Thursday, 31 July 2014

That Kimono Thing

The word "kimono" literally means a "thing to wear" (ki "wear" and mono "thing"). A Kimono is a traditional Japanese garment, a T-shaped, straight-lined robe worn so that the hem falls to the ankle, with attached collars and long, wide sleeves. Away from Japan, and all the culture and heritage it holds, the Kimono has taken on a new lease of life. One of this summers most coveted wardrobe staples, and an all-time love of mine, they come in all shapes, sizes, fabrics and prints. Tassels or no tassels, throw on a kimono and there's instant ethereal, bohemian goddess status right there (in my opinion). There's just something about slipping on a Kimono to 'finish off' or 'make' an outfit that somehow makes me feel em-powered, like a modern day 80's power-dressing moment. I'm slowly building a little collection and with a Kimono-inspired DIY on the way to share with you all, the rest of my wardrobe could do with a shake up to compete. So with that in mind, I probably shouldn't have created this ensemble of style-inspiration-goodness...can you ever really have enough of these versatile delights though? (don't answer that!).

Images via here, herehere, here, here, here, here, here, here and here 
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Tuesday, 29 July 2014

The life-cycle of our clothes

When I drop off my latest bag of pre-loved clothing to my local charity shop, I just assumed that it all gets sold. Maybe I was a bit naive, but I guess I've also never really stopped to think about it before. I don't want it anymore but somebody else in my local area will right? Perhaps, or perhaps it will have to travel to the other side of the world before it gets a new home. 

'The Secret Life of Your  Clothes' was a recent BBC 2 documentary that explored the journey that our castoffs make to Ghana every week, all 1 million pounds worth. An estimate 30,000 tonnes of second hand clothing arrives in Accra, the capital of Ghana, every year. Our desire and obsession with fast fashion has produced a lucrative business for Ghanaian people, with money being made every single day. 'Obrani wawu' is the local term for these garments, meaning 'dead white mans clothing'. 

Image via here
It is from here, Accra's wholesale market, that these garments begin to filter down through a tiered class system. Wholesalers sort through their purchases and rank the items as 1st, 2nd or 3rd class. 1st and 2nd class garments are worth much more due to quality, condition and the label. Marks & Spencer, Ben Sherman and River Island are some of the 1st grade labels mentioned. These bales are then sold onto stall holders within Kumasi market. These are sold for around £40 per bale and are sold unseen, meaning a lot of risk is involved when purchasing and emotions can run high between traders, wanting to buy the best stock possible. Many are sold on the roadside in remote villages, where traders will travel for miles to Kumasi to pick up their stock. They sell these garments within their villages for as little as 25p per garment.

Image via here
20 years ago Kumasi was seen as just a normal market, but the explosion in disposable fashion in the western world has created a second hand revolution in Ghana. Re-cycled clothing has taken over from traditional dress and even westernised wedding dresses are available to buy for a mere £10 -£15, and are often worn at traditional Ghanaian weddings in place of traditional attire. You'll even find thick winter coats at the markets which seem to have no place there, but actually do get sold. They're worn back in Europe, where they came from, on family holidays and business trips. Second hand is big business here. The clothes are RTW, cheap and in plentiful supply. Many of the people featured in the program said that they used to get their clothes made to measure but now it just costs too much money, they couldn't afford it even if they wanted to. Old castoffs are not just sold, they have inspired a new industry. Much like myself, many traders give their garments a make-over. Through simply just ironing them to look more presentable or customising them into new garments. Trousers are made into skirts, shirts are taken in to be more fitted and dye is added to jeans to look brand new...anything to make their stock more desirable to their customers. Every year the 2nd hand market grows bigger.

Kumasi Market. Image via here
For me, when I travel somewhere new, be it in the UK or abroad, I like to immerse myself in the culture of the place, buildings, scenery, food, crafts, much as I can fit in, exploring the ins and outs of that place and what makes it special. This documentary gave me mixed emotions. Yes, it's great to see people being enabled to support themselves and their families through work but is it right that somehow we're the ones dictating how and when? Yes, through our consumerist culture we have provided this country with the opportunity to earn a living but at what cost? Our love for fast fashion is seeing centuries old traditions fading quickly before us. Is our western worlds killing the culture of some countries that most of us have not even been to?

