Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams

I was lucky enough to get tickets for the Christian Dior exhibition at the V&A museum. In 1947, Christian Dior changed the face of fashion with his ‘New Look,’ which redefined the female silhouette. Coming from an Art background with a love for intricate and interesting architecture, I admired the use of architectural-like frames dedicated to the human body throughout all the designs on show. The black line drawn illustrations on the white walls leading to the exhibition began the championship of the Dior artistry and craftsmanship of haute couture; they were seamlessly simple, yet intricate and eye-catching.

I really could visualise what Dior meant by the quote, “Everything created by human hands expresses something – above all the personality of the creator.” (1954) The space portraying the work of the individual creative directors really displayed each of their distinctive styles and interpretations of the Dior brand and their values. Some designers, such as Marc Bohan’s, built on the classic Dior tailored aesthetic; whereas John Galliano’s were exuberant and really pushed the boundaries in terms of the expected for the fashion house. Galliano’s creations really stood out as being the anomalies of the whole exhibition.

When mum and I were discussing our favourite pieces from the exhibition, I seemed to be unintentionally drawn to the designs by Maria Grazia Chiuri, the current creative director at Dior. She celebrates feminism in a modest yet open way, understanding and representing the women of today. She also appears to acknowledge and build on the creativity and craftsmanship of the previous creative directors, as well as respecting the classic Dior elegant style. What I think works effortlessly is her mix of modern tailoring and ethereal romantic style to create beautiful evening gowns, keeping the designs youthful, yet true to the brand’s values of feminism.

A couple of my favourite pieces were the Mémoire D’hiver Dress (2017) and Brise Mémoires Ebsemble (2017). The hand-painted silk petals, caught between the layers of delicate fabric, looked stunning and I now appreciate the time and skill that went into making such a gown, as well as the narrative behind the flowers that the petals represent. I loved the simplicity which made the delicate individual flowers become the focal point and therefore a brilliant tribute to Dior’s love for his garden.

I adored the ball-gown space where the dresses where displayed in a regal mirrored circular silhouette, highlighted by white spotlights. I was able to see the dresses close up and therefore the finer details appeared magnified. I was in awe of the beaded, sequin numbers, just as much as the effortlessly minimal designs made of silk. Anyone wearing any of these gowns would feel as if they were in a dream; I could imagine it would be a real fairy tale experience.

The toiles also fascinated me. As consumers, the finished garment is the focal point and all that can be visualised, however seeing a room full of mock-up garments really brought home to me the stages that a design goes through when being ‘brought to life.’ I think I was most surprised by the pen and pencil marks on the stark neutral fabric.

I came away with a deeper understanding of Christian Dior himself, with specific regard to how he changed fashion history. The Dior signature style has developed and evolved over the years, however the handmade attention to detail remains constant, as well as the extraordinary craft and skill that goes into every garment.

Rachel

Autumn Wolf Run 2018

At the time of writing this, yesterday I tackled woods, obstacles, lakes and fields – the Autumn Wolf Run 2018.

My parents drove me to Welsh Road Farm in Warwickshire where I met my friend, her boyfriend, his sister and her friend. I signed in at the registration desk, showed my ID and received my running number and wristband. During the early morning and the drive to the location, I was feeling apprehensive to say the least. I didn’t really know what to expect; I was worried I wouldn’t be able to accomplish it.

For those who aren’t aware, The Wolf Run is an off-road run featuring a series of man-made and natural obstacles located throughout the course. The concept behind the Wolf Run is to re-create the feeling of running in natural terrain. This experience and wild run allowed me to experience natural, raw running conditions whilst also facing a challenging, interesting and enjoyable event.

I was surprised by the range of people taking part in the event. There were so many different abilities with people running and racing through the whole course, and others just walking and tackling their own battles. For me, it was more of a competition against myself and my inner voice. It was pleasing to see the number of people running for a charity and as part of a supportive group – people were really willing each other on.

