This week, Vogue reminds us of Rana Plaza and offers small solutions

Rana Plaza is one incident which was reported on, published and shown to us (see my post here)but how many people suffer due to our fashion system on a daily basis? The numbers remain in the dark. 5 years ago, there was alot of activism, such as the Spanish trade union UGT, who felt for their manufacturers in Bangladesh and staged a protest.

Activists of the Spanish trade union UGT (General Union of Workers) perform with fake blood in front of a Mango store in Barcelona on May 7 during a protest after the tragic death of hundreds of Bangladeshi workers who made clothes for western brands in precarious conditions. Photo: AFP

What can we do to make things better?

We can take small steps to initiate small solutions. For example, a few years ago, I staged this Barbie photo below, in order to remind us of the constant consumerisim we live in.


“Barbie’s Shopping Binge” Photograph by Olga Mitterfellner


I am pleased to see that Vogue has written a piece on “Fashion Revolution”, reminding us of Rana Plaza – the horrid catastrophe which shook the fashion world 5 years ago and I am reposting the article further below. Have a look at what Vogue’s Ellie Pithers suggests here below followed by my own special recommendation and do post your thoughts!



5 Changes To Make This Fashion Revolution Week

Five years on from the Rana Plaza garment factory disaster, and there’s no better time to make more mindful, socially responsible fashion choices. Here’s what to do if you want a fairer fashion industry this Fashion Revolution Week.


It’s hard to believe that it’s been five years since the world watched an eight-storey factory collapse in Bangladesh. The Rana Plaza disaster claimed 1,138 lives and injured a further 2,500 garment workers – and has subsequently proved a turning point in the collective fashion consciousness.

In a special “Fashion Question Time” discussion at the House of Commons on Monday, numerous panel members argued that conditions have improved – albeit painfully slowly – for garment workers since the industrial tragedy, which forced factories, brands and governments to analyse the human cost of fast fashion.

Rushanara Ali, MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, and incidentally the first person of Bangladeshi origin to have been elected to the House of Commons, put it succinctly when she said: “[Rana Plaza] was a wake-up call to consumers in the west, and their governments. The awareness and public pressure both internationally and also domestically has meant that the workers in that sector have a stronger voice and more back-up which needs to be maintained. Overall pay and conditions have improved slightly. But the prognosis is a mixed one. There has been some progress but not enough. We need to make sure the legacy of the tragedy is that there are international agreements to make sure something like this does not happen elsewhere.”

Step forward Fashion Revolution, a movement founded in the immediate aftermath of Rana Plaza, to radically change the way our clothes are sourced, produced and consumed. This week marks the fifth Fashion Revolution Week, and the debut of a new manifesto which aims to make the fashion industry fairer. Here are five ways to get involved with Fashion Revolution Week, and shop mindfully in the process.

And No. 6 is my own suggestion, something I preach to all my students:


If you live in a fashion capital like London, there is an abundance of vintage stores and charity shops where you can find a designer piece that you personally can resurrect and give it a new life by wearing it! If you do not have physical access to those hot-spots then there is the internet which offers so many sites with beautiful vintage pieces.

The vintage clothes not only contribute to a unique appearance, they also break the chain of cruel production and mindless consumerism. They also make a great conversation piece for the office or a party! Below are some of the vintage items which I have purchase in the past:

Kansai Yamamoto sweater which I had previously blogged about here, shoes by Escada, Chanel and Pollini and a skirt by Karl Lagerfeld.





Lufthansa’s Rebranding to Premium Identity

This month Lufthansa did something it had not done in the last 30 years: It announced a complete corporate rebranding – represented by a visible change of colours, materials and the famous tailfin colours (First image above shows the new colours).

The announcement coincides with the airline celebrating 100 years since the invention of it’s brand logo – the abstract crane – and it’s celebrated rating as a 5-star airline, something that insiders tell me the airline was struggling to achieve for a while now.

Established in 1955, Lufthansa is one of the leading airlines in Europe and the world. Based in Germany, with HQ in Frankfurt Airport, Lufthansa flies to more than 200 destinations in over 70 countries with an impressive fleet of close to 350 planes and is the largest European operator of the Airbus A380. And until very recently, this fleet sported a familiar and comforting “egg yolk” yellow on its rudder.

