This Little Piggy Went On Rambler

Ohh I love this book. It is perfect for the coffee table (must get me one of those).

Amy Allen’s hardback treat is a self confessed fashion obsessive book ‘for the Blahnik brigade’. Despite my not actually wearing Manolo Blahnik’s shoes or being a ‘yummy mummy’ I still enjoyed the silliness and escapist pointlessness of the book.
Allen takes everyday nursery rhymes and rewords them to include Couturiers, Designers, Perfumeries and Jewelers (all the good stuff) like Dior, Gucci, Armani and Cartier. Simple really. The images by Eun-Kyung Kang are where the magic happens. Wispy watercolours depict the dreamy luxury of the book’s focus and quite literally paint just the right kind of picture.
Buy it here or pre-order the sequel This Little Piggy got Divorced here.
End.

ASOS

Vest £4.00
Jeans £10.00
Puma High Tops £29.00

Vest £7.00
Jeans £10.00
Fridge Magnet Socks £2.00

Tee £5.00
Waistcoat £14.00
Jeans £10.00
Suede Toe Cap Shoes £14.00
All ASOS.com SALE
This is the story about inconsistent customer service practice met with my own silliness. I recently made a hefty purchase on ASOS.com after realising that I hadn’t made a purchase on the site in over two years whilst writing my Geek Blog post. I now know why.
The website has some excellent methods of navigation, most notably the ways that the site catagorises its clothing and allows you to search for your size or brand only. I think this latter feature is the reason I was willing to spend as much as I did because you’re not disappointed when shopping Sale because the items you’re shown are already confirmed to be in your size. There are some downfalls of the navigation however, including the drop-down menu of clothing catagorises and its tendency to disappear before you’ve had a chance to click! I tried this feature on both Safari and Explorer and was met with the same annoying result.
When I went to pay I couldn’t remember my password and asked for it to be sent to me, which took two attempts, when it arrived I typed it into the password box and was then told that I had attempted to log in too many times and my account was frozen for 1/2 an hour. Brilliant. I waited and then attempted again after 1/2 an hour and was told to wait another 1/2 an hour. I gave up and set up a new account. It was probably my fault for trying to many times but the 1/2 block wouldn’t budge!
I then went to purchase and input the two discount codes I was lead to believe I was entitled to. One was NEXTDAY for free next day delivery after spending over £100.00 and the other was ASOSTreats for a 10% discount. I wasn’t granted NEXTDAY and instead of receiving my goods for free on the Saturday I had to pay and receive them on the Monday. Great.
I then emailed ASOS to tell them my woes and they, still to this date, have not replied. I was bitching about my experience to Sandy Lindsay(@SandyLindsay) on Twitter when @ASOS_Heretohelp popped up and asked what the matter was. They fortunately were very sweet and had a look at my account. I was told that I couldn’t claim two discount codes and were very sorry.
Part of me feels it was too little too late but the other part remembers opening the box on Monday and it feeling like Christmas.

A Ramble about Bees and Edward Swinden

As you’ll be aware from my last post I recently took a trip to Manchester’s Heaton Park. Whilst frolicking in the faux rural beauty of the estate I took some time to remember that I’m supposed to be a cultured city dweller and so I visited an art exhibition held in the Dower House.

The exhibit was one of the work of Mancunion artist Edward Swinden. Who is Edward Swinden, I hear you cry? Well, he is a former journalist who worked for the Manchester Evening News and the Metro. He has since become a professional photographer, Swinden told Fashion Rambler that he “stopped working as a journalist for many reasons, but the direct one was that I was offered a job writing for the BBC, and it seemed too good an opportunity to turn down.” Swinden has always been interested in artistic photography, “I was always involved in various kinds of art, and in taking photographs. This became a bigger part of my life as time went on. In the end I decided to pursue it professionally”.

An example of Swinden’s work graces many of the region’s Waterstone’s Local Interest shelves in the form of that Manchester Gay Pride book, you have all picked it up to have a nosey! Only the exhibition at Heaton park was less about feathers and sequins and a little more about net hats, all-in-one suits and stripes. No, not a Christian Lacroix imitation a la Absolutely Fabulous but a series of portraits of Beekeepers! (as if you didn’t know).

Patel, Jitesh – Computer Consultant

Warwickshire

“The future for me is honey, nuts, and good times.

Something the family can appreciate and share.”



Battle, Jim – Local Councillor

Manchester

“I want to be part of Manchester’s bee plan…

doing a small bit for our city.”


