Fashion, Lifestyle

My never-ending love affair with January sales

Anyone who’s friends with me will know I have a slight shopping problem. Once a week or so my debit card will slip out of my pocket in exchange for a piece of clothing that, at that moment, I just need.

This time of year is the worst for it, as one of the few people who love January (thanks to my birthday being smack bang in the middle of the month), I don’t have that spendthrift attitude that 95% of the world has realised is necessary to finally implement, instead I’m channeling the ‘treat yourself’ mantra. I deserve it… right?

I look forward to the January sales as much as I get excited for the festive season that precedes it. It’s not just a matter of buying a nice new pair of shoes or top, it’s a battle of tolerance, courage, and willpower. The seasoned shopper will know that once November comes, the current season is well and truly in place, and in the space of one short month- well, that pair of boots you’re coveting? It’s gonna be half price. Now, this is where it gets interesting- do you:

A. Buy the shoes, and just hide under a rock come sale time to avoid the financial crushing that is to come?

B. Leave them, and risk it all– assuring yourself that you will be the first one in that sale queue? (N.B. You won’t.)

C. Consider A & B whilst walking around the shops, decide on B- then panic as soon as you get home and end up ordering online and suffering the daylight robbery that is a delivery charge.

Decisions, decisions. I can’t lie, I’m definitely more of an A than a B, but there’s also a magical secret category D I haven’t mentioned. The undiscovered items that appear in your life once final clearance arrives. Some may think that final clearance is literally everyone else’s unwanted crap, but that my friends is where you are wrong. I have picked up some absolute gems over the past couple of weeks at just a third of the price that I never would have noticed on the shop floor- my favourite being a pair of M&S jeans for TEN POUNDS FIFTY. My Pret lunch costs more! For every regret of overspending for an item I’ve had I can now say I’ve purchased an absolute steal to match it. Maybe my next shopping decision should be the art of the capsule wardrobe- although the likelihood of that happening is slimmer than my wallet after my January sales spending.


The season of glitter is over, but I still want to sparkle in every way possible

It was all over in a flash. The build up to Christmas this year felt like the longest period ever, yet the event itself was a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ situation. Now, the festive season is over, 2018 is upon us, and the weather is hideously grey, as if facing the reality we’ve all ignored over the past week and a half wasn’t already punishment enough.

The fact of the matter is that everything is just better at Christmas. We’re at least 10 times more cheerful, although that may have something to do with the constant flow of mulled wine in our bodies, but in truth, one of my favourite things about the month of December is how glamorous everyone is.

The art of dressing for Noel means that all bets are off. Want to wear a Macklemore-esque fur coat at 9am on a Tuesday morning? Go for it. A red lip 5 shades bolder than anything you would ever normally wear? It’s festive. The confidence of Christmas means that people will wear garments that spend the other 11 months of the year hidden in the depths of the wardrobes as they’re ‘special’. And you know what? I refuse to become one of those types.

Many people think that buying clothes doesn’t count as a legitimate hobby, but I think they’re wrong. Practicality does of course have to come into (some) fruition, I’ve caught far too many colds from a lack of layers and injured myself due to unsuitable shoes to argue otherwise. But, one of the beauties of having what some would call ‘far too many clothes’ means that whatever I choose to add will go with at least 3 things I already own. I also like to try and wear everything in my wardrobe as much as life allows, which means packing lightly is pretty much an impossibility (especially when you spend as much time as I do living out of my suitcase.) I also keep up the mantra that if something is just ‘average’, or that disgusting word… ‘nice’ then I won’t buy it. Why should hard earned cash go on ‘meh?’ Now that does mean I frequently may be the most overdressed in the room, but hey, someone’s got to do it.

I feel like more people should adopt this mantra. I’m all for a comfy jumper and jeans if that’s what makes you feel best, but why not go for a sparkly or brightly patterned jumper, one that would normally be reserved for a ‘special occasion’ to brighten yourself and your routine up? If that doesn’t make you feel fabulous then the compliments you most definitely will receive will do the same job. Just keep the Christmas jumper out of bounds until December- even I would say that’s a bridge too far.



The humble puffa jacket

It happened earlier this year. I resisted for so long, with references to Arsene Wenger in the back of my mind. Then, one day, in a Calvin Klein store, I spotted it. Something so beautiful, I had to have it immediately- and I risked getting dangerously close to my student overdraft just to do so. In the space of ten short minutes I became the owner of my very own puffa jacket, something that I never thought would happen. To many, this may seem petty- but as a girl who doesn’t wear jeans, for such a casual item to become one of my main wardrobe staples is actually a bit of a plot twist.

