Friday, 24 April 2015

Shoreditch and its street art

A recent piece I did for uni about how the re developments occurring in Shoreditch could potentially blunt its flourishing street art scene.  

Walking through the streets of Shoreditch it’s impossible not to notice the colourful murals, portraits and original street art that adorn the otherwise bare brick walls. These works are increasingly politically charged and alive with thought provoking concepts that capture the spirit of a rebellious natured London. However, as Shoreditch’s popularity as a destination to live soars, it’s questionable whether it can hold on to the creative atmosphere that makes it so popular.

Recent plans to give the area a face-lift have been met with fierce opposition, as campaigners say gentrification could mean risking “losing the soul of Shoreditch”. There is set to be an £800 mil redevelopment of Bishops Gate Goods Yard into 6 towers of apartments and offices with only 10% of the housing set to be deemed affordable; providing the plans are approved by Hackney and Tower Hamlet councils. David Donoghue, of the Spitalfields Society, in an interview with the London Evening Standard says, “Something as inappropriate as this on such a massive scale will kill the golden goose.” Worries over Shoreditch’s loss of character are clear, as campaigners fear that it could merely become a playground for the rich, and in turn tear apart its unique dynamic.

Shoreditch has long been a hub for creativity, beginning in the 1990s as artists invaded empty warehouses that had been left vacant since World War Two, in search of a cheap place to work. It wasn’t long before the people that spent their time there began reflecting in the neighbourhood itself, and it was eventually deemed upper coming and trendy. Nowadays it’s a worldwide brand; the Dubai Design District is currently working on building their very own Shoreditch from scratch. The area has become synonymous with hipsters, beards and quirky cafes but art is still very much at the centre of what brings the borough to life. 

Rob Allen, Project Director of Hammerson, the developer of the Bishopsgate Goodsyard regeneration, thinks that worries are miss-directed, saying that areas like Shoreditch are, “Constantly reinventing [themselves]”. However, as street art is an important part of the area, its survival seems key to the success of a re invented Shoreditch. David Speed is a street artist who formed the company, Graffiti Life, in 2010 as a way to make street art commercial and provide a bridge between artists and clients. Speed says that street art is, “An amazing part of [Shoreditch]” However, if the trend of gentrification continues, “Artists like us will not be able to afford to work here and will leave. If this happens I think that the area will suffer.” Holding on to the arty culture that first brought the area to life seems integral for it to further prosper.

Dave Stuart, the principle guide and founder of Shoreditch Street Art Tours, adds, “If street art appears to be a mechanism for fighting loss of character this is more fortuity than design. Street artists incorporate messages of anti corporatism, anti capitalism, anti oppression into their art and those sentiments are often targeted against the same agencies which drive gentrification, mainly capitalism!”

This style was first popularised by the famously anonymous Banksy; whose work began to be noticed around the east end of London in the early noughties and from there went from strength to strength. Particularly captivating for always having a distinct political message, whether anti monarchist, anti capitalist or just intended to bring awareness to an issue. Street art is fast becoming method of communicating the artist’s point of view, political or and not, which could prove to be a huge asset to an area threatened by an invasion of the wealthy.

Speed believes that, “Street art allows the people to have a voice. It always has done, political graffiti from ancient Greece has been discovered, the Berlin wall was covered [in graffiti] and we’ve seen messages during times of unrest throughout Britain in the 80s and 90s. However, Speed continues, “The difference with work made today is that the audience is potentially global due to social media”.

Graffiti Life are extremely active online, with over 20,000 followers on Instagram and 18,000 on Vine; whatever they post has a huge reach and when they decide to get behind something it can really bring a focus to the issue. As Speed says, “social media puts the power in the hands of the artist; if a piece goes ‘viral’ it can potentially be seen by millions.” Following the attacks in Paris earlier this year, street art in response popped up all over the east end, all taking on an anti terror stance that summed up the mood of the city. Speed was the first to spray something. A brick wall painted a sky blue is the backdrop for the large gun crossed out in a bloody red, accompanied by the phrase “Je Suis Charlie”. 

