Ashish's Political Utopia

2.22.2017

A designer that isn't afraid to incorporate politics and worldly issues (coupled with more glitter and sparkles than you could possibly imagine) into his collections, Ashish provided yet another thought-provoking and beautiful collection that left me with goosebumps and wide eyes. His previous collection was an emotive and colourful exploration of his Dehli heritage, featuring stunning embellished sari's, anklets and traditional Indian silhouettes. In response to the goings-on of the world, he donned a slogan t-shirt that had 'IMMIGRANT' printed on it when coming out at the end of the show- a t-shirt that many guests sitting front row were wearing this season. 

The catwalk floor space was taken over by a winding yellow brick road, immersed in a layer of glitter and lined with a cluster of sequins. The collection was announced with a choir version of The Wizard of Oz's "Somewhere Over the Rainbow", perfectly coinciding with the first influx of garments which were intense glitter rainbows in every different variety of stripe. Other songs such as John Lennons 'Imagine' and Radioheads 'Creep' played, all in an eerily moving chior version. The music complimented the collection flawlessly, evoking emotion throughout the short time I was sat on the bench. If Ashish's intentions were to get you to feel something - he succeeded.




This season, Ashish was set to make a serious political statement. Sequined slogan t-shirts featured the likes of 'Love see's no colour' and 'Don't give up the daydream' made an appearance, along with 'Stronger Together' and 'Fall in love and be more Tender'. A checkerboard jacket with 'Planned Parenthood' added to the back was worn by a male model, whilst a t-shirt with an image of a kitten accompanied by 'Pussy Grabs Back' was featured -- quite possibly a not-so-sly dig towards current president Donald Trump's widely discussed pussy grabbing fiasco, and the recent global gag law's put in place just days after Obama left the Whitehouse. Other designers such as Dior have also incorporated politics into their garments this year, with their feminist t-shirts being widely worn by celebrities and publicised ingeniously.

Since the unfortunate series of events - Donald, im looking at you - which has left millions outraged and forced to protest, its nice to see designers using their platforms to address current issues. If anyone was going to do it, I could have bet money on Ashish. Gaining credentials for always casting a multitude of different coloured models for his shows, Ashish was always likely to come out on top of the game and creatively (and gracefully) protest against the wrongdoings of the moment. One model in this seasons show stepped out to applause as the street cast, bearded male sporting leather gloves came dressed in a blue sequin top with 'Why be blue when you can be gay' proudly stitched onto it.




Ashish provided a bold and colourful mixture of well conducted music, a beautifully designed set, and a politically charged collection, which managed to provoke tears from the spectators and allow the audience to connect with the garments in a way that was peaceful but still extremely powerful. And it was just what this season needed.







Fashion Weak

2.14.2017

Fashion week: a seemingly glamorous, relaxed time in which cool parties, private taxis and backstage areas filled with bottomless champagne are on the agenda. A time where models stay in luxurious 5* hotels and indulge in chocolate dipped strawberries from room service whilst waiting for their stylist to come and drop off an outfit for them to wear to their shows and castings, all whilst admiring the finest views of London from their generously gifted penthouse suite. All of the above may be true if you are Kendall Jenner or one of the Hadid sisters (no hate girls), but for the rest of us, a cramped model apartment costing way over what it should for a bunkbed in a flat with no true sunlight - and a roommate who talks in Russian on the phone till 4am. No private taxi, and parties aren't an option unless you're a model skipping fashion week this season. Chocolate dipped strawberries turn into a snack pot of fruit from Pret and bottomless champagne? A mere dream. And yet we continuously manage to make it look so effortless and the epitome of beguiling. 

Schedules for the day being text or emailed the night before was just another enticing perk that came with being a model during Fashion Week. Sometimes, you get called in to the agency at 8am and given your list of castings. Swapping papers with your fellow agency friends to see if you had similar timetables was a mandatory part of the morning. Fashion week goes by a lot smoother and less breakdowns occur if you have a friend to share it with. Luckily for me, I was given 25 castings for one day. You may or may not be able to tell, but the use of the word 'luckily' was riddled with sarcasm. Imagine going to 25 job interviews in one day. You don't want to - its exactly how you imagine it.