I must say that I grew up with this egg yolk and the airline and spent many childhood flights on short and long-haul flights, when my father reached senator status in the 1980s. This was the highest tier status back then and meant that I had my own Senator status card well until the year 2000. I could use up all the collected miles and spontaneously book flights to any place in the world – from Seattle to Cairo – with absolute trust towards the airline. Afterall, I was sent on longhaul flights by myself from the age of 9 and never had one bad experience.


This week, however, Lufthansa introduced a new logo, identity, and livery designed in-house in collaboration with Munich-based Martin et Karczinski

The visuals of the Lufthansa brand will be changed completely over the next 7 to 8 years to reflect their “premium” character. For faithful PAX (that’s passengers in aviation terminology) or SLF (that’s self-loading-freight in derogatory aviation jargon) this is a move not easily digested. Personally, the “premium” feeling has been there for me all along, but perhaps I am not the typical target customer to understand the new corporate identity? Lets look at some brand psychology to see if it all makes sense:


Why change the corporate identity?

Marieke de Mooij (2011) explains that “like the self, identity in individualistic cultures is supposed to be unique and consistent, as opposed to a collectivist’s identity, which can change according to varying social positions and situations.”

Thus the “corporate identity” is defined by a Western identity concept. It is concerned with the impressions, the image and personality which a company projects. (Interestingly, there is no adequate understanding of individualistic identity in collectivist cultures and languages, such as China and Japan.)

Ideally brands have clearly defined images created by advertising, packaging and other positioning elements, and theory believes that these images are congruent with consumers’ self images.

If you have a look below, you can see two mood boards of the Lufthansa as it was known in the last 30 years and its new visual identity. Has the self image of the Lufthansa customer changed over the decades and will it morph in the near future?


Old corporate identity mood board with lots of the egg-yolk-yellow in many customer-facing interfaces.

Above, the new corporate identity with lots of dark blue and only accents of yellow, such as the in-flight chocolate or crew uniform.


 Are premium travelers expressing themselves through choosing a premium branded airline?

“The concept of brand personality refers to the human-like attributes associated with brands. For example, Apple is cool, Hermes is elegant, and the Volkswagen Golf is understated.

Much like in humans, brands develop their personality with time, as they mature.
In some cases, this results from deliberate attempts to translate the vision of designers and marketers into a product that can help consumers express key emotions. Chamorro-Premuzic, Tomas (2015).

What’s in a colour and shape?

How people describe colour greatly depends on the linguistic terms of a culture’s language. Adult polyglots show different associations with the same colours.

“In marketing and branding, colours can have powerful effects.” 

“Colors can alter the meanings of the objects or situations with which they are associated and color preferences can predict consumers’ behaviour. Color is an integral element of marketing communications. (…) It helps to differentiate from the competition, evokes strong product associations and category images. Color communicates corporate position.”

Marieke de Mooij (2011) Consumer Behavior and Culture. Sage

“Five experiments document that the mere circularity and angularity of a brand logo is powerful enough to affect perceptions of the attributes of a product or company,”
the researchers write in the Journal of Consumer Research.


A 2013 study published in Psychological Science shows that logos and branding can have a profound influence on decision-making. Authors Marios Philiastides (University of Nottingham) and Roger Ratcliff (The Ohio State University) found that visible logos and branding on clothing items carried significant value – ultimately biasing decision-making processes in favor of preferred brands.

“It is not sufficient for companies to try to attract consumers with price promotions, good customer support, or product-specific technical requirements (e.g., updates),” they concluded. “Instead, companies should place special emphasis on brand design and awareness and strive to promote strong affective associations with their brand among customers to develop and maintain a competitive advantage.”


So there we are: Lufthansa has clearly a specific understanding how their customer thinks and acts, what he or she finds attractive and what will bind that person to the brand over many decades. Martin et Karczinski have apparently spent an awful lot of time working out the new identity, as you can see here.

But it is not all that positive within the German media space:

Aviation writer Enrique Perrella described the new brand identity it as “bland and pointless”, while industrial designer Clemens Weisshaar told Dezeen it was a “design belly flop.“ Weisshaar also compared the new livery to that of a “dodgy insurance company” or “a failed bank”.

I wonder if I will grow to like it as much as I did the egg-yolk-colours and will report on the effect in the near future. However, it might also be the case of what happened to Japan Airlines: During some tumultuous business years, the airline changed its logo several times, only to revert back to a beloved retro-branding (the “tsuru” or Japanese crane) a few years ago. The retro-feel of the tail fin was still a symbol to PAX young and old and really worked well. So, Lufthansa, what will it be?

