entirely capable of doing so.

We are what we are and we shouldn't have to hide or diminish ourselves for it.  Forcing women to dress or change their appearance to obliterate any signs of female sexuality seems wrong to me.  It somehow only serves to fetishize it to the point where revealing anything is elevated beyond being provocative to being a serious offence.  I reject this.  I demand balance.  An egalitarian society requires it.

So, yes: I am a feminist.  But do I need to alter the way I dress somehow to reflect this?  I almost feel that in the truest spirit of being a feminist I can reclaim and revel in the right to wear anything I want thank you very much.  If I feel like wearing a skirt, I'll wear a skirt, if it is cold I'll wear trousers, if it is hot I'll step out in a mini skirt or shorts, if I feel like going topless sunbathing even in male company I will, and if I want to stand out from the crowd and express my individuality with dress I will take pleasure in putting together a great outfit, whether it be over the top feminine indulgence or severe masculine tailoring.  I shouldn't have to diminish the truth of who or what I am to anyone, man or woman.
 

Friday, 11 March 2011

Kojima


Today I don't wish to speak about fashion.  I am usually silent on political events, wars and tragedy as I never feel that this is the place to speak of them, but today I wish to speak about Japan.

It is a little known fact that the biggest market for flamenco in the world is in Japan.  Over ten years ago now a figure was quoted publicly, that in contrast to the six thousand people that earnt all or part their living from flamenco in Spain, there were over eighty thousand Japanese involved in some sense in flamenco either professionally or as a hobby.

Although I have never been to Japan, over the last decade I have been exposed time and time again to the people and their culture, curiously enough, through the mutual love we have of another culture's art form.  In some sense flamenco is the ultimate emotional release for these quiet, disciplined, hard working and respectful people whose culture can at times work to repress their individuality.  Through flamenco I have met so many Japanese men and women who have impressed me with the personal sacrifices they have made to come to Spain to follow their hearts and their passion.  Today all their faces filed past my mind's eye wondering whether they and their loved ones are okay.

One of the best received shows at the flamenco festival I just attended in Jerez was the creation of a seventy plus year old flamenco dancer from Japan, Shoji Kojima and world renowned Spanish flamenco artists including Javier LaTorre.  It was a production of Celestina with Kojima himself playing the part of the witch.  I arrived in Jerez too late to see the show but heard rave review after rave review from the girlfriends who had attended.

Despite the interest from foreign cultures in flamenco being a major force in the survival of this art form today it is not easy to be a foreigner, particularly if you are Asian, trying to perform flamenco professionally anywhere in the world, let alone in Spain where one has to overcome the often racist preconceptions of the Spanish about who has the cultural right to be dancing flamenco.  The inclusion of this production, which showcased several Japanese flamenco dancers from Kojima's company, in such an important flamenco festival in Spain is a testimony to how seriously the Japanese take flamenco as an art form, as well as an indication that the Spanish themselves have started to sit up and take notice.

On Sunday evening as a friend and I were rehearsing in a local studio there was a knock on the door and the land lady stepped in asking if someone could briefly interrupt our practice session to take a photo.  Our jaws dropped as Kojima himself walked in with a beaming smile peeking from beneath a curtain of long straight black hair, resplendent in a long line jacket cut in plush dark velvet that reached his knees, slim black trousers and a black turtleneck.  He was accompanied by a Jerez percussionist called Perico wielding a camera and who proceeded to take some photos of Kojima in the studio.

A little starstruck and aware we were meeting a truly grand figure and pioneer in the Japanese flamenco scene, we asked to have a photo taken with him to which he cheerfully obliged.  He was extremely charming without any hint of the type of inflated ego that could easily come with being so talented and accomplished.  He asked us where we were from, talked enthusiastically with us about the production of Celestina and even told us he had spent three years growing his hair for the role.  By the end of our conversation we had been totally charmed by his energy and personality.  At seventy plus I hope I will be as energetic and (by some miracle) still dancing too!  As we warmly bade our farewells we felt we had made a new friend as he made us promise to email him the photos.  He was due to fly back to Japan the next day.

