Crying Dry Tears: Another Very Hard Post To Have To Write

This time last year I wrote a post about how I had been recently diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. At the time I was feeling lost as having to accept this strange life I had suddenly thrust upon me. I don’t think I was thinking about how I would be in one years time. But I am sure I though I would be on a treatment plan and in some form of remission. What I certainly wouldn’t have expected was to be now battling two primary auto-immune diseases and two secondary conditions. It is the gift that keeps on giving.

I still have a form of inflammatory arthritis, possibly Rheumatoid but now suspected Psoriatic Arthritis. The two conditions are similar enough not to go into explaining them, swollen joints and no end of pain. I was coping with this knowledge when I got slapped in the face with a second diagnosis of Fibromyalgia to explain the extreme fatigue side (many Auto Immune disease overlap with symptoms so diagnosis can be difficult, the fatigue could be part of the inflammatory arthritis but it may be a condition entirely on its own. Hell I could write an entire blog on that subject never mind one post). I describe it as a slap in the face because I was furious at the rheumatologist for giving it me. He didn’t give me the disease of course, so it was a case of shooting the messenger. I’m not so sure why I was so angry about it, mainly because I had enough problems but also because Fibro has so much stigma attached to it. It wasn’t until fairly recently that Fibro was medically proven, it is for the record a neuro-muscular condition. Put simply some chemicals in your brain don’t work quite right causing you to feel constant pain and extreme fatigue. The severity can alter day to day and from person to person. But the thing that is tricky about it is that it is hard to diagnose. Today a test is done which involves scoring pain when a set of points on the body are pressed. Brain scans can also show neurological problems but these tests aren’t done as standard. So you would think with all this medical evidence that would be that. Yet because Fibro was not proven for so long it developed a stigma that it was an ‘imaginary’ condition, that people claiming it were just lazy. Then you get idiot journalists writing this load of old tosh in the Sun:

ÔÇ£My New YearÔÇÖs resolution for 2012 was to become disabled.┬áNothing too serious, maybe just a bit of a bad back or one of those newly invented illnesses which make you a bit peaky for decades ÔÇô fibromyalgia, or M.E.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£And being disabled is incredibly fashionable. The number of people who claim to be disabled has doubled in the past ten years.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£I think we should all pretend to be disabled for a month or so, claim benefits and hope this persuades the authorities to sort out the mess.ÔÇØ

Ron Liddle

If I was ‘a bit peaky’ it would be a relief. I would love to be a bit peaky. Instead I have days where I sleep right through them. I have days where I can only curl up in a ball because I feel like every single bone in my body is being crushed. Because of this illness I was pushed out of a career I had been to university for the last eight years, leaving me with an insane amount of debt that I was told I could easily pay off once I got this job I had worked so hard for. It isn’t fun having to stay at home all day. I actually do not claim benefits but if I did I would bloody well be entitled too, being a tax payer and all. I might like to be fashionable but this for sure is not one I would recommend following! It goes without saying that Liddle is ignorant and a lazy journalist who cannot be bothered to actually research the illnesses he mentions. He is like many other ‘journalists’ looking to stoke a fire and get┬á a bit of attention. Much easier than researching and writing a brilliant piece of journalism. But the point is he, as a journalist for The Sun, wields a lot of power. The power to reenforce stigma about a genuine illness. Many people will take what he says as the truth, they will not bother to go out and research what these diseases really are. It will stay in their minds, that these are ‘made up’ and people who claim to have them are not really ill at all and hey if they are also claiming benefits then they are spongers too. These diseases are not new, but the advances in medical research are, allowing them to be identified and further defined.

Things haven’t really changed all that much for me, I have extremely bad days, yes, but mostly I have OK days which is fine by me. I haven’t responded well to any of the treatments yet. There are more to try and it is a long process but I have no choice to stay hopeful for the next one. Taking so many medications have their own pros and cons. One weird one is that one of the meds I am on seems to be amplifying the condition Sjogrens. The first thing I noticed was how dry my skin was, then my nose and my eyes. All easily eased with lotions and drops. Then my mouth got really dry, it is too hard to explain how that feels. All your teeth hurt, so I have artificial saliva. This is totally gross, it feels like having someone else’s spit sprayed into your mouth, why on earth they didn’t think to make it mint flavour I don’t know! Then I was having a bad day and burst into tears, but no tears came out. Not one drop. I can’t cry any more. Which is strange and a bit funny, but also so very sad.

One good thing I can say has come out of all this is that is has given me more time to pursue working in fashion. It felt right in a way walking away from my old job, it was a weight lifted. I don’t know what the future will bring, we shall see. I’ve always been a big believer in fate.

As a result of the Liddle debacle, sports commentator Mark Robson spoke out, he give a very accurate description of what living with M.E is like (M.E and Fibro are very similar diseases).

Sports Commentator Mark Robson talks about living with ME (mp3)

How to Earn Money from Fashion Blogging

How do I get paid for blogging? How can blogging be my job? How can I get free stuff?

These are question I get asked all the time. The truth is that there is no easy answer. If you are starting a blog because you think it will get you lots of free clothes then you are wasting your time. Yes, some bloggers do get sent ÔÇÿfree stuffÔÇÖ but it actually really isnÔÇÖt free. It is usually in exchange for work on their part, it may be a review post about the product which takes time to test the product, photograph it and then write the post. The you have to consider that some bloggers blog as their full time job and whilst a free bag may be very nice, it certainly doesnÔÇÖt pay the bills.

As for the other questions, how do you get paid for blogging? Well this is possible, but again it usually comes naturally once a blog has been established, it gets noticed and brands may want to work with it.