I invite you to comment on the Lufthansa rebrandig and share your thoughts!

My travel moments on an LH flight to London.


Pure London 2018 – review

Today was a fantastic day when I visited PURE London at the Kensington Olympia exhibition space with my colleague and students and got really inspired.

At Pure, buyers can hunt for the latest AW 2018/19 trends to stock in stores from hundreds of amazing brands. New this year is “Pure Origin” where the supply chain is vertically integrated in the venue and manufacturers and suppliers show what they can do for brands.

The upcoming trends which struck me this year were retro-styled coats, feminine silhouette jackets and floral patterns everywhere. I took the opportunity to pose at the selfie wall which I needed to improve a bit, to represent the “fairer” sex!

See below for the things that impressed me at the show and a video of their catwalk.

Endless choice of stands to visit in the giant venue…

Louche quilted sweat with appliqué… What’s remarkable about this brand is it’s place or origin and manufacture: This is actually designed and made in London. A very rare find in this fast-paced and competitive market where nearly all production is outsourced to cheaper labour countries.

A bit of DIY to represent….

Dressed for the occasion (?) in my vintage Kansai Yamamoto sweater, Stefanel camouflage trousers and UGG boots.

Ultra-feminine brand Emilyandfin had a beautiful exhibition space with “Ekibana” – styled flowers and checkerboard flooring.

My absolute new favourite must be “Collectif” a brand specializing in vintage-looking clothing. An absolute delight!

Having used original retro patterns from the Vintage Pattern Lending Library – a resource I can honestly recommend to any vintage aficionado and designer – I understand what goes into the pattern making and construction of a garment which recreates past shapes when I made 1940s inspired garments. The patterns are tricky at times but ultimately flatter the feminine figure and can be anything from elegant to playful to glamorous.

Above the handbag and the coat below are both from Collectif.

Again, very retro-style, reminiscent of 1920s flapper-style and silent-film glamour – by Camelot.

Here some highlights of this year’s catwalk show:

Happy 2018! Bunkers and shade-inclusive make-up are the trends of tomorrow.

HAPPY 2018 everyone! This is my new year’s message to you, the last post of 2017. Thank you for faithfully reading my blog. I am approaching 100 followers, meaning that I soon won’t classify as a nano-blogger anymore. However, I have a few tricks up my sleeve, like writing thought-provoking and critical yet somewhat weird articles, so that any bloggerazzi followers get deterred. (Hope you get my sarcasm…)

But in all seriousness, there are a few trends which have emerged this year and will grow in the next one, such as bunkers and the so-called shade-inclusiveness, and I would like to share my research with you today.


TREND No 1: Bunkers are back in fashion, fueled by the end of the world sentiments.

Atlas Survival Shelters. Fancy a made-to-order bunker for you and the family? Image source here.

I am serious, and not exaggerating, but let me explain:

If you know a bit about marketing you might also know about the “PESTEL” analysis. This handy tool looks at the macro-environment of a business and evaluates the Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Environmental and Legal developments in the world.

There is Euroscepticism, Anti-Trumpism, North Korea and seemingly endless conflicts in the Middle East.

Eco-conscious consumers have a hard time with sustainability, the environment, global warming, the meat-industry, over-fishing and pollution whilst the Paris Agreement takes a walk in the park (greenery courtesy of other nations).

In fact, fashion magazine InStyle predicts 2018 by means of the “Pinterest Index” (ok, I just made up this term, but they are in fact referring to the “Pinterest 100” which looks at saves to predict future trends) and comments: “[People will] be obsessing over diet-friendly food options like air fryers, which use hot air instead of oil to crisp food (saves for “air fryer” were up a whopping 1809 percent), and “souping,” which means eating puréed soups to reset your diet (saves for “souping” jumped 306 percent).

Social injustice is on the rise in both developed and developing countries paired with inflation and currency fluctuations.

Big Data and Big Brother are the Orwellian future we are now living in and if that is a bit too heavy for you, just turn on some old The Simpsons episodes to see that they actually predicted some crazy things in a hilarious way.

This episode of “The Simpsons” in 2000, predicted a President Trump. Image source here.

Long analysis short, some people are not amused with the way things are going and are investing in their future, by means of bunkers. This PESTEL analysis thus gives competitive advantage to anyone in the bunker business. Never heard of such a thing? Read on!