Kojima is described as a devoted ambassador of flamenco in Japan. Later that evening I bumped into Perico in a local bar.  Perico had played the percussion for Celestina and spoke to me very highly of Kojima as someone with a very special energy both as a person and an artist.  He also told me that Kojima had come to Spain as a young man to learn flamenco, travelling for a month by boat and overland.

All day I have been following the horrific devastation in Japan by the earthquake and tsunami with a sense of disbelief, helplessness and horror.  No amount of witchcraft can save you if you are in the path of such a brutal force of nature.  It remains to be seen how many of my Japanese friends located in Spain, Australia and London will have families or loved ones that have been affected.  Shoji Kojima, I hope that you are safe.  My thoughts are with you and all the Japanese people.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

London Fashion Week: Georgina Goodman


The dust settled on London Fashion Week some time ago but here am I still ploughing through my photographs.  Still more to come on the jewellery front but for now - more shoes!

These amazing shoes are by London based designer Georgina Goodman.  Goodman started her journey in shoe design comparatively late in life, changing careers in her thirties and going back to college to learn the craft.  Quite inspirationally, she managed not only to set up a thriving business but consistently delivers very original and unique shoe designs.

Her trademark scratch stripe sole makes her shoes recognisable in the same way the lipstick red soles mark out a pair of Louboutins.  As I had suspected she was the designer behind the sculptural shoes in the Corrie Nielsen show.  Another trademark feature is the sculpted heart shaped stiletto heel which can be seen in the last photo.  No doubt it is this kind of attention to detail in her designs that has earned her the admiration of the likes of Manolo Blahnik.  I think my favourite pair has to be the gem embellished sandals in the last pair of photos.

For a fantastic interview with Georgina where she talks about how she changed career and set up her own business check out this video on Delicious Ambitious.  I think people who find what they really want to do very early on in life are very fortunate but people like Georgina Goodman are inspirational in showing that you can still make that discovery later on and attain success doing something you love.  As someone who has changed careers a couple of times and is likely to change again I found it quite comforting to hear a successful business woman stress that a career path can develop organically and that nothing you do is a waste of time.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

In Case You Were Wondering...

Isabel Bayon fron Flamenco-World.com

Thank you for continuing to stop by and to everyone for their comments! Just to let you know that I am in Spain for a few days attending a flamenco festival with limited access to the internet and navigating an packed itinery of events.  There are shows to see, costumes to drool over, classes to attend, friends to catch up with and much late night sherry drinking in bars.

As a result I have not been able to get around to all your blogs to comment as much let alone post and will continue to be a bit quieter than normal for a few more days.  Normal services will resume when I get back next week.  Look forward to catching up with you all then.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Friend Friday: Beauty Products

 
Friend Friday is run by ModlyChic.  To participate email katy_rose1@yahoo.com.  This week we are talking about beauty products.

As I am a bit of a make up junkie most of my answers are going to revolve around that!

1. What's your favorite drug store makeup product and your favorite higher-end product?

I can't really name one favourite product so I'll name a couple of favourite brands instead.

I have regularly bought and used products from a range called Ruby and Millie from the pharmacy chain here called Boots.  They have fabulous colours and everything comes in very chic packaging.  The containers are made from clear or cloudy perspex and lids and compacts are made from silver metal, which all make the line look more high end than high street.  They have a clever, much copied packaging system of stackable eyeshadow and blusher palettes, great make up brushes and do lovely gift sets which make great Christmas or birthday presents.

My high end favourite brand which I use almost at the exclusion of all others is MAC.  If you are not Caucasian finding make up colours and shades of foundation that suit your skin colour is an extremely difficult and sometimes costly process!  When I discovered MAC it was almost life changing.  I know I can rely on their shades to work with and flatter my skin tone and I like that their lipsticks are not scented as I find this really offputting.