In the years I have been blogging I have been fortunate enough to have entered into some wonderful relationships with brands and their PRÔÇÖs. Working with brands can be a fun and beneficial opportunity for both parties. The brands can gain exposure or links and in return the blogger can earn a fee or some other form of compensation. I have worked with some big names and some smaller ones; I have done product reviews and sponsored posts. One of the things I am sure all the brands I have worked with would tell you is that I am no push over. Fortunately most brands that approach bloggers are respectful and genuine. There will however some who are not. I guess the same can be said for the bloggers too.

The first thing you need to think about before hand is what you seek to gain from the working relationship. The brand will be looking to gain exposure, through featuring their products or their site links. But what do you want? Money, free stuff, experience? There are few main ways you can interact with brands.
1. Product reviews: This is where the brand with send the blogger an item such as clothing or make-up, in exchange for keeping the product the blogger will write them a review on their site.
2. Sponsored posts: This can be anything from inserting a website link with a specified key word, to writing a feature on the brand. The details will be down to the individuals.
3. Brand ambassadors: Similar to celebrities being seen in a designerÔÇÖs item, some brands will loan out clothes for the blogger to wear and feature on their blog. The blogger may be paid a fee, get to keep the clothes or simply take the opportunity to lend items.
4. Exposure/ experience: Some brands will approach bloggers to trial ideas. For example they may invite the blogger to carry out some styling work or interview them on their hottest tips for the season. Then both the brand and the blogger will have something to use as content on their sites. Again this can be done for a fee, but really depends upon the terms you both feel appropriate.
5. Advertisements: Either in the form of banner adverts or simple links, you can feature brands in this way around your blog. Some adverts will be paid for monthly for a flat fee, others will be ÔÇÿaffiliateÔÇÖ schemes which generate a fee each time someone clicks through from your site and makes a purchase on the advertiserÔÇÖs site. A note regarding affiliate schemes, if you are only paid a percentage of each sale or a few pence per click you really need to consider your traffic. If you donÔÇÖt have very high traffic volumes affiliate schemes are generally not going to be advantageous to you. The banners that come with them also take up a lot of valuable retail space on your blog which will put off paying advertisers and can swamp your blog. What the schemes often donÔÇÖt tell you is that you will need to put a lot of effort into promoting their brand to get customers to click through to their site and then go on to purchase- without returning the product later either. You can end up pushing the brands through many posts too, perhaps focusing on high commission products. This is what a lot of the ÔÇÿbig bloggersÔÇÖ are now doing and it can be putting your readers off your blog. In fact this whole topic could take up an entire page so if you have questions let me know and I can write more on this.

You should also consider if you actually want to work with brands at all. Many bloggers prefer not to, they like to keep their blog personal. Some will dabble in the odd product review and others like to work with as many brands as possible. Take a look at some of your favourite blogs for examples and decide what you would like to try. DonÔÇÖt worry if you try it and decide it is not for you; so long as you start out with small steps (donÔÇÖt sign up for something long term until you are sure). Perhaps try out a product review first and see how you feel.
Once you have decided if you would like to work with brands and in what manner, you then need to work out for yourself a few ground rules. For me this was fairly simple, I will only work with brands I personally like and would buy from, shop with etc in real life. I will only work with brands whose company policies I respect. I will only write a post/ provide links that my readers will enjoy. I will not lower my fees. In return I stand by the fact that what I deliver will be of the utmost quality and always meet deadline.

Tips For Bloggers
ÔÇó Respect the opportunity ÔÇô many bloggers have no experience working with brands. In fact many have no experience of the working world. I have worked in advertising so I have a good advantage in dealing with this kind of thing, however it can be daunting if you have not. The main thing to remember is that if you decide to accept an opportunity to work with a brand, you are taking on a job. Think of it like a job in an actual company and be in the right frame of mind. Be professional, meet all the agreed requirements and meet them ON TIME. There is nothing worse that tardiness. Do not expect to be sent free stuff and not have to recompense the company who sent it in some way. If you aren’t going to blog about it, send them a courtesty email to say why and offer to return it.
ÔÇó DonÔÇÖt be intimidated ÔÇô I know sometimes it can be intimidating talking business but always consider your own needs. If it is a brand you do not think fits well with your blog ethos then do not be afraid to say no. If you think you are being offered a bad deal, say no.
ÔÇó Stick to your guns ÔÇô if you do not agree to the terms being offered, for example you think you deserve a higher fee for your efforts, then do not back down. Trust your gut instinct; it is better to not enter a deal at all if it is one you feel unsure about. If the brand cannot respect you then it will never be a happy partnership.
ÔÇó Discuss ÔÇô donÔÇÖt be afraid to discuss things with the brands, it maybe the terms of the agreement, it maybe ideas for further projects, it might be something you think would enhance the current collaboration. If you never ask, you will never know.
ÔÇó DonÔÇÖt mither ÔÇô Again this is about respect and boundaries, if you build relationships then opportunities will come. I have heard horror stories of overly pushy bloggers making demands, thinking they are entitled to things. No one is entitled to anything, you have to earn it.
ÔÇó Sell yourself ÔÇô brands would be foolish to think that all blogs and bloggers are the same. Recognise your own qualities and unique selling points. If you have prior experience in work relating to their request such as styling or journalism then mention it. If you have any qualifications mention these too and any similar work you may like to show them to illustrate your talents. Think outside the box, not just of your blogging experiences but those in your everyday life. For example I have a PhD this shows I have excellent writing and research skills, from lecturing I have gained experience teaching and communicating. I have also worked in advertising and brand promotion; I am skilled at writing SEO rich content. Therefore I can assure the brand that I can produce a quality piece of copy and that it will be worth every penny I request. All this is of course on top of the general blog information such as visitor numbers and target audience.
ÔÇó Everyone has to start somewhere ÔÇô saying what I just have above means that I now have a lot of experience, but I had to start somewhere as do us all. When you first start out blogging and working with brands, it may only be something small such as a product review. DonÔÇÖt expect Chanel to come calling after your very first post.