Stanton, Mary-Christa – Nun

Buckinghamshire

“We have a tremendous future if we properly use it. If we can get our families to be peaceful and happy that will happen worldwide. I think there are other planets with living things and one day we will make contact. But that will only be successful if we can manage our own planet properly.”


Nicol, Nathan – Social Worker

Worcestershire

“Fun, happiness, and challenges. That’s what the future holds.”

Sylvester, Gill and Simon – Respite Childcare & Retired Surveyor

London

“You never know what’s around the corner.”

“You’ve got to be positive and optimistic.

Molyneux, Ian – Regional Bee Inspector

Lancashire

“I consider my children. I think they are the future. I worry about the

drugs and crime, and the environment they will be in.”

The exhibition, Beekeeper: to serve the Queen, featured 12 near life sized portraits from a selection of 41 Beekeepers from around the country, one image of them in their Beekeeper get-up and one image of them ‘off duty’. I’m not sure which images I love the most. Although I think it is safe to say that sci-fi super Nun is my favourite Keeper!

The ‘on duty’ images are static and mysterious. The uniform depersonalises the Keeper, they become one of many, like the Bee. The very nature of the word ‘duty’ creates connotations of work and hierarchy, like the life of a Bee. Swinden said of the ‘on duty’ images: ‘I wanted there to be an implicit military feel to the pictures, and a thoughtfulness. But other than that I gave no guidance to the sitters.’ I think Swinden achieves the military feel very well, without the portraits becoming threatening.

The ‘off duty’ images are a whole different concept. I had trouble matching the write ‘off duty’ photo to the ‘on duty’ partner as the sitters are completely transformed. The power, grace and collective purpose which their uniformed portraits produced has given way to individuality; they are no longer one of many. Swinden says ‘Stripped of their armour and sense of duty the beekeepers appear less powerful, but regain their individuality’. However, contradicting this step away from the-way-of-the-bee, the busy and cluttered home-settings of these images are strongly personalised habitats and therefore, in some ways, remind me of the crowded hive.

Swinden hasn’t ruled out another Pride escapade but told Fashion Rambler “I don’t think I’ll be around for Manchester Pride this year. I really enjoyed doing the photos for the book, but I think there are lots of other photographers who will make a great job of documenting this year, so I think I should look at doing something fresh for me.” The Beekeeper: to serve the Queen exhibition at Heaton Park has now closed but you can view the images at the project’s website here

Edward Swinden’s website can be viewed here,

copies of Edward’s Manchester Gay Pride book can be bought here,

and the Street B work and Beekeeper: to serve the Queen here.

End.

Sanctuary from the City

Adam, our lovely friend Christopher and I visited Heaton Park yesterday for some peace and quiet outside of the city.

For those reading who aren’t from Manchester, Heaton Park is like Manchester’s answer to New York City’s Central Park. Sort of. 4 miles north of the City centre the estate, which has existed since the mid 14th century, is one of Europe’s biggest municipal parks and boasts an area of over 600 acres, a zoo, a few lakes, a tram way, horse riding stables, bowling greens, Beekeeping hives, a golf course, a museum and loads of trees, (quite the exciting feature for someone who lives amid concrete, glass and steel)! For those who do live in Manchester and had no idea it existed, go and have a looksee!

Our day was lovely, we ate strawberries and cream on the lawn in front of Heaton Hall, drank Jacques cider on a rowing boat out in the South Lake, I bought Bumble Bee Honey hand cream for £1 and we even saw a horse pee. It was a world away from dodging the drunk’s pee outside Weatherspoon’s in Piccadilly Gardens.

Enjoy the pictures.

Two exceptionally pale young men.

This horse didn’t pee, but it looked like Christopher

You can take the boy out of Fallowfield…
Tee, Abercrombie and Fitch
Jeans, River Island
Gladiator Sandals, TOPMAN
Canvas Bag, All Saints
Sports Hold-all, MINE 212 at Ryan Vintage

A genuinely happy pea.
Tee, TOPMAN
Belt, MINE from River Island
Shorts, MINE ALSO, from Superdry
Espadrilles, TOM’s

The horse that pee’d!

Adam, trying not to look petrified.

Me, doing all the work as per.
Hat, ADAM’S Mango
Sunglasses, Ray Ban
Shirt, TOPMAN
Belt, H&M
Trousers, ZARA
Shoes, Barratts

End.

Stamp your Loubys

You must have heard. Louboutin has gone the way of the Choo and branched out into Men’s wear ‘because’ he tells GQ, ‘I needed some shoes to wear’.

