How to get rid of unwanted gifts

We’ve all been there. It’s Christmas day, you’re slurping some champers while opening your gifts, and you’re presented with a pair of bike balls – or else something equally as obscurely and useless – by your brother-in-law. Alternatively, you might be given something that you know someone, somewhere would love and cherish, but it is absolutely and resolutely not “just what you’ve always wanted”. Thousands of unwanted gifts will be thrown away over the festive period, but here at GQ, we don’t believe in wanton waste, which is why we’re recommending reassigning your refuse. Before we begin, we must remind you that the cardinal rule is this: never, ever let the giver of the gift know that you plan on getting rid of it. Turning a crushing Christmas disappointment into a wily win is an art, and we’re here to teach you how to master those wicked ways without causing irreparable offence.

Return it

Let’s start with the obvious one: take your bad gift back to the shop. If, by some miracle, the unwanted present in question has been given to you with the gift receipt tactfully included, then this should be mercifully straightforward. Although retailers are not obliged by law to take purchases back unless faulty, most shops operate a kind of “good will” returns policy over the Christmas period where you can get a refund, an exchange or a credit note. If the gift was paid for by card, then only the cardholder can get the refund, so if you want to keep the reject status of said gift a secret, we’d advise going for the credit note.

If you don’t have proof of purchase, this is where it gets much trickier. Some places, especially where clothing is concerned, will allow you to exchange your unwanted gift for something of the same current value, providing all labels are still intact. Make sure you return it as quickly as possible – ideally on Boxing Day – if you want to stand a chance of replacing the reject with something of similar original value. Otherwise, you’ll only get the measly equivalent of the item’s sale price, which is likely to tumble with alarming haste in the mayhem of the post-Christmas cut downs. If you want to return a gift online, then check out the seller’s T&Cs first, as different retailers have different policies. Amazon’s online return centre allows recipients of gifts to return them anonymously, even if the purchase wasn’t originally listed as a gift, but you will need the order number or buyer’s name, email address and phone number. (To find out more about your consumer rights as the recipient of a gift, check out

Re-gift it

“Is it ever okay to re-gift a present?” You may ask. We think that yes, committing this perfect crime can be completely acceptable, as long as you’re subtle about it. If you haven’t already got one, create a communal christmas gift repository immediately. Whether that’s with your family or your housemates, this is going to come in handy throughout the year for those inevitable occasions where you’ve forgotten to buy a present. As far as the obviously Christmassy gifts are concerned, save ’em for next year. BUT make absolutely sure you keep a record of who gave them to you. The rudest and most mortifying thing you could do is re-gift the offending pressie to – or in front of – the person who originally gave it to you. You must also make sure that, when re-gifting or, as we prefer to think of it, considerately reassigning one’s gifts, you pick suitable recipients so that you can at least appear as thoughtful.

Sell it

If you can’t quite face dumping your duds on someone that you know, sell unwanted gifts to those who’ll show them the appreciation they (don’t always) deserve. After all, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, right? If you’ve been given a great gift that’s just not to your taste, or if you’re in it to make some mula, then this is an especially good way to get rid of items that were clearly quite expensive. eBay is the biggest and best website for selling on unwanted stuff, and every year, come 26 December, the site is flooded with thousands of brand-new items.

Alternatively, there’s eBid, a smaller site that stays a little less crowded than eBay, plus it’s worth remembering that Gumtree has an “unwanted gifts” category. Given that more than 450 million people now use Facebook groups to buy and sell items – from Wavey Garms to Buying and Selling Raf Simons – it’s unsurprising that the site has recently launched a new feature, Facebook Marketplace, which allows you to connect with people in your area to buy and sell a whole host of products.

If you’ve been bought a bit of luxury fashion that, although not to your taste, just doesn’t deserve the brutality of bidding, thenVestiaire Collective is an excellent place to sell your more high-end gifts. Grailed is another community marketplace specialising in menswear, with a wealth of brands from Rick Owens to Ralph Lauren on offer.

Switch it

If you haven’t been blessed with a gift receipt and can’t swap in-shop, then try online. Sites like will do the job nicely, and there are also plenty of specialist sites devoted to swapping, from for books to for DVDs.Game offers a comprehensive trade-in service where you can switch unwanted games, consoles and other bits by using the handy online value checker. Argos is another good place to take the festive season’s spurned items, as the retailer allows you to trade-in unwanted tech for vouchers. If your unwanted present already takes the form of vouchers, then you need Zeek – the app that allows you to make money from the vouchers that would otherwise sit in a drawer and collect dust until you decide to move house, which is when you realise they’ve all expired anyway.

And when all else fails, give it away

If, try as you may, you just can’t find a way to profit materially or monetarily from your outcast of an offering, then embrace charitable giving and just donate it. Most charity shops will be delighted with a brand-new item, so either pick a cause or pick somewhere round the corner and do the decent thing. Alternatively, if you think that even the organisers of your children’s primary school tombola (who, let’s face it, are going to be pathetically grateful to get anything that hadn’t been heading for the bin) may turn a proverbial nose up at this stinker of a gift, whack it on Freecycle. You’ll have people queuing up to take it off your hands, and it’s all in the spirit of seasonal giving, so you ought not to feel like too much of an ungrateful arsehole.

This article was originally published by on 20 December 2016

Fashion Month Round Up #AW16

Fashion month has finally come to an end, heels will be hung up and editors will be back at their desks.  Now it’s time to look back on all of the collections shown in New York, London, Paris and Milan so as to pick out the very best of what the designers had to offer. I’m going to take you on a whirlwind tour through the very best of what fashion month had to offer, from the ubiquitous trouser suit to a plethora of velvet, to cut through all that fashion noise and present my ultimate personal highlights.

