Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Tina Talks Fashion

Growing up Coronation Street was a bit of an instituion in my household, and my parents enjoyed attaching the different characters' personalities to me: for example, demanding "Rosie and Sophie" go and wash their hands. They liked to call me Sarah-Lou the best (it must be the first-name thing) which was fitting as I did enjoy doing the stroppy teenager thing somewhat.

The Trafford Centre launched their Summer of Hope and Glory last Thursday, and Sarah-Lou (or rather, Tina O'Brien) was around to give fashion, beauty and style advice to Selfridges shoppers. I grabbed five minutes with Tina - which actually turned out to be more like fifteen, I could've easily gossiped with her all night - and we talked shopping, Kate Middleton, and patchwork denim..

Good evening! How are you today?
I'm very well thank you!
First things first - what are you wearing?
I'm wearing a dress from a little boutique in Didsbury - there's one in West Didsbury and Didsbury village - with some little gold flats. I think my necklace is Topshop.
So you're here tonight to give style and beauty advice to busy mums - tell me a bit more about that.
I think a lot of women end up putting themselves on the backburner when they have a child, so the kind of advice will be to don't forget about yourself!
Do you find you do get time to treat yourself or do you do it in a rush?
People are shocked at how quick I can get ready - I've learnt! But it is nice to every now and again to treat yourself. I didn't realise just how much better it feels just to have your hair done.
How often do you get to go shopping?
Ooh! More often than I should do..?! I probably go clothes shopping.. I'd say on average once every two weeks. Is that bad or good? I don't know! I used to go shopping every week but I've really toned it down, I've got a house now so I more shop for household things. But I did used to shop for clothes all the time - I'm one of these bomber shoppers, who thinks "oh, I just need a top", then I'll be at the changing room with [gestures to an armful of clothes] and end up spending a fortune.
Do you have any secret boutiques to shop in?
In West Didsbury there's some lovely little boutiques, so yeah.. probably West Didsbury! And there's some lovely little bars to go for a drink afterwards. West Didsbury is full of independents - it's brilliant.
Who are your favourite designers?
I love, love Jenny Packham dresses, and I love the dress that Kate Middleton wore with the sequins - I died and went to heaven when I saw that dress.
Where do you get your fashion inspiration from?
I'm one of these people who goes through magazines and folds the corners down of a page and take pictures on my phone and use them when I go shopping. I can never find the things I want though! When Scarlett [Tina's daughter] is in bed asleep, that's my half hour to read magazines.
Has Scarlett shown any interest in fashion?
She does.. but it varies. I'm bad with the whole matching thing. I know at the moment it's very fashionable not to match, but my mum was always very co-ordinated, and I've realised Scarlett is doing it already - she's like "mummy look, pink shoes, pink bag.. I match!" And I'm like, "oh my god! I've given it to you! I got it from my mum, now I've given it to you".
It's hard to clash - it has to be wrong, yet right. So you can't go wrong with matching! She'll be very chic one day, maybe the next Kate Middleton.
But sometimes she comes downstairs in ridiculous outfits and I have to be like "mmmmm! You look really nice!"
But you're encouraging expression! What was the pressure like for you to get it right, with growing up in the public eye?
I think I was lucky in that I started in Corrie before the explosion of all the magazines with circles of shame, so I think if I had been aware of all that when I was fifteen the pressure would have been bad. I didn't have that but God I made some shopping mistakes..!
Which leads us nicely onto my last question - have you ever made any real fashion faux pas?!
Oooh. Me and a couple of Corrie girls once dressed up for an awards do wearing denim jeans with patches all over them, with a bustier. Wait, it gets worse! We then got clip-in extensions. Yeah.. we thought it was cool at the time, at around the time of B*Witched.

I idly threaten to find a picture of this on the internet, and was surprised to be given permission to do so! So here is Tina's biggest fashion faux pas.. I hope she kept the outfit as it's sure to be in fashion once again sometime soon. [image source]

Since I dug that photo out I think it's only fair I show you the out-takes of the very first picture, including the Worst Photo Of Me Ever and one with a cheeky photobombing stylist.


Monday, 28 May 2012

[Insert Vengaboys Quote Here]

Apologies for the silence as of late - I'm going to Ibiza on Thursday and this is all that is currently occupying my mind. I LOVE going on beach holidays and want to live in one. No, not live abroad - live in a beach holiday. Don't worry, you'll still be getting your Dotty fix while I'm away; I have a few posts scheduled, including an interview with Tina O'Brien and a DIY tutorial.

