23 September 2013

The rookie guide to London Fashion Week

SS14 witnessed The Body Shop as the Official Make Up sponsor for Fashion Scout for the sixth season running. Being the make up sponsor is reeeeally cool for us because it means that our products are showcased at the majority of shows. The looks for each show were designed by Lan Nyugen-Grealis and if I do say so myself, she did a wonderful job! The UK PR department represents The Body Shop, so little me got to tag along. For five days I was privy to the glamorous world of fashion.


For those who don't know, Fashion Scout is a little different to London Fashion Week, the latter held at Somerset House. Fashion Scout (taking place at Freemason's Hall) runs alongside Fashion Week but showcases new fashion talent, in addition to the more zany designers who aren't as commercial as, say, Stella McCartney and Burberry.


My duties were attending to on-going tasks in the quiet periods, not glamorous at all (and rather uncomfortable on bar stools and a hard wooden table). However, when people were milling round the exhibition space (where we were based), I had to make small talk, encourage people to have makeovers with our trusty make up artists (not really a hard sell) and persuade fashionistas to strike a pose in our one-of-kind magic mirror. 

Essentially, you had to tweet the mirror with the colour you were wearing... The mirror would receive the tweet, take a photo of you in three different mirrors (each with 5 cameras, creating a fragmented, artsy image) and tweet this back at you, along with a recommended shade of our new make up range. Preeeeeetty snazzy.


Reflecting back on my few days at Fashion week, here is what I learned:

1. No matter how hard you try, you will always be out-fashioned. At home, I'd try and put an outfit together which was simultaneously work-friendly and pretty. However, within two minutes of walking into the building, I felt like a frump. I blame the lighting.

2. I'm nearly 5 foot 8, and I wear a size 8-10. Okay, more a size 10 nowadays. BUT WHATEVER. Fashion week is the only time you will feel A) short and B) regret every single cake/chocolate bar you have consumed that week. I thought pre-fashion week diets were a JOKE, but having seen the kind of people walking around, I realised it was anything but. I had to remind myself that I would only feel like this for 5 days, and also that the kind of people modelling and taking part ARE NOT YOUR AVERAGE PEOPLE. This is what I had to say to my sister when she remarked how long the models' legs were: "Oh, don't worry, models aren't real". Ahem.


3. Freebies are your best friend. I don't know what I would have done without an hourly dose of frozen yoghurt, kindly provided by another fellow sponsor, SNOG. For those who haven't tried their yoghurt... Do it! It's unbelievable. Just thinking about it makes me nostalgic.


4. Working days are long; longer than a city working day. You need to find a way to counter the exhaustion. My solution was Patisserie Valerie Chai Lattes. Mmmmmm, chai. I also kept myself alert by celebrity-watching and making mental notes of what to look out for in the shops. Fashion week is prime people-watching time! And I love people-watching.

5. The upside to being out-fashioned is that you will also be out-weirded, but in a good way. There are some weird and wonderful aspects of Fashion week: the designs, the outfits, the people and the behaviour. Normal social and aesthetic etiquette are alien at Fashion Week, which is pretty liberating. It's everything I love about London, but MAGNIFIED. Below is Pandemonium, looking absolutely fabulous, complete with her dog, Snowy.


6. Some people chaff absolute BS. Some people are rude. But the good news is, since everyone is there for the sole reason of appreciating beautiful things, most people tend to be positive. And if you receive a compliment from a guest, it feels like the best compliment ever. A blogger told me I had great eyebrows and for a millisecond I felt like Cara Delevigne and it made the whole experience worth it.

7. Working fashion week can make you pretty jaded by the whole experience. However, if you're not a blogger/VIP/photographer/anyone especially important (like me), try your best to get into one of the shows. They are absolutely amazing :) My favourite shows were Heohwan Simulation and Pinghe, both of which seemed to balance the masculine/feminine trend and were oh-so-chic, with wearable heels and incredible attention to detail. It reminds you what the whole week is really about: showcasing the newest and best fashion out there.


So this pretty much sums up my experience of Fashion Week. My last piece of advice would be to remember to take care of yourself in the run up, the duration, and the follow up. You don't want to come down with the dreaded "Fashion Flu", because let's face it, snotty red noses and wheezy coughs are never on trend.

Until next time!