Underground bunkers are not for everyone and mostly known from movies, the military and famous politicians, like JFK who had this bunker:

JFK was prepared for it…for example during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962

He might have already been sitting there, in the 1960s, when everyone held their breath during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The History Channel recounts the story:

“During the Cuban Missile Crisis, leaders of the U.S. and the Soviet Union engaged in a tense, 13-day political and military standoff in October 1962 over the installation of nuclear-armed Soviet missiles on Cuba, just 90 miles from U.S. shores. […]

In a television broadcast on October 22, 1962, the president notified Americans about the presence of the missiles, explained his decision to enact the blockade and made it clear that the U.S. was prepared to use military force if necessary to neutralize this perceived threat to national security. Following this public declaration, people around the globe nervously waited for the Soviet response. Some Americans, fearing their country was on the brink of nuclear war, hoarded food and gas.

Despite the enormous tension, Soviet and American leaders found a way out of the impasse. During the crisis, the Americans and Soviets had exchanged letters and other communications, and on October 26, Khrushchev sent a message to Kennedy in which he offered to remove the Cuban missiles in exchange for a promise by U.S. leaders not to invade Cuba. The following day, the Soviet leader sent a letter proposing that the USSR would dismantle its missiles in Cuba if the Americans removed their missile installations in Turkey.”


A missile battery, Cuba, circa 1965. Photo: Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Is it crisis time again?

According to The Intercept, the current crisis of North Korea has been compared to the Cuban one numerous times.

“For instance, Sebastian Gorka, deputy assistant to President Donald Trump, recently said, “This is analogous to the Cuban missile crisis.” and “according to Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., “It represents the greatest crisis … undoubtedly since the Cuban missile crisis.””

Companies like Atlas Survival Shelters have seen their business recently pick up, specifically after Trump was elected, who offer bunker units starting from $49K for personal use and go up to $1399999 if you want to accommodate 117 military personnel.

On their website, Atlas Survival Shelters declares:

There is little difference between the bunkers made 50 years ago and the bunkers made today except the addition of modern interiors, NBC air filtration systems, Co2 scrubbers, generators, and high-tech electronics. There is no other shape other then round that will allow you to reach the depth underground that you need for maximum protection for your family and to allow the climate to be controlled underground.”

It is really alarming that so many people are worried about the future of our little planet. But on a lighter note, we still have fashion to keep us dreaming.

TREND No 2: Shade-inclusiveness

Another prediction of a trend by Pinterest Index are inclusive foundations:

“50 shades of you: A wider range of skin tones are showing up in new shade-inclusive foundations (saves for “complexion matching” +378%)”

Professor Farnsworth of Futurama breaks the news.

Inclusiveness, be it regarding age, ethnicity, gender or skin-tone, is also on the rise (good news everyone!) and makes room for Fenty Beauty, eloquently named after the last name of the singer.

But is inclusiveness really such a 21st Century idea?

“While Rihanna deserves praise for catering to all skin tones, Fenty Beauty isn’t the first brand to offer an extensive foundation selection. More and more makeup brands are realizing that people don’t come in just eight shades.” comments The Fashion Spot.

Brands like good old MAC, L’Oreal true match, Bobbi Brown, Lancôme and Iman Cosmetics have been around much longer.

In fact, when Fenty Beauty’s founder Rhianna was only 6 years old, in 1994, Iman founded her cosmetics line due to the scarcity of choice. “Her beauty company created the first cosmetics and skincare collection designed for all Women with Skin of Color™.  The IMAN brand philosophy holds that women with skin of color represent many races, cultures and ethnicities.” The website explains.

Iman Cosmetics: Find your shade. I might be too pale to find mine on here…being more of a MAC NC15.
Rihanna following in the footsteps of Iman? Here she is talking to Iman and late husband David Bowie. Image source here.






















Another interesting aspect about Fenty Beauty is that it was the mega fashion conglomerate LVMH which stuck the deal with Rihanna paying her an estimated $10 mio (source from WWD) to launch the beauty brand. According to Lisa A La Mode and her very interesting investigation, Rihanna is not listed as the CEO of Fenty beauty but merely the creator and founder. And Forbes had this to say prior to the launch:

While she may be the face of the company, Rihanna isn’t putting up the money to make Fenty Beauty a reality. The new venture is being launched by all things luxury powerhouse LVMH Moët Hennesy Louis Vuitton’s Kendo division, which was created specifically to work on celebrity-focused projects like Fenty Beauty. LVMH also owns the incredibly popular brand Sephora, which is one of the largest stores focused solely on all things makeup and beauty in the world. This fact means that Fenty Beauty won’t need to worry about distribution or getting into brick and mortar locations or popular online stores, which can sometimes kill a brand before it gets a chance to truly grow.