The main purpose of this post is to show you a photo I took earlier of my capsule holiday wardrobe. I'm so excited I've finally mastered the technique of a capsule wardrobe - and all but the neon dress and one bikini I owned already! Everything works together, and each piece can be restyled for wearing more than once. Extra bonus is that it all fits in a tiny holdall - meaning no checked baggage fee, and no lugging huge cases around in hot weather. Win!

I'm mainly going to relax, but will be going to a few low-key parties, and will also be street style scouting for newsicmoos - so if you're around, look out for the lady in neon brandishing a camera.

Enjoy the British sun while it lasts and I will see you soon!

Comfy heels that go with everything, five bikinis, four tees, one pair of shorts, two day dresses, one smart night dress, and a pair of Havaianas sandal-cum-flip flops. Sorted

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

A Sneaky Confession

That's it... I admit it. This has been niggling away at me for some months now, and I've tried to resist it, but I really must confess.

Sure, I liked the Isabel Marant versions. Their chunky weirdness and awkward colour combinations had to be appreciated; but on other people, not me. And a select few people at that - Natalie of Canned Fashion being my favourite, as she doesn't take them seriously. As we ventured further into spring I found that they were being communicated to me via multiple mediums and I just couldn't get away: they're all over magazines, blogs, even people in the street. I really didn't expect them to filter down so quickly, especially not to the mass market. And then one day (yeah, today) I just snapped: I think I may need a pair. This ASOS pair would do the trick just nicely.

Will I resist? Only time will tell...

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

The Orange Revolution

COS dress, Miista shoes, vintage clutch, belt & necklace

Along with the rest of the country I'm rejoicing over this week's glorious weather, and used the sunshine as the perfect excuse to wear a sunny dress. Hardly an orange revolution as the title suggests - far from it, as this is one of my favourite colours to wear. This evening I had an epiphany over its drapes, however; I've owned it since Christmas and this is the first time I realised I was wearing a piece of material on the wrong side. Duh. After a little repositioning it now fits and looks a whole lot better.

Wore this for a dinner with Annabel and Adam of The éditeur and Clare of tweet. Lots of exciting goings on - we dined with the new England football manager (well, sort of, he was on the other side of San Carlo), a prominent purchase was made from the online store during the main course, and arrangements began for an event, which will remain up our well-tailored sleeves for now.. but expect to be hearing lots about it in the very near future!

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Chester: Retail At Its Best

Growing up, Chester was my nearest city, and once a month or so I popped in for a quick shop. It wasn't as thrilling as going into Manchester, the big city of shining lights - or that's how I saw it, with its enormous Topshop and the wonder that is Afflecks Palace. I took Chester for granted, I think, and kept my blinkers on as I popped in to pick up an essential.

Today I visited Chester for the first time in over a year and saw it with fresh eyes. Whether it was because the sun was shining brightly (at last! Hoorah) or that the city really has changed, I walked around in wonderment, scooting up and down the steps of the historic Rows and rattling over the cobbles. The city centre was bustling with activity, with independent boutiques nestled happily between multis, and big-name retailers inhabiting beautiful Tudor buildings.

I spent a long time in Aliz Vintage, a store housing vintage Chanel and YSL pieces, along with fabulous lower-priced 1970s lurex dresses; two of which I tried on, one being too large, the other too small. Not my day! I was also treated to a tour of The éditeur, complete with a cup of tea and a slice of hat designer Laura Apsit Livens's birthday cake.

One disappointing discovery was the rebranding of Browns department store: it has always been a Debenhams but had a strong personality of its own, too. Now it seems Debenhams have clumsily ripped down the Browns sign to make way for their own branding, taking a little bit of Chester's retail history along with it.

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How cute..!
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Have you ever seen such a beautiful Superdrug?
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Of course, I couldn't leave without taking a photo of the second most photographed clock in the world... especially so well contrasted against a brilliant blue sky!

I loved Chester's bustling mix of independent, British, and multinational retailers, all under wonderful 16th century rooves; perhaps Mary Queen of Shops should take a trip to Chester before she pronounces the Great British High Street dead and buried.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Carpe Calciamenti

H&M via Red Cross shop blazer & jeans, Chris's tee, ASOS sandals, vintage (can we call ten years old vintage?) New Look pleather jacket

"Have you got any hi-tops?" asked Chris as I got dressed this morning. "Because you look very 80s, very John Hughes."

