Sunday, 27 February 2011

Fashioning a Balance

As you can probably tell from my past few posts,  I work in the fashion industry.  I'm fortunate to work in the private, creative office of a luxury brand in the heart of London.

With the madness of London Fashion Week over and looking ahead to a couple of days in Paris this coming week, I've had a few moments to get back in touch with myself and my life over the weekend. There are so many things that come from these weeks of fashion- which editor/celebrity was at what show? Who is the model of the moment? Which online platforms were launched? What is the new "it" spot in that particular city? But what we mostly read about are the trends from that season: What kind of trousers are "in"? Is it all about pleating? Prints? Silk? Short hemlines? Tailored jackets? Tuxedos for women? Etc, etc.

I enjoy the excitement, hype and "insiders view" on what's to come in fashion immensely, but I can't help thinking about those people elsewhere in the world, and even in the same city, that struggle to put a single coat on their back, lest it be made of the finest cashmere or highest quality tweed. Those who wish for a single pair of clean trousers, never mind if they are made of the most luxe leather or distressed denim. The contrasts of lifestyle are significant and, if thought about deeply, quite shocking.  How does one balance this?

Arriving in the fashion world a short while ago, it has taken me over a year to begin to understand it. I wasn't raised with designer labels, massively artistic surroundings or an endless bank account. I was raised within an incredibly loving family, who believe that it's who you are inside that counts and exterior appearances will ultimately fade. The only real experience I had in the fashion world was modeling from ages 18 - 21, which ended abruptly when an agent offered to take me on only if I would consider (read: have) my hips shaved. I couldn't get to a gym fast enough (read: modeling over and insecurity complex doubled).

Fast forward to today. What I have learned in this period of time is that fashion goes much deeper than the skinny models and trends that appear in the pages of glossy magazines. Fashion is Art. It's an artist's view of life at that moment, their "looks," transformed into garments and accessories and showcased to the world on a catwalk. It is their message to the world; much like Monet's Water Lilies or Van Gogh's Sunflowers displayed in and toured around our famous, international museums. Each "look" began with a blank canvas and was created from the artists mind- an expression of who they are and the story they want to tell.

Personally, to look at fashion in this way has helped me understand and connect to this world. By having the ability to establish relationships with designers has also enabled me to understand the significance of supporting emerging talents as they have so much to contribute - and are so much more than what the Zoolander's have painted them out to be.

Still, the question of morality in this multi-billion pound industry tugs at my heartstrings. To think of the contrasts in this world- those with and those without. How do we justify what we are doing as the right thing? Yes, if what we do feeds, clothes and enables us to provide for our families- it is clearly important.

But where do we find balance in a world of such extreme unbalance?

Till next time x

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Quote for a Rainy Sunday

My mom had given me a book with this quote in it before I moved to London. I often find that it helps to lessen or just make sense of the pressures and anxieties that life can bring, reminds me that where I'm at in my life is OK, regardless of what others may think, and gives me hope for the future. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. x

"Don't ever forget that you are unique. Be your best self and not an imitation of someone else. Find your strengths and use them in a positive way. Don't listen to those who ridicule the choices you make. Travel the road that you have chosen and don't look back with regret. You have to take chances to make your dreams happen. Remember that there is plenty of time to travel another road- and still another- in your journey through life. Take the time to find the route that is right for you. You will learn something valuable from every trip you take, so don't be afraid to make mistakes. Tell yourself that you're okay just the way you are. Make friends who respect your true self. Take the time to be alone, too, so you can know just how terrific your own company can be. Remember that being alone doesn't always mean being lonely; it can be a beautiful experience of finding your creativity, your heartfelt feelings, and the calm and quiet peace deep inside you. Don't ever forget that you are special." - Jacqueline Schiff

Sunday, 6 February 2011

A Saturday Monologue

I definitely woke up on the wrong side of the bed last Saturday morning. I have no idea why; I had a lovely evening with my husband the night before and went to bed in a great mood knowing that I could sleep in the next day, waking up to the longed-for gift of 2 full days off. So why did I wake up at 9.03am with a sick feeling in my stomach?

Do you ever have those mornings where there's something nagging at you, but you can't put your finger on what it is? It confuses me to no end, and quite frankly frustrates me sometimes to the point of tears. I'm 27-years old, this is what I did when I was 14 and my hormones were all over the place. They should be pretty much sorted by now, no?

When I was single, those mornings were annoying, but I was able to slip under the radar for a bit, walking from my Hells Kitchen apartment in Manhattan to Starbucks for my morning coffee, over to the East side, always parallel to Central Park so I could take in its natural beauty, past the vendors selling their art on 5th Avenue, finally reaching either the Met or Neue Gallery to pay a visit to my favorite artists. And so by the time I finished studying Klimt's Adele Bloch-Bauer I, I was pretty much over my bizarre mood and ready to re-join the world.