Speed elaborates, “When I first learnt about the tragedy I was on Twitter and started investigating this strange #JeSuisCharlie that I was seeing all over my time line”, referring to the hashtag that went viral across social media in support of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, that was victim to the attacks. Speed continues, “I started seeing cartoonists responses and at first was reluctant to paint anything”.

However, the work he produced encouraged other artists to take their own stance, “After painting the piece I started to see more street works popping up. So many people got behind the message and it was heartening to see this show of solidarity in the aftermath of such a tragedy”. While London’s most spirited areas like Shoreditch may be under threat, the art that inhibits them is thriving because, as Speed points out, “Artists are so competitive they push each other on to create better work”.

It’s difficult to imagine a Shoreditch without its vibrant street art and it’s clearly vital in order to preserve the unique energy that draws people to the area the first place. Stuart adds, “It would be exciting to see people concerned about those changes emerge as street artists and use the walls as a messaging device for raising awareness about their concerns”. 

Friday, 25 April 2014


The fashion industry is not for the faint hearted and there’s an unwritten rule that if you’re a model and you’re not Kate Moss, you have an expiration date. It's an Industry where youth will be eternally defended and empires have been built on women’s insecurities about ageing. Everyone wants to look like the 14-year-old girl prancing down the runway, except with a great job, apartment and partner, obviously. And whilst it’s an issue just about everyone’s bored to death of talking about, could it finally be changing? 

Marc Jacobs recently announced that American Horror Story actress, Jessica Lange, is the new face of his beauty range, at 64 years old she’s not the typical wrinkle free teenager you’d expect to be staring out at you from a beauty ad. This comes after she appeared in an editorial spread for Love Magazine dressed in Marc Jacobs. Just to add to the older beauties selling us makeup, 68-year-old Charlotte Rampling is the new face of Nars Cosmetics.
Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen chose to use 65-year-old model Linda Rodin in their pre-fall look book for The Row. Jacky O’Shaughnessy, 62, recently began modelling for American Apparel. This coincides with 60-year-old musician, Leslie Winer, featuring in Vivienne Westwood’s 2013/14 campaigns. Whilst Carmen Dell’Orefice, 82, starred in her own spread for Vogue Italia, last July.
70- year-old French actress, Catherine Denevue, is front and centre in the latest Louis Vuitton campaign. And 46-year-old model Kristen McMenamy, famous for her androgynous aesthetic, was the star of a Tim Walker spread for W Magazine in December 2013. Following which she bagged herself a spot in Balenciaga’s SS13 campaign. In 2012 she seemed to have the world anxiously moaning about how they wanted to "look that good when they were her age" when she walked in the Chanel Resort show in a low cut swimsuit.
This surge in older female models isn’t without its controversy, American Apparel’s campaign featuring 62-year-old model Jacky O’Shaughnessy polarised opinions, with people standing on either side of the spectrum, hating it or loving it. O’Shaughnessy, a retired actress, was discovered in a Greenwich Village restaurant in New York, after striking up a chance conversation with their Creative Director Marsha Brady. She has a cascade of long white hair, a slim physique, full lips, killer eyebrows and is striking. In the series of images taken for the brand, she looks directly at the camera in various states of dress and undress; in one photograph she’s dressed elegantly in all black, another in lace underwear.
The images set social networking sites afire with both brutal and encouraging opinions. On the online response she received O’Shaughnessy said, “I think blogging is a format for a lot of people who just love to get on and just rip things apart, when I look at the most critical, it’s very young women, not guys, yet very young women are also some of the biggest proponents. The amount of negativity is so small compared to the positive reactions.” Which is for the most part true, the comments on American Apparel's Facebook page included: “I’m so amazed by her courage and AA’s open-mindedness. This is a powerful, outstanding shoot.” And “Gorgeous and amazingly stylish… love this campaign”

O’Shaughnessy added, “I’m comfortable. I don’t feel that any of this is inappropriate. When people talk about age appropriate hairstyles, and age appropriate dressing, well, whose age? And who are you?”

