Wednesday, 19 October 2011

So it's come to this. What a floozy.

I was chatting with a couple of girlfriends over dinner last night and it struck me just how ridiculously difficult it was for all three of us to perform that most necessary of modern tasks - to 'sell ourselves'. 
Now before you get carried away let me reassure you that I'm not talking about the oldest profession (although in my current state of poverty The Game has started to look a little more tempting than heretofore,) but rather selling oneself in the manner that recruitment consultants and personal tutors are always banging on about. The way that gets you jobs. Or promotions. The way that apparently everyone should be selling themselves all the time in order to get on in this world. After all, if you listen to careers advisory services or PR reps we should all be marketing ourselves at all times with the verve and deviousness of hardened advertising executives. But if you're anything like me, (or my two girlfriends,) you'll know it's not that bloody easy.

Friday, 30 September 2011

Reviewed by Dani Riot

Memoirs of a Fashion Industry Failure, Volume One Has been reviewed by the photographer and blogger Dani Riot! He reckons it is:

"Part diary, part history lesson, but consistently insightful and entertaining"

Too kind, Dani ;)
He also explained why he felt a connection with the story:

"My journey into photography runs in an almost parallel line to Natalie. As photography was quite a late choice for me, I missed that vital opportunity to study it at a college and university level, and have had to work my fingers to the bone, and spending almost every penny I had on starting from page one. I may not have been trying to be a fashion designer, but I can relive every cringe, tear, smile and laugh I experienced in my own journey by reading these memoirs.

I don't think it matters what industry you are preparing yourself for, you will be able to relate to this book, and get an insight of what you have to come."

Please go and visit Dani's site for the rest of the article, plus some more delicious insights into his creative and busy world:


Thanks for reading!

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Christopher Waller S/S Collection Launch. (Or, Hoxton Makes Me Feel Middle-Aged.)

Whenever I go to a trendy do in Shoreditch or Hoxton I always feel a bit like someone's mum who got invited by mistake (possibly because I use words like 'trendy' and 'do').

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Inflating Skirts and Diode Dresses

I absolutely love this collection of intoxicatingly strange and ingenious art/fashion pieces, created by ex-Project Runway contestant and imaginative designer Diana Eng as part of her Fairytale Fashion educational program. The program is a brilliant and innovative series of video showcases that document Eng's creation of a collection of cutting edge fashion proto-types, using laser cutters, 3D printers and electronics, as well as a variety of other techniques. Each peice is not only beautiful, but incredibly inventive and often deliciously surprising too. Keep watching the video until the end for a skirt that gently  releases peace balloons like clouds as the model walks along...

Friday, 9 September 2011

Wolf & Badger

Visit Wolf &

Wolf & Badger is a slick and scrumptious boutique squirreled away in the chic bit of Notting Hill – and I am not just saying that because of the free champers and jelly sweeties they showered on me and the rest of us at their Graduate Design Awards evening last week.

As you can see from the pics the shop itself is very glossy and neatly arranged, the products all displayed with almost clinical care: I found it rather like visiting a modern museum of Fabulous Things I Would Like to Wear. And the museum experience doesn’t stop there: some of the items on sale, like Sia Dimitriadi’s frill-tastic fairytale ruffle dresses, are one-offs, like unique artefacts. If you choose to buy them their creators make them up in your size especially for you, which feels very couture. However, most of what you see you can buy then and there and take home in a (fancy) shopping bag.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Change - In which I make a decision.

In my imagination, lights flashed
over catwalks... 
“We’ve got to get out of bloody Southampton!” I muttered to myself.
Tim, sitting beside me on the sofa, pretended he hadn’t heard. He didn’t want to get out of bloody Southampton. Bloody Southampton was just fine, as far as he was concerned. He had a job with good prospects that he was pretty happy in, a comfortable home near his office, and good work friends with whom he could drink beer and talk about gadgets when the need arose. I was the one who wanted to leave. I was the one with all the problems.
The TV blared. My mind wandered...

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

The Fashion Pressure Cooker (and More Wise Words from Giles Deacon)

Giles A/W 2008

I can’t deny, the pressure could get pretty high at the Sweatstitch embroidery factory, especially when we were doing the blazer pockets. (Blimey they were tricky.) And we’d all have to pull a few extra shifts when there was a big order of gym knickers in. And there were moments when I felt that stacking one more sweatshirt might just push me over the edge and cause me to strangle a co-worker. But nothing I experienced there or in any other workplace could have prepared me for the intensity or excitement of working in a design studio in the run up to London Fashion Week.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Experience - In which I do some real work, for a change.