The combination of the words ‘fashion’ and ‘convenience’ is one that often escapes me, and maybe it’s the fact I’ve had one too many colds, or…. shock horror, I actually may be in need a of bit more practicality in my wardrobe, but it has to be said, that puffa; the one that weeks before its purchase I would have turned my nose up at,  reader, it’s well and truly become a mainstay.

Now, it’s as if I’m a woman possessed. As this years puffy, tempting additions began to grace the shop floors, I convinced myself that I needed more. Gold, pink, blue, all these extra coats that definitely have no place in my wardrobe- (and this comes from the girl who owns 20+ coats, and that’s just the ones I wear regularly). If I actually bought the amount of puffa coats I tried on, I’d have bankrupted myself 10x over. So far I’ve managed to resist, but come the January sales- when Christmas money is fresh in my hands and the feeling of festive overindulgence is still my excuse for absolutely everything, I’m pretty sure that gold M&S coat I’ve been coveting will find its way into my shopping basket quicker than I can say ‘puffa’.


Why us women need solidarity more than ever

This was a monumental week for womenkind, and not in a good way. Over the past few days it came to the worlds attention that one of the biggest names in Hollywood, (Harvey Weinstein if you’ve been living under a rock) is a massive, disgusting, sexual predator. Quite frankly, I’m pissed off. Why does it have to be such an extreme situation for the world to wake up to the fact sexual harassment exists? Because, let’s be honest, it’s become a part of everyday life since evolution.

Like many others around me, as a twenty-something female I’m constantly objectified by vile creatures who think it’s OK to see women as nothing more than a piece of meat. And no, it’s not a matter of us ‘asking for it’ or not, these days it doesn’t matter if a woman in a ball gown or a tracksuit, within seconds they can still be undressed by some complete strangers eyes.

We’re told ‘not to be alone’ and to ‘take care’- but why should we have to? How has it got to the point where women have to walk around cautiously, fearful that they won’t get verbally abused, or even worse? It’s a complete and utter farce.

Now, it’s time to get our voices heard, and it’s time to stand together. I, for one, will be walking in January’s Women’s March, and I hope to have my feminist peers beside me. We all need to join this conversation, because maybe if we do, people will realise the severity of the situation so many people are in.

Earlier this year I spoke to Donna Kaz, (known as Aphra Benz) one of the members of a leading feminist group, the Guerrilla Girls. They first came about in the 80’s, and have remained as prominent figureheads in their movements. The women adopted pseudonyms of deceased female artists and also sported gorilla masks, as ‘issues matter more than identities’.