Tips For Brands
ÔÇó Respect the bloggers ÔÇô always address them personally in an email, it is a small thing but it makes a huge difference. If they do not make their name obvious on the blog you can at least address it to the blog title such as ÔÇÿDear Fashion Pearls of WisdomÔÇÖ
ÔÇó DonÔÇÖt be presumptuous ÔÇô many PRÔÇÖs send emails loaded with copy and images and expect the bloggers to post them on their site. Why should they? With no introduction to your company, not even a friendly hello. Blogs are not there solely to promote your company!
ÔÇó DonÔÇÖt expect things for free ÔÇô brand-blogger relationships can be beneficial to both parties but only if there is a mutual respect. As a brand no matter if you are asking for a review of your site / product, for some publicity about your new promotion or a link, this all counts as advertising. Advertising everywhere else be it in glossy magazines, billboards or celebrity endorsements does not come for free ÔÇô so why would you expect it to on a blog? Of course not every payment needs to be a monetary fee, it may be a gift of products or link exchange for example but there must be something in it for both parties to benefit.
ÔÇó Pay on time– there really is no excuse for tardiness. Also if YOU insist on paying via Paypal have the decency to foot the transaction fee.
ÔÇó Be fair and honest ÔÇô many bloggers talk to one another, so if you have approached another blogger to be part of the same campaign it is likely we will find out about it. Please donÔÇÖt pretend you are offering something exclusive if it is not. Also be sure to offer the same ÔÇÿdealÔÇÖ to all the bloggers you approach, if one blogger receives a better deal than another this can create bad feeling towards your brand. Of course this does not apply to higher fees/compensation for high stats/visibility etc that is expected of course.
ÔÇó Understand the blog you are contacting – there is no point spamming the life out of bloggers whoÔÇÖs blog is totally unrelated to your product so be aware of the blogs you are adding to your mailing list.
ÔÇó Research the blog ÔÇô not all blogs and bloggers are the same. Some have been running for two years and others two months, some have high stats and others are still growing, others posts multiple times per day and others once a week. For example you really canÔÇÖt compare the number of comments on a blog who posts everyday to one who posts once a week.

How to ÔÇÿValueÔÇÖ a Blog
This is a tricky one, as there really isnÔÇÖt one easy and quick way to put a value on a blog, you canÔÇÖt rank them like you can a pop single in the charts. Here a few ways:
Statistics ÔÇô Unique visitors per day can give you an idea of how many people the blog is reaching.
Followers ÔÇô At one time the Google Friend Connect counter on blogs indicated its popularity, but this was really only used by those on the Blogger blogging platform (there are many platforms the main three are Blogger, WordPress and TypePad). Other platforms could use the feature however it was never really very proactive. The recently Google announced it was pulling the plug on the feature for all non-Blogger blogs. As a blogger (former Blogger now WordPress) I have to say this is more of a feature used by other bloggers as opposed to non-bloggers (civilians) and it is fairly easy to manipulate. We have all seen bloggers who have only been live for two months with 2,000 followers. Then there is BloglovinÔÇÖ, Twitter and Facebook to consider too.
Comments ÔÇô Similar to followers many people will look to the number of comments to gage popularity. Again this too has its faults, comments can be used by other bloggers to ÔÇÿpimp outÔÇÖ their own blogs, comments such as ÔÇÿlove your blog, follow mine www.blahblahblah.comÔÇÖ some are even rude enough to leave their blog URL five times in a row! A blog could have 100 of these comments but they are all pretty meaningless. There is no interaction with the post, they most likely havenÔÇÖt even read it. So for a brand trying to promote their product there is no value. On the other hand a post with only five comments, all of which are thoughtful and indicate they have not only read but are responding to the post, is very valuable.
Archive ÔÇô Taking a quick look at the blogs archive will give you an idea of how long the blog has been up and running and of the posting frequency. If someone has been posting 2-3 times a week for two years it shows that they are committed.
Post Categories / Tags ÔÇô Again taking the time to see what topics the blog posts most frequently about can be very valuable. You can see if they stick to one format such a Personal Style or if they write multiple formats such as Fashion News, Runway, Beauty etc. This enables you to understand more about the blog and should you be a PR company with numerous clients select the best blogs to tailor to your needs.
Press / Featured in Page ÔÇô This is a page where the blog can showcase any press clippings, features and general achievements. It will help the reader assess how the blog has been perceived in the public eye and media.
About me ÔÇô This is a vital page for every blog. It is an introduction to anyone reading to who you are and what they can expect from your blog. First impressions count and a blog can often be assessed by the latest post on the page, so hook people in with your introduction tell them what they can find on the blog and where to find it.