(Note to self: It will be interesting to read the annual report by LVMH when it is released in the near future and see what has been written about their portfolio brand. The announcement of the launch was certainly mentioned in the quarterly results report of 2016.)


Elaan of Troyius played by France Nuyen, a Vietnamese-French actress.

If we go back a few more decades and look once more to the 1960s (and a cue from Futurama) it’s Star Trek that pioneered it in a space ship, taking a multi-cultural crew to far-away galaxies where all sorts of races, genders, species and life forms were met. As Nancy Wang Yuet from the Huffington Post states: “Since its original debut on NBC in 1966, Star Trek has served as an inspiration for youth of color.” Indeed, together with Gene Roddenberry it pushed boundaries of interracial inclusiveness, at a time when segregation was the law in the country of origin of the show.

“When Gene Roddenberry brought Star Trek to television in 1966, he brought with it the first positive portrayal of a Japanese character in Helmsman Hikaru Sulu. In the midst of the Cold War, the show later introduced the Russian Ensign Pavel Chekov as the tactical officer. Roddenberry’s pilot for the show originally included actress Majel Barret as second-in-command, but the studio executives refused it. Roddenberry did successfully place Lieutenant Nyota Uhura on the bridge, a female African-American character whose surname comes from the Swahili word for “freedom.”(Ryan Soma, The Humanist, 2016).

For 2018, I wish for a year that is inclusive, embraces colours and ethnicities, and peace. It’s wonderful that this year’s Nobel Peace Prize went to ICAN, an organization that works against the weapons, featuring a much honoured “Hibakusha” (survivor of Hiroshima/ Nagasaki bombing) on stage.

If we can produce make-up that acknowledges 40 different colours of different humans, why can’t we acknowledge a peaceful life for all of them?

So my New Years message to you is: “When you buy a bottle of diverse make up, do keep a diverse mind!”

Happy holidays, whatever you do or do not celebrate (Hannukah, Kwanzaa, Western Christmas Eastern Christmas, Festivus etc) and happy 2018 and peace to the world!

Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.




Gucci’s new fake fur is all but sustainable

Gucci’s fake fur is aggravating pollution and is all but sustainable

Gucci Ghost Mink Fur GG Diamond Coat ($23,535) as seen o Pinterest

Real fur or fake fur? Sustainable or unsustainable fashion? Real fur is very expensive but what is the true cost for our planet when we opt for fake fur?

Gucci announced this October 2017 that it will cease to use real fur and switch to fake fur only. This is hailed by the flag of sustainable measures, much in tune with the Corporate Social Responsibility measures (or CSR for short) of the parent conglomerate Kering.

CEO Bizzarri & creative director Michele announce fake fur at Gucci in 2017. For the love of who?

No doubt, this action is also targeting Millennials, those Eco-conscious consumers who are so lucrative for Gucci and part of the strategy behind its complete revival, headed by the recently-appointed Alessandro Michele.

Business of Fashion reported: “The decision to ban fur was made with creative director Alessandro Michele, emphasized [CEO] Bizzarri. “Fashion has always been about trends and emotions and anticipating the wishes and desires of consumers,” he said. The best creative directors “are able to anticipate, to smell something outside before anybody else. Fashion and modernity go together.”

For animal lovers, vegetarians and vegans of this planet, fake fur might seem like it’s long overdue amongst luxury brands, and a welcome directive. However, I argue that fake fur is highly unsustainable, bad for the planet and – in the long run – helps no animal nor human. Furthermore, when it gets really cold (like in Russia or Canada) you will freeze in your expensive or cheap fake fur jacket. But if you wear real fur, you will not only experience perfect insulation, you might even have a waterproof garment on.