We decided today's bleached jeans and white tee was totally Winona Ryder in Heathers, but forget the hi-tops - I'd already been convinced to wear sandals by Bottega's Sam.

"I'm embracing summer, I'm just dealing with it" she tweeted. Well, I already tried that yesterday wearing shorts and bare legs, and ended up freezing; but today the sun tried its very best to come out, hence my ancient ASOS Surface To Air knockoffs took a turn around Manchester.

I don't own any sandals in-between Havaianas and heeled (or wedged) sandals, so I'm now on the lookout for a chunky pair of flat ones. I'm rather keen on the Acne Ambrosia (though the name makes me hungry - darned diet) but I'm not so keen on the price tag. I hit Zara today after hearing a rumour of something similar but no such luck. Any ideas, Team Shopaholic..? (that's you guys!)

PS. Google tells me "carpe calciamenti" means "seize the sandal", but I have a sneaking suspicion there isn't really a latin word for "sandal"...

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Cotton: America's Spoilt Child

I desperately try - and fail - to understand economics but some things just don't go into this pretty little head of mine, and that is one of them. I do understand that, generally, the countries who are good at doing something do it, and export it to the countries which need the goods. There's a policy called free trade which means that a government doesn't interfere with imports or exports; no adding tariffs to imports, or subsidies to exports. Yes, Adam Smith, I know you are turning in your grave over these clumsy definitions, but sometimes I need to break things down into Layman's terms to understand them at all.

For quite some years now the main issue surrounding free trade has been cotton. Surprising, when you think of the innocuous garments made from cotton: pyjamas, t-shirts, knickers.. the staples you wouldn't consider living without. However, ten years ago C-4+1 (the Cotton 4 countries - Chad, Burkina Faso, Benin, and Mali, plus Senegal), along with Brazil, took action against the subsidies America provides its cotton farmers. The subsidies stabilise the price of cotton for American farmers and the subsidy means they can charge less for their cotton than Third World farmers can, depressing the cost of cotton. The World Trade Organisation deemed some of the subsidies illegal - unsurprising, really, when you consider farmers in the C-4 rarely have enough money to feed their families. Since 2002 the American government have pumped $24 billion into the cotton trade, despite the WTO's ruling.

 It is for this reason my blood boils every time I come across the Cotton USA advertorial in Vogue.


I have nothing against Louise Gray as a designer or as an individual, in fact I am rather keen on her whimsical, colourful designs, with her autumn/winter 2012 being the most wearable yet. We must also be realistic - in the current economic climate (I am so sick of that term) firms need all the financial help they can get. No, it is more the fact that Cotton USA have the money to be sponsoring anybody, whilst the C-4 countries are amongst the poorest in the world, ranked by the World Bank in 2006 as being between 173-193 out of around 208 countries (Oxfam America report).

The advertorial also implies that Cotton USA is of better quality than cotton from elsewhere: "US cotton is so versatile, and there is so much you can do with it", Gray is quoted as saying. I can't comment on the quality of different cottons - have you ever noticed that on your clothing labels it rarely, if ever says where the fabric is from, just where the garment was made? - though I'm sure People Tree would have something to say on that matter. They do not source their cotton, as most other fashion retailers do. They work with cotton farmers from the ground up to make sure everyone gets a fair pay, and the cotton they create is a heavy weight, thus is of good quality.

I've barely touched upon the cotton pricing issue. Most of it I honestly do not understand; the Oxfam report contains equations which make my brain hurt. I am more concerned now with what I - we - can do about it. I don't for a moment suggest boycotting Louise Gray: the designer's talent should be encouraged and nurtured - just not in this way. The first step is to make retailers and manufacturers aware of the situation; usually when I meet those in the clothing industry I ask about their supply chain, and where they source their fabrics. Some may think that is a bit sad, but others may actually go away and think about it and do a little research. I also go on about Fair Trade cotton a fair bit and would love to see more designers using that. Can you imagine a Louise Gray and People Tree collaboration? The results would be most excellent, with Gray's eclectic clash of prints, colours, and global influences, combined with People Tree's cotton knowledge and Fair Trade supply chain.

