17 January 2019

Bliss On HBA

Hood By Air
Spring/Summer 2014 (Look 36)

Bliss has me wanting to deep dive into Shayne Oliver's work.

I absolutely love this Swiss Army knife of a garment - it seems to do everything at once in a way that is not taking itself too seriously. It really is a fun piece, so please do be sure to watch the videos above. I will admit that I have never paid all too much attention to Hood By Air, because my overriding image of it was the printed slogan tops that used to be the fuccboi uniform de rigueur (perhaps we can get into a few theories about what it is nowadays in a future post?). But seeing this garment made me appreciate just what work Oliver was actually doing, away from the Instagram- and streetstyle-friendly pieces. I always love going back and being able to explore a designer's work, and because Hood By Air is now essentially defunct, there is a neat body of work to be studied. This is exactly the type of content I want to consume more of this year. Check out the full channel here!


7 January 2019

New Year, New Wardrobe

Well, at the very least, a better wardrobe.

2018 was a difficult year for me, what with health issues and immense pain to contend with, and the year ending like I had the rug snatched out from under me. However, the magic of falling so far down that even rock bottom looks like an improvement, is that the only way is up (lateral movement notwithstanding, but I see that more like an attempt to find the right foot holes to head up). New Year's is a period of reflection for most of us, and indeed I used those few days to focus in on what work I want to do in order to tackle the goals that I have set myself for this year. In order to do the job correctly, you have to use the right tools, and for me, as ever, part of that is contained in how I dress myself and how I present myself. Our clothed self is our social skin, but it is also how we tend to perceive of our selves, and I could most certainly see the toll that a major depressive slump had taken on my wardrobe and general appearance. I do find it interesting to see how I can track the general state of my well-being according to the state of my wardrobe at the time, whether it be through compensating with super colourful clothes, or hiding away with oversize black sweats.

Several months ago my therapist asked me at the end of a session whether I was wearing "insecurity" black or "fashion" black. It was meant to be a throwaway comment as I was leaving. I remember replying instantly that they were the same thing, but it was a question that burned in my mind for weeks. I came to realise relatively recently that I was indeed draping myself in insecurity black, in depression black, in hide-away-from-the-world black, but when had I made that transition? Why had I not noticed until long after someone had pointed it out to me? My knee jerk reaction at the time was to look into colour, and so I bought a pink shirt a short while later as a way of experimenting. But as soon as I put it on, I knew that something was not quite right. I had bought a piece not because I liked the piece, but purely for the colour, which is to say, I wore it all of twice and resigned it to the back of my wardrobe. Having said that, I did enjoy seeing the millennial pink trend recently, because dusty pinks actually really suit my skin colour, and used to be my favourite colour to wear in my Crayola days (even though at the time I was using acid bright colours to distract people from seeing me - I thought if I could make them just see the clothes, they would never see the person beneath).

As you might expect, the worse my mental health got, the worse my wardrobe and general appearance seemed to get. Hardly surprising, but even so, it was a gradual change for me, and so I did not notice as it was happening. I have actually taken a photograph of myself daily for the past few years, and so it was only recently when I was going through the images for the past year that I could see so clearly that decline. At some point, I just stopped caring. And yet, I actually spent the past year getting back in touch with all the things that made me fall in love with fashion in the first place. It is something that I will hopefully cover in an upcoming podcast episode, but I think that this year I want to start acting on it. Here is this field that drives me, that fascinates me, and, when I talk about it, makes me feel more like me than anything else, and yet my daily reality was not reflective of that. But now I want to get back into the fold, organically, slowly, but in doing so I know that I can come to reflect the journey and growth that I am undergoing as a person. Lofty words for something so simple as the clothes on my back, but all the same, those clothes are how I choose to present myself to the world.