Youve been a member of the group for 25 years, can you talk to me about how its evolved over that time?
I became a Guerrilla Girl in 1997. At that time the group was experiencing some burnout- members were leaving, some of the girls were exhausted and some wanted to take the group in a new direction so new members were sought. Being a theatre artist I focused on the theatre world- which was just as sexist if not more so than the art world at the time. There were a few other Guerrilla Girls who were into performance such as Lorraine Hansberry, Claude Cahun and Gertrude Stein and we formed the theatre committee. We did quite a lot of work- actions, posters,fax blitzes, and got people talking about sexism in theatre. It renewed the energy of the group and put us back on the map.
Ultimately, the Girls seemed to have many different focuses at that timeand in 2001 we agreed to split into three separate Guerrilla Girls groups – Guerrilla Girls On Tour was made up of former members of the theatre committee, Guerrilla Girls BroadBand and Guerrilla Girls, Inc. were the other two groups. Since that time Guerrilla Girls On Tour has operated more like a touring theatre company, visiting 17 countries and 45 US states with new plays,performances and street theatre actions. Why did you choose to let the world know exactly who you are? Have there been any negative repercussions? I felt it was time to share the story of how I became a feminist masked avenger, so I thought about how my journey might be useful to future generations of activists and artists. I also thought that the tactics of the GGs should be shared with others so anyone could implement them. In the end it has been a very positive experience as I am still Aphra Behn but I am also Donna Kaz and I found that unmasking was, perhaps, even more empowering than wearing a rubber gorilla mask.
Your performances are extremely audience focused, what have you found the benefits of audience interaction to be? 
The mask is a barrier – between me and anyone I am trying to communicate with. On stage it is even more so because there is the “fourth wall between me and the audience. Guerrilla Girls On Tour developed a specific style of theatre that included audience interaction in an attempt to breakdown that wall. We always requested performance venues where the audience was close to thestage – intimate spaces, and we always had the house lights on the audience so we could see everyone in the audience and talk to them, engage them. Now, not everyone in the audience likes this, of course, but we found that we really were able to connect with our crowds by physicallygoing into the audience and talking to them. Then, we developed other ways to engage themthrough activities such as sing alongs, quizzes and questions from the audience. Our performance style is very improvisational so there were times when the audience would react to something we did and we would play off of that. We start our shows by telling the audience it is not aperformance, it is a party and that is what our performances became – a wild celebration of feminism.
What are some of the more difficult situations youve dealt with whilst youve been on tour?
We had a very real and extremely frightening death threat where we had to be escorted off campus that night, it was in Storm Lake Iowa. They invited us back the next year to do a special workshop for the students who were really upset by the threat, and it was great to feel as though we had faced that issue head on and even more so that the campus really supported us. Weve also been heckled, and once an audience member stood up in the middle of the show and started to read from the bible.In all of these situations the audience sort of gets into a cross talk and we just let them go at it and discuss whatever is happening. With the bible quoter, another member of the audience then began to challenge what she was reading and it turned out to be a wonderful moment. Afterwards, a professor told us that it was the first time people with opposite opinions had actually spoken to each other on campus. What more can you ask for? A dialogue began and we didnt really have to do a thing!
Have there been some countries that havent accepted/understood what you (Guerrilla Girls on tour) are trying to get across more than others?
We have learned that what is funny in one country isnt in another, or rather that some people express their delight at comedy by laughing and rolling in the aisle while others prefer to sit in silence and then tell you later that they thought the show was hilarious. Then again, there are many times where people want us to deal with an issue, and we say to those people that what we do is shed light on an issue so that our audiences can feel empowered to stand up and then fight that issue after we are gone. This is why we usually try to set up workshops for the community wherever we perform, we cant tackle every issue so we try to share what we do so that others can then take up the cause. 
Why do you think women are still so underrepresented in the arts?
I dont know the answer but I suspect it has to do with this patriarchal world we live in. Having a groper for a president doesnt help. 
In a world where the lines between genders have become more and more blurred what doyou think the place of the Guerrilla Girls will be?
We will continue to support gender equality and gender freedom.
What has the ‘Trump’ effect been on the group?
My book, UN/MASKED, Memoirs of a Guerrilla Girl On Tour came out on November 1, 2016. For the next week I went around New York City giving readings and talked about how this could finally be the year of the female narrative. Then Trump was elected (on November the 8th 2016) and everyone got depressed and angry. My book then turned into a motivational platform. “We’ve got this, I started to tell people who asked me what they could do about Trump. Artists are the truth tellers of society. Our job is to reflect the truth back to the world. There is no way we shall bedefeated by a liar who is president if we just keep our heads down and dont let up on the truth. The biggest effect has been that the election made us realise we cannot stop what we are doing… not just yet.
You can visit Guerrilla Girls on Tour!s website at or follow the group on Twitter at @guerrillagsot. Donnas book is available to purchase on Amazon.

Sometimes you can inspire yourself

I love how much we’re celebrating people who achieve the impossible these days, especially with women. People like Malala, who went from the brink of death to a Nobel Peace Prize winning Oxford Student, or Hillary Clinton, who, despite not even winning the election, still made history in a way that no woman in American politics had before. It cannot be argued how incredible these females are, but we must also think of those who have, in the grander scheme of things achieved less, but in their own personal terms they have climbed their own Everest. I consider myself to be one of these latter females.

Exactly one week ago today I clicked ‘submit’ on my final piece of academic work (at least for now).  I wasn’t able to cheer the way I wanted to, mainly due to the fact I was on a train to London at the time, but floods of tears began to fall, a cross of relief, exhaustion, and I guess, joy.

Those on the outside may think my reaction was slightly overdramatic, but it has to be said, reader, 6 months ago I never thought I’d come to the end of my MA.