And so did we/people that can afford them. *sigh*
I have a little thing for High Tops, always have. They’re my secret obsession. I wear them and find myself thinking of Saved By The Bell on Nickelodeon and flat tops and posing with your toes pushed together in the mirror. They make an outfit retro, regardless of how new they are and I love them.
And so does Christian. These are a pair of his ‘fierce’ High Tops exclusively for Harvey Nichols.
£440.00
I feel they are ABSOLUTELY perfect for dancing to Ke$ha‘s album Animal, the electro-disco bitch-tits pop madness that my latest musical obsession.
End.

Blog Geek

I recently attended a brand development seminar hosted by Manchester Fashion Network and presented by Geek Branding Consultancy. Sound boring? You couldn’t be more wrong! I was asked to cover the event for the editorial segment of Manchester Fashion Network’s website because my Editor, and the brains behind the blog tweet, was a little poorly after Latitude Festival shenanigans.

The event was aimed at brand owners and people working in PR and media and generally sold the Geek Consultancy package but let slip a few juicy techniques and tips for free! Being a person who is passionate about brands and fashion from a business perspective as well as an artistic perspective I was interested in what Amanda Burrows and Rafael Gilston had to say.

See me Tweeting?

One major point that kept cropping up in the presentation Geek were giving and in the questions being asked by event attendees was the point of Social Media. Social Media and other marketing platforms are ways to voice a brand’s message and personality but they are not a one way street. To Tweet is conservation and brands have to accept that tweeters, bloggers and social networkers (that is you and me) are going to shout about what we think about their brand! An example being my recent post about AmericanApparel in which I praised the brand and condemned Urban Outfitters for their stance on LGBT rights. I’m not the only one doing it (obviously) there are hundreds. Another example is with the recent MAC Rodarte controversy (don’t know about it? Click here) Bloggers had multinational conglomerates by the balls and they weren’t letting go.

Consumers are becoming critics.

Many people already know this but did you really know that the brands are actively seeking to tap into this resource in order to preach their brand’s values, mission and personality and thus, to make more money?

When I asked about Geek’s stance on Social Media when they are working with a new client, Amanda Burrows answered: ‘It is so important … we hold our hands up, we’re not experts, but we have a social media guy who is brilliant, to work with us on brands.’ Burrows went on to say, of the heads of big fashion brands, that they are ‘terrified of social media … it is a generational thing’. From Burrows’ experience she has witnessed brands having blogs ‘which don’t speak to their customer because they’re written but some girl in marketing typing away about pop-up shops’. Brands in the fashion industry are desperate to reach out to the customer in these new platforms because they offer a golden opportunity for their brands to become integrated into the consumers life, the consumer lives the experience the brand sells.

Some successful retailers that manage this are TOPSHOP with their popular Twitter portal (@topshop_tweets) and ASOS with their use of blogs. ASOS, bizarrely have one of the worst click conversion rates in the ecommerce sector (that means most people clicking onto their website don’t then click to purchase but go elsewhere for their goods after seeking the up-to-the-minute fashion news). Fortunately their customer base is big enough to cope with the millions of none buyers and their blog-power fuels their branding instead of sales margin. Come to think of it I visit the ASOS site regularly but the last thing I bought was 2 years ago….

Whilst sat in the audience room balancing my dicta-phone on my lap, updating my Twitter (@jordanjmcdowell), MFN’s Twitter (@TheFashionNetUK) and note taking for this very blog, I realised it wasn’t just brands that were obsessed with social Media, it controls my life.

Photographs by Jennifer Urwin contact me for Jennifer’s contact details.

End.

The Scoop

I’ve just finished reading Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop which is, according to The Observer, “The funniest novel ever written about journalism”.

The story follows William Boot who is a Nature Columnist in the back pages of the Daily Beast, a fictional tabloid based on Waugh’s experiences working for the Daily Mail. Boot, by an unfortunate mistake of identity, finds himself summoned to the office of news media magnate, Lord Cooper, and subsequently sent to the African Republic of Ishmaelia to report on a civil war that isn’t actually happening. The book covers the back-stabbing tendencies of Fleet Street news correspondents, the paranoia and fragility of news institutions, the bizarre methods journalists will construct to create fictional news and all the while laughing whole-heartedly at the people who believe everything the papers have to say.

Whilst there is undoubtedly truth in his tale, Waugh does take his discredit of Fleet Street to extremes. I understand that magazine journalism, and more specifically fashion magazine journalism is probably not quite as fast paced as the daily print medium; but this book made me even more excited to one day work in the industry. The secret wireless telegrams (which are surely similar to BlackBerry instant messages), the typewriters (obviously old fashioned MacBooks), and of course the expenses accounts!

