I've had flu and been a bit homeless this week so definitely a high point. I just found three starbursts in my coat pocket though. Every cloud...
I made a new header for the blog. The butterfly in the jar on a string disintegrated ages ago. Onwards. Perhaps upwards. We'll see.
I only ever seem to write blog posts when I'm feeling sorry for myself, which is probably a really terrible idea. Really I'm surprised I don't blog every day. Or at least every week, because I spend a lot of time feeling sorry for myself. And writing this bollocks is therapeutic. Anyway, I spend far too much time worrying about my tone or how interesting I'm being, which probably contributes quite heavily to my lack of blogging, and in turn makes me churn out weird and creepy internal-thought posts like this one. Call it 'immersive journalism' and stick it on xoJane. Best job I ever had, I tell you. Someone pay me.
This is about nothing in particular. Here's a list of things I did recently:
Went to my old writing teacher's book launch Started a new job working on editorial Made a new look to go out in and felt happy and confident and warm, and then felt really self-conscious about my personality Started learning Japanese properly Made friends with a middle-aged Irish man who is learning Japanese because his husband is Japanese and he wants to know what his husband is shouting at him when they argue Started Karate again Didn't make any new friends Got made to partner up with the fourteen-year-olds because we're more evenly matched in body-type and strength and height Struggled with staying committed Got chatting to someone who opened a door for me Sent some emails through said door Got scared and waited for a reply Sent some more emails through the door Stopped being scared and just became jaded when I realised the reply wasn't coming Still secretly hoped that the reply would come eventually Questioned myself and actually typed 'I feel like I'm not a good writer' into google Downloaded Candy Crush. Didn't regret it. Wasted many blissful hours popping dem candies Got drunk with work friends and wore lipstick and enjoyed myself at the time and then felt too young and stupid afterwards Told the tesco checkout I had a 60p croissant when really it was a £1.20 pain au chocolat Told no other lies Met people who I didn't relate to at all even though I tried really hard Sat in a room full of people I admired and knowing full well that I was the youngest, poorest and least successful person in the room, and getting a little kick out of knowing it Bought some new black contact lenses from Pak's in Peckham but decided they hurt my eyes too much so just ended up using my old purple ones and wasting £12.99 Finally found a house to move into (one week to go one week to go fingers crossed it works out) Wrote a blog post for once
It's been a long time since I've posted on here, but that's neither really here nor there.
You'd think it's because I'd finally managed to secure some stability in my life, but really the opposite is true. I've been extremely busy, but don't seem to be much closer to any kind of consistency. I'm still in London, for the time being, and just about managing to keep myself afloat.
I don't know where we got to when I last posted, but I'm now working in fashion. I won't say here which publication I'm working for, but it's a wonderful magazine and I think it suits me better than I expect any other London fashion mag would. Its aesthetic and direction are focused in a way that I can relate to, and it manages to be what it wants to be, without compromising on any level that I have yet experienced.
That isn't to say it's perfect. There are bits and bobs that need to be worked on, and I hope that I can be a part of its development in the future. I'm currently on a break, and will return in October to assume a different position. And I probably shouldn't say this but I do hope the hours will be more forgiving than they have been. What I'll learn when I get back I'm not sure, but Iam sure that I'll learn something. I'm anxious to prove myself and I'm terrified of fucking up, but I hope that just means that I care. Sometimes it would be nicer to care less.
The fashion industry in general hasn't surprised me, and I'm sad to say that this hasn't been in a way that I had hoped. I can't yet tell you with any confident degree of certainty what fashion is for. I was hoping it was for pushing boundaries, and progressing our ways of thinking through the use of aesthetics against the body, but I can't confirm that, at least not yet. I think what fashion is for is different for each photographer, each stylist. We all want something different out of it. And in a way I suppose that's the bounty of fashion – there is so much to choose from, to express, to perceive.
What has surprised me is the hard work. I have to remind myself that it's only clothes, only pictures. But the passion – and more potently the stress – that flows through the whole creative process, is hard to stomach, and makes it difficult to separate what really matters. I'm not yet ready to devote my entire life to the fashion industry, but I'm happy to devote my working week to it for now. I remain, cynical.
In other news, I'm learning Japanese, and I plan to go to Japan in the not-too-far future. I've been in London for four years now, and I'm hungry to taste an entirely different side of the world. I want a culture shock.
I can't really begin to update you on my past few months, but if you're interested you're best off looking through my instagram: http://instagram.com/ashleyjclarke
There hasn't been anything ultra life-changing. I've still been dressing up, and there's a few looks on there you might like/find funny.