“Inuit elders indicate that Inuit-designed caribou skin clothing is the most effective cold weather clothing for extended periods in severe cold with no means of warming up. Elders continually remind people to bring their skin clothing with them even if they are just going out for a short snowmobile or all-terrain vehicle ride. Accidents happen each year where 1 or 2 people perish from the cold due to being stranded a mile or two from the community when an unusual storm comes up quickly and they are inadequately dressed.” (Oakes et al., 1995)

There is a study by the Canadian military, which was also published in a research journal, which performed a “Comparison of traditional and manufactured cold weather ensembles” putting half of the military men in the latest and most advanced synthetic outerwear and the other half into Inuit-style Caribou fur costumes. If you are keen, you can read the study which concluded:

“Findings indicate that the overall skin temperature, as well as the cheek, thigh, toe, and torso temperatures, remained significantly higher when wearing the caribou skin ensemble compared to changes observed when wearing the military or expedition clothing ensembles.”


Ok, so fur will keep you warmer, but how is it more sustainable, you may wonderbiodegradable?

The Fur Source has some interesting facts about fur, as published on their site in 2016:

” Genuine fur is natural, renewable, biodegradable and sustainable. The negative environmental impact caused by faux fur and synthetic fibers in general is far greater than that of real fur.”



Synthetic Fibers are Made from Petrochemicals

Petrochemical plant. The starting point of your fake fur jacket.

Faux fur and most synthetics are made from petrochemicals. They can take more than 3 times as much non-renewable energy to produce as real fur. Like other plastics, these materials do not break down easily and will remain in landfills for centuries. At a time when the true ecological cost of “cheap”, mass-produced, disposable “fast-fashion” is just beginning to be calculated – think millions of tons of poor-quality fibers and short-life garments filling up landfills – the naturally durable and recyclable qualities of fur make more sense than ever!



Plastic, plastic, everywhere: The world’s oceans are full of discarded trash that degrades and sinks, or drifts ashore at places like Turneffe Atoll in Belize.
Photograph by WaterFrame, Alamy – Image source here.

Real Fur is quickly Biodegradable – Fake fur not a bit

Yes, real fur is biodegradable, like all things made by nature, mother nature happily takes them back into its eco-system. You don’t believe me? Look at this experiment which Truth About Fur (voice of the North American fur trade) conducted.

They burried real fur and fake fur and left it untouched for several months. When they dug it up again, this is what they found:

The Great Fur Burrial: After cleaning. Fake fur on the left, real on the right.

So what does Gucci say about all that? Parent company Kering has developed E P&L monitoring system for their environmental efforts and state:


Finishing and dyeing textiles is one of the areas in the supply chain that uses the most water and energy the E P&L revealed.


Implement Clean by Design, a programme to improve the efficiency of textile mills through identifying low cost opportunities that save water, energy, fuel and electricity.”

“Corporate Sustainability: Profit, Motive and Intention in Greenwash” from this very interesting article.

When I read this, Greenwashing comes to mind and profits over people. There is no way you ca follow a sustainable and clean design programme when you are in fact, polluting the world with the procurement of petrochemical-based garments. There is however, certainly much marketing savvy involved and an opportunistic jump onto the sustainability band wagon.

Did you know that synthetic fur does not only destroy our planet at the end of its life, but also during its lifetime?

“Washing Faux Fur is Bad for Waterways

While machine washing a faux fur article, it’s estimated that each piece can release as many as 1900 tiny plastic particles into water systems. This can be harmful to the ecosystem in general, negatively affecting the health of plants, animals and people who live off of the waterways.”

Fur is a Byproduct of the Meat Industry or Meat is a Byproduct of the Fur Industry

If you eat meat, or buy any clothing made from real leather wouldn’t you be happy to know that the hide of the animal did not go to waste? Or if it is a farm that trades with furs, wouldn’t you be relieved to know that the meat is eaten? If you are a vegan or vegetarian, you don’t have to eat the meat, but think about how much natural resources are used to produce fake fur and how it pollutes the planet. Sure, you might not choose to wear real or fake fur in that case – and perhaps the products by Scandinavian designer Stine Sandermaan might work for you.

“[…] a report by the European Commission in 2014 found that acrylic, the principal fibre in fake fur and other synthetic fabrics, had the worst environmental impact of nine fibres studied.”

My fur coats are all vintage and their production did not involve the pumping of oil (a great pollutant to the planet) and the use of huge amounts of energy in order to make synthetic fibres.

One of my fur coats is inherited, so it has lasted several generations already and will still be useful for the coming one. When it has finished it’s life-time as a garment, it will become compost which in turn feeds the earth. By polluting the planet less, more animals of our entire eco-system will live a happier life. Above all though, I know I will stay warm this winter and for this I thank the animal who gave me their hide, for we humans are unable to survive naked in most climates.