To me, O’Shaughnessy agreeing to do this campaign is commendable; she wasn’t famous and didn’t have a PR team to hide behind. She must have been aware of some of the backfire it would cause and the vile comments that would be flung her way, but her self assured attitude of quite literally asking her critics, “who the fuck are you?” is empowering.

Fashions embracing of older women can be traced back to photographer and blogger Ari Seth Cohen. Cohen has a reputation as an eccentric thirty-something, a camera strung dutifully around his neck, running around photographing the older but fabulously dressed women of New York City. He documents their style through his blog “Advanced Style” which he began in 2008, after feeling there was a “lack of representation for older women in fashion and media from what [he] saw. All of these ladies could be in advertising campaigns.”

The blog was instantly a hit and he has since gone on to produce a best selling book “Advanced Style” and has recently completed a documentary “Advanced Style: The Film”, which is set to be released later this year. It seems there is something about older women’s relentless glamour, no matter how many wrinkles or aches and pains they may have, that has completely captivated the industry.

Fashion blogger Leondra Medina of Man Repeller recalls looking at Cohen’s blog for the first time and thinking, “this is youth.” Conveying it as a modern concept and a redefining of beauty. The success of Cohen’s blog can only further emphasises fashions movement towards portraying women of substance rather than teenagers with little experience of the world; it’s about presenting the woman rather than just the clothes. But, like everything in fashion, trends come and go and its questionable whether this too, will be merely another trend.

I spoke to Olivia Ann May, A graduate from Middlesex University in Fashion and Textile, who designed her final year collection for older women, choosing to use models aged 62, 68, 83. Since she has graduated there has only been a bigger push for older models within fashion. She said, “I hope it's not a trend. I think with the fashion industry everything can become a little fickle so the real reason for doing something in the first place can get watered down and less relevant as time goes on.

I personally started designing for older women because I was inspired by them and this in turn led me to research how they were forgotten about in fashion. I think people are definitely more aware of providing designs for older people but as soon as they start concentrating on overweight people or disabled people it will take a step back. So I guess it is a bit of a trend, but as long as it is making everyone aware of ageism it's no bad thing.”

A trend or not, there is something far more compelling about women who have stories to tell and leave impressions with their colourful and expressive sense of style. In an industry where teenagers are the standard a reconciling of beauty and age seems extraordinary but necessary.  These women get people talking, questioning, provoke intrigue and really do sell products, so for as far as this movement has come, lets hope it's here to stay.

Monday, 3 February 2014


Model Daria Werbowy reclining in the leather seats of a posh car, smudged dark eye makeup, messy coloured hair and dressed in black. Very Moss.
Kate's first shoot for British Vogue is (hate to say it) very predictable and borderline boring.
Whilst I'm not that impressed, I suppose it's natural for Kate to have taken inspiration from the decade that saw her soar to fame, the 90s, and put her mark on the shoot with a flair of her own personal style. 

I guess we'll have to wait until the issue's out (6th Feb) to see what the rest of the shoot has in store. 


We should probably be used to Miley Cyrus being somewhat undressed by now, but in her new cover for W Magazine she's barely recognisable.
Leather clad or stretched out seductively under a bed sheet; it's clear looking through the shoot that Miley's doing everything possible to keep up her carefully crafted 'bad girl' image.
So, is it wrong that I actually think she looks good here?
See the full spread here.

Sunday, 2 February 2014


Peter Pilotto's much anticipated collection for target, which for the first time will also be available internationally at, is set to go on sale on the 9th February. 
And browsing through the Lookbook it looks amazing, incredibly reasonably priced and unmistakably Pilotto. 
The collection includes fitted blazers, sweatshirts, slip on shoes, summer dresses, bikinis, shorts, tailored trousers and more, all brought to life by their imaginative prints. 
Below I've put together my favourite pieces from the collection that I'll be dragging myself out of bed early on the 9th to try and get my hands on!

View the full Lookbook online here
and remember to get up early on the 9th because it could go live at any time.