Thursday, March 19, 2015

Refining my styling ethos

I've been thinking about the commercialisation of the world for several years, and in particular my creative ethos in regard to it all. I've done my training as a stylist and done a good number of excellent shoots; I've done theatre set design, film Art Director jobs and worked as a scenehand for the Beeb and all these have really been stepping stones to get by or to get somewhere else, but I've never been sure where that somewhere else actually is.

I've known just about all my life what my principals are, and pretty much kept to them - no souls have been sold/exchanged for anything - but progress as we know it in the modern world has been limited although interesting experiences and coming across wonderful people have been plentiful, and I wouldn't change that for anything.

The concept of fashion, image and styling seemed increasingly hollow to me in more recent years: it's all about being 'hot' and looking cool rather than what you think, feel and believe.  The celeb world, full of supposed role models is heavily into what they wear, and  clothing is becoming more representative of a person but it seems to be a very narrow way of defining a personality.  I'm finding what we wear is more important than what we think or feel in the media.  Although there are articles about many lifestyle topics, there are by far and away a much higher proportion of pages about fashion and looks.  I was much in support of #AskHerMore  - good for Reese Witherspoon.  Looking back at the bands I liked and the people who were inspirational to me, I found no reflection of them in the path of the Stylist or Image Consultant career and I didn't have much motivation to work hard to succeed in that field.  Costume design floated my boat as I could use costume to portray a character, often one developed as some concept to represent a view, much as I could use set design to convey the mood of a scene in a play or film.  It's the individual personality which I want to pursue, develop and evolve in myself and other people, and forward their open minded agenda.  I want to be changing attitudes not just image.

The figurehead character for Eris Events developed from that ideal; she represents the independent achiever. I want to encourage people away from commercial consumerism to independence, that is, not following a trend and being image conscious as an end in itself, but to take the confidence of feeling great and changing the world a bit more in the direction of creative thinking, self sufficiency.  I've decided that to be the type of inspirational Image Consultant I wish to be, I will be giving people confidence to believe in themselves, not in the Loreal "Because You're Worth It" way and buying into a commercial ideal, being a player in the media frenzy and aspiring to be some kind of KKK (Kardashian Klan Konsumer) - but to take that confidence and develop it to work their life beyond that most frequently portrayed to become successful outside the system that hinders most individual aspirational people.  To become a true personality and not just a poster girl.

At many points in our lives we need a bit of reminding we're more than worth 'it' and a lot more, we're worth being what our instincts say we should be, not what the commercials restrict us to.  What do the commercials actually say we should be?  It's all very vague, and can be interpreted by anyone but most often we stick to the parameters we are familiar with, which is reinforced by mainstream magazines and media day-in, day-out despite the odd article highlighting  someone with greater ambition.  People are sold the same old branding, just redesigned from time to time.  Do they really think about what a brand is, what is the concept behind a company, and does it represent themselves in any way, or is it all about being cool?

So, the plan now is to carry on developing characters in my shoots and convey a sense that the world outside the box is yours for the taking, and when I have communications with Image Consultancy clients I fully intend to pass on that wisdom to them as well   It's not good enough to look good but to develop a persona who can think great and feel fantastic and pass that on to others.

After reading an article in Grazia where writer Angela Buttolph wore the same outfit for 4 weeks and described the expeirence and spoke of John Haltiwanger's The Science Of Simplicity claiming that 'decision fatigue' over trivialities like what to wear means someone's 'productivity suffers as a result of becoming mentally exhausted from making so many irrelevant decisions'.  I think people choosing different outfits daily is a pre-occupation to make life more interesting.  I do think using clothing to cheer yourself up is a distraction, an opportunity to have a bit of fun and carry that through every day, it's just a shame that lives are needing that daily injection of spark to amuse us, clothing is one of the ways we get to express ourselves.  It seems there are not enough ways for us to adequately express ourselves and clothing speaks for us.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Edinburgh Fashion Week

Well, I was up at 5.30 am on Saturday to get from Glasgow to Edinburgh for half 8 in the morning to work in the marquee on the Mound precinct on Princes Street holding a weekend of fashion shows, pop up shops, bars and a workshop for the beginning of Edinburgh Fashion Week 2015.  There was a really strong wind in Edinburgh city centre, and it was so blustery there was even the possibility the first day would have to be cancelled due to the strong winds, but fortunately the day went ahead, and turned out to be totally fantastic!

The marquee was contunually busy from the moment it opened to shortly before it closed; the pop up shops did great trade throughout the day and the four fashion shows were mobbed!  I was there in plenty of time to see the catwalk area finishing its set up (I always like getting BTS photos).