How much should it cost / should I charge?
I have no idea! Honestly nobody ever gave me a manual with a set rate of fees I should charge / accept. I just had to use common sense. I also found out how much print magazines and Google Ad words cost (well I actually already knew this from my job, but you can easily find out if you want to), I also valued my own time and my own blog. My blog is my baby, it is my achievement. It is mine and mine alone and I get to decide who to share it with. I sat down and seriously thought about how much giving up an entire post was worth to me. I considered my readers and what they would think about reading something written by someone else / seeing a product that I had been given with a motive behind it. I considered how they would feel if they choose to click through to a link I had promoted. What they would think about seeing a banner for a company I was choosing to promote on my site every day, every single time they visited.
So you see deciding that I was going to work with brands at all was a big decision and it certainly didnÔÇÖt make me a millionaire. I knew however my own worth. I knew how much effort I was going to put into the relationships I was building and I knew that I could assure the people I was working with that they would get the very best. If I take on a sponsored post, it will be well written, well researched and delivered on time. So you do need to think about the effort that is going to be involved on your part. You then also have to try and put a monetary value on this and that is the tricky part. I can tell you now that I certainly wonÔÇÖt be writing a sponsored post of 400 words with 3 links for ┬ú20! Neither will I post a video in my side bar for $0.01 per click. I wonÔÇÖt accept banners for sex lines or football coupons for any amount of money.

There are a few pushy agencies that will use standard spiel to try and get you to doubt yourself. Here are some examples, actually lifted from emails I received today:
ÔÇ£The reason for offering this price is that I expect that the article will be posted in the form of a blog post, which would be top news while it is still fresh (a month or so), to be replaced with newer content as time wears on.ÔÇØ Erm yes, you are quite right about that, it is how blogs work. However what they donÔÇÖt mention is that most of these posts they are asking you to publish on your blog are for SEO purposes. It actually doesnÔÇÖt matter to them how far up the top of the site their link is, what is important is that the link is embedded in your site. If you get one of these emails write back and ask them for double at least!
ÔÇ£Do you publish guest posts? I would like to offer you some really great content in exchange for a link to my website which will be placed within anchor text in the authorÔÇÖs by-line.ÔÇØ LetÔÇÖs just read that again. So you are offering me some content. Ok I am meant to see this as valuable, why? I already write my own blog so IÔÇÖm actually not short of content but hey letÔÇÖs see what you are offering in exchange? Oh a link on my blog to your website. Hang on a minute, how is that beneficial to me? ThatÔÇÖs right it isnÔÇÖt, it is not benefiting you what so ever. This is a company who wants to place SEO rich text on your website. If they want to do that they need to pay you, a lot.
ÔÇ£I genuinely thought you might be interested in the concept of the businessÔÇØ ok the word to note here is business. If someone is asking you to do anything that will promote their business it should involve them paying you. Trying to lay on a guilt trip is just not fair. For example I am a huge fan of Vivienne Westwood, huge! But I still wouldnÔÇÖt give her ad space for free. On the other hand if I was asked to promote one of the charities she supports such as Cool Earth then of course I would do that without a fee. The thing is businesses are there to make money, they are making money so why shouldnÔÇÖt you? It is a shame but there are some businesses that will try and get some free promotion from bloggers. I have heard numerous excuses, some may genuinely not ÔÇÿget itÔÇÖ others know full well what they are doing and often employ PR agencies to do it for them on a big scale. Guess what? They will be paying the PR agencies, a lot!

So thatÔÇÖs it, for now at least. Feel free to comment, email, Facebook, Tweet me any questions or if there is anything you would like me to expand on. This goes for both bloggers and brands. I really hope this helps.
Pearl

I am also setting up something to try and help bloggers who want to work with brands, if you are interested drop me your email to [email protected] with ‘sign up’ in the title. I will get back to you when I have sorted out all the details.

ÔÇ£I’ve written books on advertising. Cheque books.ÔÇØ Alan Sugar.

The Red Sole Rules?

From left: Christian Louboutin, Vivienne Westwood, Belmondo

I posted previously about these stunning leopard print flat shoes that I ordered -I was so upset that they didn’t fit but did exchange them for another pair so not to worry. Anyway when I ordered them I obviously didn’t look at all the photo’s as when I opened the box I was a little surprised that they had red soles! Now I am sure you all heard about the court case Christian Louboutin brought against Yves St Lauren, Louboutin was trying to stop YSL from selling a pair of red suede shoes with a red sole. The judge ruled that:

“Because in the fashion industry color serves ornamental and aesthetic functions vital to robust competition, the court finds that Louboutin is unlikely to be able to prove that its red outsole brand is entitled to trademark protection, even if it has gained enough public recognition in the market to have acquired secondary meaning.”

“Red outsoles are a commonly used ornamental design feature in footwear, dating as far back as the red shoes worn by King Louis XIV in the 1600s and the ruby red shoes that carried Dorothy home in┬áThe Wizard of Oz,” court papers filed by YSL read. “As an industry leader who has devoted his entire professional life to women’s footwear, Mr Louboutin either knew or should have known about some or all of the dozens of footwear models that rendered his sworn statement false.”

Whilst a group of academics from some of the US’s most famous law schools added:

“A woman who buys red shoes is doing so for a reason,” the brief argues. “Red shoes have a particular meaning to her, and to others, that cannot be supplied or even approximated by shoes of a different colour. Given the substantial creativity involved in both fashion design and fashion consumption, courts should not lightly allow one particular competitor to monopolise particular fashion submarkets.”

At the time of the case I was all for supporting Louboutin, the red sole is part of what made his designs so unique and original, thus creating such a demand for his brand. Yes red soles have been seen before be it historically or more recently but the red sole in our modern society has become synonymous with his brand, it is a trademark. The YSL shoe design in question however was a real sticking point for me as they designed an entirely red shoe. They also produced the same shoe in other colours. It didn’t seem fair that they should not be allowed to do this. I also had a good look at my own pairs of Louboutins and noticed that the shade of red did vary from model to model as did the place of manufacture. I personally feel that Louboutins lawyers did not argue their case very well. They should have attempted to trademark a particular shade of red and only when it was on the sole of shoes. My fear was that without the trademark every shop on the high street would be knocking out Louboutin-a-like designs red soles included, which would take the uniqueness away from the original Louboutin shoes.