The ancient woodland trails and deep water crossings were just a few of the battles I faced during this adventure. High climbing nets, log walls and the famously fast landslide were other challenges on the 10k course.

I wasn’t expecting the amount of trails through woodlands; I found it challenging to avoid tree roots, branches and other elements while running through the trees, it was very slippery too. There really was a series of physical challenges from lake swims to mud pits, fallen trees, boggy ground, ditches, hills and dense foliage.

Every step tested me physically, you really do need some upper and lower body strength, but it was definitely more mentally testing. The course provided an excellent all-body workout that, if you completed the course each season, will leave you feeling fitter, stronger and more confident. After several leg-ups from others, I managed to climb and jump most of the obstacles.

Some of the hardest bits for me were the Alpha Lake and the massive water slide. I managed to conquer the mud and climbs with just a little hesitation; however the lake was just too cold for me to function. The lake was 175cm deep so standing up for most was not an option. I managed to get in up to my shoulders, but it just took my breath away and made me panic, I didn’t want to risk getting half way across and not be able to move. Even at water parks, I have always been too scared to ride the water slides. This one was even longer than I had witnessed previously.

My friends just ran and jumped up to it and disappeared down the slope – they had each done the run two or three times before so they were used to all of the challenges. It took me a couple of minutes and persuasion and reassurance from the marshals and others, but I did it. I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t!

Climbing over the obstacles was somewhat easier at the beginning compared to when I was wet and my hands and shoes were covered in layers of mud. The obstacles were also covered in water and mud from previous runners, leaving them extremely slippery and slimy and almost impossible to get a grab hold. There was one wall in particular that I just didn’t want to risk getting to the top and slipping off.

I wanted to tackle the monkey bars or at least attempt them. However, because of my height there was no way I was going to be able to reach the bars to even start, despite standing on the massive black platform provided. One of the marshals said he’d give me a leg up, I tried to jump and the next thing I knew I had fallen from quite a height and people were running up to me asking if I was alright. I heard my shoulder or collar bone click and I instantly knew that I had badly bruised my leg. At the time, I got up straight away and continued running; I was just so grateful that I didn’t break anything.

I crossed the finish line coated in mud and muddy water from head to toe and received my Finisher’s Wolf Runner shirt. I tried to wash off as much mud as possible with the water hoses, and then my mum helped me in the changing tent to get my wet clothes off me and wipe me down, before putting on fresh clothes.

When I got home I was excited to see all of the photos taken, but I also became aware of the state my legs were in. Where I had fallen, I had a massive blue/purple swollen patch on the back of the leg with scratches and also there was a series of red bruises all the way up the front of both legs.

The first thing I did when I arrived back was have a shower and try to get the mud off my body and out of my hair. I felt so much better after this. My mum kindly tackled my muddy shoes and clothes and did such a great job of de-mudding everything, even my trainers which were plastered!

This was possibly one of the mentally hardest things I’ve ever done, but I’m so glad I pushed myself to do it. It is an experience I will never forget. Some parts were definitely a challenge for me, considering I hate getting muddy and am afraid of open water, but being surrounded by such friendly encouraging people really helped me to overcome some of these doubts.

If you are up for the challenge and want to push yourself out of your comfort zone, I would really recommend signing up for one of these adventures.

Rachel

Art installation celebrating Maltese proverbs

Whilst my family and I were in Malta, we made sure that we took a day trip to Valletta, the capital city. What stood out to me the most were the statues dotted around the stone streets. These statues depict and celebrate Maltese proverbs. This temporary art installation includes 13 statues and many of them are definitely thought provoking.

The pop-up statues are said to symbolise old Maltese sayings which I found really interesting. They are erected in Triton Square and Castle Square as part of the Valletta 2018 celebrations. The innovative statues include an outstretched hand holding a bird, a man with his head stuck in an onion, a pig swallowing a snake, and three cows standing on top of each other.