Now that I'm married, I don't really have those single girl "privileges" anymore. However I feel in the morning is immediately carried over to my husband. Obviously when I'm in a good mood, he's in a good mood. But when I'm in this kind of a "I feel this way but I don't know why I feel this way but maybe you could help me because you're supposed to know me better than I know myself" mood, he's just plain confused.

The easy answer would be to tell him I need the morning "off" and to figure myself out. However, when you're as madly in love with someone as I am my husband, and you both start looking forward to the weekend together on Monday morning, the thought of not spending as much time with him as feasibly possible is really not an option.

So I spent most of the morning answering his friendly, unassuming question of "What do you want to do today?" with "I don't know!?" ("!"= frustrated grunt "?"= quivering lip, fighting a tear because I just don't know why I STILL feel this way?!) as I stared at the word "GOOGLE" on my computer screen, forgetting what I was searching for in the first place.

My one savior in this mess I made for 2 people rather than 1 is that I am running the London Marathon and, therefore, need to train. Saturday's are my "long run" days. So, with 12 miles ahead of me, I eventually got the motivation to put my kit on and get moving. As I was running through Hyde Park, Green Park, St. James' Park and Hyde Park one more time, I took the time to have a serious chat with myself. "What is wrong with you???," being the centre of my monologue, to which, as always, there was nothing but white noise in response.

I then went through the course of the morning in my head: my waking, my feeling, my attitude. I reminded myself that I really needed this run as I'd eaten way to much chocolate that week, and just because it's dark chocolate doesn't mean I can justify eating 3 large bars of it in 2 days. "Can't you feel the fat building up on your thighs?" I asked/scolded myself. These thoughts take up about 60% of my thinking on a normal run. If there's one thing I can rely on, it's that there is always something for me to criticize myself about. From eating too much chocolate to picking that pimple which made a lovely red mark in the middle of my forehead to my chubby cheeks (why can't I have beautiful, chiseled cheek bones rather than these stupid dimples?) to the fact that training for this marathon has caused my boobs to shrink a cup size (along with causing my body to shrink a dress size...but I'd never dare compliment myself about that). It goes on and on.

Then I finally came back to why I was feeling this way again. Still no answer. Then my mind went back to the single girl I was, and how in control I felt all of the time, to how out of control I now feel most of the time. Isn't life supposed to work itself out as you get older? And why was mine faced, almost on a daily basis, with so many uncertainties? Do most people feel this way? I'm sure they don't - everyone I pass in daily life looks like they have it all together.

My thoughts then digress to most mornings when I go into work. I tend to leave our flat or the gym feeling pretty ok, then as soon as I step outside something falls out of my pocket and as I go to pick it up the entire contents of my bag fall out because, clearly, I wouldn't put it down before kneeling to pick up whatever single item fell out of it in the first place, or the wind is blowing so hard that my hair flies everywhere I specifically placed it not to go, or then I trip over something (or nothing) in the street, which brings with it a silent verbal tirade and probably an actual shake of my head (so if I hadn't looked crazy before I most certainly do now) "Why am I like this??" "What am I doing?" are usually the questions that follow. Then, "Honestly, how do I have the job I do? Am I joking myself? Is this all a joke and sooner or later my boss will figure out that I actually don't know what I'm doing with work, let alone, with life itself?"

The monologue goes on and on. The self criticism never ends. As much as I've tried to stop it, or at least go easier on myself, it always seems to creep back in. I've sat in a program for 36 hours over 3 days, called Landmark, which brings you back to the first time you remembered feeling insecure and makes you ask yourself why you felt that way. Then, it brings you through the course of your life, highlighting those moments you used to reinforce that insecurity. It talks about those "voices" in your head that make you doubt yourself, and gives you tools to silence that voice. As much as this intensive program opened my eyes to some things, I continue to be my own worst critic.

So my run continues. However now, I begin to notice more things along my path- like the green of the grass, the boys playing football on the pitch to my left, the couple strolling hand-in-hand and the man in the wheelchair racing up that hill I always struggle with. I am filled with an overwhelming feeling of thankfulness. Who am I to be complaining about anything? I'm blessed to wake up with two strong, working legs. I get to spend my life with my best friend and man of my dreams. I'm not terrible looking. I'm so lucky that my family is healthy and happy and I can't wait to see them when they visit in April. I can't wait to hug my mom at the finish line of the marathon- having ran it in honor of her recovering from an emergency triple bypass back in August. I can't wait to get back home, take a shower and have a long, lazy lunch with my husband. I'm so fortunate to live in such a cultural and creative part of London, where I feel safe and secure. Wow- what a wonderful life I have.

Why does it take such a low-low to find such a high-high? I am constantly working with or against these two ends of the spectrum. Will it ever end? Will I ever be "normal?"

Who knows. I probably never will. But I'm getting to be ok with that. I guess it makes me who I am. And that's not so bad.

Till next time x