A lot of people- (well at least my friends who are reading this, hey guys) know that I was completely and utterly shook up by the sudden and unexpected loss of my father- right in the middle of my studies. It’s an odd one because I remember the days that followed so clearly, from where I was stood when I got told down the phone that my father had been found, to the panic attack I had in the registry office when I had to sign the death certificate.

Somehow I’ve managed to get through it all, the funeral, multiple lawyers appointments, visits to his grave, all alongside the high pressures of deadlines, and exams. God knows how I’ve managed to get any sleep through it all. Over the past 2 months I’ve even been working full time, as a dream of an opportunity arose, and I clearly  didn’t have enough on my plate..

If somebody had told me this time last year, as I worried about my upcoming masters degree affecting my part time job at H&M, (I lasted 4 weeks doing both, sorry retail) I would be dealing with what I have been throughout 2017, I’d have said ‘no chance.’ Even when I tell outsiders what I’ve been through they’ve been astonished that I’ve come out of this all anxiety free and still with a smile on my face.

The reason why I have? Because I wanted it. I wanted to finish my MA to the best of my ability, a year out just wasn’t an option for me. My current job was meant to be a 2 week freelance project, although it’s now been two months and I’m still going strong. Of course it’s tiring but the opportunities that I’ve had so far from it have been so exciting, and I’m loving working alongside inspiring people in roles I one day hope to see myself in. Of course I still miss my Dad, and that’s not something I’ll get through anytime soon, or ever, but I’d like to think he’s watching me, proud that I’ve not let the experience bring me down.


The Rise of the Slogan Tee

As soon as we saw the now infamous t-shirt on Dior’s Spring 17 runway informing us ‘we should all be feminists’ the slogan tee confirmed its identity as the must-have piece of fashion in our wardrobes right now.

It’s not as if this trend is entirely a new concept, as we all remember our angsty teen years wearing tops that said ‘attitude’ across the centre. Yet, these t-shirts have been established as one of the most essential items on the UK high street right now. You can grab this must-have garment anywhere you want, and if you don’t have a spare £430 to spend on the high end takes there are lots of alternatives on the high street.

One extremely clever UK-based designer was way ahead of the fashion game and formed her own, celebrity collaborated brand of t-shirts and sweatshirts named Virgo Seven. The creative genius behind the brand is Rachael Boye, 28.

Back in 2014 when first established, the company was called Naked Boutique. Rachael first started her enterprise when she realised her job as a concessions manager at Dorothy Perkins was nothing more than a dead end for her. Rachael says, “I just thought there must be more to life than what I was doing back then!”

This epiphany left led Rachael to research how to create an income by doing something she actually enjoyed. “I’ve always loved fashion, so I just decided to try and make a go of doing something with that.” She laughs, whilst adding, “I wanted my own fashion brand for as long as I remembered, however I’m no artist!” After a co-worker mentioned how funny Rachael was, she realised she could make a trade out of it.

A success story

As the popularity of the business began to grow, Rachael had a change of heart about the name, and decided to change it from ‘Naked Boutique’ to “Virgo Seven”. Why? The new name was just so much more personal for her. “My birthday is in Virgo territory, and when I think about the traits of the star-sign, and how there are so many strong female Virgo icons like Beyonce, the name just seemed to fit!”

It has to be asked, is there a niche in the slogan t-shirt? With a genre that’s been ‘done’ so much in the past, is it even possible to make a whole career of it? In spite of this, for Rachael this doesn’t seem to be an obstacle. In fact, her brand seems to be on the up and has even attracted celebrity attention.

In January 2017 celebrity personality and model Nicola Mclean was seen in the jumpers on Celebrity Big Brother. The viewers LOVED the sweaters, and a collaboration between Nicola and Rachael was born. Rachael and Nicola are now firm friends and are even in talks of expanding the line. Rachael says: “Nicola has been a fan of the brand since we pretty much started which has been fantastic, I was thrilled when i was contacted about working with her.”

Fashion and Feminism

We know that over the years fashion has been used to send a message and what we wear is no longer a matter of just choosing a pretty outfit, people can learn a lot about our beliefs and personality from our attire. Even though the slogan tee can be seen as a ‘fun’ piece of fashion, it can also be topical. As the fourth wave of feminism begins, we can campaign it simply by wearing a t-shirt. This is right in Rachael’s target demographic, and she says, “My brand is all about girl-gang vibes which is super important, especially when we’re living in such a crazy world like we are right now- I mean, Donald Trump is President(!)”