Kente cloth is traditionally worn on special occasions by The Royal Family and State Officials. It takes at least 1 year in training to learn how to make traditional Kente cloth, taking 4 months to weave just one piece. There is history in the clothes they wear. One man featured in the programme said that traditional clothing is becoming less popular, Ghanaians are 'dressing like westerners not africans'. 'They are taught to regard the western world as civilisation'. 'If we are not careful and respect our own things, our traditions will be lost, history will be lost'.

An Example of Traditional Kente Cloth. Image via here

There used to be over 250,000 people employed in textile and garment factories in Ghana, now there is only one factory left that produces textile cloth. Akosombo Textiles was producing nearly 2 million metres a month in 2009, but this has fallen by 75 per cent. Steve Dutton, the company manager, described their current situation as 'urgent'. "we feel like we’re on the brink of not being able to carry on". They not only face the challenge of competing with the used clothing industry but also from factories in the far east who are under-cutting them and producing fakes and copies of their designs. The factory is close to closing down. The Ghanaian textile industry is struggling.

The government in Ghana is making some small effort not to let Ghanaians forget their heritage. They persuade workers to wear traditional dress once per week on 'Thank Ghana it's Friday'. This is seen as a 'dress down' day, much like businesses and schools have here in the UK. When speaking to some workers par-taking in this weekly ritual, they were asked on their views of traditional versus 2nd hand clothing. Traditional dress is seen as a statement maker, worn if you want to impress. The younger generations are seeing the latest trends on 'MTV' and want to adopt these looks and see 2nd hand clothing as a way to achieve this. Many opt for mixing the two cultures, whatever looks 'cool'.

Whilst we cannot say for definite that this surge in our castoffs reaching Ghana has directly and solely decimated their textile industry, nor can we prove that it has directly impacted the decline in desire for traditional Ghanaian dress, it's clear to see that it has gone some way to damage it. Irreversibly? I don't know, I guess that's up to us to decide. Our donations go on a meandering journey, geographically and ethically, but both beginning and ending in some of the poorest countries in the world, Made by some of the poorest people in the world and ending up being worn by some of the poorest people in the world. I don't believe that the answer is to stop donating our unwanted stuff to charity but instead to perhaps take heed of this simple advice:

"Buy less, Choose well, Make it last" 
- Vivienne Westwood

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Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Tangerine Dream

A few weeks back I posted this blog post all about the colour Orange, with inspiration on how to style it and my favourite picks from retailers across the web. Today is a follow-on from that, showing you how I've been wearing the colour and ways to create your own orange hued pieces in the form of a good old DIY!
I found a cheap pair of 'cat eye' sunglasses on Ebay and wanted to changed them up a bit. I covered the chosen areas in E600 glue then doused them in orange coloured caviar beads (also from Ebay). I did a couple of coats and 'spot filling' until I had a relatively even look.
I bought this black maxi skirt second hand and achieved this dip-dye, ombré, 'flame' look by soaking the bottom of the skirt in a bleachy water mix. I lifted the skirt out of the solution by about an inch or so every 10 to 15 minutes to create a graduated look. It's definitely not neat or even, but I kinda like that. There's no guarantee what colour your garment will be when you use this technique, there are a few factors which can determine the outcome, one of those being what dye has been used on the garment in the first place. Also, the ratio of bleach to water plays a massive part and wether you use natural sunlight to help speed up the process or use it to help dramatically lighten a garment. It's not the most sophisticated technique but it works well, is easy and dirt! You can see more 'reverse' dye techniques on my blog here, here and here
I've been loving Maybelline's Super Stay nail colour in 'Orange Punch'. Everytime I take it off, I keep reaching for it to re-apply. It's a really nice shade that's not too bright but adds a pop to your outfit.

This necklace is part of the 'Laced Stone' collection from Telma Mota Atelier. I've been wearing it pretty much non stop since I got it.

