Thursday, 14 February 2019

“the dream was so much more intense”: why fashion is more exciting as an outsider

For years I thought I would do just about anything to be in the industry, but the world of the teenage fashion fan alone in their bedroom is what inspires me most.

My teenage journal

“The dream was so much more intense when you’re off the grid,” says revered fashion journalist Tim Blanks, reminiscing on an adolescence spent longing to run away to New York to join Andy Warhol’s Factory.
The world in which Blanks wished to live in trickled down to him through his subscription to Interview magazine, though his New Zealand hometown was so remote, it only reached him once every eight months.
“We weren’t into fashion so much as we were into David Bowie,” Blanks continues. “We’d prance around in glam rock looks that we’d cobbled together. We were doing what we thought people in New York and London were doing. It turned out we were doing it better. The dream was a lot more fantastic because we didn’t have access to anything.”
Being an insider is overrated. Blanks’ sentiment is shared by many, especially in fashion. As an industry that still seems impenetrable to outsiders, it remains distant yet exciting. Fashion people, real and fictional, have a wealth of outsider stories from adolescence to share.
Gareth Pugh always felt on the edge of something in his seaside hometown in the North of England. Valentino’s Pierpaolo Piccioli’s youth was spent in an in-between realm in a town just south of Rome. Christopher Shannon grew up reading magazines based in fashion capitals, but it turns out that Liverpool has provided him with the most inspiration.
The trope of the outsider becoming the fashion insider is so common that it even features in The Devil Wears Prada — probably the most accessible fashion film that even those with little interest in the industry have seen. Nigel, stylist at Runway explains how the magazine is, “a shining beacon of hope for a young boy growing up in Rhode Island with six brothers, pretending to go to soccer practice when he was really going to sewing class and reading Runway under the covers at night with a flashlight.”
This story resonates with a new generation of fashion critics too. Central Saint Martins MA student, Micheàl Costello grew up in rural southern Ireland. “Growing up in the country gives you a more creative mindset,” he says. “You’re forced to get an imagination much sooner. We have to come up with our own games, come up with our own stories.”
For me, fashion has rarely seemed more exciting than when I spent evenings alone in my room reading Vogue. This month, I am attending my first London Fashion Week. I am looking forward to it. Yet part of me misses the days of being undeniably on the outside.
As I write, I am sitting in Starbucks, drinking a skinny latte — my favourite drink aged 13 when I basically just wanted to be Anna Wintour. I used to dream of spending my days drinking it in cafés, writing about fashion rather than picking it up on the way to school.
I once overheard some girls in my class making fun of me when they found my blog. They were saying, “Let’s go to Starbucks with Sophie and drink skinny lattes and talk about fashion.” I wasn’t offended because I would have actually loved to do that.
It wasn’t until I was in sixth form that I had a friend to talk about fashion with, and even then, we didn’t go to the same school. It was a very solitary interest. When I started blogging, it was partly so I had a place to discuss things that no one was interested in at school.
The internet created a community for teenagers obsessed with fashion and the cultural and historical milieu in which it exists. Social media means that even the most geographically isolated teens are much more connected than Tim Blanks was in ’70s Auckland.
So when do the outsiders become the insiders? You could say that you become an insider once you’re an editor, a creative director at a major brand, or once you have over a hundred thousand followers. Yet these milestones don’t mean you are suddenly on the inside.
Creative industries are largely about observing the zeitgeist. Working in fashion involves, literally, watching from the sidelines anyway.
For Blanks, Andy Warhol was the insider of the ’60s and ’70s. He influenced every creative industry, had connections in high art and pop culture. He was at the centre of every cultural happening, yet the artist himself lived a lonely life. You get the impression he was an outsider’s insider, observing the scene he created.
Access, democracy, representation. These are all vital for the industry to move forwards. Yet there is so much joy in being on the fringes of it all. That needn’t be lost. Being an outsider is mostly a state of mind.
In an industry obsessed with what is in and out of style, there’s something punk about staying unapologetically out. That’s where all the fun happens.