It wasn’t until I had been digging around in my wardrobe that I came across a pair of my Vivienne Westwood boots from A/W 2003 that I notice they too had red soles. I guess I had kind of forgotten about that, or perhaps it was simply because the red soles ‘fit’ with the shoes. The entire collection had been highlighted by flashes of contrasting red against fuchsia pinks. I did also have to wonder if I wasn’t so offended by their red soles as they were by another designer and not a cheap high street copy trying to cash in on the lure of Louboutin’s.

I don’t have any answers for you, would I have worn the leopard lace ups had they of fit? Yes of course. Will I still wear my Vivienne Westwood boot? Hell yes. Do I feel a bit special when I wear my Louboutin’s? I sure do. Would I like them as much if they had black soles for instance? Hmm tough question, perhaps not.

Care to share your thoughts to?

(Sources Wikipedia, Vogue.com)

Don’t forget to vote for Fashion Pearls of Wisdom in the Company Style Blogger Awards!

In Best ‘Today Im Wearing’ Blog, Best ‘We Love Vintage Blog, The Best Fashion Insiders Blog and Overall Winner: The Blog You Love The Most’ categories.

H&M Uses Fake Models

Have you ever wondered why the models on the H&M website are spookily stood in the exact same stance? Perhaps you never even noticed, as the models are just live mannequins aren’t they? Do you solely focus on the clothes or do you look at the model trying to imagine how the garment might look on you?

Either way it might come as a shock to you to know that none of the models on the site are real, not their bodies anyway. They are computer generated ‘virtual’ bodies with real models heads superimposed on top, the skin tone of the virtual body is then altered to match the face.

The fakery was brought to light by Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet, who confronted H&M suggesting they used the computer generated images as they were not impressed with the real models bodies.

A spokesperson from the H&M press office replied ÔÇ£ItÔÇÖs not about ideals or to show off a perfect body, we are doing this to show off the garments. This is done for all garments, not just underwear. It applies to both womenÔÇÖs and menÔÇÖs clothing.ÔÇØ

The Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation state ÔÇ£This illustrates very well the sky-high aesthetic demands placed on the female body. The demands are so great that H&M, among the poor photo models, cannot find someone with both body and face that can sell their bikinis.”

It may of course all be to do with cutting costs superimposing clothes onto a standard is a lot faster and cheaper than shooting each garment in the studio with a number of different models. In this case however I don’t see the point in having the clothes on ‘models’ at all why not go back to simple shots of the garments. The entire purpose of using real models is to show how garments hang which is totally lost using computer generation.

What do you think, does this bother you? Should they be using real models or are the ‘virtual models’ just like mannequins?

(Sources Aftonbladet,, Jezebel, Yahoo)

Don’t Tell Me I Don’t Know Sh*t About Vintage

Vivienne Westwood ‘Deep Sky Blazer’, Mini Crini 1985

Due to the amount of comments I received on my post regarding Judy’s Affordable Vintage Fair I wanted to address a few issues raised. For the record I published and replied to every comment except those which I felt were not at all productive to our discussion and were little more than a torrent of swear words. I have some young readers and I do not find it appropriate for them to have to see that kind of thing. I think it is great that so many of you are passionate about vintage and that we can all leave our opinions and suggestions and really debate this kind of thing.

Firstly I just want to clarify my disappointment with the fair was that from their website I was led to believe I was going to a barginous event where I could find vintage pieces up to 75% less than I could in high street vintage shops. I personally love the 80s all bright coloured polyester dresses and huge gold-tone blingy jewellery. I tend to pay any thing from ┬ú3 to ┬ú25 for an 80s frock depending on quality and condition etc so thought that I could get something nice for my budget of ┬ú30. I didn’t set out looking for a rare 1920s beaded gown for that price.

As I said in the original post, I appreciate how hard it is for traders and that they have high over heads to cover, but surely they went to the fair knowing how it was being advertised. If their stock didn’t fit in with the company ethos surely choosing to sell at another fair would have been wiser. I didn’t go through every single item at the fair and check its price. As I said none of the items that appealed to me seemed particularly cheap, yet┬á if I had seen something I absolutely loved at a fair price I would have bought it regardless.

Just because I didn’t want to spend money on a ‘quality’ vintage piece that day doesn’t mean I am ignorant of what else is out there. It does not mean that the fair was stocked with beautiful pre-50s pieces which were highly priced due to their rareness and that I did not appreciate their value.

You may or may not agree with me, but we are all entitled to our opinions.

Chanel 2.55 Handbag circa 1955

White mini-dress, 1960s

Printed dress, 1980s

Floral shirt, 1980s

St Michael belt, 1980s

Crystal Frog Bangle, 1980s

Vintage comes in all shapes and sizes, nobody owns the term ‘Vintage’ it is not a brand. Therefore its definition can vary, it can mean different things to different people. I chose to display some of my favourite vintage pieces in this post to demonstrate this. These days anything older than the 1990s can be classed as vintage. I really don’t see why it matters, at the end of the day they are all just old clothes. I collect such old clothes, I also collect old clothes from the 2000’s. Prada 2007 is a particular favourite. I am not a vintage snob, if I like something I place a value on it in my head of what it is worth to me.