8 September 2013

The best lessons are the hardest to learn.

Yes, that's right - I'm going to get all serious on you. You have been warned!

The end of the upcoming week will mark my 8th week milestone of my year-long internship.

As it stands, the internship has not gone as smoothly as I could have hoped. It's had it's perks, but it's also had its lows. 

Last week, everything got way, way, WAY too much, and I learned some very important lessons that I'm still struggling to accept.

If you don't already know (and most people that have met me even a few times will know this, because it's pretty much ingrained into my character) - I'm a perfectionist. In my mind, if something isn't done to its full potential, and it's not something I can be proud of... what's the point?

This characteristic has been my downfall - my hamartia, as good old Shakespeare would say - in the workplace.

In my position I really strain myself. I have so much to do, so many things to prioritise, remember, chase up, complete, move, etc, that I am stretched out too thinly. The problem is that with a million things on my to-do list, I can never do anything to its full potential. Consequently, what I end up doing is putting all my efforts into two or three things, and letting minute details of other things which are just as important fall down by the wayside.

I won't go into detail, 1. because it's boring, and 2. because I'm not sure if it's considered "Private and Confidential" and I don't want to get into trouble, but I made some pretty hefty errors in the last few weeks.

It all came to a head towards the end of last week, though, when I came back from a brain-melting task which had taken me close to four hours, and it was 6:15pm (I'm meant to finish at 5:30, but never do), and I still had at least 6 things to action which would take me a good while. I was exhausted, my eyes hurt, I had a headache after squinting at letters and numbers, and I really, really just wanted to get home. I was so stressed, I wanted to cry.

"Go home" my colleagues said. "I can't" I said, "I still have loads to do!"

At this point I could have just happily put my head on the table and screamed in frustration. How had I let things pile up so much? How had I gotten so behind? Why do even the smallest tasks take so long? WHY am I still here with so much to do?

But I didn't, because I couldn't. So as the aforementioned colleagues gathered around my desk and had a look through my extensive to-do list, I sat there, torn between a state of being emotional numb and mildly hysterical, and tried to breathe as they told me how they were going to help me with the sticky situation I'd gotten myself into.

"This isn't me!" I wanted to shout, "I'm a hard-worker! I try my best at everything! All I want to do is be the best intern ever and not mess up! I can do better!"

I felt like I'd failed. I felt like I wasn't cut out for the job, even though I remindede myself I was chosen out out a rather large number of candidates.

But I hadn't actually failed. I'd just tried to do everything and I hadn't communicated my problem, which was as simple as: I'm too overwhelmed.

Even though I ask questions pretty much all the time, I never actually admitted that I had too much on my plate, because I thought it was expected of me to just do what I was given and get on with it. But the issue was that I'd gotten so many things to do, and gotten into such a state that I didn't know what to do, so was consequently at a loss at how to handle everything. All I'd needed to do was metaphorically stuck my hand up and say "Help me before I get majorly overwhelmed and want to curl up into a ball to let the magic fairies sort my life out."

It's a hard lesson to learn, but I understand that it's an important one. I let my pride get the better of me, and as cliched as it sounds, pride definitely comes before a fall. The workplace is a constantly challenging environment... no one expects you to be able to silently slot in and become a super robot whizz and never say a word. Not only am I learning new skills and techniques and adapting to new routines, I am learning to help myself and communicate that in fact, no, I can't do X, because I'm still devoting a lot of my time to Y.

On a lighter note, I am lucky to be attending Fashion Scout as part of London Fashion Week between the 13th and 17th of September, which I'm very excited about. My next post will hopefully be more positive! As far as I know, I'll be helping out backstage with models and assisting our make up artist with various things, and escorting guests around the site. Wish me luck, and thanks for reading!


1 September 2013

A graduate's guide to living and working in London.

As I face the reality of my seventh official working week in London (um, where did the time go?), I've realised how much I've learned in under two months. These lessons range from everyday, working and fashion, so even if you're not a 21 year old female graduate working in beauty PR like I am, I'm sure you'll take something away from my (sometimes mortifying) experiences.