Saturday, 12 January 2019

2019 mood: wellness hoe

Wellness hoe: someone with an encyclopedic knowledge of astrology and all the best brunch locations in town. She knows the names of every employee at her local Lush store and spends her weekends with face masks, candles, and self-help books. She has an enviable Instagram but knows that social media cleanses are the way forward. Most importantly, she takes responsibility for her own health and happiness. I'm writing it into existence: 2019 is the year of the wellness hoe. 


I haven't written out any New Year's resolutions for 2019. I don't believe you have to wait for a new year to start working towards your goals, but it is the ideal opportunity for reflection. This year, I want to dedicate more time to wellness (and dress like a glam rock icon, but that’s a post for another time.) 

Looking back over 2018, wellness definitely started to play a more significant role in my life. This year I want to make a commitment through wellness to a more holistic approach to my own mental health. A lot of the mainstream discourse on wellness ignores the reality of mental illness and chronic pain. It is important to discuss all three together and recognise the intersections that make certain facets of wellness unrealistic whilst others are essentials, not luxuries. However, the aesthetic of wellness does make healthy habits more accessible and appealing, which is a good thing.

Medication and wellness coexist.

People who don’t live with mental illness and haven’t experienced the difficulties of trying to find the right medication and dosage often suggest that you make a choice: healthy living or medication. In reality, quite often, one will not work without the other. Medication can lift you out of depression just enough so that you can start making healthier choices and a healthy lifestyle can increase the positive effects of medication. People who take medication still very much have to do the heavy lifting in recovery.

In 2018 I suffered from chronic mental and physical illness, worse than I have experienced before. It feels like I tried every medication under the sun (an exaggeration, but my different prescriptions were into double figures) and none of them made me feel better. I wish medication worked for me, or at least didn’t make me feel so much worse. I have spent years wishing that it would and each doctor I see ignores the correlation between SSRIs and suicidal thoughts on my medical record and gives me more. If I don’t experience increased suicidal thoughts, I get awful nightmares and night terrors.


I rarely write about my personal experience on medication because you can read enough negative experiences online as it is. Sometimes I worry that I scared myself too much early on by spending hours scrolling through forums filled with horror stories. However, if you are reading this and feel hopeless because nothing has worked for you, know that you are not alone. There are certainly many positive and more balanced/mixed experiences as well, such as in this wonderful post by my friend Lucy.

Perhaps medication will be an option for me someday. I viewed its failure as a personal failure for a long time; an indication that I was incurable. There is no one-size fits all route to becoming mentally healthy. In 2019, I have decided to see my situation as an opportunity to invest in my health in every way possible. Self-destructive behaviours are out. Being a wellness hoe is in.



Do it for yourself, but also for the aesthetic.

On a superficial level, my motivation to pursue the wellness hoe life came from only getting 36% on the Buzzfeed wellness hoe quiz. I can do better. A lot of wellness has a superficial, materialistic exterior, even though it is about private self-improvement. Two of Buzzfeed’s wellness hoe criteria are having poppin’ Insta stories and #aestheticgoals posts.

However, screen time contradicts wellness. Social media increases anxiety and decreases productivity. I still get inspiration from Instagram accounts, but I have deleted the apps off my phone and usually only check on my favourites when I am on social media for work. Spending hours scrolling through social media is toxic. Too often there is pressure for your wellness pursuits to be digestible on Instagram.  In 2019 I want to spend more time living in the real world, not vicariously through someone else’s highlights reel. Do it for the real-life aesthetic, not the hashtag.


Aestheticism is the only thing worth pursuing.

Although the most important aspects of wellness cannot be found in candles and face masks, the wellness hoe aesthetic is what I needed to take responsibility for my health. Sometime late in 2018 I had a realisation that aestheticism is the only thing worth pursuing. My journal is spattered with these kinds of Wildean existential 2am epiphanies, but this one stuck with me. It has helped me find mindfulness on my own terms. In linking my life through the creation of these filmic moments, I find meaning, which brings calm.