I hope this has given you food for thought. Once again, I don't claim to be an expert on ethical fashion, merely someone blundering their way along, trying to do their best for the world and everybody in it. If you have any suggestions or discussion points please do comment, as I would love to hear your view.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

The éditeur's Exquisite Edit

Tasty food, endless wine, and bohemian-luxe fashion; Chester boutique The éditeur sure know how to throw a pre-races party. Held at Chester racecourse's 1539 restaurant last Thursday night, I donned sequins for a mid-week night out with plenty of style credentials.

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My table was a vibrant mélange of stylists, bloggers, and fashion industry insiders. Banter was lively, my only regret being that I was a little too starstruck to talk to the ladies from Alexander McQueen sat a few seats along. My time will come! Co-owner Adam was on hand to fill any wine glasses looking remotely half full (funnily enough I only seemed to drink one glass the entire night. My head the next morning said otherwise) and answer any questions about The éditeur we may have had. I was surprised to hear that the boutique had only been open for a year - they have already established a strong online presence with an impressive selection of designers in a short amount of time.

The foundation of the business is their dedication to finding the right underwear for their clients. If we haven't experienced it ourselves then we've definitely witnessed it - visible panty lines, ill-fitting bras and the really unattractive line a pair of hipster pants makes. Co-owner Annabel is passionate about lingerie; having cut her teeth working at revolutionary bra retailer Bravissimo she now ensures all clients have correctly sized underwear to complement their beautiful new outerwear purchase. She told me most women wear bras too large in the back and too small in the cup - I made a mental note to make sure I get measured as soon as possible.




Of course, the reason we were all gathered together was to see The éditeur's fashionable offerings (though my taste buds would tell you otherwise - I could easily wax lyrical about the food). The show was intended for those attending the races to peruse their options, but all outfits featured would be ideal for summer and beyond - I'm looking at booking a holiday to Ibiza and would love to pack each item for my holiday wardrobe. Might need more than hand luggage, mind you.

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My favourite pieces were from Tibi - the brand sit perfectly within the throw-on-with-sandals vibe I'm feeling right now, and I ache to wear the pastel and black fleur de lis print on a balmy Balearic evening. The Patrizia Pepe white and lemon ombréd dress shows off a golden tan whether home or away, and I see cool girl extraordinaire Erin Wasson wearing this on an exclusive, deserted sandy beach.. oh, somewhere in the Maldives, perhaps.

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Laura Apsit Livens' hats were on show, and The éditeur will soon be stocking these beauties - creating a one-stop-shop for any races- or wedding-goers.


There was also man candy.. uh, I mean menswear, courtesy of fellow Chester retailers Citygate. Again, there was a fabulous mix of summer daywear and fashion-forward suits ideal for any age. 

I've now had the chance to attend fashion shows from a handful of the North West's leading independent boutiques, and what strikes me most is that each indie is utterly unique, with its own ideas and approach to retail. They recognise the need for omnichannel retailing and take calculated risks exploring avenues many global companies wouldn't dare to. The éditeur are a small team, yet are always looking for methods of moving forward: they have recently employed a photographer and a SEO specialist to make the website a force to be reckoned with in the fashion batt-etail-field. Speaking to Annabel and Adam, you can't help but feel their excitement for the boutique - and I look forward to finding out what they have up their sleeves for the next twelve months.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Still Life Interrupted: Elliott Landy

Today we have a special guest post from Mr Dotty - that is, my boyfriend Chris. For his first instalment he checks out the Emporio Armani/Elliott Landy exhibition...

He left the house and anxiously checked the time again. As usual, he was running late after a conundrum rendered him paralysed in his underwear.

What should he wear for this thing?

Now that he'd sorted that issue out, the next, and completely beyond his control; a dog, wet after bathing in the canal, operating like a punctured fire hydrant with brownish spurts flying into the chilly air, launching itself towards him. Were chinos ever a good call with waterways and dogs in the world?

Then he was at Emporio Armani and the Elliott Landy collection, the rest of the journey competely uneventful and thus unworthy of comment. An extremely friendly woman greeted him at the door, opened by two pleasant and smartly dressed chaps, and asked his name.

'I don't think I'm on the list,' he said, too quietly. Fortunately greeters are used to people less confident than themselves (because by definition EVERYONE is less confident than them - that's their job) and said 'I'm sure you are (winning smile)'. A quick indicative glance at the invite list -

'Chris Green'
'Yes, here you are.'
As if it were the most natural conversation in the world (which it was).