I know this kind of diary post bullshit must be a bit boring to read, but it's good to get it out, unclogs the writing pipes, makes room for something a bit more topical. But I'm definitely not going to be writing anything about what Miley Cyrus does in relation to feminism and gender... It'll probably be about dressing up or sexuality or some other predictable bit of drivel that I come up with.
Hope you're happy, speak soon(er than before).
(deep and thoughtful picture taken from the inside of a moving train in order to add dramatic effect to end of blog post)
I feel obliged to reply to Susanne Madsen's recent article on Dazed Digital. Not just because I am the one pictured most prominently on it (there's a lol in here somewhere), but more that I am saddened at the profound lack of empathy towards those of us whom she considers – and let's not beat around the big top here – circus freaks.
Madsen's argument is that London Fashion Week is a 'frenzied spectacle' in comparison to its calmer cousin, London Collections: Men. Indeed, LC:M has come into its own over the past few seasons, and designers like Katie Eary, James Long and Meadham Kirchoff have propounded menswear into a domain of success previously unknown to the industry.
But this isn't what matters to Madsen. She is more concerned with preserving LC:M as what she calls one of fashion's best-kept secrets, and with keeping it a 'circus-free zone'. And she's not clowning around. Madsen envisions LC:M as a happy-clappy school outing, where the female fashion editors dress in a 'relaxed mood', swapping their Jimmy Choos for J Brand flats. Madsen then contradicts herself: "The menswear shows show less of a disconnect between runway and reality" yet, apparently "it’s still about what’s walking down the runway rather than what’s parading around outside." Here's an idea Susanne: how about we make LFW and LC:M judgement-free zones.
"You get a lot less bitching and a lot more people who actually seem to enjoy themselves at menswear." What? Strangely enough, I always have a fantastic time at fashion week, and the only bitching I heard was from people like you, incessantly whinging about the looks on the street rather than paying attention to the clothes on the catwalks.
Curiously, the article is illustrated exclusively with images of men dressed up at fashion week. Am I missing something, or is this a dig focused only at men who wish to dress up? I see, I see. The medieval idea that it's fine for women to be eccentric, to peacock themselves (see Anna Dello Russo), yet men are to be confined to the 'dapper' cages of suits, ties and tasteful pocket squares. Anything else is considered bizarre and over the top. We have forgotten, again, that fashion should be breaking these barriers down, not reinforcing them. Tut tut.
But perhaps I am being too rash, too hot-headed. Perhaps Madsen means only to say that those of us who attend menswear are less worried about getting snapped by the street style paps. Dressing up isn't always intended to stimulate a reaction from the outside; sometimes it's a lot more about how it makes you feel from within. If you take anything from this article, please, please, take that.
As I have said before, fashion is one of the few realms in which 'circus-types' are able to dress up without fear of abuse and judgement. Why be in fashion if you are so distressed by what people are wearing outside on the streets? Keep your eyes on the runway if you are offended.
I'm having a great time I promise
Madsen hopes that things will stay 'congenial' at LC:M. Let me assure you Susanne, that I, for one, will make sure that the circus is in town, season after season. I'll see you at the shows.
It's now been one year since I completed my degree, and I'm considering the progress I've made.
Life after graduation is, perhaps predictably, a disheartening anti-climax. As the weeks pile on top of one another, post-university life becomes stale faster than that Sainsbury's Basics bread you're still buying. What's worse, the student loan has long dried up, interest-free overdrafts become not-interest-free overdrafts, and that graduate job you were secretly hoping would waltz into your life is off dancing somewhere faraway in the distance.
The moment of truth where you enter the so-called 'REAL WORLD', as so defined by our parents and teachers since we were small, can only defined as a moment of truth in the way that finding out Father Christmas wasn't real can be defined as a moment of truth. If the preconception of the real world is Santa, then the REAL real world is the fat white man in the red suit and hat at the shopping centre that smells of beer and doesn't give a shit whether or not you get what you want for Christmas.
I entered the real world with a dreary thud, and accepting the fact that life moves nowhere without hard work is something that I'm currently struggling to swallow. Digesting it completely seems nigh impossible. But that's just my pessimistic side shining through with its black light.
I work so hard but I'm so lazy, and the fight between the two is exhausting. Some days I want to give up and just stay in bed, and vegetate my life away watching Girls and playing the Sims. But vegetating in the real world gets old. And knowing what you want is paramount; I'm fairly sure that what I do want isn't what I should want. Because all I want at the moment is an easy and boring life; the polar opposite to what I thought I wanted when I started uni. I want someone to tell me that perseverance is key, that it will pay off, that I will be able to say on my deathbed that I wouldn't have changed a thing. Sometimes, caring too much can be suffocating.