There are certainly products that help in creating a feeling of overall wellness. Most of the Christmas gifts I received this year were wellness-related: a diffuser, Pukka tea, a rose quartz facial roller, a Himalayan salt candle holder, lavender spray and face masks. The jury is still out on their long-terms effects, but I have enjoyed starting to integrate them into my life to bring peace.

From years of trying different methods to try and stabilise my mental health, I have realised that professional help is vital, but there is a lot to be said for diet, exercise and mindfulness. As long as they are on your own terms.


This takes time. When a doctor tells you to exercise more and drink less alcohol it seems like an attack on your character. Especially if you know people that drink a lot and never exercise but don’t have depression. These are preventative measures, but when you can’t even get out of bed most days, you might as well be telling someone with a broken leg to just walk it off. I often come away from the doctors feeling so misunderstood that I want to do the exact opposite of what they suggest. It is only through finding what works for me that I have been able to take responsibility for my health and happiness.

On my worst mental and physical health days, going for a run is out of the question, but sometimes I will be able to do an at-home yoga practice. This month I am doing Yoga with Adriene’s 30-Day Yoga Challenge, a tradition that I have followed every January for the past three or four years. So far, it has improved my quality of sleep, reduced my alcohol intake and forced me to give permission to take time for myself each day.


The majority of your serotonin is produced in your gut.

It makes sense that a healthy diet will improve your mood. I don’t believe in dieting or restricting, but I have been doing a bit of research into foods that have been proven to enhance your mood. On bad depression days at uni I mostly lived off toast (which is basically Morrissey’s diet anyway) but I always tried to keep satsumas in my room, so I would at least get some vitamins. Satsumas are also great for mindful eating because the fresh smell stays on your hands, and the process of pealing and separating the segments can be quite calming.

Green vegetables, healthy fats and protein have been proven to improve your mood the most. Good news if you’re like me and could happily eat poached eggs and avocado for every meal of the day. A lot of people swear by a vegan diet to improve mood and overall health. I try to eat mostly vegan foods and replace dairy milk with alternatives, but, having struggled with disordered eating in the past, I find it too restrictive to follow all of the time. Remember that food is to be enjoyed. It can be one of the small pleasures when your mood is low. Savour it.  

The most exciting thing about becoming a self-proclaimed wellness hoe is discovering new wellness restaurants and cafés.

I’m still not quite at the stage of meal-prepping gorgeous bento boxes for my packed lunch. I usually stick to Naked noodle pots. However, on the days when I want to treat myself to lunch out, I have been researching wellness hotspots near where I live/work/study. Maple & co near CSM have an amazing selection of salad boxes. Farmstand in Covent Garden have delicious choices from which you can build your own meal. Closer to where I live in Kent, Basil offers a range of salads and smoothies and I plan to try and arrange more lunch dates there with friends.


Your diet really lays the foundation for your skincare/beauty routine. Magdalena Frackowiak is my skincare icon because she preaches about the importance of not drinking or smoking, but there are numerous photos of her drinking and smoking at parties. Big mood.

Most of my skincare products are from Lush. My favourite is their Mask of Magnaminty, that I use two-three times a week. However, in terms of aesthetics, Herbivore is the quintessential wellness hoe brand. They do everything from day creams and face masks to bath salts and facial rollers, all organic and cruelty-free.

Try using organic products in your baths as part of weekly self-care evenings. I never used to take baths, but I didn’t have one at uni, so now I’m home I really appreciate it. I personally don’t add anything to my baths besides natural salt to care for the itchy skin I get on my legs because I find other products irritate me. However, I have been looking into CBD bath products. I have used CBD oil for anxiety before, but I didn’t take it regularly enough to feel the full effect. Apparently, it’s better if you vape it, but I’m not a fan of vaping anything. Yes, that is just another aesthetic preference. Give me a pretty bath bomb over a vape any day.