The Westwood blazer and Chanel bag to me are priceless. They are both museum pieces. Yet they mean something to me because of their fashion history and I wear them regardless of what price a museum curator may place on them. In fact to another they may just be old junk. I equally like this 1960s dress, I like the shape and the fabric. It is impressive due to its age that it is still so immaculate. The 1980s dress might not be as valuable, if we place say ┬ú50 on the 1960s dress then the 80s one surely comes in much lower. I didn’t pay a lot for it but I took it home, fixed the hem and loose seems, I hand stitched the corsage to the front to conceal an age old stain. Doing all this increased its value because it increased its saleability but it also increased its value to me due to the love and care I gave it. The floral print blouse is the worst quality polyester material, it makes my hair static when I wear it. I guess we could say it is worth about ┬ú5? The belt is leather, it is a nice quality belt but what is it worth? Personally I think I paid about 50p for it.

I specifically wanted to include this frog bangle, it is a big and bold 1980s piece, yet it is in perfect condition, not a stone missing or a flaky area of gold. It was the last thing I purchased from a vintage fair, at Manchester’s Vintage Threads. This is my favourite vintage fair, it has things from every era and is what I call affordable – something for every budget. I paid ┬ú20 for my bracelet, which I think it a fair price. It has little intrinsic value, but I liked it.

So when I get comments like ‘U dont no sh*t about vintage’ I will delete them, they are not productive to this blog, they are valueless like a moth eaten rag. I know quite a lot about vintage, I have a PhD part of which I specialised in analysing ancient Egyptian textiles. 3,000 years old you don’t get more vintage than that! But what I do or don’t know about vintage was never the point of my original post, it was about something being misleading in its advertising, yet maybe that wasn’t what some people wanted to read.

Shoppping Stigmas: Do Labels Decieve Us?

Will Primarni fans be swapping these bags…

High street giant Primark is to open up concessions in Selfridges starting with Birmigham’s Bullring at the start of November and continuing with Manchester’s Exchange Square on the 19th. The concessions will be in Menswear and feature 100 items of clothing and accessories, some designs will be exclusive to Selfridges. The collection is said to be aimed at illustrating Primark’s fashion forward clothing with true value. At the time of press there were no plans for them to extend the collection to any other Selfridges stores or extend to women’s wear.

Hmmmm is what I thought, hmmmm indeed. So Primark is continuing its plan for world domination, Selfridges would like a slice of the fat cat pie. But with sales up 20% this year (according to fashion united) Selfridges is not exactly getting out its begging bowl. The question then arises why they would want to use such a tactic? Fair enough Selfridges is mainly seen as a luxury retailer, but it has been growing its High Street departments over the years, stocking Topshop and Warehouse, but on a separate floor. I have to admit I was shocked last year to see Cos appear in the midst of the designer ladies wear, surely it should be on the high street floor?

It reminds me of the strange phenomenon that always happens to me when abroad. When I walk around shopping malls filled with clothes and accessories but with labels I am not familiar with and prices I do not understand. As a shopper of the world I am no longer baffled by dollars and euros but I remember the time I first went to Spain and I had to sit and work out every single price with a currency converter. Prices are one thing but not recognising brands is quite another, it made me feel very alien.

With out recognised brands how did I know what was good?

We use brand association to reassure and familiarise ourselves with what we are buying. Good old M&S for faithful knits, Zara for on trend pieces, Joseph for quality leather and sheepskin, even Aldi for cheap beans. Basically we know what to expect from shops because of their branding, without this knowledge it is down to ourselves to make the judgements.

… for Selfridges yellow ones?

This is stranger than it seems, because we are so used to branding we don’t realise we have these preconceptions. Case in point a few years ago I sold a pair of shoes on eBay. They were a lovely pair of canvas summer shoes which I had bought in Primark, not tried on, they were too tight, I couldn’t find the reciept to return so stuck them with some other things up for sale. Without thinking anything of it I had used a yellow Selfridges carrier bag as a clean back drop for all my photos. The shoes sold and I posted them off. Only to be met with an irate email that the shoes were not from Selfridges but Primark – as I had clearly put in the listing – but the buyer had been so blindsided by the Selfridges brand she hadn’t bothered to read the details.

Another example is when I was in Florida for a conference, my friends and I of course took the chance to hit the nearest mall. Wondering around not knowing any of the shops meant I went into EVERY shop. This was my first experience of Forever 21. I was thrilled to find some quirky jewellery and a lovely black and white top for really cheap prices. Had I know F21 was the US equivalent of New Look, I wouldn’t have even set foot in the shop due to my inbuilt snobbery on discount high street brands. I had the opposite problem in Anthropology when I found a lovely mac, but not recognising the brand name I really had to closely examine the product before I could decide if it was worth its $300 price tag. Had I been in the UK I could have easily bought the mac had it been from Reiss for example, I know they are a high- end high st brand, knowing this means I can trust them right?

Not necessarily, sometimes I think our preconceptions can hinder us. I have paid ┬ú50 for a Zara blouse – it is the best quality for its low prices my head tells me. The loose threads and missing button a week later shows this is not always the case. We have become lazy. So perhaps stocking Primark in Selfridges has a deeper purpose, if you aren’t necessarily expecting everything you buy from there to fall to pieces, if it is displayed with higher end products, will your perceptions of the brand change? I hold my hands up, I have bought some fantastic quality pieces from Primark, some I have had for some years. Others I wouldn’t even pick up of f the rail for fear it would disintegrate in my hands.

My point is, don’t let branding fool you, no matter where you are shopping always check the quality and give places you wouldn’t usually shop a chance. As for the Primark and Selfridges experience I will reserve judgement until I have seen it for myself.

Pearl

What do you think of Selfridges stocking Primark?

Do you have preconcieved ideas of brands?

Have you ever surprised yourself by challenging your thoughts on a brand?