The ‘Kif Jghid Il-Malti’ project is the work of Maltese artists Joel Saliba and Margaret Pace from Ikona Artworks, assisted by Sara-Lee Zammit, Chris Galea and Perry Scenic Ltd. The aim of the art is to encourage people to reflect on the Maltese language. Although I do not know any Maltese, the statues really showed me the culture of not only the capital, but also Malta as a whole.

Some of the statues puzzled me and visually took me a while to decide what the sculpture was of. One in particular that did this was the one of a prickly pear-headed figure looking at their watch. I can only imagine all of the creative selfies that have been taken next to some of the installations.

Below are some of my favourite finds around the capital.

‘Minn widna jidhol u mill-ohra johrog’

‘In from one ear and out the other’ – this is said of people who choose to ignore whatever other try to tell them.

‘L-ewwel ma tiekol l-ghajn’

‘It’s the eye that eats first’ – people tend to judge things by first impressions so outward appearances count, just as food must be presented attractively.

‘Min jidhol bejn il-basla u quoxritha jibqa b’rigitha’

‘Those who insert themselves between the onion and its skin will be marked by its odour.’ – those who poke their noses in other people’s affairs are asking for trouble.

‘Il-baqra kollha tinbiegh’

‘The whole cow sells’ – different people have different tastes; what one person may like another might not.

‘Il-hanzir taqtaghlu denbu hanzir jibqa’

‘Cut off a pig’s tail and he will still remain a pig.’ – people set in their ways will not change no matter what.’

‘Tghoddx il-flieles qabel ifaqqsu’

‘Do not count your chickens before they hatch.’ – don’t make future plans based on wishful thinking.

‘Is-zmien isajru l-bajtar’

‘Time ripens the prickly pears.’ – people acquire experience and wisdom with the passage of time.

‘Ahjar ghasfur f’idejk milli mija fl-ajru.’

‘Better a bird in your hand than a hundred in the air.’ – what we already own is certainly ours whereas the same cannot be said of the things we can only dream of having.

They were definitely all unique and interesting and made wandering the streets of Valletta even more enjoyable, wondering what statue we would come across next. I liked how the majority of the sayings were centred on respect for others and ourselves.

Rachel

Clean Yoga Lunch

Here’s the event page for our Clean Yoga Lunch on Saturday 7th July on the Nottingham Embankment. The aim of the event was to keep the conversation about movement, the outdoors and the environment going.

How can we live more sustainability? I really believe that we can all be kinder to each other and the environment using the tools of yoga and gratitude. I would like to thank Hannah and Vicky, two amazing yoga teachers, lifestyle coaches and wonderful people, for organising such an uplifting event.

The event began with a 75 minute outdoor practice: Yogi’s and likeminded individuals coming together as a community to take a step back and appreciate everything we have around us, both in ourselves and our environment.

I had never experienced yoga outside before and luckily the weather was on our side and was a sunny and warm Saturday. The setting was so picturesque; we were situated under some trees with the river opposite us. I am a lover of being outdoors and I found the session incredibly therapeutic, providing fresh air and many additional benefits. The strong outdoor practice allowed me to reconnect with myself and to those around me, to nature and to the surroundings. At the end of the 75 minutes I felt energised and positive, this was possibly aided by the constant sounds of nature around us.

The practice was followed by a delicious lunch. 200 Degrees Coffee supported the event and the fight against waste. They provided us with a scrummy picnic and drinks. We all had zero waste in mind so brought along our own reusable cutlery, cup and Tupperware or plate. I opted for a combination of fruity Moroccan cous cous and mixed veggies salad with turmeric and ginger dressing which was very delicious and satisfying after the session. Sweet treat were beetroot brownies and quinoa flapjacks which were equally divine, especially the gooey brownies!

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t was lovely sitting on the grass, enjoying our food and talking to likeminded individuals about what we can all do to make a difference, no matter how big or small. We can all inspire behaviour change. So in everyday life as we go about our day, if you see some litter, bin it. We can together make more aligned choices by being conscious, choosing to reuse, refill or recycle.