“I mean, exactly what kind of experience actually constitutes ‘work experience’?” I muttered under my breath, as I folded another school jumper.
“Wassat my love?” chirruped Jessie, my line manager, stacking blazers beside me. She was busily ticking each one off on a list as she worked. Her hands moved like hummingbirds.  
“Oh nothing!” I said, trying to sound cheerful, and got on with my work.
I was standing in a picking line at a factory in Eastleigh, tearing the backing off the embroidered logos of sweatshirts and folding them neatly in piles ready to be shipped. My back ached.
I had a JOB. A proper one. I was sort of proud of myself.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Tim Walker and Cecil Beaton

'The Soapsuds Group', at the
Living Poster's Ball: Baba
Beaton, Wanda Baillie-
Hamilton and Lady
Bridget Poulett. Taken by
Cecil Beaton in 1930.
Coca Rocha perched on a
giant glove. Taken by Tim
Walker for British Vogue's
November issue 2006.

“Beaton said that 'beauty is the most important word in the dictionary.' I love that. Beauty IS important. I think beauty tests time, tests fashion, and goes beyond them both.”

The words of Tim Walker, award-winning british fashion photographer, talking about his personal icon. He was standing, rather self-conciously, in front of a table spread with images of Cecil Beaton’s work. And he was about to tell us more. I couldn't wait.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Read me elsewhere this week...

You lucky people.
The most excellent 'Spaced'
is rerunning on More4 ATM,
and watching it is like taking
a dose of tasty 90s medicine.
“Have you seen my Chocolate Beanie?” And Other Important 90s Revival Questions.

The 90s were back with a vengeance at Fashion Week in February, and it looks like a revival is about to hit us smack between the eyes.

“Oh God! Help me!” you may be thinking.

However, don’t be afraid, and don’t go frantically trawling through endless style mags looking for the 90s ‘look’. Just breathe, turn on the gogglebox, and gawp yourself some REAL inspiration from these original (and v. funny) sources...

READ ON at Student Fashion Blog

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Clientele - In which I put together a portfolio (of sorts)...

  ... and Tim gets some new equipment.

Tim and his toy.

"The new diffuser arrived today," said Tim, off-hand, walking into the kitchen. "You know, the Sto-Fen?"
"Oh yes?" I said, stirring cake mixture.
"Yeah..." he continued, feigning nonchalence. "I thought maybe we could try it out on that wedding party tonight..."
"Ok, if you like," I said, hiding a smile.
"I really think it will fix that reflection problem."
He walked out again.
I waited.
"I could show it to you, if you want," he said, ducking his head back in, and fiddling shyly with the door hinge.
I grinned into the mixing bowl.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Giles Deacon on Education

Giles Deacon, British Fashion Designer
 "When I was young, I didn’t know I was going to be a fashion designer," said Giles Deacon, fiddling with his glasses nervously.

“I wasn’t sure what I was going to end up doing,” he continued, “but i knew it would be something arty.”

A couple of Fridays ago, I was sitting with a crowd of wide eyed audience members in a coveted position on the front row of seats in the lecture space at the Design Museum, London. I was attending a talk: ‘Giles Deacon in conversation with Colin McDowell’, and was pretty thrilled about it, too. In front of me, sat at a large table covered in pens, pencils and sheets of paper, were Giles and Colin (Colin McDowell, legendary fashion journalist.) Giles was giving a brief history of his education, to get the evening warmed up. He moved on to some still more absorbing topics later on, and even did a bit of drawing for us, but his words about his studies gave me a lot to think about.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

University - In which I make a group sculpture, explore the concept of connection, and get a bit fed up.

"Jumpers for buildings. I mean I ask you! They had to
knit them with a JCB"
(Actually, Dave Cole's masterpiece 'The Knitting Machine')
“Well, that was a bloody waste of time!” I exclaimed, slumping down on the sofa.
“Oh dear,” said Tim, turning down the volume on the television. “More fluff again was it?”
“I don’t want to talk about it,” I said, scowling. “It was awful.”
“Ok darling, we won't if you don’t want to. What do you fancy for tea?”
“First of all,” I said, flinging down my book bag, “we spent all morning watching this film about all these mental textile artists who do all these mental projects, like a coat that twenty people can wear at the same time. I mean, why? I like coats. I think coats are interesting enough when they are the one-each kind. Coats are lovely.”
“They are,” said Tim.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Dior, McCann, and the birth of the Fashion Degree

1940s Dior, and the beginning of
something rather special.
Illustration by Rene Gruau.
“I went to the Royal College of Art under Madge Garland, who was rather wonderful,” said Gerald McCann, 1960s Designer and key supplier to Woollands' 21 Shop, in an interview at the V&A in 2006.  “She was a former editor of Vogue, the first Professor of fashion, with lots of links to the industry..."

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Learning - In which I become a student again... seemed like a good idea at the time.
What I needed, above all else, was to learn.
By March I had realised that the only way I was ever going to earn a real living as a dressmaker, was if I got better at it, and fast...
I knew how to make clothes, but I needed to know how to make them really quickly, and how to alter patterns quickly, and make patterns from scratch, and how to run a business too. I was pretty clueless about that.