I value our earth’s traditions, which have been passed down for tens of thousands of years. There is wisdom in what has been done before, there is purpose and integrity.

And thus, I close this post with one of my favourite documentaries: Nanook of the North (also known as Nanook of the North: A Story Of Life and Love In the Actual Arctic) is a 1922 silent documentary film by Robert J. Flaherty.

Watch it here:

London’s eternity: In books, buildings and bespoke shoes

London is an eternal city, it is full of historical significance and amidst change and movement, there are places of complete standstill, older than any of the passers-by.

© The Print Collector—Heritage-Images/Imagestate

The Old Curiosity Shop, 13-14 Portsmouth Street WC2A

In Holborn, near the wonderful London School of Economics, not far from King’s College and the Thames river, is a very old and historical part of town where presently, there is a lot of construction going on.

Image source here.

But amidst all the updates, refurbishments and additions to Central London, there are historical sights which have not changed for centuries.

You might think that I am speaking of great and famous buildings which there are plenty here in London, but I am referring to the tiniest and most humble structures with arguably some of the greatest significance in terms of history and continuity of this beautiful city.


The Old Curiosity Shop as it stands in November 2017 – it’s 5th Century here. How many people has it seen walk past on this very corner?

The place I have photographed here is no other then THE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP made immortal by Charles Dickens’ novel. I love the backdrop of intense construction and the 16th Century shop in  a bubble of eternal tranquility. Whereas in other cities of the world the memories of the past would have had to crumble under the pressure of the heavy wallets of property investors, London preserves and protects many heritage sites. Thank goodness.

Of course, it is not where Nell Trent and her grandfather actually lived, for this was fiction, nor was it called “The Old Curiosity Shop” when the novel was published in the mid-19th Century, but received its name later – probably due to the immense popularity of the book.

But the present day resident is still a remarkable protagonist, if you like. The Japanese designer shoemaker Kimura Daita-san has set up an atelier where he makes incredible bespoke shoes, a rather English tradition you could argue.


I quote Chrissy Grübel from her fantastic post

“Kimura has been in residence since 1992, crafting truly unique designs for both men and women. What will you find? Shiny leather oxfords, cool “hog-toed” boots, colorful unisex sneakers—classic shapes with modern details that can live in anyone’s wardrobe. I am personally begging for the Eley Kishimoto laceups: “Please, sir. I want some more.” Yes, I know this quote is from a different Dickens novel, but I’m a blogger not a scholar.

The shop may only exist in a magical lil’ nook of what I think is the most magical city on earth, but luckily for those who don’t share my urban obsession, you can shop online! There is justice in the world!”

You can see the full collection of shoes here and below is a movie made by Kimura-san:



Alpha Books, 1 Portsmouth St, London WC2A 2ES (corner of Sheffield St.)

And then, opposite The Curiosity Shop is another gem: Alpha Books. This shop provides the university students, lecturers (like me) and bibliophiles with rare, used, out-of print or specialty books at very decent prices. It is, not to say the least, quite a “Dickensian” sort of place. When I went in, an grumpy man hidden behind a partition and half-way into an antique stairway leading to the basement. I could not see the man at first, but only hear him grumbling and ranting.

I asked: “Exuse me?”

He shouted: “Yes, excuse me! We are busy, you have to wait!”

And when he had carried a box out to the door I asked: “Yesterday, you had a book on structuralism outside…”

“Yes! By Piaget,” he finished my sentence and then went on to fetch it out the many random piles of books on the floor.

Incredible, I thought, because not only did he know exactly which book it was, he also found it within the seeming chaos in a split second! And it is an out-of-print 1971 edition! Of an author who only certain people even have heard of!

If I was filming a scene of a movie, this would be it. Only at that point, I was in the movie. A shop devoid of any signs of modernity, inside or out. It could have been the 1980s, the 1950s, or earlier.

Alpha books and its owner are a cultural heritage of London.


A view from inside the bookshop, looking at one of the London School of Economics’ buildings.

Whilst in the shop, and scanning it’s book tables just outside I fell in love with at least 5 more and will be stopping there again. Alpha books is a rarity for connoisseurs, of knowledge, history and authenticity, when bookstores are disappearing and gentrification is making little old curiosity shops extinct. The owner can be grumpy if he likes, I don’t mind – this place is not to be missed.