(images via guardian.co.uk)

The Wild Problem: A Little Story About Excellent Customer Service

Rather a long time ago, in fact around this time about a year ago I bought a fabulous Markus Lupfer t-shirt embellished with the word ‘Wild’ in chiffon across the front. You might remember me showing you at the time. Well as things happen I had put the t-shirt away in my wardrobe and had not gotten around to wearing it, I know shameful. So I decided I had better stop saving it for a ‘special occasion’ that was never going to happen and pulled it on for an unexciting venture to the Supermarket. I didn’t even get to take an outfit photo for you it was that uneventful.

After wearing it I gently hand washed as per the instructions only, to my horror, to see the colour start running from the black trim!! I let it dry and double check the directions, nope I did follow them exactly so I tried washing it again. Nope the colour had ran and was not retreating. As I had bought it so long ago I didn’t have the receipt and I knew Selfridges would need it to prove that was where I bought it, as ML have quite a few stockists. So I thought I would contact ML directly, I sent off an email explaining what had happened and to be honest expected to be fobbed off or have my email go unreplied to at all. Not that I expected bad customer service from ML solely because I had bought it so long ago.

To my surprise I recieved an email back that very day, explaining that a faulty batch of non-colourfast t-shirts had been sent to Selfridges. Once the problem was realised they were all recalled and replaced, I must have gotten a faulty one before the recall. They didn’t have any of my exact t-shirt left but offered me a choice of their latest range. My new t-shirt was sent out right away and I received it the next day.

So I just wanted to say a huge thank you to Emma at Markus Lupfer for helping me and that Markus Lupfer is a brand that really cares about its customers – something which is rare these days! I can’t wait to wear my ‘Saintly’ new tee and I will remain a fan of the brand for many years to come.

Pearl

Wear the News with T-Post

┬áWhen I first heard about T-Post I was a bit unsure how it would work. A new magazine which is not printed on paper but on t-shirts! All my doubts were cast aside when I saw an ‘issue’ for myself. Not only do you get a new t-shirt with a unique artwork but you get to read a news story you might not usually get to see. The story is printed inside the t-shirt and the artwork on the outside but you can choose to wear it which ever way round you like. Check out the YouTube video for a cool explanation all about how T-Post works.


The issue I received is entitled ‘May cause bizarre’ and concentrates on prescription medication advertising in the US. Many Americans are requesting such drugs from their doctors prior even to examination, preferring to self-diagnose. The lists of side-effects these drugs can cause can be as extensional as taking up the entire back page of a full page ad in a magazine. Something that always shocks me when I pick up a copy of US Vogue. Figures show that more people die from legal drugs than illegal drugs perhaps the word ‘legal’ gives a false sense of security. The article questions, are more drugs being prescribed to counteract the side-effects? How are such potentially dangerous drugs being approved in the first place?

Long term readers of my blog will know that this is a subject close to my heart. Even though in the UK we do not have this kind of advertising extreme, there are many legal drugs being prescribed which have been passed for lab trials yet the side-effects research is not ongoing. Side-effects should be monitored and reported in all patients no matter how long the drug has been approved for.

The artwork for this issue was created by Pat Perry. He says ‘I drew the main figure completely with a ballpoint pen. I added the internal shapes escaping with little narratives of what experiences of side effects may be like.’

I intend to wear my t-shirt to the next hospital appointment because I feel exactly like the figure in the artwork, a guinea pig, being prescribed ‘safe’ drugs that have left me in hospital far worse off than with the disease they were meant to fight. I have a great affinity with the little character at the bottom with his head down the loo!

I think T-Post is a wonderful idea, what better way than to get people talking! Here are some more example issues:

You can find out all about T-Post on their website, where you can subscribe to receive one issue per month just like a regular magazine subscription. Back issues can’t be ordered so once they are gone they are gone, making your t-shirt really original.

Dogs In Fashion

First of all I wanted to say thank you for all your kind comments and emails from my last post. It all still seems very unreal, I half expect, hope, each time my phone rings it will be someone saying there was a mistake, that it wasn’t my dog that died. Just a mix up, Jet is here, you can come and collect him. I feel like someone ripped a huge hole right through my chest. How a house with five people and seven dogs in it can feel empty I have no idea, but it does. All the other dogs seem a bit lost and are pining for Jet. For those of you that didn’t know Jet was the big daddy dog, the pack leader. He is also the sire to Sirius, Bella, Han and Chewie (to Boo) who still live with me and Shadow and Wicket (to Ruby) who live with my aunt. Sirius is the image of Jet but only half his size, you can see him in all the pups especially Chewie who, whilst brown, is of the same stocky build and has the same long nose.

How I ended up with so many dogs is a long story, in fact today I was struggling with what to post today. I have a stack of fashion posts backed up but some how it didn’t see quite right to post them. So I thought I would say something about dogs. All my dogs are Pomeranians, they have a really interesting history here is a great site on the history. We have always been a dog family (cats, rabbits and fish too), but as a child our dogs were always mongrels, loveable all the same. The last dog we had was a Jack Russel and Chihuahua cross – a mongrel then, a designer dog now, how the fashions change! She was called Sheba and we inherited her from my Grandad when he died. She was hilarious, the most vicious dog you ever met and absolutely tiny. She would take on Alsatians, totally fearless. As she got older she had mellowed, but it was when friends came to stay bringing their Pomeranian that she was given a new lease of life. Running around after him, frolicking around the garden, Sheba loved him. We were both a bit sad when he had to leave, so I started to consider getting a Pom myself. My dad was absolutely adamant that we were not getting another dog, reminding me of the problems I would have when I moved out again finding a flat that took pets etc (I had just come home from uni at the time). So I gave up on the idea, until my old friend (and ex) gave me a call, he too had Poms and on asking after them he explained he had a problem. He was being forced to move into a flat that wouldn’t allow pets, his Pom Simba would be homeless and they didn’t know anyone who could give him a new home. It was fate obviously!