New York

One of the most talked about shows of the season was undoubtedly Marc Jacobs, not only because he had Lady Gaga walk the runway, but because the clothes themselves really were spectacular. The show had a haunting, gothic feel to it with models made up to look almost like extras from the Addam’s family. That’s not to say they didn’t look fabulous, marcj jacobs nyfwthe dark lips and 20’s style finger-waved hair (with loose ends that gave the look a modern edge) offset the collection beautifully. There were laser cut skirts, oversize jumper dresses and lots of fur. The collection had a distinctly Victorian feel to it, with an abundance of lace doiley style necklines and pussybow blouses, but this nostalgia was paired with something all together more modern, such as the dark denim jacket covered in appliqué and adorned with chains. The resulting look was one that appeared part Miss Havisham, part steam punk princess and part flea-market finds. There were monochrome polka dots, long coats embellished with sequins and coats covered in feathers (as modelled by Kendall Jenner), but the pinnacle of the collection was undoubtedly the fabulous, fear inducing, sky high platform boots worn with everything.

Now onto Calvin Klein, where the collection was expectedly chic, smart and urban. True to form, Calvin Klein produced plenty of masculine silhouettes but also plenty of ultra feminine, seriously sexy looks such as the silky shift dresses, some of which featured fur. A personal favourite of mine is undoubtedly the brand’s latest take on the LBD, this time with a plunging neckline and decorative fluffy shoulder pieces (below left). The camisole featured rather heavily- unsurprising for a brand so synonymous with lingerie- and there was lots and lots of black. The overall feel of the collection was smart and slick but with an ‘undone’ edge, stitching was left purposefully unfinished and threads were left trailing. Another key look worth mentioning is of course, the two piece suit. As you will see, the trouser suit will be everywhere come Autumn, and Calvin Klein’s offering- with slouchy trousers and a tailored oversize jacket- looks set to be one of the most popular.

Whilst going through New York’s highlights, I’d also like to give a quick mention to Edun, the ethical brand that seeks to promote trade in Africa. Creative director Danielle Sherman’s collection included long coats with white blanket stitching, printed silks, a gorgeous pinstriped floor length skirt, pops of yellow knit amongst darker colours and most impressively, the fringed multi coloured dress and coat.

Lastly, let us turn to Ralph Lauren were- unsurprisingly- quintessentially American looks were the order of the day. The start of the show heavily featured neutral colours; there was ralph lauren goldlots of oatmeal, different shades of brown and that generally preppy vibe so synonymous with Lauren that one almost expects the models to pop off to the stables straight from the runway. The conservatism of polo necks and smart trousers and of shirts and ties worn with waistcoats was off set by the abundance of fringing reminiscent of the wild wild west. There was lots and lots of texture, from the light brown suede two piece suit to tweed, tartan, cashmere and velvet blazers. Velvet featured heavily, and one particular favourite was the black dress with lacy capped shoulders and decorative neckline as seen on Taylor Hill. The juxtaposition of the conventional and the more ‘rock and roll’ so clearly present in the show reached its pinnacle with the final look, a jaw-droppingly wonderful combo of billowing gold skit and black polo neck.


There were so many wonderful shows in my home town that I’ve been hard pressed to condense my commentary to just a mere few labels. However, some collections were so truly outstanding that they deserve attention, most notably Alexander McQueen. Creative director Sarah Burton really did pull out all of the stops; the numerous floor length sheer gowns were so staggeringly beautiful that they appeared as other-worldly as garments can get. The embroidery, the bead work, the ruffles and the feathers gave the collection an overtly feminine, ethereal tone; even the tailored pieces had a sexy edge. There were butterfly, lipstick and floral motifs adorning pieces that were neutral in tone, which gave the collection an air of late night sophistication, rather than comical excess. The pieces- especially the dresses- were undoubtedly glamorous, completely Gatsby-esque and totally gorgeous. I want them all.

mcqueen 4


As the pioneer of the digital print revolution, Mary Katranzou had big expectations to live up to for aw16 and her collection most certainly did not marydisappoint. There was a lot of embellishment and a lot of embroidery, much of which featured star, horse and heart motifs, in which the show’s inspiration- ‘love’s young dream’- was evident. There was a joyful abundance of colour, from multi coloured furs to heavily patterned coats and skirts. As with many of the other collections shown in fashion month, there was more than just a int of Americana and there were also A LOT of pleats.The resulting aura was one that was romance meets rodeo, encapsulated in the final look- a full length embroidered dress. Butterflies featured heavily, indeed my personal favourite has to be the sheer dress with full skirt and large butterfly motif. Here, and elsewhere there was a lot of sheer fabric, lots of lace inserts and let us not forget the fabulous ballet flats- some plain, some striped, some star patterned- all covetable.

Another of my favourite London shows was Topshop Unique (obvs) which had editors and ordinary folk alike salivating at the mouth. There was lots of clever layering, quite a bit of peter pillotoleapord print and once again, a surplus of black velvet. One of the particular highlights was the gorgeous black velvet dress worn by Taylor Hill, as were the coats and jackets.  The Peter Pillotto collection was similarly impressive as- in embracing a kind of nordic romanticism- it appeared at once ethereal and  practical. One of the designers- and namesake of the brand- Peter spoke of this Viking influence, saying that “we translated these poetic motifs into chenille embroidery”. The detail present in this collection is just mind blowing, from fabulous delicate embroidery around the toggles on a fur coat to swirling patterns intricately woven into tops and skirts (see left).It looked almost hand drawn, and complemented the pale, wintery colour palette perfectly.