I really feel that this topic is so important. The world is vast, the amount of plastic which has been produced in the last 60 years isn’t going away, we need to be the change and choose sustainable living to tackle this problem with plastic. We all have to start somewhere. I found it came so naturally to me when I started more deeply respecting the environment, others and the world itself.

Some great conversations and recommendations about what we can do in our own home to produce less waste were:

• Switching to Soap Shampoo and Conditioner (Zero Packaging Waste)

• Soap instead of Shower Gel (Zero Waste)

• Tooth Tabs (Plastic Bottle can be recycled)

• Switching to Bamboo Tooth Brush

• Using a Compost Bin

• Carry a Tote Bag

• Where possible source more locally, support your community.

• Refill (Invest in a good bottle, travel cup)

• Reuse (Where ever possible reuse what we already have, take our own cutlery, or invest in travel cutlery)

• Loose Tea Leaves. Yes most, not all, teabags have plastic in them.

I know it could seem very overwhelming looking at the possibilities above, however making just one change could really make a difference. I started with recycling everything that I could, carrying a reusable bottle round with me everywhere I go and asking coffee shops and restaurants to refill it for me. Also I always have a small foldable bag inside my handbag or backpack instead of using plastic ones. My next steps are going to be investing in a bamboo tooth brush and looking into soap forms of shampoo and conditioner.

I really feel that the event was so successful at creating more awareness, generating conversations, getting people interacting, talking, and working together on this fight against waste. Events like this are not just for Yogi’s, but for anyone who wants to make a difference and be the change this world needs in the fight against waste and single use plastics. I really encourage you to go to future similar events; together we can make steps to change our future.

This wonderful event linked perfectly with the Plastic Free July movement currently happening. Below I have inserted an image showing all the ways you can reduce your single use plastic consumption and make a huge difference. I’m very excited about the next similar event in August.

Together we can make this change! The world is waking up and things are happening, plastic bags, straws and cotton buds are just the start.

Rachel

Homemade Cafe

Serving locally sourced goodness, the Nottingham-based cafe is located on Pelham Street, just off Market Square. The cafe is open for brunch, lunch and afternoon treats all served in a small, yet welcoming space.

If you have read any of my food/cafe blogs previously, you’ll be aware that I enjoy discovering independent coffee shops with my mum whenever she comes to visit me at University. We were able to spot Homemade from the street from their delicious window display of homemade cakes and savoury treats. The space is perfect for lunch with friends, coffee fuelled work sessions or just enjoying a slice of cake alone.

Inside the Homemade we spent some time looking at the menu and checking out their chalkboard menu for the specials and soup of the day. They offer everything from classic full breakfast to pancakes and from burgers to quiches. They also have a selection of salads, sandwiches, cakes and assorted savoury and sweet options.

In the end, I chose the halloumi, roast tomato, egg and spinach on sourdough. It was delicious and definitely lived up to my expectations; satisfying my lunch cravings! It was also presented very nicely which added to the appeal for me.

My mum went for the tart of the day which consisted of roast vegetables and feta with a choice of two of the salads: the beetroot salad and superfood one. The portion size was very generous and we both got a lot for our money; definitely great value.

We were very temped by the sandwiches on the specials board and one in particular being the sweet potato, spinach and roasted pepper option which also comes with a salad also. On the menu, the falafel, pitta bread, tomatoes, and salad option and the vegan wrap with sweet potato, hummus, chickpea, red pepper, and spinach with one deli salad, sounded equally as delicious.

Both myself and my mum really enjoyed eating at Homemade and I am pretty sure that I am not the only one; we’ll definitely be going back. I also liked their views on how food should be perceived: “Homemade believes in proper food, that means proper tasty butter not rubbish additive filled margarine, sandwiches made with traditionally baked breads, jacket potatoes fluffy and oven baked and not from a silly microwave.”

I really appreciate the fact that their dishes are all freshly prepared with love and good old fashioned baking, and filled with ‘real’ ingredients; we will be going back soon!