As far as being totally eco-friendly and blame free on using animal products in their formulations they probably aren't one hundred percent perfect as a company but I like that they don't test on animals and have a recycling programme for their products.  You can take back six empty containers and get a free lipstick.

And while on the subject of eco and animal friendly make up, may I recommend as a guide for those who are interested in learning about great products and innovations in this area to check out the very thoroughly researched blog of my friend Sarah Frasca who is a London based make-up artist passionate about cruelty free and organic products.

2. Is there one type of product that is your go-to, can't live without?

I love Mac's Mineralize range but in particular I rely on MAC's Mineralize SPF 15 Loose Powder foundation.  I am always in rush getting ready and this is a foundation that goes on with a big fluffy brush and makes you look airbrushed in sixty seconds if you haven't got the time for applying liquid foundation.  If they ever discontinue this I am toast!

3. What's the best hair product you've ever used?

I have naturally frizzy hair that has to be coaxed into curls so "best hair product" is a bit of search for the Holy Grail for me and I am always trying lots of different things in my crusade to beat the frizz.  For years I relied on a leave-in, de-frizzing conditioner formulated for naturally curly hair by Sunsilk in a small green plastic bottle.  It was inexpensive, had a lovely scent and made my hair look a million dollars.  They seem to have discontinued it and I haven't found anything that works nearly as well.

4. Fess up, what's the worst beauty look you've tried to rock and look back at now with a little shame or apprehension that you actually did that?

There is no "worst beauty look" I am ashamed of having tried.  I honestly don't think about it in that way.  I love the self expression and theatricality of make up and I really enjoy the experimental side of trying out new looks.  Non! Je ne regrette rien!  If anything I actually regret not taking more risks with make up and trying out crazier looks when I was younger and still hitting the nightclubs regularly.  Make up is not always about looking tasteful and beautiful, sometimes its about fantasy, just having fun or creating a persona.

Robert Smith - Image from The Telegraph
Adam Ant - Image from RTVChannel.tv

Just think - what would Robert Smith and Adam Ant have been without their crazy make up?  Two very nice looking blokes but probably not those larger than life and iconic rock stars they came to be, proud of wearing their creative streaks not just on their sleeves but on their faces too!

Make up looks might go in and out of fashion but if you rocked it at the time it was probably right in the context of that period and what was going on around you.  Fashion and make up are just reactions and ultimately expressions of what is happening in the world at the time.  Why not be proud that you were a part of it?  It is an aesthetic chart of your time growing up.  Remember at some point in the future a generation will no doubt be looking back nostalgically at what we wore in terms of clothes and make up and draw inspiration from it!

And for heaven's sake if you are young, take some advice - enjoy this dewy skinned and wrinkle free time to be adventurous with make up and rock some looks!  Try something high fashion, out of character or extreme for you.  Trust me, nothing will be blander than looking back over old photos of yourself in the future to see a youth spent playing it safe all the time.

5. When it comes to beauty products, we all use the same basic products. What do you use that helps show off your personal flare and personality? 

Even on no make up days I will usually use lipstick or lip gloss as I have very full lips and like to highlight them.  I love red lipstick!

I also love having a signature perfume.  Your choice of perfume speaks volumes about your personality.  I find it very romantic when people associate a certain scent with you.  Mine is Angel by Thierry Mugler.  When Mr V. catches a whiff of someone wearing Angel he says he finds himself automatically looking around to see if it is me.  Even old friends will tell me "I smelt that perfume you always wear the other day on someone else and I immediately thought of you!".

I also love Victor and Rolf's Flowerbomb and Ginger Rush by Origins for a change.  When I was younger I was always in the Body Shop's Dewberry and Tea Rose perfumes.  I've also tried a coffee scented one by Jo Malone and for a while loved White Tea by L'Occitane until they discontinued it.  Vanilla, chocolate, coffee tea, spices and flowers.  Now what does that say about me?