The Gucci show has been one of the most talked about of the season, and given that colour gucci starsand eccentricity were order of the day, it certainly isn’t hard to see why. As with the Dolce & Gabanna collection, the ‘princess’ ideal took centre stage. The ultra feminine collection was largely made up of ice-cream colours; a pink fur coat was paired with pink tights and a pink bag, the lady-like button down dress in a pastel shade of turquoise was worn with a hat, tights, bag and strappy heels to match, the crazy yellow ‘big bird’ style coat paired with yellow headscarf, bag, shoes and tights . Creative director Alessandro Michele- who has been at the helm for a year- revels in juxtaposition and this was obvious in many of the pieces. The pink and green of the brocade coat with furry lower arms was paired with a shocking turquoise double breasted collar and fabulous red accessories. The funky unexpectedness of it all stopped it from appearing sacharine, as did the geek glasses paired with looks such as the tweed jacket and checked trousers. There was, of course, the obligatory trouser suit, but this time in a bold red with black detailing. There was of course some more sombre looks featuring lots of tailoring that appear more wearable, such as the grey two piece with slouchy bottoms  (baggier trousers are de rigueur this season). However it was the wacky, girlish elements of the show that won me over, with my absolutely favourite dress (right)- featuring billowing skirt, pastel colours and star applique over the boobs- summing up the feel of the collection nicely.

The Emporio Armani show- called ‘New Pop’- was notable largely because of the way it
totally embraced modernity. The collection was rife with allusions to technology; digital designs featured pixelated prints and geometric appliques, and futuristic looking fabrics such as PVC were everywhere. Also present were tailored jackets, metallic pumps, black velvet and pink and black stripes. There was a laid back athletic feel to some of the pieces, especially to the hoodies as seen as part of the menswear. the line felt incredibly youthful and served to remind audiences of the integral part the digital revolution has played in shaping our current fashion industry (need I even mention the word Instagram?!).

At Versace Donatella once again embraced female strength and sexuality with an ultra wearable, versatile collection that celebrated the super model. Versace were at the centre versace blue suitof the ‘supermodel’ trend in the 1990’s, and Dontella has brought this legacy up to date by having top models from Kendall to Jourdan to Gigi all walk in the show. The collection was suitably sexy and featured abstract baroque prints, silk shirts, leather and mini dresses. Dresses with uneven hemlines featuring yellow and blues were paired with fabulous grey boots, and the gorgeous wet look grey coat lined with pink fur paired with a mint green slip dress. One stand out look was the leather jacket and skirt in cornflower blue modelled by Jourdan Dunn, as was the fabulous two piece suit in the same colour worn over a cropped polo neck. Another highlight was the sexy nineties style spaghetti strap pink slip with a cowl neck, which literally screamed Carrie Bradshaw. Beyond pastels there were several navy coats with leather detailing that really would look as chic in the streets as they did on the catwalk.

bottega venetaThe Bottega Veneta collection was similarly impressive, but it embraced a totally different ethos than most of the other designers. Creative director Tomas Maier said his collection was about “personal luxury” and the clothes are indeed all very wearable and would fit seamlessly into the stylish working woman’s wardrobe. The collection was very simple- a far cry from the excesses of the other shows- and featured slim fit trousers, cashmere, pleated skirts and leopard print outerwear. Wool featured heavily, and the clothes came to take centre stage as the handbags so synonymous with the brand were shrunk down considerably. The stand out pieces were the dresses with sheer long sleeves, built in bralets and beautiful pleated skirts. These came in navy, pale lilac, caramel and nude and at once evoke both sensuality and practicality.


There was so many wonderful collections shown in Paris that I’ve had an incredibly difficult time picking out my highlights. The Valentino show was undoubtedly special.valentino Inspired by today’s industry and by the figure of the dancer, the collection featured magnificent ballet dresses, sequins, ballet shoes and a heavily adorned sheer dress that can only be described as a masterpiece (right). The Louis Vuitton show also harnessed the fast pace of the fashion world by encouraging retrospection. Creative director Nicolas Ghesquière modernised old pieces and made them seem relevant to today’s changing tastes; vintage scarf prints became little dresses and leather and mohair featured heavily. Whilst this collection was deemed relatively wearable, coming from experimental Ghesquière, there were still a few stand out pieces that would most certainly not be for the faint hearted. I especially love the shiny trousers in bright red, but admittedly, I’m not sure if it’s a look I’d be able to pull off.

The Stella McCartney collection was, like Valentino, typically feminine. The shapes, stella mccartneywhilst wide, were womanly and the printed silk trousers, pleated gold skirt, and jumper with a ‘woman power’ slogan on it were every bit the kind of pieces we have come to expect from Stella. Faux fur and faux leather were featured heavily, as were beautiful lacey slip dresses which, like so many of the other designer’s offerings, featured sheer fabric and pleats. The quilted over-sized puffer jackets- in rust, black and navy-  proved very popular as they are at once stylish and utilitarian, perfect for the busy urban woman. Stella managed to combine two of the hottest trends to emerge from fashion month by showcasing a black velvet trouser suit, which is sure to be on the ‘most desired’ list of every woman in fashion. The cropped bomber jacket was also a stand out piece, given that every fashionista worth his or her salt knows how big they are set to be over the coming year.