Rachel

V&A Fashioned from Nature

Earlier this week I attended the Fashioned from Nature exhibition at the Victoria &Albert museum in London. It is the first UK exhibition to explore the complex relationship between fashion and nature from 1600 to the present day.

The exhibition was so much larger than I expected spanning two levels. It presents a large array of fashionable dress alongside natural history specimens and innovative new fabrics and dyeing processes. The whole display definitely got me thinking about the materials of fashion and the sources of my clothing. I saw everything from botanical embroidery to earrings made from birds of paradise. It really opened my eyes to how complex the relationship between nature and fashion really is and I can understand why it is controversial.

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I agree with Edwina Ehrman, the curator of the new V&A exhibition who states; “…if we are going to change our mind-sets and the way we consume, we need to remind ourselves what we really value about nature.”

Spanning 400 years, Fashioned from Nature, explores the garments and accessories that have been inspired by nature’s awesome power and beauty throughout history but also investigates fashion’s impact on the natural world and the devastating effects of manufacturing on our environment. The exhibition showcased popular styles from as far back as the 17th century up to present day. Items included were things such as an 1875 pair of earrings formed from the heads of two real Honeycreeper birds and a 1860s muslin dress decorated with over 5000 iridescent green wings pulled from live jewel beetles. The exhibition moves through the 18th century, looking at the principle fibres such as flax, cotton, silk and wool as well as the use of feathers, furs and even bones, including Whalebone which I couldn’t quite believe.

It really revealed the true cost of fashion and also showcased pioneering designers and innovators harnessing fashion’s creativity to develop a more responsible system that respects, protects and celebrates the natural world.

At the top of the stairs on the first floor, the dress worn by Emma Watson to the Met Gala 2016 stands on display amongst terrariums. It was in collaboration with Calvin Klein and every part of the gown was produced sustainability. Newlife (a yarn made from post-consumer plastic bottles) was used, the zippers fashioned from recycled materials, and the threads of the dress were woven in a reinvented tale of our consumption. The design also has different layers so that separate components could be worn again in different ways.

The exhibition also presents a range of solutions to reducing fashion’s impact on the environment from low water denim and the use of wild rubber to more conceptual and collaborative projects. There is a section on fashion protest highlights from Vivienne Westwood and Katherine Hamnett alongside posters from sustainability campaigners and pieces from sustainable pioneer Stella McCartney.

Possibly my favourite piece from the exhibition, came from Stella McCartney. The bag is made from Mycelium which is the underground root structure of a mushroom. I feel that this development reflects the designer’s commitment to material innovation. This particular garment combination had simple silhouettes and a neutral colour palette. I feel that this makes the concept of nature fashionable and appealing to a wide range of tastes, making sustainability no longer seen as something special. It should be seen as every day and not a luxury in my opinion.

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On the other hand, I really thought that the ‘Cat Women’ dress was very striking but not necessarily for the right reasons. The ‘Leopard skin’ draped over the front of this evening gown is crafted entirely from beads. The position of the head emphasises the female form, clinging in an ambiguous embrace. Even though it is not real fur, it looks so realistic and so I really didn’t like it; I’m definitely against animal hunting.

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Fashion futures 2030: we can shape the future through our values and actions. Environmental, economic, social, cultural and technological changes will take place over the globe, in turn unfolding the future.

Things we can do in the future:

1. Living with less: nature based and globally connected.

2. Hyper hype” technology paced and economically stimulated

3. Safety race: regionally located and culturally fragmented

4. Chaos embrace: people centres and governance re-invented

I now appreciate the amount of in-depth research that occurs between designers, technicians, scientists and the sharing of information that is helping to move views about the origins of our fashion forward. I really feel that we can all make socially conscious decisions in terms of our wardrobes, ultimately benefiting the health of our precious planet. By looking at the wider issue of environmentalism, this show is urging all of us to incite change.

Clothes are something that touch our lives every day, and I appreciate the creation of an exhibition that highlights the importance of questioning where, how and by whom our clothes are made. Watson sums up the whole event effortlessly; “Regardless of social or economic status, we can all dress and shop more mindfully and sustainably. It is so important and timely that we now re-conceptualise what it means to wear and consume, and what is fashionable.”