Castings are usually a sea of tall, beautiful, skinny women and girls all clad in black skinny jeans, a crop top or a 'cool band t-shirt' (that their bookers probably picked out for them), and heels. Add a touch of leather and some Soft Goth Glam if it's a Wang casting. The black skinny [jeans] is something that is so much of a necessity in a models wardrobe, I think you can claim tax back on it. Unlike the ephemerality of fashion trends, the casting outfits don't change massively over time. It was the same the whole 3 years I was working. You can usually spot a model on the street a mile away. Probably looking at CityMapper and clutching a portfolio or a pair of heels. Its quite comical sometimes, you just know when someones casting for Fashion Week, and you both give off an awkward smile and usually engage in small talk about how to get to the location.

Food is not rare during fashion week, and you are in no way encouraged to starve yourself, but majority of the time, that's exactly what you're lacking - time. You have some breakfast before you set off on your day, but have no real hours in between castings to grab something to eat. Even stopping at a Tesco you feel like you're wasting valuable travelling time. Its always later on when you're sitting at a 4 hour long casting wondering why you didn't just stop to grab a *healthy* meal deal. You just have to pray they provide snacks and rinse the vegetable crisps on offer. Thanks Burberry.

The late nights and early mornings are probably the least ideal schedules for models as no one wants to see a model walking down the runway with bags under their eyes. Preferably the only bags people want are designer and carried, rather than worn as a very un-cute facial accessory. Alas, sleeping is not a luxury you experience much during FW, so often you will find girls napping in long castings, on tubes and probably in some sort of organic vegan coffee shop, before waking up to 13 missed calls from their bookers frantically asking their whereabouts. I've known fittings to go on till 3am. I once was called at 1am to go to a last minute casting as they were 'ready to book me'. Despite being in my pyjamas, I obliged and dragged my tired self to a warehouse in Hackney to be fitted for the show the next day. No wonder it was dubbed 'Fashion Weak'.

Castings can either be surprisingly quick or painfully long. A portable charger is an absolute must. Usually, you will be waiting in a corridor or a room full of other models sitting on the floor, probably eating or conversing. Despite the majority being over 5'9 in height and way over 6'2 in heels, there is barely ever any room for all of us to sit or stand, so typically, you have to clamber your way over mounds of long legs, whilst trying not to fall over or stab anyone with your high heel. Entering the room where the casting director and/or designer is waiting is quite possibly one of the most daunting experiences, particularly if you're casting for a brand that could launch your career into model-stardom and wealth. First impressions are everything and it is usually decided within the first few seconds of entering the room whether they like you or not. You walk over to the table in which they are sitting down at, place your card down and try to cram in as much smiling and chatty behaviour as possible before they stop you in your tracks and make you walk for them to judge. Some casting directors don't even pretend to watch you walk. They don't even do it for decoration. They just say thank you after you've awkwardly stood there for 10 seconds because they didn't realise you were finished as they weren't watching. And then off you go to the next one. Repeat x25. 

Shows, for models, are pretty relaxed. I guess that's the only chance you have during Fashion Week to actually just sit down and eat a complimentary croissant and drink a pressed juice. There is a lot of waiting around and posing, before and after getting your makeup done and hair pulled, burnt, ripped out, poked and gelled. However, compared to the manic outside, at least you have 3 hours to enjoy doing very little. There is usually a rehearsal in which they will go over the runway once (and expect you to remember the complicated maze-like route in which they want you to take), then when guests viewing the show start to arrive, you begin to get dressed and face the backstage paparazzi. Whilst getting changed, you notice the heard of black jeans clad women have now all changed and are donning nude seamless thongs and a no bra look before putting on their expensive garments, ready to stride down the runway. 
Walking a runway is probably one of the most adrenaline fuelled, nerve wracking, insanely scary but also empowering thing I've ever done. There is no rush that compares to the feeling of striding down a catwalk with all eyes on you, trying desperately not to fall over in the 7 inch heels that are 3 sizes too big, all whilst trying to serve the most model-like face you can. Its exhilarating, yes. But would I trade it all in for a Big Mac and a nap? Probably. 