As much as I loved the emoji’s that featured heavily throughout the Chanel collection,  my favourite show had to be Balmain, and not only because of the all-star line up, but because gigi balmainone again Olivier Rousteing has produced the most fabulously opulent, intricate collection this world has ever seen. In a particularly clever marketing coup, the models wore wigs- Kendall Jenner was blonde, Gigi Hadid and Rosie Huntington-Whitely were transformed into raven haired goddesses- which ensured that the collection was plastered across magazines and newspapers globally the following day. Unusually for Balmain, pastel shades figured strongly, and both Kendall and Gigi were clothed in a soft powder blue. As always, it was all in the detail at Balmain. Shoulders were pointy, frills and other decorative features ubiquitous and peplums rigid. Many of the pieces were clearly influenced by lingerie, Karlie Kloss modelled a gorgeous baby pink bodice with sheer lace frilly trousers. The dressing gown style long striped coats as seen on many of the models were worn over the shoulder a la Kardashian, and the more conventionally ‘Balmain’ pieces featured the signature black and gold colours, as well as heavy pearl embellishments. The whole collection was so feminine, so regal and downright baroque in its aesthetic, this time Rousteing managed to out-Balmain himself.

Whilst Balmain in all its grandiose was my favourite show, one of the pieces I love best- for all it’s simplicity- is a jacket by Vetements. The  anti-authority, youthful collection produced by Vetements embraced the casual and the world has not been able to stop AW16CG-Vetements-047-xlarge_trans++-gaKsLgbA6-uokDv4MbJV2o9fJk1VK1SIba-RpWNnOUtalking about it since. The show embraced irreverence; swear-words and ironic outrageous slogans (“You Fuck’n Asshole”, “Justin4ever”, “UltraSkinny” ) featured heavily, as did uniforms, some ‘naughty school girl’ style, others made up of plaid suits with slouchy bottoms.There were plenty of references to goth culture and to heavy metal, and the oversized silhouettes and baggy hoodies synonymous with the brand made several appearances. THE jacket (right) ticks both of those boxes, and in red and orange- worn slouchily off the shoulder on one side-  is just so in that it is at once high fashion and also extremely practical. The designers played with proportion; a key look was a shrunken purple hoody worn over a maxi skirt. All in all the line is so different precisely because in a world of high fashion, the label has embraced sweats and street wear, and by showing men’s and women’s wear together, celebrates modern androgyny. Velvet made yet another appearance, this time in the form of a gold coat, but beyond this Vetements- as a tough, unorthodox cult brand- certainly did operate under the rules of subversion.

So there you have it, a quick fire round of all of my fashion month highlights, from my favourite shows to my most desired pieces. One thing’s for sure, everyone will have at least one piece of velvet in their Autumn wardrobe, and we can definitely expect heavy adornment, sequins, appliqué and embellishment to hit the high street later this year. Whether I’ll be embracing the feminine gothic aesthetic, the tough street style vibe, the super girly lingerie inspired look or the busy working woman’s wardrobe remains to be decided.






FENTY x PUMA: Rude Gyal Grunge

Six days ago, during the craziness of New York Fashion Week, Rihanna debuted her first full winter/fall collection for Puma since signing as creative director of the brand in 2014. This follows on from her first hugely successful venture with Puma, the creeper shoe, which sold out swiftly in September 2015. I for one was desperate to get my hands on a pair, but one missed alarm later and my chance was up in smoke. I was seriously excited to see what was going to be on offer this time, and luckily the original bad gal’s urban-goth game is as strong as ever.

The showcase most certainly did not disappoint, but it also did not particularly shock, as the collection literally screamed ‘Rihanna’. Firstly, there was A LOT of black. Pretty much all of the looks were monochrome and the models were transformed into black lipped, icy haired sports-chic queens.

Speaking of the models, the line up included the most Instagram-able models of the models-stella-maxwell-l-and-bella-hadid-pose-backstage-at-the-fenty-puma-by-rihanna-aw16-collectionmoment, from Gigi and Bella Hadid to Stella Maxwell and Ruth Bell of Ruth and May. Bella Hadid wore one of my favourite looks, the lace up, skin tight flared body suit that somehow looks sleek and sexy whilst at the same time seriously sporty. It’s this mixing of very different looks that set the tone for the whole collection; the grungy-sporty-street wear vibe was offset by sheer fabrics, lace and a lot of bare skin. Rihanna herself said of the collection, that ‘if the Addams Family went to the gym, this is what they would wear’ and this melding of Rihanna’s signature urban- gothic style is evident in all aspects of design.

The collection featured both women’s and men’s wear, but a key aspect of the line as a whole is androgyny. Many of the pieces are unisex and clearly defy any binary notion of gendered fashion. This ambiguity can be felt in the very cut of the clothes, Rihanna has played around with a variety of shapes, sizes and silhouettes in a striking way. The juxtaposition of massively baggy, oversize clothing and then the skin tight- a signature RiRi look- was everywhere, from figure hugging dresses to roomy tracksuits.

I love all of the criss- cross and lace- up detailing, which is sexy and suggestive whilst evocative of Puma’s sporty essence. Different sports are alluded to in different looks, one particular favourite of mine looks like it had been designed for the world’s most stylish female boxer. The crop top with the cross over bottom is at the top of my must-have list, it feels very Alexander Wang, the epitome of sporty chic. crop top

Sports might be a defining feature, but the collection has also clearly been inspired by Japan. From sheer dresses featuring Japanese calligraphy (another highlight for me) to tracksuits emblazoned with the Japanese flag, the influence is palpable.