Slogan t-shirts can be more just a lighthearted fashion statement, they can send a message. Rachael doesn’t want to just dress women, she also wants to make them to feel empowered through her pieces. “I think women have a voice which isn’t always listened to and I think the slogan tee is a perfect statement for the independent, sassy female that wants to be heard.

What does the future hold?

On a slightly more negative note, and as we know in the fickle world of fashion, ‘one day you’re in, and one day you’re out.’ We’ve seen so many trends disappear from existence over time, (acid-wash jeans, please stay in hibernation- forever), so does that mean there’s an expiration date for the slogan t-shirt? We fear for the day where they’ll be sent to fashion exile and worry for what that will mean for Virgo Seven. Thankfully, Rachael assures us that she has a plan for the future, and also thinks we should have faith. “I don’t think slogan tees will ever die to be honest. They may not always be at the forefront of fashion, but they’ll always exist in the background, it’s just like denim!”

Whilst her slogan t-shirts will always remain a focal part of Virgo Seven’s core collection, Rachael is currently expanding her brand, and with this, broadening her demographic with a Children’s range, aptly named ‘Virgo’s Child’. Rachael says. “I wanted to take some of our most popular slogans and adapt them to children. So far, I haven’t seen any other independent brands achieve something similar yet, I like to be ahead of the game”.

For this designer the future seems bright, and we’re glad she has everything all planned out. But in the ever-changing world of fashion, we wonder if our own days of wearing our new favourite tops are numbered, and when the time will come for these t-shirts to be reserved purely for the pyjama drawer. Until that time comes we’ll be taking any opportunity we can to show off our favourite snappy slogans.


It’s more than just a handbag, it’s a memory

Hi there, my name is Maria Loizou and I’m a handbag addict. Check me into rehab, throw away the key if you like, but it won’t make a difference- this is one affliction that can never be fixed, and you know what? I don’t even want it to be.

From the moment I began to walk I carried a handbag, God knows what I even put in it… dummies? As a fashion conscious toddler I ensured that I always completed my outfit, and of course, no look would be whole without the humble handbag. I specifically remember having a Disney one, ironically it probably wouldn’t go amiss in something similar to the new Missguided Barbie range, or even a Moschino campaign! Perhaps I actually missed a trick getting rid of the bags, I could have been ahead of Anna Wintour…

I remember my first ever designer bags. One of them, a Mulberry messenger, I still use all the time. The other that doesn’t quite get the same affection anymore is a Juicy Couture bag. Despite the fact I probably will never use that bag again, I could never give it away, it’s a memory! There also may be a chance that Juicy Couture could have a major resurgence… you never know hey?

My 18th birthday was the pinnacle of my handbag career, it was when I bought myself my pride and joy- my Mulberry bayswater bag. However I actually had the money for that at the time is now news to me, as three figures in my bank account right now is a luxury… but at the time I wanted it, and I got it. I even went the whole way and bought it from the Knightsbridge Mulberry branch, gave myself the full, high-end experience. When I left the store, I was thrilled. It sounds pathetic, but there’s nothing like the rush of a big purchase of a bag.

There have been many, beautiful bags since that- a few that are shown on the featured image, and a couple of them have stories of their own. The Louis Vuitton one was my mums- (yes, my handbag addiction is hereditary), and as my mum decides she no longer wants a designer bag, she passes it down to me. I’m now a proud owner of a Louis, Gucci, and Moschino to name a few, and they haven’t cost a penny- so thank you Linda, let me know when you’re fed up of that Chanel…

The bottom left bag, my orange Longchamp has so much more significance to me than I ever thought it would at the time. It was a gift I bought myself as my 23rd birthday present from my Dad, I always had to choose my own gifts as although I love the element of surprise, my poor pa’s tastes weren’t quite up to scratch. Yet, less than a month after my birthday I had the sudden loss of my father. I don’t want to go into that too much, but it now turns out that this handbag is actually the last gift I ever received from my Dad, and I never knew how important that simple handbag would become to me. I knew, like my others I would treasure it, but now it will have more of a significance in my life than ever.

There’ve been bags since, a few too many I may add, but each and every handbag has had a special significance and an individual sort of joy when I’ve had them, and I will continue to see the purchasing of a designer bag as a ‘special moment’ in my life, because they aren’t just handbags, they’re markers of my past. Now I’m going to think about the Prada bag I have my eye on for my next graduation present… to myself of course.