The team out front were kept on their toes all day, ushering the audience into the catwalk area and chatting to people milling around the marquee letting them know what was going on over the weekend.

On the catwalk there were some beautiful pieces being shown from several stores and boutiques.  The first show was Jenners and House Of Fraser, the second show was from four West End boutiques (Sam Brown, Odyssey Boutique, Just G and Frontiers).  The third show was a range of stores from Princes Street (Gap, Next, Debenhams and River Island) and the final show featured clothes from stores on Multrees Walk (John Lewis, Reiss and Sandro).  I didn't see all the shows as I was out front talking to visitors to the event but I managed to get a good lot of photos, and have compiled a small selection of the best.

Edinburgh College Of Art's display of tailored garments showing cutting and structure and silhouette was a great feature, and I found it interesting as I'm now learning to machine sew and do a bit of costume design :)
These pieces were lovely and I could think of several ways to style them as items of clothing rather than samples or exhibition pieces.

I loved working with the team of event organisers and Front of House staff I spent the day with, and really hope to be involved in next years EFW.  In the meantime, there is both Highland Fashion Week and Aberdeen Fashion Week on the horizon in April and June respectively.  The bars were doing well, and all the visitors were enjoying wee glasses of prosecco, cocktails and beer - it was a splendid day all round for everyone who took part.  Well done all!!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Inspiring Women: Leanne Mckillop

From time to time I'm going to write a post on positive and inspiring men and women, and this is the first in that series

I've know model Leanne Mckillop since she worked on one of my fashion shows in late 2012.  Her story is very inspiring and I wanted to feature her as one of the inspiring people in my blog - she was featured in an article in Glasgow's Evening Times in late October 2014 (

The article was published through See Me, a programme which is trying to combat stigma and discrimination in mental health in Scotland: where Leanne was a media volunteer telling her experiences of stigma and discrimination.  See Me were relaunching a campaign with messages like 'people like you will end mental health stigma and discrimination' at the time.  See Me asked Leanne if she'd be willing to talk to the Evening Times on the back of that she talked to radio interviewers and other papers.

Leanne had Anorexia for ten years, her recovery included 3 stays in The Priory.  What made her take the decision to start taking control of the illness was being aware of the damage being done to her body; she was going against the odds of body deterioration as blood tests for organ function came back normal until the last year of her illness, moving out of her parents home and getting pet cats.  Trying to push herself to see her own limits (and in relationships with other people).  The eating disorder was to hide her self from unwanted attention for being pretty but she ended up getting serious medical attention and not attention just for being cute.  "Anorexia made you feel good about what you can control". Leanne can control the triggers for anorexia up to a certain point, then the disorder takes the control.

There were a number of stages to achieve aims and targets in the process of getting better - in The Priory patients being treated have to sit and finish meals, and would have counselling and classes.  The recovery was very focused on maintaining a daily routine as the Priory set the patients in a strict regular daily plan which Leanne found weird adjusting from a defined structure once she left.  She hated Art Therapy - having to create art on demand took away spontaneity of creativity.  College brought it back - bouncing ideas and pointers of inspiration is what makes her genuinely creative.

She came out the Priory in 2007 and went to art college in January 2008.  She was in college for four years, then went to art school for 4 months in 2012 but disliked the structure of art school..  She took a year out after college - a new challenge to learn how to live with no defined structure to her life.  She did lots of classes including tutoring in her old psychiatric ward, jewellery making and card making.  

She took another while out, did pole dancing and burlesque and experimented with what she wanted to do and to come out of a routine, and also took up figure skating and ballet until an injury stopped her doing skating and ballet as she couldn't exercise for 8 months.  She did an exercise class and learned and qualified in teaching exercise to music, but isn't sure if she liked it for the sake of learning or if it was gratifying the eating disorder/controlling evil twin.

Fashion had always been a big part of her life and she'd always liked to stand out from the crowd but the eating disorder stopped her as she thought she wasn't tall enough or good enough.  She'd been thinking about modelling and decided she may as well try it at a course being run by a former Miss Caledonia, and found Nicola Creen's course gave her confidence, and my Eris Events fashion show was the first show she did done.  To progress professionally she joined online modelling and photography groups/forums and the practical experience was the next step where she was able to find her own things to do and work on shoots with other people (below are two images from a shoot I styled Leanne for ).  She also did photo shoots when telling her story.

Upcoming projects include a Gothic shoot in the Spring and a fashion shoot in late summer.  Days after I interviewed her in November 2014 she was doing a shoot for an exhibition, Beautiful Monsters (a couple of images below) which was exhibited in January.  She likes to do creative character modelling rather than commercial modelling and doesn't' want to put herself under the pressure that would demand to be a commercial model, she likes to do it for the experience and fun.


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