Aside from the clothes, there was of the course shoes. The new Fenty trainer was unveiled and new creepers were added. Many of the models were dressed in a trainer- stiletto hybrid (some in white, some in yellow as below right) that, I have to be honest, is definitely not for me. They feel very tacky, 90’s pop star and look like the type of shoe that will only ever really have novelty value. But hey, maybe that’s the look Rihanna and Puma were going for!  I do however LOVE LOVE LOVE the chunky white platform boots. They looked banging paired with bare legs, both with the oversized jumper mini dress and the longer dresses (as below). I could imagine wearing them in almost any scenario, from work to nightclubs to the shops to festivals,  and to me they perfectly encapsulate the collection’s sexy rude gyal grunge aesthetic.

All in all, it was a pretty great collection, and Rihanna delivered exactly what we would expect her to. Unfortunately the collection won’t be available to the masses via retailers until Feb 2016, so until then we’ll simply have to channel the Fenty x Puma vibes by stomping around to Rihanna’s new album and wearing a lot of black lipstick.

Mexican Eggs #brunchinspo

Given that the weekend is just around the corner, today I am going to share a brunch favourite of mine that, despite being one of my ultimate hang over cures, is a super versatile dish that’s amazing at any time of day. Jamie Oliver inspired this recipe and I’ve kept his name for it- Mexican eggs- but it is also incredibly similar to shakshuka and various other baked egg recipes that are about!

This is a great healthy alternative to a full English as there’s no meat (although if I’m going all out I sometimes add chorizo) and the vegetable rich sauce is full of goodness! Eggs are a great source of protein and vitamins and are great after a heavy night too! I often wrap the eggs and sauce in a tortilla with a little grated cheese but if you want to keep it carb free and healthy then simply serve with guacamole.

Ingredients  (serve 2)

4 eggs

1 diced onion

3 garlic cloves finely chopped

1 red pepper finely chopped

1 medium chilli

1 tin of tomatoes

1 tablespoon of tomato paste

1 bay leaf

1/2 teaspoon of paprika

1/3 teaspoon of ground coriander

Optional: A pinch of cayenne pepper depending on the levels of spice you can handle!

Salt and pepper to taste

To serve

Whole Wheat Tortillas

A little freshly grated cheddar


First take a deep frying pan with a lid (ideally glass so you can see what’s going on in there) and melt some coconut oil or ghee over a medium heat. Fry the onions until translucent and then add the garlic for approximately 1 min before adding the red pepper and chilli. Move the mixture around the pan to ensure it cooks evenly and once it has been sautéing for a couple of minutes add the tomato paste and stir before throwing in the tin of tomatoes and the bay leaf. Give it all a good stir and simmer on a low heat for 10 minutes so that all of those flavours can meld deliciously together.

Once the sauce is done, get your eggs at the ready and make four holes in the sauce, making sure they’re evenly spaced in the pan. Once you’ve made a hole in the sauce, crack the egg and carefully place it into the space you’ve made so that it can poach in the sauce. You might want to do this one by one (make a hole, crack the egg in) if your sauce is slightly runny. Once all four eggs are in the sauce, pop the lid on and allow to gently simmer. The eggs cook in the sauce and the steam it creates, so keep an eye on the top of the pan and when it looks like eggs have turned from translucent to white they should be nearly done. It does tend to vary but generally speaking the eggs should take about 6 minutes or so.

Once the eggs are fully cooked, all you need to do is spoon onto a plate or tortilla and enjoy! And just incase you need any more motivation, check out this serious egg porn:FullSizeRender (1)

Where are Fashion’s Females?

Feminism was most definitely one of 2015’s ‘buzz’ words. From Emma Watson’s heforshe campaign, to the tabloid frenzy that surrounded Charlotte Proudman, to the release of Suffragette in October, everyone’s been talking about the fight for gender equality and the status of women today.

One particular area of concern for a lot of people is the inequality right at the top of our society. The equal pay portal notes how at the top-level of earners, the gender pay gap is 54.95%! But it’s not just in pay that disproportion is clear… there are, quite simply, far less women in top jobs than there are men. From the House of Commons (think the rise of the Women’s Equality Party) to the hills of Hollywood (only 7% of the top 250 films of 2014 were directed by women), the lack of women in high powered positions has taken centre stage in the public conversation on gender equality. The shockingly low number of women working in STEM (link) in the UK has, amongst other things, been attributed to a kind of gender bias in that Science, Technology and Engineering etc. are simply not ‘girly’ subjects. Yet, when considering the underrepresentation of women it is also worth remembering that this phenomenon is not confined to more traditionally masculine industries.

As we embark upon a new year I want to consider the lack of women in top jobs in arguably one of the most ‘feminine’ industries of all, fashion. People might well assume that women rule the world of fashion. Thanks to the media, it’s easy to assume that most senior fashion jobs are filled with terrifying Meryl-Streep-in-The-Devil-Wears-Prada-eque ladies. And yet, if you take a look back at the goings on at the top end of the fashion industry over the previous year, a picture starts to form. And one thing’s for sure, there ain’t many women in it.

There were 91 brands showing at Paris Fashion week last year and less than 20% of those had female creative directors. A quick glance at all the major fashion houses will tell you how few women are actually making the executive decisions about what trends the women of the world will pour over online and in magazines, follow, buy into, recreate. These big fashion houses make a sizable majority of their profits from their women’s wear and yet by and large, they have men at the helm.