Drinking water is so important.

I bought a S’well water bottle last year and it is one of the best purchases I have made. It makes me want to drink a lot of water. I am very aware of how my body feels when I’m dehydrated. Dehydration is a trigger for my chronic pain, so drinking enough water has become a big part of my daily life. Sometimes I wake up feeling like I have a hangover even if I haven’t been drinking the night before and it’s because I didn’t drink enough water.

Often when I’m tired, it’s because I’m dehydrated, so water is a better choice than coffee. I am currently limiting myself to one caffeinated drink a day to reduce my anxiety and improve my sleep. Basically, if you’re reading this, go and pour a big glass of water. I’m going to go and do that now.

Downing pints of water can get boring and, this time of year, it’s cold. Swap water for herbal tea for most of the same benefits. I got Pukka’s Herbal Collection for Christmas includes 3 different types of immunity-boosting, detoxifying, calming teas. They are perfect for helping me achieve my goal of drinking less coffee. I also find myself reaching for herbal tea rather than wine in the evenings now. God, that sentence makes me feel old.


On the topic of alcohol, my main goal this year is to stop feeling guilty for drinking. I want to cut down my consumption of alcohol, which has been happening naturally due to daily yoga and a busy work/studying schedule. I’m not doing Dry January because I think that would set me up for a year of equating drinking alcohol with failure. Alcohol definitely makes my mental and physical health worse, but the anxiety I feel about drinking exceeds the anxiety I get from drinking.

One way to reduce alcohol intake without punishing yourself is to engage in mindful drinking. This is an approach I adopted last year, and it works better certain times than others because your judgement is skewed after a few drinks. However, the principle is that when you drink you ask yourself why you are drinking. For example, if it is because you feel sad then it will be more worthwhile to figure out why you feel that way. Let yourself feel sad, but don’t drink because the sadness will only come back twice as badly in the morning. If it’s because you are at a social event and you want to- pressure from anyone else is not a good reason to- then, sure, enjoy getting drunk. Whatever you decide to do, try not to feel guilty. Sometimes you will drink because you are sad, and it will make you sadder, but that’s ok. It’s normal, and human, to express your sadness in destructive ways as long as you learn from your mistakes as you go and look after yourself.


Hold yourself accountable with regular journaling.

I journal a lot already, but this year I intend to journal more mindfully. I am taking inspiration from the 5-minute journal and YouTubers like Rowena Tsai and Amy Landino. Yoga has taught me the importance of positive affirmations. Saying aloud or writing phrases like I am strong, I am worthy, I am loved etc. can really shift negative thinking into gratitude.


Reading is as important as writing.

The best way to start a new journey in your life is to read about those who have gone before you. I have an ever-growing reading list. Hopefully, spending less time on social media will lead to more time reading.

I am currently reading The Novel Cure which takes two of my favourite things (literature and wellness) and provides a novel to read as a solution to a variety of maladies; from abandonment to zestlessness. It claims to promote bibliotherapy- fixing your anxieties and health problems with novels. I’ll take a big dose of that.

The Wellness Hoe Reading List

Here are 5 books from my reading list that I hope to read this year in order to improve my life.

Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends on It by Kamal Ravikant
In 2011, Ravikant gave a talk to a room of scientists, Pentagon officials, politicians and CEOs. The feedback he received inspired him to write this book. Ravikant says, "The truth is to love yourself with the same intensity you would use to pull yourself up if you were hanging off a cliff with your fingers." Amen to that. Plus, it's free on Kindle.

The 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins
I have watched several interviews with Mel Robbins on YouTube. The 5 Second Rule teaches us how to take responsibility for our own lives. Want to wake up at 5am everyday? Count down from 5 then get out of bed. Run 5k? Count down from 5 then go. Ok, it's not always that easy, but the book explains how to make this method work for you.

Light is the New Black is about embracing your uniqueness and embracing feminine energy. This book appreciates the power of authenticity. We all have a unique point of view and things only we can bring to the world.