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Friday, 4 July 2014

DIY Hair Rings

 I'm quite lazy with my hair in the winter months and often just leave it to all hang loose, but when it comes to summer I get more adventurous.  Braids and buns are my go-to summer hairstyles, sometimes mixing it up with a few hair accessories. I came across hair rings whilst having my daily dose of Pinterest. The pin led me to Regal Rose, an on-line jewellery boutique that has a band of followers from celebrities such as Ellie Goulding and Rita Ora to fashion bloggers alike. Their style is feminine, vintage inspired style with an edge of grunge and hardware. Alongside moonstone rings and semi-precious stone necklaces, they stock Hair Rings. I instantly loved these (partly due to the really cool looking hair do and model...and secretly wishing I was that cool). They really add an interesting feature to pretty much any hair style and toughen up girly braids. They range from £8 for short hair to £12 for long hair, with the option of gold or silver, receiving between 10 and 20 in a pack depending on price/hair length. Considering the £12 price tag and £2.95 delivery, It seemed pretty steep. With this in mind I set out to find a cheaper, DIY alternative. My hair rings cost me a total of £3.18 to 'make' for 50 hair rings...not bad huh?!

You will need:
Jump rings in your chosen colour and quantity (size dependent on hair thickness) 
Charms or beads (optional)

I wasn't sure of the size that I would need so I purchased 16mm and 18mm Silver Plated Jump Rings. I thought it would look nice to have some sort of charm or bead on the rings so they wouldn't look so plain. I picked up these Tibetan Silver beads from Ebay too, with a 1.5mm hole big enough to slide onto the rings.

This DIY is so simple, it will take you all of 2 minutes! Simply open the ring by pushing/pulling the ends apart, slide on the bead(s), insert into hair and close.

Here's how I'll be styling mine this summer

This is one of my favourite summer outfits. Easy breezy silk blouse, maxi skirt and tan sandals. I made this skirt from some traditional batik fabric that I picked up whilst travelling around Indonesia. Seeing as the outfit is quite soft and drapey, I the hair rings add a 'tough' edge.There are so many possibilities with hair rings...the size, colour and how many you use. You could add a flourish of tiny ones or go full-on with an army of them. I think a big fat fishtail braid with a tonne of these nestled in would look so impactive. I can't wait to try out some different hair styles and throw in a few of my new hair rings.  
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Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Orange Is The New Black

No, I'm not talking about the American comedy-drama series, although it kinda relates in a round-about way. I'm talking about Tangerine Twist, Moroccan Flame, Carrot, Orangutan, Goldfish, Pumpkin...Orange...whatever you call it...Orange.

When it comes to adding colour to my wardrobe, I err on the side of caution, typically sticking to my mainstay black, with white and grey thrown in for good measure. Don't get me wrong, I do have splatterings of colour in my wardrobe but they tend to be muted, deep and 'safe' colours, dark blue, burgundy and khaki green. I was all for colour in my teen years...bright coloured shimmery eyeshadow or jumbo cord purple flares anyone?! (The less said about that the better).

Having found myself in a little bit of a style rut and fully feeling that summer vibe, I thought an introduction of some more vibrant tones would liven things up a bit, and it doesn't get more lively than Orange! So it's definitely at the 'eek' end of my fashion comfort zone, but I have been loving this colour of late. More the coral/vermilion shades of orange as opposed to neon however. I think it looks really fresh and summery. Make an impact with a head to toe ode to the colour or update your look with flashes of colour through singular pieces or accessories.

Images can be found here, here, here, here, here, here and here 

Row 1 (L-R) Kimono £45 TOPSHOP, Shorts £35 TOPSHOP, Sandals £26 TOPSHOP, Nail Varnish £6 TOPSHOP
Row 2 (L-R) Dress £78 Free People @ ASOS, Shorts £30 ASOS, Soft Trench £60 River Island @ ASOS, Clutch bag £20 ALDO @ ASOS
Row 3 (L-R) Casio Watch £20 Truffle Shuffle, Swimsuit £28 River Island, Tunic £20 River Island, Flounced crop top £25.99 ZARA

Can't wait to show you my own Orange inspired DIY's!
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