2015 saw three of the biggest names in fashion depart from their positions; Alexander Wang announced his resignation from the helm of Balenciaga in July and in October Raf Simmons left Dior’s Women’s Collection and Alber Ebaz left Lanvin after fourteen years.

This exodus of creative directors has left space at the top, but whether women will fill these roles is another matter all together. The established, old-school couture houses are run predominantly by men, there has never even been a woman designing at Dior. Interestingly, some of fashion’s most successful female designers have chosen to work under their own names- Vivienne Westwood, Stella McCartney- rather than at one of the top luxury brands.

celineThe common perception is that women design clothes they would want to wear whereas men design clothes they would want their fantasy woman to wear; herein lies a telltale sign into the success of certain brands. The modern woman wants to look exceedingly stylish, but they also want comfort and practicality. Phoebe Philo’s work at Celine has been a huge success both critically and commercially for precisely this reason. Philo’s designs are beautiful and chic but also useful. Her understated pieces are especially popular with the ‘workingwoman’- a savvy business move when you consider which type of modern women generally have the money to spend on high end designer goods- because they have a utilitarian feel. Celine offers clothes that are wearable and translate from catwalk to everyday life seamlessly (see Celine SS2015 on the right).

That’s not to say that Philo operates in a vacuum, hugely successful female creative directors include Sarah Burton at Alexander McQueen, Rei Kawakubo at Comme des Garçons and Carol Lim at Kenzo. However the success of these women are a rarity rather than a norm in the industry and all things considered, to readdress the gender imbalance could only be a good thing. As I previously mentioned, there’s a surplus of women in lower industry jobs, from the vast number of seamstresses working in the ateliers to the women working in ‘in-house’ marketing positions.

Yet it is only the creative director who can truly shape a brand’s aesthetic, and if there were more women designing clothes for women, then logic would have it that that there would be even more on the market that genuinely responds to female needs and desires. Designers that do exceptionally well are often credited with truly understanding women (think Roland Mouret’s Galaxy dress) in a way that other fashion houses do not. Yet I am not trying to suggest that there should only be women designing women’s wear, on the contrary, I want to suggest that the egalitarian nature of fashion should be embraced by those who ultimately decide which creative directors to instate.

Fashion has always been one of the most fundamental ways in which society expresses its most revolutionary aspects, from the mini skirts of the sixties to the sexy excesses of 90’s Versace, the fashion industry revels in zeitgeist. In an increasingly varied, melange, integrated and open world, would it not be best to have as many different influences as possible? Women and minorities are finally being embraced in every aspect of Western life and yet it is becoming increasingly apparent that the fashion industry needs to catch up if it wants to maintain its innovative reputation.

Fashion has always been a forward thinking, liberal industry that refuses restriction of every kind and yet this lack of female creative direction itself imposes limitations upon what is conceivably possible. Creative genius knows no bounds and if more women were given the chance to shape the future of a giant historical fashion house then who knows what other doors could be opened. The more varied the ‘type’ of person making executive decisions are, the more diverse the results will become. The boundaries the fashion industry always revelled in testing can be re-imagined, pushed even further, and results beyond our wildest dreams subsequently come into fruition. The clothes of the millennium have become increasingly androgynous; fashion today explodes gender norms and is constantly in the process of ‘re-writing’ the rules. Having a more equal balance of input from both genders makes for a multifarious industry all together.

jaden-lv-woman-010415sp Jaden Smith has become the poster boy for a new, genderless kind of fashion and just this month he has been announced as the brand new face of Louis Vuitton’s women’s wear campaign- shot by creative director Nicholas Ghesquiere- where he is pictured wearing a skirt and posing with female models (see left).

Whilst one might rejoice in this this apparent industry move even further towards an androgynous conception of fashion, such public declarations need to have affect on the inside of the fashion business too. Fashion is all about smashing up conventions and in 2016 it’s now time to throw the tradition of appointing predominantly male creative directors out with the old, so that we might make way for the new.

Rainbow Vegetable Quinoa

This is an amazing healthy, quick and simple meal that I often cook for my boyfriend and I after a heavy weekend as a vain attempt to get something nutritious into our bodies. As with all my recipes, this serves 2 for dinner. However there should be plenty left over, which is great as this makes a really wonderful packed lunch for work which can then be either be reheated or eaten cold. 

The quinoa is packed full of protein which makes this a really wholesome dish despite the lack of meat, fish or dairy. This makes it an especially great dish for me as I often struggle to think of exciting vegan dishes- in our house no meat often means it ends up being replaced with cheese, cheese and more cheese- but this one is incredibly hearty and really hits the spot. If you just can’t go vegan for the evening, this also works really well as a side dish for a nice bit of meat or fish. 

The  abundance of colour here is also what makes this such a healthy meal; nutritionists suggest that when aiming to get in your five a day one should try to encompass as many different colours as possible as they all have different health benefits. To give this rainbow dish an even further kick of colour I sometimes serve it with a crisp salad featuring some shredded red cabbage on the side. 


150g quinoa

1 heaped teaspoon vegetable boullion

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 onion- diced

3 cloves garlic- crushed

1 carrot- finely diced

green beans- very finely chopped

peas- approx 120g/ large handful

red pepper- finely diced

yellow pepper- finely diced

1/2 teaspoon dried mixed herbs

1/3 teaspoon paprika

handful chopped fresh parsley


Fill and boil the kettle and prep your veg. I’d suggest starting with the harder veg- the onion, carrot and green beans- as they will need to cook for longer than the peppers and peas, which can be thrown in during the last 5 minutes.