Last year I went through a phase of watching TED talks when I was at the gym (I know, even I'm shocked that my life once had that level of productivity.) I watched Sarah Knight's 'The Magic of Not Giving a F***.' I would recommend it to anyone who hasn't seen it. Manson's book has a similar message. He argues that there are so many things we can give a f*ck about, that we have to make decisions about what is worth our time and energy.

Most people have heard about Kondo's minimalism now. It is about not owning anything that doesn't spark joy. I'm not entirely convinced by minimalism, but I am 100% supportive of only owning beautiful things that bring joy to your life.

Monday, 31 December 2018

how to be alone on new years eve

Berlin, December 2016

Patti Smith is perhaps the person whose habits and routines I have imitated most. I welcomed 2016 in the same way that Smith documented her New Year in M Train:

As thousands of drunken revelers disbursed in Time's Square, my little Abyssinian circled the floor with me as I paced, wrestling with a poem I was aiming to finish to usher in the New Year, in homage to the great Chilean writer Roberto Bolano... I decided to write a hecatomb for him- a hundred-line poem. 

Three years ago, I was 18 and it was the first New Year's Eve I could legally go out and drink. I spent the night sitting on the porch of my parents' house, drinking coffee and writing a 100-line poem in homage to Patti Smith, mostly about a boy I was hopelessly infatuated with at the time.

As the clock struck midnight, across town champagne glasses jingled, lovers brushed lips, and finished up my poem, lighting a cigarette and looking up at the clear and starry winter sky.

And, for a moment, I felt like my life had some sort of cosmic significance after all. Like I built worlds from scratch with my Christmas toys as a child, those first minutes of a brand-new year were entirely my own, to mould and shape however I wanted. Life spins so quickly and we bounce off of other people and into new situations. We break hearts and wine glasses, get too drunk and cry or call our exes. All perfectly human things. We can't avoid life by isolating ourselves all the time, but for that one night, I sought comfort in knowing that I could build the start of my year up, brick by brick. Tavi Gevinson would call it moments of strange magic. What I've really gathered from seeking out these moments in my life, is that it ultimately gives you a deep appreciation for your own company. 

I am not writing this to sound melancholy or self-pitying. Of the past three New Years, that one was the most memorable. 2016-17 I spent in an overpriced London nightclub, crushed in a crowd, with a random boy stroking my back during the countdown until I pushed him off. I welcomed 2018 in a cramped student house before leaving for an event that didn't start until after midnight.

Even as a teenager I preferred thinking of New Year as a reflective, spiritual time. The first time I went to a New Year's party with friends was to welcome in 2015 and I rushed outside straight after midnight and stood in the garden alone watching the fireworks.

I foolishly imagined that my 18th New Year's Eve was a one-off blip; that my social calendar would be bursting at the seams throughout my 20s. However, this year I found myself, once again, alone on New Year's Eve.

There were things I could have done or places I could have been if I had really tried to be busy, but as the date crept nearer and nearer, I began to relish the idea of being by myself in the first small hours of 2019.

I am not immune to FOMO. I wrote about how to deal with it for Issue 6 of Sunday Girl Magazine, and I will publish the guide on here soon, but I am still figuring it out. I know when tonight arrives my mind will inevitably wander to my friends, acquaintances, people I follow on Instagram, who are celebrating in cities across the world and I will probably assume that everyone is having a better time than me. However, these feelings are natural and, if you find yourself alone for New Year’s, don’t be harsh on yourself for sometimes wishing that you weren’t. Remember that there have probably been times when you have felt lonelier in a room full of vacant faces than you have felt in your own company.

The social pressure of New Year’s Eve sets up expectations that are impossible to meet. This makes it easy to imagine that the perfect night is happening elsewhere, but whether you are at a party or at home, it will probably be disappointing if you expect a lot from it. 