'Fashion' black is still what excites me, and so I do not think that I will be exploring colour to any great extent at anytime soon. But I now know that there is a world of difference between 'insecurity' black and 'fashion' black. Not in the colour, but in the use of that colour. And so to kickstart a positive reframing of that relationship once again, I decided to do what a lot of people seem to be doing right now, apparently because of Marie Kondo on Netflix, which is clear out my wardrobe. I have not actually read or seen any of Marie Kondo, but my sister got the book last year, cleared out her stuff, then regretted it a few months later. I can most certainly sympathise, but for me, clearing out my wardrobe and possessions is something that I try to do relatively frequently, and I am more than comfortable with letting go of my things. In fact for the longest time I have been toying with the idea of getting into the habit of giving my favourite piece of clothing to charity every year or so, just to see how that might change my relationship with my own personal clothing. If anyone has seen the Marie Kondo show and recommends it, please do let me know.

I think that I essentially did the equivalent of gorging myself on fast food. Not that I bought a ton of fast fashion, but rather I bought quite a number of cheaper items that I would never have otherwise bought and worn, simply because for a long while I just did not care anymore. I lost that confidence in myself, and so I thought that I was not worth nicer clothing. Again, one of those gradual declines, rather than an overnight decision, and so it crept up on me. But that is essentially what I plan on working on in order to correct this year. Obviously the issue is greater than clothing, but it is for me a good way to frame that experience. A clear outward manifestation of internal struggles I suppose. Indeed I think it is fascinating to observe the way that psychological trauma manifests itself in the body physically, and I would argue that this is carried across to how we choose to dress and adorn ourselves, especially as the majority of us do not spend our days in the nude (more power to you if you do though). I actually talk to my therapist about this from time to time, and he tells me that he is so well versed in how a person struggling with depression or anxiety carries themselves, that you can often tell when walking past people, not just in their posture, but even in the way that they are dressed. When pressed he was unable to give specifics, but he simply knew that there was something 'off' about the clothing, whether they were trying to hide themselves or distract from themselves, both of which I have experienced personally.

I feel lighter whenever I clear out my wardrobe - here is an opportunity for a fresh start, to become the person I know that I am. I am reminded of the mantra - "fail fast and fail often", because that is the best way to learn and grow, and I very much see the evidence of that in how my wardrobe has changed over the years. I have not been as dramatic as I once was, when several years ago I reduced my wardrobe down to two outfits, one that I could wear while the other was in the wash, but I did not need to this time around. I have a better understanding of my relationship with my clothing, even though this time around it took me a while to see what was right in front of me. And so I have cleared out the things that were not quite right, that were filling the gap, that allowed me to hide, that were me resisting (to quote Jung, "what we resist not only persists, but grows in size"). It seems simultaneously like a grand move and an utterly meaningless one to gut out my wardrobe, but I like that reminder from time to time. I want a wardrobe that I love and makes me feel comfortable as I am, not one that serves to deflect from what I wish I was not.

TL;DR - I donated a ton of clothes, and am working on getting back to having a fire wardrobe this year, because I am worth so much more than baggy black sweats. Learning to respect myself again.


26 December 2018

Episode 09 - "Thank U, Next Year"

Episode 09
"Thank U, Next Year"

The podcast is back! Hope you all had a beautiful Christmas, and are currently snuggled up and feeling content. What a year it has been. I know people say that every year, but this year has been pretty darn hectic and unpredictable. In this episode I look at some of the bigger fashion stories of this year (...and just my luck, the Raf Simons departure from Calvin Klein was announced a few hours after I finished recording!). So curl up, or go for a run, or wash the dishes, or whatever it is you do while listening, and we'll talk about social media, Off White Nikes, that Zara jacket, and Kanye West being even more Kanye West than we knew Kanye West could be.

Hope you enjoy the episode!


6 November 2018

Review: Uniqlo Fluffy Fleece

Uniqlo Fluffy Yarn Fleece - £19.90
For reference I am wearing a Size Small, and am 184cm/68kg

Please note: this is not a sponsored post, the item was personally purchased

My wardrobe goal for this Autumn/Winter season is pretty simple - keep is cosy.