Waugh also pays impeccable detail to the descriptions of characters and their clothing. Whilst the fashion lacked within Scoop to that of other works by Waugh like Vile Bodies, it was certainly an element I enjoyed. Starched collars, linen suits and tie pins.

My finishing Scoop was well timed as no sooner had I put the paperback down and turned on BBC News than a documentary had started, following Simon Kelner, a fellow Manc, and Editor-In-Chief of The Indepedent. The quick documentary was a day-in-the-life-of format which started at Kelner’s 6:00am alarm call. This was succeeded by an hour of The Today Show, coffee, a read of the morning’s Independent, Tennis with the paper’s Managing Director, morning meeting, meetings, proof reads, interviews with prospective Labour party leaders, interviews over Luncheon, afternoon meetings and front-page confirmation, proofs, art proofs, and dinner.

I don’t know if I could be Kelner everyday but I’d love a go!

End.

Divided opinions

(sorry it is a long one, I don’t half ramble on do I? Just skip to bits you ‘re interested in!)

The Spanish Barn at Torre Abbey, named thus as it held a total of 397 Spanish prisoners.

Whilst on my holiday to Devon I saw something you wouldn’t believe. A cow and a calf. Not impressed? What if I told you that these animals were in a barn? No? How about if I told you that they were each cut in half, nose to tail, and bolted to the inside of a glass tank subsequently filled with acid and exhibited. Damien Hirst’s Turner Prize winning contemporary art piece has been exhibited in London, Tokyo and now, Torquay for the Torre Abbey house and garden’s art collective summer show called Tamed. I was rather excited to be able to leave the big bad city and still catch world culture, albeit rather characteristically in a barn by the sea.

The stand-off-point of the exhibit was the word Tamed, chosen to incorporate man’s need to control the environment around him. The letters provided the subtext motifs, Tamed, Art, Money, Environment, Divided.

The exhibit was interesting, if not for the art then for the way it had been organised. Walking through the ancient entrance to the Abbey’s Spanish Barn we were greeted by two elderly volunteers, one male and the other female, sat behind a fold away table one would expect in a Primary School luncheon hall. They asked if we were here for the exhibit and got us to write down our details whilst they argued between themselves about the lack of Torbay Council Supporting The Arts tote bags to give away. We got one between three. After buying a brochure and leaving them to their squabbles we turned to enter the exhibit. In the distance at the end of the barn stood the Hirst exhibit, its power and size overshadowed the other exhibits whichwere chosen to compliment it and help voyeurs appreciate Hirst’s award winning piece from a new perspective. It was difficult to concentrate on the other exhibits when all I wanted to do was run up to the cow and scream “Errrr, you can see its insides!”

Needless to say I didn’t and so here is a snap shot of two of my favourite exhibits. (Photos taken from brochure not exhibit)

Paul Coldwell, Bouquet (1991)

Made from wood, Portland stone, marble, lead and copper this piece aims to signify the passing and uncontrollable qualities of time whilst seemingly allowing viewers to remember that markings are made by every life on the environment. It looked like a cross section of earth where fossilised minerals and materials become like a story of life gone past. I felt the piece complimented the static frozen state of the Hirst exhibit as well as the ancient, aging Spanish Barn.

Mike Nelson, Taylor (1994)

Made from metal, canvas, wood and mixed media theexhibitname was taken from the lead in the Pierre Boulle novel Monkey Planet, which was made into the blockbuster Planet of the Apes. The piece is opposite to the Hirst exhibit which is a blatant exhibition of man’s power over animal, this piece however is about man’s submission to the elements. A raft, alone, drifting in a world ruled by another species. I liked it especially because it brought literature into the mix!

And now, Damien Hirst (2007) (Photos by Sarah Bagnall)

Many people have opinions on this piece, most of these people have not been to see it and take their opinions from The Daily Mail. It is striking, unnerving, disgusting, telling, scary, and sad. But you can’t have these opinions in context without standing in front of it, or in between the two halves as I did.

I felt guilty for feeling sad as I am a meat eating human who, by eating meat, condones the farming and slaughter of these animals to suit myneeds, ever more prevalent being stood within a barn. Why not slaughter them for art? Surely it a more permanent existence to that of a Big Mac? Hirst’s art makes you think about all things at once and I still don’t really know what I feel about it. It was both beautiful and sickening, in its physical form and in the fact that Hirst has profited off of the back of these murdered animals. It was silent as well as being very vocal, overpowering the exhibition. I think anyone with an opinion in mind should make sure they go to see it.