It's post-fashion-week in London, and I don't quite know where to start. Post-fashion-week always somehow feels post-apocalyptic. I could write thousands more words on this, but I'll keep it short. We are online, after all.
Fashion is changing. Of course, there is nothing groundbreaking about a statement like that. As Oscar Wilde once said, fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable we have to alter it ever six months. However, these past few seasons, the winds in the fashion industry have changed in ways that neither Wilde nor even Wintour could never have possibly predicted.
The influx of communicative technology into everyday life means that an industry which once was considered inordinately exclusive is now accessible to the masses. Which means that select circle of fashion's elite has been snapped apart, creating an influx of 'self-made' followers of fashion. Of course, the bloggers, camera-whores and dress-ups have always existed, but it was not until now that they had any means to break down the barriers of the industry, i.e. the internet. Fashion war is waging, and the outcome remains unknown. But there are those who have formed their opinions already.
My previous post directed a lukewarm anger at those who were denouncing the so-called 'circus of fashion'. In the nature of a childish tantrum, my rash rage has now subsided, and I am left agreeing with the other. In a fashion. Not entirely. I still believe that dressing outlandishly is perfectly acceptable, and fashion week is a brilliant opportunity to do so.
But I digress. At the core of her argument, Suzy Menkes, High Fashion Priestess of the New York Times, is right. She writes: 'Whether it is the sharp Susie Bubble or the bright Tavi Gevinson,
judging fashion has become all about me: Look at me wearing the dress!
Look at these shoes I have found! Look at me loving this outfit in 15
different images!' Fashion now revolves, at least to the internet generation, entirely around the self.
Because to us, everything is there to be shared. And instantly so.
New pair of shoes? New instagram photo of them. Maybe even add some hashtags #omgshoes. If not clothes or possessions, instagram profiles are littered with selfies. Varieties on the theme of "#brunette", "#girl", "#makeup", – and sometimes even the sinister "#pretty" – these pictures are autobiographical little snippets of the iphotographer's life.
(It seems to me that the #pretty hashtag isn't there because the author thinks they are actually attractive. They are simply looking for the validation of this from the internet, or, perhaps more accurately, through 'likes'.)
Which brings me back to fashion week, and its 'circus' of posers. Let's for a minute imagine that each click of a camera equals a 'like'. So when one supposed fashionista wanders down the cobbled slopes of Somerset House and is snapped fifty times by the surrounding paparazzi, others will look on, envious of the amount of 'likes' their outfit has produced. So competitions begin. They are subtle, but they are there. Because, really, there are few of us that don't want to be validated, and more so in the world of fashion.
First and foremost, I dress for myself. Yes, of course I also enjoy feeling validated by others, and commanding their attention through what I am wearing. This is human nature, and it's understandable. It is human nature to feel the need, as Stephen Fry has said, to be unique, but also the need to be accepted and loved, to be part of a wider community. Which is why it is so petulant when those 30+ year-olds might say, of goths, for instance, that 'they're all trying to be so different...', with a sneering, self-assured smirk, 'But they all end up looking the same!' in a statement which is essentially a gross oversight of human nature. To be different, but to be part of a community as well. We are sociable animals, and we need to feel part of something. Fashion is one of the primary ways through which we are able to achieve this.
"If fashion is for everyone, is it fashion?" – Suzy Menkes
I doubt I will ever truly understand what Suzy Menkes meant by that statement. I want to scream 'OF COURSE IT IS! WHY CAN'T FASHION BE FOR EVERYONE?!'
But I repress my tongue and turn the idea over and over in my head. Fashion, I slowly realise, is not for everyone. But of course. As an art form, it is not in fashion's nature to appeal to everyone, and although almost everything we do is touched in some way by fashion, that does not mean that everyone must care about it, lest 'follow' it.
My final word on Menkes is that I understand her. Her articles makes it clear that she craves the exclusivity that fashion offers, and it's a sentiment that I respect:
"Something has been lost in a world where the survival of the gaudiest is
a new kind of dress parade. Perhaps the perfect answer would be to let
the public preening go on out front, while the show moves, stealthily,
to a different and secret venue, with the audience just a group of
dedicated pros — dressed head to toe in black, of course."
My understanding of this is that Menkes wants people to appreciate fashion, to welcome its beauty, to peer it at cautiously with a critical but caring eye. An eye which is currently on the posing and attention and narcissism, which needs to be brought back to the craft, the art, the clothes. On closer inspection, the gap is clear between those who care about fashion, and those who only care about themselves.
Dressing outlandishly doesn't always mean one or the other, and I do think that we should not write off wacky dressers and assume they know nothing of fashion. People dress the way they do for thousands of reasons, and even if it is for attention, this doesn't necessarily mean they aren't a 'dedicated pro'. What better example than Anna Dello Russo.