2016's poem. At the time I thought it would be cool to stick in my first cigarette of the year, but it was actually gross and took days of lighting candles to get the smell out of my room.

After weeks of feeling like I should be willing to do just about anything to avoid spending it alone, just because that's what people in their early 20s are supposed to do for New Year's, I finally started to plan my night. I am going to treat myself with a face mask and my favourite films, before writing another 100-line poem and going out to the porch again at midnight.

So, here's a list of ideas if you too are alone tonight, by choice, or not. Of course there is always the option not to acknowledge tonight at all. We are, after all, just floating on a rock through space so what even is a year? What is time? Who cares? But, if, like me, you still like the idea of a fresh start and want to make tonight special, read on. 

Write

Even if writing is not something you usually do. You don't have to write a hecatomb or even full sentences. You can write out your goals for 2019 or reflect on your achievements in 2018. Create a bucket list. Make a list of things you are grateful for and things to look forward to. 

At parties, midnight to 3am is bursting at the seams with spoken words. Slurred sentences, spitting out drug-fuelled epiphanies, sharing secrets. I used to try and collect stories at parties, sitting in living rooms, sipping lukewarm beer, confessing and being confessed to. But, as I’ve got older, I find I forget the specifics in a hungover haze. Tonight, billions of “Happy New Year”s will be uttered across the globe. Schemes will be started. Plans will be hatched. All to be forgotten in the beautiful impermanence of drunk enthusiasm. The spoken word is so transient. Writing provides a centre.

I use the written word to keep track of my life. I think of phases of my life in chapter metaphors. Perhaps this is why I still love the start of a new year. It lends itself so well. Tonight I will finish my 2018 journal with a poem and start my 2019 one with my goals for the year. A year closes like a book. Which leads me to my next point. 

Read

A habit to take into 2019. I have been reading The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt this month. I am going to finish it this evening. It is one of the best, and longest books I have read this year. Over 800 pages in, I feel so attached to the characters and I will be sad to finish it, so it seems poetic to finish it as a year ends.

Even if you don't have a book on the go, try and read something that will set an intention; be it a poem, a newsletter, a Twitter thread or a blog post. 

There is never a reason to stop self-educating. Learning for the sake of learning is enough. Whenever I can’t sleep, I end up in a Wikipedia hole. Recently I’ve been researching old Hollywood and uncivilised tribes, among other topics. Whatever interests you, make a decision to find out more about it.

Turn off your phone (at least until midnight)

There's no point spending this evening (or any evening, actually) endlessly swiping through Instagram stories. Switch off your phone for the night. Delete social media apps if you know you’ll be tempted to compare your night with someone else’s. Be present.

Turning your phone back on at midnight to wish loved ones a Happy New Year can be comforting. It can be cathartic to speak to those important to you on the phone even if they are celebrating elsewhere. It will remind you that being alone is in your control and alone-time does not equal loneliness.

Watch your favourite films

There are certain films that I can watch over and over again. They are ingrained in my sense of self. Watching them is centring. Figure out what those films are for you and have your own personal movie marathon.

Give yourself permission to do exactly what you want to do. The great thing about being on your own is that you don't have to compromise. You don’t have anyone to impress either. Watch the films you actually want to watch, not just the ones you tell people you like to sound cool. I’ve really got into period dramas this year.

Prepare for the New Year

I never really understood the obsession with celebrating the New Year in the way we celebrate other occasions (i.e. getting drunk.) New Year has always felt like a reflective time to me. Throughout my early teen years, as soon as midnight had passed, I would rush up to my room to write in my journal. New Year's Day was the start of the rest of my life and I did not want the rest of my life to start with a hangover. 

Spend New Year’s Eve manifesting your goals, treating yourself with your favourite skincare products or running a soothing bath. If you still can’t break the habit of comparing yourself to others, at least think how much better you’ll feel in the morning for having looked after yourself rather than spending the night at a crazy party.

However you are spending New Year's, I hope you have a good one. Thanks for reading and Happy New Year.