Once the kettle has boiled and you have most your veg prepped, fill a non-stick sauce pan with 350ml water before stirring in the boullion and tomato paste until combined. Rinse your quinoa thoroughly under cold water in a sieve to remove impurities. Keep the liquid boiling on a medium temperature and add your quinoa. Bring to the boil and then turn right down to simmer with a lid 3/4 of the way over the top. The quinoa should absorb all of the liquid so that it doesn’t need draining at the end but if during cooking time it starts to look like it’s drying out and might catch on the bottom just add a little more boiling water. Allow to cook for 15 but meanwhile get on with the vegetables.

Heat a little coconut oil (or other of your choice) in a deep frying pan and saute the onion and garlic for a minute or so before adding the carrot.

Continue to cook for a couple of minutes before adding finely chopped green beans , and then cook the mixture (whilst stirring) on a medium to low heat for approximately 5 minutes until soft and almost done. Whilst this is cooking finely dice your peppers so they are ready to go. At this stage, take your peas and if frozen just pop them into a sieve and pour boiling water over them to defrost. Add your dried herbs, paprika and peas, together with the peppers, to the pan and sauté for a further couple of minute until all the veg is done. Turn the heat off.

Your quinoa should be just about done by now (you can tell it is cooked through by checking whether the germ has come away from the kernel) so once it is, turn it off and fluff it up using a fork.

Return the vegetable mixture to a low heat and add the cooked quinoa, stirring to thoroughly combine, before throwing in the parsley and giving the whole lot a final mix. I often add a squeeze of lemon at this stage but this is totally optional. Serve up and enjoy! It’s great with a bit of chilli sauce too.


Alice: The Eternal Muse

I’ve always been a massive Alice in Wonderland fan- and am really excited about seeing Damon Albarn’s over Christmas- but what actually inspired me to write this blog was the Mert & Marcus Alice photos of Kendall Jenner in (December) Vogue. In case you haven’t seen them, take a look at this pure fabulousness:
VogueThis shoot, together with the fact that YESTERDAY marked the 150th anniversary of the publication of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, compelled me to consider the seemingly eternal influence the children’s book has had upon the world of fashion specifically. We all know that the ‘Alice band’ was said to have emerged following the publication of Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass, but the influence of the novels has shaped more than just hair accessories. The world of Alice is engrained into our collective cultural consciousness and has permeated a range of creative spheres for generations. All things Alice just don’t get ‘old’ and the world of fashion has drawn inspiration from Carroll’s Wonderland in countless ways. Wonderland is quintessentially British and it is the fantastical, quirky nature of Carroll’s tale that makes it so appealing to adults and children alike. The novel’s resistance to interpretation can be seen as the precise reason why it has been so culturally influential over the last century and a half; people use Alice in a multitude of ways. The Tim Burton remake saw a return to the more gothic, dark undertones of Carroll’s novel and it is this type of approach, rather than the cutesy vibe, that seems to ring true for the world of fashion.

That being said, Disney’s influence upon how we perceive Alice- as a style icon especially- simply cannot be ignored. The influence of Tenniel’s illustrations is obvious, but Disney has also played a crucial hand in shaping our conceptions of how Alice dressed. Depictions of Alice’s outfit varied widely during the nineteenth century and it is only since the Disney 1951 cartoon adaptation that the blue dress and pinafore have become synonymous with Alice.

One particular highlight of the blue dress at centre stage is Grace Coddington’s 2003 Vogue Christmas spread shot by Annie Lebovitz. Natalia Vodianova was Alice and designers such as Marc Jacobs (see him below portraying the caterpillar) and Tom Ford portrayed supporting characters.

alice in wonderland vogue marc jacob

THE blue dress came to take centre stage of the shoot (watch the great HBO documentary In Vogue: The Editor’s Eye to find out more) as designers such as Karl Lagerfeld were tasked with recreating Alice’s iconic outfit. Months of research went into planning the shoot and Coddington made sure to stay true to Sir John Tenniel’s iconic illustrations. Images like Alice holding the flamingo were painstakingly recreated and the result was as whimsical yet as striking as you would expect:

alice flamingo

As well as the blue dress, the iconography of the novel has become a focus point in the world of fashion. From Queen of hearts prints to all things tea-party, any modern fashion fiend worth their salt knows an Alice reference when they see one. From subtle to outlandish, Alice in Wonderland is more than a theme and is in fact a cultural institution. alice illustration.jpgMarks & Spencer’s used Alice in Wonderland for a 2013 campaign with Rosie Huntington Whitely as Alice and David Gandy as the mad hatter. It’s my belief that the known tear jerking tactics of our grocers at Christmas time are enough to tell us about the importance of advertising content with wide spread appeal. If it’s one thing we all know its that Alice sells. The world of Alice is one like no other; inherently creative, exciting and eccentric yet equally familiar and comforting, as with many things from childhood. Alice brings out the child in all of us.

Whilst Disney have partnered with several fashion brands and sellers, from Selfridges (‘Alice in Wonder room’ 2010) to Swarovski, their most recent venture is with Marc by Marc Jacobs who utilises all the imagery we associate with Alice. From the Cheshire cat to keys to laughing flowers to door knobs, each item features a visual reference to Alice (specifically the Disney cartoon of course). The collection is introduced on the website with Alice’s classic line- ‘I am not like other girls’- and it is this that I believe sums up the appeal of Alice in Wonderland most succinctly. We love it because it is wildly imaginative and totally unique.Alternative worlds will always appeal; we all want to take a giant step through the looking glass or a tumble down the rabbit hole. The wonderful words crafted by Carroll (real name Charles Dodgson) have in turn fostered visual markers that continue to have a wide spread appeal for style camps of every persuasion.