With love from London,



The Hemline Index – if skirt lengths could talk

Today’s post is about the lengths of skirts, a topic that came up during a conversation at the university where I lecture. Have you ever heard about the “Hemline Index”?

This index, originally from the 1920s insists that skirt lengths increase or decrease depending on the social, political and financial state in the world (or a part of the world, mostly Western). This theory was brought forward by the economist Prof. George Taylor who was at Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

Many researchers have challenged the index to prove it or disapprove of it and I’d say that the results are inconclusive.

Here is a lovely blog post about it from The Women’s History Network, which I am reposting. Enjoy!


The History of Hemlines

Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening. (Coco Chanel)


The designers, the haute couture fashion houses and the ever changing seasons – they all have a high influence on fashion. But have you ever considered the historical impact on style trends? According to the 1927 Hemline Index, the length of our ancestors skirt or dress could actually indicate a country’s wealth, prosperity and general wellbeing of the time. Here’s a run through of the ups and downs of hemlines throughout the 20th and 21st century.


The Prim & Proper Pre-1920s

For hundreds or even thousands of years, women’s skirts and dresses conformed to one length: long and down to the floor. As things changed around the world with the onset of the First World War, Victorian-era prudishness began to unravel. Women gained more independence and importance in society and, as the world entered the decadent economy of the roaring ‘20s, hemlines began to rise.


The Roaring 1920s

With the recent film adaptation of F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, we all know the look of the classic ‘20s flapper: dropped waists, Mary-Jane shoes, long rope necklaces made of pearls and finger-wave short hair. This was a decade all about freedom and social progression and naturally, daring hem lengths followed suit. It’s easy to overlook the hemlines of flapper dresses, but their above-the-knee length was considered shocking at the time, especially when coupled with the loose waist band instead of a rigid corset.


The crashing 1930s

After the Wall Street Crash of 1929, the Great Depression brought hemlines crashing back down to the floor with its grim psychological effect on the public. The lack of money and merriment meant the debauchery and risk taking of the ‘20s disappeared and was replaced by a return to a level of modesty – both economically and fashionably. The 1930s also saw the dawn of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Whilst many other businesses collapsed, the film industry grew in popularity. Films offered a temporary escape  from the harshness of reality. Hollywood made stars out of women such as Great Garbo, Jean Harlow and Bette Davis.


Post War 1940s


… & Fun Filled 1950s

The cautious post-war mood of the world was mirrored in the mid-length skirts and dresses popular throughout the ‘40s and ‘50s. Advances in social restraint meant that they weren’t quite as prim as the floor length looks of decades past, but society still hadn’t quite regained its momentous opulence from the ‘20s. The nipped in waists and flared-out skirts depicted femininity whilst pencil skirts represented elegance, class and sophistication. The 1950s saw the invention of the teenager and young adults gained more independence and freedom. Teenagers took a certain amount of control on their lives, including fashion. Girls and boys no longer wanted to look like miniature versions of their parents. They expressed their individuality through the clothes and hairstyles.


Swinging 1960s

The ‘60s saw rising levels of fiscal prosperity and – with the invention of the teenager – young people began to rule the roost for the very first time. Short hemlines are unmistakably interwoven with this era, thanks to the arrival of the miniskirt (created by Mary Quant): the physical embodiment of a world daring to push new boundaries.


Disco Dancing 1970s


Disco Dancing 1970s

Social and economic discontent increased by the ‘70s, with the onset of the Vietnam War, unexpected inflation and the embargo on oil in 1973. Stock values begun to slump and floor-length maxi skirts came back into fashion for the first time since the Depression. Laura Ashley was a popular designer with her peasant style smock dresses and tunics.


Exciting 1980s & Generation X 1990s

The rising battle against sexism – with the ‘Girl Power’ of the Spice Girls and the underground feminist movement of Riot Grrrl – combined with a break away from fashions dictating only one stylish length, meant that skirt lengths differed for the first time and could be anything of your choice. Power-suited prosperity generally meant that skirts were short and accessorised with high heels they were laden with authority.


Millennium 2000s

As the world saw in the Naughties it also saw a major dip in everything from jobs, money, morale and hemlines at the hands of the recession. With the world economy in the grip of uncertainty, the trend for skirt lengths mirrors this ambiguity – whether maxi, midi, mini or anything in-between, it seems anything is in vogue right now.

Nina Koo-Seen-Lin (c) August 2013