Thursday, 3 March 2011

London Fashion Week: Lara Bohinc

 
 
 

I wouldn't be called Veshoevius if I wasn't into shoes!  At the bottom of the great winding staircase at Somerset House during London Fashion Week was a wonderful display of some beauties by London based accessories designer Lara Bohinc.  In terms of where these types of shoes sit in the market this is the unadulterated high end of luxury but there is no harm in looking at beautiful things and dreaming I say.  My favourites are the monochrome lace up shoe boot and the gilded leopard courts.

Lara Bohinc was interviewed for Elle magazine last December as part of their Closet Confidential series and came across as a very smart lady who is technically as well as business savvy.  The gold accents on her shoes are her trademark: precision cut gold plated brass motifs with an art deco feel adorning bags and shoes, produced by laser cutting and photo etching techniques she honed at the Royal College of Art.  She also designs jewellery, of which the tubular necklace, bracelet and ring pictured above are examples and has recently branched into scarves.

For the most part the Elle article was an enjoyable read and fascinating insight into an interesting designer and woman.  According to Elle's interview Bohinc trained as a product designer and some of her sources of inspiration included catalogues of radio components and her own photography of factory machines.   The article did get on my nerves at this point expressing disbelief that someone so glamourous could be so nerdy.  (Yes nerd was their word.)

So much for the representation of women with a keen interest in topics more related to science, engineering and manufacturing instead of the usual froth we are supposed to love.  Why is it deemed impossible or even unlikely that these kinds of interests and careers could somehow coexist with a love for glamour?  Well the products above speak volumes in themselves.   Being smart obviously does not exclude being stylish in the workings of the same brain and I wish some mainstream magazines (especially ones with a readership that is mainly female) would wake up and realise that.

To top it all off Bohinc manages to juggle running a successful business with motherhood and looking glamourous - she says that she really loves getting dressed up, has a wardrobe to die for and looks glam even when she is staying in.  Maybe it really is possible to have it all!

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

London Fashion Week: Mawi


If Wallis Simpson were alive today I think she would be clamouring to wear the designs of London jewellery designer Mawi.  These are stylish contemporary costume jewellery pieces whose design strikes that magical balance that enables them to make your wardrobe work harder for you.  They manage to transcend seasonal trends and yet adding them to an outfit somehow brings whatever you are wearing bang up to date.

The designs are split into two collections: Fine Costume and Heirloom.  The Fine Costume range is about forward looking, unique and modern pieces drawing on architecture, sculpture, industrial and futuristic forms for inspiration.  Expect striking, bold and edgy jewellery that uses chunky shapes, structured lines, spikes, tubes, double claw settings, thick and interesting chain links, supersized pearls and brightly coloured gems for maximum impact.

The designer's own love of collecting vintage and trinkets is reflected in the more romantic, vintage feel of the Heirloom collection (which is my personal favourite).  Mawi cites the inspiration for the Heirloom collection as being estate jewels, family heirlooms, royal and historical influences.  Here you find panther heads with rubies for eyes and emeralds on their collars adorning opulent necklaces and bracelets.  There are coloured crystal and perspex gems, ornate clasps, pearls in vibrant colours or printed with motifs of roses, eclectic collections of trinkets and charms, engraved heart lockets and silver and gold bows.  A signature Mawi feature is the unexpected use of silver or gold plated skulls to give a darker edge to what, on a first glance, seem to be more delicate, feminine and classical designs.

The main line jewellery collection doesn't come cheap but there has been a collaboration with ASOS for a good couple of seasons now which offers some great pieces with that signature Mawi look at more wallet friendly prices.  I also keep an eye out for pieces on sale on sites like Cocosa, which feature sales of Mawi jewellery from time to time, as well as sales on the designer's own E-shop.

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