150 years ago, a young girl named Alice Liddell convinced Lewis Carroll to write down the imaginative tales he so often entertained her with so that she might keep them forever. Today, any fashion item that even references the world of that story can become a collector’s piece and as the focal point of any range Wonderland can make millions. That, I believe, is testament to the eternal nature of Alice.

Alice in Vogue

Natalia as Alice stepping through the looking glass (Vogue 2003).

Balmain x H & M

Even if the closest the majority of us are set to get to the fashion launch party of the year this evening is via Instagram, it’s still time to celebrate as the most exciting and hotly anticipated collaboration of the year is almost here! On November 5th the Balmain x H & M collection will hit stores and the web as the Swedish retailer once again makes the dream of owning high fashion pieces an affordable reality for those lucky (and quick) enough to get their hands on them. The look book has been revealed and it most certainly does not disappoint. The signature opulence one expects from Balmain is as prevalent as ever, from heavy pearl embellishments and gold buttons to luxuriant satins and velvets, creative director Olivier Rousteing has pulled out all of the stops. In an interview with Vogue, Rousteing emphasised the importance of the collection having ‘that feeling of exclusivity and uniqueness’ and the obvious attention to detail means this high street offering feels distinctly luxurious and distinctly, well, Balmain.

When considering the huge popularity of Balmain with young people- most of whom who could never actually afford to wear anything from a couture house- the importance of Rousteing cannot be underestimated. Having come to the helm in 2011 aged only 25, Rousteing has proved immensely popular not only with legions of fans on social media (he has over 1.4 milion followers on Instagram) but also with the hottest celebrities of the moment. He’s BFFs with Kim and Kanye- both of whom fronted the Balmain Spring/Summer menswear campaign 2015 – and other members of his #BalmainArmy include Gigi and Bella Hadid, Rihanna, and Cara Delevigne. The models he picks to be a part of his Balmain campaigns may look otherworldly, but they have a wide spread appeal that taps into the consciousness of the younger generation especially. His ongoing friendship with and casting of Kendall Jenner is nothing short of genius when considering how Rousteing has popularised Balmain with a young demographic. The H & M collaboration can be seen as a continuation of this modernising drive, as by making Balmain more affordable the brand is not only broadening its public appeal but is ensuring the support of millions of fans who by buying into #HMBalmaination (a hashtag Rousteing personally checks on every day) can finally feel a part of the Balmain army themselves.

The first sneak peak of the collection we were given was at the Billboard music Awards in May and since then the buzz around the line has been incredible. Rousteing attended with two of the ‘faces’ of the campaign- Kendall Jenner and Jourdan Dunn- and it is from that moment on that I (along with what seems like literally the entire online fashion community) have been desperate to get my hands on THAT jacket. The black oversized jacket with structured shoulders and an abundance of pearl embellishment, sported by Kendall as a kind of dress, is the epitome of what this collaboration is about. The craftsmanship is truly astonishing; Balmain’s signature embroidery and all round decorative glamour is as present as in the main line- the pieces still feel like couture and yet will cost a fraction of the price.

The beautifully tailored, structured jackets also scream ‘Balmain’ in that they are sophisticated and yet sexy at the same time. The blazer style jacket in black velvet is another personal favourite of mine, the large gold buttons are testament to the military vibes that shape Rousteing’s aesthetic. The gorgeous double breasted black leather jacket with gold detailing also has a military feel to it and yet, like the rest of the collection, still manages to look incredibly feminine thanks to the clever, couture inspired fits-like-a-glove tailoring. The line feels far from utilitarian, the signature sequin and embellished dresses ooze disco glitz and glamour and keep the collection feeling youthful. The accessories showcased in the look book are undoubtedly bold, the massive chunky gold pieces add to the opulence that the rich colours (saffron yellow, bottle greens and pinks) evoke. Sky-high hemlines keep much of the collection, especially the heavily embroidered pieces, from looking fussy or old-fashioned. These mini dresses are classic Balmain- think the Faberge egg style masterpiece worn by Kim K. over her ‘wedding weekend’- and will likely be the most coveted items in the collection.

However, for those of us expecting H & M prices, one of the limited edition embellished minis is reportedly set to go on sale at £399, so clearly craftsmanship still has its costs. Full prices have yet to have been disclosed but my guess is that the line is still going to seem pretty expensive for the average high street shopper. That being said, the first advert to be released prices the sequined green v-neck dress at £119, which as a slightly less fear-inducing number can serve as a useful indicator of what the majority of the collection is likely to cost. Accessories will also be available, although there is speculation as to which pieces shown in the look book will actually be sold (women all over the net are praying for those over-the-knee black boots). There is also a menswear line that, whilst slightly more utilitarian in spirit, is equal in artistry to the women’s collection.

So, despite the fact that the average shopper may have to raid their savings in order invest in their own little bit of the French haute couture fashion house, this unique lux collection speaks for itself. On November 5th an early morning, an overdraft and a possible punch up in a store seems not only possible but necessary for any fashion lover on a (sort of) budget. Rousteing said in an interview with Vogue that ‘Balmain is about the new generation, and when you wear the clothes, I want you to feel sexy and fierce’; if nothing else this stunning collection is testament to how innovators like Rousteing are starting to open the doors of couture to young people all over the world.