1. Firstly, I have learned to embrace the fact that anything goes in London. Even in suburban areas, no one bats an eyelid at anything, I swear. I learned this after doing an unplanned all nighter at a friend's in Hertfordshire and had to commute back to mine the next day. I'd had quite possibly the most epic fail of a fall down a fancy club's stairs thanks to my heels, and after that, I didn't fancy wearing them . Now, if I'd been in York, or in my small village in Buckinghamshire, walking barefoot down the street would raise a few eyebrows. But walking between the Northern and Piccadilly line, no one even looked at me, because looking at someone in London implies you're a mass murderer/sex pest. Brilliant! The "anything goes" thing applies to clothes and make up, too. Want to wear a fancy dress, converse and a bright yellow anorak? Do it! Dare to wear smoky eyes AND bright berry lips (totally on trend for A/W, btw)? Go crazy! It's really quite cool.

2. The tube is a necessary evil, especially in the heat. If you're travelling on the tube in the heat wave, DO NOT WEAR PASTEL COLOURS. I've lost count of the amount of men in expensive looking pastel blue/pink/lilac shirts who have fallen prey to biological reactions and had their outfits ruined by unattractive sweat patches. Stick to dark colours, and cotton, especially if what you're wearing is fitted. There is nothing worse than standing in front of people, feeling a bit sticky and becoming increasingly paranoid that YOU have too joined the sweat patch club. URGH.

3. General tube wear: girls, if Zooey Deschanel travelled by tube, she would lose all her dignity. Fit-and-flare dresses and skater skirts ARE NOT YOUR FRIEND. I learned this the hard way on my first day of work. It was hot, so I was bare-legged, and I was wearing a denim skater skirt. Enough said. For work, either wear tights with flippy skirts and dresses, or embrace androgyny and invest in some cigarette trousers. Or if you can't bear the transition from skirt to trousers, stock up on pencil skirts or midi dresses.

4. Not everyone is London is horrible. Yes, some people are absolute monsters, especially on the tube, but it's funny the way people can come together when crammed into a claustrophia-inducing space. For instance, many people do give up their seats for you (or maybe I look pregnant some days, who knows?). People rush around until they realise they are well and truly screwed for getting to work on time, and then they relax. I had a lovely conversation with commuters after having to wait 5 trains at St Pancras to get on the Northern Line, and when a train with a tiny amount of space DID arrive, they encouraged me to get on because I'd been waiting longer. N'awwww.

5. Unless you only travel on the Jubilee Line, you will hear the announcement "Trains between X and Y are delayed due to a person under a train" at least once a week. Sad, but true.

6. Going out in London is nothing like going out anywhere else in the country. It's a nightmare. Even when you plan where to get a nightbus, you have to know the directions to get to the nightbus... Which isn't going to happen when you're drunk. Get street-wise. Make sure you know the area, even if it's just a few roads - anything that can help you with navigation. And whatever you do, remember that even when you've been thrown out of McDonald's and need shelter in the pouring rain, it is never okay to jump on the next bus you see. It won't get you home any quicker (but it will keep you warm).

7. London is expensive. Get over it. Rather than dwelling on how much you used to spend (I did this for the first week and ended up boring my colleagues to death with "I just spent £4.80 on a panini. ON A PANINI!) get some perspective and learn where the better deals are. Also, remember you're in London and you're paying for the luxury of being in one of the coolest cities in the WORLD.

8. Leading on from my last point... If anything is free... JUMP AT THE OPPORTUNITY, because god knows there aren't many fun free things to do in London (the National Portrait Gallery loses its charm after a few visits). For instance, a director of our company left at the end of last week, and the news that there was going to be a ton of free alcohol at a bar about 10 minutes walk from the office spread like WILDFIRE. Everyone went... We basically took over the outside area. There's nothing better than getting sozzled after a long week on good quality prosecco and not having to pay a penny. WARNING: if you drink a lot and plan to go home on the tube, go to the loo at the last minute. I had to call my dad to pick me up from the station because I was worried I wouldn't make the walk home...

9. Be a good tourist. Taking photos is FUN. Getting lost is an ADVENTURE. Being frivolous is LIBERATING. Just please don't be that person that stops suddenly in the street and causes a pile up to check that, yep, you haven't had your wallet stolen (because being in London is like starring in Oliver Twist).

10. Enjoy it! Yes, it can be grimy, and tiring, and overwhelming, but give yourself time to breathe and everything will be fine. Especially if you follow all of the above.

You're welcome.

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