"Perhaps," I began to wonder, "this is the sort of stuff they might tell you about on a Fashion Design degree course?"

I had dallied with the idea of doing a Fashion degree at a younger age, whilst taking my A levels. At the time, teachers had advised me to apply to an Art Foundation course. From there, they said, I should go on to do a design degree of some kind. I was game at first, and got a place at the local art college. When school finished I went along to their summer introductory day, ready to learn. However, instead of the bedrock of sound craft knowhow I had expected, the syllabus seemed to be made up of fluff. I wouldn’t even be allowed to specialize in one area of expertise until I had spent months mooning about with collages and emotional expression.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Matthew Williamson, Vivienne Westwood, Press and Publicity.

Vivienne Westwood, British
Designer (and my first ever boss.)
Photo by Mattia Passeri
Years after my first feeble forays into the world of publicity, I had moved to London, and was doing a few days freelancing as a sample machinist. I was working at the studios of British designer, Matthew Williamson, in the basement of a beautiful old building in Mayfair. Above were the head offices of the company, including press offices and marketing and all that sort of thing, in a lovely white and airy world that seemed quite unconnected to the controlled mayhem of the studios below.

Sunday, 13 February 2011


In which I build a website, organise a photo shoot, and discover I am not very good at designing flyers. And Tim puts a PC in a fish tank.

I was sensitive, in the early months of the business, that if I wanted to be taken seriously and attract customers, I needed to market myself. I mused over the possible methods.

“Can anybody just get a website?” I wondered aloud in the bathtub one evening.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Amanda Wakeley: Getting Started

Amanda Wakeley, British Designer and Ex-model
“I did some dressmaking for a while, making clothes for friends etc, and found there was a market there.

My parents loaned me £20,000 to start my own label. With this I set up a little studio in Chelsea. It was just a flat really. I slept in a bed in the corner of the machine room, and the sitting room was a showroom. It was just me, an assistant/pattern cutter, and one freelance machinist.

We only had 20 styles, and we could only do made to order, there was no mass production. I was working all the time.”

The words of Amanda Wakeley, talking about her beginnings as a designer to a small bunch of us in a lecture room at the Fashion and Textile Museum. I had left Southampton and been working in London for about 6 months, and on the advice of a friend I had gone along to an open evening event at the museum. I was very glad I did. I was thrilled to be listening to Amanda, and was feverishly writing down her every word in my notebook. Sat in the seat in front of mine was Zandra Rhodes (founder of the museum.) She was dozing gently, her pink head nodding.

 “Soon there were too many customers to supply with couture work, so I opened a shop on Fulham road,” Amanda was saying.

Amanda Wakeley is a double threat. Fabulously beautiful, she began her modelling career in the States in her early twenties, and in her spare time made clothes for fun, which she wore herself.

“I noticed that I got a lot of attention and compliments when I wore my own designs,” she explained.

Moving back to the UK and using what she had learned about the fashion industry from modelling, with a lot of hard work she was able to make a great success of her design talents as well.

“I knew from my experience with the fashion industry that press representation was very important for a new designer, so press was always a top priority for me from the word go. Vogue introduced me to the Princess of Wales, which was very lucky for me. It’s very hard work, you have to keep working on it. It’s a good idea to contact PR companies when you are starting out, because they are often helpful, and offer good rates for new designers because it is in their interests to help up-and- comers.
Running a label is about marketing, quality, business...its actually only a little bit about design itself. Brand positioning is so important.”

“I started making clothes when I was a child. I had this fabulous dressing up box when I was a little girl. My grandparents travelled a lot, and they gave me all kinds of exciting foreign clothes and bits and pieces. That was one of my earliest inspirations."

Zandra Rhodes, British Fashion
and Textile Designer
"When I am designing, I brainstorm things that inspire me - exhibitions, movies, illustrations, images etc. with my designer. We build mood boards of colour and design details etc. I like to take references from my inspirational sources to make sophisticated clothing, but I don’t like to make ‘costumy’ clothes. I like to make clothes that make women feel beautiful and confident, that enhance the body.”

I listened, fascinated, as she talked, about the state of the industry, the design processes she went through, the importance of brand focus, and the problems facing clothing designers today.

“I think there is a problem with colleges not doing enough practical work,” Zandra Rhodes interjected. She had woken up at this point. “The average age of pattern cutters is getting older and older, there is not enough new blood coming in.”

“I agree,” said Amanda, “I really think it’s important to keep those skills alive. I didn’t have any professional training myself, but I would advise anyone else who is starting out to get a relevant degree and to get training. It is so important in the industry.”

Good advice. I often wish I had followed it.

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