We all fell in love with Simba, he was like a little orange fox. In fact we fell in love with the breed so much my mum decided that if she got two Poms and I got another we could breed them. What would be nicer than earning a living with something you adore!┬á So along came Jet and Ruby with Baby Boo following a few months later. Now let me tell this to you straight, nobody makes any money from dog breeding. They cost so much to keep and with vets fees, it all mounts up. Then when the pups are born you have to be really tough to be able to give them away. It doesn’t help if you have been watching Animal Rescue the week before and convince yourself that you are handing them over to Cruella de Ville. Jet and Ruby bred two beautiful puppies and we decided that there was no way we could part with them, so that was going to be an end to our venture. However disaster struck one day when we had left my dad on Pom Patrol and Boo ended up expecting. Knowing we couldn’t look after two newborns and another litter with a heavy heart we handed over the two puppies to a new home – it was with my aunt so we knew they were going to be spoilt rotten. Then came Boo’s pups, this is a crazy long story for another day, but to cut it short – Poms usually have one or two pups at the most, Boo had four!! She couldn’t cope with them all so we ended up hand rearing them, so as you can imagine we just couldn’t part with them. Although we have had them all neutered!

People are often shocked at how big my Poms are, only Bella is of the tiny ‘handbag’ size you see celebrities carrying around under their arms. Even then she is on the large side. Jet was the biggest, all the others somewhere in between. The Pom first became popular in England when Queen Victoria grew fond of the breed, having her own small kennel. You can read more about that here. Originating from German Spitz dogs they were of a fairly large size until they were interbred with similar, smaller breeds. As you can see in the first image Queen Victoria’s Turi was of a fair size, compared to the second image of Kelly Osborne and Sid. I have to say I am not a fan of Crufts regulations which cause deformities in many breeds due to over inbreeding from dogs with defects. I wouldn’t care if my dogs were tiny as mice or big as a horse so long as they were healthy. I certainly don’t think animals should be victim of the whims of fashion and often wonder what happened to all the Poms and other small breeds who we saw toted around on the arms of celebrities a few years ago. Hopefully they are still cared for at their homes even if they have given up the social scene.

Pearl

Looting: Fast Fashion?

Pretty Green, Manchester (Image PA via Metro)
Not so long ago I was watching the movie ‘I am Legend’ it stars Will Smith as the only human left after humanity is transformed into zombies. In this kind of film and any other end-of-the-world scenarios there is usually a looting scene. The hero / survivors have to go raid stores for food, medical supplies, clothes and weapons. Whilst watching friends and I have joked about what provisions we would get first, what would make effective zombie fighting weapons and just exactly what one would wear to face the end of the world. One of these daft conversations ended up with me kitted out in Chanel Haute Couture with my 2.55 modified as a rocket launcher!But my point is this is all imaginary, the stuff of movies and Hollywood. The last thing I ever imagined was that I would ever see this kind of thing for real on my own high street. Yet there was no zombie Apocalypse, there was no desperate need to procure food for starving people, there was no danger or threat to the human race, simply greed.Manchester stood out from the riots elsewhere in the country as there was no pretense that this was any form of political protest, no rampage of damage and destruction to prove a point. It was simply a lot of people going out into the streets and stealing things they wanted. What struck me was the type of things being looted. They were everyday fashion items that those involved would have worn -trainers, jeans, Ugg boots etc.I don’t know why but this stuck me as a bit disturbing, I could almost understand it if they had been robbing banks or diamond jewellery but that they were taking such every day items, like they were out shopping on a Saturday afternoon. They were obviously taking what they wanted, things immediate to their circumstance.
“This is what happens when people don’t have anything, when they have their noses constantly rubbed in stuff they can’t afford, and they have no reason ever to believe that they will be able to afford it.” “They seem to be targeting the stores selling goods they would normally consume. So perhaps they’re rebelling against the system that denies its bounty to them because they can’t afford it.”excerpts from the Guardian

Perhaps, but don’t expect me to shed a tear for them. When did it become acceptable to just take what you wanted? Fifty years ago people were still poor and many out of work, yet they carried on building their community and raising their children to have respect. Where did this self entitled mentality come from? We aren’t owed anything, by anyone. We make our own way in the world and if it means you have to save up for a year to afford a new pair of jeans then so be it. None of the looters were homeless, starving or naked. They weren’t in need. There are many of us without jobs. I have worked hard for eight years at university, I have a lot of debt because of this. Do I sit hear and demand to be given a job in my field, do I refuse to go out to work in any other job because it is beneath me? No of course not. I work hard, I save up for the clothes I wear. Nobody handed me anything on a silver platter.

This morning I heard two looters were in good jobs, one a teaching assistant the other a social worker. How can they, the very people who are employed to make our society a better place go out and be part of this? Does everyone feel so hard done by these days? Does everyone really need a pair of designer trainers that desperately?

I don’t have any answers and this is something that will affect our country for a long time. I will end however on the sheer goodness of the other 95% of the population who went out and cleaned up our streets, protected their communities and supported each other. Also to Greater Manchester Police who worked tirelessly throughout the night and continue to bring these people to justice.

Other recommended links:

Hoodie‘ Jill’s post on the symbolism of the hoodie

The Psychology of Looting‘ in the Guardian

‘The moral decay of our Society is as bad at the top as the bottom’ the Telegraph