Rachel

Learning NOT To Be Perfect

I recently read an article in Balance magazine that focused on the exploration of the link between perfectionist tendencies and mental health issues. For as long as I can remember, I have always striven for ‘perfection’ whatever that might be, this included things from organisation to artwork and from presentation all the way to food.

Although at the time failures really get us down and can maybe even cloud our vision, I really believe that teaching ourselves to accept flaws and mistakes could have a positive impact on our overall outlook.

Growing up in the digital age has created a generation facing issues like none before it. Student suicide numbers have been in the news a lot over the last few months. According to the article, a new study has shown that those aged between 18 and 25 really are more sensitive than previous generations. Research in Psychological Bulletin suggests that ‘perfectionistic tendencies’ have increased over the past 30 years and, when a goal isn’t reached, it’s followed by a brutal self-assessment of failure, which is something I am very familiar with. This, for some, can also lead to depression and associated aspects of mental health issues, such as anxiety, OCD and eating disorders.

Great Expectations

“It’s evident that the number of people with perfectionistic tendencies is on the rise. We’ve also seen a rise in youth mental health issues, which feed into the expectations that run parallel to perfectionism.” says Dr Thomas Curran, co-author of the study and lecturer at the University of Bath.

The article explained that the study, ‘measured whether subjects had high personal expectations (self-oriented perfectionism), social expectations (socially-prescribed perfectionism), or expectations of others (other-oriented perfectionism).’ The results did not surprise me even in the slightest: all three dimensions increased, but the perception that the social environment is more demanding went up twice as much as the other two categories. I really feel that my generation’s perceptions of social expectations are much higher now compared with previous generations.

As a result of all of the advancements in today’s society, we are growing up in a more challenging set of economic and social circumstances that is in my opinion enhanced by the emergence of social media. I have previously fallen into the trap of comparing my own self-image with others, as well as their perceived ‘perfect’ lifestyles. It is predicted that by 2030, mental health problems will be both the leading type of disease and cause of death worldwide.

Curb Your Enthusiasm

Speaking from experience, when perfectionists constantly strive and look for success, falling short leaves us feeling even worse, with rising thoughts of lack of self-worth. It is often becomes this unattainable place we want to get to. In the moment, I always forget that it’s about the process and learning along the way. However, when perfectionists, like myself do succeed, I often put the positive outcome down to luck and move onto finding the next thing to strive for perfection.

I really think that we all need reminding that yes we may work hard or set high goals, but we need to be fair to ourselves and also to be aware of the vicious cycle: the idea that success is what makes you happy is almost a trap.

Below I have summarised the advice given in the article; these are all things we should always remember!

Always be mindful of ‘all or nothing’

One mistake doesn’t equal a failure: focus on the good stuff.

Perfect/imperfect

Aiming for perfection is an imperfect mindset. You’re setting yourself up for failure; aim high, but be realistic.

Enjoy the process, not the destination

The process brings meaning and therefore, greater happiness.

Do it for yourself

Recognise your strengths and successes.

Don’t fear failure

Remind yourself that mistakes are an opportunity to learn faster, and often lead you in a better direction as a result.

Perfect is the enemy of great

How many projects have you thrown away because they weren’t perfect, or because you were worried how others would judge them? Getting something out is better than abandoning your hard work.

Good enough? Good enough!

No matter how many mistakes you make, or how slow you progress, embrace ‘good enough’ and sharing your work.

You raise me up

Surround yourself with people who lift you up, not put you down.

Socially aware

Most people feel worse after being on social media if they use it aimlessly, compared to if they’re on it for a set period or using it as a tool to catch up with friends and family.

Let’s finish with a reality check. Are you a self-doubter like myself, jumping to negative conclusions, making situations worse than they need to be, thinking of the worst in all situations? Keep reminding yourself that if it won’t matter in five years’ time, don’t stress and worry about it too much!

Rachel