A word on fashion bloggers: Those who work hard, and those who truly care about what they are doing, will always float above those who do not. Quality always triumphs eventually, and it would be naive to dismiss a blogger's opinion simply because they do not have an editor's title. We cannot, however, discredit a blogger simply because they are a blogger, neither credit an editor because they are an editor.
These are changing times in murky waters, and predicting the future of fashion is nigh impossible. Lauren Laverne noted in last week's style special Observer Magazine that trends are dead because everything is so instant and accessible through the internet. Which means that thousands of trends are happening all at once, and going in different directions, giving everybody different influences and inspirations through a daily dose of the internet. Which is an amazing thing. And it means that the nature of a trend, 'to go with the flow', is dead, because there is no flow anymore. Just a fluorescent lake of ever-changing colours, thoughts and feelings, just waiting to be tasted.
So this fashion week I worked for White Noise Magazine. (Click on the link to read my post on the Somerset House Headwear Collections – which were, by the way, astounding).
I managed to blag myself a press pass from a terrifying woman called Sue who told me off for not having a commissioning letter from my editor, but said 'JUST THIS ONCE' to me getting a press pass. 'Thank you so so much. It won't happen again', I wittered, shaking as I filled out my details, feeling like a fraudulent fashion fool. Because fashion is elitist and exclusive. But it's also fabulous.
I recently read some vile articles about the street style at fashion week, berating those who dress up for 'shock value', trivialising them as poseurs who cared nothing for fashion. 'The maddening crowd'. True true true, some of it is for attention. Certain people at fashion week scuttle around the courtyards of Somerset House, pretending to be on their phone, waiting, vying to have their picture taken. But in today's society, it is the norm towant to have your picture taken, for better or worse. It is not 'taking away what fashion should be about', because it isn't for anyone to say what fashion 'should' and 'shouldn't' be. Because fashion is open-minded. Because it's fashion.
The person that wrote it has obviously never dressed up in a way that others might consider ridiculous or mental. This is clear from the fact that they have not addressed how emancipating fashion week can be for those who feel they are not able to dress up the rest of the time for fear of being labelled a poser, a freak, an attention seeker etc etc. Fashion week provides an outlet for this. The courtyard is a safe space to express yourself through your clothing, and a place that applauds difference and creativity, rather than the large majority of the earth that rejects uniqueness. And I know these authors were not necessarily writing about 'uniqueness', but I certainly think that they have not thought about the liberating aspects of fashion when they wrote articles like that one. Everyone wants to feel special, to feel fashionable, to be looked at for the right reasons and not the wrong ones.
I dressed up at fashion week. In the way that I usually dress up to go out to clubs and parties. So whilst I felt like a poser, I did not feel like an imposter. My outfit was for me, no one else, so that I felt creative, so that I felt I was showcasing my mind rather than my body – something that fashion sometimes drifts from. Dressing up for me is a way of extending my mind through my appearance in a world where physical appearance is paramount. Dressing up is my way of destroying that. At least on a personal level.
Impractical, uncomfortable and even dangerous, my outfits and creations made me feel at home at fashion week. Because they were my own. And I felt special, and fabulous and happy. But not because I had my picture taken many times. Because I knew I had injected my own creativity into my style. I knew I had expressed myself. And if others appreciated that, brilliant, if they didn't, whatever. It was never about attention or fawning; it was about emancipation, security and expression.
Sorry for my essay. Here's my LFW AW13 in pictures:
I made my headpiece. It's the first proper thing I've made. I originally made it to go out to the ICA and East Bloc, but I wore it for fashion week and it was really fun. It's an old leather headband, mesh and fabric.
Based on goat/satyr horns, childhood nightmares, fairytales and genderless human transcendence.
Sancho's blind lady look. In Sancho's own words: 'best fashion week I never saw'.
Photo by Sancho
'Someone needs posing 101'
KTZ afterparty at DSTRKT, photo by Hatnim Lee
I made another headpiece in under two hours. I think I might start making them with more finesse and care and actually make a collection for fun, because I loved doing them so much. I met up with Martha properly on this day and it was great to see her. I hope we have many more fashion weeks to look forward to together in the future.
Lewis after the party which posed as a fashion magazine issue launch but just turned out to be a horrid bear party.
Jenkin, Lewis and I before we went to said horrid bear party.
Lewis, me and Krisha at XOYO
A couple of weeks before at the Institute of Contemporary Arts for Loulou Reloulou's wonderful PLAYGROUND collection:
I'm off to the box now, bye bye. Also I am going down part time in my shitty shitty job. And I'm so excited. I might even blog more.
Sorry for my tone, I feel that it wasn't quite right. Speak soon,