Despite the deep dark warehouses in Hackney, the cramped conditions, the walking in the below freezing snow and rain - to the unbearable heat and sunshine, getting blisters from your high heels, breaking your back trying to carry everything you need for the day, not eating much, barely sleeping, having several break downs due to sleep deprivation, having your hair fried and ripped from your skull, face red from removing and re applying so much harsh makeup, constant rejection, criticism, dead phone batteries and the fear of falling on the runway, I always missed fashion week once it was over and I'd caught up on sleep.

To all the girls powering on through this season: you can do it. Bring plasters, grab some food to put in your bag even if you're not hungry and don't forget your portable charger. Sleep is just around the corner.




Parisian Escape

2.12.2017


Paris, best known and romanticised for its awe-inspiring art galleries, tasty cuisines and its renown fashion houses and haute couture. Oh, and the 300m iron structure best known as the Eiffel Tower. The city that millions lust over and I was lucky enough to spend the third weekend into 2017 enjoying all Paris has to offer, basking in the many French traditions I so long to adapt to my everyday life. A last minute trip - as in two days before departure last minute; that cost me an arm and a leg (those limbs being my student loan) but also made me remember exactly why I fell in love with the city in the first place. 
The main purpose of our trip was because Men's Fashion Week was currently in its last quarter and was being held in Paris. I travelled to France with three other people; two being actors and the other a model and social media influencer. They had shows to attend, namely Balmain and Lanvin so it was the perfect time to go.

Arriving in Paris wasn't as glamorous as the fashion industry would have you believe. A low budget airline filled to the brim with screaming children and loud groups of friends is enough to have anyone booking a first class ticket the next time they decide to depart their hometown - no matter how enticing the gasp-worthy low prices on Easy Jet may be. In addition to the no legroom and turbulence-ridden flight, the Charles de Gaulle train station (which is connected to the airport) was quickly evacuated due to a suspicious unattended bag. Meaning my journey to Rue Des Tournelles was delayed even more. 3 hours more. So by the time I actually arrived at Restaurant L'ange, it was 22:30 pm and I'd been travelling since 7:30 am - I repeat, never again am I travelling cheap; I could have been in Paris within 3 hours, instead, it took me over 15 hours. 

Despite a few minor hiccups and delays, I was so happy to finally be with friends and be able to start enjoying all the city has to offer. Restaurant L'ange was our first stop, a beautiful but tiny French bistro restaurant sandwiched between Le Marais and Roquette, minutes from Bastille Metro station. It offered a cosy and relaxed atmosphere with soft jazz playing in the background and an open kitchen in which you could view your food being cooked. I ordered a medium rare steak with salad and sauteed potatoes, accompanied by a peppercorn sauce and of course, all of it came cooked to perfection. We also consumed a large amount of red wine - something I was not massively keen on before this trip; but quickly grew to love. Considering the restaurant is rated an impeccable 5 stars on google, the prices were cheap. €20 for my meal, and €9 for any starters. Standard prices in the UK. 

Feeling full and satisfied with our meal, we headed back to our Air BnB rented apartment to drop off my bags and quickly headed out to a bar that had been recommended by a few friends who were already at the venue. This place was possibly everything that comes to mind when you think of a rock n roll meets fashion party. It was tiny and the walls were covered in graffiti. Not the artistic kind. The kind you find in a bathroom stall at a dingy club. I genuinely felt like I was standing in a cubicle that had a resident techno DJ hired to entertain you whilst you pee. I decided that I preferred it outside in the -2 degree weather, so I chain smoked until we quote unquote luckily decided to leave. We walked for half an hour to get to the next club which surprise surprise - was too full for any of us to get into. After standing around for 40 minutes, I'd started to believe that I was catching pneumonia or forming icicles on my body, so we left and went back home. Pretty much a pointless night, but nice nonetheless.