He walked around the gallery in a striped t-shirt, chinos and brown boots (don't worry, I know where I am) supping from a complimentary Peroni, marvelling at the photography on offer. If I get the chance to tell people about this, particularly a large audience, I'm going to recommend everyone come and see it, he thought to himself.

Janis Joplin

A man in a suit walked over and asked if they were his pictures. He played along and said they were, and an amusing moment ensued where he adopted the persona of another man for his audience and tried to mimic his behaviours based on what sort of guy he thought Elliott Landy was. They grinned and went their separate ways, the set piece (and alcohol) having settled his nerves somewhat.

He spent the next hour or so checking out the remarkable images on offer. He scribbled down a particular irony in Landy using infrared, a photographic technique perfected by the CIA for tracing heat residues, in capturing some of the central figures in western counterculture, like Dylan, Joplin and Hendrix. He loved the effect the technique had in reducing physical movement to etheral streaks and curved flashes oflight, creating impressions of sonic physicality and in some cases removing the creator from the act. There was something weirdly profound in that, he felt.
Ornette Coleman & son

As he stared at a picture of Bob Dylan surrounded by warm hazy pink blossom, he realised how influential Landy had been in creating this artwork. It was as though as Landy were umbilically attached to the Summer of Love and now its ideas and philosophies were his lfeblood. He couldn't imagine the era of these legends being captured in any other way and that, surely, was the mark of genius that only a few possessed. 

Mostly, however, he noticed he was really prone to monologues. He put it down to the influence of weblog culture.
John Lee Hooker

Elliott Lady's collection is available to view at Emporio Armani, Spinningfields until Monday 7th May. These JPEGs will be disappearing then so view the exhibition while you can!

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Gossip And A Dressing Gown

This vintage dressing gown was donated to me by my now-departed Auntie Jean, and has been hanging around in my wardrobe waiting for an occasion (and for me to gather the courage) to be worn outside the house. I've been easing myself into it lately, wearing it little and often, finding that it works a treat with my Aldo Rise shoes and lemon jeans; in the summer I'll be wearing it with cut-off denim in a relaxed pretending-I'm-at-a-festival fashion.

Yesterday I had a makeover at Illamasqua (thanks to Fashion Catalyst) and the make-up artist went a little crazy on me, as you can see here, then I went a little crazy and bought the deep teal lipstick she had applied.  I was told that the eye perceives it as a sexy colour, especially when paired with white eyeliner, as it is the exact negative of the usual red-lip-black-lined-eye combo. I'm more into its quirky qualities than its sexiness but if it comes with the territory then I suppose I'll just have to cope. Please excuse my hair which is in the extremely irritating growing out stages of a bob, flicking out in all the directions I expressly don't want it to flick in. And yes, it's all one colour now!

I have a few tidbits of gossip for you. Firstly I have recently started writing for the newsicmoos Fashion pages; there are only a few pieces up so far - including one about awesome up-and-coming shoe designer Cleo B - but we have some exciting bits in the pipeline, so stick with us for cool music and fashion crossovers.

I was photographed ages ago so I assumed it would never go live, but last week I had a picture and a tiny write-up about me in the London Evening Standard

Sarah Harradine is an international fashion marketing student from Manchester. Sarah is wearing a customized denim shirt from New Look, an ASOS skirt, Topshop Boutique coat, a Versace for H&M neck scarf, Zara bag and Kurt Geiger shoes.
I’m very trend-led, so I tend to look at an editorial or a catwalk and then find a way to emulate it through high street purchases. My favourite designers are Miuccia Prada and Christopher Kane, but it’s the people on the high street that are the most interesting.”
So there you go!

Finally, and most excitingly, details dropped about London store LN-CC's latest giveaway a few days ago...

LN-CC are offering flights to London (who cares that you're in Essex? Travel in style), a three-night stay in a hotel, and fifteen thousand pounds to spend in store. Can you imagine what you could do in LN-CC with that much money? I can, and it involves a whole load of Haider Ackermann's shiny tailoring. Enter here by providing your email address and that of two friends you feel may be interested in the retailer. Feel free to use my email as one of those interested parties, but I will be expecting an Ackermann-shaped thank-you gift if you win..

Stay tuned this week as Fashion Dotty takes another road trip to Cheshire to visit The éditeur's pre-races fashion show, and Mr Dotty will be making a very special guest appearance, playing reporter for the night at Emporio Armani's Elliott Landy exhibition!