I have only recently started paying attention to Uniqlo again, thanks primarily to the Christophe Lemaire collaboration. The collaboration started off super promising, but has since descended into cheaper fabrics and construction than I had hoped (and probably also why the name of the collaboration dropped the 'Lemaire' and in favour of 'Uniqlo U'). I have been buying pieces each season to check it out, and for the past two, they have all gone straight back. However I have been curious to see what general Uniqlo quality was like, having stopped shopping there a number of years back. I still have fond memories of Uniqlo before their aggressive expansion here in the UK. The quality of the fabrics and general fit in those days was second-to-none on the High Street for that price (...well ok, Muji has always been better, but then there are only a handful of Mujis around). I can still remember going into a Uniqlo for the first time and seeing the wall of coloured socks, and for whatever reason, that was what sold me on them more than anything else they carried. Indeed there was actually a time when the vast majority of my wardrobe was from Uniqlo. 

However with Uniqlo's expansion, around the same time as their push into the American market, a number of years ago came cheaper fabrics and shoddier construction. I remember seeing Uniqlo adverts in tube stations and in newspapers like never before, and knew that cost cutting was around the corner. And, lo and behold, things got cheaper and quality declined. I stopped shopping at Uniqlo shortly thereafter. I still reminisce over the quality of the first Jil Sander collaboration collection, but even that got worse over time. And yet, having said all that, I am happy that I gave them another chance recently because they really do appear to be slowly focusing on improving their quality, even if the Uniqlo U stuff has been something of a red herring. A man can't live on high fashion pieces alone (especially not a man with my bank balance), and so I have been slowly but surely trying out different Uniqlo pieces to familiarise myself again with their cuts, construction, and general quality. I saw this fluffy fleece zip up when it dropped and it seemed quite fitting for the cosier direction I want my wardrobe to take this season.

Plain fleece tops and jackets are easy enough to find, whether you want to drop the money on something more practical from an outdoors company, or something a little more casual to wear with pyjamas around the house from a department store. But I saw this fleece and was immediately taken, because it looked so fluffy and soft. My constitution as of late has been rather delicate (to say the least) thanks to the double gut punch of a Crohn's flare and chronic fatigue hitting hard. As such, cosy clothes have most certainly been at the top of my list when it comes to dressing each day. I already own a borg fleece hoodie, which I like to think of as my teddy bear hoodie, but it is a little too chunky for everyday wear. It is suited primarily for the worst of the Winter weather. I wore it last year in the snow, and it was super cosy, but wearing it in the current weather would be a little too much. That idea of a teddy bear has stuck with me though, and I want to try and find super snuggly clothes that will keep me cosy through the Winter.

 I ordered this zip up fleece in two different sizes - a size small and a size medium, because I usually wear either depending on the type of fit I am looking for. I settled with the size small, although the size medium would have worked had I wanted to wear this fleece as a jacket, rather than as a cardigan as I have currently been using it. The fit is quite close to the body, although the sleeves have a decent amount of room so as not to feel too restrictive, and I like the wider shoulders. The body is perhaps an inch shorter than I would like, but at my height that is to be expected I suppose. It has two hard warmer pockets at the front, which are well placed, however they do tend to bag a little and make it look like you are carrying some extra weight around your midsection, so you may want to be careful with that. I was pleased to see that the stitching was all neat, and the construction overall appears to be solid. I have machine washed it twice on a standard 30 degree cycle now, and thankfully the fabric remains soft and the size is unchanged, with no wrinkly zipper. I like the fact that you can simply hang dry it and wear it without ironing, so it is quite practical in that respect.

The feel of the fleece is super soft, because those fluffy fibres feel so plush, and I do find myself stroking the fabric mindlessly when wearing it. Thankfully I have not had any shedding, but will report back if I do run into any issues. I would liken it to wearing a plush dressing gown, and it really does feel comfortable for everyday use. It is nice and warm, in fact more so than ordinary fleece I would say, because of that extra surface area and insulation. Being fleece there is however the dreaded static issue, and while throughout the day I do not tend to notice any static build up, I will say that taking it off at the end of the day most certainly reminds you that you are wearing polyester. That goes with the territory, but it is something to be aware of, because obviously depending on what you are doing throughout the day, a static charge building can be somewhat annoying. But overall, for the price, I think it beats any standard zip up fleece you might find. Not only is it super soft and tactile, but the texture also plays with the light and adds a nice element of visual depth (especially when you wear all black like I do!). I am actually tempted to double up, but knowing Uniqlo it will hit the sales or be discounted soon enough, so hopefully I can snag even more of a bargain.