The next morning we walked to Marais to get some Brunch which made me realise that dining out and grabbing coffee with friends was very much a French thing to do. Nearly everywhere was full, but we managed to find a table in Cafe La Royale, a place that was the epitome of Parisian dining. I ordered some food with a cafe au lait, and people watched through the glass window whilst smoking with my hot drink. Everything about Paris feels 10x better than home. Even sitting getting a coffee. It feels Parisian. I know native French must be reading this and think I'm another tourist romanticising something they do on a day to day basis - but grabbing a coffee just isn't the same in London. It doesn't have that relaxing but chic element to it. You all know what I'm talking about. 

Paddy and Joanna had to meet with their stylist to get ready for the Balmain men's show so we ubered home and ushered the pair off to their driver who was taking them to their destination once they were dressed in Oliver Rousteing's latest creations. This gave me and my friend a chance to actually explore the city. Although I'd been to Paris before, it would be wasteful not to have a look around again. Our apartment was just opposite the Pere Lachaise Cemetery, home to the late Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison and one of my favourite French singers, Edit Piaf. The graveyard was hauntingly beautiful. Heavenly even. We visited at around 4:30 pm, so the sun was setting; leaving the whole place lit up orange and yellow through the silhouettes of trees. Although it was eerily quiet, there was something so serene and relaxing about wandering through hundred of thousands of tombs and graves. Pere Lachaise is estimated to accommodate around 1million bodies in total, so the actual place is like a mini city. 

We made our way to the Pompidou centre and went to the very top and sat at the rooftop restaurant for around 4 hours. The view was too beautiful to let go of. We had a few glasses of wine, whilst sat under an outdoor heater and chatted, whilst taking in the prepossessing scenery. I couldn't help but think that London felt grey, dull and uninspiring compared to the Parisian skyline. We decided to take a scenic walk and stroll through the streets of Paris to get to Notre Dame. Unfortunately I didn't get to see the Eiffel Tower this time around, however, I did stare at it twinkling every hour whilst at Centre Pompidou. So I didn't feel too disappointed. We took ourselves back to the apartment and got ready for dinner. Underdressed was an understatement. I didn't know where exactly we were going, so jeans and trainers felt fine to me. However, after our driver pulling up at The Peninsula, a luxury 5-star hotel, I felt like I had made a bad fashion choice. 

The hotel was luxury like I had never seen it before. A Burberry store on the way to the bathroom? I could get used to this. Being steps away from Arc de Triomphe, and having chandeliers the size of a small horse in the foyer, the hotel clearly promises exquisite glamour in all aspects. We sat down for food, and I went with a simple caesar salad. I probably should have got something else, as it was the same price as the rest of the food but it did make up for it by being presented in the shape of a flower and giving me so much lettuce I think I turned into a rabbit. The most luxurious salad I had ever eaten. We enjoyed several bottles of wine before heading off to the Balmain after party, located at the new but already well-known and very trendy Le Pompon club. Luckily we had a table so it meant champagne was bottomless and free pouring was very much allowed. Typically I find fashion parties quite boring (in London, anyway). They end early and no one has fun. But this was actually really good. Thanks, Balmain. 

I had to pretty much go straight from the club to the airport to catch my flight, which was excruciatingly hard. I had had about 4 hours sleep in 48 hours and I was struggling to keep my eyes open, accompanied by the fact I had been drinking red wine and champagne the whole night. I fell asleep as soon as I got on the plane and woke up in London. I had a long journey ahead and couldn't think of anything worse but I carried on and got back to the city in which my university is and collapsed into bed. 

Did I have fun? Definitely. Was it worth me spending my student loan to be in Paris for one day? Probably not. Would I do it again? Absolutely yes. 

Paris is a city that will always be at the forefront of my heart. Maybe one day ill be brave enough to move there, but for now ill keep learning french on DuoLingo until I can fork out the money for a private tutor. 


Merci Pari, A binetot x





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