Memento Mori

End.

Birthday Gifts: Presents from Devon

For those of you beautiful people who follow me on Twitter (@jordanjmcdowell) or are a friend of mine on Facebook (Jordan McDowell, University of Manchester) you will no doubt already know of my trip to Devon. I flew down, thanks to the lovely people at FlyBe, for a quick trip to see my family and receive belated birthday gifts (the best kind all round).


My family live in a tiny fishing port in the south of Devon near Torquay (famous for hen parties and Fawlty Towers) the town is called Brixham and everyone knows everyone. It is most exhausting. However, dodging just about as many people as I could, myself and Adam managed to cram in some Grockle (tourist) shenanigans. We wondered to the Harbour, had an ice cream (I had English Toffee and Butterscotch and he had Honeycomb), took ‘look at that view’ pictures, visited a new art gallery space (more in next blog) and popped into my favourite whacky Indie in Brixham, Kaba Kaboo!


But regardless of being a mere visitor now, there is something about returning home and sleeping in your old bed in your old room. My room doesn’t feel like mine anymore (this could have something to do with the fact that is has been rented out to a family friend…) but it was like bumping into an old acquaintance after a long time of no contact. My old books were on the shelf above my headboard, Jeanette Winterson, Carol Ann Duffy, Helen Fielding et al. My IKEA swinging chair was still hanging precariously from the ceiling joist and my sketch books from my A Level Photography course were still under the bed. But it wasn’t mine, it was the room of a person I used to be.

Oh good lord I’m growing up.

Moving swiftly on from depressing self realisations and onto something altogether more interesting. Presents. Mother threw a bit of a do on the Thursday night for family and friends to see us before our deathly early 7:00am flight from Exeter the following morning, yeah, cheers FlyBe. We ate, we drank, we drank and we watched My Big Fat Greek Wedding because my family are just like that family. Here is a clip:



I received some lovely gifts including Champagne, vouchers and these coasters from Jacque and Adrian my parent’s friends:



The card read: “to remind you of home”, and they shall do just that, as will the DVD of My Big Fat Greek Wedding which my Aunty Karen made me take with me when we moved.

End.

A First for Fallowfield

A dear friend of mine celebrated his birthday last night with a house party in his new home for his second academic year at The University of Manchester. For those who know Manchester, the student village is located to the south of the University Quarter and the City Centre, occupying the districts of Victoria, Rusholme (home to the Curry Mile) and Fallowfield. The latter of the three districts is the biggest with it’s own town centre and night scene. Needless to say I rarely venture south of M13 as I live in the City Centre and my studenty friends prefer coming up north to the bright lights of the city.

However, It was always going to happen, it was just a matter of when…. My first Student house party. Remarkably I’ve delayed the inevitable for the entirety of my Freshman year at University, but the night soon came.

Arriving at the footsteps of the quaint terrace which oozed nostalgia for Revolutionary Manchester in a quiet ex Mill Worker street I clutched Adam and Christopher’s birthday gift in anticipation of what the night would bring.

Chris hadn’t finished getting ready and we were the first to arrive… hmm.

After drying his hair, downing a few Cheeky Vs and his opening his presents the party began. Typical of a student party, so I am told, a DJ was promised but never materialised – so sounds whispered from an iDeck in the living room whilst the family living next door banged on the walls and uninvited guests threw shapes and their drinks. Conversation was bitchy and funny, I can’t remember anyone’s name and my outfit was a big hit. Score. Jelly-shots were passed around as some people called them Jell-o-shots and someone drank Sophie’s wine. The floor was slippery, not a seat could be found but smiles were upon faces right the way round. (aww)

With regards to the outfit: I decided to keep it cash, as the cool kids say, in a retro americana outfit which paid homage the school-like quality to the evening. I wore my new white patent and suede high tops from ZARA, stone washed drainpipe jeans from H&M, burgundy baggy vest from the TOPMAN SALE and a new American High School bomber jacket from ZARA. The cheery on the top of my proverbial cake, however, were the glasses which I handmade for the evening especially. Once again sticking to a retro school boy theme I emptied my pencil case and glued the little pencil crayons to my Calvin Harris raver shades to create a look fit for Gaga.


They broke, but their power will forever be remembered. As will my first for Fallowfield and Christopher’s student house party done in a ways only Christopher could do.



End.